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iran nuclear program
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 April 2012 - 3:30pm
At long last, the United States and Iran are engaged in serious talks about Iran's nuclear program. But instead of celebrating the fact that President Obama is keeping his promise to the people who voted for him to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran, the New York Times has suggested to its readers that Iran's Supreme Leader is uniquely and intrinsically untrustworthy when he says that Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon. Why? Because, according to the Times, Iran's leaders are Shiites, and Shiites have a religious doctrine called "taqiyya," which allows them to lie.
No scholar or analyst was cited by the New York Times in support of this argument, which should have been a red flag for Times editors for an argument claiming that the leadership of a country against which the United States has threatened war is essentially different from us because they belong to a different religion.
Last Saturday - the same day the United States and Iran were having "constructive and useful" discussions on Iran's nuclear program in Istanbul, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - the New York Times published a piece titled, "Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah's Utterances," over the byline of James Risen.
That piece contained the following paragraph:
Complicating matters further, some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei's denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 10 April 2012 - 7:58pm
When President Obama nominated global health superhero Dr. Jim Young Kim to lead the World Bank, Harvard development economist Dani Rodrik remarked, "It's nice to see that Obama can still surprise us."
Is it possible that Obama could pleasantly surprise us in the upcoming talks with Iran over its nuclear program? Much of the media coverage would suggest otherwise.
Nonetheless, there are actually quite a few positive signs that we can point to:
1. There have been no reported major explosions in Iran or assassinations of Iranian scientists recently, as have seemed to occur in the run-up to previous talks. This could be a sign that U.S. pressure on Israel and the Iranian MEK terrorist group is working to keep things quiet on that front. There is some evidence that this might be the case.
2. No-one appears to be talking about Israel much at all. Israeli officials appear to be keeping a relatively low profile, and Israeli Defense Minister Barak recently put forward a proposed list of Western demands that is at least on the planet of plausibility - in particular, Barak made no demand that Iran cease enriching uranium.
3. Thanks in no small part to the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Reid, Congress has also been relatively quiet. And this week Congress is out of session.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 17 February 2012 - 4:39pm
For all it has done to promote confrontation between the United States and Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to avoid the public perception that AIPAC is openly promoting war. In AIPAC's public documents, the emphasis has always been on tougher sanctions. (If you make sanctions "tough" enough - an effective embargo - that is an act of war, but it is still at one remove from saying that the U.S. should start bombing.)
But a new Senate effort to move the goalposts of U.S. policy to declare it "unacceptable" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability - not a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one - gives AIPAC the opportunity to make a choice which all can observe. If the Lieberman resolution becomes an ask for AIPAC lobbyists at the March AIPAC policy conference, then the world will know: AIPAC is lobbying Congress for war with Iran.
Sponsors of the Lieberman resolution deny that it is an "authorization for military force," and in a legal, technical sense, they are absolutely correct: it is not a legal authorization for military force. But it is an attempt to enact a political authorization for military force. It is an attempt to pressure the Administration politically to move forward the tripwire for war, to a place indistinguishable from the status quo that exists today. If successful, this political move would make it impossible for the Administration to pursue meaningful diplomatic engagement with Iran, shutting down the most plausible alternative to war.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 9 February 2012 - 3:55pm
Can Joe Lieberman Block Diplomacy with Iran that Would Prevent War? by Robert Naiman There's no question that some people in Washington would very much like for the U.S. to have a policy towards Iran whose endgame is war or externally-induced regime change. And they have a long-term strategy to bring this about, which is to block efforts at meaningful diplomacy, so that the only thing left on the table is war or externally-induced regime change.
Now, according to reports from DC, come Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham with a new bill. What does their bill seek to do? According to reports from people who have seen the draft bill, in its current form it seeks to block the President from having a policy to "contain" Iran if it develops nuclear weapons capability.
Jasmin Ramsey wrote Wednesday at LobeLog:
The key lines in the resolved [clauses] have been highlighted by a Washington policy expert:
"(6) Strongly rejects any policy that fails to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and that instead would settle for future efforts to "contain" a nuclear weapons capable Iran;
(7) Urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and to oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat." [my emphasis on variations of the word "capable" - RN]
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 10 October 2011 - 10:52am
I marched through downtown Washington Saturday afternoon with the "#OccupyDC" folks. One of the most popular chants around me was: "How to end this deficit? End the wars, tax the rich!" Apparently the 99% in DC have no trouble talking about ending the wars and taxing the rich in the same breath. I hope that others will emulate them.
I take it as obvious that "end the wars" means not only that we should get all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that we shouldn't start a new war with Iran. Don't you? Surely a key lesson of the last ten years is that once a war is started, it can be incredibly difficult to end it. This is one of the reasons that the neocons love starting wars. Starting a war allows them to create a long-term structural change in the political terrain - one that can long outlast their time in office - sucking resources and focus from the productive, domestic economy that employs and nourishes the 99% to the military economy that makes the military contractors rich but creates few jobs in the U.S. compared to domestic private and public spending.
