Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U.S. Congress Pushes Ahead with New Sanctions on Iran - UPDATE

The U.S. Congress pushed ahead today with a new package of sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s energy, shipping and financial sectors in an attempt to force Iran change its nuclear policy. The new bill would impose sanctions on anyone who:
  • Works with Iran's petroleum, petrochemical or natural gas sector;
  • Helps the country’s oil and gas industry by providing goods, services, technology or infrastructure;
  • Insures or reinsures investments in Iran’s oil sector;
  • Helps Iran avoid sanctions through reflagging its vessels;
  • Sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Iran,
  • Provides insurance to state-owned National Iranian Tanker Co.,
  • Mines uranium with Iran.
The bill also penalizes anyone, including foreign government agencies, who assist the IRGC. It also denies visa and freeze assets of individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used against its citizens, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and surveillance equipment.

The bill requires companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill this week before their August recess. 

UPDATE: U.S. House of Representative by a vote of 421-6 passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act. Parts of the bill dealing with Iran impose toughest sanctions to date on the country.

Everyone Warns Barak, but ‘Mister Security’ Minds His Business

The matter of attacking Iran has yet to be decided. However, Ehud Barak is portrayed in this context as a source pushing to the move opposed by most of the heads of the security establishment.”

Everyone Warns Barak, but ‘Mister Security’ Minds His Business

An Israeli perspective by Ben Caspit (Ma’ariv)
Translated by Viktoria Lymar (IranEdge)

Republished with permission from IranEdge.com
Photo Credit: IranEdge.com

Sanctions on Iran Oil “Ridiculous” - Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today in Tehran that Western sanctions on country’s oil sector are “ridiculous.”

"It's very funny. They (the West) use oil as a political weapon against a country that is an oil producer itself," Ahmadinejad said. "This is among the most ridiculous behaviors."

"The ones that need oil use what they need as a tool to pressure (others)," Ahmadinejad said. "It takes a lot of insolence to be like that,” he added. He also said sanctions were "political warfare.” (IRNA, 31 July)

Ahmadinejad said Iran needed to concentrate on producing and selling oil products, instead of selling crude oil.  

Panetta Says Diplomacy and Economic Pressure On Iran Are Working

A Tacit Message to Israel Not to Move Ahead With Military Strike

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today economic sanctions against Iran are increasingly effective and urged that diplomacy and economic pressure be given more time to work. The Secretary’s comments are considered a tacit message to the Israelis not to move ahead with a military strike on Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called the sanctions useless. Panetta’s comments seemed to be a response to Netanyahu.

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran,” Panetta said. “While the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment,” the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they “continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” Panetta added.  “What we all need to do is continue the pressure on Iran.” (New York Times, 30 July)
Secretary Panetta will be in Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

U.S. Presented Netanyahu with Contingency Plan to Strike Iran - Haaretz

Israel’s daily Haaretz reported Sunday that U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon has briefed Israel on U.S. contingency plans for an attack on Iran if sanctions fail to change Iran’s nuclear policies.

Haaretz said that Donilon laid out the plans before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's national security adviser Yaakov Amidror at a three-hour dinner during a visit to Jerusalem earlier this month. The information reportedly included the type of weapons that could be used for such an attack, and on the U.S. military's ability to reach Iranian nuclear facilities buried deep underground. (Haaretz, 29 July)

Japan Increases Imports of Iranian Oil in June

Iranian media reports that Japan increased its imports of Iranian oil by 60 percent in the month of June to an average of 170,000 bpd as compared to 106,162 bpd in May.

However, compared to the average volume of Japan's oil imports last year, the June figures of 170,000 bpd is a reduction of 33.9 percent in imports of Iranian crude by Japanese refineries.

Due to EU sanctions on insuring shipments of Iranian crude, the Japanese government is providing guarantees to ship owners that transfer Iranian oil.

File photo: A Japanese super tanker in Persian Gulf / Press TV

Iran Sentences Four to Death in Banking Scandal

Iran has sentenced four people to death for their roles in last-year’s billion-dollar banking fraud scandal. The embezzlement case, discovered in September 2011, revolved around forged documents allegedly used by the directors of an Iranian investment company to secure loans totaling $2.6 billion to buy state-owned enterprises. Thirty-nine people were tried for their involvement in the fraud.

