The Geneva Breakthrough

November 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

This is a positive and historic development. Not only will it relieve pressure on ordinary Iranian people, it will also empower the country’s reformists. It will also put the interests of the powerful merchant against the interests of the hardliners. It will erode the power of hawks not just in Iran, but also the US and Israel.

This also creates an opening for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Syria. Until now Iran’s hardliners have been running amuck in Syria, and the IRGC has been actively at war. Now Iran has something to lose. The US has gained leverage that until now it didn’t have. It is now in a position to pressure Iran to drop its support for Assad. Given the fragility of the entente, the last thing Iran would want is to jeopardise it by continuing a policy with an uncertain end.

Iran’s Secret Army

November 24, 2013 § 18 Comments

As the world celebrates the deal between the West and Iran, it should be remembered that Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme – and the sanctions which have so damaged Iran’s economy – were provoked by Israeli concerns, and that these are not existential but strategic. Iran doesn’t need a nuclear weapon but only the ability to enrich uranium to a level where it could quickly make a nuclear weapon. At that stage, the bullying power given Israel by its own nuclear arsenal vanishes. A sensible approach to the problem would have reduced Tehran’s nuclear ambition while disarming Israel. The West, of course, did not press for this, and Iran, despite its stale ‘resistance’ rhetoric, did not hold out for it.

In general, it’s good to see tension reduced between Iran and the West. The great shame is that while a deal is done over the nuclear programme, something that was never much of a threat, Iran has not been called to account for its pernicious intervention in Syria, a far greater threat to regional and international security. Iran’s intervention is on a far greater scale than any Saudi or Qatari interference. The Islamic Republic’s ‘revolutionary’ legitimacy is of course destroyed by its siding with a tyrant against a revolutionary people, and its Shia legitimacy will also be destroyed in the eyes of any thinking human being, for it has joined Yazeed in a war against a struggling Hussain. After Assad’s employment of sectarian death squads, ‘Shia’ Iran’s deployment of racist occupation forces to direct the tyrant’s fightback has been the single biggest factor amplifying the sectarian nature of the conflict. It has already dragged Lebanon back to the brink of civil war. Some argue that peacable relations between the US and Iran will defang Iran’s hardliners. That may happen eventually, but it will be far too late for usurped and shattered Syria.

I used to argue that the West and the Arabs should work with Iran. I used to repeat the line about Iran not having attacked another country in three centuries. (I made allowances for its pernicious role in keeping Iraq divided and sectarian; Iraq had after all attacked Iran in the past.) Unfortunately this line is no longer true. The Arabs are now absolutely right to regard Iran as an aggressive, expansionist threat. This deal has by no means secured peace in the region.

Actually Existing Intervention

September 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Now that the glorious revolutionary alliance of the Stop the War Coalition, Sarah Palin’s Tea Party, UKIP, the BNP, Tory back-benchers and the (Iraq-invading) Labour Party has won its historical victory over the forces of imperialism, the western faux-left can go back to sleep while Bashaar al-Assad can continue and escalate his genocide of the Syrian people. Here’s a short film showing Iranian occupation forces in Syria. At one point one of them says, “There are no human beings here – only Arabs.”

Hagel: Israel’s nukes a threat, not Iran’s

April 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

Someone has uncovered the video of a very interesting Q&A from an event in 2008. Here is US defence secretary Chuck Hagel responding to a question about Iran’s nukes. (Also see my article on why the Israel lobby tried to block Hagel’s nomination)

Transcript: “I’ll answer your question as honestly as I can. That’s a hypothetical question that somehow frames up the simplicity of the hypothetical question. The complications in the Middle East, and I’m certainly not an expert there, I have a chapter on the Middle East, I do know [laughter], I know a little something about the Middle East. I spent a lot of time there. And I spent a lot of time in Israel with the prime ministers and others. You who are well informed on this issue know the complexities starting with go back to the Bible, go back to ancient times, thousands of years. I mean that, if you really want to start trying to understand the Middle East, Paul, or David Aaron Miller, who you may know, has a new book out on this, The Not So Promised Land [The Much Too Promised Land]. And if you want to read something that is very, very enlightening, this guy he’s getting tremendous reviews on it. He’s Jewish. He worked in the State Department, worked for Baker, worked for Albright, I think he’s worked for four secretaries of state, different Democrats, Republicans. But it’s a great, great book.”

