Working for International Dialogue and Peace

CIA-Armed ‘Moderates’ in Syria Included al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front

by Jason Ditz (source: September 20, 2016

"Defected Groups Kept FSA Branding to Keep Weapons Flowing"

A new report citing former CIA officers has revealed that the agency was knowingly providing weapons, including tow missiles to fighters that were effectively part of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, continuing to arm “moderates” so long as they at least nominally kept their moderate names. ››read more

Occupation of Palestine Continues to Fuel Conflict in Middle East

by Mina Al-Oraibi (source: Lobelog) September 18, 2016

Gaza ruinsGaza ruinsThe Arab world is aflame with war, and most Arab countries struggle with sectarianism and authoritarianism. As a result, the Israeli occupation of Palestine often gets lost against the backdrop of these pressing issues. Arab officials themselves often sidestep the issue of the occupation to promote their individual countries’ interests. And Western officials will use these competing concerns as an excuse to ignore the continued occupation. In some countries, Yet the Palestinian question remains at the heart of any effort to resolve many of the Middle East’s challenges. Unless the international community resolves the question of Palestinian statehood, many of the other problems for states in the region will continue to fester. ››read more

From religion to politics, Saudi Arabia feeling chill of isolation

by Sharmine Narwani (source: RT) September 16, 2016

At the end of August, a meeting of Muslim clerics and scholars convened in the Chechen capital of Grozny to forge a consensus on the subject of ‘who constitutes a Sunni.’

Sunnism, the 200 or so Sunni clerics from Egypt, South Africa, India, Europe, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Russia warned, “has undergone a dangerous deformation in the wake of efforts by extremists to void its sense in order to take it over and reduce it to their perception.”

The Muslim world is currently under a siege of terror, led by a deviant strain that claims religious authority and kills in the name of Islam. So the Grozny participants had gathered, by invitation of the Chechen president, to make “a radical change in order to re-establish the true meaning of Sunnism.” ››read more

Powell Acknowledges Israeli Nukes

by Eli Clifton (source: Lobelog) September 15, 2016

Dimona nuclear plantDimona nuclear plantAccording to hacked emails reviewed by LobeLog, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged Israel’s nuclear arsenal, an open secret that U.S. and Israeli politicians typically refuse to acknowledge as part of Israel’s strategy of “nuclear ambiguity.” Powell also rejected assessments that Iran, at the time, was “a year away” from a nuclear weapon. ››read more

Iran and Hezbollah back Syria truce plan

(source: MidEast Eye) September 11, 2016

"Iran welcomes any establishment of a ceasefire in Syria and facilitating of access of all people of this country to humanitarian aid," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi. "Given the experience of a few months ago, the ceasefire must be sustainable... and must not be exploited as an opportunity for terrorist groups to revive their power and transfer fighters and weapons," he added, referring to a truce that collapsed earlier this year. "The continuation and sustainability of a ceasefire relies on the creation of a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, in particular control of borders in order to stop the dispatch of fresh terrorists, as well as weapons and financial resources for the terrorists," said Ghasemi. ››read more

Trump Threatens Act Of War As Response To Rude Hand Gestures

by S.V. Date (source: Huffington Post) September 11, 2016

TrumpTrumpRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday threatened to respond with an act of war if Iranian sailors made rude gestures toward U.S. Navy ships. “When Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” Trump said to raucous applause from his Pensacola rally audience. It was unclear whether Trump literally meant gestures from the Iranians or whether he was referring to threatening or dangerous actions with their boats. ››read more

Does Iranian law green light encounters with US warships?

by Ali Omidi (source: Al Monitor) September 11, 2016

Considering that part of Iran’s political establishment views the United States as an enemy and believes the main reason for the US military presence in the Persian Gulf is to threaten Iran, Tehran maintains the right to monitor the movement and passage of “enemy ships” and views any restrictions placed on military ships of enemy countries as self-defense. Another relevant matter is that in December 1982, one day before Iran signed the UNCLOS, Tehran officially stated, “It seems natural and in harmony with Article 34 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, that only States Parties to the Law of the Sea Convention shall be entitled to benefit from the contractual rights created therein including the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation.” Although the United States has yet to sign UNCLOS, it views the document as a reflection of customary international law and has tried to benefit from it. Iran, however, considers this unacceptable. Indeed, Tehran's view is that because the transit rights of passage were first proposed in the 1982 convention, they cannot be considered customary international law. Regardless, Iran has been what is described as a persistent objector on the issue of customary international law, and Washington has no right to impose it on Tehran. ››read more

