Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

How We Can Keep Iran From Becoming the Next North Korea – Fortune

The recent news about North Koreaan accelerating nuclear program, overheated rhetoric, threats of warreflects one of the most dangerous international crises in decades. The great tragedy is that, 25 years ago, the U.S. brokered an agreement to constrain the Norths program. But hard-liners in the U.S., unhappy with its terms, abandoned the deal with a vague intention of coercing North Korea into something better. They never did, and now the U.S. is left with a runaway North Korean program and the very real danger of conflict.

All of this carries important lessons for another urgent foreign policy challenge: The U.S. experience with North Korea offers a powerful reason to preserve the Iranian nuclear deal.

That accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been the subject of fierce criticism from the president and a range of national security hawks. Some in the Trump administration are reportedly determined to blow up the Iran nonproliferation deal. One report even suggested the president had authorized some aides to write a case, independent of interagency channels, for ditching the JCPOA. The idea, apparently, would be to back out and coerce Iran into a better deal.

But weve been here before. And the North Korean case shows just how dangerous it is to scuttle an imperfect but useful restraint on a nuclear program.

When the U.S. confronted a burgeoning North Korean nuclear program in the 1990s, it entered into negotiations that produced the October 1994 Agreed Framework. North Korea ceased operation of one nuclear reactor, stopped building two bigger ones, surrendered stocks of nuclear materials, and allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring of its facilities. In exchange it was promised more proliferation-resistant light-water reactors, supplies of oil, U.S. non-aggression assurances, and the prospect of full diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Without the limits imposed by the deal, estimates are that a full-speed North Korean program could have produced hundreds more kilograms of plutonium , and thus dozens more bombs. IAEA inspections provided new information on the Norths program. And it laid the foundation for a less confrontational situation in which expanded outside contacts could chip away at the regimes control over North Korean society.

But that never happened, in part because the George W. Bush administration arrived in office skeptical of North Korea and determined to sink the Agreed Framework. It did so in 2002, but had no plan to put in its placejust a nebulous and belligerent notion of confronting North Korea. Pyongyang responded immediately and decisively, firing up its main reactor, expelling IAEA inspectors, sending 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods for reprocessing, and withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Its nuclear program has been in overdrive ever since, leading directly to todays crisis.

In 1994, North Korea was thought to have one or two bombs worth of plutonium. Today, the estimates range from 13 to 30 weaponsor even as many as 60, if some recent reports are to be believed. The lesson is clear: Dont throw away a flawed but workable nuclear deal if you are not prepared for the consequences.

Something similar likely awaits the U.S. if it tosses aside the basically effective JCPOA with Iran. It could unilaterally refuse to certify Irans compliance, effectively scuttling the agreement, or try to provoke Iran into backing out. As with North Korea, this is likely to be accompanied by accusations of cheating, demands for a renegotiated deal with tougher provisions, and calls for changes in Iranian behavior across the board.

Iran could categorically reject such demands and pronounce itself unconstrained by the terms of the JCPOAor publicly take the high road, perhaps working with Europe to preserve the outlines of the deal. Either way, though, it is very likely that Iranian hard-liners, already upset about concessions made in the JCPOA, would redouble their demand to speed up nuclear work. Whatever its public stance, Iran would probably hasten work on secret facilities.

If the deal did completely fall apart, IAEA monitoring systems would be ripped out and the agencys inspections would end. Awareness of Irans nuclear work would plummet. The Iranian program could surge ahead, built around hard-to-detect secret centrifuge facilities. Iran could make trouble on other fronts as well, such as slowing cooperation on ISIS or causing new problems in Iraq.

The U.S. could try to lever sanctions back into place, but would find itself diplomatically isolated, with China, Russia, and even Europe furious that tough but effective multilateral coordination had been abandoned so cavalierly. The result would be the worst of both worlds: No inspections and no coercive sanctions to get them back.

And within a few years, the U.S. could find itself in a lesser version of todays North Korea crisis: an Iran with a few bombs worth of nuclear material and a well-established missile force; Washington trying desperately to figure out where its real red lines are; Israel on the verge of a military strike; a fragmented international consensus. The risk of war with Iran and a global diplomatic calamity would be very real.

One goal of effective diplomacy is to avoid situations where the only options are capitulation or war. Sometimes an imperfect compromise is the best way out of such dilemmas. The Bush administration ignored that fact in its North Korea policy, and the world is living with the consequences. In a global context even more dangerous and fractious than in 2002, this is no time to make the same mistake again.

