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Ship Seized On Its Way to Iran

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The United Arab Emirates seized a cargo ship bound for Iran with a cache of banned weaponry. The UAE, which is a hub for Iranian goods, reported the find in a confidential letter to the council’s sanctions committee for North Korea.

Although the ship contained rockets rather than nukes, the discovery does not bode well for the international reputation of either North Korea or Iran.

North Korea has only recently developed a more conciliatory stance towards South Korea and the U.S., the Associated Press reports, and Iran has only just begun to produce nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has increased U.N. access to its main nuclear complex in Natanz and Arak.

Still,  contention between Iran and the U.S. rages.

Iran’s chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the AP, “America alleges that Iran has a Manhattan Project” to build a bomb, Soltanieh said. “This is ridiculous. This game is enough. It should be over. … We have tried to take a very logical and pragmatic approach.”

The fate of a nuclear Iran will be decided after September 2nd during a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board. President Obama has said that sanctions will be tightened if Iran does not stop enriching uranium. However, if Iran does end it’s nuclear program, Obama has promised trade and commercial benefits.

It is doubtful whether an economically-based ultimatum can address an issue that is largely ideological. Can commerce and trade substitute national (and regional) pride? That remains to be seen, but it is just as unlikely that Iran can bear the weight of the “severe” sanctions that Europe hopes to put forth after September 2nd.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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Iran Has Deals in the Works

Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today that the government will prepare a package of deals on issues of economy, security and international affairs.

The omission of nuclear activity is not a smart one. Prior to the G-8 summit this week,  Israel was successful in pushing three European superpowers to back a military amendment to the IAEA on Iran in September, and despite President Obama’s decision to refrain from military action, he has warned Iran of the September “deadline” for nuclear talks.

In April, the West presented its own package to Iran in which it provided incentives for nuclear non-proliferation, and it was well-received by President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad who said that it respected the nation’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, diplomatic relations have all but severed in the post-election backdrop, and the president has accused the West of trying to undercut Iran and of even inciting the street protests.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Israel Elbows US as Iran Does Things the Hard Way

The Obama administration has always preferred bilateral diplomacy, but the administration is tightening its breeches.  Iran continues to advance its nuclear program and its post-election crackdown, including its prosecution of citizens who cooperate with satellite news programs.

In recent weeks, President Obama has threatened American companies that service the Iranian government  and rescinded invitations to Independence Day celebrations from Iranian diplomats. Now, according to Haa’retz, Israel is pushing its superpower allies to take on a more forceful Plan B.

According to the rationale of Israeli senior officials, the unrest in Iran permits “harsher steps” in the form of stiffer sanctions.

Israel has also been communicating with Germany, France, Russia and Japan on Washington’s persistence with the current path and on securing a military appendix to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran.

The news follows London’s Sunday Times allegations that Saudi Arabia will allow Israel to use its airspace in military assault against Iran and American vice president Joe Biden said that military action against Iran is within Israel’s right as a sovereign power.

Ha’aretz reports,

In an interview with ABC television, Biden said: “Israel can determine for itself – it’s a sovereign nation – what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else. Whether we agree or not. They’re entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that.”

Biden insisted that pressure from Israel or other countries would not affect American’s planned dialogue with Iran. “There is no pressure from any nation that is going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed,” he said, adding that Washington believes this dialogue serves America’s interests, as well as those of Israel and the rest of the world.

Biden’s sentiment was only slightly undercut by President Obama’s insistence Tuesday that Israel does not have a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Jerusalem Post reports,

The president said that Biden had simply been stating the “categorical fact” that “we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels,” he said.

Nevertheless, the IDF has taken into consideration the possibility that it will not receive US permission to fly over Iraq on the way to Iran, and has drawn up an operational plan for this contingency. While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said in the past that Israel was preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

LeVine: Obama’s Iran Strategy Failing

Over at Al Jazeera, historian Mark LeVine today gives a pretty brutal assessment of President Obama’s handling of the Iranian election and it’s aftermath. In a rather wide-ranging analysis, LeVine criticizes the President for being overly quick to extend a hand of friendship to authoritarians in the region and at the same time unduly slow to recognize nonviolent calls for democracy and freedom. From the article:

Imagine the sight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children marching to the so-called “separation wall” or innumerable Israeli check points and, like East Germans a generation ago, dismantling them apart brick by brick through disciplined non-violent action.

Consider what would happen if, instead of staying on the sidelines in Iran while playing softball with Israel and trying to woo other autocratic regimes into our orbit, Obama could look the Iranian leadership in the eyes and make the same demand of them that he should be making of all the leaders of the region: democratise and grant freedom to the peoples under your control.

At least then the brave Iranians risking their lives for democracy, and the long-repressed peoples of the region more broadly, would know that the US stands up for them.

Ultimately, it is the reality of the Obama administration’s support for a discredited status quo across the region, and not the actions of the Eisenhower administration half a century ago, that makes it impossible for the US to play a forceful role advocating for democracy in Iran at this crucial moment in the history of the Islamic Republic, and ours as well.

It’s an interesting critique from an unusual philosophical quarter (how often does one hear that the US is too easy on Iran and Israel in the same article?). Certainly if we do not follow the author in calling President Obama’s strategy in Iran a failure, it could hardly be called at this moment a success. That’s an unpleasant fact, but one I can’t see any way right now of avoiding.

