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The Race for Iran

WIKILEAKS AND IRAN—TAKE I: OBAMA’S LEGACY WILL BE CHANGE YOU CAN’T RELY ON

We will be writing about the Wikileaks documents and Iran throughout this week.  As we sort through the cables that are available so far, the first major point is that, as even The New York Times’ quasi-neoconservative David Sanger and his colleagues noted in their first story on the documents, the Obama Administration gave up on serious engagement with Tehran early on—if it ever was truly serious about engagement at all.  As Sanger and his colleagues write: 

“When Obama took office, many allies feared that his offers of engagement would make him appear weak to the Iranians.  But the cables show how Obama’s aides quickly countered those worries by rolling out a plan to encircle Iran with economic sanctions and antimissile defenses.  In essence, the administration expected its outreach to fail, but believed that it had to make a bona fide attempt in order to build support for tougher measures.”   

To document this assessment, Sanger and his colleagues rely significantly on a “Secret” cable from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels in March 2009, describing a classified briefing that the Obama Administration provided for all European Union member states.  March 2009—that’s less than two full months after President Obama took office and three months before the Islamic Republic’s June 12, 2009 presidential election.  And, as this particular cable and others in the Wikileaks collection indicate, the Administration was at that point already tanking on serious engagement with Tehran.  Whatever engagement that the Administration undertook would be as Dennis Ross and some others wanted it to be—a ploy, going through the motions to lay the groundwork for more sanctions and, down the road, even military strikes

Of course, that is precisely what we wrote in our May 24, 2009 Op Ed in The New York Times, “Have We Already Lost Iran?”

“President Obama’s Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed…This judgment may seem both premature and overly severe.  We do not make it happily.  We voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and we still want him to succeed in reversing the deterioration in America’s strategic position.  But we also believe that successful diplomacy with Iran is essential to that end.  Unless President Obama and his national security team take a fundamentally different approach to Tehran, they will not achieve a breakthrough…      

President Obama has made several policy and personnel decisions that have undermined the promise of his encouraging rhetoric about Iran.  On the personnel front, the problem begins at the top, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  As a presidential candidate, then-Senator Clinton ran well to the right of Mr. Obama on Iran, even saying she would ‘totally obliterate’ Iran if it attacked Israel.  Since becoming secretary of state, Clinton has told a number of allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf that she is skeptical that diplomacy with Iran will prove fruitful and testified to Congress that negotiations are primarily useful to garner support for ‘crippling’ multilateral sanctions against Iran…

Even more disturbing is President Obama’s willingness to have Dennis Ross become the point person for Iran policy at the State Department.  Mr. Ross has long been an advocate of what he describes as an ‘engagement with pressure’ strategy toward Tehran, meaning that the United States should project a willingness to negotiate with Iran largely to elicit broader regional and international support for intensifying economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.

In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama’s election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely.  Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail?  Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush’s successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.  Citing past ‘diplomacy’ would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.

Iranian officials are fully aware of Mr. Ross’s views—and are increasingly suspicious that he is determined that the Obama administration make, as one senior Iranian diplomat said to us, ‘an offer we can’t accept,’ simply to gain international support for coercive action.”

At the time we published this Op Ed, we were excoriated by many proponents of a diplomatic approach to Iran for writing such “premature” and unduly “harsh” criticism of a new administration headed by a President who was so obviously committed to engagement with the Islamic Republic.  The leaked documents confirm that our criticism of the Obama Administration was in no way premature and, if harsh, was deservedly so

President Obama has never been willing to back up his professed interest in diplomacy with expenditures of political capital, and his Administration has never been serious about engagement.  There is now a serious risk that Obama’s major policy achievement in this area will be to give engagement a bad name, discrediting the whole idea of using diplomacy to realign U.S.-Iranian relations in a strategically consequential way.  That’s something which even the George W. Bush Administration could not accomplish. 

Some of our Iranian colleagues are now telling us that more and more people in Iranian foreign policy circles are giving up on President Obama as a potential agent of change in U.S.-Iranian relations.  When we were at the University of Tehran earlier this year, we met bright students who had read and digested both of Obama’s autobiographical books.  For Iranian elites, now to be giving up on him and his foreign policy is another uniquely dubious achievement for Obama.    

Aside from the Wikileaks story, the other major Iran-related item in the news today was the bomb attacks in Tehran that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist and seriously wounded another (the wife of one of the scientists was also wounded).  When another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a bomb attack in Tehran in January of this year, many pro-Green Movement commentators advanced completely unsubstantiated assertions that the Iranian government had organized the attack because of what some claimed were the victim’s pro-Mousavi sympathies.  Now, the idea that the Iranian government is assassinating its own scientists seems increasingly preposterous.  As we noted in May 2009,

“the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic.  Under these circumstances, the Iranian government—regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12—will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile…Ayatollah Khamenei’s charge that ‘money, arms and organizations are being used by the Americans directly across our western border to fight the Islamic Republic’s system’ reflects legitimate concern about American intentions.”      

It is increasingly well-documented that both the United States and Israel are trying to undermine Iran’s nuclear program through covert initiatives.  We hope, as Americans, that our own government’s involvement in such activities does not extend to organizing or supporting the assassination of Iranian scientists (though we would note that this is something that neoconservatives like Reuel Marc Gerecht, among others, has publicly recommended); as we understand it, this would be a violation of U.S. law.  Perhaps it is the handiwork of an American ally that is less constrained when it comes to “targeted killings”.  But as long as the United States continues to fund and administer covert operations intended to destabilize the Islamic Republic, the risks that U.S. government agencies will be complicit in actions that would never pass serious legal scrutiny (or make sense as effective policy) are dangerously high. 

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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117 Responses to “WIKILEAKS AND IRAN—TAKE I: OBAMA’S LEGACY WILL BE CHANGE YOU CAN’T RELY ON”

  1. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    One must ask, rhetorically, who is the President here?

  2. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Obama wanted to name a respected “Arabist” as ambassador to Syria, but the Israel lobby blocked the nomination. So Obama named someone less objectionable to the neocons and other warmongers, but he has been afraid even to seek confirmation in the Senate! This scandalous state of affairs gets next to no press coverage in the US. And we know why this obtains.

  3. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Yes, it is sad really, that it would apparently not occur to Obama to obtain advice on Iran from some Iranians, rather than go to the journalists at the NYT and the Washington Post who are known for being Iranophobic in line with Washington group-think.

  4. Jack says:

    The zionists have lied about Iran since 1995, but only some corrupt gulf regimes that enjoys no civilian support use these lies for their own.
    THE USE OF THREATS AGAINST IRAN FROM THE US/ISRAEL MUST END!

  5. fyi says:

    meant to say:

    “What insights could they offer that scholars of Iran and Islam or Americans with area expertise could not offer?”

  6. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    Thank you for your comments.

    I take no pleasure in this, I wish and continue to wish Mr. Obama well but at some point a man has to act as a leader – be he the Iranian President and the US President.

    What I find very very disappointing is his solicitation of opinion from 2 journalists – regardless of their sympathies.

    What insights could they offer that scholars of Iran and Islam or Americans with area expertise could offer?

  7. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Touching again for a moment on your comment that Obama is culpable for his failure to engage with Iran, confirmation of the fairness of your statement can be found in Obama’s revelation recently that the “outside” advice he sought was from David Brooks and Tom Friedman of The New York Times, and several neocons who write opinion pieces for the Washington Post. ALL OF THE COLUMNISTS OBAMA READ FOR ADVICE, WERE JEWISH, AND HOSTILE TO IRAN!

  8. PB says:

    Let us recall Obama looked into the camera and gave Norouz greetings to Iran, twice, while all along he was planning to bring about millitary action and targetted killing. Even George Bush did not go so far as bluntly lie to an entire nation, not to mention to American supporters of this man, by looking at them through the camera.

    I believe this is a first! And it gives us an idea of what kind of animal occupies the white house.

