Working for International Dialogue and Peace

Saudi Arabia Is Showing Signs of Financial Strain

by Patrick Cockburn (source: Independent) September 28, 2016

In Syria, the five-year-long effort by Saudi Arabia, together with Turkey and Qatar, to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad, has likewise failed. In the decade-long Saudi rivalry with Iran, today it is the Iranians who look like getting the upper hand. ››read more

Clinton said a lot about Iran during the debate. Not all of it was true.

by Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani (source: Think Progress) September 27, 2016

This isn’t the first time that she made the claim that Iran was weeks away from a nuclear weapon. In a speech at the Brookings Institution last September, she said that by the time she became Secretary of State, “Iran was racing toward a nuclear capability.” But as Peter Jenkins notes for LobeLog, “By the time Clinton took office in January 2009, at least five years had elapsed since Iran had abandoned research into nuclear weapons and fourteen months had passed since the director of national intelligence had made knowledge of that available to the nation.”
Iran has never been “weeks away” from having a nuclear weapon. U.S. intelligence agencies (and even Israeli ones) have repeatedly confirmed that Iran was not moving to build a bomb — and that includes when Clinton became Secretary of State. ››read more

1st Australian business delegation in 14 years to visit Iran

(source: Businss Standard) September 26, 2016

Two-way trade between Australia and Iran fluctuated between 350 million Australian dollars and 600 million Australian dollars a year while Australian sanctions were in place, he said. "With the sanctions easing, there is ... Significant potential for that figure to move north of there," Ciobo told Australian Broadcasting Corporation today. "There are still challenges," he said, citing Iran's difficulty in fully reconnecting to the international financial system. Australia eased sanctions in January after Iran implemented its nuclear pact. ››read more

US Treasury Dept Issues Licenses for Airplane Sales to Iran

by Jason Ditz (source: Antiwar,com) September 22, 2016

The US Treasury Department has announced that they have issued export licenses to both Boeing and Airbus to allow them to sell certain commercial passenger planes to Iran, with officials noting they were obliged to stop blocking such sales under the P5+1 nuclear deal.

This isn’t to say the deals, which both companies have already signed, are free and clear, as international banks are still feeling US pressure to block Iran from using them to transfer funds unfrozen by the nuclear deal, so paying for the planes will still be a struggle. ››read more

Iran’s Nuclear Program and International Law

by Peter Jenkins (source: Lobelog) September 21, 2016

Peter JenkinsPeter JenkinsIn August 2002 I was one of those who believed that Iran had had no intention of declaring the Natanz facility. With the benefit of hindsight, I came later to realize the foolishness of that view. In 2000 Iran had declared and placed under safeguards a facility to produce large quantities of UF6, the feed-material for enriching uranium. To declare that facility and then fail to declare an enrichment facility that was complementary in scale would have made no sense and entailed high risks. And both facilities were far larger than would be natural for the covert production of nuclear weapon material. Unfortunately, in 2002-03 few, if any, of us in Vienna reasoned in that way. Instead we swallowed the “secret nuclear weapon production plant” claim. This must have pleased John Bolton, then assistant secretary at the State Department, whom I suspect of having inspired the claim. In 2002-03 his ambition was to get a safeguards non-compliance finding and report to the UN Security Council out of the IAEA as quickly as possible and use the Security Council to get authorization for the use of force to close down Iran’s nuclear program, with a spot of regime change thrown in perhaps – all this on behalf of Israel, needless to say. ››read more

U.S. begins unblocking jetliner sales to Iran

(source: Reuters) September 21, 2016

Europe's Airbus (AIR.PA) said on Wednesday it had received U.S. Treasury approval to begin exporting jetliners to Iran and its U.S. rival Boeing (BA.N) said it looked forward to receiving similar licenses "shortly". The move signals the unfreezing of one of the most high-profile deals between Iran and foreign companies since last year's agreement between Tehran and world powers to open up trade in exchange for curbs on the country's nuclear activities. But complex questions remain over the financing of deals between Iran and Western planemakers that could still obstruct deliveries of many of the planes, in what is seen as a test case for Western trade and investment following the nuclear deal. ››read more

CIA-Armed ‘Moderates’ in Syria Included al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front

by Jason Ditz (source: September 20, 2016

"Defected Groups Kept FSA Branding to Keep Weapons Flowing"

