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What if ...? Solving the Iran stand-off

by Craig Rowley

I have been mulling over a question or two. Make that a whole series of questions. They are '"What if ..." questions.  They are not messy and futile backward looking "What if ..." questions of the "toothpaste back into the tube" type. They are future focused, solution focused questions that ask what if we could do something, what if we did this or something like it or something else. What if we could work through a problem together?

The Iranian regime has a nuclear program.  It includes several research sites, a uranium mine, a nuclear reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include a uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims it is using the technology for peaceful purposes. The United States, however, makes the allegation that the program is part of a drive to develop nuclear weapons. A nuclear program for peaceful purposes, even one involving the enrichment of uranium, is allowed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whilst a nuclear weapons development program is not. And therein lies the nub of the problem.

In the last weeks of last year the UN Security Council approved economic sanctions on Iran. If Tehran fails to comply with resolution 1737 by the end of a 60-day deadline that the UN imposed, the Security Council will consider new measures.  What if the Iranian regime fails to comply?

In a few weeks time the 35 members of the Board of Governors of the United Nation's nuclear monitoring body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will meet in Vienna and review the reports compiled by their inspection teams. They need to decide whether Iran has taken the steps required by their resolution GOV/2006/14, steps "which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme."   The IAEA will then make its report to the UN Security Council on Iran’s nuclear activities.  What if the IAEA reports that Iran failed to comply with their resolution and thereby Security Council resolution 1737? What then? What is the next move for the Security Council?

Coercive diplomacy seems to have been the strategy so far.  That was reflected in the first Security Council resolution on Iran in response to its nuclear programme. In June 2006, acting under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the United Nations in order to make mandatory the IAEA requirement that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities, the Security Council issued resolution 1696  threatening Iran with economic sanctions in case of non-compliance. Resolution 1696  avoided any implication that use of force may be warranted. Exercise of that option, the use of force, was premature.

Resolution 1737 did not include a clear statement that use of force would be warranted in case of non-compliance. With Resolution 1737 the Security Council affirmed only that it shall review Iran’s actions in the light of the IAEA’s report and:

(a) that it shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations;

(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in … this resolution as soon as it determines that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board;

(c) that it shall, in the event that the report … [by the IAEA] … shows that Iran has not complied with this resolution, adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to persuade Iran to comply with this resolution and the requirements of the IAEA, and underlines that further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary.

The Security Council could continue with the current sanctions and set a new deadline with an explicit threat attached. What if it does so? What is likely to happen after that?

The Security Council could authorise additional and more punitive sanctions. What if it did this? What is likely to happen in this scenario?

And though unlikely at this stage, the Security Council could ultimately authorise action more punitive, more violent, than the use of sanctions. What if it does?

As we enter dialogue and together consider these questions, and in all likelihood the assumptions on which each of us base our answers to these questions, I hope we can look to the possibility of a positive outcome.

As we’ve been discussing the issues in Ceasefire and I’ve been keeping myself informed, learning what I can about the issues raised and considering everything constructive that I’ve come across during that time, I chanced upon some old Persian wisdom: “Epigrams succeed where epics fail.”  So what if we keep this in mind: People make peace.

What if a way could be found, with the help of any people who want to find a way, a way without war, a firm and fair way to have Iran take those steps needed for it to be taken off America's state-sponsors-of-terrorism list without anyone being wiped of any map?  What if we considered what Albert Einstein said about the menace of mass destruction?

"Most people go on living their everyday life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghastly tragi-comedy that is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world ... It would be different if the problem were not one of things made by Man himself, such as the atomic bomb ... It would be different, for instance, if an epidemic of bubonic plague were threatening the entire world.

In such a case, conscientious and expert persons would be brought together and they would work out an intelligent plan to combat the plague. After having reached agreement upon the right ways and means, they would submit their plan to the governments. Those would hardly raise serious objections but rather agree speedily on the measures to be taken ... They certainly would never think of trying to handle the matter in such a way that their own nation would be spared whereas the next one would be decimated. But could not our situation be compared to one of a menacing epidemic?

People are unable to view this situation in its true light, for their eyes are blinded by passion. General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man; as a result, intelligent, objective and humane thinking has hardly any effect and is even suspected and persecuted as unpatriotic."  

- Albert Einstein, 'The Menace of Mass Destruction', in Out of My Later Years.

What if we did compare our situation to one of a menacing epidemic? What if conscientious and expert, intelligent, objective and humane thinking persons were brought together to work out an intelligent plan to solve this problem?

I’ve been mulling over these questions. Most of all I’ve have in mind a couple prompted by a quote by John Ralston Saul  that Margo Kingston used to open the final chapter of Not Happy, John!  That quote is: “If we believe in democracy you have to believe in the power of the citizen – there is no such thing as abstract democracy.”

And the questions I mostly think about now are these: What if we, as the citizens of free democracies and the peoples seeking a democratic future, believed in our power? What if we exercised our real power, did not unthinkingly leave these problems entirely to the powers that be, and could work through our problems together? 

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Decision to close this thread

Hi. I've closed this thread, because there's too much old stuff happening and it's boring. Those interested in the topic of this thread are invited to submit a new piece, which includes an honest assessment of the key points of factual disagreement which have emerged in this very passionate and dramatic discussion.

The new piece will be edited by one person who the editors choose after considering nominations, if any.  

I remind readers of the first paragraph of Craig's piece:

"I have been mulling over a question or two. Make that a whole series of questions. They are '"What if ..." questions.  They are not messy and futile backward looking "What if ..." questions of the "toothpaste back into the tube" type. They are future focused, solution focused questions that ask what if we could do something, what if we did this or something like it or something else. What if we could work through a problem together?

The Nobel Women's Initiative

The Nobel Women's Initiative published an article in October outlining Shirin Ebadi's perspective on the current stand-off situation:

According to Dr. Ebadi, “The ratcheting up of US unilateral punitive measures against Iran will only make the situation for political reformists and human rights advocates in Iran a lot more difficult. The designations could also bring a backlash against Iranian citizens working for human rights, undermining our efforts for democracy and reform in our country. The Iranian government must respect international law, UN resolutions and human rights, but US policies that encourage isolation will only play directly into the hands of those who want isolation in Iran. The improvement of the situation of democracy and human rights in Iran can only take place when there is peace."

