Friday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 3rd, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal: Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who made his first trip to the Middle East last month, applauds the talks between Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu but warns that “[t]here can never be peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.” The first term Senator calls for additional “punishing” sanctions against Iran and reports that the possibility of a nuclear weapons possessing Iran is the biggest concern of both Israeli and Jordanian leadership. Brown concludes that, “While we should encourage the Israelis and Palestinians as they return to the negotiating table, let’s not lose sight of the real threat to peace in the Middle East: Iran, the leading state sponsor of terror in the world, armed with a nuclear weapon.”

Politico: Fredrik Stanton, author of “Great Negotiations: Agreements That Changed the Modern World,” argues that sanctions against Iran’s economy are failing to deter Tehran from its nuclear ambitions but that more aggressive steps—in line with Britain, Germany and Italy’s 2003 boarding of the BBC China, a ship carrying centrifuge parts for Libya’s nuclear weapons program—could deter Iran from its current path. Stanton proposes that the U.S. should pursue policies of, “visible and tangible support for domestic opponents of the regime, greater focus on Iranian human rights violations, public seizures of nuclear proliferation material and an embargo of refined petroleum fuels.”

International Herald Tribune: Earlier this week in the global edition of the New York Times, Iranian-American Reza Aslan and Israeli Bernard Avishai conclude that were the West to be “confronted by an Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, that would be a lesser evil than what we will confront in the wake of an attack to prevent this.” They sum up some of the recent war-drum-chatter around Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic piece on an Israeli attack on Iran, noting that the “logic” of what Goldberg writes points towards a U.S. strike. “This drumbeat must be silenced, and only President Obama can silence,” they write. “An Israeli attack on Iran would almost certainly precipitate a devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences.”

Thursday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 2nd, 2010:

The Washington Post: Scott Wilson writes that shared regional fears of a nuclear weapons possessing Iran might be a catalyst for a breakthrough in this week’s Arab-Israeli peace talks. “Iran’s ambitions, which have cast a long shadow over the greater Middle East, may serve as a common bond keeping a frail peace process intact despite threats that have arisen even before the negotiations open Thursday at the State Department,” he says. Wilson suggests that, if Israel is seriously considering a unilateral strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities, Netanyahu will need to stick with peace talks and win goodwill with the White House.

The Wall Street Journal: Daniel Henninger defends the U.S. invasion of Iraq as preemptively cutting off Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. Henninger theorizes that had the U.S. not invaded, Saddam Hussein would have been driven to pursue nuclear weapons in order to match Iran’s alleged pursuit of the bomb. “In such a world, Saddam would have aspired to play in the same league as Iran and NoKo. Would we have ‘contained’ him?” he asks. Henninger continues his exercise in hypothetical history by suggesting that Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan would enter the “nuclear marketplace” if Iran and Iraq acquired nuclear weapons. He concludes: “The sacrifice made by the United States in Iraq took one of these nuclear-obsessed madmen off the table and gave the world more margin to deal with the threat that remains, if the world’s leadership is up to it. A big if.”

Foreign Policy: Author Hooman Majd contests a recent U.S. talking point that sanctions are working. Citing political infighting between various conservative factions, the Obama administration argues that sanctions are having an effect. But Majd asserts that this is politics as usual — not a sign that there might be political space for a resurgent Green Movement. In fact, he says, no matter what happens, the real power center in Iran, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, remains firmly in the driver’s seat and the nuclear calculus is still a point of mutual agreement between the many political factions.

JINSA Report: The ultra-hawkish advocacy organization, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), issued it’s latest e-mail blast calling Iran the “elephant” in the room in nearly every U.S. and Israeli strategic challenge in the region (this mirrors the ‘road to peace leads through Tehran’ meme discussed in yesterday’s TP’s). The U.S. needs “to tame it or remove” that elephant from Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and the “the Israel-Palestinian ‘peace’ talks,” JINSA argues.

Fallows, others, taking another look at Assange’s ‘demise’

Julian Assange, embattled director of WikiLeaks and now the focus of confusing and nebulous rape and molestation charges, lashed out over what he called a “smear campaign” by the Pentagon, which is still smarting from the release of 75,000 classified war documents, and reportedly girding for more, as promised by WikiLeaks last month. His accusations against the U.S government have led to a stream of vitriol from the peevish and cynical mainstream media, which seems to relish the opportunity to exploit the ostensively soft underbelly of the truth dragon. As the tawdry details behind the charges against Assange unfold, headlines from Newsweek and Gawker and every website that has linked to them seem to be predicting the 39-year-old’s demise. Gawker has established a WikiLeaksiLeaks site for people willing to tattle-tale on Assange. Newsweek, citing a single source, implies that the entire WikiLeaks front office is plotting his ouster:

A person in close contact with other WikiLeaks activists around Europe, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive topic, says that many of them were privately concerned that Assange has continued to spread allegations of dirty tricks and hint at conspiracies against him without justification. Insiders say that some people affiliated with the website are already brainstorming whether there might be some way to persuade their front man to step aside, or failing that, even to oust him. Given that Assange is the person who put WikiLeaks on the map, and given that no one appears more entranced by the aura surrounding WikiLeaks than Assange himself, that could certainly cause the website considerable anguish about its own practice of “transparency,” “democracy,” and “integrity.”

