Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"We don’t have to be concerned with Iran's efforts to influence Afghanistan any more .. they are going to be obsessed with their own problems.."

WIRED's Danger-Room, here

"...It’s not just young students who are changing their minds about Iran. Mohammad Rafek Shahir, an Afghan constitutional law professor and head of Herat’s “Council of Experts,” a local professional body, told Smucker: “We are impressed with the Iranians and their struggle for change, but with what has happened in the past weeks, Iran’s influence here has been devastated. We don’t have to be concerned with their efforts to influence Afghanistan any more since they are going to be obsessed with their own internal problems for some time to come.”

Iran’s influence in Herat is not to be understated. The city is linked to Iran’s electrical grid, and its economy depends on cross-border trade; Iran’s intelligence services are said to use Herat as a key listening post. If Iran has in fact diminished its prestige with the people of Herat, it will be interesting to see how recent turmoil inside Iran may more broadly reshape relations with its neighbors — and with national leaders like Afghan President Hamid Karzai "

Cost of the facility dominating the region's Strategic Agenda? ... US$270 Millions!

At ArmsControlWonk, here

Centrifuge Production Know-how…$75 million
Industrial know-how, the techniques actually used by the shop-floor workers, is vitally important for the successful production of any sophisticated item. Unfortunately, it is determined by how much the market will bear. How then should we estimate it? I decided to look at how much Iraq paid (or, rather, was willing to pay) for the know-how to build an advanced solid-propellant missile, the Badr-2000 (aka the Condor II). This know-how cost is explicitly stipulated in the contract Iraq signed with its supplier state: $75 M, after correcting for inflation. It could be argued that Iran might be willing to pay considerably more for the know-how for centrifuge production but any such guess would be just that. (This, as I warned you, is the ugly part.)

Construction of the underground facility…$55 million
ISIS has done a great job in following the construction of the Natanz facility using satellite reconnaissance. Assuming that the holes dug for the “cut-and-cover” enrichment halls are 25 meters deep, then the excavation costs (at $3 per cubic yard) is $7 M. The concrete, at $70/cubic yard, (and assuming floors, ceiling, and walls are 2 meters thick), is then $37 M. Those do not add up to the $55 M but if you assume a 50% “penalty” for working in a desert, then that’s what you get. (Again, ugly.)

Centrifuge production…$140 million
Given that Iran bought the know-how and initial production lines (production equipment not included, ugly!), I am only estimating the cost per centrifuge here. That comes from the cost per centrifuge for URENCO centrifuges as being leased to France. (Ugly, ugly! Let me be clear before somebody takes offense: when I say ugly, I mean my method of estimating is ugly.) You could argue that URENCO centrifuges are more sophisticated and therefore should cost more. Or you could argue that cost is determined by the relative level of sophistication of the production line compared to the past experience of the producer. (That’s what I assume; ugly, ugly, ugly!) I then get a per centrifuge cost of $20,000. Seven thousand of them therefore means a total of $140 M. The one thing that does not make sense is to cost them per SWU; manufacturers produce centrifuges not SWUs.

...this prompted Judah Grunstein at WPR to comment "For a facility that now dominates the region's strategic agenda, that seems like a pretty good return on investment. It also means that whatever actual infrastructure damage, in dollar terms, that any airstrike might cause would pale in comparison to the kind of economic retaliation Iran could very likely respond with."

Tension Between Sarkozy & Netanyahu



Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy compared Lieberman to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far right wing party in France, and called upon Netanyahu to dismiss him from office and make a coalition with Tzippi Livni instead.

Israel Radio News reports:

In the meeting at the Elysee Palace last week, Sarkozy told Netanyahu that he should dismiss Lieberman and replace him with Tzippi Livni. Lieberman's spokesman said last night that if the report was accurate, this was very grave and was an act of crude meddling by France in Israel's domestic affairs.

Itamar Eichner in Yedioth Ahronoth commented:

Relations between Israel and France have become exceedingly tense of late. The reason for this development is the leaked information from the conversation that French President Nicolas Sarkozy held with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu...

The French president felt sufficiently at ease in that forum to discuss Israeli politics with Netanyahu and to criticize Lieberman severely.

"I've always received Israeli foreign ministers. I met with Tzippi Livni in the Elysee Palace, but with that one (Lieberman) I simply can't meet. I'm telling you, you need to get rid of that man. Get him out of the government and bring in Livni. With her and with Barak you can make history."

Netanyahu came to his foreign minister's defense and said: "You don't need to exaggerate. Lieberman is a very nice person, and in private conversations he speaks differently." Sarkozy wasn't persuaded and said: "In private conversations Jean-Marie Le Pen is also a nice person."

At a different stage of the conversation, Sarkozy also spoke about the possibility that Livni might join the coalition government. "I expect that she'll show responsibility and join the government. I told her that I was disappointed when she didn't do that, and that I thought she'd made a
mistake."

Despite Sarkozy's comment, Barak Ravid in Haaretz reports that Netanyahu still has complete faith in Lieberman...

"Americans are going to be greeted with flowers & sweets..."

The US withdrawal has sparked celebrations in Iraq [AFP]
That seemed like ... yesterday! Al Jazeera, here

"...Fireworks continued to light up the sky over Baghdad into the early hours on Tuesday, after thousands of Iraqis, an unprecedented number for a public post-war event, attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs.

"All of us are happy - Shias, Sunnis and Kurds on this day ... the Americans harmed and insulted us too much," Waleed al-Bahadili, an Iraqi attending the celebrations, told the AFP news agency.

Many Iraqis ignored an appeal by Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi vice president, to stay away from crowded places during the US pullback, after more than 250 people were killed in bombings over the past 10 days..."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Russia, Iran, & Washington Battle Over S-300s ...

WPR, here
"Will Russia supply Iran with the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system? That is the most important -- and persistent -- question regarding Russia's ongoing arms sales to Iran. The repeated rumors and confusion regarding a possible sale indicate that Russian policymakers are divided over the issue. It also illustrates the degree of mistrust between the Russian and Iranian national security communities over the subject of bilateral arms transfers in general, and disagreement over the extent to which Moscow should support Iranian defense aspirations over American and Israeli objections in particular....


"... In a nutshell, it would make an airstrike by Israel against Iranian nuclear installations even more difficult to pull off than it already is. That's why Israel is currently lobbying so strongly to get Russia to forego on the deal.

If you really think an Israeli strike would be a good way to provoke a regional conflagration, the S-300s would have been an effective deterrent -- were they already in place. I'm guessing that in the current climate, any move to deliver them would probably be factored into Israeli military planners' strategic calculations, most likely as justify for accelerating any action."

"... many people in the Middle East appreciate the validity of Bush's central strategic insight ..."

