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New sanctions miss the target

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

30 Jan 2010 04:0923 Comments
iran-oil-330.jpg[ comment ] On Thursday, the Senate approved S2799 -- the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 -- which authorizes President Obama to impose sanctions on any entity that exports gasoline to Iran, or helps expand the country's oil-refining capacity by, in part, denying them loans and other assistance from U.S. financial institutions. The legislation is supposedly intended to pressure the Islamic Republic to give up its uranium enrichment program. Even if that were truly the intent of the proposed law, it is misguided.

The Bill

On Dec. 15, 2009, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009," which is very similar to the Senate bill. The latter extends sanctions to include companies that build oil and gas pipelines in Iran and provide tankers to move Iran's petroleum. It also prohibits the U.S. government from buying goods from foreign companies that work in Iran's energy sector. So, in effect, the Senate bill imposes sanctions on Iran's entire oil and natural gas industry.

Although Iran has the world's third largest oil reserves, it must import a significant portion of its gasoline to meet demand because it lacks domestic refining capacity. Anticipating gasoline sanctions for at least two years now, the Islamic Republic has been working hard to reduce its dependence on gasoline imports, which has dropped from 40 percent of total consumption to 25-30. At least one new refinery is under construction, which will come online in about two years. In addition, as I described in a previous article, Tehran can take several relatively simple steps to further reduce its dependency on gasoline imports.

Tellingly, even though President Obama warned Iran of "growing consequences" over its nuclear program in his State of the Union address on Wednesday, his administration has not shown a great deal of interest in the legislation.

Reservations

On December 11, 2009, Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg sent a letter to Senator John F. Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he stated that,

As I testified before the Congress in October, it is our hope that any legislative initiative would preserve and maximize the President's flexibility, secure greater cooperation from our partners in taking effective action, and ultimately facilitate a change in Iranian policies. However, we are entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran. This requires that we keep the focus on Iran. At this juncture, I am concerned that this legislation, in its current form, might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts. In addition to the timing, we have serious substantive concerns, including the lack of flexibility, inefficient monetary thresholds and penalty levels, and blacklisting that could cause unintended foreign policy consequences.

On January 4th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that,

Our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary [Iranians] (emphasis mine), who deserve better than what they currently are receiving.

This position was reiterated by Clinton on January 11:

It is clear that there is a relatively small group of decision makers inside Iran... They are in both political and commercial relationships, and if we can create a sanctions track that targets those who actually make the decisions, we think that is a smarter way to do sanctions.

P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, reiterated the Administration position on January 5th:

As the Secretary said, one possibility is to focus more specifically on the Revolutionary Guards, the IRGC. We're taking a much more prominent role within Iran. We want to do this in a way that can target specific entities within the Iranian Government but not punish the Iranian people (emphasis mine), who are clearly looking for a different relationship with their government.

Other unnamed Administration officials have been quoted as saying that they are opposed to legislation that hurts ordinary people. For example, on Dec. 29, 2009, Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times reported that,

[U.S.] officials are increasingly concerned that broad sanctions harming ordinary citizens would appear harsh to the outside world and would risk alienating parts of the population with which the West seeks to establish common cause.

Richter quoted an anonymous senior State Department official as saying that, "the discussions [within the State Department] were aimed at making the sanctions as narrow as they can be."

On Dec. 30, 2009, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post reported that an anonymous senior Administration official stated that,

We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy... We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation -- whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame.

In fact, on Dec. 15, 2009, Richard R. Verma, Assistant Secretary of State for legislative affairs, sent a letter to Senator Carl Levine, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which he stated that,

The Department of State is recommending that the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issue a general license that would authorize downloads of free mass market software by companies such as Microsoft and Google to Iran necessary for the exchange of personal communications and/or sharing of information over the internet such as instant messaging, chat and email, and social networking. This software is necessary to foster and support the free flow of information to individual Iranian citizens and is therefore essential to the national interest of the United States.

Even U.S. business groups warned the administration that the bill would undercut the President's strategy of working with U.S. allies in finding a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program because the legislation targets companies of U.S. allies doing business with Iran. But the neoconservatives, Israel lobby and its allies in the Senate, such as Senator Joseph Lieberman, were firmly behind it. And what the Israeli lobby wants, the Israeli lobby gets. Thus, the legislation was approved. Indeed, the passage of the legislation was praised by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which called for even tougher sanctions.

