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Topic: Iran (Read 142504 times)
Reply #700 on:
September 01, 2014, 08:17:42 AM »
Reply #701 on:
September 01, 2014, 11:10:45 AM »
What I really don't understand is why does Obama think he is the only who can and does lie?
Bottom line. He knows this. He just doesn't care. He plays "American" just enough to prevent a liberal slaughter at the next election.
Stratfor: Iran prepares for leadership transition
Reply #702 on:
September 15, 2014, 11:37:10 AM »
Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition
September 15, 2014 | 0436 Print Text Size
Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostrate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.
Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.
Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani's election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.
Nuclear Talks and Syria
After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18.
A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran's ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran's domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year's General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process.
As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran's ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning.
A New Supreme Leader
On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei's health have shifted Iran's priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei's hospitalization to show that all is well -- while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change -- coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities.
Before Khamenei was elected supreme leader in 1989, the idea of a collective clerical body was in vogue among many clerics. The country's second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on several occasions has proposed a "jurisprudential council" consisting of several top clerics as an alternative to the supreme leader's post. His proposal has not gained much traction, but with succession imminent, it might seem more attractive as a compromise should the competing factions prove unable to reach a consensus.
Constitutionally, an interim leadership council takes over should the incumbent supreme leader no longer be able to carry out his duties until the Assembly of Experts elects a successor. Considering the factionalized nature of the Iranian political elite, it is only normal to assume that the process to replace Khamenei will be marred by a major struggle between the various camps that make up the conservative establishment. After all, this is an extremely rare opportunity for those seeking change and for those seeking continuity to shape the future of the republic.
For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially.
The country's elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession.
Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president's pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.
Read more: Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
Once again the call to destroy Israel
Reply #703 on:
October 05, 2014, 04:23:09 PM »
Alster: Did Iran's crackdown include nuke scientists?
Reply #704 on:
October 06, 2014, 04:01:10 PM »
Did Iran's Crackdown on Dissidents Include Nuclear Scientists?
by Paul Alster
Special to IPT News
October 2, 2014
A four-month extension granted by the P5+1 to the Islamic Republic of Iran to comply with the nuclear arms deal brokered in late-2013 and negotiate a final deal ends Nov. 24. Iran has been required to fully account for its nuclear development activities and offer all assistance to international inspectors, in return for the lifting of crippling international sanctions.
Iran welcomed the easing of financial and other sanctions, but many in the international community believe that Iran has failed to keep its end of the bargain.
"No deal is better than a bad deal," President Obama is on record as saying, but with the not-insignificant distraction of the ISIS terror sweep into Syria and Iraq, there are fears that the notoriously smooth-tongued Iranian negotiators will pull another fast one and wriggle out of their commitments.
"In order to understand what could go wrong, all one has to do is to carefully reflect upon the past decade and note everything that actually has gone wrong: how Iran was able to progress from having several hundred centrifuges to 19,000 of these machines, and to accumulate a stockpile of LEU [Low Enriched Uranium] in an amount that if enriched to higher levels could produce fissile material for 6 or 7 nuclear devices," Emily B. Landau, senior research fellow and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Tel-Aviv-based Institute of National Strategic Studies (INSS) points out in a recently published study, 'Principles and Guidelines for a Comprehensive Nuclear Deal with Iran.'
Against this background this week came renewed allegations from Iranian dissidents that the high-profile slaying of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist in January 2007 may have been carried out by the regime itself, and not by Israel's Mossad intelligence service, as has been widely assumed.
The allegation has been made by Mahboobeh Hosseinpour, the sister of the late Ardeshir Hosseinpour, who died in suspicious circumstances after apparently expressing deep concern at the direction of the Iranian nuclear program.
Hosseinpour was contacted in 2004 by government agents with "a direct message" from Iran's supreme leader, a statement from the opposition group The New Iran said, summarizing the sister's story.
