Iran

The Bomb: Where now for Iran and Israel?

Containment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is far safer than a ‘heedless’ attack…

 

© Israeli Defence Forces

 

With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) due to report on Iran’s nuclear program later this week, and rumours of Israel planning a unilateral attack, the state of play between the two nations is at its most dangerous in years.

The IAEA report is expected to suggest, despite denials, that Iran is moving ahead in trying to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Among other facts, the report will contain evidence of:

intelligence that Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead,

David Remnick of The New Yorker argues that though containment is itself fraught with difficulties, it is far preferable to a unilateral attack, that some Israeli cabinet ministers are determined will go ahead if necessary with or without the consent of the United States.

Israel has successfully attacked facilities in Iraq and Syria previously, however Iranian operations are protected to a far greater degree. One Israeli air force officer acknowledged the situation:

It’s a huge issue—because of the day after. If and when it will happen, the whole region will be different.

Ominously, notable Israeli columnist … recently described Benyamin Netanyahu’s thinking on the issue:

Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he isn’t stopped in time, there will be another Holocaust.

There are those who describe Netanyahu’s attitude on the matter as an obsession: All his life he dreamed of being Churchill; Iran gives him the opportunity.

Read more at The New Yorker

 

US car dealer wins payout over ‘Taliban’ slur

Car dealership was nicknamed ‘Taliban Toyota’ by rivals…

 

© DanielCTW

 

An Iranian car dealer in the United States has won a $7.5m payout after a rival dealership regularly alleged that he was a terrorist.

Reuters reports that during the court hearing in Florida, it was claimed that salesman at the rival dealership would warn customers about Shawn Esfahani’s links to terrorism, telling one customer:

(Esfahani) is funneling money back to his family and other terrorists,

While another salesman said:

I have a brother over there [in Afghanistan] and what you’re doing is helping kill my brother.

The jury awarded Esfahani $2.5m in compensatory damages, and $5m in punitive damages.

 

Archive reveals Saddam Hussein’s paranoia

Release of recordings and documents captured by US forces after Iraq war…

 

© Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

 

A small portion of a huge archive of documents and recordings from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein has been publicly released. The archive, captured by American forces following the fall of Baghdad in 2003, reveals the often paranoid and conspiratorial mind of the former dictator.

Among the revelations are Saddam’s underestimation of Iran prior to the war between the two countries. He wrongly assumed that the country would be unable to put up a defence when Iraqi forces attacked, and was backed up by an intelligence report that suggested:

It is clear that, at present, Iran has no power to launch wide offensive operations against Iraq or to defend on a large scale,

When the Iranians launched a counter-offensive and sent planes to bomb Iraq, Saddam immediately came to the conclusion that it was infact the work of Israeli warplanes. In the end the war would last for eight years and cost a million lives.

Saddam’s preoccupation with Israel also reveals his motivation for such assumptions:

Once Iraq walks out victorious [in Iran], there will not be any Israel,

Technically, they are right in all of their attempts to harm Iraq.

Other documents and recordings from the archive reveal the casual way in which the former dictator would order executions, including those of two pilots who failed a bombing mission, and specifically that he ordered the death of Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in order to punish the British government.

Read it at The New York Times

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Iran faces off with Obama

This week has seen a dramatic deterioration of relations between Iran and the United States…

 

© Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

 

Amid claims that two men under order from Tehran plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States; one journalist reporting today from Kabul has reported cross-border fire from Iran into Afghanistan in what is thought to be a dispute over a village in Nimruz province.

Whilst this story is yet to hit major news sources, maybe inferring its relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things, it can only add to what is becoming a widespread desire to isolate Iran.

According to one source, Iranian officials sent a letter to Afghan authorities earlier this week claiming that the village of Badichi is a part of Iranian territory. Local officials have outlined how the village under dispute was in fact wiped out by flash floods in 2005 but has since been rebuilt, attached to Afghanistan. The Deputy Governor of Nimruz, Haji Qaasim Khedri, confirmed that he had received reports that:

as many as seven mortar shells were shot into Nimruz province…from the Iranian side of the border this morning.