  9. kooshy says:

    Very interesting and well conceptualized article-k

    The Myth of a Shia-Sunni/Persian-Arab Confrontation

    Posted By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam On November 30, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

    Is there a Shia crescent threatening the stability of western Asia and northern Africa? Is there a historically coded Arab-Persian enmity driving the international politics of the region? Does it date back centuries, and is it now viewed as a battle for regional supremacy? If we are to believe the media comments on the latest round of documents published by WikiLeaks, then yes. “Israel sees PR windfall in WikiLeaks tips on Iran,” a Reuters headline reads. “Cut the head of the snake: How Arab leaders urged U.S. to attack Iran,” says the Daily Mail. “Israel says WikiLeaks shows ‘consistency’ on Iran,” the Agence France Press (AFP) proclaims. “Arab states scorn evil Iran,” leads the Guardian. There is a common theme to these headlines: apparently there is an “Arab” or “Sunni” consensus supporting a war against Iran.
    It is a simple exercise to unravel the myth that there exists any Shia-Sunni divide or some eternal “Persian-Arab” confrontation feeding into a future war with Iran: Presumably “Sunni Arab” Syria has very cordial relations with “Shia Persian” Iran. In turn, “Shia Persian” Iran is indicted for supporting “Sunni Arab” Hamas. Seemingly “Arab Shia” Hezbollah is a staunch ally of non-Arab but “Shia” Iran. “Sunni” non-Arab Turkey is at the forefront of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear file. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, by all standards available a rather secular ruler with no “Sunni” credentials, indicts Iran for supporting the “Sunni” Muslim Brotherhood, established over seven decades before the revolution in Iran in 1979 by both “Arab” nationalists and “Sunni” Islamists. Sayyid Qutb, one of the leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a central reference point for many contemporary “Islamist” movements, has been widely read by Iranians, and his books have been translated by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of the presumably “Shia Persian” entity in Iran.
    The problem for the states advocating war with Iran is not some Shia revival, but their own legitimacy dilemma. This is compounded by the fact that Hassan Nasrallah outweighs the popularity of most contemporary Arab leaders in the region, especially those who are seen to be too dependent on the United States or too subservient to Israel. This has nothing to do with Iran’s alliance with Hezbollah, of course, or Nasrallah’s democratic credentials, but with the fact that Nasrallah is seen as someone who stands up against Israel. The same reason lies behind the relative popularity of Iranian leaders and Hamas. Their populist politics strike a chord with the preferences of many people in the region. This comes out very well in a recent book by Elaheh Rostami-Povey titled Iran’s Influence (Zed, 2010). The book is based on extensive field research and a range of interviews in western Asia and northern Africa. It makes it clear that the popularity of political leaders in the region is tied to their opposition to Israeli policies in Palestine and the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In short: challenging U.S. foreign policies and Israel is the surest way to gain political popularity.
    A poll conducted in June 2010 by Zogby International and the University of Maryland encompassing Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates corroborates that point further. The poll reveals strong support for Iran’s nuclear program, especially among Egyptians. It also suggests that 88 percent of the respondents perceived Israel and 77 percent perceived the United States as the biggest security threat to their countries. Conversely, only 10 percent deemed Iran a threat. This has a lot to do with the perception that Iran is pursuing an independent foreign policy and a principled stance on Palestine, and that it is challenging Israeli hegemony more generally.
    Analysis of world politics can not start or end with the proclamations of governments, not least because large-scale “wars” are not the monopoly of states anymore. By far more people have died in Iraq after major combat between the national armies were over than during the actual war. Most of them have been killed by non-state actors, a whole range of private contractors, al-Qaeda affiliates, and sectarian militias. And more people died on 9/11 than in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have spiraled out of the regional context; bombs went off in capitals all over the world. States can’t confine wars any longer, and there will always be a “blowback.” This new reality in world politics begets a central logic: preventing any new military confrontation must become a matter of principle, not mere strategy. We have entered a period when wars between two countries are easily multiplied into regional, even global confrontations with casualties everywhere. So today “our” security is intertwined even closer with that of the Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians, Israelis, Koreans, and Iranians. Their plight has become ours, and it is about time that this is reflected in international diplomacy. To that end, it is unhelpful and distorting to reduce the complexity of the contemporary “Islamic” worlds to categories such as Shia, Sunni, Persian, or Arab. Lest we forget, it was Saddam Hussein and the shah of Iran who also believed in an endemic confrontation between “Arabs” and “Persians.” The state ideology propagated by the former relied on a visceral hatred of the “Persian” menace to the “Arab world.” The shah of Iran, on the other side, crowned himself “Light of the Aryans” and celebrated Iran’s non-Muslim (i.e., pre-Islamic) heritage with megalomaniacal grandeur. Surely, their ideologies are a part of the old “Middle East” that none of us who care for the region would want to return to.

  10. Faram says:

    (Not surprising) like Jordan, Saudis are also concerned about US-Iran good relations

    “Prince Turki’s (of SA) concern that the United States will negotiate a “grand bargain” with Iran without consulting Saudi Arabia is a concern we have heard often in recent weeks.”

  11. Sakineh Bagoom says:

    Leveretts,

    “as we understand it, this would be a violation of U.S. law. Perhaps it is the handiwork of an American ally that is less constrained when it comes to “targeted killings”. But as long as the United States continues to fund and administer covert operations intended to destabilize the Islamic Republic, the risks that U.S. government agencies will be complicit in actions that would never pass serious legal scrutiny (or make sense as effective policy) are dangerously high”

    OK, I think everybody here knows who these allies are that would do the “targeted killings”, but since when is the US constrained from doing its own bidding?
    As for legal scrutiny, who has so far been brought up on charges for lying to American people and getting the US into an illegal war? Who has been court marshaled for all the hundreds of thousands of small arms lost in Iraq? Who paid a price for the over 11 billion dollars that went missing in Iraq due to “accounting irregularities?” If that was a bank robber he’d behind bars right now.
    Isn’t it illegal to contravene international treaties such as Algiers Accords, which among other items notes: The US would not intervene politically or militarily in Iranian internal affairs? Etc. etc. etc.
    If this is a rhetorical/PC way of saying that US personnel are not bound by US or international laws, then WELL DONE!

  12. Faram says:

    I found this in one document; (of course, the w. media doesn’t disclose this)

    “Alwahbi [of Saudi Arabia] strongly advised against taking military
    action to neutralize Iran’s program. Rather, establishing a
    US-Iranian dialogue was the best course of action, asserting
    that the USG opening an Interest Section or re-opening our
    Embassy in Tehran would be positive step. Alwahbi was
    heartened by the USG’s initiative for Under Secretary Burns
    to meet with the Iranians last week in Geneva. He added
    that, in his view, Iran’s position was “shifting” and wanted
    to avoid escalation of tensions. He noted his belief that
    the Russians had recently been effectively pressuring Iran to
    be less provocative. Alwahbi concluded that he expected Iran
    to keep tensions relatively low at least until after the US
    presidential election.”

  13. Goli says:

    I have a suggestion for those who insist on responding to Scott, et al. Instead of wasting your valuable time and energy to try to talk sense into these individuals, I suggest you comment on Iran-related posts on mainstream outlets such as Huffington Post and alike. That way, your contribution would be more valuable since you might actually truly inform and enlighten a couple of unsuspecting readers in the process of responding to ignorance. These souls on this site are literally and figuratively lost and there is no point in engaging them.

    The cable releases so far are effectively conveying the American/Israeli narrative re. Iran. No question about it. I hope I am wrong, but even if future releases vary, expand, and tell other stories, the damage is already done. Most likely, Assange is an unknowing stooge.

  14. Pak says:

    Dear Reza and Arnold,

    Interesting concepts – far fetched, but not implausible.

    I will refrain from passing judgement at the moment because all the information is not at hand yet. Based on the facts at hand (that very limited, Iran-centric cables have been released), I am still betting by my own theory, which is that the sensationalism surrounding these Iran cables is a sort of decoy to kill off interest by the time the more, let us say, juicy cables are released. Considering Iran is the most important topic of current international relations, and given the sensitivity of Arab-Israeli-Iranian relations, it makes sense to use Iran as the decoy.

    Also, when I begin to follow the trail of a potential conspiracy, I find that the trail is never-ending and eventually I reach the conclusion that nothing is real, as if I live in the Truman Show. I think a lot of Iranians are still walking that trail, not realising that they are only getting further and further away from the truth.

  15. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Arnold, as ever, is the wise old fox in these matters.

    Yep, there is both collusion and media management in all this.

  16. Arnold Evans says:

    Pak, about wikileaks cooperation:

    Yeah. This release process is very unusual and has been put in place with the cooperation of wikileaks.

    I can’t say I know why, but wikileaks has allowed the process to be managed by major Western news organizations that are in consultation with the US government. They are managing the release in at least a pro-establishment way.

    Another thing to notice is that unusually, there is no group of torrents with multiple file formats. That would have allowed the documents to be easily downloaded and stored locally by any interested individual.

    That means that beyond the first generation, wikileaks.org could not keep track of who accesses the information. This system requires loggable access of the central wikileaks.org server for every examination of the files.

    It is possible to “scrape” the distributions now, and store and distribute the results of that independently, but the fact that there are ongoing releases as well as other things such as no centrally agreed checksum to ensure any copy has not been altered decreases the value of that.

    Possibly at the end, wikileaks will provide access to the files in the usual way and anyone will be able to download the entire set to their computer to search through at their leisure. When (and if) that happens, the NYT narrative will be drowned out by more skeptical parties. Wikileaks is actively preventing that from happening for now, and there is no assurance that it will ever stop doing that.