The agents "sought to enlist Dr. Hosseinpour to work on increasing the IRI's capabilities in uranium enrichment for the purpose of building atomic weapons with a secondary goal of teaching and supervising Russian and North Korean scientists in order to accelerate this project. In order to incentivize Dr. Hosseinpour, he was offered the rank of a two-star general in the IRI's Revolutionary Guard apparatus along with ownership of three factories related to manufacturing of parts for the nuclear projects. This offer received a harsh and negative reaction from Dr. Hosseinpour who promptly ridiculed and rejected it."
Mahboobeh Hosseinpour believes her brother's "persistent resistance against the IRI regime and its nuclear intentions that led Ali Khamenei to order his assassination on January 15, 2007."
It's a powerful claim, but one without evidence. On its own, it would be hard to accept that – like a classic James Bond villain – Iran killed one of its leading nuclear scientists. But similar allegations in recent years appear to reflect the Iran's zero tolerance view of any internal dissent.
In 2012, Britain's Daily Mail reported claims by London-based dissident Potkin Azarmeh that Iranian intelligence agents, and not a man paraded by the regime as an Israeli spy and apparently executed 50-year-old Masoud Ali Mohammadi, another senior Iranian scientist allegedly working on the nuclear development project.
"Some Iranian dissidents believe that [Iran] has used the cover of its war with Israel to crack down on internal opponents, with some saying that Mr Mohammadi was killed because he was a supporter of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi," the Daily Mail reported. "Ali-Mohammadi died in January 2010 when a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle outside his home in Tehran went off."
This week's allegations are clearly designed by Iranian dissidents to plant questions in the mind of the public and of international politicians prepared to accept the benign smile of President Hassan Rouhani as a genuinely moderate new face in Iran. The potential double-bluff of killing its own sharpest nuclear brains, they intimate, is not far removed from the ruse being performed under the noses of the international community who have failed to understand the extent to which Iran's nuclear program continues to develop, even with IAEA inspectors in the country at the behest of the P5+1.
Any potential extension to negotiations, argue regional experts such as Ephraim Asculai, who worked 40 years with Israel's Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), could be a fatal mistake. "Iran is... interested in buying time," Asculai believes, "because the window of opportunity for breaking out – making an explosive nuclear device – narrows with each passing day."
International negotiators seem to have given up on dismantling Iran's nuclear program, Landau warns. "Rather, at this point they seek only to slow it down, with the hope that they will be able to prevent in time an Iranian rush to concretize its military nuclear capability."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear at the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week that Iran remains the biggest threat to world peace. The international community should not be distracted by the ISIS issue, Netanyahu warned. Iran remains the major supporter of Syrian President Assad's disgraced regime, bankrolls Hizballah in south Lebanon and now inside Syria, and continues to do all it can to support the terror regime of Hamas in Gaza.
A glance at Iran's brutal repression of internal dissent and its endemic corruption appears to add weight to the view that Tehran will indeed go to any lengths to silence questioning voices and should not be trusted.
Ranked a dismal 144th of 177 nations in the 2013 Transparency International corruption index, Iran has long found ways of getting around international sanctions, flagrantly violating human rights, and ruling through fear.
"The new administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion, despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in," U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon observed as recently as March.
Leaders in the opposition Green Movement, which attempted to bring about reforms in Iran and still argues that they were robbed of election victory in 2009 due to widespread government orchestrated fraud, have long since been rounded up. Former Prime Minister Mir Houssein Musavi has been confined to house arrest. Critics of the Iranian regime suggest that many of those arrested and summarily tried for offences such as drug dealing are in fact Green Movement supporters and supporters of other opposition groups. Some have been executed.
Amnesty International's 2013 report on Iran pointedly included the following statements:
1) The [Iranian] authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Dissidents and human rights defenders... were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from travelling abroad. Torture and other ill-treatment were common and committed with impunity ... They took steps to create a controlled, national internet, routinely monitored telephone calls, blocked websites, jammed foreign broadcasts and took harsh action against those who spoke out.
2) Government critics and opponents were arbitrarily arrested and detained by security forces. Tens were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials. Dozens of peaceful government critics detained in connection with mass protests in 2009-2011 remained in prison or under house arrest throughout the year. Many were prisoners of conscience.
