..CENTER FOR WAR, PEACE, AND THE NEWS MEDIA, January 18 - 25, 2006
Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Boston University





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IAEA headquarters in Vienna. The U.S. and EU have called an emergency meeting of its border of governors, hoping to get Tehran's case referred to the UN Security Council

Iran Standoff Escalates, But West Lacks an Endgame
Never pick a fight you can't win, warns Simon Jenkins, echoing more bluntly the advice Kofi Annan often dispenses to countries seeking UN Security Council action in the absence of international consensus. Jenkins sees the decision by the U.S. and European Union powers to refer the question of Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council as an escalation without a viable endgame. Sanctions remain unlikely because of the economic interests in play; military action is unthinkable for most of the international community and would almost certainly imperil immediate U.S. objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan. And at the heart of the matter stands a Non Proliferation Treaty that gives Iran the right to enrich uranium and therefore create infrastructure that could be hastily converted to bomb production. (Iran's transgressions of the NPT mostly concern failure to disclose a number of activities, rather than the activities themselves -- although their secrecy obviously creates convincing grounds for suspicion over Tehran's ultimate objective.)

In short, Iran has significant room to maneuver back from the precipice of a confrontation for which there is little international appetite despite the partial consensus between Washington and the Europeans. Even if Tehran plans to move stealthily over time towards producing a bomb, it may yet seek a compromise, using the atmosphere of crisis it has consciously generated to seek a resolution the standoff over enrichment activities in a manner more favorable to its positions. In the long-term, however, it will likely challenge the Western double standards that accept the likes of Israel and India into the nuclear club, but seek to deny the same status to a regime they consider hostile (even if its key adversaries have nuclear weapons). In the court of international public opinion, it may be difficult to argue that a nuclear-armed Israel, India and Pakistan are acceptable, but not a nuclear-armed Iran. (The Guardian, January 20, 2006)

  • Jon Wolfstahl argues that the international community's handling of Iran will be the test case for all other aspirant nuclear powers. Failure to take decisive action through the UN, despite the limited appetite for confrontation there, will open the floodgates of a new nuclear arms race among regional powers in different parts of the world. (Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 10, 2006)
  • Former IAEA deputy director Pierre Goldschmidt suggests that the Iran crisis has arisen out of a failure of the major powers at the UN to back the IAEA with sufficient political will. Both for purposes of dealing with Iran and for future transgressors, he argues, it is essential for the Security Council to adopt resolutions strengthening the IAEA's enforcement capability. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January, 2006)
  • Mark Fitzpatrick, challenged to answer the question of why Iran should be denied what Pakistan, India and Israel have, responds that the emergence of any new nuclear power makes the world more dangerous and adds to the incentives for others to follow suit; Iran is a dangerous country knocking at the door of the nuclear club right now. (International Institute for Strategic Studies, January 16, 2006)
  • The Financial Times reports that European diplomats believe that while China and Russia won't prevent Iran being referred to the Security Council, they're unlikely to accept the Council taking punitive action against Tehran. That risks a "North Korean outcome," the paper writes, noting that Pyongyang was referred to the Council three years ago, but that no action resulted. (Financial Times, January 13, 2006)
  • The extent of international action against Iran will be determined not by the U.S. and Europe, but by what China is prepared to countenance. Iran is one of the major energy suppliers to China's burgeoning economy, putting Beijing in an impossible position. Until now it has kept politics and energy separate, says Jill McGivering, but that may soon become impossible. (BBC, January 16, 2006)
  • The Economist offers a detailed assessment of Iran's current nuclear capability, and deduces that Tehran is three years, and possibly less, away from being able to refine a bomb's worth of uranium. That's because even before its energy program comes online, it is creating substantial enrichment capability in its research facilities. That, argues the magazine, forces the international community to move forward its own diplomatic deadlines. (The Economist, January 12, 2006)
  • Military action designed to destroy Iran's nuclear program is more likely to come from Israel than directly from the U.S. . The passing from the stage of Ariel Sharon, however, may reduce the chances of such a decision being taken in the near term. Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert is expected in Washington for talks next month, and the Bush administration is expected to restrain him from any inclination to act precipitately, mindful of the consequences of lighting new fires in a region badly destabilized by the ongoing Iraq conflict. But the Israelis fear that the pace of the diplomatic process may give Iran the time to cross the critical technological threshold towards creating the means to produce bomb-grade nuclear material. (Sunday Times, January 15, 2006)
  • Mindful of its ability to cause havoc on world energy markets Iran does not appear unduly concerned by the threat of sanctions. Instead, it is launching a diplomatic counteroffensive, looking to win backing from developing countries on the IAEA board by claiming its right to nuclear energy is being denied. (Daily Star, January 17, 2006)
  • Joseph Cirincione argues that Iran has concluded that it can evade sanctions or military action through pursuing a 'salami strategy' towards creating nuclear-weapon infrastructure -- pressing the envelope, retreating, and then pressing forward again. Repudiation by the Security Council would be a blow to Tehran, he says. But if the matter goes before the Council and action against Iran is vetoed, that will be a major victory for the regime. (Council on Foreign Relations, January 5, 2006)
  • George Perkovich argues that the key challenge in dealing with Iran is to immediately strengthen the hand of the IAEA. Most importantly, he says, it must be given the power to suspend enrichment capability in countries that have violated the NPT. (International Herald Tribune, January 11, 2006)
  • Ali Ansari warns that the only way the U.S. and its allies can achieve an international diplomatic consensus on dealing with Iran's nuclear program is to make clear that regime-change is not an option under consideration. (The Independent, January 15, 2006)
  • George Perkovich sees repairing the damage in U.S. relations with the Muslim world as essential to create the climate for a successful resolution of the nuclear issue. "Iran needs to be assured that the U.S. will respect its autonomy if it ceases nuclear weapons development, while Iran's neighbors need to be reassured that Tehran will respect their interests," he writes. "Arab governments are reluctant to join in a regional security dialogue in part because of Washington's double standard regarding Israel's nuclear arsenal and treatment of Palestinians. To mobilize all of the international actors opposing Iranian nuclear development, the U.S. must recognize that Iranian proliferation, Persian Gulf security, the U.S. role in the Middle East, Israel's nuclear status, and Palestinian-Israeli relations are all linked and cannot be resolved without a more balanced U.S. stance.” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January, 2006)
  • Previously on Iran: Iran Provokes a Crisis
  • Background Material on Iran

