konfliktit

Iranin ydin(ase)sopimus luo pohjaa lähi-itää laajemmallekin liennytykselle

Suurvallat – USA, Venäjä, Kiina, Ranska, Britannia ja Saksa – sopivat sunnuntaina Iranin kanssa maan ydinohjelman hillinnästä puoleksi vuodeksi vastikkeeksi pakotteiden lieventämisestä. Liki vuosikymmenen ajan vastaavat neuvottelut ovat järjestään epäonnistuneet. USA tyytyi odottelemaan Iranissakin vallanvaihdosta kansannousujen kautta eikä Iranillakaan ollut juuri syytä neuvotteluihin. Arabikevään kokemukset opettivat USAlle ettei vallanvaihto Iranissakaan välttämättä johtaisi länsimaita miellyttävään demokratisoitumiseen, Iranin puolella lännen sanktiot puolestaan romuttivat maan taloutta joten nyt aik oli otollinen sopimukselle.

Jo maaliskuusta lähtien USA oli käynyt salaisia neuvotteluja Iranin kanssa ja ne tiivistyivät Ahmadinejadin korvauduttua Rouhanilla Iranin presidenttinä. Monet nyt sovituista kohdista pohjustettiin jo syyskesän aikana. USAn ja Iranin lähentyminen ei rajoitu vain ydinaseohjelmaan vaan esimerkiksi Iranin ulkoministeri Mohammad Javad Zarif ja 75 talouselämän edustajaa tapasivat yhdysvaltalaisia kollegoitaan – mm Chevronin ja Exxonin edustajia – kymmenen päivän aikana YK:n syyskuun yleiskouksen jälkeen.

Itse nyt tehdyn sopimuksen pääkohtia ovat uraanin rikastusasteen keskeyttäminen, rikastetun uraanin laimentaminen, pidättyminen rikastuskapasiteetin kasvatuksesta, Arakiin rakenteilla olevan väitetyn uraanitehtaan pysäyttäminen ja kansainvälisten tarkastusten liki päivittäinen salliminen määritellyissä kohteissa. Vastikkeeksi länsivallat purkavat pakoitteitaan noin seitsemän miljardin dollarin (runsas viisi mrd euroa) osalta. Nämä väliaikaisen puolivuotisen sopimuksen helpotukset ovat vain pieni osa sanktioiden kokonaisuudesta ovathan pakotteet mm estäneet Iranilta noin 1.5 miljoonan öljytynnyrin myynnin päivässä.

Israelin PM Netanyahu on edellen skeptinen tämän väliaikaisen historialliseksi luonnehditun sopimuksen pitävyyteen katsoen sen pikemminkin historialliseksi erehdykseksi. Virallisesti hänen turvallisuuskabinettinsa on sanonut kannattavansa diplomaattista ratkaisua mikäli kaikki ydinrikastustoiminta keskeytetään, ydinvarastot sekä Qomin ja Natanzin fasiliteetit puretaan ja Arakin raskasvesireaktorin rakennustyö keskeytetään. Israelissa on kuitenkin kasvanut paine uuteen poliittiseen johtoon.


Israelin ohella Saudi Arabia ja muut Persian lahden valtiot eivät pitäneet sopimuksesta koska sen myötä Iranin alueellinen vaikutusvalta kasvaa. Saudit ovat valmistautuneet hankkimaan oman ydinpommin viikkojen kuluessa mikäli Iran saisi omansa (ks Instead Iran The Saudis Can Be The Next Nuclear Power ). Kuitenkin USAn energiaomavaraisuuden kasvettua maan ei enää tarvitse aiemmissa määrin noteerata saudien näkemyksiä.


Mielestäni nyt aikaansaatu Iranin ydin(ase)ohjelmaa koskeva sopimus väliaikaisuudestaan huolimatta luo hyv’än pohjan pysyvämmille turvajärjestelyille ja laajemmalle länsivaltojen ja Iranin väliselle yhteistyölle. Erityisen ansiokasta nähdäkseni on myös se, että vain muutama kuukausi sitten Venäjä ja USA kykenivät ratkaisemaan Syyrian kemiallisia aseita koskevan ongelman ja nyt yhdessä muiden YK:n turvaneuvoston jäsenten kanssa etenivät Iranin suhteen. Näin viime kuukausien toimet ovat luomassa kaivattua liennytystä ja vakautta lähi-itää laajemmallekin alueelle.


Tätä aihepiiriä sekä sopimuksen avainkohtia tarkastelen lähemmin pääblogini kirjoituksessa

Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

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MENA, Middle-East

Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

Iran nuclear programmeThe world powers – U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – reached an agreement with Iranian leaders early Sunday (24th Nov. 2013) in Geneva to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a gradual easing of economic sanctions. President Obama said the tentative pact will “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb…While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Mr. Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.

Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium.” Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its partners will not proceed with new sanctions that would scuttle the deal. (Source e.g. The Washington Times ) In return for Iran agreeing to increased international inspections of its facilities, the U.S. and its partners will suspend sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran about $1.5 billion in revenue.

The subsequent economic crisis in Iran discredited the policies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, changed the thinking of the supreme leader and ultimately led to the electoral victory of President Hassan Rouhani. Previous international negotiators entered talks with Iran at a disadvantage because Iran had no need for negotiations. This has changed because Iran needs a negotiated deal as well, and it cannot get sanctions relief without international cooperation. This transformation in the negotiations dynamic made the deal now possible.

From other side Washington was hoping during the Arab Spring that at some point in Iran there would be an uprising that would overthrow the regime. The 2009 uprising, never really a threat to the regime, was seen as a rehearsal (see e.g IRAN – revolution postponed and Iran – no Revolution but potential for Change anyway). U.S was expecting Arab Spring to yield more liberal regimes. That didn’t happen. Egypt has not evolved, Syria has devolved into civil war, Bahrain has seen Saudi Arabia repress its uprising, and Libya has found itself on the brink of chaos. Not a single liberal democratic regime emerged. It became clear that there would be no uprising in Iran, and even if there were, the results would not likely benefit the United States.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Key Elements of Iran Nuke Deal

According US State Department fact sheet on Iran nuclear deal the key elements of Iran nuke deal are following:

Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%:

  • Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.

Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium:

  • Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.

Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:

  • Not install additional centrifuges of any type.
  • Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
  • Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.
  • Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.
  • Not construct additional enrichment facilities.

Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5% stockpile:

  • Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.

Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:

  • Not commission the Arak reactor.
  • Not fuel the Arak reactor.
  • Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
  • Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
  • Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

Unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program

Iran has committed to:

  • Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
  • Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
  • Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
  • Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.

Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief

In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:

  • Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
  • Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
  • License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
  • Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels — levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.
  • Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.

Putting Limited Relief in Perspective

In total, the approximately $7 billion in relief is a fraction of the costs that Iran will continue to incur during this first phase under the sanctions that will remain in place. The vast majority of Iran’s approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are inaccessible or restricted by sanctions.

In the next six months, Iran’s crude oil sales cannot increase. Oil sanctions alone will result in approximately $30 billion in lost revenues to Iran

The western powers have cut Iran’s oil sales from 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2012 to 1 million bpd today, denying Iran the ability to sell almost 1.5 million bpd.

Secret talks paved the way

The negotiations started in Geneva on Nov. 2013 but as usual secret talks paved the way for the historic deal since March 2013. Some of the points comprising the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers were based on these secret talks between the U.S. and Tehran, integrated by the Americans into the official document. The existence of the secret channel between Iran and the United States was revealed publicly for the first time only on Sunday by the Associated Press and by blogger Laura Rozen on the Al-Monitor news website. The two reports appeared simultaneously, right after Iran and world powers signed an agreement in Geneva. The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West. However the Israeli government learned of the secret negotiations sometime near the beginning of the summer through intelligence it managed to obtain.

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials. The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hasan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva.