And another key lesson of the last ten years is this: if we want to stop wars in the future, we can't wait to act until the war advocates have all their ducks in a row. We have to "disrupt their plots," to borrow a phrase. Millions marched worldwide a month before the start of the Iraq war. As an expression of popular clamor for peace, it was great. But as a means of stopping the war, it was too late. The war train had already left the station.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 9 June 2010 - 4:17pm
The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution calling for new sanctions against Iran today. Wait, did you just yawn? Pay attention, there's real news here. The man-bites-dog story is that two countries - Brazil and Turkey - voted no, while Lebanon abstained.
That's a record. There's never been more than one no vote before; there's never been less than 14 yes votes before; it's only the second time that there were any no votes at all. And it's the first time any non-Muslim country voted no (Brazil.)
This is the sixth Security Council resolution attacking Iran's nuclear program since July 2006. Here's the scorecard:
Resolution 1696, July 31, 2006: Fourteen votes in favor to one against (Qatar.)
Resolution 1737, December 23, 2006: passed unanimously
Resolution 1747, March 24, 2007: passed unanimously
Resolution 1803, March 3, 2008: passed by a vote of 14-0-1, with one abstention (Indonesia.)
Resolution 1835, September 27, 2008: passed unanimously
Resolution 1929, June 9, 2010: passed by 12 votes to two against (Brazil and Turkey) and one abstention from Lebanon
Why did Brazil and Turkey vote no?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 8 June 2010 - 3:55pm
Until quite recently, it seemed that Turkey had a clearly defined role in the Middle East, from the standpoint of U.S. policy. They were the "good Muslims," who were part of NATO, who contributed troops to U.S. wars, and who had good relations with Israel.
In the past few weeks, therefore, some Americans may have been startled to see the government of Turkey seemingly playing a very different role. First, together with Brazil, Turkey negotiated a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran to defuse the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and forestall a controversial U.S./Israeli push for new sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Although the deal was very similar to one proposed by the Obama Administration - and Brazil and Turkey had a letter from Obama encouraging them to press forward with the deal - Obama Administration officials dismissed the deal, and far from being grateful to Turkey and Brazil, made a show of being angry. But instead of being chastened, Turkey and Brazil insisted their deal was good - invoking their letter from Obama to demonstrate their case - and insisted that the U.S. should pursue it.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 26 May 2010 - 3:16pm
Sao Paulo - New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is on the warpath. Not only against his "Great Satan" of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also against Brazil's President Lula and Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, because they had the temerity to succeed in negotiating an agreement with Iran to try to de-escalate the confrontation between the United States and Iran over Iran's nuclear program without the subsequent approval of Washington. [Apparently Brazil and Turkey had White House approval to try - a week before the effort, but it seems that they did not have White House approval to succeed.]
Friedman claims that a May 17 picture of Iran's president joining Lula and Erdogan "with raised arms" after their signing of a "putative deal" to defuse the crisis over Iran's "nuclear weapons program" [does the New York Times do fact-checking on Friedman?] was "about as ugly as it gets."
If it's literally true that that picture was "as ugly as it gets," then presumably that would imply that it was at least as ugly - if not more ugly - than, for example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion which was clearly illegal under the U.N. Charter, as former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan affirmed in 2004, an invasion which likely resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis - and an invasion which Tom Friedman supported, as he explained to Charlie Rose in May 2003:
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 17 May 2010 - 9:13am
If I were in Washington this morning, I would run down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to Congress with a big Brazilian flag, as the young Brazilians run down the Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo during the the "football" match, shouting "Gollllllll!"
Because with the news this morning that Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey, in a nuclear fuel swap deal reached in talks with Brazil and Turkey that could "deflate a U.S.-led push" for new sanctions against Iran, the President of Brazil has scored a goal against the neocons in the West who want to gin up confrontation with Iran towards a future military conflict.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 September 2009 - 5:12pm
To any naysayers who say President Obama has broken all his promises, I say, with all due respect: "na na na na na":
The United States and five partner countries have accepted Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.
I realize that this may be cold comfort if you took Obama seriously when he said that he was going to renegotiate NAFTA. Okay, that promise was not for real, sorry.
But when he said he was going to talk to Iran, apparently he meant it. Who knew?
It could have gone the other way. The US could have said - we offered Iran talks on how Iran was going to stop enriching uranium, and Iran has clearly said that it has no intention of stopping the enrichment of uranium, therefore, Iran has not agreed to our offer of talks.
And therefore, we have no choice but to proceed with efforts to cut off Iran's access to gas imports.
As everyone knows, there are plenty of folks in Washington - and at least one other capital city - who would have applauded such a course.
But Obama decided to take the high road. We said we wanted talks, and Iran is saying that it wants talks, so let's talk. Why not?
Iran says it wants comprehensive talks. So? Who's against comprehensive talks? More US-Iran cooperation could help make the world a better place on a lot of fronts: Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon.
Making progress in negotiations on Iran's "nuclear file" will not be trivial. But there is a feasible solution, and everyone knows it. As Robert Dreyfuss wrote recently in The Nation: