In a rare joint statement, the nations called the discussions “substantive and forward-looking” and formalized the next round of negotiations in Geneva on November 7 and 8. The United States and the European Union depicted the talks as “substantive,”“very important,” and “positive.” One senior Obama administration official beamed with excitement. “I’ve been doing this now for about two years, and I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before,” said the official. “I would say we really are beginning that type of negotiation where one could imagine that you could possible have an agreement.”
First, the chances for a truly historic breakthrough are pretty good – which, at this stage in talks of such magnitude, is astonishing. Second, the Iranians’ main demands—at least what we know of them – are pretty reasonable. … Not only that, but after the first day of meetings, the U.S. and Iranian delegations broke away for an hourlong bilateral session, which American officials described as “useful” in clearing up ambiguities.
Joshua Keating is, like me, grateful the shutdown has been drowning out coverage of our negotiations with Iran:
Thanks to the government shutdown and the looming default, the news cycle this week has skewed heavily domestic, and understandably so. Somewhat lost in all this has been what is actually a pretty big foreign-policy story, the restarted Iran nuclear talks in Geneva. It’s still early to say, but while nobody’s been paying attention, the talks have been going surprisingly well. Those two things may be connected.
[Neither lifting sanctions or allowing some uranium enrichment on Iranian soil is] popular on Capitol Hill. And as Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson of Foreign Policy report, some members of Congress – some Democrats, in particular – are already signaling opposition to a deal involving lifting sanctions. But Congress has also had its attention elsewhere this week. As Rep. David Price told FP, “We’re in such a weird situation on the Hill with the shutdown and all the oxygen is pretty much going to that fight.”
It’s easy to imagine an alternative-universe scenario in which the government is not shut down, the Iran talks are front-page news, and this is a major focus of attention from Capitol Hill. It still may be tough to the White House to sell Congress on lifting sanctions, but it has to have helped lead negotiator Wendy Sherman that Congress hasn’t been setting the terms of this debate before she even sat down with the Iranians.
And as I noted last night, the talks have been remarkably cordial so far. A distracted Congress and relative quiet about the Israel-Palestine peace process is also helpful, as the invaluable Roger Cohen notes today:
“I have been doing this now for two years and I have never had such intense, detailed, straight-forward, candid conversations with the Iran delegation before,” the American official said. “The discussions took place in English…the pace of discussions was much better. It creates the ability to have a back and forth.”
“There are [still] serious differences.” the U.S. official said, adding if there weren’t, “it would have been resolved” long ago. We “got more today than we have ever gotten before, but there’s still a whole lot more we have to get.”
The news on Obamacare, alas, remained unforgivably grim. The faith Americans have in their own government must be hitting all-time lows. Certainly the rest of the world sees us as a banana republic. And they’re thisclose to being right.
Sorry for being late with this post tonight. We had a Dish meeting that took three hours. And it’s been a marathon day of blogging. If you’ve appreciated it, and want to support the nine of us putting this out every day, please subscribe. It takes two minutes and costs as little as $2 a month. And you are the only source of income we have.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech in the UN demonstrates that ensuring Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons is not his only goal. Netanyahu needs to make the Iranian publicly surrender, to beat them, to humiliate them. He wants to win big, to be a real man. And real men don’t only talk, real men shoot. Or at least threaten to shoot until the other side is begging, down on its knees. Netanyahu wants to see the other side on their knees. Not only Iran, but the Palestinians too … If Israel wants security, it needs to build trust with those who are our current enemies. Netanyahu cares far too much for our pride and honor and far too little for our safety. Mister Prime Minister, one doesn’t achieve peace or security with pride or honor. Peace and security are achieved through negotiations. It is time we give up victimhood and take responsibility for our safety and well-being. Time to support negotiations with Iran and to sign a peace and security agreement with the Palestinians,” – MK Merav Michaeli.
Like many of you, I bet, I took cover this weekend, after a politically terrifying week. Except there is no cover, as today, Speaker Boehner insisted he’d keep the entire federal government shut down and default on the nation’s debt unless the president agreed to suspend universal healthcare and agree to some kind of entitlement reform with no new revenue. He seemed to think this was a routine kind of thing, rather than a completely unprecedented act of economic terrorism to subvert our system of government. But, hey, he’s not in charge is he? No one is.
Meanwhile, Bibi Netanyahu tried to reach out to Iran’s people – who all want a nuclear program – with his trademark charm. His money quote:
“If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections.”
For the general response, see above, and here. Does Netanyahu know that Iranians have Twitter? Or does he really believe it’s 1938 again?
The far right government of Bibi Netanyahu has found itself somewhat isolated recently as it demands not just a monopoly of nuclear weaponry and near-monopoly of chemical weapons in the Middle East, not just continued illegal settlement of the West Bank, not just military aid from the US, but also regime change and war against Iran for enriching any uranium at all. The demands are so out of line with the NPT and with the Obama administration the Israeli government must surely fear it is losing the initiative for another war in the Middle East.
