Tag: nuclear arms

IRAN, EMBOLDENED BY A FECKLESS WHITE HOUSE, INCHES CLOSER TO NUCLEAR WEAPON & REGIONAL HEGEMONY

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Contents:

 

White House Going Nuclear on Netanyahu: Michael Goodwin, New York  Post, Jan. 24, 2015— Thou shall not cross Dear Leader.

Enabling Iran’s Nukes: Omri Ceren, Commentary, Jan. 15, 2015— The lies began at the very beginning, with assurances that American diplomacy had secured a “halt” in the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran’s Emerging Empire: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2015— While Iran’s march toward a nuclear bomb has provoked a major clash between the White House and Congress, Iran’s march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked.

Iran and the State of Obama-land: Ruthie Blum, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015— In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, US President Barack Obama painted a rosy picture of America’s condition at home and abroad, presenting a delusional list of his own accomplishments since taking office six years ago.

 

On Topic Links

 

Ambassador Ron Dermer Explains Bibi’s Upcoming Visit to Washington (Video): Jewish Press, Jan. 26, 2015

Netanyahu's Speech: Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015— Israel has traditionally been a non-partisan issue for Americans.

Iran Goes Ballistic: Yoel Guzansky & Yiftah S. Shapir, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2015

An Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program in What was Formerly ‘Syria’: J.E. Dyer, Jewish Press, Jan. 18, 2015

U.S. Must Connect the Dots Between Iran Talks and Hezbollah Violence: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Jan. 28, 2015     

Cheap Oil Won't Stop Iran: Mark Dubowitz & Jonathan Schanzer, National Interest, Jan. 27, 2015  

                                                                             

 

WHITE HOUSE GOING NUCLEAR ON NETANYAHU                                                   

Michael Goodwin                                                 

New York Post, Jan. 24, 2015

 

Thou shall not cross Dear Leader. With their guttersniping failing to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned March speech before Congress, White House aides are unloading their full arsenal of bile. “He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” one Obama aide told an Israeli newspaper. “Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.” It is pointless to say petty threats do not become the Oval Office. Trying to instruct this White House on manners recalls what Mark Twain said about trying to teach a pig to sing: It wastes your time and annoys the pig. Still, the fury is telling. It reminds, as if we could forget, that everything is always about Obama.

 

How dare Israel be more concerned with the existential threat of Iranian nukes than with Obama’s feelings? And what do members of Congress think they are, a separate branch of government or something? Yes, the presidency deserves respect, even when the president doesn’t. Although Obama routinely ignores lawmakers and their role in our constitutional system of checks and balances, there is an argument afoot that Congress should have taken the high road and consulted him before inviting Netanyahu. The argument has a point — but not a compelling one. To give Obama veto power over the visit would be to put protocol and his pride before the most important issue in the world. That is Iran’s march to nuclear weapons, and Obama’s foolish complicity. His claim in the State of the Union that “we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material” would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. The claim earned him three ­Pinocchios, with four being an outright whopper, by The Washington Post.

 

Outside the president’s yes-men circle, nobody believes the mad mullahs will voluntarily give up their quest for the bomb. International sanctions made life difficult for the regime, especially with oil prices cratering, but Obama ­relaxed restrictions with nothing to show for it except negotiations where he keeps bidding against himself. He is desperate for a deal, and the Iranians know it, so they want to keep talking. They are gaining concessions and buying time, which means a reversal of their weapons program becomes much harder to achieve. The ticking doomsday clock is what led to the remarkable comments by Democrat Robert ­Menendez. After Obama warned that more sanctions, even if they would not take effect unless the talks collapsed, could scare off the Iranians, the New Jersey senator said Obama was repeating talking points that “come straight out of Tehran.” That’s a zinger for the ages — and has the added advantage of being true.

 

Any deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to make a nuke in weeks or months will ignite a regional arms race. As I have noted, American military and intelligence officials believe a nuclear-armed Iran will lead to a nuclear exchange with Israel or Arab countries within five years. Israel has the most to lose from an Iranian nuke, and ­Netanyahu can be expected to articulate a forceful argument against Obama’s disastrous course. That’s why House Speaker John Boehner invited him, and it’s why the president is so bent out of shape and refuses to meet with Netanyahu. He doesn’t want Americans to hear the other side. But we must. And Congress must not shirk its duty to demand a meaningful agreement with Iran, or none at all. An extra layer of sanctions waiting in the wings is good backup, but another pending bill is more important. It would demand that any agreement come before the Senate for a vote. Naturally, Obama opposes it, but that’s all the more reason why it is needed. As Ronald Reagan famously said about Soviet promises, “Trust but verify.” So must it be with Iran and, sadly, our own president.                         

                                                                       

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ENABLING IRAN’S NUKES                                                                                                        

Omri Ceren                                                                                                                            

Commentary, Jan. 15, 2015

 

The lies began at the very beginning, with assurances that American diplomacy had secured a “halt” in the Iranian nuclear program. Late on the night of November 23, 2013, President Barack Obama stood in the State Dining Room and announced that an interim agreement had been reached between Iran and the P5+1 global powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China—that “halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program.” The White House distributed a fact sheet emphasizing that Iran had promised to “halt progress on the growth” of its low-enriched uranium stockpile and to “halt progress on its plutonium track” to a nuclear weapon. Senior-administration officials held a late-night briefing to stress for reporters that the concessions added up to “a halt of activities across the Iranian program”—the word halt was used more than a dozen more times—and that the coming months would also see sustained progress in investigating Iranian research into nuclear detonations. Reporters would be told in subsequent weeks that the agreement even prohibited Iran from further testing on ballistic missiles.

 

Those statements were, on the whole, false. But on that night, the president and those around him badly needed them to be true. So they pretended they were. By November 2014, the six-month interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) announced that night had been extended into a year (a contingency that had been formally built into and anticipated by the original text). The parties, unable to seal an agreement even after twelve months, then extended negotiations through the summer of 2015. The move stoked long-standing fears that the Iranians were using negotiations as a stalling tactic as they inched toward a bomb, but the president and his administration insisted that there was no harm in having more talks. Rerunning the claims from that first night, they insisted that Iran’s program had been “frozen” by the JPOA—and that the Iranians were living up to their end of the bargain by keeping it frozen. Those claims remain false.

 

It is a worthwhile exercise to go back and see how the Obama administration’s desperate quest began and why the president and his people are still clinging to hopes about these negotiations, which they have every reason to know are, in truth, delusional. Throughout 2013, domestic criticism of the Obama administration’s overtures toward the Islamic Republic was building. There were broad suspicions of conciliatory moves to Tehran, but nothing definite; as we now know, as of the beginning of the year, the State Department was still flatly lying to reporters about the existence of secret bilateral talks between Washington and Tehran. But in the summer of 2013, the victory of Hassan Rouhani in the Iranian presidential election emboldened those around Obama, and eventually the president himself, to escalate the ongoing outreach.

 

But by fall, Washington and its allies still had little to show for their efforts. Iran was still steadily progressing toward having a nuclear weapon, and Iranian leaders were still regularly boasting that nothing could stop their progress. Congressional leaders were eager to move forward on crippling sanctions legislation aimed at testing that braggadocio. The Obama administration had a different approach. Advisers in and around the White House insisted that Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, could prevail upon the Iranian establishment and cut a deal addressing the country’s nuclear program. The duo just needed to be shown a little more goodwill; new pressure would scuttle their efforts back home. Congress was skeptical but continued watching from the sidelines even as Iranians marched closer every day to nuclear-weapons acquisition. On November 10, 2013, a much anticipated summit in Geneva— aimed at immediately stopping that very march in anticipation of further negotiations—collapsed. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, discovered late in the talks that his P5+1 counterparts were preparing to acquiesce to a deal that lacked robust checks on Iran’s plutonium work. He publicly blasted the terms as “a sucker’s deal,” and the talks ended. Everyone agreed to reassemble in two weeks to try again.

 

American diplomats had failed and had looked bad doing it. They had been ready to sign, per the French, an agreement that fell short of stopping Iran’s drive toward a weapon. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies estimated that the Iranians had been offered roughly $20 billion in financial relief to take the deal, far in excess of what the administration could justify. Congressional leaders were beside themselves. The Obama administration had reassured them that it would strike a tough bargain with Iran only if Congress gave U.S. diplomats some breathing room. Instead, the diplomats had been willing to trade billions of dollars for a toothless entente. Well, if American negotiators lacked sufficient leverage to extract meaningful concessions from Iran, Congress would provide it to them. Legislation was prepared and shared that would immediately impose a new round of sanctions on Iran.