3) Political and other suspects continued to face grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary and Criminal Courts. They often faced vaguely worded charges that did not amount to recognizably criminal offences and were convicted, sometimes in the absence of defence lawyers, on the basis of "confessions" or other information allegedly obtained under torture. Courts accepted such "confessions" as evidence without investigating how they were obtained.
4) Hundreds of people were sentenced to death. Official sources acknowledged 314 executions. Credible unofficial sources suggested that at least 230 other executions were also carried out, many of them in secret, totaling 544. The true figure may have been far higher, exceeding 600. There were at least 63 public executions.
The Mujahedeen el-Khalq (MEK) is one of a number of Iranian opposition movements that have attempted to challenge the rule of the Ayatollah's since 1981. These movements have been under sustained assault from the regime and have been forced out of the country, even though Iran publicly scoffs at them and insists they are of no consequence. The MEK was granted sanctuary by the U.S. at Camp Ashraf in neighboring Iraq in 2004, even though it was at that time still officially a designated terrorist organization. It was de-listed in 2012, despite furious protests from the Iranian government.
Why, then, did the U.S., EU, and UK designate a pro-democracy Iranian group?
"The MEK was put on the terrorist list solely because the mullahs insisted on such action if there was to be any dialogue between Washington and Tehran," Lord Alex Carlile, former independent reviewer of British anti-terrorism laws, explained in The Guardian in October 12, 2012. "This was all part of a misguided effort to reach out to 'moderates' in the regime, an effort that accomplished nothing but gave Iran the time it needed to commence and advance its nuclear development."
Carlile accurately predicted what would happen next at Camp Ashraf. By September 2013 the Shi'ite government of former Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri Al-Malaki had grown increasingly close to the Iranian leadership. Al-Malaki constantly called for the Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf to be removed. In an apparent show of loyalty to Iran it is alleged that on September 1, Iraqi forces entered the camp and murdered not less than 52 members of the MEK, a massacre that drew furious responses from the international community, including the U.S.
"In reality," Carlile observed, "far too much attention has been paid to disinformation disseminated by Tehran and its lobbyists in an effort to make the western countries conclude that there is no viable opposition and no chance of change from within – leaving the west to choose between making concessions to Iran or going to war, both very unpleasant choices."
Given all of the above, just a taste of the huge number of dossiers on Iran's scheming, murderous regime that consistently seeks to mislead and misinform, surely the P5+1 will not allow the Islamic Republic another opportunity to buy time for its nuclear program and potentially further de-stabilize an already toxic situation in the region. Or will it?
Paul Alster is an Israel-based contributor to FoxNews.com and The Jerusalem Report and blogs at paulalster.com. He can be followed on Twitter: @paul_alster
Ayatollah said "No Nukes!"
Reply #705 on:
October 17, 2014, 12:03:38 PM »
Re: Ayatollah said "No Nukes!"
Reply #706 on:
October 18, 2014, 12:12:10 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on October 17, 2014, 12:03:38 PM
Reply #707 on:
October 21, 2014, 03:12:56 PM »
Oy , , ,
12 Tribes: How to prevent a nuclear Iran
Reply #708 on:
November 02, 2014, 01:08:42 AM »
Click here to watch: How to prevent a nuclear Iran
On November 4, American voters will be facing a monumental and high stakes moment in which they will decide whether control of the US Senate will continue to be in Democratic Party hands or be turned over to the Republicans. American voters should be warned that the continuance of a Democratic-controlled Senate led by Harry Reid will guarantee that Iran will end up being the first Islamist jihadist state with a nuclear weapon. Only a Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives will be able to stop President Barack Obama from capitulating to the Iranians and signing a bad deal which will allow the country to become a nuclear threshold state. A bill proposed by fellow Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk, which threatens additional harsher sanctions than those originally imposed on Iran in 2011 if no final agreement to dismantle their nuclear enrichment program is reached by the November 24 deadline, failed to even come to a vote on the Senate floor this last winter. The resolution, which at the time had the votes to pass with 43 Republicans and 16 Democrats cosponsoring it, was blocked from coming to a vote by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the request of the White House. While only two Republicans did not support the bill, many of the Senators from the Democratic Party were against it including many Jewish Senators. Only if the Republicans take control of the Senate, it is likely that Obama will find himself presented with a new sanctions bill whether or not he signs a final agreement with Iran.