"Four of the accused were sentenced to death," Prosecutor General Qolam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced. “Two others were sentenced to life imprisonment and others received sentences up to 25 years imprisonment.” (IRNA, 30 July).

Ejei did not name the individuals sentenced to death.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Khamenei Speaks Against An Oil-Based Economy

'We Have Fallen Into A Trap'

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today in Tehran that Iran has become addicted to selling crude oil and the time has come that the country voluntarily shut down some of its oil wells.

“Generating wealth through selling minerals like crude oil does not equate to (economic) development and growth. We are making fool of ourselves. We have fallen into a trap. We should confess and accept that this is a trap for our nation,” Ayatollah Khamenei said (IRNA, 29 July).

Ayatollah Khamenei’s pronouncements on the evils of an economy based on selling crude oil and the need to reduce the production come only after the recent sanctions against the country has cut the export of Iranian crude by half. The ayatollah did not explain why for the past 23 years when he has been the undisputed supreme leader of the country he did change the policies he railed against today. Interesting times it must be!

Between Two Wars

We’re talking a three- or four-dimensional structure, a Middle East style Rubik’s cube. Into this structure, Israel is dragging quite a few political complexities acquired over the recent years...
Campaign in the north which would include a ground move and a massive investment of air power is going to come at the expense of our ability to attack Iran. The home front, by the way, is not ready yet.”

An Israeli perspective by Ofer Shelah (Ma’ariv)
Translated by Viktoria Lymar (IranEdge)

Reprinted with permission from IranEdge.com
Photo Credit: IranEdge.com

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Iran to Import Chicken to Ease Public Concern

Iran’s Association of Meat Importers announced today that it has received directions from the government to import 10,000 tons of chicken and 30,000 tons of red meat by the end of the holy month of Ramadan (ending in the third week of August). The announcement was made to ease concerns over the astronomical rise in the price of chicken and red meat in the past few weeks. The price of chicken at 80,000 rials per kilogram has become a major problem for the government, with newspapers, cartoonists as well as ordinary people questioning and ridiculing government’s ability, or lack of, to manage day-to-day affairs of the country, especially after the recent severe sanctions went into effect.  

Iran Military Commander: Mossad Controls CIA and MI6; Israel Taking Control of the World

Iran's Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said in Tehran that Israel’s Mossad controls CIA and MI6. He also warned that the “Zionists” are attempting to dominate the world.

“Today all spying and intelligence services of the enemies of Islam are acting in unison, and evidence indicates that Mossad, as the intelligence agency for the Zionists, has taken control of CIA in the US and MI6 in Britain,” Gen. Firouzabadi said (IRNA, 28 July).

The Zionists plan to occupy all the Palestinian territories including al-Quds (Jerusalem), establish a government, and take control of the world at the same time,” Firouzabadi added.

Photo Credit: Major General Hassan Firouzabadi. IRNA 

Iran Stockpiling Food Supply

Iran’s ministry of commerce and industry said the country has begun to stockpile a three-month supply of foodstuffs. Deputy Minister Hassan Radmard said his ministry has been buying wheat, cooking oil, sugar and rice for the food reserve. (Mehr News Agency, 27 July)

Iran imports some 7.3 million tons of wheat, corn and rice a year (FAO). In the first half of 2012, it has already imported 3 million tons of wheat, and is now sourcing for additional 2 million tons for the second half of the year. (Reuters) 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Iran Willing to Continue Nuclear Talks - Velayati

Ali Akbar Velayati, the senior advisor for international affairs to Iran’s supreme leader and a former foreign minister, said today in Tehran that Iran is willing to continue nuclear talks with the major global powers to reach “a positive and constructive conclusion.” (ISNA, 27 July)

Velayati’s comments indicate the willingness at the senior level of the Iranian leadership to continue the contacts with the West. Iran could accept the recognition by the West of its rights to enrich uranium as the basis of a compromise, or as Velayati put it, “a positive and constructive conclusion” over its nuclear program.

