Friday, January 31, 2014

Screaming Headlines, Old News: The Media Hype Over Iran Continues

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On January 29, 2014, the Times of Israel published what seemed to be some truly alarming news.

“Iran now has all the technical infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons should it make the political decision to do, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a report to a Senate intelligence committee published Wednesday,” reported the paper’s Marissa Newman.

Despite paraphrasing Clapper’s assurance that Iran “could not break out to the bomb without being detected,” Newman quoted extensively from the report – the annual “World Threat Assessment” – issued by the U.S. intelligence community:
Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. “These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”
Meanwhile, the article’s headline made sure reader’s got the point, screaming:

But the truth is, regardless of how distressing and portentous that headline sounds, this is not breaking news. In fact, the exact same assessment has been made for years.

Far from being portentous of an inevitable atomic apocalypse, such a statement is actually fairly innocuous and speaks to the nature of nuclear research, development, and technology. “[I]f a nation has a developed civilian nuclear infrastructure—which the NPT actually encourages—this implies it has a fairly solid nuclear-weapons capability,” wrote nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt in a recent column for the National Interest. ”Just like Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan also have a nuclear-weapons capability—they, too, could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in short order. Capabilities and intentions cannot be conflated.”

For nearly a decade now, it has been acknowledged that, in addition to the nine nuclear weapons states (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea), perhaps “40 countries or more now have the know-how to produce nuclear weapons,” according to former IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei, though it is true that not all of those nations have domestic enrichment capabilities.

Even a 1996 report by a former weapons system analyst points out, “Virtually any industrialized nation today has the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons within several years if the decision to do so were made. Nations already possessing substantial nuclear technology and arms industries could do so in no more than a year or two.”

Moreover, the above paragraph quoted by Newman regarding the “technical progress” made by Iran is taken nearly verbatim from last year's assessment, relayed to Congress in March and April 2013. The language in both of those reports is as follows:
Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.
The only difference between last year’s assessment and the latest report in this regard is replacing the phrase “has made technical progress” with the phrase “has developed technical expertise.”

Newman, in her report, fails to point this out to her readers.

Hysterical media spin aside, Clapper is merely reaffirming what the U.S. intelligence community has been saying for years: Iran has no nuclear weapons program, is not building a nuclear weapon and the Iranian leadership has not even made a decision to do so. Meanwhile, Iranian officials have, for decades, condemned nuclear weapons as strategically useless, morally abhorrent, and religiously forbidden and foresworn any intention of ever acquiring, stockpiling or using such weapons.

These conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community are nothing new. Clapper’s own testimony and reports from both 2011 and 2012 have all said effectively the same thing.

In early 2011, Clapper told both the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees:
Iran’s technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so.
The next year, before Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate and the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clapper said literally – to the letter – the same exact thing.

While each past assessment in recent memory has claimed that “Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,” they also add, “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

If anything, this year’s assessment, despite the Times of Israel's breathless reporting, is even less declarative in its perception of Iranian intentions.

Dropping the “keeping open the option” language, but replacing it with other often-repeated conclusions from past years, the 2014 report notes, “We continue to assess that Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.”

Assessments about Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities, also prominently presented in Newman’s Times of Israel piece, have been similarly recycled for years.

Not everything in this year’s intelligence assessment is old, however. The Joint Plan of Action of the P5+1 – the interim international accord signed in Geneva by Iran and six world powers in November 2013 – is determined by American intelligence agencies to “provide additional transparency into [Iran's] existing and planned nuclear facilities.”

“This transparency would provide earlier warning of a breakout using these facilities,” the report states.

With positive steps toward a negotiated conclusion to the absurd decades-long standoff over the Iranian nuclear program – a truly “manufactured crisis,” in the words of investigative journalist Gareth Porter’s vital new book on the subject – it is even more shameful that press reports like Newman’s traffic so heavily in fear-mongering and deliberate disregard for either context or truth.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger, 1919 - 2014

"A good song reminds us what we’re fighting for."

The great Pete Seeger has passed away at the age of 94.

Obituaries recounting his activism and folk singing, his moral strength and indelible contributions to not only American folk music, but the struggles for civil rights, equality and peace, are now everywhere. He sang for liberty; he sang for labor; he sang for the oppressed, he sang for the land and the air and water; he sang for the tired and poor. He sang about dangers and he sang out warnings. He sang out love. He sang for you and me.

Reflecting on his life and career during an interview in 2010, Seeger said, "The most important thing is that I did not want to become rich, not become a part of the establishment."

I share a hometown with Seeger; we were born and raised on the banks of the same river. I've had the privilege of wading waist-deep in the mud and pulling weeds alongside him in the shallows of the Hudson. I have sailed on the sloop Clearwater and have sung with him around a campfire. For this, I consider myself lucky. And today I am sad.

The twang of Pete Seeger's five-string banjo and the tremble in his unmistakable voice - the People's voice - taught me not to study war and told me we were not alone and not afraid. While his hands hammered out justice, his words rang out freedom. He told me to take it easy, but take it. And I learned from Pete that we shall overcome. Someday.

I can think of no better tribute to him - consistent champion of the ninety-nine percent, a true American hero walking that freedom highway - than to let his own words speak for themselves, words not found in his music, but rather on the floor of the United States government's House Un-American Activities Committee on August 18, 1955. The text is below.