This is hardly the circle of folks surrounding Assange as described in The New Yorker in June, but no mind. The question is, is there a smear — or  is Julian Assange just a paranoid jerk who doesn’t like to use condoms? Level heads outside the ad hominem abuse spewed by say, Gawker and  The Daily Beast,  are starting to wonder.

The estimable Jim Fallows, who could never be accused of flying off on crackpot theories or spreading rumors to fill space — in fact he has been a long-time critic of media manipulation in Washington — issued a thoughtful post on The Atlantic online yesterday, pointing to some connect-the-dots that Fabius Maximus (another reputable website founded by ex-military officers) has been doing on the Assange case:

I am generally wary of mentioning a news development that I don’t have any particular connection to, or angle on, or opportunity to offer new reporting about. The exception in this case is because the line of analysis I’ll mention, if true, would be significant. It comes from a source whose judgment I’ve learned to respect over time. But the conspiratorial interpretation he suggests is one I usually resist, and I don’t have the resources or time to go independently into the questions he has raised. So as an alert to a possibility that deserves consideration but that I can’t prove myself, here goes:

It is worth reading in order the series of posts on the Fabius Maximus site — from earliest to latest here, here, here, and here — making the case that the “official” story of the rape accusations against Julian Assange of Wikileaks is too strange and coincidence-ridden to be easily believable.

Fabius Maximus is merely doing what other bloggers are not, taking a cool-headed look at the developing (often confusing) facts of the case and wondering aloud how — and why — the mainstream media are coming to such lemming-like conclusions about it. To begin, why is it so difficult to believe that the U.S government — which lied and misinformed us right into a bloody never-ending war in Iraq– might want to delegitimize Assange? Dopey commentators like Jonah Goldberg dismiss Assange’s accusations because to him, every government “hit” should look like a James Bond movie:

I’m not necessarily advocating that we take him out. First of all, even if it were a good idea, it’s too late now. But think about it. If you go by nearly every Hollywood treatment of the CIA or the NSA, Assange is precisely the sort of guy who should have been garroted in his French hotel room years ago…What I think is interesting about this is that the Wikileaks case is a perfect illustration of how not just outfits like the CIA and NSA but also the far more powerful entity most commonly known as “The Man” aren’t nearly as powerful as many think they are.

Fair enough. Considering that Goldberg is the four-star commander of the 101st keyboarder brigade, we should expect nothing less than reactionary hooey in his response. But if life is like a movie, let’s take a look at the accusations against Assange. “Woman B” was a complete unknown to the WikiLeaks set before the incident in question. She admittedly pursued Assange with a cold calculation (and pink cashmere), and had him, literally, feeding her niblets in a daze, before the day was out. It’s so Hollywood — but it obviously worked. Check out her blurred-out face in the front row on the day in question, below.

One of the men present recalled her as a person of a seemingly nervous disposition who didn’t fit in.

‘She was a little bit strange,’ he said. ‘Definitely an odd character and keen to get Julian’s attention.’

The woman admitted trying to engage her hero in conversation.

Assange seemed pleased to have such an ardent admirer fawning over him and, she said, would look at her ‘now and then’. Eventually he took a closer interest.

She explained in her statement that he was tucking into cheese served on Swedish crispbread when she asked if he thought it was good.

Assange looked at her directly and started to feed her.

Funny, even Reason’s Michael Moynihan, who has had it in for Assange from the start, concedes that “that such dirty tricks have a long pedigree in American intelligence circles,” but he can’t, however, bring himself to imagine the government might be targeting Assange with one right now. He concentrates solely on “Woman A,” pointing out that she is a known quantity, a radical Swedish feminist with a long history of left-wing positions on sexual power and gender politics  — implying that whatever went wrong (refusal to wear a condom? Broken condom? Refusing to take an STD test?) in the reportedly brief, consensual affair, ignited all the reflexive impulses of a longtime “equality watchdog,”  “operating off of a very broad (Swedish legal) definition of rape and ‘sexual molestation.'” In other words, a woman scorned. Moynihan says nothing of “strange” “Woman B,” and instead concludes “even a cursory look at the case would suggest that while it appears that Assange’s name is being dragged through the mud, it isn’t by the CIA.”

