Wednesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for March 2nd, 2011:

The Wall Street Journal: The WSJ’s editorial board catalogs newspaper and blog commentary on “The ‘Israel First’ Myth: Obsessed with the Jewish state, Mideast ‘experts’ got the region all wrong.” The writers lash out at the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman for his history of endorsing “linkage” and for suggesting that, “If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner.” They write: “It was fanciful of Friedman to think that Arab dictators–whom he now acknowledges have depended on scapegoating Israel to maintain their hold on power–would have agreed to such plans,” and “The current regime in Iran is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. It’s hard to see how Israel would be better off today if it had entrusted its security to the Arab dictators whose own people have suddenly made them an endangered species.”

Tablet Magazine: Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow Lee Smith opines that “While protest rage across the Middle East, Israel stands as a regional model of resiliency, relevance and democratic stability.” Smith admits that this is an about-face from the position he took last week, when he claimed that “Israel is finished” and “the fall of Hosni Mubarak is only the latest setback in a decade of extraordinary strategic debacles for Israel.” This week, he argues, “The Arab model for success is not Iran, or Turkey, but Israel,” and, more specifically on Iran: “Iran’s nuclear program and full-throated opposition to the United States and the Zionist entity may make it the envy of some fans of resistance in the region, but the fact is that an Iranian bomb is the Hail Mary pass of a dying society where there’s been no economic development for 30 years.”

The Washington Post: The Post’s “Right Turn” blogger takes issue with the White House’s “tepid language” in denouncing the Iranian government for its detainment of opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Jennifer Rubin observes that “[the administration’s statements] highlights perhaps the greatest failing of the Obama administration: its failure to seize the moment and provide support (rhetorical and otherwise) to the Green Movement in 2009.”

Monday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 28th, 2011:

The Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin blogs that White House Middle East Adviser (and Middle East Quarterly board member) Dennis Ross’s appearance at the J Street conference today “was an odd assignment, given that J Street, in concert with the pro-Iranian-regime NIAC had conspired to try to prevent his appointment.” She observes, “The applause greeting him was slight, almost imperceptible.” (I attended Ross’s speech and remember Ross receiving a polite reception from the crowd.) She adds, “on Iran’s nuclear program, he gave the Obama-approved squishy line, saying we are determined to try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

RealClearPolitics: Hawkish senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on RealClearPolitics’s State of the Union blog. “The president should reverse the terrible decision he made in 2009 to not support the demonstrators in Tehran,” said McCain, in response to a question about the Obama administration holding off criticism of Libya out of concern that Americans there might be taken hostage. “Stand up for democracy in Iran and tell those people that we are with them,” he continued, “And that should be true not only throughout the Arab countries but as far as China and other parts of the world as well.”

Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 25th, 2011:

The Weekly Standard: Jaime Daremblum, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, blogs on the “underreported news” that the U.S. government is investigating “whether Venezuela recently defied American sanctions by sending gasoline to the Islamic Republic.” “‘Hugo Chávez and PDVSA are actively helping Iran bypass both U.S. and international sanctions in its pursuit of nuclear weapons,’ said Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL). Over the past several years, Chávez has effectively turned his country into an Iranian satellite,” writes Daremblum. He ominously concludes that the Obama administration needs to “promulgate a coherent, robust strategy for addressing the Chávez threat and repelling Iranian influence in the region (which continues to grow).”

The Washington Times: Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ayalon, writes in the Washington Times that the last few weeks have thoroughly dis-proven the importance of “linkage”—the concept accepted by both the Obama administration and the U.S. military’s top brass that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would help further U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. “The WikiLeaks revelations proved that among Arab decision makers and policy-shapers, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fairly low on the list of urgent priorities in the region,” writes Ayalon. He argues that instability in the region is due to food insecurity, rising desertification, and vanishing water resources.

Thursday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 24th, 2011:

National Review Online: Clifford D. May, president of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, lashes out at the UN for considering Palestinian requests for a condemnation of Israeli settlement construction. “[W]hy should Palestinians negotiate if they can get the U.N. to force Israel to make concessions in exchange for nothing?” asks May. The UN, says May, is wasting its time when it should be confronting Iran. “Iran’s rulers are executing dissidents daily, developing nuclear weapons, and sending warships through Suez.” He argues that the settlements are really a non-issue, writing, “Hamas, Hezbollah, and the theocratic rulers of Iran have been candid: Creation of a Palestinian state is, at best, a secondary goal. Their primary objective is the defeat and destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.”