Photo Credit: Ali Akbar Velayati. 2011 File photo by Getty Images

Iran Bolsters Retaliation Capability in Persian Gulf - Washington Post

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, the Washington Post reported today.

To read the article, please click here.

Iran Oil Exports Remain at 1 Million bpd

Iran is exporting an average of 1.084 million barrels per day of crude oil in July, little changed from 1.094 million bpd in June. Sales to China accounted for more than half of Iran’s oil exports, after China increased its imports to a record high (Reuters). Last year, Iran exported an average of 2.2 million bpd. 

Meanwhile, South Korea is reportedly ready to resume oil imports form Iran. The country halted shipments earlier this month because of European Union's ban on insuring tankers carrying Iranian crude and might now use Iranian tankers instead. The South Koreans did not disclose details on when the imports may start or the volumes involved. But they have said before that they want to stay within the limits allowed by U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, OPEC said today that  its reference crude oil basket rose to $101.47 a barrel on Thursday from $100.21 the previous day (Reuters). The basket includes 12 crudes from member countries, including Iran Heavy.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Majlis Holds Closed-Door Session on Economy

During a rare closed-door session of Majlis on Wednesday, top Iranian officials briefed lawmakers on the effects of sanctions on the country’s economy. The ministers of oil, economy, commerce and the director of the central bank addressed the session. The Iranian constitution allows closed-door sessions in urgent conditions affecting the country’s security. IRNA quoted Speaker Ali Larijani as saying the briefing was “to assess the economy and production situation.”
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said earlier this week that Western sanctions are not having much effect. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Iran in Talks with Syrian Opposition - FM

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said today in Tehran that Iran has been in contact with the Syrian opposition since last year and is ready to host a meeting between the opposition and the Assad government.

“We have been in contact with the opposition since last year and we are ready to host their dialogue with the Syrian government,” Salehi said. “The best way to resolve the Syrian issue is for the opposition to reach an agreement with the government,” he added. (IRNA)

Meanwhile, Iran’s defense ministry denied reports that Iran is planning to send troop s to Syria to help Assad, saying Syrian government and military can handle “terrorists.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Iran Nuclear Talks Held in Istanbul

Iran's deputy chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and Helga Schmid, the deputy for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, met today in Istanbul to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, in an attempt to identify common ground between Iran and the major global powers.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today that the debate with Iran remained unchanged. "Very objectively, the discussion is not advancing," Fabius said.

Iran Builds Its First Oil Tanker – Exports to Venezuela (2)

Photos of Iran's Aframax oil tanker in stages of development


Iran is in the process of launching its first domestically produced Aframax tanker constructed by the Iran Marine Industrial Co. (SADRA) at the Bushehr island shipyard. The current ship is reportedly 113-tons and will be  delivered to Venezuela in the following year.

In building the ship, Iran originally contracted Polish advisers in January 2008 but were eventually replaced by a South Korean engineering company, according to Iran's PressTV and other open sources.

Reza Abdolmajid, a SADRA spokesman, says the ship costs around 52 million Euros to manufacture; however Venezuela reportedly paid 110 million Euros for each of the four Aframax ships on order.

Abdolmajid went on to say that SADRA was currently working on two Aframax tankers concurrently and noted that they were 60 and 22 percent complete.

Photos: Mehr News Agency, Sadra and OSGEOINT

Israel Inner Cabinet Divided on Attack on Iran - Report

Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth is reporting that Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t have a majority in his eight-member “security cabinet” to launch an attack on Iran. The body, also referred to as the “inner cabinet,” needs to approve the attack, but is reportedly tied 4-4 on the issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are in favor of war.  Interior Minister Eli Yishai and ministers Moshe “Bugi” Ya’alon, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin are against.

Last week, opposition leader and former deputy PM Shaul Mofaz left the governing coalition reportedly for opposing Netanyahu’s plan to launch the attack. Yedioth report indicates that the prime minister does not have the high-level support of the remaining cabinet members either, at least for the time being. Some of the opponents mentioned above might not be opposed to an attack on Iran in principle, but might prefer to wait longer for the sanctions to take effect. 

