An Iran Quiz

Via Juan Cole, this Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph is a counterpoint to the pro-attack narrative for a broad (US) audience but it’s worth a spin wherever you are. As our leaders use Iran as a prop to measure their military and foreign policy election race  particulars it is relevant here -what Washington wants Washington gets- and anyway our ruling class has form when it comes to Persia. I have rejigged the original format so each answer appears after the question, however to maintain a challenging air of mystery the answers are in white, so to see them you have to highlight the text (anyone remember the teletext reveal button?). So, just a bit of fun as they say

Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph

What can possibly justify the relentless U.S. diplomatic (and mainstream media) assault on Iran ?

It cannot be argued that Iran is an aggressive state that is dangerous to its neighbors, as facts do not support this claim. It cannot be relevant that Iran adheres to Islamic fundamentalism, has a flawed democracy and denies women full western-style civil rights, as Saudi Arabia is more fundamentalist, far less democratic and more oppressive of women, yet it is a U.S. ally. It cannot be relevant that Iran has, over the years, had a nuclear research program, and is most likely pursuing the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as Pakistan, India, Israel and other states are nuclear powers yet remain U.S. allies—indeed, Israel deceived the U.S. while developing its nuclear program.

The answer to the above-posed question is fairly obvious: Iran must be punished for leaving the orbit of U.S. control. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah was removed, Iran, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, acts independently and thus compromises U.S. power in two ways: i) Defiance of U.S. dictates affects the U.S.’s attainment of goals linked to Iran; and, ii) Defiance of U.S. dictates establishes a “bad” example for other countries that may wish to pursue an independent course. The Shah could commit any number of abuses—widespread torture, for example—yet his loyalty to the U.S. exempted him from American condemnation—yet not from the condemnation of the bulk of Iranians who brought him down.

The following quiz is an attempt to introduce more balance into the mainstream discussion of Iran.

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Happy Norooz!

Yes that is my favourite spelling! Admittedly as Naj also recounts it is a bittersweet affair, the revolutionary establishment have embraced tyranny, the Iranian people caught amidst international intrigue, power games and domestic repression. I think Juan Cole is far too generous in accepting Obama’s public pronouncements, we know he says good things publicly, but we also know he does backroom deals and continues imperial policy out of the public view, healthcare, Dennis Ross, bunker busters(?). Interestingly Counterpunch reports Joe Biden making a semi public/ semi private statement that was not for US consumption-

So here’s the vice president of the United States of America,standing with all the injured dignity of a man who has just had a bucket of sewage dumped over his head and who amid his discomfiture, actually did use the word “condemn” and “Israel” in the same paragraph. The next day Biden heads for Tel Aviv university and confides to the audience that he is a Zionist and that, “throughout my career, Israel has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as Vice President of the United States.” Get that: “the center of my work.” This mission statement is not quoted in the U.S. press.

I’m sure he was playing to the crowd, but can you imagine a US VP saying in Tehran ‘I am a supporter of the Islamic Republic…throughout my career, Iran has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as Vice President of the United States.’ I’m guessing that might make the papers back in The Homeland. There is little difference now between the two governments, both are playing games to placate their own elite friends and empower themselves, Iran has detained many dissidents although the more visible abuses have seen some redress –Iran tries suspects in protester prison deaths– their overall treatment is appalling (I suppose at least there is a case, no torture cases in the US even when they admit it proudly on TV). This however does not make a case for military attacks or blind sanctions designed for other agendas. So Happy New Year, bittersweet as it is.

Economic Warfare Against Iran Intensifies

FT.com:- The world’s largest oil traders have quietly stopped supplying petrol to Iran in a clear sign that the threat of sanctions and Washington’s behind-the-scenes efforts to convince companies not to sell to Tehran are paying off. However, the decision by Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura is unlikely to cut Tehran off completely from the global petrol market as traders said Iran’s long-standing suppliers were being replaced by small Dubai-based and Chinese companies. Although Iran is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, its refineries are dilapidated and it suffers from runaway petrol demand because of generous subsidies.

Energy executives said Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura, which have hitherto sold Iran half of its petrol imports of 130,000 barrels a day, stopped supplying Tehran because of mounting political risk. “The political and public relations problems more than outweigh the business rewards,” said one executive. The sale of petrol to Iran by non-US companies is legal as fuel imports have yet to be included in sanctions against the country. The companies declined to comment.