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Why did the US invade Iraq?

March 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

An edited version of following article about the causes of the Iraq war appears in The National as “A parade of characters and causes led the US to war in Iraq“.

Ten years since ‘shock and awe’, the reasons behind the invasion of Iraq have yet to be satisfactorily explained. Journalists, scholars, statesmen, soldiers, spies, and ideologues have all toiled for answers. Oil, imperialism, militarism, democracy, Israel and free markets have each been offered as explanations. Mono-causal and mutually exclusive: they seem to enlighten less than they satisfy the innate human need for simplification. In the hands of academics, on the other hand, explanations inevitably turn ‘complex’ – a ubiquitous marker that separates man from mandarin.

To say that the causes of the Iraq war are easy to explain is not to say that they are simple. But the lack of simplicity also does not imply indeterminacy. The reality may be complex but is decidedly explicable.

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Iran Shoots Itself in the Foot

January 17, 2013 § 6 Comments

iransyriahizbThis was written for the excellent Lobelog.

In August 2012 Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi attended a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran. His presence at the conference was something of a diplomatic victory for the Iranian leadership, whose relations with Egypt, the pivotal Arab state, had been at the lowest of ebbs since the 1979 revolution.

Egypt’s President Sadat laid on a state funeral for the exiled Iranian shah. A Tehran street was later named after Khalid Islambouli, one of Sadat’s assassins. Like every Arab country except Syria, Egypt backed Iraq against Iran in the First Gulf War. Later, Hosni Mubarak opposed Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, worked with the US and Saudi Arabia against Iran’s nuclear program, and was one of the Arab dictators (alongside the Abdullahs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia) to warn darkly of a rising “Shi’ite cresent”. Not surprisingly, Iran was so overjoyed by the 2011 revolution in Egypt that it portrayed it as a replay of its own Islamic Revolution.

Iran also rhetorically supported the revolutions in Tunisia and Libya, the uprising in Yemen, and, most fervently, the uprising in Shia-majority Bahrain.

In Syria, however, Iran supported the Assad tyranny against a popular revolution even as Assad escalated repression from gunfire and torture to aerial bombardment and missile strikes. Iran provided Assad with a propaganda smokescreen, injections of money to keep regime militias afloat, arms and ammunition, military training, and tactical advice, particularly on neutralising cyber opponents. Many Syrians believe Iranian officers are also fighting on the ground.

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The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy under Obama

October 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

Eminent international relations scholar John J. Mearsheimer takes the measure of Obama’s Middle East policy under the lobby’s influence in this highly informative talk delivered at Turkey’s Koç University.

Time to Rethink Iran

July 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

Jon Snow of Channel 4 News argues it is time for the US to lead a change in the relationship of it and the UK with Iran, in the Lord Garden Memorial Lecture at Chatham House on 21 June 2012.

Apple’s Racial Profiling

June 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

This happened at more than one location. Jamal Abdi of NIAC speaks to Al Jazeera.

Why Iran Should Get the Bomb

June 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

In Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Waltz, the towering international relations theorist, argues that nuclear balancing will bring stability to the Middle East. He writes:

Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff. In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.

He adds:

Diplomacy between Iran and the major powers should continue, because open lines of communication will make the Western countries feel better able to live with a nuclear Iran. But the current sanctions on Iran can be dropped: they primarily harm ordinary Iranians, with little purpose.

Most important, policymakers and citizens in the Arab world, Europe, Israel, and the United States should take comfort from the fact that history has shown that where nuclear capabilities emerge, so, too, does stability. When it comes to nuclear weapons, now as ever, more may be better.

You can read the rest here.

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