But what about Woman B? An ex-CIA source of mine says the agency employed the paid use of “honeypots,” to trap targets all the time. While on the face it looks like Assange tangled with the wrong woman (Woman A) and some seriously elastic Swedish sex laws, there is no reason to automatically discount the strange coincidences raised by Fabius Maximus and others. If we are going to look at Woman A’s motives, why not focus on Woman B’s strange story as something more complex than just a geek groupie with a crush?

What is called for here is a more discerning approach and an open mind. A stubborn lack of imagination, and an ill-begotten instinct  to support the power grid is much less helpful (look what happened when we let the mainstream rubes take over in 2003!) A big nod to Fallows and others for urging the brakes on Assange’s premature demise.

9/11 as Government Blowback Day

Some church in Florida is planning on celebrating 9/11 by burning hundreds of Korans. Perhaps this will be the launchpad for bonfires across the nation of any book suspected of Muslim tendencies.

There’s a different 9/11 celebration going on in San Diego. Lawrence Ludlow emailed me about “Government Blowback Day.” I don’t know if Lawrence and his friends are planning to burn copies of the 9/11 Commission Report.

From the press release:

San Diego Complete Liberty Declares Sept. 11th “Government Blowback Day”

– Wear a black arm-band on September 11; tell the world you didn’t swallow the Big Lie —

SAN DIEGO, CA – September 6, 2010 – The San Diego “Complete Liberty Meetup” group joins other voluntaryists, private-property anarchists, and libertarians by declaring September 11th a day of remembrance: Government Blowback Day. This September 11, nine years will have passed since the price of the U.S. government’s meddling foreign policy was paid by innocent people. Despite the passing of time, gullible people still believe the Big Lie that was cooked up in the Washington, D.C. “lie factory” – namely, that the terrorists “hate us for our freedom.” What freedom? The spy cameras? Phone and email surveillance? The high taxes? The Patriot Act? The paranoia? The promise of endless wars and new terrorists to come? We are tired of the nonsense. On September 11, the first Government Blowback Day will remind the lunatics in Washington, D.C. that some of us know the real reasons for the attacks. The terrorists made no secret about why they attacked: (1) U.S. government support for the apartheid state of Israel, (2) the presence of U.S. armed forces in Islamic holy places, and (3) the U.S. sanctions that killed over 500,000 children in Iraq as of 1995 (and continued until Dubya started his “war on terror” that will never end with Obama).

September 11 is a day to remember the real cause of terrorism: the president, the congress, and their foreign policy

Wednesday Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 1st, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal: The WSJ editorial board uses two 30-year-old letters from the Imam of the Park 51 community center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, to show Rauf’s alleged anti-Israel and pro-Iranian revolution leanings. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s 1977 outreach to Israel led Rauf to write, “In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.” In a letter written after the 1979 Iranian revolution, he observed the American and Iranian revolution shared “the very principles of individual rights and freedom”. In Rauf’s response to the WSJ’s publication of his letters, he wrote, “As I re-read those letters now, I see that they express the same concerns—a desire for peaceful solutions in Israel, and for a humane understanding of Iran.”

National Review Online: At NRO’s The Corner blog, Benjamin Weinthal lays out a ‘reverse linkage’ — turning around the usual military/realist thinking that Israeli-Arab peace will help the U.S. deal with other regional issues. He writes, “To bring about peace with longevity between the Palestinians and Israel, the Obama administration has to confront Iran, which means promoting democracy in Iran and terminating its nuclear-weapons program.” Weinthal asserts, “if the sanctions prove impotent, Obama will then have to turn to serious saber-rattling and lay out a blueprint for military intervention.” The statement rehashes the catchphrase from the early 2000s that ‘the road to Mid East peace runs through Baghdad’ – only now it’s rerouted through Tehran.

The New York Times: David Sanger writes about the linkages between Israeli-Palestinian peace, Iraq and Iran. He argues while other presidents have dealt with these linkages, Obama faces a new variation with U.S. forces pulling out of Iraq, tough sanctions on Iran and and the slow emergence of a working Palestinian government in the West Bank. With the withdrawal from Iraq, Obama can claim victory over that source of instability and, according to Sanger’s sources, progress on Iran. Sanger interviews WINEP cofounders Martin Indyk, the Vice President for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Senior Mideast diplomat Dennis Ross, special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ross currently works out of the National Security Council, where he focuses on Iran, and has served in the past two administrations. Indyk and Ross agree sanctions have made progress in isolating and containing Iran. “We finally have leverage,” said Ross, pointing to talk from Iranian officials about the possibility of negotiations with the West.