Meanwhile Le Figaro reported that the U.S. is already conducting secret bilateral talks with Iran on a number of topics.Among other things, the sides are discussing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and accelerating trade relations between Tehran and Washington immediately after the signing of the interim agreement in Geneva, according to the French newspaper. A reliable source in the Gulf revealed these details to a senior correspondent for the newspaper, Georges Malbrunot who specializes in the Middle East. The source said that the contacts between U.S. and Iranians began on the day following the U.N. General Assembly in late September following a telephone conversation between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart Rouhani. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stayed in the U.S. for an additional ten days following the U.N. General Assembly, along with 75 colleagues from President Rouhani’s entourage — businessmen, industrialists and representatives of the Iranian gas and oil sector, who met with representatives of American oil companies Chevron and Exxon. (Source e.g: Report: Secret US-Iran talks laid the groundwork for deal )

IAEA reports Iran nuclear activity slowed not reduced

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

The latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities was issued on 14th Nov. 2013 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It noted a slowdown, but no reduction in Tehran’s nuclear activity.

The report was the IAEA’s first meaningful assessment since Iran’s President Rouhani took office. It comes as representatives from the P5+1 powers (US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany) and Iranian officials prepare to meet again next week to further consider an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA report found that during the past three months, four advanced centrifuges had been added at the central Natanz plant, in comparison to 1,861 during the previous three-month period. The report concludes activity has been “more or less frozen” at the Arak heavy water plant, where it is feared plutonium is being developed which could speed up nuclear activity. However, Iran’s stockpile of 20 per-cent enriched uranium, considered just a short step away from weapons-grade material, has increased by five per cent to 196kg since August. Despite the slight increase, this is still below the 240kg mark specified last year by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his “red line” which may precipitate action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ( Source Bicom )

Israeli reactions

From Israel’s perspective, the accord is a strategic defeat for the West, since it legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. The Iranians, says Jerusalem, are giving up nothing, while getting sanctions relief. The Iranian commitment not to enrich uranium to 20 percent for the next six months is no Iranian concession since the Iranians have already been careful not to cross Netanyahu’s red line of 220 kilos of such uranium. The Iranian commitment not to operate the heavy water reactor in Arak for the next six months is similarly “a joke,” Israel says, since Iran anyway can’t do so. The reactor is still under construction, and will be so for at least another 12 months. Israel’s security cabinet took earlier the unusual step of releasing a public statement, which affirmed Israel’s support for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear development, should Tehran comply with four measures: cease all nuclear enrichment, remove all stockpiles of enriched uranium, dismantle the Qom and Natanz facilities and stop work at the Arak heavy water reactor.

PM Netanyahu and Iran red lineIsrael’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a forum of Jewish community leaders in Moscow before deal that Iran “must not have nuclear weapons. And I promise you that they will not have nuclear weapons.” He added, “The Iranians deny our past and repeat their commitment to wipe the State of Israel off the map,” citing comments made this week by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who described Israel as a “rabid dog” and its leaders inhuman. US Secretary of State John Kerry called Khamenei’s comments “inflammatory and unnecessary.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed deep skepticism that Iran would abandon its nuclear ambitions. “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it is a historic mistake …Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.” (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)

Despite this irate response from the Prime Minister’s Office to the agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, the deal might not be really a bad one even from an Israeli perspective. Geneva deal places serious restrictions on Iran and provides the West with valuable information on its nuclear program. Israeli President Shimon Peres gave a more measured response, saying time would tell whether the agreement was effective. Leftist Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On delivered the only positive Israeli response so far to the nuclear deal, saying her colleagues’ attack on the deal missed the fact that the agreement was intended to slow down Iran’s fast track to a nuclear bomb. After Iran nuke deal in Israel the Likud leadership anticipates a diplomatic and political crisis next spring. If Netanyahu wants to run again he will have to become even more extreme and speed toward Obama on a collision course. It might be that Geneva ended Netanyahu’s era. In a new reality, Israel might need new leadership.

Follow-ups

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis’ complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests.

The Iran nuke deal is only – sure core one – part of story. The deal but especially the secret U.S.-Iran talks before the deal may have also big geopolitical affect. When the nuclear issue is out from agenda and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table.

Iran missilesOn the other side Gulf States fear not only Iran’s nuclear programme, but Iran being allowed to continue with its hegemonic ambitions, even being emboldened by the deal, and that they will be left alone to deal with it. Already regional states are reaching out to other international actors aside from the United States: Egypt talking with Russia about a major arms deal; Turkey considering China for a major air defence system; Saudi Arabia developing ties with France and Pakistan about their own nuclear weapon, Israel with France and Russia about cooperation in energy sector. This is a strong expression of deep disappointment with the US and its regional approach.

Challenges

  • Arak plutonium reactor: Arak need to be followed closely. Before the French intervention during the last round of talks, the Arak clause was problematic, proposing that Iran could not commission the facility but could continue construction in the next six months. One idea is that it will be converted into a light water reactor from a heavy water plant, this is something else.
  • The Iranian narrative, that they have the ‘right’ to enrichment, has become an issue of their national pride. As a result, any deal will probably allow a degree of enrichment, but round the clock inspections by the IAEA will be essential to manage this.
  • One key challenge is that the P5+1 powers should agree among themselves on a clearly defined endgame to the talks after an interim accord of six months.

The bottom line

(the P5+1 agreement) puts time on the clock.” (John Kerry)

Israel, the US and the major EU powers share the assessment that Iran’s programme is intended to give it the capacity to build nuclear weapons at its time of choosing. Now the Iran nuke deal concludes an interim accord as a prelude to a more comprehensive agreement. It would require Iran to freeze aspects of its nuclear programme for six months, in return for limited concessions on sanctions. Despite hard words one should remember that Iranian foreign policy has been extremely measured. Its one major war, which it fought against Iraq in the 1980s, was not initiated by Iran. Already some months ago Russia and U.S. managed to deal with Syria’s WMDs restoring trust to the great Middle East. Based on this history and the new deal with Iran I think that the détente has took a remarkable step forwards.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

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MENA

Instead Iran The Saudis Can Be The Next Nuclear Power

WMD logoWhile Iran nuke talks heat up in Geneva (Nov. 2013) and demolition of Syria’s CW stockpiles has already started one question related to WMD has kept out from headlines namely intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery to Saudi Arabia. While the world has worried about the nuclear program of Iran – and possible Israeli air-strike to stop it – a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks.

Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and now it seems that Saudi Arabia is joining to the nuclear club sooner than Iran as according BBC Newsnight Riyadh has already bought nuclear weapons in Pakistan made on behalf of Saudi Arabia and are now sitting ready for delivery.

Saudi-Paki nuke cooperation

What’s interesting is that no major news network in the USA has featured this story since the BBC broke it 3 days ago. I watch NBC, BBC, and FOX news programming every weekday, and the BBC is the only network saying this, and only online – BBC America is NOT carrying this story on cable.” (A view in social media)

Pakistan presumably has reached a secret deal to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if Iran, which the world powers suspect is working on a nuclear programme, develops a nuke bomb. Pakistan declared itself as a nuclear armed state in 1998 with its first test. It has never signed up non-proliferation agreements and has an expanding arsenal, with some estimates saying it has as many as 110 nuclear weapons with enough fissile material for more than 200.

Saudi-Paki cooperation mapIn general it is not widely known that Saudi Arabia has a nuclear weapons program. From an official and public standpoint, Saudi Arabia has been an opponent of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Saudi Arabia has denied manufacturing the nuclear weapons under its peaceful civilian nuclear program, the country has allegedly allotted financial funds for its nuclear program, and as well received scientific assistance from various counties, including United States and Pakistan. (Read more e.g. in Wiki)

It is true that Saudi Arabia has not been producing nukes on their own soil; howeverSaudi authorities are a sole financier of Pakistan’s own integrated atomic bomb project since 1974. In March 2006, the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia had since 2003 received assistance from Pakistan to acquire nuclear missiles and warheads. Satellite photos allegedly reveal an underground city and nuclear silos with Ghauri rockets in Al-Sulaiyil, south of the capital Riyadh. Pakistan has denied aiding Saudi Arabia in any nuclear ambitions. Western intelligence sources have told The Guardian that the Saudi monarchy has paid for up to 60% of the Pakistan’s atomic bomb projects and in return has the option to buy five to six nuclear warheads off the shelf.

