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Entries in Iran Review (3)


Iran: Turning Bombings into an Alliance with Pakistan

Iran: Taking Apart the Jundallah-US Narrative
Latest from Iran (26 October): After the Fair

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IRAN PAKISTAN FLAGSWe noted last week, in the immediate aftermath of the Jundallah bombings that killed more than 40 in southeastern Iran, that the Ahmadinejad Cabinet was moving quickly to use the incident as a catalyst for discussions with Pakistan. Iran Review has translated an analysis from the Etelaat daily newspaper which points to the strategy. Notice that such a strategy, at least in this editorial, pivots on the portrayal of Saudi elements as a common enemy to both Tehran and Islamabad:

We and Pakistan
Abolqasem Qasemzadeh

We, Iranians, and Pakistan are suffering from common maladies which include terrorism and assassination. Pakistan is currently plagued with the Taliban that has frequently endangered public security in that country through assassinations and bomb blasts. The Islamic Republic of Iran too has been a victim to terrorist groups which avail of financial, military and propaganda support of Iran’s adversaries since the victory of 1979 the Islamic Revolution. For years, we and Pakistan have been hit hard by the Wahhabi thought, which seeks to divide Sunnis and Shias. Petrodollars spent by Wahhabi groups in the Islamic Iran have sought to disturb security in border regions through assassinations and acts of terrorism.

At the beginning of the Iraqi imposed war when Saddam was representing world powers that meant to overthrow the Islamic government, the late Saudi King Fahd had been quoted as saying that funding Saddam’s war against Iran and providing him with political, intelligence and military support of Western countries, especially the United States, would help him to win the war. However, Saddam’s ultimate defeat brought shame to all those powers that are currently carrying the mark of shame for supporting Saddam on their brows. In Pakistan, the division between Shias and Sunnis has had no other fruit but massacre of innocent Shiites and Sunnis and destruction of their living environment. Although, the conspirators have constantly taken advantage of ignorance of some societies, today, both Shias and Sunnis in Iran and Pakistan have understood that Wahhabi thought is closely related to Zionist plots and the interests of foreign colonialist powers.

Baluchestan is a common name for border provinces in Iran and Pakistan, both of which have a province under the same name. Both countries are trying to develop their Baluchestan provinces and help Baluch people by implementing development projects. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been constantly trying to make the common border secure and has never let terrorist groups to consider Iranian Baluchestan a safe refuge after committing acts of terror. We and Pakistanis are well aware of the ominous intelligence and military conspiracies of the UK and the United States in that region and know that terrorism in the region will hit both the people of Iran and Pakistan.

Iran: Tehran's Growing Confidence Against the Israeli Threat

Arms and the Middle East: Was Halted German Ship Carrying Ammunition from Iran to Syria?
The Latest from Iran (14 October): Watching Karroubi, Rafsanjani, and the Supreme Leader’s Health

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ISRAEL IRANIran Review has posted an interesting essay by Dr Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh considering "the extent of Israel’s isolation in the world". The article starts from the controversy over the Goldstone Report on the Gaza War, but it quickly moves to "Israel['s] game of posing military threats to Iran’s nuclear facilities". Golshanpazhooh notes shrewdly, "This policy has got an expiry date because the more it is repeated, the less it would be taken seriously by the audience", and then links Gaza, Palestine, and Iran in a challenging conclusion:
it is time to add another variable to Israel’s threat analyses on possibility or impossibility of an Israeli attack on Iran: Israel’s international prestige....Tel Aviv cannot possibly afford to further damage its international image in return for destruction of nuclear facilities where no international body [or] intelligence agency (even that of Israel) has been able to prove any deviation from non-peaceful military activities.

Golpanshooh is an academic, rather than Government official, but if his view is shared by Tehran's bureaucracy (and I think it is), then Iran's international strategy is now based on a stronger bargaining position.

Israel: International Prestige & Attacking Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

First: On September 29, the meeting at the United Nations Human Rights Council was quite different from the preceding days. Security was tight, entries and exits were controlled, there were limitations for representatives of nongovernmental organizations and media crews and all seats were occupied to prove that the day’s agenda was a special one. In fact, it was nothing but the report of the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the war in Gaza with its author, Justice Richard Goldstone, and his three colleagues doing their best to show that it has been based on justice and objective observation.

