Putting Iran In Context

Image: Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
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Sensible letter to the Economist from Sir Richard Dalton, a former Ambassador to Iran:

SIR – Do you really think Iran could become a regional hegemon (“Can Iran be stopped?”, June 22nd)? In one respect or another, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Turkey and Egypt are all as strong or stronger. Iran cannot even dominate the Gulf. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, tend to exaggerate Iranian influence, including in Bahrain and Yemen.

Only from southern Lebanon does Iran have the ability to project serious power. For sure, it has a strong influence in Iraq, some in Gaza, and a tightening alliance with Syria, but this merely allows Iran to maintain the position it has enjoyed for many years. This still doesn’t amount to “regional hegemony”.

You also did not mention that Iran has a policy of converting its 20% enriched uranium into oxide, ready for research-reactor fuel-making. This puts the material beyond use for bombs (short of a time-consuming, detectable and technically demanding process to turn it back into gas, which can be discounted in the medium term). That is why the United States and Israel seem relaxed about waiting for the autumn before a new round of negotiations.

The idea that everyone would bow down before Iran if it got nuclear-weapons capability is fanciful. Actions lead to reactions, and one of the reactions to deployed weapons (if there were no immediate war) would be sanctions in perpetuity and possibly an American nuclear umbrella over the West’s friends in the region. In such circumstances, what power would Iran acquire as a result of having nukes, other than deterrence?

Finally, it should be noted that Iran’s economy has been floundering, its armed forces out of date. It has minimal stocks of modern air and land weapons and has lost influence in Arab countries as a combined result of sanctions, the turmoil caused by repression after its disputed election in 2009, and the Arab spring. Since the shah’s day, the balance of power has tilted heavily against Iran, especially as the armies of the GCC have become far stronger. Some experts think the air force of the United Arab Emirates alone could take out the entire Iranian one.

Iran’s influence has fluctuated. It is rising in Iraq. Its help is desperately needed by Bashar Assad in Syria. But elsewhere, the “rise of Persia” is a myth.

Sir Richard Dalton

British ambassador to Iran, 2003-06

London

via Letters | The Economist.

The Two Worst Rogue States in the United Nations

Noam Chomsky
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My transcript of part of a public lecture “The Emerging World Order: its roots, our legacy” given by Noam Chomsky at Politeama Rossetti in Trieste, Italy on September 17, 2012.

The basic reason for the concern [over the possibility of Iran building nuclear weapons] has been expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler, the former head of the US Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons and the strategic policies involved. He writes, “it is dangerous in the extreme, that in the cauldron of animosities, that we call “the Middle East”, one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so.”
General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran. He was referring to Israel. That’s the country that ranks highest in polls of European public opinion, as the most dangerous country in the world, right above Iran. But not in the Arab world. In the Arab world, the public regards the United States as the second most dangerous country after Israel  and that goes back quite a while. Iran is generally disliked, but it ranks far lower as a threat – among populations, that is. Just not the dictatorships.

Western media and commentary keep almost entirely to the views of the dictators, so we constantly hear that the Arabs want ‘decisive US action against Iran, which is that’s true of the dictators, and you may recall that a while ago, WikiLeaks released the diplomatic documents quoting Arab dictators – Saudi Arabia and the Emirates – as calling for strong US action against Iran.

The commentary about that was interesting. It was almost euphoric: “Isn’t this wonderful? The Arabs support US policy against Iran!” which is true of the Arab dictators. At the very same time, Western-run polls were coming out, showing that it’s quite the opposite, that though again, they don’t like Iran, they’re not regarded as a threat. The United States is regarded as a threat. In fact opposition to US policy was so strong, that a majority – and in some countries like Egypt, a substantial majority, thought that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. They don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but if the United States and Israel have them and are there, that’s what’s needed.

That was almost never mentioned. And that reaction is pretty striking. It illustrates the contempt for democracy among Western elite opinion: it doesn’t matter what the population thinks, that’s derided as the “Arab street” – who cares what they think? What matters is what the dictators think. That’s a commentary about us, not about the Arab world.

Noam Chomsky

Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow [IAEA] inspections, refuses to join the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). It has hundreds of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, and it also has a long record of violence and repression (it has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally in violation of [UN] Security Council orders and court decisions), and many acts of aggression: it has invaded Lebanon five times with no credible pretext, and much more.

Meanwhile, severe threats of attack continue, from the United States and particularly Israel. Daily, there are strong threats of attack, and there’s reaction from US Government. The Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, reacted to the threats from Israel by saying, ‘we don’t want them to attack Iran, but they’re a sovereign country, they can do what they like’. If Iran was making comparable threats about Israel – and it isn’t – the reaction would be quite different.

You may remember there is a document called the United Nations Charter. The key provision in the UN Charter is a ban against the threat or use of force in international affairs. But now there are two rogue states, the United States and Israel, that pay no attention to this, and are constantly issuing severe threats. And the European Union goes along, politely. The threats are not just words: there is an ongoing war – or at least what we would regard as an ongoing war, if it was directed against us – and there are regular assassinations of scientists and terrorist acts, there’s a very severe economic war.