Saudi desire for bomb

In 1987 it was reported that Saudi Arabia secretly purchased between 50 and 60 Chinese-made CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles equipped with a high explosive warhead, which have a range of 2,800 km with a payload of either 2,150 or 2,500 kg together with between 10 and 15 transport vehicle systems. These CSS-2 ballistic missiles are relatively useless as conventional weapons; they are too inaccurate, but if one load them up with a nuclear warhead it won’t really matter how accurate those things are.

CSS-2 ballistic missiles for Saudi Arabia

CSS-2 ballistic missiles

According Wikipedia long time Saudi support of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program during the Saddam Hussein regime was implemented with $5 billion on the condition that successful nuclear technology and possibly even nuclear weapons would be transferred to Saudi Arabia . In 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who has served as the Saudi intelligence chief and as ambassador to the United States has suggested that the kingdom might consider producing nuclear weapons if it found itself between the atomic arsenals of Iran and Israel. In 2012, it was confirmed that Saudi Arabia would launch its own nuclear weapons program immediately if Iran successfully developed nuclear weapons. In such an eventuality, Saudi Arabia would start work on a new ballistic missile platform, purchase nuclear warheads from overseas and aim to source uranium to develop weapons-grade material.

And now in November 2013, a variety of sources told BBC Newsnight that Saudi Arabia had invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects and believes it could obtain nuclear bombs at will. Earlier in the year (2013), a senior NATO decision maker told Mark Urban, a senior diplomatic and defense editor, that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery. In October 2013, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

Ready facilities

Saudi Arabia has a ballistic missile facility near the town of Al-Watah. For example defence publisher Jane’s revealed the existence of Saudi Arabia’s third and undisclosed intermediate-range ballistic missile site – a new CSS-2 missile base with its launch rails aimed at Israel and Iran about 200 km southwest of Riyadh.

Ballistic missile base in Saudi Arabia near the town of Al-Watah

Photo credit: IHS/DigitalGlobe

Conclusion

The key conclusion is that Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and at any time can get from Islamabad nuclear weapons. Even this is not widely reported it not surprise either. The Saudis have been sending the Americans many signals of their going ahead with their nuclear weapons plan. Since 2009, according to the BBC, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that once Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons,”. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts.

The key point is that a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks. Saudi Arabia has new ballistic missile facility, it has missiles and assumed deal with Pakistan to bring nuclear warheads to those missiles. It could also be possible that Saudis could import ready Pakistani Shaheen II missiles. An alternative might also be for Pakistan to offer Saudi Arabia protection under its “nuclear umbrella”.

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

 The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad.

Possible export to Saudi Arabia? The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad. Photograph: Aziz Haidari/Reuters

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, Middle-East

Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (http://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )

Standard
lähi-itä, MENA

Israelin ja Iranin johdon kiistellessä ruohonjuuritaso käy dialogiin

“I love your people and as far as I have seen, Iranian people also love Israelis.’ There is no problem between the two nations; it is a political issue between the governments.” ( Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

Iranin uudenkin presidentin lupaillessa juutalaiskysymyksen lopullista ratkaisua ja Israelin pääministerin varoitellessa jälleen punaisista linjoista Iranin ydinohjelman suhteen on virkistävää havaita myös täysin päinvastaista asennetta hallituslaatikoiden ulkopuolisilta toimijoilta.

Heinäkuussa pidetyn Jerusalemin kansainvälisen filmifestivaalin kunniavieraana oli iranilainen – noin 50 elokuvapalkintoa saanut – ohjaaja Mohsen Makhmalbaf, joka nyt palkittiin työstään edistää vapautta ja demokratiaa Iranissa. Makhmalbafin uusi elokuva – The Gardener – puolestaan on ensimmäinen Israelissa kuvattu iranilainen filmi sitten vuoden 1979 vallankumouksen. Makhmalbaf oli ensimmäinen korkean profiilin iranilainen taiteilija ja vallankumouksellinen (hän vietti yli neljä vuotta vankilassa shaahin vastaisesta toiminnasta) vuosikymmeniin Israelissa. Palkintonsa ohjaaja omisti kaikille taiteilijoille, poliitikoille, intellektueille ja tavallisille ihmisille jotka Israelissa ja Iranissa ovat toimineet rauhan ja näiden kansojen välisen ystävyyden eteen.

Vallanpitäjät Iranissa eivät luonnollisestikaan pitäneet tapahtuneesta. Makhmalbafin filmit ja kirjat ovat jo aiemmin olleet kiellettyjä Iranissa vaikkakin ovat siellä hyvin suosittuja dvd:n, sateliittitv:n ja youtuben kautta. Nyt hänen kaikki työnsä poistettiin maan elokuvamuseosta ja häntä odottaa vuosien linnatuomio mahdollisesti Iraniin palatessaan. Monet länsimaissakin toimivat iranilaiset kulttuurihenkilöt paheksuivat Israelin vierailua sen rikkoessa kansainvälisen Israelia boikotoimaan pyrkivän BDS -liikkeen tavoitteita. Toisaalta yli 80 iranilaista kulttuurihenkilöä ja Iranin opposition edustajaa julkaisi avoimen Makhmalbafia tukevan julistuksen. Sekä mainittu julistus että Makhmalbafin antamat haastattelut korostavat taiteen ja kaikkinaisen ihmisten välisen vuorovaikutuksen merkitystä julkilausumatehtailun, boikottien ja sotapolitiikan häivyttämiseksi; raja-aidat ovat ylitettävissä vain dialogin avulla.

Ennen viime kuun filmifestivaalia jo yli vuosi sitten alkoi toinen iranilaisten ja israelilaisten suhteita ruohonjuuritasolla parantamaan pyrkivä liike – Israel loves Iran/Iran loves Israel. Pienimuotoisten yhteisten tilaisuuksien ohella kampanja toimii pääosin verkossa. Tosin viime vuonna liike näkyi myös kadulla kun yli 70 Tel Avivin bussia tapetoitiin suurilla Israel loves Iran mainoksilla. Monet muistuttavat iranilaisten ja juutalaisten vuosituhansia jatkuneesta kulttuurisesta ja historiallisesta yhteydestä joka ei ole hävinnyt nykyisten jyrkkälinjaisten hallitusten aikana. Israel loves Iran Facebook yhteisö on löydettävissä täältä!

Tätä teemaa käsittelen tarkemmin pääblogini artikkelissa

Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs.Iran

Standard
Arab St., crisis management, Iran, Middle-East

Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs. Iran

<img source="http://niacblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/israel_iran_nuclear.jpg?w=252&h=189" alt="Israel, Iran and nuklear."</img>Two days before his inauguration, President of Iran, Hasan Rouhani said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed”. A bit similar words were given by former President Ahmadinejad for years. On the other side Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went on U.S television to remind the world that the threat from Iran remains very much alive. Speaking on “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu warned that the Islamic Republic is once again approaching a nuclear redline, and hinted that if the United States doesn’t take action soon, he will. Israeli leaders have been issuing such alarms for almost a decade now.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/foreignaffairs.com/files/images/preview/Bibi3_0.jpg" alt="Israel, Iran and red line by Netanyahu."</img>While military strike still is a serious thread the secret war between Israel and Iran has been going on the whole time. From Israeli side well known actions are assassinations of some key figures in Iran’s nuclear program, Stuxnet and some strange blasts and explosions in Iran’s nuclear facilities. However its pleasure to find out that some civil activities will give hope that a non military development might be possible.

Jerusalem Film Festival

Recently in July 2013, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian film maker and member of the Iranian political opposition who has won some 50 awards, visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener a film that explores the Bahai community in Israel. The Gardener is the first Iranian film since the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be filmed within Israel. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Born in Tehran 56 years ago, the maker of 20 films took part in the demonstrations against the shah of Iran which saw him arrested at the age of 17 and spending more than four years in prison. After the 1979 Islamic revolution he was able to concentrate on cinema, but his approach and attempts to prevent censorship angered the new authorities. Makhmalbaf was forced into exile in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where he remained underground, before moving to Paris for four years. He now lives in London.