This is particularly so, it seems to me, because the Syria chemical weapons episode revealed how difficult it would be to get any clear American support for a pre-emptive war against Iran over allegations of potential WMD development. The Congress was clearly about to veto any such war against Assad even after the use of chemical weapons and after the deaths of 100,000 civilians. What chance is there that Israel and its proxies could easily authorize a new war against merely alleged nuclear weapon development in a regime that has recently declared itself eager to cooperate with the West? AIPAC has a lot of influence, and fear-mongering about Iranians is a rich vein to mine in the American psyche, but the odds of a war against Iran must look lower to Netanyahu right now, as his desperate and utterly exhausted speech at the UN revealed.
So what to do? Launch a war and deny it. Openly assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, assuming no one in the West will even call you out. And now, a new provocation:
Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, north-west of the capital, Tehran.
In exchange for cutting back on their nuclear program, the Iranians will certainly demand, at the very least, a drastic easing—perhaps a lifting—of Western sanctions, which have so crippled Iran’s economy. But who takes the first step, and how big should that step and each subsequent step be? How does this process go forward in a way that builds trust, not suspicion? President Obama can lift some of the sanctions, but some of them can only be lifted by Congress. Many in Congress don’t want to solve Iran’s nuclear problem through diplomacy. First, they don’t trust Iran (not without reason). Second, they want “regime change” in Iran, and they believe (correctly) that an arms-control accord—even, or especially, one that thwarts any nuclear ambitions the regime might have—would legitimize and thus perpetuate the regime. Third, they don’t want to hand a historic foreign policy triumph to Obama.
Once again, on that final point, pure partisan spite would trump national self-interest and a president’s foreign policy power. And there is no question that AIPAC will do all it can to kill any chances for an agreement that would leave Iran as a country able to enrich uranium as is its right under the NPT. But, as Kaveh Waddell explains, the Congress isn’t the only body with sanctions in place, giving the Obama administration some lee-way for action despite the nullification-driven House and AIPAC-dominated Senate:
The myriad sanctions on the Islamic Republic originate from different actors.
Scott McConnell dreams of a “love-affair” between the US and Iran:
[I]magine: the nuclear diplomacy track gets going, and Iran makes it clear that it will trade transparency and inspections to ensure non-weaponization. Obama does what he can strip away the sanctions, encouraged by Europe, which is eager to trade and invest in Iran. And suddenly Americans realize there is this large, sophisticated Muslim country, with a large middle class and a huge appetite for American culture and business.
… My guess is that many Americans will fall in love with [Iran] —or at least with the combination of exoticism and profits that detente with Iran promises. Yes, there will be blind and naive aspects to the love—when is there not?—but it will unleash powerful forces that governments cannot control.
[T]hese kinds of fantasies can be quite destructive as we approach the diplomatic process, because by raising expectations they invite the perception of failure. Our goal is not “flipping” Iran from the enemy to the allied column.
While Rouhani repeatedly claimed that he has unfettered authority to solve the diplomatic impasse with the U.S., attacks [against Rouhani by Iranian hardliners] on him upon his return home indicate that Khamenei wants to keep his options open. The outlines of a deal on the nuclear issue have more than once been floated by Iranian regime’s past or present officials: continue enrichment at three to five percent, stop enrichment at twenty percent, allow international control of Iran’s stockpile of twenty percent enriched uranium, and finally accommodate more intrusive inspections of all nuclear sites in return for lifting of sanctions. At the same time, for Khamenei, a sine qua non is his ability to sell the deal to the Iranians as a “victory.” The call was the first direct attempt by Rouhani to make the deal. It is as much folly not to celebrate it as something of a milestone, as it is premature to declare it a historic watershed. Only real, not imagined or promised, actions and changes determine watershed events.
If Iran is willing to cut a deal that effectively provides a guarantee against a weaponization of its nuclear program, and that deal is acceptable to the president of the United States of America, why would Netanyahu not take yes for an answer?
The reason lies in Netanyahu’s broader view of Israel’s place in the region: The Israeli premier simply does not want an Islamic Republic of Iran that is a relatively independent and powerful actor. Israel has gotten used to a degree of regional hegemony and freedom of action — notably military action — that is almost unparalleled globally, especially for what is, after all, a rather small power. Israelis are understandably reluctant to give up any of that.
59% of Iranians expressed hope that President Rouhani would improve Iran’s relations with the international community.
And that data point would seem to back up what Parsi had to say about Iranians’ feelings about Syria:
In Iran, those who would support Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power if it would end the Syrian crisis outnumber those who would oppose it 37% to 21%. Counting only those who expressed an opinion, nearly 60% would favor Assad’s removal to end the crisis. … [And less] than one third of Iranians approve of their government’s economic support for the Assad regime while one quarter disapprove. While those Iranians who disapprove of Bashar al-Assad’s handling of the Syrian uprising outnumber those who approve of it 25% to 24%.
