The Target is Iran: Israel’s Latest Gamble May Backfire by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, January 12, 2009

The aerial war against Gaza launched by Israel just after Christmas, and the ground offensive, with which it rang in the New Year, were shocking in their brutality, but should constitute no surprise, if viewed from the standpoint of long-term Israeli strategic aims. The Israelis have argued that the offensive was launched in response to eight years’ of relentless attacks by Hamas rockets into Israel. But then, one asks: why now? Why should they wait eight years?

Perhaps the massive military onslaught, which has killed over 800 Palestinians and wounded thousands, has nothing to do with Kassam rockets. Perhaps it is not a tactical military operation by Israel, but a strategic decision on the part of Israel’s Anglo-American backers, whose ultimate aim is war against Iran. Perhaps the military calculations in Tel Aviv are that continued massive pounding of Gaza by air and in house-to-house fighting, will take such a ghastly toll on the Palestinian civilian population, that Iran, touted as the backer of Hamas, will be forced to move into the conflict. Perhaps that is precisely the reaction Israel desires, in order to justify launching its war against the Islamic Republic, a war which has been on the drawing boards of the Israelis and their neocon sponsors for many years.

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Kazakhstan: Central Asian Giant Battles World Crisis

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, October 26, 2008

Kazakhstan’s success story has been rightly praised in both the East and in the West. Under the leadership of its President, Nursultan Nazerbayev, this leading political and economic power in Central Asia has made the transition from a Soviet-style economy to a modern social market economy, without falling into the excesses of neoliberal policies, and without relinquishing its national sovereignty.

That notwithstanding, it has not been able escape the ravages of the current financial crisis which has swept across the globe. Now the country’s leadership is facing the third major upheaval since the country declared independence in 1991, — after the breakdown of the Soviet system and trade relations in 1992, and the crisis that hit in 1998. Given its full integration into regional economic, political and security arrangements, and its excellent relations with the West–especially Germany–, there is good reason to hope that it can engage with its neighbors and allies, in developing the means to protect its achievements and contribute to shape a new financial and economic order.

The matter is high on the agenda of the Kazakh political elite. It took center stage at an international conference held in Astana on October 16, in which this author participated. The original title of the conference, organized by the Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security of Mazhilis (Parliament) of the Republic of Kazakhstan, had been “A Stable Kazakhstan in an Unstable World,” but in the weeks preceeding the conference, as the world banking system proceeded to blow apart, the title was redefined as “New Challenges and Kazakhstan’s Contribution to Stability and Security.” In his keynote address, Nurbakh Rustemov, Chairman of the hosting parliamentary committee, used no euphemisms to address reality; he bluntly stated that the world financial crisis was leading to a “misunderstanding” among geopolitical forces, and carried the danger of a direct threat to humanity, through hunger and poverty.(1) He called for uniting forces internationally, to overcome the financial-economic crisis, which he dubbed the “number one priority.” Rustemov mentioned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which Kazakhstan is a founding member, as well as the OSCE, which Kazakhstan will chair beginning 2010, as bodies his government would like to utilize to find solutions to the crisis. Two concrete means that his country could use to impact the crisis, would be in securing energy resources, and providing grain and meat exports to alleviate food shortages. In addition, he emphasized the importance of strengthening the regulatory role of the state, since the system “can not work alone.” Multilateral and bilateral treaty agreements should be pursued to face the immediate challenges.

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War Party in a Bind: After Nuclear Talks in Geneva, Iran Will Likely Agree

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, July 23, 2008

The meeting in Geneva on July 19, between representatives of the 5+1 (U.N. Security Council permanent members plus Germany) and Iran, should be heartily welcomed by all those who seek a diplomatic solution to the hoked-up case against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program, and, thus, an end to the threat of a new war in the region. Although, as both sides stressed, no final agreement was struck at the talks, the fact that they took place at all was significant. The presence in Geneva, of Undersecretary of State William Burns, signalled the first time that the U.S. has officially met with the Iranians since the 1979 revolution, if one excludes the multilateral gatherings on Afghanistan and on Iraq. It is highly likely that the Geneva talks will lead to agreement between the West and Iran.

Yet, the spin in the establishment press on the event, has been most unhelpful, often bordering on sabotage. One line had it that, since the Iranians did not immediately bow down and lisp, “Yes, sir,” to the call for a freeze on its uranium enrichment activities, they were rejecting the 5+1’s bargaining position tout court. Others claimed Tehran were only stalling, in hopes of averting any military aggression until the U.S. elections in November. Still others seized on reports of Iranian military maneuvers, conducted prior to the talks, as “proof” of Tehran’s commitment to develop nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. Regional military maneuvres by Iran, which came on the heels of Israeli exercises simulating attacks on the Islamic Republic, featured the firing of 9 middle-range missiles. In response, Secretary of State Condi Rice issued usual complaints, and both presumptive Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama reiterated that Iran is “a threat.”

Nonetheless, the talks in Geneva did take place, and should be taken as grounds for optimism — cautious, to be sure — but optimism. There are several reasons for this. First, the decision to accept negotiations on the basis of the 5+1 proposal delivered in Iran by Javier Solana on June 14, was taken at the highest level of policy-making in Tehran, i.e. by Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Revolution. All the leading Iranian spokesmen who signalled assent to the proposal, are answerable to Khamenei. These include Saeed Jalili, head of the Supreme National Security Council, and, in that capacity, chief negotiator on nuclear questions; Gholam-Reza Aghezadeh, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, who on June 30 told a parliamentary committee the decision for talks had been made; Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki; and, foreign policy advisor to Khamenei, Ali Akhbar Velayati.

As if to eliminate any doubts on the matter, Khamenei himself explicitly endorsed the talks. As reported on his official website, on July 16, the Supreme Leader stated: “The negotiations will proceed successfully only when the atmosphere of the negotiaitons is not dominated by threats. Europeans have to pay attention to the point that it is the Iranian nation that they are negotiating with. The Iranian nation is a valiant nation that does not like threats, and is not going to give in to any threats.” Khamenei also expressed his full confidence in the bodies dealing with the issue, the Supreme National Security Council which “is in charge of the nuclear issue and is presided over by the esteemed president. Whatever the president and the officials in charge of the nuclear issue say is also approved by all the government officials. And the heads of the three government branches and my representatives are pursuing this issue in the Supreme National Security Council with wisdom and commitment.” The top official said “the red lines of the Iranian nation are absolutely clear,” and will not be crossed. This was a reference to demands that Iran suspend its enrichment program completely, in essence, giving it up entirely.

A second reason for optimism, is that, on the other side, a “new atmosphere” had been created, which helped leading Iranian figures to overcome their skepticism. In remarks to CNN on July 7, Mottaki noted the new atmosphere, saying, “We believe that the nature of our exchanges, both in format and in substance, were different than of previous times.” He went on, “So I believe that we are now in a new environment with a new approaching perspective…” Mottaki also referred to the upcoming elections in the U.S., as a possible moment of transition. “We hear new voices in America,” he said, “We see new approaches, and we think that the rational thinkers in America can, based on these new approaches, see the reality as it is.”

Mottaki was upbeat about the new atmosphere, also because Solana had acknowledged the importance of Iran on the world stage. On June 15, Tehran Times quoted the Eu foreign policy czar as saying the 5+1 “fully recognize Iran’s right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” adding, “We want to have a fully normalized relationship in all fields, in particular the nuclear field.” He said Iran was “a very important and civilized country which plays a very important role in the international arena.”

The meeting in Geneva lasted several hours on July 19. As noted, no concrete breakthrough agreement occurred. According to reports, the 5+1 group formally presented the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal that Solana had offered earlier in oral form to the Iranians, and the Iranians declined to give an immediate, formal answer. Thus the skepticism and the press spin. Iran reportedly delivered a two-page “non-paper” to the 5+1, whose contents have not been made public. The New York Times on July 22 leaked parts of the non-paper, according to which Tehran requested three further meetings with Solana and four meetings at the foriegn ministers’ level, beginning after a halt in sanctions against Iran.

In Geneva, the 5+1 gave Iran two weeks’ time to formulate a final response to their offer. This was followed by a public statement by Secretary of State Condi Rice, who complained that Iran was “meandering” and engaging in “small talk,” and added that either Iran must accept, “or face growing isolation and the collective response of not just one nation but of all nations around the world.” Furthermore, new military manuevres were announced. The U.S., France, Britain and Brazil were to start 10-day exercises off the coast from Virginia to Florida, “aimed at training for operation in shallow coastal waters such as the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” according to PressTV (

All that notwithstanding, the fact is, a high-level U.S. diplomat, William Burns, took part in the talks. This was a crucial victory for the Iranians, who have been demanding direct contact without preconditions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was most unusually explicit in his praise for the U.S. gesture. Speaking on July 23 to a gathering in Yasouj city in southwestern Iran, he stated: “The U.S. administration announced it was going to participate in nuclear talks. We welcomed that. The U.S. representative spoke in a gentlemanly tone in the meeting. It was positive.” According to an AP wire on July 23, Ahmadinejad said Burns’s presence “was a step towards recognizing the rights of the Iranian nation, towards justice, towards repairing your image in the world, towards cleaning 50 years of crimes you committed against the Iranian nation.” Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki had also characterized the announcement that Burns would participate, as “a positive development.”

In the view of Iranian sources, the presence of Burns signalled a victory (at least temporary) of the anti-war forces in Washington, over the Cheney-led war party. Reports from Washington have it that Condi Rice dispatched Burns, over the objections of the vice president. Rice’s move was a political gesture which was generated, however, by a concerted action on the part of the top brass in the U.S. military establishment. Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Mullen had been to Israel where he was presumably briefed on the Israeli hawks’ blueprint for military attacks against Iran. Wihout revealing the details of his discussions, Muller made clear that he would not rubber stamp any such insane designs. After his talks, he said that opening a third front in the region was out of the question.

Why Did Iran Go To Geneva?

The block to direct talks had been the insistence, on the part of the 5+1, that Iran {suspend} its uranium enrichment as a precondition, which Tehran had consistently refused. Now, although the {written} letter of the 5+1 countries’ foreign ministers, accompanying their proposal, still explicitly said, “Formal negotiations can start as soon as Iran’s enrichment-related and reprocessing activities are suspended,” Solana did make an {oral} offer to start talks, once Iran had agreed to a “freeze” on its enrichment activities, at least for the duration of the negotiations (See Trita Parsi, “Reading Solana in Tehran,” and ). This idea of a freeze, meaning Iran would continue to enrich but at current levels, had been discussed informally in the Iranian press, and in most concrete terms by two prominent Iranians at a conference in Berlin at the end of June (See my article, “Iranians Float An Offer the West Should Not Refuse,” June 19). The virtue of the freeze approach lies in the fact that it allows both sides to save face: Iran does not submit to demands to suspend (i.e. halt, even temporarily) its enrichment, but the other side can argue that Iran is not expanding its program.

Much has been written about Tehran’s motives for accepting the talks. Some claim Iran was reacting to threats of military aggression by the U.S. and/or Israel. But this hypothesis, as Trita Parsi has elaborated, does not hold water; were Iran to respond this way to threats, it would have done so much earlier, when the threats were even more direct. More credible is the argument, that Iran found the moment propitious, because the other side appeared to accept, at least in part, its terms. First and foremost is the idea of the freeze, rather than suspension. Secondly, the 5+1, at least in the person of Solana, displayed a new quality of respect regarding Iran. This factor, which many dismiss as irrelevant, is of utmost concern to the Iranians, as should be obvious in Khamenei’s remarks cited above.

Find Points of Agreement

In the run-up to the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki said they should begin on the basis of the “common points” in the proposals made by the two sides: the 5+1 proposal presented on June 14 by Solana, and Iran’s earlier “Package for Constructive Negotiations,” sent out on May 13. In other words, instead of rejecting the proposal because it contained demands unacceptable to Iran, the Iranian leadership decided to pursue a different method, putting unacceptable demands on the back burner for the moment, and focussing on what the two had in common.

The common points are many. Although they have not been given the in-depth analysis they deserve in the international press, at least Russia has taken note. Nicholas Patrochev, the new Secretary of the Russian Security Council, in a phone discussions with his Iranian counterpart Jalili on July 7, said Russia supported the concept that talks should be resumed on the basis of the common points.

Mottaki had stated in his letter accompanying Iran’s May 13 proposal, that Iran was “ready to negotiate with the 5+1 Group within a specific framework on issues of mutual interest.” The proposal itself stressed that “The main outcome of this new round of negotiations would be agreement on ‘collective commitments’ to cooperate on economic, political, regional, international, nuclear and energy security issues.” All these areas are covered by the 5+1 proposal.

In its detailed points, the Iranian proposal stressed the need to pursue “a just peace and democracy in the region” in the context of “Respect for the rights of nations and their national interests; Support for the national sovereignty of states based on democratic methods.” Iran also expressed its readiness to cooperate on bolstering stability in various parts of the world, including the Middle East, where it would contribute to a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The 5+1 proposal seems to take this into consideration, when it says it would “Support Iran in playing an important and constructive role in international affairs.” The 5+1 Group also gives a nod to respect for national sovereignty, by stating, “Reaffirmation of the obligation under the U.N. charter to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of [sic] political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.” This seems to mark a bit of an improvement over the 2006 document by the same group, which reportedly “guaranteed” Iran that no power in Europe would attack it with nuclear weapons (that is, France or Britain), but made no mention of the U.S. or Israel; nor did it guarantee that conventional attacks would be excluded.

This clause leads to another of Iran’s major concerns, i.e. establishing regional security. The entire thrust of Tehran’s document, is that national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence must be guaranteed, which means, threats of military aggression or regime change must be trashed from the agenda. The 5+1 document lists “Support for a conference on regional security issues” under its political measures. This is interesting. Iran has been organizing for a regional security arrangement, in talks with its neighbors, for the past eight years at least, and has made some headway with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Iran’s view is that regional security can only be guaranteed through cooperation among its constituent nations, emphatically without the presence of foreign troops, no matter from where.

This obviously flies in the face of U.S.-U.K. plans to maintain their military presence in the region. The ongoing tug-of-war between the Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq and the U.S., regarding a Status of Forces Agreement, provides a good reflection of Iranian views on the matter. All Iran-allied forces in Iraq reject the U.S. proposal for long-term presence. Not only has al-Maliki demanded a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops, but his Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie has also said occupation must end. As quoted by Xinhua on July 9, al-Rubaie stated, “We will not sign any memorandum of understanding without specifying a date for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.” Significantly, he made the statements from the holy city of Najaf, just after he had concluded consultations with the supreme authority for Shi’ites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Al-Sistani has reiterated that any agreement on military forces with the occupying powers must be subjected to a referendum. Since then, the U.S. has been forced to pay lip service to agreement on reduction, if not withdrawal, of forces. On July 18, after Bush and al-Maliki had conferred on the matter, the White House made an announcement in language straddling a fine line between Orwellian Newspeak and Bushspeak, to the effect that somehow some agreement had been made. “The president and the prime minister agreed,” it said, “that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals — such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.”(1)

Iran’s document also calls for discussions on cooperation on trade and investment, something that is echoed in the 5+1 paper, which calls for “normalization of trade and economic relations.” The central issue, of course, is the nuclear program. Here, there are also several areas of tangential convergence, though not agreement. Iran speaks of “Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world — including Iran” and of “Cooperation to access and utilize peaceful nuclear technology and facilitating its usage by all states.” The 5+1 document does not grant Iran the right to such a consortium on its territory, but speaks of “Provision of legally binding nuclear fuel supply guarantees” as well as “Cooperation with regard to management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.” Sorting out the differences is the task of negotiations.

What is useful in the 5+1 paper is the “Support for construction of LWR (Light water reactor) based on state-of-the-art technology” as well as “Provision of technological and financial assistance necessary for Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy, support for the reusmption of technical cooperation projects in Iran by the IAEA.” Also useful, and in agreement with Iran’s approach, is the reference to “realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction,” which would have implications for Israel, the one nuclear power in the region.

If one were to proceed rationally in open-ended talks, several options might be available. To accomodate Iran’s requirements for guaranteed nuclear fuel supplies, preferably through the establishment of international consortia for enrichment facilities in Iran and elsewhere, the proposals by Thomas Pickering, the MIT group, the International Crisis Group, and others could be relevant. For Iran to agree to suspend its enrichment program, a proposition which is seen by most Iranians as highly unlikely, the other side would have to go a very, very long way. It would have to provide air-tight guarantees not only for secure fuel supplies, but also for the security of Iran, the inviolability of its borders, respect for its independence and unlimited sovereignty. Such guarantees cannot be made on paper, but would have to be forged through political agreements amounting to endorsement of a regional security arrangement hammered out by the powers in the region, without outside interference. This may seem unthinkable at the moment, but, if the trend towards sovereignty underway in Iraq is allowed to continue, and if certain Arab nations in the Persian Gulf were to free themselves of their paranoia regarding Iran, the currently unthinkable might become an agenda item tomorrow.

Obviously, the success of talks with Iran depends on the position of the U.S. government. If Washington, under new leadership, were to agree to normalizing relations with Iran, anything would be possible.

War Party in a Bind

The war party in London and Washington has not given up its plans for destabilizing or attacking Iran, before the Bush-Cheney mandate ends. More killings inside Iran were reported in late June-early July, substantiating Seymour Hersh’s revelations of an active operation afoot by U.S. intelligence groups, to promote ethnic minorities in assassination operations against Iranian officials. At the same time, the anti-Iranian terrorist gang MKO had been reactivated, with a mass demonstration called near Paris weeks ago. The umbrella group of the MKO, run by Maryam Rajavi, called for all European governments to follow the lead of the British House of Lords, who voted to take the MKO off the list of terrorist organizations. The al-Maliki government in Iraq has promised it would expel the MKO, as requested by Iran, but the occupying powers have held up implementation thus far. Not only: in the first week of July, the MKO held a conference of anti-Iran groups, at its Iraqi headquarters in Camp Ashraf.