“On many occasions the Iranian authorities sent killers after me. I narrowly escaped a grenade attack in Afghanistan. In Paris I lived 24 hours with 24 bodyguards,” he said.

All of his films and 30 books are banned in Iran, but his movies do find their way in through black market DVDs, satellite television or YouTube.

“After my visit to Israel, I’ll probably face a campaign accusing me of being a Mossad or CIA agent,” he predicted. (Source and more in Arutz Sheva)

Makhmalbaf came to Israel despite the fact that he could face up to five years in prison for such a visit should he ever decide to return to Iran. According to Makhmalbaf, he made this film in Israel just to provoke the fundamentalist elements in my country.

In response to Makhmalbaf’s visit to Israel, Javad Shamghadri, one of the authorities of the Ahmadinejad-controlled cinema agency, ordered the withdrawal of all of Makhmalbaf’s works from Iran’s cinema museum. Also a group of Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists who are deeply concerned by the decision of Makhmalbaf to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival as they see that his participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel campaign issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, as well as the specific call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued in July 2004.

<img source="http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSk_70bXyX41gV605Jarg3usbfC2tNwijlDWM0h1swcQBmd4hJ8" alt="Israel, Iran and cyberwar."</img>Still, Makhmalbaf says he is “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

In an interview by Payvand Iranian News Mohsen Makhmalbaf answer to critics e.g as follows:

However, I am very happy for a discussion to have started and I believe we have to elevate the level of the conversation. My point is that religious enmity and hatred, particularly in the Middle East, are threatening the security of the whole world. By traveling, by starting a dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups and creating bonds of friendship between the opposing sides, we have to try to reduce this hatred and religious prejudice. Turning away and boycotting worsens the hatred.”

Man lives on the planet Earth. Communities need to communicate with one another. Cultural interaction can clear the way for solving financial and political crises. For sixty years, we went along with boycotting. It is time to start a cultural dialogue, especially on the topic of peace. In Israel I said, ‘I love your people and as far as I have seen, Iranian people also love Israelis.’ There is no problem between the two nations; it is a political issue between the governments.”

More e.g. in Payvand Iranian News 

On the other hand more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of Mohsen Makhmalbaf‘s decision to come to Israel by following words:

In gratitude for Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s peaceful efforts in Israel

Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who recently attended the Jerusalem Film Festival to screen his latest film “The Gardener”, received a special award from the festival organizers for “artistic achievements” and “for his long battle and struggle for democracy and freedom” in Iran.

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Makhmalbaf stated: “If politics separates us, art, on the other hand, can heal these rifts and distances and unite us in our peaceful efforts.”

He further mentioned that he wanted to dedicate his award to “artists, politicians, intellectuals and all the people in Iran and Israel who have worked for peace and friendship between two nations and believe in it.”

Mr. Makhmalbaf added in Jerusalem that he likes the people of Israel but an attack by Israel against Iran would only worsen the situation.

He stated that instead of a military attack, Israel should support the “democratic forces” in Iran which struggle for freedom.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf predicted, while making these statements, that he would soon face a wave of accusations, that he would be called a “spy of CIA and the Mossad.”

His prediction has come true in a way. Besides the media that is owned or affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a number of other Iranians inside and outside Iran (under the guise of peace and human rights activists and intellectuals), have published a letter condemning Makhmalbaf‘s trip to Israel “with grave concern” as it “violates human conscience” and stated that his presence at Jerusalem Film Festival was tantamount to support of the “apartheid politics of the Israeli government.”

It is at this juncture of time, and under the circumstances outlined above, we sign this letter to support and applaud Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s bravery for breaking the taboo of visiting the state of Israel and conveying the message of friendship between Iranian people and people of Isreal.

We believe that supporting the rights of the Palestinian people is not a sufficient justification to criticize an Iranian director’s professional trip to Israel.

We still remember those Israeli and Iranian citizens who last year launched a campaign of friendship between the two countries and exchanged written and video messages stating that they “loved “ each other just when it seemed that the chances of an Israeli strike against Iran was increasing.

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported.

Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

We believe that instead of criticizing Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s trip to Israel, we should call him the ambassador of peace and friendship between the people of Iran and Israel.

Signatures: more than 80 members of opposition groups, scholars and human rights activists

Israelis love Iranians and vice versa

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRoPVyYuBRt3Sh7mWIuFZTNG9-4Q7aa6Mzo8Um6I6meDvLfxtP1jA" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

70 buses rode the streets of TelAviv carrying message for peace

There is many Iranians who support peace with Israel as seen in an article published in pages of United with Israel – a global grassroots movement:

I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mhyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved. “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

I highly appreciate people like Mohsen Makhmalbaf who have courage to act outside the box of their regime. Happily the Jerusalem Film Festival was not an isolated case. At grassroots there has been over one year a movement labelled as ”Israel loves Iran”. It is aline of communication between the people of Israel and Iran – a bridge in the Middle East between the people. The mission of this mostly virtual group is to break the wall of fear, built a bridge of communication as war happens where there is no communication.”And the only thing we can do…is communicate. Get the lines open. That’s hope…and that’s easy. Because of the internet” says in their mission statement. Israel loves Iran Facebook community can be found from here!

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSaZtj1DEHNDMV2YuR99TPvHrvMQnyuI7P3y77VDwcykh1pv2bE" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

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Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

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lähi-itä, MENA

Hyökkäys Irania vastaan valmiina alkamaan

Viime viikkojen konflikteja ennakoiva valokeila on osoittanut Iraniin – ja hyvästä syystä. Tänään koko alue valmiina luisumaan sotaan USAn, Israelin, Iranin ja Persianlahden armeijoiden ollessa hälytystilassa. Aiemmin uskottiin Israelin tekevän ehkäisevän iskun Iranin ydinlaitoksia vastaan kuten tapahtui Irakin Osirakiin 1981. Nyt kuitenkin vaikuttaa siltä, että USA on mahdollisesti aloittamassa sodan.

Joulun alla USA muutti radikaalisti aiempaa positiotaan. Sekä maan puolustusministeri että esikuntapääliköiden pj julkisesti tunnustivat sotilaallisten toimien mahdollisuuden. Brittien puolustusministeri ehätti lupaamaan maan olevan valmis iskuihin jos Iran sulkee Hormuzin salmen. Israelilais-yhdysvaltalainen komentoesikunta on perustettu ja sotaharjoitusten nimissä USA on tällä viikolla siirtämässä 9.000 sotilastaan Israeliin. Iran omalta osaltaan pitää lähes jatkuvasti laivasto-, ohjus- ja miinaharjoituksia mahdollisen hyökkäyksen varalta.

Vaikka Hormuzin miinasulku on mainittu eskalaation yhtenä syynä on tämä vain sivujuonne – miinanraivaajat kykenevät avaamaan salmen parissa vuorokaudessa eli kyse olisi vain tilapäisestä haitasta. Vakava kysymys sen sijaan on Iranin Fordowiin valmistunut uusi rikastuslaitos jossa kyetään tuottamaan 20 %:sta – ydinkärkiiin soveltuvia latauksia. Mainittu laitos sijaitsee 90 metriä syvällä kalliossa ja muita laitoksia vastaan käytettäväksi suunnitellut ns bunkkeripommit parhaimmillaankin kykenevät tuhoamaan vain 60 metrin syvyydessä olevat laitokset. Yhdysvalloilla on varastossa tosin valmiina 100 metriin ulottuva bunkkeriohjus mutta tällöin kyseessä on 1,2 megatonnin ydinlataus ja kynnys tällaisen arsenaalin käyttöön on korkea.

Ilmaiskusta on enemmän tai vähemmän negatiivisia vaikutuksia. Toisaalta ne eivät välttämättä pysäytä Iranin ydinohjelmaa – kaikki kohteet eivät ehkä ole tiedossa, iskut jäävät tehottomiksi mm vastatoimien takia. Toisaalta Israel voisi kärsiä huomattavia tuhoja vastaiskusta – ei niinkään Iranin ohjusten takia – vaan Iranin liittolaisen, Hizbollahin, laukaistessa arviolta jopa 40.000 ohjustaan Israeliin. Kun kyse lisäksi ei ole mistään quassameista vaan kehittyneemmistä aseista ei moderneimmankaan ohjuspuolustuksen kapasiteetti riitä torjumaan kaikkia.