    Why is wikileaks working indirectly with the US government through the Western news media? I can only guess. Maybe it is related to the rape charges that wikileak’s founder is facing. I don’t know, but I see the result which is that wikileaks has, only for this release, come up with a process that heavily favors parties sympathetic with the US government in shaping the narrative.

  17. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Dear Pak,

    Both wikileaks and the media breaking the story are being manipulated to present material which really does make Iran look like the “rogue state” it is notoriously
    described as. If you read the Ashqabat and RPO Dubai cables, in particular, they report the rantings of anti-regime critics consulted by diplomats. The Vienna cables make Larijani appear complicit in some cover-up over prison abuses and so on…this content will be picked up and is being used by the anti-IR crowd to show that the regime has *no* friends in the region and that its nuclear and missile program must be stopped as recommended by King Abdullah.

    Now, wikileaks is releasing some other stuff to give the impression that it is really breaking news on American espionage and wrong-doing, but this is just a ruse. When the news first broke on Sunday, I expected to find evidence implicating Americans with terrorism, corruption and subversion around the world – instead I read communiques concerning Iranians being suspected of doing all these things.

  18. Pak says:

    But Arnold, your argument does not take into account that Wikileaks is releasing the cables as well. Unless you believe that Wikileaks is also complicit in an anti-Iran agenda?

  19. Downloadable Excel file listing all 10,069 Wikileaks cables having “IR” tag (IR stands for Iran).

    https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B6xrXj0IOjhEZTI1MzM4MTUtNDQ0Yi00ZDJhLWI2YjMtNWU3ZGFmOGYzOTg0&hl=en

    Not the text of any cable – just the date, source and “tags.” Includes columns showing total and percent from each source.

    For what it may be worth.

  20. Faram says:

    Chomsky’s view on the docs concerning Iran. Not that is news to the commentators here, but worth watching if you get a chance.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/30/noam_chomsky_wikileaks_cables_reveal_profound

  21. Arnold Evans says:

    Pak:

    But the New York Times is at a great advantage compared to parties that don’t share its agenda. It has access to 250,000 cables. We have access to the fewer than 300 cables that the New York Times (and parties like that) choose to release.

    After 250,000 cables have been released, the ground will begin to level, but there is no telling when that will be. Cables that are truly harmful will have been classified at a higher level than the release and I suspect, increasingly strongly, that cables that slipped through the classification process but are overly harmful to the US will be blocked in the current release process.

    How it is being released for now, is still obviously controlled and the parties applying the control are still obviously hostile to Iran.

    There may come a point where the release, overall harms the US more than helps it with the short term effect of presenting carefully selected anti-Iranian cables as representative. We have yet to see on that.

  22. Persian Gulf says:

    kooshy :

    I was surprised that NIAC sent an article like the one you posted here. for so long they used to blame the victim! was the recent info that embarrassing?

  23. Pak says:

    I made a mistake and did not make myself clear anyway:

    *The point is that the raw content of the leak is more valuable than the spin, regardless of the motive of the propaganda.

  24. Pak says:

    Dear Reza,

    So is your argument assuming that the leak is actually genuine, but the media is misrepresenting it? If it is, then I understand your argument and agree to an extent. I have spent the entire evening sifting through different news articles and what I have seen so far is the same skeleton of a story (he said this in the cable, she said that) but a variety of spin.

    The point is that the raw content of the leak is more valuable than the leak, whatever the propaganda. Policy makers and people genuinely interested in the data will be only be interested in the raw content and its worth, as you put it. So Ahmadinejad’s argument does not really apply, if you see what I mean.

    If however I have misunderstood you and you are suggesting that the raw content of the leak is itself propaganda, then I disagree but understand Ahmadinejad’s argument.

  25. James Canning says:

    I recommend “Why NGO Monitor is attacking The Electronic Intifada”
    http://electronicIntifada.net

    The Dutch foreign minister, Uri Rosenthal, is trying to cut off funding for this essential site for dissemination of information about Israel and the West Bank.

  26. Dan Cooper says:

    Video

    Trita Parsi and Juan Cole appeared on MSNBC to discuss revelations from the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables and the implications for US policy, the Middle East, and preventing war with Iran.

    http://www.niacouncil.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6887&security=1&news_iv_ctrl=-1

  27. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Pak,

    You don’t understand how this sort of propaganda works. The media are being presented that this is a diplomatic disaster for the United States – and there are some embarrassing features – but the visceral contempt for Iran coming out of Arab capitals is the real news story and only makes Washington look restrained and cautious and Iran look like a bête noire and regional bogeyman. There is also slurs against Khamenei’s health, Larijani’s integrity, the internal situation of the country and more nonsense about the “stolen” election.

    Ahmadinejad was right when he said that nobody would waste their time reading the cables and that they had no worth – of course, we people did just that because we are curious.

  28. James Canning says:

    Pak.

    Sir Malcolm Rifkind has some worthwhile comments about the leaked material in the Daily Telegraph Dec. 1st. He addresses legitimate security concerns regarding a small percentage of the communications.

  29. James Canning says:

    Speaking of borders, I think Iran has spent $600 million in recent years in an effort to control its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, to stop smuggling of illegal drugs.

  30. James Canning says:

    Dan,

    One might guess the answer has a good deal to do with protecting and enlarging budgets for the FBI. On the other hand, often it is necessary to be something of an agent provacateur in some of these matters. But it might adversely affect any prosecution.

  31. James Canning says:

    The Daily Telegraph (UK) has a story today about Colonel Gadaffi warning the EU that millions of Africans will migrate to Europe if Libya does not get more help to control its borders.

    Saudi Arabia as a practical matter faces a greater threat from illegal immigration from Yemen (some of which comes from Somalia, Kenya etc), than anything likely to come from Iran.

  32. Dan Cooper says:

    Fabricating Terror

    Why does the FBI orchestrate fake terror plots?

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26954.htm

  33. Pak says:

    Wow, the official regime line on these leaks needs to be streamlined quick, before it loses what little legitimacy it has.

    Wikileaks is a a US/Zionist conspiracy to sow discord and pursue an agenda. OK, but…

    Wikileaks confirms that US embassies are spy nests. Wikileaks confirms that foreign governments were involved in post-election unrest.

    Hmmm.

  34. James Canning says:

    For those who like an historical perspective, I recommend Max Hastings, “The Turkish-German Jihad” in the New York Review of Books Dec. 9th. (A review of The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Nid for World Power, by Sean McMeekin). The author notes the irony that Hussein justified his revolt against the Ottomans on grounds the Turkish government was too secular and promoted women’s rights.

    The Germans needed Turkey in order to capture the Baku oilfields, but by the time the Turks captured Baku the war was virtually over.

  35. James Canning says:

    The Iranian government has said time and again it wants negotiations to proceed from a standpoint of friendship and good faith. Why Obama continues to play the Israeli game of pretending Israel does not have nuclear weapons and thus those weapons should not be discussed, can only be explained in terms of his receiving very poor advice from his inner team of advisers.

  36. James Canning says:

    Pak,

    I think it is clear that Obama could and would succeed with engagement, if he had the strength of character and confidence to proceed. I would compare it to John F. Kennedy when he rejected the advice of all of his military advisers during the Cuban missile crisis. And what a good thing Kennedy had the courage and confidence to do so!

  37. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    The correct procedure for refueling the TRR has been followed by Iran, in which the application is first filed with the IAEA for prior approval of the purchase which then can be made from France or another supplier. Iran went through this procedure last time around.

    Russia, of course, wants to supply all LEU for all Iranian nuclear power plants.

  38. Arnold Evans says:

    I also find these questions and responses interesting:

    – Can Iran simply purchase the fuel from an international supplier, as some have advocated in Iran?
    o The UN Security Council resolutions do permit Iran to Iran can purchase low-enriched fuel from an international supplier if it wishes.
    o However, we are confident Iran would not find a willing supplier given the concerns surrounding its nuclear program and its continued defiance of the international community.
    o Outside of the context of the IAEA proposal before Iran, we would oppose such a deal.

    – How would the E3+3 respond if Iran announced it had “no choice” but to make its own fuel for the TRR?
    o Under three UN Security Council resolutions, Iran is required to suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities. We have offered Iran a way to secure the necessary TRR fuel without further violating these obligations. Enrichment
    activities to produce its own fuel for the TRR would be a violation of current UNSCRs.
    o Further, Iran is not currently able to produce the fuel. Reconfiguration of Iranian centrifuges to produce the required enrichment level (19.75%) would cause serious international concern and could permit Iran to produce a stockpile of even greater enriched uranium than it has currently (Iran’s current enrichment level is 3.5%). This would increase the risk of a near-term Iranian breakout from the NPT and sprint to producing nuclear weapons.

    The first question in a way points to why Iran might want to become an independent fuel supplier. If Egypt becomes independent one day, the US “will be confident” that it will be denied fuel by all of the current suppliers. If by that time Iran has the ability, it can break the cartel we see being applied against Iran here.

