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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Iran update-- new PIPA poll: even 65% of Israeli Jews for nuclear-free Middle East...

Hi all...

Miss this op-ed piece from the New York Times Jan. 15th?...[mainstream media completely ignore this!]

["Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully" by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull]

From ...

"When asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons. Despite all the talk of an "existential threat," less than half of Israelis support a strike on Iran. According to our November poll, carried out in cooperation with the Dahaf Institute in Israel, only 43 percent of Israeli Jews support a military strike on Iran - even though 90 percent of them think that Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons. The Israeli public also seems willing to move away from a secretive nuclear policy toward greater openness about Israel's nuclear facilities. Sixty percent of respondents favored "a system of full international inspections" of all nuclear facilities, including Israel's and Iran's, as a step toward regional disarmament. And a 2007 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the Iranian people would favor such a deal."
[more re: poll see: ]

Nine more recent must-read's re: Iran of uncommon common sense-- towards sanity in Middle East:

1. "Iran: Willing to Deal" by Richard Javad Heydarian [posted up online yesterday]

2. "Iran: Outgunned in the Gulf" by Rex Wingerter [from last Thursday]

3. "Iran Uses Terror to Target Civilians, and So Does Israel" by Gideon Levy [Haaretz (Israel) Sunday]

4. "Another March to War?" by Matt Taibbi [2/18/12 Rolling Stone]

5. "Iran Tensions Rise with Diplomat Bombings, Scientist Killings, Nuke Claims, Media Warmongering"
[Glenn Greenwald of Salon & Reza Marashi of National Iranian American Council last Thurs.-- D- Now]

6. "We've Seen the Threats Against Iran Before" by Phyllis Bennis [posted online Friday]

7. "Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy" [posted to CommonDreams Friday]

8. "Cables Hold Clues to U.S.-Iran Mysteries" by Robert Parry [12/31/11]

9. My last blog post Feb. 2nd on all this (re: stopping sabre-rattling towards war w/Iran)

[also-- scroll down below for this new one from Pepe Escobar-- "Real Cowards Go To Iran"--]

[let your fingers do the walkin'!...White House-- (202) 456-1111; Capitol Switchboard-- (202) 224-3121]

Letters to editor needed to newspapers all over too; pass it on!...


[check out Rabbi Michael Lerner's for much more on this too, folks!]

p.s. Looks like perhaps finally we might all learn exactly what the Congressional district lines might be:

Today-- see !...

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From ...

Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully
Published: January 15, 2012

THE debate over how to handle Iran's nuclear program is notable for its gloom and doom. Many people assume that Israel must choose between letting Iran develop nuclear weapons or attacking before it gets the bomb. But this is a false choice. There is a third option: working toward a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. And it is more feasible than most assume.

Attacking Iran might set its nuclear program back a few years, but it will most likely encourage Iran to aggressively seek - and probably develop - nuclear weapons. Slowing Iran down has some value, but the costs are high and the risks even greater. Iran would almost certainly retaliate, leading to all-out war at a time when Israel is still at odds with various Arab countries, and its relations with Turkey are tense.

Many hawks who argue for war believe that Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel. They assume Iran is insensitive to the logic of nuclear deterrence and would be prepared to use nuclear weapons without fear of the consequences (which could include killing millions of Palestinians and the loss of millions of Iranian civilians from an inevitable Israeli retaliation). And even if Israel strikes, Iran is still likely to acquire nuclear weapons eventually and would then be even more inclined to use them.

Despite all the talk of an "existential threat," less than half of Israelis support a strike on Iran. According to our November poll, carried out in cooperation with the Dahaf Institute in Israel, only 43 percent of Israeli Jews support a military strike on Iran - even though 90 percent of them think that Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons.

Most important, when asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons.

The Israeli public also seems willing to move away from a secretive nuclear policy toward greater openness about Israel's nuclear facilities. Sixty percent of respondents favored "a system of full international inspections" of all nuclear facilities, including Israel's and Iran's, as a step toward regional disarmament.

If Israel's nuclear program were to become part of the equation, it would be a game-changer. Iran has until now effectively accused the West of employing a double standard because it does not demand Israeli disarmament, earning it many fans across the Arab world.

And a nuclear-free zone may be hard for Iran to refuse. Iranian diplomats have said they would be open to an intrusive role for the United Nations if it accepted Iran's right to enrich uranium for energy production - not to the higher levels necessary for weapons. And a 2007 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the Iranian people would favor such a deal.

We cannot take what Iranian officials say at face value, but an international push for a nuclear-free Middle East would publicly test them. And most Arab leaders would rather not start down the nuclear path - a real risk if Iran gets the bomb - and have therefore welcomed the proposal of a nuclear-free zone.

Some Israeli officials may also take the idea seriously. As Avner Cohen's recent book "The Worst-Kept Secret" shows, Israel's policy of "opacity" - not acknowledging having nuclear weapons while letting everyone know it does - has existed since 1969, but is now becoming outdated. Indeed, no one outside Israel today sees any ambiguity about the fact that Israel possesses a large nuclear arsenal.

Although Israeli leaders have in the past expressed openness to the idea of a nuclear-free zone, they have always insisted that there must first be peace between Israel and its neighbors.

But the stalemate with Iran could actually delay or prevent peace in the region. As the former Israeli spy chief, Meir Dagan, argued earlier this month, Israel's current stance might actually accelerate Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and encourage Arab states to follow suit. Moreover, talk of an "existential threat" projects Israel as weak, hurts its morale, and reduces its foreign policy options. This helps explain why three leading Israeli security experts - the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz - all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.

While full elimination of nuclear weapons is improbable without peace, starting the inevitably long and arduous process of negotiations toward that end is vital.

Given that Israelis overwhelmingly believe that Iran is on its way to acquiring nuclear weapons and several security experts have begun to question current policy, there is now an opportunity for a genuine debate on the real choices: relying on cold-war-style "mutual assured destruction" once Iran develops nuclear weapons or pursuing a path toward a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, with a chance that Iran - and Arabs - will never develop the bomb at all.

There should be no illusions that successfully negotiating a path toward regional nuclear disarmament will be easy. But the mere conversation could transform a debate that at present is stuck between two undesirable options: an Iranian bomb or war.

Shibley Telhami is a professor of government at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Steven Kull is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

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From ...