Michael J. Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation

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How We Can Keep Iran From Becoming the Next North Korea – Fortune

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

In Blow to Iran, Egypt Becomes Surprise New Player in Syria – Haaretz

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To Israel’s delight, Cairo’s involvement is already showing results

A new and surprising player has recently entered the Syrian arena and has already contributed to establishing local…

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran reformist leader calls for politicians’ release – The Times of Israel

TEHRAN, Iran Irans ex-president Mohammad Khatami on Sunday asked Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene in the case of two reformist politicians under house arrest without trial for the past six years.

The two high-profile reformists Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi have been under house arrest since 2011 for their part in mass protests that rocked the regime two years earlier.

I want to request the supreme leader to intervene to ensure that the house arrest is resolved, said Khatami, who led a reformist government between 1997 and 2005, and is himself banned from appearing in the media since the protests.

The responsible institutions cannot or do not want to resolve the issue of the house arrests and only your intervention can allow this issue to be resolved, which is in the interests of the regime and would be a sign of its strength, he said, addressing Khamenei.

In this undated photo, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami watches a video on his laptop in his office in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Office of Mohammad Khatami, Asghar Khaksar)

The issue has returned to the fore after Karroubi, 79, went on a brief hunger strike Wednesday to demand a trial.

He gave up the strike the following day after reportedly gaining assurances from the government that they would at least remove intelligence agents who had recently been posted inside his home.

But on Sunday, the spokesman for the judiciary denied that the agents had been removed, saying this was lies, according to local media.

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi at a rally in Tehran, 2009 (CC BY-Hamed Saber/Wikimedia Commons)

Karroubi and Mousavi were candidates in the controversial 2009 presidential election, and accused the regime of massively rigging the result in favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

They played a key role in the ensuing months of protests nicknamed the Green Movement with Karroubi earning particular ire from the regime for claiming that protesters were being raped and tortured in jail.

Khamenei and hardliners refer to the Green Movement as the sedition, and he has repeatedly called on the leaders to repent before there can be any talk of their release.

The fate of Mousavi and Karroubi played a significant role in the re-election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani this May, with reformist voters chanting their names at his rallies.

There is concern that Karroubis death could act as a lightning rod for renewed protests.

He has been hospitalized several times in the past month, undergoing surgery for a weak heart.

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

A Hard Sell – Mashable

Nintendos biggest competitors in the console market, Sony and Microsoft, both recognize a handful of Middle Eastern regions on their respective websites, including Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Eminence, and Israel. The full list from the official Xbox site even includes often overlooked countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan.

But no Iran. The second largest population in the middle east, home to over 78 million residents, has no representation in the world of console gaming.

According to research — from a 2015 Landscape Report provided by the Iran Computer and Video Game Foundation (IRCG) and the Digital Games Research Center (DIREC) — there are roughly 23 million gamers in Iran. Its an absolutely enormous market, but ultimately ignored for a variety of reasons. Nintendos annual fiscal report for 2017 offers at least a surface-level explanation as to why the company (and many others) would avoid such a region.

The report states, Domestic and overseas business activities involve risks such as a) disadvantages from emergence of political or economic factors, b) disadvantages from inconsistency of multilateral taxation systems and diversity of tax law interpretation, c) difficulty in recruiting and securing human resources, and d) social disruption resulting from terror attacks, war and other catastrophic events.

But despite the lack of love from major gaming companies, Iranians continue to buy, sell, and play games through any means necessary. Its an odd market controlled by a sometimes unpredictable fluctuation of supply from outside sources and demand from Iranian players. This economic rollercoaster — coupled with a rise of online-only titles and Irans less than stellar internet speeds — can make the gaming climate in Iran seem unstable.

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Trump and Israel Must Not Conflate North Korea Nuclear Threat With Iran – Haaretz

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August 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran building long-range rocket factory in Syria: Israeli TV – Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli television report said on Tuesday that Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, and showed satellite images it said were of the site under construction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned last week that Iran was strengthening its foothold in its ally Syria as Islamic State fighters were being displaced, and said Israel was watching developments and would act against any threat.

“Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hezbollah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security,” he said in a speech.

The Channel 2 television news report showed images it said were taken by an Israeli satellite showing a site in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas, saying some of the construction indicated explosives would be stored there.

It compared images of buildings it said were of a rocket factory near Tehran to structures at the Syrian site, and said there was a strong resemblance between them.

Netanyahu has been harshly critical of a 2015 deal that six world powers including the United States under then-president Barack Obama struck with Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for an end to multilateral sanctions.