Subpoenaed to testify during the dark days of McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunts, he refused to invoke the Fifth Amendment, instead chastising Fascistic Congressmen for their loathsome line of questioning. He never named names. He was blacklisted, found in contempt and held his head high. His testimony is a damning indictment of power and fear and an inspiration to those who refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice, of greed, of hatred, and of violence.

"I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody," he told the committee.

"Singing is my business," he said.

Without Pete Seeger, the state of our union is far worse today than it was yesterday.

Take it easy, Pete, we'll take it from here.

Testimony of Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 18, 1955

. . . Mr. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight—Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

Mr. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.

Mr. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer.

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning—

Chairman WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far.

Mr. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

Mr. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question?

Chairman WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.

Mr. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

Mr. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of “What’s On,” an advertisement of a “May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy.” The advertisement states: “Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally.” Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, “Entertainment by Pete Seeger.” At the bottom appears this: “Auspices Essex County Communist Party,” and at the top, “Tonight, Newark, N.J.” Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker?

Mr. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer.

Chairman WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before?

Mr. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir.

Chairman WALTER: What is your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel—

Chairman WALTER: What is your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is.

I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

Chairman WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?

Mr. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it.

Chairman WALTER: I don’t want to hear about it.

Mr. SCHERER: I think that there must be a direction to answer.

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer that question.

Mr. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir.

Mr. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you?

Mr. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions.

Mr. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer?

Mr. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir. . . .

Mr. TAVENNER: You said that you would tell us about the songs. Did you participate in a program at Wingdale Lodge in the State of New York, which is a summer camp for adults and children, on the weekend of July Fourth of this year?

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

Mr. SEEGER: Again, I say I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business.

Mr. TAVENNER: I am going to ask you.

Mr. SEEGER: But I decline to say who has ever listened to them, who has written them, or other people who have sung them.

Mr. TAVENNER: Did you sing this song, to which we have referred, “Now Is the Time,” at Wingdale Lodge on the weekend of July Fourth?

Mr. SEEGER: I don’t know any song by that name, and I know a song with a similar name. It is called “Wasn’t That a Time.” Is that the song?

Chairman WALTER: Did you sing that song?

Mr. SEEGER: I can sing it. I don’t know how well I can do it without my banjo.

Chairman WALTER: I said, Did you sing it on that occasion?

Mr. SEEGER: I have sung that song. I am not going to go into where I have sung it. I have sung it many places.

Chairman WALTER: Did you sing it on this particular occasion? That is what you are being asked.

Mr. SEEGER: Again my answer is the same.

Chairman WALTER: You said that you would tell us about it.

Mr. SEEGER: I will tell you about the songs, but I am not going to tell you or try to explain—

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer the question. Did you sing this particular song on the Fourth of July at Wingdale Lodge in New York?

Mr. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer to that question, and all questions such as that. I feel that is improper: to ask about my associations and opinions. I have said that I would be voluntarily glad to tell you any song, or what I have done in my life.

Chairman WALTER: I think it is my duty to inform you that we don’t accept this answer and the others, and I give you an opportunity now to answer these questions, particularly the last one.

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, my answer is always the same.

Chairman WALTER: All right, go ahead, Mr. Tavenner.

Mr. TAVENNER: Were you chosen by Mr. Elliott Sullivan to take part in the program on the weekend of July Fourth at Wingdale Lodge?

Mr. SEEGER: The answer is the same, sir.

Mr. WILLIS: Was that the occasion of the satire on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

Mr. TAVENNER: The same occasion, yes, sir. I have before me a photostatic copy of a page from the June 1, 1949, issue of the Daily Worker, and in a column entitled “Town Talk” there is found this statement:

The first performance of a new song, “If I Had a Hammer,” on the theme of the Foley Square trial of the Communist leaders, will be given at a testimonial dinner for the 12 on Friday night at St. Nicholas Arena. . . . Among those on hand for the singing will be . . . Pete Seeger, and Lee Hays . . . and others whose names are mentioned. Did you take part in that performance?

Mr. SEEGER: I shall be glad to answer about the song, sir, and I am not interested in carrying on the line of questioning about where I have sung any songs.

Mr. TAVENNER: I ask a direction.

Chairman WALTER: You may not be interested, but we are, however. I direct you to answer. You can answer that question.

Mr. SEEGER: I feel these questions are improper, sir, and I feel they are immoral to ask any American this kind of question.

Mr. TAVENNER: Have you finished your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: Yes, sir. . . .

Mr. TAVENNER: Did you hear Mr. George Hall’s testimony yesterday in which he stated that, as an actor, the special contribution that he was expected to make to the Communist Party was to use his talents by entertaining at Communist Party functions? Did you hear that testimony?

Mr. SEEGER: I didn’t hear it, no.

Mr. TAVENNER: It is a fact that he so testified. I want to know whether or not you were engaged in a similar type of service to the Communist Party in entertaining at these features.

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

Mr. SEEGER: I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.

Chairman WALTER: Mr. Tavenner, are you getting around to that letter? There was a letter introduced yesterday that I think was of greater importance than any bit of evidence adduced at these hearings, concerning the attempt made to influence people in this professional performers' guild and union to assist a purely Communist cause which had no relation whatsoever to the arts and the theater. Is that what you are leading up to?