Iran: Willing to Deal
By Richard Javad Heydarian, February 20, 2012

With the United States and the European Union (EU) imposing one of the toughest sanction regimes ever on Iran, the world is inching closer to a potential catastrophic war at the heart of the Middle East. Meanwhile, Israel is suggesting a pre-emptive strike if sanctions fail to deter Iran's nuclear program, and Tehran has vowed to retaliate on an international scale if it comes under attack.

However, determined to lift the economic siege and avoid a potential conflict, Iran has shown an increasing interest in reviving talks. Not only has Iran welcomed successive rounds of IAEA visit to its nuclear facilities, but it has also shown interest in engaging in substantive talks, with Turkey and Russia acting as primary interlocutors.

It is high time for the West to rethink the sanctions track and craft a real strategy by finally giving true diplomacy a chance. This might be our last opportunity to avoid tragedy.

Punishing the Iranian Middle Class

The economic sanctions are targeting Iran's main exports, namely oil and gas, and increasingly freezing Iran's central bank out of the global financial system. This has made it extremely difficult for Tehran to engage in large-scale, dollar-denominated international transactions, forcing the country to rely on cumbersome and often unreliable third-party financial institutions to undertake substantial trade deals.

The sanctions have had a cascading effect on Iran's international trade, with transaction costs rising exponentially and the flow of imports coming under tremendous strain. Around a quarter of Iran's economy is reliant on oil exports, and the national budget is heavily tied to oil revenues. The domestic economy is already feeling the pinch as the cost of imported products skyrocket.

Under growing U.S. pressure, Iran's most important regional trade partner, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has also partially severed financial ties with Tehran, complicating Iran's ability to import essential primary products, especially food. Making things worse, the EU has imposed sanctions on Iran's most important port operator, Tidewater Middle East Company, which is responsible for much of Iran's external trade. These moves are clearly designed to strangle the Iranian economy, going well beyond the nuclear issue.

In addition, Iran is in the midst of an unprecedented rollback in state subsidies, which has placed significant inflationary pressure on the prices of basic commodities. Inflation has already reached double digits, while the multi-billion-dollar manufacturing sector is struggling to access intermediate and high-tech imports from abroad, especially the West. As a result, both the industrial sector and the Iranian main street are bearing the brunt of a tightening economic siege.

The sanctions regime is hurting the Iranian middle class - a historical force for moderation and democratic politics - and increasingly embittering its view of the West. As external pressure intensify, more segments of the society are rallying around the regime.

For many Iranians, the Obama administration has clearly backtracked from its initial promise of rapprochement. The sanctions are a direct betrayal of President Obama's promise for a mutually respectful, stable, and cordial relationship with the people of Iran. After three years of empty words and disingenuous Persian New Year greetings, the Iranian populace has little goodwill left for the U.S. government.

The Economic Siege

The most vulnerable sector is the currency market, where subjective sentiments are crucial to determining exchange rates. Amid a speculative frenzy, the fear of tightening financial sanctions and currency shortfall has placed downward pressure on the Iranian rial. Within a month, Iran's currency lost more than 40 percent of its value, forcing the Iranian Central Bank to tighten its monetary policy, impose capital control measures, and inject petrodollar reserves into the domestic economy to stave off growing volatilities in the currency market. In fact, the government has engaged in an unprecedented crackdown on the foreign currency black market and has imposed strict measures to regulate the flow of dollar.

Iran has around $104 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves, giving the country some cushion against currency shocks. However, the sanctions are also targeting Iran's huge pool of foreign currency reserves, which have been spread across major Western financial institutions, especially in Europe. Therefore, Iran has been forced to transfer most of its gold and foreign currency reserves to Asian and Latin American banks.

To sustain its foreign currency accumulation and trade, Iran will need to rely on its major Asian oil partners. However, the sanctions have been coupled with an intense diplomatic effort to convince Iran's major Asian trade partners - including South Korea, Japan, China, Turkey, and India - to sever their oil imports.

The Western strategy is twofold. The West has rallied the support of major Arab oil-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to supplant any actual and prospective shortfall in oil supply if and when Iran's exports are squeezed out of international markets. Also, by pressuring Iran's Asian oil partners, the West is trying to limit Iran's pool of customers, therefore giving immense leverage to Tehran's narrowing circle of buyers. South Korea and Japan - key American allies - have tentatively agreed to cut their Iranian oil imports, while India and China are exploiting the situation by forcing Iran to make discounts and practically forcing Iran to buy Indian and Chinese products in return for oil.

Iran's relatively large and sophisticated economy will need significant dollar reserves to sustain its access to the world's high-end commodity markets. But it is not clear how Iran will maintain its financial buoyancy if its currency reserves are not continuously refurbished by dollar-denominated oil trade.

So, very understandably, Iran has characterized the sanctions as a "declaration of economic war." It has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if such measures continue to choke off its increasingly fragile (but still buoyant) economy.

Iran's Economic Resilience

Iran's strength is its trade surplus, low gross public debt, and relatively large economy (the 17th largest in the world), which has benefited from structurally high oil prices in recent years. Having a low public debt and healthy trade balance means that Iran, at least in the short term, can continue to issue bonds and rely on external financing to meet its needs.

Moreover, growing geopolitical uncertainty and rising demand for oil has placed an upward pressure on oil prices. So Iran can still maintain its economic momentum as long as it sustains a relatively stable level of oil trade with alternative customers after the EU embargo comes into effect in June 2012. Despite the sanctions, Iran is still expected to export more than 70 percent of its oil, so the regime will still be flush with cash in the coming months.

In fact, Iran has already threatened to preempt the EU embargo by cutting off its oil supply to Europe. Iran's top European oil customers - including Italy, Greece, and Spain - are the continent's most fragile economies, so any pre-emptive Iranian measure would be a huge blow to the EU economy. A supply shock could further erode market confidence in troubled Eurozone members, driving down credit ratings and raising borrowing costs.

Ultimately, the sanctions will not be enough to cripple the regime. The sanctions could at best target around 10 percent of Iran's economy, but the regime will have all necessary funds to pursue its nuclear ambitions. In fact, the government has proposed a $443 billion budget for 2012, and it plans to more than double its military expenditures in coming months.

The sanctions are impoverishing and radicalizing the greater (and more moderate) part of the Iranian population, while weakening the hands of the pragmatists who are pushing for diplomacy with the West. But they can neither cripple Iran's economy in the short term nor halt the country's nuclear program in the long term.