Categories: Iran

Azerbaijani Scholar Niyaz Yagublu on Iran

Niyaz Yagublu is Chairman of Development Watch Research Center, Research fellow of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and Professor of International Affairs at Odlar Yurdu University Azerbaijan – Baku.

At first, I would like to begin with some of my notions about the events taking place in Iran following the presidential elections. Here in my comments for our local media, I have predicted that the results of the elections would be falsified as a strong probability based on the last parliamentary elections held there.

The regime of velayat-e faqih ruling Iran is not and cannot be open to any change and criticism, and few gleams of democracy such as TV debates of candidates and their meetings with the population during the campaign was intended to show vital capacity of the regime and to justify and ground following frauds and falsification of the results. In the beginning one could assume that the Islamic regime would allow Mir Hossein Mousavi to win as an interchange tactics between its reformist and hardliner supporters as all of the candidates were among the founders and supporters of the Islamic regime, in other words, their own men (as it is expressed in Persian khudi-ha). But the experience with M.Khatami’s presidency especially his first term had convinced the spiritual leader’s team not to run risks with a cosmetic change that could result in larger and maybe unpredictable radical shifting in the format of governance and rule.

But the most apparent feature of this election is linked to more explicit rifting among those who are at the helm of the state, and between them and the reformist Islamic. This situation is getting more complicated, especially taking into consideration the long-lasting implicit rivalry between Khamenei and Rafsanjani, who is enjoying larger authority and economic and political influence. All the while, antagonism between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad has clearly been rising. Ahmadinejad is considered a puppet of the leader and executor of “Hojjatiyyeh” ideals. Ayatollah Khamenei began a speech during Friday prayer in Tehran (it is noteworthy that he delivers speeches in Friday prayers rarely) by threatening those who would organize and protest with blood shed in the streets. This shows once again that even if the unrest escalates, the regime is ready to punish those who spread fear among the populace, and it will not compromise. Nonetheless, the non-official information about the Experts Council carrying out referendum on results of the election does not seem convincing.

Another aspect of the current situation which is not touched upon, is related to massive support of Azerbaijanis living in Iran, whom number above an estimated 30 million, for Mousavi. Mousavi and Karrubi promised radical changes in national policy of the state towards non-Persian population which is very crucial for Azerbaijanis.

Analysis of the situation indicates that even in the case that the regime manages to quiet the current anti-government fever with repressive methods and mass arrests and killings, the situation will not be fully under their control and will get more tense. Iran never will be as it was before June 12, 2009.

Barack Beat would like to thank Mr. Yagublu for his commentary and Kelly Jarret for passing it on to us.
Categories: Commentary, Iran

Incoming Professor Mohsen Khadivar Speaks with Wall Street Journal

Mohsen Khadivar is a reformist clergyman who was arrested for agitating the regime of the Shah as an engineering student and jailed for 18 months by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 1999. Now he and other clerics are fashioning the theological opposition to the Iranian theocracy. Wall Street Journal reports,

Why is this significant? Take a look at the color Mr. Mousavi’s supporters have chosen for their movement: Green is the color of Islam, meaning the demonstrators are taking on the regime on its own terms. Part of that challenge is to Iran’s republican pretensions, mocked by voter turnout that the regime itself admits exceeded 100% in some 50 districts.

… any revolution carried out in the name of God is also susceptible to being challenged in the name of God — and God has many names. As with the Communist revolutions of the 20th century, which were ultimately answerable to the verdict of History in which they placed so much stock, the ideological foundation of the Islamic Revolution rests with the prevailing views of a Shiite clerisy. Thanks to people like Mr. Kadivar, those views now tilt increasingly against the regime: So far, he notes, two of Iran’s four major seminaries have refused to endorse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “victory.”

Whether they’ll succeed will depend partly on their willingness to continue their protests — possibly through crippling work stoppages — but mostly on the willingness of the regime to enforce its will. Mr. Kadivar is convinced a large segment of the regime’s all-important Revolutionary Guards side with the demonstrators. But they have their own perquisites to look after, and liberal revolutionaries are often crippled by their own innate distaste of violence.

This interview came on the cusp of the Supreme Leader’s brusque warnings to the opposition at Tehran’s University Friday and Obama’s fourth formal press conference, in which he called the government crackdown of the opposition and the widely-publicized death of Neda Agha-Soltan “heartbreaking.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Iran: a Tragedy in Four Acts

David Brumberg over at Newsweek’s religious blog, On Faith made an interesting post a few days ago heralding what he called the “sad, angry death” of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and its replacement with what he labels the Islamic Government. (Hat tip to commenter, contributor, and all-around good guy Bruce Lawrence).
From the post:

The difference is not merely semantic. The genius of the Islamic Republic -if we may call it that — was that it blended competing notions of legitimacy, as well as a myriad of competing institutions. Unelected authorities, the most important of whom was the Leader, co-existed with quasi-democratic bodies such as the parliament (majles) and the office of the President.

Brumberg gives a high-level overview of that relationship through Iranian post-revolution history, dividing it neatly (too neatly?) into four acts, the latest of which is now beginning. Certainly worth a read for those desiring a bit of context to the current crisis.

Categories: Iran