  • Ray Tayekh offers excellent into Iran's strategic thinking. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The International Crisis Group offered a prescient preview of the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and provided some thoughtful prescriptions for dealing with it. (ICG, August 2005)
  • The Heritage Foundation sets out the position of the more hawkish element in the Bush administration, arguing that Iran's nuclear ambitions will not be thwarted by diplomacy, but that pursuing the diplomatic course is essential to setting the stage for more coercive actions that must inevitably follow. (Heritage Foundation, January 2006)
  • Ian Davis and Paul Ingram provide a detailed overview of the problems within the NPT as a backdrop to the Iran crisis. (Foreign Policy in Focus, December 2005)
  • Iraq Election Results Pose Challenge for National Unity
    Although they shed ten seats and lost their narrow majority, the alliance of Shiite religious parties that dominates the current Iraqi government has emerged from the December 15 election as the main player in the next one. Iraqis voted largely on ethnic and sectarian lines -- although the Kurdish alliance's share of Assembly seats fell from 70 to 53, the main beneficiary of their decline, and that of the Shiite bloc, was not the secular parties: The main secular bloc, led by U.S.-backed former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi saw its parliamentary representation fall from 40 seats to 25. Instead, it was the Sunni religious and nationalist parties, which had boycotted the January election, that finished with 55 seats that posted the largest gains.

