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Ulterior motives behind sanctions on Iran: Ayatollah Khamenei

Press TV | July 4, 2015

27a884e8-a17a-436f-8837-7288060e4984Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the sanctions against Iran have nothing to do with the country’s nuclear activities or human rights record, adding that there are other motives behind the bans.

Addressing a group of university professors and researchers on Saturday night, Ayatollah Khamenei said those who have imposed sanctions on Iran are themselves the ones who foster terrorism and commit human rights violations.

The Leader said the sanctions against Iran have been imposed because the Islamic Republic has emerged as a nation, a movement and an identity guided by principles against the hegemonic system.

“Their objective is to prevent Iran from reaching a prominent civilizational status,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The Leader also highlighted the special role of professors in educating a generation of self-reliable, confident and diligent youths who will further move Iran toward progress.

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

On Iran’s Nuclear Program, Ghosh’s “Gotcha” is Nothing But Smoke

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.” – Albert Einstein

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | July 3, 2015

Bobby Ghosh, former TIME contributor and currently managing editor at Quartz, decided on Tuesday to produce some absurd, mouth-breathing click-bait – the kind of deliberately sloppy disinformation that serves only to further chum the waters of public opinion with the false narratives and grotesque stereotypes that have long been the stock-in-trade of agenda-driven, attention-seeking commentators about Iran and its nuclear program.

Here’s the headline:

There’s a quick answer to this leading – and deceiving – question: No, no he did not.

There’s a longer answer, too, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Ghosh, in his desire to expose what he thinks is a “gotcha” moment from a recent Iranian media interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, eagerly and disingenuously conflates uranium enrichment with nuclear weapons development. In doing so, he reveals himself to be more interested in delivering page views to his website and dishing out conventional wisdom than in reporting truthfully and critically about an important international issue.

Ghosh notes that, during a interview with Iranian media about the pending nuclear deal with six world powers, Rouhani said that “if the other side breaches the deal, we will go back to the old path, stronger than what they can imagine.” Ghosh omitted Rouhani’s initial comment, “If we reach a deal, both sides should be committed to it.”

What gets Ghosh’s goat is Rouhani’s reference to “the old path,” that is, the allusion to Iran’s previous state of nuclear development, as opposed to its current restricted program under the interim deal and what results from a potential negotiated multilateral agreement.

Conceding that Iranian officials have long “sworn, over and over again, that [Iran] has never pursued nuclear weapons,” Ghosh then gets to the crux of his claim:

If we’re to believe the regime’s claim, then Rouhani’s threat makes no sense. The “old path” would simply be more “peaceful” nuclear research, allowing the sanctions to continue devastating the Iranian economy. That’s not so much a threat as a flagellant’s cry for help: “If you go back on your word, I’ll hurt myself.”

To jump to such a conclusion requires a remarkably mistaken understanding of both the history of Iran’s nuclear program and either the ignorance or dismissal of the massive concessions it has already made during ongoing international talks. Ghosh apparently suffers from both.

In an emblematically Ghoshian column on why the Iranian government is eviler than the Cuban government, Ghosh wrote on December 18, 2014, that Iran “was caught trying to build nuclear-weapons technology as recently as 2002, when its secret facilities at Arak and Nataz [sic] were discovered. Thereafter, under pressure from the US and the international community, the Tehran regime backed down from its policy of developing dual-use nuclear technology (for energy and weapons) and promised not to build bombs.”

There’s a lot wrong here, but I’ll try to be quick (not my strong suit).

The facilities at Arak and Natanz were never “secret” nor do they “build nuclear-weapons technology.” In 2002, they were both under construction and non-operational. Iran was, at that point, not obligated to declare their existence to the IAEA. Arak was designed as a power plant, Natanz is an enrichment site. Upon declaration, both have been subject to IAEA safeguards for over a decade. Iran’s interest in developing an uranium enrichment industry has been open knowledge (and publicly acknowledged) since shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

The Iranian government never “backed down” from a “policy of developing dual-use technology” and “promised not to build bombs” as Ghosh claims. Such a claim is bizarre. Beyond the fact that, as an original signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has in effect “promised not to build [nuclear] bombs” since 1968 and Iranian officials have – since at least the early 1990s – constantly and consistently condemned and prohibited any domestic development of nuclear weapons (not only after 2002), it is literally impossible for any nation with an ongoing enrichment program to stop the acquisition of “dual-use” nuclear infrastructure since every single enrichment program on Earth is inherently dual-use: enriched uranium can be used for both energy or weaponry.

With this false narrative, Ghosh has, however, set up a convenient straw man with which to bandy about his erroneous assumptions of Iran’s nuclear past. This brings us back to his recent article.

In trying to hash out what Rouhani’s “old path” statement means, Ghosh establishes two options – the bluff or the blackmail – one of which, he claims, must be true. The bluff is that, in Ghosh’s words, “There’s no “old path,” and Tehran is simply trying to frighten the P5+1 into relenting on the remaining sticking points at the negotiating table in Vienna.”

The blackmail, on the other hand, is a damning admission by the Iranian leader of a clandestine nuclear weapons program Iran has long denied having. “The alternative,” Ghosh writes, “is that Rouhani has unwittingly revealed that Iran was indeed pursuing nukes. That would be a real threat, especially if he is also sincere in pursuing this path ‘stronger than what they can imagine.'”

But there is a third option, unacknowledged by Ghosh, which is the most obvious and most accurate: Rouhani is not talking about a nuclear weapons program to return to, but rather the reestablishment of full-scale uranium enrichment, which has been curtailed by Iran’s obligations under the terms of its diplomatic agreements since January 2014.

Ghosh doesn’t tell his readers that, in the same interview he cites as “fascinating” and “belligerent,” Rouhani said of his international interlocutors, “If they claim that they want to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in Iran, they should know that Iran has never sought to build nuclear weapons.” Obviously, such a statement – in the very same interview – severely undermines the credibility of Ghosh’s blackmail or blunder claim that Rouhani has either purposely or accidentally revealed something alarming about its nuclear work.

Under the terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action, agreed to by Iran and the six powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States – known as the P5+1, Iran has halted all enrichment above 5%, diluted or disposed of its entire stockpile of 19.75% low-enriched uranium (LEU), converted the vast majority of its remaining stockpile of LEU to a form incapable of being weaponized, suspended upgrades and construction on its safeguarded nuclear facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak, and allowed unprecedented access to its program by IAEA inspectors.

