Tag Archives: iran

Iran refuses to help ‘self-serving’ US fight ISIS

Published time: September 15, 2014 16:20
Edited time: September 16, 2014 13:52

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

Iran has refused an offer from the United States to join a global alliance preparing to combat Islamic State militants, according to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei said Monday that the US offered to discuss a coordinated effort with Iran against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), a common foe in the region, in the midst of an escalating campaign of violence that continues to claim lives across Iraq in Syria.

“The American ambassador in Iraq asked our ambassador (in Iraq) for a session to discuss coordinating a fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” said Khamenei, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Our ambassador in Iraq reflected this to us, which was welcomed by some (Iranian) officials, but I was opposed. I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky.“

According to the Washington Post, Khamenei took issue with what he referred to as Washington’s “evil intentions.”

Khamenei said his rejection came prior to Washington’s public exclusion of Iran in Monday’s conference of foreign ministers in Paris, where a coalition of international diplomats have congregated to discuss possible strategies against the jihadist group. Host nation France had wanted to invite Iran, the Post reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Iran’s presence in Paris would not occur based on the Islamic Republic’s support of its ally Syria in the nation’s civil war against Western-backed rebels. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated that Washington was opposed to any military partnership with Iran.

“Now they (the US) are lying, in saying that it is them who excluded us from their coalition, while it was Iran that refused to participate in this collation to begin with,” said Khamenei, who on Monday had just left a hospital following prostate surgery.

Khamenei pointed to previous US-led military incursions in the Middle East as reason to believe the US is only looking out for its own interests.

"American officials’ comments on forming an anti-Islamic State (alliance) are blank, hollow and self-serving, and contradictions in their behaviors and statements attest to this fact,” said Khamenei.

“The Americans should keep in mind that if they go ahead with such a thing, then the same problems that they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years will come back.”

He added that Washington wants in Iraq what it had in Pakistan, "a playground where they can enter freely and bomb at will.”

Despite the public denunciations from both sides, State Dept. spokeswoman Psaki did not rule out a potential partnership with Iran at a later date.

“We will be continuing those talks on the nuclear issue later this week in New York,” Psaki said, according to the Post. “There may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq.”

The ongoing, US-dominated negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program were the pretext last year for the first conversation between a US president and Iranian leadership in 30 years. US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed “our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama said following the phone conversation.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Arab, European, and other diplomats began talks about supporting the new Iraqi government and slowing momentum of Islamic State.

“Islamic State’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us,” Iraqi President Fouad Massoum told representatives of 30 countries attending the Paris conference. “It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification.”

The conference comes after Sec. Kerry’s week-long tour of Arab allies and Turkey where he attempted to recruit diplomatic and military support for campaign against IS.

Persian Gulf states Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have reportedly volunteered to conduct airstrikes alongside US forces. The Saudis have also pressured the US to give Syrian rebels surface-to-air antiaircraft weapons, but the Obama administration has thus far refused.

Islamic State militants currently controls large swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda, IS is one of many opposition groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces – and each other – in Syria.

So-called moderate rebels fighting in Syria have a problematic track record despite the US government’s ongoing reliance on their efforts. The United States has supported these rebels with both lethal and non-lethal aid, lending to fears that arms sent with the help of the Gulf states were channeled to the likes of IS.

A study released last week found that Islamic State fighters are using captured US weapons given to moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia, a longstanding enemy of Assad’s Syria and his ally Iran.

US allies in the Gulf region have fostered groups like IS in Syria’s civil war, as elite donors from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have pumped money into destabilizing foes in the region.

President Obama has pledged to use airstrikes against IS strongholds in the region. He emphasized Wednesday that the US will not hesitate to take direct military action against terrorists in Syria and Iraq to "degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistically and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks.” Obama’s plan will be scrutinized on Capitol Hill in Washington this week.

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during a daily briefing that the Obama administration is “gratified” by what he said was significant bipartisan support so far from Congress for the president’s plan against IS. However, Earnest added that the US would not be coordinating any military action with Iran.

"The thing that we have been really clear about is the US does not coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran, and we don’t have any plans to do so,” Earnest said, while at the same time acknowledging that representatives from both countries may indeed have had conversations on the sidelines concerning the Islamic State militants.

India deflects Israel’s Iran warnings

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

By Alvite Singh Ningthoujam

Soon after news flashed over the globe about a thawing of relations between Iran and the United States after the Geneva nuclear accord, several reports surfaced analyzing how India is going to benefit from the breakthrough. For many, this interim nuclear deal has been considered as a landmark deal while Israel has watched it with jaundiced-eyes and denounced it as a “historic mistake”. [1]

In India, there is optimism and pessimism over the improved US-Iran ties. While some talks of an overall boost in India-Iran relations, particularly in trade and energy-related relations, others say the deal is only for six months.