"Strategic Mind!"
WINEP's John Hannah, here


On Tuesday, U.S. troops will leave Iraqi cities in accordance with an agreement negotiated under President Bush. Although President Obama has largely endorsed the Bush timeline for reducing the U.S. military presence in Iraq, far less clear is the extent to which he has also adopted his predecessor's appreciation for the importance of achieving America's strategic goals there.
For all his administration's mistakes in Iraq, Bush clearly understood the imperative of victory once U.S. forces were committed. He knew that removing our troops under fire would have been disastrous. Al Qaeda and Iran would have been emboldened. American credibility throughout the Middle East would have been shattered. Iraq would have descended into chaos, further destabilizing a region vital to U.S. interests.
More positively, Bush also understood that ..... the United States would secure a strategic foothold in one of the Muslim world's historic centers of political, religious and cultural power.
While Western elites may scoff, many people in the Middle East appreciate the validity of Bush's central strategic insight. A democratizing Iraq -- aligned with the U.S. and endowed with vast oil reserves, water resources and a large, industrious population -- could transform their region for the better...

Under Obama, Bush's commitment to winning in Iraq has all but vanished. Convinced from the start that the war was a mistake (a conviction fortified by the Bush team's post-invasion bungling), Obama has for years been the salesman in chief for a narrative of failure: Iraq is seen as a colossal disaster -- a senseless distraction that drained U.S. resources while alienating the rest of the world. While recognizing a vague obligation to help Iraqis forge a better future, Obama's bottom line comes through loud and clear: The war was a strategic blunder, and the sooner the U.S. can wash its hands of it and re-focus on our "real" priorities in the Middle East, the better.
Given that Obama has largely adopted the Bush timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces, one can ask whether it really makes any difference that he still sees Iraq more as a liability to be escaped than an asset to be secured. The short answer is yes. Psychology in international affairs can have strategic effects.
When Bush authorized the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the psychological impact was arguably as important as the military one. ..........Obama risks fueling the reverse dynamic. Iraqis listen to his speeches and hear that withdrawal, not victory, is his highest priority. .....
"Are you Americans still here?" a top Iraqi leader asked me only half jokingly during a recent visit to Iraq. The vacuum being created by the perception of growing U.S. disinterest is palpable. At least before this month's turmoil in Iran, the void was being filled increasingly by the Islamic Republic. Iranian influence operations had escalated significantly since the Obama administration entered office, manifested most obviously in a surge of high-level Iranian visitors to Iraq.
Once again deeply uncertain about America's long-term commitment to their future, Iraqis are starting to hedge their bets in unhelpful ways. Accommodating themselves to the agenda of the coming Iranian hegemony rather than their departing American liberators is increasingly the order of the day. .."

Sarkozy Proposes Using Syria and Qatar to Promote Shalit Deal

Via The Pulse, here

Or Shabi and Yonatan Gonen from Nana10.co.il:

The Palestinian Maan news agency reports this morning that in the course of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week, Sarkozy proposed using his connections in Syria and Qatar to accelerate the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

It reported that Sarkozy said that France could ask the leadership of both these countries that they demand guarantees from Hamas for the well-being of Gilad Shalit or ask it to let the Red Cross visit him.

The news agency reported that Sarkozy told Netanyahu that in the course of Olmert's term as prime minister, he helped promote the subject by means of his ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad and to Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. It reported that both Arab leaders are in regular phone contact with Hamas Political Bureau Director Khaled Mashal in Damascus.

The report also said that Sarkozy told Netanyahu that Gilad Shalit's release was the "key to changing the situation in the Middle East." That said, Sarkozy stressed that Israel must also compromise and release prisoners, "otherwise, no agreement will be reached."

OxfAn: "Hariri faces unity government challenges"

The army yesterday warned that it would open fire on anyone bearing arms in public after clashes in West Beirut between supporters of Saad al-Hariri, the leader of the pro-Western March 14 coalition and the majority party leader in parliament, and Parliamentary Speaker and Amal leader Nabih Berri. The latter was reappointed speaker on Thursday, and on Saturday Hariri was appointed prime minister-designate. President Michel Suleiman gave Hariri the task after 86 out of 128 MPs backed him for the post. Hariri's bloc had backed Berri's re-election, while Amal backed Hariri for premier. The other 57 March 8 bloc MPs, including Hizbollah and its Christian allies, rejected him. Hariri aims to form another 'national unity' government, but a key stumbling block could be Hizbollah's demand for veto power within it. Recently improved Syrian-Saudi relations may well have facilitated Suleiman's choice of nominee. Key issues such as Hizbollah's arms may have to be set aside if agreement on a unity government is to be reached. Fundamental disagreements over foreign policy and national security could lead to a drawn-out government formation process. In a worst-case scenario, Lebanon could be without a government for months, increasing the risk of violent clashes, and bringing to the fore again the fundamental schisms of the last four years. After extended periods of political stalemate, Lebanon also faces a long list of overdue social and economic policy challenges.

Iran Revolutionary Guards Amass Power While Backing Ahmadinejad

Bloomberg, here
"... Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, whose forces helped President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suppress street protests over his disputed re-election, may be among the biggest winners as he moves to consolidate power.

A guards-controlled paramilitary force called the Basij, as well as police, violently quelled protests by supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who said Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged. Seventeen demonstrators and eight Basij died in the protests, according to state-run media..."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Let them eat 'Khoresht Baamieh'!"

The NYTimes interviews a most irrelevant & mediocre man, and packages him as a leader in exile... here
Q: you’re working with American agents in the C.I.A. or elsewhere who have been trying to destabilize the Iranian regime for years.
A: Your presumption is absolutely and unequivocally false

Jumblat: "Lebanon-First is meaningless without Arabism..."

(more on the whims and moods of the Druze chieftain) ....and ""I will not partake in any Cabinet that utters the word 'privatization',"

Will Obama Buckle?

In the PULSE, here
"....There is no real evidence pointing to the latter other than the silence from the administration on the just-announced plan to expand the Talmon settlement by some 300 units, a provocation and a test of Obama's resolve. Beyond that is the general fear that the Israeli government has invariably won these battles with previous administrations and the feeling that Obama will, like his predecessors, blink as the lobby quietly (or loudly) pushes back.

Only time will tell whether Obama will choose to prevail; I say "choose" because he holds all the cards in the U.S.-Israel relationship...."

Netanyahu: "... Israel would hold Lebanese government, including SEVEN Hezbollah ministers,... responsible..."

I want some of whatever Reuters & all have been smoking ... Reuters, here

"... Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the formation of a new government in Lebanon, a coalition that is likely to include seven ministers from Hezbollah ... Immediately after the June 7 election, he called for the contentious issue of disarming Hezbollah to be shelved. The group, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, has battled Israeli forces since the early 1980s... "

"J'Accuse!"

