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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Iran Has Deals in the Works

Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today that the government will prepare a package of deals on issues of economy, security and international affairs.

The omission of nuclear activity is not a smart one. Prior to the G-8 summit this week,  Israel was successful in pushing three European superpowers to back a military amendment to the IAEA on Iran in September, and despite President Obama’s decision to refrain from military action, he has warned Iran of the September “deadline” for nuclear talks.

In April, the West presented its own package to Iran in which it provided incentives for nuclear non-proliferation, and it was well-received by President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad who said that it respected the nation’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, diplomatic relations have all but severed in the post-election backdrop, and the president has accused the West of trying to undercut Iran and of even inciting the street protests.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Israel Elbows US as Iran Does Things the Hard Way

The Obama administration has always preferred bilateral diplomacy, but the administration is tightening its breeches.  Iran continues to advance its nuclear program and its post-election crackdown, including its prosecution of citizens who cooperate with satellite news programs.

In recent weeks, President Obama has threatened American companies that service the Iranian government  and rescinded invitations to Independence Day celebrations from Iranian diplomats. Now, according to Haa’retz, Israel is pushing its superpower allies to take on a more forceful Plan B.

According to the rationale of Israeli senior officials, the unrest in Iran permits “harsher steps” in the form of stiffer sanctions.

Israel has also been communicating with Germany, France, Russia and Japan on Washington’s persistence with the current path and on securing a military appendix to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran.

The news follows London’s Sunday Times allegations that Saudi Arabia will allow Israel to use its airspace in military assault against Iran and American vice president Joe Biden said that military action against Iran is within Israel’s right as a sovereign power.

Ha’aretz reports,

In an interview with ABC television, Biden said: “Israel can determine for itself – it’s a sovereign nation – what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else. Whether we agree or not. They’re entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that.”

Biden insisted that pressure from Israel or other countries would not affect American’s planned dialogue with Iran. “There is no pressure from any nation that is going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed,” he said, adding that Washington believes this dialogue serves America’s interests, as well as those of Israel and the rest of the world.

Biden’s sentiment was only slightly undercut by President Obama’s insistence Tuesday that Israel does not have a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Jerusalem Post reports,

The president said that Biden had simply been stating the “categorical fact” that “we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels,” he said.

Nevertheless, the IDF has taken into consideration the possibility that it will not receive US permission to fly over Iraq on the way to Iran, and has drawn up an operational plan for this contingency. While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said in the past that Israel was preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Incoming Professor Mohsen Khadivar Speaks with Wall Street Journal

Mohsen Khadivar is a reformist clergyman who was arrested for agitating the regime of the Shah as an engineering student and jailed for 18 months by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 1999. Now he and other clerics are fashioning the theological opposition to the Iranian theocracy. Wall Street Journal reports,

Why is this significant? Take a look at the color Mr. Mousavi’s supporters have chosen for their movement: Green is the color of Islam, meaning the demonstrators are taking on the regime on its own terms. Part of that challenge is to Iran’s republican pretensions, mocked by voter turnout that the regime itself admits exceeded 100% in some 50 districts.

… any revolution carried out in the name of God is also susceptible to being challenged in the name of God — and God has many names. As with the Communist revolutions of the 20th century, which were ultimately answerable to the verdict of History in which they placed so much stock, the ideological foundation of the Islamic Revolution rests with the prevailing views of a Shiite clerisy. Thanks to people like Mr. Kadivar, those views now tilt increasingly against the regime: So far, he notes, two of Iran’s four major seminaries have refused to endorse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “victory.”

Whether they’ll succeed will depend partly on their willingness to continue their protests — possibly through crippling work stoppages — but mostly on the willingness of the regime to enforce its will. Mr. Kadivar is convinced a large segment of the regime’s all-important Revolutionary Guards side with the demonstrators. But they have their own perquisites to look after, and liberal revolutionaries are often crippled by their own innate distaste of violence.

This interview came on the cusp of the Supreme Leader’s brusque warnings to the opposition at Tehran’s University Friday and Obama’s fourth formal press conference, in which he called the government crackdown of the opposition and the widely-publicized death of Neda Agha-Soltan “heartbreaking.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Senior Adviser on Middle East Peace Turned Over

Just one week ago, The Washington Post reported that Dennis Ross, a senior adviser for the State Department on Iran and former heavy-hand in Middle East peace negotiations, was a “diplomatic troubleshooter…legendary talker.”

As one of the main architects of the Obama administration’s Iran policy, Ross is crafting a way to reach out to Iran to persuade its leaders to abandon any plan to develop nuclear weapons. President Obama says this effort will have to show results by the end of the year.

Imagine their surprise when news broke of Ross’ transfer to the National Security Council Monday. A speculative uproar followed.

Al Jazeera English wrote, “The White House and state department declined to comment on the matter but denied a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Ross was being removed from his job.”

According to Haaretz, Iran objected to Ross’ Jewish heritage and his close ties to Israeli civil and defense government officials.

Ross also endorsed military action against Iran with former journalist and co-author David Makovsky in their new book, “Myths, Illusion and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”

“Tougher policies – either militarily or meaningful containment – will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion,” they wrote.

Haaretz also speculates that Ross may have been dissatisfied with his position in the State Department, especially considering the rise of George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke, two other Washington envoys whose clout has surpassed that of Ross.

Of these suppositions, it seems most likely that the man who was once behind Iran foreign policy came to be seen as a diplomatic handicap for a cautious administration.

“…in the Middle East, many officials view him as too pro-Israel, raising concerns about whether he is the right person for the job of coaxing the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Even a former colleague, Aaron David Miller, wrote last year that “Dennis, like myself, had an inherent tendency to see the world of Arab-Israeli politics first from Israel’s vantage point.”