Khedri also stated that the Iranian military had made “force deployments along the border line” and that the Afghan border police are prepared to defend the province.

Whilst higher authorities in Kabul are yet to comment, these actions will surely not bode well for the Iranian elite who are already facing intense criticism amid the accusations surrounding the attempted assassination of Saudi Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir on US territory.

The US Justice Department has formally charged two men with “conspiring with Iranian factions to kill the Saudi Ambassador” according to a report for The Telegraph. One of the conspirators, Gholam Shakuri, is noted as “an Iran-based member of the Quds Force,” the elite faction of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps charged with Iranian power projection abroad.

In terms of the Iran-Afghanistan relationship, it has generally been stable since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It is believed that Iran even provided the US with support for the initial invasion, providing them with Special Forces for counterterrorist operations against their long-time enemy, the Taliban. At this time Iran was still engaged in behind-the-scenes talks with the US over a range of issues with a focus on Afghanistan.

Despite some tensions arising between Tehran and Kabul over issues such as oil transfers, as occurred in January of this year; this has owed more to Iranian attitudes towards the presence of ISAF forces in the region as oppose to the Karzai government which it has publicly supported.

Details on both of these incidents remain sketchy; however, both sides have been quick to make broad public statements that could have overarching implications for future relations.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has alleged that the accusations are merely aimed at diverting attention away from the Wall Street protests currently underway in the US. Vice President Joe Biden issued a strong reproach to Iran stating that “nothing has been taken off the table.” Earlier this week, Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman drew attention when outlining his foreign policy, stating:

I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee has officially rebuked the accusations in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon accusing the US of “war-mongering” and re-affirming Iran’s commitment to peace and stability.

Although it seems that the US must have some convincing evidence against the Iranian government given the ferocity of their reaction this week, questions remain. According to the news source Al Arabiya, certain US officials have stated that it is possible the Iranian President and Intelligence Ministry were unaware of the plot.

Similarly though it seems unlikely that Ayatollah Khamenei also would have sanctioned a plot that would create so much of a backlash against the Iranian government. According to the Iran analyst Karim Sadjadpour, Khamenei runs his government much like a CEO, balancing factions with the main aim being regime survival.

According to one analyst, the Quds Force in particular follows an agenda:

parallel to Tehran’s normal diplomatic and economic relations with Kabul.

This highlights the often forgotten fact that the Iranian government is not a monolithic body but one of competing factions, revolving around Ayatollah Khamenei but not necessarily all under his complete control.

 

Jennifer Lang has an MPhil in International Relations at Cambridge University, and has recently spent time in Israel and the West Bank. She writes on subjects including Afghanistan, Iran and US/EU foreign policy. You can find her on Twitter @Jenn_Lang  

 

 

Was Iran really behind Saudi terror plot?

Experts beginning to doubt whether ‘B-movie’ plot to kill Saudi ambassador had Iran’s backing…

 

© by Dina Regine

 

Following the announcement that the US had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador on American soil, experts have begun to question whether the scheme really had state backing.

The plot essentially involved an Iranian used-car salesman hiring a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing in Washington, with a number of other side plots apparently being worked on, such as the smuggling of tonnes opium from the Middle East to Mexico.

Gary Slick, a scholar who once monitored Iran for the US National Security Council, said on his blog:

In fact, this plot, if true, departs from all known Iranian policies and procedures.

To be sure, Iran has plenty of reasons to be angry at both the United States and Saudi Arabia. They attribute the recent wave of assassinations of physics professors and students, as well as the intrusion of the Stuxnet worm, to the U.S. and Israel. And the king of Saudi Arabia is reliably reported to have called for the U.S. to bomb Iran.

Iran has reportedly been involved in past assassinations in Europe and bombings in Argentina and elsewhere. But the assassinations were of Iranian counter-revolutionaries in the 1980s, and the bombings were always carried out by trusted proxies — normally a branch of Hezbollah. Iran’s fingerprints were always concealed beneath one or more layers of disguise…. And it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions. In this instance, they allegedly relied on at least one amateur and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and U.S. intelligence agents.