    The second question because Iran probably would not be enriching to 20% now if the TRR deal had not had unacceptable conditions, but enriching to 20% is a good strategic move for Iran, and having a stockpile of 20% LEU will be increasingly valuable as the stockpile becomes larger. I don’t know if Iran would have been willing, then or more importantly now, to commit to restricting its enrichment to less than 20%. It certainly could not make that commitment permanently or in any way that would require US permission for the restriction to be lifted. I wonder if there were any terms, then or now, that restricting its enrichment level might have been acceptable.

  39. Pak says:

    By the way, for Obama to expect engagement to fail is not an admission that failure is his policy. The Iranians have the same concerns: they expect engagement to fail. Therefore, is failure also their policy?

    There is a weakness to this argument.

  40. Pak says:

    Please, there is no point getting dragged into another “who won the election” argument. I think the positions held by certain people are clear by now.

    The focus with regards to Wikileaks should be on whether there is a direct reference to foreign interference in Iran/Iranian elections. So far, the answer is no. Dagan floated the idea, but finding this a surprise is a surprise in itself. There needs to be an explicit reference.

    People should also refrain from selectively interpreting what is mostly opinion.

    Finally, is this leak agenda driven? Rehmat and to an extent Reza argue that it is a premeditated attempt to mould future policy (a symptom of Iranian paranoia). There is no merit to this argument judging by the nature of Wikileaks and its past actions.

    But, agreeing with Pirouz to an extent (which is rare, if not a first) and building on his argument, I think that this could be an attempt to sensationalise the current leaks regarding Iran, with the desire to tire interest and lessen the impact of future leaks (which, according to my theory, would be released far more quietly and away from the public eye).

    Or maybe Wikileaks is simply following the tried-and-tested corporate model of staggered release, where a breakthrough is introduced to the market in a systematic manner in order to maximise its utility.

  41. Arnold Evans says:

    Rethinking what I wrote:

    Iran might deposit its LEU at Kish and then leave the treaty before the TRR fuel is delivered? Only if it’s attacked. How else could that even be a concern?

    “Before the TRR fuel is delivered”, does not, by any means, have to be short term. Especially if we are not hearing other conditions that very likely were part of the US proposal, namely that Iran would by other devices keep its domestic LEU stock below one ton indefinitely.

    I guess the US had visions of holding Iran’s fuel stock in Turkey for 10, 20, 30 years, maybe until after regime change or a this-time successful color revolution, and wants to be sure that over that time period it is confident that Iran will not leave the NPT.

  42. Arnold Evans says:

    The Jones supposed counteroffer seems to have been denied immediately by the US.

    :http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09ANKARA1654.html
    Davutoglu noted that he had spoken to NSA General Jones Wednesday, who had said that we should perhaps suggest to the Iranians that they transfer 600 kilos to Kish Island and 600 kilos to Turkey simultaneously. A/S Gordon said he could not give an official response to the proposal as this is the first time we heard it, but that he anticipates much skepticism about providing fuel to Iran before all the LEU has been taken out. It would be better to get all 1200 kilos out right away.

    The TRR deal has been well understood since the US response to the Tehran declaration. Iran would not have had leverage to get fuel delivered without further concessions if it had exported then.

    More interesting to me is Davotuglu explaining to US Assistant Secretary Gordon that Saudi Arabia (he could have added Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and UAE) are seen as US puppets.

    Gordon pushed back that Ankara should give a stern public message about the consequences if UN resolutions are ignored. Davutoglu countered that Erdogan had given just such a statement in Tehran when he visited. He emphasized that Turkey’s foreign policy is giving a “sense of justice” and a “sense of vision” to the region. Turkey has provided a “third option” in addition to Iran and the Saudis (who he contended are viewed as “puppets” of the US). The result, he said, is that we “limit Iranian influence in the region.” We need a “pro-Western approach AND a sense of justice.”

    I have to say though that the US preoccupation with Iran pulling out of the NPT over the short term, for example during the term of the TRR deal, is hard to explain.

    For example in here:
    :http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09STATE120288.html

    I can’t believe the US had a plan to either attack Iran once the LEU was gone or to threaten more vigorously to do so, but that’s the way Iran might leave the NPT in the short term of the time of that cable.

    Iran might deposit its LEU at Kish and then leave the treaty before the TRR fuel is delivered? Only if it’s attacked. How else could that even be a concern?

    This is really dishonest and also clumsy diplomacy on the part of the US. It points to a fundamental contradiction in US policy which is the more important it is to the US that Iran not be nuclear capable – which translates to the US retaining the flexibility to attack Iran without fear of a potential nuclear retaliation – the clearer it is to Iran that nuclear capability is necessary.

  43. fyi,

    “Scott Lucas’ sole purpose is to keep the notion of a disputed election in Iran alive. I think you ought to ignore him.”

    That’s sound advice. I give it to myself often. But I keep hoping that Scott is redeemable.

  44. Jon Walker says:

    Exactly!

  45. fyi says:

    Eric A. Brill:

    I think you are missing the point.

    Scott Lucas’ sole purpose is to keep the notion of a disputed election in Iran alive.

    I think you ought to ignore him.

  46. Scott,

    “You fail again to consider any of the numerous pieces of testimony (in contrast to your meticulous consideration of the Government’s case) that have been forward about the problems with the process.”

    You’re missing (or dodging) the point: There is no such testimony that can be considered — just broad, sweeping allegations of fraud and “flawed processes,” nothing that can actually be checked out. There are 45,692 ballot-box counts out there begging to be challenged, but nobody ever challenges them.

    Mousavi’s people were at the polling station on election day — tens of thousands of them. They watched the voting. They watched the vote counting. In most cases, they signed the little piece of paper that was sent to Tehran to report the vote count. Later, they read the vote count reported by the Interior Ministry for their polling station. They compared it to their notes of the vote count.

    And then….

    And then they did nothing. All of them did nothing. Not one of them — even those who had since left the country, or were never in Iran in the first place — did anything at all.

    I’m the first to acknowledge that human beings have a hard time being “objective,” Scott, but at some point you’ve got to just look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself “Scott Lucas, you are dead wrong about this, and it’s time you faced it.”

    Now’s the time, Scott. You’ll feel better.

  47. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @Scott

    Mosauvi had tends of thousands of monitors at the precinct level and who signed off the results for tens of thousands of ballot boxes. The greens have never denied this simple fact. They have yet to produce their own nationwide disaggregated data – even alternative data at the provincial level would be useful to support their claims. All we have, however, are these ridiculous accounts giving Ahmadnejad only 10% of the share of the vote ,overall, which is clearly preposterous.

    @Eric

    I am not doubting the authenticity of the cables one bit. They seem like the real deal, and people in the intelligence community would have had access to them. But as you say, one has to wonder why Wikileaks has provided nearly 300 documents – most of which are related to Iran and which can be used to sully its affairs with the Arab world and to vindicate the Israeli stance. Tel Aviv is buoyant about the release.

    I have noticed that the self-censoring is the worst part: it would be nice to know who the various sources are, but on many cables they are missing – defeats the whole point of a “leak”. None of these documents are *top* secret and would therefore not compromise national security in any real way. Many are just confidential or even unclassified.

  48. Scott,

    Is that it, then: “The process as a whole was flawed?”

    No comparing the Interior Ministry’s count for a particular ballot box with the count witnessed by Mousavi’s observer at that polling station? Not even one little ballot box? Surely, if Mousavi has countless courageous supporters who are willing to stand up and boldly say “the process as a whole was flawed,” he must have one — just one — who’s courageous enough to give an example.

    No?

  49. kooshy says:

    Eric

    “So I think Reza is just asking you to pick a theory — again, just for a day or so. We’ll run with that one for a while, and then you’ll be free to switch theories.”

    As for me, I wouldn’t mind to see a fresh version from our friends Scott and co. every now and then. I must admit, new versions are always less boring and far more entertaining, I just wished Scott would consider to make a mini series of “Iran election 88” with different episodes every week

  50. Reza,

    “There is good reason to suspect the motivations and agenda behind these Iran-centric leaks just a few days prior to the nuclear talks.”

    Maybe, but that strikes me as speculative. Many different people, with many different agendas, had access to these cables.

    What strikes me as more likely is that Wikileaks’ reported self-censoring of these cables (aimed, it says, at preventing harm to the US’ national security) result in a disproportionate number of cables that are critical of Iran. After all, if you’re worried about being charged with espionage, and you’re reviewing two cables, one of which says, in essence, that “Iranians are very nice people,” and the other one of which says “Iranians are very nasty people,” which cable are you more likely to conclude is safe to release?

  51. Scott Lucas says:

    Eric,

    Obtuse doesn’t suit you….