Misfire

Though the Administration may be seeking targeted sanctions against the leaders of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), the real power behind the military junta headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the gasoline sanction will hurt only ordinary Iranians who have been struggling to make ends meet, especially since the rigged June 12 presidential election.

At least a million Iranians work in the transportation sector and millions more depend on transportation for their work or business. The agriculture sector, especially in the remote areas of the country, also relies heavily on transportation.

Moreover, it is widely believed in Iran -- and there is considerable evidence to back it up -- that there is a gasoline "Mafia" linked to the hardliners. They sell the gasoline, which is subsidized by the government, to neighboring countries at a much higher price and receive a windfall from these transactions. The sanction would inevitably lead to much higher gasoline prices in Iran. That would only tighten the gasoline Mafia's grip on the market, hence increasing the power that the IRGC and the hardliners already have. This is the opposite effect that the legislation is supposedly intended to have.

Those who pushed hard for the passage of this legislation argued that the resulting hardship would pressure the Iranian people to demand policy changes from the government. But if that were truly the purpose of the legislation (and I highly doubt it), there had been no need for it. There is now little doubt that a great majority of Iranians are deeply angered about what has been happening in Iran in the aftermath of the rigged June 12 presidential election. There have been recurring, often bloody demonstrations, and daily arrests. Political figures and activists, journalists, university students, human rights advocates and ordinary citizens have been the target of hardliners. Dozens have been murdered, both in jail and during demonstrations; two men, Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew and Professor Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, have been assassinated; show trials have been held; unjustified sentences have been handed out; several young people have been hanged and many more raped and sodomized. Many newspapers and other publications have been banned.

What more motivation do the people need?

In fact, it is such developments that have given birth to the Green Movement, which has been gathering strength over the past several months. The Green Movement's leaders -- former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and former president Mohammad Khatami -- have opposed sanctions, particularly those that only hurt ordinary Iranians. But while the sponsors of the Congress sanction bill pay lip service to the bravery of the Iranian people and their courage to stand up to the hardliners, in practice they hurt them by imposing such sanctions. And that's because the goal is not to help the Iranian people, but satisfy Israel and its lobby.

Others have argued that tough sanctions will hurt Iran's economy, to the point that it will cripple the hardliners and prevent them from pursuing their nuclear program. But again, if that were the true purpose of the legislation, there is no need for it.

First, Iran's nuclear program has significantly slowed down, due both to the internal crisis and the array of technical difficulties with which it is grappling. Documents recently leaked indicate that the Obama administration believes that even if Iran were to produce a nuclear weapon (at least up to now there has been no evidence for it), it lacks a breakout capability for up to another three years (meaning it doesn't have the ability to convert its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to highly enriched uranium at this point). This is ample time to explore diplomatic options and allow Iran's internal developments to mature.

Second, Ahmadinejad's economic policy -- if it can be called that -- has already greatly hurt Iran's economy and the public's economic welfare. Inflation is so rampant that the government is seriously considering devaluing the currency. Starting on March 21, the Iranian New Year, Ahmadinejad is scheduled to remove price controls and eliminate all subsidies on basic commodities (i.e., food). Iran's most prominent economists have warned that such actions will increase the rate of inflation to at least 60 percent -- currently about 30 percent -- further impoverishing millions of Iranians and driving many businesses to ruin.

Third, Iran has a labor movement that is increasingly stronger and more vocal. The movement is demanding better pay, more labor-friendly laws, an end to corruption, as well as cutting the hands of the IRGC from the economy. The labor movement is an additional source of power to the Green Movement.

Therefore, without illegally meddling in Iran's internal affairs, the country's own internal developments and dynamics can accomplish what even the best-intentioned legislation by foreign powers will never achieve. Iranians are already pushing for a democratic political system, the rule of law, and a free press that would reveal the extent of corruption and mismanagement by the hardliners and the IRGC, which are the root causes of the terrible state of the Iranian economy.

In my opinion, the Iranian people do not need and have not called for foreign interference in their internal affairs -- the supposed intention of the gasoline legislation. They can tackle their problems themselves. What they need is moral support and strong and meaningful condemnation of the gross violations of human rights that are daily occurrences in Iran.

If sanctions are to be imposed, they should be designed to strip away the power of the hardliners to block the free flow of information on the internet. If sanctions are to be imposed, they should be designed to isolate the IRGC leaders and their allies in Iran's conservative camp, which means diplomatic sanctions, not economic ones that hurt Iranians just when their century-old struggle for democracy is beginning to yield results.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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23 Comments

Sure, this is largely the result of the pro-Zionist lobby- that's a no-brainer. But let's not leave out the Iran bashers (many of which are represented here at Tehran Bureau), who contributed- however unintentionally, as the case may or may not be- in making that lobby's work that much easier to sell upon the US government.