Mr. TAVENNER: Yes, it is. That was the letter of Peter Lawrence, which I questioned him about yesterday. That related to the trial of the Smith Act defendants here at Foley Square. I am trying to inquire now whether this witness was party to the same type of propaganda effort by the Communist Party.

Mr. SCHERER: There has been no answer to your last question.

Mr. TAVENNER: That is right; may I have a direction?

Mr. SEEGER: Would you repeat the question? I don’t even know what the last question was, and I thought I have answered all of them up to now.

Mr. TAVENNER: What you stated was not in response to the question.

Chairman WALTER: Proceed with the questioning, Mr. Tavenner.

Mr. TAVENNER: I believe, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I will have the question read to him. I think it should be put in exactly the same form.

(Whereupon the reporter read the pending question as above recorded.)

Mr. SEEGER: “These features”: what do you mean? Except for the answer I have already given you, I have no answer. The answer I gave you you have, don’t you? That is, that I am proud that I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I have never refused to sing for anybody because I disagreed with their political opinion, and I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity, and that is why I would love to be able to tell you about these songs, because I feel that you would agree with me more, sir. I know many beautiful songs from your home county, Carbon, and Monroe, and I hitchhiked through there and stayed in the homes of miners.

Mr. TAVENNER: My question was whether or not you sang at these functions of the Communist Party. You have answered it inferentially, and if I understand your answer, you are saying you did.

Mr. SEEGER: Except for that answer, I decline to answer further. . . .

Mr. SCHERER: Do you understand it is the feeling of the Committee that you are in contempt as a result of the position you take?

Mr. SEEGER: I can’t say.

Mr. SCHERER: I am telling you that that is the position of the Committee. . . .

Mr. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them....

Source: Congress, House, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area (Entertainment): Hearings, 84th Congress, August 18, 1955



January 29, 2014 - A number of excellent reflections on Seeger and his political and humanitarian convictions have come out, including this from Mondoweiss and this from FAIR.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Scarlett's Letter: SodaStream's Global Apartheid Ambassador & the Enduring Effervescence of Ethnic Cleansing

On Friday, actress Scarlett Johansson, or rather her public relations team, finally responded to criticisms of her decision to become the first "brand ambassador" for the Israeli company SodaStream, which manufactures home carbonation machines and operates primarily out of a massive settlement complex in the West Bank.

In a statement released to Huffington Post, Johansson dismisses outrage over her support for a corporation that exploits occupation and colonization for financial gain as "noise" and insists she is dedicated to "conscious consumerism and transparency."

Johansson's role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador, a position she has held for eight years, may be in jeopardy. Oxfam has already expressed its disappointment over Johansson's affiliation with SodaStream, which has long been a target of the BDS movement.

"Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support," a statement from the international charity read. "Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law."

"We have made our concerns known to Ms Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues," it continued.

Still, Oxfam has yet to disassociate itself from Johansson.

A number of comprehensive articles have already provided a breakdown of the controversy, including excellent posts by the New York Times' Robert Mackey and Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg.

It is likely that Johansson had little to do with the statement published in her name by her public relations team. It reads less like a response to reasonable criticisms regarding morality, hypocrisy, injustice and international law, than a press release penned by the SodaStream communications department meant to whitewash the company's complicity with the occupation.

The most egregious section of the statement reads:
I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma'ale Adumim factory every working day."
Well that sounds just lovely, doesn't it? Sure, but the reality is that those three sentences contain so many absurdities and fallacies, it's clear Johansson and her team are either wholly ignorant of the facts or are being willfully deceitful in their defense of the indefensible.

Unmentioned in Johansson's letter is any mention of the occupation. Or that, like all settlements, Ma'ale Adumim is unquestionably illegal under international law. Or that Scarlett Johansson has never actually visited the SodaStream factory in the West Bank, so her concept of "what is happening" there "every working day" isn't based on any personal experience.

The "economic cooperation and social interaction" encouraged by Johansson are fantasies; the equality she imagines is an appalling fiction. Further, the ideological leanings of whomever actually wrote the statement are revealed by the inclusion of the term "democratic Israel" as juxtaposed to "Palestine."

And which Palestine is Johansson describing? The one conquered, occupied and colonized by "democratic Israel"? The one that exists in name only on ostensibly 42% of the 80% of the 22% of 100% of historic Palestine? The one under complete Israeli control?

One might want to ask Johansson how many of the Palestinian laborers working at the SodaStream factory located in an industrial park alongside an illegal settlement in "Area C" of the occupied West Bank are eligible to vote in "democratic" Israeli elections. The answer is zero.

Area C, which covers roughly 61% of the West Bank, is under full Israeli authority and military occupation. It encompasses all Israeli colonies and the vast majority of the West Bank's natural resources, aquifers, oil reserves, closed military zones, and open, arable land.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

In his devastating dissection, dismantling and debunking of Johansson's statement, Mondoweiss' Phan Nguyen elaborates:
Although 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, more than 99% of the land is closed to Palestinian development, while 68% or more is reserved for illegal Israeli settlement use and expansion—a policy enforced by Israeli soldiers and militarized bulldozers.
According to numerous World Bank reports, the chief impediment to Palestinian economic growth is Israeli restrictions over Area C, which have “constrained growth, investment and consequently job creation.”
Because of these restrictions, Palestinians must resort to working in Israeli-owned “industrial parks” — located on Palestinian land, but ultimately serving Israeli industry. Although SodaStream boasts that its factory—located in the Mishor Adumim industrial park in the illegal settlement of Ma'ale Adumim—provides Palestinian employment, its very existence as part of the Israeli settlement regime is what prevents Palestinian self-sufficiency and economic development—essentially preventing a viable Palestinian future, while guaranteeing a captive labor force.
SodaStream pretends to be the solution to a problem it has helped to create, and from which it profits by exploiting land and labor.
Lack of access to their own land and resources, imposed by Israeli restrictions, costs the already battered Palestinian economy at least $3.4 billion annually.

