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Iran

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My latest Newsbud video looks at signals from Secretary of Defense Mattis' trip to Asia and what it means for the South China Sea, East China Sea, and North Korea now, Trump Asia policy looks pretty mainstream.One point I make in the piece is that Trump isn't necessarily eschewing bloody American military mischief; he's just... Read More
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Jeffrey Goldberg opined on his twitter feed that the Netanyahu-Obama grudge has its roots in Obama not letting Netanyahu bomb Iran. That’s BS, I think. I suspect that if Netanyahu really wanted to bomb Iran’s hardened and dispersed nuclear facilities--and enrage its population and a good chunk of the Muslim world and virtually guarantee that... Read More
I would recommend that readers who have not yet done so create a Twitter account and subscribe to my feed (@chinahand).  To my embarrassment and surprise, I’ve churned out over 800 tweets since I started up my feed last November. Some of it is meaningless ephemera, of course.  But sometimes the twitter stream carries in... Read More
As US-Iran rapprochement inches toward at least partial consummation in Geneva, I wish to offer a few observations: 1) The Iran nuclear weapons threat has always been a McGuffin, an excuse for various powers to advance an anti-Iran agenda. 2) Chief among the usual suspects is, of course, Israel under PM Netanyahu. If the Israeli... Read More
The theme of Secretary of Defense Panetta’s remarks at the Intrepid Air and Sea Museum on October 12 before the “Business Executives for National Security”, in the words of the BBC: Leon Panetta warns of “cyber Pearl Harbor” Actually, Mr. Panetta, the “cyber Pearl Harbor” has already happened. It was called Stuxnet, the virus designed... Read More
“Israel to attack Iran” is a hardy if never-blooming perennial. I rerun this post (originally written on the occasion of Israel’s bombing of an alleged nuclear facility in Syria in 2007) every year as a reminder of the rather daunting technical issues involved in flying from Israel to Iran and blowing things up in a... Read More
I titled my most recent article for Asia Times “Desperate Days: The Obama Administration Struggles to Disengage from the Middle East and Escape to Asia”. The crack editors at AT instead opted for Obama Drags Middle East Baggage to Asia, which perhaps doesn’t convey the bloody Great Game element as well. My point is, the... Read More
As the estimable Laura Rozen reports, the Obama administration is cautiously reaching out to Iran for some denuclearization engagement. Apparently, an effort this delicate requires a countervailing exercise in Ahmadinejad-bashing, to assure the world that the United States has not gone soft on the Iranian menace. The occasion has been a public, orchestrated excoriation of... Read More
[edited this post for clarity on 6/10/10--CH] My basic thesis on the UNSC Iran sanctions (which just passed) was that China agreed with the Obama administration to support UN sanctions on the understanding that harsher national sanctions which would disrupt China's ordinary dealings with Iran might be passed by Congress, but would not be implemented... Read More
...and what that might have to do with Israel attacking a Turkish cruise ship in international waters
I premised my writing on the whole Iran/nuclear/sanctions/NPT imbroglio with the ideas that: A. The Obama administration wants to restructure its global security doctrine around joint action to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a revitalized NPT; B. To bring Israel (and India and Pakistan) in the tent, it was necessary to show that multi-lateral do-goodery... Read More
...I think
In a May 26 article What Did China Get for Backing Iran Sanctions?, Time Magazine's Tony Karon, presumably obeying the commandment "thou shalt not name the competing publication or its fruits in thine own journalism", refers to the opinion of "analyst Peter Lee" without referring either to Asia Times or my article there entitled China... Read More
China has welcomed the inference that it abhors further sanctions on Iran. Therefore, China's willingness not only to join the UN sanctions team, but also to acquiesce in the rushed release of the draft sanctions resolution in order to squelch the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear fuel swap agreement--a diplomatic advance that, in the minds of the three... Read More
...And then does some walkback
My last word, at least for the time being, on China and the Iran UN sanctions resolution process, is in an article at Asia Times entitled, China plays lapdog in sanctions ploy.   I link to the article in a blog post that also summarizes its conclusions: China Plays Skillful Hand on Iran Sanctions. CH... Read More