Vitol’s decision is particularly important as the company is by far the world’s largest oil trader. One executive familiar with Iran’s trade said “Vitol consciously decided not to participate in Iran’s tenders” at the start of the year. Trafigura, the Switzerland-based oil and metals trader, stopped selling to Iran about three months ago, an industry executive said. “They have concluded that there’s too much political and financial risk,” the executive said. Glencore stopped supply in late 2009, breaking a relationship with Iran of more than three decades.

Oil groups such as Total of France, Lukoil of Russia, Petronas of Malaysia and Royal Dutch Shell also sold petrol to Iran last year. Chinese oil traders, including the secretive ZhenHua Oil, began supplying fuel to Iran in 2009 and now provide up to a third of its imports.

This happened even as media trumpeted that over the last decade not every corporation on Earth had done what war pimps in Washington & the Knesset wanted and may even be interested in profit, shock horror!!! It is also worrying that the propaganda has worked- 71 percent of Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons. Shirin Ebadi a Nobel Laureate like Mr. Obama has said-

FT.com:- The United Nations should focus on pressing the Tehran regime to restore democracy and human rights rather than imposing economic sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme, says Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian opposition activist.“A military attack or economic sanctions would be to the detriment of the people of Iran,” she said, adding that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had ways to circumvent further economic measures and their unintended impact might be to rally people behind the regime.

She called, however, for action against western companies that she said were supporting actively the censorship and repression of the opposition movement…{she} named Nokia-Siemens and France’s Eutelsat as among a number of companies she said were helping the regime.

But instead they stop fuel, used for transport, energy and heat, it will increase prices for all goods, create a greater need for independent nuclear power (which is their right and the weapons issue is the means to deny this civil program), while continuing to create the conditions (poverty, anger) that will provoke reactionary repression which can be reported by media and spun by governments into the need for military action on humanitarian grounds to conflate with the nuclear issue ie. WMD panic!!!!!™ Power wearing the humane mask that people fall for still. Trita Parsi-

Under these circumstances, the embattled Iranian government is unable to set a new course for its foreign policy. In a state of paralysis, Iran’s behavior is primarily driven by two forces: bureaucratic inertia and a willingness to take only those decisions that are deemed low-risk within Iran’s internal political context. That does not include compromise with Washington and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nuclear issue. From the Iran-Contra scandal onwards, Iran’s history is ripe with examples of Iranian politicians losing their careers after trying to create an opening to the U.S. Iran’s opposing political factions fear that rivals would reap the political benefits of an end to the U.S.-Iran enmity. From the standpoint of those in the regime, the low-risk course is to respond to pressure by opting for confrontation and escalation. Iran’s hard-liners are more comfortable and astute at handling an easily defined threat such as a combative Bush than they are an elusive and indefinable Obama.

None of this bodes well for the U.S. Ratcheting up indiscriminate sanctions will likely close the window for diplomacy, leaving Obama in the same position as Bush placed himself. But Tehran’s tendency toward confrontation might lead to the situation spiraling out of control. Military confrontation, which no one in the Obama Administration favors, may become unavoidable.

I’d quibble that no one in the Obama administration wants to attack, but as he concludes, resistance, the ‘Green movement’ and progressives in Iran would be worst served by the course currently pursued by belligerents.

22 Bahman (11th of February 2010)

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations, including by those opposed to the current government, on 11 February, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Various officials from the police and the judiciary have warned in recent days that anti-government demonstrations will be not be tolerated.

Amnesty International fears that the comments made by officials, and the wave of arrests, unfair trials and executions illustrated below presage renewed violence on the part of the state, should people heed the calls made by unsuccessful presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to take to the streets to peacefully voice their opinions.

Amnesty International fully recognizes the Iranian authorities’ duty and responsibility to safeguard the public and maintain order but this does not justify the suppression of peaceful protests, as has happened repeatedly over recent months, nor violence by state forces against peaceful demonstrators. All policing must be conducted in accordance with internationally recognized standards relating to policing and the use of force, and should be conducted by appropriately-trained law enforcement personnel – not the politically-partisan volunteer Basij militia, which has a record of committing serious human rights violations and is neither trained nor equipped for proper police work. No one should be subjected to assault and strong-arm treatment by the security forces and any persons accused of violent acts, such as stone-throwing or criminal damage, should be charged and tried fairly in full conformity with Iran’s obligations under international law.

