Category: Iran

International sanctions against Iran lifted

Washington Post, By Carol Morello & Karen DeYoung, January 16

Vienna —Iran reentered the global economy Saturday, as years of crippling international sanctions were lifted in exchange for the verified disabling of much of its nuclear infrastructure.

For Iran, implementation of the landmark deal it finalized with six world powers last summer means immediate access to more than $50 billion in long-frozen assets, and freedom to sell its oil and purchase goods in the international marketplace. Tehran has hailed the deal as vindication of its power and influence in the world.

“Today marks the moment that the Iran nuclear agreement transitions from promises on paper to measurable progress,” said Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “United States’ friends and allies in the Middle East and the entire world are safer, because the threat of nuclear weapons has been reduced.”

Iran warns of ‘divine vengeance;’ Saudi Arabia breaks relations

Washington Post, By Liz Sly, January 3

Beirut — Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.

In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”

Iran Nuclear Energy Deal

Following a long conversation with a well-informed friend who opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, I conducted some research to address common objections (for example, Chuck Schumer’s) to its proposals and came up with the following. While neither definitive nor unbiased, my notes at least reflect the thoughts of observers with a fair measure of credibility and experience related to Iran. Continue reading

How a weaker Iran got the hegemon to lift sanctions

Middle East Eye, By Gareth Porter, July 15

Now that Iran nuclear deal is completed, the attention of western news media and political commentators is predictably focused overwhelmingly on the opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and from Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition.

That media lens misses the real significance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is that Iran succeeded in negotiating an agreement with the United States that upheld its national right to a nuclear programme despite the obvious vast disparity in power between the two states. That power disparity between the global hegemon and a militarily weak but politically influential regional “middle power” has shaped not just the negotiating strategies of the two sides during the negotiations but, more importantly, how they came about in the first place.

The news media have adopted the Obama administration’s view that negotiations were the result of Iran responding to international sanctions. The problem with that conventional view is not that Iran wasn’t eager to get the sanctions removed, but that it was motivated to do so long before the United States was willing to negotiate.

In fact, Iran had long viewed its nuclear programme not only in terms of energy and scientific advancement but also as a way of inducing the United States to negotiate an end to the extraordinary legal status in which Iran has been placed for so long. Even during the Bill Clinton administration Iranian strategists wanted to get the United States to move toward more normal relations, but Clinton was determined to be the most pro-Israeli administration in US history, and instead imposed a complete trade embargo on Iran.

Clinton eventually offered a “dialogue” with Iran but made it clear that he had no intention of giving up the sanctions against Iran. The lesson that Iranian strategists, including then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and now President Hassan Rouhani, learned from the Clinton years was that the United States would only negotiate the end of its sanctions against Iran if was convinced that the cost and risk of refusing to negotiate was too high.

Counterpunch: Is the Iran Nukes Deal Aimed at Crushing Putin?


Saudi Arabia Promises to Match Iran in Nuclear Capability

New York Times, By David E. Sanger, May 13

Washington — When President Obama began making the case for a deal with Iran that would delay its ability to assemble an atomic weapon, his first argument was that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off a “free-for-all” of proliferation in the Arab world. “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons,” he said in 2012.

Now, as he gathered Arab leaders over dinner at the White House on Wednesday and prepared to meet with them at Camp David on Thursday, he faced a perverse consequence: Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain.

“We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message.

Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Continue reading

U.S. Navy escorting American ships in Strait of Hormuz amid Iran tension

CBS/AP, April 30

A Senior Defense Department official confirms to CBS News that U.S. Naval forces have begun accompanying American-flagged maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

The move is in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior in the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week Iranian naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, and detained it and its crew. Iranian officials say the Maersk shipping line owes it money.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the Strait Friday.

“We’ve taken this step to prevent harassment or possible interdiction by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces,” the official told CBS News.

The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them. The officials said the Navy won’t escort these ships but will let them know in advance that they will monitor the situation as they transit the narrow Strait from the Gulf toward the Arabian Sea.

Jon Stewart Should Retire More Often

The chains of restraint have been loosed just a bit since his announcement that he’ll be leaving the show soon, and the quality of the show has increased. Last night’s take-down of the former VP was both entertaining and vitriolic – but perhaps I repeat myself.

Have a look:


Bonus: The ‘Murican Awards

Russia Lifts Ban On Sending Missiles To Iran, Kremlin Says

Reuters, By Gabriela Baczynska, April 13

Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday paved the way for long-overdue missile system deliveries to Iran and Moscow started an oil-for-goods swap with Tehran, showing the Kremlin’s determination to boost economic ties with the Islamic Republic.

