28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘war

Reconsidering Iran’s nuclear ambitions

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A sensible news report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has finally emerged. From the Los Angeles Times:

As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.

A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.

The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.

U.S. spy agencies also have not seen evidence of a decision-making structure on nuclear weapons around Khamenei, said David Albright, who heads the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security and is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program.

Albright’s group estimates that with the centrifuges Iran already has, it could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so.

It is not known precisely what other technical hurdles Iran would have to overcome, but Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year. It would take as long as three years, Albright estimated, for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

In December 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate judged with “high confidence” that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. It judged with “moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

As George Friedman said, very clearly, a month ago (here):

Moreover, while the Iranians may aspire to a deterrent via a viable nuclear weapons capability, we do not believe the Iranians see nuclear weapons as militarily useful. A few such weapons could devastate Israel, but Iran would be annihilated in retaliation. While the Iranians talk aggressively, historically they have acted cautiously. For Iran, nuclear weapons are far more valuable as a notional threat and bargaining chip than as something to be deployed. Indeed, the ideal situation is not quite having a weapon, and therefore not forcing anyone to act against them, but seeming close enough to be taken seriously. They certainly have achieved that.

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Written by M. James

February 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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Iskandar on Turkey, Bahrain

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Though the following article is nothing spectacular, it haphazardly touches on some worthwhile points. First, there’s the pressure on Turkey to intervene in Syria, which I noted in a prior post (“Taşpınar prods Turkey”). Second, there’s the assertion that secularism—rather than democracy—is the reason the Turkish model is incompatible with Arab states. Finally, there’s the criticism of Al-Jazeera for not covering the protests in Bahrain—a valid criticism that AJE has apparently taken note of (I, II, III).

Turkey pushed over Syria
İpek Yezdani; Hürriyet; Feb. 20, 2012

Adel Iskandar, an Arab media scholar, says it is in the interest of a lot of countries to push Turkey to intervene in Syrian crisis, which rocks the country for nearly 1 year, a move that could be injurious to Turkey

Turkey is in a very difficult situation vis-à-vis Syria since many Western countries are pushing it to intervene in its southern neighbor, a prominent Arab media scholar has said, adding that such an attack would not benefit Ankara.

“A lot of countries are refraining from getting involved in Syria militarily, and it is in the interest of a lot of countries to push Turkey to intervene Syria. But the reality is, is that it might not be in Turkey’s best interest,” Adel Iskandar, a lecturer at Georgetown University, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“The Syria case is a true tragedy in every sense of the term because the Syrian people are caught between two unfavorable situations: On one side, there is the authoritarian, bloody-minded regime of Bashar al-Assad and, on the other, there is the threat of foreign intervention which they don’t trust but they might need out of necessity,” Iskander told the Daily News on the sidelines of a conference he gave at Istanbul’s Bilgi University.

A military intervention against Syria would not be “as easy as Libya,” he said. “Al-Assad still has some supporters. They will fight to the last minute. And this would lead to a full-fledged war between Syrians themselves. Turkey finds itself at the center of all of this. An attempt to stabilize Syria might destabilize Syria more.”

Turkish model unique

Iskandar also noted the importance of differences between Turkey and the Arab Spring countries.
“Holding up Turkey as an example to the Arab world is an oversimplification and not useful to anyone,” Iskandar said.

“The Turkish experiment is extremely unique, and its long history starts with the post-Ottoman area and [Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk. Each country has to devise its own way toward democracy. [The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)] is not the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis. And you are not going to be able to turn the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis into the AK Party in one night,” Iskandar said.

Iskandar said holding up Turkey as a model for the Arab Spring countries honored neither the Arab world nor Turkey. “Turkey is not an entirely Middle Eastern country. It is a cosmopolitan nation, it has its own particularities. And these particularities are completely different from Libya, for instance,” Iskandar said.
Iskandar drew attention to the fact that the “Turkish model is framed on the notion that secularism is an important part of the state structure.”

“However, the majority of the Arab world doesn’t have secularism in politics. Even [toppled Egyptian leader] Hosni Mubarak was not secular. The term ‘secular’ in the Arab world is considered an extremely negative term. You can’t call yourself ‘secular’ in the Arab world. Besides, people want religion to be a part of politics. It is in the opposite direction to Turkey’s state traditions. It has to be seen through a historical lens,” Iskandar said.

