Farvardin 9 1399 - March 28 2020
US extends Iraq waivers but intensifies Iran sanctions as COVID-19 breaks records

The fresh US sanctions were imposed on the same day the novel coronavirus infected a record-high number of people in Iran. According to Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, 2,926 new cases of infection were confirmed in the 24 hours to Friday noon. He said 144 people also died in the 24-hour period, increasing the death toll to 2,378. The spokesman said the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 32,332. -Press TV 3/27/20

Collective punishment has always been the stated goal of Iran sanctions hawks

The coronavirus pandemic's impact in Iran, which already claimed over 1,800 lives and infected more than 23,000 people, is one of the world's more troubling examples of widespread infection, with insufficient medical resources to treat the victims and a staggering anticipated death toll. While public health experts and human rights advocates all point to the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" sanctions regime against Iran as contributing to the public health crisis, sanctions advocates in the Trump administration and at two ultra hawkish think tanks claim that the "humanitarian trade" sanctions exemption is sufficient to address Iran's medical needs. -Eli Cliftonn, Responsible Statecraft 3/24/20

Trump thinks Iran is on its knees. But COVID-19 may have given it an unprecedented path to the bomb

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes the coronavirus has made Iran ripe for some bombing. Weakened by both sanctions and the pandemic, a window of opportunity exists to strike it militarily, he reportedly told President Donald Trump. But paradoxically, the pandemic may also have given Tehran an opportunity it neither desired nor faced earlier on. Trump's sanctions have already begun to shift Tehran's nuclear calculus. 3/24/20

Trump's callous sanctions risk tipping Iran over the nuclear precipice

Displaying the sort of unthinking bellicosity that has characterised his tenure as US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo chose last week - a time of unprecedented global turmoil - to impose yet more unilateral sanctions on Iran. This was akin to pouring petrol on a burning building, then waiting to see how big an explosion ensues. -Simon Tisdall, Guardian 3/24/20

Iraq, Iran, and the spectre of US sanctions

The Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign now appears to have Iraq in its sights, aiming to increase the economic pain experienced by Iran. European capitals should be alarmed at this new US trajectory - not least given the fragility of the Iraqi government and its efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group (ISIS). -Ellie Geranmayeh, Sajad Jiyad, ECFR 3/20/20

At Saudi music festival, Iran rivalry takes the stage

Exile Iranian musicians critical of religious hardliners in Tehran converged this month to perform in the most unlikely locale: Saudi Arabia. Taking place amid heightened tensions between the regional enemies, the event was promoted as cultural dialogue but also allowed the kingdom a subtle dig at Tehran, with Saudi-owned MBC Persia airing the concerts for Iranian viewers. -Reuters 3/18/20

Amid Coronavirus Chaos, U.S. and Iran Edge Closer to War

IF YOU LISTENED closely this week, behind the terrifying clamor of Covid-19 sweeping across the planet, you might've heard the sound of war nearly breaking out again between the United States and Iran. On Wednesday, the birthday of assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a barrage of rockets slammed into the Camp Taji airbase north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The attack killed two Americans and a Briton, while wounding 14 others. -Murtaza Hussain, Intercept 3/15/20

How hawks are trying to shatter the Iran nuclear deal once and for all

If you visit the State Department's Iran page, you'll see an ominous clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the expiration of the United Nations arms embargo on Iran. The clock, and the embarrassing propagandistic script that accompanies it, reflects how far the State Department has fallen from the days when it laboriously worked to craft a deal to constrain Iran's nuclear program and open a window to resolve additional longstanding concerns with Iran's regional activities. -Ryan Costello, Responsible Statecraft 3/13/20

Biden's vision for U.S. Middle East policy - a view from Europe

Former Vice President Joe Biden's remarkable resurgence as the probable Democratic presidential nominee has invited fresh scrutiny of his foreign policy views - not only in the United States, but across the world, including in Europe. When Biden recently presented his foreign policy vision, there were encouraging ideas about a return to diplomacy as a first, not last, resort of statecraft. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 3/13/20