For Johansson's statement to claim that SodaStream is "building bridges" (a phrase lifted straight from the corporation's own marketing campaigns) and "supporting neighbors working alongside each other" would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.

The occupation of Palestine is immensely profitable for Israel. SodaStream and companies like it thrive on the privilege afforded by colonization and the domination of a victimized, vulnerable indigenous population. The economy of Palestine, however, has been stifled, strangled and crushed by Israeli occupation.

While couched in bromides about terrorism and security, Israel's extreme right-wing Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett suggested this past week that the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would destroy Israel's economy, a peril he obviously seeks to avoid permanently by maintaining Israeli sovereignty over all of historic Palestine.

Furthermore, as Israeli journalist Mairav Zonszein aptly writes in +972 Magazine, "Calling Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who work for SodaStream 'neighbors' with 'equal rights' is beyond naive – it is insulting." Palestinians living under colonial Israeli rule do not have the same rights as their Jewish "neighbors"; rather, they have no freedom of movement, are subject to Israeli military - not civilian - courts, and "experience systematic discrimination in every aspect of life," which is repressively governed by a set of over 3,000 military orders.

Even the president of the Israeli military courts in the West Bank admitted last year that the courts "systematically deny Palestinians the right to a fair trial" and violate legal requirements under the Geneva Conventions. In 2011, Ha'aretz reported, "Virtually all - 99.74 percent, to be exact - of cases heard by the military courts in the territories end in a conviction." Just this month, the paper revealed that "Palestinians have been prohibited from challenging military court decisions to confiscate their property, under a new injunction signed last month by the head of the Israeli military's Central Command."

The equal rights that Johansson praises on the SodaStream factory floor don't exist. The colonizer and the colonized are not equal. The occupier and the occupied are not equal. Mishor Adumim, the industrial park in which the SodaStream plant is located, is a veritable "no-man's land" of labor exploitation, unregulated or inspected by Israel's Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.

Mishor Adumim is part of the massive Israel settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, which sits atop land emptied of its native Jahalin Bedouin population in the early 1950s by Israeli ethnic cleansing policies and stolen from the Palestinian towns of Abu Dis, Azarya, Atur, Issauya, Han El Akhmar, Anata and Nebbi Mussa.

A fortified hilltop complex housing about 40,000 Israeli settlers, Ma'ale Adumim juts deep into the West Bank eight miles from Jerusalem, nearly bisecting the remaining Palestinian territory. The settlement lies adjacent to and has municipal jurisdiction over the occupied area known at E1, which cuts off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

This is all by colonial design. Ma'ale Adumim has been called Israel's "linchpin" settlement, already responsible for making any (at this point purely hypothetical) two-state solution impossible.

In 2004, Benny Kashriel, the mayor of Ma'ale Adumim, declared that the settlement was deliberately "established to break Palestinian contiguity. It is Jerusalem's connection to the Dead Sea and the Jordan valley; if we weren't here, Palestinians could connect their villages and close off the roads. Ma'aleh Adumim [sic] necessarily cuts the West Bank in two."

The following year, he tried to claim the opposite. "The Palestinians misinform the Americans and the Europeans - they say building in E1 will cut a Palestinian state in two. This is absolutely not true at all," he said.

But Daniel Seidemann, Israeli attorney and expert on the development of Jerusalem, has set the record straight. Building settlements in "E1 is the ultimate unilateral act," he has said. "It creates a non-contiguous West Bank that can never become a viable Palestinian state."

In December 2009, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem similarly reported, "The geographic location of Ma'ale Adumim also infringes the collective right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The settlement severs the West Bank at a strategic point, dividing it into two cantons, thus making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state with reasonable territorial contiguity."

The report added, "Completion of the Separation Barrier along its approved route and implementation of the building plans for E1 in their entirety will worsen the infringement of Palestinians' human rights."

When Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights visited Ma'ale Adumim in 2010, he wrote, "You're seeing an area that's being ethnically cleansed... You're seeing the architecture of apartheid... an open and notorious taking of land, a pass system, an apartheid system," adding that, due to these gigantic settlement blocs, the idea of successfully implementing a two state solution is "completely ridiculous. It's three Bantustans in the West Bank, with Israel controlling everything."

"You can't build a Palestinian state in the West Bank -- the settlements [and road infrastructure built for them] have permanently cantonized the territory," Israeli historian Meron Benvenisti said in late 2012. "Yes, E-1 will certainly cut Jerusalem off from Ramallah in the north and Hebron in the south -- but they're already cut off." By what, you may wonder? Ma'ale Adumim.

This, apparently, is all part of the noble bridge building Scarlett Johansson imagines SodaStream is doing.