Iranian Opposition Ex-Fighters ‘Transferred to Albania’

(source: Balkan Insight) September 11, 2016

Saddam Hussein receiving RajaviSaddam Hussein receiving RajaviThe People's Mujahedin of Iran is a controversial resistance group. Founded in 1965 as a left-leaning opposition to the Shah’s regime, it turned against the Islamic Republic following the 1979 Revolution. The US listed it as a terrorist organisation in 1997 but it was removed from the blacklist in 2012 after it renounced violence. Several thousand of its members left Iran for Iraq, where former dictator Saddam Hussein, used them as a tool against the Iranian regime. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, alliance forces offered the Iranians protection. Since then, about 3,000 have lived at Camp Ashraf while others were sheltered at Camp Liberty near Baghdad. ››read more

Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants

(source: AP / Yahoo) September 9, 2016

An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers as part of the international program backing Kurds in the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq, the group's commander told The Associated Press. The group, called the Kurdistan Freedom Party, is one of several Iranian Kurdish factions that have carried out attacks this year inside Iran, sparking a crackdown by security forces. At the same time, the group has been fighting alongside Iraqi Kurds against Islamic State group militants in northern Iraq. The training is a further twist in the complex web of alliances and enmities swirling around the wars in Iraq and Syria. Iran is a powerful backer of the Iraqi government and Iraqi Shiite militias against the Islamic State group. ››read more

Obama administration downplays 'spin' on Iran payments

by Nick Gass (source: Politico) September 9, 2016

Blinken repeated "absolutely," reiterating the administration's stance that it was in an "environment" where it was possibly to accomplish multiple things as it negotiated the separate nuclear deal with Iran. "We owed Iran a lot of money from way back when," Blinken said, explaining the circumstances for the payment dating back to the failed arms deal to the former shah of Iran. "We had sold them weapons. This is during the shah before the revolution. The revolution happened. We kept the money. We didn't send them the weapons. There was an arbitration that President Reagan backed to decide what to do. We were able to conclude a deal that actually saved us billions of dollars." ››read more

U.N. nuclear agency says Iran sticking to nuclear deal

by Shadia Nasralla (source: Reuters) September 9, 2016

The Institute for Science and International Security think-tank said Iran had been allowed to keep operating 19 radiation containment chambers more than set out in the deal. These so-called "hot cells" are used for handling radioactive material but can be "misused for secret, mostly small-scale plutonium separation efforts," it said. The diplomat in Vienna said any hot-cell activity that could be used to breach limits would be reported by the IAEA, which it had not done.
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Congressional Research Service Expert and Gulf Lobbyist Headline MEK Event

by Eli Clifton (source: Lobelog) September 1, 2016

Rajavi and SaddamRajavi and SaddamKatzman’s participation in the panel is particularly surprising, given his previous critical writings about the group. In 2010, he authored a CRS report featuring a section on the MEK, which he characterized as advocating “Marxism blended with Islamic tenets,” a fact that the MEK—despite its well-documented history—now denies. Katzman cited a 2007 State Department report which “notes the group’s promotion of women in its ranks and again emphasizes the group’s ‘cult-like’ character, including the indoctrination of its members and separation of family members, including children, from its activists.” And in 2012, Katzman warned about exiled opposition groups like the MEK... ››read more

The real US Syria scandal: Supporting sectarian war

by Gareth Porter (source: Middle East Eye) August 31, 2016

The main criticism of US policy in Syria has long been that President Barack Obama should have used US military force or more aggressive arms aid to strengthen the armed opposition to Assad. The easy answer is that the whole idea that there was a viable non-extremist force to be strengthened is a myth – albeit one that certain political figures in London and Washington refuse to give up. ››read more

Israeli think tank: Don’t destroy ISIS; it’s a “useful tool” against Iran, Hezbollah, Syria

by Ben Norton (source: Salon) August 30, 2016

According to a think tank that does contract work for NATO and the Israeli government, the West should not destroy ISIS, the fascist Islamist extremist group that is committing genocide and ethnically cleansing minority groups in Syria and Iraq.