Whatever else may be Iran’s failings, they are not noted for utter disregard of the most basic intelligence tradecraft, e.g. discussing an ultra-covert operation on an open international line between Iran and the U.S. Yet that is what happened here.

Read more at The Lede

 

Iraq siding with Iran over Syria’s Assad

In a move that’s highly embarrassing for the US, Iraq continues to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad…

 

Iraqi forces © The U.S. Army

 

While most countries in the Arab world have been slowly distancing themselves from the Syrian regime, Iraq has been moving largely in the opposite direction; expanding business ties, offering political support, and hosting visits from Syrian officials.

Iraq’s actions are proving highly embarrassing for the Obama administration, as Iraq comes further and further under the influence of its neighbour Iran, which is keen to ensure its Syrian ally stays in power.

Prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki recently echoed the words of Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he said:

We believe that Syria will be able to overcome its crisis through reforms

The current US intelligence forecast is that the regime of Bashar al-Assad will eventually fall under the weight of sanctions and protests, however the timescale for that is anyone’s guess. Commenting on Iraq’s support for the regime, one administration official said:

The Iraqis should be more helpful, absolutely

Read more at The Washington Post

 

 

 

The death of an arms dealer

The man who armed Saddam Hussein and worked for the CIA dies penniless in Miami…

 

© DVIDSHUB

 

Sarkis Soghanalian has died at the age of 82, after a career as an arms dealer that could have come straight from the pages of a best-selling thriller.

During the 1980s he became a major supplier of arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, and in 1993 he received a six and a half year prison term for violating UN sanctions by smuggling 103 helicopters into Iraq.

However, like a number of sentences Soghanalian received, it was eventually reduced due to his ‘cooperation’ with American law enforcement agencies. When in 1981 he pleaded guilty to fraud over the sale of machineguns to Mauritania, the judge granted him probation on the basis that the case:

involved international affairs conducted by the State Department.

After settling in Florida in 1990, Soghanalian kept and operated a fleet of cargo planes, and his hangar would regularly get raided in the search for ‘contraband’. He went on to work with both the CIA and the FBI, and those entering his office would range from members of the Jordanian royal family to militants from Hezbollah.

Ultimately however, when the Cold War came to end, Soghanalian saw his influence wane and his fortune disappear. As his son said:

The world changed around him

Read it at The New York Times

 

Iran: The nuclear distraction

We must not cast a blind eye on Iran’s violations of fundamental rights…

 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad UN visit - human rights protest © david_shankbone

 

Western preoccupation with Iran’s uranium enrichment programme has distracted the international focus away from the other key issue: the government’s human rights violations. International groups have called for a UN led effort to hold Iran to account for its violation of international treaty obligations and for the contempt it shows for both the international community and its own citizens. If the UN is to be effective, the international community must apply more consistent pressure.

Voluntary human rights obligations

Iran has ratified numerous international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and conventions on issues such as racial discrimination and children’s rights. Such obligations have been frequently violated. Thus UN reports highlight government persecution of minority groups, imprisonment of political activists, torture and executions of its most ardent opponents.

Iran’s response to criticism over its human rights record, that foreign governments shouldn’t interfere in its internal political matters, is difficult to justify. Voluntarily undertaken human rights obligations are not internal political matters but legal norms defined and substantiated by international law.

UN inefficacy

Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist imprisoned in Iran for 119 days, has argued that the UN must lead the effort to hold Iran to account. He argues that the UN is one of the few international institutions recognised by Iran as legitimate and so has urged the UN to mandate an official investigator in Iran.

But the UN is not the solution. Propositions involving the UN both overestimate the persuasive force of UN demands and fail to recognise the contempt Iran has shown to this institution. The Universal Period Review carried out in February by the UN Office of Human Rights is an example of both the impotence of UN efforts and the lip service paid to this organization by Iran.