Iran is Israel’s avowed enemy, and Israel argues that the agreement fails to prevent Iranian weapons posing a threat to its very existence. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

The United States last month slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East had undercut any “positive contributions” from the 2015 accord curbing its nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently criticized the agreement as being too soft on Tehran, which remains subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions.

U.S. news reports have said that Israeli intelligence officials will discuss the situation in Syria and Lebanon with U.S. counterparts in Washington this week.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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Iran building long-range rocket factory in Syria: Israeli TV – Reuters

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

After Azadi: man behind Iran’s freedom tower on how his life unravelled – The Guardian

The Azadi tower in Tehran is strung with black flags. Photograph: Amos Chapple/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

In 1966, a 24-year-old architect who had just graduated from Tehran University hesitantly entered a competition to design a monument to mark the 2,500-year celebration of the founding of the Persian empire.

In hindsight, it was a competition of a lifetime, organised by the shah of Iran, who envisioned that the monument would act as his memorial tower, or Shahyad.

The architect, Hossein Amanat, had no idea that his hastily prepared design, which went on to win the competition, would one day become a focal point of the Iranian capitals skyline, serving as a backdrop to some of the countrys most turbulent political events.

The 50-metre (164ft) tall structure, now known as the Azadi (Freedom) tower, rode out the 1979 Islamic revolution, an eight-year war with Iraq and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-era anti-government demonstrations.

But as his tower prospered, Amanats life unravelled.

The monarchy was overthrown in the 1979 revolution, which ushered in an Islamic Republic with Ayatollah Khomeini as supreme leader. The shah, along with many of those believed to be associated with him, left the country and there was a crackdown on the Bah faith, which Amanat practises.

His name was put on a death list, and his belongings were confiscated. He fled Iran and has not returned since.

The Bahs are Irans most persecuted religious minority. After the revolution, more than 200 Bahs were executed in Iran because of their religious allegiance. In 1981, the religion was banned.

Since then, its followers have been deprived of many of their fundamental rights, including access to higher education and the right to work freely. In July, at least six Bahs were arrested in the cities of Gorgan, Kashan and Shiraz.

The Iranian authorities link Bahs to Israel, mainly because its governing body is based in the Israeli city of Haifa, and have accused adherents of spying or conspiring to topple the Islamic establishment.

In a rare interview discussing his religion, Amanat, who also designed three Bah administrative buildings in Haifa, called on Iran to rethink its approach.

They should put aside the suspicion, Amanat, 75, said. Bahs dont have any aims to harm the Islamic establishment. They [the authorities] have repeatedly claimed that Bahs are spies, but have they found even a single document of proof? Theyve found nothing. They should let Bahais live like other Iranians.

The Bah faith, which is monotheistic, accepts all religions as having valid origins. It was founded in Iran in the 19th century by its prophet, Bahullh, who defined the purpose of religion to establish unity and concord among the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. Nearly 300,000 Bahs are believed to live in Iran, and about 6 million worldwide.

According to Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, discrimination against Bahais is legally sanctioned by a lack of constitutional recognition.

A follower was murdered outside his home in Yazd last year by two young men because of his faith, a March report by Jahangir said, and at least 90 Bahais are behind bars.

Amanat was hopeful when Irans moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, was elected in 2013, but said nothing had changed and the situation had even got worse in some situations.

Iran has a special place in the hearts of the Bahai community, he said. Im saddened that my fellow Bahais are under pressure. If theyre given the opportunity they can do good for their country.

Amanat expressed regret for not being able to live in Iran and contribute more to its architecture.

The Azadi tower, he said, was an opportunity to design modern architecture using old language, to preserve the good things about a culture, leave aside the meaningless parts and create something new and meaningful. A tribute to an old human civilisation, the monument was such that if this was erected somewhere else it would have no meaning you cant put Shahyad in Cairo.

It took five years for the Azadi tower to be finished. In 1971 the Shah unveiled the tower, having flown to Tehran from the ruins of Persepolis in Shiraz, where he had held an enormous, lavish event to celebrate the Persian empires 2,500th birthday.

Of all the towers defining moments in modern Iranian history, one incident struck a chord with Amanat.

I was touched deeply once when millions of people went to Shahyad in 2009 [during unrest under Ahmadinejad], and then they were beaten up and many were killed, he said.

I was so saddened by it. As a Bahai, I forgive others, I dont dwell on the injustices done to me, I go forward, but when that happened it was difficult for me because people had taken refuge there.

