This is a regime on the edge. The only thing the hardliners can hope for at this point is an Israeli attack or a Romney victory and impending US war to rally the people behind them.
—Andrew Sullivan on Iran’s Collapsing Economy
Gwenyth Todd, a former American political adviser, now lives in Australia.
Gwenyth Todd had worked in a lot of places in Washington where powerful men didn’t hesitate to use sharp elbows. She had been a Middle East expert for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. She had worked in the office of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, where neoconservative hawks first began planning to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
But she was not prepared a few years later in Bahrain when she encountered plans by high-ranking admirals to confront Iran, any one of which, she reckoned, could set the region on fire. It was 2007, and Todd, then 42, was a top political adviser to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
What History Should Teach Us About Blockading Iran
“It’s a policy fierce enough to cause great suffering among Iranians — and possibly in the long run among Americans, too. It might, in the end, even deeply harm the global economy and yet, history tells us, it will fail on its own. Economic war led by Washington (and encouraged by Israel) will not take down the Iranian government or bring it to the bargaining table on its knees ready to surrender its nuclear program. It might, however, lead to actual armed conflict with incalculable consequences.
The United States is already effectively embroiled in an economic war against Iran. The Obama administration has subjected the Islamic Republic to the most crippling economic sanctions applied to any country since Iraq was reduced to fourth-world status in the 1990s. And worse is on the horizon A financial blockade is being imposed that seeks to prevent Tehran from selling petroleum, its most valuable commodity, as a way of dissuading the regime from pursuing its nuclear enrichment program.
Historical memory has never been an American strong point and so few today remember that a global embargo on Iranian petroleum is hardly a new tactic in Western geopolitics; nor do many recall that the last time it was applied with such stringency, in the 1950s, it led to the overthrow of the government with disastrous long-term blowback on the United States. The tactic is just as dangerous today.
Iran’s supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly condemned the atom bomb and nuclear weapons of all sorts as tools of the devil, weaponry that cannot be used without killing massive numbers of civilian noncombatants. In the most emphatic terms, he has, in fact, pronounced them forbidden according to Islamic law. Based on the latest U.S. intelligence, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has affirmed that Iran has not made a decision to pursue a nuclear warhead. In contrast, hawks in Israel and the United States insist that Tehran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program is aimed ultimately at making a bomb, that the Iranians are pursuing such a path in a determined fashion, and that they must be stopped now — by military means if necessary.”
“Negotiators for Iran, the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany are to meet in Turkey today, face to face, for the first time in more than a year. There are small signs of possible future compromise on both sides when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program (and a semi-public demand from Washington that could be an instant deal-breaker). Looking at the big picture, though, there’s a remarkable amount we simply don’t know about Washington’s highly militarized policy toward Iran. Every now and then, like a flash of lightning in a dark sky, some corner of it — and its enormity and longevity — is illuminated. For example, in 2008, the New Yorker’s indefatigable Seymour Hersh reported that the previous year Congress had granted a Bush administration request for up to $400 million “to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran,” including “cross-border” operations from Iraq. Just recently, Hersh offered a window into another little part of the U.S. program: the way, starting in 2005, the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command spent years secretly training members of M.E.K., an Iranian opposition-group-cum-cult that’s on the State Department’s terror list, at a Department of Energy site in the Nevada desert.
Similarly, from time to time, we get glimpses of the U.S. basing and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, which is massive and ongoing. As for the skies over Iran, last year the Iranians suddenly announced that they had acquired — downed, they claimed (though this was later denied by the Americans) — an advanced U.S. spy drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel. Indeed, they had the photos to prove it. Until then, there had been no publicity about American drones flying over Iranian territory and initially the U.S. military claimed that the plane had simply strayed off course while patrolling the Afghan border. Last week, however, a range of typically anonymous officials leaked to Washington Postreporters Joby Warrick and Greg Miller the news that the CIA’s drone surveillance program over Iran was more than three years old, large-scale, and itself just part of an “intelligence surge” focused on that country. According to their sources, “The effort has included ramped-up eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, formation of an Iran task force among satellite-imagery analysts, and an expanded network of spies.” In addition, under former CIA Director Leon Panetta, “partnerships” were built “with allied intelligence services in the region capable of recruiting operatives for missions inside Iran.”
Such reports and leaks give us at least the bare and patchy outlines of a concerted military, covert action, spying, surveillance, and propaganda program of staggering proportions (and that’s without even adding in the Israeli version of the same, which evidently includes the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists). All of this, we have to believe, is but part of an even larger set of intertwined, militarized operations against a modest-sized regional power with relatively limited military capabilities. It’s a program that we’re sure to know less about than we think we do, filled with what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would have called “known unknowns” as well as “unknown unknowns.”