‘Al-Jazeera neglected Bahrain completely’

Iskandar, who has written one of the most prominent books on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news network, also discussed how the channel has covered the ongoing Arab Spring.

“To a large extent, Al-Jazeera did the job they should be doing by covering the story that unfolded. At the end of the day, Al-Jazeera has made its bread and butter from political protests. So it was natural for Al-Jazeera to cover the protests,” he said.

However, Iskandar said there were some uprisings that the channel had completely neglected.

“Like in Bahrain. [In terms of the] percentage of the protestors, the Bahraini movement is the largest movement in the Arab Spring. However, the saddest situation is that while the Bahraini and Syrian revolts started at the same time of the year; one year after that Syrian is getting 99 percent of the coverage while Bahrain is only getting 0.01 percent of the coverage. This is going to hurt the network and its credibility in the eyes of the public,” Iskandar said.

Written by M. James

February 20, 2012 at 1:32 am

Whodunit: Revisiting the Roshan assassination

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Once again, I’d like to hark back to a prior post in light of new information on the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. That post, in summary:

Underlying the ramped-up rhetoric, military mobilization, and escalating espionage in Iran is a hidden economic war against Iran’s currency. The implication of this economic war is that the U.S. seeks to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, dollarizing Iran—which is what the U.S. is seeking to do with its economic sanctions—would be a hedge against an up-and-coming Iranian oil empire. Israel, unhappy with this prospect, seeks to start a conflict.

And this is what I proposed Israel was doing to foment that conflict:

To push the U.S. into a confrontation with Iran is desirable, if not necessary, for the security of the Israeli state. The assassination if an Iranian scientist—any scientist—is the means to that end. That’s because Iran thinks the death of Roshan can be linked to information gathered by UN investigators (here):

“Iran says as the UN Resolution 1747, adopted against Tehran in March 2007, cited Abbasi’s name as a ‘nuclear scientist,’ the perpetrators were in a position to trace their victim.”

As such, Iran will be compelled to disallow future UN investigation for its scientists’ safety. Allowing further monitoring, for all Iran knows, will result in a meticulous terror operation against its scientists—Israel will merely search for scientists’ names in UN reports and target them for assassination. But if Iran denies UN observers’ access, as Israel hopes, the U.S. will be forced to intervene on the grounds of nuclear non-proliferation. Problem solved.

In a recent NBC report, “U.S. officials” laid blame, once and for all, on Israel—clearly wanting to have nothing to do with the methods of the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan or the reasoning behind it. This, I think (taken in tandem with initial U.S. reaction, including the impromptu cancelation of the “Austere Challenge 12” wargames with Israel) seals the deal on whodunit:

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.

The Iranians have no doubt who is responsible – Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known by various acronyms, including MEK, MKO and PMI.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describes what Iranian leaders believe is a close relationship between Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel.  “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information.  And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”

Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs.

So I’d like to stress this once again: If there is anyone who wants a war, it’s not the U.S. and it’s not Iran—it’s Israel.

Written by M. James

February 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Iranian rial weakens

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Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In
Robert F. Worth; The New York Times; Feb. 6, 2012

TEHRAN — One measure of the profound anxiety now coursing through Iranian society can be seen on Manouchehri Street, a winding lane at the heart of this city where furtive crowds of men gather every day like drug dealers to buy and sell American dollars.

The government has raised the official exchange rate and sent police into the streets to stop the black marketeers, but with confidence in Iran’s own currency, the rial, collapsing by the day, the trade goes on.

In an interview, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad, also dismissed the sanctions as counterproductive, saying Iranians had suffered worse isolation during the 1980s and had always found ways around them. “This is not the way to approach us,” Mr. Javanfekr said. “You should instead speak to us with respect. You should win our heart.”

Some Iranian businessmen make similar comments, noting that there are always ingenious new ways to sell oil and to transfer money, and that the people who will suffer most from sanctions are not the ones who can pressure the government for change. “So you kill the pistachio trade in Iran,” one businessman said. “How does that stop nuclear enrichment?”

As I’ve argued already, the sanctions aren’t about stopping nuclear enrichment (or about pushing regime change)—they’re about dollarizing Iran by collapsing the rial. If the above reports are true, this attempt has already been met with some success.