Reflecting on the country of his birth, Amanat said: I miss Iran a lot, partly because of the sun and the architecture. I am away from everything I had and from my neighbourhood. I have three kids, theyve tried to learn Farsi but cant read a Farsi newspaper fluently and this makes me sad none of them have ever seen the Azadi tower in their life.

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After Azadi: man behind Iran’s freedom tower on how his life unravelled – The Guardian

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Before You Rip Up That Iran Deal … – New York Times

The administration is still working on its Iran strategy, but Mr. Trump and his aides have put a few cards on the table, demonizing Iran; backing tough new sanctions related to missiles and human rights violations; and pledging cooperation with Sunni countries that, like Israel, view Iran as a singular menace and demand its isolation.

Irans threatening behavior certainly deserves pushback from the United States and others. But Iran is not the only destabilizing force in the region, and unremitting hostility is not the answer. Even during the Cold War Washington engaged Moscow, when possible, on nuclear weapons, regional conflicts and human rights.

The United States and Iran had almost no contact after the 1979 Iranian revolution until Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif formed a working relationship during the nuclear negotiations. Instead of building on that, Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have refused to even meet the Iranians.

A more imaginative policy would revive the secretary of state channel to resolve conflicts before they grow and explore solutions for Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. There is precedent for cooperation. Iran helped America and others to organize the new Afghan government after the Talibans ouster in 2001 and to forge a unity government in 2014. Iran could be encouraged now to press the Taliban to enter reconciliation talks with Kabul. Iran and the United States could also work together to combat drug trafficking in Afghanistan, another shared concern. And Iran has been helpful in Iraq by fighting the Islamic State.

Last week, 47 national security leaders urged America and Iran to begin discussing with the nuclear deals other signatories a follow-up agreement that could extend the nuclear restraints on Iran further into the future and expand them to other countries in the region that have or are considering nuclear energy programs. In addition, they proposed a new consultative body so that Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Turkey, China and the European Union could consult on major regional disputes.

There are other constructive ways for the United States to counter Irans influence, like joining with its Sunni allies in helping the regions war-torn countries rebuild. Saudi Arabias recent moves to improve relations with Iraq by opening a land border and resuming air links are a good sign.

Iran is too big to be ignored. And if Washington pursues regime change, as some officials seem to favor, the risks will be huge. This is a crucial moment for Iran as revolutionary leaders die off and competition heats up between hard-liners with a strict anti-Western Islamic ideology and pragmatists who back the nuclear deal and international engagement.

In the balance is a population of 80 million, mostly young, Iranians who have in recent years elected relatively moderate leaders inclined toward evolutionary reform. As it has done with adversaries such as the Russians and the Chinese, America can make progress by engaging the Iranians and avoiding the kind of escalation that empowers hard-liners.

A version of this editorial appears in print on August 14, 2017, on Page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Before You Rip Up That Iran Deal …

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Mossad Warns Iran Expanding Control of Middle East – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90

The director of Israels international espionage agency, the Mossad, warned the cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday that Iran is increasing its control over the Middle East as the Islamic State terrorist organization reduces its presence.

Yossi Cohen said in his briefing that through its proxy groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, where ISIS is slowly dissipating, the Islamic Republic is working to fill the void.

Two weeks ago, an Iranian foreign ministry official met with top officials from Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Beirut. A few days later, Hamas, Hezbollah and PIJ officials traveled to Tehran to attend the inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhanis second term in office.

The Iranian proxy officials remained in Tehran several more days for talks with top government officials, according to state-controlled media, as did top officials from North Korea, who opened a new embassy in the Iranian capital.

Iran has never let go of its nuclear ambitions, Cohen said. The JCPOA agreement signed with six world powers in 2015 only strengthened Tehrans aggression in the region, allowing Iran to replenish its budget and fund its regional proxies, while renewing business ties with European nations.

Irans economy received a new infusion as a result of the recent international agreements, he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the intelligence assessment made it clear that the JCPOA was fundamentally unsound but added that Israel was not obligated to abide by it.

Israel will continue to act determinedly and in a variety of ways to defend itself from these threats, Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, Iranian lawmakers on Sunday voted to boost spending on Tehrans missile program. The bill allocates $260 million to Irans ballistic missile program and the same sum to the Quds Force the extraterritorial arm of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which has been active in Iraq Syria and Yemen. The Quds force is designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Iran said the measures came in response to sanctions imposed by the US in August over Tehrans missile program.

Tazpit Press Service contributed content to this report.

