MIDDLE EAST BULLETIN: A Publication of Middle East Progress
Monday, October 01, 2007
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Today's News

Larijani Says Iran Ready to Work With U.S. on Iraq
by Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr (Financial Times)

Iran is ready to help the U.S. stabilise Iraq if Washington presents a timetable for a withdrawal of its troops, Tehran’s top security official said on Sunday.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Ali Larijani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, which answers to Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, rejected Washington’s accusations that Tehran is providing weapons to Iraqi militias, insisting the trouble with Iraq was that the U.S. administration was pursuing a “dead-end strategy."

Political analysts say Iran’s strategy is to back the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad but also to ensure that the U.S. does not leave Iraq emboldened to carry on another military campaign.

Sanctions Action Delayed
by Arshad Mohammed and Evelyn Leopold (Reuters)

The world’s major powers agreed on Friday to delay a vote on tougher sanctions on Iran until late November at the earliest, depending on reports by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a European Union negotiator.

The United States and France had sought swifter action to step up economic and political pressure on the Islamic Republic over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear arms.

Iran Labels CIA ‘Terrorist Organization’
by Ali Akbar Dareini (The Associated Press)

Iran’s parliament voted Saturday to designate the CIA and the U.S. Army as "terrorist organizations," a largely symbolic response to a U.S. Senate resolution seeking a similar designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The parliament said the Army and the CIA were terrorists because of the atomic bombing of Japan; the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq; support of the killings of Palestinians by Israel; the bombing and killing Iraqi civilians and the torture of imprisoned terror suspects.

Senate Urges Bush to Declare Iran Guard a Terrorist Group
by David M. Herszenhorn (New York Times)

The Senate approved a resolution on Wednesday urging the Bush administration to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and lawmakers briefly set aside partisan differences to approve a measure calling for stepped-up diplomacy to forge a political solution in Iraq.

Since last month, the White House has been weighing whether to declare the Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group or to take a narrower step focusing on only the Guard’s elite Quds Force. Either approach would signal a more confrontational posture by declaring a part of the Iranian military a terrorist operation.

Setting the Record Straight

Bark Without the Bite

"His [Ahmadinejad’s] statements cannot be dismissed, cast aside or ignored. Led by President Ahmadinejad, Iran is exponentially more threatening to our Nation, Europe, and the world than North Korea or any other country represented at the United Nations. A robust, layered International Missile Defense System will negate Iran’s capability to threaten with nuclear weapons the United States, Europe, Israel, and other countries."
–Riki Ellison, President of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), September 28, 2007


“He [Ahmadinejad] does not make Iranian security or nuclear policy. So, even if he wanted to launch a nuclear missile, one, he doesn’t have one to launch and, two, he would be the last person in the decision-making process and probably would not prevail. There are other people who really run the security policy in Iran, and for the most part he merely reflects it. He conveys that message in such a confrontational way that it scares people to death, and in that sense he has done immense damage to his own country.”
–Gary G. Sick, principal White House aide for Persian Gulf affairs (1976 - 1981), served on the Ford, Carter, and Reagan National Security Councils, September 26, 2007

Don’t Be Distracted By Ahmadinejad

U.S. delegation absent as Iranian president addresses United Nations

"Beset by internal problems and the failure of his economic policies, Ahmadinejad revels in being an international outcast and provocateur."

U.S. Response Plays Right Into Ahmadinejad’s Hands

Ahmadinejad might be petty and cruel, but he is far from having enough authority to be Iran’s dictator. The true levers of power in Iran rest with a group of unelected clerics, and particularly the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. …

Iran’s president is not powerless, but it’s important to understand that Ahmadinejad cannot dictate his country’s nuclear policies or its relationship with the West. By demonizing Ahmadinejad and reacting to his every provocative remark, the West has improved his stature and helped him consolidate perhaps more power than he would have amassed on his own.

