Archive for June, 2009

News and Analysis (6/20-21/09)

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

With at least 13 dead as Mousavi supports continuing protests demanding another vote …

… we are further reminded of the limited impact of online communications:

Negating the military gains of Pakistan, ruined infrastructure and weak economies are the strongest recruiting points of the Taliban:

Shedding further light onto the agenda-driven lies leading to the Operation Iraqi Freedom:

Evidence that water, not oil remains the most precious natural resource in the Middle East:

Although Obama is ratcheting up the rhetoric, …

… Short of a complete revolution, few changes should be expected:

News and Analysis (6/19/09)

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Khamenei rejects the allegations of election fraud, “the Islamic republic never betrays the votes of people”…

… As a result, protests may grow increasingly violent:

Anti-terrorism laws allow for the detention of journalists despite claims Afghan laws protects freedom of the press:

With more than 80 percent of working-age males surviving as small-scale farmers, the Obama administration hopes agricultural growth will promote stability in Afghanistan:

When will Obama’s pro-Palestinian rhetoric be reflected in his advisers and staff?

To Taliban claims that democracy is un-Islamic, Maulana Nanotawi replies it’s “un-Islamic to blow up the barber shops, education organizations and tombs”:

VOA and BBC look offer advice to Iranians wishing to engage in “cyber warfare”:

Iranian Nukes: The Way Forward

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Today’s New York Times ran a story on the fact that the U.N.’s atomic energy chief “has a gut feeling” that Iran wants nuclear weapons. This is as surprising and newsworthy as my gut feeling that the U.S. wants to hang onto its nuclear weapons. Much more enlightening was a fantastic panel discussion called “Reassessing Inspections and Verification” at yesterday’s National Iranian-American Council program on Capitol Hill. The moderator, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, sought the answer to the question was “How do you craft an agreement on the Iranian nuclear question?”

Bruno Pellaud, President of the Swiss Nuclear Forum and former head of IAEA Safeguards opened with the observation that the model used by fellow panelist David Kay in Iraq will not work in Iran, as the latter “has not lost a war.” The alternative of international inspection did not work because it focused on prohibition of enrichment. There are other areas of focus that are more promising.

Traditionally, design information is provided to the inspectors just before nuclear material is introduced. A better method is to provide early design information as soon as one decides to build a plant. Although Iran approved this approach, it became the first and only state to refuse to provide such information for a research reactor. The IAEA must insist that Iran comply. It may seem trivial, but it is important.  Since 1995 the IAEA has technology that can detect nuclear material. Now, we also have commercial remote photography and digital surveillance cameras. Pellaud thinks Iran is testing the international community by refusing additional surveillance cameras.

Many new measures developed in the 1990s could be slipped into the present agreements through the “additional protocols” that allow for new technologies. Only a few countries have refused to sign. Pellaud says Iran deserves credit for signing the additional protocol and then voluntarily suspending enrichment, voluntarily abiding by the protocols despite the fact that they never ratified it. This is what allowed the IAEA to discover additional violations in the past. Unfortunately, the IAEA ignored additional offers by Iran because of the expectation that the next election would bring in someone even more compliant. Instead a less complaint candidate won and, perhaps feeling insulted, Iran ceased to voluntarily comply with the unratified agreement.

Suspension of all enrichment is unenforceable both because many countries would consider it a violation of national rights and because centrifuges are portable by their nature.

François Nicoullaud, the former French Ambassador to Iran (2001-2005), said that because no international law can change the laws of physics, he left diplomacy and can now speak freely. He argued that we cannot start from scratch. The Iranians never withdrew from the nonproliferation treaty (NPT), so there is a base of good will on which it is possible to build. Both sides must accept that  there are many ambiguities regarding NPT commitments. If both sides would recognize these ambiguities it would become possible to resolve them for the better.

Iran said it doesn’t want nuclear weapons. Nicoullaud echoes Ronald Reagan, saying, “Trust but verify.” No country has been able to test a nuclear weapon undetected. Do not ask for commitments that are not easily verified, like asking for zero enrichment. Instead ask Iran to ratify the additional protocols. Then ask Iran to formally agree not enrich beyond 5% (enough for nuclear power but not nuclear weapons) and to facilitate inspections to keep production in line with its nuclear power requirements. He firmly believes that with the proper approach, the Iranians, whoever may be in office, would agree to such commitments.

