Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 18th, 2011: The Weekly Standard: Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow Lee Smith blogs on the Iranian plan to send two naval ships through the Suez Canal, and observes that the Iranians are conducting “a test, and not just for Egypt’s military regime.” “The Iranians are also probing the Egyptian population to see where it stands on resistance – the ships were headed to Syria, another pillar of the resistance bloc lined up against Israel – for in the end the Iranians are testing Cairo’s peace treaty with Jerusalem,” says Smith. He goes on to say that Mubarak’s departure is a major coup for Iran.”For better or worse, Mubarak was an American asset and with him off the board the Iranians believe they are one step closer to undermining Washington’s position in the region – and since that position is anchored to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, you can be certain that the Iranians will keep pushing on it.” He concludes that Egypt’s participation in upholding Arab-Israeli peace might be under threat as a new Egyptian government takes power and the Egyptian military seeks to avoid a conflict with its own people.

Commentary: Alana Goodman opines on reports that Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi will stand trial for sedition. Goodman sees the crackdown on opposition leaders as a potential boost for the Green Movement: “Like many offenses, sedition is punishable by death in Iran. And while the Iranian government has expressed an eagerness to prosecute Mousavi and Karroubi, such a trial could also result in a backlash against the government and serve as an even greater rallying cry for the Green movement.”

National Review Online: Victor Davis Hanson lists “The Many Paradoxes of Barack Obama” and observes that the central paradox in the Middle East is “The relatively pro-American authoritarians (in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and the Gulf) are more vulnerable than the anti-American and far more savage totalitarian regimes (Iran, Syria, Libya, etc.), at least for now, because the latter are more willing to blockade the international media and to use brutal force to crack down on popular protests.” Hanson decides that the Obama administration must be pursuing a strategy of “[C]onsider[ing] the more anti-American regimes more sustainable, untouchable, and authentic, and their protesters tainted with Westernization. He continues, “I don’t know how else to explain the administration’s otherwise inexplicable failure to support Iranian dissidents in 2009, or its harsh attitude toward Mubarak versus its mild treatment of Ahmadinejad, or its efforts to reach out to a rogue Syria while pulling back from a democratic Israel.

Thursday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 17th, 2011: The Washington Post: Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh calls for the U.S. to “empower the Green Movement.” Takeyh acknowledges that Russian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern allies are unlikely to support tighter sanctions and says that “it would be rash to employ force against Iran’s suspected nuclear installations and radicalize the Arab populace just as forces of moderation and democracy seem ascendant.” “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 argues. Takeyh concludes, “In the end, the most effective means of disarming the Islamic Republic and ending its reign of terror is to invest in the indomitable Green Movement.”

Commentary: J.E. Dyer blogs on the transit of two Iranian war ships through the Suez Canal and the impact the news has had on the shekel, the U.S. dollar, and the prices of crude oil and gold. “The important facts are that revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran – under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions – feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it,” says Dyer. She argues that the deployment and Iran’s support for Hezbollah is equivalent to “battle lines being drawn” and “Iran’s posture is hardening: the Islamic revolutionary regime is ‘all in.'”

The Jerusalem Post: Hilary Leila Krieger reports on the new Iran sanctions bill introduced in Congress which would require greater disclosure from publicly traded companies that have links to Iran. Krieger interviews the Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘s Mark Dubowitz, who tells her, “The hardest part has been trying to find out exactly what these companies are actually doing,” and, “The brilliance of this law is that it forces these companies themselves to disclose” their Iran dealings. Krieger adds, “Dubowitz’s organization has already identified two dozen US companies or international companies with US subsidiaries that would have to disclose such ties.”

Wednesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 16th, 2011:

The Wall Street Journal: The Journal’s editorial board elaborates on “Why Tehran’s thugs will be harder to depose than Hosni Mubarak” and observes that the U.S. has less leverage over Iran’s leadership because “Tehran scorns the West.” Or, “To put it another way, pro-American dictatorships have more moral scruples.” The WSJ calls for Washington to impose greater isolation and pressure on Iran, and warns, “Yet many policy makers and pundits in the West still want to engage the regime as if it were merely another thuggish status quo power, rather than the greatest threat to world order.”

Commentary: Commentary Executive Editor Jonathan Tobin warns against complacency after the news that Stuxnet had done massive damage to the Iranian nuclear program. “Somehow, despite the sanctions and the ban on selling nuclear equipment to Iran, the damaged centrifuges were replaced almost as quickly as they were taken offline,” he says. “At best, it has delayed them a bit, but the IAEA evidence makes it clear that the Khamenei/ Ahmadinejad regime’s commitment to their goal of a nuke is such that cyberattacks won’t be enough to derail them,” he continues. Tobin goes on to lash out at the Obama administration for wasting time and effort in “engagement” with Iran and concludes, “[I]f the IAEA evidence is correct, then the optimistic forecasts about Tehran’s prospects must be thrown out and replaced with an evaluation that puts the need for either serious sanctions or the use of force back on Washington’s front burner.”

The Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin blogs on her “Right Turn” blog—a blog which is supposed to cover the “conservative movement and the Republican party” but disproportionately focuses on Iran and Israel—that sanctions against Iran have failed and that it’s time to reexamine the military option. “Neither the administration’s touted sanctions nor a computer virus has slowed the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons. For all the chest-puffing by the Obama team, sanctions have in fact not ‘worked,’” she writes. She consulted the American Enterprise Institute’s John Bolton, a former UN ambassador, who told her, “U.S. policy should be regime change in Iran, with both overt and covert assistance to opposition groups willing to accept it.” Bolton goes on to warn, “[A]n Iranian crash program could produce a nuclear weapon in one year. That means there are still only two options: Let Iran get nuclear weapons or use preemptive military force.”

Tuesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 15th, 2011:

The Heritage Foundation: The Heritage Foundation’s Ted R. Bromund and James Philips make their against a U.S. policy of containment against Iran, preferring the “military option.” Their argument appears to defy the historical pattern of containment against the Soviet Union and China, asserting, “A serious containment policy will require the U.S. to maintain a credible threat of force against Iran. This will be even more difficult if Iran goes nuclear because the U.S. will have lost credibility.” Bromund and Philips say, “The U.S. therefore cannot rule out military action to stop the development of Iran’s nuclear program. If the U.S. fails to present a convincing threat of military action and thus effectively acquiesces in the Iranian program, it will encourage the Iranian regime to believe that it can continue to advance without fear.” The authors prefer this strategy over the “repetitious, content-free, and ill-informed mantra of containment.”

The Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin blogs that the Obama administration has been distracted by the new federal budget and is failing to support pro-democracy protesters in Iran. “There is no call for regime change and there is no indication we are planning any increased assistance for the opposition,” she says. Rubin repeats House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-FL) call for tightening sanctions, and concludes, “Perhaps some oversight hearings are in order. The chairwoman and her committee should probe whether besides tweeting in Farsi the administration is offering anything more than lip service to the protesters.”

National Review Online: Michael Barone opines, “[M]ost of us would probably prefer to have seen a victory of people power in Tehran or Pyongyang than in Cairo… Mubarak’s Egypt was an ally of the United States, at least somewhat helpful in our own efforts in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, and a nation at peace, albeit a cold peace, with Israel.” He continues, “In contrast, the mullah regime in Iran is developing nuclear weapons to threaten Israel and other American allies within missile range.” He goes on to blame the Obama administration for the failure of June 2009 protests in Tehran to bring about regime change: “The people of Iran did take to the streets in opposition to the mullahs’ election-rigging in June 2009. But Barack Obama and his administration gave a cold shoulder to this green movement, and there was no regime change.”