On Sunday, January 26, in an open letter, the grandson and grand-nephew of two of the founders of Oxfam called upon the charity to dissociate itself from the actress. "Scarlett Johansson, by endorsing the kind of SodaStream propaganda that underwrites the Israeli occupation, is acting as an ambassador for oppression," Hubert Murray wrote. "I urge Oxfam America to disassociate itself from Ms. Johansson so long as she chooses to represent SodaStream. I am certain my grandfather and great-uncle would agree with me."

Oxfam can still do the right thing. The calls for action grow stronger.

And even though SodaStream continues to profit from the suffering of others, the voices of solidarity and justice are rising up faster than the bubbles in Scarlett Johansson's head.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Good Points, Bad Analysis and Unread Links

If you constantly call yourself an expert, you should probably do your best to know what you're talking about. Or at least read the content of links you provide to try and support your analysis.

This seemingly obvious concept has again proven itself beyond the capacity of one of the Western media's most favored bearer of conventional wisdom and hackneyed talking points.

In a short blog post on January 23, 2014, Meir Javedanfar correctly disagrees with a recent bizarre claim by CNN's Fareed Zakaria that the interim deal between Iran and six world powers is a "train wreck."

Following an interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Zakaria stated that the Iranian and American understanding of what is required and necessary under the deal "are miles apart." The main reason for Zakaria's analysis? Rouhani told him that "not under any circumstances" would Iran destroy or dismantle any of its centrifuges used for uranium enrichment.

Explaining that Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology is non-negotiable, Rouhani told Zakaria that the enrichment process is "part and parcel of the inalienable rights of states."

"It is part of our national pride, and nuclear technology has become indigenous," he said. "And recently, we have managed to secure very considerable prowess with regards to the fabrication of centrifuges," he added. "So, in the context of nuclear technology, particularly of research and development and peaceful nuclear technology, we will not accept any limitations."

Zakaria sees this as beyond the scope of what he thinks Iran will eventually be allowed to do as part of a final agreement over its nuclear program (as if international law or the NPT dictates that sovereign states relinquish their guaranteed national rights at the behest of adversarial states - it doesn't).

Javedanfar is - again - correct in disputing Zakaria's premature handwringing. But the reason why he disagrees is curious. He believes Rouhani will wind up eating his words, and that Iran will inevitably destroy aspects of its enrichment program, namely thousands of centrifuges.

Of course, Javedanfar is entitled to his opinion and theoretically could be correct in the long run (though I doubt it). But the rationale he provides is based on a false premise.

He writes, "I have lost count of the number of times that Iranian regime and Iranian government officials have stated in the past that Iran would never cease enrichment at any level, be it temporary or permanent," before providing four hyperlinks - which he calls "examples" - to directly support this claim.

Beyond oddly differentiating between officials of the "Iranian regime" and "Iranian government," Javedanfar appears to have done a quick web search for articles with headlines about Iran refusing to stop enrichment, but it seems he didn't actually read them before linking to them in his post. Only one of the news article he presents actually backs up his claim at all.

Remember, Javedanfar's claim is that Iranian officials have refused in the past to halt enrichment "at any level, be it temporary or permanent."

The first link he points to as proof leads to Iran's PressTV, which quotes the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi as saying, "What is necessary for the Islamic Republic is that enrichment, as an undeniable national right, will be never stopped." Another link, which aggregates wire dispatches, includes a headline and off-hand reference to Iran refusing to halt enrichment, but includes no quote from Iranian officials about it or specifics about what kind of enrichment.

Under the deal signed in Geneva in late November 2013, Iran retains its enrichment capabilities and, while voluntarily agreeing to suspend enrichment to roughly 20%, continues to enrich to about 5%. Thus, Iran has not stopped its enrichment program.

Beyond this, not even the United States government believes that halting all uranium enrichment in Iran is a viable outcome to the current talks anymore. That demand - institutionalized under the George W. Bush administration and now maintained by those who are eager to launch a military attack on Iran - is not an option.

Another one of Javedanfar's cited links, from China's Xinhua outlet, explicitly contradicts Javedanfar's claim. It quotes Iran's nuclear chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi insisting in October 2013 that, while Iran will neither cease uranium enrichment nor ship its existing stockpile out of the country, the scope of its enrichment activities are subject to discussion. "Of course, we will negotiate over the level and the volume of enrichment," Araqchi says.

Wait, wasn't this link supposed to provide evidence for Javedanfar's claim that Iranians officials routinely insist that "Iran would never cease enrichment at any level, be it temporary or permanent"?


The fourth link does seem to align with Javedanfar's allegation. The December 2012 Reuters dispatch quotes Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, then head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), saying that Iran "will not suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment because of the demands of others."

While one could argue that Iran's decision to voluntarily suspend 20% enrichment in the November 2013 accord was not based on "the demands of others" (but rather a confidence-building measure undertaken voluntarily by Iran as sign of good faith) or that Abbasi-Davani - who was succeeded as AEOI chief by Ali Akbar Salehi upon Rouhani's inauguration in August 2013 - was speaking out of turn, the point is basically made, albeit weakly.

So, only one out of four links, then, supports Javedanfar's main point.

But there's a larger error here, one that Javedanfar has long made.