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August 13, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

How We Can Keep Iran From Becoming the Next North Korea – Fortune

The recent news about North Koreaan accelerating nuclear program, overheated rhetoric, threats of warreflects one of the most dangerous international crises in decades. The great tragedy is that, 25 years ago, the U.S. brokered an agreement to constrain the Norths program. But hard-liners in the U.S., unhappy with its terms, abandoned the deal with a vague intention of coercing North Korea into something better. They never did, and now the U.S. is left with a runaway North Korean program and the very real danger of conflict. All of this carries important lessons for another urgent foreign policy challenge: The U.S. experience with North Korea offers a powerful reason to preserve the Iranian nuclear deal. That accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been the subject of fierce criticism from the president and a range of national security hawks. Some in the Trump administration are reportedly determined to blow up the Iran nonproliferation deal. One report even suggested the president had authorized some aides to write a case, independent of interagency channels, for ditching the JCPOA. The idea, apparently, would be to back out and coerce Iran into a better deal. But weve been here before. And the North Korean case shows just how dangerous it is to scuttle an imperfect but useful restraint on a nuclear program. When the U.S. confronted a burgeoning North Korean nuclear program in the 1990s, it entered into negotiations that produced the October 1994 Agreed Framework. North Korea ceased operation of one nuclear reactor, stopped building two bigger ones, surrendered stocks of nuclear materials, and allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring of its facilities. In exchange it was promised more proliferation-resistant light-water reactors, supplies of oil, U.S. non-aggression assurances, and the prospect of full diplomatic relations with the U.S. Without the limits imposed by the deal, estimates are that a full-speed North Korean program could have produced hundreds more kilograms of plutonium , and thus dozens more bombs. IAEA inspections provided new information on the Norths program. And it laid the foundation for a less confrontational situation in which expanded outside contacts could chip away at the regimes control over North Korean society. But that never happened, in part because the George W. Bush administration arrived in office skeptical of North Korea and determined to sink the Agreed Framework. It did so in 2002, but had no plan to put in its placejust a nebulous and belligerent notion of confronting North Korea. Pyongyang responded immediately and decisively, firing up its main reactor, expelling IAEA inspectors, sending 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods for reprocessing, and withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Its nuclear program has been in overdrive ever since, leading directly to todays crisis. In 1994, North Korea was thought to have one or two bombs worth of plutonium. Today, the estimates range from 13 to 30 weaponsor even as many as 60, if some recent reports are to be believed. The lesson is clear: Dont throw away a flawed but workable nuclear deal if you are not prepared for the consequences. Something similar likely awaits the U.S. if it tosses aside the basically effective JCPOA with Iran. It could unilaterally refuse to certify Irans compliance, effectively scuttling the agreement, or try to provoke Iran into backing out. As with North Korea, this is likely to be accompanied by accusations of cheating, demands for a renegotiated deal with tougher provisions, and calls for changes in Iranian behavior across the board. Iran could categorically reject such demands and pronounce itself unconstrained by the terms of the JCPOAor publicly take the high road, perhaps working with Europe to preserve the outlines of the deal. Either way, though, it is very likely that Iranian hard-liners, already upset about concessions made in the JCPOA, would redouble their demand to speed up nuclear work. Whatever its public stance, Iran would probably hasten work on secret facilities. If the deal did completely fall apart, IAEA monitoring systems would be ripped out and the agencys inspections would end. Awareness of Irans nuclear work would plummet. The Iranian program could surge ahead, built around hard-to-detect secret centrifuge facilities. Iran could make trouble on other fronts as well, such as slowing cooperation on ISIS or causing new problems in Iraq. The U.S. could try to lever sanctions back into place, but would find itself diplomatically isolated, with China, Russia, and even Europe furious that tough but effective multilateral coordination had been abandoned so cavalierly. The result would be the worst of both worlds: No inspections and no coercive sanctions to get them back. And within a few years, the U.S. could find itself in a lesser version of todays North Korea crisis: an Iran with a few bombs worth of nuclear material and a well-established missile force; Washington trying desperately to figure out where its real red lines are; Israel on the verge of a military strike; a fragmented international consensus. The risk of war with Iran and a global diplomatic calamity would be very real. One goal of effective diplomacy is to avoid situations where the only options are capitulation or war. Sometimes an imperfect compromise is the best way out of such dilemmas. The Bush administration ignored that fact in its North Korea policy, and the world is living with the consequences. In a global context even more dangerous and fractious than in 2002, this is no time to make the same mistake again. Michael J. Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation

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In Blow to Iran, Egypt Becomes Surprise New Player in Syria – Haaretz

Home > Middle East News > Syria To Israel’s delight, Cairo’s involvement is already showing results A new and surprising player has recently entered the Syrian arena and has already contributed to establishing local… Want to enjoy ‘Zen’ reading – with no ads and just the article? Subscribe today We’ve got more newsletters we think you’ll find interesting. Please try again later. This email address has already registered for this newsletter.