Monday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 14th, 2011:

The Washington Post: On her “Right Turn” blog, Jennifer Rubin asks “Will Obama now reverse course on Iran?” “We should re-evaluate the ongoing, useless talks with the Iranian regime on its nuclear weapons program, which have the effect of legitimizing the regime and depressing the opposition,” says Rubin. “Instead, in international bodies and with allies we should pursue a full court press to isolate the Iranian regime and highlight its dismal human rights record.” The neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative’s Jamie Fly tells Rubin “If the administration is serious about regime change, it is going to have to give up its hopes of a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Commentary: Abe Greenwald writes about the reports on protests in Tehran and the house arrest of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. “Given the regional political temperature, the Iranian regime’s historical inclination to absolute security, and the new suspicion that Washington is content to be a witness to atrocity, there could be a perfect paranoid storm brewing in the minds of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Amadinejad.”

The Wall Street Journal: Melik Kaylan opines on Iranian official’s decision to “outlaw Valentines Day” and observes, “The state, for its part, continues to respond with a Whack-a-Mole approach to any social ripple not dreamt of in its philosophy.” He goes on, “[W]ith mosque and state firmly conjoined, there’s no stray detail of daily life so arcane that the scriptures can’t be mobilized to rein it in.”

The Wall Street Journal: The Journal’s editorial board writes, “The hard men of Tehran are now seeking to tap into Egypt’s revolutionary fervor, hailing Hosni Mubarak’s downfall as “a great victory,” but acknowledge that the Iranian government is concerned about the upsurge of pro-Democracy movements in the region… Clearly the mullahs are nervous about contagion,” they conclude.

Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for February 11th, 2011:

The Weekly Standard: Stephen Schwartz writes on “Iran’s Conspiracy Industry” and observes that “conspiracy theories have long flourished in the lands of Islam.” Schwartz offers a rundown of recent anti-Semitic television programming in Iran, warning, “all of this might seem like nothing more than typical, daily insanity in Iran.”

The Washington Post: Charles Krauthammer writes, “Of course, yesterday it was just George W. Bush, Tony Blair and a band of neocons with unusual hypnotic powers who dared challenge the received wisdom of Arab exceptionalism – the notion that Arabs, as opposed to East Asians, Latin Americans, Europeans and Africans, were uniquely allergic to democracy.” Krauthammer goes on to identify the new totalitarianism as “Islamism” and argues, “as in Soviet days, the threat is both internal and external. Iran, a mini-version of the old Soviet Union, has its own allies and satellites – Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – and its own Comintern, with agents operating throughout the region to extend Islamist influence and undermine pro-Western secular states.” He concludes, “We are, unwillingly again, parties to a long twilight struggle, this time with Islamism – most notably Iran, its proxies and its potential allies, Sunni and Shiite.”

The Washington Post: Michael Gerson asks, “Do Egypt’s protests mean American decline?” He warns, “The emergence of a Sunni version of Iran in Egypt would be a major blow,” and “There’s a reason shahs are sometimes followed by mullahs – because religious extremism is the opiate of a humiliated people.”

National Review Online: The Foundation For Defense of Democracies’s Benjamin Weinthal blogs, “The failure of the West to energetically confront Iran’s bellicose policies might very well be revealed in the post-Mubarak era.” He argues, “Iran’s understanding of a new Egyptian political system mirrors the fiercely anti-democratic goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.” Weinthal segues the jubilation over Hosni Mubarak’s resignation into a call for tighter sanctions on Iran, writing, “If the West, particularly the Obama administration, is serious about the business of democracy-promotion in Egypt and in the Muslim world, then an accelerated round of hard-hitting sanctions ought to be implemented against Iran’s energy sector… Crude-oil sanctions targeting Iran serve the twin goals of advancing democracy in Egypt and perhaps contributing to the demise of the Iranian regime.” He concludes, “In short, democratic change in Egypt is arguably contingent on blocking the spread of revolutionary Iranian Islam in the Middle East.”