Iran’s endgame is long overdue
Joel Brinkley, © 2011 Joel Brinkley
Sunday, December 18, 2011
The world is closing in on Iran, but not aggressively enough. It’s time for Europe to deal the final blow.
The Iranian attack on the British Embassy in Tehran was close to an act of war – as was the plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Given the collection of recent provocations from this rogue state, the West’s extremely slow-motion campaign to end Iran’s nuclear-weapons program needs to be pushed to its denouement.
In recent days, the United States and Europe have been imposing ever more penalties and sanctions – closing embassies, isolating Iranian officials. But to all of it, Iran’s leaders simply shrug. “We will not budge an iota from the path we are committed to,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed.
Now the most important discussion is under way in Europe. Over the past week, European leaders have been debating whether to impose an oil embargo on Iran. The EU imports 450,000 barrels of Iranian oil each day, about 20 percent of Iran’s output.
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers this month, several states, including Britain, France and Germany, advocated an oil embargo, but others balked. Greece, for example, complained that while the state’s economy is in crisis, it can’t go prospecting to replace Iran’s oil. The EU said it would make a decision next month, and statements from Tehran last weekend show the regime is terrified of an embargo.
But now Saudi Arabia – Iran’s hated enemy – is ramping up production, specifically to replace Europe’s Iranian oil. Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, said he won a commitment from the Saudi ambassador in Washington to increase production, his spokesman told me. And in fact, every day now, Saudi Arabia is pumping 600,000 barrels above normal production – the highest output in decades – causing some refineries to throw up their hands and say they can’t take any more.
“Asian refiners are not taking extra Saudi barrels,” energy analyst Alex Yap told Reuters. A South Korea refinery said it was actually cutting its output because of poor economic conditions in the region.
What’s more, Libya is increasing output now that the fighting there is over, and the International Energy Agency reported that during the third quarter of this year, Iraq produced 540,000 more barrels per day than it had a year earlier.
In other words, the world is awash in oil – even as weak economies are reducing demand worldwide. Europe can impose a total oil embargo on Iran and easily replace that oil from other producers.
As if to underscore the point – and to prod the West to act – Saudi Arabia hinted recently that it would consider building its own nuclear weapons if the time comes that both Iran and Israel have them.
The United States also is pushing South Korea and other customers of Iran to stop buying. And earlier this month, the U.S. Senate voted 100-0 to sanction any financial institution worldwide that does business with the Bank of Iran.
For central banks, the prohibition relates only to oil purchases. The House is expected to pass it, too; Iran is a bipartisan concern. With that, Iran will have trouble getting paid for its oil exports.
The International Atomic Energy Agency released documents last month that finally removed nearly all doubt that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. And yet, as the world angrily reacts, all we hear from Russia and China, Iran’s consistent defenders, is shameful bleating.
In fact, two days after the atomic energy agency released its report, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s nuclear-energy corporation, announced that Russia was prepared to begin building new civilian nuclear reactors in Iran. Then Russia’s U.N. ambassador declared: “The sanctions track in the Security Council has been exhausted.”
He offered instead the ludicrous observation that “negotiations should continue with Iran.”
A couple of weeks earlier, a new WikiLeaks disclosure showed that China has been facilitating shipments of ballistic-missile components from North Korea to Iran. And China’s foreign ministry offered similar sophistry: resolve the problem with “dialogue and negotiations.”
Even after all that has happened, those two states are still threatening to wield their veto in the Security Council. So it’s imperative that the United States and Europe act on their own.
Israel’s defense minister told CNN last month that Iran is less than a year away from completing work on a bomb. Some American officials say Israel’s estimates are often exaggerated. Still, the fact remains that this dance with Iran has been under way for almost 10 years. It’s well past time to bring it to a close.
Joel Brinkley’s “Foreign Matters” column appears weekly in the Insight section. Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times. To comment, go to sfgate.com/chronicle/submissions/#1.
Beltagy: SCAF Has Become Collaborator in Disrupting Egypt’s Peace and SecurityDr. Mohamed Beltagy, member of the Executive Office of the “Freedom and Justice” party (FJP), on behalf of the party and its Chairman, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, attended the funeral of martyrs who were killed in the current Cabinet clashes.
MB Accuses SCAF and Gov’t of Provoking Violence (Full Second Statement )The frequency of fatal clashes at this absurdly high rate, and at such highly sensitive and critical times, and the large number of dead and injured casualties indicate that there are certain stakeholders who are adversely impacted by the success of the revolution and the achievement of its goals of freedom, democracy, justice, security and stability.
Egypt’s military rulers escalated a bloody crackdown on street protesters Saturday, chasing down and beating unarmed civilians, even while the prime minister was denying in a televised news conference that security members were using any force.
In one of the most incendiary developments, video cameras captured soldiers stripping the clothes off women they were beating on the pavement of Tahrir Square.
The contradiction in the military-led government’s statements and actions appeared to represent a shift in strategy by the military council.