In addition to covert ops, there has been a good deal of traditional sabre-rattling, as reported extensively by this website, among others. Not only did Israel hold massive maneuvres last month, characterized as preparations for a strike again Iran, but the U.S. and U.K. also held exercises in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s much-publicized defensive maneuvres, including the test firing of medium-range missiles, constituted a logical response, one which could have been expected by anyone who knows how the Iranians think.

Most intriguing, and politically decisive, in this picture, is the question, what does Moscow, under President Medvedev, think of this entire complex? There have been a couple of interesting signals in this respect. First, following the disgusting fiasco of the G-8 meeting in Japan, Secretary of State Condi Rice sped off to Prague to sign an agreement with the Czechs on deployment of the radars meant supposedly to track Iranian missiles. The Russian response had a new quality. A Foreign Ministry statement issued on July 9, said, “We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods.” At the same time, there were discussions between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin called Ahmadinejad on July 7to express his “hope that negotiations about nuclear issue will continue and will yield clear results which would guarantee the full rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” PressTV reported the next day. ITAR-TASS added that the two had discussed “bilateral cooperation in the field of transport and military-technical cooperation.” The nuclear plant which Russia has completed at Bushehr, it has been confirmed, will start operating this year. And, on July 15, RIA Novosti reported that Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) signed a memorandum of cooperation in oil and gas production and transportation. The deal foresees development of oil and gas fields, building processing facilities, and transporting oil from the Caspian to the Gulf of Oman. Finally, on July 23, Reuters reported that Iran was to receive “an advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft system by year-end that could help fend off any preemptive strikes against its nuclear facilities,” according to “senior Israeli defence sources.

Russia is actively opposing the war party’s moves to target Iran as well as the Russian Federation itself. At the same time, Moscow is urging Iran to come to an agreement with the 5+1, and is offering substantial economic and political support in the process. Unless something horrendous occurs in the meantime, it can be expected that Iran will announce agreement with the freeze-for-freeze proposal made in Geneva, within the two-week timeframe established. Prof. Hadian-Jazy, a political scientist from the University of Tehran, who publicly detailed Iran’s terms for such a freeze option at a Berlin conference recently, told this author on July 23, that he also thought Tehran would announce agreement after two weeks.

Those who complain that the Iranians could have said as much in Geneva, without all the fancy footwork, demonstrate their utter lack of understanding of how people in the Islamic Republic think. It has taken almost 30 years for certain forces in the West (eg. current officials in the Bush-Cheney administration) to come to terms with the new reality in the region. Iran’s current leaders have not been making outrageous demands. They have insisted only that they be treated as equals in any negotiating process, that they be respected for their civilization stretching back millenia, that their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence be acknowledged in fact as well as words. Now that this reality seems to have penetrated some of the less hardened blockheads in Washington, the Iranians may be ready to do business. All to the benefit of world peace.

1. The White House statement is eloquent in its ambiguity: “improving conditions {should} allow for” this and that, but may in fact not; a “general time horizon” is somewhere between now and eternity; “aspirational goals” are presumably things the Iraqi government hopes for, but who knows whether they will ever come true; “aspirational goals — such as the resumption of Iraqi security control….”: “such as” means, “for example,” but is not binding; “the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq” is a far cry from withdrawal of all troops, which is what the Iraqis want. In short, the text commits the U.S. to nothing. The Iraqis will, therefore, not accept this as a solution.

© Copyright Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Global Research, 2008

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Iranians Float an Offer the West Should Not Refuse



Iranians Float an Offer the West Should Not Refuse

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, June 29, 2008

Will Anti-War Forces Seize this Opportunity?

If there were any substance to Condi Rice’s repeated assertions, that the strife over Iran’s nuclear program could, and preferably should, be solved through diplomatic means, then one would expect the U.S. Secretary of State to seize on recent offers made by Iranian figures, designed to facilitate the start of talks. Although widely ignored in the international press, highly significant statements were made at an international conference in Berlin June 24-25, by two authoritative Iranian spokesmen, one an academic, the other a political leader and brother of the new Majlis (Parliament) speaker Ali Larijani. Both said explicitly that Tehran would be willing to freeze its uranium enrichment, and to provide for concrete mechanisms to guarantee that its enrichment program would not, and could not, be geared to weapons production.

Instead of acknowledging these ostentatious gestures of good will, the U.S. surged ahead with new legislation to introduce yet more sanctions against Iran, which are clearly designed to prepare a military aggression, and the European Union kicked in with its own new punitive sanctions.(1) At the same time, military consultations between Washington and Tel Aviv about Iran have gained in frequency and intensity, and the rhetoric from U.S. and Israeli leaders threatening war has reached such a fever pitch as to send oil prices into the stratosphere.(2)

Can war be averted, even at this late hour? Hopefully, it can. Clearly, if the Anglo-American war party in Washington and Tel Aviv has already decided to proceed with their “final solution” to the Iran problem, before the Cheney-Bush junta is forced to leave the White House, there is little hope that these new overtures made by Iran will have any effect. But at the same time, this gives all the more reason for those of us committed to prevent a new catastrophe in the Persian Gulf/Middle East to mobilize political forces to call the bluff on the war party, and demand that Tehran’s newly articulated ideas about how the conflict may be peacefully resolved, be taken up in political fora and in the international press. On that basis, serious, unprejudiced discussions must begin right away. Among the key political forces to be mobilized are Russia and China, veto-holding powers in the U.N. Security Council, who know that aggression against Iran is to be seen as merely the stepping-stone to future aggression against both sovereign nations. The issue should also be prominently thrust into the forefront of the ongoing election campaigns in the United States. Where do Barack Obama and John McCain stand on these new Iranian offers?

An Offer The West Should Not Refuse

Thus far, in the conflict ostensibly over Iran’s nuclear program, the sticking point has been that the West (be it the U.S. or the 5+1 Group — the U.N. Security Council five permanent members plus Germany) has demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program, as a pre-condition for talks about the future of the program. The Islamic Republic, citing the provisions of the Non Proliferation Treaty, which it has signed, has always responded that it has the right to enrichment, and will not relinquish it as a precondition for any talks. Not only: in the Berlin meeting, several authoritative figures, including former IAEA Director General Dr. Hans Blix, confirmed Iran’s right to this technology. One should in addition consider the following paradox: if Iran were to suspend enrichment as a condition to start talks on the future of its nuclear program, then there may be three possible outcomes: either the talks succeed, in which case Iran would retain the right to enrichment in some mutally acceptable form; or Iran agrees to suspend its program; or, the talks fail, in which case, Iran would continue its program anyway, perhaps leaving the NPT and renouncing IAEA inspections. In short: the demand for suspension as a precondition is not only politically unjust and contrary to law (the NPT), but it is also absurd by the standards of any logic. As a postscript, it should be added, that Iran did suspend its uranium enrichment program for the not inconsiderable period of two years, under the Presidency of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami. But what did that yield? Nothing.

Now, in what should be considered a sincere attempt to settle the nuclear dispute peacefully and amicably, the Iranians have gone the extra mile. In the course of the Third Transatlantic Conference organized by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), on the theme, “Missile Defense, Russia, and the Middle East: Coping with Transatlantic Divergence — Exploring Common Solutions,” two Iranian spokesmen addressed the issue: Dr. Mohammad Javad A. Larijani, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, and Director of the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, as well as brother of Dr. Ali Larijani, now speaker of the Parliament, and former head of the National Security Council and thus negotiator in the nuclear issue; and political scientist, Prof. Nasser Hadian-Jazy of the University of Tehran.

Prof. Hadian-Jazy presented himself from the outset as an interlocutor ready to engage with the other side. Regarding Iran’s missile program, for example, he cited testimony he had given to a U.S. Senate committee, in which he had presented proposals for limits on the range and production of Iranian missiles. The proposals were not taken seriously, he said, but he reiterated that, if there were a serious proposal from the U.S side, a deal would be possible.

Regarding the immediate issue of Iran’s nuclear program, he stressed, first, that Iran had no nuclear weapons program, that Iranians desired no such thing, but that they are committed to the civilian energy program, which enjoys unconditional public support. He said, Iran opposes the weaponization of its nuclear program, and that “a deal can be made.” This would involve a “robust verification system” which could “limit enrichment quantitatively and qualitatively.” When asked by this author to elaborate on this, (also in light of proposals floated in the U.S. by Thomas Pickering et al to overcome the enrichment dilemma), Prof. Hadian-Jazy said Iran should not be told it must suspend uranium enrichment, but that it would accept a freeze. “There is a difference between freeze and suspension,” he said. “If suspension were to be accepted, that would be as a {result} of negotiations, not as a {condition}. It would be folly,” he noted, “for Iran to give up its bargaining chip before starting talks.” He went on to specify: “We can limit enrichment to 6 cascades, quantitatively, and as for the qualitative side, we can use the ‘black box’ approach, which means not exceeding 4-5% enrichment.” This, he said, is something European and U.S. scientists understand. Furthermore, following enrichment, the fuel can be deposited elsewhere, and then returned to Iran for use. “There should be a will,” he stressed,” to resolve the issue peacefully, with a face-saving formula for both sides.”

Dr. Mohammad Javad A. Larijani, former Deputy Foreign Minister and Director of the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, struck a similar note. “We are open to a deal,” he said, but “not to an order.” Regarding enrichment, he explained why his country insisted on having this technology: “Since we do not have the security of access [to nuclear fuel], we need to have a backup.” A commitment to secure access, would build confidence. “They can measure the degree and weight of enrichment,” he pledged, “and could track it. If we succeed in this one step, then we can take two more. It cannot be solved overnight,” but it can be solved. Larijani mooted also the possibility of Iran’s implementing the Additional Protocol to the NPT, “and even an additional one beyond the Protocol.”

The only open discussion of a freeze option known to this author, includes a statement made by Sergei Lavrov following a meeting on Iran of the 5+1 group in London. Lavrov’s statement cited by AFP on May 3, was somewhat ambiguous: “Our first conditions are the freezing, suspension of uranium enrichment. The approach of the six (powers) is that Iran should suspend enrichment only for the period in which talks continue.” The other reference to a freeze came in an OpEd by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in The Daily Star

( )

Fischer referred to the latest 5+1 bargaining position, saying, “The decisive question … will be whether it will be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before these negotiations are completed.” Seymour Hersh, in his most recent New Yorker piece, “Preparing the Battlefield,” to appear July 7, said he spoke with Fischer a week earlier, who told him: “The proposal says that the Iranians must stop manufacturing new centrifuges and the other side will stop all further sanctions activities in the U.N. Security Council.” Hersh added that Fischer said, Iran would have to freeze enrichment to begin negotiations, and that he thought Tehran could agree.

Whether or not the public statements by Prof. Hadian-Jazy and Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani in Berlin, came in response to these hints is an open question, but not unlikely.

Missile Defense Fraud Exposed

These very important specifications from the Iranian side, came in the context of a broader strategic discussion on the U.S. plans for deploying radar and missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, allegedly to defend Europe and the U.S. from a supposed Iranian nuclear missile attack. The panels devoted to this issue examined it from the technical and political point of view, and were not only useful, but, in part, also somewhat amusing.

What emerged from presentations by technical experts, like Dr. Juergen Altmann of Dortmund University, was that Iran does not possess missiles with the range required to reach the Czech Republic or Poland, 3300 km away, not to mention the U.S. at a distance of 10,000-13,000 km. Its Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 1,300 km. But, for the sake of argument, Altmann said, if Iran were to have missiles with such a range, then any missiles directed to the American midwest would have to travel over Belarus or Russia, with obvious implications. Furthermore, Iran does not at present possess nuclear weapons. This point was confirmed by a leftwing German member of Parliament, Paul Schaefer, who reported that “nothing presented to us” in the Parliament “by German intelligence or military shows that Iran is going for nuclear weapons, against the U.S. or Europe.”

Were Iran to have such capabilities and intentions, what kind of defense would be effective? This was the laughable part, as the fraud of missile defense was inadvertently exposed. Victoria Samson, of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, noted that the MD program is hotly contested, because it is largely untested; one test conducted in September 2006 revealed serious problems, and the next scheduled test will not take place before December 2008. Adj. Prof. Dr. Bernd W. Kubbig, of the PRIF, had recalled in his keynote, that the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency last year “candidly acknowledged that the Ground-based Missile Defense system has no demonstrated effectiveness to defend either American territory [or Europe, one could add].” Dr. Karl-Heinz Kamp of the NATO Defense College in Rome offered the suggestion that it didn’t matter whether the things work or not; what matters is whether or not the enemy believes it works. The only rabid enthusiast for MD was Dr. Uzi Rubin, former Senior Director for Proliferation and Technology, at the Israeli National Security Council in Tel Aviv. Rubin, known as the “father” of Israel’s Arrow MD program, extolled its capabilities to defend Israel against anything and everything: from Iranian missiles, to Syrian Scuds, to Hezbollah’s Katushas, to anything that Hamas and Islamic Jihad could launch. His colleague, Dr. Reuven Pedatzur, from Tel Aviv University, argued on the contrary, that the Arrow program had a problem with leakage, and that therefore Israel’s known — though not official — (nuclear) deterrence were necessary. He went so far as to suggest that MD would have a negative effect, in that it would undermine the image of Israel’s deterrent in the eyes of the enemy. It is all a perception game, after all. Even speakers from the nations targeted for deployment, the Czech Republic and Poland, exhibited somewhat tempered enthusiasm for the program, and Jiri Schneider from the Prague Security Studies Institute had to admit that 55-65% of the population opposed the plan.

Now: if Iran does not have the nuclear weapons or the delivery systems needed to target the perceived enemy/enemies, and if the MD systems designed to intercept these non-existent missiles don’t work, then why is the Bush-Cheney regime so adamant about deploying them? Victoria Samson made the useful observation that MD had already been used in wartime, in 1991 and 2003 in the Iraq conflicts. Although their performance was somewhat doubtful, except in friendly fire, this deployment raised the question of whether such systems are really solely defensive, a point also raised by Prof. Kubbig. And, she recalled that the U.S. had shot down one of its own satellites in February, in a rather demonstrative act.

For Russia and China there is no mystery. The projected MD deployments in eastern Europe have nothing to do with Iran’s purported threat. The main point made by Dr. Timur Kadyshev, from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, was that the proposed interceptors could hit Russian ICBMs. This would severely undermine Russia’s second strike capability in the event of a nuclear attack against its territory. Dr. Alexander Pikayev, of the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow, echoed this, adding that Russia could not be sure whether or not the silos the U.S. was setting up would house surface-to-surface missiles or not. Both Russian spokesmen indicated that their country’s response to deployment, and a possible attack, would be massive. Kadyshev said the MD, if deployed, would be targeted by Russian ballistic missiles, and that short-range missiles would be deployed in Kaliningrad. Pikayev said that if MD were placed near Russia’s borders, then the country’s early warning systems would go into action, and Russian missiles would be on automatic launch. “If you build security at your neighbor’s expense,” he said, “then your neighbor will respond at your expense.” Both experts from Russia lamented the fact that the U.S.’s opting for MD meant Washington was in effect discounting any diplomatic solution, thus sending a very bad message to Tehran. If there were a threat from Iran, Kadyshev added, then a joint surveillance effort could be mounted at the Gabala radar facility in Azerbaijan, or elsewhere, for example, Turkey.

Although China is not so directly targeted by the proposed MD deployment, its leadership has read the political message quite correctly. Prof. Dr. Xia Liping, from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, posited that the MD systems could be retooled to use nuclear weapons offensively. Stressing China’s need to protect its second strike capability in the event of a nuclear attack, he said that his country would have to increase the number of ICBMs at its disposal to counter the growing number of interceptors. As for the political consequences of the MD deployment, he said that China might have to review its policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, a policy which has been directed toward economic aid for stabilization. He concluded his remarks saying that “if they regard China as a potential enemy, then we may become the enemy.”

What About Peace As An Alternative?

A rational response to the alleged Iranian missile threat, would be to change the prevailing paradigm completely, and introduce a positive one. Instead of discussing the merits and demerits of MD and/or nuclear deterrents, why not explore the ways and means of establishing durable peace in the entire region? To do so would require solving the 60-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is the festering sore of the entire body. This was laid out in some detail by H.H. Prince Torki M. Saud Al-Kabeer, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Relations of the Saudi Kingdom. Declaring that the Arabs had chosen peace as a strategic option back in the 1991 Madrid conference, Prince Torki reviewed the Saudi initiative, endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, which calls for the establishment of normal diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders. But Israel must cease activities which change the situation on the ground and impede talks, like erecting new settlements, building a wall, blockading Gaza and so forth. The same point was made quite forcefully by Prof. Dr. Judith Palmer-Harik, president of Matn Univeristy in Beirut. Her speech reviewed the reasons why Hezbollah and Hamas had taken up arms against Israel, and argued that the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands must be terminated in a negotiated peace. Such a comprehensive peace constitutes also the only reliable guarantee of security for Israel, although this thought seems to have escaped the notice of the Israeli speakers present. Dr. Pedatzur said that, since the conference title did not refer to peace, it was off the agenda.