The blocking of this legislation by the White House is flabbergasting when one remembers that Iran only came to the negotiating table in large measure because of the original crippling economic sanctions drafted by Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez in 2011 which was reluctantly signed into law by Barack Obama. Those sanctions reduced Iran’s oil exports and cut it off from the global, dollar dominated financial system. Consequently, Iran’s currency lost three quarters of its value and inflation and unemployment rose greatly. As senior Treasury Department officials told Reuters in an interview, "Iran’s economy today is about 25% smaller than it would have been if we had not imposed the oil and financial sanctions." On October 19, the New York Times reported that Obama was planning on bypassing the Congress by not bringing a future final agreement to a Congressional’ vote which will include suspending the enforcement of the sanctions passed in 2011. Such a plan is worrisome because it implies that the agreement the US is pushing so hard for, is a bad one. Otherwise, why not bring it to the Congress which could then simply vote to rescind the sanctions or ratify the treaty after a full congressional hearing, disclosure and debate. The Los Angeles Times on October 20 reported that conservative Iranian lawmaker Javad Qoddoushi said that he was briefed by Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a nuclear negotiator, who stated that the Obama Administration has sweetened its offer again in the ongoing negotiations, saying that it might accept Iran operating 4000 centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, up from the previous 1300. This news came a week after we learned that the Obama administration has agreed to let the Iranians disconnect their remaining operating centrifuges, rather than dismantle or destroy them as Obama originally promised. These US concessions are the latest in a long line of concessions. In November 2013, the US and five other world powers signed the Geneva Interim Agreement in which they tacitly endorsed the Iranians "right" to enrich and gave them sanctions relief worth more than $7 billion just for willing to engage in talks. Then, after six months of negotiations in which the Iranians conceded nothing, the US extended the negotiations another six months despite the fact that Iran has still not implemented all the nuclear transparency measures it had agreed to carry out in the interim agreement. The only way now to pressure Iran to agree to dismantle their nuclear program is if the Iranians fear that the new elected Congress will be determined to override any possible Obama veto and shut down their economy again with much worse crippling sanctions. Voting for a Republican Senate majority this November will give a message to Iran that the American public does not support Obama’s agenda of appeasement and that the Republicans with the support of few righteous Democrats have the public mandate to take the fight to Obama and undermine any possible weak or bad final agreement. As the leading Republican critic of the negotiations, Senator Mark Kirk, said: "Congress will not permit the president to unilaterally unravel Iran sanctions that passed the Senate in a 99 to 0 vote."
S.1881, the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,”
Reply #709 on:
November 02, 2014, 09:43:12 AM »
I tried to look up more information concerning this bill. Different takes come up with MUCH confusing reports of political jockeying involved. Interesting to note that Senator Bob Menendez D NJ co-sponsored this since he is normally a big liberal. One site implies that this is because he accepts political donations from "Jewish" donors. Another site points out the AIPAC completely changed course in first backing the bill than being against it. As for the 13 Jewish Senators it sounds around four (?) were against the bill including Levin and Feinstein. Others like Bennett and Schumer and Blumenthal were supporters.
I am really not clear what the rush by Obama is to get some sort of "deal" with Iran is all about if the deal means caving in to most of Iran's demands.
The thought of a sponsor of Terror being able to make nuclear weapons.
Midterms killed Iran deal
Reply #710 on:
December 03, 2014, 02:44:03 PM »
Midterms Killed Iran Deal
By DICK MORRIS
Published on TheHill.com on December 2, 2014
The first fruit of the Republican victory in the midterm elections is the failure of President Obama's efforts to give away everything to Iran in the nuclear negotiations. If Democrats had kept their Senate majority on Nov. 4, we would all be wincing as Obama triumphantly announced a "peace" deal with Iran that would have all but invited the terrorist regime to acquire nuclear weapons.
It is only because of the certainty that a Republican Congress would pass legislation condemning and possibly blocking the nonproliferation deal that his efforts at appeasement fell short. Neither the U.S. nor Britain, France nor Germany, not even the European Union (the negotiating partners) wanted to sign a deal that the U.S. Congress would condemn as a giveaway.