Destructive Momentum

Iran isn't only under economic siege. There is already a shadow war underway against Iran as well, as Western and Israeli agencies continue to target Iran's scientists, nuclear facilities, and military establishments. There is also compelling evidence that foreign agencies such as Israel's Mossad are supporting domestic separatist movements within Iran. Tensions are flaring, and key actors - namely Iran, the United States, and Israel - may inadvertently talk themselves into war unless nuclear talks are revived.

Additionally, both Iran and the United States are facing crucial domestic electoral tests, resulting in President Obama and Iranian politicians alike displaying an increasingly tough posture on the Iranian nuclear program. Pragmatism and diplomacy could be jeopardized, unless the negotiation track is revived, which would require political will on both sides.
Historically, the Europeans acted as a crucial interlocutor between Iran and the United States. However, the political landscape in major European capitals is rapidly changing. Riding on a post-Libya triumphalist tide, major European leaders, from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are adopting a bellicose stance on Iran.

Repairing the breach of trust between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran will be key to resolving outstanding issues over Iran's nuclear program. However, the departure of former IAEA director Mohamed El-Baradei has been followed by growing tensions between Iran and the technical body. After the release of the controversial IAEA report in November 2011, which heavily relied on rehashed Western Intelligence reports, Iran has raised serious doubts about the neutrality of the new IAEA head Yukiya Amano. In fact, Iran may need confidence-building measures with the very body that is supposed to build trust and communication between Tehran and the West.

Reviving Talks

With ties so frayed between Iran and the West, the onus of reviving talks has fallen on the shoulders of countries such as Turkey and Russia, which have maintained strong ties with their Persian neighbor.

Russia and Turkey have a direct interest in Iran's stability, since any conflict between the West and Iran could compromise regional security and adversely impact their significant commercial ties with Tehran. Although Russia detests any Western military adventurism close to its borders, Turkey's booming economy is highly reliant on Iranian energy exports. Any conflict in Iran could also undermine Turkey's national security and extinguish its hopes for EU membership.

So the stakes are high enough for both Russia and Turkey to channel growing tensions in the direction of talks. Since the 2011 attack on the British Embassy further hampers Iran's communication channels with the West, Moscow and Ankara are the last meaningful bridge between Iran and the West.

Iran seems to be interested in going back to the negotiation table, with top Iranian officials constantly visiting Moscow and Ankara to lay the groundwork for talks. The Iranian economy is feeling the pinch, and Tehran's military options are limited. If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, it will not only invite a military retaliation by an armada of Western navies, but it will also jeopardize Tehran's ties with neighboring Arab countries as well as China, which considers the stable flow of oil in the Persian Gulf crucial to its energy security.

The pragmatists are proactively pushing for a diplomatic resolution. Both Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi have recently reiterated their country's interest in reviving talks with the so-called (P5+1), composed of Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. To prove its sincerity, the Iranian leadership last month welcomed a technical visit by IAEA representatives. Both sides have characterized the visit as very constructive, with a mutual agreement to have a subsequent IAEA visit as soon as possible. Iran has already finalized the contents of its response to the EU's request for nuclear talks, and there is a possibility that Iran's nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani will join Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili during the upcoming talks. So far, Istanbul is the prospective site for the negotiations.

Iran may also allow the IAEA to access the crucial nuclear facility in Qom, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. Iran has rejected any demand for suspending nuclear enrichment, but there is a high probability that the country will agree to concrete confidence-building measures within the framework of Russia's "step-by-step" approach, whereby Iran's transparency at every stage of negotiations triggers a corresponding rollback in sanctions.

Toward Tactical and Strategic Recalibration

Sanctions, especially in the case of Iran, do nothing but punish the innocent majority, embitter and radicalize the greater society, and embolden the hardliners at the expense of the pragmatists.

Iran's economy is just too big to cripple without risking a global energy shock, and the Iranian nuclear complex is just too advanced to dismantle. Iran's recent announcements of major nuclear achievement, especially the installation of indigenous fuel rods, are a clear indication of Iran's mastery of the nuclear cycle. Iran will be able to withstand heavy sanctions because the regime will still have billions of dollars to prop up its military and advance its nuclear program.

Therefore, it is crucial for the West to give diplomacy a chance and recalibrate its futile emphasis on sanctions.

Negotiations are not supposed to resolve outstanding ideological and strategic differences, but they are a crucial and necessary step in building confidence and overcoming a deep sense of distrust. War is an unthinkable alternative.

If the West had welcomed the 2010 Tehran Declaration, we would have been in the second year of confidence-building, dialogue, and substantive negotiations by now. Yet there is still hope. Iran's pragmatists are sensing the urgency of the issue, while interlocutors such as Turkey - undeterred by the West's snubbing of the Turkish- and Brazilian-brokered breakthrough over Iran's nuclear program - are tirelessly seeking to avoid a disaster.

The status quo is simply unsustainable, and if President Obama wants to go down as one of history's best foreign policy presidents, then he has to transcend domestic political pressure and instead focus on the bigger picture. Iran has shown its interest in reviving talks, and Turkey and Russia have supported such a move. The ball is in Obama's court now.

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From ...

Published on Monday, February 20, 2012 by Haaretz (Israel)
Iran Uses Terror to Target Civilians, and So Does Israel
Are there special countries that are allowed to assassinate at will, and others who are not?

by Gideon Levy

A great miracle happened in Tbilisi, New Delhi and Bangkok, and alongside that miracle there was ineptitude that flies in the face of Iranian pretentions and ambitions. But the intentions were clear and grave: to take Israeli lives, especially diplomats and other official representatives of the state. That is terror.

The assassinations of the Iranian scientists were no less terrorist, let's admit it. Terror is terror, against diplomats exactly like against scientists, even if the latter are developing nuclear weapons. There is no great difference between an attempt to kill a representative of Israel's Defense Ministry and a strike on an Iranian nuclear physicist. There are nuclear physicists in Israel too and if, God forbid, someone tried to assassinate them, that would rightly be considered cruel terror.

And so anyone who uses these deplorable assassination methods cannot be critical when someone else tries to emulate them. And why should the world denounce Iran's terrorist acts - as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday - and not denounce others? Are there special countries that are allowed to assassinate at will, and others who are not?

Both kinds of countries should be denounced. The methods this time were even amazingly similar. Magnetized explosive devices were stuck on cars, like in underworld hits; not blind mass attacks, but the kind that are directed against the occupants of one car, whose fate is sealed unless miracles and operational incompetence prevail.

