Saturday, June 12, 2010

Western newspaper claims Saudi Arabia will assist in Israeli attack on Iran

This is what colonialism looks like in 2010.
“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.
The Saudi regime is an absolute disgrace to humanity, to the Islamic religion and the Arab world.

What prevents a US/Israeli attack on Iran has never been Saudi opposition, but the reprisals Iran would be able to conduct in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf and other places. Barack Obama's new emphasis on increasing hostility with Iran increases the necessity, for defensive purposes, that Iran strengthen its options for reprisal.

Iran spent many years ruled by the Shah on behalf of the United States. A lot of countries have been in colonial relationships like the one Saudi Arabia has with the United States, and if maintaining this relationship was not necessary for about five million Jewish people in Palestine to have a secure state, Saudi Arabia and Jordan would likely have become independent with most of the rest of the colonized world in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

A democratic Arabia would certainly build its own capacity for nuclear power and would have no interest in maintaining Israel's regional monopoly. Saudi Arabia is not threatened by Iran having a modicum of nuclear weapons capability. However, what indirect colonial monarchs do is provide a local face and a knowledge of local symbolism and sensibilities. If Arabia was ruled by a US administrator it would be willing to participate directly in any attack, but the cost would be that the people of the country would be more likely to revolt. It would be more offensive to the people ruled.

The monarchy is a way to strike a balance between obeying US instructions while not inciting localist passions. The Saudi government, according to the Times, has practiced not shooting Israeli planes as they flew over Saudi territory, but does so unofficially, while maintaining symbolic and non-effective opposition to Israel.

The nearly 30 million people who live under this US-dependent monarch pay the price for there to be a Jewish majority state for five million Jews in Palestine just as the 1.5 million people under siege in Gaza, the over 60 million Egyptians who live under dictatorship and the over 70 million Iranians who are under economic attack by the West.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And now we see the rest of the TRR deal

I've been participating in the comments section at raceforiran a lot recently, maybe to the detriment of this blog. The following is adopted from comments I've left there.

The United States has given a letter to the IAEA explaining why it does not accept the agreement Turkey and Brazil negotiated with Iran. We can see that the basic reason is that the deal produced in May does not leave the US with flexibility to keep Iran's uranium without delivering reactor fuel, and therefore does not provide the US with leverage to force Iran to suspend enrichment.

This was clear, reading between the lines, since November. But now it is confirmed. Here is the letter as released by Reuters:
The timeline for the full delivery of the fuel assemblies to Iran is unrealistic. The IAEA’s Project and Supply Agreement called for initial delivery of fuel within about one year to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the TRR, with remaining fuel to be delivered at a later date. The JD calls for all the fuel to be delivered in one year, which we are confident would be impossible to meet.

The JD indicates that, if Iran decided unilaterally that the provisions of the arrangement were not being respected, Turkey would be obliged, upon the request of Iran, to “return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.” Under the previous “escrow” proposal, the return of LEU would be justified if the parties failed to deliver fuel assemblies to Iran as agreed.
First, the May deal obliged Turkey to return the fuel. The November proposal had no obligation at all, but apparently there is a condition in which the return would be “justified”. More interesting, the return would be justified, not obligatory, if the parties failed to deliver fuel as agreed. But the fuel is to be delivered “at a later date”. It is impossible to fail to deliver fuel by “a later date”.

Also this US claim happens to just be a lie. It does not take a matter of years to produce 120 kgs of reactor fuel. France told Turkey it could be made in 10 months, which was why Turkey agreed to a one year deadline. But “later date” means the West isn’t even willing to commit to a two year deadline. The point is for the delivery to be held over Iran’s head forever – kind of like a suspension “until confidence is restored”. Here is Erdogan explaining in a separate article.
In our previous contacts, they had said they can give the (highly enriched) uranium to Iran in 10 months... We put a clause of one year, securing an advantage of two extra months.