Behind this victory is the hand of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). While I have condemned him from this space in previous columns, it is time his singular accomplishments in fighting the Iranian nuclear project be recognized. Along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), he has achieved a broad bipartisan consensus that the Iranian nuclear program must be dismantled and destroyed.
With Menendez's backing, it might even be possible to override an Obama veto of sanctions legislation once the new Congress meets. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and, perhaps, the two California Democrats -- Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein -- will be under heavy constituent pressure to back a sanctions bill. Add in what remains of the conservative Democratic bloc in the Senate, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and you begin to approach the necessary 67 votes.
The key point as the new year dawns is that it is not enough to let the current situation freeze. The sanctions relief, granted in anticipation of a final deal one year ago, must be rolled back to punish Iran for failing to move ahead and for cheating on the sanctions that remain. Iranian oil sales have averaged 1.34 million barrels per day, about half of the pre-sanctions level. Without progress in the negotiations, it is imperative that Iran be denied the almost $40 billion it stands to reap from even its current level of oil output and sales.
Iran retains and operates all of its 10,000 nuclear centrifuges and refuses to dismantle any. The most it will offer is to operate them more slowly and to hold down enrichment to below-bomb levels. With a stockpile of 3 percent to 5 percent enriched uranium, to say nothing of 20 percent enrichment, a bomb is just a short time away whenever the ayatollah flips the switch.
Iran also refuses to stop construction of its heavy water reactor at Arak or even to convert it to a light water reactor -- steps necessary to stop the development of a plutonium nuclear weapon. Nor has Iran agreed to a long-term deal or to adequate inspections to assure that any arrangement is, in fact, enforced.
Iran would not be required to moderate its pursuit of ballistic missile capability nor to halt research and development on nuclear weaponry.
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his people last month: "The centrifuges are spinning and will never stop." His foreign minister echoed his confidence, saying: "I'm confident that any final deal will have a serious and not a token Iranian enrichment program coupled with removal of sanctions."
Until the Republicans won the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could be counted upon to kill any Iran sanctions bill and to not allow it to come up for a potentially politically embarrassing vote. Were it to pass, it would put former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a tough spot. If she were to back a congressional sanctions bill, she would split with Obama and legitimize opposition to his diplomacy. But were she to back the president, defying many Democrats, she would ensure that whether we could trust Iran would be a central issue in the elections. And we know how that would come out.
Iran's president sees a nuke deal coming soon
Reply #711 on:
December 16, 2014, 07:54:09 AM »
Reply #712 on:
January 21, 2015, 12:14:40 PM »
Looks like Iran bought off the Argentine president to cover up its bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aries in 1994. See today's post at
FP: Obama's pivot to Iran
Reply #713 on:
at 04:35:57 PM »
Obama’s Pivot to Iran
With President Barack Obama’s welcome and warmly received trip to India this week, commentators have dusted off the well-worn platitudes associated with the administration’s once-vaunted “pivot to Asia.” The week’s other events, however — from the president’s decision to cut his stay in Delhi short to attend King Abdullah’s funeral in Riyadh to the chaos in Yemen, from ongoing nuclear diplomacy with Iran to Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to ensure his relationship with Obama will be seen as the most toxic in the history of Israel and the United States — suggest this administration’s foreign-policy legacy may ultimately center on a different “strategic rebalancing.” This one will benefit, however, in ways once unimaginable in U.S. foreign-policy circles, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is quite possible that, by the time Obama leaves office, no other country on Earth will have gained quite so much as Iran. Not all of this will be the doing of the United States, of course, and in fact some of it may prove to be the undoing of our interests in the long run. But there is no doubting that some of the remarkable gains that seem to be on the near horizon for Tehran will have come as a result of a policy impulse that was far closer to the heart of the president than is the on-again, off-again Asia initiative (which was really much more the product of the ideas and efforts of a bunch of his first-term aides and cabinet members than it was of his own impulses or those of his innermost circle).
