Iran: For the record. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report passed to member states that Iran “has ceased enriching uranium above five percent” fissile purity at the Natanz and Fordo facilities. The report also said that Iran was also converting its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium into uranium oxide, a diluted form.
I am writing to share with you my new article, “Russia, Iran and China in Latin America,” just published by the American Foreign Policy Committee in their e-journal “Defense Dossier.” The work comparatively examines the activities of the three extra-regional actors in Latin America and the Caribbean, including ways in which commercial and governmental initiatives by each compliment (and occasionally conflict or compete with) each other. I emphasize that each actor presents a different type of challenge to US interests in the region, on a different time-scale.
Attached is a very different analysis of emerging politics in the Middle East. I do not know what to make of it. Some of it rings true to me, like the pressures on Turkey to shift gears … but taken together, I just don’t know. I welcome any comments, pro or con, about it.
I do not know anything about this publication or the writer. The web site says Al-Akhbar English is based in Lebanon and its editorial aim is to make debates and analyses circulating in Arabic media accessible to English speakers worldwide. It also says it wants to uphold standards of high journalistic integrity while remaining true the the principles of anti-imperialist struggle, progressive politics, and freedom of expression. If the highlighting and reformatting distraction, the original format can be found at the link. CS
Many observers are correct in noting that the Middle East is undergoing yet another seismic shift – that the Russian-brokered destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a US-Iranian rapprochement, the diminished strategic value of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a US withdrawal from Afghanistan will all contribute to changing regional dynamics considerably.
But what is this new direction? Where will it come from, who will lead it, what will define it?
It has now become clear that the new Mideast “direction” is guided primarily by the “security threat” posed by the proliferation of extremist, sectarian, Islamist fighters in numbers unseen even in Afghanistan or Iraq.
This shared danger has been the impetus behind a flurry of global diplomatic deals that has spawned unexpected cooperation between a diverse mix of nations, many of them adversaries.
These developments come with a unique, post-imperialist twist, though. For the first time in decades, this direction will be led from inside the region, by those Mideast states, groups, sects and parties most threatened by the extremism.
Because nobody else is coming to “save” the Middle East today.
Syria: President Bashar Asad Monday called for a battle against Wahhabism, the political and religious theology embraced by the Saudi Arabian government that backs the Sunni uprising against his regime.
“President Assad said that extremists and Wahhabi thought distort the real Islam, which is tolerant,” state news agency SANA reported. He underlined the role of men of religion in fighting against Wahhabi thought, which is foreign to our societies, according to Asad.
Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative Muslim tradition, which is predominant in Saudi Arabia and whose intolerant precepts govern Saudi religious, civilian and political life. It is a sect of Sunni Islam, whose leaders profess has no sects.
President Obama has announced that due to the interminable whining, nagging, and complaining from Israeli PM Netanyahu and US Congress clown Michele Bachmann, he has decided to go ahead and bomb Iran with them – despite the P5+1 nuclear agreement.
“Michele Bachmann – I hesitate to use the word ‘Congresswoman’ out of respect for that once-great legislative body – insists that Iran absolutely must be bombed, agreement or no agreement,” Obama said Friday. “Her commander-in-chief, the Israeli Prime Minister, agrees. So just to shut them up, I have decided to launch a really ugly-looking bat-winged Northrop-Grumman B-2 to drop a truly vicious load on the Iranian nuclear facilities at Arak. And I have decided to honor dear Michele and my good friend Bibi by making them an integral part of the mission.”
Obama has ordered the Strategic Air Command to prepare a place for Netanyahu and Bachmann in the B-2′s bomb bay atop a moth-eaten mattress beside an ice bucket of cheap champagne. The pair will ride in comfort from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri until the aircraft is approaching the Iranian nuclear facility at Arak. As “preparation to launch” orders are issued, the bomb bay doors will open and Netanyahu and Bachmann will be dangled by their heels, stark naked, outside the aircraft. At “launch,” the pair will be released to plummet head first toward strategic targets at the Iranian nuclear site.
“Nobody since Slim Whitman – I mean, Slim Pickens – has had the privilege of serving as a human bomb on such an important mission,” Obama said. “Bibi and Michele will go down in history beside Bonnie and Clyde, Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather, and other heroic, romantic couples who have sacrificed themselves for their homicidal beliefs. I wish them the best of luck in the afterlife – they’re going to need it.”