 

Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate sent the president letters objecting to the reported contours of an emerging deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor and declared that after the Thanksgiving recess, he would present and support bipartisan sanctions legislation against Iran if diplomacy continued to falter. The P5+1 meeting was to be held that weekend. Given all of this, President Obama badly needed Iranian leaders to accept an agreement immediately freezing their uranium, plutonium, and ballistic-missile programs in exchange for limited sanctions relief, and he needed it stat. The agreement that administration officials purported to have secured would have been a diplomatic masterstroke. It would have immediately frozen activity across the three core areas of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program—uranium enrichment, plutonium-related work, and ballistic-missile development—while dealing with the verification issue that hangs over the entire program. In exchange, the West would have provided what the White House fact sheet characterized as limited, temporary, and reversible relief from some sanctions. It would have lasted for only six months, a decent amount of time to test diplomacy. No diplomatic concessions would have been made up front.

 

But since American diplomats couldn’t get Iran to agree to a deal in which it would do any of those things, what they actually brought home was the Joint Plan of Action. It allowed Iran to continue making sustained progress along its uranium and plutonium tracks, contained no restrictions on ballistic-missile development, failed to open up Iran’s atomic facilities to verification, provided sufficient economic relief to stabilize Iran’s economy, and would last for at least 18 months. And it wasn’t even a deal yet. The parties were committed to the contours of a deal that would be outlined and implemented sometime in the future, which would turn out to be January 2014. Until then an “interim before the interim” period took hold, during which Iran was allowed to speed ahead with its nuclear program with zero new restrictions. It was only enough, it seems, to allow the White House to tell lawmakers that progress had been achieved—and that they would have to continue sitting on the sidelines lest they spoil it…

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                           

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IRAN’S EMERGING EMPIRE    

 

Charles Krauthammer                                                                                                   

Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2015

 

While Iran’s march toward a nuclear bomb has provoked a major clash between the White House and Congress, Iran’s march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked. In Washington, that is. The Arabs have noticed. And the pro-American ones, the Gulf Arabs in particular, are deeply worried. This week, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized control of the Yemeni government, heretofore pro-American. In September, they overran Sanaa, the capital. On Tuesday, they seized the presidential palace. On Thursday, they forced the president to resign. The Houthis have local religious grievances, being Shiites in a majority Sunni land. But they are also agents of Shiite Iran, which arms, trains and advises them. Their slogan — “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel” — could have been written in Persian.

 

Why should we care about the coup? First, because we depend on Yemen’s government to support our drone war against another local menace, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s not clear if we can even maintain our embassy in Yemen, let alone conduct operations against AQAP. And second, because growing Iranian hegemony is a mortal threat to our allies and interests in the entire Middle East. In Syria, Iran’s power is similarly rising. The mullahs rescued the reeling regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending in weapons, money and Iranian revolutionary guards, as well as by ordering their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to join the fight. They succeeded. The moderate rebels are in disarray, even as Assad lives in de facto coexistence with the Islamic State, which controls a large part of his country. Iran’s domination of Syria was further illustrated by a strange occurrence last Sunday in the Golan Heights. An Israeli helicopter attacked a convoy on the Syrian side of the armistice line. Those killed were not Syrian, however, but five Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and several Iranian officials, including a brigadier general. What were they doing in the Syrian Golan Heights? Giving “crucial advice,” announced the Iranian government. On what? Well, three days earlier, Hezbollah’s leader had threatened an attack on Israel’s Galilee. Tehran appears to be using its control of Syria and Hezbollah to create its very own front against Israel.

 

The Israelis can defeat any conventional attack. Not so the very rich, very weak Gulf Arabs. To the north and west, they see Iran creating a satellite “Shiite Crescent” stretching to the Mediterranean and consisting of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. To their south and west, they see Iran gaining proxy control of Yemen. And they are caught in the pincer. The Saudis are fighting back the only way they can — with massive production of oil at a time of oversupply and collapsing prices, placing enormous economic pressure on Iran. It needs $136 oil to maintain its budget. The price today is below $50. Yet the Obama administration appears to be ready to acquiesce to the new reality of Iranian domination of Syria. It has told the New York Times that it is essentially abandoning its proclaimed goal of removing Assad. For the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs, this is a nightmare. They’re engaged in a titanic regional struggle with Iran. And they are losing — losing Yemen, losing Lebanon, losing Syria and watching post-U.S.-withdrawal Iraq come under increasing Iranian domination.

 

The nightmare would be hugely compounded by Iran going nuclear. The Saudis were already stupefied that Washington conducted secret negotiations with Tehran behind their backs. And they can see where the current talks are headed — legitimizing Iran as a threshold nuclear state. Which makes all the more incomprehensible President Obama’s fierce opposition to Congress’ offer to strengthen the American negotiating hand by passing sanctions to be triggered if Iran fails to agree to give up its nuclear program. After all, that was the understanding Obama gave Congress when he began these last-ditch negotiations in the first place.

 

Why are you parroting Tehran’s talking points, Mr. President? asks Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. Indeed, why are we endorsing Iran’s claim that sanctions relief is the new norm? Obama assured the nation that sanctions relief was but a temporary concession to give last-minute, time-limited negotiations a chance. Twice the deadline has come. Twice no new sanctions, just unconditional negotiating extensions. Our regional allies — Saudi Arabia, the other five Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt and Israel — are deeply worried. Tehran is visibly on the march on the ground and openly on the march to nuclear status. And their one great ally, their strategic anchor for two generations, is acquiescing to both.

                       

                                                           

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IRAN AND THE STATE OF OBAMA-LAND                                                                              

Ruthie Blum

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015

 

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, US President Barack Obama painted a rosy picture of America’s condition at home and abroad, presenting a delusional list of his own accomplishments since taking office six years ago. A careful dissection of each of his falsehoods – which were nearly as numerous as the standing ovations he received from the Democrats in the room every time he punctuated a sentence – could fill the pages of a lengthy book. But the abridged version is as follows: Everything would be even rosier if the Republicans were to stop opposing his policies, which not only have been making Americans healthier, wealthier and wiser, but have bridged gaps with countries all over the world. One didn’t know whether to laugh or cry while watching the lame duck remind us that he still has two more years of damage to inflict and veto powers to exercise.

 

Of most relevance to Israel, and to Americans who grasp the real and present danger of radical Islam, was the president’s position on the Islamic Republic of Iran. To lead into it, Obama first took credit for “stand[ing] united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.” Purposely omitting the religion and stated goals of these generic “terrorists,” he went on to assert that “for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of [Iran’s] nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material,” and assure Congress that he “will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this [diplomatic] progress.”

 

The giggles of glee from the mullahs in Tehran could be heard across the globe. You see, they have been speeding up their development of long-range missiles, while increasing their anti-Western rhetoric and openly threatening Israel with destruction. Oh, and with serious “retaliation” for Israel having killed a Revolutionary Guards commander during an airstrike on Hezbollah honchos in Syria last Sunday. Nor are Shi’ites the only Islamists emboldened by Obama’s behavior. The Sunni radicals – most notably Islamic State (the IS terrorist organization that has been committing mass atrocities against “infidels” the world over) – are just as buoyed by a weak and supplicant White House. Still, it is Iran that is on the brink of possessing nuclear weapons. This is why Speaker of the House John Boehner extended an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to address Congress in early March. If anyone can spell out the Iranian threat – and how it relates to and governs the terrorism that Obama claimed to be fighting – it is Netanyahu. The timing of the invitation, which Netanyahu promptly accepted, was eerily apt. On Wednesday morning, an Arab terrorist from the Palestinian Authority boarded a bus in Tel Aviv and stabbed more than a dozen people, wounding several critically.

 

Battling terrorism is nothing new to Israelis. But whenever there is an attack in the White City, it serves as a reminder that the bloodshed against Jews and Israelis really has nothing to do with the so-called “occupation” of lands won in the Six Day War. The Palestinian leadership and media make no bones about their viewing the entire state of Israel as illegitimate and deserving of elimination. Like their Islamist brethren across the Middle East, the Palestinians are players in a global jihad against Christians and Jews. Obama doesn’t see it that way. On the contrary, as he pointed out in his address, he considers “the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world” to be on a par with “offensive stereotypes of Muslims.” He was thus far more angry about the “breach of protocol” made by Boehner and Netanyahu, for arranging a trip to Washington to warn about Iran, than about the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

 

And then came the real clincher: a Bloomberg news service report according to which the head of the Mossad told a congressional delegation visiting Israel the previous week that he opposed new sanctions on Iran, on the grounds that this would be “like throwing a grenade into the [diplomatic] process.” Though this did not sound the least bit plausible (and not merely because it goes against Netanyahu’s stance on the matter), it created a big media stir, which spurred an investigation into the allegation. On Thursday, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo issued a statement denying the claim. It turns out that what he had said was, in fact, the opposite – that sanctions have been effective, and that more “sticks,” not fewer, are needed in the “carrot-and-stick” approach with the Islamic Republic. Secretary of State John Kerry, however, was quick to use the misquote as proof that Netanyahu’s demand for tougher measures against Iran is both unreasonable and runs counter to the assessments of Israel’s top espionage echelon.