Edellä mainittuja tekijöitä käsittelen laajemmin pääblogissani julkaisemassani artikkelissa End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran .

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Arab St., Iran

Support for Iranian Opposition

While Libya has become the focal point in international media covering the events on Arab St. one should not forget Iran either. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources reveal that the two prominent opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were secretly hauled out of their homes in sacks Thursday, Feb. 24 and taken to the infamous Parchin prison in Tehran. Their wives have also disappeared. Their families deny official claim the two leaders are at home.


Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) has send a letter to EU leadership to intervene more actively to pressurize the Iranian government so that it respects human rights in Iran. As the letter includes in my opinion good background information as well a draft for action plan of this possible intervention I hereby publish the letter mentioned below:



سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران(اکثریت)

Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority)

http://www.fadai.org/english.htm international-relations@fadai.org

 

R.nr 138 1st March, 2011
I.G.e.v
PB 260268
50515 Cologne
Germany

Tel:0049/221/37770

Behruz.khaligh@fadai.org

 

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

Mr. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Mr. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament

Ms. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Dear Sirs,
Dear Madam,

 

According to family members of two Iranian opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and some other reports, the above-named persons have been arrested and jailed on the eve of a nationwide protest on 1 March 2011. Their children have not seen in public or the two, since just before the Feb. 14 protests which they had called for. The reports indicate that both men and their wives, Mrs. Zahra Rahnavard and Mrs. Fatemeh Karroubi, are now incarcerated at Heshmatieh prison in Tehran. Today, Mr. Mehmanparast, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared the issue to be an internal affair, which only confirms the arrest and nothing more.

We, the Organisation of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority), are concerned about the latest developments in the attitude of the Iranian regime to the symbolic figures of the “Green movement”. A violent escalation against them could degenerate into a more widespread bloodbath of political opponents and civil society activists in Iran. Only today, there were demonstrations and protest actions in Teheran and some another cities in Iran, resulting in more killings and arrests. The need for action is urgent.

We now ask the European institutions to intervene more actively to pressurise the Iranian government so that it respects human rights in Iran. We call in particular for an urgent and concerted diplomatic initiative aimed at the immediate release of Messrs. Moussavi and Karroubi and their wives and the lifting of contact restrictions imposed on them; aimed also at confirmation that their physical integrity, which seems now seriously threatened, is being safeguarded.

This initiative could include in particular:

– Summoning simultaneously Ambassadors of the Islamic Republic of Iran accredited to the countries of the European Union to demand the immediate release of Messrs. Moussavi and Karroubi and their wives and the lifting of contact restrictions imposed on them; also, to protest strongly against violations of human rights in Iran;

– Demarche by European Union Ambassadors accredited to Iran along the same lines;

– Announcement of a visit to Iran by the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iran and / or the Sub-Commission on Human Rights of the European Parliament including a request to visit Messrs. Moussavi and Karroubi;

– A proposal by the European Union addressed to UN bodies, including the Council for Human Rights, which is meeting in Geneva in March 2011, to appoint a Special Reporter for Human Rights in Iran;

– A proposal by the European Union to the Security Council of the United Nations to adopt targeted sanctions against members of Iranian security forces responsible for violations of human rights, including the Basij;

– Adoption by the EU of autonomous sanctions along the same lines.

The human rights situation in Iran is more dangerous today than at any time since June 12, 2009. The people of Iran expect the international community, including the European Union, to support them in preventing a surge of violence by the regime and to ensure that human rights and the demands of justice and freedom are respected at last.

Yours sincerely,

 

Behruz Khaligh

Head of the Political and Executive Committee

Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaïan (Majority)

 

Note (AR)

The Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas (OIPFG سازمان چريکهای فدايي خلق ايران) was originally a radical Marxist-Leninist movement in Iran in 1971. The group fought against the Shah regime and later after the 1979 revolution, against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. OIPFG has had many internal divisions, e.g. in 1979 some separatist formed sc Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas while former OIPFG cadres formed the Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Iran. Majority of the organization members did not believe in armed struggle any more and at the new political atmosphere recognized the Islamic Republic as an anti-Imperialist state. OIPFG was divided into OIPFG (Majority) and Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas (Minority). OIPFG (Minority), which broke away from the main organization, was pursuing a more radical line. On 1981OIPFG (Majority) supporters announced that the group would cease to conduct guerrilla warfare and was renamed Organization of Iranian People’s Fedaian (Majority).

Some of my earlier Iran articles:

 

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BalkanBlog, Middle-East

Days of Rage on the Arab street

After the first successful thrust every revolution differentiates into political and class currents. This is the moment of greatest danger. The moment when the future of the revolution is decided.” (John Rees)

After successful ousting in Tunisia and Egypt now on the rest of Arab streets in every Arab capital the masses have the idea that change is possible. Will the ouster of autocrats continue remains to seen. Along the Arab street there is a long history of tensions and frozen conflicts and events in Tunisia and Egypt may be a catalyst for rebellion. Still existing regimes and dictators are using old strategies to stay in power. These included promises of rulers to resign in future, using pro-government thugs against demonstrators, wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions to cut support from uprisings.


Dictators have been ousted so far in Tunisia and Egypt and today it seems that Libya, Yemen and Bahrain will follow any day;  ‘Sturm und Drang’ is advancing extensively on the Arab streets.  How deep the change will be on scale reformation-revolution and wide the fire will spread on the Arab street and outside of it remains to seen.


Egypt starts post-Mubarak era

In Egypt it now appears that the coup was possible due the tensions between Tantawi and the Mubarak family. Tantawi was frustrated with the prospect that Mubarak’s son Gamal. might ascend to the presidency. Gamal Mubarak, in turn, was believed to be hostile to Tantawi and wanted him to be removed. Huge crowds of Egyptians who demonstrated for 18 days against Hosni Mubarak’s rule saw Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi and his troops as their saviour. They appealed to the military to intervene in Egypt’s crisis, and the generals did.

Party is over? Over the weekend, Egyptians and others globally celebrated. Today they awakened to the cold reality of a new dawn. Mubarak has gone, but his state apparatus remains intact. In my opinion the outcome in Egypt will be a reform not revolution, that is, changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights, but no challenge to the structure or the constitution. Egypt’s society is diverse enough to withstand a despotic theocracy and if in doubt so the army is the final guarantor. If the military regime retains power the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place.
According social media April 6 Youth movement continues demonstration to implement following demands:

  • Acquitting the current government.
  • Abolition of the Emergency law.
  • The Release of all Detainees.
  • The formation of a presidential council, including civilians, and fair judges.
  • Retribution of all the media figures that have contributed in killing our martyrs.
  • Acquiting the state security apparatus and restructuring of the Ministry of Interior as well as all of the NDP headquarters
  • Forming a new technocratic government .
  • Aquitting the government led by Ahmed Shafik, which includes the foul faces that have a history of corruption such as Mufid Shehab Aisha Abdel Hadi Faiza Abu Naga Sameh Fahmi Ali Meselhi Mahmoud Wagdy, to be dismissed and Mhakthm and the formation of a new technocratic government.

To make a complete break with the bourgeois regime and that means expropriating the wealth of the big capitalists – the Mubarak family, the some 1.000 family clique around them including leading army brass. Egypt’s senior generals are part of the ruling establishment and army is up to its helmets in big business: shopping centers, tourism, property, hotels, steel, telecom. A real revolution would require a Marxist revolutionary leadership by Egyptian workers and youth and there is no signs that such a party is possible to build in near future. There is a deep divide in the opposition and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979.


