Friday, August 27, 2010

Next stop, Tehran?


The sad thing - the American people are not at all at war with the devil.... The devil is riding us and got us declaring war against the world plus our own people and ourselves in his name.... The capricious beast demands expensive sacrifices of us and tells us it is for our own salvation..... And we are too mind-controlled to see it.....

Next stop, Tehran? NO, hard negotiations with Tehran full steam ahead soon....?


** Based on discussions with several senior intelligence officials in Washington and elsewhere...., it appears that the majority consensus among U.S. and many other national security policymakers, regarding the Iran situation, can be summarized as follows....

1. Iran is still well-over a year away from any substantial progress towards weaponization. There are serious glitches in the Iran program and there is effective and coordinated sabotage and disruption involving the United States, Russia, Germany and others. There is no imminent deadline for military action, and the Israelis perfectly well know this, too.

2. The U.S. is resolved to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. So, while there is time for diplomacy, there is a deadline, and the military option is truly on the table. Just not during 2010. Revisit the question after March 2011.

3. Unlike the Bush Administration, the policy of the national security team under Obama is NOT to attempt regime change. Let the volatile internal dynamics play out, with only very clandestine support for opposition reform factions. The view is that any factional realignment further postpones the Iranian nuclear weaponization program.

4. U.S. has congratulated Russia (Hillary to Lavrov) for starting up Bushehr. This is an important milestone event. Even Iran is given blessings for moving forward with civilian nuclear power--under international proper supervision.

5. Israel and American neocons are pushing the button vis. attacking Iran for broader geopolitical reasons. If Iran gets the bomb, this fundamentally changes the political alignment in the region, and neutralizes Israel's nuclear capability. Israel's overkill nuclear weapons arsenal was part of the NATO second strike capability versus the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. Why else would Israel have such a vast arsenal? Needless for deterrent or even offensive use against Arab countries. As a deterrent, it has been pretty successful. No Middle East war against Israel since 1973--the point that Israel verifiably had a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. Now Israel is a liability for the U.S. in the eyes of a growing number of American strategists. Even Gen. Petraeus testified at the U.S. Senate that Israel's behavior is making life more difficult for U.S. military forces in the Arab and Muslim world. The game is changing, gradually, and the power of the Israeli Lobby is diminishing.

6. War, therefore, is neither imminent nor unthinkable. 2011 is the crucial time frame, and in the interim, there is an enormous amount of wiggle-room for negotiations. Iran is a potential vital ally for U.S. safe and credible withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. But diplomacy is a two-way street, and the frustration with Iran's diplomatic zig-zags is deep, in Washington AND Moscow. Beijing is also coming to see the difficulties in relying on Iran keeping their word, or responding to pressure from true allies.

If it does come down to a war, there will be plenty of blame to go around. War can and must be avoided, and that will take competent, sustained, patient diplomacy over the next nine months. Pay special close attention to the negotiations now underway, leading into the September talks in Vienna, hosted by the IAEA. Those talks will offer the next best opportunity to blunt the momentum for war, via a deal to restrict secondary enrichment by Iran, and to exchange a portion of their existing stockpile of low enriched uranium for the isotope fuel rods needed for their medical reactor. Turkey is playing a back channel role in this, but there are literally a dozen or more direct U.S. negotiating channels with Iranian officials.

The only thing missing from this analysis is domestic U.S. economic woes. At some point might not U.S. elites determine that the only way out of a double-dip recession (plus deflation) is war?

Of course the Iranians are going to zig and zag, and zag and zig, again and again. What needs to be on the table is not war but our willingness to trade our something big for their something big. We have been engaging in preliminaries. Real negotiations have yet to begin. When I see the real horses we are willing to trade, not the nags we've been parading, then I'll know we are starting to get serious.

looks like next stop Tehran. I heard from a merc I've known for a while, this one works in the private Uncle Sam camp. He normally works the whole Afghanistan-Green Zone corridor. He says they are all on standby for Tehran. They absolutely expect it to go down soon. I've learned long ago to watch the global merc migration patterns. They are like groundhogs, their appearance foreshadowing coming events. Iran will happen soon....
Repent -- The End Is Near

...We are ruled by a political class that lacks ethics, integrity, and ability. We are lied to daily. We are not in an economic recovery. The financial crisis is not over. The reality is that the economy and financial system are in worse trouble today than they were two years ago. We have not seen anything yet compared to what lies ahead!