Good work guys. (sarcasm intended)

Make no mistake. The Iranian people have you to thank for what's headed their way.

Pirouz / January 30, 2010 8:08 AM

Targeted financial sanctions. Only.

Otherwise ... fuel more anti-US sentiment at acts that hurt the people and enrich the IRGC. no pun intended.

Avi / January 30, 2010 12:43 PM

Professor,

If you don't mind what do you think of Abbas Barzegar's articles on The Guardian?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/abbas-barzegar

He's consistent about all of this being just north-tehranis wanting a bit more, while the rest of the country is very religious and pro-islamic republic.

He says people mostly elected Khatami because he looked like an honest outsider and not necessarily the reform democrats talk about.

There's evidence that goes both ways, but nothing conclusive. I don't believe polls, I don't think any Iranians would openly talk to strangers on the phone about their politics, and there have been polls recently both that say the majority support the system (and before approve of ahmadinejad) and ones that say the majority want reform. Of course polls are never complete answers themselves, just part of the picture, and this makes it worse.

Take the recent pro-regime demonstrators, dabashi says they used crude camera techniques to make them look bigger. Well, couldn't the regime at least get enough to not do that? Everybody agrees there's substantial support for it. Or maybe the supporters weren't angry enough and they WOULD come out if they really saw the islamic republic under threat? I don't know.

And who knows what the reformists are planning, are mousavi and khatami talking right now about how to destroy the velayet faqih or just reform? If the former, can they risk Iran disintegrating should the power vacuum result in ethnic minorities fighting and a revolutionary guard insurgency? One reformist talk about a moderate islamic government, but others talk of a democracy. If I were in the ruling elites right now I wouldn't trust any reformers, pretty sure that's the case with khamenie and the revolutionary guard.

GeneralOreo / January 30, 2010 3:07 PM

The question that I haven't been able to answer is "Why does Israel think that these sanctions are a good idea". Anybody have an idea?

Donald Liebich / January 30, 2010 5:59 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

I mostly agree with the tone of your article, and its opposition to the Senate bill for sanctions, and I'd like to an observation to your piece.

Here is a conclusion that some observers have drawn: The prevailing force in American foreign policy strategy has no interest in an independent democracy in Iran - rather, the interest is access to resources. These observers have pointed out that the elements pushing sanctions in the Senate and the Congress clearly and fully understand that the sanctions push jeopardizes the democratic movement in Iran. They argue that the more important element of the American policy at this juncture is NOT Iranian democracy but bringing Iran into compliance. This notion of "compliance" reminds one of certain "less than democratic" American allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, ...

The emerging democratic movement is in a "tight spot" - forced to choose between support of the regime or the pursuit of their goals at the cost being accused of complicity. I have heard "second hand" (but not rumors) that there are already negotiations behind the scenes at the leadership level between the various camps in Iran. Reconciliation may or may not be good news for Iran's democratic movement as it may set back the reform agenda as a compromise in order to face the external threat.

It is indeed a sad chapter.

jay / January 30, 2010 6:13 PM

When I was in Iran 2 years ago most Iranians were more than willing to tell me what they thought. Didn't matter if they were from North Tehran, South Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz or Yazd; religious or secdular. Most said, "This regime needs to change. We will do it. We don't need your help, We don't need another revolution."
My view is that the reason that people are so angry is that they thought that they had accomplished "regime change" and it was stolen from them.

Donald Liebich / January 30, 2010 7:20 PM

I very much agree with Jay that for American policy makers "the more important element of the American policy at this juncture is NOT Iranian democracy but bringing Iran into compliance", as for democracy itself, it is only tolerated in so long as it does not cut across American interests and hegemony.

General Oreo - you state that "If I were in the ruling elites right now I wouldn't trust any reformers, pretty sure that's the case with khamenie and the revolutionary guard". I can't agree more!!! But am I right to assume that the brutality and corruption of Khamenie, the Revolutionary Guards and the rest of the "ruling elite" are not legitimate matters of concern to Iranians and their democratic aspirations?!!

