United National Anti-war Coalition statement on Iran and Iraq

UNAC, January 6, 2020

The United States drone assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abd Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with eight others, was a war crime by any definition, violating both Iraqi sovereignty and international law. This criminal act carelessly risked sparking a wider, catastrophic war that would involve many nations and put millions of lives at risk.

President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed their aggression with a series of lies, which were repeated by much of the media and many politicians, claiming that General Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But it is Iran who has been the victim of U.S. aggression ever since 1953, when the democratically-elected president Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown in a joint British/U.S. coup, followed by imposition of the brutal Shah.

From 1980-1988, the United States fueled the Iran/Iraq war, which killed more than one million people. While supporting Iraq in the war, the Ronald Reagan administration simultaneously provided weapons to Iran in the Iran/Contra scandal.

In 1988, the United States shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing more than 290 Iranian civilians, and, since 1984, the U.S. has imposed crippling sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy and the lives of its citizens.

Iraq also has been devastated by U.S. sanctions imposed by the Bill Clinton administration, which were directly responsible for the deaths of 500,000 children, and by the U.S. invasion and occupation by the George W. Bush administration which followed in 2003, resulting in the deaths of over one million Iraqis.

Donald Trump’s order to assassinate General Soleimani was the culmination of his campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The bipartisan attack began when Democrats joined with Republicans to resume sanctions in 2017, giving Trump leverage to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA). The Iranian people continue to suffer tremendously from U.S. sanctions, which prevent Iran from accessing world financial markets, depriving them of life-saving medications and the ability to maintain the nation’s infrastructure.

But not all Americans are fooled by their government’s aggression. Following the assassination of General Soleimani, the anti-war movement quickly organized mass actions in 80 different cities in 38 states. Tens of thousands of people rallied across the country to demand “No War on Iran” and “U.S. Out of Iraq”!

Most importantly, the people of Iran and Iraq have spoken loudly. Millions have taken to the streets to mourn their martyrs and both governments spoke quickly. The Iraqi parliament passed legislation demanding that the U.S. close its embassy and remove all military personnel. They also ended all security agreements and now deny the U.S. the right to use Iraqi airspace. Iran announced that the JCPOA is officially dead, that they will resume enriching uranium, and that they will take their case to the United Nations.

Donald Trump is just the latest U.S. president to lay waste to the nations of the Middle East. Democrats in Congress have made a great show of their impeachment but not before giving Trump everything he wanted. They agreed to remove language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have required him to seek congressional approval before taking action against Iran. They gave him more than $700 billion in defense spending — more than ever before — and refused to end the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which is the pretext for continued occupations in the region.

Trump’s provocations did not end with the assassinations. He publicly stated that the U.S. would target 52 sites in Iran, including those of cultural significance — another war crime. He then threatened Iraq with extreme sanctions after its parliament and Prime Minister requested that all foreign troops, including U.S. troops, be removed from their country. Trump also said he would force Iraq to pay for the bases built to support the U.S. occupation. This is a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a slap in the face of the Iraqi people.

A war with Iran could have devastating consequences for the entire planet. Yet, the impeachment by Congress made no mention of the international crimes in which President Trump is complicit.

UNAC is a national coalition of organizations that work against wars at home and abroad. Its statement has been edited and was reprinted in PeaceMeal, March/April 2020.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

House passes measure limiting Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran

The House passed a resolution on March 11aimed at constraining President Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran. In a largely party-line 227-186 vote, the House approved the resolution that would direct the president to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against” Iran unless Congress specifically authorizes it. The Senate passed the resolution 55-45 in February, with eight Republicans siding with Democrats to support it.The passage of the resolution comes after tensions with Iran spiked earlier this year to the point where Washington and Iran appeared to be on the brink of war. Tensions have risen since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. But hostility skyrocketed in early January with a U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Iran responded with a rocket attack on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. More than 100 U.S. troops were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries caused by the attack.