US Congress votes to limit Trump's war powers against Iran

The United States House of Representatives approved on Wednesday a War Powers Resolution aimed at limiting President Donald Trump's ability to wage war against Iran. The passage of the resolution was yet another rebuke of the president over his decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January amid escalating tensions with Tehran. -Al-Jazeera 3/12/20

The Iran nuclear deal is facing a new threat

A March 3 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is withholding access to two sites connected to its nuclear program and failing to cooperate fully to resolve questions relating to nuclear material has created a potentially problematic situation for states committed to preserving the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). -Peter Jenkins, Responsible 3/12/20

Q&A: What the US-Taliban agreement means for Afghanistan and why Iran should be involved

Now that some of the dust has settled from the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Fatemeh Aman, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, explains just what the deal means for the future of the Afghan government, what the regional implications are, and what the Iranians - despite being left out of the process - have to say about it. -Responsible Statecraft 3/11/20

How will Russia, China support Iran's military after UN arms ban ends?

When the UN arms embargo on Iran expires in October, in accordance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, it's unclear to what extent Russia and China will work to boost the Iranian military. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress that the United States "would appeal to the international community to extend" the arms embargo. Moscow, however, argues that the UN Security Council has no plans to consider extending it. -Anton Mardasov, Al-Monitor 3/10/20

How the Iran nuclear deal can be saved

Several parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) have engaged in actions that threaten to undermine the agreement. The Iranians have now undertaken a series of calculated breaches of their commitments. In response, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the European 3 or "E3") triggered the deal's dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) on 14 January 2020. The loss of trust between the three European states and Iran is very clear -Marc Finaud & Heinz Gartner, Responsible Statecraft 3/6/20

Iran to IAEA: Israeli fabrications no basis for cooperation

Iran says it will not allow Israeli allegations, which Tel Aviv claims are rooted in findings of a so-called secret operation, to form the basis of the Islamic Republic's cooperation with the United Nations nuclear agency. Iran's mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made the remarks in a statement dated Thursday after the watchdog demanded "complementary" access to two sites that are alleged by the Israeli regime to host diversionary nuclear activities. -Press TV 3/6/20

The future is bright for hardliners in Iran

Iran held its 11th parliamentary elections late last month, handing a resounding victory to hardline and conservative forces during perhaps Iran's most tumultuous few months since the 2009 Green Movement demonstrations. The elections were held after months of recession resulting from economic sanctions, the brutal November 2019 government crackdown that left hundreds dead, Iran moving to the brink of war following the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani, and the public outrage at the government's attempt to cover up its involvement in a civilian plane downing. -Shervin Ghaffari, Responsible Statecraft 3/5/20

Iran's Uranium Stockpile Grows, But Still Not a Weapons Risk

The latest IAEA report on Iran noted that the uranium stockpile was at 1,500 kg, which is roughly five times the "cap" under the P5+1 nuclear deal. Iran has been deliberately flouting the cap in a reversible way to try to encourage negotiation on sanctions relief, which was promised but never given to them. While this is being hyped today because of the report, it's not really new. -Jason Ditz, Antiwar 3/4/20

They Have the Watches, We Have the Time; US and Iran Hardliners Still Want War

When I was in Afghanistan, I often heard a Pashtun saying attributed to the Afghan Taliban strategy for war with the United States: "They have the watches, but we have the time". I do not know the provenance of this saying and I do not know if the saying exists in other Muslim or Asian societies, but it certainly has held true in warfare over the centuries whether you understand it in terms of the United States Revolution, the Vietnamese war for liberation against the French, Japanese and the US, or the decades long struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It is a saying that, if translated from Afghanistan's Pashto to Iran's Farsi, could be very applicable to Iran right now. -Matthew Hoh, counterpunch 3/4/20

Supreme Leader Urges Iranians To Support Battle Against Coronavirus As Death Toll Rises

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged Iranians to support the government in its battle against an outbreak of the coronavirus as the death toll rose to 77, the highest outside of China. "Don't violate the recommendations and instructions of the responsible authorities in terms of prevention, in terms of keeping hands, face, and living environment clean and not infecting these and preventing the infection of these," he said in a March 3 broadcast on state television. 3/3/20