    The people and groups I have listed have claimed the process as a whole was flawed. Because that process was flawed — during and after the ballot — it has not been possible to contest a specific ballot box. The process never got to that point amidst the political maneouvring, detentions, and intimidation from 12 June on….

    Your representation of my arguments is a distortion, and you fail again to consider any of the numerous pieces of testimony (in contrast to your meticulous consideration of the Government’s case) that have been forward about the problems with the process.

    You can disagree with my interpretation but you don’t have to degrade your usual engagement with argument to ally with the polemic that I have been inconsistent.

    As the political battle over legitimacy is now well beyond the vote — only those who handled the Forms on the night of 12 June know for sure what happened, and the physical evidence is probably well shredded and/or burnt — I’m happy to leave you on the narrow ground of your study.

    Best,

    S.

  52. fyi says:

    Pirouz:

    The agenda, if any, is harming US and her allies.

    Did you notice how distressed EU states where at the thought that US is going to settle her problems with Iran and leave them out of such a deal?

  53. Scott,

    Sometimes you say “everyone made those charges,” as you’re saying today, but you never actually mention a polling station where this charge was made. When I ask you to do so, you tell me that Mousavi’s tens of thousands of observers are all far too afraid to speak out. When I ask you why they signed up to be observers in the first place, thus putting themselves in danger, you usually reply that they didn’t know at the time what danger they’d be in. They only found out on election day. When I then ask you whether that means the government hadn’t intimidated them prior to election day, you typically respond that the intimidation began long before election day.

    So I think Reza is just asking you to pick a theory — again, just for a day or so. We’ll run with that one for a while, and then you’ll be free to switch theories.

  54. Pirouz says:

    I just can’t believe Wikileaks remains stuck at 278 docs released to the public. I know Arnold has brought this up already, but I can’t fathom this Iran-centric dump as being anything else but agenda-driven.

    Anybody else have plausible reasons to suggest otherwise?

  55. fyi says:

    kooshy:

    The WikiLeaks have destroyed US public diplomacy vis-a-vis Iran.

    Almost certainly the result in Tehran will be to “…emasculate pragmatic conservatives in Iran, embolden hardliners and their preconceived notions of “foreign plots,” and reinforce Iran’s “don’t trust anyone” mentality that has become increasingly visible in its foreign policy since 2005.”

  56. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Scott,

    There is good reason to suspect the motivations and agenda behind these Iran-centric leaks just a few days prior to the nuclear talks.

    But you have yet to state whether *any* of the 45,692 ballot box results are incorrect. The green movement has only ever contested the aggregated tally – they have not contested the individual precinct results because Mousavi’s monitors certified them. The count of the vote was therefore entirely accurate – whether there was some illegal balloting or not is another and yet unsubstantiated matter.

    Reza

  57. Jon Walker says:

    Scott Lucas

    Lets get serious here. You’ve been pushing the fraud arguement for 18 months now any you’ve never provided evidence. You’re awfully biased and even obsessed. Let it go. Move on man.

  58. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Scott,

    Lying about the health of Ayatollah Khamenei hardly undermines the legitimacy of the government. All it does reveal are the desperate tactics that the Rafsanjani crowd were prepared to go to protect their own influence and position within the system.

    It seems Ahmadinejad brings out the worst in many people.

    Reza

  59. Scott Lucas says:

    Eric,

    When Reza declares, “The Iranian Interior ministry released all the precinct level results: 45,692 ballot box tallies. Mousavi and his representatives have failed to contest even one of them,” — given that Mousavi, Mousavi’s associates, Karroubi, Karroubi’s associates, the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the Freedom Movement of Iran, Mohsen Rezaei, lawyers, student activists, journalists have all challenged those tallies, given that many people were detained for making those challenges and that some are still detained — there’s no value in losing time with his hermetic narrative.

    Still, I think it’s richly ironic that someone who declares, “I wish they would make their minds up on which conspiracy theory they are actually peddling,” has spent all day on this thread pushing a conspiracy theory.

    S.

  60. Scott Lucas says:

    Eric,

    The three assessments we posted from the WikiLeaks release were chosen because they offer information to consider Iran’s political situation beyond the immediate question of the election — consider, for example, that someone close to Rafsanjani was apparently putting out the story in summer 2009 that the Supreme Leader had terminal cancer.

    The assessment from a European diplomat in December 2009, based on talks with Rahim-Mashai, Larijani, and Khatami, as well as observations of the internal situation, also offers much to consider.

    Just to repeat: by autumn 2009 the key issues in Iran went beyond the specific numbers in the elections to wider questions of legitimacy.

    S.

  61. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Eric,

    Sure. But the fact remains that 75% of the 278 documents released so far concern Iran and can be used as evidence that Arab leaders fear the Islamic Republic far more than they do Israel. There is also talk about Ayatollah Khamenei having terminal cancer (twice now he has been said to have died), Speaker Larijani being aware of rapes and human rights abuses in the post-election aftermath, and today we learn that China is OK with the idea of the South subsuming the North of Korea.

    Beyond the asinine comments about world leaders, together with the spying on the U.N, the focus remains on Iran and on how dangerous a threat it apparently is. The United States comes across as restraining itself from bombing Iran at the behest of the Arabs who want to “cut the head of the snake” and the “tentacles of the octopus”.

    The intended audience is not folks like you and I but the officials in Tehran and Pyongyang: The message is that you are isolated, despised and we *will* get you.

    Assange is being manipulated by Tel Aviv or Langley – I have no doubt.

  62. Scott,

    REZA WROTE:

    “I wish they would make their minds up on which conspiracy theory they are actually peddling.”

    I don’t think Reza is trying to pin you down to just one theory forever — just for a day or so, then you can switch.

  63. Reza,

    “Yes, the more I read the cables the more unfavorable they are towards Iran rather than America.”

    Bear in mind that these leaked cables report, for the most part, words said by Americans or their agents, or to Americans or their agents. Substitute “Iranians” for “Americans” in that sentence, and you might find that the cables in question sound a bit more favorable to Iran.

  64. kooshy says:

    Reza Marashi
    Research Director, National Iranian American Council
    Posted: November 30, 2010 09:03 AM
    WikiLeaks: U.S.-Iran Relations “Now What” Moment?

    Lost in the clamor and commotion of WikiLeaks releasing 251,287 diplomatic cables is the perspective of those who currently or have recently served in government. For four years, I served in the Office of Iranian Affairs at the State Department during the period in which most of the Iran-related cables are from. We worked hard to find constructive solutions toward peace. When President Obama took office in 2009, we launched the most serious attempt since 1979 to begin dialogue with Iran. Clearly, our diplomatic efforts were not perfect, but trying to predict Iranian politics is often a humbling experience. With the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight, it would have been more effective if we had done a few things differently. Wikileaks may highlight this, or confirm previously held suspicions. Regardless, it has brought three key issues to the fore:
    1. This unprecedented violation will strategically weaken America in ways that are currently impossible to predict. If nothing else, government officials, businessmen, students and others around the world may think twice before confiding in their American counterparts — if they are still willing talk. And weakening American diplomacy lessens its credibility as an alternative to political, economic and military conflict.
    While many view this massive security breach as an exciting and unique glimpse into foreign policy, the bottom line is that it is illegal. And while some may hope that these leaks serve as a catalyst for policy adjustments and greater government transparency, Americans should ask themselves: at what cost? Simply put, U.S. diplomats — many of whom are my friends and former colleagues — have been put in harm’s way as a result of this illegal act. America has these security and confidentiality rules in place to protect those who serve.

    2. It should now be clear that U.S. policy has never been a true engagement policy. By definition, engagement entails a long-term approach that abandons “sticks” and reassures both sides that their respective fears are unfounded. We realized early on that the administration was unlikely to adopt this approach. Instead, we pursued a “carrot and stick” strategy similar to the Bush administration, utilizing positive and negative inducements to convince Iran that changing its behavior would be its most rewarding and least harmful decision. The key difference between the Bush and Obama approach is an effort by the latter to fix tactical mistakes of the former. By disavowing regime change, striking diplomatic quid pro quos with key allies, and dropping preconditions to diplomacy with Iran, Obama changed tactics, but maintained an objective similar to his predecessor — making Iran yield on the nuclear issue through pressure. By changing tactics, the U.S. managed to build a consensus for international sanctions after talks collapsed in 2009 — something the Bush administration was unable to achieve.
    Moreover, as the leaked cables show, the highest levels of the Obama administration never believed that diplomacy could succeed. While this does not cheapen Obama’s Nowruz message and other groundbreaking facets of his initial outreach, it does raise three important questions: How can U.S. policymakers give maximum effort to make diplomacy succeed if they admittedly never believed their efforts could work? Why was Iran expected to accept negotiation terms that relinquished its greatest strategic asset (1200 kg of LEU) without receiving a strategic asset of equal value in return? And what are the chances that Iran will take diplomacy seriously now that it knows the U.S. never really did? The Obama administration presented a solid vision, but never truly pursued it.