At every single juncture, Iran has complied fully with the demands of the plan.

All Rouhani was saying, therefore, is that these commitments – which were negotiated and agreed to by Iran, not imposed forcibly by foreign countries – would no longer be binding and Iran would resume its previous course of action, or “the old path.” This previous course of action, still, was anything but a mysterious, opaque, nefarious development of dubious and deadly technology. Rather, even before current talks began, Iran’s was the most heavily-scrutinized nuclear program on the planet and had been for years.

Rouhani’s statement, therefore, was actually a fairly innocuous clarification of the fact that, if the P5+1 reneges on its own negotiated commitments, Iran will no longer abide by the deal either. That’s hardly cause for Ghosh to collapse on his fainting couch.

What Ghosh also doesn’t point out is that there is clear historical precedent for Rouhani’s statement.

A dozen years ago, Iran’s then-nascent uranium enrichment program was the subject of intensive diplomacy between Iran and the EU-3, shorthand for Britain, France and Germany. It was on Rouhani’s watch – he was secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and lead negotiator at the talks – that Iran voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment in 2003 and accepted intrusive inspections above and beyond what was legally required by its safeguards agreement as talks progressed. During this period, the IAEA affirmed the peaceful nature of the program.

In mid-2004, with Iran fully complying with its obligations under Saadabad Agreement of October 2013, the negotiations were strained by the prospect of a new European-drafted IAEA resolution against Iran. President Mohammad Khatami told the press, in terms strikingly similar to Rouhani’s recent statement, that Iran’s voluntary suspension of enrichment would thus be endangered if the resolution passed.

“If the draft resolution proposed by the European countries is approved by the IAEA, Iran will reject it,” Khatami said on June 18, 2004. “If Europe has no commitment toward Iran, then Iran will not have a commitment toward Europe.”

A month later, Khatami insisted that “nothing stands in the way” of Iran “building and assembling centrifuges designed for uranium enrichment,” reported the Associated Press.

Throughout the first half of 2005, Iranian officials were still intent on resolving the nuclear impasse through diplomacy with Europe, but explained that the resumption of “full-scale enrichment” was the ultimate goal of the talks, along with assurances that the program would remain forever peaceful.

Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005, outgoing president Khatami made the Iranian position clear. “We will never overlook our legal and national right for possessing nuclear technology and fuel cycle to generate electricity. Iran will never change its national policy in this respect,” he said, adding, “We have made it clear that suspension of uranium enrichment will not be forever. We have displayed our good faith. Now, it is the turn of the European friends to do in line with the commitments they have made about the matter.”

Regardless of the offer soon to be put forward by the EU-3, Khatami reiterated that Iran would resume its conversion activities and eventually enrichment as well, in line with its inalienable rights to development domestic, civilian nuclear technology. “I hope that the Europeans’ proposals will, as agreed, allow for the resumption of [nuclear activities],” Khatami told reporters in late July 2005. “But if they do not agree, the system has already made its decision to resume [uranium conversion] at Isfahan.”

Uranium conversion restarted in early August 2005.

It was only after Iran’s European negotiating partners, at the behest of the Americans, reneged on their promise to offer substantive commitments and respect Iran’s inalienable right to a domestic nuclear infrastructure that talks dissolved and Iran resumed enrichment. The proposal eventually brought to Iran by Western negotiators on August 5, 2005 has been described as “vague on incentives and heavy on demands,” and even dismissed by one EU diplomat as “a lot of gift wrapping around an empty box.”

The resumption of full-scale enrichment by Iran had nothing to do with nuclear weapons, as the IAEA has affirmed consistently in quarterly reports over the past decade that no fissile material has ever been diverted to military purposes. Lingering questions about Iran’s past work have long been debunked as unfounded allegations for which no credible evidence actually exists.

Rouhani’s statement about “the old path” – that is, the legal and inalienable right of Iran to enrich uranium under international safeguards and supervision – therefore reveals nothing not previously known.

On the other hand, Ghosh’s reaction to Rouhani’s statement reveals the extent to which Ghosh himself will go to demonize and propagandize about Iran and its nuclear program. If he can’t get the small stuff like this right, why are we listening to him about anything at all?

*****

Disclosure: I am an (often erstwhile) editor for the online magazine Muftah, which has recently announced a new partnership with Quartz, where Mr. Ghosh is managing editor.

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Von Hippel’s “Really Good Idea” to Resolve the Nuclear Impasse Was Actually Iran’s Idea First

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | July 1, 2015

Yesterday in The National Interest, Frank von Hippel, co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, floats the possibility of opening Iran’s domestic uranium enrichment program to international investment. Doing so, Von Hippel contends, would automatically “add a multinational layer of supervision to the program,” as countries that “buy shares in its enrichment program” would do so “in exchange for having full access to all the associated facilities and a say in how they are managed.”

For those who still insist on pretending that Iran’s legal, safeguarded nuclear energy program is “a threat to regional stability” that will be summarily unleashed from the tethers of agreed-to restrictions after the imminent multilateral deal allegedly sunsets a decade from now, Von Hippel’s suggestion should inspire confidence. With foreign investment and multinational involvement in the entire nuclear fuel cycle, coupled with the IAEA’s strict monitoring and inspection regime which has already long been in place, the potential for Iran’s program to ever be secretly militarized is virtually nil.

Furthermore, according to Von Hippel, offering such foreign stake in this Iranian industry “would mitigate the pressure on Saudi Arabia and other regional rivals of Iran to assert their own rights to ‘peaceful’ enrichment programs. Indeed, the door should be open for them to buy a share in the multinational program as well.”

The article’s headline calls Von Hippel’s proposal to open up Iran’s enrichment program to multinational partnerships, “A Really Good Idea.”

And it is.

Except, while certainly a good idea, this isn’t actually a new idea. In fact, this very offer was made over a dozen years ago – by Iran.

It is true that Von Hippel, whose National Interest post is a pared down version of a longer, more detailed (and less alarmist) article he co-authored in the June 19 issue of Science magazine, does make passing reference to the fact that “[s]enior Iranian officials have expressed openness to discussing multi-nationalization.” But this is a gross understatement considering Iran’s leadership and consistency on this issue.

Since its early stages, in fact, Iran has offered specifically to restrict its enrichment program and to open it up to international cooperation, thereby making in it literally impossible for the diversion of fissile material to weaponization efforts to take place unnoticed. As I have noted before, Iran was already making such gestures nearly a quarter century ago, only to be rebuffed, denied, ignored and dismissed by the United States.