The UPR has made recommendations to improve human rights protection in line with Iran’s treaty obligations. Iran claims to be willing to cooperate with the UNHRC but its response to the recommendations has been ‘cynical’, as described by Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International has led the criticism of the inconsistency with which Iran’s government responded, condemning in particular Iran’s acceptance of the recommendation to respect religious freedom but rejection of the request to end discrimination of Baha’is, a religious minority. The government further rejected recommendations to end juvenile executions, rejected guarantees to uphold fair trials, refused to investigate torture and rape allegations and refused to release people detained for peacefully exercising their human rights. Hassiba Sahraoui, the Middle East Deputy Director at Amnesty International, has argued that the rejection of certain recommendations and acceptance of others similar, casts doubt on the prospect of proper implementation.

Other UN attempts to address the rights’ abuses have been restrained and UN General Assembly Resolution 64/176 is timid. In it the General Assembly express their ‘deep concern’ at extra-judicial executions, floggings and amputations as punishments and of the persistent failure to provide due process of law rights. They also express their ‘concern’ over the worsening of human rights violations after the 2009 Presidential election. And yet the resolution ends by a mere ‘call’ for cooperation, a ‘request’ for the Secretary General to submit another report and commits the UN to continue examining human rights in Iran. A General Assembly resolution is a demand without a sanction.

Missed opportunities

The disputed 2009 elections are emblematic of the gross human rights violations in Iran. Critics of the government were arbitrarily arrested, harassed, detained, imprisoned and tortured. The government claimed to be carrying out investigations into the torture and killings but no one appears to have been brought to justice. Iran continues to mislead the Human Rights Council by making claims that it will implement recommendations made by Governments to conduct transparent and independent investigations. But according to Amnesty International, Iranian security forces continue to arrest, detain or convict those alleged to be involved in the post-election unrest. Political and civil society activists remain in prison and, according to the Iranian judiciary, 250 people have been prosecuted in relation to the post-election unrest and at least six of those accused of taking part are at risk of execution after their death sentences were confirmed by appellate courts.

The flagrant human rights abuses committed during the 2009 election were an opportunity for the international community to unite behind the UN and demand reform. The reluctance of the international community to mount an effective challenge at the time has cost the complete loss of political momentum. With the dust having settled on the election, the international community remains once again singularly focussed on the nuclear threat.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN Summit last year represented another opportunity lost by the international community to engage directly with Iran over its human rights record. When Obama condemned Mr Ahmadinejad’s ‘hateful’ speech, he was predictably light handed on the issue of human rights. The White House transcript of an interview with Obama after the Summit is embarrassing evidence of just how little political space and time was dedicated to the issue of Iran’s human rights abuses. Obama claimed to ‘stand by’ the Iranian people but not once called on Iran to reform and Obama was quick to say he had ‘no interest’ in ‘meddling’ with the rights of people to choose their own government. But what is needed is not a claim to stand by the Iranian people but an effort to speak for the Iranian political and civil activists silenced by imprisonment and torture.

The case for political pressure

Political pressure mounted by the international community is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, the UN is the only international institution that is legally empowered and therefore justified in holding Iran to account. Any action taken by the international community that would circumvent UN machinery would be illegitimate. Instead, UN member states must support this body because is it clear that Iran has no intention of taking the Human Rights Council and, by extension, the UN, seriously.

Secondly, political pressure is necessary because the international community is obliged to speak on behalf of silenced Iranian activists. For Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize Winning Iranian human rights activist, of paramount importance is the release of civil and political detainees in Iran. Like so many others working to restore human rights in Iran, Mrs Ebadi recognises that the Iranian people must be allowed the opportunity to hold their own government to account. So long as civil and political activists are suppressed, the Iranian people are denied the ability to demand their human rights for themselves. The lack of a political voice of the Iranian people is why the international community must speak on their behalf. The international community must not ‘meddle’ with their rights, must not impose its own understanding of human rights, but simply need do as Obama claims, and stand by the Iranian people by voicing their complaints.