Lang in SST, here

"Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neocon scum will be held accountable somewhere, someday for their crimes against the American soldier.

Here is a partial list of my accusations. It will be argued that some of these things are not technically "crimes." I think that irrelevant. These specifically apply to Iraq. You may add your own and I may comment further:

- "Planning and waging aggressive war.." Keitel and Jodl were executed for this. In this case the "aggressive war was against Iraq, a country that, however ill governed, had not attacked the United States and that did not have WMD weapons any longer. This latter point was in the process of being proven by the UN's inspectors when the miscreants under dicussion succeeded, with the help of White House staff still in the public square, of deliberately propagandizing the American people by making a false case against Iraq in the public media. By carrying out these actions those charged involved the United States in a senseless war in which many thousands of American military personnel were killed or mutilated.

- Those charged directly intervened in the operational planning of the invasion of Iraq in such a way as to risk defeat in detail in many smaller actions. They did this by denying to the ground component commander (Mckiernan) the forces that he reasonably and prudently requested and by "nickel and diming" him endlessly in such a way that the forces involved were still minimal and barely adequate. The success of these forces is not an indication of whether or not the force was adequate in strength. The additional risk assumed by fielding too small a force placed the troops involved at risk.

- Those charged insisted on assuming in pre-invasion planning that Iraqi resistance would be minimal and that the coalition invasion force would be met with "open arms" rather than IEDs by the Iraqi populace. This foolish and willfully blind assumption caused the death or wounding of many American soldiers. Many experts tried to tell the accused that their assumption was wrong but they would not listen.

- Those charged insisted on disestablishing the public institutions of Iraq; the army, the police, the civil service, etc. These actions were taken against the advice of US Army and USMC senior officers on the ground who were in the process of sorting out which units and commanders could be used to re-establish public order. Considerable progress had been made. These disestablishments drove many Iraqi officers and men into the various insurgent groups where they formed a hard core of competence that killed and wounded many American soldiers.

- Those charged refused to accept the plain and abundant evidence present in the first two years of the war that what was faced by the coalition was nothing less than a full-blown national resistance insurgency. By so refusing, they caused US forces to operate in an inadequate planning environment that exposed US soldiers to much greater risks than might otherwise have been the case.

- Those accused encouraged the use of brutal and illegal methods of interrogation of prisoners. This was done in spite of US doctrine and law that specifically forbade such conduct. Was this not a crime against the souls of the junior soldiers encouraged and pressured to do such things?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The Lebanese forces burned my handicapped father alive, but it's Hasan Nasrallah who threatens me"...


Jawad Adra (Information International) is writing a commentary (next brief) to include testimonies & names of his final pre-election tour.

He visited a Sunni village in Batroun, known to have endured the premeditated savagery of the Lebanese Forces. He went to the house of a woman whose mother was shot while running for refuge inside her house and whose 75 HANDICAPPED father was gagged, tied and dosed off with gazoline and burned alive in his wheelchair while militiamen laughed and sneered at his supplications. She remembers these things vividly! When Jawad began by saying "your village lost 40 good men & women to sectarian cleansing", she immediately corrected him by saying "46 people, 'inta il sadeq'". She also remembers that there were some Maronites in the area who offered safe havens to the Muslims, among them was the family of Jubran Basil!

HOWEVER, when asked about her voting intentions, the woman said: "I am going to vote for Antoine Zahra". When she saw Jawad's EXTREME surprise she retorted with this title grabbing sentence "The Lebanese forces burned my handicapped father, but it's Hasan Nasrallah who threatens me".

This is beyond brainwashing!

Dennis Ross's "CENTRAL REGION"....

The CABLE, here

"When the White House announced Dennis Ross's new title yesterday as special assistant to the president and senior director for the Central Region, Washington foreign policy hands scratched their heads. "Central Region?"

"Why isn't this just called 'Near East/South Asia,' as it was from 1945-ish to 2002?," CSIS's Jon Alterman asked. "It's weird.""I give them credit for inventing an entirely new term in international affairs," a Hill foreign policy aide said.

Queried on it, a White House spokesman said he was exploring the genesis of the new term.

But it's known that National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones, currently traveling in India, has been wanting to harmonize the regional bureaus across U.S. government agencies according to a single standard, and that he leaned toward adopting the military regional command structure. By that basis, Central Region would seem to roughly correspond to the U.S. military's Central Command. But Ross, according to yesterday's announcement, works with three senior directors whose territorial purview stretches from North Africa to India, which is bigger than Centcom's footprint, and includes parts of Africom and Pacom. So what countries central region actually includes is still unclear.

It's not the first time Ross's job title has prompted some head-scratching and pondering of the map. When Ross was announced in an after-hours press release in February as "special advisor on the Gulf and Southwest Asia" to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, journalists spent a good part of the next day's press conference asking spokesman Robert Wood exactly which countries were included in the Gulf and Southwest Asia.

"Is it Iran? And if it's not Iran -- if it's Iran, why is it not written in the statement?" one journalist asked Wood.

Wood later clarified that the countries included in the "Gulf and Southwest Asia" are Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen.

Back then, the contorted regional terminology seemed designed to include Iran without saying as much. Numerous Iran hands at the time said that Iran had communicated to the United States through U.N. channels that it refused to deal with Ross. With his promotion to the White House this week, Ross would seem to become a less visibly front-line player on any Iran engagement policy even as he arguably becomes a more influential White House coordinator of how U.S. Iran policy fits with Obama's Middle East peace efforts and the drawdown in Iraq. "

Iraq: "...unending low level warfare?..."

SST, here

"... Now the Americans are clearly leaving. Power is steadily shifting towards the Shia dominated government that the Americans created. That Shia government does not seem inclined to honor the variety of overt and implied "promises" that the Americans made to the "Sons of Iraq," etc. The government's actions toward their Sunni "brothers" surely indicate that this is true.

In that situation it is to be expected that Sunni Arab hostility to the takfiri jihadis will wane and it is waning. That is why it is possible for there to be more and more suicide bombings. Get the message?

There are two ways to avoid further difficulty - 1. The government should understand that bloody minded oppression of the Sunni Arabs will mean unending low level warfare in Iraq, and 2. Someone should keep paying off the Sunnis sub rosa."

"The Iran chessboard, as seen by Team Obama"

LR in the CABLE, here

"As the Obama White House has recalibrated and toughened its daily talking points on Iran in response to the violence of the post-elections dispute, the impression has emerged in some quarters that Washington is flustered by recent events, and indeed, that a wrench has been thrown in President Obama's hopes for engaging Tehran.