There is a more pragmatic way for the West to deal with Ahmadinejad: Ignore him. Access the full article>>

Middle East Analysis

The Wrong Way to Pressure Iran

by Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (The Washington Post)

The Bush administration, following its own pronouncements as well as House and Senate legislation, is expected to decide soon whether to classify Iran’s most formidable military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization. This would be a serious mistake. By labeling all 125,000 Revolutionary Guards untouchable "terrorists," Washington would forgo the possibility of exploiting the organization’s internal divisions and further decrease the likelihood of diplomatic progress with Tehran.

Instead of making a disastrous military option more likely, the United States should seek to tip the balance within the guard in favor of pragmatists, rather than hard-liners who thrive in a state of isolation and confrontation. …

The guard certainly has many unsavory characters, but unlike al-Qaeda, it is not a monolith of Islamist radicals… In Iran today the only groups that are both armed and organized are the guard and the Basij militia, its larger but less prestigious affiliate. Successful political reform must co-opt these forces and make them feel they will have some position in a changed Iran. Branding the guard a terrorist entity would make its members feel more, rather than less, invested in retaining the status quo. Access the full article>>

Engage Iran

by Suzanne Maloney and Ray Takeyh (Democracy: A Journal of Ideas)

The centrality of Iran to Iraq’s current morass and prospective trajectory makes it an indispensable player in fashioning an American exit path and a viable framework for stabilizing Iraq and the region. Iran is undoubtedly part of the problem in Iraq, but there can be no effective, enduring solution without Tehran playing a constructive role. Achieving Iranian cooperation will necessitate the very tool that the Bush Administration has disdained in dealing with Iran, dialogue–in particular the sort of quiet, sustained, pragmatic diplomacy between Washington and Tehran that from 2001 to 2003 generated a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. In this way, engaging Iran to help salvage Iraq could also offer the best platform for an incrementalist approach to altering Iran’s more objectionable policies. …

Engagement, [then], needs to constitute the primary thrust of the American approach to Iran. The purpose of engaging with Tehran is not to reward its dangerous policies, but to restrain and redirect them. There are few good alternatives to working more intensively with Iran over Iraq. There is no other country with its interest, investments, or leverage with key Iraqi actors; more disturbingly, its capacity for wreaking havoc in Iraq has been as yet only partially deployed. …

To induce Iran to rein in its assistance to Sadrist militias, Washington should dangle a confidence-building measure that is of relatively low cost to the United States but of high value to Tehran … If a foundation for cooperation can be established between Washington and Tehran, other key neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, should be invited to participate in creating a regional diplomatic platform and to avert destabilizing countermeasures by the leading Sunni states. Access the full article>>

The ‘Crazies’ and Iran

by The New York Times, Editorial

Like Mohamed El Baradei, we want to make sure what he calls the “crazies” don’t start a war with Iran. We fear his do-it-yourself diplomacy is playing right into the crazies’ hands — in Washington and Tehran.

Last month, Mr. El Baradei, the chief nuclear inspector for the United Nations, cut his own deal with Iran’s government, intended to answer questions about its secretive nuclear past. Unfortunately, it made no mention of Iran’s ongoing, very public refusal to stop enriching uranium — usable for nuclear fuel or potentially a nuclear weapon — in defiance of Security Council orders. …

[T]he key to Mr. El Baradei’s credibility [in 2003] and what makes the International Atomic Energy Agency so indispensable, is he was offering his agency’s clear scientific judgment. Once he started making diplomatic deals, that judgment — essential not only for ensuring that Iran, but also a half-dozen other states, don’t go nuclear — immediately becomes suspect.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained last week that the I.A.E.A. shouldn’t be in the business of diplomacy. Yes, that’s her job. And she’s not done nearly enough to try to get the Iranians to sit down at the table with a credible offer of comprehensive talks. Access the full article>>

Heard on the Street

Use Ahmadinejad Weakness to Talk Nuclear Alternatives

Ephraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad, Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, February 2, 2007:

“Large parts of the Iranian public are not pleased with Ahmadinejad, and their share of the population is only growing. His provocative rhetoric, leading to global conflict, provokes antagonism among Iranians… Khamenei can limit his [Ahmadinejad] authority substantially and so can the parliament, which has already done so when refused to approve the nomination of some ministers. There is no doubt – his stature is not what it used to be… we need to present them [the Iranians] with an alternative to the nuclear plan, i.e. enter negotiations. Saudi Arabia and Iran recently held political talks. The two countries are sworn enemies, as Saudi Arabia perceives Iran – rightly so- as a real threat, yet, they found the way to sit and talk, and so should we.”