In his recent TomDispatch.com piece, “Why Washington’s Iran Policy Could Lead to Global Disaster,” Juan Cole does a remarkable job of offering us a full-scale picture of the complex economic underpinnings of the present Iran-U.S.-Israeli crisis and the unnerving dangers involved. But for the full, grim story of Washington’s campaign against Tehran, we are reliant either on the next Bradley Manning, a future WikiLeaks, or declassification of the necessary documents in time for our grandchildren to grasp something of the folly of our moment.”
“At 8:58 P.M. on Tuesday, Israel’s 2012 war against Iran came to a quiet end. The capricious plans for a huge aerial attack were returned to the deep recesses of safes and hearts. The war may not have been canceled but it has certainly been postponed. For a while, at least, we can sound the all clear: It won’t happen this year. Until further notice, Israel Air Force Flight 007 will not be taking off.
According to a war simulation conducted by the U.S. Central Command, the Iranians could kill 200 Americans with a single missile response to an Israeli attack. An investigative committee would not spare any admiral or general, minister or president. The meaning of this U.S. scenario is that the blood of these 200 would be on Israel’s hands. The moment the public dispute over whether to attack Iran is put in those terms, Israel has no real option to attack in contravention of American declarations and warnings.
That’s the negative side. The complementary positive side was presented this week, on Tuesday evening. At 8:20, Pentagon spokesman George Little announced that the Defense Department would be seeking more money to help Israel fund the Iron Dome antimissile defense system.
Noting that support for Israel’s security was a top priority for U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Little said that, given the Iron Dome system’s success in intercepting 80 percent of the rockets fired from Gaza this month, the Defense Department “intends to request an appropriate level of funding to support such acquisitions, based on Israeli requirements and production capacity.”
Thirty-eight minutes after that, Defense Minister Ehud Barak publicly thanked both Panetta and himself (“The decision was the result of contacts between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon” ).
Israelis may be the world champions of chutzpah, but even biting the hand that feeds you has its limits when the bitten hand is liable to hit back. When Barak thanked the Obama administration “for helping strengthen Israel’s security,” he was abandoning the pretension to act against Iran without permission before the U.S. presidential elections in November.
For all intents and purposes, it was an announcement that this war was being postponed until at least the spring of 2013.”
Open letter to the unknown friend in Iran: Isn't it time to reach across the deep chasm? | Oregonian
“To the unknown friend in Iran:
We have had a separation long enough. I hope someday we may meet, when our countries are at peace. I want to know about how you live, about your family. I want to hear your stories. I want to learn how we may be richly different, and richly related.
Many years ago, my father visited your country. He was traveling as a poet in order to meet writers in Iran, to share his poetry, to witness for peace. It was the time of the shah, and poetry was one way people told their truth to one another.
I would love to see the beauties of your country he told me of, and to meet the kind friends who welcomed him as he traveled there.
Since that time, you have had your revolution, and we have had our troubles. There was anger, there were hostages, there was a helicopter raid that failed in the desert. We have been clumsy, both of us, in how we tried to find new ways to know each other. Years and years of this.
Another problem: My country is addicted to oil. We can’t seem to get enough. This makes it difficult for us to see the advantages of honoring one another for our far more interesting cultural gifts, your long traditions of music and poetry, your many ways of understanding life that could enrich us. We are a very young country, but we also have some gifts for you.
Some years ago I heard a story from Tehran that inspires me. It seems there was a citizen who asked himself this question: “I am only one man, but what can I do for my country?” He gathered friends who knew many languages, and together they created the House of Translators. This group then published books for children, bringing stories from many languages into Persian, into Farsi.
I want to know if anyone in my country has done something that strong, wise and generous to reach across our borders and forge connections.
The amazing films that are being made in your country begin to hint how we might learn from each other. Let’s watch films together instead of rattling our sabers.
I once heard the story of the three brothers who did not know they were brothers, for one called his father Allah, and another called his father Yahweh, and another called his father God. But when they met, and looked into each other’s eyes, shared a meal, and began to talk of their lives and families, they recognized their kinship stronger than all their history of separation.
I am not your enemy. You are not my enemy. I am one of those brothers, and you, and you. We don’t know what our leaders may do. We must help them understand they can be our leaders without fear, or hate, or violence. They can be our leaders by honoring the future we share with one another. Let’s live in that future now.”
VIENNA (AP) – Diplomats say spy satellite images of an Iranian military facility show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the site that indicate crews were trying to clean it of radioactive traces. Two of the diplomats told The Associated Press that those traces could have come from what they said was the testing of a small neutron trigger used to set off a nuclear explosion. A third diplomat could not confirm that, but says any testing of a so-called neutron initiator at the site could only be in the context of trying to develop nuclear arms.
All asked for anonymity Wednesday for discussing sensitive information.
The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.
“I will say that only twice before in my memory, and maybe thrice in American history, has there been as much carefree talk about war and unprovoked strikes as we’ve had concerning Iran in recent months, including from candidates other than Ron Paul in the GOP race. The twice in my experience were: during the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2002, and in the “bomb ‘em back to the stone age” moments of the early Vietnam era.”