Tuesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for December 21st, 2010:

Washington Post: The Post’s neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin picks up on a Wall Street Journal story where anonymous U.S. officials comment that the United States may soon abandon engagement with Iran. “Could the Obama administration really be stiffening its spine and responding to the advice of those warning that talks with the Iranian regime are counterproductive?” she asks hopefully. She interviews Foreign Policy Initiative’s Jamie Fly, who remarks: “I’m skeptical that they will be the ‘crippling’ sanctions we were promised but have yet to see.” Rubin also speaks to an “advisor to a key senator” who says, “My point is just that they are very well-positioned to pursue a very hawkish policy towards Iran now.” Rubin then espouses her own Iran policy: “The real issue is whether the administration will, if needed, employ force to disarm the revolutionary Islamic state.” She is doubtful, but hopes that the next U.S. president will attack Iran.

Weekly Standard: John Noonan writes that proliferation of military systems in rogue states, particularly missile defense, have left the U.S. incapable of doing things like making bombing runs on Iran. “Take this report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which claims that Iran has managed to get its hands on advanced integrated air defense systems that can deny Iranian airspace to all but a few U.S. fighters and bombers,” writes Noonan. “CSBA argues that Iran’s acquisition of new air defense systems limits our strike planning options to stealth B-2 bombers, of which the Pentagon can deploy approximately 16.” CSBA is a group with ties to many neoconservatives and their allies. James Woolsey, Devon Gaffney Cross, and Jack Keane all sit on the board of directors, and Eric Edelman is among the fellows at the Center. Noonan concludes his piece: “Sound strategic planning postures the force in such a way that any scenario could be effectively parried. We allow American power to atrophy at our own risk.”

Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for December 17th, 2010:

Weekly Standard: Michael Weiss attacks the concept of ‘linkage‘ in a long, convoluted piece on the Standard’s blog. Leading off with an overstatement explanation of linkage (“by resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict most other problems will be resolved”), Weiss goes on to list statements by some Arab leaders about both Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ”Where linkage plainly fails as an interpretive mechanism is in its weighing of Arab motives for making Palestine the Key to All Mythologies for regional harmony,” he writes. Weiss analyzes linkage through the lens of previous Arab support for perpetuating the conflict, rather than the current push to end it. Returning to the straw man version of linkage (“attribut[ing] immolated churches in Iraq to ongoing Palestinian statelessness”), he concludes by writing: “In the end, if Palestinian statehood is achieved it will be largely in spite of, not because of, the self-serving efforts of unelected Arab leaders.” The connection to linkage remains unclear.

Commentary: Writing on the Contentions blog, Jonathan Tobin says that Australian Foreign Minister Paul Rudd “blindsides” Israel when, on a tour of the region, the diplomat said that Israel should be subject to IAEA inspections. “The problem with Rudd’s shot fired across Israel’s bow is not so much the request itself but the fact that it represents a tacit acceptance of the main talking point of apologists for Iran’s nuclear ambitions: the positing of a moral equivalence between Israel’s nuclear deterrent and Iran’s desire for the ultimate weapon,” writes Tobin. He says it’s a sign of Israel’s isolation: “With allies like Australia and Kevin Rudd undermining Israel’s case, we must hope that the stories about Stuxnet’s devastating impact really are true.”

Tuesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for December 7th, 2010:

Commentary: J.E. Dyer, writing on Commentary’s Contentions blog, says that talks with Iran are futile and “the current process of negotiation and inspection is worse than irrelevant. It is counterproductive — because it gives Iran time.” Dyer describes Iran’s announcement that it is producing yellowcake from its uranium-processing facility as “pulling a ‘North Korea’” and argues that the costs of negotiations have gotten too high. He concludes, “Today the cost includes Iran’s posting all its biggest weapons-program triumphs after UN sanctions were first imposed. Ultimately, the cost is likely to be much higher.”