One of the most important advantages for New Delhi, according to Indian experts, is that it will now be able to play an active role in Afghanistan as a check against the Taliban, which could be helpful in the former’s endeavors to strengthen its foothold in Central Asia.

With the American withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, Indian policy makers are looking at Iran from a very different political and logistical point of view. [2] As a result of this thaw, India could also streamline its trade and business with Tehran, which have remained constrained due to the US-led sanctions since many years.

An immediate impact could be felt on the shipping activities which have remained visibly hampered due to the sanctions imposed. Most importantly, India’s import of Iranian crude oil is expected to witness some flow in the coming months. However, it also largely depends on how both the countries will find out a final solution to the oil payment imbroglio. So far, this has remained as a major challenge in India-Iran energy-related ties.

The India-Israel-Iran triangular relationship
Alongside the pros and cons of the nuclear deal, one issue that needs to be examined critically is the possible impact of such a breakthrough in India-Israel defense relations. Today, Israel is the second largest arms supplier to India, next to Russia. Military trade between the two over the last one decade is estimated at US$10 billion (with an approximate $1 billion arms trade annually). [3]

This is a significant figure considering the fact that both the countries established diplomatic relations only in early-1992. Defense cooperation is playing a very important role in India-Israel bilateral ties, though it is often kept under-wrapped mainly due to India’s sensitive domestic political concerns.

From what began in the 1990s as purely a business relationship, defense cooperation between India and Israel, today has many facts, namely, arms purchases, technology-transfers and co-production, naval cooperation, counter-terrorism and military training exercise, space technology.

Several joint-venture programs have already been undertaken by defense firms from both the countries and a few are underway. Furthermore, ways to enhance cooperation in the area of cyber-security have also been discussed very recently.

This is beyond the traditional limits of Israel’s supply of weapon systems to India, which ranges from arms and ammunitions to sophisticated missiles and missile defense systems such as PHALCON airborne and early warning systems (AWACS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as Heron and Searcher UAVs, etc.

Doubts have already been raised about certain impact of the mentioned nuclear deal on India-Israel defense cooperation. Going back little more than a decade, a considerable defense relationship was maintained between New Delhi and Tehran, and it was given heightened importance with the signing of a strategic partnership accord during the visit of then Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to New Delhi in January 2003.

This agreement promoted mutual defense ties, granting New Delhi access to Iranian bases in exchange for various Indian defense products, training and technologies. Subsequently, hundreds of Indian naval and logistics specialists visited Iran, offering assistance on submarine maintenance and overhaul and tanks upgrades, and proposing the sale of Indian air defense equipment and airborne platforms.

During the mid-2000s, Iran even sought India’s help in refitting and maintaining its armored tanks and other military vehicles. Unfortunately, no such activities were reported to have ever taken place, partly due to intense pressure from the US. Alongside this, Israel was also reported to have raised its concerns over a few military exercises jointly conducted by Indian and Iranian navies during the mid-2000s. Another Israeli concern was that India might transfer Israeli-based military technology or training to Iran. This issue was flagged during the then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to India in 2003.

It was reported that Israel even asked for “explicit guarantees” from India that it would refrain from transferring any Israeli-origin technology to a third country, especially Iran.“ [4] However, with the signing of Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005, Israeli concerns over the relationship between India and Iran began to dissipate. This happened with the pressure of the US on India to scale down its defense ties with Tehran, which was considered to be a condition for the nuclear deal.

Since then, defense-related ties between India and Iran have remained all time nadir. It was so dormant that both India and Iran have not conducted any meeting of their joint working group that was established in 2003. Military ties were mainly restricted to low-level training and exchange programs.

Today, with the visible change in the geopolitical and geo-strategic relations, the Iranian factor is likely to emerge in India’s defense ties with Israel. Owing to the Geneva nuclear deal, there is possibility of India and Iran resuming defense ties, though not soon.

This also opens up a new channel of communication with the US which has been trying unrelentingly to dominate the Indian defense market. But what remains to be a major hurdle are Washington’s rigid preconditions for any military technology transfers to any country, including India. However, efforts are underway, and the latest example being the proposal by the US to forge a joint-venture (JV) with India for the development of next-generation Javelin anti-tank missiles, during the visit of former deputy defense secretary Ash Carter to India in September 2013. [5]

India even thought of deferring its decision to purchase Israeli-made Spike anti-guided tank missile (ATGM). However, no major breakthrough has been reported till today on this JV. In fact, this Spike ATGM was back on Indian Army’s acquisition agenda in November. [6] If India and the US manage to create mutually acceptable military technology transfer mechanisms, then Israeli arms sales to the former might face stiff competition.

One should remember that, to dominate the Indian defense market, the US needs to provide state-of-the art weapons systems such as missiles, anti-missile systems, electronic warfare systems, etc., as Israel already carved its own niche in India by supplying these.