A prerequisite for finally achieving a durable peace, bolstered by regional economic cooperation agreements to build basic infrastructure, is untying the knot of the so-called Iranian nuclear threat. The two Iranian representatives in Berlin spelled out how far their country is willing to go to make talks possible. What Dr. Larijani in particular emphasized was the need for a new paradigm in the attitudes of the interlocutors. His “first principle,” was that one must “abandon the hostile paranoid attitude towards Iran for a while, and replace it with a mindset that goes for realistic interaction.” This means speaking to one another as equals. “Let us acknowledge each other,” he said; “Europe and the U.S. are major players, but they are not omnipotent.” Iran, he added, is not omnipotent either, but must be recognized as a major player in the region. Dealing with the nuclear dispute per se, Larijani listed three catchwords, NPT, transparency and mutual commitment.

Dr. Hans Blix, former General Director of the IAEA, and former Swedish Foreign Minister, reflected similar thinking, when he urged that the Iran case be approached in a manner akin to that of the six-party talks on North Korea, i.e. that one should not demand suspension as a pre-condition, but rather offer security guarantees (no war and no regime change).

If such a new paradigm can be introduced, anything is possible. Larijani here repeated Iran’s offer in its recent letter to Russia, China, the EU, UN and others(3): that all crises in the region, from Afghanistan (which he characterized as a situation worse than Iraq), to Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, can be dealt with as “in a parcel,” with the constructive contribution of Tehran. “We have already had some indulgence,” he noted, “in the issue of Lebanon,” pointing to Iran’s role in breaking the deadlock around the presidential election. And, U.S.-Iranian talks have already taken place on Iraq.

At present, Iran is considering the proposal of the 5+1 group, delivered by EU Foreign Policy representative Javier Solana. Although the proposal speaks of suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks, Joschka Fischer’s remarks indicate they may be thinking in terms of a freeze. Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki stated that Tehran preferred to identify the common points between that proposal and the one Iran sent out, and to enter concrete talks on that basis. A vigorous and urgent diplomatic offensive must be launched now, taking advantage of the new specifications provided by Iran. If not, as IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei recently warned, a military attack against the Islamic Republic would turn the entire region into a “ball of fire.”


1. On H.CON. RES. 362, see “Is a new Congressional Resolution declaring War with Iran?” by Emily Blout, ( and Rep. Ron Paul’s powerful denunciation of it ( For the EU sanctions, and Bank Melli’s response, see

2. Several high-level U.S. military have been to the U.S. and Israelis to the U.S., discussing Iran. See “Security and Defense: Not leaving the nuclear threat up in the air,” by Yaakov Katz, in the June 26 Jerusalem Post (

3. See my analysis of the Iranian letter, Countdown to the end of Bush-Cheney regime: War with Iran: What Could Happen If … ?.

The author can be reached at

© Copyright Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is:


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Countdown to the end of Bush-Cheney regime: War with Iran: What Could Happen If … ?

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, June 8, 2008

If war is averted, hopefully a Democratic President may enter the White House, then, who knows? Dialogue with Iran?

As the countdown to the end of the hated Bush-Cheney regime proceeds, calls for the U.S. and/or Israel to take military action against Iran, have been multiplying almost in inverse proportion. At the same time, the Islamic Republic has redoubled its efforts to thwart such aggression, in a two-pronged maneuver. On the one hand, the government, and the new leadership in the Majlis (parliament) under Ali Larijani, have reiterated Tehran’s rejection of blackmail regarding the country’s nuclear program; on the other, Iran has launched a campaign to engage its leading international interlocutors in discussion of concrete cooperation aimed at defusing, if not solving, major strategic crisis situations. The recent solution to the prolonged Lebanon crisis is but the most eloquent example of what could and can be achieved in pursuing peace in many crises plaguing the region, {if} Tehran’s role and contribution were accepted.

That the war party is still committed to an attack against Iran, is no secret, and continues to be an item discussed daily in anti-war websites. Writing in Asia Times on May 27 ( and picked up by, Muhammed Cohen revealed that there were plans for the Bush cabal to attack Iran by August. His “informed source” told him, that two members of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California and Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, informed of the plans, had intended to go public, but that their op-ed piece slated for the New York Times, had been blocked. The source, identified as “a retired U.S. career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community,” as well as an ambassador under the reign of Bush senior, told him there was a plan to launch air strikes against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods force headquarters. Neo-con Daniel Pipes added his two cents, saying that if Barack Obama were elected in November, then President George W. Bush would wage war on Iran before leaving office.

In parallel, the issue of what to do about “unruly” Iran has been placed high on the agenda of the unofficial presidential contenders from the two major U.S. parties. John McCain, who apparently cannot function psychologically without deference to his de facto alter ego, George W. Bush, has assailed the presumed Democratic Party contender Barack Obama for his declared willingness to sit down and talk with Iran’s leadership. Obama, for his part, not only qualified and requalified his openness to dialogue with Tehran, but focussed on Iran as a strategic threat to Israel — and therefore — the U.S., in a most unfortunate speech to AIPAC on June 4. One might argue, and with reason, that no speaker at AIPAC dare say anything that might conflict with the agenda of anti-Iran Zionist forces in Israel, but Obama did not need to go so far. Not only, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, taking the podium at AIPAC a day later, lashed out at Iran, and demanded that Bush take appropriate measures. Olmert proceeded then to hold talks with lame-duck President Bush, in hopes of convincing him that the time were ripe for an Iran war. Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is a former army chief and defence minister, was explicit: “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it,” he said in discussion with Yediot Ahronoth on June 6. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.”

The option of an Israeli strike against Iran has been discussed at length, also on this website. What was quite unusual was that someone like Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister of Germany, would publicly warn against such an event. Fischer, whose chequered political career in the 1960s-1970s, rendered him, so to speak, a not-totally sovereign, independent player, was expected, as foreign minister, to make certain gestures to Israel, which he punctually did when in office. Now, however, the old ’68er, of all people, comes out with a bloodcurdling forecast, featured in Lebanon’s Daily Star May 30, and carried by Global Research June 1, entitled, “As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon.”

Iran’s Global Proposal

What might Iran do, to prevent such an attack, be it from Washington or Tel Aviv? As reported on this website(, Iran has been pursuing a global war-avoidance strategy based on forging ties with nations throughout Eurasia, beginning with Russia, China and India, and extending through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which it hopes to join as a full member. Iran’s Eurasian policy is based on economic cooperation, especially in transportation and energy infrastructure, as well as security agreements. The same applies to its policy in the Persian Gulf.

The Islamic Republic announced last month that it had issued a proposal for solving the major problems in the world, through discussion and cooperation. The proposal, which has since been made public, has received nowhere near the attention it deserves. The document, entitled “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Proposed Package for Constructive Negotiations,” was first presented to the Russians, then to the Chinese, the United Nations, EU, and so on. It starts from the premise that respect for justice, sovereignty, peace, democracy and different cultures, must be stressed, and proceeds to list areas of possible cooperation, such as “security issues, regional and international developments, nuclear energy, terrorism, democracy, etc.” Iran proposes negotiations on these and other issues (drugs, the environment, economic, technological and other cooperation, especially energy), in which “the main objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to reach a comprehensive agreement, one that is based on collective goodwill — that will help to establish long-term cooperation between the parties, and will contribute to the sustainability and strength of regional and international security and a just peace.”

Iran says it is ready to start negotiations on the following issues: protecting the “rights and dignity of [the] human being and respect for the culture of other nations”; and, advancing democracy regionally and worldwide in the context of respect for the rights of nations and national sovereignty. Here, the document makes specific reference to the possibility of solving certain burning regional issues. Such cooperation, it says, may occur in various regions, “most specifically in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Latin America. Cooperation to assist the Palestinian people to find a comprehensive plan — one that is sustainable, democratic and fair — to resolve the 60-year old Palestinian issue can become a symbol of such cooperation.” Common efforts against various security threats, like terrorism, drugs, organized crime, etc. are also solicited.

Regarding economic issues, the proposal stresses cooperation on energy, trade and investment, fighting poverty, and — most intriguing — “Reducing the impact of sharp price fluctuations and retooling global monetary and financial arrangements to benefit the nations of the world.”

The final paragraph deals extensively with the nuclear issue per se, in which Iran reiterates its commitment to the IAEA and NPT, and calls for “Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world – including Iran.”

Russia’s Interested Response

This proposal has been pooh-poohed as mere rhetoric or “nothing new,” and has been essentially ignored. But it contains several extremely important ideas which deserve attention. Moscow, for one, has taken note. First, regarding the nuclear issue, Iran agrees here to the Russian proposal for international enrichment centers, for example in Russia, but repeats that it wants one in Iran as well. Secondly, the document raises suggestions for international cooperation to deal with the financial, monetary and economic crises that are ravaging the world. Finally, Iran proposes intervening directing to solve — not exacerbate — regional crises in the Middle East.

Regarding the nuclear issue, it is not coincidental perhaps that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated unequivocally in an interview to Le Monde on May 31, that he did {not} believe Iran were pursuing a weapons progam. “I don’t think the Iranians are looking to make a nuclear bomb,” he said. “We have no reason to believe this.” He went on: “I should say that formally Iran hasn’t violated any rules. It even has the right to carry out enrichment…. I repeat there is no official basis for legal claims against Iran.” Putin elaborated Russia’s total rejection of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and explained his country’s enrichment idea. “We offered an international program of enrichment, because Iran is only part of the problem. A lot of countries are on the threshold of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And this means that they will need enrichment technology. And if they create their own closed cycle to solve the problem, there will always be the suspicion that they could produce military grade uranium. It is difficult to control. That is why we propose carrying out the enrichment on the territory of those countries which are beyond suspicion because they already possess nuclear weapons,” (i.e. Russia.) In short, Russia still has hesitations regarding enrichment facilities on Iranian soil, but the discussion process is ongoing, and that is what is important.

As for the financial and monetary crises, it is quite unusual for Iran to address them in these terms. Here, the Iranian government, in talking about “retooling global monetary and financial arrangements to benefit the nations of the world,” is implicitly saying the current dollar-based system is collapsing and needs to be replaced. Russia’s new President Dmitry Medvedyev made the same point on June 7, in an address to the opening session of the 12th St. Petersburg Economic Forum

( ).

Medvedyev stated: “Russia’s role on global economic and raw markets enables us to take an active part in the discussions of ways of concrete settlement of the above mentioned problems [problems on the world financial and raw materials markets].” According to a German radio report (Deutschlandfunk) on June 7, he said he did not believe that the U.S. could handle the crisis alone. ITAR-TASS reported that he proposed Russia as a site for such discussions, concretely that it organize an international conference this year with finance experts and scientists. He also suggested Moscow become “a powerful world financial center” and that the ruble become “one of the leading regional reserve currencies.” ITAR-TASS headlined its coverage of the speech, “Medvedyev calls to reform global financial architecture.”

Putting Out Regional Fires: Lebanon

The third area addressed in Iran’s proposal, the settlement of regional crises, is potentially the most explosive, because it touches on what the Islamic Republic could contribute positively, were it allowed to. The case in point is the recent solution to the Lebanon crisis. After 19 unsuccessful attempts to convene Parliament to elect a new president, a U.S.-backed provocation by the Siniora government, led to the firing of a pro-Hezbollah security chief at Beirut airport, and the attempt to dismantle Hezbollah’s communications system. The outbreak of armed hostility between the opposition and government circles, raised the spectre of a new civil war, and Hezbollah’s takeover of part of the capital indicated that the correlation of forces would not favor the government. Then came the breakthrough in Doha, Qatar, where a large gathering of Lebanese political factions came to agreement on a political solution, to elect Gen. Michael Suleiman, and share power.

The details of the Lebanese deal are well known. What is less well known, is the role played by Iran. Significantly, the first foreign guest to be received by President Suleiman was Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki. Both he and Parliament speaker Nabih Berri were quoted expressing gratitude to Iran for its “help” in solving the crisis. Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrullah, in a remarkable address on May 26 (, June 1), thanked Iran, Syria, the Qataris and the Arab League for supporting this “victory for Lebanon itself.”

According to well-informed Iranian sources, the renewed Lebanese hostilities alarmed both Damascus and Tehran, forcing them to act. Iran approached the Saudis, suggesting that they convene a gathering of the Lebanese factions, which Riyadh rejected. Qatar at that point picked up the proposal and moved on it. Iran pledged its support to organize the meeting, and to use its influence on those Lebanese forces allied to it. One Arab diplomatic source with good contacts to the U.S., noted that whatever the Qataris would do, must have been okayed — or at least not sabotaged — by some circles in Washington. If this reading is accurate, it has immense implications: to wit, that, were there to be a cessation of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, then indeed the major crises threatening peace in the region, could be settled.


The next immediate theatre of confrontation appears to be Gaza, where the Olmert government is threatening a new military incursion. In this context, the reports that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has proposed talks with Hamas, and that Hamas leader Ismail Hanniyeh has welcomed the idea, may also indicate some behind-the-scenes activities by Iran. It may or may not be coincidental that Ali Larijani, newly elected speaker of the Majlis (Parliament) spoke to Hanniyeh on June 2. At any rate, Reuters ran an unconfirmed report on June 7 ( that delegations of the two sides were in Dakar, for talks with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to reach a common position vis a vis Israel. Wade’s spokesman said, “The first phase is an interPalestinian phase” to be followed by negotiations planned in seven stages.

The Iranian global proposal contains a crucial reference to the Palestinian crisis, suggesting cooperation on a “comprehensive plan” that is “sustainable, democratic and fair.” This means — notwithstanding continuing rhetorical statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, — that, were there to be an agreement struck between the Palestinians (i.e. Fatah and Hamas together) and Israel, then Tehran would not object. This was the official position of the Iranian government under former President Mohammad Khatami, and is implicit in the new package proposal.


The other leading crisis to be dealt with is, of course, Iraq. Although the fourth round of tripartite talks, among Iraq, Iran and the U.S., has been put on ice for the time being, an exchange of views among the three is being aired indirectly in the press. The subject is the U.S.’s demand that Baghdad sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SFA) by July 31, and that Parliament ratify it well in advance of the expiration of the U.N. mandate, at year’s end.

There is {no way} that this deal is going to go through. It will not be due to Iran’s opposition (which has been made explicit by Parliament speaker Ali Larijani as well as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani), but to an organic political process inside Iraq, shaped by consciousness of the region’s colonial past. Although no details have been made public by an obviously defensive and jittery U.S., leaks indicate that the deal would foresee permanent U.S. bases (numbering from 9 to 50, depending on the source), immunity for U.S. military as well as private contractors, the right to detain Iraqis and conduct military operations, and a de facto continuation of occupation, — perhaps for what John McCain has said could last 100 years.

Moqtadar al-Sadr’s faction was the first to take to the streets on May 30 to protest the deal, and he vows to continue mass demonstrations every Friday until the draft has been scrapped. Mainstream Shi’ite parties, like the government coalition member United Iraqi Alliance under Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, have turned thumbs down on the idea, and the major Sunni parties and organizations, like the Association of Muslim Scholars and the National Accordance Front, have followed suit.

But far more important, is the intervention made by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest religious authority for all Shi’ites, currently based in Najaf, in Iraq. Al-Sistani said, essentially, that such a deal with the U.S. could occur only over his dead body. PressTV reported on May 24 that the Grand Ayatollah, in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on May 22, had said he would not allow such an accord to be signed with “the U.S. occupiers” as long as he was alive. The same news outlet reported on June 5, that Ayatollah al-Sistani had set clear conditions for any agreement: as al-Hakim stated in a press conference following his meeting with the Grand Ayatollah, “The cleric stressed that any long-term pact in Iraq should should maintain four key terms including safeguarding Iraqis’ interests, national sovereignty, national consensus and being presented to the Iraqi parliament for approval.” He added that the current draft violates Iraqi sovereignty and does not remove it from the U.N. Charter’s Chapter 7; nor does it safeguard Iraq’s natural wealth. Although, as al-Hakim said, the leading cleric only set the parameters, leaving details up to the government, it is clear that al-Sistani is the supreme authority, and his stance is decisive. It was al-Sistani who had forced the U.S. to accept a referendum on the constitution, as well as elections. He supported elections on grounds that only an elected government could end the occupation. His foremost concern remains ending the occupation. Any fatwa issued by al-Sistani, including a call to armed resistance against the occupiers, would be followed by Shi’ites everywhere without question.

As one regional expert put it to this author, the very idea of permanent occupation is repugnant, as it revives memories of the hated “capitulations” imposed by colonial powers, which guaranteed immunity to their lackeys. Such capitulations were imposed on Iran under the Shah in 1964, which led to organized protest under Ayatollah Khomeini, and his subsequent expulsion, followed by his organizing revolutionary forces from exile. One source mooted that, were such capitulations imposed on Iraq today, this could lead to actual revolution in Iraq over the next 5 years or so. Iraq has already experienced revolution against British-backed governments.

This specific matter of the SFA can be resolved only through strictly bilateral discussions between Washington and Baghdad, if there is to be any credibility given to Iraqi “sovereignty.” Considering the depth and breadth of the opposition to new colonial-style capitulations, it is to be expected that no Iraqi government could acquiesce. Agreement would be tantamount to a suicide note. At that point, when the U.S. deal were defeated, the issue would be redefined: since the Bush administration’s fantasies of permanent occupation will be rejected, how could an orderly withdrawal of U.S. and remaining occupation troops be organized, to ensure their safe withdrawal as well as security for a newly independent, sovereign Iraq? In this context, yes, Iran could and should become an interlocutor, alongside other neighboring states. If the U.S. elections in November bring a Democrat into the White House, and if that new President makes good on his campaign pledges to withdraw from Iraq, and to hold rational discussions with Iraq’s neighbors (i.e. including Syria and Iran) on how to guarantee stability and security in the war-torn nation, then anything and everything is possible.