Hisham Kandil Named Egypt PM

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi today named former irrigation minister Hisham Kandil as Egypt's new prime minister. Mr. Kandil, 50, holds a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of North Carolina. He is not a member of any political parties. Kandil was appointed minister of irrigation and water resources by then-prime Minister Esam Sharaf in July 2011, and was later asked by ex-Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri to continue in his post. Previously he served as the senior engineer for the Nile Basin Initiative at the African Development Bank. (ahramonline, 24 July)

On 15 July, Mr. Kandil travelled with President Morsi to the African Union summit in Ethiopia. The trip was seen as Morsi’s attempt to rekindle Cairo's relationship with its African neighbors after years of neglect under Mubarak.

Photo Credit: Hisham Kandil / Associated Press/NYT

Iran Builds Its First Oil Tanker – Exports to Venezuela

Iran launched its first domestically built oil tanker. The oil tanker was ordered by Venezuela, becoming the first Iranian ship to be exported.

“The production of the aframax ship is the first export shipbuilding activity of Iran, and we must continue by attracting more customers,” said Mehdi Etesam, managing director of Iran Maritime Industrial Company SADRA, the builder of the oil tanker. The tanker can carry up to 700,000 barrels of oil. (Fars News Agency, 24 July)

Iran Warns Arab Countries on Syria Intervention

IRGC Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the spokesman for Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Arab countries not to intervene in Syria, threating them with retaliation if they do.  Gen. Jazayeri said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has friends in the region poised to “strike out” at the “hated” Arab countries if they intervene. (Fars News Agency, 24 July)

Saudi Arabia and Qatar actively support the Syrian opposition. Iran is a key ally of Assad. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mofaz Hints at Netanyahu Plan to Attack Iran

Israel’s opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, who until last week served as deputy prime minister to Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a broad hint on Monday that the prime minister intends to launch a military strike against Iran, wrote David Horovitz, the editor of The Times of Israel, in his column today.

Mr. Mofaz, a former IDF chief of general staff and defense minister, led his Kadima party out of Israel’s governing coalition last week. The Times quotes Mofaz as wanting to have no part in “operational adventures” planned by Netanyahu.

“Kadima will not set out on operational adventures that will endanger the future of our young women and young men and the future of the citizens of Israel in the State of Israel,” Mofaz said. (The Times of Israel, 23 July)

Previously, it was thought that the Kadima Party had left the coalition because of disagreement with Likud over military service by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Photo Credit: Shaul Mofaz, right, and Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference on 8 May 2012 / Miriam Alster/Flash90/The Times of Israel

To attack or not to attack Iran?! The Cons and the Pros affecting the war decision

Photo source: US airforce (US government photos are not copy righted)

Since there isn't much being said about the imminent war with Iran, I thought I'd write something about this neglected issue and brake the monotony.

I invite you to consider the following Pros and Cons for war from the point of view of the three main countries involved, namely, Iran, Israel, and the United States of America.

Pros for Iran (in case of war):

. The Iranian regime, drawing on the experience of the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, can blame government inaptitude on the war. Currency free fall, economic collapse, the erosion of personal and political liberties, not to mention the draught, can all be blamed on the foreign imposed war.

. The revolutionary guard (IRGC) leadership could benefit financially from war profiteering and smuggling of goods, as all legal avenues of import and export would be shut down in the event of a full blown war, leaving organized smuggling as the only option.
Many here would agree that IRGC's involvement in smuggling is a well established fact in the blogosphere, and is one hidden camera investigative report away from being a mainstream media fact.

. The Iranian regime would have an opportunity to eliminate dissidents, wholesale, during the war, including the green movement activists and leaders currently in prison or under house arrest. It's much easier to execute spies at time of war, than it is to execute political dissidents in peace time.

. The regime may be hoping that war would result in increased support from religious nationalists and other core supporters. This can be more of a factor if there were to be high profile incidents with large civilian casualties, or a freak incident resulting in the destruction of a national or religious monument. Having said that, the chances of the US accidentally bombing shiite shrines or Azadi square are as slim as accidentally bombing Persepolis.