Investment requests pile up for Iran's only oceanic port

As many as 53 companies have requested to invest in Chabahar, Iran's only oceanic port, a senior official says. Over the last 11 months, some 170 Iranian and foreign delegations have visited the port which Iran intends to develop by attracting private and public sector investments. 3/3/20

Iran's Coronavirus Deaths Mount, Including Senior Adviser To Iran's Supreme Leader

Latest coronavirus figures provided by Iran's Health Ministry put the number of deaths at 43. There is also a big spike of 205 in number of confirmed cases in the last 24 hours bringing the total to 593. According to Iranian officials, the cases are expected to peak in the next seven days. This has caused widespread concerns and worries in Iran as reflected in the coverage by the local media. 3/2/20

U.S. Signs Peace Deal With Taliban After Nearly 2 Decades Of War In Afghanistan

The U.S. and the Taliban have struck a deal that paves the way for eventual peace in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the militant Islamist group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed the potentially historic agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where the two sides spent months hashing out its details. -NPR 3/1/20

Coronavirus Death Toll In Iran Rises To 43

Iran's Health Ministry says nine people have died from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 43 amid 593 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Islamic republic. Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour gave the new figure on February 29. "We have had 205 new cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours", he said, while urging people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel. 2/29/20

Why Europe should disregard the Graham-Menendez plan on Iran

A new plan being hatched by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) two prominent Iran hawks, will supposedly kick-start the Iran diplomacy. Their plan foresees a path to a "new Iran deal" that would involve Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors permanently forswearing enrichment of uranium in exchange for safeguarding their right to a peaceful nuclear program and limited sanctions relief for Iran... After years of piling up sanctions and "maximum pressure," any talk of diplomacy with Iran coming from Washington is welcome in Europe. However, judging by what has transpired in the media so far, the Europeans should discard the Graham-Menendez plan as unrealistic at best and malicious at worst. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 2/28/20

Iran and the US: A path back from the brink

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, containment has been the default Iran policy of every US administration. Presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have pursued an ill-advised and barely disguised policy of regime change, through imposing harsh economic sanctions and political pressure. -Middle East Eye 2/28/20

A Difficult Peace

Nearly a thousand of us were gathered in Chicago beneath the alarming edifice of Chicago's "Trump Tower." Iran's General Qassem Soleimani had been brutally murdered the day before in Iraq, with several of his associates; and the welcome surprise of Iran's relatively measured response was yet a few days off. A region-wide conflagration seemed just on the verge of engulfing perhaps millions of lives, and consuming, as well, much of the species' remaining time and attention needed to face our direst threats... -Sean Reynolds, Counterpunch 2/28/20

Iran Coronavirus Cases Spike: 247 Infections, 26 Deaths

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus outbreak in Iran has increased by seven to 26 over the past 24 hours, authorities say, as the disease continues to spread in many regions of the world. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on February 27 that a total of 245 people had tested positive for the virus -- an increase of 106 on the previous day. Jahanpour told a news conference that the large number of new cases came from more labs now testing for the virus. Iran's death toll is the highest outside of China, where the disease emerged in December. 2/27/20

Iran's coronavirus outbreak is bizarrely reminiscent of the Black Death

When the very first Coronavirus reports emerged, I had a suspicion that Iran would be a target of the world's anger. The spread of Covid-19 to the Middle East was as inevitable as history because the Muslim pilgrim routes have always acted as a channel for pestilence. But however honest or dishonest Iran's response to the virus has been, contemporary hatred for Shia Islam in Sunni Muslim lands and the anti-Iranian bias of the Western world was going to turn poor old Persia into a plague-pariah. -Robert Fisk, Independent 2/27/20

What Iran's parliamentary elections mean for Iran and dialogue with the United States

As was widely expected, hardliners won Iran's parliamentary elections by a wide margin, largely because reformist and moderate candidates were disqualified from running. However, the hardliners' significant victory was not as sweet as they might have expected because the turnout at just a little over 42 percent was the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic. In Tehran, turnout was as low as 26 percent. This lack of enthusiasm means that the hardliners did not receive a resounding mandate. It also means winning the presidential election in May 2021 is still an uncertainty. -Shireen Hunter, Responsible Statecraft 2/27/20