In October 1992, for instance, in response to American concern over indications that Iran was pursuing a domestic enrichment program, Iran not only “repeatedly denied any non-peaceful intentions, stating that it accepts full-scope IAEA safeguards,” but also “indicated it is prepared to accept enhanced safeguards measures on both nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia and China, as well as having no objections to the return of the spent fuel to the country of origin as a similar agreement had been concluded with Germany during the 1970s.”

On July 1, 2003 – exactly 12 years ago today – Reuters reported that none other than Hassan Rouhani, then Secretary-General of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Iran was “ready to accept the participation of other big industrialized countries in its [uranium] enrichment projects,” specifically as a means to resolve any questions over whether its nuclear program was peaceful and civilian in nature.

Following its voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment and implementation of the Additional Protocol as confidence-building measures during negotiations with the EU-3, Iran again raised the prospect of multinational collaboration. On March 23, 2005, the Iranians presented a four-phase plan to their European negotiating partners intended to end the nuclear impasse once and for all. It called for Iran to resume uranium enrichment, with EU cooperation, and for the Majlis (Iranian parliament) to begin the process of approving legislation that would permanently ban the “production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s offer came on the heels of the IAEA’s own expert endorsement of multinational investment in enrichment programs.

This was not merely the stance of the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami, either. In his first address before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2005, newly-inaugurated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that, as a “confidence building measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency, the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran. This represents the most far reaching step, outside all requirements of the NPT, being proposed by Iran as a further confidence building measure.”

In early November 2005 it was widely reported that “the Iranian government is allowing the country’s atomic energy agency to seek local or foreign investors for its currently suspended uranium enrichment activities.” Such investment, directed toward the Natanz facility then under construction in central Iran, would be sought “from the public or private sectors.”

Days later, Iranian state-run television stated that Iran would offer the international community “a 35% share in its uranium enrichment programme as a guarantee” that its nuclear program “won’t be diverted toward weapons.” This investment would allow “foreign countries and companies a role in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme,” providing the opportunity for such entities and organizations to “practically contribute in and monitor the uranium enrichment in Natanz.” Gholamreza Aghazade, an Iranian vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, told the press that this offer was “maximum concession” Tehran could offer for transparency. “The 35% share is not only investment,” he said. “They will have a presence in the process (of uranium enrichment) and production (of nuclear fuel).”

“It’s the best kind of international supervision totally negating any possibility of diversion (toward weapons),” Aghazade explained.

Later that month, on November 18, 2005, in yet another publicly presented proposal, the Iranian government repeated the offer set forth earlier that year, reiterating its willingness to officially ban nuclear weapons development through legislation, cap its level and scope of enrichment, immediately covert its enriched uranium to fuel rods “to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment” towards weapons-grade and “to provide unprecedented added guarantees” to the IAEA that its program would remain peaceful. The proposal, issued by Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations, reiterated Iran’s “[a]cceptance of partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran which engages other countries directly and removes any concerns.”

Iran’s offers were routinely rejected by the United States government, which maintained the absurd position that Iran capitulate to its demand of zero enrichment on Iranian soil. “We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran,” declared George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control Robert Joseph in early 2006.

In an April 5, 2006 oped in the New York Times, Iran’s then UN ambassador Javad Zarif laid out a number of proposals for resolving the nuclear standoff. In addition to affirming Iran’s continued commitment to the NPT, acceptance of limitations on enrichment, and its stance against “the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons,” Zarif stated Iran’s willingness to “[a]ccept foreign partners, both public and private, in our uranium enrichment program.” He continued:

Iran has recently suggested the establishment of regional consortiums on fuel-cycle development that would be jointly owned and operated by countries possessing the technology and placed under atomic agency safeguards.

In an article for the Los Angeles Times at the end of that same year, Zarif reminded readers of these overtures, none of which were ever responded to by the United States.

Multinational investment in Iran’s enrichment program was endorsed by nuclear experts and MIT researchers Geoff Forden and John Thomson in various articles and reports in 2006 and 2007, as well as by former American diplomats Thomas R. Pickering and William Luers and nuclear expert Jim Walsh in an essay for the New York Review of Books in early 2008. Wholly in line with what Iranian officials had been saying for years, Pickering, Luers and Walsh wrote that a “jointly managed and operated on Iranian soil by a consortium including Iran and other governments… provides a realistic, workable solution to the US–Iranian nuclear standoff.” Such a program, they wrote, “will reduce the risk of proliferation and create the basis for a broader discussion not only of our disagreements but of our common interests as well.”

“Given the enhanced transparency of a multilateral arrangement and the constant presence in Iran of foreign monitors that such a plan would require,” the authors added, any “diversion of material or technology to a clandestine program” would be easily detected. Senators Chuck Hagel and Dianne Feinstein both responded positively to the proposal. The Bush administration dismissed it out of hand.

Iranian officials again endorsed the concept of opening its nuclear program to international investment and collaboration in during a March 2008 conference in Tehran.

In a comprehensive package proposed to the United Nations on May 13, 2008, Iran’s foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki wrote that Iran was still ready to consider, among a great many other things, “Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world – including in Iran.”

Reporting on the proposal shortly thereafter, The Guardian‘s Julian Borger noted that while the consortium idea was gaining traction in American “foreign policy circles,” it was still “resisted by the US, French and British governments.” An unnamed “British official” told Borger, “We would be ready to discuss it, as soon as Iran does what it knows it has to,” that is, suspend its enrichment program, an obvious and long-known nonstarter for post-2005 negotiations.

By resurrecting the notion of multinational investment in Iran’s enrichment program, Von Hippel does the conversation over nuclear negotiations a great service. Despite past difficulties regarding Iran’s stake in the Eurodif consortium and a history of American deception and deliberate denialism in breach of its NPT obligations, the prospect of international acceptance and cooperation in Iran’s nuclear industry is still an excellent way out of this manufactured crisis.

But by leaving out the fact that Iran itself has long been the leading champion of such a proposal unfortunately doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Crunch Time with Iran Let’s push back against Israel’s friends and avoid a war

Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • June 30, 2015

It now appears that the longest drawn out negotiations in history since the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War will again be prorogued. I am, of course, referring to the P5+1 talks in Vienna seeking to come up with a peaceful resolution to the problem of Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program. Today represents the third deadline as the negotiations have already been extended twice, ostensibly to permit further discussion of details of timing for the lifting of sanctions as well as verification and inspection procedures.