People who were impressed with the assassination of the Iranian scientists - and there are many such people in Israel - those who say with a typical Israeli wink that "they shouldn't be mourned" ignore the fact that another harsh, unnecessary bloody cycle has been launched. What possible use can there be in killing one scientist, who is then replaced by three others?

What good was it at the time to kill a key Palestinian terrorist when his place was taken by 10 others? The killer of Dr. Thabet Thabet in cold blood in 2001, a Tul Karm dentist and peace activist who did not deserve to die, also laid the groundwork for the assassination attempt in New Delhi.

The killer of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh, an avowed terrorist who deserved to die, may have saved the lives of many Israelis, but put the lives of many others at risk.

That's the way it is in the cruel cycle of assassination wars. But in Israel people who dwell in glass houses are keen to throw stones. Here people are impressed by and cheer Israeli assassinations and no one has questions or doubts, either about their morality or their efficacy. We are allowed.

Here people are shocked by attempted assassinations by Arabs or Iranians, but divorce them completely from the context of Israeli assassinations. How did a columnist in Israel Hayom put it this week? "Attacking Israel is in their DNA." Theirs? And what about us? The writer forgot, and made us forget, our DNA. It, too, supports assassinations, including sometimes of the innocent.

Assassinations of Palestinians have scaled down in recent years and have been carried out mainly in Gaza, and so the hit lists of the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces are now shorter. That's a good thing.

But according to the data of the human rights group B'Tselem, Israel targeted and killed no less than 232 Palestinians in the territories between the beginning of the second intifada and Operation Cast Lead, a period of about eight years. During those attacks,approximately 150 innocent bystanders were killed, including women and children.

These assassinations, most of which did not target "ticking bombs," were acts of terror. They are not much different from the criminal Iranian attempts in far-off Asia. The representative of the Defense Ministry in New Dehli does not deserve to die, but neither did Dr. Thabet Thabet. The Iranian scientists probably did not deserve to die either.

In February 1990, then-Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon asked the delegates to the Likud Central Committee convention: "Who's for stopping terror?" A sea of hands flew up. Today the question should be: Who is against terror? We will all devotedly raise our hands. But people who are truly against terror must also say: against all terror, against any terror, be it Iranian, Palestinian or Israeli.

© 2012 Haaretz

Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist. Levy writes opinion pieces and a weekly column for the newspaper Haaretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. A notable journalist on the Israeli left, Levy has been characterized variously as a "propagandist for the Hamas" to a "heroic journalist"

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From ...

Iran: Outgunned in the Gulf
By Rex Wingerter, February 16, 2012

Iran has threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz - a "choke point" in the Persian Gulf through which about 20 percent of the world's oil passes - if the West imposes sanctions against Iran's petroleum exports. This threat is not without historic parallel. In 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and launched its war against the United States after Washington blockaded oil shipments to Tokyo. Japan relied on 80 percent of its oil from the United States; oil sales make up 80 percent of Iran's exports. A complete oil embargo on Iran, just as it would have done to Imperial Japan, would result in economic calamity.

Like all historic analogies, this one is imperfect: President Roosevelt's oil embargo was not without cause as Imperial Japan had invaded Manchuria and was ravaging the rest of China and Indochina. In contrast, Iran has invaded no country and exhibits no intent to do so. Western concern instead rests on the speculation that Iran's nuclear program could result in the development of a nuclear weapon and conjecture that once so armed, Iran would intimidate neighboring states into subservience and achieve hegemony in the Persian Gulf at the expense of the West.

Another departure from the analogy is that Imperial Japan appeared to have sufficient military might and a geostrategic advantage to take on the United States. The Islamic Republic, in contrast, is so militarily disadvantaged compared to its opponents as to make its threat to close the entrance to the Persian Gulf almost farcical.

Outgunned in the Gulf

In nearly every measurement of military power, Iranis overshadowed by the firepower of the neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-member organization consisting of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While never saying so, the six monarchies created the coalition in 1981 to fend off the destabilizing political aftershocks sparked by Iran's 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.

Its members are Arab and predominately Sunni (except in Bahrain where the ruling elite are Sunni but nearly 70 percent of the population is Shiite); Iranin contrast is Persian and majority Shiite. The impending membership of the monarchies of Jordan and Morocco reinforces the conservative nature of the GCC. Assuring the longevity of the royal families rather than establishing regional cooperation is the organization's reason for being. Yemen, another non-Gulf Arab state, is seeking GCC membership.

Iran surpasses the GCC in one important military metric: the number of military troops. According the Israel-based Institute for National Securities Studies, Iran has nearly twice as many armed personnel than does the GCC states - 520,000 uniformed service members against a GCC force of less than 350,000 - with Saudi Arabia accounting for 60 percent of the total. Iran also has twice as many men between the ages 18 and 49 available for military service, according to the CIA World Fact Book. But as the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated, modern day military victories are decided not by the size of armies but by how quickly and forcibly a country can project its sophisticated munitions against a rival. And in this latter category, Iran suffers distinct weaknesses.

According to Iran and the Gulf Military Balance, published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the GCC (including Yemen) surpasses Iran in nearly every type of conventional weapon. In many cases, the Arab/Sunni coalition possesses two or three times the number of key armaments than does Iran.

Iran similarly falls short in the crucial arena of air superiority, where control of the skies often means victory on the ground. The CSIS study calculates that in the category of "modern" warplanes, Iran's 190-plane air force confronts a GCC air force of 576 planes. But Iranis far worse off than the numbers suggest: a decades-old Western-led arms embargo on Iran has made it nearly impossible for the Islamic Republic to purchase modern warplanes or advanced weapons technology. The most sophisticated aircraft in Iran's inventory includes out-of-date Russian MiGs and U.S.-made F-4s and F-14s bought before the 1979 revolution. It also acquired in 1991 some French-made combat aircraft that Iraqi pilots flew into Iranwhile escaping U.S.warplanes. But the reliability of those planes is questionable because, as one military analyst put it, the "Iranians have extraordinary difficulty sustaining their military equipment due to a lack of spare parts and trained mechanics." The CSIS report noted that the embargo has preventedIran from acquiring "large numbers of modern armor, combat aircraft, longer-range surface-to-air missiles, or major combat ships." The consequence, concluded CSIS, is that "much of [Iran's] conventional military force is obsolescent or is equipped with less capable types of weapons."