The Wall Street Journal: The WSJ’s hawkish editorial board opines that North Korea’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island was a “barbarous” act and questions China’s role as Pyongyang’s “principal apologist, protector and enabler.” The editorial board raises the stakes, asking what role North Korea and China had in proliferating nuclear technology to Iran. The Chinese metals and metallurgy company LIMMT, a company sanctioned by the Bush administration for proliferation, is “perhaps the largest supplier of weapons of mass destruction to Iran,” according to former Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau in accusations made last year. The Journal’s editorial board writes that China “[pledges] good faith in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materiel, especially to Iran,” but China is a major proliferator of nuclear technologies to both Iran and North Korea.

Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin writes up a letter by a group of Senators looking to push President Barack Obama to express the view, as an unnamed Senate staffer put it to Rubin, that “sanctions need to keep ratcheting up.” Written by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joe Liberman (I-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), and later signed by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) (as updated by Rubin), the letter says Iran “cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory.” ‘No enrichment’ has widely been seen as a (long since violated) Israeli red line, while the U.S. under Obama has mentioned Iran’s rights to nuclear enrichment as an NPT signatory. Rubin comments: “Like Margaret Thatcher, these senators are warning the president not to go ‘wobbly.’ Let’s see if he listens.”

Commentary: Evelyn Gordon, blogging on Contentions, compares Iran with the Communist government of North Vietnam in the run-up to that war. While the U.S. seeks compromise with Iran now, and sought it with North Vietnam then, Gordon writes, the U.S.’s “opponents’ aim is often total victory.” She writes that with pressure on Iran more out in the open after WikiLeaks disclosures that show strong Arab hostility, Iran is returning to the negotiating table because it “feels pressured.” “So Iran, cognizant of the West’s weakness, has taken out the perfect insurance policy: as long as it’s talking, feeding the West’s hope for compromise, Western leaders will oppose both new sanctions and military action,” concludes Gordon. “And Tehran will be able to continue its march toward victory unimpeded.”

Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for November 26th, 2010:

Jerusalem Post: The right-wing English language Israeli daily has a piece by columnist Michael Freund, who revives the push that U.S. President Barack Obama can save his presidency by attacking Iran. “There is one dramatic step that Obama can take that would have a transformative effect, not only on his standing in public opinion but on the world itself: Take aggressive action to stop Iran’s nuclear program,” he writes, thus resurrecting a meme started by Daniel Pipes and adopted by Elliott Abrams, among others. “The thought of the would-be Hitler of Persia getting his hands on a nuclear weapon is one that should send shivers down the spine of every Israeli and every Westerner,” writes Freund. “Imposing punishing sanctions and using military force if necessary to stop the Iranian nuclear program would rally the American public behind his administration and underscore the fact that US deterrence is alive and well.”

Foreign Policy: On FP’s Shadow Government blog, Washington Institute for Near East Policy visiting fellow Michael Singh compares Iran’s diplomatic outreach to Africa with its alleged “shadowy network of arms smuggling, support for terrorism, and subversive activities.” Singh, a former George W. Bush National Security Council official, produces a long list of transgressions, some of them mere allegations. “These activities, taken together with Tehran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA on its nuclear activities and callous violations of its own people’s human rights, paint a picture of a regime which pursues its own security by flouting international rules and norms of acceptable behavior,” he writes. He calls for sanctions to be “vigorously enforced” and says Iran’s activities should be a lesson that “even a resolution of the nuclear issue would only begin to address the far broader concerns about the regime and its activities.”

Wall Street Journal: In his Capital Journal column, Gerald Seib writes, “The goal of the U.S. and its allies right now is to make sure Iran has to make hard choices.” With Iran denying they are seeking nuclear weapons while pointing to Israel’s arsenal, ” Seib notes this gives a sense of the “gulf” between Iran and the United States. He says “the best the U.S. and its allies can hope for right now is to slow down the Iranian program on the one hand, while increasing the cost of continuing it on the other.” Carnegie Endowment Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour told Seib: “Negotiations likely won’t resolve our dispute with Iran. But they can help contain our dispute with Iran and prevent it from escalating.”