Optimistic, IMO......
Who Actually Owns BP?] U.S. US Military Intervention in Africa: The New Blueprint for Global Domination
(Keep your eyes on the coming rape of Africa and what they are going to do with Africom 'peace-keepers" and IMF and UN in tow after they stir up civil and puppet wars in strategic resource-rich nations. They did not build Africom for nuthin'.

India to order large number of Javelin anti-tank missiles from US
What for, s'il vous plaƮt?

Obama draws line on Iran policy
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama's refusal in a White House briefing this month to announce a "red line" in regard to Iran's nuclear program represented another in a series of rebuffs of pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a statement that the US will not accept its existing stocks of low enriched uranium.

The Obama rebuff climaxed a months-long internal debate between Obama and Gates over the "breakout capability" issue that surfaced in the news media last April.

Gates has been arguing that Iran could turn its existing stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) into a capability to build a nuclear
weapon secretly by using covert enrichment sites and undeclared sources of uranium.

That Gates argument implies that the only way to prevent Iran having enough bomb-grade uranium for nuclear weapons is to insist that Iran must give up most of its existing stock of LEU, which could be converted into enough bomb-grade uranium for one bomb.

But Obama has publicly rejected the idea that Iran's existing stock of LEU represents a breakout capability on more than one occasion. He has stated that Iran would have to make an overt move to have a "breakout capability" that would signal its intention to have a nuclear weapon.

Obama's most recent rebuff of the Gates position came in the briefing he gave to a select group of journalists on August 4.

Peter David of The Economist, who attended the briefing, was the only journalist to note that Obama indicated that he was not ready to lay down any public red lines "at this point". Instead, Obama said it was important to set out for the Iranians a clear set of steps that the US would accept as proof that the regime was not pursuing a bomb.

Obama appeared to suggest that there are ways for Iran to demonstrate its intent not to build a nuclear bomb other than ending all enrichment and reducing its stock of low enriched uranium to a desired level.

Iran denies any intention of making nuclear weapons, but has made no secret that it wants to have enough low enriched uranium to convince potential adversaries that it has that option.

At a 2005 dinner in Tehran, Hassan Rowhani, then secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that Iran didn't need a nuclear weapon, as long as it had the "mastery of the fuel cycle" as a deterrent to external aggression.

Gates raised the issue of the Iranian ability to achieve a breakout capability in a three-page memorandum addressed to national security adviser Jim Jones in January 2010, as first reported in the New York Times on April 18.

In reporting the Gates memo, David E Sanger of the New York Times wrote, "Mr Gates's memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed."

In the statement issued on the memo on April 18, Gates said it "identified next steps in our defense planning process where further interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in the months and weeks ahead".

The Sanger article appeared eight days after differences between Obama and Gates over the Iranian breakout capability issue had surfaced publicly in April.

Obama used an April 1 interview with CBS News to distinguish between Iran's "trying to develop the capacity to develop nuclear weapons" from a decision to actually possess nuclear weapons.

"They might decide that, once they have that capacity that they'd hold off right at the edge - in order not to incur more sanctions," he observed. Obama talked about a new round of international sanctions as his response to that problem.

Hardliners in Washington wanted Obama to go further. David E Sanger of the New York Times invited Obama in an April 5 interview to draw the US red line at an Iranian breakout capability, Obama refused to do so.

Sanger asked Obama whether the United States could "live with an Iran that runs right up to the edge" - precisely the scenario Obama had suggested as a distinct possibility four days earlier.

Obama's answer made it clear that he understood that Sanger was pushing the Gates line that there is no obvious firebreak between Iran's low enriched uranium stocks and a breakout capability.

"North Korea was said to be simply a nuclear-capable state until it kicked out the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and became a self-professed nuclear state," said Obama.

But Gates went public a few days later with a sharply different position on the issue.

When David Gregory of interviewed both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gates on NBC's Meet the Press on April 9, he had apparently been informed about differences of view within the administration on the issue of an Iranian "nuclear capability".

Gregory asked Clinton, "Is a nuclear-capable Iran as dangerous as a nuclear state of Iran?" to which Clinton answered, "Well, clearly weapons are more dangerous than potential."