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Iran reformist leader calls for politicians’ release – The Times of Israel

TEHRAN, Iran Irans ex-president Mohammad Khatami on Sunday asked Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene in the case of two reformist politicians under house arrest without trial for the past six years. The two high-profile reformists Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi have been under house arrest since 2011 for their part in mass protests that rocked the regime two years earlier. I want to request the supreme leader to intervene to ensure that the house arrest is resolved, said Khatami, who led a reformist government between 1997 and 2005, and is himself banned from appearing in the media since the protests. The responsible institutions cannot or do not want to resolve the issue of the house arrests and only your intervention can allow this issue to be resolved, which is in the interests of the regime and would be a sign of its strength, he said, addressing Khamenei. In this undated photo, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami watches a video on his laptop in his office in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Office of Mohammad Khatami, Asghar Khaksar) The issue has returned to the fore after Karroubi, 79, went on a brief hunger strike Wednesday to demand a trial. He gave up the strike the following day after reportedly gaining assurances from the government that they would at least remove intelligence agents who had recently been posted inside his home. But on Sunday, the spokesman for the judiciary denied that the agents had been removed, saying this was lies, according to local media. Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi at a rally in Tehran, 2009 (CC BY-Hamed Saber/Wikimedia Commons) Karroubi and Mousavi were candidates in the controversial 2009 presidential election, and accused the regime of massively rigging the result in favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They played a key role in the ensuing months of protests nicknamed the Green Movement with Karroubi earning particular ire from the regime for claiming that protesters were being raped and tortured in jail. Khamenei and hardliners refer to the Green Movement as the sedition, and he has repeatedly called on the leaders to repent before there can be any talk of their release. The fate of Mousavi and Karroubi played a significant role in the re-election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani this May, with reformist voters chanting their names at his rallies. There is concern that Karroubis death could act as a lightning rod for renewed protests. He has been hospitalized several times in the past month, undergoing surgery for a weak heart.

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A Hard Sell – Mashable

Nintendos biggest competitors in the console market, Sony and Microsoft, both recognize a handful of Middle Eastern regions on their respective websites, including Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Eminence, and Israel. The full list from the official Xbox site even includes often overlooked countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan. But no Iran. The second largest population in the middle east, home to over 78 million residents, has no representation in the world of console gaming. According to research — from a 2015 Landscape Report provided by the Iran Computer and Video Game Foundation (IRCG) and the Digital Games Research Center (DIREC) — there are roughly 23 million gamers in Iran. Its an absolutely enormous market, but ultimately ignored for a variety of reasons. Nintendos annual fiscal report for 2017 offers at least a surface-level explanation as to why the company (and many others) would avoid such a region. The report states, Domestic and overseas business activities involve risks such as a) disadvantages from emergence of political or economic factors, b) disadvantages from inconsistency of multilateral taxation systems and diversity of tax law interpretation, c) difficulty in recruiting and securing human resources, and d) social disruption resulting from terror attacks, war and other catastrophic events. But despite the lack of love from major gaming companies, Iranians continue to buy, sell, and play games through any means necessary. Its an odd market controlled by a sometimes unpredictable fluctuation of supply from outside sources and demand from Iranian players. This economic rollercoaster — coupled with a rise of online-only titles and Irans less than stellar internet speeds — can make the gaming climate in Iran seem unstable.

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Trump and Israel Must Not Conflate North Korea Nuclear Threat With Iran – Haaretz

Home > Opinion Deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a noble goal one that America and Israel ostensibly share. How to go about doing so is another story How can dictatorships be deterred from developing operational nuclear arsenals? This is a good question posed in an August 10 Haaretz… Want to enjoy ‘Zen’ reading – with no ads and just the article? Subscribe today We’ve got more newsletters we think you’ll find interesting. Please try again later. This email address has already registered for this newsletter.