The report proved that Israel’s violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws were much more numerous than those by Hamas. The interesting point was the anti-Israeli atmosphere which dominated the meeting. Almost all the participating countries had asked for the chairman’s permission to talk about this issue and almost all of them talked against Israel’s measures in Gaza. Few countries, mostly Western, which usually try to change the balance in such meetings in favor of Israel, issued their statements by emphasizing that Hamas should pay more attention to the findings in the report and also questioned Justice Goldstone about the process of the report writing and its credibility.

In that meeting, the extent of Israel’s isolation in the world, especially when the world public opinion was concerned, was clear to me.

Second: Announcements about Iran building a second uranium enrichment facility around Qom have rekindled debates about a possible attack on those facilities by Israel. Some analysts maintain that Israel is losing this opportunity and if it did not attack Iran as soon as possible it would regret that in the future. Others, however, maintain that construction of the new facility has proven to Israel that the success of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is much less possible than what Israeli radical figures try to show. The second group of analysts believes that Iran has implied to Israel that it is capable of rebuilding its nuclear facilities by relying on local know-how and has made Israel more doubtful that Iran may have other nuclear facilities which are still hidden and out of the reach of the Israeli military.

Third: I read a sentence somewhere, which was very interesting to me. It noted that if Israel continued its game of posing military threats to Iran’s nuclear facilities there would be a time when Tel Aviv would have to give up its “hold me back” posture and actually attack those installations just to maintain its international prestige. In fact, this policy has got an expiry date because the more it is repeated, the less it would be taken seriously by the audience that, at times, even anticipate the attack to see what happens next.

During the past years, Israel has relentlessly told the world about Iran’s threat to the international system; has frequently charged the country with supporting Lebanese and Palestinian groups; has time and time again threatened various officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran; has been anxious about any trivial change of course in West’s policy toward Iran; has resorted to every means to prevent Iran-West détente; has increased its espionage activities in some neighboring countries of Iran; has warned Russia, India, and China about expanding relations with Iran; has blamed Iran for its failures in Palestine; and on the whole, has spared no attempt to depict Iran as a monster which world yearn to annihilate. Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at this year’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly proved that how deeply-rooted this policy is among Israeli officials.

Perhaps it is time to add another variable to Israel’s threat analyses on possibility or impossibility of an Israeli attack on Iran: Israel’s international prestige. This variable, in my opinion, outweighs the possible response of Iran to an Israeli attack through the Hezbollah or Hamas and even more important than the low probability that Israel could take out all Iranian nuclear facilities in a military attack. In fact, after 60 years of occupation, Israel’s behavior has shown that there is little hope for Tel Aviv to gain face with the world public opinion. It makes no difference whether a radical is in office or a reconciliatory one. Israel’s international image is tainted and perhaps beyond remedy. Some may say that Iran’s image is also not optimal, but let’s not forget which side is posing threats against which and where all the threats, machinations and intrigues come from. I also know that prestige has nothing to do with a decision on launching a major military assault just in the same way that the United States attacked Iraq in defiance of international public opinion. However, Israel is not at the same level as the United States. Prestige is of vital significance to Israel. Tel Aviv cannot possibly afford to further damage its international image in return for destruction of nuclear facilities where no international body and even intelligence agency (even that of Israel) has been able to prove any deviation from non-peaceful military activities.

Iran's Power Politics: A Warning To Moscow

The Latest from Iran (10 October): Karroubi is Back

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AHMADI MEDVEDEVIn the aftermath of the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme, there are clear signals that Tehran wants some re-assurance of Russia's support. Moscow may have backed away from its initial signal, after the revelation of the second enrichment plant, that it might accept tougher sanctions, but there is far more in play, as Iran tipped off in its high-profile references at Geneva to "regional issues". Beyond the headlines on "missile defense", positions from the Middle East to the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Basin are being contested.

These two articles from Iran Review--- the first by Dr Hassan Behestipour on the Iran-Russia-US triangle and the second by Behzad Ahmadi Lafuraki on the threat of Russia's accommodation with NATO --- are far more than academic exercises in making the point:

Iran and Washington’s Game with Moscow

Dr. Hassan Beheshtipour

After Obama was elected president in February 2009, relations between Russia and the United States somehow changed after two years that had passed since the Munich meeting. The new administration had given up past conservative policies and Obama paid a visit to Moscow in July 2009. In the new era, Washington ignores repression of Chechens by Russia, which in turn, helps the United States in Afghanistan.