 

Each new incident revealing the depths of animosity on the part of the Obama administration toward Israel, coupled with its sidling up to the likes of Cuba, gives an energy boost to the enemies of Western democracy. But Obama is more concerned with the weather. No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” he said, as Israelis in the Golan Heights and the Galilee prepared their bomb shelters for the next round of Iranian-sponsored rocket rain.

 

On Topic

 

Ambassador Ron Dermer Explains Bibi’s Upcoming Visit to Washington (Video): Jewish Press, Jan. 26, 2015—Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. explains to his audience why PM Netanyahu had a moral obligation to come before Congress and speak about the Iranian nuclear threat, just as he had a moral obligation to go to France and march in the rally.

Netanyahu's Speech: Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015— Israel has traditionally been a non-partisan issue for Americans.

Iran Goes Ballistic: Yoel Guzansky & Yiftah S. Shapir, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2015—While discussions of Iran's growing strategic threat focus almost exclusively on its nuclear capabilities and objectives, Tehran's massive ballistic missile arsenal poses a clear and present danger to both the oil installations of the Persian Gulf monarchies and to the Western military presence in the region.

An Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program in What was Formerly ‘Syria’: J.E. Dyer, Jewish Press, Jan. 18, 2015 —It was evident a year and a half ago that there would be no restoration of Syria, as we know it, under the Assad regime.

U.S. Must Connect the Dots Between Iran Talks and Hezbollah Violence: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Jan. 28, 2015      —The instinct in Washington is to dismiss the latest flare-up in violence along Israel’s northern border as just another incident in a long-running cycle of violence involving Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces.

Cheap Oil Won't Stop Iran: Mark Dubowitz & Jonathan Schanzer, National Interest, Jan. 27, 2015—As President Obama made clear in his State of Union address on Tuesday, U.S. officials are reasonably confident that they have Iran just where they want it.

 

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WITH ELECTIONs APPROACHING, NEW PRESSURES ON IRAN, WHICH “WANTS THE BOMB” — REVOLUTIONARY GUARD A NEW FOCUS

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Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Effectively Confronting Tehran: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Jan. 8, 2013—As Americans seek to find an alternative to the stark and unappetizing choice of either accepting a rabid Iranian leadership that wields nuclear weapons or preemptively bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, one analyst offers a credible third path. Interestingly, it’s inspired by a long-ago policy toward a different foe — the Reagan administration’s ways of handling the Soviet Union — yet this unlikely model offers a useful prototype.

 

Don’t Be Fooled: Iran Wants The Bomb: Ahmad Hashemi, Times of Israel, Jan. 17, 2013—While at the Iranian foreign ministry, I served as interpreter for visiting dignitaries, diplomats and officials. I paid close attention to public proclamations and official statements. And I was present at inner-circle conversations in which a number of high-profile Iranian officials made no secret of their intention to go atomic.

 

Iran Faces a Rough 2013: Alireza Nader, Real Clear World, Jan. 3, 2013—For Iran, 2013 could be one of the most challenging years-both at home and in relations with the outside world-since the 1979 revolution. The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even an Israeli and/or U.S. military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Iranian Policy Toward Direct Nuclear Talks with the U.S.: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, January 17, 2013—The question of engagement with the United States has, to varying degrees, been a domestic issue in Iran since the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution. It has emerged in recent years in connection to important events and junctures, particularly with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. In Iran, just as in the United States, this issue serves as a tool in political struggles between the different camps and is raised when it furthers some political purpose or other. Download as PDF.

 

 

The Next Chernobyl?: Khosrow B. Semnani & Gary M. Sandquist, New York Times, Jan. 2, 2013

Iranian Support for Palestinian Terrorist Organizations: Meir Amit Terrorism Information Centre,  Jan. 7, 2013

The Tehran Terror Trail: Editorial, New York Daily News, Jan. 13, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

EFFECTIVELY CONFRONTING TEHRAN

Daniel Pipes

National Review, January 8, 2013

 

As Americans seek to find an alternative to the stark and unappetizing choice of either accepting a rabid Iranian leadership that wields nuclear weapons or preemptively bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, one analyst offers a credible third path. Interestingly, it’s inspired by a long-ago policy toward a different foe — the Reagan administration’s ways of handling the Soviet Union — yet this unlikely model offers a useful prototype.
 

Abraham D. Sofaer, a former U.S. district judge and legal adviser to the State Department, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues in the forthcoming Taking On Iran: Strength, Diplomacy and the Iranian Threat that since the fall of the shah during the Carter administration, Washington “has responded to Iranian aggression with ineffective sanctions and empty warnings and condemnations.”

 

Not since 1988, he notes, has the U.S. government focused on the Iranian military force that specifically protects the country’s Islamic order and most often attacks abroad, variously called the “Pasdaran” or “Sepah” in Persian, the “Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps” (IRGC) in English. This roughly 125,000-strong elite force, created in 1980, has an outsized role in Iran’s political and economic life. It possesses its own army, navy, and air-force units, it controls ballistic missile programs, and it shares control over the country’s nuclear program. It runs the Basij, which enforces strict Islamic mores on the Iranian public. Its military forces are more important than the regular armed forces. Its Quds Force of about 15,000 agents spreads the Khomeini revolution abroad via infiltration and assassination. Its graduates staff key positions in the Iranian government.

 

The IRGC has played a lead role attacking Americans, their allies, and their interests, especially when one includes the IRGC’s many documented surrogates and partners, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muqtada al-Sadr movement, even the Taliban and al-Qaeda. IRGC accomplishments include the 1983 Marine barracks and U.S. embassy bombings in Lebanon, the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina, the 1996 Khobar barracks bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 2011 attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and the provisioning of Hamas with missiles for its 2012 war with Israel (weapons that are already being re-provisioned).

 

In all, IRGC attacks have caused the deaths of more than 1,000 American soldiers and of many more members of other armed forces and non-combatants. The U.S. government has condemned the IRGC as a state sponsor of terrorism and designated it as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. Sofaer advocates a supple two-pronged approach to Tehran: “Confront IRGC aggression directly and negotiate with Iran.”

 

Confrontation means Washington exploits “the full range of options available to curb the IRGC short of preventive attacks on nuclear sites.” He argues that U.S. forces have the right to and should target factories and storage facilities for arms, facilities associated with the IRGC (bases, ports, trucks, planes, ships), arms shipments about to be exported, and IRGC units. Sofaer’s goal is not only to curb IRGC violence but also to “undermine IRGC credibility and influence, and help convince Iran to negotiate in earnest” over its nuclear-weapons program.

 

Negotiation means talking to Tehran about outstanding issues rather than trying to punish it with aloofness. Sofaer quotes James Dobbins, a former special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, as expressing this view: “It is time to apply to Iran the policies which won the Cold War, liberated the Warsaw Pact, and reunited Europe: détente and containment, communication whenever possible, and confrontation whenever necessary. We spoke to Stalin’s Russia. We spoke to Mao’s China. In both cases, greater mutual exposure changed their system, not ours. It’s time to speak to Iran, unconditionally, and comprehensively.” More broadly, along with Chester A. Crocker, another former American diplomat, Sofaer sees diplomacy as “the engine that converts raw energy and tangible power into meaningful political results.”

 

Confronting and negotiating in tandem, Sofaer expects, will put great pressure on Tehran to improve its behaviour generally (e.g., regarding terrorism) and possibly lead it to shut down the nuclear program, while leaving available a pre-emptive strike on the table “if all else fails.” Former secretary of state George P. Shultz, in his foreword to Taking on Iran, calls Sofaer’s idea “an alternative that should have been implemented long ago.” Indeed, the time is well overdue to respond to IRGC atrocities with the language of force, the only language that Iranian leaders understand — and this might have the additional benefit of avoiding greater hostilities.

 

 

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DON’T BE FOOLED: IRAN WANTS THE BOMB

Ahmad Hashemi

Times of Israel, Jan. 17, 2013

 

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili recently said his country has agreed to resume talks on its nuclear program later this month. At the same time, the IAEA and the international community, particularly the European countries, have stepped up efforts to revitalize the futile negotiating process. During my four and a half years as an employee of the Iranian foreign ministry, I learned beyond doubt, that my country’s participation in talks is purely a stalling tactic….

 

It was almost a decade ago that the People’s Mujahedin, Iran’s leftist opposition in exile, first revealed the clandestine nuclear activities carried out by the regime, providing the exact addresses of some of the facilities, and letting the world know about the Islamic theocracy’s true ambitions for acquiring nuclear bombs. Since then, Iran has attended dozens of negotiating rounds merely to convince naïve politicians and dewy-eyed peaceniks that it is telling the truth. Within this context, Tehran maintains that it is trying to use diplomatic means to prove that Iran is merely working to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in order to meet increasing domestic energy demand as it runs out of fuel. Iran likewise exploits the matter at home, whipping up populist nationalism with leftist-style demagoguery that depicts its nuclear program as a cardinal matter of national pride.