    The formation of a government may yet be weeks, or even months away, as parties negotiate over possible alliances. While the Shiite list will likely once again form the core of the government, its internal power struggle looks set to produce a contest for Prime Minister between the incumbent, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a member of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq who nonetheless appears to be Washington's tacit preference. The results are a setback for Washington, which had hoped to see a stronger showing by secular parties. The U.S. sees drawing Sunni nationalists into a new political compact as the key to defeating the insurgency, and it was the offer of new talks on Sunni objections to the federal provisions of the constitution that persuaded Sunnis to participate. But the Shiite alliance has recently made clear it has no intention to reverse any of the significant provisions of the constitution, including federalism, and that position will almost certainly find Kurdish support. So the job of U.S. officials seeking to persuade the Iraqi government to do more to accommodate Sunni interests may remain as tough as it was before the election. (The Times, January 21, 2006)

  • The Bush administration likes to complain that the U.S. media presents an excessively negative picture of the situation in Iraq, but the assessment by USAID portrays Iraq as in a state of social breakdown and violence running out of control. But Judith Yaphe tells the Guardian that the assessment may be deliberately alarmist, in order to burnish the body's own budgetary claims in Washington. . (Guardian, January 18, 2006)
  • One of the main topics of discussion in Vice President Dick Cheney's meeting this week with President Hosni Mubarak was the possibility of sending Egyptian troops to Iraq. Juan Cole explains the reasons Cairo might consider sending troops to Iraq including the desire to counteract Iranian influence there. (Haaretz, January 10, 2006)
  • Charles Levinson reports that the U.S. may be on a collision course with the Shiite Alliance that won most seats in the election, over U.S. efforts to strengthen Sunni participation in government and dilute the power of the Iran-backed alliance. Alliance leaders are fighting to defend the power they currently enjoy, and warn that they will use their power to resist any moves to amend the constitution rejected by the Sunni parties now taking their seats in parliament. (Christian Science Monitor, January 16, 2006)
  • Michael Schwartz notes that most of the media has remained silent over the shift of U.S. tactics in Iraq towards increasingly fighting the insurgency from the air, the implications of which will be a rising civilian casualty toll. (Tom Dispatch)
  • Bin Laden Reclaims the Headlines
    Osama bin Laden's taped message released this week -- his first in a year -- was addressed to Americans, even offering a "truce" in exchange for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. But this was simply a clever piece of theater whose real audience was the Muslim world to which Bin Laden has traditionally directed his message. In the year of the Qaeda leader's silence, the spotlight of Western fears from among Muslim militants has begun to focus more on Musab al-Zarqawi's operations in Iraq. Zarqawi has recently aligned himself with al Qaeda, but historically he has been in competition with the movement, and has issued public statements at cross purposes with those of Qaeda Number 2 Ayman Zawahiri on issues such as targeting Shiites. By offering a "truce" based on withdrawal from Iraq, and also warning of new attacks on America that will originate from there, the Qaeda leader is essentially claiming parentage over Zarqawi's operations, and reasserting his own claim to primacy among the world's jihadists. (TIME, January 20, 2006)

  • The Bin Laden tapes came within days of a missile strike, believed to be by a U.S. Predator drone, that killed some 18 people in a village in western Pakistan. The target was believed to be Zawahiri, although Pakistani intelligence later said that the Qaeda number 2 escaped, although four other key operatives were killed. Syed Saleem Shahzad writes that Pakistan's public protests over the strike are simply theatrics designed to appease a domestic audience angry at U.S. actions on their soil; Pakistani intelligence, he says, knew of the attacks ahead of time. (Asia Times, January 19, 2006) General Pervez Musharraf is caught in a dilemma -- he can't allow U.S. forces to operate openly on his territory, nor have his forces managed to eliminate the thousands of foreign fighters believed to be hiding on Pakistani soil. His problem is that while he is committed to the U.S. war on terror, his own population is more supportive of Osama bin Laden than of President Bush. So he is forced to accept actions of this type as the only way of targeting key Qaeda leaders on his territory. (BBC, January 16, 2006)
  • The Challenge of Integrating Hamas
    As Palestinian voters prepare to go to the polls on January 25, all the stakeholders in the Middle East are challenged by a new reality: The rise of Hamas as a major, even potentially dominant voice in Palestinian institutional politics. The Islamist movement has capitalized on the rampant corruption in Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah party, as well as its inability to deliver much to ordinary Palestinians through its diplomatic strategy -- and its need to integrate Hamas into the mainstream institutions in order to secure a cease-fire -- to become the dominant player in the electoral games. Projections for the vote tally vary, but based on recent municipal polls there is every reason to expect the Islamists to win a plurality of seats in the new Palestinian legislature. And that outcome requires a rethink of conventional diplomatic wisdom on dealing with the conflict. Until now, the West and Israel have simply ignored Hamas, dismissing it as a terrorist organization and threatening to cease their engagement with Palestinian institutions should the Islamist movement gain a share of power. That position becomes untenable should the Palestinian electorate repudiate it, as it appears set to do.