    3. Paradoxically, WikiLeaks may have caused a “Now What?” moment in U.S.-Iran relations. For America, the strategic ambiguity in its status-quo Iran policy is no longer tenable. Wikileaks has provided Iran with clarity on the U.S. “carrot-stick” strategy. Now, Obama must choose between continuing the existing policy that has been unevenly applied (where are the carrots?), or recalibrating his policy to seriously consider the political, economic, security and nuclear incentives sought by Iran that any diplomatic solution will have to address. This does not imply that concessions must be made to Iran on each of these four fronts. Only robust diplomacy can determine whether it is in America’s interest to address Iranian concerns. But if Iran’s interests are not addressed in negotiations, diplomacy will be deemed one-sided and fail without being executed in good faith. This increases the likelihood that the aforementioned international coalition will begin to fragment — and that Iran will likely exploit those fragmentations.
    For Iran, WikiLeaks should make it clear — it has no real friends, in the region or elsewhere. At best, it has leverage that is facilitated by business arrangements. Trust is in short supply. Going forward, this is likely to affect its strategic calculus vis-à-vis the U.S. and its nuclear program. While it is currently unclear whose hand will be strengthened in Tehran by these recent developments, one of two scenarios seems likely. Iran’s new-found sense of isolation may exacerbate existing domestic and international pressures to the point where it feels compelled to cut a deal. Indeed, Iranian decision-makers may decide that the WikiLeaks damage suffered by the U.S. and Iran have leveled the playing field, making it easier to reach an agreement without losing face. Conversely, the information gleaned from WikiLeaks could emasculate pragmatic conservatives in Iran, embolden hardliners and their preconceived notions of “foreign plots,” and reinforce Iran’s “don’t trust anyone” mentality that has become increasingly visible in its foreign policy since 2005.
    As negotiations in Geneva commence this weekend, it would be wise for both sides to utilize lessons learned — from the previous round of diplomacy, and from the WikiLeaks debacle — to maximize the chances for successful diplomacy. Ambassador John Limbert, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran during my time at the State Department, used to (half) joke about doing whatever it took to keep some form of rationality in our Iran policy. If any good is to come out of the inexcusable WikiLeaks security breach, perhaps it will be something as simple as taking Ambassador Limbert’s advice to heart.

    Reza Marashi is director of research at the National Iranian American Council and a former Iran desk officer at the U.S. State Department.

  65. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    An anecdote re: Reagan. An American industrialist from the “Pacific Northwest” of the US recalled to me one time how he received a phone call from a pal in Southern California who was close to Reagan, back in 1964 (during the Barry Goldwater campaign for president). “Luke, we’ve got a guy coming into Spokane in a few days in support of Goldwater. His name is Reagan, and maybe you’ve heard of him. [re career on GE theatre US TV etc]. Listen, we want to make this son of a bitch president of the US but first we’ve got to make him governor of California. Be sure to tell him he would be a great governor of California.

  66. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Reagan had been conversant with international affairs for many years before entering the White House, even if his intellect was not of the highest calibre. And he frightened his own aides with the surprise proposal for US/USSR elimination of nukes. Not a bad idea, actually.

    I rather fear Obama could serve as a front man for a thinly disguised military dictatorship in the US, given his propensity to knuckle under to Israeli demands, even when those demands clearly contravene international law and 40-odd years of US policy.

  67. James Canning says:

    Since when has the US Navy taken it upon itself to rename a major body of water that is used by shipping from many countries? PressTV has story today USN as of Nov. 28th wants “Arab Gulf” used instead of “Persian Gulf”! Lunacy!

  68. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    Take another US President with even less experience: Ronald Reagan.

    In Rekjavik, he proposed to Gorbachev, nothing less than total elimination of nuclear weapons on his own initiative and based on his own personal convictions.

  69. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    Joe Biden told Obama, during the discussions regarding the request by US generals for 30,000 to 50,000 more troops for the Afghan quagmire: “Don’t let them do this to you!”
    Biden meant, do not get taken in by promoters of enlarging the war, because it will not improve matters. Remember Vietnam and the siren calls of the generals.

    I think Obama in fact did lack the necessary confidence and he obviously lacked sufficient experience.

  70. James Canning says:

    @,

    You make good points. The leaked cables show how frantic some US diplomats are regarding the current government of Turkey! Astonishingly foolish assessments of Turkish politics and fear of Turkey’s excellent foreign minister! And why is this? ISRAEL LOBBY! ISRAEL LOBBY! ISRAEL LOBBY!

  71. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    You are cutting Mr. Obama too much slack.

  72. James Canning says:

    We should remember that the Obama administration thought the recent UN General Assemby session would offer a chance to try to address some of the issues with Iranian diplomats, but Ahmadinejad could not resist a chance to grandstand.

  73. James Canning says:

    I think Obama genuinely wanted to engage with Iran but just did not have the knowledge and confidence to proceed with matters to achieve his object. In other words, he was conned or frightened by elements of the Israel lobby, or simply pressured into abandoning his chosen course.

    I very much agree with the description of the NYT’s Sanger as a “quasi-neocon”.

  74. fyi says:

    Reza Esfandiari:

    “…under its present leadership is loathed and feared as a rogue soon-to-be-nuclear state in its own region”

    The situation was the same under the Shah – depending on the time and place. Iraq under Monarchy was friends of Iran – not so under the Republic. Egypt under Nasser was not, under Sadat was.

    The statement, mostly covers Iranian vs. Sunni Arab states; Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon are conveniently omitted.

    You are reading too much into this.

  75. Reza Esfandiari says:

    I am also concerned that wikileaks could be being used by the powers that be to provide a convenient excuse for the U.S. administration to crack down on the Internet and impose censorship on sites deemed to be “destabilizing” and damaging to national security. This of course happens in other countries, including Iran but also even in Australia, and so would lead to the loss of more freedoms and rights in the United States. Julian Assange has become the new bin Laden: the new bogeyman on the run.

  76. kooshy says:

    Reza

    ““United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants to have it both ways; lament the unauthorized release of thousands of US government documents and promise to do whatever is necessary to stop it, and, simultaneously, to harvest the Iran-bashing windfall those leaks provide.”

    That is absolutely correct by condemning the so called unauthorized release she is actually authenticating the legitimacy of the documents an old slick lawyerly trick.

  77. @ says:

    Re the focus on Iran

    http public.tableausoftware.com/views/tags/Country

    Iran does not seem to be singled out in any way.

    So far the Arab puppetship seems to be taking the biggest hit
    http http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/11083
    (put the Arab hostility towards Iran in that perspective; an attempt to try appeasing the US!)

    But it all depends on who interprets the leaks.

    The Western propaganda machinery can make a full functional farmhouse out of a feather so it is not strange that Iran is being so negatively portrayed.

    These documents are US comments on various events. All they do is to give an insight to the dysfunctional workings of the US gov & friends. I think there has been some mention about the worthless analysis the US is doing and getting from close allies in the region on many issues pertaining to that region.

    And that my friends is why this is in overall so dangerous to the US and not Iran. It confirms the utter uselessness of the US, Israel and the Arab puppetship and their relationship. Eg as the Leveretts pointed out, we now know how fake US policy is on Iran.

    But people are too stupid to realize this or they simple have no reason to care. Simply put, the party line works. “A guy told our representative that another guy told him about the Iranian flying laser shark project combined with Panda missiles from China being able to hit the Moon! You must stop the head of the Snake or what not!”

    Please.

  78. Good stuff! I travelled to Britain this summer and had my first ever afternoon tea with scones , and it was absolutely delicious I thought I’d try and make my own last week. I might have broken a few rules maybe – I found a website full of random scone recipes here and made 6 different ones! My friends were so happy when I invited them round for tea and scones, complete with real whipped cream. Great fun!

  79. Liz says:

    Scott Lucas,

    No one needs to establish his legitimacy for a well funded American green like you.

    Ahmadinejad today in a small city called Sari

    http://www.farsnews.com/plarg.php?nn=M681563.jpg

  80. Reza Esfandiari says:

    More evidence that wikileaks is clever state-sponsored propaganda.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/janetdaley/100066110/wikileaks-us-resisted-calls-to-attack-iran-so-who-is-the-warmonger/

    “What is the most substantive thing that these leaks have revealed? That Iran, under its present leadership is loathed and feared as a rogue soon-to-be-nuclear state in its own region.”

  81. fyi says:

    Reza Esfandiari:

    WikiLeaks contain nothing new in respect to Arab states’ animosity towards Iran.

    Personally, I can see the Arab states of the Southern Persian Gulf feeling threatened by Iran; big country to the North and all that – like Iran and USSR.

    What I cannot comprehend is the reason behind the Hashemite Kingdom’s animosity, what is in it for them?