. Iran would get the opportunity to activate Iraqi shiite militias to destabilize Iraq, or even seize power by force if the opportunity presents itself. With the political parties divided, the Iraqi people might decide to passively watch an Iranian backed military take over without raising a fuss.
Iraq will probably not allow the use of its territory to attack Iran, but that won't stop Iran from using Iraq to retaliate against attacks against it, and use the war to accomplish its long term strategic objectives with open and unapologetic meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Cons for Iran (in case of war):

. War could become the straw that brakes the camel's back in terms of the general public's impatience with the Iranian regime and the economic hardships it is causing, especially if they were to conclude that all their suffering is due the Islamic republic political inaptitude and arrogance.

. In the ensuing chaos of war, the opposition groups in Iran might feel emboldened to take on the regime head on one final time. With weapons more abundant at time of war, some opposition groups might even take up arms against the security forces and retaliate for any future crackdown on peaceful protesters, a la Syria, or even a la Iran 1979.
(side note: Opposition groups aboard should be meeting now to discuss the future political process in Iran to stay ahead of events, and develop a transitional plan in case a future revolution in Iran does succeed, war or no war)

. Separatist groups in Iran might step up their military activities against the regime even if the west doesn't offer them direct support. The regime will be forced to station large number of elite loyal troops in areas where there is little strategic need, such as Azerbaijan or Baluchistan, aside from the usual hot spots of Kurdistan and Khuzestan.

. Opposition groups might get more breathing room in terms of the total media blackout by the regime, as government jamming capabilities get degraded secondary to targeted US attacks. Iranians may be able to get a minute by minute account of events on the streets from the BBC Farsi without being subjected to constant government jamming.
In addition, the US may target media installations, like it did in Iraq and Libya, and cripple the regime's own propaganda broadcasts. My guess is that many Iranians will find the benefits from the total shut down of the regime's media apparatus to far outweigh the downside of the tremendous loss of the entertainment value, which the Iranian TV and radio is famous for. I'm sure many of you have heard of mullah-wood, with it's 24/7 compulsory morality broadcasts.

. The West may, for the first time, openly target the Iranian leadership, including Khamenei, as part of the war effort. Even if these military decapitation efforts don't succeed, they would leave the regime elites fugitives in their own country. Once forced outside their secure zones in Tehran and elsewhere, the leadership will be vulnerable to domestic threats to their lives. They certainly accumulated enough intrinsic animosity in the past 30 plus years that they should be concerned for their lives as they become physically more accessible to the Iranian public.

. Iran oil exports would be near zero for a while, with infrastructure damage that might take years to repair. Even if the Iranian regime were to survive the war, it would be left with little oil revenue with which to bribe its core constituency in return for their continued support.

. The potential closing of Hormuz strait will probably only last a few weeks, but will represent a suicidal act on part of the Iranian navy forces and the Iranian coastal defenses. The mining of Hormuz will serve as legal justification for the west to control the entire northern shore of the Persian gulf to ensure free international shipping.
By the way, the three disputed island in the gulf will likely be one of the first strategic targets to be occupied by US forces, and may even be handed over to the UAE after the war.

. Having learned from the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is probably not going to be as predictable as the Iranian leaders might think, rendering any Iranian defensive plans outdated and ineffective. For example, the boots on the grounds will probably not be armored divisions with a large footprint and logistical gaps, but rather fast moving elite forces that would be there for the purpose of putting weapons, like missiles, beyond use then getting the hell out of dodge, before any organized resistance has time to emerge.

. Many Iranian military and civilian lives would be lost in any war with the USA. That should be the most important draw back, but i doubt it would give the regime in Iran any pause.
We should remember that it took Khomeini 500,000 Iranian lives before he decided to agree to end the Sadam initiated, but Khomeini sustained, Iran-Iraq war. Back then Khomeini thought that Iran can act like a world superpower and force the execution of, the then president, Sadam Hussein of Iraq, as a punishment for unjustly attacking Iran. Right or wrong, that demand was arrogant and unrealistic at the time, just like many of the current Iranian expectations might be considered unrealistic and costly.