Naj reports early stories of the locking down of the capital and of dissenters. An interview with Mousavi last week, carried on the website Kalameh-

Mr. Mousavi, referring to himself as an ordinary man among tens of millions, emphasized that the Green Movement belongs to all strands of the Iranian nation and invited people from all walks of life to march peacefully on the 22nd of Bahman 2010 (11th of February 2010). He also asked all Iranians including the security services, police, Basij, and Sepah and all Iranians to respect each other and to refrain from violence as the international community is closely watching the development in Iran. Mr. Mousavi further stated that he had no representative abroad; however, he also added that, “The resilience of being in the Green Movement is that everyone is expressing their views in an atmosphere of contemplation and calm wherein I also express my views in our shared destiny.”

Twitter #22Bahman has reports of opposition supporters shouting Allahu Akbar across the rooftops of Tehran. Even as our governments continue to create theatrical events to discredit Iran, the key is people not government, I wish Iranians well and to those who seek to harm them within and without, we are sick of your power games. A small but interesting poll, that you can also vote in.

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UK Border Agency Helping Ahmadinejad’s Regime

In the light of massive Human Rights violations in Iran and the worsening situation under the hardline government of President Ahmadinejad we appeal to the government of the United Kingdom to lift the threat of deportation to Iran hanging over two brothers aged 19 and 15 at Quintin Kynaston School, Westminster, and their mother.

* The brothers are now 22 and 18. The older boy has now completed his schooling, has gained a Diploma with Merit in Art and Design from Byam Shaw School of Art and is now a BA Hons student at Central St Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London.

Following the arrest of the boys’ father at Teheran Airport in April 2005 the older boy and his mother have been tried by the Revolutionary Court in Iran because of their political views and sentenced in absentia to prison sentences of 5 and 7 years.

Torture is routine in Iranian prisons and in accordance with common practice it is highly likely they will also receive a brutal punishment of lashes. (ht2 Stroppybird)

Please sign the petition here. This is curious, even as the leaders attempt new conflict enabling sanctions their concern is not for human rights, they gladly return Iranians to be persecuted by the authoritarian government. As Blair tried on Friday, Iran is still in the cross hairs for the next war crime, it is essential we both expose and halt that and support Iranians against authoritarians in their own country. Only a piece of shit like Blair can look at Iraq and think- yeah that worked out, let’s do that again. Pauline Levis adds-

As a former teacher at the boys’ school and now a close family friend, I have known Behnam since his arrival at the school in 2003. I vouch for the family’s complete integrity and for the authenticity of their asylum claim.  Behnam is a delightful, popular young man, an excellent role model for young people. In recognition of his achievements under adversity he was Highly Commended at the Anne Frank Awards in 2007. In 2008 he was made an Ambassador for Refugees and Arts by the Refugees & the Arts Initiative. In June 2009 Behnam was invited to work alongside an established artist facilitating a day of workshops on Islamic glasspainting at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Much of Behnam’s artwork reflects his open-minded approach to politics and religion and his strong opposition to the current theocratic regime in Iran. This, alone, would place him in great danger in today’s Iran.

In 2008 Behnam held an exhibition “Visions of Freedom” at the Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, his fifth solo art exhibition in London. His latest exhibition, “Where is Their Vote?”, was inspired by the courage of the protesters following the Presidential Election of June, 2009. He has also exhibited alongside other artists including at venues that include the Human Rights Centre of Amnesty International, St Ethelberga’s Church of Reconciliation, Portsmouth University and the Free Word Centre. He and his family are an enormous asset to our society.

In Iran, Labour Activists Face Repression

(ht2 NajInterview by Bill Balderston, Oakland Education Association and U.S. Labor Against the War

Iran has seen incredible tumult in the last few months, with massive street protests challenging the government, even as the U.S. and allied nations continue to threaten the Iranian government under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But most people in the U.S. know little about Iranian society, and especially its working class. Iranian workers have been organizing for more than a century but today largely have to function in a secretive, underground way. It is therefore very fortunate that we have obtained an interview with a labor organizer (whom we shall call Homayoun Poorzad), who is based in Tehran, the capital city of Iran.

Labor Notes: How has the Iranian labor movement fared under the Ahmadinejad regime?

HP: This has been the most anti-labor government of the Islamic Republic over the last 30 years. The 1979 revolution was not regressive in every sense; it nationalized 70 percent of the economy and passed a labor law that was one of the best in terms of limiting the firing of workers. This is a target for change by capitalists, both private and those in the government bureaucracy.

The economic crisis has helped Ahmadinejad ram thru a new agenda. This is also aided by the acceleration of the percentage (60 percent to 70 percent) of the workforce who are temporary contract workers.