The Heritage Foundation: The Heritage Foundation’s vice president of foreign and defense policy studies, Kim Holmes, blogs that “Obama’s ‘engagement’ strategy toward the ‘Islamic world’ is irrelevant to the Middle East” and that protesters’ demands for “freedom and better standards of living” cause the Obama administration to “launch denunciations with dizzying speed when it is a pro-American dictator like Egypt’s Mubarak, but to delay for days in saying a word when it’s an anti-American thug like Libya’s Qadhafi and Iran’s Ahmadinejad.” He concludes, “If we find Ahmadinejad’s behavior unacceptable, we need to consider options more forceful than talking with ‘multilateral institutions.’”

Wednesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 23rd, 2011:

The Wall Street Journal: The Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesEmanuele Ottolenghi opines, “Arabs’ revolutionary awakening belies Western conventional wisdom in the Middle East,” and repeats a linkage-denying argument that “ordinary Arabs who rose against their regimes didn’t do so because they wanted to free Palestine, but because they wanted to free themselves.” Ottolenghi rejects the linkage argument, a view promoted by the Obama administration, which posits that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a crucial step in addressing regional problems in the Middle East. He concludes, “The conventional wisdom that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the mother of all problems in the region has now been exposed as nothing but a myth. Will Western leaders finally learn?”

The Waterloo Record: Senior Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Ray Takeyh writes, “it is all too obvious that the only option the United States has in altering the Islamic Republic’s behaviour is to support the ‘green movement.’” Takeyh acknowledges that the “military option” has “now become implausible” and discards the potential of negotiations, observing, “Tehran’s callous leadership, indifferent to the financial penalties of its nuclear truculence, was hardly prone to make cost-benefit assessments and constructively participate in negotiations.” He concludes that the Green Movement should “be beneficiaries of advice and assistance” from the U.S. “Whether motivated by idealism or a desire to advance practical security concerns, the West must recognize that the only thing standing between the mullahs and the bomb is the green movement,” he writes.

Tuesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 22nd, 2011:

The Wall Street Journal: The Journal’s editorial board writes that the Obama administration needs a “new freedom agenda,” and should take notes from George W. Bush’s second inaugural address. They accuse Obama of “[O]ffer[ing] no support for Iranian demonstrators after [the June 2009] fraudulent elections” and calls on him to “meet publicly with dissidents from places like Libya, Syria and Iran, as Mr. Bush did in Prague in 2007, to lend a Presidential seal of approval to their struggle.” (See Jim Lobe’s blog post on the 2007 Prague conference.) The administration could be more supportive of the Green movement by authorizing the CIA to “provide Iranian workers with a strike fund—hard cash smuggled into the country to allow Iran’s workers to sustain a strike—thereby replicating the conditions that brought down the Shah.” The editorial endorses the administration publicly backing the Green movement’s leaders and suggests, “The Administration could also assemble prominent exiled leaders of the Green movement to sign a declaration of principles against the regime.”

Commentary: American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin opines on Iranian claims over Bahrain and warns that Iranian authorities have “repeatedly spoken of Bahrain in the same manner in which Saddam Hussein once spoke about Kuwait,” and, “When Iranian officials talk about their desire to transform the Persian Gulf into a Persian lake, they envision sending Bahrain’s Sunni ruling elite packing and returning Iranian dominance to Bahrain in order to rid the region of American influence.” Rubin says that Iran will never gain the upper-hand in Bahrain because “Whenever the Iranians have supported Shiite insurrection and riots, Saudi troops have quietly crossed the causeway to help Bahrain authorities put down the uprising.” He concludes that the U.S. should back constitutional reforms in Bahrain but preserve the monarchy.

The New York Times: Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, asks, “will Egypt be a partner in peace?” and warns, “We have seen what democracy without tolerance and openness can yield — in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.” Oren reminds readers of the Iranian threat, writing, “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran hailed the Egyptian revolution as a step toward creating a Middle East ‘without America and the Zionist regime,’ and celebrated by dispatching warships to the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, Iran continues to spin out enriched uranium — ‘producing it steadily, constantly,’ according to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency — to achieve nuclear military capacities.”

National Post: Former George W. Bush administration speech writer David Frum opines, “The obvious thing to worry about in Bahrain is that the current unrest could invite meddling by fellow Shiites across the Gulf in Iran. (And in fact Iran has meddled in Bahrain since the days of the shah.)” He observes, “Always and ever: Iran is the big play in the Middle East. A democratic Iran may not be an entirely congenial presence,” and advocates for democratic reforms in both Iran and Bahrain. “But a more democratic Iran would be a less dangerous place for everyone, including its own people, than today’s theocratic, terrorism-supporting Iran. Every regional decision has to be measured against the test: Is this moving us closer to — or further from — a positive change in the Iranian political system?”