Now they are saying these 120 kilogrammes (of uranium) cannot be made before two years... Mr. Sarkozy says so. It is impossible to understand that.
Now back to the the West's letter to the IAEA:
The JD does not account for Iran’s accumulation of LEU since the IAEA first proposed the TRR deal. Removal of 1,200 kg at present would leave Iran substantial stocks, decreasing the confidence-building value of the original proposal. The JD provides no alternative means of ensuring that the confidence-building element of the arrangement would be maintained.”
Iran has not significantly changed its rate of LEU production since September. If fuel had been shipped in December by the November terms, the confidence building element would already not be maintained. This is where the US and France, by the terms of the November proposal, could say unless Iran exports more uranium and/or stops enriching, the necessary confidence building component is not being met, which will indefinitely delay the fuel delivery.

Of course since it is only a delay, but the fuel is still to be delivered “at a later date” the return of the original fuel is not justified. Oh, and the fuel was to be no longer Iranian property by that point:
The JD states that Iran’s LEU would be the “property” of Iran while in Turkey. The IAEA proposal stated the IAEA would maintain “custody” of the LEU throughout the process.
The November proposal was designed to leave the US with leverage to use the return of medical fuel to pressure Iran to hold its uranium stock, either through a suspension or further exports at the “confidence building” level of less than one ton. The May deal does not leave the US with that leverage, so the US no longer supports it – exactly for that reason.

For the US, the deal was an opportunity at best to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and at worst, to just take 1200 kgs of uranium and give very little, if anything, in return. It was clear that this is how the deal worked and Iran reasonably did not agree until explicit guarantees were added that would prevent that. Now that guarantees have been added, the US has no interest in the deal.

This was not a communication problem. The shortcomings were intentional. The US does not now, and never did intend to deliver TRR fuel without an Iranian suspension. The mistake the US made was pretending to Turkey and Brazil that it was interested in a trade if some technical issues (that didn’t even make sense – for example if the fuel is actually delivered it does not make a difference if the fuel had been stored until that point at Natanz, Kish or Turkey) are resolved. Turkey and Brazil were fooled by Obama as much as anyone else and now, accidentally to tell the truth, have exposed his position so that one does not have be be as skeptical of US motives as I am to see clearly that the TRR deal presented by the US was designed to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and would deliver fuel only as a side effect of that.

Iran went public with its problems with the deal. There were no guarantees that it would get fuel. Obama, Clinton, Samore, Mullen, Gates, unnamed administration officials, people in private sector who are close to the administration all said, repeatedly, that it was a good deal as presented who terms were not subject to negotiation.

Iran did not present a take-it or leave-it offer. The US did. This was openly the US position. The only difference between November and now is that the US has been forced to clearly state the conditions it would have preferred remain secret. The US position seems more reasonable if its conditions are not known.

If the US can say the Iranians have to be paranoid to believe the fuel will not be delivered, it would prefer to do that. Now the US objects to measures honest third parties agreed to provide guarantees, it can only be because the US never did intend to deliver the fuel.

Nine true statements about the conflict over Iran's nuclear program

We've reached the point that everything I write about Iran's nuclear issue is just a restatement or elaboration of one of the following:

1) The US wants to keep Iran from having a Japan option, which is the capability if it was to need to, to leave the NPT and build a nuclear weapon relatively quickly.

2) A Japan option is legal, it was built into the NPT by the acknowledgment that states have an inherent right to nuclear technology, without discrimination and by the mechanism provided to leave the treaty and be free from its bounds after 90 days of notice.

3) A Japan option has immense strategic value. If Iraq had had a Japan option, it would have avoided the calamity of the 2003 US invasion.

4) The US motive in preventing Iran from having a Japan option is Israel’s unique strategic fragility, which US and Israeli strategists believe can only be compensated for by a regional monopoly not only in nuclear weapons, but in nuclear capability.

5) The IAEA board’s procedures and findings as well as those of the UN Security Council have been warped and distorted, primarily led by the US, in the service of this strategic goal.

6) Iran is morally right to oppose the US program of using the IAEA and UNSC to achieve this political/strategic goal neither was intended for.