I refer to a “nonexistent” program as the frequently cited intelligence suggesting that a weapon was being developed has turned out to be based on forgeries provided by the Israelis. Currently, both the CIA and Mossad agree that no such program exists though both Washington and Tel Aviv persist in suggesting that Iran might change its mind and therefore must not even be able to develop relevant technologies in the future.

In theory an agreement should have been reached long ago as the two basic elements are well understood: Iran wants an end to sanctions and the United States plus its negotiating partners want a verifiable end to existing and potential programs in Iran that could possibly produce a nuclear weapon. The devil would appear to be in the details but that is not necessarily the case as the real problem is political. The talks have in fact been subject to a relentless media campaign by Israel and its friends in the U.S. to derail any possible agreement, to include a number of appearances by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu has been warning that an Iranian weapon is imminent since 1996 and he has even produced a cartoon showing a bomb with a ticking fuse to illustrate his thinking on the issue.

The intensity of the anti-Iran campaign has increased to a boiling point as the end of June deadline has approached, to include full page ads in newspapers and a rash of editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor. If you read an article about the negotiations on an unmoderated site like yahoo you will see numerous comments trashing Iran using the same misspellings and phrases, suggesting that they originate in the banks of paid students organized and directed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

In order to avoid constantly rehashing the same material, the well-funded and highly creative exploration of Persian perfidy has meant in practice that the media and punditry are constantly raising new issues that have nothing to do with the nuclear weapons themselves. These have included demanding that a contrite Iran confess that it once sought a weapon, addressing the state of possible missile delivery systems in the discussions, assessing Iran’s intentions as a regional power, critiquing the country’s human rights record and examining Tehran’s support of organizations that critics choose to describe as terroristic. Congress is on record calling for the prevention of Iran’s “capability” to construct a weapon, a threshold that it already has passed. Presidential wannabe Senator Marco Rubio has even demanded that Iran recognize “Israel’s right to exist.” The latest wrinkle is to insist on assurances over what might happen in ten years’ time when any agreement negotiated currently will presumably expire.

Assuming that the neocons’ other pet projects to go to war with Russia and eventually also China do not actually materialize and that we will all still be here in a decade, it has to be recognized that what is occurring in Vienna this week is already a war. On one side are the serious players, including Secretary of State John Kerry acting for the president as well as the Russians, Germans, Chinese, British and French, all of whom understand that no agreement leaves armed conflict as the only remaining option. They realize that a major explosion in the Persian Gulf would be disastrous for all parties and potentially even for the world economy. On the other side are the naysayers from Israel and its formidable amen section, deeply embedded in the media and among politicians at all levels. Many believe that, as Israel firster mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson has recommended, all Iran really needs is an admonitory nuclear strike to show the Mullahs that we are serious about the military option.

As in any war it is important to know what the enemy is doing. That generally requires massive mobilization of resources to collect intelligence, but in this case we are fortunate in that our enemies write for the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal when they are not, collectively speaking, busy appearing on the Sunday morning talk shows and on Fox.

My favorite Queen of Mean among the pro-Israel shock troops is Jennifer Rubin, who writes a blog appropriately labeled “Right Turn” for the Washington Post. In previous incarnations before she found her niche with editorial page chief Fred Hiatt at the Post Jennifer wrote for neocon house organs Commentary, Human Events and Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard. Jenn has ungraciously referred to President Barack Obama as the “most anti-Israel president ever.” Ben Smith at Politico describes her as “caustic and single minded” possessing an “intense and combative interest in foreign affairs and politics in general, and in Israel in particular – the sole bumper sticker on her gray Honda Pilot reads, “JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT. It’s Israel’s Eternal And Undivided Capital.” A recent comment on one of her pieces observed “Science is wrong. The world revolves around Israel. Jennifer knows it to be true. Bibi told her.”

Rubin writes about Iran frequently. Between June 16th and the 26th she penned no less than seven articles attacking the Mullahs – “Obama ignores Iran’s human rights atrocities,” “The Iran missile mistake,” “Democrats, Republicans, neutral experts reject Iran sellout,” “The Iran debacle unfolds,” “Iran appeasement relies on self-delusion,” “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?” and “Iran sanctions back on the table.” All of her writing on Iran beats to death the same theme, i.e. that Iranians are both evil and liars and are out to destroy Israel. Driven by her obsession with Israel, she is constantly at work finding connections and seeing things that the rest of us cannot discern, appreciating as she does that there is always an Israeli angle as well as an evil Muslim narrative hidden somewhere as long as one looks long and hard enough. One of her most recent gems “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?”, which appeared on June 25th, does a good job recounting recent commentary by all her friends in the Israel Lobby who are opposing a nuclear deal, which to her mind represents objective opinion. As is always the case, I searched in vain for any real evidence that Iran in any way threatens the United States but that does not appear to be on her agenda. She does, however, quote a number of Israeli politicians.

And Rubin is far from a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. The New York Times featured a story last Wednesday revealing that “former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers” had written a letter advising caution on the possible Iran agreement. The article describes in some detail the objections of Dennis Ross, David Petraeus, Robert Einhorn, Gary Samore, Stephen Hadley and General James E. Cartwright. The signatories, who are accepted at face value in the article, should give one pause. Ross is chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute (which opposes intermarriage of Jews with non-Jews) and has been described as “Israel’s lawyer” while Hadley, a National Security Adviser for George W. Bush, believes that Iran is intent on dominating much of the Middle East and has a nuclear program that “…is a complex threat to international peace and stability.” Einhorn, who helped “devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran,” and Gary Samore have been persistent critics of the ongoing negotiations. Samore is a fixture at the Harvard Belfer Center, a neocon stronghold, and heads United Against Nuclear Iran. Petraeus is probably the best known of the signatories but I will leave it up to the reader to judge his integrity.

If one were looking for someone who might just entertain the thought that Iran has a legitimate point of view it would not be found in the letter nor in the Times coverage. But the most astonishing thing about the article is what the editors chose not to mention, an omission that would appear to constitute deliberate obfuscation of the letter’s intent. The Times notes towards the end of the article that the letter was commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), but it does not reveal that WINEP is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is an organization that is de facto opposed to any agreement with Iran that is not endorsed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which means no deal at all.

Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned even once in the letter nor in the Times coverage of it even though it certainly loomed large in the mind of Ross in particular and likely for all of the other co-authors. One might also note that the arguments against the possible agreement made by the signatories is based on the reader’s acceptance of the view that Iran is some kind of global threat, though they make no attempt to explain how that is so and they also assume that its rulers are not to be trusted without an intrusive inspection regime directed against all military facilities in the country, something that no government anywhere could possibly accept. The five signatories of the letter all claim to support a negotiated settlement with Iran but they are just not happy with what Obama has come up with, which is a characteristic line for many of those who in reality want no agreement at all.

Finally, in a completely bizarre instance of the Israel Lobby’s unwillingness to miss any opportunity in its campaign against Iran, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft traveled to Israel last week with an entourage of 20 Hall of Fame football players. They met with Prime Minister Netanyahu who lectured the players, attired in their Hall of Fame gold Jackets, all about Iran by using a football metaphor: “Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s dangerous for the United States and for Israel and for the entire world. And our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back.” The appreciative players gave Bibi a game jersey, a helmet and a signed football in return.

And so the enormous smear campaign against Iran goes on, though I suppose we can always hope that Obama will show a little intestinal fortitude and go ahead with an agreement. I will most certainly never watch the New England Patriots again, but I made that decision some time ago based on their win at any cost ethos. Indeed, since the Israel Lobby is very much in the game of punishing critics as it is doing with its odious website Canary Mission perhaps it is past time for a little pushback coming from Americans who would like to take their government back. Folks like myself who object to the Lobby’s overweening influence over our foreign policy might initiate personal boycotts of the products and business interests of those billionaires who are the most enthusiastic supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu and who are the enablers of Israel’s crimes against humanity. It would be partial payback for nearly seventy years of systematic abuse of America’s true interests. Don’t attend their sporting activities, don’t buy their products, don’t watch their films and don’t stay in their hotels or play in their casinos. Such a reckoning would certainly include people like Robert Kraft, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, as well as Hollywood moguls Haim Saban and Arnon Milchan. Milchan notoriously spied against the U.S. for Israel and is still walking around free, which I don’t quite get. I won’t suggest any additional names but other over the top friends of Likudnik Israel are easily identifiable through Google. As the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner once put it, “I’ve got a little list.”

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Iran deal demands are stumbling blocks but won’t kill deal – Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

June 29, 2015

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has flown from Vienna to Tehran for consultations after holding tough negotiations with his Western counterparts on the Iranian Nuclear program. The negotiations on the final bargaining conditions of Tehran’s nuclear program have ended with no result and it’s become evident that they will pass over the Tuesday deadline. RT is joined by political commentator Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.

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June 29, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Iran gives Venezuela $500 million credit line

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Iran’s Minister of Industry Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez talk to reporters in Caracas
Press TV – June 27, 2015

Iran has agreed to a $500 million credit line for Venezuela to finance joint investments there, President Nicolas Maduro has announced.

He made the announcement after meeting Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh in Caracas where the two sides signed six agreements to expand financial, economic, industrial and technological cooperation.

Among the agreements, there are plans for joint production of commodity goods, including detergents and other hygiene materials in Venezuela and Iran’s sales of medical drugs and surgical equipment to the country.

Maduro said the two countries had also agreed to a “comprehensive plan” to develop a joint program in nanotechnology in which Iran is among the top seven countries.

He said the deals would ensure a higher level of cooperation and deepen the bonds between the two nations.

Moreover, Iran agreed to transfer its expertise to Venezuela in combating an “economic war” on the Latin American country, Maduro said, apparently referring to Iran’s experience in facing years of US-led sanctions.

“We are facing an economic war of monumental proportions; a brutal war (but) we are here attending to our people,” Maduro said as he invoked the vision of the late President Hugo Chavez for “the government’s union with the people and struggle against imperialism”.

The Venezuelan head of state also hailed relations with Iran as “an example of alliance between two brother nations”.

“Today we have mutual trust in our relations and we work together with results. Working with Iran has gone well and our cooperation has been a great success since Hugo Chavez began a strategic alliance and brotherhood with Iran,” Maduro said.

Relations between Iran and Venezuela — both critics of US policies — have expanded in recent years. Iran is involved in a series of joint ventures worth several billion dollars in energy, agriculture, housing, and infrastructure sectors in Venezuela.

Iran’s main industrial projects in Venezuela include a car assembly plant, a tractor manufacturing complex and a cement factory.

The Islamic Republic has also built more than 3,000 residential housing units for less privileged citizens in Venezuela, with 7,000 more to be completed.

Both countries are hugely rich in resources. Venezuela possesses the world’s biggest oil deposit while Iran owns the fourth largest oil and first largest gas reserves of the world.

Maduro has announced his intention to visit Tehran to attend a summit of Gas Exporting Countries Forum planned for Nov. 23.

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Debate – Nuclear Negotiations

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Video | , , | 1 Comment

West must avoid unfulfillable demands in Iran nuclear talks: Putin

Press TV – June 19, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Western countries against making “unfulfillable” demands during nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2015) on Friday, Putin said that Iran and the P5+1 group of counties are able to reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program in the near future, cautioning the West against putting excessive, unfeasible demands on the Middle Eastern country.

The Russian leader also anticipated that it would take almost six months to implement a possible nuclear accord between Tehran and the six world powers.

“I think the signing should take place in the near future… the process of implementing these agreements will begin afterwards. It will require about six months,” the Sputnik news agency quoted him as saying.

The Russian president further stressed that the only counterproductive issue that jeopardizes Iran’s prospective nuclear deal is a deliberate effort on the part of Washington to undermine any such agreement.

“It is no less important [than signing the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program] that the United States treat this positively, [that they] support it, [that] the Congress support it,” Putin noted, adding that it is Washington’s responsibility to settle the internal disputes over Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“This is not our problem… We cannot solve Washington’s problems,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that it is possible for Iran and the P5+1 group to secure a final deal before the deadline.

“There are less problems in [this] round [of talks], and reaching the agreement before June 30 is possible,” he stated.

Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – are currently holding talks in the Austrian capital city of Vienna to finalize the text of a possible deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Meanwhile, reports also said that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to head to Luxemburg on Monday to hold talks with his European counterparts and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The two sides seek to reach a comprehensive final deal based on a mutual understanding on the key parameters agreed upon in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

CIA chief pays secret visit to Israel over Iran N-talks: Report

Press TV – June 9, 2015

Director of the US spy agency CIA John Brennan has reportedly made a secret visit to Israel to brief the regime’s officials over the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states.