 

But a lie remains a lie, whether it is repeated ceaselessly in international forums or broadcast all day to the Iranian masses. While at the Iranian foreign ministry, I served as interpreter for visiting dignitaries, diplomats and officials. I paid close attention to public proclamations and official statements. And I was present at inner-circle conversations in which a number of high-profile Iranian officials made no secret of their intention to go atomic. I personally witnessed the following examples:

 

In April 2005, after organizing several meetings in his office at the Discernment Council headquarters, I was invited to a meeting at the home of Mohsen Rezai, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) during the Iran-Iraq war. I was invited in my capacity as a founding member of of the short-lived Islamic Association for Students and Academicians (IASA, which was dissolved the next year), together with Ruhollah Solgi, the IASA secretary general. (Today, Solgi is the governor of Aran va Bidgol County in the Isfahan region.) We were asked to come and exchange views on the overall situation on the upcoming presidential election campaign in which Mr. Rezai was preparing to run as a presidential nominee.

 

Rezai’s home was located in the Shahrak Shahid Daghayeghi Complex at the outskirts of the Lavizan forests in northeast Tehran. We went to a spacious, concrete villa on the last block of the fenced in and tightly patrolled neighbourhood, which provides housing primarily for IRGC officers and other high-profile officials. When we arrived, Rezai was busy meeting various military and political figures, including generals from the IRGC. At this private meeting in his house, while castigating former reformist president Khatami for his compromising approach towards the West, Mohsen Rezai strongly advocated the idea of acquiring nuclear bombs for “deterrent purposes.” He referred to such a weapon as a “holy Islamic bomb” needed to defy the bullying approach of global arrogance. Mentioning that even Khomeini approved of acquiring an atomic bomb to safeguard the interests of Islam during Iran-Iraq war, he argued that everything is allowed for the sake of Islam, including using WMDs and the mass killing of civilians.

 

In early 2012, Ali Bagheri, the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was meeting his Indian counterpart at a dinner reception at India’s embassy in Tehran. While we waited for the Indian official, who had been delayed in traffic, to arrive, I heard the Iranian foreign ministry’s director for Europe and America, Ahmad Sobhani, ask Mr. Bagheri about the Supreme Leader’s latest views on the 5+1 negotiations. Bagheri replied that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remained adamant and increasingly convinced that “we should expedite our efforts and diversify our secret facilities to achieve our goal before it is too late.”

 

In early February 2012, I was present at a confidential meeting at which Iran’s deputy head of the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation was negotiating with the North Korean ambassador in order to obtain nuclear technology for Iran in exchange for financial support. In my foreign ministry position, I interpreted at meetings between my country and international chemical weapons inspectors. The Iranian side, known as the Escort Team, included officials from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Intelligence, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Industry. They met with representatives from the Hague-based chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, known as Inspection Team.

 

I was present throughout these encounters, which included a Pre-Inspection Briefing prepared for the visitors by Iran, on-site visits at chemical production plants, and summation deliberations and conclusions….I interpreted as the Iranian defense officials misinformed and deceived the inspectors. With such a history of producing weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical weapons, why should anyone believe that Iran is not intent on producing an atomic bomb?

 

All previous meetings between Iran and the 5+1 failed because Iran was never serious about curbing its nuclear programs. After seven years, the West and particularly the Obama administration are still hopeful that they can achieve progress through negotiations. Tehran may have slowed down tactically, but undoubtedly, as the former commander of Iran’s revolutionary guards Mohsen Rezai once said, “Iran’s long-term policy and strategic vision is to acquire a holy Islamic atomic bomb.”

 

Using a well-known concept in Shiite jurisprudence known as the expedient or altruistic lie, Iranian officials are perfectly willing to lie when it comes to their intentions and programs. The enlightened nations would do well to understand the religious underpinnings of Iranian diplomats’ big lies in contrast with European negotiators. Once the extent of the deception is understood, the question should be not whether Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful but rather when and how the program can be safely terminated.

 

Ahmad Hashemi, was born in Qom, Iran. He has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s School of International Relations. In January 2008, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an English, Turkish, Arabic interpreter. Active in the 2009 pro-democracy Green Movement protests  he was forced to flee Iran and currently is seeking political asylum in Turkey. 

 

 

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IRAN FACES A ROUGH 2013

Alireza Nader

Real Clear World, Jan. 3, 201

 

For Iran, 2013 could be one of the most challenging years-both at home and in relations with the outside world-since the 1979 revolution. The Islamic Republic faces the potential of stronger economic sanctions and even an Israeli and/or U.S. military strike because of its intransigence in complying with U.N. resolutions on its nuclear program.

 

But the world's only modern theocracy also must deal with twin domestic challenges– deepening malaise among the young and increasing tensions among the political elite. Both could be important factors in the presidential election scheduled for June 14, which will feature a new slate of candidates since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will have served the two-term limit. Home-grown problems could outweigh the regime's foreign policy woes.

 

Iran and the world's major powers have all indicated an interest in a new round of diplomatic talks in 2013 to end the long standoff over Tehran's controversial nuclear program. The gap is still enormous, however, after three rounds in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow in 2012. The big question is whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is truly interested in making a deal-and on terms that will also satisfy the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

 

Khamenei is not easily swayed by pressure. He has survived imprisonment and lived through the revolution, assassination attempts, the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, popular uprisings, and decades of sanctions. He views Iran's uranium enrichment program not only as a natural and legal right, but also a measure of Tehran's success against the United States. In 2012, he often publicly talked about the U.S. "decline" in the Middle East, reflected in part by the fall of three pro-American rulers with other U.S. allies wobbling. Tehran also spins the so-called Arab Spring as an "Islamic awakening" modeled on its own Islamic revolution.

 

Despite what he says publicly, however, Khamenei is also savvy enough to know that the same political changes represent new challenges for his regime as well. Syrian President Bashar Assad, Tehran's most important Arab ally, is under siege from a protest movement that turned into a surprisingly powerful military campaign. The spillover impacts Lebanon's Hezbollah, which also faces its own unique problems. And other regional powers, most notably Turkey, are increasingly questioning Iran's geopolitical aspirations.

 

Iran begins 2013 with growing economic woes that may be an important calculation in Khamenei's decision. He needs tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues to maintain a vast and often loyal network that has maintained his rule as Iran's ultimate leader for the past 23 years. But the world's toughest sanctions, soaring inflation, and the plummeting value of Iran's currency produced the perfect economic storm in 2012. And Tehran's economic crisis will not end any time soon.

 

Iran's oil exports declined by as much as one-half in 2012, a factor that could produce additional pressure from key Khamenei constituents, including the Bazaar merchant class and the powerful Revolutionary Guards. But chronic mismanagement is the chief cause of Iran's economic problems. After his 2005 election, President Ahmadinejad eliminated economic planning agencies such as the Management and Planning Organization. He also sidelined skilled technocrats who were not politically loyal to him. He fuelled inflation by injecting massive cash into the economy and reducing subsidies. During his presidency, imports of goods from Asia and Europe skyrocketed, contributing to the closure or bankruptcy of hundreds of Iranian factories. The list goes on and on.

 

Corruption across the regime has contributed to the economic crisis. In 2012, the Islamic Republic was perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International. It ranked 133rd-tied with Russia, Kazakhstan, Honduras and Guyana-out of the 176 countries and territories that were ranked.

 

The Revolutionary Guards, which control large parts of the economy, are also reportedly corrupt. The most powerful military organization in Iran has charitable foundations that are tax-exempt and largely free of government scrutiny. The Guards have also been linked to illicit smuggling and narcotics trafficking. Some veteran officers have reportedly amassed significant wealth.

 

The economy is now the Islamic Republic's Achilles Heel. Iran has been successful in educating millions of Iranians and rebuilding its infrastructure after the Iran-Iraq War. But it has not reached the potential of a country with one of the world's largest reserves of oil and natural gas and a well-educated and resourceful population.

 

The Islamic Republic begins 2013 with anxiety among both the public and the government over the impending presidential election. The 2009 election produced the deepest political schism since the revolution, with millions turning out in massive popular protests across the country to challenge the official outcome. It gave birth to the opposition Green Movement and created an enduring crisis of legitimacy for the Supreme Leader.

 

The 2013 election may be more tightly scripted than any earlier presidential race to prevent serious debates or competition….In December 2012, the Iranian parliament passed legislation requiring all candidates to have the endorsement of more than 100 of the regime's "experts" and to be between the ages of 40 and 75. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who has long been Khamenei's main political rival and a focus of hardline ire, is now 78 years old and ran again in 2005 against Ahmadinejad, but lost. He is now excluded from running again….

 

The spectrum of rivals reflects the unprecedented divisions. All were among the early revolutionaries who ousted the shah and hung together for more than a decade. Ahmadinejad, a hardliner who had Khamenei's full endorsement just four years ago, is now perceived as a threat to the Supreme Leader's hold on power. But the most important challenge to the regime may still come from the Green Movement. Its symbolic leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, are under house arrest but they remain a potent threat to Khamenei's rule, perhaps even more than an Israeli military strike or U.S. sanctions.

