5:21 p.m., Tehran: Evening rush hour has begun, just as morning rush hour in the Heartland is dying down.

A response, but no details:

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Iran has given its formal answer to a package of incentives offered by the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program, according to Iranian media.

It said Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, handed the response to ambassadors from Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and Switzerland in Tehran on Tuesday afternoon, according to Iran’s state-run Arabic-language Al-Alam television, Reuters reported. It did not give details of the reply.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the U.N. Security Council, is representing the interests of the United States because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Iran still has until the end of the month to formally respond to a U.N. resolution demanding it stop its nuclear program and allow full inspections, or face economic sanctions.

Full article here.

5:42 p.m., Tehran: There is disagreement about Iran’s position amid the uranium enrichment controversy. Political writer Kaveh Afrasiabi writes:

Iran faces a dilemma. It can neither fully accept nor reject the package of incentives offered by Germany and the United Nations Security Council’s permanent five (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China), irrespective of the growing international pressure, the UN’s deadline of August 31 and the threat of international sanctions.

Also, Tehran cannot weed out undesirable aspects of the package, as they all revolve around the central question of Iran’s nuclear-enrichment program.

. . . There are suggestions that enrichment could be suspended after the talks, and not as their precondition, and also of interim suspension and a standby option. The last is borrowed from the United States’ own experience of putting one of its largest enrichment facilities on both cold and warm standby, incurring a substantial cost, principally to prevent the equipment from decaying and keeping scientific personnel on payroll.

Of course the US wants none of that, and senior government officials have promised a swift UN reaction should Iran reject the package. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has demanded a “firm response” that would not contain shades of gray.

Iran, however, is desperately looking precisely for that. There is, after all, a real threat of a US military strike, corroborated by the US media recently, which has not disappeared as a result of the war between Israel and Hezbollah. This is irrespective of recent misinterpretations that go as far as claming that Israel has “rescued” Iran. Such optimistic prognostications leave a lot to be desired, however, and instead we may safely extrapolate a growing Iranian fear due to this war’s wind blowing in Iran’s direction.

Full article here. But another analyst disagrees:

Iran is growing in “strength and assertiveness” and has “got the world by the knaters”, political analyst Allister Sparks said on Monday.

Sparks, who was speaking at the Stanlib International Investment Conference held in Cape Town, said Iran controls the only sea passage which has access to two thirds of the world’s oil supply.

“Iran has its finger on the jugular, the Straight of Hormuz”, he said — which is a stretch of ocean between itself and the United Arab Emirates.

According to Sparks, Iran could close the straight to tanker traffic, thereby halting access to the region. The region includes Saudi Arabia, which produces 25 percent of global supply, Iraq (10.7 percent), United Arab Emirates (9.3 percent), Kuwait (9.2 percent) and Iran (8.6 percent).

Moreover, Iran is also emerging as a threat to the region itself, with countries there “growing more fearful” of its increasing power.

“The region as a whole is deeply unstable and likely to stay so for a long time,” he said. He also warned not to get carried away by the recent peace agreement signed between Israel and Lebanon to end the conflict there.

“By the knaters,” no less. (That’s testicles in Afrikaans, apparently.) Full article here. As usual, I think they’ve both got it right to a degree. Iran certainly possesses great strategic advantages, both in terms of resources and geography, but there are limits on the willingness of its neighbors to put up with shenanigans that will jeopardize their own interests — any attempt to shut down the Straight of Hormuz would no doubt cause many of Iran’s newly-found friends to turn quickly against Iran. In its response to the 5+ nations, Iran has probably introduced some kind of a delay into the proceedings — it is the right strategic move, and so far they’ve been making all the right strategic moves.

6:02 p.m., Tehran: Whatever the content of its response to the 5+ nations, Iran seems to be going out of its way to let people know it is ready for an attack:

TEHRAN, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Iran has vowed to repel any foreign attack, hours before it is expected to respond negatively to Western proposals for ending nuclear enrichment.