It also outlined Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire's perspective:

"This is dangerous rhetoric and action coming from the US administration, and it serves no good purpose other that to inflame the fear and isolation of Iran, when the obvious and only real road is dialogue and negotiations. We witnessed similar rhetoric and actions by USA administration before its illegal occupation and invasion of Iraq. This time, the international community must stand united against such negative politics of enmity and war."

And 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams' perspective:

“What we are calling for is quite simple: a nonviolent resolution of the standoff between the U.S. and Iran ... These new measures by the Bush administration could lead to a tit-for-tat escalation resulting in military confrontation. We do not want to see another Iraq and more disruption in the volatile and fragile Middle East. We do not want to see more suffering among women and children in another Middle Eastern country. We demand the Bush administration engage in a serious and sustained diplomatic initiative with Iran without preconditions. The US has engaged in successful dialogue with North Korea, another of the "axis of evil," over its nuclear weapons. There is no reason that it cannot do the same with Iran over its nuclear program.”

Rubbish

Paul Morrella, you are completely wrong to claim you can read my mind and somehow know what I did or did not know before sharing a link to Stern's research and I'm not interested in your line by line reply routine, so please don't address your comments to me again. From this point onward I'll not be responding to them (though I'll reserve the right to contact Margo about any comments by you which I believe are in breach of the Editorial Policy).

A Good Nerve Calming World Citizen

Craig Rowley

Paul Morrella, I thought you might come back to try and attack me on this thread before long.

The problem with this is that there wasn't any attack.

And I've got to tell you, Paul, you really should reconsider you propensity to speculate about what is "unwittingly given" and so on.

You have unwittingly given the answer to Iran's problems - or at least I hope you have. Given that you have never advocated that particular solution the alternative word to unwittingly is not a happy word.

Also, in your comments directed toward Bob Wall you appear to have completely overlooked the recent statements by the Iranian President that he does not expect the US or Israel to attack Iran.

Given I have assured all that no such attack will take place I' am not sure how you could think that.

Bob Wall had this to say:

"We persevere in the hope that a better way is found than yet another resort to military action."

Merely pointing out to Bob that there is no need to persevere; hope has been found. Reading your above statement should further calm those tense nerves.

IAEA Assurances re Undeclared Nuclear Material

The statement that the IAEA is “unable to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities” which is presently true for Iran, is also true (as at end of 2006) for 42 other states including Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. That's made clear in the IAEA's Safeguards Statement for 2006.

The Attack Back On?

Craig Rowley, you have unwittingly given the answer to Iran's (as in Iranian people) problems in one of your links

Because Iran's government relies on monopoly proceeds from oil exports for most revenue, it could become politically vulnerable if exports decline.

In the event of a probable world recession not only will the export decline so will the Iranian government.

Bob Wall: "We persevere in the hope that a better way is found than yet another resort to military action."

The Iranian leadership might consider this statement a fraction preemptive. Attack talk generally kicks in around 80 a barrel - I am convinced the Iranian President dude owns a stake in Exxon.

Re: The Attack Back On?

Paul Morrella, I thought you might come back to try and attack me on this thread before long.

I don't know how you've came to form the view that you can read the minds of other people, but I do know you've made several claims on Webdiary over time demonstrating that you think you can.

And I've got to tell you, Paul, you really should reconsider your propensity to speculate about what is "unwittingly given" and so on.

Reality is you've no "mind-reading" powers, Paul, and in this instance you are completely wrong about what I knew before providing that link to Stern's research.

Also, in your comments directed toward Bob Wall you appear to have completely overlooked the recent statements by the Iranian President that he does not expect the US or Israel to attack Iran. But then overlooking statements like that is pretty convenient when you're trying to pretend that he's talking up the risk of attack to increase crude oil prices, isn't it?

Good international citizens.

Jenny Hume: "And such does not inspire confidence in the regime as being one of a responsible internationall citizen."

Are there any states you would like to propose as exemplars of being good international citizens?

What's with Wurmser and other warmongers?

Surveying the various viewpoints on the Annapolis conference I've found that some see the renewed peace push as a means toward limiting Iran's influence (I tend to agree), whilst others (e.g. Cheney's man David Wurmser) are framing it as "a gift to the Islamic Republic's plan for regional domination" and doing their damndest to undermine a negotiated path to peace.

undeclared activities for almost two decades

 Bill Avent: "Chilling to the bone, watching footage of those bombs raining down from the sky."

Bill, I was wondering if you would like to comment on the following two paragraph's from the Report from the International Atomeic Energy Agency's Director General to the Board of Governors regarding the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747
(2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

These will be of interest to other Webdiarists, too, I am sure.

Paragraph 40.

Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. Iran has also continued the construction of the IR-40 and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant.

Paragraph 43.

Although the Agency has no concrete information, other than that addressed through the work plan, about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without full
implementation of the Additional Protocol. This is especially important in the light of Iran’s undeclared activities for almost two decades and the need to restore confidence in the exclusively
peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

Two decades. How long should it go on?

A suitable case for treatment.

Bomb Harvest has certainly gained the attention of some of us, and deservedly so. Thanks to Craig for the link and I agree that Laith Stevens certainly deserves recognition for his work. Bill, that pre-bombing mission prayer scene certainly hit me - "humble servants" with their gift of liberty through B52s and their payloads - 'the gift that keeps on taking".

To madness and with an oft found coincidence a couple of articles that can be linked to the matter. One is an example of delusion in action - featuring none other than the Crawford Caligula.

Also, Bush said Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calling the Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Annapolis, Md., a failure shows the leader's true colors.

"This is a man who doesn't believe in democracy, freedom and peace," Bush said.

There is something seriously amiss in the CC saying this. The second comment following the story details this for those who do not know. The worry us that CC might actually believe what he says. 

War on the Couch - Stephen Soldz

Curt Guyette and W. Kim Heron - Bombs Away. An interview with Scott Ritter. In their opening comments they refer to a piece by John H Richardson - it can be found in a post of mine on 19th October, this thread, for those who missed it. Or easier still.

On Annapolis - Kaveh L Afrasiabi Israel's nukes missing from the table.

Laura Rozen - The Elephant in Annapolis' Living Room.

Further thanks to Craig for providing the IAEA reports. Not that the crazies and their supporters care much about evidence, or reality. Or broken, charred and mutilated bodies.

Let's talk

Scott Peterson, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor reports today that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi are among several key Iranian public figures saying that only direct, unconditional talks with the US can ease spiraling tensions:

"The solution is for both sides to resort to logic, refrain from provocative rhetoric, and put the emphasis on negotiations," Khatami told the Monitor.