But recent administration assessments and conversations with outside government Iran watchers and non-proliferation experts offer a different view in which Obama's hand may actually have been strengthened and Iran's weakened by some overlooked recent events. Among the factors they cite: the outcome of recent elections in Lebanon, in which a pro-western coalition won a majority over a coalition that includes the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the eagerness of Iran's leading regional ally Syria to engage with Washington, Arab states' generally positive response to the Obama administration's strong push to negotiate Middle East peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. Beyond the Middle East, Obama's aggressive non-proliferation initiatives and "reset" with Moscow could also end up increasing pressure on Iran, they said.

"From 2003 to 2009, Iran was on a roll," one senior administration official said Friday. "Expanding its sphere of influence, benefiting from a changed balance of power in the region, and generally optimistic about its world. Many said it was not possible to engage because Iran was so strong and thus disincented to do so. ....

"The chessboard is moving demonstrably in the U.S. direction." That is the takeaway, said Congressional Research Service Middle East analyst Kenneth Katzman, from recent assessments by administration officials. "What I heard them saying is, ‘Let's take advantage of that now, while we have the chessboard, and try to get a nuclear deal and get that resolved, rather than the whole ball of wax.'"

Added Katzman, of the perceived trend: "The strategic picture in the Middle East has moved to the U.S. advantage. The Lebanon elections, reengagement with Syria, stability (?) in Iraq, have added up to a shifting chessboard against Iran."But he added, while there is some optimism that regional and global trends are working to the U.S.'s advantage on Iran, there is also diminished expectation that near-term engagement is likely to occur. At the earliest, it's not expected -- if at all -- until the fall. ...

And indeed, not everyone is feeling optimistic. "My understanding is the president has had a much larger vision," said one Washington Iran analyst on condition of anonymity. "He wanted a strategic dialogue with the Iranians, he gave them a pathway into the western camp that benefits the west, the people of Iran, and the larger picture: peace and stability in the Middle East.....

Byman did think Iran would be feeling uncomfortable about some regional trends, including renewed Washington engagement with Syria, as well as the U.S. drawdown in Iraq. "The Syria thing is real in terms of pressure on Iran. Iran has only one strategic ally in the Middle East: Syria. The U.S. drawdown from Iraq is real. It reduces the vulnerability of America." ....."

Saudi Media Take the Lead Against Iran's Regime

WINEP, here
"....So far, at the popular level, the dominant feature appears to be -- at least from the outside -- a lack of great activity or even interest, rather than the gathering storm of popular mobilization that some commentators expected. ...
The media outlets of Arab actors with axes to grind against Tehran -- such as the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon's March 14 coalition, and most significantly Saudi Arabia -- have replaced the usual taciturn official response with overt schadenfreude and an anti-Iranian-government slant. ....
In al-Hayat, columnist Ali al-Jihani opined that Iran is "a fake democracy that leads only to bloodshed." Anticipating the obvious riposte, al-Jihani added this intriguing postscript: "The rulers of the Gulf States have never claimed they have come to power through elections, but any expert in Gulf affairs knows that the majority of their citizens don't want to change those rulers . . . the symbols of national unity, stability, and economic development." ....
The glee of Saudi media sources is conspicuously absent from most newspapers in Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite their particular national grievances against Tehran. In part, this reflects sensitivity to any examples of popular opposition. In Iraq -- a country that is more democratic but also more politically precarious and entwined with Iran than other Arab states -- the media have special, security-related reasons for their relative reticence on Iran. On June 26, for example, Baghdad's leading al-Zaman newspaper did not have a single front-page story on the subject.
In Egypt, despite a war of words with Iran in April over a Hizballah terrorist plot on Egyptian soil, the media have mostly reported factually about the events in Iran. Al-Ahram, the leading daily, has carried a front-page story about postelection issues nearly every day for the past two weeks, many with photos of pro-Mousavi demonstrations. But columnists have generally refrained from partisan commentary on these events .Egypt's comparatively neutral media position seems to contradict its opposition to the Iranian regime. One al-Arabiya journalist, Ali Brisheh, suggested a reason: focus on Iran's demonstrations might contaminate the Egyptians with "Iranian influenza," inspiring them to protest against their own regime. Egypt's reticence may also be a message to Iran to stop its own anti-Egyptian propaganda -- a message that appears to be having some success, since Iran's official media focus on alleged "Western" or "Zionist," rather than "pro-American Arab regime," meddling in Iran.
Bahrain is a special case, in which the tension between appeasing and opposing Tehran is taking an acute and visible form. Bahrain's government briefly suspended the leading local Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper on June 23 after it published a column criticizing the Iranian regime and even referencing a rumor about Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's supposed Jewish ancestry. The next day, this newspaper was back in circulation, but with noticeably lower-profile coverage of and commentary on Iran's difficulties. Similarly, in the UAE, after a handful of commentaries by Abdel Wahhab Badrakhan and others critical of Iran's suppression, the media have reverted to a largely neutral approach.
The media of Syria, Qatar, and Hizballah have openly aligned themselves with Ahmadinezhad and the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, even as some in Washington look for signs of divergence. Although some uneasiness or hedging of bets may happen behind the scenes, the outward posture remains as solidly aligned with Tehran as ever.
Fragmentary reports about the reactions of "ordinary" Arabs (as distinct from democracy or other activists) to the violence in Iran indicate relatively little sense of involvement or connection.
U.S. Policy Implications
Overall, the divided Arab reaction to Iran should be at most a secondary factor in current U.S. policy calculations. In the future, if Washington seeks public Arab support against Tehran, Riyadh rather than Cairo appears to be the most receptive address. Damascus, for its part, offers no visible sign of reciprocating recent U.S. overtures by distancing itself from Iran, suggesting that skepticism about this aspect of a possible U.S.-Syrian detente is justified. Moreover, the prospect for popular Arab uprisings against autocratic governments -- modeled on the recent developments in Tehran -- is doubtful."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jeffrey Feltman's confirmation "still hanging" as others proceed ....

LR in the CABLE, here

".....Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is still hanging for the moment. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has put the Feltman nomination on hold to try to get the State Department to take action to make an Italian-born constituent eligible for relief under a Libyan fund established to compensate victims of allegedly Libyan-sponsored acts of terrorism, including the bombing of Rome's airport.
..........

Feltman, who has recused himself from the matter, declined to comment. Levin's office didn't immediately respond to queries. Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, is technically the principal deputy assistant secretary of the NEA bureau, but has been serving as the acting A/S since David Welch retired in December to take a job with Bechtel. Although the acting capacity allows Feltman to perform many functions of the job before he is confirmed, he is unable to hire staff."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hariri Court spokeswoman: "Every piece of information is going to be thoroughly assessed ..."