    The International Crisis Group detects signs of pragmatism in Hamas's decision to enter the mainstream, but also a continued commitment to violent and clandestine politics. The contest between different trends in Hamas is likely to intensify as a result of its expected electoral success, and the outcome of that struggle depends in no small part in how the Israelis, Western powers and Fatah respond to the challenge of integrating Hamas into the Israeli-Palestinian political equation. ICG offers some thoughtful proposals to all parties. (International Crisis Group, January 18, 2006)

  • Hamas plans to enter into negotiations with Israel and promises to do a better job for the Palestinians than Fatah has done. That's according to the Number 2 candidate on its electoral list, former political prisoner Sheikh Mohammed Abu Tir. Nor is this offer simply a ploy to render the movement more "acceptable" in Western eyes, he says, it's the product of a strategic shift that follows a long-running debate within Hamas over how to deal with the intractable reality that is Israel. (Haaretz, January 16, 2006)
  • Jon Swain goes on the campaign trail with Hamas, and finds that the movement's appeal to voters is based on a combination of its image as an incorruptible alternative to Fatah and its track record as a channel for Palestinian anger through its resistance to the Israelis. (Sunday Times, January 15, 2006)
  • One casualty of the rise of Hamas may be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in whom Washington had placed much hope as an interlocutor. The Palestinian leader is reportedly depressed, and has threatened to resign if the Islamists thwart his diplomatic strategy. The Palestinian election may mark the beginning of the departure from the stage of Yasser Arafat's old guard, which helped author the Oslo process. (Daily Star, January 16, 2006)
  • Follow the election on the lively web log of Gaza journalist and mother Laila el-Haddad, which offers unique insights on Palestinian politicking and daily life in Gaza. (Raising Yousuf)
  • Afghanistan: Suicide Bombers Target NATO
    The sharp increase in suicide attacks by Taliban and other jihadist elements in Afghanistan in recent weeks has a clear strategic logic: The U.S. is looking to hand over most of its combat responsibilities in southern Afghanistan to troops from NATO countries; the jihadists believe they can intimidate NATO forces into staying away by sharply raising the prospect of their troops taking casualties in kamikaze attacks. (Daily Star, January 18, 2006)

    Old Problems Haunt India's Rise
    A research report by Deutsche Bank parses the prospects for India's emergence as a superpower. Achieving that status requires solving some long-standing problems, the report suggests: economic restructuring, resolving conflicts with its neighbors China and India, and finding the balance between nationalism and pragmatism in its foreign policy. (Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 18, 2006)

    Jill Carroll, kidnapped while on assignment in Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor

    'Our Jill'
    Freelance journalist Jill Carroll remains, at the time of writing, in the captivity of unknown kidnappers, who have threatened to kill her unless the U.S. military releases women prisoners in Iraq. One of her former employers, the Jordan Times, where she worked for a year, wrote a moving tribute to Carroll as an exemplary bridge between the West and the Arab world, and appealed to her captors to free her. We reproduce it below in full:

    "Jill Carroll worked at The Jordan Times for one year — long enough for anyone who would come across her to be convinced beyond any doubt of her genuine interest in the Middle East, her sincere admiration for Arab culture and utmost respect for the Arab people. From a professional point of view, her journalistic skills, enthusiasm and competence have been assets from which we would have loved to benefit much longer. But Jill belongs to that special category of people who feel their lives should serve a purpose, and who are gifted with the determination and strength to fulfil their calling.

    "This is why, a few months after the US invasion, she left Jordan for Iraq, prompted by the desire to show to as vast an audience as possible the human tragedies caused by the war and the hardships of the Iraqi people.

    "When she took the courageous step to relocate to Baghdad, she was moved by the belief that the ultimate duty of a journalist is to expose injustice and cruelty. She wanted to be a "real" journalist.