 

"We have no choice but to overcome misunderstandings that mostly stem from the meddling of the US [in the Middle East] and its wrong policies in Iran," said Khatami. "We can find common interests in the region and the world. And we can also avoid actions that would be damaging to both sides."

Failure could mean "things will get worse, a huge crisis will be created, and then it is not only Iran that would suffer," warns Khatami. "Our crisis-stricken region would also suffer greatly, and the US itself."

...

To counter militarism, Nobel laureate Ebadi called upon Iranians last week to join her in creating a broad-based National Peace Council.

 

"War will not solve any problem. Peace negotiations must start," Ebadi told the Monitor. Iran should "respect UN resolutions," including one that requires suspending enrichment. "If America offers to negotiate, Iran must accept."

"Attacking Iraq was beyond international rules, and [the US] should not make the same mistake regarding Iran," said Ebadi. "Both governments should change their dialogue, bring down their rhetoric and reduce tensions."

More on Ebadi's National Peace Council initiative has been reported by UNPO:
Ebadi, a Tehran-based human rights activist and lawyer, this week invited all Iranians to participate in the creation of the national body, saying the initiative emerged from a group of activist lawyers called the Center of Human Rights Defenders, which she co-founded.

 

The council is seen primarily as a discussion forum, but analysts say it has the potential to offer an alternative to the pro-confrontation policies of the current Iranian leadership.

Ebadi told Radio Farda's Niusha Boghrati that the council would include "individuals who are trusted by people." "The National Peace Council will discuss ways to decrease political and military tensions between Iran and the United States and Western countries," she said.

fruitlessness of war

"If you see it as irrelevant, why on earth did you bother posting it? You're not making sense."

Bill, It's irrelevant as to whether the bloke holding the flag is a soldier or activist, the truth in the message is what counts. Trying to find something to disparage the message is not the sign of a caring person, but one steeped in ideological dismissal of the reality behind the photo. My own personal experiences gave me the same type of feelings many times, as I observed the fruitlessness of war.

By the way, Alga,

[You] would see it as irrelevant as to who or why they are displaying the USA flag that way, or the message on it.

If you see it as irrelevant, why on earth did you bother posting it? You're not making sense.

Bob, Craig, Alga — Bombs

Yes, I've been watching it too. Mad. I couldn't help thinking what Alga's reaction might be to the pre-bombing raid prayers scene. Mad.

Chilling to the bone, watching footage of those bombs raining down from the sky.  Mad, bad bastards. On another thread I've been arguing that Americans are mad; others there find my comments objectionable, but are unable put forward an argument against the idea.

Now on that thread they're talking about their pet cats, and white ties, and shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings. Soon they'll be telling each other about how long their toenails are. Riveting.

Seeing the results.

Alga, your post appeared as I was watching Bomb Harvest - documentary on clearing unexploded ordnance in Laos so your comment about "seeing the results" hard a particularly graphic relevance. Decades later and people are still dying yet we have the spin , not only trying to justify the Iraq disaster, but for a new "adventure" against Iran.

Who can forget John McCain's "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran". How obscene. So we do what we can to look behind the spin and bring other material to people's notice. Here Craig, not unexpectedly, gave an example by providing material to expand on the Erlich piece I linked earlier. Not that similar material hasn't been linked previously - and ignored by some.

We persevere in the hope that a better way is found than yet another resort to military action - the gift that keeps on taking for decades.

Bomb Harvest

G'day Bob and Alga,  I was watching Bomb Harvest this evening as well and my first thought was: I hope that the straight-talking, laconic Australian bomb disposal specialist, Laith Stevens, is recognised when Australia Day honours are next awarded.

Back on the topic of this thread, I've been reading up on the legal opinions around on the matter of Iran's NPT compliance. 

One I found interesting was that of Michael Spies from the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy. Here's some of what he wrote in a May 2006 article:

In the ongoing debate regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, much has been made of the IAEA’s finding that it is not yet “in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran."  Depending on the perspective of the beholder, many different spins have been placed on this statement. Hawks in Washington take the position that the IAEA has not been able to confirm the absence of a military nuclear program in Iran after three years. More cautious observers state, at the very least, that this indicates Iran’s nuclear file has not been given a clean bill of health by the IAEA. Either way the implication, stronger or weaker depending on the observer, is that Iran must or might be hiding a weapons program.

But both these viewpoints are misleading. To find out why we must explore the nature of Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its related safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Spies then explains that critical to the Iran issue is the fact that the objective of the NPT mandated safeguards, as stated by its Safeguards Agreement, is limited to “the timely detection of diversion of … nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities” to unknown use or use in weapons. 

For each state implementing safeguards, the culmination of IAEA safeguard and verification procedures is an annual certification that no declared nuclear material has been diverted to military use.

In its November 2004 report, the IAEA was able to conclude that all nuclear materials declared by Iran had been accounted for and therefore none had been diverted to military purposes. The IAEA reached this same conclusion in September 2005, November 2006 and November 2007

The Iranians are not harvesting many bombs from their nuclear energy program so far then.

It's just an understanding of reality

I wonder though, about two things. What was the soldier's initial attitude when American forces started its current round of killing innocent people? Or is he not really a soldier, and the whole thing just anti-war propaganda?”

When your a volunteer or a conscript, your first understanding and obligation is to your job and those beside you. It's only when you see the results of your side's actions and the responses that you get the opportunity to question its veracity. I may question the war and the actions of the ideologies behind them, but never those who are bound to abide by their defined and accepted obligations and carry them out responsibly.

I would see it as irrelevant as to who or why they are displaying the USA flag that way, or the message on it. Nothing justifies the slaughter of innocent people unless your ideological desire is to be right at any cost.

Past, present and future.

Mohamed ElBaradei is the target of a great deal of criticism from certain quarters. Lawdy save us but there was once a move to have him replaced by Lord Downer of Baghdad! We might well have needed saving had that come to pass. So it is nice to find someone, in this case Renaud Girard of Le Figaro, give him a big tick.

Bow for the subject of my header - an excerpt from  Reese Erlich's The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and The Middle East Crisis.

The excerpt begins: 

 

Top Democratic and Republican leaders absolutely believe that Iran is planning to develop nuclear weapons. And one of their seemingly strongest arguments involves a process of deduction. Since Iran has so much oil, they argue, why develop nuclear power?

In an op-ed commentary former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote that "for a major oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources," a position later cited approvingly by the Bush administration.