Update If the U.S. can't sabotage the ITB agreement, it will do its best to ignore it. According to the Guardian. Hmmm. I would speculate that the United States was very anxious to get this draft circulated in order to counteract the news of the ITB agreement. So maybe some hurried caving in to Chinese... Read More
The United States Responds to the Turkey/Brazil/Iran Deal with Dismay, Denial, Deafness, Willful Misunderstanding, and the Occasional Malapropism
The deal for to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, brokered by Turkey and Brazil, has been signed. The deal threatens to derail the push for Iran sanctions, which is apparently the be-all and end-all of America's strategy. No question what Turkey--a non-permanent member of the Security Council this year--thinks: The Washington Post's... Read More
In light of Secretary Clinton's determined effort to forestall a Iran nuclear deal brokered by Turkey (see below), I think it's pretty clear that Iran is desperate for a deal and the United States is equally desperate to block one. I think the only thing that could have persuaded Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan to turn... Read More
The U.S. is apparently dead serious about shutting off Iran's avenues of negotiation. Case in point: putting the kibosh on Turkey's initiative to midwife the LEU for fuel plates swap for the Tehran Research Reactor. Courtesy of Hurriyet/AFP, the tick-tock is reproduced below. I would think it would be difficult for the United States to... Read More
...and 2001: A Disarmament Odyssey
I have an article up at Asia Times entitled China in the catbird seat on Iran. It looks at the state of play at the NPT Review Conference and opines that Beijing has done a pretty good job at positioning itself as the intermediary between the West and Iran. I was lucky enough to interview... Read More
A Great Deal for Russia, But Not for China
I have an article up at Asia Times titled US seeks to turn China over Iran sanctions. I go over the evidence that the United States is trying to shift gears and engage China as a great power with an acknowledged stake in Iran, and not just an amoral, oil-grubbing obstacle to America’s Middle East... Read More
I have an article up at Asia Times entitled China fine-tunes its Iran strategy. I read the Chinese tea leaves (People’s Daily and Global Times) to come to the conclusion that China wishes to avoid a UN Security Council vote on Iran sanctions. Beijing fears that any UN vote, with a Chinese yea vote or... Read More
I have an article up at Asia Times on Iran’s natural gas diplomacy entitled Iran aims for an energy breakout. Iran is having good success in enticing Chinese and Indian energy companies to take blocks (known as “phases”) of the offshore South Pars gas fields. Just as Secretary Clinton was jawboning the Saudis to give... Read More
I have an article up in the Counterpunch print edition about the impact of Afghan opium production on Iran and Russia. Here’s the link to subscribe to Counterpunch. Do it now! The colossal spike in Afghan opium production has had a direct and deleterious influence on Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian stans that lie... Read More
Via Laura Rozen, more talk of Hillary Clinton jawboning Saudi Arabia to assure Chinese energy supplies if a) China votes for Iran sanctions and b) Iran’s petroleum exports to China are disrupted as a result. China, of course, considers itself a great power with its own energy allies in the Middle East, not an awkward... Read More
A wise man—I believe it was Auric Goldfinger—once said: Once is circumstance. Twice is happenstance. Third time it’s enemy action. As China absorbs a sustained crotch-kicking from the United States on the issue of its impending Security Council vote on Iran sanctions, it appears to be pondering the fact that this is the third time... Read More
Iran may have hoped that China would step into the nuclear dispute on its side, perhaps by agreeing to serve as middleman for the fuel exchange. It looks like they'll be disappointed. But today Beijing also sent the message that U.S.-Chinese relations would suffer another blow from an aggressive Western push on Iran coupled with... Read More
Update: According to Haaretz: That would defeat the draft plan's purpose of reducing Iran's total LEU reserve below the quantity required to set off an atomic bomb, if it were refined to high purity. As noted below, China is perhaps the only major power that Iran could rely upon to conduct an offshore swap. Wonder... Read More
…While Poker Players Fight Back
From her perch at Politico, the estimable Laura Rozen reports that the U.S. government has slapped Swiss bank Credit Suisse with a “half billion dollar” settlement punishing the bank for helping Iran evade U.S. financial sanctions. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the decision, flanked by the head of Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,... Read More