Thursday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for November 18th, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal: Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), writes that Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), due to its identity as the defender of “Islamic Civilization,” may have already signaled a rift with NATO over Iran. In an op-ed entitled “NATO’s Turkey Problem,” Cagaptay says the AKP is expected to drags its feet in implementing the NATO missile defense shield because “it is directed against potential threats from two fellow Muslim countries—Syria and Iran.” Cagaptay adds, “Given that Turkey is the only NATO member bordering Iran and Syria, viewed by the U.S. as ballistic missile threats to NATO, this is a troubling strategic shift.”

Pajamas Media: Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow Michael Ledeen rails against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s recent comments that an attack on Iran would devastate the nascent opposition movement there. He calls Gates a “blind man” and that there is no evidence for Gates’ assertion, never mentioning that top-level current and former Pentagon brass and diplomats — as well as, notably, Iranian dissident figures — believe otherwise. “I try to imagine one of the tens of millions of Iranian opponents of the regime,” Ledeen fantasizes, rather than asking experts and actual Iranian dissidents. “And then one day somebody blows up a bunch of nuclear labs, some secret military installations, and [Revolutionary Guard] headquarters in the major cities. Does that guy now rally round the supreme leader? I don’t think so.”

Think Progress: At the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress blog, analyst Matt Duss reports on a conference at D.C.’s National Press Club dedicated to boosting the case for war on Iran. At the conference, Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) cited unspecified “intelligence” to allege that “we know that they [Iran] already have a nuclear capability.” Duss notes that the CIA disagrees with this assessment. Bachmann also called for overt U.S. support for the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Islamist-Marxist organization (commonly accused of having a cultish outlook) that fought against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, and since 1997 has been designated a “foreign terror organization” by the State Department. “We have shackled this freedom-seeking group which has the ability to help Iranians rise up against that tyrannical regime,” Bachmann said.

Tuesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for November 16th, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal: Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) fellow Benjamin Weinthal categorized a trip by five German parliament members to Iran last month to meet with their Iranian counterparts as that nation’s “bizarre way of working through its history” and“court[ing] Tehran’s Holocaust deniers.” The German lawmakers defended their trip as an example of valuable cultural exchange. Weinthal takes issue with the group’s unwillingness to ask questions about Iranian human rights abuses and limitations on freedom of religion. With other German politicians scheduled to tour, Weinthal concludes that “[i]t appears that for Berlin, promoting its flourishing trade relationship with Tehran and preserving the ‘historical treasure of the German-Iranian friendship’ trump concerns for human rights and nuclear proliferation.”

Defense News: Efraim Inbar, a Bar-Ilan University professor and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, makes the case for military action against Iran. Inbar argues that “diplomacy has run its course,” “economic sanctions are generally futile” and that further negotiations just gives Iran more time to complete its nuclear program. Inbar says that an Iranian nuclear program could threaten the regional stability of the Middle East, Europe and South Asia. Inbar is resolute: “The discussions on postnuclear Iran scenarios underestimate the strategic repercussions of an Iranian nuclear arsenal. At this late stage, only military action can prevent the descent of the greater Mid-east into a very brutish region.”

The Wall Street Journal: With foreign policy not having been on the mid-term election agenda, neoconservative Senator Joe Lieberman makes the case for resurrecting an internationalist (read hawkish) bipartisan foreign policy. After indefinitely continuing the Afghan war, Lieberman’s “second priority for national security bipartisanship” is Iran. He wants to “ensure that sanctions are aggressively enforced” and to keep the military option on the table – euphemistically referred to by stating: “We must also work together to send a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is unified and determined to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—through peaceful means if we possibly can, by other means if we absolutely must.” Lieberman asserts that an Iranian bomb “would dramatically undermine our national security” and lauds bipartisan support for the most recent rounds of U.S. sanctions on Iran.