The moves come after world powers, including Russia, reached an interim deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program and signal that Moscow may have a head-start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran.

The Kremlin said Putin signed a decree lifting Russia’s own ban on the delivery of S-300 anti-missile rocket system to Iran, removing a major irritant between the two after Moscow canceled a corresponding contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.

Iran. Iraq. Somebody Remind Me….

President Obama and his Administration are announcing a breakthrough in dealing with Iran on the matter of nuclear proliferation. The media is reporting the obvious condemnation from the Republicans, the Republican wanna-be presidential candidates, and the incessant one-note whining of Israel’s PM.  In contrast, Secretary of State Kerry and others in the Administration are floating hyperbolic self-congratulations over their own hard work and stellar performance.

Most of what I heard yesterday by 7:00 PM indicated the “details” of any agreement would not be worked out for 6 months or more but the “framework” was pretty good as frameworks go.  Then again, the Kyoto Protocols and the SALT II talks were frameworks of international agreement too and whether they did good or ill remains unresolved in minds of many. I suspect most frameworks are built on compromise and whatever they yield is just about as satisfying.

For the liberal world, you have to start somewhere and if a framework gets you started in the correct direction, it is better than creeping toward greater conflict.  To the conservative world, this agreement is worse than Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of the National Socialist Party and the first step along the slippery slope toward mutually assured bloodshed.

So have we staved off disaster, or have we hastened it?
Continue reading

NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: The New York Times continues its slide into becoming little more than a neocon propaganda sheet as it followed the Washington Post in publishing an op-ed advocating the unprovoked bombing of Iran, reports Robert Parry.

Consortium News, By Robert Parry, March 28

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness,” and “behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

On Thursday, the New York Times printed an op-ed that urged the bombing of Iran as an alternative to reaching a diplomatic agreement that would sharply curtail Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it was used only for peaceful purposes. The Post published a similar “we-must-bomb-Iran” op-ed two weeks ago.

The Times’ article by John Bolton, a neocon scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, was entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” It followed the Post’s op-ed by Joshua Muravchik, formerly at AEI and now a fellow at the neocon-dominated School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. [For more on that piece, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocon Admits Plan to Bomb Iran.”]

Both articles called on the United States to mount a sustained bombing campaign against Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities and to promote “regime change” in Tehran. Ironically, these “scholars” rationalized their calls for unprovoked aggression against Iran under the theory that Iran is an aggressive state, although Iran has not invaded another country for centuries.

Obama tells Iran of ‘historic’ opportunity

BBC, March 20

US President Barack Obama has told the Iranian people that a deal to transform the relationship between the two countries could be within reach.

“We have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries,” he said in a video message for Persian New Year.

Six world powers are negotiating a deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activity, with a March deadline near.

[…]

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an apparent response to Mr Obama’s video it was time for the US and other negotiating countries – China, France, Germany, Russia and UK – to move forward with an agreement.

“Iranians have already made their choice: Engage with dignity. It’s high time for the US and its allies to choose: pressure or agreement,” Mr Zarif wrote in a message posted on his official Twitter account.

Saudis Said to Aid Israeli Plan to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.

Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25

According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.

“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.

Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.

Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.

The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.

Khamenei: Iran Could Cut Europe’s Access to Gas if Sanctions not Lifted

Al-Akhbar English/Reuters, February 18

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday that his country would resist global sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, saying that Iran might respond to international pressure by cutting back gas exports.

“The enemy is using the lever of sanctions to the hilt and their goal is to stop our people’s progress,” Khamenei said in a public speech in Tehran, according to IRNA news agency.

“I believe that if we allow them to dictate to us on the nuclear issue, they will still keep the sanctions in place because what they are against is the very foundation of our revolution.”

UMass bans Iranians from some engineering, science programs

AP -The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has banned Iranian nationals from admission to certain graduate programs that school officials say aligns its policy with U.S. sanctions against Iran. Effective Feb. 1, the university will not admit students from Iran to certain programs in engineering and natural sciences.

The National Iranian American Council says UMass’ interpretation of the law is flawed and may violate federal and state protections against discrimination.

Congress enacted legislation in August 2012 that denies visas for Iranian citizens to study in the U.S. if they plan to participate in coursework for a career in the energy or nuclear fields in Iran. But a U.S. State Department official federal law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals seeking an education in science and engineering. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.