Gregory then asked Gates whether a nuclear-capable Iran is "just as dangerous as being a nuclear state to your mind?"

Gates answered, "Only in this respect: how you differentiate how far, how far have they gone? If they - if their policy is to go to the threshold but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled?"

Gates said he didn't know "how you would verify that".

That exchange would have confused anyone who was not an insider to the Washington policy debate on Iran. The real issue was not whether the United States could "tell that they have not assembled" but whether Iran could turn its stock of low enriched uranium into weapons-grade uranium without kicking out international inspectors first and signaling their intentions.

Israel and extreme alarmists in the United States have long argued that Iran could use covert enrichment sites to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels and might have access to undeclared uranium stocks. But a source familiar with the issue told Inter Press Service that the Defense Department had not been claiming that there is any intelligence indicating secret Iranian sites or uranium supplies.

Gates appears to have been trying to maneuver Obama into adopting a policy under which the United States would have a reason for threatening Iran unless it agreed to divest itself of its low enriched uranium stocks and end enrichment.

Although he has opposed an attack on Iran in both the George W Bush and Obama administrations, Gates has also been the primary advocate of creating "leverage" over Iran as well as over Russia and China in regard to tougher sanctions.

In an interview with Sanger in early 2008, quoted in Sanger's book, The Inheritance, Gates said the main problem he had with the 2007 national intelligence estimate on Iran was that it "made our effort to strengthen sanctions more difficult, because people figured, well the military option is now off the table".

Thus far the Obama administration has not given emphasis to the threat of US attack on Iran. Instead it has sought to use the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran as leverage, even as it warns the Israelis privately not to attempt such an attack.....

Iran debates talks with Uncle Sam....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

"The friendship of Iran is much better than its hostility."
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Iran's ruling establishment is embroiled in heated debate on which course of action to take with the United States, with various political factions seeking to gain capital by touching on issues of war and peace and the economic well-being of Iran.

Ultimately, the decision on whether or not Tehran engages in a new round of bilateral or multilateral dialogue with Washington rests on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is deeply untrusting of US President Barack Obama's so-called Iran
engagement policy that has turned into tough sanctions and warmongering rhetoric.

As in the past, Khamenei's final decision will be a byproduct of multiple intertwined factors: Khamenei's own assessment of Washington's behavior and the feelers sent by the White House, factional balances, inter-agency discussions and deliberations, above all within the Supreme National Security Council, and the weight of public opinion.

The outcome of a complex interactive process rather than the (whimsical) decision of the top leader, the next move the Islamic Republic makes in its policy toward the US is highly critical. It has the potential to backfire at home if it does not meet the challenge of Iran's foreign and domestic priorities, which is why the decision has turned out to be both exceedingly complex and agonizing.

"Part of the problem is the lack of adequate information about the Obama administration and its motives," said a Tehran University political science professor who specializes in Iran's foreign relations. Obama has sent many "contradictory signals" toward Iran that "have convinced many in Iran that he may prove to be a war president instead of peace president vis-a-vis Iran," according to the professor, who declined to be identified.

A number of Tehran analysts maintain a modicum of faith in the Obama administration, hoping that it could still prove different from its predecessors and introduce a meaningful, if not highly significant, change in the US's approach toward Iran, despite the recent rounds of US-led sanctions slapped on Iran.

The Gordian knot of US-Iran hostility cannot be undone unilaterally, however. If there is to be a breakthrough then certain initiatives and reciprocities are necessary, serving as incremental bricks in rebuilding the breakdown in mutual trust.

"Unfortunately, there is a correlation between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the one hand and Iran on the other,'' the professor said. ''Whenever the White House feels the pinch of a deteriorating situation in those places, it eases its hostility toward Iran, but the moment it feels confident on its ongoing wars, it ups the ante against us."

The professor hinted at another dimension of complexity in current US-Iran relations; the fact that Tehran and Washington must constantly adjust their policies based on data from the troubled neighbors of Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Pakistan, which is now distracted with the disaster caused by flooding.

Little wonder that the recent spate of bad news from both Kabul and Baghdad - for example the well-coordinated country-wide bombings in Iraq - actually serves as good news in terms of staving off and diminishing the chances of a worsening crisis with Iran, within certain limits.