 

Alireza Nader is a senior policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a lecturer on Iranian politics at the George Washington University.

 

 

 

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The Next Chernobyl?: Khosrow B. Semnani & Gary M. Sandquist, New York Times, Jan. 2, 2013—A Chernobyl-type nuclear meltdown in Bushehr [Iran] would not only inflict severe damage in southern Iran, but also in the six oil and gas-rich Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, the capitals of those states are closer to Bushehr than Tehran. Nuclear radiation in the air and water would disrupt the Strait of Hormuz shipping, the world’s most important oil choke point. Oil prices would skyrocket. The world economy would face a hurricane.

 

Iranian Support for Palestinian Terrorist Organizations: Meir Amit Terrorism Information Centre,  Jan. 7, 2013—The military capabilities of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were revealed in Operation Pillar of Defense. Those capabilities were the product of massive Iranian support constructed around an arsenal of many thousands of rockets, both standard and manufactured by the terrorist organizations themselves (using Iranian technical knowhow).

 

Iranian Policy Toward Direct Nuclear Talks with the U.S.: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, January 17, 2013—The question of engagement with the United States has, to varying degrees, been a domestic issue in Iran since the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution. It has emerged in recent years in connection to important events and junctures, particularly with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. In Iran, just as in the United States, this issue serves as a tool in political struggles between the different camps and is raised when it furthers some political purpose or other. Download as PDF.

 

The Tehran Terror Trail: Editorial, New York Daily News, Jan. 13, 2013—The temperature is spiking in the warm war between the U.S. and Iran. President Obama’s national security team, which has a history of trying to engage the mullahtocracy, must recognize the limits of talk.

 

 

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WHITHER IRAN—MORE NEGOTIATIONS, ANOTHER OFFER, ECONOMIC BLOCKADE, MILITARY ACTION—TO BE DECIDED IN 2013

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

Time for an Economic Blockade on Iran: Mark Wallace, Real Clear World, Dec. 13, 2012—The recent demonstrations and protests in Iran over the increasingly perilous state of its economy are the latest and most powerful sign that the economic war is having a tangible impact. There is no doubt that punitive financial and economic sanctions have contributed greatly to the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial.

 

US and Partners Prepare Modest Offer to Iran: Barbara Slavin, Al- Monitor, Dec 19, 2012—Weeks of deliberations among the United States and its fellow negotiators have produced an offer to Iran very similar to the package Iran rejected last summer, casting doubt on chances for breaking the long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

 

2013: The year of Iran: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Dec. 19, 2012—We’ve been saying it for years: This coming year represents the moment of truth on Iran.Except that this year, it’s for real: 2013 represents the moment of truth on Iran. The year the Iranians pass the point of no return in their drive to the bomb. Or the year, one way or another, they are dissuaded.

 

Changes to Canada’s Terror List a Shot Across Iran’s Bow: Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail, Dec. 20, 2012—The Canadian government has listed the clandestine branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, at the same time, removed a controversial Iranian opposition organization, the People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.

 

On Topic Links

 

Congress Approves New Iran Sanctions, Missile Defense Funding: JTA, Dec. 24, 2012

'Hamas preparing for West Bank takeover': Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2012

Iran's Conservatives Push for a Deal: Ray Takeyh, National Interest, Dec. 21, 2012

Feeling the Pain in Tehran: Nazila Fathi, Foreign Policy, Dec. 21, 2012

Christianity 'close to extinction' in Middle East: Edward Malnick, The Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2012

 

 

TIME FOR AN ECONOMIC BLOCKADE ON IRAN

Mark Wallace

Real Clear World, Dec. 13, 2012

 

The recent demonstrations and protests in Iran over the increasingly perilous state of its economy are the latest and most powerful sign that the economic war is having a tangible impact. There is no doubt that punitive financial and economic sanctions have contributed greatly to the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial. Iran now suffers from hyperinflation and the rial has fallen by 80 percent in the past year. As history has shown, durable hyperinflation such as this can result in public unrest and, occasionally, regime change.

 

The conventional wisdom of the past was that sanctions against Iran would have little impact because of Iran's vast oil wealth. That was, in retrospect, flawed thinking. In the past year, Iran's acceleration of its nuclear program and defiance of the IAEA, its sponsorship of terrorism and its destabilizing behavior in countries like Syria finally prompted the international community to act. The loss of Iranian oil has had little effect on the market so far, as countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya have made up for the loss.

 

The sanctions now in place are beginning to have a dramatic impact, as Iran's currency is collapsing. As a result of hyperinflation, we have seen Iran's currency exchange market become paralyzed. Licensed exchange bureaus refused in recent days to do business at the officially imposed rate of 28,500 rials to the dollar, while black market dealers were offering the dollar at a rate of 35,500 rials, sparking protests and a violent crackdown. Significantly, the ire of the protesters was primarily directed at the regime for its mismanagement, and for actions that led to sanctions in the first place.

 

If history is any guide, the leaders of Iran have reason to worry, as there is a correlation between hyperinflation and regime change. In Indonesia, hyperinflation and the collapse of the rupiah from 2,700 to the dollar to nearly 16,000 over the course of a year was one of the principal sources of discontent, which brought people out to the streets to overthrow the Suharto regime. In the case of Yugoslavia, hyperinflation was the motivating force that led Slobodan Milosevic to start a war to divert attention from the monetary crisis facing the country — a war that led to his ultimate defeat.

 

Regardless of the precipitating event, hyperinflation can signal the death knell of a regime. We often forget that a "Persian Spring" preceded the Arab Spring, and that Iran has not only restive minorities, but a restive middle class frustrated with a corrupt theocratic regime, culminating in protests over the 2009 election. If the regime faces increased and durable hyperinflation, Iran's demographics suggest that the mullahs' brutal hold on power could face serious challenges.

 

At this critical stage, it is time for U.S. and EU policymakers to do all they can to build upon and ensure the durability of Iran's hyperinflation. The best way to do so is by implementing a total economic blockade that would pit the vast purchasing power of the world's two largest economies against that of Iran. Such an economic blockade would bar any business, firm or entity that does work in Iran from receiving U.S. and EU government contracts, accessing U.S. and EU capital markets, entering into commercial partnerships in the U.S. and EU or otherwise doing business in the U.S. and EU. The result would be an immense economic barrier to entry into Iran's marketplace, and would place unprecedented pressure on the rial.

 

Other steps to pressure the rial could be taken as well. As the rial devalues, Iranians seek the safe haven of dollars and gold in the currency markets of Afghanistan and Iraq and the gold markets in Turkey. Stemming the ease of accessibility to dollars and gold would further pressure the rial. Other creative ideas include impeding the flow of sophisticated currency printing technology and other products that have been previously provided to Iran's central bank by European vendors. In fact, recently the German currency printer Koenig & Bauer AG announced the cessation of its provision of bank note printing equipment and services in Iran under pressure from United Against Nuclear Iran, seriously impeding Iran's ability to manipulate its money supply and maintain the integrity of the rial.

 

It is time to present the mullahs in Iran with a clear choice — they can forego a nuclear weapon or they can have a functioning economy. To be sure, there is no guarantee that even a total economic blockade will prevent Iran from changing its strategic calculus to develop a nuclear weapons capability. But as the prospects of war over the next months increase, does the international community not owe it to itself to say it has exhausted all other options? It surely makes sense to try, particularly since we have seen the impact current sanctions are having on the regime. And the human cost of hyperinflation, though at times great, is far less than those of a nuclear-armed Iran or a preemptive military conflict.

 

Ambassador Mark D. Wallace is CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for U.N. Management and Reform.

 

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US AND PARTNERS PREPARE MODEST OFFER TO IRAN

Barbara Slavin

Al- Monitor, Dec 19, 2012

                 

Weeks of deliberations among the United States and its fellow negotiators have produced an offer to Iran very similar to the package Iran rejected last summer, casting doubt on chances for breaking the long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

 

The “refreshed” proposal includes spare parts for Iran’s aging Western jetliners — a perennial carrot — and assistance with Iran’s civilian nuclear infrastructure but no specific promise of sanctions relief, Al-Monitor has learned. Perhaps as a result, Iranian officials appear to be in no hurry to agree to a date to meet again with the so-called P5 +1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

 

Following US presidential elections, US officials began mulling a more generous proposal but have settled for a conservative position. Iran will be expected to agree to concessions before knowing exactly what it would get in return. Iran has been sending mixed signals in advance of new talks. Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi said Monday [Dec. 17]: “Both sides … have concluded that they have to exit the current impasse,” and that “Iran wants its legitimate and legal right and no more.” But Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Tuesday [Dec. 18] that Iran would not stop enriching uranium to 20% U-235, a key international demand.