Since the strikes, both sides have stepped back from the brink. But just before the House started voting on the resolution, the U.S. military confirmed that 15 rockets hit Camp Taji in Iraq, and several reports said that two U.S. troops and a British service member were killed. Officials have not placed blame for the attack, but observers’ suspicion fell on Iran-backed militias that operate in Iraq. The U.S. military conducted retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq on March 12.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote that, while lawmakers are “all relieved that tensions have ratcheted down,” it is “not an accurate reading of the law” to say the resolution is unnecessary or wouldn’t have an effect because the United States and Iran aren’t in a shooting war.

“Congress doesn't have to wait until the president alone decides to use military force again,” Engel said. “Indeed, it’s our responsibility to do something because we know that tensions could flare up again at a moment’s notice. Iran has not been deterred as the administration promised.”

President Trump has vowed to veto the resolution.

– edited from The Hill, March 11, 2020
Peacemeal, March/April 2020

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Iran breaches key uranium enrichment limit in nuclear deal

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on July 8 began enriching uranium to 4.5% U235, just breaking the limit set by its nuclear deal with world powers, while it is still seeking a way for Europe to help it bypass United States sanctions amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Acknowledgment of the step by Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows that the Islamic Republic is trying to increase pressure on those still in the 2015 nuclear deal. It also comes just days after Iran acknowledged breaking the 661-pound limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile, another term of the nuclear deal.

Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels around 90%. At the 4.5% level, it is enough to power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant.

Kamalvandi hinted in a state TV interview that Iran might consider going to 20% enrichment or higher as a third step, if the material is needed and the country still hasn’t gotten what it wants from Europe. That would worry nuclear nonproliferation experts because 20% is a short technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels. Kamalvandi also suggested using new or more centrifuges, which are limited by the deal.

Experts warn that higher enrichment and a growing stockpile could begin to narrow the one-year window Iran would need to have enough material for an atomic weapon, something Iran denies it wants. While the steps now taken by Iran remain quickly reversible, Europe so far has struggled to respond.

Even if Iran reached 90% enrichment, there is no evidence that it has the scientific and technological ability to develop an atomic bomb.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran appreciated the efforts of some nations to save the deal, but offered a jaded tone on whether Tehran trusted anyone in the negotiations. “We have no hope nor trust in anyone, nor any country, but the door of diplomacy is open,” Mousavi said.

The remaining signatories to the deal with Iran are Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said America has imple-mented the “strongest pressure campaign in history against the Iranian regime, and we are not done.” The U.S. has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.

There are fears that a miscalculation in the crisis could explode into open conflict. President Donald Trump, who withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal over a year ago and re-imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, nearly bombed the country in June after Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone, allegedly over their territory.

On July 7, Trump warned that “Iran better be careful.” He did not elaborate on what actions the U.S. might consider but told reporters, “Iran’s doing a lot of bad things.”

China, engaged in delicate trade negotiations with the White House, openly criticized Trump’s policy toward Iran.

“What I want to emphasize is that the maximum pressure the U.S. imposes on Iran is the root cause of the crisis in the Iranian nuclear issue,” said Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “It has been proven that unilateral bullying has become a worsening tumor and is creating more problems and greater crises on a global scale.”

– edited from The Associated Press, July 8, 2019
PeaceMeal, July/August 2019

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

New tensions with Iran threaten nuclear deal and, White House says, U.S. troops

Tensions escalated between the United States and Iran on May 6 when the Trump administration accused Iran and militias that it backs of threatening American troops, and Iran signaled it might soon violate part of the 2015 nuclear deal it reached under former President Barack Obama.

European diplomats in touch with senior officials in Tehran said Iran would most likely resume research on high-performance centrifuges used to produce nuclear fuel and put restrictions on nuclear inspections in Iran. It would be Iran’s most significant reaction to date as President Trump has steadily increased sanctions.