Libya moving to civil war

The protests in Libya are the latest in a wave of dissent sweeping the Arab world in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. After the worst unrest in Gaddafi’s four decades in power hundreds of people have been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia. ABC News reports that the protests were originally not organised but were sparked by youths turning out for Thursday’s “Day of Rage” against the Gaddafi regime. “We don’t have here unions and syndicates or political parties, just youth going out on the “Day of Rage” (February 17).

Gaddafi’s government has moved quickly to try to stop Libyans from joining the wave of uprisings in the Middle East. In an attempt to stave off protests the Libyan government had announced it would double the salaries of government workers. It also released a sizeable number of Islamic militants from prison. As soft power was not enough the regime used hard its security troops and also “thugs” were being given cash and new cars to take to the streets and attack anti-government protesters. Government used e.g. snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida against unarmed demonstrators. In Benghazi police initially followed orders Saturday to act against the protesters, but later joined with them because they belong to the same tribe and saw foreign mercenaries taking part in the killings.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam delivered a speech on national television. The content of the speech indicates the state believes it is facing a serious uprising and a potential civil war. He also has orchestrated the release of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is suspected of having links to al-Qaida, in the past as part of a reconciliation plan. Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Libyan National Security Adviser Motasem Gadhafi, is Seif al-Islam’s potential rival.

In some areas it also seems that the police and security forces are showing sympathy for the protesters and even army units have changed side. In Ajdabia the police seem to have sided with the protesters to fight government mercenaries and the government has reacted by shutting down electricity supplies and access to the internet has been blocked. Some towns were surrounded by the military but latest reports are claiming that many regions are already occupied by opposition. Some tribe leaders are taking side with opposition, the government has started to collapse and Gaddafi has probably escaped from Tripoli to his desert base.

Gaddafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, which reflects a split within the regime source, earlier air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters and the navy has participated too operations against demonstrators.

Earlier possibility for an Egypt-style revolt was seen unlikely in Libya because the government could use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems. Probably the events escalated so fast that there was not enough time to use this mean.


The Middle East on the edge

Thousands of people are protesting in Yemen for a fifth consecutive day to demand political reforms and the ouster of the country’s US-allied president – Saleh – who has ruled the Arab world’s poorest country since 1978. Military ties between the US and Saleh’s administration have grown stronger in recent months, as the country struggles with the increasing militancy of a secessionist movement in the south, as well as unrest provoked by rising food prices, unemployment reaching 40 per cent – and demands for human rights to be recognized.The US is shortly to embark on a $75m project to train Yemen’s counterterrorism unit, US officials say. (Source: Uruknet)

“Down with the president’s thugs” (sign in demonstration)

Yemen used to be two separate countries: The southern half was the only Arab communist country – PDRY(People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen). There is unrest in the south because they haven’t fully integrated the two parts of the country. Government has still not resolved the issues of the rebellious so-called Houthi people on the Saudi border, where the Saudis have intervened militarily. Economically Yemen has no water, and the country faces an agricultural crisis for which there is no visible solution. A hugely disproportional amount of water that they do have is used for the cultivation of qat, a mild narcotic leaf. Yemen has no oil. It is now the place where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has established itself, and it poses a serious terrorism issue. And similarly to other Arab despots who face overthrow, President Saleh had announced wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions. Like in Egypt pro-government thugs armed with daggers and batons fought anti-government protesters. The police fired warning shots into the air, but then withdrew from the streets allowing the thugs to attack the anti-government protesters.


In Bahrain, the problem is between the majority of people, who are Shiite, and the ruling government, who are Sunnis. The latest death raises the possibility of more rallies and challenges to the ruling Sunni monarchy in Bahrain. In the past week, Bahrain’s rulers have attempted to undermine calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media. A main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, denounced the “bullying tactics and barbaric policies pursued by the security forces” against peaceful marchers staging the first major rallies in the Gulf since uprisings toppled long-ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Bahrain’s protesters, however, claim they do not seek to overthrow the ruling monarchy but want greater political freedoms and sweeping changes in how the country is run. The demands include transferring more decision-making powers to the parliament and breaking the monarchy’s grip on senior government posts. Bahrain’s majority Shiites — about 70% of the population — have long complained of systemic discrimination by the Sunni rulers.

Initially the protesters were calling on the Sunni monarchy to adopt more liberal policies and also grant more rights for the country’s majority Shiite population. But as the movement grew in strength after it started on Monday of last week the demands of the protesters have become bolder, calling for jobs, better housing conditions and freedom for all political prisoners. Source: Ynetnews )

Bahrain is of particular importance to the United States because it is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. If King Khalifa falls so U.S. outpost for Iran and strategic Hormuz channel will be in danger. Also other side of the border are Saudi Arabia’s oilfields on Persian Gulf – populated mostly with Shiites.

Bahrain was the first sign of post-Egypt unrest anywhere in the wealthy Gulf states, but also in Kuwait, opposition groups had called for an anti-government protest last week, but shifted the date to March 8 after the resignation of the country’s scandal-tainted interior minister.

The Islamic Action Front is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and it seems that it has now transformed political disillusionment into political capital. The Islamic Action Front is more liberal than Islamist parties in some other countries and so far it has backed the royal family. However supporters of this country’s largest opposition party held a rally to celebrate the new Egypt and the people power that swept away Mubarak. Jordanians took to the streets demanding constitutional reform and more say in decision-making. About 2,000 pro-democracy protesters under attack from pro-government activists armed with batons, pipes and stones. King Abdullah II dismissed his cabinet earlier this month after massive street protests against the government’s economic and political policies.

In Jordan dissatisfaction with regime was shown also indirectly. In a letter published this week by 36 Jordanian tribal leaders, who represent nearly 40% of the population and play an important role in the kingdom’s politics, the Queen Rania Al-Abdullah was criticized relentlessly. In the letter, Rania was accused of “corruption, stealing money from the Treasury and manipulating in order to promote her public image – against the Jordanian people’s will.”It was also mentioned that Jordan is suffering from “an authority crisis” and from a growing influence of “corrupt businessmen who surround the decision makers, affect political decisions and ignore national interests.” The tribal leaders called to “put these corrupt people who stole from the country on trial, regardless of their status.””Sooner or later Jordan will be a destination for a similar uprising like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt because of oppression of freedom and robbing from public funds,” said the letter. (Source: Ynetnews)

In Saudi Arabia spread over week ago a wild rumor that king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, is dead, which triggered a spike in the price of oil; the government assured that he is alive and in “excellent shape”. A Saudi Arabian prince on Thursday said said that the protests and unrest in Arab countries may be dangerous for his country if King Abdullah does not step up the pace of reform. Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, a half brother of the king, said it was not too late for the Saudi government to take steps to avoid protests. He also said the king is the only person who can bring about major changes. Talal has called for reform before, he holds no government posts and is considered something of an outsider within the royal family.

Perhaps fearing its own uprising, the Saudi Arabia’s government (unchanged since its 1932 founding) “react(ed) to the winds of change blowing throughout the Arab Middle East. For the first time, a political party has been established – and though it has not yet received official government approval,” it asked King Abdullah to allow it. Supported by lawyers, businessmen, and others, Saudi’s new Islamic Nation Party is a first. Saying it will work for political reform and human rights, it stressed that the “regime need not fear the democratic spirit overtaking the Arab world.”Saudis domestic intelligence service, the General Directorate for Investigations, arrested five party’s founders on the night of February 16, 2011, one week after they submitted their request for recognition of the Islamic Nation Party as a political party to the Royal Court and the Shura Council, an unelected council with some parliamentary functions.

Saudi Arabia does not allow political parties. Up to now and unless changed, King Abdullah appoints a Cabinet of Ministers every four years, including many royal family members. No elections are held. In 2006, a committee of Saudi princes was established to serve unspecified future selection functions after Crown Prince Sultan becomes king. A 150-member Consultative Council also exists, headed by a royal appointed chairman to serve four years. Demonstration along the Arab streets have alarmed the Saudis and the regime is investing huge amounts of money securing their southern border for that reason.