The United States has also temporarily postponed implementation of its missile defense shield for Eastern Europe in order to convince Moscow to be more cooperative on Afghanistan and Iran. Russia has tried to expand its relations with pro-West Arab countries as well as countries critical of the United States in Latin America in order to secure a foothold in a region which has been traditionally considered a US backyard. This will not only increase political clout of Russia, but also provide Moscow with a good market to sell arms.

Perhaps the zenith of the confrontations between Moscow and Washington in recent months has been establishment of a missile shield by the United States in the Czech Republic and Poland. Hearing about postponement of the plan, Moscow has taken contradictory stances on it. While President Medvedev has welcomed the development, Russian military are skeptical about the true intention of the United States and consider the move to be aimed at deceiving Russia and buying time.

However, the Russians have officially announced that in return for the postponement, they would give up a plan to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad, which is a Russian enclave near the border with Poland.

Bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington

Despite the rhetoric between the United States and Russia after the election of Obama, bilateral conditions are still plagued with many challenges. The fact that Medvedev received Obama at his family resort in Moscow and the warm meetings between the two sides on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Weisberg, US, have shown that neither of the two sides want their differences to lead to a major confrontation. In other words, Russia is planning to compete with the United States for benefits while it had resigned to some form of confrontation with the US under the Bush Administration. Therefore, Russia will not seek war and conflict with the United States in the coming years. Unlike the past, the Russians know where and how to deal with the Americans and when and where to confront them in order to both guarantee their own interests and make the rival withdraw.

Role of Iran in Washington’s game with Russia

This policy, however, has cost Russia dearly as the country has damaged its international credit as a result of giving in to US pressures over Iran’s nuclear case. The Americans have made the most of the Russians to achieve their goals the latest instance of which was adoption of the fourth Security Council resolution against Iran in early 2009. In order to keep its bargaining power in the face of the United States, Russia cannot afford to lose the Iran trump card. But what obstacles lay ahead of Russia?

In order to curb further US advances toward its western and southern borders, it should first build confidence in its relations with countries like Iran because Russia is usually faced with two charges in relation to its foreign policy.

Firstly, Russia opposes US unilateralism at international level, but pursues a similar policy in the region. International experts maintain that international and regional forms of unilateralism are equally inefficient and cause distrust, thus, reducing cooperation among nations.

Secondly, in its interactions with the United States, Russia easily trades its allies’ interest with the West when needed, but when its own national security or national interests are at stake, like what happened with the missile defense system, it would not be ready for any deal with the West. Continuation of this policy, which is considered by journalists as trading other countries’ interests for its own, will isolate Russia in the long run.

Vladimir Eskusirov and Andrei Terekhov, Russian correspondents of Nezavisimaia Gazeta in Tehran wrote an article on Monday saying that Tehran was surprised by the Russian president’s remarks who noted that ‘under some circumstances, sanctions are the only choice’. Those remarks seem strange because Russia is well aware that Iran has no nuclear weapons.

Last Friday, the Russian president issued a special statement on the uranium enrichment facility near Qom and noted that construction of a new enrichment plant is against frequent requests by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to stop uranium enrichment on its soil.

Russian analysts maintain that Washington had reserved news about the new plant secret until October 1 when Iranians had to make a final choice. Interestingly, Obama told Medvedev about the new plant only on Wednesday with China and Russia being fed accurate information on Thursday, that is, later than France and UK. Statements by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Russia expected its allies to immediately share any information on Iran with Moscow, clearly indicated that Moscow was not happy with the current state of affairs. Russia was unhappy both with the level of cooperation with Western members of P5+1, and with Iran which had not said anything to Russia about the new plant.

In reality, if Russia wants to have Iran’s cooperation, it should prove that Moscow is a trustworthy partner, not a country which passes good times with others while sharing bad times with Iran and other critics of the West.