  82. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Scott,

    The Iranian Interior ministry released all the precinct level results: 45,692 ballot box tallies. Mousavi and his representatives have failed to contest even one of them. If there was massive fraud, then the disaggregated results must be wholly wrong. Moreover, the greens have vacillated between claiming the votes were not counted,and the figures made up, to there being merely irregularities and improprieties. I wish they would make their minds up on which conspiracy theory they are actually peddling.

  83. Scott Lucas says:

    Reza,

    “In any case, Mousavi’s aides claimed that *he* won the election outright with 60-65% of the vote, and this blatant lie has always gone unchallenged on Enduring America….”

    That is a diversion from discussion of Ahmadinejad’s claimed majority. If the President can establish his legitimacy, then he can also fix the label of “blatant lie” upon his opponents.

    S.

  84. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Pirouz,

    Yes, the more I read the cables the more unfavorable they are towards Iran rather than America. The conservative press in the U.S are having a field day declaring how isolated Iran is, how despised it is in Arab capitals, and how its covert activities have been exposed relating to the nuclear issue, missiles, and support for Hezbollah.

    There really isn’t very much that can embarrass the Americans, except the bit about spying on the U.N. which is hardly sensational news.

    I suggest you read Kaveh Afrasiabi’s comments on the subject.

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LL01Ak03.html

    “United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants to have it both ways; lament the unauthorized release of thousands of US government documents and promise to do whatever is necessary to stop it, and, simultaneously, to harvest the Iran-bashing windfall those leaks provide.”

  85. Pirouz says:

    Reza, I’ve been giving that some thought, as well.

    I thought the public embargo might have something to do with keeping the leaks alive for an extended period of time. (It’s a standard trick of sensational publishing) The MSM got the full load and they’ve treated the material in typical fashion, particularly in regards to their hands-off approach to Israel. But dribbling it out publicly does allow for commentary in secondary sources of news and analysis such as RFI, keeping Wikileaks in the news.

    But this explanation doesn’t in any way fully account for only 300 docs publicly released with so many related to US narratives on Iran.

    I wonder: is this initial salvo of docs the big wad for Iran? If so, then this is out of the way. And the rest that are forthcoming might soon drown this out. Another question: will cables be released that compromise Israel and the US-Israel relationship? That’s a big if. We’ll just have to see.

  86. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Eric,

    It is clear that the British official reflects the FCO’s view that Ahmadinejad did win, but the margin was exaggerated. They have no evidence to substantiate the latter part because they had no presence or intelligence within Iran to be able to determine this.

    However, what is interesting is that they acknowledge that Ahmadinejad did win and that Mousavi did not. This means that they reject the “stolen election” theory, preferring instead to believe there was significant fraud but that it didn’t change the outcome.

  87. Scott,

    “What is unclear is whether [the British official] thought Ahmadinejad had in fact — before the manipulation — won a plurality of the vote or a majority.”

    Fortunately, amidst all this unclarity, one thing was quite clear: The British official didn’t explain why he believed what he believed. Had he read a newspaper, or talked to friends at the gym? Was it more than that, or was he merely another one among many thousands who claimed that fraud occurred but offered no evidence of it?

  88. Reza Esfandiari says:

    I’m curious, why have less than 300 cables been made public so far, and why does 75% of their content relate to Iran? There appear to be many agendas at play here.

    Can anyone offer some insight?

  89. Fiorangela and others,

    It would appear you’ve overcome the “one link only” limit for posts on Race for Iran by inserting a colon just before the second link. You wrote:

    “CASMII posted an article from Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/united-states-iran-nuclear-weapons

    :http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/11072

    Your first link opened up when I clicked on it, and your second link opened up when I removed the colon. We’ll have to see whether this works in general.

  90. fyi says:

    Rehmat:

    Meir Dagan, and in fact Israelis in general, do not understand the Muslim people – they do not understand Palestinians, Turks, Iranians, or others. I would not worry about them at all – they have some military toys that their American fantasists have provided them – that is all.

  91. fyi says:

    Dan Cooper:

    The UN list is a death list.

    Iranians will retaliate – this is a form of war and fits well with the strategic US-Iran confrontation in the Middle East.

  92. Scott,

    Thanks for the cite to that Nov. 30 cable. But all I found were anonymously sourced claims of election fraud, and this reported remark from Rafsanjani from some unnamed source: “Rafsanjani believed that the best help possible from foreigners would be to say that the elections were not fair and to note the human rights violations in the aftermath…”

    We don’t need leaked diplomatic cables to know that many Iranians claimed the election was unfair, or that Rafsanjani was not happy with the outcome. But I thought you’d offered that cable because it included some evidence that fraud had occurred.

    Am I overlooking something here?

  93. Alan says:

    I think more than a single cable should be referenced before proferring “Take 1″!!

    For one thing, the Chinese and Russians are both almost effusive in their praise for the US engagement steps later in 2009. The Chinese cables in particular seem to suggest a co-operation between the US and China, and a possible route of any potential or ongoing back channel, not least because the Chinese repeatedly urge secrecy in negotiations.

    Still lots to read to get a complete picture, but one point in a Turkish cable that stood out was Jim Jones proposing a TRR counteroffer in November 2009 of 600 kg of LEU in Turkey and 600 kg on Kish.

  94. Thanks to the several people so far that have pointed me to good sources for election-related Wikileaks. Please add more if you spot any.

    Eric

  95. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @Rehmat

    You can read Meir Dagan’s secret talks with American officials here:

    http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2007/08/07TELAVIV2652.html

    What better an opportunity to foment a popular revolt than at election time in Iran?

  96. Reza Esfandiari says:

    Scott,

    Well, if Ahmadinejad had won with 52%, he would have received 20.5m, and not 24.5 million votes. The latter tally would therefore have greatly “exaggerated” his victory. There was talk on opposition websites before the election that Mousavi had to “win big” as Ahmadinejad’s vote would be inflated by 3-4 million votes due to allegedly state-sponsored fraud. So, I think this “hypothesis” is what the official is referring to. The problem with this scenario is that it would mean that the real turnout was much less than 80%, while all indications are that it was at 85%.

    In any case, Mousavi’s aides claimed that *he* won the election outright with 60-65% of the vote, and this blatant lie has always gone unchallenged on Enduring America and in the western media. The opposition can say whatever he likes and it is always regarded as being plausible. They should be exposed as the real fraudsters.

  97. Rehmat says:

    “I have learned tonight from Ynetnews that Secret US embassy cables leaked by WikiLeaks suggested that Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, advised the US make use of local fringe groups to try and topple the Iranian regime.

    “According to a memo from August 2007, Dagan described to Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns the five pillars of Israel’s Iran policy, among them the desire to spark a revolution.

    The memo, says Dagan, wanted to enlist the student unions supporting democratic views in order to undermine the government’s rule.

    The Mossad chief also wanted to enlist local ethnic minorities to the task, including the Kurds and Balochis. These groups – especially the Balochis – have carried out terror attacks in Tehran for which the Islamic Republic has consistently blamed Israel. Seemingly, the Iranian regime was telling the truth all along.

    As we all remember, last year thousands of Iranian students took to the streets to protest against the ‘falsification of polls results’. I guess that by now the smoke starts to clear, we see who stood behind the riots in Iran. We also learn once more who are the real enemies of democracy,” Gilad Atzmon

    http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-wikileakss-document-suggests-that-mossad-chief.html

  98. Scott Lucas says:

    Reza,

    “I think many believe that if the results had shown Ahmadinejad receiving 52% , and not 62% of the vote, this would have been easier to swallow.”

    Agreed — I know of many who take this line (including Juan Cole). The British official, however, is not saying either less or more than 50% — “win” can mean either in the context of a first-round ballot.

    S.

  99. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @Scott

    As I understand it, the Whitehall official is saying that Ahmadinejad did “win” outright but that his tally was inflated – a view which is not exactly novel. I think many believe that if the results had shown Ahmadinejad receiving 52% , and not 62% of the vote, this would have been easier to swallow.

    I find it interesting how Hillary Clinton – apparently furious over these leaks – is now claiming that they show worldwide concern about Iran. There is far more dirt that can used against Iranian officials in these leaks than can be embarrassing for the U.S.

    I am therefore convinced that elements within the American governmental and security apparatus approved of these leaks, or didn’t act to stop them, and it is also interesting that they have been well-received in Tel Aviv.

    As Arnold has intimated, we are only being told half the truth about all this.

  100. Dan Cooper says:

    If you cannot open the 2nd Link in my post of November 30, 2010 at 7:45 am, Please click on this:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/mossad-hit-on-iranian-nuke-scientist/story-e6frg6so-1111112942610

    Mossad ‘hit’ on Iranian nuke scientist

  101. Fiorangela says:

    Eric,

    CASMII posted an article from Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/united-states-iran-nuclear-weapons

    :http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/11072

    by Scott Tisdell. It’s resource-rich; apparently, Tisdell has already spent a great deal of time reviewing Iran-related wikileaks.