Gorg O'meesh / January 30, 2010 11:20 PM

Jay,

A sad chapter in Iranian history is opened when Iran a nation worthy and capable of democracy stands indifferent at the mercy of foreign interest, be it U.S. or any other. That is politics 100 and Iranians are way passed it in political maturity. I truly believe it is the United States that lacks a level of maturity in her foreign policy towards the people of Iran, emphasis on the people and not the government. This country will benefit from a responsible, democratic and fast industrial Iran with a greater purchasing power and young people eager to join the rest of the world than the current impoverished Iran whose resources i.e. oil is dying out due to lack of up keep. Think about the oil industry alone and the potential market of Iran for American drilling technology. Think about the potentials in the military, aeronautics and space technologies just to name a few. I would hate to think our men in Washington do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the other hand it is for Iranians to make a final stand to say NO to tyranny, murder, rape, torture and the Barbarians who have occupied their land.
-------------------------------------------------
God Bless the United States, my home. God Bless Persia, the country these Barbarians took away from me.

Sohrab / January 30, 2010 11:28 PM

Pirouz, don't air opinions on issues which you have zero firsthand knowledge.

Your usual suspects (the 'Iran bashers' by which I assume you mean politically connected Iranians at think tanks and other circles) have in fact been lobbying for months and meeting with US officials to advise AGAINST gasoline sanctions, instead advocating financial sanctions on Sepah.

So, blame bad US policymakers, but dont blame the exact people who unanimously advised against this.

FYI, Pirouz / January 31, 2010 12:07 AM

In seeking change it is always a plus if you know what your enemies position is going to be. In that context, it is good that the US regime has let the cat out of the bag. They are not interested in a 'democratic' Iran or do not really care about human rights abuses (if they did they would correct similar or worse abuses amongst their own allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and of course Israel for its racist and apartheid treatment of Palestinian Arabs) except when they can use it as a stick to hurt someone who challenges their hegemony, which Iran does. Therefore, the outcome of the political disputes in Tehran will be in the hands of the Iranian people themselves and they have had one shot at it which has been quite messy. But there is always the next time, enshallah. Success will come with effort and the application of some wisdom and common sense in the debate going on between various protagonists. But please do not throw the baby out with the bath water as some want. The Islamic Republic has many achievements that it should be proud of but going forward it needs reforms that help achieve some of the original goals of the 1979 revolution.
BTW, Dr Sahimi, could you write a piece on the early democratic movement by supporters of Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari and how this was crushed by the hardliners. I understand his vision was to have an Islamic Democratic Republic.

rezvan / January 31, 2010 1:05 AM

Sargord Pirouz is an Internet troll who leaves comments on a number of blogs that cover Iranian events. On the NIAC blog and a number of other websites, he goes simply by "Pirouz" and claims to be a half-Iranian, half-American resident of the San Francisco Bay area who took part in the "anti-establishment" movement in the U.S. in the 1960s and early 1970s. On the other hand, the "Sargord Pirouz" who appears on Iranian.com claims, I believe, to be a member of some branch or other of the IRI's military. However, they both take very, very, very similar propaganda lines, i.e. that the demonstrators are being beaten and arrested (and in some cases killed) as part of a "law enforcement" operation--no more, no less. They both use the phrase "pro-establishment" to refer to the armed enforcers of the regime. They are both very tedious in correcting real or alleged errors regarding which of the regime's enforcers are Basijis vs Pasdaran vs "police" (and are keen to refer to the IRI's street thugs as IRIPF). What alerted me to the fact that these two individuals are one and the same (despite their affecting different cyber personas) is when both objected on different websites to Neda Aghasoltan being Time's Person of the Year on the grounds that Allison B Krause (one of the 4 students killed at Kent State in 1970) was never declared Time's Person of the Year either. I will leave it to Iranian.com readers as to who the real Pirouz or Sargord Pirouz is: just a freelance Internet troll or part of a more organized IRI propaganda campaign.

Cyrus to Pirouz / January 31, 2010 8:38 AM

"IF sanctions are to be imposed"?! Professor sahimi, there are no "good" and "bad" sanctions and the west's double standards in sanctioning Iran while applauding other military war machines in the region is a hallmark of the Ahmadinejad government. He's made a career out of reminding ordinary Iranians of this and it has many folllowers since the point is a valid one although he's in NO position to be pointing out hypocricy.

Pedestrian / January 31, 2010 8:40 AM

Pirouz
Is that why the protesters on the streets of Tehran chant "Obama either you're with us or with them?"