Why? The so-called Islamic State “can be a useful tool in undermining” Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Russia, argues the think tank’s director.

“The continuing existence of IS serves a strategic purpose,” wrote Efraim Inbar in “The Destruction of Islamic State Is a Strategic Mistake,” a paper published on Aug. 2. ››read more

Banks cannot invest in Iran without US guarantees

by Gillian Tett (source: Financial Times) August 26, 2016

Unsurprisingly, this sorry piece of history leaves European and Asian banks very nervous and they have asked for watertight guarantees that the DoJ will not penalise them if they heed Mr Kerry’s appeal. He has hitherto been unable, or unwilling, to persuade the department to do this. So the banks have effectively gone on strike and are not dealing with Iran again. “This is a very odd position for the US government to be taking,” Stuart Levey, chief legal officer of HSBC observed earlier this summer, noting that the bank would not follow Mr Kerry’s lead since there “are no assurances as to how such activity would subsequently be viewed by US regulatory and law-enforcement authorities”. Or as the chief executive of another European bank privately observes: “The American position is so bizarre, we can’t take the risk.” ››read more

Navy fires 2nd officer in Iran captured ship incident

(source: CNN) August 25, 2016

According to a preliminary report, the sailors originally set out from Kuwait for Bahrain but quickly -- and unknowingly -- went off course and headed almost directly for Iran's Farsi Island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. The report indicated that the sailors were not aware of Farsi Island's location and instead believed a small Saudi island was what they were supposed to be sailing around. As the sailors unknowingly approached the Iranian island, they had already missed one scheduled check-in phone call with their command center, and the command center for some reason did not notice that the tracking equipment on board had them headed for Iranian waters. ››read more

US Rails at ‘Unsafe’ Iranian Speedboats for Being Near Warship

by Jason Ditz (source: August 25, 2016

While presenting the moves as “an interception” and “unsafe and unprofessional,” the video footage showed the speedboats barely visible in the distance, before zooming in to present them as somewhat larger, blurrier shapes in the distance. While the US warship fired some flares up into the air and made some unspecific noises, the Iranian boats didn’t appear to react, and never interacted with the US ship in any way other than being close enough that someone was able to see them. ››read more

ANZ refuses Australian customers transactions with Iran, fearing US Treasury backlash

by David Taylor (source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation) August 25, 2016

Australia has dropped trade sanctions with Iran, but in the United States they remain in place. Sydney-based exporter and importer Christopher Cox told PM he took his business to the ANZ bank because of its far-reaching international branch network, compared with other local banks. But ANZ said it would not provide the channel needed to send and receive between Australia and Iran, leaving Mr Cox extremely frustrated, as all the other necessary financial and business infrastructures to do business abroad are in place. ››read more

RNC pressures Clinton to 'disavow' Iran payment

by Mark Hensch (source: The Hill) August 18, 2016

ClintonClintonThe cash payment to the Iranian government is at the center of a new fight between Republicans and the Obama administration. Republicans allege that the payment was a ransom in exchange for the release of three American prisoners in Iran. President Obama has denied that it was a ransom and dismissed the criticism. He said it was money the U.S. owed to Iran and had been announced months ago as part of a larger diplomatic agreement over Tehran's nuclear program. The payment was part of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving a dispute from an arms deal that occurred in the 1970s. ››read more

Disappointment with JCPOA Behind Iran’s Closer Ties with Russia

by Shireen Hunter (source: Lobelog) August 20, 2016

Even more important than economic concerns are Iran’s security anxieties. The nuclear deal has not led to a toning down of attacks against Iran. On the contrary, attacks in Congress against the deal are continuing, and both presidential candidates project Iran as a big threat to America. Regional states, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, are waiting for President Obama to leave office in the hopes that the next president will revive the military option against Iran. Despite their bravado, Iran’s leaders, including the Revolutionary Guards, treat these threats seriously. They might believe that the US will think twice before attacking Iran if it felt that it might lead to Russia’s involvement. Meanwhile, Iran’s regional rivals have increased their sabotage activities in Iran using—at least according to Iranian sources—Islamic State elements. The recent suspicious fires in Iran’s petrochemical industry have raised fears of sabotage, including cyberattacks on its sensitive industrial facilities.
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