"EVERY piece of information" registered will be assessed. You hear that Ulrike Putz & Co.? Now get behind your keyboard and start fantasizing!
AP, here
A U.N.-backed tribunal set up to investigate and prosecute the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri opened a secure Web site Thursday to receive confidential tips and intelligence from informants who may fear for their lives.

The Web site in Arabic, English and French is intended to provide a safe way for people to contact the court, which is based in the Netherlands, thousands of miles (kilometers) from the crime scene.

It is aimed at "those who might fear for their safety and security and might need assurances that they can contact us without their identity being exposed and their safety being jeopardized as a consequence," said prosecution spokeswoman Radhia Achouri.

The site includes encryption and other security measures.

Achouri said launching the site is not an indication that the court's investigations have hit a dead end. The tribunal has no suspects in custody and has issued no indictments since it opened its doors in March.

"The investigation is ongoing; it's making progress," she said.

Hariri was killed Feb. 14, 2005, along with 22 others in a massive truck bombing on a Beirut street. His supporters blame Syria for the killing, a charge Damascus denies.

In late April, the tribunal ordered the release of four pro-Syrian generals who had been held for nearly four years as suspect in Hariri's assassination. Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to justify their continued detention....

Information gathered through the site will be used in investigations only if it is deemed credible.

"Every piece of information is going to be thoroughly assessed and some will even not be assessed because they look so ludicrous," said Achouri.

"Coalition of the unwilling"

Elias Mehanna wrote this for FP's ARGUMENT, here

"... After a campaign season full of bleak predictions about March 14's electoral prospects and indeed its political future, the result gave the coalition a much-needed shot in the arm and put to rest, if only temporarily, any doubts about its governing mandate.

Now comes the hard part. Consultations to choose a prime minister and form a cabinet have run aground on a shoal of familiar disputes. Although Saad Hariri (son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) has widespread support to become the next premier, the parceling out of ministerial portfolios is a much trickier task, due largely to the opposition's demand for a veto-wielding share of the cabinet. Without a "one-third-plus-one" proportion of cabinet seats, Hezbollah and its allies have said that they might simply boycott the government altogether, leaving March 14 to govern alone.

In a country other than Lebanon, such a state of affairs wouldn't necessarily be cause for concern in the eyes of the ruling coalition. However, the nature of the Lebanese political system mandates that all of the country's sectarian communities be represented within government, and so the absence of parties like Hezbollah and Amal -- who command overwhelming support among Lebanese Shiites -- would seem to be a contravention of the spirit of consociationalism embodied by the Lebanese Constitution.

On the other hand, the fact that the Constitution does not stipulate precisely how cabinets are to be formed -- and says nothing about the right of a parliamentary minority to a cabinet veto -- reinforces March 14's case that the opposition's demands have no legal basis and will be used only to hinder legislation. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and its allies (known as March 8) argue that a blocking share of cabinet seats is the least that March 14 could offer, given that the opposition won the popular vote and that March 8's presence in the cabinet without a veto would amount to only the emptiest of gestures toward national unity.

In a way, then, the debate about the veto is essentially a debate about the viability of Lebanon's current political system, raising questions about how consensus-based decision-making can coexist with an effective executive mandate, and how the interests of confessional minorities might be preserved under the tyranny of political majorities.

In the coming weeks, March 14 might well be able to get away with denying the opposition's demands on legalistic grounds, but it seems increasingly clear that the coalition will not attempt to press its advantage against Hezbollah in a manner reminiscent of the confrontations of the past few years. Regional efforts at reconciliation and engagement (particularly between Syria and Saudi Arabia) seem to have curbed the appetite for a protracted standoff over Hezbollah's weapons, which, while boding well for stability in the short term, are no guarantee of future security. As long as the Lebanese continue to navigate the political wilderness without a satisfactory constitutional road map, they will have to depend on outside powers to help show them the way."

"Flipping Syria" or the less crude version "peeling it off Iran" ...

Helena Cobban, at JWN, here
" ....As the mullahs' grip on power weakens, there are new opportunities to peel away some of their allies. The United States is moving quickly to normalize relations with Syria, and there's talk of working with the Saudis to draw elements of the radical Palestinian group Hamas away from its Iranian patrons, toward a coalition government that would be prepared to negotiate with Israel. Observes a White House official: "Iran's allies in the region have to be wondering, 'Why should we hitch our wagon to their starship?' "

...It has, of course, long been a dream of some Israelis and allies of Israel that they could "flip" Syria away from its sturdy, 30-year alliance with Iran. "Peeling them away" is a less crude and possibly more nuanced version of the same idea.
Ignatius links the administration's current overture toward Syria, and its consideration of an overture toward Hamas, centrally to its desire to take maximum advantage of the current political problems in Tehran. I would note, however, that these moves have been under active consideration in the administration since considerably before the hotly disputed June 12 election in Iran.
From that perspective, announcing the moves in the context of linking them to the situation in Iran might be very canny politics within the US. But it is not the whole story.
Indeed, when I was in Damascus earlier this month, there were already many signs of a growing thaw in the long frozen US-Syria political relationship.
It has also been an open secret for some time now that Obama, Mitchell, and Clinton are very eager that the Palestinian movements-- especially the 'Big Two', Fateh and Hamas-- find a way to settle their differences .....
Regarding the new US opening to Syria, we should remember that it was Pres. Bush who decided to withdraw the US ambassador from Syria; and he did so, in February 2005, in response to the specific situation in Lebanon. Former PM Rafiq Hariri had just been assassinated there, and much of the evidence about that seemed to point towards Syria.
A lot has happened-- in Lebanon, in Syria, and in the US-- since then. ....
Meanwhile, the "evidence" that the Bushites and others had relied on to pin blame for the Hariri killing on Syria seemed to largely unravel. Earlier this year, four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals who had been imprisoned in Lebanon since 2005 were released by order of the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon. So there really has been little continuing rationale for Washington not to have an ambassador in Damascus. And meanwhile, Syria is a regional player of considerable significance in both the Iraqi and the Arab-Israeli theaters.
In recognition of that, Sec. of State Clinton called Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem May 31, and they agreed on a 'Road Map' for improving relations. Ten days later peace envoy Mitchell made his first visit to Damascus.....
It is intriguing, though, to see that we finally have a president who recognizes the importance of diplomacy and has the capacity and agility to start to rebuild a whole host of important relations that had, basically, been shredded by the Bushites."

Obama sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for improved relations ..... prior to the elections!

Wash-Times, here

"Prior to this month's disputed presidential election in Iran, the Obama administration sent a letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself.

Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed the letter toward the end of a lengthy sermon last week, in which he accused the United States of fomenting protests in his country in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election.