Dr. David Kay, former Iraq Weapons Inspector, insisted that we have to recognize that inspection and verification of Iran is a very difficult task because of past violations, existence of delivery systems, and the toxic relationship between Iran and many other countries. Inspection can’t prevent Iran from development of nuclear weapons; it just makes it more expensive. It does however create a strong plate glass window that Iran would have to break to produce a nuclear weapon. He agreed that the IAEA is perfectly capable of detecting enrichment beyond 5% if given access, prohibiting critical experiments (except those meant for reactor safety), and inspecting all missile sites. This would require strong political support and a permanent inspection presence in Iran. He felt this requires an agreed and transparent dispute resolution process under the Security Council even if delegated to IAEA.

Nicoullaud believes that a time frame of 3-4 months to reach agreement in outline is reasonable, but suspects that someone needs to be appointed to work full time on this. In the past Iranian willingness to negotiate was not capitalized upon because the Europeans wouldn’t spare the time. The Iranians and the West were at cross-purposes on the purpose of negotiations. The Iranians wanted low enrichment approval and the Europeans wanted zero enrichment. Because Iran had suspended enrichment, Europe had incentive to drag its heels. That has changed now.

Iran has 900mg of low enriched material. The panelists disagreed on how long it would take to re-enrich it, estimates ranged from 3 to 12 months. Re-enriching could be done in 3-6 months. A uranium device need not be tested. (Israel never tested uranium, only plutonium.) Merely having the potential gives political leverage even if you don’t actual enrich. However, Kay thinks Iran is five years away from developing multiple devices and reliable delivery systems. He argues that the only country with an existential risk from an Iranian nuclear weapon is Iran and not talking to them has deprived us of the opportunity to explain this to them.

On the obstacle Israel poses to a nuclear free Middle East, Kay notes that the U.S. has given confidence to Japan and South Korea that we will protect them and he thinks we can convince Israel, too. For him the tough issue is the toxic relation we have with Iran. Nicoullaud, however, argued that Iranian leaders can’t, on the one hand, call for nuclear free Israel and, at the same time, say they want to remove it from the face of the earth.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (6/18/09)

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

“‘No one in their right mind can believe’ the official results from Friday’s contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said…. ‘A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy'”:

US intervention in the Iranian election crisis would only further undermine US objectives for negotiations in the future…

… In any case the question remains …

Contradicting the Obama administration claim accusing “the Sudanese leadership of genocide as recently as two days ago”:

Transparency in government is always in the best interest of its citizens:

News and Analysis (6/17/09)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Israeli and Hamas officials seem to trust Carter as a facilitator of peace:

Regardless of the election’s winner, oppression through censorship remains of greater concern to Iranians…

…Both sides use political demonstrations as a sign of power…

…Meanwhile, the US publicly claims to avoid meddling in Iranian affairs:

Is Karzai’s alliance with regional “warlords” a positive for democracy or stability?

If found to be it could major setback for democracy:

The standing legal opinion of the United States, issued in 1979, states “the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories  ‘is inconsistent with international law'”

Preliminary Thoughts on Ahmadinejad’s Re-election

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The Iranian elections were the last of three crucial elections, the others being the Israeli and American elections, needed to establish a tone and general direction for peace negotiations across the Middle East. With the international community watching closely,  most experts agreed it would come down to a run-off between the top two candidates.  Shocking everyone except himself, Ahmadinejad won in a landslide victory with almost 63% of the national vote. With no viable alternatives, the opposition cried for foul and the notion of election fraud has been widely accepted by the media.

In an interview on Meet the Press, Vice President Biden attempted a restrained position on the outcome, “‘I have doubts, but withhold comment.’ He added that the Iranian government had suppressed crowds and limited free speech, which raised questions.”

While not mathematically conclusive, some specific aspects of the election are suspicious. Karroubi won a combined 7% in his native Lorestan and neighboring Khuzestan, after winning both with 55.5% and 36.7% respectively in 2005. While it is conceivable that many Karroubi supporters for whom Ahmadinejad was a second choice might have voted for the incumbent in the hopes of preventing a runoff, that such a large number would desert a favorite son on the first ballot even for htis reason strains credulity.

Similarly, Mousavi failed to carry his home province of East Azerbaijan and barely managed to win neighboring West Azerbaijan. While some are quick to point out Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, I think a more relevant precedent is Jimmy Carter carrying Georgia in the 1980 presidential election. Iranian politics are deeply divided according to ethnic lines and a poor showing in ones “home district” raises serious questions.