Brennan traveled to Israel on June 4 and met with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one of his advisers Yossi Cohen, to discuss the developments in the talks between Iran and the six world powers, Haaretz quoted two senior Israeli officials as saying on Tuesday.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said the CIA chief also held meetings with the head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad Tamir Pardo and the regime’s military intelligence chief Major General Herzl Halevi.

It is unclear whether Brennan conveyed a message from US President Barack Obama to Netanyahu about a possible comprehensive agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The CIA has not yet commented on the report of Brennan’s trip.

Diplomatic efforts aimed at reaching a final agreement over Iran’s nuclear program have drawn angry reactions from Israel. The Tel Aviv regime has been lobbying intensely to thwart such a deal.

Brennan’s visit to Israel came at a sensitive juncture, less than a month ahead of the June 30 deadline set by Tehran and its negotiating sides to finalize a deal, which seeks to end the Western dispute over Tehran’s nuclear case.

A few days before his visit to Israel, Brennan told the US-based CBS network that Washington and Tel Aviv are closely cooperating on the issue of Iran’s nuclear negotiations.

“The CIA, NSA (the US National Security Agency) and other intelligence community entities are working very close with their Israeli … counterparts” regarding the talks, Brennan said.

Iran and the P5+1 states– Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany — have been working on the text of the final deal since they reached mutual understanding on key parameters of such an accord in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.

June 9, 2015 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Saudi Arabia hold secret meetings on Iran: Report

Anwar Majed Eshki, a former top adviser to the Saudi government (R), and Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shook hands during the Jun 4, 2015 meeting in Washington.

Anwar Majed Eshki, a former top adviser to the Saudi government (R), and Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shook hands during the Jun 4, 2015 meeting in Washington.

Press TV – June 5, 2015

A report has revealed that representatives from Israel and Saudi Arabia have secretly met five times since the beginning of last year to discuss their positions against Iran.

The five bilateral meetings were held over the last 17 months in India, Italy, and the Czech Republic, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

The outlet cited one participant, Shimon Shapira, a retired Israeli general, as saying, “We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers.”

Also on Thursday, well-known former Saudi and Israeli officials attended a rare meeting of the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

The event saw Anwar Majed Eshki, a former top adviser to the Saudi government, and Dore Gold joining former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Riyadh and Tel Aviv both oppose, what they call, the expansion of Iran’s regional influence and have not refused in the past to show fierce opposition to the potential of a final agreement between world powers and Tehran on the Islamic Republic‘s peaceful nuclear energy program.

The two sides also share alliance with the United States and opposition – emerging in the form of an overt bloody aggression on the part of Riyadh – to the Houthi Ansarullah movement of Yemen.

On May 23, a London-based paper reported that Israel had offered to provide the technology used in its Iron Dome missile system against rockets from Yemen, with the proposal being sent via American diplomats during a meeting in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

June 5, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tehran-Moscow talks on S-300 successful: Iran official

Press TV – May 26, 2015

A senior Iranian official has described as “successful” negotiations on the delivery of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

“Negotiations on the delivery of the S-300 [missile system] to Iran has been successful”, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Monday during a press conference after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in the Russian capital, Moscow.

Amir-Abdollahian also stressed that all issues surrounding the delivery of the system to Iran are progressing well.

He further noted that the delivery of S-300 to Iran will happen at the soonest opportunity possible.

On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree paving the way for the long-overdue delivery of the missile system to Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The decision to deliver the missile system came after Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.

Moscow had banned the delivery of the S-300 system to Tehran in 2010 under the pretext that the agreement it signed with Iran in 2007 was covered by the fourth round of the Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution bars hi-tech weapons sales to the Islamic Republic.

The Russian president defended Moscow’s decision on S-300 supply to Iran, saying the system is meant for deterrence amid ongoing developments in war-torn Yemen.

The UN says since March, nearly 2,000 people have been killed and 7,330 others injured due to the conflict in Yemen. However, according to Yemen’s Freedom House Foundation, the Saudi airstrikes have claimed the lives of about 4,000 Yemeni people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Russia over its decision to lift the ban on the delivery of S-300 missile system to Iran, saying Tel Aviv sees the plan with “utmost gravity.”

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

How the Uncertain Outcome of Nuclear Talks With Iran Has Taken Its Economy Hostage

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH | CounterPunch | May 22, 2015

I recently returned from a six-week trip to Iran. While the primary purpose of my trip was to visit family and friends, I also made some general enquiries into the state of the country’s stagnant economy. These included informal discussions with various strata of economic agents or market players: manufacturers, bankers, shopkeepers, miners, farmers, livestock breeders, workers, teachers, and more.

Sadly, most of these economic actors painted pictures of pessimism and distrust of the country’s economic conditions. The economy is mired in a protracted stagflation, with no government plan or macroeconomic policy for recovery. While the Rouhani administration boasts of having contained or slowed down the inflation, the Iranian people do not cherish that tempering of inflation as it has come about at the expense of deepened recession; that is, at the expense of heightened unemployment and weakened purchasing power. As a retired school teacher, who now works as a taxi driver, put it, lowering inflation by worsening recession is no cause for celebration (paraphrased).

And what is the major culprit behind the depressing recession? The common answer of the overwhelming majority of the economic actors I spoke with was, in a nutshell, uncertainty—uncertainty of the constantly shifting outcome of the unending nuclear negotiations. There is a clear consensus that while onerous economic sanctions against Iran are obviously damaging, the perilous effects of the protracted and uncertain outcome of the negotiations are even more devastating. Equally devastating is the current administration’s neoliberal policies of austerity economics, which have further aggravated the recession by cutting social/public spending while not offering any industrial or developmental program or planning.

Market uncertainty, combined with a regrettable lack of protection by the government of the nation’s infant industries against the more mature industries abroad, has led to an unwillingness of the country’s entrepreneurs to invest in long-term production projects. By the same token, the major bulk of the nation’s finance capital is devoted to short-term, parasitically high-yielding but unproductive investments such as buying and selling of real estate.

The largely unregulated financial sector has led to a mushrooming growth of shadow banks—known as moasesat-e etebari, or credit institutions. While there are a handful of conventional or bona fide commercial banks, the number of dubious moasesat-e etebari has in recent years skyrocketed to over 900!

There is undeniable evidence that, using the influence of corrupt and rent-seeking authorities, many of these shadow banks borrowed huge sums of money from government banks at below-market interest rates, often under the pretext of wanting to invest in job-creating or manufacturing enterprises, but in fact used the monies thus obtained for speculative purposes. In other words, most of these shadow banks came to existence not through the investment of monies owned by their founders but through that of public money!