But U.S. leaders are engaging in a massive case of collective amnesia, or perhaps more accurately, intentional misdirection. In the 1970s the United States encouraged Iran to develop nuclear power precisely because Iran will eventually run out of oil.

A declassified document from President Gerald Ford's administration, for which Kissinger was Secretary of State, supported Iran's push for nuclear power. The document noted that Tehran should "prepare against the time--about 15 years in the future--when Iranian oil production is expected to decline sharply."1 The United States ultimately planned to sell billions of dollars worth of nuclear reactors, spare parts and nuclear fuel to Iran.

The Shah even periodically hinted that he wanted Iran to build nuclear weapons. In June 1974, the Shah proclaimed that Iran would have nuclear weapons "without a doubt and sooner than one would think."2 Iranian embassy officials in France later denied the Shah made those remarks, and the Shah disowned them. But a few months later the Shah noted that Iran "has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons but if small states began building them, then Iran might have to reconsider its policy."3

If an Iranian leader made such statements today, the United States and Israel would denounce them as proof of nefarious intent. They might well threaten military action if Iran didn't immediately halt its nuclear buildup. At the time, however, the comments caused no ripples in Washington or Tel Aviv because the Shah was a staunch ally of both.

Highly recommended.

The Iranian petroleum crisis

G'day Bob,  Erlich's point of view is probably somewhat informed by research such as that completed by Roger Stern of The Johns Hopkins University:

The U.S. case against Iran is based on Iran's deceptions regarding nuclear weapons development. This case is buttressed by assertions that a state so petroleum-rich cannot need nuclear power to preserve exports, as Iran claims. The U.S. infers, therefore, that Iran's entire nuclear technology program must pertain to weapons development. However, some industry analysts project an Irani oil export decline [e.g., Clark JR (2005) Oil Gas J 103(18):34–39]. If such a decline is occurring, Iran's claim to need nuclear power could be genuine. Because Iran's government relies on monopoly proceeds from oil exports for most revenue, it could become politically vulnerable if exports decline.

Flagging Enthusiasm

I agree with Bob Wall — nice one, Alga. Great photo, worth saving.

The flag upside-down is a nice touch. Internationally recognised sign of distress.

I wonder though, about two things. What was the soldier's initial attitude when American forces started its current round of killing innocent people? Or is he not really a soldier, and the whole thing just anti-war propaganda?

Either way, it is powerfully effective.

On the record

Angela Ryan: "There have been many who equate the Iranian threat as one to Israel."

They include the President and Supreme Leader of Iran, judging by their various public statements on the matter.

The record

Obviously, some PNAC/AIPAC aligned propagandists would like everyone to think that Iran is in non-compliance with its treaty obligations under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Some of them are trying to make out that Iran is using its nuclear energy program to help covertly develop nuclear weapons, which, if it were true, would be in violation of Article II of the NPT.

Others couch their false claims in terms that imply Iran has already developed and stockpiled WMD and is thus an imminent threat to other nations in the region.

Anyone observing the history of the stand-off over these past few years can see how PNAC aligned propagandists have increased efforts to pump-out their propaganda every time the Iran case has been scheduled for review by the UNSC. The UNSC decisions on the Iran case bring the topic into the mainstream news and those interested in misrepresenting the situation try to make the most of the opportunity to push their message out to people who've not much other information on the topic.

Contrary to those claims by PNAC/AIPAC aligned propagandists, the fact is that at no point has the IAEA declared Iran in breach of the NPT.

As I've said before, there is much reason to be critical of the clerical regime in Iran, but the truth remains that Iran is not known to possess weapons of mass destruction, and has signed treaties repudiating possession of them, including the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the NPT. The Iranian government asserts that its enrichment program is part of a civilian nuclear energy program, and such a program is permitted under Article IV of the NPT. According to the IAEA, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, or even weapons-grade uranium.

Spin and bombies

Craig Rowley: "The Iranian government asserts that its enrichment program is part of a civilian nuclear energy program, and such a program is permitted under Article IV of the NPT. According to the IAEA, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, or even weapons-grade uranium."

Does not have currently in no way means that it does not intend to have. That is the issue. And if there is no intention, why all the secrecy? Countries only become secretive on issues like this when they have something to hide. Or they are playing dangerous games, like the late unlamented Saddam Hussein. Clearly the UN is highly suspicious and would not talk sanctions without good grounds for suspicion.

So should it bother the world if the Iranian regime does have the intention to acquire, and ultimately announces it now does have nuclear weapons? 

There are two choices here. Let them proceed and get the blasted bomb and hope they will never use it. Or try and stop them.  

Now I may have misunderstand the bit I saw on the SBS program on Iran the other night which seemed to be saying that the militants from here and there were being invited to Iran to discuss how to undermine the new peace initiative between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As I only caught part of the program I am prepared to be corrected on this. But if it is in fact true, and given resolution of the Israel/ Palestine issue is seen as crucial to a stable ME, then what is Iran up to here? Just spin? I doubt it. And such does not inspire confidence in the regime as being one of a responsible internationall citizen. Quite the opposite in fact.

On the Bomb issue in Laos. In my view the US should be sending in hundreds of teams for how ever long it takes to clear as many of the things off the country as possible. And while they are there they might like to fund some decent prostheses limbs for those affected.

And the images of those kids heading out with their hoes and shovels and digging at bombies, swiming next to them, and handing the bomblets around should be beamed into every American home. The US needs pressure put on it over this. Is Kevin Rudd interested, I wonder?  Probably not.

I must say to have three sons in the bomb disposal game would disturb any mother's comfort zone. Got to admire the mother, and the sons.

Talking about talking and falling chips.

Nice one, Alga.

While we wait for constructive responses (again) for the proposals for a nuclear free ME and a reciprocal agreement between Iran and Israel, we can turn out attention to the heralded Annapolis conference. I have previously linked some material about why people thought it would not prove productive before the event, today I am linking material after the event.

Democracy!Now. (Second segment is an interview with Naomi Wolf, no transcript at tome of writing)

Ira Chernus

Rob Kall. 

Jeff Halper.

Mohammed Khatib - on conditions in the West Bank. 

On Iran agendas - Ismael Hossein-zadeh Distorting Fascism to Demonize Iran.

Gareth Porter - White House squabble on releasing Iranians.

On proliferation, Tom Engelhardt presents Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz on A Q Khan.