Beyond electoral speculation and analysis, the ballots were hand written and Iran experienced record breaking participation. Rapid and accurate results are characteristics not typically associated in elections using hand written ballots. Diving further in Sexton’s analysis, it becomes clear that Ahmadinejad’s victory most likely represents “an exaggerated figure”. However, whether that figure is only 3-5% outside the actual vote or something closer 20-30% cannot be determined from data available to us.

Notwithstanding the upcoming challenges to the legitimacy of Iranian democracy, the allegations of election fraud and consequential re-election of Ahmadinejad was perhaps the best-case scenario for U.S. engagement with Iran. Ultimate authority in foreign policy matters lies with Ayatollah Khamenei. The election of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad would not change his anti-American stance. Political pressure from Iranian Youth and the threat of another revolution are the only serious challenges to the status quo. Unprovoked by the US, Iran’s political turmoil might play exactly into Obama’s call for change.

If Ahmadinejad remains president and negotiations stall, he will undoubtedly serve as the scape-goat. Failure to establish diplomatic relations and a peaceful compromise of Iran’s nuclear program will lead to economic sanctions from the international community. Combining the questionable election with his polarizing nature, Ahmadinejad has little chance of encouraging meaningful international support in his second term.

Most importantly, Iran has addressed this election crisis with a complete disregard for free speech; even an official call for a recount was unable to quiet Mousavi supporters. Of course, these oppressive actions play exactly into Mousavi’s accusations. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has shown little tact in addressing the opposition, who obviously need some more of reconciliation gesture, regardless of the elections legitimacy. Although predictions are futile until the results  of the recount confirm or ovberturn Ahmadinejad’s elections, short of a major political uprising, the international community should expect more of the same from Iran.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (6/16/09)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Oppressive measures designed to limit media coverage  and disrupt protests continue…

…However, some analysts are beginning to question the absolute control of Khamenei…

…Meanwhile, Obama uses a hands-off approach to press American interests in Iran:

While Obama continues to view the glass as half full …

… After the former President meets with Haniya, will the Neocons  call for his arrest?:

“Five years ago, nearly 8 in 10 Afghans believed the country was moving in the right direction. Now, only 3 in 10 do”:

Rebuilding the living of refugees is the only way to insure a lasting victory in Pakistan:

News and Analysis (6/15/09)

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Netanyahu “wants to substitute a Palestinian state for a ghetto with no sovereignty, with no control of its land, of its resources, of its passage, of its roads, of its airspace, of its border…  This is a game, he just used the word state to mislead the world”:

Allegations of election fraud emerge worldwide, the Guardian Council is expected to announce its findings after ten days…

… Meanwhile, interpreting the motives of Ahmadinejad may prove to be even more difficult…

… Regardless, it appears freedom of speech and press are rights that do not exist in Ahmadinejad’s “republic”:

Scammed by labor brokers, foreign workers are virtual slaves to their employers:

The only logical stance on detainees from a former criminal defense lawyer, “they should be presumed innocent because no one has proven them guilty”

Human rights groups attack Yemen’s claim of promoting dialogue with its prisoners, accusing the government of using torture to renounce terrorism:

News and Analysis (6/13-14/09)

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Iran experiences the worst riots in nearly ten years with Ahmadinejad elected by record breaking participation …

… However, Mousavi supporters find an ally in the US government:

“A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.” – Lord Philips of Worth Matravers

An indicator of renewed sectarian violence?

Apparently, no one kept Britain in the loop:

Netanyahu seeks to establish “our [Israeli] principles for achieving peace and security” while “attempting to reach maximum understanding with the U.S. and our friends around the world”…

… In other words, a continuation of the status-quo:

Pakistan must understand where military force helps and where it hurts:

News and Analysis (6/12/09)

Friday, June 12th, 2009

The Qur’an [3:75] says there are some who owing “a single silver coin … will not repay it unless you constantly stood demanding;”  if the slipper fits … :

If the US remains unwilling to accept innocent detainees, they cannot expect other nations to be waiting with open arms …

… yet, public opinion may doom the Uighurs chances for relocation:

A high turnout is expected in an election with monumental consequences across the Middle East,

Will the mistakes of the past ruin the prospects of peace?

Is it a response to pressure from drone attacks or to the opening of  new opportunities for terrorists elsewhere?

Easing the burden on refugees, we hope,