The US threats, which are unilateral, have cut Iran out of the international financial system. The European countries don’t disobey the United States so they’ve gone along. Five high-level former NATO commanders have recently released what they call a ‘new grand strategy’, which identified various acts of war that justify a violent response. One of them is ‘weapons of finance’ – that justifies a military reaction, when it’s directed against us. But cutting Iran out of the global financial markets, is different.

The US Government is very proudly announcing that it’s undertaking extensive cyber-warfare against Iran. The Pentagon has identified cyber-warfare as a serious military attack, which justifies our military response. But that’s the difference between what we do to them and they do to us. Israel has an enormous lethal armoury, not just nuclear. Only recently, in the last few months, Israel has received advanced submarines provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear tipped missiles, and they’re sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf, or nearby. They may already be there. Certainly, if Israel proceeds with its plan to bomb Iran,  the US has a vast array of nuclear weapons surrounding the region, from the Indian Ocean, all the way to the West. In the Persian Gulf itself, the US has enough fire-power to destroy the world many times over.

Full lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BK0XIm0DXE

Remains of 91 Martyrs Returned to #Palestine from #Israel

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Al Jazeera video [ar] showing the return of the remains of 91 martyrs from Israel, where they had been in a Jordan Valley cemetery  for years. Families can now pay proper respects to their loved ones.  The ceremony was conducted by the Palestinian Authority. 12 of the coffins were received in Gaza by ‘representatives of all factions’ according to the description.

3 Settlements in #WestBank Ordered Demolished

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Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah with t...

Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union this week continued the international condemnation of Israel’s policy of building settlements in largely Palestinian areas.

The enclaves are a stumbling block to restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But in a minor win for Palestinians, an Israeli court has ordered three small West Bank settlements to be demolished after ruling they were illegal.

The houses of Ulpana overlook Beit El, an Israeli settlement of 7,000 people not far from the major Palestinian city of Ramallah. The Israeli High Court has ruled that five of Ulpana’s 14 buildings are on land belonging to a Palestinian man. It has ordered Israel’s government to demolish them and evict the 30 young families living there.

Palestinians and much of the international community consider all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal. But the case regarding Ulpana is much narrower, and the ruling could pose a challenge for Israel’s new unity government.

Residents here say they bought the land legally although the sale was never registered. The Israeli administrator for the area, Danny Dayon, says the houses were built with government loans.

“Is demolishing and expelling people from their homes bought with complete sincerity, is that the just solution? No. The just solution in a dispute of that kind, no doubt, is monetary,” Dayon said.

Yesh Din, the Israeli human rights group that backed the Palestinian owner’s legal case, says the government is required by law to carry out the court’s decision.

“What will happen if the Israeli government is not going to fulfill the High Court decision? I think it will be a tragedy for the Israeli society and the Israeli democracy and for the rule of law in Israel,” said Yesh Din director Haim Erlich.

The residents of Ulpana have been living in uncertainty for months. Filmmaker Alex Traiman, a father of three, is one of them. “We’re individuals here that care about Western values. At the same time we want to be an organic part of this region. We want to be at peace with our neighbors, whether those neighbors are Palestinians, whether they’re Syrians, Egyptians. At the same time we care about the law,” he said.

Two other outposts are also slated to be removed. Some members of Israel’s coalition government want to pass a law legalizing such settlements despite the court rulings. Hebrew University Professor Gideon Rahat says this would be grave.

“This is problematic. The High Court in Israel is very important, the rule of law, democracy. This is a decision that they have to go with, even for the right wing,” Rahat said.

But Palestinians say no matter what Israeli courts do, all settlements are illegal under international law and need to be removed.

“We are asking now to stop all settlements construction,” said Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah.

That is a direction no Israeli government has been willing to take.

Source: VOA

#Palestine Nakba Day rallies

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Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day, meaning catastrophe day, looking back on the mass displacements of 1948.

Each year on 15 May, a day after the anniversary of the State of Israel’s founding, Palestinians recall the suffering inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes and villages.

The anniversary is traditionally marked by mass rallies in the West Bank and Gaza. Participants continue to demand the right to return to the lands that were forced from their families.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, dozens of Palestinians clashed with troops at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. The Palestinians hurled stones at the soldiers, who fired tear gas and other non- lethal crowd-control measures in an attempt to disperse the protest.

In Ramallah, the PNA called on residents to assemble at Yasser Arafat Square for a major rally, and announced that it was canceling work and studies in order to allow as many people as possible to attend, according to the Times of Israel.

The Israeli army and police have also beefed up forces along the borders with Syria and Lebanon to counter possible protest marches.

Concerned over events spilling out of control, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz reportedly said: “We are hoping for the best and getting ready for the worst.”

Gantz made the remarks prior to Monday night’s signing of an Egyptian-brokered deal between Israel and some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners to end a month-long hunger strike over the detention conditions and a demand to end the so-called administrative detention.

PNA President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated the strikers, calling the move the first step towards ensuring their eventual release.

Last year, Nakba Day rallies escalated into violence that resulted in 16 deaths and hundreds of injuries, when troops opened fire on pro-Palestinian protesters at the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza borders.