In Syria, too, although President Bashar Assad Tuesday put on a big show of unconcern by mingling unescorted among a crowd of affectionate admirers in Damascus, the situation is very tense. Early Wednesday, he placed Syrian security forces and the army on high alert in readiness for the Day of Anger called for Friday, Feb. 18, by opposition organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood. After Syrian intelligence received word that it was planned to be the most serious attempt to date to shake the dynastic Assad regime, police and security strength in Syrian cities were beefed up. Heavy reinforcements were moved into the Kurdish areas of the north, where the most violent protests are anticipated. Assad has adopted the Iranian tactic of exerting maximum force to break up crowds as they form and giving security forces a free hand to open fire with live ammunition without having to ask for permission. (Source: Debkafile)

According the International Marxist Tendency even Iraq is now being affected as mass protest have erupted across the country, particularly in the Kurdish areas of the country where violent protests have broken out as the anger of the youth has reached boiling point. Ten people are reported to have been killed by police forces during protests in Sulaymaniya. Violent protests have taken place at various locations in Iraq, with anti-government protesters taking out rallies against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment. In Basra, the country’s second largest city in the south, around a thousand people rallied today, demanding jobs and improved pensions.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders have also attempted to head off the protests by slashing the salaries of ministers and MPs and diverting cash earmarked for the purchase of fighter jets to buy food for the needy. This highlights growing mass opposition to the atrocious social conditions created by the occupation regime set up by Washington after the US invasion in 2003. These include lack of electricity and clean water, mass joblessness, and surging increases in the price of food—as well as the dictatorial conduct of the new rulers placed in power by Washington.

In Palestine the turmoil started already earlier due the the Al Jazeera-Guardian Palestine Papers leak, the Palestinian Authority also made early mistake bywrongly siding with Egypt’s ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, now the PA is employing desperate political maneuvers. According analyst Fadi Elsalameen nothing short of Abbas and Fayyad handing in their own resignations and accepting responsibility for their failures will satisfy the Palestinian streets. Abbas and Fayyad are of a past era. They are no longer representative of the future we young Palestinians seek for ourselves. Rather, we see them through the lens of withering and illegitimate Arab regimes that if not replaced democratically will be toppled through a popular revolution that I can assure them has already begun. (Source: Al Jazeera )

So far the military coup has stabilized or even improved Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Last week on 18th Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have waved through another 3,000 Egyptian troops into North Sinai, topping their number up to 4,000 and virtually scrapping the key demilitarization clause of the 1979 peace treaty. Senior Israeli military officers report that Israel posed no conditions for its permission then or now – not even demanding a timeline for their withdrawal so that Sinai might revert to the military-free buffer status which buttressed the peace for 32 years. Neither were limits placed on the Egyptian troops’ operations and movements. (Source: Debkafile)


Maghreb on the waitlist

In Morocco the government appears to be trying to calm fears over price hikes on basic goods ahead of a Facebook-arranged protests planned for next Sunday. It has doubled the money it sets aside for state subsidies to counter rising global commodity prices.The Moroccan monarchy is largely popular and entrenched in the socio-cultural foundations of the country., so much so that in Morocco we can actually talk about two layers of political authority that help set the monarchy as regime and political order above the political fray, and one that is capable of deflecting all criticism towards the state government led by the prime minister.

Communist League of Action as a Marxist revolutionary group in Morocco declared its position as follows:

  • active participation in the mobilization of the masses
  • its appreciation of the Democratic Confederation of Labour and other leftist organizations and parties (the Democratic Way, the United Socialist Party, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, etc) who are participating to assure the success of this action
  • the objective conditions for revolutionary change are ripe, posing for the revolutionary left the responsibility to prepare for the leadership of these and other actions towards the completion of the historical tasks
  • their opposition to all forms of class cooperation with the capitalists and their dependent capitalistic stat

One, two, three, viva L’Algerie”

Algeria – a regional power, U.S. ally, and major energy producer — is vulnerable to revolution; however the number of protesters there, who went to the streets on February 12th was much smaller than in Tunisia and Egypt. In my opinion Algeria is surprisingly quiet reflected to its violent past. After massive riots caused the one-party state to collapse in 1988, Algeria failed to become a democracy, and the military took power in 1992. What followed was the decade-long Algerian civil war. Algerian civil society has only just begun to emerge from the trauma of that war, which left 200,000 people dead. To date, it remains the region’s most violent conflict between militants and the state.

In Tunisia, the revolution of the young urban elite has for the time being concealed the fact that the Islamists Renaissance party is likely to emerge from the fringes of illegal sub-activity to that of a leading political force. While this is unlikely to transform Tunisia into a stronghold of radical fundamentalism, the Islamic movement under the leadership of Rachid Ghannouchi is expected to fare well in democratic elections scheduled for this summer.

Radical Islamists gathered outside a synagogue in Tunis and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. Footage taken from the scene shows them chanting “Allahu Akbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar. Oh Jews, Muhammad’s army will return”. They were referring to the Battle of Khaybar, which was fought in the year 629 between Muhammad and his followers against the Jews living in the oasis of Khaybar, located 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Medina in the modern-day Saudi Arabia (song came recently famous as it was popular song also in Gaza flotilla).

John Rees writes in his analysis The Tunisian Revolution in historical context as follows:

It is still possible in Tunisia that the ruling elite, having jettisoned only their hated figurehead, will attempt to crush the movement by force and restore the old regime virtually unmodified. It is also possible that there will be some transition to a weak form of bourgeois democracy where there is a change in the political structure of the country but no change to the underlying property relations. The fate of the Tunisian revolution is, so far, still hanging in the balance. Will it result in more far reaching political change? Will the momentum of the considerable working class opposition to the old dictator, including the General Strike, which was crucial in breaking his Presidency, carry the revolution forward to confront capitalist property revolutions? Will political currents emerge that represent this perspective? These questions are still to be answered.


Demography factor

One major cause behind the unrest on Arab streets is demographic expansion in all these countries. Although birth rates are falling, a third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women either are or soon will be reaching reproductive age. The Ministry of Defense in the UK has projected that by 2030 the population of the Middle East will have increased by 132%, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81%, generating an unprecedented “youth bulge.” As unemployment among youth is high and there is no sign for improvement, the perspective for better future is rather dim.

Below I have collected some statistics reflecting demographic challenge:

Country Population % < 30

Jobless

youth

Ruler
Algeria

34,6

57

45,6

A. Boutflika, 11 years
Bahrain

1,2

+56

54.1

King Ali Khalifa
Jordania

6,4

64

27

King Hussein
Egypt

80,5

61

21,7

Military council 0 years
Libya

6,5

60

27,5

M. Gaddafi, 42 years
Morocco

31,6

56

21,9

King Muhammed VI, 11 y.
Saudi Arabia

25,7

61

16,3

King Abdullah, 6 years
Sudan

43,9

69

na

O. al-Bashir, 18 years
Syria

22,2

66

16,5

B. al-Assad, 11 years
Tunisia

10,6

50

27,3

Interim 1 month
Yemen

23,5

72

18,7

Ali Saleh, 32 years

Demography is creating other problems – than radicalism and unrest – which are limiting socio-economic solutions. The Water Sector Assessment Report on the Gulf countries expects that the availability of fresh water is likely to halve because of demographic pressures. A halving of available water supplies due to population growth over the next 20 years could all too easily intensify tensions and turn them into civil wars and international military hostilities.


Democracy now

According The Economist report the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains the most repressive region in the world—16 out of 20 countries in the region are categorized as authoritarian. There are only four exceptions: Israel is the only democracy in the region, albeit a flawed democracy; and there are three hybrid regimes (Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories). The average score of countries in the region declined from an already very low 3.54 in 2008 to 3.43 in 2010, almost a point below the next lowest-scoring region, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.


Meanwhile in Iran

In Iran demonstrations were initiated by Iranian opposition figures in ostensible solidarity with the popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere, but were plainly intended to revive the post-election protests of 2009. “How, after all, it will be wondered, can Ahmadinejad say ‘yes’ to the rights of the Arab peoples, but deny those same rights to his own people?”