 

Another factor reducing expectations for upcoming negotiations is Iran’s reluctance so far to agree to a one-on-one meeting with the United States at which the Obama administration might be more forthcoming than in a multilateral setting.  Both sides appear to be unwilling to undertake major risks, diminishing the chances for a breakthrough or a breakdown of negotiations. The US and its partners appear to feel that time is on their side as economic sanctions bite deeper into the Iranian economy. Iran, meanwhile, is amassing larger quantities of low-enriched uranium that could improve its bargaining position down the road.

 

There is also the question of transition in both countries. Although Barack Obama was re-elected president, he will be naming new secretaries of state and defense soon and there may be a new US negotiating team. Iran is beginning to gear up for its own presidential elections next year and jostling has already begun within the conservative elite over who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the ultimate decision maker.

 

Patrick Clawson, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he has been told that the Obama administration has “a firm determination not to let the [US] transition slow down the process.” While some members of the US negotiating team are departing, the head negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, is likely to stay on for at least a while and has a good relationship with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the probable nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

 

A bold offer to Iran would require President Obama to spend political capital that he may prefer to use for other purposes including avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff,” getting his nominees for a new Cabinet approved and now in the wake of mass shootings at a school in Connecticut, gun control.

 

Barbara Slavin is Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she focuses on Iran. 

 

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2013: THE YEAR OF IRAN

David Horovitz

Times of Israel, December 19, 2012

 

We’ve been saying it for years: This coming year represents the moment of truth on Iran.

 

Except that this year, it’s for real: 2013 represents the moment of truth on Iran. The year the Iranians pass the point of no return in their drive to the bomb. Or the year, one way or another, they are dissuaded.

 

It’s the now or never year. But will it be now or never? Speak to some of those who claim to know Barack Obama best of all, and the response is definitive. The president is not bluffing. He means it when he says he will thwart a nuclear Iran by whatever means necessary — up to and most certainly including the use of force. This is not about protecting Israel, or rather not just about protecting Israel. It’s about American credibility. It’s about American interests throughout the Middle East — defending those interests against an Iranian regime that is already ideologically and territorially rapacious and that would be terrifyingly more potent if its ambitions were backed by a nuclear weapons capability. And it’s about the president’s sense of his historic obligation and legacy — Obama as protector, pushing hard now for gun control at home, and determined to reduce, ideally eliminate, the nuclear peril worldwide.

 

Speak to some of the president’s bitter political rivals, and the assessment is withering. An Obama resort to force? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Forget the fine rhetoric about containment not being an option. This is a president bent on extricating the United States from combat zones, not plunging his forces into new military misadventures. This is a president who knows the electorate shudders at the prospect of confrontation with Iran.

This is a president who wants to appoint Chuck Hagel, firm opponent of a resort to force against Iran, as his next defense secretary. This is a president who had to be dragged into Libya by the French and the British, and who hasn’t lifted a finger as Bashar Assad waged war in Syria for almost two years. This is a president whose commitment to Israel can be gauged by his readiness to pick a major fight with Benjamin Netanyahu over building in an established ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of East Jerusalem (Ramat Shlomo) two years ago, a president who couldn’t spare half an hour for Netanyahu in the US this fall, even as he was insisting Israel hold its fire on Iran and thus entrust its security to him.

 

So which Obama are we betting on? The stakes for Israel could hardly be higher.  The coming months will provide ostensible evidence for both assessments. The US will engage in new efforts at diplomacy, insisting it is seeking a negotiated solution to the standoff.

 

A necessary precursor to a US-led resort to force, some will say. It is typical of Obama, they will argue, that he is both exhausting all other options, and being seen to exhaust all other options, in order to maximize perceived international legitimacy and support for armed intervention when — not if — he gives the order to strike.

 

Far from it, others will counter. Diplomacy and more diplomacy and more diplomacy — that’s the Obama way. And when it’s too late, the president will tell his public that he tried — that he pleaded and cajoled and demanded. That he did everything short of military action. But that Iran would not be budged. And that he opted not to resort to a preemptive military strike, recognizing that the America that just reelected him would have been horrified by such action, and that he is confident the Iranians would not dare target the United States.

 

Where do these absolutely conflicting assessments leave Israel? Worried. Wary. Uncertain.  It’s just possible that the two leaders, despite their frustrations with each other — “you did your best to help my rival”; “you’ve never really understood the challenges my country faces” — have reached a private understanding. If so, it could only be in the form of a pledge by Obama to Netanyahu: If the Iranians haven’t suspended the program by this or that date in 2013, America will strike.

 

That could explain the relative absence of bitter rhetoric emanating from Jerusalem these past few months. No more talk of the need for US-set red lines. No more dismal daily declarations from the prime minister that sanctions haven’t slowed the Iranian program “one iota.” It would explain the cessation of US administration warnings to Jerusalem to hold fire, the cessation of off-record briefings by administration officials warning Israeli journalists that their government is flirting with disaster, bringing the region to the brink of apocalypse.

 

Or it could be that there are no understandings — merely that, their public sparring over, the American and Israeli leaders have retired to their respective corners, a little bruised but far from broken, to plan their next moves.  If so, the dilemma for Netanyahu — who surely wanted to hit Iran last summer, but was derailed by the weight of opposition from the US and from his own security chiefs present and past — is unenviable, indeed. Existentially unenviable.

 

If he heeds the assessments of those Obama confidantes, watchers and friends who believe the president does have the stomach to order in the bombers, then just maybe he dares let Israel’s already much-narrowed window of opportunity to thwart Iran close altogether — even though to do so is to place Israel’s destiny in the hands of others, a breach of every independent Zionist fiber of the prime ministerial being.

 

And if he heeds the Obama critics, the insiders and the observers who scoff at the notion of a presidential resort to force, he will be preparing for a desperate, immensely risky utilization of Israeli military power, unprecedentedly far away, on targets hardened against precisely such intervention, over the objections of Israel’s greatest ally, with potentially catastrophic repercussions even if everything goes as planned.

 

He will be torn, furthermore, between a certain fealty to his late father’s fierce mindset — confront the threat, take action, use the Jewish nation’s hard-won restored sovereign power to strike down the latest advocates of Jewish genocide — and his own far more cautious inclinations, his tendency to talk the talk (on defying international pressure on settlements, refusing to negotiate with terrorists, ousting Hamas) but not always walk the walk.  He’ll know he could be saving Israel, or he could be dooming it. We’ll all find out, it rather seems, in 2013.

 

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CHANGES TO CANADA’S TERROR LIST
A SHOT ACROSS IRAN’S BOW

Campbell Clark

The Globe and Mail, Dec. 20 2012

 

The Canadian government has listed the clandestine branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, at the same time, removed a controversial Iranian opposition organization, the People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.  The two moves together mark an effort to label, isolate and pressure Iran, with whom Canada broke off ties earlier this year.

 

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced in a statement that the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, a clandestine arm of the elite military unit that exerts powerful influence over Iran’s government and economy, has been added to the list. It was added for providing arms and training to terror organizations including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he said.

 

“The listing of terrorist entities sends a strong message that Canada will not tolerate terrorist activities, including terrorist financing, or those who support such activities.” That listing makes it illegal for Canadians to support or finance the organization, although that is likely to be a largely symbolic step in this case. Earlier this year, Ottawa declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and it recently imposed sanctions that limit doing business with the Revolutionary Guards.

 

But the Canadian government also took another step aimed at backing opponents of the Tehran regime, by removing the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.

 

The MEK, once one of the groups involved in Iran’s 1979 revolution, has long been included on the terror list, but Western nations, considering it an opponent of the regime in Tehran, have started removing it from lists of terror organizations. The European Union stopped listing the MEK as a terror group in 2009, and the U.S. followed suit in September of this year.

 

But the MEK remains controversial, as human-rights groups have accused it of abuses at its camps in Iraq, and some dissidents within Iran dislike the West’s recent willingness to accept the group’s activities.

 

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Congress Approves New Iran Sanctions, Missile Defense Funding: JTA, Dec. 24, 2012—The final version of a defense funding act headed for President Obama’s desk includes enhanced Iran sanctions the president opposed as well as additional funding for Israel’s missile defense.

 

'Hamas Preparing for West Bank Takeover: Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23, 2012—Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal instructed the terror group's sleeper cells in the West Bank to prepare themselves for armed struggle to take control of the Palestinian territory, The Sunday Times reported.

 

Iran's Conservatives Push For A Deal: Ray Takeyh, National Interest, Dec. 21, 2012—As Washington contemplates another round of diplomacy with Iran, an intense debate is gripping the Islamic Republic’s corridors of power. An influential and growing segment of Iran’s body politic is calling for a negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue. Such calls have transcended the circle of reformers and liberals and are increasingly being voiced by conservative oligarchs.