Consider the gains. First, there’s the issue of legacy. With negotiations continuing at a high simmer behind the scenes, the Obama foreign-policy team sees a nuclear deal with Iran as the one remaining brass ring that is there for them to claim. Elsewhere, there is the possibility of some progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but promotional rhetoric surrounding it aside, it’s just not as big a game-changer as its proponents suggest. It’d certainly be a welcome development, but it’s incremental and, of course, doesn’t really improve our relations with Asia’s biggest long-term players, China and India. And beyond that, there’s not much else in the pipeline.
A deal with Iran, if it could be translated into action, would in theory produce a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program. That would certainly be a good thing. But it provides no guarantee that Tehran could not reverse course in the future, break its terms, or do as it has done for the past 30 years — namely, stir up mayhem in the region without the benefit of nuclear weapons. What it would provide — even in the midst of a congressional tug of war over Iran policy, with new sanctions coming from the Hill and presidential vetoes pinging and ponging up and down Pennsylvania Avenue — would be some White House-directed relief for Tehran. Presumably, a nuclear deal would further the thaw in the relations between the United States and Iran, while providing a great incentive for other countries to resume normal trading relations (to the extent they don’t have them already).
Iran would gain stature. Iran would have a better seat in the councils of nations. Iran would gain economic benefits. And Iran’s enemies would be furious.
Iran would gain stature. Iran would have a better seat in the councils of nations. Iran would gain economic benefits. And Iran’s enemies would be furious.
If the president thinks a brief drop-by in Saudi Arabia is going to somehow offset the House of Saud’s fury at an Iran deal, he’s not paying attention. Obama can’t charm them into overlooking the chasm between their cultures that has developed over 1,000 years. It will be seen by Sunni allies in the Gulf as a betrayal. They’re pragmatic. Some are already preparing to deal with what they see as the inevitable rapprochement. And they do, in the near term, see Iran as a potential counterweight to their more immediately threatening enemies — extremist Sunnis. (After all, this is the land of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.) But happy they are not. Millennium-long antagonisms endure for a reason.
One reason they are so unhappy is not only that the United States is changing the terms of its relations with Iran and triggering a strengthening of that country economically and politically, but that Washington’s policies — inaction and action, both — have helped contribute to other ways Tehran has gained ground in recent years. Some of this is not Obama’s fault, but his predecessor’s: In case you missed it, blowing up Iraq was a bad thing. It unleashed forces like the Islamic State, but it also replaced a Baathist government in Baghdad with one that is openly dependent on Iranian forces for support and protection. What’s more, the United States is now providing the air power that is enabling Iranian forces to gain and hold ground for their client, effectively putting a big chunk of Iraq even deeper in Iran’s pocket. (It is an especially peculiar development of the past weeks that when America’s historic allies, the Israelis, launched an attack that killed an Iranian general in Syria, they were in fact eliminating a member of a military organization that is currently fighting alongside, and in coordination with, the United States next door in Iraq.)
Iran is the one country in the Middle East that seems to be racking up material gains as a result of the unrest that has beset the region. The Houthi coup in Yemen has brought an Iranian-backed Shiite group to power — at least, in a large part of that country. Baghdad is now more directly dependent on Tehran than ever before; Iran is providing a substantial number of the ground troops fighting the Islamic State and protecting Shiite Iraq from the terrorist fighters. Even in Syria, Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad has been receiving a steady stream of signals that Washington is increasingly willing to let him remain in place. Meanwhile, Hezbollah remains strong in Lebanon and has carved out gains in southern Syria.
Even with congressional efforts to scuttle the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks by putting in place new sanctions, it seems clear that Iran will someday look back on the Obama years as ones that may have started painfully — with tightening sanctions — but ended considerably better.
That won’t be the view of the two countries the United States fought in to help stabilize, Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which are certain to end up by 2016 riven with divisions and beset by brutal and destabilizing fighting. It won’t be Washington’s Gulf allies, which are feeling the squeeze of increasing global oil and gas production (led by the United States) amplified by the development of renewables and new breakthroughs in energy efficiency. Virtually every Gulf nation is threatened by the spread of extremism and has been harmed by the tepid nature of U.S. support for our traditional alliances with these states. The fact is: They just don’t trust America to be there for them as it once was. Egypt and Turkey, the other two regional powers with historical influence comparable to Iran, have been rocked by internal upheaval.