  102. Scott Lucas says:

    Reza,

    Re the Ashqabat source: “Of course, Scott Lucas will regard this ‘revelation’ as proof of a rigged election.”

    No, I don’t. This is a minor document. The discussions of Iranian sources with US officials in Dubai and in Ankara later in 2009 are far more significant re Iranian politics.

    Re the British official in the Telegraph article you cite: “We always believed that Ahmadinejad had won the election but that the result was exaggerated.”

    So the British official believes votes were manipulated to give Ahmadinejad larger share. What is unclear is whether he thought Ahmadinejad had in fact — before the manipulation — won a plurality of the vote or a majority.

    S.

  103. Dan Cooper says:

    Israel is killing Iranian nuclear scientists one by one.

    Yesterday, Israel killed professor Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the Shahid Beheshti University, in Tehran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded.

    The second blast seriously wounded the nuclear physicist Dr. Fereidoun Abbasi,52, also a professor at Shahid Besheshti University, and his wife.

    Dr Fereydoun Abbasi held a PhD in nuclear physics and a laser expert at Iran’s defence ministry. He was one of only a few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

    The attacks bore close similarities to another, in January 2010, that killed the Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics tutor.

    The link below is about an article which was published in the Telegraph.co.uk on 16 Feb 2009 about Israel’s planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s nu-clear program.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/4640052/Israel-launches-covert-war-against-Iran.html

    In 2007, Mossad was behind the death of professor Ardeshire Hassanpour, a prize-winning and a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant.

    The link below is about another related article which was published by theaustralian.com.au on February 05, 2007 .

    ,http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/mossad-hit-on-iranian-nuke-scientist/story-e6frg6so-1111112942610,

  104. Lysander says:

    Anyone have a link to the precinct results in the 2009 election?

  105. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @Eric

    The “Iran watcher” in Ashqabat is just another anti-regime personality consulted by embassy staff who has claimed that Mousavi won by a landslide – in exactly the same way as was claimed by dissidents in Europe. Reporting that Ahmadinejad secured only 10% of the vote is patently ridiculous and shows it has no merit whatsoever.

    Of course, Scott Lucas will regard this “revelation” as proof of a rigged election.

    I see it as evidence of extent people will go to deny the outcome of the poll.

    Also, the precinct (ballot box) results were released so it is possible to verify or falsify what the disaggregated results were.

  106. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @Scott

    A source close to the British Civil Service has admitted that Ahmadinejad won the election, albeit it is claimed with an inflated margin, and that there is a fear that the full extent of British cooperation with opposition groups in Iran will be disclosed.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8166059/British-officials-fear-WikiLeaks-will-disrupt-Iran-policy.html

    Already, Wikileaks has revealed that Mossad was planning a soft coup against the Iranian government, which was proposed in 2007 by its chief, Meir Dagan.

  107. Scott Lucas says:

    Eric,

    This document may also deserve critique:

    http://www.enduringamerica dot com/home/2010/11/30/wikileaks-iran-document-death-to-khamenei-the-inside-line-on.html

    S.

  108. Pirouz says:

    Yeah, Leveretts, we’re on the same page with this. Disappointing. Or as I like to say of Obama: “Where is my vote?”

  109. kooshy says:

    Eric

    “Any thoughts on these election-related cables?”

    I must admit Eric, I am shocked by this leaked secret documents, so is Mahmud I think, who would have thought an Iranian in a US consulate in a third country probably asking for visa will admit and reveal to an American diplomat, that he is sure and was told by his cosine that the elections were rigged, although I must admit that I think I might have heard a similar if not exactly same story by my own cosine, at least if not a thousand at least nine hundred times since the elections. Wow

  110. Any thoughts on these election-related cables?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/212138

    enduringamerica DOT com/home/2010/11/29/wikileaks-iran-document-dubious-intelligence-election-fraud.html

  111. kooshy says:

    -Great analysis the NYT article on leaked documents

    Peter Hart
    Activism Director, FAIR (fair.org)

    New York Times Oversells WikiLeaks/Iranian Missiles Story

    WikiLeaks document dumps are largely what media want to make of them. There’s one conventional response, which goes something like this: “There’s nothing new here, but WikiLeaks is dangerous!” But there’s another option: “There’s nothing here, except for the part that confirms a storyline we’ve been pushing.” In those cases, WikiLeaks is deemed very, very useful.
    That was the case with the last batch of WikiLeaks documents, when the New York Times wrote a long piece about what the documents alleged about Iran’s involvement in the Iraq War. Journalist Ali Gharib wrote about that issue (and talked to CounterSpin about it too). You get a similar feel from the Times’ treatment of Iranian weapons in today’s edition (11/29/10).
    “Iran Fortifies Its Arsenal With the Aid of North Korea” is the self-confident headline, and the piece (co-authored by William Broad, James Glanz and David Sanger) seems remarkably certain about this intelligence:
    Secret American intelligence assessments have concluded that Iran has obtained a cache of advanced missiles, based on a Russian design, that are much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal, diplomatic cables show.
    The Times’ account seems to rely almost entirely on one cable in the WikiLeaks archive — a “detailed, highly classified account of a meeting between top Russian officials and an American delegation.”
    The Times wastes no time in conveying the danger:
    The missiles could for the first time give Iran the capacity to strike at capitals in Western Europe or easily reach Moscow, and American officials warned that their advanced propulsion could speed Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
    At issue are 19 missiles that Iran allegedly bought from North Korea. It’s hard to know how definitive this evidence might be. (There are likely many secret documents pertaining to Iraq’s WMDs that proved to be entirely incorrect; because something is secret or confidential does not mean it’s uniquely candid or truthful.) The Times does not seem at all skeptical about the story, but there’s one thing they won’t do: publish the actual cable:
    At the request of the Obama administration, The New York Times has agreed not to publish the text of the cable.
    So the paper will publish a story that reiterates the most explosive allegations in the cable, but not the cable itself. This is curious.
    Luckily WikiLeaks did publish it. And the most interesting thing one learns is that the Russians were deeply skeptical of the U.S. allegations about these missiles:
    Russia said that during its presentations in Moscow and its comments thus far during the current talks, the U.S. has discussed the BM-25 as an existing system. Russia questioned the basis for this assumption and asked for any facts the U.S. had to provide its existence such as launches, photos etc. For Russia, the BM-25 is a mysterious missile. North Korea has not conducted any tests of this missile, but the U.S. has said that North Korea transferred 19 of these missiles to Iran. It is hard for Russia to follow the logic trail on this. Since Russia has not seen any evidence of this missile being developed or tested, it is hard for Russia to imagine that Iran would buy an untested system. Russia does not understand how a deal would be made for an untested missile. References to the missile’s existence are more in the domain of political literature than technical fact. In short, for Russia, there is a question about the existence of this system.
    In other words, not only were the Russians not convinced that Iran had purchased these missiles, they weren’t sure that these missiles even existed.
    The cable went on to note that the U.S. view is that the Iranians might be buying a system that doesn’t work in order to adapt the technology to its existing missiles:
    The U.S. repeated its earlier comment that Iran and North Korea have different standards of missile development than many other countries, including the U.S. and Russia. North Korea exported No Dong missiles after only one flight test, so it is not unimaginable that it would build and seek to export a system that has not been tested. This is especially true for North Korea because of its need for hard currency. In the U.S. view, the more interesting question is why would Iran buy a missile that has not been tested. One possible answer is that Iran has recognized that the BM-25′s propulsion technology exceeds the capabilities of that used in the Shahab-3, and that acquiring such technology was very attractive. Iran wanted engines capable of using more-energetic fuels, and buying a batch of BM-25 missiles gives Iran a set it can work on for reverse engineering. This estimate would be consistent with the second stage of the Safir SLV using steering engines from the BM-25 missile.
    Of course it’s possible that the North Koreans actually sold Iran missiles that they can use to strike Europe. Or they didn’t do any such thing. Or that they sold them missiles that don’t actually work. But the Times seems to be going with the first story, based on secret documents that, when you actually read them, suggest strongly that the other two possibilities might be correct. In light of this, the decision not to publish the cable makes a lot more sense: You can make strong allegations about an official enemy without letting your readers see the less than overwhelming evidence.

  112. Request for assistance:

    I’ll be wading through the Wikileaks cables myself later this week, but I’ll appreciate your pointing out any that relate to Iran’s 2009 election. Thank you.

  113. kooshy says:

    Iranian

    Thank you for the links to Fisk article, I couldn’t hold myself from reading and laughing at this episode of the American foreign policy (Riseh Raftam),
    I wonder if the content of the documents were to be used to make policy or releasing them?

  114. Patrick Cummins says:

    Thank you for this insightful, cogent article. I look forward to further analyses of the Wikileaks documents.