Pros for Israel (in case of war):

. Israel many not have many other chances to attack Iran in the future if it misses this window of opportunity.
After years of raising the alarm about Iranian nuclear ambitions, Israel can not afford to not act, when it knows that it's efforts have now reached a crescendo.
Any inaction will be considered by the rest of the world as an israeli acceptance of the status quo, making any future return to the subject by Israel much less effective, as judged by western public opinion, and western political and military planners. Iran will become analogous to North Korea from that point on, a relatively harmless nuisance.

. The Israeli goal of regime change in Iran maybe achieved through war. One could argue that for Israel, an Iranian regime change is much more important than the goal of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. In that sense, attacking Iran is more likely to be successful and doesn't necessarily have to involve smart weapons.

. Israel doesn't really have to hit the Iranian nuclear sites accurately or effectively. In fact, all Israel has to do is hit anything of importance in Iran in order to ignite war. Everyone, including the Israelis, knows that the subsequent Iranian retaliation against the Americans (and the Israelis), and the more effective US attack that follows will take care of all the Iranian nuclear targets and then some. The Americans will likely resent having the Israelis impose war on America of course, but that will not stop us from attacking. Israel will however have to make an effort to appear to be hitting the nuclear targets directly and effectively in order to minimize the American resentment.

. Israel would have the opportunity to use the war with Iran to target more Hamas and Hezbollah leaders and personnel, to finish previously unfinished missions. Israel might even use any military posturing by Hezbollah in support of Iran, as a pretext to invade south Lebanon with a more effective push to destroy the Hezbollah stockpile of weapons this time around.
The planners in Israel know that with the Iranian and Syrian regimes gone or weakened, Hezbollah would not be able to restore their missile capabilities anytime soon. Without war, Israel will have to live with the possibility that Hezbollah will remain at its door step for at least another decade, with capabilities enough for at least one more war with Israel.

. Any missile attack by Iran against Israel would likely create sympathy for Israel in the west and improve their negotiating position with the Palestinians. Israel would feel more entitled to push for more concessions from the Palestinians.

. Any war with Iran would distract from local controversial issues in Israel, such as settlement expansions and the final status of east Jerusalem. Israel could easily move to expand their efforts in these two areas in the fog of war with iran. The west will be busy with the war and would pay much less attention to what Israel does domestically.

. If the dream of regime change in Iran were to materialize, Israel would feel less threatened by Hezbollah and Hamas, as these groups would be losing a major source of financial and logistical support in the region.

.War with Iran would serve to re-establish Israel as the dominant military force in the region, and reinforce the partially lost deterrence that Israel had enjoyed since their last war with the Arabs.

. Israel can never trust that the Iranian regime won't use nuclear weapons once they have them, despite the Iranian leadership claims that they would never consider using nuclear weapons based on moral and religious grounds.
In the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini also claimed that bombing of civilian targets (cities) in Iraq would be un-Islamic and barred the Iranian forces from retaliating against Iraqi bombardment of Iranian cities. By the middle of the war when Iraq started targeting Tehran almost daily with rockets, Khomeini conveniently made an exemption to his religious edicts and ordered the Iranian forces to retaliate in kind. By the end of the war, the Iraqi city of Basra was almost totally destroyed by Iranian artillery and missiles.
Even if the Iranian regime doesn't use it's nuclear weapons, this regime is likely to threaten their use in every political crisis.

Cons for Israel (in case of war with Iran):

. Potential damage to Israeli nuclear and industrial/chemical sites in the Iranian retaliatory missile attack should be a concern for the Israeli military and civilians at large. The chances of Iran shrugging off a military attack by Israel and not retaliate are very slim, even though such inaction would be the logical thing to do to avoid total destruction. In a worst case scenario, we should expect the Iranian retaliation to be unrestrained and unrestricted, and involve nuclear (Dimona) and chemical complexes (in Haifa), not to mention major population centers such as tel aviv.

. The war with Iran will likely increase anti-Israeli sentiment in the region. Not a big issue in the short term, as it would go from horrible to slightly more horrible. It is, however, a concern in the long run as Israel would have to live with their Arab and Iranian neighbors for years to come, knowing that the west will eventually become disinterested in Israel (if not ten years from now, perhaps a hundred years from now).