After trying for months to preserve some credibility and collaboration with the Egyptian political elite, the ruling generals Saturday scarcely acknowledged the demands made by their newly appointed civilian advisory council the night before that the military cease its violence and apologize to demonstrators.
Instead, as the crackdown entered its second day, the military council appeared to be playing to those Egyptians impatient with the continuing protests and eager for a return to stability. Crowds of supporters turned out Saturday to cheer on the military police.
Protesters, for their part, charged that the military rulers were provoking the clashes to derail or discredit the ongoing election of a new parliament that could challenge their power. “The military council is responsible for everything that happens,” Ziad el-Elaimy, a newly elected member of parliament who was beaten Friday by the military police, said in a television interview.
The prime minister, Kamal Ganzouri, issued his denial that the military had or would use force in a news conference Saturday morning after more than 24 hours of street fighting in front of the military-occupied parliament building that left 10 dead from gunshots and hundreds wounded. For most of the previous day and night, men in plain clothes, accompanied by a few in uniform, stood on top of the “people’s assembly” and hurled chunks of concrete and stone down at the crowd of demonstrators.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading liberal and former U.N. atomic energy chief, addressed a public message to the military council over the Internet: “Did you see the pictures of the military police dragging girls and stripping them of their clothes? Aren’t you ashamed? Let me remind you: justice is above power.”
The military’s newly established advisory council, an assembly of about 30 prominent citizens and political leaders intended to give the legitimacy of a civilian face to the generals’ authority, suspended its operations in protest Friday. Amr Moussa, a presidential candidate who is perhaps the council’s most prominent member, said Saturday that he was suspending his own membership as well.
Egypt military rulers intensify crackdown
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times
Sunday, December 18, 2011
A political activist says the brutal Egyptian military council seeks to legitimize itself in the country’s upcoming second-round parliamentary elections despite being rejected the Egyptian people.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Mohammad Fawaz from the April 6th Youth Movement in Cairo to further discuss the development.
The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: What is the reason, in your perspective, for this harsh crackdown still by the government?
Fawaz: First of all, the revolutionary powers, as I used to say, are the most important “pain” for the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) and for the new government to deal with. They want to close, finish and make some kind of a full [carrying operation] for the revolutionary forces in the street in order to proceed with new political forces like the Islamic Ikhvan al-Muslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood) and Salafis to the parliament so that they are going to be the political wing for the SCAF inside the parliament. It will guarantee a peaceful transaction for the austerity.
How can I see that the SCAF are doing that with Kamal Ganzouri’s new government? [They are] finalizing all the movements, all the independent political activists, all the very harsh youth of the Egyptian revolution [in order] to maintain discipline according to their views in the political playground; and maintain parliament and all the political forces to stay on the same line which the SCAF wants – not what the real revolutionary forces want in the streets.
Press TV: Do you think that it is likely that we will see more and more people from the military defecting to the protesters or siding with the revolutionaries? How likely is that scenario, in your perspective?
Fawaz: First of all, with the revolution here in Egypt or everywhere now, the people are trying to understand why the SCAF tricked them for the last 11 months. What I think, it will be simple.
The parliament election is not going to continue. We are in the second level and there are more and more violent actions; more and more Egyptian citizens have responded to the violence of the army in Tahrir Square. Not only in Cairo; yesterday was Suez City and Alexandria.
I heard that from about a couple hours ago those Upper Egypt cities are preparing for more revolutionary acts against the Egyptian police and against the army.
The problem is that the SCAF does not understand that they cannot finalize the revolution, or finalize political activists or the rights activists by violence, by killing people. It will make the rage rise up again and again.
What I think is that there are two scenarios coming up in the future. Parliament elections will not go as usual. It will have a big problem; it will have a big catastrophe.
Or, the parliament election will come very easy and it will end before the 25th of January, and the people will realize that they have been tricked by the religious and spiritual campaign handed by the Ikhvan and Salafis. So they are going to make another rebellion, another protest against the parliament that the army planned by his own hands to exterminate the rebel forces.
I do think that both scenarios are possible: that the parliament election will not be continued; or, it will be continued by a very hard range by the people who will not accept that shape of parliament, and at the same time the shape of the army killing civilians from political activists or rebel movements in Egyptian streets.
That’s what I think will happen in the next two months – with the backing of the USA and the ripping forces of the Egyptians SCAF. That’s what I think will happen.
Good News Translation (GNT)
God Will Punish Egypt
1 (A)This is a message about Egypt.
The Lord is coming to Egypt, riding swiftly on a cloud. The Egyptian idols tremble before him, and the people of Egypt lose their courage.2 The Lord says,
I will stir up civil war in Egypt and turn brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor. Rival cities will fight each other, and rival kings will struggle for power.3 I am going to frustrate the plans of the Egyptians and destroy their morale. They will ask their idols to help them, and they will go and consult mediums and ask the spirits of the dead for advice.4 I will hand the Egyptians over to a tyrant, to a cruel king who will rule them. I, the Lord Almighty, have spoken.