In this article Paul Craig Roberts writes:

By focusing America on war in the Middle East, the purpose of which is to guarantee Israel’s territorial expansion, the executive and legislative branches, along with the media, have let slip the last opportunities the US had to put its financial house in order.  We have arrived at the point where it is no longer bold to say that nothing now can be done.  Unless the rest of the world decides to underwrite our economic rescue, the chips will fall where they may.

Amid all the agendas that bode ill, could that be the breaker? Will the result be for the better or worse?

One picture is worth...

This says it all from the US Army.

Everyone will need to join the NPT

Of course, the practical implementation of a nuclear-weapon free zone will become possible only when all countries in the region, including Israel, join the NPT and subject their activities to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

What is the reason the Israeli government gives for its exceptionality on nuclear non-proliferation?

Nothing Exceptional

Survival.

No other means available?

How exactly does Israel’s status as a nonsignatory to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ensure survival?

And, do you think there are no other means for Israeli governments to ensure the survival of the State of Israel than to continue to refuse to join the NPT? 

Other Means

Craig: How exactly does Israel’s status as a nonsignatory to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ensure survival?

It doesn't. I never suggested it did.

And, do you think there are no other means for Israeli governments to ensure the survival of the State of Israel than to continue to refuse to join the NPT?

Of course. "Refusing" to join the NPT is the least of it. Iran is a signatory of the NPT. Confidence factor? Zero.

Without in any way suggesting Israel has or does not have a nuclear weapon deterrent I note that all informed sources state that work on the Dimona nuclear facility began in 1958, the plant was commissioned by about 1960, and Israel was producing whatever it and its allies intended it to produce by the mid-sixties.

Well before the NPT of 1970.

Looking to the future

Geoff, looking forward and keeping a focus on finding a solution to the stand-off, do you think Israeli government decisions to remain outside the NPT help or hinder achievement of a Middle East nuclear-weapon free zone (MENWFZ)?

In The Long Term We Are All Dead

Hinder.

Iran is inside the NPT. How has that helped achieve a MENWFZ? And is MENWFZ, alone, a sufficent objective, even if it could be achieved by Israel unilaterally disarming this type of weapon? (Assuming, if we must, Israel has anything to disarm.) What about other forms of what were once known as "unconventional" weapons? And why just the ME? What about Pakistan? Does Israel really have nothing to fear from the Islam Bomb?  And therefore what about India? And therefore China? And therefore ...?

My opinion?

If Israel signed the NPT then Israel, unlike Iran, would comply. If that means anything at, it means unilateral disarmament, and the surrender of its most effective deterrent.

This will not lead to Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons program irrespective of whether it leads to Iran signing another piece of paper for it ignore. In fact Iran would be encouraged. It would regard this as a major defeat for Israel and a big step towards its ultimate objective of bleeding the Zionist Entity to death, one way or another.

Moreover we should  not overlook that this is not all about Israel. Iran also has other fish to fry. So to speak. Nor is it only about Iran. Israel has other places to surveil and deter.

shaaauuut up everyone, a change of wind gives hope

There have been many who equate the Iranian threat as one to Israel. Is this so? Should this be so? Is it possible there is a double game of very high stakes here?

Perhaps Iran is a natural ally of Israel. Geoff would choke at this, yet does he know his Zionist history and theory? What did Ben Gurion, the strategist of Israel’s security immediately and in the long term, think?

One should, if one is a Zionist and not just stupid (as Odon calls so many who do not think themselves and are just sold the line to speak) really pause and think carefully about whether promoting the war hawks' line about military threat and need for action is indeed in Israel's best interest. It is certainly in the best interest of certain persons in the USA, some of which find Israel both a burden and a threat and long term not what they want it to be ... Imagine if such a problem can disappear by the hand of another, another enemy and at the same time reinforce the Holocaust line and claim reparations for ever from that oil nation. How Machiavellian. The "priest" would be proud. But such things are only found in books aren’t they...? Why would anyone promote war against a fully armed neighbour? It is highly dangerous to those on the ground. But not elsewhere in the realm.

Personally I try to think things out in principles and disregard who is gaining or losing, for surely otherwise a principle is only something to be used for merely propaganda. This is supposedly what justice and law is about, but there seems to be so little of it in reality. That doesn’t mean we cannot strive to uphold and demand it. Or we live a lie ourselves.

The idea of Iran with an A-P-H-bomb is the fear spin and it needs to be considered as a possibility. What did David Ben Gurion say about Iran (I think Bob already linked this)?

Well, an Israeli has it down:


"... It is highly unpleasant to think about a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands (and, indeed, in any hands.) I hope it can be avoided by offering inducements and/or imposing sanctions. But even if this does not succeed, it would not be the end of the world, nor the end of Israel. In this area, more than in any other, Israel's deterrent power is immense. Even Ahmadinejad will not risk an exchange of queens - the destruction of Iran for the destruction of Israel.

Napoleon said that to understand a country's policy, one has only to look at the map.

If we do this, we shall see that there is no objective reason for war between Israel and Iran. On the contrary, for a long time it was believed in Jerusalem that the two countries were natural allies.

David Ben-Gurion advocated an "alliance of the periphery". He was convinced that the entire Arab world is the natural enemy of Israel, and that, therefore, allies should be sought on the fringes of the Arab world - Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, Chad et cetera. (He also looked for allies inside the Arab world - communities that are not Sunni-Arab, such as the Maronites, the Copts, the Kurds, the Shiites and others.)

At the time of the Shah, very close connections existed between Iran and Israel, some positive, some negative, some outright sinister. The Shah helped to build a pipeline from Eilat to Askelon, in order to transport Iranian oil to the Mediterranean, bypassing the Suez Canal. The Israel internal secret service (Shabak) trained its notorious Iranian counterpart (Savak). Israelis and Iranians acted together in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping the Kurds against their Sunni-Arab oppressors.

The Khomeini revolution did not, in the beginning, put an end to this alliance, it only drove it underground. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel supplied Iran with arms, on the assumption that anyone fighting Arabs is our friend. At the same time, the Americans supplied arms to Saddam Hussein - one of the rare instances of a clear divergence between Washington and Jerusalem. This was bridged in the Iran-Contra Affair, when the Americans helped Israel to sell arms to the Ayatollahs.

Today, an ideological struggle is raging between the two countries, but it is mainly fought out on the rhetorical and demagogical level. I dare to say that Ahmadinejad doesn't give a fig for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he only uses it to make friends in the Arab world. If I were a Palestinian, I would not rely on it. Sooner or later, geography will tell and Israeli-Iranian relations will return to what they were - hopefully on a far more positive basis.