Hawks' feigned push to restart diplomacy with Iran is actually an effort to kill the nuclear deal

As the Trump administration's term in office nears its end, U.S. hawks are gearing up for a final showdown in hopes of dealing a death blow to the remains of the JCPOA - the nuclear deal between the U.S., other major world powers, and Iran. News of agreement between Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) - both opponents of President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran - on a legislative vehicle that would craft the outlines of a "new" nuclear accord indicates that the showdown may well take in the halls of Congress. -Tyler Cullis, Responsible Statecraft 2/26/20

Europe, China and Russia urge preservation of Iran nuclear deal

Six nations on Wednesday called for adherence to the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - better known as the Iran nuclear deal. The meeting in Brussels cited concerns over the impact of US sanctions imposed on Iran and the 2018 withdrawal from the agreement. -DW 2/26/20

How Iran became a hot zone for coronavirus in Middle East

Like many Iranians scared about contracting the deadly coronavirus, Omid Rahimi has been reading the news, tracking rumors and watching television for updates, which, in these unsettled times, has left him only more confused over what to believe and whom to trust. With fears over a rapidly rising death toll, along with disclosures that a top Iranian health official has been infected with the virus, the 28-year-old English tutor is nearly broke after frightened students canceled their classes. -Los Angeles Times 2/26/20

U.A.E. Bans All Flights With Iran As Coronavirus Death Toll Reaches 15

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has suspended all flights to and from Iran, where the outbreak of the new coronavirus has already killed at least 15 people -- the highest death toll outside the disease's epicenter in China. Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew this week after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy, and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people globally, causing around 2,700 deaths, mainly in China. 2/25/20

What the EU should do now after parliamentary elections in Iran

As widely predicted, conservative and hardline forces made sweeping gains in Iran's parliamentary elections last week. Although divided into different factions, their combined lists will now control 76 percent of the seats in the Majles, with their reformist opponents reduced to only 7 percent, and independents another 12 percent. Massive disqualifications of mostly moderate and reformist candidates by the Council of Guardians, an unelected vetting body, raised doubts among the voters about the fairness of the process. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 2/25/20

Coronavirus fears grip Middle East as Iran denies cover-up

Fears are growing across the Middle East that coronavirus has infiltrated a main pilgrimage route, which could lead the deadly pathogen to vulnerable refugee populations, causing perhaps unprecedented public health crises across the region. Concern is centred on the Iranian shrine city of Qom, which is thought to be a hub of the disease and the likely source of its spread elsewhere in the country and in neighbouring states, where infected travellers have been diagnosed in recent days. -Guardian 2/25/20

The Guardian view on Iran's elections: a closing door

Iran's election on Friday was a blow to moderates, a disappointment for conservative rulers and bad news for the region too. The result was largely ordained before anyone could cast a ballot. Hardliners appear to have swept the parliamentary contest - taking all 30 seats in Tehran - because the authorities ensured that they would. -Guardian Editorial 2/24/20

The United States and Iran Continue to Maneuver in Iraq

Since the US assassination in early January of Iran's Quds Force commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, Washington and Tehran have intensified their efforts to try to outmaneuver each other for influence in Iraq. The United States keenly wants to remain militarily engaged in the country to prevent the resurgence of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and to serve as a check on Iranian influence. But the Soleimani killing spurred many Iraqi politicians, particularly from the Shia community, to call for the ouster of US troops from the country. -Gregory Aftandilian, Responsible Statecraft 2/24/20

Spike in Iran Coronavirus Cases Raises Alarm: WHO

The head of the World Health Organization says he fears the increase in the number of cases of coronavirus in Iran could be a signal of worse things to come. Iran has reported 18 cases, including at least five deaths in the past two days. The number of cases and deaths reported in Iran still pales in comparison to that recorded in China. 2/22/20

Trump administration pressures global financial watchdog to 'blacklist' Iran

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body that sets standards to combat money laundering and terrorist finance, has placed Iran back on its infamous "blacklist," following the failure of Iranian policymakers to enact two key bills in accordance with an action plan set in 2016. The FATF statement, issued on Friday at the conclusion of the body's latest plenary meeting, calls on members to "to apply effective countermeasures" following Iran's failure to implement "the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards." -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Responsible Statecraft 2/22/20