. The war may result in long term damage to the American-Israeli relationship, as even the most enthusiastic US supporters of israel would potentially resent, or at least pause at the prospect of the USA being dragged into war by an ally without consenting to it in advance. This might mark a turning point, especially if some republicans conclude that sometime israeli interests contradict US interests, and that the US is being used to advance a policy that is not it's own. Of course, the mutual US-Israeli relationship will endure for decades to come, but such sentiment shift can prove costly to Israel many years from now.

Pros of the USA (in case of war with Iran):

. War before the 2012 presidential election would ironically serve president Obama's re-election campaign, even if, in principle, president Obama doesn't want to be dragged into America's third war in the middle east since 9/11. The president can draw sympathy from democrats and independents as he appears to have no choice but to react to the events on the ground. Republicans would find president Obama less objectionable in war time as he acts presidentially and decisively to use military force against a long time US foe.
This would be a war against the same people who violated the sovereignty of the US embassy in Tehran, and humiliated the US by parading US diplomats and marines in blindfolds. In general, Americans should, and probably would, rally around the president at a time of war, unless he is somehow caught with a Monica Lewinsky-like character in the oval office a week before the election.

. The US would finally get a chance to remove a thorn in its backside thats been there for the past 30 years, namely the regime of the Islamic republic of Iran. The US would have legal justification as it would only be reacting to Iranian attacks (most likely provoked by Israel).
A new regime in Iran would transform the Middle East; A US friendly Iran would also change the long term political situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US could look to future Iran for support against religious extremists in Afghanistan, instead of relying on Pakistan, which itself is full of religious extremists and can explode in our face at any time.

. A future, US friendly, regime in Iran would allow for a much safer logistical support of NATO troops in land locked Afghanistan through 2014 and beyond.

. A friendly Iran would be fertile ground for American companies to invest in projects to rebuild the country's infrastructure, including the languishing energy industry. Needless to say, such business opportunities would dwarf what was available in Iraq after the war; The first aircraft order alone should be worth billions for Boeing.

Cons for the USA (in case of war with Iran):

. The potential for the loss of American lives and treasure in yet another war should be a major Con. Americans are tired of war, or at least we should be by now.
Starting a war during a recession would seem reckless and unwarranted to many Americans.

. The president would have to deal with being pushed into war without wanting to, and still maintain the illusion that he is still in total control. I think Obama can do that though.

. The level of success of any Iranian retaliation and the relevance of the regime forces after the first wave of attacks is still highly unpredictable. If the Libyan and Syrian precedence holds true, then we might be surprised as to what length the Iranian regime is willing to go to self preserve. The regime may risk total distraction of the country's infra structure before throwing in the towel.
Luckily, this scenario is less likely than the best case scenario that takes into account that many Iranian have been contemplating getting ride of this regime for quite some time, and might chose not to miss the opportunity war provides. I know this sounds like vice president Cheney talking, but even crazy people can be right sometimes.

. The post war Iran may not stabilize as fast as everyone hopes. Instead, it may take years, especially if separatist wars ensue, or if there is a civil war between the remnants of the Islamic republic and the the new, west supported, government forces.

. Regional powers may want the threat of Iran removed but some would be against a good US-Iranian relationship. This situation would add more unpredictability to the post war situation given the potential behind the scenes political maneuvering by the Saudis and others.

In conclusion, the question is not, whether or not we can agree on which pros and cons are correct, but rather, whether or not we can agree that it takes only one spark from one the three countries (Iran, USA, Israel) to ignite war. Moreover, all it will take for the decision to go forward with war is for that one country to decide that the "pros" for war outweigh the "cons" and damn the consequences.

One spark, and we can have a war that most can't predict its outcome or side effects. We should hope that if war does come, the political and military pros are going to be prepared to make the best of the circumstances.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Iranian Perspective on Syria: Situation Not Detriment of Iran

Mehdi Mohammadi, an Iranian SME, has posted an article in today’s issue of Iran Review. The author generally present viewpoints close to those of the Iranian leadership. His argument, as delusional as it might seem, is the most articulate posting of Iranian perspective on the current situation in Syria. Following are the highlights. To read the entire article, in English, please click here.  