Written by M. James

February 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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The currency war in Iran

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To reinforce my claims in a prior post, here is William Clark on “The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target”—from 2004:

The Iranians are about to commit an ‘offense’ far greater than Saddam Hussein’s conversion to the euro of Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Numerous articles have revealed Pentagon planning for operations against Iran as early as 2005. While the publicly stated reasons will be over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are unspoken macroeconomic drivers explaining the Real Reasons regarding the 2nd stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran’s upcoming euro-based oil Bourse.

Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. puppet in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

Similar to the Iraq war, upcoming operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of the `petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

But despite the fall from prominence of the Euro since the publication of the above article, Iran continues, to this day, to evade the dollar (Wikipedia outlines it well enough). For example, Iran is now “said to seek yen oil payments from India.”

Yet in the face of new sanctions, which include a ban on trading gold and silver with Iran (no surprise if this is a currency war), Iran has not yet dollarized. However, the rial’s ominous inflation rate does not bode well for its future. From Jeffrey Lewis, just yesterday (here):

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised interest rates on Iranian bank deposits to up to 21 percent on January 23rd, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA. Iran’s central bank also urged Iranians to buy U.S. Dollars only if they were traveling abroad and not to hoard them as a hedge against economic uncertainty.

The move by the Iranian central bank exacerbated the already steep plunge in the Iranian Rial, which has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the price of U.S. Dollars in the open market over the last month.

The ominous slide in the Rial began in April when the Iranian central bank decided to cut rates to a range of between 12.5 to 15.5 percent in April, prompting people to put their money in safe havens like precious metals and the U.S. Dollar. Inflation in Iran is currently running at 20 percent.

For more on the dollarization of Iran in its current context, see here.

Written by M. James

February 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Hedging against a new Iran

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Underlying the ramped-up rhetoric, military mobilization, and escalating espionage in Iran is a hidden economic war against Iran’s currency. The implication of this economic war is that the U.S. seeks to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, dollarizing Iran—which is what the U.S. is seeking to do with its economic sanctions—would be a hedge against an up-and-coming Iranian oil empire. Israel, unhappy with this prospect, seeks to start a conflict.

Iran’s nuclear program has received a lot of attention in the last few weeks. While this attention may accompany legitimate concerns—and this may be an appropriate time to voice such concerns—careful observers should be uneasy about the apparent convenience of focusing on the “Axis of Evil” at this time. With (1) an Iraq devoid of American police and (2) a stubborn Syrian regime that feels an increasing affinity toward Iran, Iran stands to gain a lot (see my previous post, “Why Syria?”). And if Iran stands to gain, then Saudi Arabia (and its oil hegemony), the United States (and its reliance on Saudi oil hegemony), and Israel (and its mere existence) have a lot to be afraid of.

The headlines of the past few weeks have, of course, demonstrated this fear. But there is one news item in particular that I’d like to point out, just as an example of the absurdity of the rhetoric. For some, it may be déjà vu, though it isn’t being reported that way:

Iran starts enriching uranium to 20 pct – IAEA

In summary: “The International Atomic Energy Agency officially confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium to the 20-percent level…”

But this same headline can be traced back to at least February of 2010, almost two blissful years ago. Here’s one from May 17th, 2010:

Iran says will continue 20 percent enrichment

Notice the word “continue.” This is nothing new. Credibility is all but lost when old news becomes, when reprinted, a sign of “further escalation” (read: casus belli):

“This is a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Public subterfuge.

Cold War
As ZeroHedge artfully phrases it (here): “The geopolitical foreplay is getting ridiculous. At this point it is quite obvious that virtually everyone involved in the US-Israel-Iran hate triangle is just itching for someone else to pull the trigger.” And reading about the overt espionage, public subterfuge, and military muscle-flexing going on between the US and Iran, it may very well seem that itchy trigger fingers abound.

But while there are, quite clearly, warmongers in our midst, I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize the standoff between Iran and the United States so simply. That’s because neither side really wants a war. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

January 19, 2012 at 2:03 am

Posted in News, Politics

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Coming this fall

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“There is almost “near certainty” that Netanyahu is “planning an attack [on Iran] … and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”, Baer explained. [AJE]

And from a 2003 poll found here:

Regarding a possible Iran-America confrontation, 55 percent of Turks preferred neutrality, while 23.8 percent favored siding with Iran, compared to just 16.85 percent who wanted to be on the U.S. side.

And if the confrontation is brought about by Israel, forget about it.

Written by M. James

July 22, 2011 at 8:45 am