Three senior United States officials cited new intelligence that Iran or its proxies were preparing to attack American troops in Iraq and Syria, leading the Pentagon to send an aircraft carrier strike force and Air Force B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf as a warning to Tehran. The officials would not provide specific details about the threat posed by Iranian forces or Iraqi Shiite militias with ties to Tehran’s military.

A Pentagon spokesman, Charles E. Summers, said the carrier deployment “ensures we have the forces” in the region to “defend” American troops and interests. He added: “We do not seek war with the Iranian regime.” However, the moves frightened some European allies.

Taken together, the moves by both sides have brought relations between Trump and Iran to a new low after a period of rapprochement that began in 2013 during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration has consistently sought to isolate Iran’s clerical government. A year ago, President Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that was brokered with six other world powers, and in the last month alone moved to cut off Iran’s remaining oil exports and designated an Iranian military unit as a terrorist organization.

Iran’s suspension of some elements of the nuclear deal appeared to be a response to the aggressive American policies, which were underscored by the announcement of the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln heading to the Gulf.

The move toward suspending some elements of the nuclear deal — although without withdrawing from it — was reported by European officials who have urged Iranian officials to avoid being provoked into overstepping its limits and reuniting the Western allies against Tehran.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran shipped roughly 97 percent of its nuclear fuel stockpile out of the country, and experts do not believe it has enough on hand to produce a nuclear weapon. Ever since the United States withdrew from the agreement, Iran has sought to walk a fine line between abandoning the deal and continuing to sell its oil to foreign buyers to support its struggling economy.

But in April, the Trump administration announced it would no longer suspend economic penalties against eight nations that were continuing to buy Iranian oil, including China, Japan and India. And in an interview in New York, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said he was “under pressure every day” to abandon the deal, as Mr. Trump did.

The sanctions on Iran’s oil exports were escalated two weeks after the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was placed on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations — the first time that the designation was given to an arm of another nation’s government. American intelligence and Defense Department officials had opposed the terror designation, concerned that Iran would similarly target or attack American troops and intelligence operatives in the region. Indeed, Iran responded by passing a law declaring all American forces in the Middle East as terrorists and labeling the United States government a state sponsor of terrorism.

John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser, said in a statement on May 5 that deploying the aircraft carrier and bombers to the Persian Gulf was intended to warn Iran that the United States would respond forcibly to any aggression against American forces or interests in the region. Additionally, one official noted new concerns in waterways where Iranian maritime forces operate. But memories of the Iraq War and Mr. Bolton’s own long history of harsh rhetoric on Iran have left administration officials under pressure to produce evidence of the imminent threat. No one in the Trump administration stepped forward to make a specific case.

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump notably backed up assertions by Mr. Bolton that the 5,200 American troops currently in Iraq should stay there to “watch Iran.” Iraqi leaders quickly pushed back, saying they feared that the United States was trying to use its troop presence in Iraq to further its own goals of isolating Iran.

Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, noted that the Trump administration had yet to back up its claims that Iran is planning a new attack on American forces in the region. He pointed to a heightened but long-existing level of tension between the United States and Iran that had worsened since the Trump administration’s recent policy decisions.

There have been few, if any, specific threats over the last couple of years against American troops in Iraq from armed groups known as Popular Mobilization Forces, some of which are linked to Iran. There are some 30 armed groups in Iraq that are now part of the Iraqi security forces. Most of them were formed to help fight the Islamic State when the Iraqi Army collapsed in 2014, and some were trained and armed by Iran. Only a handful are ideologically close to the Iranian government. However, those that are do rail against the United States and its activities in the Middle East.

