Attack Iran and you attack Russia

The apparent internal controversy on how exactly Putin and the Supreme Leader are on the same wavelength belies a serious rift in the higher spheres of the Islamic Republic. The replacement of Larijani, a realist hawk, by Jalili, an unknown quantity with an even more hawkish background, might spell an Ahmadinejad victory. It’s not that simple.

The powerful Ali Akbar Velayati, the diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader, said he didn’t like the replacement one bit. Even worse: regarding the appalling record of the Ahmadinejad presidency when it comes to the economy, all-out criticism is now the norm. Another former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, told the Etemad-e Melli newspaper, “The effects of the [UN] sanctions are visible. Our situation gets worse day by day.”

Ahmadinejad for the past two months has been placing his former IRGC brothers-in-arms in key posts, like the presidency of the central bank and the Oil, Industry and Interior ministries. Internal repression is rife. On Sunday, hundreds of students protested at the Amir-Kabir University in Tehran, calling for “Death to the dictator”.

The wily, ultimate pragmatist Hashemi Rafsanjani, now leader of the Council of Experts and in practice a much more powerful figure than Ahmadinejad, took no time to publicly reflect that “we can’t bend people’s thoughts with dictatorial regimes”. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — A possibility that doesn’t seem to fit into Washington’s calculations is that Ahmadinejad may go faster than they expect or would even want. Faced then with a more pragmatic Iranian government which may at the same time be just as unwilling to bow to American demands, Iran could score some major victories in the international arena, leaving the neocon rhinos with nothing more than can do than snort and kick up dust. (Semantic note: It’s time to stop applying the hawk metaphor to the Cheney gang. Hawks have excellent sight, superb flying skills and know how to launch a precision strike with perfect timing. Dick Cheney and Norman Podhoretz are not hawks.)

U.S. imposes new sanctions against Iran

The Bush administration announced an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the long-awaited designations of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism.

The package, announced jointly by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., marks the first time that the United States has tried to isolate or punish another country’s military. It is the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy, and included a call for other countries and firms to stop doing business with three major Iranian banks.

The sanctions recognize that financing for groups like the Revolutionary Guard have become closely entwined with Iran’s economy, making it difficult to disrupt the one without targeting the other. [complete article]

Bomb Iran? U.S. requests bunker-buster bombs

Tucked inside the White House’s $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.

The item: $88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP.

The MOP is the the military’s largest conventional bomb, a super “bunker-buster” capable of destroying hardened targets deep underground. The one-line explanation for the request said it is in response to “an urgent operational need from theater commanders.” [complete article]

Iran becomes an issue in Democratic contest

Edwards, who, like Clinton, supported the 2002 Iraq war resolution, said she failed to learn a lesson from that episode. “I think it’s an enormous mistake to give George Bush the first step in the authority to move militarily on Iran,” Edwards said in a telephone interview from Iowa yesterday. “My view is that the resolution on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard did that.”

Biden, in a session with Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday, said labeling the IRGC as a terrorist group was a “serious, serious mistake” because it could force the United States to back up the designation with action. “Big nations can’t bluff,” he said.

Clinton has been steadfast in her contention that the amendment to the defense authorization bill was not a vote for war but, instead, a call for robust diplomatic action to deal with Iran. “I oppose any rush to war but also believe doing nothing is not acceptable — diplomacy is the right path,” she said in her campaign mailer. [complete article]

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