7) Iran has effectively reached a position that the US program of misusing the non-proliferation system will not be successful, in other words, Iran cannot be prevented, despite the IAEA and UNSC, from achieving the legal status of nuclear capable - having a Japan option.

8) Given that Iran having a Japan option cannot be prevented, it is better from the standpoint of US strategic interests for the US to be less hostile with a nuclear capable Iran instead of more hostile.

9) Obama is not independent enough of pressures, especially from pro-Israel factions of his administration to chart the better course for the US.

I don't think any of these eight points can be reasonably disputed, but unless something changes that I do not expect I can only predict that one or another of these eight points will continue to be the core of every post on Iran's nuclear program from now on.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Limits to Israeli influence over the United States

The New York Times has produced an article describes the repeated cancellations of Israeli/Chinese arms deals that has diminished China's perception of Israel as a country that can influence the United States:
How much they value the relationship with the United States was underscored in 2000, when under American pressure Israel canceled a $1 billion arms deal, years in the making, to sell China an advanced airborne tracking system. Even though Israel later agreed to pay a $350 million penalty, the diplomatic damage was immense — and then compounded in 2005, when Washington blocked another Israeli arms deal with Beijing involving drone aircraft.

“After that, the Chinese realized the Jewish lobby does not control the White House and they started to treat us like a younger brother of the United States,” said Yitzhak Shichor, a professor of Asian Studies at Haifa University. “We have been cut down to size. We may make a lot of noise, but we’re the size of a medium-sized Chinese city.”
In an assessment echoed by several other government-affiliated academics, Yin Gang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Society Sciences in Beijing, said its interests in the Arab world would continue to drive Beijing’s foreign policy. “China will try to achieve a basic balance in the Middle East but Israel cannot give China much help on the international political stage,” he said. “The truth is, it is just a very small country.”
The truth is that US Middle East policy is bizarrely contorted in favor of Israel. But the US military, which plays the ultimate role in the United States as the custodian of US strategic interests, is willing and able, when it chooses, to counteract pro-Israel influence on US political decision-making.

One thing this indicates is that the US military likely signed off on both the recent sanctions resolution against Iran, and more broadly on an increase in hostility in the face of more vigorous US efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. This can only indicate a US calculation that Afghanistan descending to the intolerable situation of Iraq in 2006 and early 2007 can be prevented in the face of the actions Iran may be expected to take after the resolution.

Is the military right? Is the military taking a gamble whose results we will see over the coming months, but whose consequences even in the worst case can be managed before going out of control?

Either way, this article reminds us that the present resurgence of hostility between the United States and Iran is not only caused by pro-Israel factions in the US government.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Another round of sanctions

Under Bush, the US said, in line with the UN Security Council resolutions that it wrote, that a suspension was a precondition for talks.

Under Obama, the US says, in line with the Security Council resolutions that it wrote, as well as though the Bush administration wrote, that a suspension and an effective US veto over Iran’s resumption of enrichment is necessarily the outcome of talks.

Talks about a suspension, talks about what mechanism to use to subject Iran’s enrichment and nuclear program to a US veto aren’t worth having. If the US was to change its policy and end its demand that Iran stop enriching, that message could be communicated publicly or privately, but without that talks would serve no purpose.

Well, anyway a suspension is not going to happen. Obama is going to have to decide how the US will relate with Iran in the absence of a suspension. Obama is choosing increased hostility. US soldiers in Afghanistan will pay for this choice as Iran’s civilians pay for it.

I’ll note again though, that by late 2007, Bush had chosen an agreement to disagree along with cooperation in other areas. Obama’s actions in 2010 are a step backwards. As of today, it is not possible to say Obama is following a less provocative course in its relations with Iran than Bush was at the end of his term.

The TRR deal could just be a trade of LEU for medical fuel. The US now openly says that it is to be used as leverage to accomplish a “comprehensive” deal – one in which the Iran comes to an agreement with the US about whether or not Iran suspends enrichment. We can see that the Brazil, Turkey deal is unacceptable to the US because it does not give the US leverage in a push push for a comprehensive agreement. Any proposal the US made in November must have if the US supported it.