...Or, Keeping Up With Uzi Arad
The folks at Just World News are interested in the issue of whom Israeli right-wing security honcho Uzi Arad is meeting with during his visit to the United States, and whether his trip is deliberate poke in the eye of the Obama administration. Uzi Arad is Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security advisor. There was... Read More
…It’s Bad for Afghanistan
AIPAC—or at least a militantly hard-line faction of AIPAC—well, maybe the fellow-travellers of a borderline-deranged ex-AIPAC bossman named Steven Rosen now awaiting trial on espionage charges—can tie Chas Freeman’s scalp to its belt. Understandable handwringing on thoughtful foreign policy blogs that hoped Freeman taking over something called the National Intelligence Council would lead to a... Read More
As America is preoccupied with the global economic crisis and the Obama transition, the State Department can worry that the world’s headlong transition to a post-Bush order has torn events from America’s control and we are unwilling passengers on a runaway train barreling through the Middle East and South Asia. The security, diplomatic, and logistic... Read More
Observing President Bush's farewell tour of Europe reminded me of Cynthia Heimel's ode to toxic relationships, Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye! Old Europe might have wished for a low-key, dignified, and not quite bittersweet parting with the arrogant troublemaker who brought it so much trouble. However, students of Bush... Read More
Via the estimable Laura Rozen, a report on another effort to put paid to the Axis of Evil by cutting off Iran’s imports of gasoline, this time via a nonbinding bipartisan Congressional resolution proposed by Democrat Gary Ackerman of New York and Republican Mike Pence of Indiana. It’s being floated at the AIPAC conference. As... Read More
...and Bonus OTFI Anecdote for China Matters Readers
I have an article up on Japan Focus concerning the U.S. financial sanctions campaign against Iran and the resultant shift of Iran’s financial, economic, and diplomatic focus toward Asia and, in particular, China. There’s a lot of information on the resistance and evasion the sanctions inspire, both in Asia and Europe, and I think it... Read More
Update: After Iran's PressTV reported--in no less than four articles but without any basis in the AP story or, apparently, any reporting of its own--that Chinese diplomats had leaked the IAEA story, their version has finally caught up with reporting from other outlets. In the latest article reporting the Chinese government denial, the characterization "The... Read More
China’s response to the new UN Security Council sanctions on Iran provide a useful perspective on Chinese policy and its movement toward a new, post-Bush and post-terror alternative doctrine for managing international crises. The story of the Iran nuclear crisis can be summed up with the acronym SSDD: Same Sanctions Different Day There is certainly... Read More
One happened, the other didn’t. Together, they shed some light on the nature of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Middle East affairs. The first was something of a foreign affairs bombshell: Saudi Arabia’s invitation to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to join this year’s haj...an invitation that Ahmadinejad accepted with alacrity. From the Teheran Times: The standard narrative... Read More
October 25: October 11: Keen observers will notice a pattern here. Russia and China—two of the five veto holders on the Security Council—want the North Korea deal to serve as the template for Iran. What does this mean? It means that world opinion has abandoned the Bush administration on the creation of a united front... Read More
Is China the True Target of Financial Sanctions Against Iran?
Those with long memories—that go back, say, three months—will remember the last time the U.S. Treasury Department tried to bend an Axis of Evil member to its will through targeted financial sanctions. Failure was the outcome. Now the United States is trying for a do-over with Iran and, though the techniques—particularly for handling China—may be... Read More
It looks like the United States is going to get precious little satisfaction from the new UN sanctions (see China and the Iran Sanctions Follies for details). I attribute this to the fact that the world looked at US actions over the last two months and saw it excessively lenient with a genuine nuclear threat—North... Read More
Connoisseurs of Oriental guile will find much to appreciate in the current sparring over Iran sanctions—if one enjoys the spectacle of China eating our lunch. Of course, the United States has been fully engaged in the process. It has responded to Russian and Chinese intransigence on Iran cleverly by alienating the Japanese and the Indians... Read More
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