Iran War Weekly | July 22, 2013

[Reprinted with the author’s permission. Reformatted for]

Iran’s newly elected president will take office on August 3, and negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program are expected to begin in early September. In the interim, intense and possibly important debates are taking place within the US policy-making elite about whether developments in Syria and Iran should prompt the United States to make more positive and creative diplomatic approaches toward Tehran.

Among the most important efforts for a more positive diplomatic effort by the United States is a statement urging such an approach signed by (as of today) 131 members of the House of Representatives, the largest number of signatories ever received by a “pro-Iran-negotiations” congressional effort. Among the 131 signers were a majority of the House Democrats. Also, on July 15 a letter signed by 29 “former policymakers, diplomats, military officials, and experts” called on President Obama to recognize the opportunities for diplomacy signaled by Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s presidential election. Both of these documents, along with some discussion, are linked below.

Needless to say, the “bomb Iran” crowd hasn’t taken this lying down. Their most significant effort came in an appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” which the New York Times echo chamber immediately characterized as “Israel Increases Pressure on U.S. to Act on Iran” (the statement by a majority of the governing party was not characterized by The Times as putting pressure on anybody). I’ve linked several good/useful analyses of Israel’s post-(Iran) election dilemmas below.
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Iran War Weekly | July 8, 2013

[Reprinted with the author’s permission.]

The few reporters and writers who remained at their posts over this sweltering July 4th weekend have been focused primarily on the events in Egypt, and there is relatively little new news about Iran, its nuclear program, and/or the prospects for war or peace. The events in Egypt, of course, have some bearing on events in Syria and thus with Iran, and I will address them below.

Although newly elected President Rowhani will assume Iran’s presidency on August 3, there are still no signs that the United States intends to modify its negotiating position re: Iran’s nuclear program; nor, indeed, do the “P5+1” seem anxious to get back to the negotiating table at all. As a reminder of how unrealistic are the US “offers” now on the table, I’ve linked below their “confidence building” proposals from last March.
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Iran War Weekly | July 2, 2013

[Reprinted with author’s permission.]

Will the election of Iranian president Hassan Rowhani encourage Washington and its European allies to abandon thoughts of regime change and move towards a resolution of their dispute with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program? While Rowhani will not take office until August, he has already indicated that he welcomes renewed engagement with “the West.” At the same time, he has made it clear that Iran will not be deflected from pursuing what it sees as its right to develop a civilian nuclear energy program. The ball is thus in President Obama’s court; and the options under consideration now in Washington are reflected in some of the essays linked below that assess the meaning of the Iranian election.

Whether or not a settlement with Iran is actually within reach will also depend on the course President Obama sets for US policy toward the conflict in Syria. It will obviously not be conducive to building diplomatic confidence if the United States carries out its plans to arm the Syrian rebels, or moves to establish a “no-fly zone” over some or all of Syria, or insists that peace negotiations at Geneva are only possible if Iran is refused a place at the table. Yet all of these negative developments (and more) now seem likely, and the possibility, portended by Rowhani’s election, of ending the US conflict with Iran over its nuclear could easily be lost.

Yet the concept of “likely” seems to be vanishing from the political scene. Who would have predicted that our political landscape would be so altered by Rowhani’s election, by Edward Snowden’s revelations, by the uprisings against Turkey’s Erdogan or Egypt’s Morsi, etc.? As “unlikely” as it may seem, perhaps the great many rational reasons why it is in the interests of the leaders of the United States to reverse course and work for a peaceful outcome in Syria and with Iran may prevail. Stranger things have happened.

Once again I would like to thank those who you who have forwarded this newsletter or linked it on your sites. Previous “issues” of the Iran War Weekly are posted at If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at

Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
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Iran War Weekly | June 23, 2013

This week’s edition of Frank Brodhead’s Iran War Weekly:

Iran’s presidential election offers “the West” an opportunity to extricate itself from the dangerous political and military logjam it has created with its opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. The question, therefore, is whether the Obama administration and its allies will grasp this chance for a diplomatic outcome that recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium, albeit under a rigorous regime of safeguards and inspections, or will it hew to the alternative path of using the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as a wedge to push for regime change?

Needless to say, even if the Obama regime wishes to reverse course on Iran – which is far from certain – many obstacles remain. Israel has been outspoken in its claims that the Iran’s election has changed nothing, and that Iran’s nuclear program is intended to build weapons. The US Congress and its obsession with regime change is another challenge to a reverse-course strategy; and it would be only with great difficulty that Obama could reduce and eliminate many of the economic sanctions imposed by congressional legislation. Given President Obama’s political stalemate with Congress, it is hard to see him using his dwindling political capital to push back against the powerful forces working for confrontation with Iran.
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Iran War Weekly | June 4, 2013

From Frank Brodhead’s Iran War Weekly:

Negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program remain on hold, awaiting the outcome of Iran’s presidential election, which will take place on June 14th. But the related issue of Iran-Syria and Syria’s civil war threatens to boil over, expanding into Lebanon amidst claims by the French government that they have obtained “proof” that Syria used chemical weapons. Meanwhile the hoped-for peace negotiations initiated by the United States and Russia (“Geneva II”) may not happen at all, largely due to the disarray in the anti-Assad armed opposition. Now the $64 question is, What is the US strategy for the region? For the past year, the ruling views on both Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program have been those of Dickens’ Mr. Micawber: to await the future in the confidence “that something will turn up.” But what seems to be “turning up” are a string of false starts and disasters.

Towards Iran, over the last four years, the Obama administration has built its strategy around comprehensive economic sanctions (with several more rounds added this week). While sanctions have caused distress for ordinary Iranians, there has been no apparent weakening of the Iranian political elite’s determination to continue their nuclear program, and none of the candidates running for president have made the nuclear program/economic sanctions an issue. Though US intelligence reports and IAEA inspection reports are clear that Iran is not making and does not seem to want to make nuclear weapons, the US political and media elite has persuaded itself otherwise. There is no sign that, when nuclear negotiations are re-started after Iran’s presidential election, the Obama administration will significantly change its bargaining strategy that has so far proved useless. What then?
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Iran War Weekly | May 26, 2013

Per Frank Brodhead’s Iran War Weekly:

While huge majorities of the US public oppose war with Iran or US intervention in Syria, Congress and the mainstream US media have stepped up the pressure for a more aggressive stance on both fronts. With these factors in mind, we might ask whether President Obama’s speech this week at the National Defense University – in which he tried to dispose of liberal pressures on his policies re: drones, Guantanamo, and “the war on terror” – should be read as a move away from a confrontation in the Middle East, or as an attempt to secure his liberal base before more intense confrontations with Iran and Syria.

Following a series of generally unfruitful meetings regarding Iran’s nuclear program, further diplomacy is now on pause until after Iran’s presidential election, which will take place on June 14th. This week Iran’s Guardian Council disqualified the two presidential aspirants who might have challenged the policies of Iran’s Supreme Leader and the ruling conservative circles; but the fact that the candidate who has emerged as favored to win has been Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator may be significant in the future.
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