And Israel? Well, one senior former top Obama administration official confirmed my assertion that the Obama-Netanyahu relationship had deteriorated to the point that it was now the worst relationship in the history of ties between the leaders of the two countries. “It’s not even close,” he said, “Carter and Begin was bad. But this is worse.” That seems about right to me. While Obama has done plenty to damage the relationship (and his staff hasn’t helped with descriptions of the Israeli prime minister as “chickenshit”), the most recent downturn is all Bibi’s fault (with a profoundly unconstructive assist from House Speaker John Boehner). Netanyahu’s decision to accept Boehner’s invitation to address the U.S. Congress on the dangers of the Iran nuclear deal is a case of sending the wrong man at the wrong time to give the wrong speech in the wrong place.
If Bibi really wanted to assure Israel’s security, as he asserts, he would wait and hope — and quietly pressure the administration to make sure — that it’s a good one and a peaceful way to stop Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. If it turns out to be lousy or unenforceable, he can always oppose it. But for a foreign leader to come before Congress to seek to play U.S. politics and derail an ongoing negotiation is unprecedented and inappropriate. Moreover, it’s likely to backfire on many levels — not the least of which is cementing the inclination among many of Obama’s closest advisors that if they’re doing something that really pisses off Bibi, they must be doing something right. This, of course, is deeply unhealthy for a key relationship and only highlights the extent of shared blame and the need for, well, a reset.
When the reset comes (and whoever is the next U.S. president will certainly work to engineer one … and if they are lucky, it will be with someone other than Netanyahu) it will be in the context of a very different Middle East.
It will be a region upon which the world is less dependent. It will be a region in which more countries are less stable and local unrest is a global threat. It will be a region in which the vast majority of the problems that loomed large back in 2008 will be seen as having deteriorated, in which new ones have emerged, and in which U.S. initiatives have largely either exacerbated the problems or kicked the can down the road. And it will be a region in which traditional U.S. alliances are largely weakened.
The changed Iran relationship will be at the center of all this. If an Iran deal helps forestall development of a nuclear weapon, that has to be seen as a benefit. If it has produced a partner in helping to contain Sunni extremism, that will also be seen as a net good. If it forms the foundation for a new U.S. regional policy that is based on enlightened management of the balance of power between key regional actors to maintain stability and contain threats, that is to the net good. If it finds a way to work with traditional allies from Israel to the Gulf, restore stability and promote progress in Egypt, foster reforms in Turkey, fight support for extremists among some of our so-called allies in the Middle East, and move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that respects Israel’s right to exist, then that is to the net great. Then the Obama vision will be seen as a breakthrough — and he’ll deserve all the credit he gets.
Remember, it was during the 2008 campaign that Obama asserted that one of the ways that his foreign policy would be different would be that he would engage with Iran.
Remember, it was during the 2008 campaign that Obama asserted that one of the ways that his foreign policy would be different would be that he would engage with Iran. If he can make that happen through careful, strategic management of U.S. relations in the region and follow through on all the steps required to make this work, it’ll be quite an accomplishment.
But if Iran receives much-needed economic relief and yet still continues to make mischief in the region, if it cheats on a deal, if it further institutionalizes the spread of Iranian influence threatening the Saudis and other important Gulf allies, if Washington’s empowerment of Shiite Iran becomes a recruiting tool for groups like the Islamic State or al Qaeda, if Israel so distrusts U.S. diplomacy that it triggers conflict with Iran, if key U.S. relationships in the Gulf continue to deteriorate, if American disengagement (or desultory, strategically impaired engagement) stimulates rather than contains the rise of new strongholds of terror, then this pivot to Iran is going to seem like a great blunder. And America is going to feel like its 44th president got played.
I will leave it to you, dear reader, to determine which is more likely given the lessons of recent history. One thing seems certain, though. When you look up Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the history books, far more attention will almost certainly be devoted to his outreach to Iran and his actions and inaction in the volatile Middle East than to his efforts at strategic rebalancing to Asia — or his now poignantly unsuccessful efforts to declare an end to America’s war on terror.
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