“We will not take off the clothes of war until we have cut off the head of the snake America, the factory and source of terrorism,” Akram Abbas al-Kaabi, the leader of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, said on May 6 after Mr. Bolton’s statement. The armed Iraqi group, which is close to Iran, was recently added to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Given Bolton’s long track record of exaggerating and manipulating intelligence to justify the use of force, the prospect of Iran engaging in a provocation that sparks a wider military confrontation is very real. Thousands of U.S. troops and Iranian- backed forces operate in close proximity to one another in Iraq, Syria, and the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. In this volatile context, the scenarios for an intentional or inadvertent U.S.-Iran war are many.

There are currently no high-level lines of communication between Washington and Tehran to manage a crisis. And hard-liners on all sides seem to be looking for opportunities to escalate, rather than de-escalate, tensions.

Moreover, Trump is no longer surrounded by former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and other cooler heads. He is now surrounded by advisors like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who both have long called for war against Iran.

Before matters spin out of control, it would be wise for the administration to dial back the rhetoric, open high-level channels with Tehran, and signal a willingness to start new negotiations. But there is zero prospect the administration will take this course. President Trump increased tensions on May 24 by saying that he would send 1,500 more troops and a dozen fighter jets to the Middle East in the coming weeks to counter the claimed threat of an attack by Iran — evidence that he is on a path toward war whether he realizes it or not.

– edited from The New York Times and Foreign Policy
PeaceMeal, May/June 2019

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

IAEA says Iran adhering to terms of nuclear weapon deal

Iran has been adhering to a deal with world powers limiting its nuclear weapon program, the United Nations atomic watchdog said in February, as diplomatic wrangling continued over the future of the accord. The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers, under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear weapon program in return for sanctions relief.

The IAEA’s latest report showed that, over the previous three-month period, Iran’s stock of heavy water had risen from 122.8 to 124.8 metric tonnes and that it held 163.8 kg (361 lb) of enriched uranium, up from 149.4 kg (329 lb) in November. Both levels are within the limits set by the JCPOA.

Concurrently, European nations rejected a call from Vice President Mike Pence to follow the United States lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal. Israel, however, welcomed the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, claiming that Iran was harboring a secret nuclear warehouse.

In January, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano rejected pressure on the agency, saying, “If our credibility is thrown into question, and in particular, if attempts are made to micro-manage or put pressure on the Agency in nuclear verification, that is counter-productive and extremely harmful.”

Last May, President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA. That was followed by sweeping new sanctions on Iran in November. Trump’s own intelligence chiefs have contradicted him over the question of Iran’s adherence to the deal. In January, Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel told a Senate hearing that Iran was “technically” in compliance with the JCPOA.

The European Union — along with the European signatories to the deal, collectively known as the E3 — have been scrambling to find ways to keep the deal alive. They set up a special payments vehicle to bypass the U.S. sanctions. However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the mechanism “falls short of the commitments by the E3 to save the nuclear deal.”

– edited from Agence-France Presse, February 22, 2019
PeaceMeal, March/April 2019

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

President Trump and Iran’s Rouhani clash at U.N.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani clashed sharply at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on September 25. Trump fired the first volley, repeating his administration’s contention that Iran is the world’s “leading sponsor of terrorism,” accusing it of sowing “chaos, death and destruction” across the Middle East. Rouhani later hit back saying Trump’s decision to impose more sanctions on Iran is a form of “economic terrorism,” accusing the U.S. administration of trying to topple his government.

Without naming Trump directly, Rouhani said some world leaders are undermining world security by their “recklessness and disregard of international values and institutions.” Shunning multilateralism signals an “inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world,” Rouhani said.

In May, the Trump administration pulled out of the historic 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action involving the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia, designed to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

In August, the first round of U.S. sanctions were reimposed on Iran, and Trump promised that Iran would face more economic difficulties when the second round of sanctions targeting their energy sector comes back on November 5. This was done in spite of the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, reported that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear agreement.

There was speculation whether the two leaders would meet in New York City after Trump said he would be willing to meet without preconditions. But Rouhani said in interviews that Iran would not be willing to hold talks with the United States until it decides to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

– edited from BBC News and Al Jazeera
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2018

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)