Agha Irani / January 31, 2010 12:17 PM

General Oreo:

I do not agree with Barzegar's assessment. His type, who are pro-Ahmadinejad, would like to believe that this is a rebellion by rich spoiled children of northern Tehran. That is not so. The events of the past several months indicate that the Green Movement has spread everywhere.

Jay:

I agree with you. The military/industrial/intelligence complex in the US only cares about what it perceives to be the U.S. "vital national interests," which are often misguided, and how to "protect and expand" them. They do not care about democracy anywhere. If they did, they would start with their own allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, jordan, etc.

Rezvan:

In due time.

Pedestrian:

I am opposed to any sanction, when the IRGC controls every aspect of the economy, and there is no counterweight to it. But, political pressure builds up in the US by AIPAC and others for sanctions. It was in that context that I said "even if there is going to be sanction," it must extremely narrow so that the chances of hurting ordinary people will be minimal.

Muhammad Sahimi / February 1, 2010 12:34 AM

Well said Cyrus!

Pirouz is just a clown apologizing for this regime - no one should take anything he says too seriously.

Agha Irani / February 1, 2010 2:16 AM

@Sohrab

You have a legitimate point, but unfortunately it's also very idealistic: the Americans are far more interested in bringing those bright Iranians to their country, not fund a new superpower. Anyway, that would be against Israel's interests! Year after year the Americans hand pick the best Iranians and flood them with opportunities if they choose to leave Iran and join the "American Dream", which the majority do. And why wouldn't they? The United States is the land of opportunities, built with the knowledge of the World's underprivileged. Take Anousheh Ansari for example: she left Iran when she was a student and got her degree from an American institution. Now she's a multi-millionaire businesswoman and became the first female space tourist. It hurts me to think about the huge successes of such Iranian-Americans, let alone the rest of the diaspora... If only...

We have to remember that every nation has it's own interests. The Americans would be taking a gamble to invest in a country like Iran, which would jump from it's current sorry position to a global leader within decades (think South Korea). Iran has the natural resources, the educated base, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the WILL to be a superpower. Why would the Americans unleash the dragon? For them, it is just fine to see Iran in a state of limbo. However, if... not if... when Iran is freed from the grip of the mullahs, only then will the American's jump on board and boast about their commitments to human rights and so on!

Sam / February 1, 2010 3:13 AM

I think people are quick to forget that Iran Admitted that in 2003 it was enriching uranium and working towards a nuclear bomb. In 2003 Iran said they weren't when all the signs said they were and the US did nothing. But even if the program did end in 2003 this is a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which gave Iran its civil nuclear program in the first place.

dan / February 1, 2010 3:34 AM

These sanctions are a response to a breach of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty as well as to security throughout the world. Iran has already made its intentions clear should it have the capability to "whipe Isreal from the face of the earth" it will surely do it. Or at least leak these weapons to those who could or would. We have already seen Iranian weapons showing up in both Iraq ang Afghanistan, and not 10 year old artillery, brand new plastic explosives only government/military officials could access. So call these sanctions ineffective but you cannot possibly call them unwarranted.

dan / February 1, 2010 3:45 AM


One positive aspect of this forum is that enables us to at least attempt to educate part of the public on Iran - that it is not a monolith and contrary to some opinions has its own rich share of bright, democratically-minded, and peace loving people. I don't agree that this forum is dominated by Iran-bashers. I certainly do not consider myself as one, but I would not hesitate to point our injustice when I see it.

Here is our chance to help engage in an exchange of information with someone who seems like is interested in knowing something.

I read in one the post on "February 1, 2010 3:34 AM" that Iran admitted to "working towards a nuclear bomb". Is there a reliable and documented source for this admission.

Under the standards for which Iran has been accused of being in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, how many other nations would also be in violation?

What is the "source" break down of weapons seized in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it not true that the majority of the weapons seized are from non-Iranian origins (some being American allies)? Does that mean that they are "allied" with the anti-American forces?

The phrase "wipe [sic]....the earth" is a highly dubious translation that has already been retracted by several of the original sources that published it. It is an incoherent statement by a narrow-minded individual - nonetheless, far from a threat or call to action.

Finally, as these bright young Iranian have shown in the past 9 months, those in power do not speak for Iran. To suggest that a form of corporal punishment on all Iranians in the form of sanctions is warranted appears to me to be not in line with some basic notions of humanity and justice.