Iran’s protests have sparked hope among observers of the region that the country might see a grassroots, Egypt-style uprising that would unseat the ruling theocracy. However the circumstances between Egypt and Iran differ. In the Islamic Republic there are security forces eager to do exactly what the Egyptian military were not willing to do – beat, and even shoot and kill citizens protesting on the streets. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and fiercely loyalist Basij militia consider it a “sacred duty” to quell anti-government dissent. According Hagai M. Segal, a lecturer on Middle Eastern Affairs at New York University in London “Iran has welcomed events in Egypt, yet has suppressed its own democracy movement, and even while celebrating events in Egypt they have banned public demonstrations in its favor because it fears Iranian protesters back on the streets,” he said. “Mousavi, Karroubi and others wish to remind Iranians and the West of this double standard, and if possible, reignite their own ‘revolution’ in the process.” (Source: Jerusalem Post)


My conclusions

If the people don’t go home, the regime will have a problem” (Menashe Amir)

Nelson Mandela said many times that while in prison he saw too many postcolonial leaders come to power only to abuse their people and rob them of the promises of liberation. Revolutionary movements invariably split into factions. Their sole common objective is the ouster of the existing regime. As soon as this goal comes close to being achieved, elements of the opposition begin to position themselves for the second phase of the struggle and the coming competition for power.


I am afraid (but hopefully wrong) that it is unlikely demonstrations to result in a widespread fall of regimes in near future. There may be more change among dictators, some military coups and modest reforms. However the regimes and economical interest groups behind them may stay almost untouched and the outcome at best is only an updated illusion of democracy.


Epilogue

A fresh documentary film “People & Power– Egypt: Seeds of change by Al-Jazeera reveals the story behind the unprecedented political protests in Egypt. Over the course of a remarkable fortnight, People&Power has been filming exclusively behind the scenes with a core group of young activists. It also shows how they studied “lessons learned” from Otpor – a student movement in Serbia, which helped to oust Milosevic some ten years ago.


Watch film Here!

Some of my other Middle East articles:




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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East

Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options

Stuxnet may be the most developed tool for cyber war today, it made more harm to Iran’s nuclear development program than all the sanctions and diplomatic negotiations together. Despite its effectiveness it helped to avoid traditional air strike which could cause destruction of military targets as well collateral damage in Iran and new conflicts/terrorist actions outside Iran. Stuxnet is prominent example about cyber war which may be new factor between political and military options.

Stuxnet surfaced in June and, by July, it was known that it is a highly sophisticated computer Malware (worm) – cyber attack – aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world. The real target was not Bushehr like earlier speculated but Iran’s centrifuge farm at Natanz, which enriches uranium and saw a major accident in early 2009.


Stuxnet

The Stuxnet virus that has infected Iran’s nuclear installations may have been behind the decommissioning of 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility last year, according to a new analysis of the malicious software. The New York Times report on 16th January gives light to operation. According NYT Israel tested the Stuxnet virus in Dimona, Israel’s nuclear plant. Israel reportedly has centrifuges that are identical to those at the Iranian nuclear site in Natanz, which were used to test the Stuxnet computer worm. In 2008 German company Siemens cooperated with the Idaho National Laboratory, allowing it to identify problems in the company’s computer controllers, which are used in Iranian nuclear plants. The laboratory is part of the American Energy Department, which is responsible for nuclear weapons in the US. According to the NYT, Stuxnet was developed by the US and Israel, with help from the Germans and the British, who may not have known the part they played. The vulnerabilities identified in 2008 were used the following year by Stuxnet.

Stuxnet operates following way: First, it spun Iranian nuclear centrifuges out of control. It would also secretly record the daily routine at the nuclear plant and play back the recording of a regular day to operators at the plant. This way, it would seem that the facility was operating correctly, while the centrifuges were being destroyed. The Stuxnet virus enters computers through removable drives or through the internet. It then spreads to other computers and any drives that may be plugged into them. The virus searches for computers with Step 7, software that programs Siemens controllers. After a controller is infected, Stuxnet hides itself. After a few days, the virus speeds and slows motors in such a way that could damage them. At the same time, it sends out the false signals described above. The worm was reportedly only partially successful, delaying Iran’s progress but not destroying the nuclear sites. A Washington official told the Times that rather than allow Israel to attack Iran, the US wanted “to put time on the clock…and now, we have a bit more.” (Source: Jpost: ‘Israel tested Stuxnet virus on Dimona plant’ )


Stuxnet as part of campaign

The French weekly Le Canard enchaîné reported, quoting French intelligence sources, that US and UK intelligence services are cooperating with the Mossad to sabotage Teheran’s nuclear program in exchange for Israel agreeing not to launch a military strike on Iran. Acts of sabotage carried out in the past year in Iran were conducted by Israel with the help of the CIA and MI6, the sources said.


The sabotage included the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and explosions in October in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles. According to the sources, the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists were also carried out by the Mossad in cooperation with the American and British intelligence agencies. (Source:
JPost/Mossad, US, UK cooperating to sabotage Iran nukes )


Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Earlier in my article Saudi-Israeli cooperation for attacking Iran I described one process to prepare military option. The secret Saudi-Israeli meetings on Iran have been taking place for more than a year dealing extensively with clandestine cooperation between the two agencies and plans for attacking Iran. Arab and Western sources reported that they reached an agreement in the course of the year for Israeli fighter-bombers to transit Saudi air space on their way to bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Saudis were even willing to build a new landing strip in the desert with refueling facilities for the use of the warplanes en route to their mission.


Some early steps of cyber war

Indeed cyber war is not only recent phenomenon; in 1982, a computer control system stolen from a Canadian company by Soviet spies caused a Soviet gas pipeline to explode. The code for the control system had been modified by the CIA to include a logic bomb which changed the pump speeds to cause the explosion. (A logic bomb is a piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met.)

In the late 1990s, a computer specialist from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service hacked into the mainframe of the Pi Glilot fuel depot north of Tel Aviv. It was meant to be a routine test of safeguards at the strategic site. But it also tipped off the Israelis to the potential such hi-tech infiltrations offered for real sabotage. “Once inside the Pi Glilot system, we suddenly realised that, aside from accessing secret data, we could also set off deliberate explosions, just by programming a re-route of the pipelines,” said a veteran of the Shin Bet drill. So began a cyber warfare project which, a decade on, is seen by independent experts as the likely knew vanguard of Israel’s efforts to foil the nuclear ambitions of its arch-foe Iran. (Source: Reuters)

Cyber war in Tunisia too

Hacked GOT website

A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release by WikiLeaks of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia in late November and early December. The cables gave details about “Family-Mafia” lead by Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia, and attacked by hackers. Political campaign on the internet escalated with Operation Tunisia (an open letter to media, request of help from journalists, bloggers, hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter on the main page in the Government of Tunisia website. (see a screenshot: Open Letter from hackers) During critical days social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.


Conclusion

Latest developments with cyber warfare show that Israel has a formidable offensive cyber-war-fighting capability stuxnet as its best example. This scale of tool can have its role in international geopolitics between diplomacy and traditional warfare. At regional/local level social media like twitter can be a decisive factor by collecting masses to throw out existing regime. WikiLeaks from its part makes official and clandestine diplomacy more public forcing states and companies revise their practices.

A list of cyber attack threat trends (from Wikipedia)
  • Internet social engineering attacks
  • Network sniffers
  • Packet spoofing
  • Session-hijacking
  • Cyber-threats & bullying (not illegal in all jurisdictions)
  • Automated probes and scans
  • GUI intrusion tools
  • Automated widespread attacks
  • Widespread, distributed denial-of-service attacks* Special Activities Division
  • Industrial espionage
  • Executable code attacks (against browsers)
  • Analysis of vulnerabilities in compiled software without source code
  • Widespread attacks on DNS infrastructure
  • Widespread attacks using NNTP to distribute attack
  • “Stealth” and other advanced scanning techniques
  • Windows-based remote controllable trojans (Back Orifice)
  • Email propagation of malicious code
  • Wide-scale trojan distribution
  • Distributed attack tools
  • Targeting of specific users
  • Anti-forensic techniques
  • Wide-scale use of worms
  • Sophisticated botnet command and control attacks

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