Simultaneously, as the US warms up to Tehran, the latter has also shown its desire to revive defense ties with India. This has been evidenced by the coincidental "goodwill” visit paid by the Iranian warships, Alborz, Bandar Abbas, and Russian-origin Kilo-class submarine Younes, to Mumbai, in early December 2013. [7]

During a meeting between the navies, an Indian naval official called for close naval cooperation with Iran. In this regard, the need for an outline of a “framework for joint cooperation and provision of security for merchant vessels in India’s western waters all the way to the Persian Gulf” has been suggested. [8] This initiative has resurfaced after a long pause in bilateral military ties.

In July 2013, Iranian ambassador to India Gholamreza Ansari expressed his desire to enhance defense ties with India. As a mark of reciprocity, India’s defense minister AK Antony welcomed this idea of more bilateral defense exchanges between India and Iran. [9] Acknowledging the achievements made by defense industries of both the countries, the Iranian envoy emphasized on his country’s readiness to exchange experience with India.

However, it is still too early to predict a resumption of a strong cooperation in this field. But if it happens, Iran would obviously like to lure the Indian defense planners with its military and defense equipment such as ground surveillance radar systems, personnel carriers, drones, destroyers, submarines, and missile-launching frigates. Tehran might use its military sales both as a means to gain political support as well as to revive its crumbled economy. Such diplomatic tools have already been used very successfully by Israel since the mid-1960s, and continue till today.

A major question is whether new defense ties between India and Iran will impact on the former’s military relations with the Jewish state. It all remains to be seen if there is going to be any negative fallout on India-Israel defense ties. Though Israel and India do not see eye-to-eye with regard to Iran’s controversial nuclear program, both of them conduct their bilateral ties very maturely, particularly India maintaining a very delicate balance with Iran as well.

However, in June 2013, Israeli President Shimon Peres voiced his concern over the Iranian nuclear program and even asked New Delhi not to remain “neutral” to the issue. [10] Going by the record, in the past, India voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its noncompliance to disclose intentions of its nuclear program.

This ignores that with the changing global politics, India is gradually steering an independent foreign policy approach in the Middle East, and it is going to do the same with Iran as well.

As it was with the Jewish state, Iran also had its own concerns over India-Israel defense ties. This became very prominent when India, in 2008, launched TechSAR, an Israeli surveillance satellite also known as Polaris, believed to be capable of providing information on strategic installations in Iran.

Not only the Iranians but sections of the Indian political class [11] criticized such strategic cooperation, especially at a time when Indo-Iranian relations were deteriorating due to New Delhi’s vote in the IAEA against the Islamic Republic and the resulting energy stalemate. Iran was reported to have asked India to refrain from permitting any other countries to conduct such operations on “friendly countries like Iran.” [12] But, for India and Israel, this launch marked a new stage in their ties and showcased India’s growing advancement in the field of space technology.

As India and Iran have just started to discuss means to revive their defense ties, it would be unfair to draw any conclusion whether these will impact on Indo-Israeli military relations. Only time can tell how things will unfold pertaining to these respective military-security relations.

Currently, India and Israel are exploring further means to escalate their defense cooperation. That said it is undeniable that India and Israel have had no hiccups in their defense cooperation. Along with allegations of bribery and corruption in certain arms deals in the past, and the consequent blacklisting of Israel Military Industries (IMI) in 2012, India expressed its displeasure over Israel’s prolonged delay in delivering weapons systems, and a few unsettled cost issues.

In a move to streamline these glitches, Israel’s chief of land forces Major General Guy Zur paid a four-day visit to India in November when he explored further possibilities of enhancing military ties. Discussions were held not only on joint military training and exchanges but also that of security situation in South Asia and Middle East regions. [13] It was around this time when India reconsidered buying Rafael-made Spike ATGMs including “321 missile launchers, 8,356 missiles and 15 training simulators and associated accessories, along with transfer of technology”. [14]

India and Israel reportedly agreed to collaborate in the production of high-tech systems for the Indian troops at a whopping cost estimated at US$3 billion. For this venture, Israel would team up with India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to produce systems related to command and control, battlefield management, sensors and weapons. [15] Along with this, there is another joint-development program for an advanced mobile observation system meant for infantry soldiers which will be operated using radio frequency sensor.

The above developments are all an indication of the robust defense ties between India and Israel. Considering these lucrative deals involving sophisticated defense items, both India and Israel would not like their ties to be undermined by any third party, and Iran at this juncture. For Israel, India is one of the big markets which are filling up the voids left by its once-major clients such as Turkey and People’s Republic of China.