    "We will not hide the fact that many of her colleagues here tried to dissuade her.

    "The kidnappers who abducted her could not have chosen a more wrong target. True, Jill is a US citizen. But she is also more critical of US policies towards the Middle East than many Arabs.

    "Though as a reporter she always complies with the strictest requirements of objectivity and impartiality, Jill has been from day one opposed to the war, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    "More than just being sympathetic with average Iraqis under war and occupation, Jill is a true believer in Arab causes.

    "From Arabic food to the Arabic language, Jill has always wanted to know and experience as much as possible about Arab identity, and she is keen on absorbing it, learning, understanding and respecting it.

    "She doesn't just 'like' Arab culture, she loves it.

    "An open-minded, sharp, intelligent, dedicated and highly appreciated professional, Jill makes one of the best ambassadors Arabs could ever hope for. It is simply unconscionable for any Arab to want to harm a person like her.

    "It is simply unconscionable for any human being to even think of remotely hurting such a loyal, noble and unselfish person.

    "News of her current ordeal has left us both shocked and outraged.

    "We pray for her safety and appeal to her kidnappers for her immediate release."

    (Jordan Times, January 15, 2006)

  • The Baghdad Blogger known as "Riverbend" provides a moving tribute to Carroll's translator, Alan Enwiyah, murdered during her kidnapping. "Riverbend" knew him well from the days when he ran her favorite music store, keeping cosmpolitan Baghdadis supplied with tapes of everything from Abba to Marilyn Manson.

    Didier Drogba, star striker of Cote d'Ivoire's national soccer squad, is well aware of his team's power to serve as a symbol of unity to a nation in the throes of a blood civil conflict

    Can Soccer Stop a War?
    Soccer once started a war between El Salvador and Honduras (who briefly clashed after their teams met in a World Cup qualifier in 1969), but today the stars of Cote d'Ivoire are hoping they can prevent one -- at home. The highly rated "Elephants" are currently at the African Nations Cup in Egypt, which will be their warmup for this summer's World Cup in Germany. Many are tipping them to win the honors in Africa, and cause a few upsets in Germany. But the country they represent is in the throes of a crisis deteriorating towards civil war, with violent protests against the presence of the UN coinciding with the team's travel to Cairo. The players are drawn from both sides of the north-south frontline dividing government forces from rebel formations, and they took a moment out of their training this week to conduct a high-profile "prayer for peace" at home.

    "Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness," they said. "Let us come together and put this war behind us." The national team certainly carry the support of partisans on both sides of the political divide, and protests against the UN began winding down towards the end of the week in preparation for Saturday's match against Morocco. "We stopped so we can watch the Elephants at the Nations Cup," one protester told the BBC. "When they get knocked out, we will be on the streets again!" (BBC, January 21, 2006)

    Cost of Iraq Could Top $2 Trillion
    Properly calculating the cost to the U.S. of the Iraq war requires tabulating not only the weekly budget expenditure on maintaining the U.S. force in Iraq, but also the long-term costs such as those of providing health care to wounded Americans, rebuilding an over-stretched military and other unforeseen expenditures. Using this broader approach, economist Joseph Stiglitz has calculated that the total long-term cost of the Iraq war to the U.S. could top $2 trillion. Stiglitz presented his findings on a panel hosted by Economists for Peace and Security at the American Economic Association/Allied Social Sciences Association annual conference in Boston. "Predicting overall costs when no one knows how long the war will last, or how many US troops will remain deployed and for how long, is an imprecise exercise," writes the Boston Globe on Stiglitz's findings. "But the range of some future expenses can be assessed, such as the likely medical bills and disability payments for the soldiers who have been wounded in the conflict. Twenty percent of them, for example, have serious brain or spinal injuries that will require life-long care. The cost of death benefits to military families and bonuses being paid to soldiers to reenlist and to sign up new recruits can also be tallied. So can secondary costs such as the interest on the rising budget deficit as a result of war spending." On the basis of those and other expenses, Stiglitz suggests $2 trillion may be a conservative estimate. (Boston Globe, January 8, 2006)

  • U.S. Central Command's website and Newsletter
    Updating Info on Iraq, Afghanistan. the Middle East and the Horn of Africa