Last year, Javedanfar erroneously claimed that "prior to the EU oil sanctions announcement (in January 2012), the Iranian government had refused to even address its 20% enriched uranium process."
This statement simply isn't true, as Iranian officials had consistently offered to suspend or stop 20% enrichment since February 2010, when Iran first began enriching to that level.

At the time, Salehi (who was then AEOI head) repeatedly said that, if the United States were to allow Iran to acquire fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran, "then we will stop the 20-percent enrichment." Over the next eighteen months, numerous other Iranian officials, including then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made similar - if not identical - proposals in public speeches and in the press.

The subsequent agreement to halt 20% enrichment in November 2013 (implemented on January 20, 2014), then, is nothing new and therefore not a reversal of official Iranian statements, despite what Javedanfar suggests.

Moreover, the claim that Iranian officials have long refused to limit domestic enrichment levels is so staggeringly incorrect it is a wonder Javedanfar could write such a thing.

For instance, the critical second phase of an official Iranian proposal to European powers in March 2005 called for the establishment of a "ceiling of enrichment at LEU level" and a "limitation of the extent of the program." Later that year, Iran reiterated the offer, again noting its willingness to cap its level of enrichment, set a "[l]imitation of the extent of the enrichment program to solely meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran's power reactors," and agreeing to the "[i]mmediate conversion of all enriched Uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment."

The following year, the offer to "[l]imit the enrichment of nuclear materials so that they are suitable for energy production but not for weaponry" was repeated.

"Iran should be judged by its actions and not its words," Javedanfar writes, echoing recent statements by White House spokesman Jay Carney. And he's right.

But shouldn't a prolific public commentator be judged on the accuracy of his analysis?


Friday, January 24, 2014

Iranian Officials Respond to John Kerry's "Military Option" Threat

United States Secretary of State John Kerry

In response to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding a potential military strike on Iran, Brigadier General Seyyed Masoud Jazayeri - Iran's deputy chief of staff - said in an interview that, in the event of an attack, American interests in the region would be "completely destroyed."

Speaking to Al Arabiya this week, Kerry defended the interim international deal over Iran's nuclear program and the alleviating of some sanctions, but declared that if Iran were to back out of its commitments, "the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do."

Such rhetoric is par for the course for American officials focused on diplomacy, but still eager to appear bellicose and aggressive to certain influential communities and audiences.

President Barack Obama
Last month, in a conversation at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama said much of the same. "What I've consistently said is even as I don't take any options off the table," Obama told Haim Saban, the organization's Israel-obsessed billionaire benefactor, "what we do have to test is the possibility that we can resolve this issue diplomatically."

The president repeated this a number of times during the conversation. "The best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that," he said, adding later that "when the President of the United States says that he doesn't take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously."

Following Obama's own appearance, Secretary Kerry also addressed the Saban conference in December. He assured the attendees that "as we negotiate, we will continue to be perfectly clear that, for Iran, the price of noncompliance, of failing to satisfy international concerns about the nuclear program, will be that we immediately ratchet up new sanctions, along with whatever further steps are needed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, including – as President Obama just made clear – a military option, if that were necessary."

MP Hossein Naqavi Hosseini
In his own recent comments, General Jazayeri emphasized that the U.S. government is well aware that "the military option against Iran is not practical."

Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, an Iranian parliamentarian and spokesman for the Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, reacted to Kerry's new comments by saying, "These statements are indicative of the U.S. double standards and will bring about nothing but tarnishing the US image," adding, "Definitely, we also announce that if the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) commit the least breach of the Geneva agreement, we will also have all the options on our table."

"Under pressures by the Zionist lobby, the U.S. adopts dual policies; on the one hand, they talk about agreement and positive relations with Iran, but on the other hand, they use an intimidating tone," Hosseini said.


Originally published as an update on a March 24, 2013 post documenting Iranian reactions to constant threats of military action, entitled, "Khamenei's Nowruz Speech and the 'Threat' That Wasn't."


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“The Persian Deck” – An Interview with Diba Salimi

Aces in “The Persian Deck,” original playing cards with hand-drawn designs and artwork by Iranian artist Diba Salimi

“I am hoping to make my art accessible by designing products that play parts in your lives,” writes Iranian designer and artist Diba Salimi about her latest project, “Surena: The Persian Deck,” a set of beautifully hand-drawn playing cards inspired by Persian art and history.

Salimi, who was born in Iran and has since relocated to Chicago, has spent the past year researching, designing, and sketching the myriad patterns and face cards presented in her deck. Drawn from four distinct periods of Iranian history, each suit is identified by a specific tazhib - an intricate, ornate pattern, usually floral or geometric in nature. Spades are represented by the Achaemenid empire (c. 550–330 BCE), clubs by the Sasanian empire (224–651), diamonds by the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736), and hearts by the Zand dynasty (1760–1794).

Salimi has named her project Surena, after a legendary Parthian general, and studied ancient etchings, archaeology, statuary, and primary and secondary source documentation (wherever possible) to best inform her visual depictions of the Kings, Queens, and Jacks, all notable figures from each of the dynastic eras she has selected. The artwork itself – delicate, finely-detailed line drawings – has been heavily influenced by what Salimi refers to as “Iran’s most precious form of art: Persian rugs,” the complex patterns of which were taught to her at a young age by her grandmother.