U.S. officials declined to discuss the letter on Tuesday, a day in which President Obama gave his strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian crackdown against protesters.

An Iranian with knowledge of the overture, however, told The Washington Times that the letter was sent between May 4 and May 10 and laid out the prospect of "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations" and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. ....

The letter was sent before the election ...... The Obama administration, while criticizing a violent crackdown on demonstrators by Iranian security forces, has said that it will continue efforts to engage the Iranian government about its nuclear program and other issues touching on U.S. national security. ......

A senior Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he was discussing private communications, would not confirm or deny that a letter had been sent to Ayatollah Khamenei and would not say if there had been a response.

However, the official said, "We have indicated a willingness to talk for a long time and have sought to communicate with the Iranians in a variety of ways. We have made it clear that any real dialogue - multilateral or bilateral - needed to be authoritative."

"On the one hand, they [the Obama administration] write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe? Inside the country, their agents were activated. Vandalism started. Sabotaging and setting fires on the streets started. Some shops were looted. They wanted to create chaos. Public security was violated. The violators are not the public or the supporters of the candidates. They are the ill-wishers, mercenaries and agents
of the Western intelligence services and the Zionists." .....

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration would do better to "avoid any talk of engagement" with Iran until the outcome of the current political ferment is clearer. ......"

US rescinds July 4th invitations to Iranian Officials ...

LR, in the CABLE, here

"What a difference a month makes. In May, Barack Obama's administration reportedly sent a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterating the U.S. president's public offer of talks with Iran. Then in early June, the State Department said it had instructed U.S. embassies to invite Iranian diplomats to attend official American Independence Day festivities around the world.

But the "hotdog diplomacy" is off, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced today: The United States has rescinded its July 4 invitations to Iranian diplomats. Granted, no Iranian officials had actually RSVP'd to the invites, he acknowledged. "I don't think it's surprising that nobody's signed up to come given the events of the past days," Gibbs said. "Those invitations will no longer be extended."

And there are other potential indications that Western efforts to reach out to Iran are being put temporarily on ice. Gibbs's announcement comes a day after Italy said that it too is rescinding invitations to Iran to participate in multilateral talks going on in Trieste Italy later this week, which Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will attend. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been scheduled to go but is recovering from surgery to repair a broken elbow.) Iran hadn't responded to that invitation, either, before it was revoked, reports said.

Obama said at a news conference yesterday that he believes prospects for near-term engagement with Iran were not high. "What we have been seeing over past couple weeks is not encouraging in terms of the path this regime may try to take," the U.S. president said.

"The international community is bearing witness to what is taking place," Obama continued. "And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country generated indigenously, internally from the Iranian people will help shape the tone not only for Iran's future, but also its relationship to other countries."

Indeed, some Middle East watchers believe the timing of news last night that the United States would send an ambassador back to Damascus Syria after a four-year absence is no coincidence, and may be related to the new Obama administration tone on Iran.

Asked about that theory, a U.S. official said: "You're warm." Syrian Embassy and Middle East expert sources noted that news reports on the envoy to Damascus seemed to have originated with the White House -- which has been in the midst of daily meetings about Iran for several days -- not the State Department.

"I think the Obama administration strategy -- while not fully formed -- was always that it wanted to engage with both Iran and Syria, and it wanted to play one side off the other," said Syria expert Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "This does have to do with that. I don't think we fully understand all of their reasoning on this ... but by announcing that it will send an ambassador to Damascus, it sends a message both to Damascus and Tehran."

"As for engagement at this point, the focus is necessarily on the events in Iran," a senior administration official emailed The Cable Wednesday of current thinking. "How could it be otherwise?"....

The apparent cooling of Obama's outreach efforts to Iran represents a tactical shift, not a change in the goal of eventually getting to engagement, Iran analysts said.

"At the end of the day, the necessity of diplomacy has not changed by this," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, referring to the post-elections violence in Iran. "The political feasibility [of engagement] has changed."

"When the dust has settled, the U.S. has an interest in dealing with whoever is in charge," Parsi added. "What I don't think should be done prematurely is to determine who is standing before the dust has settled. That is the difference."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'Ahmad Jibril TV?'

AA reports that Ahmad Jibril (PFLP-GC) will be launching a TV satellite station. ... his finances (thanks to long years of Libyan funding and good saving) are in great shape. It will be the first Arab TV station that will not be carried through Arabstat or nilesat. Probably Russian satellite ...

"More Secretary than General ..."

The ECONOMIST, here

" ... Mr Ban is hoping for re-election; indeed, he keeps score of the miles he travels and the hands he shakes. Partly for that reason, say UN-watchers, he tries not to offend China over the conflict in Darfur, and over efforts by the International Criminal Court to arrest Sudan’s president, an ally of China’s, on war-crimes charges. Not wanting to annoy America, Israel’s chief ally, Mr Ban also largely kept his head down over the fighting in Gaza...."

WINEP: ...Violence in Iran could affect the cohesiveness of the security forces...

"For consideration" by WINEP's experts, here
"..... a violent crackdown, even if successful (as seems likely), could be the opening round of a long and bitter struggle, with far-reaching implications for the cohesiveness of the security forces and the long-term stability of the regime. "

Will Iran be President Obama's Iraq?

The Leveretts & Seyyed Marandi, in Politico, here

"....They are fading because further demonstrations would no longer be about alleged election irregularities but, rather, would be a challenge to the Islamic Republic itselfsomething only a small minority of the initial protesters support.
While the protests are subsiding, days of round-the-clock, ill-informed commentary in the United States have helped to “sell” several dangerously misleading myths about Iranian politics. Left unchallenged, these myths will inexorably drive America’s Iran policy toward “regime change”just as unchallenged myths about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ties to Al Qaeda paved the way for America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Myth 1: “Ahmadinejad stole the election.”
The proposition that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could not possibly have defeated his principal challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has become a sacred cow for virtually all mainstream commentary about Iran in the United States. But to this day, there is no hard evidence of electoral fraud — which even some Mousavi campaign aides privately acknowledge........

Myth 2: “The Islamic Republic is internally vulnerable and, indeed, ready to implode.”
The proposition that the Islamic Republic’s constituent institutions — including the position of supreme leader — are on the verge of collapse reflects nothing more than wishful thinking by some analysts in the United States. While many Americans and expatriate Iranians do not like the Iranian government, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s referral of fraud allegations to the Guardian Council and the council’s offer to conduct a random recount of 10 percent of the ballots were reasonable legal responses to those allegations within the Islamic Republic’s constitutional order. .....
The supreme leader’s authority has not been diminished; indeed, the opposite has occurred. All factions in the controversy turned to the leader for a resolution that would have legitimacy within the system’s parameters. ....
At this point, Mousavi may be dependent on public support from former President Rafsanjani to maintain his campaign to overturn the election results, but it is unlikely that Ayatollah Rafsanjani is really prepared to confront his close friend Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Republic as a whole, notwithstanding his immense dislike for Ahmadinejad.
In the end, there is no evidence that those protesting the results represent a majority of Iranians. .......
Certainly, comparisons between the Islamic Republic today and Eastern Europe in 1989, on the eve of communism’s collapse, are misplaced. The majority of Iranians continue to believe in the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy. ...