Questions in Washington

The U.S. election campaign to date has been an unprecedented battle, and a serious discussion of its internal workings go far beyond the scope of this article. But a few things may be said. First, both contenders for the Democratic Party nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, have gone on record pledging their commitment to end the war, and withdraw U.S. troops, within relatively similar timeframes. Republican John McCain, on the other hand, has opted for permanent occupation. Whoever the final candidate voted at the Democratic Party convention in August may be, the consensus among the voters, both those who backed Hillary and those who backed Obama, is for a speedy end to the Iraq war.

Parallel to these party political developments, there have been a number of important events indicating that circles opposed to the Cheney-Bush war party, are mobilizing to prevent an “October surprise” attack on Iran. For one, Zbigniew Brzezinski co-authored an OpEd in the Washington Post on May 27 with William Odom, saying essentially that, since current policy had led nowhere, one had to reassess and redefine U.S. policy to Iran. Denouncing the “widely propagated notion of a suicidal Iran detonating its very first nuclear weapon against Israel” as “more the product of paranoia or demagogy than of serious strategic calculus,” the authors call for a diplomatic approach that “could help bring Iran back into its traditional role of strategic cooperation with the United States in stabilizing the Gulf region.” At the same time, it was made known that Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired two leading figures in the Air Force, allegedly in connection with that branch’s security failures regarding nuclear materials. Informed sources in Washington have mooted that Gates’s action -– taken months after the cited incident -– had less to do with that, than with plans for a U.S. aggression against Iran, an attack which the Air Force, would be deployed to execute. Gates is known to favor diplomacy over aggression.

In short, even if Bush, Cheney and their Israeli friends are huffing and puffing for war on Iran, influential political and military circles in the U.S. are moving to prevent it. If war can be averted until a new, hopefully Democratic President may enter the White House, then, who knows? Dialogue with Iran might even come back on the agenda.

The author can be reached at

© Copyright Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is:


Bush “Plans Iran Air Strike by August”


Global Food Crisis: Egypt and Sudan Join Forces For Food Security

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, May 27, 2008

No one can doubt that the news being transmitted from Egypt, and also from Sudan in early May, is dramatic. Egypt is in the throes of an economic crisis, inflation is reeling out of control, people have taken to the streets, and desperate measures taken by the government in an attempt to alleviate the strains on the population, may be not only ineffective, but even counterproductive.In Sudan, for the first time, rebel troops of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), based in Darfur, have managed to penetrate the capital and to engage government military forces in combat in Omdurman. Both developments are expressions of the economic and strategic crisis engulfing the entire world, and neither can be understood as a “local” phenomenon. It is not Egyptian government policy which has “created” the economic crisis, and there is nothing “Sudanese” to explain the incredible escalation of military aggression against the central government in Khartoum.

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Iran should be “Set Up for an Attack” – The Agenda Behind The Anti-Sadr Agenda

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Global Research, April 16, 2008

When Gen. David Petraeus along with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker gave their testimony to the Senate on April 9, they did nothing more than to confirm in spades what had been being mooted and duly leaked by the Washington-based press: that the Bush-Cheney Administration had officially endorsed the line that Iran should be set up for attack, on grounds that it–and not any indigenous resistance–were responsible for the mounting death toll among American troops in Iraq.

While claiming security had improved, Petraeus said the violence involving the Mahdi Army of Moqtadar al Sadr “highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming and directing the so-called ‘special groups'” which, he added, “pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.” (See Washington Post, April 9, 2008 ). Petraeus even granted that Syria had cut the alleged flow of fighters into Iraq, only to stress by con trast, that “Iran has fuelled the violence in a particularly damaging way, through its lethal support to the special groups.” Finally, Petraeus specified that the “special groups” were run by Iran’s Qods force, the Revolutionary Guards recently placed in the category of terrorists..

There was nothing new about the line: Dick Cheney had dispatched Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner last year to Iraq, with the task of finding a smoking gun, or, better, a couple of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with “made in Iran” stamped on them. What was new in the testimony of the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in the war zone, were the categorical statements, uttered with an air of certainty usually backed up by courtroom evidence, that Iran was the culprit, and the implicit conclusion that Iran must be the target of U.S. aggression. In order to make sure that (as Nixon would have said), the point be perfectly clear, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was trotted out to tell an enthusiastic Fox News reporter on April 13, that indeed Iran was the casus belli; Iran is “training Iraqis in Iran who come into Iraq and attack our forces, Iraqi forces, Iraqi civilians.” And, therefore, Hadley went on, “We will go after their surrogate operations in Iraq that are killing our forces, killing Iraqi forces.” ( Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates was saying almost simultaneously that he thought “the chances of us stumbling into a confrontation with Iran are very low,” he, too, repeated the mantra that the Iranians were sending weapons into the south of Iraq, etc. etc. President George W. Bush could not be left out of the dramatic build-up, and blessed Petraeus’s testimony with an order for a halt in the troop reductions.

Pat Buchanon performed an important service in immediately blowing the whistle on this fraud, and his piece, “General Petraeus Points to War with Iran,” has fortunately received wide coverage. (, 11.04.2008,, 12.04.2008. ) One would hope that Seymous Hersh would come forth with further ammunition in the fight to prevent an all-too-likely attack against Iran. They are at it again, they are serious, and must be stopped.

The Anti-Shi’ite Surge

But, if war is indeed on the agenda, as Global Research has documented over months, one question to be raised, is: how does the recent “surge” in military actions against the Moqtadar al-Sadr forces, in Basra, Baghdad and numerous other Iraqi cities, fold into the current military-political gameplan? The massive joint U.S.-Iraqi operations at the end of March, against the Mahdi Army, were, militarily speaking, a fiasco. The news reported by AFP on April 14 that the Iraqi government has sacked 1,300 Iraqi troops for not having performed as expected (i.e., for having deserted or joined the enemy) is a not-so-eloquent acknowledgement of this embarrassing fact. And, as has been generally acknowledged by now, it was only due to the diplomatic intervention of Iranian authorities, that the conflict was ended, leading to the decision of al-Sadr to cease hostilities.

Now, however, that ill-conceived offensive has been relaunched in the wake of the performances by the Petraeus-Crocker-Hadley trio, and with a vengeance. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told CNN on April 7, that the offensive against al-Mahdi would continue “until a decisive victory is achieved .. a victory that will not allow these people to attack the Green Zone or other areas.” To signal the renewed thrust, Riyad al-Nuri, the director of al Sadr’s Najaf office, and his brother-in-law, was brutally murdered in the holy city on April 11. Joint U.S.-Iraqi military incursions have continued in Sadr City. Where will this lead? To victory? If so, how does one define victory? If the joint U.S.-Iraqi military operations physically eliminate al-Sadr’s forces, it will only be as a result of the deployment of massive brute force as has not yet been used. In this tragic case, the political effect would likely not be the decimation of that political force, but its enhancement. It should not be forgotten that Moqtadar al-Sadr himself comes from a family of martyrs.

One consideration in the minds of the U.S. strategists of the anti-Sadr war, is that they must wipe his organization off the Iraqi political map well before elections take place next October, elections in which his followers could make significant gains, expanding their current 30-seat presence in parliament to a considerable power. The Al-Sadr phenomenon in Iraq is, in this sense, not so different from the Hamas phenomenon in Palestine; both are militant (and military) formations fighting against foreign occupation, while also providing crucial social services to their people, be it schools, clinics, hospitals or the like. It is in this light that one must read the decision by the Iraqi cabinet on April 14 to exclude militias from that vote, i.e. to exclude any political parties that have armed militias. Clearly, this is aimed at al-Sadr. If one were to ask: What about the Badr Brigade, which is the militia of the Shi’ite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), le d by Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim? one might get the answer: that is no longer to be considered a separate militia, but works as part of the Iraqi military forces.

Intra-Shi’ite Conflict Targets Iran

But there is more to the story. The usual assumption made by U.S. military and political leaders, and shared by too many press outlets, is that the conflict inside Iraq should now be reduced to a fight among rival Shi’ite factions: that the ISCI and al-Sadr group are competing for control over Basra, an oil-rich and strategically situated province; that al-Maliki, whose own Shi’ite party Al Dawa, depends on the support of al-Hakim’s faction to survive; that, in sum, the name of the game is intra-Shi’ite conflict.(1)

Yes, the political rivalries among the three main Shi’ite factions in Iraq do exist. To be sure, neither al-Maliki nor al-Hakim would welcome the emergence of a majority force in parliament led by the al-Sadr group. But this is not the salient feature of the situation. Rather, as was shown in the recent, short-lived halt to the operations against al-Sadr, it was Iran which was decisive. The most important factor to be considered, in understanding the current crisis, at least from the inside, is this: Iran has excellent relations with {all three} major Shi’ite factions in Iraq, despite their internal differences. The ISCI, it will be remembered, was given hospitality in Iran, during its years-long exile under the Saddam Hussein regime. Moqtadar al-Sadr enjoys support from Iran. And the greatest foreign support that the al-Maliki government has, is from Tehran.

So, who can be expected to gain from exacerbating the intra-Shi’ite conflict? Most obviously, the U.S. as the occupying power. As qualified Iranian sources have stressed to this author, Iran’s power lies in its ability to promote and mediate cooperation among all these factions, as dramatically demonstrated in its mediating the end to the first anti-Sadr offensive at the end of March. The occupying power is seen as intent on utilizing intra-Shi’ite conflict to damage each of these factions, and to hurt Iran.

One generally ignored, but important factor noted by the same Iranian sources, is the factionalized situation {within} the al-Sadr movement. Moqtadar al-Sadr is seen by these sources as a fervently committed fighter, who, however, views the situation from a somewhat narrowly defined local standpoint: he wants to style himself as the leader of the Shia in Iraq, indeed as the national leader–even more national than al-Maliki. His ambitions, according to some, go beyond this; he sees himself as a future leader of the Muslims overall. At the same time, there is a faction within the al-Sadr movement, considered a “sub-group,” which is controlled by outside forces, in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and also the U.S. This sub-group is seen as responsible for provocative actions designed to destabilize Iraq, and therefore welcoming any U.S.-Iraqi joint offensive against al-Sadr. The main reason for this, is that the foreign sponsors of this sub-group, whether Saudi or Emirate or America n, are intent on weakening, discrediting and ultimately replacing al-Maliki as Prime Minister of Iraq, while at the same time undermining the role of al-Hakim. A slaughter against al Sadr’s forces could doom the al-Maliki government. To put it simply: these outside influences, who are thinking strategically, are hoping to pit al-Sadr against both al-Hakim and al-Maliki; the al-Sadr forces, who are thinking on a more limited, local level, see themselves as competitors to the other two groupings, for future political leadership in Iraq, and miss the point about the broader strategic picture.

In short, the U.S.’s enthusiastic order to al-Maliki to launch his anti-al-Sadr purge, is actually a ploy to discredit and destroy al-Maliki himself, and prepare for permanent occupation. Vice President Dick Cheney has made no secret of the fact that he would like to replace al-Maliki, whom he has always accused of being too close to the Iranians, with one of his own, like Iyad Allawi, and that might be what is in the offing. Another benefit to discrediting al-Maliki is that the Cheney-Bush crew can further argue that, since al-Maliki and. co. have proven unable to deal with the al-Sadr threat alone, U.S. occupying forces should remain for a longer priod of time, if not for the one-hundred years that John McCain is fantasizing about.

Enter Condi Rice

To complete the picture, a couple of other developments should be mentioned. First, Condi Rice’s trip to the region. She follows in the footsteps of Cheney, who toured the region to whip up Arab support for, or at least acquiescence to, a military assault on Iran. This had been Cheney’s aim during his late 2006 visit, and now he has returned with the same agenda. Rice, then as now, will be following the same script. She will be meeting with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, plus Egypt and Jordan, the famous “GCC + 2” that she and Cheney have been forging as a Sunni bloc against Iran. Her message will be: prepare for the repercussions of a new assault on Iran. In parallel, the Israelis have been working overtime to heat up tensions in the region, not only against Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, but also Iran. While National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer threatened to “detsroy the Iranian nation,” if it attacked Israel, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Arab conference attendees in Qatar that their real enemy was not Israel, but Iran.

At the same time, an ominous event occurred on April 12 in Shiraz, when an explosion rocked a mosque during prayers, killing 12 and wounding more than 200. Although initial Iranian reports ruled out sabotage, the causes of the blast were not immediately identified, and, according to latest press reports, Iranian authorities are still “uncertain” about the affair. If, in the end, it turns out to have been a terror attack, the most likely suspects would be found among the Mujahedeen e Qalk (MKO/MEK) terrorist organization that still enjoys U.S. refuge in Iraq, and the Kurdish terrorists in the PKK-allied Pejak. The PKK also enjoys the protection of the U.S. occupying forces in northern Iraq. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Pejak (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) warned on April 13, that it would “carry out bombings against Iranian forces” inside the country. Perhaps this is what President Bush has in mind, when he makes his periodic appeals to the “Iranian people” to rise up ag ainst their government.


1. See Robert Dreyfuss, in “The Lessons of Basra,”, April 3, and also Ramzy Baroud, in “Basra battles: Barely half the story,”, April 13.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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Iran On Eve Of Elections by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, March 2, 2008

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach was in Tehran in late February and had the opportunity to talk to political figures, intellectuals, journalists, and the all-too-important “man on the street.” The picture that emerged from this brief visit clashes fundamentally with the line promulgated by the international press, and, therefore, might be worth considering. Muriel Mirak-Weissbach brings us this exclusive report.

Although many detractors will claim that democracy has no value in Iran, the fact of the matter is that the future of the Islamic Republic may be decisively influenced by two rounds of democratic elections: those for the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) on March 14, and and those for the U.S. President, House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate on November 4 of this year. The same detractors will claim that there is no basis for comparison between the two elections, given that the American vote is “free, fair and democratic,” whereas the Iranian elections they see as “fixed.” However, as is often the case with such political prejudices, reality may be completely different.

It was during our visit there that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammad ElBaradei, issued his latest report on Iran. The political establishment was elated and the national press joined in the general mood of celebration. As reported in the international press, ElBaradei had said, essentially, that the various unanswered questions regarding Iran’s nuclear energy program, six in all, had been satisfactorily answered.

Most significantly, the IAEA secretary general’s report confirmed that the {method} adopted by that agency and Iran in August, was functional; according to a breakthrough deal made at that time, the two sides agreed that all outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear program would be put on the table, and that Tehran would answer them, one after the other. Now, after ElBaradei’s largely positive assessment, the United States came forward with “new” questions, based on intelligence gathered not by the IAEA but by American agencies, and, according to reports, agencies of “allies.” The immediate supposition was that among such allied agencies might be Israel and the infamous terrorist organization, Mujahedeen e-Kalq (MKO), which enjoys the protection of Washington. The Iranian authorities immediately denounced such new “intelligence” as suspect or forged, and insisted that ElBaradei’s findings be put on the record.

The United Nations Security Council is going ahead, nonetheless, with its plans for another resolution which is expected to add a few paragraphs to prior resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran. A few more entities will be subjected to economic sanctions, etc. Russia and China will probably go along with the operation, even though both were furious at Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, which had been facilitated and hailed by Washington. Moscow and Beijing agree that Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology, but want to stop its enrichment program. Russia’s prompt delivery of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant, over December-January, sent this clear signal: yes, we will provide you the means to start up your nuclear plant, but, since we are giving you the fuel, you don’t need to produce it yourselves.

This is a major issue for Iran. As press reports have detailed, and several journalists as well as one government representative emphasized to me in discussions, this is a red line for Iran. The country has had enough experience with the great powers over decades, to know that it cannot trust promises. The 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mossadeq, by the U.S., on British demand, has not been forgotten. Mossadeq’s “crime” was that he nationalized Iran’s oil, i.e., asserted the nation’s sovereign right to control its energy resources. The “Mossadeq reflex” is very much alive in Iran today. Not only: Iranians remember that, under the Shah, an ambitious program for civilian nuclear energy had been adopted, with the enthusiastic participation of the U.S., France and Germany, only to be trashed after the 1979 Islamic revolution. If Bushehr starts to produce energy, as planned, Iranian officials say, then the country needs to be sure it can continue to guarantee fuel. Recent interruptions in gas deliveries from Turkmenistan, underline the point: Iran has to be self-sufficient, and therefore must maintain its enrichment facilities.

Iranians Go To The Polls

On March 14, over 43.2 millions of Iranian eligible voters may flock to the polls to elect the 8th Majlis, or Parliament. The spin in the international press has been that, since many reformist candidates have been axed from the lists, the entire vote will be a charade. This is not accurate. True, a hefty number of aspiring candidates had been eliminated from the contest, by the Guardians Council, which according to the Islamic Republic’s constitution, has the function of vetting candidates. But it was prevailed upon to readmit a large number, after protests had been lodged. Thus, after 7,597 initially presented their candidacy, 2,200 were disqualified, among them Eli Eshragi, the grandson of revolution leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Following protests, including by former Presidents Seyyed Mohammad Khatami (who called the vettings a “catastrophe”) and Hashemi Rafsanjani, many were reinstated, including Ali Eshragi, who, however, later withdrew. About 4,500 candidates are to run. As one Iranian friend put it to us, the system is a perfect democracy, but “under the umbrella” of the higher authorities, to wit, the Supreme Leader of the Revolution.

Westerners, especially Americans, may self-righteously huff and puff and complain about such procedures in Iran. But they might also take a hard and honest look at the ongoing U.S. election campaign, and reflect on how politically viable candidates like Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, and Ron Paul, have been marginalized and eliminated, not by any Guardians Council, but by the combination of the press and the money spigots.