Accompanying her set of playing cards is a handbook that provides historical information about the four dynasties and short, accessible profiles of each face card character. To create the book, Salimi has partnered with Ramin Takloo-Bighash, a writer, translator, musician and mathematics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Recently, Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani, co-editor of Muftah's Art & Culture and Iran, Iraq, and Turkey pages, spoke with Salimi about her project. The interview is below.

Salimi is currently fundraising in order to complete her project. Check out her Kickstarter campaign, which is active for only a few more days, and get yourself a deck of cards!

Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani (HZ): Can you discuss you own personal life? Did you grow up and study in the United States?

Diba Salimi (DS): I grew up in Tehran, although I did spend a few years in the northern city of Babol. I moved to the United States in 2003 when I was about 20 years old. Back in Iran, I was studying Computer Science at Shahid Behesti University, but my interests changed and I came to the United States to study architecture. I realized that architecture was not completely what I wanted to do, so I pursued a Master’s degree in design strategy. I was curious to know why people like certain things, and why certain ideas do not stick. I think architecture is a great and very beautiful art, but I was looking for something that would allow me to have more interactions with people; architecture left me feeling lonely. Now, I work at a company in Chicago as a “User Experience Specialist” where I focus on designing user experiences based on human behaviors.

HZ: What is your background as an artist?

I have no formal training and have learned everything on my own, both in terms of my visual art as well as my work as a musician. I played the piano back in Iran and, in the United States, I picked up thetar (a classical Iranian string instrument). I have been playing in a musical ensemble here in Chicago since 2008. Part of the purpose behind pursuing the Persian card deck project was to establish myself as an artist. I think of myself as having a practical approach to art. I look at art physically and think about how it can be translated into people’s lives.

HZ: What was the process by which you came up with the idea for the “Surena: Persian Deck of Cards?”

A few years ago I was drawing some sketches and I came up with half a face using flower patterns from Persian rugs. I ended up folding up the sketch and putting it away. A few years later, I was reading about patterns in an art history book, which led me to examine the art patterns in my own culture. I was also looking for a way to distribute the designs and portraits I was sketching. Although at the time they were just individual etchings, I began to ask myself, “How can I make these interesting to other people? Can I tell a story with this?” One day, while I was looking for projects to promote the portraits, I was playing cards and realized there were three face cards. At the time, I had three portraits already sketched, and everything just clicked. Since there are twelve face cards in a deck of cards, the number twelve became the goal in terms of creating additional portraits.

HZ: How did you get introduced to Kickstarter?

I was first introduced to Kickstarter by a classmate at school. I thought it was a small enough project to be successful on the platform. Also, while I am generally extroverted, when it comes to my art, I become introverted and very quiet. As a result of this, I did not have a large art network. I decided to share my project with the public and see how it was received. I did not just want to rely on the Iranian community because they would obviously like the idea. I wanted to share it with non-Iranians as well. I was a little scared at first – art can be like your baby; you want to protect it. I was concerned that people would attack the project, but I received a lot of positive feedback once I launched the Kickstarter campaign.

HZ: The deck of cards you created is full of cultural references. Is this project an artistic project or a cultural one?

When you live in Iran, art is spoken about frequently. When you are outside Iran, you begin to talk about culture, and this is where the drive came for this project. I was asking myself, “where do I come from?” I realized, in Iran, we use culture to glorify individuals and raise them above ourselves. I was struck by this when I came to the United States, and realized culture here was not about historical figures. Instead, culture is seen as existing outside individuals and societies. What I am trying to do with these portraits is make compositions that are not specific to any one historical figure. I am trying to look at these compositions from the stand point of art and culture, rather than the individual himself. Let us not think about these portraits literally; let us think about them poetically – that is my mission.

HZ: You spoke about art and culture both inside and outside Iran and how it relates to identity, how long did it take for you to reinvent your identity when you moved to the United States?

It took a while. At first, I enjoyed talking about my culture with people who were curious, but that grew tedious because I felt like I was reciting from a book. It was as if I was somehow following some unspoken rule about how to portray myself as an Iranian. It did not feel authentic. I felt like I was never truly honest about describing myself as an individual, so I started searching my true identity.

HZ: Why was it important for you to include a book to compliment the deck of cards? Was this to educate those unfamiliar with Iranian culture?

In this project, I am trying to think about Iranian and non-Iranian audiences at the same time. I am approaching them in the same way because I feel like Iranians do not really know a lot about their own history. Iranians know what they have been told, so I am trying to make my sketches more like stories, more fantasy-like. I want to move people away from thinking about “how much land this historical figure acquired or how many people he killed to acquire those lands.” I want to give these characters a story that people will remember. For instance, when you play the King of Hearts, you will remember Karim Khan and be reminded of a personality trait or specific quality of character rather than an unknowable historical subject (For instance, Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty was known for having compassion toward his subjects).

HZ: Can you discuss the method by which you chose specific face card personas to represent each respective suit?

Once I actually started the project, I decided I needed to choose four Persian dynasties and three characters from those dynasties. I started by finding a rendering of the appearance of the character I was drawing, whether a statue or painting, for example. I tried to find characters that were not necessarily aristocrats – such as Bozorhmehr (a nobleman), Zebu Nissa (a poet) – as well as women, who were the hardest to find. It is very hard to find stories or portraits of women in recorded Iranian history. If I could not find an actual drawing or image for one of the characters I wanted, I would not use them. The selection process in still going on and I am still looking for new characters.