The question that will be asked is whether political pressure will be effective when legal measures have proved futile. But the question should not be one of efficacy but one of necessity. The international community must transform their silent signatures on UN Resolutions into insistent political criticism because the Iranian people, for fear of intimidation, imprisonment and torture, are unable to criticise the government for themselves. The international community must condemn Iran’s human rights violations in the same way it has condemned Iran’s uranium enrichment. The Iranian government may be blind to the human rights abuses it perpetrates but it cannot be deaf to international political condemnation.

Conclusions

A parliamentary report published in 2009 described the human rights abuses in Iran as systematic, yet little parliamentary time has been spent discussing the government response to these abuses. Occasional political statements and a few early day Parliamentary motions do not amount to political pressure. The British government need to do more and should lead the international community in holding Mr Ahmadinejad’s administration to account.

It is widely felt that ‘the West’ is hesitant to complicate the dialogue with Iran over the nuclear programme by discussing human rights or regional peace. Mrs Ebadi argues that non-democratic, non-liberal states like Iran pose a greater threat to peace in the Middle East than nuclear weapons. She goes further to accuse Western governments of forgetting about the subrogation of human rights in Iran since the beginning of Iran’s nuclear programme.

The nuclear programme has ensured that Iran remains central to western foreign policy concerns.  The argument made is one of political reemphasis, not of political refocus: concern about the nuclear threat is self-evidently important, but the threatened nuclear capability should not dominate political discussion to the exclusion of gross human rights violations. As a signatory to human rights treaties, Iran is in violation of international law as a result of its abuses of fundamental rights and governments must hold Iran to account for this. The West is obliged to give the issue of rights violations the space it deserves in political discourse because we have a legal and moral duty to hold the Iranian government to account for the violations of voluntarily undertaken human rights obligations.

 

Ram Mashru is the editor of the Discuss[n] blog, and writes on subjects including world affairs and politics. 

 

Al-Qaeda to Iran: ‘Stop 9/11 conspiracy’

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been chastised by al-Qaeda for saying 9/11 was an ‘inside job’…

 

© fotosinteresantes

 

Following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN, in which he again claimed the 9/11 attacks were not perpertrated by al-Qaeda, the militant group has sent him a message telling him to stop spreading “ridiculous” conspiracy theories, reports The Guardian.

The message from al-Qaeda, in its english-language magazine Inspire, says:

The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al-Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government…So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?

The article, which briefly at least bizarrely makes al-Qaeda sound vaguely rational, then goes on to say:

Al-Qaeda … succeeded in what Iran couldn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.

Al-Qaeda also accused Iran of opportunistic “anti-Americanism”.

For Iran, anti-Americanism is merely a game of politics. It is anti-America when it suits it and it is a collaborator with the US when it suits it, as we have seen in the shameful assistance Iran gave to the US in its invasion of Afghanistan and in the Shia of Iraq, backed by Iran, bringing the American forces into the country and welcoming them with open arms.

 

A lunch with Ahmadinejad

The Iranian president meets with journalists after his UN speech…

 

© Daniella Zalcman

Following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial speech to the UN, David Remnick sat down with the Iranian president to discuss his views:

He never disappoints, sending the ritually and officially offended American delegation to the exits during his U.N. speeches; this year, he brought out some particularly ugly chestnuts, casting conspiratorial doubt on the events of 9/11 and on the historical reality of the Holocaust.

Remnick discusses the Iranian leader’s arrival following the speech:

Ahmadinejad arrived at the Warwick a little after two, dressed, as always, modestly, as if he were an assistant agricultural secretary from the provinces. He is not tall. He is what Groucho Marx used to call “well over four feet.” And, unless I am mistaken, he looked wearier than in previous years.

And says that while he skirted around some issues such as the Arab Spring and Obama, on one issue he was steadfast:

In a way, the only answer of his that seemed untricky and heartfelt was his hideous denunciation of homosexuals. He no longer exactly denied the existence of gay men and women in Iran, as he once had, but now, he said, “In Iran, homosexuality is looked down upon as an ugly deed. Perhaps some engage in such activities….but this is one of the ugliest behaviors in our society and it is against divine will.”

Read it at The New Yorker