Background Basics

A Sanctions Primer

UN Sanctions
Existing Sanctions:
Resolution 1696 - Adopted on July 31, 2006; demanded the cessation of Iranian “research and development” nuclear activities within one month.
Resolution 1737 - Adopted on December 23, 2006; banned the supply of nuclear-related technology by UN member states to Iran and required member states to freeze the assets of individuals and companies with ties to Iran’s nuclear program.
Resolution 1747 - Adopted on March 24, 2007; imposed a ban on Iranian arms sales and stated need for international financial institutions to end provision of funds to Iran.

Future Sanctions: The UN decided on September 28 to delay a third round of sanctions on Iran until after an IAEA report on the status of the Iranian nuclear program expected November 30. The U.S. seeks new sanctions to include punitive measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, prevent Iran from importing military equipment, strengthen penalties on banks and companies connected to Iran’s acquisition of military material, and tighten travel restrictions on Iranian officials.

U.S. Sanctions
Existing Sanctions:
U.S. economic sanctions against Iran have existed for nearly three decades. The sanctions were imposed initially by Executive Order during the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and were strengthened by the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), signed into law by President Clinton in 1995. This act banned trade and investment by U.S. companies with Iran. This legislation was renewed in 2001 and modified in 2006 to the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) omitting Libya. More recently, the U.S. stepped up pressure on foreign banks and companies conducting business with Iran.

Future Sanctions: The House passed the Iran Counterproliferation Act on September 25, which sanctions foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries that invest in Iranian oil and gas sectors. In addition, the bill prohibits civilian nuclear cooperation with countries that support Iran’s nuclear program, calls for the State Department to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) a “foreign terrorist organization,” and takes away executive branch power to waive sanctions against firms that invest in the Iranian energy sector. The Senate approved the Kyl-Lieberman measure on September 26 which labeled the IRG as “a foreign terrorist organization,” which would allow for more severe sanctions. The administration is debating whether to label the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard or more narrowly IRG’s al-Quds Force as a terrorist organization. This decision affects the depth and scope of possible future sanctions on the organization.

EU Sanctions
Existing Sanctions:
Iran’s economy is largely dependant on the European market; the EU accounts for some 40 percent of Iran’s imports. The EU approved a resolution on February 12, 2007 that imposed sanctions on individuals and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear program. A second round of sanctions was implemented on April 23, 2007, banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations. The EU continues to follow a twin-track approach of diplomacy and sanctions.

Future Sanctions:
Given the delay on additional UN sanctions, France has proposed new sanctions to be introduced at the October 15 EU conference. This proposal would increase EU sanctions on companies and banks that invest in Iran.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia played a key role in delaying the implementation of a third round of Iranian sanctions until after the release of the IAEA report. Russian hesitation to implement powerful sanctions on Iran arises from the countries’ military, economic, and political ties. Russia is Iran’s chief arms supplier with sales reaching $1.7 billion between 2002 and 2005. In addition, Russia is currently building a nuclear power plant in Iran, and President Putin is scheduled to visit Tehran on October 15.

China, also a member of the UN Security Council, played a supporting role to Russia in delaying a new round of UN sanctions on Iran. China has strong economic ties to Iran as the country serves as the third largest source of China’s oil imports, providing 12 percent of Chinese oil imports in the first ten months of 2006.

Middle East Progress appreciates the support and cooperation of Americans for Peace Now, Geneva Initiative, Israel Policy Forum, and New Israel Fund.