HK: How has this project been received? Inside and outside Iran, as well as among non-Iranians?

When I started the project, 80% of the backers were non-Iranian. At the moment, more Iranians are coming on board, but in the beginning it was a bit shocking to see that non-Iranians had donated more. When I speak to Iranians about the project they praise it, but when it comes to actually backing it, they do not advance the project. At first, I thought Iranians might not know how Kickstarter works, or how the donation process functions. They (Iranians) are proud of you as an Iranian artist, but they do not necessarily want to invest, which is okay. Iranians inside Iran have been very supportive of the project. Unfortunately, they are not able to donate (because payments are taken via, which they cannot access). There was even one man from Iran who asked me how he could start his own Kickstarter campaign for a project of his own. People like him demonstrate how many bright people in Iran are desperate to participate in open source funding. The younger Iranian generation is very eager to connect. My Iranian supporters here in the United States are very encouraging as well, and some of my big Iranian backers have told me they will do whatever they can to help. In terms of non-Iranian supporters, they are broken into two groups. Some of them are collectors of playing cards. Others are just intrigued by the design and artwork.

The text of this interview, which was conducted by telephone, has been edited for clarity.

Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani is co-editor of Muftah’s Arts & Culture page and Iran, Iraq, and Turkey pages. Follow him on Twitter @Hanifzk.

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of Muftah’s Iran, Iraq, and Turkey pages. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Iranian President Speaks Out on Artistic Freedom

Hassan Rouhani at his first press conference as Iran’s President-Elect on June 17, 2013, Tehran, Iran.

During his campaign to become Iran’s president this past Spring, Hassan Rouhani often emphasized the importance of a more open society, one that encourages freedom of expression and creativity and relies less on censorship.

In a presidential debate on June 5, 2013, broadcast live on state television, Rouhani decried government restrictions and limitations on social freedoms. ”Let people have more freedom,” Rouhani said, “Let’s not intervene so much in their lives. Cultural issues must be solved through culture itself.” “The solution to the country’s cultural problems is to minimize the government’s interference and allow guild associations and experts to run their own affairs,” he added. Rouhani’s web-savvy campaign staff, who were live-tweeting the debate, quickly posted this:
Rouhani said that Iran’s “cultural atmosphere ” and “innovation” should be cultivated and safe from scrutiny, so that “new ideas to turn art into cultural products.”

A month later, after Rouhani had been elected president, he was still giving voice to this campaign promise. ”In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine,” he said in an interview with a popular Iranian youth magazine in which he also pledged to reduce “censorship of artistic and cultural works.” Rouhani said “the state – instead of interfering in the affairs of artists and cultural figures – should provide them with security,” reported the Guardian.

“We should not tighten the red lines all the time, we should show that censorship is not our goal,” he said.
While optimism in the Iranian public has been understandably guarded, Iranian visual artists have become more outspoken in their desire to see censorship curbed. According to media outlet Radio Zamaneh, a September 2013 statement issued by a group of artists expressed “hope that the new government will put an end to past policies and invite artists and experts to plan and lead the country’s art and culture sector” and, among other demands, asked the new administration to allow artists ”to display their artwork without restriction or censorship, as long as the pieces made public do not insult others or violate their freedom.”

While there have been both positive and negative developments in the intervening months, on Wednesday evening, January 8, 2014, President Rouhani attended an assembly of members of arts and cultural associations at Tehran’s famed Vahdat Hall (former home to Iran’s currenlty defunct National Symphony Orchestra and site of a recent performance of a new Persian version of The Sound of Music).

Invited by prominent members of six theater, music, poetry, cinema and calligraphy guilds, Rouhani listened to the artists’ views on, as the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) put it, the “state of affairs and harmonizing the activities of men of pen and arts with the legal code.”

Rouhani, joined at the gathering by Culture Minister Ali Jannati, Presidential Advisor on Cultural Affairs Hessameddin Ashena and presidential aide Hossein Fereidoun, was introduced to the audience by the head of Tehran’s City Council Ahmad Masjed-Jamei.

“Artists are not a threat, and art without freedom is meaningless,” Rouhani told the crowd. “Creativity becomes possible only in the shelter of liberty.”

He added, “We should reach out to those artists who have been isolated in the past few years, getting them more involved in society and preventing censorship.”

Jannati, who had recently been summoned by conservative members of the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, and reprimanded for his administration’s public promotion of liberal values and “cultural openness,” also spoke,seconding Rouhani’s pledge and “emphasized the need to reduce the supervision of cultural affairs and allow freedom of action for the private sector in this field.”

Reacting to the parliamentary procedure – known informally in football-crazy Iran as a “yellow card” when ministers are dissatisfied with witness testimony – Rouhani told the artists, musicians and writers at Vahdat Hall, “We are proud of peoples such as Jannati who defend freedom,” adding, “Some officials have obviously not heard the people’s voice in the election. I promise the people to stop extremism in Iran,” even if that meant incurring future “yellow cards.”

As usual, Rouhani’s social media team tweeted the president’s best sound bites of the night:

It is clear that Rouhani gained substantial political capital domestically upon inking an interim nuclear deal with six world powers in late November. The question remains whether this will provide enough space for him to successfully sideline conservative spoilers and follow through on the rest of his campaign promises to the Iranian people and his new administration’s ambitious agenda.


Originally posted at Muftah.