Comparative Military Budgets

That the GCC spends twice as much on its military establishment than does Iranfurther underscores the imbalance between Iranand the Arab Gulf states. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calculates that over the past decade, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, have devoted about 7 percent of their GDP to military expenditures while Iran's expenditures have averaged just less than 3 percent of its GDP. In terms of actual, overall military spending since 2000, the three states have averaged about $16 billion a year againstIran's expenditures of about $8 billion.

Benefiting from high oil revenues and unencumbered by an arms embargo, the GCC has purchased some of the most advanced weaponry money can buy and most of it is from the United States. According to the Congressional Research Service, from 2003 through 2010,U.S. arms sales agreements with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE totaled $31.9 billion. Nearly $25 billion of that sum was transferred between 2007 and 2010.

At the end of 2011, weapons sales to the Arab Gulf states hit newfound heights with the announcement that Washington would be selling to Saudi Arabia $60 billion in arms over the next decade. The sales included 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 of Saudi Arabia's existing F-15 inventory. The warplanes, according the U.S. Department of State, would be the "most sophisticated and capable aircraft in the world," equipped with satellite-guided "smart bombs", anti-ship missiles, and anti-ground-based radar and missile missiles. The package includes over 170 helicopters. Agreements in 2011 were also reached with the UAE for a $3.5 billion advance missile defense system and possibly 600 "bunker buster" bombs and other munitions; Oman for 18 F-16 fighter jets and other items worth $3.6 billion; Kuwait for a $900 million advanced missile defense system; and Iraq for nearly $5 billion for 18 F-16 fighter jets.

The U.S. Gorilla

The 800-pound gorilla in the Gulf is the presence of U.S. military forces. Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet's carrier strike group (CSG), which currently includes the largest warship in the world, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, hosting about 80 warplanes and supported by an armada of five to nine ships, including guided missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and attack submarines. The U.S. Sixth Fleet's CSG sitting in the Mediterranean Sea is posed to intervene in the Gulf, as it did during the Iraqwar. B-1 bombers are stationed in Oman, along with a storehouse of U.S. munitions. Kuwait is an important refueling depot for U.S. aircraft as well as a perch from which reconnaissance planes operate. U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta said in November that nearly 29,000 U.S. troops are in Kuwait, in addition to over 17,000 more in the Gulf states.

ComplementingU.S. forces are warships and ground troops from France, Britain, and Canada. The cumulative result is that perhaps the greatest concentration of conventional military firepower on the planet is located in or near the Gulf, most of it U.S.-owned or controlled, and potentially aimed at Iran.

In the face of such overwhelming military might, claims that Iran poses a military threat to its neighbors fall flat. The Islamic Republic lacks a credible, offensive military capability and, despite its large ground army, cannot take and hold foreign territory for any meaningful period of time. Superior U.S.and GCC air power would quickly dispatch any invading ground vehicles, as Saddam Hussein's army discovered after it invaded Kuwait. Iran's leadership is rational and is not going to commit suicide by launching an attack that it knows it cannot win.

But Iranis not without means to inflict injury on its opponents. The U.S. Institute for Peace points out that Iran's military is configured in a defensive posture, tailored "specifically to counter the perceived U.S. threat." The CSIS report warned that Iran has sought to bridge the gap in its conventional capability by "developing a strong asymmetric capacity that focuses on the use of smart munitions, light attack craft, mines, swarm tactics, and missile barrages to counteract U.S. naval power." That strategy may be succeeding. In 2002, the Pentagon conducted a war game where large numbers of small Iranian speedboats attacked American ships in the Gulf with machine guns and rockets. In the simulation, the U.S. Navy lost 16 warships, including an aircraft carrier, cruisers, and amphibious vessels in battles that lasted 5-10 minutes. Since that war game, Iran has only improved and expanded its asymmetric capabilities.

And that is Iran's real threat to the United States- its capability to inflict painful retaliatory strikes. As the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments recognized in a January 2012 report, Iran is seeking to "make traditional U.S. power-projection operations in the Persian Gulf possible only at a prohibitive cost."Iran's asymmetric strategy is denying the United States the freedom of low-cost military intervention.

Iran's rulers could make a pre-emptive strike if they thought their enemies were on the verge of toppling them from power, either through a suffocating economic embargo or incessant covert attacks. Such conduct would be extraordinary dangerous, as it could spiral out of control and lead to a devastating general war in the Gulf with enormous regional and international consequences. But it would not be irrational for Islamic Republic to make a futile attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz if its sends a strong signal to the West that Iranis willing to risk it all to preserve the regime.

Imperial Japan stands again as an imperfect history analogy. When its leaders were mulling over the option to attack Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto dissented, warning that the United States would retaliate with a vengeance to defeat Japan. But when the Imperial command decided to attack, it was Admiral Yamamoto who drew up the plans to bomb Pearl Harbor. Iran's ruling Mullahs may similarly calculate that the risk of a wider conflict is worth the price of deterring a slow but sure death by economic strangulation. As Mark Twain put it, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

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Recall-- from ...

[pertinent excerpt here]

"Cables Hold Clues to U.S.-Iran Mysteries" by Robert Parry [12/31/11]

"By early 2010, both China and Russia had agreed not to exercise their UN Security Council vetoes to stop new sanctions against Iran. A January 2010 cable reported that a Russian official had "indicated Russia's willingness to move to the pressure track." Meanwhile, Iran's internal dissension had complicated an agreement on a low-enriched uranium swap. Though the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embraced the idea in fall 2009, agreeing to give up about half of Iran's low-enriched uranium to get nuclear isotopes for medical research, some of his political opponents - favored by the West - attacked the proposed deal.

When Ahmadinejad's government sought some modifications on how the uranium would be transferred, the Obama administration dismissed any changes and the major U.S. news media jumped on Ahmadinejad for supposedly reneging on the original agreement. The leaked cables, however, shed new light on what was actually occurring. The Obama administration wasn't really committed to the swap idea as much as it was using the appearance of negotiations to set the stage for a new round of sanctions. The moves by Iran's internal opposition to torpedo the deal also look different in this context, as possibly a tactic to help the West isolate Ahmadinejad's government.