Why the U.S. is on the brink of all-out war with Iran

For forty years, the U.S. has been exponentially more powerful than Iran on the global stage. But, economic and military superiority doesn't always guarantee that action won't provoke reaction. Other leaders also worry about looking tough and hold core interests that they are willing to defend with force. Ever since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003, hawks - both Republican and Democrat - have been saying we need to restore credibility, leverage, and deterrence against Iran to justify their militaristic politics. -Siamak Tundra Naficy, Responsible Statecraft 2/21/20

Why Trump's 'maximum pressure' campaigns are a maximum failure

President Trump's signature foreign policy initiatives often bear the same hallmarks: economic coercion to extract maximalist concessions. From Iran to North Korea to Venezuela, the use of sanctions, normally a tactic employed as part of a broader strategy, have turned into a strategy unto themselves. Far from realizing the self-proclaimed goals of the Trump administration, the excessive use of sanctions has made them harder to achieve, caused immense human suffering, and risks the ability of future administrations to use sanctions as a tool in the foreign policy playbook. -Louie Reckford, Responsible Statecraft 2/19/20

After Suleimani: Iran's scramble to recover from general's death

In the early hours of 3 January, Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, frantically phoned his advisers. "Something big has happened," he said, summoning them to a meeting in his office. "You need to come now." Like their boss, the advisers had heard the boom of the explosions that crunched into the airport road just after 1am, and their phones had been ringing incessantly. Each call had brought the unthinkable closer to shocking reality: Qassem Suleimani, the revered commander of Iran's Quds Force and the most powerful man in Iraq, had been killed, and so had nearly all of his closest aides. -Guardian 2/18/20

Iran: US sanctions 'create some problems'; talks possible with conditions

The U.S. "maximum pressure" policy aimed at isolating Iran will not work, but the regime would be willing to negotiate if the Trump administration returns to the Iranian nuclear deal and drops economic sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday. "Of course, sanctions naturally create some problems, but they will not yield any results for the enemies," Rouhani told state media. "Maximum pressure has failed. We are in a better situation in the region now." -John Bacon, USA TODAY 2/17/20

Iranians are naive to think they can rely on fair-weather friends

Whatever hopes Iranians have for their country, they would do well to remember that, as in 1953, the US administration has its own, not their, interests at heart. "America First" is a pretty clear mantra. If Mr Trump cared about Iran and its people, he would not be threatening to bomb the country's rich cultural heritage, as he did last month. -Scheherazade Daneshkhu, Financial Times 2/16/20

Iran: Trump wrong if he thinks Tehran regime will collapse

Iran's foreign minister said Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump is receiving bad advice if he believes an American "maximum pressure" campaign against his country will cause the government in Tehran to collapse. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a group of top defense officials and diplomats at the Munich Security Conference that the information provided to the president has dissuaded Trump from accepting offers from other leaders to mediate between Washington and Tehran. -AP 2/16/20

Senate Republicans defied Trump and voted to stop him from taking further military action against Iran

Several Republican senators joined Democrats on Thursday to pass a resolution barring President Donald Trump from taking further military actions against Iran without congressional approval. The resolution, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and heavily opposed by Trump, passed 55-45, marking a rare bipartisan rebuke of the president a little over a week after the Senate acquitted Trump in his impeachment trial. -Business Insider 2/14/20

How Months of Miscalculation Led the U.S. and Iran to the Brink of War

In late September, a plane carrying senior Iranian officials touched down in Abu Dhabi, the gleaming capital of the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East had witnessed a summer of violence, and a meeting with the Iranians was part of a quiet strategy by Emirati leaders to defuse the tension. The small but powerful Persian Gulf nation wanted to broker a separate peace - avoiding violence that could shatter its decades-long effort to present itself as a modern, stable oasis in a volatile region. -New York Times 2/14/20

U.S. Grants Iraq Waiver To Buy Iranian Energy Supplies, But Sets Conditions

The United States has granted a 45-day waiver to allow Iraq to continue to buy gas and electricity from Iran, despite sanctions imposed by Washington targeting Tehran's energy sector. The U.S. State Department on February 12 said the waiver, which sets tough conditions, "ensures that Iraq is able to meet its short-term energy needs while it takes steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian energy imports." -RFE/RL 2/13/20