Worse yet, many of the oligarchic borrowers and/or founders of these shadow banks now refuse to pay the monies they borrowed! And the government does not or cannot do anything about it because there is an incestuous business relationship between the two sides. Parasitic growth of these speculative shadow banks has reached unsustainably dangerous levels of an imminent implosion of the financial sector—similar to what happened in the US nearly seven years ago, which has since been transmitted to a number of European countries. It is regrettable that President Rouhani and his economic team do not seem to have learned any lessons from the disastrous experiences of the unregulated financial markets in many of the core capitalist countries.

The US and its allies are obviously aware of the fact that continued uncertainty resulting from prolonged nuclear negotiations is wreaking havoc on the Iranian economy. Perhaps this helps explain why they intend to extend the negotiations for a long time: 10, 15 or even 25 years. There are speculations that this policy is designed to help bring about regime change from within, that is, by instigating a social upheaval through an economic collapse.

Not only has the Rouhani administration thus thrown the private sector into confusion and uncertainty, it has also largely abandoned traditional public sector responsibilities in terms of macroeconomic guidance and infrastructural developments. The administration’s rudderless economic outlook is reflected (among other places) in its latest (1394, Iranian calendar) budget priorities.

“The Budget Bill, which has been produced by the newly‑revived Organization of Management and Planning, offers no explicit conceptual framework within which the budget is formulated, nor is it based on any “planning” for the economy. . . . It also does not begin with a discussion of the nation’s economic development pre-requisites nor give any indication of its trajectories.

“The key concept behind the budget is a twisted “neoliberal” model. . . . The proponents of the neoliberal economic policy support extensive economic liberalization, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the free market, individual and private sectors in the economy” [1].

The priorities of the budget bill are so warped and irrational that they tend to harm both the supply and demand sides of the economy. On the supply-side,

“[T]he budget neglects the productive sectors, infrastructure and the environment. Development funds have been increased by a nominal 16 percent; in real terms that will mean a reduction. Agriculture receives an increase, but its share is minimal relative to the sector’s need. Manufacturing remains cash-hungry given the tight-money policy and a 22 percent interest rate. R&D’s share in the GNP remains at about 0.06 percent and industry-driven R&D is almost non‑existent. Infrastructure, including transportation and urban development, is equally under-budgeted” [2].

On the demand side, except for health care spending, real or inflation-adjusted funding for most social programs has been cut. Subsidies for housing, education, food, and fuel have been reduced when the inflation rate is accounted for. The budget also fails to devote funds for the repayment of the government’s growing debt to the social security and retirement funds.

“The preference for muddling through and preserving the status quo of zero growth is evident in the uses of the budget. Thus, while the supply side of the economy is neglected, the demand side is depressed through the use of contractionary fiscal and monetary policies. The budget also disregards growth-friendly educational, industrial and trade policies while it only gives lip service to construction and infrastructure. Most significantly, the sanctions-crippled Iranian economy needs serious popular mobilization and attention to social justice, but the elite-centered budget is equally oblivious to these requirements” [3].

Since the public sector has traditionally played a major role in the building of the country’s industrialization/developmental infrastructures, the Rouhani administration’s shirking that responsibility, that is, of drastically reducing public spending on infrastructure building, has significantly contributed to the deepening of economic recession and/or the rising of unemployment.

While in light of the ongoing economic recession, this curtailment of public/social spending is certainly irrational from an objective macroeconomic standpoint (as it would aggravate the recession), it is quite rational from the standpoint of the neoliberal austerity economics, to which Mr. Rouhani and most of his economic team seem to subscribe. According to neoliberal school of economic thought, a recession must be created in order to (a) fight inflation, and (b) create conditions (in the fashion of an economic shock therapy) for a subsequent economic recovery. Such conditions would include lowering labor cost by heightening unemployment, expanding deregulation of business activities, shrinking the public sector in order to make more room for the private sector, diluting environmental and workplace safety standards, expanding privatization of public property and services, including of education and health services, and the like.

This neoliberal/austerity/supply-side prescription has since the late 1970s and early 1980s replaced the Keynesian/New Deal/Social-Democratic prescription of the previous period of nearly three decades (from mid-1940s to mid-1970s), which often relied on public-sector spending in pursuit of economic recovery. The historic switch from the New Deal to neoliberal economic paradigm took place largely in the 1980s—under the formal stewardship of President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain.

The supply-side doctrine, epitomizing the dominance of economic policy-making by big business, has since the 1980s been pursued vigorously in country after country, including now in many European countries. Having thus become the dominant economic strategy in the core capitalist countries, with devastating consequences for the overwhelming majority of the people (the so-called 99%), austerity economics has now arrived in a number of the less-developed countries, including Iran—a development which catapulted Mr. Rouhani to the seat of the country’s presidency as its messenger.

President Rouhani’s subscription to neoliberal economic doctrine is evident from his many speeches and statements, as well as from his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran [امنیت ملّی و نظام اقتصادی ایران]. In his book, Mr. Rouhani deplores Iran’s “very oppressive” labor laws to business. He argues that the minimum wage must be slashed and restrictions on the laying off of workers eliminated if Iran’s “owners of capital” are to have the “freedom” to create prosperity. “One of the main challenges that employers and our factories face,” he writes, “is the existence of labor unions. Workers should be more pliant toward the demands of job-creators” [4].

Not surprisingly, Mr. Rouhani’s economic outlook is essentially devoid of any specific development plan or industrialization project as he and most of his economic advisors subscribe to an economic doctrine that frowns upon government intervention in economic affairs—unless such interventions help “pave the way” for unfettered market operations. According to this doctrine, solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development lie in unhindered market mechanism and unreserved integration into world capitalist system. Recessions, joblessness and economic hardship in many less-developed countries are not so much due to economic mismanagement or the nature of global capitalism as they are because of government intervention and/or exclusion from world capitalist markets.

This explains why Mr. Rouhani has made the solution to Iran’s economic problems contingent upon a political détente or friendly relations with the United States and its allies. The administration’s perception (or delusion) that the mere establishment of relations with the U.S. would serve as a panacea to Iran’s economic woes has essentially made Iran’s economy hostage to the unforeseeable outcome of its negotiations with the United State and, therefore, hostage to the endless, and increasingly futile, nuclear negotiations.