If the US can buy Russian cooperation with sanctions in exchange for slowing its development of missile defense and Chinese cooperation by tolerating a wider range of Chinese currency management, then honestly I can’t fault Russia or China for taking advantage of their security council veto to advance their strategic interests. Even if Iran ensures that they endure some cost for their cooperation with the US, they are not the engines of these sanctions.

This sanctions policy is good for Israel because the principle that countries that oppose Israel are punished is being enforced. And Israel is not the country that has troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. This policy is bad for the US because US objectives in the region are becoming more difficult to achieve.

The dream that Barack Obama might be the president who could disentangle US interests from Israel’s has crashed against the reality the the United States has a political system that makes it impossible for a person who could do that to rise to power.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The kidnapping of Shahram Amiri

An Iranian scientist who disappeared during a religious pilgrimage in June 2009 has sent a message that he was abducted by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
I am Shahram Amiri, a lecturer at Malek Ashtar University, and at the moment I am in the town of Tucson in the US state of Arizona. I was abducted on the 13th of Khordad 1388 in a joint operation by terror and kidnap teams from the US intelligence service CIA and Saudi Arabia's Istikhbarat. I was kidnapped from the holy city of Medina
The story the United States tells is that he was enticed to leave. If he says in his own voice that it is not true, it is impossible to credit the US version.
Shahram Amiri's wife and other family members reportedly protested outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran last fall, claiming that Amiri had been taken against his will. She said she had last spoken to him on June 3, while he was in Saudi Arabia, when he called her from Medina. She told the Iranian news agency ISNA that Amiri reported that he had been questioned by police in Saudi Arabia. She also denied that Amiri worked for the nuclear program.

According to the people briefed on the intelligence operation, Amiri's disappearance was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect. The CIA reportedly approached the scientist in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States.
In an episode like this, disgrace just comes from all directions. It is difficult to even measure. We can look at the United States first. Barack Obama's administration seized the assets of a mosque. I think to kidnap a believer while making the Hajj is more shameful than that. When we realize that Barack Obama represents the highest amount of respect for the religion of Islam that the United States' political system can produce in a President we see in tangible form that US antipathy against Islam is not based on personality but is a structural component of the reality of power in Washington DC.

There are many African Americans with intimate familiarity with Islam who, if told of a plan to kidnap a scientist from Arabia during a Hajj would fire the person who made the suggestion. None of those people could have become President of the United States. In a similar vein, there are many Egyptians who would not think to help Israel "put Palestinians on a diet" by laying siege to 1.5 million civilians. But none of those Egyptians could have become President of Egypt. There are many Palestinians who would have respected the democratic rights of the Palestinian voters and disobeyed US/Israeli orders to disregard the results of the election. Any Palestinian who had demonstrated personal strength or allegiance principle would have been blocked in Palestinian politics by the United States and Israel.

We see that the American political system has found the American black man with a Muslim middle name who is the most willing to commit affronts against that religion and installed him to power. There is a sense in which it is not really his fault. In a similar case, United States has found a weak Egyptian and maneuvered him to power. If Mubarak had been strong, someone else would have been president of Egypt.

I'm going to write later about why the son of a weak stooge dictator makes an ideal replacement because of the emotional and psychological issues. For Gamal Mubarak to break from the United States would be to admit that his own father was weak. Even though it is true, and it is obvious, the fact that it would be painful to acknowledge for Gamal makes Gamal perhaps the most reliable person in Egypt to continue the relationship his father forged. In addition his father has likely trained him, both consciously and subconsciously to subvert any sense of independence.

Barack Obama is familiar with Islam the same way Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are familiar with Islam. The way current king Abdullah and has father Hussein of Jordan were familiar with Islam. He was selected from a fairly large population specifically for his characteristics of weakness and subservience.

And this discussion of course leads us back to the ruling family of Saudi Arabia. The religion of Islam, as I understand it, holds that if a person follows the pillars of the religion then another person cannot question the authenticity of his religious belief. Only God can question the Saudi royal family's commitment to Islam - even if they help the United States kidnap a believer while performing a pilgrimage. Even if the reason the United States is interested in kidnapping the person is because Israel calculates that its political hold of territory taken by force depends on being able to threaten its neighbors, and even threaten Mecca itself, with nuclear attack and on Israel's threats being unanswerable.