The United Nations needs to get involved in the US-Iran standoff

The European Union has shown that it is unable to stand up to Donald Trump's bullying and unilateralism regarding the Iran nuclear deal and requires Russian and Chinese participation in implementing the United Nations' "Uniting for peace" resolution as a backdrop for negotiations between Iran and the U.S. The assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force by the U.S. took the Middle East to the brink of a new war.-Jalil Bayat, Responsible Statecraft 2/13/20

The 1979 Revolution: Unfinished Business In Iran

Iran turns 41 on Tuesday, give or take a few thousand years. As part of the official commemorations for the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, or what is known in Iran as "Ten Days of Dawn" (Dahe-ye Fajr), state television broadcasts archival footage from that period. The scenes and images are unimaginable the rest of the year. There are men with Western ties and women without Islamic hijabs. Secular housewives march in the streets alongside hezbollahi students. President Jimmy Carter toasts the Iranian monarch in Tehran, and Ayatollah Khomeini meets with American journalists in France. -Shervin Malekzadeh, Responsible Statecraft 2/12/20

Senate to rein in Trump's war powers after Iran strike

The Senate is set to pass a bipartisan resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump's authority to launch military operations against Iran weeks after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general. The War Powers resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), will come to the floor Wednesday with a final expected vote Thursday. While the measure is not likely to garner enough support to overturn a likely Trump veto, its expected passage in the Senate nevertheless illustrates a rare congressional effort to rein in the president's executive authority. -Politico 2/12/20

America held hostage

On January 4, a day after the United States assassinated Iranian military General Qassem Soleimani, US President Donald Trump warned that if Iran retaliated, he would hit 52 Iranian sites. The targets represented the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days in November 1979. The Iran hostage crisis influences Iranian and US politics to this day. An open re-examination of it could help us understand how respect for US constitutional law has been degraded in the decades since. -David Marks, Al Jazeera 2/12/20

Iran Says U.S. Killing Of Soleimani Weakens Fight Against Islamic State

A high-ranking Iranian military commander who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last month had sought to bring stability to the Middle East, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on February 10. "Commander [Qasem] Soleimani was a man who was pursuing stability and calm in the region," Rohani said in a speech broadcast live on state television. -RFE/RL 2/11/20

Why the Cold War Containment Model Doesn't Apply to the Middle East

The Cold War concept of containment has experienced a revival among some commentators who would like to apply it to the Middle East. The concept's apparent attractions include a respected George Kennan pedigree, an association with what is considered a "win" of the Cold War, and the promise of long-term success even in the absence of any immediately visible positive results. Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations labels containment as the "most realistic option" for dealing with Iran. -Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft 2/11/20

Trump's 'Maximum Pressure' on Iran Exposes How Little the U.S. has Done for Iraq's Economy

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in January, Iraqi President Bahram Saleh addressed the intensifying competition between the United States and Iran that was bringing his country to the edge of an abyss. He stated that it is not in Iraq's interest to "choose to ally with one side at the expense of others, as long as both respect our sovereignty and independence." -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Responsible Statecraft 2/11/20

Iran looms large in Central Asia despite sanctions and Saudi financial muscle

Saudi Arabia may have been getting more than it bargained for when authorities in Khujand, Tajikistan's second largest city, ordered that the city's largest and most popular mosque be converted into a cinema. The order followed the closure of some 2,000 mosques in the country in the last three years and the arrest last month of scores of Muslim clerics and teachers, many of whom were accused of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is banned in both Tajikistan and the kingdom. - James M. Dorsey, Modern Diplomacy 2/9/20

Did Washington use a false pretext for its recent escalation in Iraq?