As a result of the candidates vetting process, and other factors, the reformists associated with former President Khatami, will not be in a position to win the elections. In all, it is estimated that the Khatami-linked reform candidates will be able to compete in 111 to 120 seats out of 290. Candidates associated with another reform list, the National Confidence Party of Mehdi Karroubi, say they will compete in 160 districts, about 55%. This means that, even if the reformists were to win all races, they would not have a majority in parliament. Their aim, as one reform politician told us, is to establish a strong minority in Parliament, one that will be able to exert influence on the government, although it will not be able to determine policy. (As an American, I often made the mental comparison with the situation in the U.S. Congress, where my Democratic Party gained the majority in 2006, and did nothing with it.) All told, there will be about 16 candidates competing for each seat, and 29 for each seat from Tehran, the most important district.

In the capital, 30 candidates are required for the list, and 30 should be elected to Parliament. The Khatami-inspired reform group have appealed to the Karroubi group, to present a joint list, but this has not materialized as yet. The conseravtives are known as the “Principalists” (Osulqara), that is, those who adhere to the principles of the revolution. This is the faction identified with current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, not all the principalists in the elections are loyal followers of the president. For example, former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, is leading a group from the General Principalists Coalition, but has distanced himself from some of the president’s stances. In an interview with ISNA, the student news agency, he said he had “ideological differences” with Ahmadinejad, and criticized his economic poliices. Larijani will run from the constituency of Qom, the holy city. In sum, there is a lively political debate which has unfolded, particularly over the manner in which Ahmadinejad has promoted the nation’s interests. There are those who, agreeing with his overall policy, would prefer that he adopt a more conciliatory tone. Others differ widely with him on economic policy. Thus, in the elections, it is possible that, even though the conservatives retain their majority, even 65% according to some, it will not be monolithic politically.

Many among the reform politicians fear that the conservative forces will manipulate the vote, as was alleged they had done in the 2005 presidential elections. On February 10, Agence France Press carried a story, picked up from Iranian media, according to which General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, openly called for voters to support the conservatives. “To follow the path of the Islamic revolution,” he was quoted saying, “support for the Principalists is necessary, inevitable and a divine duty of all revolutionary groups.” He was speaking to officials of the Basij, or Islamic militia, an organization of 10 million, which he heads. Former Presidient Rafsanjani responded by attacking any such interference. “It is one of the main principles of the Islamic republic system,” DPA quoted him saying on February 15, “that the military should not interfere in any elections.” He said that “all those with fidelity to the Islamic republic” should be allowed to run, and that this “also includes different (from the government) political trends.”

The key thing to understand about the political process in Iran is that, despite the constraints of the system, the population is anything but passive, or apathetic. People — in all age groups — are passionately engaged in politics, and most eagerly engage in discussions with foreign visitors, like us, from Europe. One point that they always stress is that they would be happier if there were normal relations with the U.S. and the West as a whole. It is a sobering experience to realize, in meetings with press as well as political representatives, that they are very pro-Western; many studied in the U.S. before the revolution; others, in the younger generation, grew up in the U.S., and returned to lend a hand to their homeland in its struggle to function as a normal member of the “international community.” Anti-Americanism may be standard fare in official rhetoric, but it does not reflect the thinking or sentiments of the general population, at all. If there were a rational administration in Washington, all outstanding issues could be dealt with rationally, and solved, in short order, to the satifaction of both sides.

The Issues

When Iranians go the polls on March 14, they will be be voting for personalities, to be sure, but also for policies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has enjoyed the support of his people for his unwavering stance on the nuclear issue, but not for the manner in which he has handled it. The reformists are pledging to change this. Habibullah Bitaraf, a reform candidate who was energy minister under Khatami, called for “an active diplomacy” to go along with Iran’s “internationally acknowledged legitimate right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology.” He added his view that, “If our diplomacy was right, then we would not have the current tensions with the West and the sanctions.”

Uppermost in voters’ minds, along with the nuclear issue, is the economic crisis which is hitting not only Iran, but the world as a whole. Inflation has reached double-digit figures. An Iranian Parliament research center put inflation at 22-23% last year. For comparison, the rate is 7% in Saudi Arabia and 9.3% in the United Arab Emirates, both very high. The Iranian central bank is mulling over the issuance of a 100,000 rials note, whereas the highest denomination now is 50,000. Publicly, the authorities are putting on a brave face. Economics Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari reported on February 16 at a conference in Tehran, that foreign investment in the country had topped $10.27 last year, despite U.S.-led efforts to sabotage the economy with sanctions. He said economic growth had measured an annual 6.7% for the six months to September, and predicted continued growth despite sanctions. Danesh-Jafari also said Iran was looking forward to earning $63 billion in oil income, for the year which ends in March.

But, privately, Iranians complain loudly about the rising cost of living. Given the record oil revenues, generated from an item selling at over $100 a barrel, they want to know, where that money is going. Ahmadinejad is known for having spent a lot of time in his first two years in office, travelling to the provinces, where he has generously distributed funds, for a bridge here, a new highway there, and so on. This will certainly enhance his faction’s standing in the upcoming elections, particularly in outlying rural areas, but it will earn him no applause from city-dwellers, like the Tehran residents, who see their condition deteriorating. Although state subsidies continue to protect the prices of basic commodities, and the price of fuel is among the lowest in the world, young Iranians feel the brunt of the economic crisis the most: university graduates face a lack of job opportunities, and those who do find work, struggle to make ends meet, as rents have soared. Promoting marriage and families, one of the cornerstones of the current government, is no easy task, for purely financial reasons. The vulnerability of the president on economic issues was highlighted when Turkmenistan halted gas deliveries to Iran this winter. The extremely cold temperatures in the country brought on tragedy, as dozens of citizens perished in the cold, without adeuqate heat. In a highly unusual move, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly reprimanded Ahmadinejad, by explicitly ordering him to implement a law to supply remote villages with gas.

Social issues, though taking a back seat to the economic problems, do matter. Again, in private discussions, Iranians will scoff at the government’s increasing strictness on the dress code, for example. Women who allow too much hair to be visible under their head scarves or shawls, are accused of “bad Hijab,” and may be first reprimanded, then fined and even jailed, if guilty of multiple offences. Such emphasis on enforcing the Islamic dress code is viewed as symptomatic of the government’s tendency to lengthen the list of things that are forbidden.

Considering these developments, it is not difficult to understand why many Iranians may vote against the government. It must be stressed that Ahmadinejad won the elections in 2005, largely because of his promises to represent the poor, the unemployed, the old and the young. Despite his hefty mandate, he has not redefined the structure of economic power in the country, and reports abound of an increasingly prominent role for the Revolutionary Guards in the economy, as well as politics.

Iran’s Regional Role

No fair assessment of Iran’s economic or political problems can be made without factoring in the continuing hostile attitude emanating from George W. Bush’s Washington. Were there normal relations with the U.S., were there no economic sanctions, were there no threats of aggression (encapsulated in Bush’s mantra, “No option is off the table”), then the internal political process in Iran would become even more vibrant and productive. Hopefully, such a change for the better will come with the U.S. elections in November.

One of the leading issues in the U.S. elections is foreign policy towards Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, a debate that educated Iranians are following with great interest. Whether the political pundits in the U.S. want to recognize it or not, a major development has just occurred in the region, which could and should impact the outlook of presidential hopefuls. This is the historic visit of President Ahmadinejad to Iraq on March 2-3.

The Iranian president arrived in Baghdad on March 2, and was given the red carpet treatment by the Iraqi authorities. He met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, as well as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and several other ministers. Unlike the visits to Iraq made by officials of the U.S. occupying power, which are shrouded in secrecy due to security considerations and confined to the heavily guarded Green Zone of the capital, Ahmadinejad’s visit was publicly announced beforehand, and was to include stops in the holy Shi”ite cities of Najaf and Kerbala. In the course of their talks, the two sides made a number of landmark agreements, including Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on insurance cooperation, credit and trade arrangements (between the Export Development Bank of Iran and the Iraqi Rafadain Bank), and nine joint ventures, in the fields of cement, auto manufacturing, agriculture, food reprocessing, textiles, chemicals, petrochemicals, steel and electricity. Most important, the two sides sealed an agreement to link their power networks, through nine border points, whereby Iran will supply Iraq energy. In addition, Iran is to build a power plant in Najaf. Furthermore, there are plans to develop transportation infrastructure, both road and rail, as well as to expand cooperation in the energy sector.

The visit of the Iranian president to Baghdad cannot be underestimated. It represents not only a current foreign policy and economic policy victory for both sides, but, far more important, it potentially defeats the geopolitical strategy targetting both countries, over the last three decades. It should be recalled that, immeidately following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the U.S. together with Britain, Germany, France et al, moved to support Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, which opened the eight-year genocidal war. Genocidal, because, in the eyes of the Kissingerian thinktankers who issued the blueprints for the adventure, that war was intended to be a population war: each side was to detsroy the other, much in the same fashion as the British in World War II initially hoped that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would wipe each other out. Following the 1980-1988 war, the same geopolitical thinktankers hatched the idea of what was to become Desert Storm, to bring Iraq to its knees. The decade of the 1990s ushered in the new, soft policy known as “dual containment,” whereby both regional powers, Iran and Iraq, would be held at bay through political and economic measures. Then came Bush’s genocidal new war against Iraq, coupled with the deadly sanctions regime and permanent threats against Iran.

Whether through war or containment, the consistent policy approach of the geopolitical faction in the U.K. and U.S., has been to play Iran and Iraq against each other, in order to ensure that no cooperation between the two could come into being. That has now been shattered, with Ahmadinejad’s historic visit to Baghdad. Now, Iran will be functioning as a helpful neighbor, contributing to rebuild war-torn Iraq. In a joint press conference March 2 with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ahmadinejad said his country would rebuild Iraq: “We are willing to make major contributions to the development of Iraq’s railway system, electricity generation, road construction, tourism industry and oil pipelines.” Regardless of how many millions of dollars the various MoU may be worth, they are worth their weight in gold, if seen politically. Not only did they sign the cited MoU, but they pledged political cooperation as well. Ahmadinejad was on the mark when he identified the importance of Iraq for the region: “A united Iraq, a sovereign Iraq and an advanced Iraq is to the benefit of all regional nations and the people of Iran.” Prime Minister al-Maliki reciprocated, saying “There was a high level of trust and I frankly say that the recent Iranian position towards Iraq is extremely helpful.” He also indicated that his government would take appropriate action to expel anti-Iran terrorists in the Mujahedeen e-Khalq and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan.

If Iran and Iraq are allowed to fulfill the promise of this historic visit, it can only augur well for the entire region. It is to be hoped that the contenders for the presidency in the United States, will welcome the historic Iran-Iraq rapprochement as a harbinger of peaceful developments in the entire region.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries:
© Copyright Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is:

Breaking Taboos In the Search For Truth by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, February 7, 2008

Arun Gandhi’s Pursuit of Peace

The fact that the fifth grandson of legendary peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, should be forced to resign as head of his own peace institute in the United States, after critical remarks he had made about Israeli policy, should set alarm bells ringing — not one, but two sets of bells. On the one hand, his forced resignation seemed to confirm the fear that anyone in the United States who dared criticize Israeli policy as aggressive, would be dubbed a “bigot” or “anti-semite,” and forced to withdraw from public life. On the other hand, however, a different alarm has been sounded, one that warns that such blanket condemnation of any criticism of Israeli policy, will boomerang, and force an open, honest, no-holds-barred debate on a crucial political and moral issue. So, from this standpoint, I say, let the alarm bells ring.

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Showdown with Iran: GAO deals Blow to Bush’s anti-Iran Sanctions Policy by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, January 23, 2008

If the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report hammered a nail into the coffin of the Bush-Cheney Iran war policy, a new report may do similar damage to the same duo’s anti-Iran sanctions policy. Just as the NIE stated that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and implied, therefore, that this could not be used as a casus belli, so a report issued on December 18, by the Government Accountability Office, said that sanctions of the type Washington is pushing would be worthless. The GAO report sports a somewhat understated, yet unambiguous, title: “Iran Sanctions: Impact in Furthering U.S. Objectives Is Unclear and Should Be Reviewed”

( for PDF file).

It is addressed to the ranking member on the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Christopher Shays, and copies of the draft have been sent out to the most important government departments, as well as the NSC and the Officer of the Director of National Intelligence.

Although relatively little has been published in the establishment press about the GAO report, which was released to the press on January 15, it merits careful attention, especially in light of the ongoing efforts to ram through yet another set of sanctions against Iran at a Berlin meeting of foreign ministers of the 5+1 group on January 22. One wonders if the hastily-announced resignation of State Department sanctions man Nicholas Burns, had anything to do with the GAO’s findings.

The report reviews the three categories of sanctions imposed by the U.S. since 1987: the investment and trade ban by the Treasury; State Department-administered sanctions hitting foreign parties dealing in “proliferation or terrorism-related activities;” and, financial sanctions, imposed by both Departments on the same perpetrators, which include freezing assets and cutting access to the financial system in the U.S. The problem has been that, even though penalties have been meted out against violators, loopholes have allowed some U.S. trade to continue, for example, through third parties. Or violators, even though repeatedly punished, have simply continued unperturbed. Although the official line has been that ‘sanctions work,’ the GAO questions this. “Since 2003,” they write, “the Iranian government has signed contracts reported at about $20 billion with foreign firms to develop its energy resources.” (This finding must have made a special impression on the authors, as the sentence is repeated verbatim several times in the text.) “Further,” the GAO states, “sanctioned Iranian banks may fund their activities in currencies other than the dollar.” And, Iran “continues to enrich uranium, acquire advanced weapons technology, and support terrorism,” according to the report.

The most damning evidence of the failure of the policy is the fact that “Iran’s overall trade with the world has grown since the U.S. imposed sanctions.” A graph shows that between 1987 and 2006, Iran’s annual exports grew by a rate of 8.6% (from $8.5 billion to $70 billion) and imports, by 7.0% (from $7 billion to $46 billion). And, among the imports, were weapons and nuclear technology. That neither category of imports is forbidden to a sovereign nation under international law, including the NPT, is not mentioned by the authors.

The GAO concludes, “the overall impact of sanctions and the extent to which these sanctions further U.S. objectives, is unclear.” This is also due to the fact that no mechanisms have been developed to assess the impact. The report recommends that the Administration and Congress rectify this, so as to gain a “better understanding” of the impact of the policy. This should be done through a collaborative effort of the NSC, the State Department, Treasury, Energy and Commerce, together with intelligence agencies, to “(1)collect, analyze and improve data on Iran sanctions and conduct a baseline assessment of the impact and use of sanctions; (2) develop a framework for assessing the ongoing impact of U.S. sanctions, taking into consideration the contribution of multilateral sanctions; and, (3) report periodically to Congress on the sanctions’ impact.”

“It’s The Economy, Stupid!”

After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, advisor James Carville explained the victory by referring to a fundamental fact of life for any nation or people: the health or sickness of an economy will shape political choices. This is not only true of election campaigns. If President Bush understood anything about the economy — and his recent “stimulus” proposal proves he does not — he would grasp the fact that sanctions aimed at crippling trade with a strategically important country like Iran are doomed to fail. As the GAO points out, Iran’s strategic role is defined by its geographical location and its massive raw materials resources, holding “the third largest proven oil reserves and the second largest reserves of natural gas worldwide.” Countries like China are unlikely to allow sanctions to deter them from purchasing fuel, or from investing to develop Iran’s energy sector.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that, if U.S. trade with Iran plummeted after sanctions were introduced, “Iran’s trade with the rest of the world has increased, in large part due to increases in oil prices between 2002 and 2006. Asian countries, particularly China, are increasing their trade with Iran. Countries such as China and Russia continue to provide Iran with sensitive goods.” To wit, 16% of Iran’s total exports before the 1987 sanctions, went to the U.S., then plunged to 0.1%. This corresponded to a collapse in Iran’s exports to the U.S. from $2 billion worth in 1987 to below $1 million a year in the 1990s. At the same time, Iran’s other exports and imports zoomed, as noted above. “Iran has been able,” the report notes, “to readily replace the loss in U.S. trade with other countries,” especially with Europe and Asian countries. Trade with the latter “has nearly doubled since 1994,” with China and Japan heading the list. In the same time period, Iran’s imports from Middle Eastern countries went from 8% to 13%, especially from the UAE.

Considering these facts and figures, one is justified in going further than the GAO, to argue that the impact of the sanctions, far from being “unclear,” is pretty straightforward: the sanctions are a failure. And, to pose the question: who is losing out? For sure, the Islamic Republic of Iran has felt the brunt internally, but, as the report makes clear, its global trade and investments picture is not bad. What, then, of the United States of America? The American economy, stock market and entire financial system are crashing, and are threatening to take the rest of the world into the abyss. In this context, the GAO’s remarks about the impact of financial sanctions, to stop Iran’s alleged support of “proliferation” and “terrorism,” may harbor a hidden message. Reviewing the sanctions slapped on Bank Saderat in 2006 and Bank Sepah in 2007, which deprived them of trading in dollars, the GAO writes that Iran has found alternatives: “sanctioned Iranian banks may turn to euro or other currency transactions to support Iranian government activities.” Indeed, Iran has increasingly shifted to the euro, at a time when, due to the dollar’s collapse, many other countries are doing the same, and are even considering lifting their pegs to the U.S. dollar. These include leading economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council, with whom Iran has been intensifying economic and political cooperation. Such moves, presented as “diversifying” foreign exchange reserves, are certainly not the {cause} of the greenback’s fall, but they will not contribute to stopping it. In addition, as PressTV reported January 4, Iran will open its Oil Bourse, for trade in gas, oil and petrochemicals, in non-dollar currencies. Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafarai said the bourse, located on the island of Kish, would be inaugurated in early February, on the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Arabs Reject Bush’s “Peace-Through-War” Mission

Such economic factors rank high on the list of considerations that shaped the response given Bush on his recent trip, by Arab leaders of the Persian Gulf states. By all accounts, including those in government-linked press organs, Bush’s performance was an abysmal failure. After having mouthed nice-sounding phrases about peace, while in the Occupied Territories and Israel, Bush unveiled the true content of his mission, in a never-ending series of diatribes against Iran, culminating in his official lecture in Abu Dhabi. As reported at length in the international media, Bush again depicted Iran as the source of all evil in the world, supporter of terrorism, seeker of nuclear weapons, and so on. Again, he made clear that the military option was not off the table.