NATO’s Call on Russia for Cooperation: Goals and Possibilities
Behzad Ahmadi Lafuraki

After the tension in Russia’s relations with NATO increased due to what happened in Southern Ossetia in August 2008, the two sides met at high level on the Greek island of Corfu on June 29, 2009 and agreed to resume political and military cooperation.

The then NATO secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, announced resumption of NATO – Russia cooperation and mentioned reduction in weapons of mass destruction and fighting illicit drugs as major fields in which the two sides can collaborate. His successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also called for resumption of negotiations with Kremlin in order to create a new atmosphere and work out new strategic partnership according to which both sides could cooperate on Afghanistan, terrorism, and piracy. He declared reduction of common security concerns in Europe and fighting common threats as the main areas of cooperation between NATO and Russia.

The turning point in renewed relations between NATO and Russia, however, is a recent decision by the United States to give up its plan for the establishment of a missile defense shield in eastern and central Europe. Just one day after the announcement of the above decision by US officials, secretary-general of NATO declared that a major hurdle on the way of expanding relations with Russia has been removed and the two sides should now focus on commonalities. The secretary-general did not suffice to general terms and pointed to four main areas of cooperation between Russia and NATO, that is, fighting terrorism at international level, fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan, preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons, and establishment of joint missile defense systems.

Russia also lost no time to show positive reaction to the US decision by commending Washington. Kremlin did not suffice to lip service and announced that it will stop deployment of new missiles in Kaliningrad.

The above developments and Rasmussen’s call on Russia to cooperate with NATO indicate a U-turn in NATO’s security policy, on the one hand, and Moscow’s keen interest in improving relations with the United States and NATO for better management of challenges, on the other hand. Since Russia’s relations with NATO have been constantly a function of the country’s relations with the United States and Europe, improvement in bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow has left its mark on Russia’s relations with NATO and common goals have overshadowed discrepancy in values.

On the whole, the West has reached the conclusion that convergence with Russia will be more beneficial for the security of transatlantic system than isolation of the country. Two main reasons have prompted Russia to cooperate with NATO despite threats posed to it by eastward expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first reason is that Moscow is willing to be part of the transatlantic community. The second reason is having common security concerns with other NATO members, including the issue of stability in Afghanistan and drug trafficking in that country, fighting terrorism, especially transnational Islamist tendencies, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as challenges it is facing due to increased population and influence of China. In doing this, Russia is pursuing the following three goals:

1. To avoid isolation in international issues which are related to global security like Afghanistan by being present in international decision-making bodies such as NATO;

2. To prevent NATO from possibly taking anti-Russia positions; and

3. To creates opportunities for solving problems in the Caucasus by cooperating with NATO on such issues as Afghanistan or terrorism.

On the other hand, the United States and its allies are currently attaching more significance to Russia’s cooperation with NATO as problems like the instability in Afghanistan or the nuclear standoff with Iran greatly overshadowed the war in Georgia and its consequences. As for Afghanistan, it is possible for Russia to either limit the number of NATO flights over its airspace or instigate Central Asian states, as it did with Uzbekistan, to shut down US bases on their soil, thus, causing serious problems for NATO in supporting its forces in Afghanistan.

As for Iran, it seems that the United States has managed through introduction of the missile shield plan and its later rescission to make Moscow cooperate with Washington on Iran’s nuclear case. In fact, the United States has taken advantage of something that did not exist and has dealt with Russia over it. This has precedence in the US foreign policy and many similar instances can be seen in relation to various issues in the world. It was in line with this policy that as soon as the United States announced its decision to rescind the missile shield plan, Rasmussen moved to ask Russia to put the maximum possible diplomatic pressure on Iran in order to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

The secretary-general of NATO warned the world on September 19, 2009 and on the verge of Group 5+1 meeting that if Iran were turned into a nuclear power, its model would be followed by some neighboring countries and emergence of multiple nuclear powers would not be in the best interests of NATO and Russia.

Since Russia has been consistently following a defensive policy toward NATO in the past decade and considered NATO’s decisions a function of the interests of its main power, that is, the United States, it seems that improvement in Washington – Moscow relations would certainly lead to improvement in Russia’s relations with NATO, just as happened in 2002.

The signs of such improvement are already on the horizon. Russian leaders have not ruled out the possibility of more sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and have even expressed concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.