After Obama’s surprise announcement, the P5+1 negotiators met in an emergency session to approve Obama’s plan and nominate other Zionists to be dropped out of planes above Iranian nuclear sites.
Chuck Spinney: Patrick Cockburn Interviews Muqtada al-Sadr on Iraq — Toxic Mix of Sectarianism, Incompetent and Corrupt Government, and Interference by US, UK, and Iran
The United States bears a moral responsibility for the murderous state of affairs in Iraq, but contemporary American grand strategy has become a self-referencing mix of arrogance, narcissism, and exceptionalism; so it is not surprising that most Americans have dismissed Iraq their minds (as they are now dismissing Afghanistan). Below is an excellent reminder of the situation in Iraq.
Patrick Cockburn, one of the very best journalists now covering conflicts in the Arab World and Central Asia interviews Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shia clerics in Iraq and leader of the Mehdi Army, a powerful Shia faction. Sadr is now a member of the Shia dominated Iraqi government, but he is becoming increasingly alienated from its leader, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Sadr argues that a toxic mix of (1) sectarianism, (2) governmental incompetence and corruption, and (3) external interference by the U.S. and U.K. and Iran is plunging Iraq into an ever-deepening state of chaos, with no light at the end of the tunnel. (Note: I inserted a few clarifying comments in red.)
In a rare interview at his headquarters in Najaf, he tells Patrick Cockburn of his fears for a nation growing ever more divided on sectarian lines.
The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the US and British armies and who remains a powerful figure in Iraqi politics. He warns of the danger that “the Iraqi people will disintegrate,  its government will disintegrate, and  it will be easy for external powers to control the country”.
In an interview with The Independent in the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south-west of Baghdad – the first interview Mr Sadr has given face-to-face with a Western journalist for almost 10 years – he expressed pessimism about the immediate prospects for Iraq, saying: “The near future is dark.”
Iran-US: This week the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denounced the US “fact sheet” on the Iran agreement as a misrepresentation. Today, 27 November, Foreign Minister Zarif clarified the situation, obliquely.
Zarf said the capacity at the Arak plutonium nuclear reactor construction site is not going to increase. “It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there,” Zarif told Iran’s parliament in translated comments broadcast on Iran’s Press TV.
Zarif also said that uranium enrichment at the Natanz and Fordow facilities will continue at levels around 3.5-5 percent purity, but the facilities’ capacities will not be expanded.
When asked about this, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said: “In the interim accord, the Arak reactor is specifically targeted and the end of all work at this reactor. In the agreement and the text, which has been approved by the Iranian authorities, the Arak reactor is clearly targeted.”
Comment: Basic contract law in US jurisprudence stipulates no agreement exists when there is no meeting of the minds of the contracting parties, regardless of the words of the agreement. The absence of a meeting of the minds, i.e., the existence of different interpretations of terms, is prima facie evidence that no agreement exists.
That is what appears to have taken place in Geneva – two sides used the same words in English, but meant different things. In short, there was no agreement at Geneva.
The strongest evidence of sharp legal practice is the US “fact sheet.” In almost no significant substantive respect, the fact sheet fails to correspond to the actual four-page agreement, which NightWatch used in its analysis. Whoever wrote that fact sheet should be fired because it makes assertions about Iranian undertakings that are factual misrepresentations.
For example, Iran did not agree to freeze construction at Arak. Iran agreed not to expand Arak beyond existing plans and the US agreed to that, according to the Iranians. The US fact sheet, however, says Iran agreed to freeze construction at Arak, the plutonium producing reactor. This is a pivotal issue about which there is no agreement.
Today, the US said that construction at Arak does not violate the agreement. The US statement indicates the Iranian interpretation is the accurate interpretation, not the fact sheet. It also means the Iranians gave up nothing at Arak because that nuclear site will be under construction far beyond the six month time term of the agreement.
Iran agreed to not expand its capacity to enrich, meaning it agreed to not add more centrifuges. It did not agree to not use its existing centrifuges, as the US fact sheet contends. It agreed to not expand its nuclear program, but did not agree to not continue is development under existing capacity limits. The US fact sheet indicates it agreed to halt nuclear development.
The actual agreement requires no “roll back” of the Iranian nuclear program, though the US fact sheet indicates it does.
These inconsistencies are the signs of a rushed job. If the White House fact sheet represents the US understanding of the terms of the agreement, there is no agreement because the Iranians have an entirely different understanding. They got everything they wanted and sanctions relief. That explains the Iranian declarations of a diplomatic victory and the celebrations in Tehran.