Myth 3: “The Islamic Republic has been delegitimized, and therefore, the United States cannot and should not negotiate with it.”
It has long been fashionable in the United States to dismiss the prospects for serious negotiations with Tehran by arguing that the Iranian government is too divided to deliver or that the Islamic Republic is an immature, ideologically driven state that cannot think about its foreign policy in terms of national interest.
But these characterizations have no grounding in reality. Now, an argument is emerging in the United States that the Islamic Republic is simply too depraved to be a diplomatic partner — like Saddam’s Iraq or perhaps even worse.
Left unchallenged, the consensus forming around the aforementioned myths about Iranian politics will lead inexorably to ever greater pressure on President Obama to drop his stated interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically. We can already see this unfolding.
Last week, Congress adopted a resolution condemning the Islamic Republic for its handling of the presidential election and subsequent protests. The Senate passed it unanimously; only one member of the House, Ron Paul (R-Texas), was prepared to vote no. Congress is likely to become even more determined to legislate additional sanctions against Tehran and expand both covert and overt programs aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government. Already, the neoconservative right is clamoring that “regime change” must become the explicit goal of U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic. ......
As a presidential candidate, Obama promised not only to end America’s Iraq war but to end “the mind-set that got us into that war.” The risk now is that, in the interest of political expediency, Obama will decide to appease those with this mind-set by going along with congressional efforts to isolate and “punish” the Islamic Republic.
If Obama does this, his Iran policy will, at a minimum, suffer from dysfunctional incoherence. More ominously, lack of strategic clarity could put the United States on the road toward confrontation — perhaps even military conflict — with a more powerful Iran.
As the Islamic Republic becomes “delegitimized” in American public opinion, it will be impossible for Obama to engage Tehran, and, in the eyes of many Americans, he will have no basis to continue telling Israel that it should not launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.
As realism about Iran evaporates in Washington, American officials are losing sight of the fact that policies of isolation or punishment would be disastrous for strategic
stability in the broader Middle East. "

Want to fix an election?

No it's not the Lebanese example (documented) nor the Iranian one (undocumented) ... In Politico, here
".... Ghani alleged that the Karzai government “has already committed substantial fraud in voter registration” by padding the voter rolls in areas where Karzai is strong, using state resources to campaign, encouraging governors and ministers to do political work for him, and dispatching his security forces to “threaten people and prevent them from supporting other candidates.” ......
Jawad said Karzai welcomed international assistance from the U.S., United Nations and other allies in securing the election, for which more than 40 candidates have declared their candidacies, pointing out that there are Taliban-controlled districts where the ability to hold the election is still in doubt. ......
But he suggested that the U.S. may have improperly boosted Ghani and Abdullah by allowing the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, to hold joint press conferences with each of them in recent days. ..."

Saudi royals' support of Al Qaeda ... "extensive" shows documents

In the NYTimes, here

The case has put the Obama administration in the middle of a political and legal dispute, with the Justice Department siding with the Saudis in court last month in seeking to kill further legal action. Adding to the intrigue, classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families. The Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material......

Senior Obama administration officials held a private meeting on Monday with 9/11 family members to speak about progress in cracking down on terrorist financing. Administration officials at the meeting largely sidestepped questions about the lawsuit, according to participants. But the official who helped lead the meeting, Stuart A. Levey, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, has been outspoken in his criticism of wealthy Saudis, saying they have helped to finance terrorism. .....

Kristen Breitweiser, an advocate for Sept. 11 families, whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center, said in an interview that during a White House meeting in February between President Obama and victims’ families, the president told her that he was willing to make the pages public.

But she said she had not heard from the White House since then....."

"When this happens in the Israeli-occupied territories, the Israelis claim that the foreign powers of Iran and Syria are behind the violence..."

Mondoweiss, here

"The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place."

If Obama is to be judged by his actions, that last sentence is simply a lie. In the first six months of the Obama administration at least two Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military while nonviolently protesting the theft of their land without a comment from the US. Israel even shot and critically injured a US citizen during a nonviolent protest in the West Bank and the administration had nothing to say.

Jeffrey Feltman informs Imad Mustapha of 'decision to return US Ambassador to Damascus'

LR in the CABLE, here

"Washington is going to return an ambassador to Damascus, Syrian Embassy officials informed Congressional aides Tuesday night, according to a missive obtained by The Cable.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman reportedly informed Syrian ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha of the decision this afternoon. No word yet on who the ambassador will be. Earlier this month, a U.S. military mission visited Syria to discuss in particular cooperation on stopping the flow of insurgents into Iraq."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

“Our amendment is a go because AIPAC supports it,”

CQ, here

"A Republican effort on Tuesday to cut off U.S. loans to some companies doing business with Iran will bring Congress deeper into the fray over the U.S. response to the Iranian elections.

The amendment to the draft fiscal 2010 State and foreign operations appropriations bill will give members their first chance to vote on binding Iran policy since that country’s presidential election June 12.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk , R-Ill., said the amendment was aimed at Reliance Industries, a large energy company based in India that reportedly has provided Iran with as much as a third of its refined petroleum. He will offer the measure when the House Appropriations Committee takes up the draft bill on Tuesday....

Many Republicans have argued that President Obama should offer more support for the protesters and should criticize Iran’s rulers; Democrats have largely stuck by his initial decision to avoid direct criticism to avoid being blamed by the regime for the unrest, although he has more recently criticized the Iranian government as violent and unjust....

Potential Side Effects

Opponents say the language would do little to block gasoline imports and would end up hurting both America’s image in Iran and U.S. companies that would be penalized by the measure. Bechtel Corp. and Dow Global Technologies are involved in the refinery’s construction.

“It struck me as a little strange that we’re going to hamstring American companies in the middle of the worst recession in decades,” said Patrick Disney, legislative director at the National Iranian American Council. ...

He offered another reason to back his plan: “Our amendment is a go because AIPAC supports it,” he said, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby. "

"The Butcher of Beirut ..."