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August 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran building long-range rocket factory in Syria: Israeli TV – Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli television report said on Tuesday that Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, and showed satellite images it said were of the site under construction. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned last week that Iran was strengthening its foothold in its ally Syria as Islamic State fighters were being displaced, and said Israel was watching developments and would act against any threat. “Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hezbollah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security,” he said in a speech. The Channel 2 television news report showed images it said were taken by an Israeli satellite showing a site in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas, saying some of the construction indicated explosives would be stored there. It compared images of buildings it said were of a rocket factory near Tehran to structures at the Syrian site, and said there was a strong resemblance between them. Netanyahu has been harshly critical of a 2015 deal that six world powers including the United States under then-president Barack Obama struck with Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for an end to multilateral sanctions. Iran is Israel’s avowed enemy, and Israel argues that the agreement fails to prevent Iranian weapons posing a threat to its very existence. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. The United States last month slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East had undercut any “positive contributions” from the 2015 accord curbing its nuclear program. U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently criticized the agreement as being too soft on Tehran, which remains subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions. U.S. news reports have said that Israeli intelligence officials will discuss the situation in Syria and Lebanon with U.S. counterparts in Washington this week. Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

After Azadi: man behind Iran’s freedom tower on how his life unravelled – The Guardian

The Azadi tower in Tehran is strung with black flags. Photograph: Amos Chapple/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images In 1966, a 24-year-old architect who had just graduated from Tehran University hesitantly entered a competition to design a monument to mark the 2,500-year celebration of the founding of the Persian empire. In hindsight, it was a competition of a lifetime, organised by the shah of Iran, who envisioned that the monument would act as his memorial tower, or Shahyad. The architect, Hossein Amanat, had no idea that his hastily prepared design, which went on to win the competition, would one day become a focal point of the Iranian capitals skyline, serving as a backdrop to some of the countrys most turbulent political events. The 50-metre (164ft) tall structure, now known as the Azadi (Freedom) tower, rode out the 1979 Islamic revolution, an eight-year war with Iraq and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-era anti-government demonstrations. But as his tower prospered, Amanats life unravelled. The monarchy was overthrown in the 1979 revolution, which ushered in an Islamic Republic with Ayatollah Khomeini as supreme leader. The shah, along with many of those believed to be associated with him, left the country and there was a crackdown on the Bah faith, which Amanat practises. His name was put on a death list, and his belongings were confiscated. He fled Iran and has not returned since. The Bahs are Irans most persecuted religious minority. After the revolution, more than 200 Bahs were executed in Iran because of their religious allegiance. In 1981, the religion was banned. Since then, its followers have been deprived of many of their fundamental rights, including access to higher education and the right to work freely. In July, at least six Bahs were arrested in the cities of Gorgan, Kashan and Shiraz. The Iranian authorities link Bahs to Israel, mainly because its governing body is based in the Israeli city of Haifa, and have accused adherents of spying or conspiring to topple the Islamic establishment. In a rare interview discussing his religion, Amanat, who also designed three Bah administrative buildings in Haifa, called on Iran to rethink its approach. They should put aside the suspicion, Amanat, 75, said. Bahs dont have any aims to harm the Islamic establishment. They [the authorities] have repeatedly claimed that Bahs are spies, but have they found even a single document of proof? Theyve found nothing. They should let Bahais live like other Iranians. The Bah faith, which is monotheistic, accepts all religions as having valid origins. It was founded in Iran in the 19th century by its prophet, Bahullh, who defined the purpose of religion to establish unity and concord among the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. Nearly 300,000 Bahs are believed to live in Iran, and about 6 million worldwide. According to Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, discrimination against Bahais is legally sanctioned by a lack of constitutional recognition. A follower was murdered outside his home in Yazd last year by two young men because of his faith, a March report by Jahangir said, and at least 90 Bahais are behind bars. Amanat was hopeful when Irans moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, was elected in 2013, but said nothing had changed and the situation had even got worse in some situations. Iran has a special place in the hearts of the Bahai community, he said. Im saddened that my fellow Bahais are under pressure. If theyre given the opportunity they can do good for their country. Amanat expressed regret for not being able to live in Iran and contribute more to its architecture. The Azadi tower, he said, was an opportunity to design modern architecture using old language, to preserve the good things about a culture, leave aside the meaningless parts and create something new and meaningful. A tribute to an old human civilisation, the monument was such that if this was erected somewhere else it would have no meaning you cant put Shahyad in Cairo. It took five years for the Azadi tower to be finished. In 1971 the Shah unveiled the tower, having flown to Tehran from the ruins of Persepolis in Shiraz, where he had held an enormous, lavish event to celebrate the Persian empires 2,500th birthday. Of all the towers defining moments in modern Iranian history, one incident struck a chord with Amanat. I was touched deeply once when millions of people went to Shahyad in 2009 [during unrest under Ahmadinejad], and then they were beaten up and many were killed, he said. I was so saddened by it. As a Bahai, I forgive others, I dont dwell on the injustices done to me, I go forward, but when that happened it was difficult for me because people had taken refuge there. Reflecting on the country of his birth, Amanat said: I miss Iran a lot, partly because of the sun and the architecture. I am away from everything I had and from my neighbourhood. I have three kids, theyve tried to learn Farsi but cant read a Farsi newspaper fluently and this makes me sad none of them have ever seen the Azadi tower in their life.