  • The ongoing unrest in Syria is not popular in nature. People are either spectators or victims… The Syrian unrest is basically non-indigenous and has its roots out of the Syrian borders… And the Syrian government has maintained its political, military and security integrity.
  • The Syrian opposition groups attempted in vain for a few months to get themselves a base along the Syrian border with its neighbors that would be copycat of Benghazi in Libya. (But) they are not able to face the Syrian army outside Damascus. The body of the existing evidence shows that during past days most locations in Syria were relatively calm, with the Syrian army (having) a remarkable upper hand. 
  • The Syrian government will think of various security scenarios to take revenge of various parties that have been involved in the Syrian unrest… Its anti-American and anti-Israeli motivations will become hundreds of times stronger. This will certainly further strengthen the overall power of the anti-Israeli resistance axis in the region which will be of vital importance to Iran.
  • Despite what may seem on the surface, the strategic equation of the region as a result of the ongoing developments in Syria has by no means changed to the detriment of Iran. On the contrary, the outlook of future insecurity in Israel is clearly on the horizon and has made Western countries greatly concerned as of now.
Map Credit: Maps of Iran (green) and Syria (red) and the region. IranReview.org

Iran Not Evacuating Citizens from Syria - FM

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi today denied reports that Iran will evacuate its citizens from Syria due to the worsening situation in the country. Salehi actually said that the situation in Syria is “calm.”

“Syria is calm and Iranian nationals who are there have no problem and there is no need to conduct any special action,” Salehi said. (IRNA, 22 July)

Several hundred thousand Iranians travel to Syria each year to make pilgrimages to a Shiite holy site in Damascus.

Israel PM Reiterates Accusation Against Iran on Bulgaria Bombing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today said on CBS’s "Face the Nation" that last week's bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists was committed by Hezbollah with the support of Iran.

"We have unquestionable, fully-substantiated intelligence that this was done by Hezbollah backed by Iran," Netanyahu said. (CBS.com, 22 July)

"We've been witnessing over the last two years an Iranian-sponsored global campaign, along with its sidekick Hezbollah, to launch terror attacks against Israelis," Netanyahu added. "They've been doing this now around the world for the last year or two, basically getting away with murder, because nobody really pointed the finger." 

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian police is investigating two more suspects in the attack on the Israelis. The Bulgarian daily Standard Sunday quoted police sources as saying that the two suspects were to backup and control the suicide bomber at Burgas airport. The identity of the suicide bomber was still unclear.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Iran to Introduce Three-Tiered Exchange Rates

Iran will introduce a three-tiered exchange rate system for imports, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported today. Quoting the chairman of Majlis committee on economy, ISNA said the new system will make distinctions for imports of basic, intermediate and luxury goods. (ISNA, 21 July)

  1. 12,260 rials/dollar for ‘basic goods’
  2. 15,000 rials/dollar for ‘capital and intermediate goods’
  3. Free market value (19,100 rials/dollar on Saturday) for ‘luxury good.”

The Iranian rial has lost more than 60 percent of its market value in the past year (from 11,710 rials per dollar in July 2011 to 19,100 now). The oil revenues, the country’s major source of hard currency, have also gone down due to embargos as well as difficulties to move oil funds through the global banking system. The three-tiered system is designed to slow the rate of depletion of the hard currency reserves.

During the eight-year war with Iraq and its aftermaths, Iran experienced with a multi-tiered exchange rate as well. The system was abandoned because it created distortion in import markets and serious corrupt behavior when different rates were leveraged to make quick profit.

Photo Credit: A currency exchange shop in Tehran. ISNA/Abdulvaheed Mirzazadeh 

Towards A New Scenario on Iran: An Israeli Perspective

The scenario talked over the last years, according to which squadron after squadron of the Israeli Air Force jets are attacking Iran’s nuclear sites, does not look like the most relevant one.”

An Israeli perspective by Yoel Guzansky (Ma’ariv)
Translated by Viktoria Lymar (IranEdge)

Reprinted with permission from IranEdge.com
Photo Credit: IranEdge.com