In spring 2010, Ahmadinejad agreed to another version of the uranium swap proposed by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey, with the apparent backing of President Obama. However, that arrangement came under fierce attack by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered a hawk on Iran, and was mocked by leading U.S. news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The ridicule of Brazil and Turkey - as bumbling understudies on the world stage - continued even after Brazil released Obama's private letter to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva encouraging Brazil and Turkey to work out the deal. Despite the letter's release, Obama didn't publicly defend the swap and instead joined in scuttling the deal. Much like during the run-up to war with Iraq, opinion leaders at the New York Times and Washington Post eagerly beat the drums for another confrontation."

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From ...

February 16, 2012

Iran Tensions Rise with Diplomat Bombings, Scientist Killings, Nuke Claims and Media Warmongering

Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified with bomb blasts targeting Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia and Iranian accusations of Israeli responsibility for the assassinations of Iranian scientists. Iran, meanwhile, is claiming significant new advances in its nuclear program, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel. "If you listen to the media, you would see Iran as this sort of irrational aggressor, this country that is just kind of lashing out arbitrarily at other nations, and specifically at Israel and the United States, for no reason," says Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for "What's so amazing about that is it completely ignores the context of what the United States and Israel have been doing to Iran." We're also joined by Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council. "What makes this [conflict] so dangerous and increasingly likely is there's little to no communication going on between the parties," Marashi says. "And when you don't communicate, that increases the likelihood for misperceptions and miscalculations." [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to Iran, which is claiming it has made significant new advances in its nuclear program, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel. According to state media reports, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has inserted the first Iranian-manufactured fuel rod into a Tehran test reactor. In a speech broadcast on state television, Ahmadinejad hailed Iran's uranium enrichment efforts.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] I am announcing that within the regulations of the agency, we are ready to share our nuclear know-how with the IAEA member states. The nation of Iran has found its bright path-nuclear-one that our martyrs opened for us. We saw the mother of the martyrs say one thing: continue in the path of the martyr. Our nuclear path will continue.

JUAN GONZALEZ: U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland downplayed Ahmadinejad's announcement by saying the Iranian uranium enrichment advances were neither particularly new nor impressive. However, Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu had a far harsher response. He called Iran, quote, "the world's greatest exporter or terror," and said Iranian aggression threatens the safety of countries around the world.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] Iran is the world's greatest exporter of terror. During these very days, Iran's terror actions have been revealed to everyone's eyes. Iran upsets the stability of the world. It harms innocent diplomats in many countries. And the countries of the world must condemn Iran's terror actions and demarcate red lines against Iranian aggression. If such aggression is not stopped, it will spread to many countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Israeli officials are blaming Iran after Israeli diplomats were targeted in nearly simultaneous bombings in India and the former Soviet state of Georgia. Four people were injured in India, including the wife of the Israeli embassy's defense attaché. The bomb in Georgia was disarmed after it was discovered on a vehicle parked at the Israeli embassy. Iran denied responsibility for Monday's bombings, saying the Israeli accusations were part of a "psychological war" against it. Yesterday, two Iranians were arrested and charged with plotting the bomb attack in Bangkok, according to Thailand's foreign minister. Iran has also accused Israel of being behind the recent assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran.

Well, for more, we're joined now by two guests. Reza Marashi joins us from Washington, D.C., research director at the National Iranian American Council. And Glenn Greenwald joins us via Democracy Now! video stream, constitutional law attorney, political and legal blogger for He's been writing about what he calls irresponsible media fear mongering around Iran.

Reza Marashi and Glenn Greenwald, welcome to Democracy Now! Glenn, let's start with you. You know, we just finished a conversation with Jeremy Scahill about the targeting of American citizens in Yemen, the killing of Awlaki, his son, and the killing of many other Yemenis by drone attacks. Can you talk now about what we're seeing with Iran and Israel?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what's so bizarre is that if you listen to the media, you would see Iran as this sort of irrational aggressor, this country that is just kind of lashing out arbitrarily at other nations, and specifically at Israel and the United States, for no reason. And what's so amazing about that is it completely ignores the context of what the United States and Israel have been doing to Iran for the last several years.

On a virtually daily basis, you can pick up newspapers in either of those countries and see constant threats issued to attack Iran. There is widespread belief, among virtually everybody, that those two nations jointly were responsible for a very sophisticated cyber warfare attack on the nation's nuclear facilities with the Stuxnet virus. There have been a string of Iranian scientists who have been murdered through means that are clearly terroristic, whether it means bombs exploding on Iranian soil or magnetic bombs strapped to cars, where scientists have been killed, their wives have been severely wounded. And you even have an NBC report from last week that says that a dissident organization that has long been devoted to the overthrow of the Iranian government, the MEK, a group that the United States government has long classified as a terrorist organization, is being armed, funded and trained by Israel. And we've known for a long time that numerous prominent American officials and politicians from both parties are on the payroll of the MEK and have been advocating on their behalf.

So when you talk about Iran's terrorist network and engaging in terrorism and aggression, what I think we need to realize, first and foremost, is that they've been the target of exactly those sorts of attacks by the U.S. and Israel, at the same time that the U.S. virtually has Iran militarily encircled with military bases in virtually every bordering country. And just like Jeremy described how, when you drone attack and kill citizens in a country like Yemen, you generate severe blowback and anti-American animus, the same thing is obviously going to happen when you target a country like Iran with those sorts of series of attacks. And it's why diplomacy and negotiation-exactly what the U.S. government refuses to do-is the far better course.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Glenn, one of the points that you've made in some of your writings is that the astounding press clamor around Iran is somewhat different from the clamor in the lead-up to the war against Iraq, in that the press seems to be even more vociferous than the administration, whereas, at least in the situation with Iraq, it was the administration that was using the press, and the press was going along. But in this case, it seems that the press is its own agent in drumming up war.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, by all appearances, the top levels of the Obama administration are not particularly anxious for a military conflict with Iran, whether that's because they believe it's not the right course of action or because it would be politically harmful to the President in an election year. I think all signs have been pretty clear that the Obama administration would like to avoid a military confrontation and is not really out there beating the drums of war. They're certainly demonizing Iran. They're orchestrating very severe sanctions that are harming the people of Iran in increasingly serious ways. But they don't really seem to be eager for a confrontation with Iran the way the Bush administration was with regard to Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

I think what you're seeing is the military-the American media speaks to people other than top-level Obama administration officials. They speak to Israeli officials. They speak to neoconservatives who are very much in positions of influence. They speak to other people who are probably hawkish within the Obama administration, who do seem to want a confrontation with Iran. And the American media is leading the way, as usual, in demonizing Iran, in ratcheting up fear levels. There was an extraordinarily irresponsible report yesterday from ABC News, Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross, claiming that synagogues and other Jewish facilities in New York City and around the country are now targets of Iranian terror, even though there is zero evidence for any sort of claim like that. There are now claims from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post that Iran has an operational relationship with al-Qaeda. And so, what you see is exactly the same kind of techniques-they're not even hiding it-that were used to lead the nation to war in 2002 and 2003 are now being employed for Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, we want to go to a clip of that report on ABC News that you just referred to by Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross. Sawyer begins by warning a kind of shadow war being waged by Iran around the world.