Iran, like other countries, has had an import mania—from food to capital goods. Many local firms are being driven to bankruptcy. Workers’ bargaining power has suffered, with labor supply far outstripping demand. The Ahmadinejad government has been “bailing out” firms, but the government is running out of money.

The situation for labor is at its lowest status since the start of the 20th century, leaving out the years of the two world wars.

LN: What government actions have led to tensions with Iranian workers?

HP: The Ahmadinejad government is trying to make it easier to fire workers. There have also been massive privatizations, including turning over many firms to the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces. Again, this has intensified the pushing of more workers into temporary contracts.

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Some Released

Iranian authorities have released 140 people detained during a crackdown on protesters following last month’s disputed presidential election. The detainees were freed on Tuesday during a visit to the Evin prison in the capital, Tehran, by a parliamentary committee investigating prisoners’ conditions. The protesters were among at least 500 people believed to have been arrested during demonstrations…

The move on Tuesday followed an order from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, to close a second detention centre where opposition protesters were detained. Iranian state media said the Kahrizak centre was closing because authorities there were unable to preserve detainees’ rights. Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tehran, said the parliamentary committee was initially motivated to launch its investigation after reports of mistreatment and abuse of the prisoners.

“But what appears to have been the main reason for the investigation was the death of the son of a highly respected conservative politician,” he said. Mohsen Rouhalamini, who was arrested on July 9, was said to be killed in prison. Authorities said he had died from meningitis, but there were reports that his teeth were smashed. The news was taken very seriously by the conservatives as it revealed that the violence was spiraling out of control.”

In a roundabout way it’s testament to the lack of empathy/imagination/ethics of conservatives, it took the death of one of their children to change their response.

The Sound Of The Other Shoe Dropping

How do empires extend their sphere of influence? Talk up threats then step in to counter them.

Hillary Clinton today outlined how the US may go about containing a nuclear-armed Iran by extending a “defence umbrella” to US allies in the region. The US secretary of state, speaking on the way to a security summit in Thailand, later said she was not suggesting a new policy. But her comments marked the first time a senior US official has publicly contemplated the option of containment in the event of Iran’s succeeding in building a nuclear weapon.

And people were wondering why the US was getting all chummy over ASEAN way (hello China!).

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Madeleine Albright Is Probably Pleased

Throughout the years, the Iranian technicians became more and more efficient in aircraft maintenance, but lack of essential parts meant the aged and battered fleet faced technical problems, flight delays and crashes. As the sanctions stated, it was prohibited to sell Iran anything that contained more than 10% US technology and most aircraft — including Airbuses and of course Boeings — fell into this category. So Iran looked for alternatives and found one in the shaky, noisy and unreliable Russian Tupolov, many of which have crashed in Iran and around the world.

Since the Revolution, many airplanes have crashed in Iran. Roughly 1,500 flight incidents have been reported, including more than 60 crashes that led to the loss of 1,571 lives. In 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing all 290 passengers over the Persian Gulf. The captain of the ship, William C. Rogers III, was later awarded the Legion of Merit for his command.

As for the rest of the 1,571 dead passengers, the US still carries a part of the blame. I know no one in the United States planned to kill any of these passengers, but still they failed to ensure that their government’s sanctions had their desired effect — to hurt the Islamic government. Instead, it has been the people who have paid the price.

A simple “IF” clause could have spared the lives of hundreds; something like: “Sale of passenger aircraft or parts for maintenance of such aircraft is exempt from sanction.” But nobody bothered, and as is the norm with sanctions, they made the people bleed and fortified the position of the government. Most of the sanctions against Iran are indiscriminate and even useless; indiscriminate, because they have interfered with the daily life of Iranians, and useless because the government has always found ways around them.(ht2 Naj)

Should this post’s title need explaining.

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Iranian Women Vote

From Naj @ Neo-Resistance

Tajrish-square-Mousavi-supporters3

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Happy Norooz!

Happy Norooz Persian peeps! Which also means it is officially Spring, vernal equinox and all. And Trita Parsi on Obama’s slick overtures-

In an unprecedented – if not historic – New Year’s message to the Iranian people and the government of Iran, President Barack Obama used the ancient Iranian New Year – Norooz – holiday to usher in a new beginning for US-Iran relations.

The video message, aired around 0800am in the morning in Iran, will be the topic of conversation at every Norooz gathering – in Iran as well as in America.

“For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together,” the President said.