CQ's Stein, here
"He may yet turn out to be the avatar of Iranian democracy, but three decades ago Mir-Hossein Mousavi was waging a terrorist war on the United States that included bloody attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Beirut.
Mousavi, prime minister for most of the 1980s, personally selected his point man for the Beirut terror campaign, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur, and dispatched him to Damascus as Iran's ambassador, according to former CIA and military officials.
The ambassador in turn hosted several meetings of the cell that would carry out the Beirut attacks, which were overheard by the National Security Agency.
"We had a tap on the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon," retired Navy Admiral James "Ace" Lyons related by telephone Monday. In 1983 Lyons was deputy chief of Naval Operations, and deeply involved in the events in Lebanon.
"The Iranian ambassador received instructions from the foreign minister to have various groups target U.S. personnel in Lebanon, but in particular to carry out a 'spectacular action' against the Marines," said Lyons.
"He was prime minister," Lyons said of Mousavi, "so he didn't get down to the details at the lowest levels. "But he was in a principal position and had to be aware of what was going on."
Lyons, sometimes called "the father" of the Navy SEALs' Red Cell counter-terror unit, also fingered Mousavi for the 1988 truck bombing of the U.S. Navy's Fleet Center in Naples, Italy, that killed five persons, including the first Navy woman to die in a terrorist attack.
Bob Baer agrees that Mousawi, who has been celebrated in the West for sparking street demonstrations against the Teheran regime since he lost the elections, was directing the overall 1980s terror campaign.
But Baer, a former CIA Middle East field officer whose exploits were dramatized in the George Clooney movie "Syriana," places Mousavi even closer to the Beirut bombings.
"He dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah," who ran the Beirut terrorist campaign and
was "the man largely held responsible for both attacks," Baer wrote in TIME over the weekend.
"When Mousavi was Prime Minister, he oversaw an office that ran operatives abroad, from Lebanon to Kuwait to Iraq," Baer continued.
"This was the heyday of [Ayatollah] Khomeini's theocratic vision, when Iran thought it really could export its revolution across the Middle East, providing money and arms to anyone who claimed he could upend the old order."
Baer added: "Mousavi was not only swept up into this delusion but also actively pursued it."
Retired Adm. Lyons maintained that he could have destroyed the terrorists at a hideout U.S. intelligence had pinpointed, but he was outmaneuvered by others in the cabinet of President Ronald Reagan.
"I was going to take them apart," Lyons said, "but the secretary of defense," Caspar Weinberger, "sabotaged it."

STRATFOR: "...Mousavi supporters’ demonstrations would have been nothing compared to the firestorm among Ahmadinejad supporters..."


STRATFOR: Excerpts:

"...All of this is not to say there are not tremendous tensions within the Iranian political elite. That no revolution broke out does not mean there isn’t a crisis in the political elite, particularly among the clerics. But that crisis does not cut the way Western common sense would have it. Many of Iran’s religious leaders see Ahmadinejad as hostile to their interests, as threatening their financial prerogatives, and as taking international risks they don’t want to take. Ahmadinejad’s political popularity in fact rests on his populist hostility to what he sees as the corruption of the clerics and their families and his strong stand on Iranian national security issues.

The clerics are divided among themselves, but many wanted to see Ahmadinejad lose to protect their own interests. Khamenei, the supreme leader, faced a difficult choice last Friday. He could demand a major recount or even new elections, or he could validate what happened. Khamenei speaks for a sizable chunk of the ruling elite, but also has had to rule by consensus among both clerical and non-clerical forces. Many powerful clerics like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wanted Khamenei to reverse the election, and we suspect Khamenei wished he could have found a way to do it. But as the defender of the regime, he was afraid to. Mousavi supporters’ demonstrations would have been nothing compared to the firestorm among Ahmadinejad supporters — both voters and the security forces — had their candidate been denied. Khamenei wasn’t going to flirt with disaster, so he endorsed the outcome.

The Western media misunderstood this because they didn’t understand that Ahmadinejad does not speak for the clerics but against them, that many of the clerics were working for his defeat, and that Ahmadinejad has enormous pull in the country’s security apparatus. The reason Western media missed this is because they bought into the concept of the stolen election, therefore failing to see Ahmadinejad’s support and the widespread dissatisfaction with the old clerical elite. The Western media simply didn’t understand that the most traditional and pious segments of Iranian society support Ahmadinejad because he opposes the old ruling elite. Instead, they assumed this was like Prague or Budapest in 1989, with a broad-based uprising in favor of liberalism against an unpopular regime. ...

Now, as we saw after Tiananmen Square, we will see a reshuffling among the elite. Those who backed Mousavi will be on the defensive. By contrast, those who supported Ahmadinejad are in a powerful position. There is a massive crisis in the elite, but this crisis has nothing to do with liberalization: It has to do with power and prerogatives among the elite. Having been forced by the election and Khamenei to live with Ahmadinejad, some will make deals while some will fight — but Ahmadinejad is well-positioned to win this battle."


"... The Israelis should get the Saudis to buy them ... or else..."

Via the PULSE, here

Eli Bardenstein in Ma'ariv:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced that if Israel wishes to prevent the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran, it must either buy them itself or work to have another country, Saudi Arabia for example, purchase them. An official from the Russian Foreign Ministry told Ma'ariv that Medvedev told this to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during their meeting at the beginning of the month.

As early as the end of 2007, Russia signed a contract worth USD 800 million to supply advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles to Iran. However, as of today, Russia has not provided the missiles themselves although the first payments have been made for them, according to Russian sources.

The S-300 system, which is also called SA-20, is the Russian version of the American Patriot battery. The advanced model of these missiles, which is carried on trucks, can bring down cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and fighter jets up to a range of 196 kilometers and an altitude of 27 kilometers. Its sophisticated version can locate one hundred targets simultaneously. IDF and security establishment officials claimed that Iran's receiving of the missiles would make an attack difficult. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert also spoke about the matter with his Russian counterpart, asking him to prevent the deal.

High-ranking Russian officials have said time and again that the deal was stopped at the political level by the Kremlin, in the wake of pressure from the United States and Israel, which claimed that this was a weapon that would damage the strategic balance in the Middle East. Medvedev reiterated this in his conversation with Lieberman, claiming that orders had been given not to complete the deal for now.

Medvedev's statements combine with the assumption in Israel that Russia is using the deal as political leverage. By means of the deal, Russia is seeking to infiltrate Israel and increase its hold in the region, politically and otherwise. The deal is also significant for relations between Russia and the United States. The recent unmanned aerial vehicle deal between Israel Aerospace Industries and Russia, which the United States approved, was interpreted as an attempt to prevent the fulfillment of the deal between Russia and Iran. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is responsible for defense deals in Russia, visited Israel secretly last week and met with high-ranking officials in the government and in the defense industries."