In a key piece of actual extensive, on-the-ground reporting, the New York Times's Alissa Rubin has raised serious questions about the official US account of who it was that attacked the K-1 base near Kirkuk, in eastern Iraq, on December 27. The United States almost immediately accused the Iran-backed Ketaib Hizbullah (KH) militia of responsibility. But Rubin quotes by name Brig. General Ahmed Adnan, the chief of intelligence for the Iraqi federal police at the same base, as saying, "All the indications are that it was Daesh" - that is, ISIS. -Helena Cobban , Just World News 2/9/20

How U.S.-Iran Tensions Are Impacting South Asia

The rapid escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran has obviously affected the calculations of Tehran's southern and western neighbors, notably Iraq. But much less attention has been paid to the implications for Iran's eastern neighbors, who also have a lot at stake in preventing a major new conflict on their borders. -Fatemeh Aman, Responsible Statecraft 2/5/20

Iran wants to mend ties with Saudi, UAE 'quickly': Top diplomat

A top Iranian diplomat has said his country is open to resolving differences with its Gulf rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, "as quickly as possible". Tehran's ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, said in remarks published on Tuesday that his government "welcomes efforts to resolve issues either from inside Iraq or any other country in the region". -Al Jazeera 2/5/20

President Rouhani: Iran Ready to 'Return to Its Commitments' to Nuclear Deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Iran is ready to "return to its commitments" under the 2015 nuclear deal when other parties uphold their commitments. Rouhani's office issued a statement Monday after his talks in Tehran with the new European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Borrell's mission aims "to de-escalate tensions and seek opportunities for political solutions to the current crisis," his office said. 2/4/20

Why House Democrats Passed Bills Reining in Trump's War Machine

In 2016, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd wrote a now infamous column arguing that Donald Trump would be more dovish on foreign policy than Hillary Clinton. Dowd was right on one front: Clinton, a supporter of the invasion of Iraq, was no anti-war champion. But neither was Trump: he was for the Iraq War before he was against it; he called for U.S. forces to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely; and he advocated massive Pentagon spending increases, "taking the oil" in Iraq, and shutting down immigration and asylum to Muslims, Mexicans, and other populations of color. Trump was no dove. But the undeserved moniker stuck - and it helped win him the election. -Erica Fein, Responsible Statecraft 2/4/20

Opposing War with Iran is an Environmental Imperative

Popular culture is filled with many infamous villainous partnerships: Bonnie and Clyde, Sauron and Saruman, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. As long as one thrives, the other survives. The climate crisis and militarism are the same. And just as we would the other devastating duos, champions of environmental and human justice must recognize the climate crisis and militarism as partners, rather than isolated evils, in order to truly confront them.-Laila Ujayli, Responsible Statecraft 2/3/20

The Two Global Powers Controlling Iran's Oil Sector

Aside from becoming the number one petrochemicals powerhouse in the Middle East within the next three years, Iran's priorities in the current U.S. sanctions environment is to increase its production of gas, particularly from the South Pars field, and of oil, particularly from the West Karoun fields. In both cases, this is partly because of the sheer opportunity available in the resources but partly as well because Iran can use the fact that many of these reservoirs are shared with Iraq to operate largely unfettered by such sanctions. -Simon Watkins, Oil Price 2/3/20

US, Iran Prolong Detente in Lebanon with a Status Quo Cabinet

Ninety-five days after the Lebanese protests began, a new government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab was announced on January 21 in the presidential palace in Baabda. In a swift time frame for Lebanese politics, Diab formed the government in 32 days as protests have turned violent, reflecting unprecedented public frustration in a country on the verge of economic collapse. -Joe Macaron, Arab Center Washington DC 2/3/20

House Votes 'No War Against Iran,' In Rebuke To Trump

The House has approved two measures seeking to limit the president's ability to take military action without congressional approval. The first piece of legislation, known as the No War Against Iran Act, would block funding for military force in or against Iran unless Congress has signed off. The measure, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna of California, passed by a vote of 228-175. -NPR 1/31/20

Pentagon Says 50 U.S. Troops Diagnosed With Brain Injuries After Iran Strike

The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran's missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50. Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added. 1/29/20

The U.S. Is Recycling Its Big Lie About Iraq To Target Iran

This has led to an illegal regime of brutal sanctions, under which thousands of children are dying from preventable diseases and malnutrition, and to threats of another illegal U.S. war that would engulf the Middle East and the world in even greater chaos than the one the CIA engineered against Iraq. -Nicolas J S Davies, Common Dreams 1/29/20