While signals have emerged on improvements of Israel’s relations with Ankara, maturation of their defense ties will take some time. However, military ties between Israel and China which ended during mid-2000 are likely to be revived, sooner or later. With the visible declining role of the US in the Middle East, Israel is likely to use this opportunity to renew its arms sales to Beijing, and could be conducted with “greater secrecy than before.” [16]

Conclusion
It is indeed going to be very interesting to see the warming of relations between Israel and China on one hand, and the US and Iran on the other. India, which is sandwiched in between, will have to navigate its foreign relations very tactfully in order to preserve its wider national interests.

India had to really walk a tightrope last year as a result of the attack on an Israeli diplomat. Israel accused Iran for such attack wherein Delhi was used as their battleground. Many in India and elsewhere blamed these two Middle Eastern countries for bringing their conflicts into the Asia-Pacific region.

Keeping in mind the strategic importance of Israel and Iran ties, India is very uneasy about the tensions mounting up between the former two, especially in the recent days.

Despite India’s act of delicate balance while maintaining its relations with Israel and Iran simultaneously, it is going to be increasingly difficult for New Delhi to continue with the same policy.

India must be cognizant of the changing reality of the Israeli-Iranian standoff. As a result, it must strive unrelentingly to convince both the Middle Eastern countries to solve their crisis through diplomatic measures. For this, New Delhi needs to juxtapose its national interests vis-a-vis Israel and Iran and should take up a very proactive role as a mediator. Finally, India should separate its Iranian policies from that of Israeli strategic policies and should not let one dictate the other.

Notes:
1. “Netanyahu says Iran nuclear deal is ‘historic mistake’, The Jerusalem Post, November, 24, 2013
2. Surav Jha, ”India-Israel Ties Complicated by Iran Opening, Shifting Defense Priorities“, Briefing, World Politics Review, December 6, 2013
3. Efraim Inbar and Alvite Singh Ningthoujam, ”Indo-Israeli Defence Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century“, Middle East Review of International Affairs, December 22, 2011
4. Sudha Ramachandran, ”The glue that bonds India, Iran“, Asia Times Online, January 12, 2005
5. ”US offers to co-develop new Javelin missile with India“, Business Standard, September 17, 2013
6. ”India Again Considers Buying Israel-made ATGM“, Defense News, November 11, 2013
7. ”Iranian warships on three-day goodwill visit to Mumbai“, The Times of India, 5 December 2013
8. ”Iran, India stress expansion of naval cooperation“, Press TV (Iran), December 9, 2013
9. ”Iran seeks enhanced defence ties with India“, The Times of India, July 22, 2013
10. ”Indian cannot stay neutral towards Israel: Israel Prez“, ZeeNews, June 23, 2013
11. ”Spy satellite launch: India’s Israeli turn?“ The Economic Times, February 15, 2008, For a detailed analysis, see, P. R. Kumaraswamy, "With Israel, Is Sky the Limit?” New Indian Express (Chennai), January 39, 2008
12. “Tehran upset over India launching Israeli spy satellite”, The Times of India, February 6, 2008
13. “Israeli chief of land forces arrives on 4-day trip”, The New Indian Express, November 13, 2013
14. “India Again Considers Buying Israel-made ATGM”, Defense News, November 11
15. “Israel to Aid India’s Future Soldier Effort”, Defense News, November 18, 2013
16. PR Kumaraswamy, “Israel-China Arms Trade: Unfreezing Times”, Middle East Institute, 16 July 2012.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors.

Alvite Singh Ningthoujam is a Doctoral candidate at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He also served as a Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, 2010-2011.

(Copyright 2013 Alvite Singh Ningthoujam)

Little progress in expert-level Geneva talks: Iran

Iran says little progress has been made in the latest round of expert-level nuclear talks between Tehran and six world powers in the Swiss city of Geneva.

http://www.presstv.ir/player/player1.swf

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi, who doubles as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, made the comment on the third day of the negotiations on Saturday.

The two sides will be holding a fourth day of talks on Sunday to discuss the implementation of the landmark nuclear deal struck between Iran and the Sextet in Geneva last month.

Director General for Political and International Affairs at Iran’s Foreign Ministry Hamid Baidinejad is leading the Iranian delegation, which is comprised of experts from nuclear, banking, oil and transportation sectors.

Stephen Clement, an aide to the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton heads the Sextet’s negotiating team.

On November 24, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus Germany inked an interim deal in Geneva to set the stage for the full resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program.

As part of the Geneva deal, it was agreed that in exchange for limiting certain aspects of its nuclear activities, Iran would be provided with a certain amount of sanctions relief and that no more nuclear-related sanctions would be imposed on the country for six months.

Iran ended the first round of talks after the administration of US President Barack Obama imposed new sanctions on 19 more Iranian companies and individuals for “providing support” for Tehran’s nuclear program.

Tehran agreed to resume talks with the six world powers after Ashton reassured the Islamic Republic of the seriousness of the opposite side to advance the Geneva deal.

MRS/NN/AS