Whatever the truth behind Ross’ move, his absence may make it easier for the Obama administration to gingerly coax Iran out of its nuclear amibtions, support of terrorism, and other great diplomatic misdeeds.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Was Ahmadinejad’s Victory Legitimate?

June 16, 2009 1 comment

In the United States, there’s been a fair number of questions raised about the legitimacy of the recent presidential election in Iran. In some quarters, that the results were fraudulent was simply assumed. More reserved, the Obama administration has simply identified “doubts.” It’s worth noting, however, that there are at least some who find President Ahmadinejad’s victory, and more importantly his margin of victory, entirely within reason.

Yesterday, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty wrote in the Washington Post that in their pre-election poll of Iran, Ahmadinejad’s support was actually higher then the reported vote total. Furthermore:

The breadth of Ahmadinejad’s support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.

Over a Politico today, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett lash out at doubters in a piece pugnaciously entitled Ahmadinejad won. Get over it:

They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.

The truth of the matter is that there is at least a possibility that the results were legitimate, and it doesn’t matter. The perceived injustice, which has led to the massive protests not in the US, but on the streets of Iran, has rendered the actual vote count largely meaningless. Some have suggested that had the election not been “over-stolen“, that is to say, if the vote had been closer to 53-47 or even 55-45 than 60-40, that the now-rioting crowds would have simply taken defeat and gone on with their lives. There is a chance, however, the slightest chance that Ahmadinejad will go down as the only politician ever to win an election too comfortably for his own good. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Elections in Indonesia: Capek Ya? (Are You Tired?)

As the world’s largest Muslim country prepares for its presidential elections, Teuku Faizasyah, spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry, congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people on their elections Monday, Indonesia’s Antara News reports.

“I congratulate the people of Iran for the successful implementation of the democratic elections, although there are some people who are not satisfied,” Faizasyah said.

Under Ahmadenijad’s first term, the nations strengthened bilateral cooperation in various sectors, including the economy. Faizasyah’s pronouncement clearly indicated Indonesia’s commitment to maintaining its partnership with Iran, no matter the political climate.

At present, Indonesia’s political climate is dwarfed by Iran’s current maelstrom. According to the Economist, April’s ballot-casting was marred by more than 1,000 reports of electoral violations, a claim that carried on, not surprisingly, without investigation, but “competent regional officials did well.”

The Democratic Party, to which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono belongs, eclipsed the  37 other contenders and won the majority of the paliament’s 550 seats.

James Castle told CNN that the Democratic Party owes its victory to “Yudyohono’s ‘charming’ personality, and his government’s ability to weather the current worldwide financial downturn.”

The latter proved key in the Party’s dominance in these elections. Analysts attributed the economic resilience of Yudhoyono’s government to the stunting of the Islamic clusters, which lost 9.5 percent of their previous electoral support.

It is with this prioritizing of economic concerns above religious ones that have kept and will keep an Islamist from claiming victory in the presidential elections July 8.

According to Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate, Yudhayongo will collect 52.5 percent of the popular vote, followed by Sukarnoputri and Kalla.

If none of the candidates amass at least 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held between the two leading contenders.

According to TimesOnline of the United Kingdom, Sukarnoputri has chosen to run with Prabowo Subianto, a war criminal under late dictator Suharto.

Subianto was a luitenent-general and special forces commander in the 1990s who epitomized the violence and nepotism associated with the regime.

Last week, human rights groups and activists condemned him in Jakarta and East Timor, but Subianto has denied the allegations. Times reports,

He served four tours of duty in East Timor, where Indonesian occupation forces were accused of war crimes including torture, rape and murder. In the last years of the Suharto regime, special units under his command were blamed for abductions and disappearances of pro-democracy activists.

The Indonesian media reported widespread rumours that he organised mobs to loot, burn, kill and rape throughout Jakarta’s Chinatown in 1998 in an attempt to sow chaos and pave the way for a coup.

After Suharto stepped down, Prabowo was accused of threatening the new president, B J Habibie, by deploying his commandos around the palace.

Prabowo went into exile but has made a comeback thanks to a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign funded by his brother, a tycoon.

Analysts predict that the election of Megawati will strengthen Subianto, whom they perceive to be the stronger and more effective of the two.

In conjunction with aggressive campaigning at home, Yudhayongo began talks with President Obama at the G20 Summit in April, prompting the President to schedule a visit to Jakarta later this year.

President Obama told Yudhoyono in a 10-minute phone conversation in March that he wanted to build “a comprehensive partnership” between the two countries,” The Jakarta Post reports.

Indonesians hope that both the partnership and the visit will be more than a sentimental nod to Obama’s boyhood, and will bear fruits such as developmental assistance, reports Asia Times.

Although the country’s economy grew by 6.1% in 2008, Indonesia, like the rest of the world, is  suffering from the recession, and the $6 billion stimulus package approved by Yudhayongo has yet to budge the downturned economy.

Indonesia requires strong partners in the trembling global economy, be it Iran or the United States, and its post-electoral leader will determine the scope and direction of the loyalties reciprocated.

— Tina Carter, ’10

Obama on Iran

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

All the buzz in the media is about the stimulus package, but after President Obama’s speech last night, the second question from the White House press corps was actually on Iran.

The question about Iran, from Karen Boeing of Reuters, took me by surprise: Everyone has been focusing very much on domestic policy for the last week, and the only news out of Iran has been the announcement that former president Mohammed Khatami would challenge his flamboyant successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Anyway, here’s Boeing’s question:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to shift gears to foreign policy. What is your strategy for engaging Iran? And when will you start to implement it? Will your timetable be affected at all by the Iranian elections? And are you getting any indications that Iran is interested in a dialogue with the United States?

Obama didn’t say much that he hasn’t said before. He did close with this statement, though:

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