One thing I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war against Iran will come to regret it... "

I suspect he may be wrong about the oil as the pipelines are now re-routed, even though Haifa is no good as still in Hezbollah range. I think the main losers will be those in range.

Nothing so dangerous as a wounded tiger, or a lame duck president who still has a trigger in his reach, or a VP under threat of impeachment for many legitimate reasons, or a powerful lobby group who have lost touch of what they are lobbying for and are now under the microscope via both the spying scandal and the Sibel Edmunds scandal and another.

There is so much going on in the background, Hastert even quits ...... yay, cry the little boys of the White House, now we can have our phones back.

Still a lot to do and 2008 brings another five year plan. Realms are like that. Yet, such are often short drizzles in the long sands of time. Live by the sword ,die by the bankruptcy. The US people will rue the day the MIC controlled and apparently even the Council of Europeans is unhappy at present. I wonder if people notice the rats leaving a sinking ship.

And a little local issue, did you notice how many times "great prime minister" was the label given for Howard by those talking of him? The subtle spin, it shall be heard repeatedly .

But above all, we must repeat, that Mr Howard was a great prime minister. Really, Crapper, er I mean Crokker, where do they get that rubbish?

Howard was a deceitful war criminal and I hope to see him in The Hague soon. That is one of the justice issues I mentioned earlier. Justice unto those who conspire to wage wars of aggression be they tigers, poodles or rodents or "fascists".

As my American visitor says: SHAAUUTUP! (translation, 'way to go", pity the "King " Carlos didn’t make it clear to Chavez). To start with the Howard actions would send an enormous message to the world of potential warmongering stooges .

C'mon, who dares go down in legal history ? Wendy Bacon has a job despite her outspokenness. Makes ya want to do an international law course yourself. We have signed the ICJ, all we need is the case. Janet can go to if she wants. And her handbag. And some who were in the PM office ... imagine if John turned state evidence, whooh, brown fans everywhere.

And on that note, let us hope we feel a real change of wind and balance and not just see more unpleasant gas. Five senses,12 …

I do so much hope we are all wrong and Christmas is peaceful and happy for as many as possible. Too bad about Bethlehem, even World Vision pulled out of there.

Cheers

Other Means

What about France? And Britain?

If France believes it needs the Force de Frappe to ensure its national security then how much stronger is Israel's case?

Answers to the questions?

What are your answers to my questions, Geoff?

My answers to your questions are:

1. France is an NPT signatory. The United Kingdom is an NPT signatory. Both need to do more to live up to Article VI.

2. Israel's case for having WMD is at least weak as France's case, perhaps weaker.

A nuclear-weapon free zone?

Perhaps security guarantees for Iran and Israel and other nations could be negotiated as part of a broader multilateral negotiation effort aimed at developing a cooperative approach to regional security and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East.

I have an idea!

Craig Rowley says:

"We could discuss the merits of the idea that the United States, as the most powerful actor in this situation, is in the best position to create an atmosphere for successful conflict resolution by offering security assurances that it will not attack Iran."

Perhaps if Iran offered Israel a security assurance?

 Richard:  As part of a reciprocal treaty, Eliot?
 

What if Eliot could "have a go" ....

... in the sense you meant, Margo?

Whilst with that "something tried and true" he's demonstrated that he's not keen to "have a go" at constructive participation in a conversation about solutions to the stand-off leading to threat reduction for all involved, perhaps you could try to encourage him one more time to use that intellect on something better than the tired old "remorseless ridicule" routine.

I did have some hope he could do more than the old routine when he'd recommended to Jenny Hume that she read Amin Maalouf's In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

And whilst now it seems that he's turning Maalouf's message  I'm reasonably sure it's just that obsession with Schadenfreude getting in the way. If it were not, then I suppose we could "have a go" at a beneficial conversation about how to reduce the potential for the stand-off to become violent conflict and thus avoid the catastrophic consequences that would result.

So, what if you ask him to drop targeting of others on Webdiary with his "remorseless ridicule" routines and suggest he go satisfy his expressed desire to get off on Schadenfreude somewhere else?

Perhaps he'd take heed and it would then become possible for us to discuss strategies for reducing tension and preventing violence.

We could discuss the options available other than the current coercive diplomacy approach and the other option that the Bush administration keeps reminding everyone is "on the table" (military action).

We could discuss the merits of the idea that the United States, as the most powerful actor in this situation, is in the best position to create an atmosphere for successful conflict resolution by offering security assurances that it will not attack Iran. I think this would be taking the initiative to reduce tension quickly and could initiate a series of de-escalatory, confidence-building measures designed to create an atmosphere conducive to further dialogue.

We could discuss the merits of the idea that the U.S. can dramatically reduce tension by recalling the carrier groups dispatched to the Persian Gulf and thereby initiate a cycle of reciprocated de-escalation.

We could discuss the merits of the idea that influential members of the U.S. and Iranian communities should enter into confidential "track two" dialogues, assisted by non-partisan facilitators to define the major underlying issues and establish the type of process that has helped resolve or prevent violent conflicts in dozens of other situations.

David C: Hi Craig.  Alternatively, you could just ignore Eliot, and anybody else you think is being deliberately unhelpful.  Deliberate baiting is not published, by the way - although I'm sure we miss stuff occasionally.

inwardly corrupt and decadent

Craig Rowley: "What, exactly, this 'new idea' involves, has not yet been fully revealed."

They're probably still working out how to ensure it will fail.

Margo: "OK, Eliot, over to you for new rhetoric! You are very intelligent. Have a go, mate..."

Okay. I'm thinking perhaps something tried and true.

Some statement in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Pizza can portray themselves as genuine champions of the oppressed, perhaps struggling against US Imperialism or in order to defend truth, justice and express the authentic values of their particular world view.

Something that states succinctly the transcending moral and cultural superiority of their Persian heritage and puts the American model firmly in its place as decadent, failing and vulgar.

How about this?

"Money making is the one aim in life [of Americans]. The men make money to live luxuriously and over-educate their wives and daughters who are allowed to talk too much. Their lack of real culture is betrayed by their love of jazz music....Americans are still untamed since the wild pioneer days. Hold-ups, assassinations, kidnappings, gangs, bribery, corruption and lynching of Negroes are still practised. Graft in politics and commerce, labour and athletics is rampant. Sex relations have deteriorated with the development of motor cars, divorce is rife...America has its strong points, such as science, invention and other creative activities...[but while] outwardly civilised it is inwardly corrupt and decadent.'"