Jay / February 1, 2010 7:30 AM

Sam,

I am sorry, but I cannot agree with your approach. First, it is not for the United States to bring democracy to other countries. That task is for the locals based on their political maturity. Iran has reached a level of maturity to get started. I am afraid your response was too standard procedure, left wing. Take Japan, South Korea, and Germany and at the present time many Eastern European countries that have joined the free world and are enjoying the rewards. Did U.S. not play a role in these countries? Iran is not a Superpower and far from it. It will take a decade or two to stabilize Iran's economy and give her back the financial comfort Iranians enjoyed prior to 1979 revolution. Additionally, social and political changes will not be easily achieved either. But as I mentioned earlier she has every potential to be a major regional power and must work hard to become a country in the category of S. Korea. That alone is a big challenge since Iranians lack discipline. The Iranian diaspora in the United States is well educated and enjoys an average income $10,000 above U.S. national average. However, the same population enjoys zero political clout on national level. We are not even in the category of Pakistani Americans. Iranians are in charge of their own destiny and no one can stand in the way of their dreams if they truly desire it. On the other hand, Israel is an issue too. Iran as a regional power will marginalize Israel and it is for this very reason Islamic Republic and in particular Ahmadinejad are the best things that could ever happen for Israel's foreign policy goals. Israelis are fully aware that in a long run a powerful, influential, prosperous and nuclear but pro American Iran is far more beneficial to the United States under the present circumstances than Israel. I said nuclear since Iran has gained the knowledge and that will remain regardless. Iran is one of the most strategic locations on this planet. However, Iranians need to make a decision and soon. The fundamentalist Islamic cancer MUST be removed from Iran and she must regain the level of civility expected of a country in her caliber.
-------------------------------------------------
God Bless the United States, my home. God Bless Persia, the country these Barbarians took away from me.

Sohrab / February 1, 2010 8:44 AM

What Dan is saying is totally wrong:

1. Iran has never admitted that it is making nuclear weapon.

2. The IAEA has never found any evidence of nuclear bomb making in Iran.

3. The IAEA has always certified that there has not been any diversion of nuclear materials to non-peaceful purposes.

4. Iran has never breached the NPT. A breach of the NPT happens when, (i) a member state makes a bomb; Iran has not; (ii) a member states helps another country to make the bomb; not the case with Iran, and (iii) a member state transfers its nuclear technology to a non-member state; has not happened in Iran's case.

Muhamad Sahimi / February 1, 2010 9:45 AM

Dan - Do you leave in the real world? Leaving aside the fact that those who oppose IRI's nuclear programme, the US/Israel and its European cohorts, who have vast nuclear arsenals at their disposal which they could use to destroy the whole world many times over- and remember both WW1 and 2 were imposed on the rest of the world (several million Indian and other soldiers from European colonies died in these wars) and the only country that has actually used nukes is the US. Moreover was it not the Europeans who supplied chemical weapons or the ingredients for them to Saddam Hussayn which killed and maimed many Iranian and Kurdish lives. Therefore they have no moral authority to dictate to Iran to stop the production of a nuclear bomb even if it were doing so. Iran also has no history of invading or aggressing against any other country, but both US/Israel/UK routinely do without any qualms for int'l law and norms.
The US's own intelligence agencies, NIE and the Pentagon, have concluded that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons programme or if it had it was put to an end a while back. Probably no other member of the NPT has had as many inspections as Iran has had with a 24/7 cameras on site. The question that should be asked and over which a dagger hangs over all the peoples of the Middle East, including the Jews in Israel, is with the extremists in the current Israeli govt and their neo-con and Zionist friends in the US govt who would like to inflict another war on the peoples of the Middle East as a way out of their severe economic troubles. If you are a US citizen then you should be campaigning for Obama to keep his election promises and sincerely and genuinely engage with Iran and come to a reasonable diplomatic solution through the IAEA. This is acheivable and in the genuine interest of both the US and Iran and would certainly put the hardliners in Tehran on the defensive on their attitudes to the US. Otherwise we are moving to a war whose consequences are going to be uncontrollable and unknowable plus the immense suffering this will bring on all the peoples of the world. The wise on all sides must prevail to prevent such a catastrophe. Remember it was only a small diplomatic incident that lighted the match leading to WW1. World citizens should act now to prevent that happening again.

rezvan / February 1, 2010 5:35 PM

Dear Professor:

Could you explain about the outcome of sanctions for US, and what they want really? a democratic Iran? a nuclear free middle east? or Iran resources? ....
As you mentioned about "Hardliner's Mafia"; sanctions will strengthen hardliners because they purse their own benefits not Iran Nation and ordinary people.

HD / February 1, 2010 11:56 PM