Expressing deep admiration and respect for Iranian civilization – as well as the contributions of Iranian Americans to American society – Obama put forward a vision for a new era of US-Iran ties. In almost every aspect, Obama’s approach was the opposite of that of President George Bush.

First, he did not try to bypass the Iranian government by speaking to the Iranian people alone. Instead, he addressed both.

Second, he referred to the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” the formal name of Iran after the 1979 revolution, indicating his acceptance of the revolution and the reality of the current government. This will likely be read in Tehran as an indication that the policy of the United States no longer is regime change. This does not, of course, mean that Obama opposes democratization in Iran – rather, it means that Washington will seek behavioral rather than regime change in Tehran.

Third, he recognized that threats will not help resolve US-Iran tensions. No more “all options are on the table” or the implicit or explicit threat of force as a stick to compel Iranian submission.

Fourth, he recognizes that all outstanding issues between the two countries must be addressed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It is not just America’s concerns with Iran that will be addressed, but also Iranian concerns.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, Obama signaled America’s strategic intent to achieve constructive ties among the United States and Iran. This is essential as he declared that the American end game is to have a positive relationship with Iran and that he intends to put the destructive enmity of the past three decades behind them. Signaling this intent will make any tactical cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan more likely and more fruitful, for reasons I have explained here and here. Absent this strategic signal, the Iranians would likely have refused helping the United States tactically in Afghanistan.

Sixth, within that strategic intent, Obama declared that the United States wants Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations – meaning an American acceptance of a prominent Iranian role in the region, granted of course, that Iran changes its behavior. Obama understands what the Iranians want – recognition and inclusion in the region’s political, economic and security structures – and he is willing to offer it if the Iranians change their policies. This is a significant break with the Bush Administration policies.

“So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek,” Obama said. “It’s a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce.”

Finally, by quoting one of Iran’s great poets, Saadi, Obama showed once more his respect and appreciation for Iranian culture – and that he understands that uniqueness of the Iranian nation. Iran is its own civilization – something the President of the United States appreciates and respects.

The Iranian people could not have wished for a better Norooz greeting. Yet, Obama cannot dance this tango alone. The ball is in Iran’s court. Tehran should be careful not to miss this opportunity to transform US-Iran relations from destructive enmity to constructive partnership.

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22 Bahman

The inestimable Naj offers her personal insights on the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 30 Years Ago, excerpt-

Those who fought for this revolution were the first to be killed or exiled from Iran. They were killed either in the prisons of the Islamic Republic; or in the war fields. The rest went on self exile. Those who were rich, managed to build happy Western lives. Those who were not, those who hung to their idealism, continued to live in a bubble, in a nostalgia for a great democracy to come, someday, to this land of Iran, which we all love and take pride in, no matter how much we hate its Monarchist or Mullahrcist governments.

Israeli Ambassador To Australia Forgets Cameras Are Still On

D’oh, obviously war pimping against Iran has stages and they are not at the public roll out of their brand quite yet DownUnder.

Update: Haaretz reports it too-

The Gaza operation was merely a “pre-introduction” to the challenge Israel would face from Iran, which will become a nuclear power within a year, the Israeli ambassador to Australia said Sunday.

Tactical Decision

The opening of the Gaza crossings Friday morning and the expected transfer of 40 trucks full of food and humanitarian supplies appears to be a tactical decision. Israeli sources say that the move’s objective is to allow the Gaza community to stock up on basic necessities, and thus mitigate the situation in the eyes of the international community, in the event that the IDF will need to undertake a military operation in the coastal enclave.

This is part of the marketing for the attack, the scale of actual need and the Israeli blockade that has exacerbated it shows what a derisory amount this is-

On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.

The WFP has had similar problems, sending only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had scheduled to cover Gazans’ needs until the start of February (six more were allowed in between 30 November and 6 December). Not only that: the WFP has to pay to store food that isn’t being sent to Gaza. This cost $215,000 in November alone. If the siege continues, the WFP will have to pay an extra $150,000 for storage in December, money that will be used not to support Palestinians but to benefit Israeli business.

The lorries in no way make up for the scarcity the siege has created, more a cigarette for a condemned man-

Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and Israel’s ambassadors around the world are preparing to launch a global effort in a bid to secure backing for the anticipated operation in the Gaza Strip.

The campaign is intended to create an ‘international umbrella’ of support for the intensification of military action against Hamas, and possibly prevent the passing of UN Security Council resolutions against Israel.

As reported by Ynet, the triumvirate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni ruled in favor of the operation in a clandestine meeting last Thursday.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Thursday regarding the situation in the South that “Israel will need to use all its force in order to damage terror infrastructure and create a different and safe reality in the Gaza vicinity.”