The painful truth for Saudi Arabia: it needs the Iranian regime to survive

By now, the crown prince has been sobered somewhat by the realisation that his swagger has delivered nothing on the regional front except a devastating war in Yemen and a useless embargo on Qatar. Even worse, it was Iran that brought the war to Saudi Arabia with the Aramco attack. Now that the US is showing its teeth with the killing of Suleimani and more sanctions on Iran, Saudi Arabia may feel reassured, but it cannot be certain whether there is a new, coherent Trump policy or this is a one-off that will leave them exposed again the next time Iran lashes out. -Kim Ghattas, Guardian 1/29/20

Reporting on the Iran nuclear deal: 'nothing happens until everything happens'

ountries tend to go to war when diplomacy fails. But Washington and Tehran are now facing off because it succeeded. It was because the 2015 nuclear deal was Barack Obama's proudest foreign policy achievement that Donald Trump was so determined to destroy it. The US and Iran are sliding back towards the brink of conflict. If a missile had landed a little bit differently in the course of the latest exchange of hostilities, they would probably be at war by now. -Julian Borger, Guardian 1/27/20

The American Chaos Machine: U.S. Foreign Policy Goes Off the Rails

In March 1906, on the heels of the U.S. Army's massacre of some 1,000 men, women, and children in the crater of a volcano in the American-occupied Philippines, humorist Mark Twain took his criticism public. A long-time anti-imperialist, he flippantly suggested that Old Glory should be redesigned "with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones." I got to thinking about that recently, five years after I became an antiwar dissenter (while still a major in the U.S. Army), and in the wake of another near-war, this time with Iran. -Danny Sjursen, Responsible Statecraft 1/27/20

Barometer: U.S.-Iran War Prospects

Three weeks after the United States' January 3 assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, how likely is the eruption of a US-Iran shooting war, what paths might lead to it, and what factors might brake or reverse the trend towards war? Two weeks ago, I wrote about how, despite the extremely sharp escalation in tensions that immediately followed Soleimani's killing, five days afterwards it became clear that Washington and Tehran had stepped back - for now - from the brink of cataclysmic outright war.. -Helena Cobba, Responsible Statecraft 1/27/20

FOOTBALL: AFC reverses ban on Iran hosting international matches

The Asian Football Confederation, the AFC, has retreated from its initial decision to ban Iranian clubs from hosting international football matches, as the sides reached an agreement to narrow it down to just two encounters. Last week, the AFC had decided to ban the four football teams representing Iran in the AFC Champions League, including Esteghlal, Persepolis, Sepahan and Shahr Khodro, from hosting their ties, arguing that flights over the country are not safe. 1/24/20

A New Film Investigates How the CIA and MI6 Destroyed Iranian Democracy

In 1953, the overthrow of democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh set a historic, chilling precedent. The coup detat, orchestrated by the CIA and MI6, irrevocably shaped the subsequent 67 years and counting of US interventionism for the worse. Mosaddegh's fight for Iranian autonomy in nationalizing the oil industry - built and exploited by the British - was undermined by his ousting and the West's installation of a puppet leader, the Shah. -Tina Hassannia, Hyperallergic 1/24/20

Absent Iran faces detente calls from worried West and Middle East

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif skipped this year's Davos, but Tehran was still a hot topic for many Western and Middle Eastern powers hoping for detente less than three weeks after the United States killed Iran's top general. Zarif, normally a regular at the World Economic Forum, canceled on Monday, with his ministry citing program changes. Organizers of the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort did not comment on the reason given. While Iran was absent from the corridors of the conference center, there was an urge for de-escalation among those present. -Reuters 1/24/20

No War With Iran!: International Day of Action, Saturday, January 25

The People of the World Say: NO WAR! The Trump administration is dragging the United States into a war with Iran that could engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and the gravest consequences. The people of the world need to rise up and stop it. For all who believe in peace, for all who are opposed to yet another catastrophic war, now is the time to take action. On Saturday, January 25 in cities across the globe, there will be protests against a new war in the Middle East. 1/23/20

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