This also explains Mr. Rouhani’s and his nuclear negotiators’ dilemma: they have essentially trapped themselves into an illusion, the illusion that a combination of charm offensives, smiley faces and diplomatic niceties would suffice to change imperialist policies toward Iran. In reality, however, the U.S. policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an agenda—an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands and expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use.

One would expect that the market uncertainty created by nuclear negotiations may have led Iran’s producers of industrial and agricultural products to be eagerly looking forward to a breakthrough in the negotiations and a lifting of the brutal sanctions against their economy. My discussions with a number of manufacturers and farmers revealed, however, that while they certainly suffer from the oppressive economic sanctions, they are also concerned that, in light of President Rouhani’s neoliberal free trade policies, a relief from sanctions that may result from such a breakthrough may, in fact, end up driving them out of business by further opening the domestic market to an unbridled deluge of foreign products.

For example, Mahmoud Sedaqat, vice president of the Association of UPVC Window & Door Profiles Manufacturers, bitterly complained that while domestic production capacity of this petrochemical is more than twice as much as domestic needs, the government recently reduced import tariffs for this product from 30% to 15%, thereby paving the way for the substitution of imports for domestic products. Sedaqat further pointed out that government’s careless trade policy and a lack of protection for domestic producers has led to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty among domestic producers, which is contributing to further aggravation of the ongoing economic stagnation [5].

Mohammed Reza A’le Sara, a representative of domestic producers of automobile tires, likewise complained about a glaring lack of protection of his industry against the unrestrained imports of similar, indeed substitutable, products from abroad. A’le Sara also pointed out that, despite the comparable quality of domestically-produced tires, 50% of domestic demand is currently supplied by imports. A careful or calculated government support for domestic producers, he further argued, could gradually but certainly make Iran self-sufficient in this industry [6].

Mohammed Serfi, an economics analyst, recently pointed out that the degree of import-substitution in Iran could be as high as 70%; meaning that as much as 70% of Iran’s imports could be substituted by domestically produced goods. Yet, due to the Rouhani administration’s warped open-door/free-trade policy, the crucially important industrialization strategy of import-substitution—pursued by all the currently more developed countries at earlier stages of their development—is ignored. [7].

Complaining about the administration’s lack of an economic strategy, Gholam-Hosein Shafe-ei, Chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, also argued that while relief from economic sanctions is obviously necessary it is not sufficient; perhaps more importantly are government-championed macroeconomic objectives and carefully-guided ways or plans to achieve those objectives. In the absence of clearly defined economic objectives and the concomitant strategies of import-substitution and export-promotion, Shafe-ei reasoned, Iran could become a heaven for foreign producers while many of domestic producers would be driven out of business.

Under President Rouhani, farmers have suffered even more than manufacturers. Since he was elected nearly two years ago, his administration has raised the energy/utilities bill by anywhere between 50% and 80%. This has drastically heightened the cost of agricultural production, as it has of industrial production. Additionally, the government has in recent years changed both the provision and distribution structure of fertilizers, increasingly shifting those responsibilities from the public to the private sector. This has further added to the cost of production. The government has also failed to establish a meaningful policy of crop insurance or financial assistance in the face of various natural disasters such as floods, drought and other climate fluctuations. Combined with the administration’s misguided free trade policy, which has greatly facilitated the import of many agricultural products, these ill-advised policies have effectively driven many farmers out of business, thereby plunging the agricultural sector into a deep recession.

Prior to the Rouhani administration’s pursuit of neoliberal economic policies, Iran viewed economic sanctions as an (unsolicited) opportunity to become self-reliant: to rely on domestic talents and resources in order to become self-sufficient by producing as many of the consumer goods and other industrial products as possible. And it did, indeed, make considerable progress in scientific research, technological know-how and manufacturing industries.

For example, prior to the recent rise of neoliberal economic policies, which have greatly undermined Iran’s manufacturing and agricultural capabilities, Iran had become self-sufficient in producing many of its industrial products such as home and electric appliances (television sets, washers and dryers, refrigerators, washing machines, and the like), textiles, leather products, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, processed food, and beverage products (including refined sugar and vegetable oil). The country had also made considerable progress in manufacturing steel, copper products, paper, rubber products, telecommunications equipment, cement, and industrial machinery.

None of the oppressive economic sanctions in retaliation for the 1979 revolution deterred Iran from forging ahead with its economic development and industrialization plans. The Rouhani administration’s misguided and haphazard switch from that tradition of inward-looking strategy of self-relying economic development to the ill-conceived outward-looking strategy has thrown tens of thousands of small and medium-sized industrial and agricultural producers into a market atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty. As has already been pointed out, the uncertainty stems from two major sources: (1) a glaring lack of protection of domestic producers against the more competitive foreign producers, and (2) a regrettable linkage or tying of any macroeconomic policy to the unending, unpredictable and, ultimately, futile results of the nuclear negotiations.

The inordinately high priority given to the dubious nuclear negotiations, which has sadly taken most of the Rouhani administration’s time and energy at the expense of everything else, has place the urgently needed macroeconomic policies on hold. The sooner such unduly delayed policies are delinked from the fraudulent imperialist game of nuclear negotiations the better.

More fundamentally, the sooner the nuclear talks are seen (or acknowledged) for what they really are—a pretext or a ploy on the part of the US and its allies, both inside and outside Iran, to adapt the country into another “client state”—and dealt with accordingly, the better. So far, Iran’s negotiating team has successfully concealed many of the gratuitous concessions they have made during the negotiations—essentially suspending the nation’s hard-earned nuclear science and technology while having gained no meaningful relief from sanctions—from the Iranian people. Whether they will succeed in continuing to sell a fraudulent deal to the Iranian people, or whether they may face a harsh backlash when the people learn of the deceitful nature or substance of the deal remains to be seen.

ismaelhzIsmael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

References

[1] Hooshang Amirahmadi, “Iran’s Neoliberal Austerity-Security Budget

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] As excerpted by Keith Jones, “Iranian president declares country ‘open for business’”

[5] Mahmood Sedaqat, “کاهش تعرفه پروفیل «یوپی‌وی‌سی» ضربه دولت به تولید داخلی است,” Kayhan, Mordad 25, 1393 (August 16, 2014).

[6]. Interview with A’le Sara, in Farsi: واردات بیش از 50 درصد لاستیک علی‌رغم توان تولید داخلی

[7] Mohammed Serfi, “Gentlemen, the Party is Over,” in Farsi: آقایان! ضیافت تمام شد!(یادداشت روز)

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

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