DIANE SAWYER: Evidence of a kind of shadow war now being waged by Iran around the world. Tonight, Israeli and Jewish facilities everywhere, including here in the U.S., are on heightened alert. Overseas today, three U.S. warships defied Iranian threats and entered the vital oil gateway, the Strait of Hormuz-our own Martha Raddatz right there on board, and she'll bring us her report in a moment. But first we want to tell you what is causing this new concern and the evidence of secret Iranian attacks. ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross has been talking to the FBI all day. Brian.
BRIAN ROSS: Well, Diane, it appears to be hit squad versus hit squad, with the FBI telling ABC News tonight it is worried the violence could spill over to the U.S. Israeli diplomatic facilities and Jewish places of worship in at least 10 U.S. cities have been told they could be targets.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the report by Brian Ross and Diane Saweyer on ABC. Reza Marashi, let's bring you into this discussion. You're with the National Iranian American Council. Your response, and how Iranians are responding right now as the escalation of rhetoric against Iran continues?

REZA MARASHI: Well, this Iranian government has recently changed its strategic calculus and its strategic outlook, and has said very plainly multiple times that they will now respond to pressure with pressure. And, you know, I think we need to look beyond and move past this chicken-and-egg argument of who's doing what to who and who did it first, and focus on how do we stop it, because there is a steadily increasing chance of conflict between the United States and Iran, and Israel, that could draw in the rest of the world, that I think all parties would independently seek to avoid.
What makes this so dangerous and increasingly likely is there's little to no communication going on between the parties. And when you don't communicate, that increases the likelihood for misperceptions and miscalculations. And when you misperceive and you miscalculate and you're not communicating, very, very bad things can happen.

And, you know, the Obama administration started its Iran policy when it came into office in an effort to try and shift the paradigm. And various domestic and international political forces, including the Iranian government's own actions, but not limited to, have caused the Obama administration to shift back to what's essentially what the Bush policy was when Bush left office. And we're in a dangerous place now. I don't think that means that war is going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month. But again, when you don't have channels of communication that can prevent escalation and let people know what red lines are and things like that, then you are setting a dangerous precedent that could quickly spiral out of control.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Reza Marashi, what do you make of the announcement by President Ahmadinejad yesterday in terms of progress in Iran in nuclear enrichment?

REZA MARASHI: It's a great question. You know, I don't think it's a coincidence that the same day that the Iranian government responded positively to a letter from the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, to resume negotiations, they make these nuclear announcements, they put on a nuclear show. I think what they're doing is signaling to the United States and the international community that they'll come to the table and negotiate, but they will not give up their rights through pressure. They will not let pressure force them to capitulate their nuclear rights at the negotiating table.

And right now, if that message isn't internalized in Washington to the degree that it seriously considers what Iran's security interests and preferences are, and Washington doesn't seriously consider whether or not it can address them, then these negotiations are going to fail. So, we need to take a step back and shift the paradigm. We need to take a step back and say, "All right, this is what the Iranian government is doing. This is what they're seeking to accomplish." Not all of our interests overlap with the Iranian government, but there are some interests that do overlap. So, focusing on the nuclear issue exclusively, where there really isn't a lot of overlap, is going to doom negotiations to failure. The agenda needs to be broadened to focus on areas of mutual interest, mutual concern, increase the likelihood of not only a way to find a peaceful solution to this crisis and diffuse it, but also figure out a way to get back on the same page, because there's been little to no dialogue and conversation going on. And that's the right way to move things, in my opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, President Obama said in an interview with NBC that the United States is working in lockstep with Israel to deal with Iran's disputed nuclear program. I want to go to that clip.

MATT LAUER: Has Israel promised you that they would give you advanced warning to any such attack, should they give you that warning?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I won't go into the details of our conversations. I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we ever have. And my number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically.

AMY GOODMAN: Reza Marashi, talk about the U.S.-Israel relationship in relation to Iran. And especially in watching the media in these last few days, with the attempted assassinations of Israeli officials in various places-in India, in the former Soviet state of Georgia-very little reference to-how horrendous that is, but very little reference to what happened before, with the assassinations of the Iranian scientists. And I'm wondering what Iranian public is feeling about this.

REZA MARASHI: Oh, you're asking great questions. Let's unpack that a little bit. I mean, there is no relationship between Iran and the United States. I think we should be very honest about that. That's one of the most dangerous things about this situation as it moves forward. You know, when you bring Israel into the equation, I think President Obama has been a great friend to Israel. There are no greater friend to Israel than President Obama, and his track record speaks to that, irrespective of what neoconservative officials in the United States or right-wing officials in the Israeli government may say.

I think, at the end of the day, the United States and Israel are on the same page. They're not in lockstep, though. I think the Israeli government is more hawkish on the Iran issue than the United States government is. Interests don't entirely overlap, but Prime Minister Netanyahu will be coming to Washington for the AIPAC conference in the coming weeks, and, you know, they'll continue to try to get on the same page. But, you know, the United States realizes that negotiations are going to be necessary-sustained negotiations, because negotiations can't-excuse me, can't work in a day, a week, a month. It's going to take some time. And they realize that, and I think Israel is slowly coming around to that conclusion, as well.

But speaking about the assassinations, I mean, at the end of the day, terrorism is terrorism. And we shouldn't sit here and talk about one form of terrorism being OK and another form of terrorism not being OK. It should be condemned in no uncertain terms, irrespective of who's doing it. And, you know, Israel takes pride in the fact that it calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East. So, engaging in acts of terrorism, irrespective of who those acts of terrorism are targeting-and it does fit the U.S. government's own definition of terrorism, state sponsorship of terrorism-is unbefitting of the country that considers itself the only democracy in the Middle East. So, we need to take a step back, establish what the rules of the game are, or at least acknowledge what they are, because we do know what these rules are, and proceed accordingly to try and diffuse the crisis. I think right now we're locked in this paradigm of conflict management rather than conflict resolution. And I think the most dangerous part about that is, rather than the governments controlling the conflict dynamic, the conflict dynamic is beginning to control the governments.