Now add to these best laid plans of colonists and militarists-

An Iranian freighter carrying tons of humanitarian equipment destined for the Gaza Strip will set sail from the Islamic Republic on Saturday, Iranian media reported on Friday. The Iranian Red Crescent Society organized the shipment which it says will reach the Gaza shoreline in defiance of the Israeli military blockade imposed on the territory since Hamas’ ascendancy to power.

“The ship will carry medicine and foodstuffs including rice, flour, sugar as well as six tons of medicine for the impoverished population of Gaza,” said Hamed Taheri Jebelli, a spokesman for Iran’s Red Crescent Society on Thursday.

“Despite the Zionist regime’s opposition … this consignment will leave Bandar Abbas for Palestine on Saturday and will arrive in 12 days,” a provincial Red Crescent director, Ahmad Navvab, was quoted as telling the French news agency AFP.

“The cargo contains over 2,000 tons of food, medicine and appliances and it will be accompanied by 12 Iranian doctors and relief workers,” he told AFP.

So how will they spin stopping this ship when they have let aid through, without exposing what a cynical tactical move the 40 trucks were. Well, ok it’s easy, it’s Iran all they need to do is say ‘terrorists, Hamas, Iran!!!! Wooo scary bogeyman!!!!!!!’ and the media will roll over to get its tummy tickled, but Gaza is not ‘Hamas’ it has 1.5 million people in it who are being collectively punished with global assent. Or they attack very soon in which case the ship will be barred (and hopefully just that, not attacked in a USS Liberty style) under the guise of ‘security’. It must also be remembered this is taking place in the context of forthcoming elections, with each candidate using Palestinian blood as capital in their campaign and Egypt’s President Mubarak also keen to topple Hamas to help his own domestic repressions (and it is also apparent the breaking of the truce by Israel on 4th November has been consigned to the memory hole in many media narratives)-

The London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi has reported that Egypt would not object to a limited Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, aimed at toppling Hamas. Ms Livni travelled to the Egyptian capital at the personal invitation of the government.

This is rare given that Mr Mubarak usually only meets Israeli officials in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. It is being read as an Egyptian endorsement of Tzipi Livni, who is seeking to become prime minister in February’s general election. It has been noted that President Mubarak has not yet invited for talks the Defence Minister and Labour Chairman Ehud Barak, who is also a prime ministerial hopeful.

This attack doesn’t have to happen, make some noise.

  • Stop immediately siege on Gaza! Set no conditions for ending the inhuman suffering of innocents!
  • Negotiations with Hamas and renew of the truce!
  • Stop the military offensive and propose a political solution for ending the occupation!
  • Learn from the Second Lebanon War! A military assault will not stop the missiles! Only an agreement can bring calm!

So Has America Rediscovered Diplomacy?

First an envoy to sit in on talks, now a plan to station diplomats in Iran? (and Israel pissed off at both). Well it’s something, it’s definitely something, hmmm. Now the envoy William Burns is to just ‘listen’

He will neither participate actively in the talks (he will listen only) nor change policy (his brief is specifically to support the UN demands that Iran cease uranium enrichment as a precondition for any settlement).

There is a lot of hullabaloo about this, it is certainly significant. Israel though spins it thusly-

The U.S. also claims it is sending an envoy to the talks because it “doesn’t trust” the reports from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the liaison with the Iranians. The Americans said Solana “pulls the wool over our eyes,” according to the source in Jerusalem.

So a good step or sabotage, and either way the Israeli government won’t be cheering on the diplomacy. But then the US says they will put some diplomats actually in Iran-

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush. The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section – a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

Blimey it’s now got harder not to see some, y’know, actual real hope the pro-attack numpties have lost the argument, at least for now. Now cynics may surmise this is more game playing to create a better narrative of- we tried to negotiate but those pesky Eye-rans just won’t see sense, so we have to bomb them. But…cautiously optimistic, after all there is not a rational reason to attack it was only the power crazed neo-cons/likudniks who wanted this, it would be disastrous. Has sanity prevailed? Not that they are going to BFF with Iran, sneaky manipulation to get a US friendly regime installed will continue, but Iranians are wise to that. The overstretched demoralised military, Iran’s obvious ability to inflict massive damage on the attackers and the twilight of the Bush reign with catastrophic recession and horrendous energy problems, did the US establishment finally realise when in a hole, stop frickin’ digging. I hope so.