A new report citing former CIA officers has revealed that the agency was knowingly providing weapons, including tow missiles to fighters that were effectively part of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, continuing to arm “moderates” so long as they at least nominally kept their moderate names. ››read more

Occupation of Palestine Continues to Fuel Conflict in Middle East

by Mina Al-Oraibi (source: Lobelog) September 18, 2016

Gaza ruinsGaza ruinsThe Arab world is aflame with war, and most Arab countries struggle with sectarianism and authoritarianism. As a result, the Israeli occupation of Palestine often gets lost against the backdrop of these pressing issues. Arab officials themselves often sidestep the issue of the occupation to promote their individual countries’ interests. And Western officials will use these competing concerns as an excuse to ignore the continued occupation. In some countries, Yet the Palestinian question remains at the heart of any effort to resolve many of the Middle East’s challenges. Unless the international community resolves the question of Palestinian statehood, many of the other problems for states in the region will continue to fester. ››read more

From religion to politics, Saudi Arabia feeling chill of isolation

by Sharmine Narwani (source: RT) September 16, 2016

At the end of August, a meeting of Muslim clerics and scholars convened in the Chechen capital of Grozny to forge a consensus on the subject of ‘who constitutes a Sunni.’

Sunnism, the 200 or so Sunni clerics from Egypt, South Africa, India, Europe, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Russia warned, “has undergone a dangerous deformation in the wake of efforts by extremists to void its sense in order to take it over and reduce it to their perception.”

The Muslim world is currently under a siege of terror, led by a deviant strain that claims religious authority and kills in the name of Islam. So the Grozny participants had gathered, by invitation of the Chechen president, to make “a radical change in order to re-establish the true meaning of Sunnism.” ››read more

Powell Acknowledges Israeli Nukes

by Eli Clifton (source: Lobelog) September 15, 2016

Dimona nuclear plantDimona nuclear plantAccording to hacked emails reviewed by LobeLog, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged Israel’s nuclear arsenal, an open secret that U.S. and Israeli politicians typically refuse to acknowledge as part of Israel’s strategy of “nuclear ambiguity.” Powell also rejected assessments that Iran, at the time, was “a year away” from a nuclear weapon. ››read more

Iran and Hezbollah back Syria truce plan

(source: MidEast Eye) September 11, 2016

"Iran welcomes any establishment of a ceasefire in Syria and facilitating of access of all people of this country to humanitarian aid," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi. "Given the experience of a few months ago, the ceasefire must be sustainable... and must not be exploited as an opportunity for terrorist groups to revive their power and transfer fighters and weapons," he added, referring to a truce that collapsed earlier this year. "The continuation and sustainability of a ceasefire relies on the creation of a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, in particular control of borders in order to stop the dispatch of fresh terrorists, as well as weapons and financial resources for the terrorists," said Ghasemi. ››read more

Trump Threatens Act Of War As Response To Rude Hand Gestures

by S.V. Date (source: Huffington Post) September 11, 2016

TrumpTrumpRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday threatened to respond with an act of war if Iranian sailors made rude gestures toward U.S. Navy ships. “When Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” Trump said to raucous applause from his Pensacola rally audience. It was unclear whether Trump literally meant gestures from the Iranians or whether he was referring to threatening or dangerous actions with their boats. ››read more

Does Iranian law green light encounters with US warships?

by Ali Omidi (source: Al Monitor) September 11, 2016

Considering that part of Iran’s political establishment views the United States as an enemy and believes the main reason for the US military presence in the Persian Gulf is to threaten Iran, Tehran maintains the right to monitor the movement and passage of “enemy ships” and views any restrictions placed on military ships of enemy countries as self-defense. Another relevant matter is that in December 1982, one day before Iran signed the UNCLOS, Tehran officially stated, “It seems natural and in harmony with Article 34 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, that only States Parties to the Law of the Sea Convention shall be entitled to benefit from the contractual rights created therein including the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation.” Although the United States has yet to sign UNCLOS, it views the document as a reflection of customary international law and has tried to benefit from it. Iran, however, considers this unacceptable. Indeed, Tehran's view is that because the transit rights of passage were first proposed in the 1982 convention, they cannot be considered customary international law. Regardless, Iran has been what is described as a persistent objector on the issue of customary international law, and Washington has no right to impose it on Tehran. ››read more

