Putting Iran In Context

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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Finally, it should be noted that Iran’s economy has been floundering, its armed forces out of date.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.

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Gulf states sideline Arab League in Syria talks

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The meeting of Arab foreign ministers scheduled to be held in the Saudi city of Jeddah over the Syrian crisis has been postponed indefinitely without explanation by the Arab League. This “emergency meeting” was to discuss the conflict and the replacement of the UN and international mediator Kofi Annan, who resigned last week after the failure of his peace efforts. The Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi was tipped to succeed him .

However, the foreign ministers of the six Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain) held last night in Jeddah a meeting about the Syrian crisis. Now, this session is expected to take place Tuesday during an Islamic summit in the kingdom following the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who seeks to mobilize the Muslim world in favor of the uprising in Syria.

Syria, a member of the OIC, “will not be represented at this summit,” according to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization Islamic Cooperation (OIC), adding that a preparatory meeting of Foreign Ministers would be held Monday and should “decide on a suspension of Syria, recommended by representatives of member countries. ” The organization of this summit, which promises very sharp clashes between Iran, unwavering supporter of Syria, and the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, comes as the UN could not take a firm stand on this issue after the differences arising among members of the Security Council.

It would seem that those parties who declined Iran’s invitation to last Thursday’s “Friends of Syria” summit in Tehran have been forced by that event to step up their own efforts.

Leaders of the Gulf Arab States pose for a photo before the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh May 10, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

Four days after launching its ground offensive to cleanse the rebels from Aleppo, tanks and warplanes of the regime of Bashar al-Assad continue to pound several districts of this metropolis in the North of the country. According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), the neighborhoods Shaar, Tariq al-Bab, Hanano, Bustan al-Qasr and Salaheddin are the target of violent firing of artillery by the army.

Shots were also heard in Damascus while the nearby towns of Al-Tal and Harsata were bombed, according to the SOHR.

In Homs, soldiers assisted by militiamen “executed” ten young people in the Shams neighborhood, according to the Syrian National Council, the main opposition coalition. The victims were selected from a crowd of 350 people gathered in one place, said SNC.

Clashes took place elsewhere in the province of Deraa (south), birthplace of the insurgency launched in March 2011 against the Assad regime.

In Beirut, a judicial source said that the Syrian security chief, General Ali Mamluk, is suspected of plotting attacks in Lebanon. Last week, the former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha was arrested . Samaha is a pro-Syrian figure.

Some content via Al Bawaba http://snup.us/Iij

Syria News Summary 21 Jan 2012

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UPDATED More Injustice and Intrigue in #Mauritania

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24 Jan 2012: The shooting scandal is getting more bizarre, with the victim having been flown to Morocco for treatment, reports now say that doctors there have not found any bullet, but that she is paralysed from the waist down. I still do not find this story credible because it seems to be entirely based on hearsay and gossip. What I do see happening that makes me concerned is that the activists we might expect to see promoting tomorrow’s human chain protest are instead caught in this web of intrigue, by allowing it to distract them.
23 Jan 2012: The son of Mauritania’s president Mohammed al Aziz, Badr al Aziz, has been accused of shooting a young woman on Sunday, 22 January 2012 during an argument over her affections. A wave of outrage follows revelations that he was eventually arrested after taking a leisurely late breakfast at a popular Nouakchott café, but almost immediately released . Without wishing ill towards the victim, there are complaints of the injustice of her being given preferential treatment from the presidential administration. While other patients struggle to pay for costly treatment, she is apparently being airlifted out of the country.

This news broke at the same time as the co-ordinated opposition group COD, currently on a country-wide tour, announced their intention to release evidence exposing the level of corruption in Mauritania attributable to Aziz and his administration.

21 Jan 2012: The jailed ISERI students have been released. The fate of the college remains at stake. The anti-slavery activists are still in jail.

16 Jan 2012: The four students arrested last week after police stormed the ISERI Islamic College remain in jail in Nouakchott.

Detained ISERI students

Detained ISERI students

These unarmed, peaceful students were locked up while General Aziz was rubbing shoulders with Moncef Marzouki and Sheikh Khalifa in Tunisia trying to pass himself off as a supporter of the Arab Spring. This despite the fact that he still supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria, enjoys close ties to  the regime in Iran, was one of the last Arab leaders to visit Ben Ali before his departure (if not the last), and would probably still be supporting Gaddafi in Libya if he was alive. Despite Aziz being the chairman of the African Union special committee on Libya, Mauritania was the last member to recognize the National Transitional Council, and received delegations from both the NTC and Gadaffi’s regime during the uprising.

Elsewhere in the country, two four anti-slavery human rights activists were arrested. Two of them are pictured here: stripped and shackled and thrown in jail. These are the four detainees, a university professor, a lawyer, a journalist and a photographer:

The four detained anti-slavery activists

#Syria: Assad Plays the ‘Amnesty’ Card Again

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Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urges him restraint, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has granted a general amnesty for all crimes committed during the 10-month uprising, state-run media reports.

It would apply to army deserters who turned themselves in before the end of January, peaceful protesters and those who handed in unlicensed weapons, Sana state news agency is quoted as saying.

The UN says more than 14,000 people are in detention.

“Stop the violence. Stop killing your people. The path of repression is a dead end,” Mr Ban said in a speech at a conference on Arab world democracy in Beirut.

President Assad has issued several prisoner amnesties since the start of the uprising in March, but thousands of people are believed to remain in prison.

On Saturday, the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, said Arab countries should send troops into Syria to end the bloodshed.

“For such a situation to stop the killing… some troops should go to stop the killing,” he told US television channel CBS – the first time an Arab leader has publicly called for military intervention in Syria