In deference to my understanding of Islam, I will not call the ruling family of Saudi Arabia false Muslims. I've read Saudi sympathizers with its royal family questioning the Islam of others, but if the religion reserves that judgment for God, I will not make that judgment myself.

Assuming the Saudi royal family consists of true Muslims, they are likely nearly the weakest and most easily manipulated Muslims in the country - which is why Britain at its colonial height allied with them and not another family. Today Saudi Arabia is ruled by people who grew up in homes led by colonial puppets. People who think of their father, their earliest psychological symbol of male strength and see, in their mind's eye, a person whose job was to bow to the Queen of England or the President of the United States.

But the truth seems to have emerged. The United States should be ashamed. The President of the United States probably is not ashamed, but it is now even more difficult to look at him with any respect. If Gaza was the first clue, this abduction seals the case. But the type of person who could feel shame, who has standards for his behavior, could never have been elevated in the US political system. The problem is not the personality but the system.

The same is true for Saudi Arabia. They helped abduct a scientist making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Did so to strengthen the strategic position of Israel as Israel annexes more territory and pushes more Muslims from their homes. If we look to the beginning of the Saud dynasty's colonial relationship with the West, we will find the explanation.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Is Congress forcing the US to push for UN sanctions?

The US nuclear policy community seems to be telling the story these days that the US Congress has threatened to pass a unilateral sanctions law against Iran that would have much more than enough support to override any veto by Obama. To prevent this law from passing, according to this story, Obama is forced to push sanctions through, even in the wake of the diplomatic breakthrough reached by Turkey, Brazil and Iran.

On the face of it, its a plausible explanation. But more deeply, even if it is an explanation, it paints a worse picture of the situation, not a better one. The US Congress is the branch of the US government most susceptible to Israeli pressure. To the degree that US foreign policy cannot be conducted independent of the US Congress, Israel has a veto on US foreign policy initiatives.

If that is the case, if apologists for the Obama administration's spastic acceleration of the sanctions drive when news was released of the deal struck by Turkey and Brazil are correct, then the United States is committed to support Israel at whatever cost is necessary unless or until it breaks under the strain.

Russia so far has traded support for sanctions for postponing missile defense in Eastern Europe. China seems to have averted US pressure over its currency policies. (I find the US denial of this unconvincing.) The United States may continue to sacrifice its own interests for the principle that about 5 million Jewish people in Palestine should have a majority state.

Overall Russia, China and others getting concessions may be a good thing. Russia and China will make their own decisions about what they how they can use their security council vetos to their advantage with respect to the United States on this issue. In the calculation will be that this will damage their relations with Iran but the United States has resources adequate to compensate these countries for that.

Whether forced by Congress or not, a sanctions bill will increase hostility with Iran and most directly reduce cooperation and thereby make the US positions more difficult in Iraq and especially Afghanistan. Can the US Congress order the President of the United States to sacrifice the lives of US troops to the principle that none of Israel's neighbors can have the type of nuclear program Brazil, Japan, Germany and Canada have? Obama's supporters say the answer is yes. That answer does not reflect well on either the US or its ability to negotiate in good faith with Iran or anyone else on any issue related to Israel.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mubarak opens Rafah?

This is a surprising and very welcome development as far as it goes. I expect the border to be reclosed shortly. I can only guess that Egypt makes this announcement to decrease the contrast between its cooperation with Israel's blockade and Turkey's - a full NATO member - confrontation against the blockade. While Mubarak is not accountable to the Egyptian people, he still has to look in the mirror. This can be an important effect.
CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday ordered the opening of the Rafah crossing with Ghaza, only crossing point uncontrolled by Israel, for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the passage of patients, said the Egypttian agency MENA.
Hopefully we will soon be hearing accounts of people crossing the border and bringing at least food, if not construction materials.