Okay, it sounds a bit like Richard Neville or Harold Pinter, and not unlike much of the stuff coming out of the non-aligned movement today.

It's actually from a Japanese propaganda pamphlet dating from World War Two as quoted in The Issue of War, Christopher Thorne, Oxford 1985, p 124.

New Idea

Deutsche Presse-Agentur have reported that Iran is working on the 'completion of a new idea' for settling the dispute over its nuclear programme.

"The new idea is currently discussed and to be completed and presented at the next round of talks with (European Union foreign policy chief Javier) Solana," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday.

What, exactly, this 'new idea' involves, has not yet been fully revealed. Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili will meet Solana in London this coming Saturday, so we might know what it is by next week. What is known is that Hosseini is also reported to have recently said, "Tehran is ready to consider and study different ideas within the NPT framework."

It's possible the 'new idea' is something that fits with Javier Solana's recent comment:

Only a multilateral solution can make it possible to end this crisis ... The idea of international enrichment centres under multilateral supervision has been discussed for some time. Let us therefore try to deepen it.

A peace conference. Really?

Continuing the theme of the Annapolis conference on the Israel/Palestine issue - little hope bit perhaps about something else.

Stephen Zunes.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi

The CSM

Phyllis Bennis on DemocracyNow!

Sincerity?

And.

Marjorie Cohn on resisting the push for attacks against Iran.

Whither America?

Paul Craig Roberts.

Chris Hedges.

Naomi Wolf.

Enjoy.

New rhetoric needed

Craig Rowley, so have the failed predictions of "imminent attack" been consciously re-packaged as "regime change plans"?

Or was that just a Freudean slip?

Margo: OK, Eliot, over to you for new rhetoric! You are very intelligent. Have a go, mate...

He'd like you to believe it's imminent; it just ain't so

The IAEA reports that it "has no concrete information about possible undeclared nuclear material or weaponization activities in Iran" (though it is still following up info that came from a MEK affiliated group), and most Neocon/Likudnik propagandists appear to have taken the hint and have moved on to focus on promoting their other excuses for implementing their regime change plans.

One, however, continues trying to promote the idea of some imminent threat to the very existence of Israel, ignoring ample opportunity to join discussion on workable (non-military) solutions to the stand-off, solutions that could lead to threat reduction for everyone.

You have to wonder why.

They're building a bomb

The reality is, and it's about time we all faced up to it, is that Iran is building not only a bomb, but long range missile capability to deliver that bomb. And it's getting help from North Korea

If Iran was just building peaceful nuclear energy infrastructure for when its oil runs out (ha ha), then:

  • Israel wouldn't care less
  • Iran wouldn't have to keep the IAEA at arms length all the time

Also, Iran's apologists wouldn't have to keep on announcing "imminent attacks" by the USA and Israel to justify the overall climate of non-cooperation by Iran

Because why would they bother attacking?

Oh, that's right. To get oil. That's "running out".

The reality

This is what ElBaradei really reported to the IAEA Board of Governors:

The report before you provides an update on the implementation of Agency safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran. As you know, the Agency has so far not been able to verify some important aspects of Iran´s nuclear programme: those relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s centrifuge enrichment activities, as well as those relevant to alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications. Iran´s past undeclared nuclear activities, together with these verification issues, resulted in the Agency´s inability to make progress in providing assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and created a confidence deficit about the nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. This prompted the Security Council to adopt a number of resolutions calling on Iran to clarify these outstanding verification issues, and to undertake simultaneously confidence building measures, including the implementation of the additional protocol and the suspension of uranium enrichment activities.

See how that first part was a backgrounder, using past tense in the language and summarising the history of the stand-off. Now, let's look at what he said about the current situation:

The work plan agreed by the Secretariat and Iran in August, in which Iran has finally committed itself to address the outstanding issues relevant to its nuclear activities, is proceeding according to schedule. The report outlines, inter alia, our progress to date.

As the report makes clear, as regards the first outstanding issue - the scope and nature of Iran´s centrifuge enrichment activities - there has been good progress in connection with the verification of Iran´s past acquisition of P-1 and P-2 centrifuge enrichment technologies. The Agency has concluded that the information provided by Iran in that regard is consistent with the Agency´s own investigation. However, as in all verification cases, the Agency will continue to seek corroboration of this conclusion as we continue to verify the completeness of Iran´s declarations concerning its nuclear material and activities, and as we investigate the remaining outstanding issues - namely, the uranium particle contamination at a technical university, as well as the alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications. In accordance with the work plan, this will take place over the next several weeks. I would note that Iran has provided the Agency with a copy of the 15-page document on uranium metal, which the Agency is currently examining. The Agency is also continuing to work on arrangements to make copies of the alleged studies available to Iran.

Our progress over the past two months has been made possible by an increased level of cooperation on the part of Iran, in accordance with the work plan. However, I would urge Iran to be more proactive in providing information, and in accelerating the pace of this cooperation, in order for the Agency to be able to clarify all major remaining outstanding issues by the end of the year.

With regard to Iran´s current nuclear activities, we have been able to verify the non-diversion of all declared nuclear material. We also have in place a safeguards approach for the Natanz facility that enables us to credibly verify all enrichment activities there.

However, as with all States that do not have an additional protocol in force, we are unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. This is especially crucial in the case of Iran, because of its history of undeclared activities, and the corresponding need to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. As the report indicates, the Agency´s knowledge about specific aspects of Iran´s current programme has diminished since 2006, when Iran ceased to provide the Agency with information under the additional protocol and additional transparency measures. This relates especially to current procurement, R&D and possible manufacturing of centrifuges. I urge Iran, therefore, to resume without delay the implementation of the additional protocol. The Agency needs to have maximum clarity not only about Iran´s past programme but, equally or more important, about the present. I should note, however, that the Agency has no concrete information about possible undeclared nuclear material or weaponization activities in Iran, other than the outstanding issues I have already mentioned.

Naturally, as we go through our own investigation of Iran´s past and present nuclear programme, I continue to urge Iran to take all the confidence building measures called for by the Security Council, including the suspension of enrichment related activities. This will be in the best interests of both Iran and the international community, and should facilitate the return by all parties to dialogue and negotiations. The earlier that negotiations are resumed, the better the prospects of defusing this crisis. It is only through such negotiations that a comprehensive and durable solution can be reached, and that confidence in the future direction of Iran´s nuclear programme can be built.