Gen. Abbas Nabizadeh, deputy commander of the ground forces in the Iranian army, Tuesday warned Iran’s armed forces are “fully ready to confront any aggression through any point on the Iranian border” aimed at destroying its nuclear installations.

Speaking at the beginning of military exercises in southern Iran, Nabizadeh was quoted by Iranian news agency IRNA as saying “the maneuvers are aimed at showing the fighting capabilities of the ground forces and are necessary for confronting enemy threats.”

Commander of operations center Gen. Daoud Akamehdi said the aim of the exercises is “to assess war tactics under special conditions and to test and use new weapons and military equipment made in Iran.”

“Once again, the maneuvers will expose the great capabilities of the army in confronting foreign threats and show that Iranian-made arms are capable very easily to destroy all modern equipment of the enemy, including helicopter gunship and armored vehicles,” Akamehdi said.

The start of the exercises, which are to continue until the end of the week, coincided with the date fixed by Iran to respond to a package of economic incentives put forward by the West in return for stopping uranium enrichment.

Sort of suggests that they’re not just going to roll over and give up on their nuclear ambitions. Of course, we already knew that. Full article here.

6:17 p.m., Tehran: Reports are beginning to reveal the gestalt of Iran’s response:

Officials close to the meeting said Iran’s response has offered a “new formula” to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear activities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

“Iran has provided a comprehensive response to everything said in the Western package. In addition, Iran, in its formal response, has asked some questions to be answered,” one official said without providing more details.

State-run television said Iran’s response meant Teheran was committed to its promises.

“Iran’s response suggests Iran is committed to dialogue and its promises. … It is in contrast with America’s policy of unilateralism,” the television said without elaborating.

Via Jerusalem Post. Ambiguity. Delay. Not exactly what the apocalyptic Christians or the fundamentalist Shi’ites were hoping for.

7:43 p.m., Tehran: It is early evening in Tehran. Still no end of the world. Millerites everywhere are taking off their rapture robes, neatly packing them in storage, and awaiting the next prophetic instructions.

As we suspected, Iran’s leaders are not lunatics. Let’s remember how well they played us by drawing us into the bottomless war-pit of Iraq. Remember what they tell you on CSI about “motive, opportunity and means,” and look at these forgotten news snippets from two years ago:

  • “It’s pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. “Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through [Ahmed] Chalabi.” Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: “When the story ultimately comes out we’ll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy.” (The Guardian, May 25, 2004)
  • “The troubling reality is that Tehran would have had multiple motives for such a strategy. First, Iranians regarded Saddam Hussein as more than just an adversary; they viewed him with the same kind of fear and loathing that Russians in the 1940s viewed Adolf Hitler. Saddam had invaded and ravaged their country in a war that lasted nearly a decade, and he had used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and possibly Iranian civilians. Washington did Iran a gigantic favor by eliminating a man that Iranians regarded as a demonic enemy. Second, the invasion did Tehran a favor in another way. Iraq was the only credible strategic counterweight to Iran in the Persian Gulf region. Iran’s military capabilities dwarf those of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and while Turkey is a potential strategic counterweight, Ankara has long been reluctant to play a major role in that region. A united Iraq was the principal obstacle to Iranian preeminence.” (FOX News, June 13, 2004)
  • “The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that for years Iran has used a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress to funnel disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources. … Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program (ICP) information to provoke the United Sates into getting rid of Saddam Hussein,” said an intelligence source who was briefed on the conclusions of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).” (Seattle Times, May 22, 2004)

And one further motive is obvious: by pinning an imminent nuclear program on Iraq, they certainly were able to deflect attention from their own nuclear program for a substantial period of time — not to mention tying up U.S. military capacity on it. Why the heck would they need to attack us now after so many years of taking our chips away at the poker table?

See the conclusion of this post here.