 

Feeling the Pain in Tehran: Nazila Fathi, Foreign Policy, Dec. 21, 2012—Iran's Ministry of Intelligence did something remarkable last month: It used its website to publish a report (link in Farsi) calling for direct talks with the country's foe, the United States. In the report, entitled "The Zionist Regime's Reasons and Obstacles for Attacking Iran," the traditionally hawkish ministry highlighted the benefits of diplomacy and negotiations with the United States: "One way to fend off a possible war is to resort to diplomacy and to use all international capacities."

 

Christianity 'Close to Extinction' in Middle East: Edward Malnick, The Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2012—Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report. The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”. The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree. "A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

 

 

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AS U.S. SOFTENS IRANIAN NUCLEAR POLICY, SYRAI EMERGES AS U.S.-TURKEY WEDGE ISSUE

 

 

 

Articles:

Iran Becomes a Nuclear Threshold State : A. Savyon and Y. Carmon, MEMRI, October 5, 2012

"We just cannot continue business as usual, that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months."

 

Syria Becomes a Wedge between U.S. and Turkey: Soner Cagaptay, Washington Post, October 4, 2012

“The close relationship that President Obama has built with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided the United States with a key Muslim ally in the Middle East. Washington and Ankara have worked closely to stabilize Iraq. Yet a storm awaits them in Syria.”

 

Be Wary of Playing Turkey’s Great Game: Con Coughlin, The Telegraph, Oct 4, 2012

“Syria might be getting all the blame for firing the first shot in the sudden eruption of hostilities on the Turko-Syrian border, but Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, can hardly claim to be an innocent party when it comes to stoking the fires of a conflict that retains the potential to ignite a regional conflagration.”

 

On Topic Links

 

Pro-/Anti-Assad Camps Concerned Syria's  Disintegration into Separate Entities:  N. Mozes, MEMRI, October 1, 2012

Turkey Gets Tough on Syria:  Amanda Paul,  Today’s Zaman, October 7, 2012

Can Sanctions Change Iran’s Mind?: Efraim A. Cohen, Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2012

Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria: Tim Arango, New York Times, September 28, 2012

Gulen's False Choice: Silence or Violence: Stephen Schwartz, Gatestone Institute, October 5, 2012     

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IRAN BECOMES A NUCLEAR THRESHOLD STATE

A. Savyon and Y. Carmon

MEMRI, October 5, 2012

 

The Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, bans member states from enriching uranium to a level above the 3.5%-5% level required for producing energy and above the 19.7% level required for medical research; even this enrichment is permitted only with the approval and oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

 

For years, the IAEA, representing the international community, had interpreted the right of NPT member states to use enriched uranium as the right to obtain the necessary enriched uranium for legitimate civilian  purposes from the IAEA/the superpowers holding the monopoly on uranium  enrichment. In line with this policy, in January 2005, then-IAEA director Mohamed Elbaradei called for a five-year moratorium on uranium enrichment activities, or, as he told the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, "until we have completed our work on how we can have an international arrangement for the fuel cycle."…

 

In February 2005, El Baradei, explained to Agence France Presse: "We just cannot continue business as usual, that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months."

 

Furthermore, this policy was the basis of the agreement signed in 2005 between Iran and Russia, on the provision of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor. Under that agreement, Russia undertook to provide fuel for the light water reactor at Bushehr, while Iran undertook to return the spent fuel rods to Russia – all under full IAEA oversight.

 

Thus, all IAEA decisions over the years categorically demanded that Iran immediately cease its uranium enrichment project. The negotiations between Iran and the international community focused on the demand to stop uranium enrichment, with the IAEA and the superpowers undertaking to meet Iran's legitimate civilian needs for enriched uranium. When Iran refused to stop its uranium enrichment, the U.N. Security Council placed sanctions on it – that is, sanctions by the international community.

 

The U.S. administration gradually reversed its policy regarding uranium enrichment. Under the new policy, the right to use enriched uranium was reinterpreted as countries' right to enrich uranium on their own soil, as long as it was for civilian/peaceful purposes. This was reflected first in general statements such as President Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech, in which he stated: "Any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access to peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal… I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust [vis-à-vis Iran] but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.  But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point."

 

Later, this shift was expressed in clearer terms. For example, prior to attending a security summit in Thailand in July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks regarding the security needs of the U.S.'s Arab allies in the Middle East that could come under the hegemony of a nuclear Iran, "We want Iran to calculate, what I think is a fair assessment, that if the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon."

 

In addition to the proposed defense umbrella, President Obama has repeatedly expressed his administration's firm commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. However, both the president and Secretary of State Clinton limit their objections to nuclear weapons alone, and no longer express objections to the right to enrich uranium as long as it is for civilian purposes and under oversight….

 

Indeed, this new policy entitling Iran to enrich uranium on its own soil as long as it is for civilian purposes was in fact an acceptance of Iran's years-long demand that it would be given a status equivalent to that of Germany and Japan (known as the Japanese/German model) which Iran has

publicly demanded already in 2005.

 

In a visit to Berlin in February 2005, Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi proposed the Japanese/German model as the basis for Iran-EU negotiations. In a meeting with German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, Kharrazi elaborated on Iran's perspective on how to resolve the dispute with the EU3: "Peaceful nuclear plants in Germany and Japan can serve as a good model for Iran's nuclear projects, and serve as the basis for any round of talks in that respect.”

 

Also, at a May 2009 joint press conference with Japanese foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for implementing the Japanese nuclear model in Iran as well, saying, "The view that exists about Japan's nuclear activities should be applied to other countries including Iran." Mottaki reiterated that Iran's nuclear activities were "legal and peaceful," and said, "Japan spent many years to build confidence about its nuclear work. Iran is moving on a similar path… During the confidence-building years, Japan was never obliged to suspend its (nuclear) activities."

 

There are three differences between Iran and these two countries.

 

1)      Both Germany and Japan have constitutional prohibitions against nuclear weapons;

 

2)      Both countries are democracies, and have for decades acted in a way  that allows trust in their stated intentions; and

 

3)      Both enable full IAEA oversight of their nuclear facilities.

 

On the other hand, Iran:

 

1)      Does not enable full IAEA oversight of its nuclear facilities; IAEA reports and U.N. Security Council resolutions stress that Iran does not allow full inspection of its nuclear facilities and does not cooperate with the IAEA….

 

2)      Is not a democracy and its conduct does not allow trust in its stated intentions. Iran's top nuclear official openly declared recently that Iran had regularly deceived and lied to the IAEA. Moreover, Iran has in the last few months even announced that it intends to enrich uranium to 90% for military use (nuclear submarines); and

 

3)      Has never provided constitutional or quasi-constitutional assurances, comparable to those by Germany and Japan, that it does not intend to possess nuclear weapons. Indeed, in April 2012, an attempt was made by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to promote a substitute for an Iranian "constitutional" ban on nuclear weapons, in a form of a purported fatwa by Khamenei banning nuclear weapons….However, the attempt failed;….

 

The risk of this new policy, as pointed out by former IAEA director ElBaradei, is that it allows NPT member states to become nuclear threshold states, developing capabilities for enriching uranium to advanced levels on their own soil under the guise of legitimate civilian purposes.

 

In a September 2012 CNN interview, former president Bill Clinton also pointed out the danger of this new policy, saying, "Iran has all these extensive contacts with terrorist groups, and even if the government didn't directly sanction it, it wouldn't be that much trouble to be – to get a Girl Scout cookie's worth of fissile material, which, if put in the same fertilizer bomb Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City, is enough to take out 20 to 25 percent of Washington, D.C. Just that little bit….”

 

It is safe to say that even if the U.S. had maintained its traditional previous policy, and opposed Iran's uranium enrichment on its own soil, Iran would still continue its efforts to attain high-level enrichment and nuclear weapons. However, this new U.S. policy provides legitimacy and impetus for Iran's efforts, and preempts any deal based on no enrichment above 5% on Iranian soil that Iran might possibly have accepted.…

These two policies – the new nuclear policy allowing the development of threshold states, and the vision of non-proliferation and global nuclear disarmament – are completely at odds with one another. This is because it is the status of threshold state, in the case of states such as Iran, that paves the way for the development of nuclear weapons – even though there is an absolute intention not to allow them in the final stage of their development.

 

(Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project.) (Top of Page)

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SYRIA BECOMES A WEDGE BETWEEN U.S. AND TURKEY

Soner Cagaptay

Washington Post, October 4, 2012

 

The close relationship that President Obama has built with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided the United States with a key Muslim ally in the Middle East. Washington and Ankara have worked closely to stabilize Iraq. Yet a storm awaits them in Syria. Turkey announced Thursday that it has authorized military operations in Syria following Syrian shelling of Turkish areas this week. As the crisis in Syria has deepened, the White House has appeared willing to wait for the demise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For Ankara, the crisis has become an emergency. 