AMY GOODMAN: Reza, we only have 30 seconds, but the Green Movement, how powerful it is right now? They were protesting in New York recently. They're against war with Iran. They're against sanctions against Iran. And they're not supportive of the Iranian government of Ahmadinejad.

REZA MARASHI: I think that the Green Movement can be considered to be a very diverse socioeconomic swath of Iranian society. The Iranian government's own repression has made, you know, mobilization and movement towards a more democratic future in Iran much more difficult, but I would argue that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Iranians are capable of achieving their goals indigenously. And the United States should follow the lead of the Iranian people, rather than vice versa.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Reza Marashi, with the National Iranian American Council, and Glenn Greenwald, joining us from Brazil, constitutional law attorney and blogger at This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a minute. We're going to go south to look at the hundreds of prisoners who just died in a prison in Honduras. Stay with us.

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Also-- this today from

Published on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by Asia Times

Real Cowards Go To Tehran
by Pepe Escobar

Imagine the classic United States neo-conservative wet dream; staring at Iran on a map and salivating about the crossroads between Europe and Asia, between the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent, between the Arabian Sea and Central Asia, with 10% of the world's proven oil reserves (over 150 billion barrels) and 15% of proven gas reserves - an energy complex bigger than Saudi Arabia and arbiter of the energy routes from the Persian Gulf to the West and Asia via the Strait of Hormuz.

It's like a pudgy armchair action man mesmerized by a nimble lap dancer. I'm gonna make you mine, honey. It's regime change time, gotta snuff out the owner of this joint. Otherwise, people will start talking; what kind of chicken global hegemon is this?

So the neo-cons got their New Year's Eve Barack Obama administration's Iran sanctions/embargo package, duly replicated by the European poodle parade. But it was not supposed to be like this. The lap dancer leapt from the stage and applied a neck scissors on the armchair action man; he's suffocating, not her. The whole thing is ... misfiring! Just like the latest neo-con Big Idea - the invasion, occupation and inevitable defeat in Iraq, to the tune of more than US$1 trillion.

Baby, sanction me one more time
Let's review some of the latest evidence. Tehran has just sent two of its warships through the Suez Canal towards the Mediterranean; they docked at the Syrian port of Tartus - no less. Not so long ago, disgraced dictator and close House of Saud pal Hosni Mubarak would have probably bombed them.

Tehran cut off oil exports to the top European war poodles, Britain and France. That's only 1% of British imports and 4% of France's imports - but the message was clear; if the depressed Club Med countries insist on following Anglo-French warmongering, they're next.

Brent crude is hitting $121 a barrel - an eight-month high. West Texas Intermediate, traded in New York, is hovering around $105. Brent is crucial, because it sets the consumer price for gasoline in most of the US and Western Europe. The neo-cons swore on their Bibles and Torahs there would be no oil spike. It happened - like clockwork, proving once again their knowledge of market speculation is of a two-year-old (no offense to lovely two-year-olds).

The funds Tehran is losing because of the sanctions - in terms of less exports to Europe - are being largely compensated by the oil-price spike caused by the neo-con-driven warmongering. On top of it, Tehran is bound to sell more oil to its top Asian clients - China, India, Japan and South Korea, and even Turkey, all of whom, with varying degrees of diplomacy, have told Washington to mind its own business.

As Asia Times Online had advanced, it took some time but Iran and China have just closed a new oil pricing deal. And the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is a definitive go. And Afghanistan and Pakistan - as well as Iran - badly want to be admitted at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), accelerating regional economic integration.

The fact that the Israel lobby drafters of the sanctions package couldn't foresee any of this proves once again they live the vegetative life of armchair "action" men.

Neo-con parrots are left to the "sanctions are biting" blah blah blah. Or to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, married to neo-con Robert Kagan, assuring pressure is being put on all these countries so they may do "what they can to increase sanctions, particularly to wean themselves from Iranian crude". Nobody is "weaning" from anything - apart from the self-defeating European poodles.

Also exposed is the myth of Saudi spare capacity. There is none. Saudi reserves are falling at a rate of 3% a year (it's exporting 11.8 million barrels a day, and falling). Moreover, the House of Saud does not want to pump more oil; it needs high oil prices to bribe its own population out of noxious Arab Spring ideas.

Then there's the strawberry on the cheesecake, too delicious to pass up. Goldman Sachs has just placed Iran as one of the "Next 11" in the developing world after the BRICS, only one among five developing nations with above average "productivity and sustainability of growth". Perhaps a Persian Britney Spears should be singing "Baby, sanction me one more time."

Baby, I'm coming to get ya
From the point of view of Washington, the only thing that really counts in the interminable nuclear charade is whether Iran may reach the ability to build a nuclear weapon in record time in case the leadership in Tehran is absolutely sure the US/Israel axis will attack.

That's exactly what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday; Iran is "more than capable of producing enough highly-enriched uranium for a weapon if its political leaders - specifically the Supreme Leader himself - chooses to do so."

What Clapper didn't specify is that Tehran is enriching uranium to a paltry 3.5%; a nuclear bomb needs 95% - and that would be immediately detected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If that happens - and that's a major if - there's no way regime change from the outside may be imposed. Thus bye bye to the Big Prize in oil and gas coveted by anyone from realist Dr Zbig Brzezinski to former Darth Vader, Dick Cheney.

So it's Ouroboros all over again - the serpent biting its own tail. We need to bomb to get regime change, so that oily dancer will dance on our wealthy lap.

The problem is neither the Obama administration nor key Pentagon generals are convinced this is a good deal.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E Dempsey, thinks, "It would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us."

And Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress last Thursday, "Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict." No wonder; Dempsey himself admitted that the leadership in Tehran - contrary to relentless neo-con media spin - "is a rational actor".

Does this all matter for the neo-cons and their legion of media shills? Not really. Until they find a sucker to fight a war for them - as in a Republican US president - real cowards will keep going to Tehran, all day and all of the night, in their wettest of wet dreams.

© 2012 Asia Times

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for the Real News Network. His latest book is Obama does Globalistan. He may be reached at

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