But his Arab hosts were not amused. Whether in Kuweit, Bahrain or the UAE, Bush was informed quite explicitly that if he had plans to attack Iran, he could not count on any of them to offer their territory, albeit with U.S. bases, as launching-pads. The foreign minister of America’s most important Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia, rejected any hint of war against Iran even before Bush landed. “We have relations with Iran and we talk to them,” said Saud al-Faisal on January 10, “and if we feel there is any danger (in the region) we will talk to them about it.” The pro-government paper Al-Riyadh also delivered the same message, just prior to Bush’s arrival. “We refuse to be used to launch wars or tensions with Iran.” It added, “If the president [of the U.S.] wants to obtain the solidarity of all the Arabs, … he must focus, rationally, on the most important issue which is the question of peace.” Gulf News, from the UAE, commented that “There’s little enthusiasm in the Arab world to be labeled as a ‘Friend of George’ by signing up to this anti-Iranian alliance.” On the heels of Bush’s stopover in Kuweit, the foreign minister of that close ally, Mohammad Sabah al-Salem al-Sabeh, joined with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki in a Tehran press conference, to announce: “My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy, and Iran is our friend.”

Almost overlapping Bush’s visits in the region, Iranian diplomats were meeting with regional partners. Iran’s ambassador to Bahrain, Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with the head of that country’s Chamber of Commerce, Osam Abdullah Fakhro, to discuss expansion of economic cooperation, a subject which is to be further explorted in the fifth meeting of the High Economic Cooperation Council, to be held soon.

More important, prior to Bush’s touchdown in the region, the most powerful institutions of the region had signalled inequivocably their commitment to ally with Iran against any and all war scenarios emanating from Washington. The first major initiative was the official invitation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, to attend their summit in Doha December 3-4. This was the first time since the founding of the GCC that an Iranian leader had been accorded such an honor. Ahmadinejad did attend, and presented a proposal for cooperation in 12 points, which was warmly received. The proposal outlined plans for “regional security and economic pacts” without foreign influence, IRNA reported on December 16. Iranian sources have told this author that, following that historic event, Iran sent a letter out to its Arab neighbors, calling for the establishment of a working group to study his proposals further, and that another meeting on the issue will be held. Following that summit, an invitation was sent the Iranian President from the most influential Arab leader of the region. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud personally invited Ahmadinejad to attend the Hajj prilgrimage, again an unprecedented event, — the first time in 1,400 years — which, Iranian sources assured this author, could not be underestimated.

It should be noted in this context, that very few, if any, of the Arab Gulf leaders fell for the line retailed by Bush in his earlier visits to Israel and the Occupied Territories. Though he preached peace, even venturing to declare that the territories occupied by Israel beginning in 1967, had to be liberated, what followed in the wake of his visit indicated that he had actually been on a wrecking mission. No sooner had he left Israel, than the Israelis acted with vengeance in Gaza, demolishing the Palestinian Interior Ministry, killing dozens of Palestinians, and closing off the entire area from vital supplies of humanitarian goods. Had he discussed this with Olmert?

Not only: after Bush left the region, the Lebanese crisis, which some had thought was nearing conclusion, erupted again, as the election of a President was again postponed. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said he believed it was a matter of the lack of political will. Unconfirmed reports in Al Akhbar on January 17 had it that Bush met secretly in Aqaba with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Majority leader Saad Hariri and Jordanian King Abdullah II, to discuss a naval blockade of Syria, a matter that Al Manar that same day said he had earlier discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. As for the internal Lebanese situation, Bush had gone on the public record prior to his trip, saying that he supported the March 14 group’s bid to elect a President by “50% plus one” of the votes. In short: he was sabotaging the negotiation process aiming at national reconciliation and power sharing. As George Orwell taught: Peace is War and War is Peace.

The World vs. George W. Bush

The most welcome rallying of the Arab Gulf governments against Washington’s war option may be crucial, but it is in itself not sufficient to preserve peace. Even if all the regional powers say, “No, thank you,” to the Bush-Cheney bid for military aggression against Iran, that does not mean that plans for further political-economic aggression, in the form of a new U.N. Security Council resolution for sanctions, have been abandoned. And, as the case with Iraq has documented, sanctions are not intended only to inflict economic damage, but to create the political preconditions for justifying waging actual war.

The key factors in the sanctions fight will be Russia and China, and there are good reasons to hope that both will stick to their guns at the upcoming Berlin meeting. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report of December, provided Russia and China with precious ammunition — and from U.S. intelligence agencies no less! — to argue their case that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons, but only nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as guaranteed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Non Prolifieration Treaty, both of which Iran had endorsed.

Both Russia and China have since then moved to manifest their resolve that the nuclear file will not be used as a casus belli and, also, that further sanctions against Iran would be unacceptable. Moscow responded to the issuance of the NIE report by announcing it would deliver nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr plant. This was no minor event. Anyone who has followed the story of Iran’s fight for nuclear energy, knows that the Russians, who took over the task of completing the Bushehr plant after the Germans foolishly had abandoned it, have been playing cat-and-mouse with Tehran, promising to deliver the fuel, then always finding good reasons why such deliveries had to be postponed. Iran had not paid in full, they said, or there were other reasons. In reality, these were diplomatic excuses. Thus, when Russia finally made its first delivery of fuel to Bushehr on December 17, this was a political message: Russia will stand by its agreements with Iran. Sergei Shmatko, president of Atomstroiexport, the Russian contractor for the Iranian nuclear plant at Bushehr, was quoted by PressTV on December 18, saying, “We have resolved all the problems with the Iranians. We have agreed with our Iranian colleagues a timeframe for completing the plant.”

The second consignment of Russian fuel took place on December 28, the third, on January 18, and the fourth, on January 20. With this last shipment, Russia has delivered one-half the fuel required, that is, 44 tons out of a projected 82 tons. The last shipment is scheduled for next month. The Iranians say they hope that the Bushehr plant will finally be able to start functioning during the first half of 2008. If that occurs, it will not only chalk up a defeat for the war party, but also constitute a setback for the Malthusians who would like to deny all developing sector nations the access to nuclear energy technology.

But there is more. As Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stated on December 19, the delivery of Russian fuel would lead to further strategic ties between Russia and Iran. Included in this growing strategic partnership are cooperative deals in the energy sector. On January 15, ITAR-TASS reported on Iranian expectations that Gazprom would present proposals for gas and oil cooperation. Also in the defense sector, Moscow is lending a helping hand to Tehran. On December 26, PressTV reported that Russia would deliver the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile defense system to Iran.

As for China, the message has been similar in content though delivered in another format. Saeed Jalili, the new Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and chief nuclear negotiator, was in Beijing January 17, for talks with top leaders on the sanctions issue. The Director-General of the Department of West Asian and North Africa of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Song Aiguo, told Jalili that his country and Russia were committed to reduce pressures on Iran regarding the nuclear issue. Jalili, for his part, reiterated Tehran’s commitment to continue cooperation with the IAEA. At the same time, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific Affairs, Mahdi Safari, was also in Beijing, for talks with his Chinese counterparts.

Following his extensive discussions, Jalili announced on January 18, as reported by AP, that Beijing and Tehran agreed on crucial foreign policy issues. “Concerning the Iranian nuclear issues,” he told press, “we have a lot of areas where we are in agreement. We have a common view on sanctions and the right for every nation to peacefully use nuclear energy.” Xinhua reported that Tang Jiaxuan, China’s foreign policy chief, reiterated China’s position that the issue should be solved through diplomacy. “The international community,” he was quoted saying, “should beef up diplomatic efforts to facilitate the resumption of negotiations and achieve a comprehensive settlement of the issue.” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reportedly told Jalili that “The Iranian nuclear issue is now at a crucial moment,” and expressed hopes that all sides would resume talks. Yang had just met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who had taken a diametrically opposed message to Beijing, pleading for China’s support for sanctions.

At the same time, if the pro-sanctions lobby had hoped for support from the IAEA, those hopes were dashed after leading representatives of the U.N. agency for nuclear energy had concluded satisfactory talks in Tehran. Following the visit of an IAEA delegation to Iran in early January, to clarify further unanswered questions regarding Iran’s program, the director general of the body, Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, visited the Iranian capital for talks. He met not only with government and nuclear sector representatives, but also with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This was important. Khamenei does not routinely receive foreign guests. From accounts published in the Iranian press, it appears the encounter was not insignificant. According to IranManiaNews on January 13 ( View/viewprintablearticle.asp), Khamenei urged ElBaradei to preserve the independence of the IAEA as an international organization, and reiterated the Islamic Republic’s rejection of nuclear weapons on religious grounds. Khamenei then came to the central point: “America’s problem with Iran,” he was quoted saying, “goes beyond the nuclear issue,” suggesting that the U.S. wanted to exploit the nuclear issue to target Iran. He also stated that the entire dossier should be returned to the IAEA, as there is no justification for its being dealt with at the U.N. Security Council. It was agreed that Iran would have a month or so to clarify open questions.

As of this writing, it therefore does not look good for the sanctions lobby, not to mention the Cheneyite war party. Although the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier (who should know better), have been lobbying for further sanctions, and actually issued the invitations for the January 22 meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin, there is little chance that anything other than bruised egos will come out of that meeting. In a rather uncharacteristic statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack admitted on January 18, that Washington did not think it could force through its sanctions line this time around. “We are optimistic that we will eventually be able to get a resolution,” he was quoted by Reuters on January 18. “We would have wished that we had had one by now but that is multilateral diplomacy for you,” he said. When asked outright whether or not the Berlin meeting might yield a resolution for sanctions, McCormack was contrite: “It might take a little longer.” He added: “You might term it a brainstorming session, about what are the diplomatic pathways available to us, so that we can pressure the Iranian regime to make a different set of choices regarding its behavior in the international system. That’s the whole object of the exercise here,” he concluded.

Certain signals must have been registered, even in that political Disneyland known as Washington. Among them are Russia’s nuclear fuel deliveries to Iran, Moscow’s announcement, almost simultaneously, that it could, if deemed necessary, launch preemptive nuclear strikes to defend its territory as well as that of its allies, continuing Russian opposition to Washington’s plans for missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, as well as rejection of independence for Kosovo. Thus, it is to be expected that the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 5+1 in Berlin, will yield {no} consensus for sanctions against Iran. Opponents of the bellicose sanctions policy can refer readily to the NIE report as well as the recent GAO study, to assert, on the basis of documents issued by official government institutions of the United States that, (1) Iran has no nuclear weapons program and (2) that the sanctions policy has been a miserable failure.

The View From Tehran

The Iranian leadership has been pursuing a rather sophisticated two-track policy in the current juncture. On the one hand, it has rejected out of hand any talk of further sanctions, as being unwarranted, illegal, etc. On the other hand, Tehran has also sent important signals to all those with ears to hear and eyes to see, that it seriously seeks an end to the insane, hostile relationship with the U.S., and, by extension, with other nations of the West. In the time of the presidency of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Iran had extended its hand with an olive branch, and got little in return. Though ignored or denigrated by the international media, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also proposed that the enmity dating from the 1979 revolution, be overcome. Letters he drafted to the President Bush, and to the American people, are still awaiting an answer.

In this light it is extremely important to acknowledge that the highest authority of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has recently addressed the issue of relations with the U.S. Although largely ignored by the international press and, where noted at all, cast in a totally negative light, the statements attributed by Iranian media to the Supreme Leader are of historic importance. Speaking in Yazd on January 3, Khamenei, according to PressTV on January 6, “said … that although severing diplomatic ties with the U.S. has been one of Iran’s principle policies, Tehran had never indicated that it would be a permanent policy.” The wire service went on to report that, however, “The Leader also emphasized that with Washington going on with its current policies, the restoration of diplomatic ties with the US is not in the Iranian nation’s best interests.” In short, the message was, that Iran is eager to overcome the crisis in relations which began with the 1979 revolution. But the problem lies in Washington. With the Bush-Cheney Administration in power, such a perpective for reconciliation is nil. Were a different Administration in power, things would be different. The message is, indirectly, addressed to those in the Democratic Party primaries, who could respond with a signal of openness.

Iranian sources told this author that Khamenei’s statements should be taken very seriously. This is the first time that a Supreme Leader has made such reference to the possibility of restoring diplomatic relations with the U.S. Not only: the same sources pointed out that the Iranian offer made to the U.S. in 2003, to put all relevant issues on the table, had been an institutional decision, and one that could be made again today, were Washington receptive. According to VoA on January 5, State Department spokesman David Foley said that Khamenei’s remarks might open the way for resumption of diplomatic relations. He said that the U.S. interpreted the statements as a sign that Iran wanted better relations, something, he claimed, Washington also desired. This was of course contradicted by Bush’s blanket accusations against Iran during his recent tour. But, as this is an election year, everything could change, even in the U.S.

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

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After The NIE on Iran: Let The Great Debate Begin! by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, January 3, 2008

“Preemptive surgical strike by the intelligence community against the war party”

The issuance of the National Intelligence Estimate on Dec. 3, could be compared to the historic “shot heard round the world;” but, perhaps the characterization given by Barbara Slavin, author of a new book on Iran, is more to the point. As she put it in mid-December at a conference of the Center for American Progress in the U.S. capital, the NIE report was ” a preemptive surgical strike by the intelligence community against the war party” of Dick Cheney et al, those who have been building for a military attack against Iran.

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Dollar Crash: The Real Challenge For OPEC by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, November 22, 2007

At its recent summit in Riyadh, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries faced an unprecedented crisis: the price of oil was edging up towards the $100 per barrel mark, as the dollar itself was continuing its inexorable slide on all financial markets.

Although the Saudi hosts were eager to keep the dollar’s agony out of the debate, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez forced it onto the agenda, triumphantly announcing that the dollar decline signalled the end of the American empire. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quipped that the oil producers were delivering their vital goods, and in return, were getting only “a worthless piece of paper.” The idea emerged, that OPEC should study the matter, perhaps seeking an alternative currency or currencies, in which to trade oil.

The word “dollar” was not referenced in the final document, mainly because of (justified) fears voiced by the Saudi hosts, that any such mention might precipitate a further crash of the greenback. B ut the summit did decide to set up a committee, of their oil and finance ministers, to study the matter and come up with recommendations before their next meeting, scheduled for December 5.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad were those pressing most energetically for open debate on the fate of the dollar. “Don’t you see how the dollar has been in a free-fall without a parachute?” Chavez asked. In his address to the conference, the Iranian president stated, “Due to the devaluation of the U.S. dollar, oil transactions should be conducted through a combination of other major hard currencies, and oil bourses should be requested to replace the U.S. dollar with other currencies,” as reported by Mehr News Agency. He also voiced agreement with an idea Chavez had floated, of setting up an “OPEC bank” which would protect the hard currencies of the oil producing states.

Ahmadinejad told reporters following the summit that the leaders were “unhappy with the fall in the value [of the dollar],” adding that “even the American people have lost out.” He reported that “All participating leaders showed an interest in changing their hard currency reserves to a credible hard currency,” and that “some” favored an alternative to the dollar. These “some” emphatically did not include Saudi Arabia, which issued a statement later, that the Kingdom had absolutely no intention of abandoning the dollar.

Nonetheless, the issue was hot enough to make its way, albeit indirectly, into the summit’s final statement. The “Riyadh Declaration” [] after stressing OPEC’s commitment to maintain stability of the petroleum market, providing “adequate, timely, efficient, economic and reliable petroleum supplies to world markets,” made brief reference to the currency issue. It said the OPEC members resolved to “Instruct our Petroleum/Energy and Finance Ministers to study ways and means of enhancing financial cooperation among OPEC Member Countries, including proposals by some of the Heads of State and Government in their statements to the Summit.” Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hussein Nozari explained that this committee had been decided on, “to study the impact of the dollar on oil prices,” while his Iraqi counterpart Hussein al-Shahristani said the committee would “submit to OPEC its recommendation on a basket of currencies that OPEC members will deal with.”

The question is: what can such a committee achieve? That depends on how it formulates the problem. If the ministers focus on simply replacing the dollar with another currency, or basket of currencies, they will solve nothing. Although Chavez celebrated the fall of the dollar as the “fall of the American empire,” and looked to the day when Latin America and the world would be freed of the U.S. currency, he was blithely ignoring a simple reality: the dollar is not just the currency of the U.S., still the world’s biggest economy; it is the basis of the world financial system. The dollar is the leading currency in international trade, and dominates world financial transactions. It is still the major reserve currency for central banks, even though their percentage of dollar holdings has dropped from 71% in 1999 to 64.8% today. True, central banks have been moving out of the dollar and into other currencies, especially the euro and yen. In August, for the first time in ages, there was a net outflow of dollars and U.S. investments, to the tune of $150 billion, reversing a trend that used to see hundreds of billions flowing into America, to finance its multiple deficits. Those pulling dollars out of the U.S. included China; the assistant governor of the Bnak of China Yi Gang did say on November 15 that the dollar would remain the leader among its $1.4 trillion (!) reserves, however he added that China would “diversify.” Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress, was quoted by the Peoples Daily on November 8, saying “We [China] favor stronger currencies over weaker ones, and will readjust accordingly,” i.e. continue to diversify. Russia has diversified, as have many Persian Gulf countries, including Iran.