I've underlined certain key phrases that show how the spin presented by some is contrary to the actual content of this report. Naturally, I'd urge everyone interested in seeing workable solutions to the stand-off explored to ignore propaganda from the person who has been persistently promoting the pinkoslamic conspiracy line on this conversation thread.

UN watchdog kept in dark. Cuba pleased. Surprise, surprise...

The UN atomic watchdog said on Friday that it was in the dark about Iran's disputed nuclear programme, as its 35-member board seemed divided on how to get Tehran to shed more light on its activities.

Golly.. That's not the impression you'd get reading the stuff on this thread, is it? Anyway...

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "has so far not been able to verify some important aspects of Iran's nuclear programme," its director general Mohamed ElBaradei told a board meeting in Vienna.

He specifically cited key questions related to the scope and nature of Iran's centrifuge enrichment activities, "as well as those relevant to alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications".

As a result, the UN watchdog was "unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities," Mr ElBaradei complained.

The undeclared nuclear material comment relates to traces of the presence of weapons grade fissionable products.

"We're disappointed that cooperation by Iran is only partial and reactive," said French ambassador Francois-Xavier Deniau.

But not everyone was upset.

The so-called "non-aligned countries" (various failed Marxist and banana republic dictatorships mostly, headed by hereditary police state Cuba) described the progress shown by Iran so far as "a very positive step".

Iran is of course a close political ally of Cuban lackey Hugo Chavez.

Accidents can happen...

As we have noted previously, Craig, so if all these ships are close and... things could go bump in the night and then...

So some cooling off is required, if it is desired. The Iranian offer I linked earlier is worth considering. As was the 2003 offer, which the WH wasn't at all interested in.

Dilip Hiro says Time for Reality Check in Iran.

Chris Hedges says Hands Off Iran.

Gordon Prather - It's Still Pakistan, Stupid, looks at a puzzle.

A follow up to the McClellan statement about Plamegate - Robert Parry on a Bush family tradition.

Kerryn, it would be great if the matter was revivified and an Irises, Mark II was justified.

Risk on the rise again?

Time to reassess the risk of the stand-off turning into something more violent and dangerous.

Shipping and oil industry sources are saying the US military has stepped up chartering of tankers and requests for extra fuel in the US Central Command area (which includes the Persian Gulf).  Not just any fuel either; there have been increased orders for JP5, the high flashpoint jet fuel used to power F18 fighters.

It's probably just to facilitate another of show-of-power exercise, part of the Bush administration's gunboat / coercive diplomacy strategy, but such exercises do increase the risk of an error by one side or the other triggering a sequence we really don't want to see occur.

The Iranian regime is also acting in ways that increase the risk.  At a press conference in Tehran yesterday, Iranian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari, revealed that Iran plans to hold naval exercise in the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.

The exercise, named Etehad 86, is scheduled to be held in February. They are apparently designed to test the capacities reinforced by a new Iranian-made submarine that is scheduled to be launched next week.

A good day, in part.

G'day Angela, at least in some ways good, but as you note the clock does tick along. And more turmoil - the president of Lebanon has resigned.

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanon's political tumult intensified as President Emile Lahoud said the country is in a "state of emergency" and handed security powers to the army before he left office late Friday without a successor. The rival, pro-Western Cabinet rejected the declaration.

Lahoud's final announcement created new confusion in an already unsettled situation, which many Lebanese fear could explode into violence between supporters of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's Western-backed government and the pro-Syria opposition led by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

So, eyes wide open for what develops.

An offer from Iran:

VIENNA, Austria — Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that his country could suspend uranium enrichment if the United States and Western Europe agreed to acknowledge that its nuclear program was peaceful.

But Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said there was a "serious confidence gap" between his country and the United States and Western Europe and that he saw little point in trying to "build confidence" with an American administration that had none in his country.

"We don't trust the United States," he told McClatchy Newspapers after the IAEA Board of Governors finished its latest round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. "We could suspend nuclear enrichment. We did it before for two and half years. But it wasn't enough then, and wouldn't be enough now. We will not suspend enrichment again because there is no end to what the United States will demand."

Diplomats said Soltanieh's remarks reflected what he'd been saying in private. "Iran is willing to deal," one said. "But they've made it clear there would have to be a quid pro quo, and they don't believe that's possible." The diplomats said they couldn't be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Does the CC want to settle it peacefully?

Which is a good segue to your comments on the neocon cabal and pressures. M & W can be debated over specifics - as has been seen from material linked here - but the gist is, imo, correct. But as you note, there is a "right spin" - difficult to break through and even when not the result of direct pressure or design, it is accepted wisdom. And I use the word "wisdom" advisedly. I have had battles with media organisations over their repeating of material as if it were undisputed fact when it is no such thing.

The Israel/Palestine issue needs to be dealt with honestly as it is a key to any chance of calming tensions in the ME. There are other issues but while a grievance such as the I/P one (real or perceived) exists, it can be exploited.

As you mentioned Christianity, Chris Floyd has a piece that I think will be of interest - Praise the Lord and Pass the Ethnic Cleansing.

And also. I feel it's a Floyd kind of day.

And Floyd has now added a piece on the runt's fall. Too late for my other post. Here is the last paragraph:

Yes, John Howard has metaphorically bit the dust in a humiliating electoral defeat. But many thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died because of his lies, and Bush's lies, and Blair's lies (the latter always affirmed and supported by his successor, Gordon Brown). The dust these victims have bitten is not metaphorical -- it is the dirt of the grave. And electoral humiliation is the very least of the punishments that should be heaped upon John Howard and his partners in mass murder.

Come on Kevin, begin the proceedings asap. We can dream.

Begins with "H"

A couple of articles about the US and its nuclear policy:

Tad Daley - America's Shocking Nuclear Hypocrisy.

Khodi Akhavi - The Nuclear Cowboys

On the Iran issue, Leon Hadar - Look Who's Downplaying Iran's Nuclear Threat.

And there is an Israeli-Palestinian summit coming up in Annapolis ... some are working to undermine it.

Uri Avnery thinks it is an unfunny joke.

An interview with Norman Finkelstein.

And back to the core - Ilan Pappe talks about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. 4 10 minute videos.

So when some people make allegations against others and given their record, there is a word ... Hint: you'll find it in the title of the first link.

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