 

As turmoil in Syria has grown over the past 18 months, Ankara has presumed that the United States and Turkey were on the same page regarding regime change. Now, though, differences are emerging.  The Obama administration is hesitant toward Syria for several reasons, including reticence to act before the November elections and war-weariness among Americans. Erdogan appears to view such concerns as cover for general indifference to Turkey’s Syria problem. A sign of such sentiment emerged Sept. 5, when Erdogan chided Obama on CNN for lacking initiative on Syria — a rare rebuke from an otherwise steadfast friend.

 

This statement could be a harbinger. Erdogan has a penchant for treating foreign leaders as friends — and losing his temper when he thinks his friends have not stood by him. The more Washington looks the other way on Syria, the more upset Erdogan is likely to get over what he sees as Obama’s unwillingness to support his policy.

 

To the White House, the Syrian crisis has appeared manageable. As the conflict grinds on, some have grown concerned that Syria will radicalize as Bosnia did in the 1990s: When the world did not act to end the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkan country, jihadists moved in to join the fight, and they succeeded in convincing the otherwise staunchly secular-minded Bosnian Muslims that the world had abandoned them and that they were better off with jihadists.

 

U.S. policy holds that a gradual soft landing could be possible in Syria. The hope is that the opposition groups will coalesce and take down the Assad regime, eliminating the need for hasty foreign intervention — an option that Washington fears could cause chaos.

 

Ankara, however, wants an accelerated soft landing. Particularly with this week’s strikes, Turkey feels the heat of the crisis next door — Erdogan has reason to believe that time is not on his side.

The Syrian conflict’s sectarian nature is percolating into Turkey. More than 100,000 mostly Sunni Arab Syrians have taken refuge there, fleeing persecution by Assad and his Alawite militias. Alawite Arabs in southern Turkey resent the Sunni refugees, mirroring Syria’s Alawite-Sunni split. Angry Alawites in Turkey’s southern Hatay province oppose their country’s policy toward the Assad regime, and since the summer they have been holding regular pro-Damascus and anti-Ankara demonstrations. This is Ankara’s problem, and it might get ugly if Syria descends into full-blown sectarian warfare.

 

Ankara also fears the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Lately, the Assad regime has allowed the PKK to operate in Syria as a means to retaliate against Ankara. A PKK car bombing in August in Gaziantep, a large Turkish city near the border, has raised citizens’ fears about PKK infiltration. For Erdogan, the political cost associated with Syrian turmoil has also risen.

 

None of this bodes well for Erdogan’s hopes to become Turkey’s first popularly elected president in 2014 (until recently, the country’s presidents were elected by parliament). Although Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 49.5 percent of the vote in last year’s elections, further PKK attacks are likely to dent his much-liked tough-guy image.

 

Moreover, Erdogan has won successive elections since 2002 by delivering record-breaking economic growth, made possible by Turkey’s image as a stable country safe for business and investors. The more protracted the Syrian crisis becomes, the more Turkey’s image could be tarnished, blighting a key ingredient of its economic success and feeding the perception that Erdogan is not delivering. Erdogan believes that he cannot stand by and watch Syria pull Turkey into the maelstrom.

 

In the coming days, Ankara is likely to press Washington for more aggressive action against the Assad regime, including U.S.-supported havens for refugees in Syria and measures to hasten Assad’s fall. Washington’s response is likely to be sticking to the soft-landing strategy while trying to slow Erdogan down.

 

As serious as these policy differences are, they are not likely to rupture the Obama-Erdogan relationship. Turkey relies on the United States too much to sacrifice its relationship lightly. Turkey is increasingly wary of Iran’s regional ambitions: Erdogan knows that Tehran’s Shiite regime militarily supports the Assad regime in Syria and the government of Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Ankara detests. The tumult of the Arab Spring has led Ankara to revise its erstwhile autarchic foreign policy and Turkey now seeks security with NATO — a shift symbolized by Ankara’s agreement in September 2011 to host a major missile-defense project that NATO can use as a bulwark against Iran, as well as Russia and China.

 

Still, given Obama and Erdogan’s divergent policies on Syria, a storm between them appears almost unavoidable.

 

(Soner Cagaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.) (Top of Page)

___________________________________________________________________

BE WARY OF PLAYING TURKEY’S GREAT GAME

Con Coughlin

The Telegraph, Oct 4, 2012

 

Syria might be getting all the blame for firing the first shot in the sudden eruption of hostilities on the Turko-Syrian border, but Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, can hardly claim to be an innocent party when it comes to stoking the fires of a conflict that retains the potential to ignite a regional conflagration.

 

For more than a year now Turkey has been taking a lead role in the campaign to overthrow the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Working closely with a number of Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that are also committed to ridding Damascus of Assad’s Alawite clique, the Turks have been carefully co-ordinating international support for Syria’s rebel forces. There are even reports that the Turks have established a shared command centre in southern Turkey…Something not lost on Mr Assad.

 

Whether forces loyal to the regime were responsible for firing the mortar round that killed five civilians – including three children – in a Turkish border village this week is unclear. If Syrian rebels were active on the Turkish side of the border, and the Turkish authorities were doing nothing to apprehend them, then Assad loyalists might have felt within their rights to attack them. The Syrian government, for what it’s worth, denies any involvement and says it is investigating the incident.

 

Alternatively, amid the fog of war, there is always the possibility that Syrian rebels – or those sympathetic to their cause – fired the round into Turkey as a deliberate attempt to provoke the country and its allies into retaliating….

 

Irrespective of who was responsible for the attack on the Turkish village of Akcakale, its effect has been to galvanise the Western powers into action, with Nato convening an emergency session of its 28 members to condemn the attack. The uncompromising tone of Nato’s statement, which denounced Syria’s “flagrant violations of international law”, will be music to Mr Erdogan’s ears, as the Turkish prime minister has spent most of this year agitating for greater Western intervention in Syria. Apart from achieving regime change in Damascus, Mr Erdogan has argued that the refugee crisis on the Turkish border, where an estimated 80,000 Syrians have sought refuge, is a compelling reason for the Western powers to play a more active role in halting the bloodshed.

 

But before Nato gets too carried away with committing itself to Turkey’s defence, alliance leaders would do well to consider Mr Erdogan’s less-than-altruistic reasons for seeking a change in the way Damascus is governed….

 

Against Mr Erdogan’s impressive economic track record must be set his increasingly authoritarian style of government, with politicians and journalists regularly being jailed for criticising his policies, and his desire to build alliances with radical Islamic governments. Before the recent wave of Arab uprisings hit the Middle East, Mr Erdogan’s main focus was to develop better relations with the ayatollahs in Tehran.

 

He was forced to abandon this policy only after it became clear that he could no longer tolerate the survival of the Assad regime, which just so happens to be Iran’s most important regional ally….Like Mr Morsi, the Turkish leader would be happy to see the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria emerge as the eventual victors of the crisis in that country, a development which would lead to the establishment of a network of Islamist governments – a “Sunni arc” from the shores of North Africa to those of the eastern Mediterranean.

 

It is highly questionable whether such an outcome would benefit Western interests. And with the Turkish parliament yesterday approving a measure that effectively gives Mr Erdogan a “green light” to invade Syria, Nato leaders should take care not to involve themselves in a conflict that only helps to further the Turkish leader’s Islamist agenda.  (Top of Page)

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Pro- And Anti-Assad Camps Share Concerns Over Syria's Possible Disintegration Into Separate Sectarian, Ethnic EntitiesN. Mozes, MEMRI, October 1, 2012

 

"Everything in Syria these days is fragmented or divided. The regime is divided and crumbling, the land is divided, [and] the opposition is splintered and fragmented. Nothing is united… Aleppo is practically a separate [region], the Kurdish north is nearly independent, Damascus is isolated, the road to Al-Latakia is unsafe, and Homs is rebelling against the regime…"

 

Turkey Gets Tough on SyriaAmanda Paul,  Today’s Zaman, October 7, 2012

 

“The violence in Syria has already killed around 31,000 people…. The urgency of the situation has become greater not simply because of the deteriorating situation inside the country, but because violence is increasingly spreading beyond Syria’s borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.”

Can Sanctions Change Iran’s Mind?: Efraim A. Cohen, Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2012

 

“The UN’s efforts to alter Iraq’s actions have been cited as an example of a successful sanctions regime. Contrary to what some people now believe (or have forgotten), sanctions on Iraq were an abject failure.”

 

Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria: Tim Arango, New York Times, September 28, 2012

 

“Just off a main highway that…slices through a moonscape of craggy hills, a few hundred Syrian Kurdish men have been training for battle, marching through scrub brush and practicing rifle drills. They are preparing for the fight they expect to come…when Mr. Assad falls [from power] and there is a scramble across Syria for power and turf.”

 

Gulen's False Choice: Silence or Violence: Stephen Schwartz, Gatestone Institute, October 5, 2012

 

When the enigmatic Turkish Islamist leader, M. Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the U.S., published, in the September 27 London Financial Times, an op-ed column with a clumsy turn from benevolent moderation to hard Islamist ambitions, he revealed his authentic character.