But this, in itself, will solve nothing. The crisis of the dollar is the {crisis of the dollar-denominated system}. Unless that reality is addressed, no bandaid measures can provide relief. Just imagine what would happen, were China to pull out of the dollar completely. That would further plunge the dollar into negative territory, but with the result that China’s earnings from its trade with the U.S., would plummet.

Any serious approach to address the dollar crisis, must address the underlying problem: the system is bankrupt and must be radically reformed, in order to prevent the collapse of the dollar system from precipitating a breakdown of the world economy–the production and trade of real goods and services, upon which the well-being of nations and populations depend. Ahmadinejad laid the blame for the dollar collapse on the Bush Administration–all well and good, so far as it goes. But the insane financial, monetary and economic policies which have reached a peak under George W. and his henchmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, have been merely the continuation of a defective policy orientation going back to the early 1960s. It was after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that U.S. (and British) economic policy radically shifted away from emphasis on investment in the production of real goods and services, and vital infrastructure, into pure speculation. Richard Nixon’s decoupling of the dollar from gold in August 1971, created the basis for the floating exchange system, whereby national currencies could and did become the prey of voracious speculators. From then on, the system generated one after another of wild speculative instruments, leading into today’s explosive $750 billion derivatives market, collateral debt obligations, mortgage-backed securities, and the like. Now, a reverse-leveraging process has set in, whereby the croupier is calling in the debts. And the players’ pockets are empty. The biggest banks in the U.S., led by Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, have reported tens of billions of dollars in losses, while their stocks plunge on the markets. No amount of pump-priming and repeated injections of hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking system can save it. Ben “helicoptor” Bernanke may think he can fly over America in a plane and flood the country with liquidity, but he is going to run out of gas very soon.

Given this reality, what can a committee of oil and finance ministers of the OPEC countries, as constituted at the last summit, do? Since they do not control monetary policy worldwide, they could not work wonders. But they could make a crucial contribution, by laying bare the true parameters of the crisis, identifying the implications of the dollar crisis for the international systen as a whole. They could go a step further, and propose an immediate international conference of leading nations–emphatically including the leading culprit, the U.S., as well as Russia and China–to map out a program for the reform of the system, which would begin by reviving the best aspects of the Bretton Woods system of 1944. This means reestablishing fixed exchange rates among leading currencies, as the precondition for orderly international trade and an antidote against currency speculation. This would also require a shift in economic policy orientation, away from the liberal, free market spe culative madness, back to sound investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and so forth. Once a new international monetary system were in place, it would be essentially irrelevant, what currency oil producers (or others) would use in their trade.

Were such an OPEC committee to address the issue from this global standpoint, it could go further, and really take the bull by the horns, so to speak. The OPEC summit leaders demonstrated their responsibility to the world economy, by pledging secure supplies. But it is undeniable that each of the leaders who met in Riyadh for the third OPEC summit, knows that, no matter how vast the world’s oil reserves may be, they are ultimately limited. (The same could be said of gas.) This poses the question: what next?

A sane economic policy approach would say: let us look beyond the era of an oil-based economy, to the era of a nuclear-energy based world economy. From an economic standpoint, it is clear that only massive use of nuclear technology can provide the energy required to maintain a growing world economy. The industrialization of Africa, for example, requires this level of energy input. The political insecurity created over recent years by Dick Cheney’s wars against Iraq, and now, threatened, against Iran, has added impetus to the need for securing alternative energy resources. The recent statements by the Gulf Cooperation Council, regarding that group’s desire to develop nuclear energy technology for peaceful purposes, can only be applauded. Egypt, Algeria, and other Arab coutnries have demonstrated similar interest. Iran, whose nuclear program is being exploited as a pretext to launch war, has offered to share its proven technological expertise with other countries. Recent discus sions about the possibility of establishing uranium enrichment facilities jointly in “neutral” countries (eg. Switzerland) have been seriously taken up by Iran, among others. In the perspective of massive development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the giant oil producers in OPEC, could think of directing their precious resources as the raw materials for petrochemical and other processes.

If the new committee envisioned by the OPEC summit takes up these issues, a new, potentially powerful flank may be opened up in international economic and political relations. These countries control resources on which most of the world depends: why should they not use their clout to redefine the international agenda?

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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Kurdish Crisis Boxes In Neocons by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, November 2, 2007

When Secretary of State Condi Rice descended the stairs of her plane in Ankara on November 2, she must have been thanking her lucking stars that her security detail was shielding her from the massive groups of Turkish demonstrators, who were wielding aggressive signs, some showing her face as the backdrop for a target practicer’s bulls-eye, and others saying, “Terrorist Condi: Hands Off Turkey.” Condi may have been spared the embarrassment, but the signs and pickets were prominently shown on international television news stations. And public opinion polls reported that the popularity of the US among the Turks is about as low as that of the US Congress among American voters.

The reason for the rising tide of anti-Americanism in Turkey is simple: Washington is seen as the sponsor of the Kurdish terrorists who have been killing Turkish soldiers, from their safe haven in US-occupied northern Iraq.

Turkey is a long-term US ally and staunch NATO member, whose Incirlik military base has functioned as a vital launching pad for US operations into Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to the insanity emanating from the Bush-Cheney cabal in Washington, this crucial regional ally has turned into not only a leading critic of their botched Iraq policy, but potentially also a “break-away ally” who will challenge the US in the region, in pursuit of aims it rightly defines as in its own vital national self-interest.


The name of the game is “Kurdistan.” Since the terrorist Kurdish Workers Party, known as the PKK, has recently initiated a new wave of attacks against Turkish targets, killing dozens of soldiers in southeastern Turkey and abducting others, the conflict between the Kurdish insurgents, who aim at establishing an independent “Kurdistan” in a region overlapping Turkey, Iran and Syria, on the one hand, and the sovereign Turkish nation, on the other, has reached such a point that memories of the tragic 23-year-long struggle and its 30,000 dead, have been vividly awakened. No one in Turkey wants that deadly process to be repeated.

This time around, however, the conflict takes on a strategic dimension: it is not “only” Turkey vs. a domestic insurgent force–the PKK–, but, potentially, a new conflict in Southwest Asia as a whole, vectored on war-torn Iraq. For, the PKK, which has recently raised its ugly head again, is operating not out of Turkey, but out of northern Iraq, in what is known as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). And this region, which enjoys relative autonomy, is under the control of the United States, the occupying power. Thus, since the PKK renewed its terrorist attacks against Turkish military targets, {from inside Iraq}, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the military establishment, have demanded that the US intervene to disarm the PKK, apprehend its leading figures and extradite them to Turkey. Paying demonstrative lip service to the fable that the Iraqi government be “sovereign,” Ankara has also pressed the government of Nouri al-Maliki to move against the PKK.

The crisis reached an initial climax in mid-October, when, following PKK killings of Turkish troops, the Turkish parliament voted to approve a government plan to organize cross-border incursions into northern Iraq, in hot pursuit of the terrorists. Impetus for the vote had been provided by passage of a resolution in the US House Foreign Relations Committee, on October 10, which acknowledged the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Turkey as “genocide.” Turkey saw the committee vote as an affront, as demonstrating an “irresponsible attitude” which could jeopardize US-Turkish relations, and responded by recalling its ambassador from Washington. Furthermore, it was mooted that Turkey could close the vital Incirlik base to US operations.

After another 17 Turkish soldiers were killed by PKK terrorists on October 21, the Turkish cabinet went into emergency session. Prime Minister Erdogan, under tremendous domestic pressure to move against the threat, told the London {Times} on October 22, that his country would move to smash the PKK in northern Iraq. “The target of this operation,” he explained, “is definitely not Iraq’s territorial integrity or its political unity. The target of this operation is the terror organization based in the north of Iraq” which “must be driven out … its training camps … dismantled and its leaders … handed over.” Erdogan minced no words regarding the US reponsibility. “In northern Iraq,” he said, “we feel that both the terrorist organization and the [Kurdish regional] administration there are sheltering behind America.” He went on to speak about a “trilateral mechanism” which had been discussed, among the US, Iraq and Turkey to deal with the problem, but lamented that it had led nowhere.

The decision by the Turkish parliament to approve cross-border incursions into northern Iraq, sounded an alarm bell in Washington. The well-grounded fear among government officials was that, if Turkey were to make good on its threats of incursions into northern Iraq, that would provoke a reaction of the part of the Kurds inside Iraq. Not only: Kurds in Iran and Syria (as well as Turkey) could join forces with their compatriots in Iraq, and strive to establish their independent state, Kurdistan. This would be the realization of a nightmare vision hatched by the 1916 British-French deal known as the Sykes-Picot Treaty, which carved up the Ottoman Empire among the imperial powers in the aftermath of World War I. The ethnic Kurdish population, dispersed among the regions to become newly defined “states” of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey, would come together in an entity, whose emergence would challenge the very existence of those states.

The Founding Fathers of Kurdistan

If Sykes-Picot were the result of a rotten deal between imperial France and Britain, the threat of a Kurdish entity in the region today must be chalked up to imperial-thinking factions in Britain and the United States. It is now an open secret, which the Bush crowd thought it had been able to keep under wraps, that W. and his crew have been long-term sponsors of the PKK, and worshipped as such by the terrorist group itself. On October 30, the {International Herald Tribune} ran an article reporting on the fact that supplies for the group are allowed to pass through a government checkpoint in Raniya. Former American Ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris was quoted saying, “That couldn’t have happened without their permitting them to be there. That’s their turf. It’s as simple as that.” The IHT piece went on to report how the PKK-linked Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (KDSP), which operates freely in Raniya and Sulaimaniya, has a leader, Fayik Muhamed Ahmad Golpi, who is an outsp oken fan of George W. Bush. After the 2004 US elections, Golpi sent W. a letter, congratulating him and wishing him luck in his plans for transforming the Middle East. The IHT article also noted the role of the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), the branch of the group seeking independence from Iran.

Turkey has long accused the US of supporting the PKK and allied Kurdish separatists, on the obvious grounds that the terrorist group has lived and flourished under American occupation in Iraq. It is a well-documented fact that, since the 1991 Desert Storm war against Iraq, the US had set up the notorious “no fly-zones” in the north (and south), which provided air cover to the Kurds (and the PKK). On July 20 of this year, then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reported on Turkish television, that PKK terrorists had been arrested in possession of weapons manufactured in the US. Gul said, “US officials told us those were the weapons they handed over to the Iraqi army. 1,260 weapons captured from the PKK,” he said, “are American made. We documented it to the US.” According to the {New York Times} in August, US Defense Department officials confirmed that weapons provided by the US to Iraqi military and police trainees in 2004 and 2005 had indeed ended up in the hands of the Kurds. On October 28, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki joined with his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babcan, in a press conference, to denounce the foreign sponsors of the Kurdish groups threatening to detonate an explosion in the region. Mottaki cited the PKK, the PJAK (or PEJAK) and the MEK/MKO (Mujahideen e-Khalq), an Iranian terrorist group operating also from Iraqi soil against the Islamic Republic. In November 2006, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh had reported to the {New Yorker} that “In the past six months, Israel and the United States have been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has also been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran.”

Ankara: US, Iraq Must Rein PKK In

The Turks have rightly demanded that the US, as the occupying power in northern Iraq, take action to curb the PKK, and have asked the allegedly sovereign Iraqi government to do the same. They have also stated that the KRG, led by Massoud Barzani, has protected the PKK. Erdogan was quoted by {Hurriyet} as saying outright, “[Barzani] is in a position of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization in that region.” For his part, Barzani has repeatedly refused to hand over PKK elements to Turkey, “no matter what the cost.” Orders to the KRG to close all PKK offices have been cheerfully ignored.

However, as it became evident in late October, that the Turks would make good on their threats to send some of the 100,000 troops they had amassed on the border, into northern Iraq, to seek out and kill PKK terrorists, the Iraqi Kurdish authorities changed their tune. One reason is that Turkey made good on its threat to impose economic sanctions on northern Iraq. Flights between Istanbul and Irbil were stopped beginning November. As reported by {BBC}, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said after a cabinet meeting October 31, that they had started “military, political and diplomatic measures” against the PKK. “The targets of these measures are the terrorist organization and those groups which are supporting, aiding and abetting it,” he said. Though no details were released, the measures could entail a boycott of the Kurdistan Regional Government. This could mean a cutoff of food imports, electricity supplies, and other imports. Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari announced a t the same time, that checkpoints were being set up on the Turkish-Iraqi border to cut off the PKK supply lines.

Not surprisingly, the PKK began to cry uncle. Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of foreign relations for the KRG, said November 2, that he hoped Turkey would “reconsider its position and work for a peaceful solution.” He claimed the KRG did not support PKK terrorist activity. On November 2, it was reported that a PKK leader, Abdul Rahman al-Chadirchi, was calling on Turkey to present a peace plan to overcome the crisis. This came after Turkish troops had succeeded in hunting down and killing dozens of PKK elements in Turkey.

Whether or not Turkey will move militarily into northern Iraq, will be decided officially, only following talks that Prime Minister Erdogan will hold with President Bush in Washington on November 5. Statements made by Rice, as well as US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, on November 2, stressed Washington’s desire that the Turks desist from any such military cross-border incursions. Ankara, however, has argued: if the US waged war on Afghanistan and invaded Iraq, on grounds that elements from those distant countries had been involved in terror attacks against the US, why should Turkey not do the same in a country on its borders? Speaking at a parliamentary group meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the end of October, Erdogan said that he would ask President Bush to “clearly define [the US] road map” to deal with the PKK. He said it was a “test of sincerity, and that if the US failed to act, “we will do our own job” i.e. invade Iraq and mop up the PKK.

Regional Peace Efforts

The dangers inherent in a Turkish military incursion across Iraq’s borders, are best appreciated by Turkey’s immediate neighbors, Iran, Syria and Iraq itself. These three countries host Kurdish minorities who could be catapulted, by a Turkish attack, into a military campaign to establish an independent Kurdistan, thus detabilizing all three nations. It is for this reason, that the three have taken steps to defuse the crisis before it blows up. In a coordinated effort, Syria and Iran have been consulting to eliminate the PKK threat, preferably without Turkish military action inside Iraq.

On October 28, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was in Tehran to discuss his country’s option of invading Iraq to pursue the PKK. The Iranians told him they did {not} support such a military move. This was an important move, since Tehran had earlier supported Turkey’s military moves, and even participated in joint attacks against the Kurdish terrorists. On October 29, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki visited Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad, and his counterpart Walid Muallem. The latter stated after the talks, “The Iranians have initiated efforts which complement those of Syria, because we want to give a political solution a chance.” Mottaki was quoted by the {Turkish Daily News} saying, “The PKK terrorists threaten not only Turkey but also Iran and Syria,” and added, “The terrorist operations from the north of Iraq create a destabilizing effect throughout the region.” Mottaki went on to Baghdad, for talks there. A meeting was held in Istanbul November 2-3, of the foriegn ministers of the region, and included all Iraq’s neighbors, plus the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and some G8 members. It is in this context that Condi Rice travelled to Turkey. As of this writing, the meeting is taking place, and no results have been announced yet. However, it was expected that Iran could play a major role. Mottaki had announced that Iran would present a plan to solve the c risis. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, after meeting with Mottaki in Baghdad October 31, “urged Iran to help defuse the border crisis between Turkey and the PKK and to give its entire support at the Istanbul conference,” according to a statement from his office, reported by {Tehran Times}. At the same time, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari said he and Mottaki agreed that the conference should not be “highjacked” by this issue, and should address Iraq’s security overall.

Significantlz, Zebari also called on the US and Iran to continue the tripartite (Iran, Iraq, US) talks which had taken place in Baghdad at the ambassadorial level. Mottaki, according to a report in the Lebanese paper {Daily Star}, said the reported “readiness of the Americans for a new round of talks” was something Iran did “consider positively.” It was in this congtext that Mottaki announced that Iran would “deliver a plan regarding the situation in Iraq,” at the Istanbul meeting.

This would be key, since the US is the occupying power and chief ally of the Kurds. If the Kurdish terrorist threat is to be eliminated and therefore a Turkish military move prevented, the US must shift gears and move credibly against the PKK. Thus far, the US has merely claimed it is “sharing intelligence” with Ankara. On November 1, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morell was quoted by the IHT saying, “The key for any sort of military response, by the Turks or anybody else, is actionable intelligence. We are making efforts to help them get actionable intelligence.” But such claims lack credibility, given past performance. As Erdogan complained in an interview to the {Times} of London on October 22, a “trilateral mechanism” had been set up among the US, Iraq and Turkey to deal with the problem, but it “yielded absolutely no results.” Essentially the same point was made by former NATO supreme commander in Europe Ralston, who said on October 29, that a diplomatic effort which h e had led, to stop the terrorist PKK, had failed. During his one-year tenure functioning as special envoy on the PKK issue, Ralston had tried to set up such a tripartitie mechanism, but failed, and this prompted his resignation. Iranian sources have told me that intelligence Tehran had supplied to Baghdad, on the PKK (presumably “actionable”) had been welcomed, but that the Iraqis had been prevented by the US from acting on it.