Iranian Opposition Ex-Fighters ‘Transferred to Albania’

(source: Balkan Insight) September 11, 2016

Saddam Hussein receiving RajaviSaddam Hussein receiving RajaviThe People's Mujahedin of Iran is a controversial resistance group. Founded in 1965 as a left-leaning opposition to the Shah’s regime, it turned against the Islamic Republic following the 1979 Revolution. The US listed it as a terrorist organisation in 1997 but it was removed from the blacklist in 2012 after it renounced violence. Several thousand of its members left Iran for Iraq, where former dictator Saddam Hussein, used them as a tool against the Iranian regime. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, alliance forces offered the Iranians protection. Since then, about 3,000 have lived at Camp Ashraf while others were sheltered at Camp Liberty near Baghdad. ››read more

Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants

(source: AP / Yahoo) September 9, 2016

An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers as part of the international program backing Kurds in the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq, the group's commander told The Associated Press. The group, called the Kurdistan Freedom Party, is one of several Iranian Kurdish factions that have carried out attacks this year inside Iran, sparking a crackdown by security forces. At the same time, the group has been fighting alongside Iraqi Kurds against Islamic State group militants in northern Iraq. The training is a further twist in the complex web of alliances and enmities swirling around the wars in Iraq and Syria. Iran is a powerful backer of the Iraqi government and Iraqi Shiite militias against the Islamic State group. ››read more

Obama administration downplays 'spin' on Iran payments

by Nick Gass (source: Politico) September 9, 2016

Blinken repeated "absolutely," reiterating the administration's stance that it was in an "environment" where it was possibly to accomplish multiple things as it negotiated the separate nuclear deal with Iran. "We owed Iran a lot of money from way back when," Blinken said, explaining the circumstances for the payment dating back to the failed arms deal to the former shah of Iran. "We had sold them weapons. This is during the shah before the revolution. The revolution happened. We kept the money. We didn't send them the weapons. There was an arbitration that President Reagan backed to decide what to do. We were able to conclude a deal that actually saved us billions of dollars." ››read more

U.N. nuclear agency says Iran sticking to nuclear deal

by Shadia Nasralla (source: Reuters) September 9, 2016

The Institute for Science and International Security think-tank said Iran had been allowed to keep operating 19 radiation containment chambers more than set out in the deal. These so-called "hot cells" are used for handling radioactive material but can be "misused for secret, mostly small-scale plutonium separation efforts," it said. The diplomat in Vienna said any hot-cell activity that could be used to breach limits would be reported by the IAEA, which it had not done.
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Congressional Research Service Expert and Gulf Lobbyist Headline MEK Event

by Eli Clifton (source: Lobelog) September 1, 2016

Rajavi and SaddamRajavi and SaddamKatzman’s participation in the panel is particularly surprising, given his previous critical writings about the group. In 2010, he authored a CRS report featuring a section on the MEK, which he characterized as advocating “Marxism blended with Islamic tenets,” a fact that the MEK—despite its well-documented history—now denies. Katzman cited a 2007 State Department report which “notes the group’s promotion of women in its ranks and again emphasizes the group’s ‘cult-like’ character, including the indoctrination of its members and separation of family members, including children, from its activists.” And in 2012, Katzman warned about exiled opposition groups like the MEK... ››read more

The real US Syria scandal: Supporting sectarian war

by Gareth Porter (source: Middle East Eye) August 31, 2016

The main criticism of US policy in Syria has long been that President Barack Obama should have used US military force or more aggressive arms aid to strengthen the armed opposition to Assad. The easy answer is that the whole idea that there was a viable non-extremist force to be strengthened is a myth – albeit one that certain political figures in London and Washington refuse to give up. ››read more

Israeli think tank: Don’t destroy ISIS; it’s a “useful tool” against Iran, Hezbollah, Syria

by Ben Norton (source: Salon) August 30, 2016

According to a think tank that does contract work for NATO and the Israeli government, the West should not destroy ISIS, the fascist Islamist extremist group that is committing genocide and ethnically cleansing minority groups in Syria and Iraq.

Why? The so-called Islamic State “can be a useful tool in undermining” Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Russia, argues the think tank’s director.

“The continuing existence of IS serves a strategic purpose,” wrote Efraim Inbar in “The Destruction of Islamic State Is a Strategic Mistake,” a paper published on Aug. 2. ››read more