The same "quagmire" also gives Iran a cushion of comfort that dampens any major incentive to compromise for the sake of rapprochement with the US. Instead of rapprochement, a dreaded word in Tehran nowadays, expectations are much lower and focus instead on thorny questions of limited dialogue on issues such as Iran's nuclear program and regional security.

From the vantage point of the proponents of direct talks with the US, this is in Iran's national interests since a nuclear fuel-swap deal for a Tehran reactor may never materialize in the absence of such dialogue.

A new round of multilateral nuclear talks is therefore necessary to hammer out differences that remain about the swap deal, which could potentially act as a catalyst for broader agreements. This is in light of economic sanctions that have hurt Iran's economy, particularly in an energy sector in dire need of billions of dollars in foreign investment.

Tehran's main concern is not to enter the ring with heavyweights looking defensive and weak, thus the importance of timing and the right atmosphere. Iran wants to avoid giving the impression in the near future that, as a result of heated debate in Tehran, its negotiators represent a house divided, thus robbing the Iranian negotiators of the necessary confidence to stand up to global "bullying powers".

However, opponents of direct talks with the US may be gaining the upper hand, in light of the successful completion of the Russian-built power plant in Bushehr and the indifference if not outright hostility of several nations (including Turkey and China) toward economic sanctions against Iran.

The prospects for Iran to weather the sanctions, albeit at some cost, are also a factor, though difficult to measure given the inadequate data on the net impact of various sanctions against Iran. A clearer picture on this may emerge by the end of the year, but for the moment the only tentative conclusions that can be drawn are that the effect of sanctions on the economy falls short of the desired "crippling".

"There are many countries - China, India, etc - that are Iran's trade partners with a long history of Western sanctions and none of them buckled under pressure, so why should Iran? It's a question of national pride and identity that can be harmed if Iran forfeits its nuclear policy as a result of sanctions," the Tehran professor said.
The only problem with such comparisons is that unlike China and India, Iran has consistently denied that it has any intention to build nuclear weapons. Irrespective of such differences, what seems to matter more to Tehran analysts and politicians is the sanctity of the nation's external image; an image that could be imperiled if it appeared that Tehran had been pressured into another round of nuclear talks.

This is all the more reason why at this point Tehran may be more amenable to comprehensive dialogue instead of nuclear-focused talks, where the other side's points of weakness, or "co-dependency" (on security in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example) would compensate for Iran's areas of vulnerability.

On the positive side, Washington's decision not to make a lot of fuss about Bushehr's opening, its war-avoidance signals to Israel, Obama's recent hint at seeking Iran's assistance over Afghanistan, the US Navy's rescue of some Iranian fishermen, have seemingly struck a cord in Tehran. There has thus been an announcement that the inquiry regarding three Americans being held in Iran is about to end, a hopeful sign that they may be released, perhaps as part of a "double swap" (see US-Iran double swap points to peace Asia Times Online, August 10, 2010).

Setting the stage for Ahmadinejad's New York visit in September to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting, Iran's foreign policymakers are keen to cultivate elements of public diplomacy that would benefit Iran. At such a testy time, Iran must play its cards to perfection to avoid courting disaster.

Ahmadinejad is likely to repeat his call of last year for a debate with Obama, even though he was ignored then and will likely be ignored again. Yet the advantage of such a move for him is that it puts the ball in the US's court, showing that Washington and not Tehran is rebuffing an offer of friendship.

Still, above and beyond such tactics, the big question of strategic relations between the US and Iran looms large. The fractious response that this elicits in Tehran runs the risk of holding foreign policy interests and priorities hostage to a net of domestic considerations.

The issue of strategic relations is one threat to Iran's national interests to which Iranian politicians cannot possibly remain indifferent, much as they may wish to exploit the issue for factional interests.

To talk or not to talk to Uncle Sam, the riddle remains fully wrapped in suspense. After several rounds of bilateral and multilateral talks, another round is not "mission impossible" [1] but rather mission difficult. A more vigorous sign of Washington's readiness to engage Iran is called for that could enhance the political fortunes of those politicians in Tehran who are advocating the option of talks.

Note 1. Mission impossible? True US-Iran dialogue Asia Times Online, April 8, 2006.