Thus, the key to defusing the Kurdish crisis, which threatens to blow up the entire region, lies in Washington, and in US willingness to cooperate with Iran, the regional power with considerable influence in Iraq as well as Turkey. The simmering Kurdish crisis, therefore, is putting the neocon cabal in Washington on the spot. It cannot have its cake and eat it too. It cannot maintain the PKK and the entire Kurdish separatist apparatus as an asset, and at the same time ask Turkey to continue its role as a regional ally. It cannot pretend that Iraq be stabilized, and at the same time demonize and threaten military action against Iran, the key regional power capable of contibuting to stability. In Washington, the chickens have come home to roost.

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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Caspian Summit: Putin Puts Forward A War-Avoidance Plan by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, October 22, 2007

Putin has grasped the fact that what the Cheney Crowd is threatening is World War

The visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, by Russian President Vladimir Putin was officially billed as his participation in the second summit of the Caspian Sea littoral nations, convoked to deal with legal and other aspects of resource-sharing in the oil-rich waters. Although that summit did take place as scheduled, and important decisions were reached by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Iran, the main thrust of Putin’s visit was another: The Russian President’s trip–the first of a Russian head of state since the 1943 Tehran conference of war-time powers–was geared to register his government’s commitment to prevent a new war in the region, at all costs. That new war is the one on the strategic agenda of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, against Iran.

Putin’s participation in the summit, especially, his extensive personal meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, constituted a spectacular gesture manifesting Russian support for war-avoidance factions in the Iranian government, in their showdown with Cheney’s neocon war party. As one Iranian political source put it, Putin’s visit was tantamount to saying to Washington: If you want to start a war against Iran, then you have to reckon with me, and that means, with Russia, a nuclear superpower. Perhaps not coincidentally, Putin right after his return to Moscow, stated in a worldwide webcast press interview, that his nation was developing new nuclear capabilities. His Iran visit was, as one Arab diplomat told me, a message to the warmongers in Washington, that Russia is still (or again) a superpower, and is treating the Iran dossier as a test for its status as a great power.

The Caspian Sea summit was, in and of itself, productive. Although the legal status governing the sharing of the sea’s resources, was not solved, the points agreed upon in the final document of the summit constitute a great step forward in cooperation among the participating countries. Most important, the summit explicitly rejected the possibility that any one of its countries could be used for mounting aggressive acts against Iran, or any other country. It also explicitly endorsed the right of all countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. There was no mention of “concerns in the international community” about possible military applications of Tehran’s program, or the like.

Putin’s main point, which he reiterated at every possible opportunity, was: Conflicts can and must be solved through diplomatic, peaceful means. In his address to the summit on Oct. 16, Putin praised the Caspian Sea countries’ problem-solving formulae, “respecting each other’s interests and sovereignty, and refraining not only from any use of force whatsoever, but even from mentioning the use of force.” Putin went on to explain: “This is very important, as it is also important that we talk about the impossibility of allowing our own territory to be used by other countries in the event of aggression or any military actions against any one of the Caspian littoral states.” In short: The U.S. cannot count on Azerbaijan, as a launching pad for operations against Iran.

The final document also announced the decision to form a Caspian Sea Cooperation organization.

But, even more important than the summit itself, were the bilateral meetings that Putin held with Iran’s President and Supreme Leader, who is the ultimate authority in the country. Ayatollah Khamanei does not routinely receive foreign visitors to Iran, thus his meeting with the Russian President took on a special significance. During their meeting, Putin reportedly presented Khamenei with a proposal for reaching a solution to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. According to the Iranian state news agency IRNA, Khamenei told Putin: “We will ponder your words and proposal.”

Although details of the proposal have not been made public, some news outlets reported that Iranian “hardliners” had said the proposal called for a “time-out” on UN sanctions if Iran were to suspend uranium enrichment. “The main reason for Putin’s visit to Iran was to convey this message personally to the ultimate power in Iran,” one Iranian official was quoted as saying. Khamenei reportedly told Putin that Iran was serious about continuing its nuclear energy program, including enrichment, but was not interested in “adventurism.” If Putin did propose a “time-out,” that would be coherent with what International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohammad ElBaradei has been campaigning for. It may be that Moscow’s offer went beyond that of the IAEA chief.

The {Tehran Times} reported that Ali Larijani, head of the Supreme National Security Council and chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, told reporters that Putin had made a “special proposal,” and that Khamenei said it was “ponderable.”

According to a well-informed Iranian source I spoke to, Tehran would be willing to suspend its enrichment program, on condition that it received something tangible in return. This, would be a significant shift, since Iran has, to date, refused any such idea. Iran would {not}, however, be willing to give up its nuclear program as North Korea has done. Suspension of enrichment activities would be temporary, in order to facilitate negotiations, which should be oriented towards tangible results, said this source.

Whether or not this was Putin’s message is unclear. Larijani’s surprise announcement on October 20, that he was resigning, cast shadows over the situation. After Larijani had reported on the Russian president’s proposal, Ahmadinejad denied any such had been made. This led to a series of wild speculations in the press, that the “hardliners,” on orders from Ahmadinejad, were ousting Larijani and rejecting the proposal from Moscow. It must be remembered, however, that the ultimate decisions are made by Ayatollah Khamenei, and that Larijani, according to Iranian wires, will continueto attend meetings of the Supreme National Security Council, in the capacity of representative of the Supreme Leader.

In addition, Russia’s state radio RUVR reported on Oct. 16, that Putin proposed that the so-called North Korean recipe be used to settle Iran’s nuclear problem. But what he meant was perhaps not the same recipe in formal terms. His remarks were reported, just before his meeting with Ahmadinejad. Putin argued, convincingly, that U.S. threats to use armed force against North Korea had proven futile. Such threats would hardly prove efficient with regard to Iran either, he said. Trying to frighten anyone, the Iranian leaders in this case, Putin said, is a waste of time. “They are not afraid, believe me.” What should be done, he continued, is to arm oneself with patience and search for a settlement. But this is hardly possible without a dialogue with the people of Iran and Iran’s leadership. If we do have a chance to maintain direct contact, we shall do it in a bid to achieve a positive joint, let me stress it, joint result, the Russian leader said in conclusion. Thus, Putin may not have been proposing that an approach be adopted exactly like that used for North Korea — which, had already tested a nuclear weapon– but that the diplomatic process used with Korea also be used with Iran.

– Strategic Understanding Between Tehran and Moscow –

Whatever was agreed upon behind the scenes between Putin and his high ranking Iranian counterparts, the official, rather extraordinary bilateral statement which was released after their talks, speaks volumes about Russia’s commitment to a peaceful solution to the Iran crisis.

The joint statement, in the version translated by Itar-Tass on Oct. 17, was not just a list of points of agreement, but, taken as a whole, constitutes a far-reaching commitment by both sides, to strengthen what has become a strategic understanding between Moscow and Tehran, clearly oriented towards a war-avoidance policy. The statement begins with the assertion that, “The sides confirmed that mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other areas, as well as cooperation on the international stage, meet the national interests of the two sides and play an important role in supporting peace and stability in the region and beyond.” Economic cooperation is central in this regard, especially as concerns the energy sector: “The sides spoke in favor of increasing efforts to further expand economic ties between the two countries, especially in areas like the oil and gas, nuclear power, electricity, processing and aircraft-building industries, banking and transport.”

As for nuclear energy–the issue being manipulated as a pretext for war–the statement says: “The sides noted bilateral cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear energy and confirmed that it will continue in full compliance with the requirements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In this regard they also noted that the construction and launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be carried out in accordance with the agreed timetable.”

In addition, the joint statement noted a contract for five Tu-204-100 aircraft to be supplied to Iran, as well as the need to create the conditions for advancing joint investment in Russia and Iran. Regarding regional infrastructure projects, the statement asserted the agreement “to continue work on the development of the north-south international transport corridor, including its automobile, rail and maritime components, in the interest of further strengthening trade and economic ties between Russia and Iran, as well as other countries of the region.

The two sides also reached agreement on “pressing regional problems,” and stressed cooperation to achieve stability and security in Central Asia. Here the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which Iran is an observer, was highlighted.

As for the Caspian Sea region, the statement asserts that “the relevant norms of the agreements of 1921 and 1940 between Iran and the former Soviet Union remain in force until there is a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.” Furthermore, the two sides “advocate the exclusion from the Caspian of military presence of non-Caspian littoral states,” a clear rejection of any U.S. intentions to establish a presence in the region.

The joint statement also declared an identity of views between Tehran and Moscow on crucial foreign policy issues. They called for “building a fairer and more democratic world order which would ensure global and regional security and create favorable conditions for stable development … based on collective principles and the supremacy of international law with the United Nations Organization playing a central coordinating role….” They explicitly ruled out Cheney-style saber-rattling: “The sides confirmed their refusal to use force or threat of force to resolve contentious issues, and their respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states.”

In the context of statements of their commitment to fight terrorism, the two sides also addressed the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, and “confirmed Russia’s and Iran’s intention to continue to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan, and are interested in strengthening its statehood and the process of that country becoming a peaceful, democratic, independent and flourishing state.”

Iraq was also an important feature of the agreement. The two sides “expressed vigorous support for Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and for an end to foreign military presence in that country on the basis of the relevant schedule.” It should be noted that Putin, in his international webcast on his to Moscow, made this a central point of his polemic against Washington. Also, the joint statement called for a “just settlement” to the Middle East conflict, which may indicate renewed flexibity on Iran’s part, to accept agreements which thePalestinians (united) might make.

Finally, in a short but clear paragraph, the two “noted the need to settle the issue of Iran’s nuclear program as soon as possible by political and diplomatic means through talks and dialogue and expressed hope that a long-term comprehensive solution will be found.”

In sum, the joint statement goes far beyond any earlier definition of relations between Russia and Iran, and sends a clear message to the war party in Washington and London, that they can no longer consider Iran in isolation, but must recognize that the country has become a strategic partner of Russia, whose leadership is determined to prevent war.

– Europeans Should Know Better –

What Putin achieved in Tehran must have sent shivers up and down the spines of Cheney and his de facto sympathizers at home and in Europe. President Bush indulged in one of his typical ranting sessions Oct. 18, in remarks to the press, in which he threatened that were Iran to achieve the knowledge required to build a bomb, then that would mean World War III were just around the corner. In Europe, members of the coalition of the spineless, had already weighed in against Putin, even attempting to dissuade the Russian leader from going to Iran. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have pressured Putin, during their Moscow visit, to join them in threatening Iran with new sanctions, if it did not meet their expectations on the nuclear issue. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had delivered a similar message. During his visit to Wiesbaden, Germany, for the Petersburg Dialogue, on Oct. 14-15, Putin was again besieged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others, with demands he get tough with Tehran.

And, in case the message had not registered, a wild story was circulated internationally, that a team of suicide bombers was primed to blow themselves and Putin up, as soon as he set foot on Iranian soil. While Iranian officials denounced the obvious psywar attributed to “foreign” intelligence services, Putin tossed the story off with a laugh, saying, were he to heed such warnings, he would never leave his home.

The point to be made is that Putin–unlike his European interlocutors–has grasped the fact that what the Cheney crowd is threatening is world war, not some political power play, and has therefore stuck to his guns. That Russia has been aware of the dangers inherent in Cheney’s planned Iran war, is nothing new. In his speech to the Munich Wehrkunde meeting early in 2007, Putin had lashed out in most undiplomatic terms, against the pretensions of the would-be leader of a presumed unipolar world, to dictate world affairs through military fiat. And, regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, Russia has been consistent in stating its position that if, 1) Iran abides by international commitments to the NPT and IAEA regime, then 2) Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology must be guaranteed, and 3) that program must not be misconstrued as a weapons program, and thus used as a pretext for military aggression.

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

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Behind Bush’s Latest Anti-Iranian Threats by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Dandelion Salad

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research, August 31, 2007

President Bush’s most recent ranting, in which he accused Iran of threatening to unleash a “nuclear holocaust,” must be seen, for sure, in the context of the drumbeat for military aggression against the Islamic Republic.

Within the space of a few days, several articles appeared in the mainstream press, indicating that the Cheney project for launching a new war is on the front burner. Most explicit was the report of two British think tankers, Daniel Pletsch and Martin Butcher, issued on August 27 and leaked by Raw Story the following day. Their study, entitled, “Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East,” claimed that the US could destroy Iran’s nuclear program, industrial base and government infrastructure within days.

But Bush’s specific reference to Iran’s alleged ambitions to develop a nuclear bomb, should be placed in the category of one who “doth protest too much.” What Bush did NOT mention is a development of major significance, which may well have been the trigger for his wild assertions. This was the agreement reached by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, which proved that the persistent, rigorous approach pursued by the IAEA, to solve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear energy program through diplomatic means, has yielded results which the Agency itself has dubbed a breakthrough. The contention of the Bush-Cheney administration, which is bent on war at all costs, has been that the efforts of the European Union group of three (Great Britain, Germany and France) as well as those of the IAEA, have been destined to failure, since Tehran was only interested in gaining time to build its bomb.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to journalists in Tehran on August 28, announced unequivocally that he believed, on the basis of the agreement with the IAEA, that the entire matter should be considered “closed.” This was not empty rhetoric of the sort often attributed to Ahmadinejad, but a statement of fact, as documented in the “Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the modalities of resolution of the outstanding issues,” published on August 29, by the new Iranian all news station News TV, among others. The text makes clear that the discussion process involving Iranian chief negotiator Ali Larijani and his IAEA interlocutors, including Director General Mohammad ElBaradei, has borne its desired fruits: to wit, that through the question-and-answer process, whereby the IAEA has raised its queries regarding specific aspects of Iran’s program and Iran has given its clarifications, has satisfied the agency’s demands. In sum, the document states that certain specific issues have been fully resolved, and that those yet to be resolved, will be dealt with in the same manner, such that specific timeframes can be defined for “closing the dossier,” as Ahmadinejad put it.

The text of the agreement was published on request of Iran, “as an INFCIRC document and to be made available to the public through the IAEA website.” It states: “Pursuant to the negotiations between H.E. Dr. Larijani, I. R. of Iran’s Secretary of Supreme National Security Council and H.E. Dr. ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, in Vienna; following the initiative and good will of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the agreement made, a high ranking delegation consisting of the directors of technical, legal and political departments of the IAEA, paid a visit to Tehran from 11 to 12 July 2007 during which ‘Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues, Tehran 12 July 2007’ were prepared.”

The text reports on the following meetings that took place in Vienna and Tehran on July 24, and August 20-21, following which “both Parties reached the following understandings….” First, regarding the enirchment program, which has been targetted by the Bush-Cheney cabal as “proof” that Tehran wants the bomb. “The Agency and Iran agreed to cooperate in preparing the safeguards approach for the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in accordance with Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. The draft text of the safeguards approach paper, and the facility attachment of IRN- were provided to Iran on 23 July 2007. The safeguards approach and the facility attachment were discussed during technical meetings in Iran between the Agency and the AEOI from 6 to 8 August 2007. Further discussions will be held with the aim of finalizing the facility attachment by the end of September 2007.”

As for the heavy water reactor in Arak, “Iran agreed with the Agency’s request to visit the heavy water research reactor (IR40) site in Arak. A successful visit took place on 30 July 2007.” Furthermore, it is reported that “On 12 July 2007, Iran accepted the designation of five additional inspectors” and “On 12 July 2007, Iran agreed to issue one year multiple entry visas for 14 inspectors and staff of the Agency.”

Under the rubric of “Past Outstanding Issues,” the question of plutonium experiments was dealt with. Here, the joint text reports that in the course of July and August, the IAEA presented questions, and Iran, answers, to various issues. Then, in a sentence which might have caused heart tremors for Dick Cheney, the text states: “On 20 August 2007 the Agency stated that earlier statements made by Iran <are consistent with the Agency’s findings>, and <thus this matter is resolved> (emphasis added). This will be communicated officially by the Agency to Iran through a letter.”

Regarding other vital issues, a clear timeline is set for the question-and-answer process to yield its results. regarding the issue of P1-P2, the IAEA says the Pu experiments should close by August 31, and that it will therefore provide all its remaining questions to Iran by that date. Discussions are scheduled then for September 24-25 in Tehran, followed by a mid-October meeting, both to clarify the questions. “The Agency’s target date for the closure of this issue is November 2007,” says the text.

And, for remaining issues, the same sensible approach is adopted: “once all the above mentioned issues are concluded and their files are closed,” further questions can be submitted by the IAEA, again with specific dates, and Iran will respond, within deadlines.

In a final paragraph entitled “General Understandings,” the document asserts five points which must have sent Bush ballistic. Since it is absurd to imagine that the establishment press will give the public any insight into what is going on here between the IAEA and Iran, it is worth quoting the points in full:

“1. These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran’s past nuclear program and activities.

2. The Agency agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.

3. The Agency’s delegation is of the view that the agreement on the above issues shall further promote the efficiency of the implementation of safeguards in Iran and its ability to conclude the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iran’s nuclear activities.

4. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use.

5. The Agency and Iran agreed that after the implementation of the above work plan and the agreed modalities for resolving the outstanding issues, the implementation of safeguards in Iran will be conducted in a routine manner.”

The gist of this document is that, contrary to the hysterical ravings from the White House, diplomacy does work, and that if Iran were treated as a normal country, with due respect, as Tehran has always insisted, then progress could be made on any front. The implications of the IAEA-Iran “understandings” are profound: we are not dealing here with a “rogue state” or a member of the “axis of evil,” but with a sovereign nation which correctly asserts its right to nuclear energy technology, in the framework of the IAEA and NPT.

The fact that the IAEA reached this groundbreaking agreement has thrown a major monkey-wrench into the Bush-Cheney cabal’s plans for war, based on their claims that Iran is building the bomb. But then, Washington will quickly retort, aren’t the Iranian Revolutionary Guards killing our troops in Iraq?

Global Research Articles by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach


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