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August 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Before You Rip Up That Iran Deal … – New York Times

The administration is still working on its Iran strategy, but Mr. Trump and his aides have put a few cards on the table, demonizing Iran; backing tough new sanctions related to missiles and human rights violations; and pledging cooperation with Sunni countries that, like Israel, view Iran as a singular menace and demand its isolation. Irans threatening behavior certainly deserves pushback from the United States and others. But Iran is not the only destabilizing force in the region, and unremitting hostility is not the answer. Even during the Cold War Washington engaged Moscow, when possible, on nuclear weapons, regional conflicts and human rights. The United States and Iran had almost no contact after the 1979 Iranian revolution until Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif formed a working relationship during the nuclear negotiations. Instead of building on that, Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have refused to even meet the Iranians. A more imaginative policy would revive the secretary of state channel to resolve conflicts before they grow and explore solutions for Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. There is precedent for cooperation. Iran helped America and others to organize the new Afghan government after the Talibans ouster in 2001 and to forge a unity government in 2014. Iran could be encouraged now to press the Taliban to enter reconciliation talks with Kabul. Iran and the United States could also work together to combat drug trafficking in Afghanistan, another shared concern. And Iran has been helpful in Iraq by fighting the Islamic State. Last week, 47 national security leaders urged America and Iran to begin discussing with the nuclear deals other signatories a follow-up agreement that could extend the nuclear restraints on Iran further into the future and expand them to other countries in the region that have or are considering nuclear energy programs. In addition, they proposed a new consultative body so that Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Turkey, China and the European Union could consult on major regional disputes. There are other constructive ways for the United States to counter Irans influence, like joining with its Sunni allies in helping the regions war-torn countries rebuild. Saudi Arabias recent moves to improve relations with Iraq by opening a land border and resuming air links are a good sign. Iran is too big to be ignored. And if Washington pursues regime change, as some officials seem to favor, the risks will be huge. This is a crucial moment for Iran as revolutionary leaders die off and competition heats up between hard-liners with a strict anti-Western Islamic ideology and pragmatists who back the nuclear deal and international engagement. In the balance is a population of 80 million, mostly young, Iranians who have in recent years elected relatively moderate leaders inclined toward evolutionary reform. As it has done with adversaries such as the Russians and the Chinese, America can make progress by engaging the Iranians and avoiding the kind of escalation that empowers hard-liners. A version of this editorial appears in print on August 14, 2017, on Page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Before You Rip Up That Iran Deal …

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August 14, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Mossad Warns Iran Expanding Control of Middle East – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90 The director of Israels international espionage agency, the Mossad, warned the cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday that Iran is increasing its control over the Middle East as the Islamic State terrorist organization reduces its presence. Yossi Cohen said in his briefing that through its proxy groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, where ISIS is slowly dissipating, the Islamic Republic is working to fill the void. Two weeks ago, an Iranian foreign ministry official met with top officials from Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Beirut. A few days later, Hamas, Hezbollah and PIJ officials traveled to Tehran to attend the inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhanis second term in office. The Iranian proxy officials remained in Tehran several more days for talks with top government officials, according to state-controlled media, as did top officials from North Korea, who opened a new embassy in the Iranian capital. Iran has never let go of its nuclear ambitions, Cohen said. The JCPOA agreement signed with six world powers in 2015 only strengthened Tehrans aggression in the region, allowing Iran to replenish its budget and fund its regional proxies, while renewing business ties with European nations. Irans economy received a new infusion as a result of the recent international agreements, he said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the intelligence assessment made it clear that the JCPOA was fundamentally unsound but added that Israel was not obligated to abide by it. Israel will continue to act determinedly and in a variety of ways to defend itself from these threats, Netanyahu said. Meanwhile, Iranian lawmakers on Sunday voted to boost spending on Tehrans missile program. The bill allocates $260 million to Irans ballistic missile program and the same sum to the Quds Force the extraterritorial arm of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which has been active in Iraq Syria and Yemen. The Quds force is designated a terrorist organization by the United States. Iran said the measures came in response to sanctions imposed by the US in August over Tehrans missile program. Tazpit Press Service contributed content to this report.

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August 13, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed


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