However, only 13% of those polled believed Assad was behind the chemical weapon attacks, while more than half remained undecided or not sure.
What the Iranian president said in his interview with Amanpour:
“I have said before that I am not a historian, and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect on it … But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people, was reprehensible and condemnable as far as we are concerned.”
For some in the West, Rouhani’s condemnation of the Holocaust was a remarkable step forward from 10 years of Ahmadinejad, and a significant gesture from a president who still has to answer to the hard-line supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, no friend of Israel and ultimately Rouhani’s boss. For others, though, his apparent deferral to Holocaust revisionists was a sad reminder of the degree of hostility toward not just Israel but Jews entrenched in the Iranian political system – and a sign that Rouhani is still of that system.
Marc Tracy accuses Rouhani of perpetuating Holocaust denial:
Intriguingly, Rouhani did not mention, even once, the word that so infamously was associated with his predecessor: Israel (or, as Iranian leaders prefer, “the Zionist regime”). At the end of his speech, he recited a verse from the Qu’ran that talked about the Jewish holy book, the Torah. Those two choices should have pleased the sole Iranian Jewish MP accompanying Rouhani in his UN visit to New York.
Then during an interview last night with Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani had this to say about the Holocaust:
“I have said before that I am not a historian, and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect on it,” Rouhani told Amanpour. “But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis committed towards the Jews, as well as non-Jewish people, was reprehensible and condemnable as far as we are concerned.”
Trita Parsi downplays the idea that the Iran-Israel standoff is ideological and existential:
Along those geostrategic lines, Paul R. Pillar expects that Israel will try to stop a deal between the US and Iran:
To understand Netanyahu’s posture one needs to realize that it is not only, or maybe even primarily, about a possible Iranian nuclear weapon. It is partly a matter of heading off any rapprochement between Iran and the United States, which would weaken the Israeli claim to being America’s sole reliable and important partner in the Middle East. It is partly a matter of sustaining the Iranian nuclear issue as the regularly invoked “real threat” in the region that serves to divert attention from matters the Israeli government would rather not talk about or be the subject of international scrutiny. And it is partly a matter of Netanyahu riding a topic he has made a signature issue of his own in Israeli domestic politics and a basis for his claim to tough-guy leadership.
It is pointless to talk about how an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 could be fashioned to win Netanyahu’s acceptance, because such acceptance will not be forthcoming. Anyone interested in the peaceful resolution of differences with Iran needs instead to view Netanyahu—and the Israeli Right of which he is a part, and those in the United States who unthinkingly and automatically follow his lead—as irredeemable spoilers and to think about how their efforts at spoiling can be countered.
I don’t discount the genuine existential fears that many Israelis have about an Iranian nuke. On the other hand, fear is not a strategy. It can lead to irrationality. The Israelis, after all, have a massive nuclear deterrent, and democracies have long lived in the shadow of potential nuclear war – and the dangers from the 1950s to the 1980s were very real. We lived with a nuclear Stalin and Mao. We live with a nuclear Pakistan, for Pete’s sake. Many senior Israelis in the military and intelligence sectors are not fazed by the Iranian “threat”. Many have argued that their main concern is not that Iran would nuke Israel – which would include some of the most sacred sites to Islam – but that the very threat could precipitate emigration or a collapse in immigration to the Jewish state.
But the real threat, as Pillar notes, is that a US-Iran rapprochement could isolate Israel, denying it its unique relationship with the super-power in the region. But, of course, from the perspective of the US, it’s a good thing to have good relations with both Israel and Iran.
A reader quotes from my reaction to Rouhani’s UN speech:
The US is exerting force to insist on Syria’s destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal, even as we send military aid to Israel, which has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have threatened force to prevent Iran getting a nuclear bomb, but we give military aid to Israel, which currently has a break-out capacity of up to 300 nuclear warheads. Is it not reasonable for humankind to look at this double standard and say collectively: WTF?
Well, no, it’s not reasonable. Syria is being asked to destroy its chemical weapons in the aftermath of a chemical attack which more than likely originated with the Syrian stockpile. Iran has admitted to sponsoring terrorism and given the nature of terrorists, they are far more likely to use such weapons than even Iran would be. Given Iran’s rhetoric towards Israel, it’s pretty reasonable to not want them to have those weapons.
If you can think of a comparable situation where Israel has 1) used chemical weapons or 2) put nukes in the hands of people who would use them, then it would be a double standard. Here, the standard applied by the US isn’t hypocritical at all.
I’m not persuaded that Iran, given its history in foreign policy, would ever hand off nuclear weapons to terrorist proxies, especially given the devastating consequences that would ensue. Mercifully, not even the Pakistanis have done that, and Pakistan is a far more troubling nuclear power than Iran would be.
My point is about non-proliferation. If we are as intent on it in the Middle East as we seem to be under Obama (I’m more of a believer in deterrence than non-proliferation, for what it’s worth), then leaving the one nuclear and chemical power out of it – and never even mentioning it – does seem like a whopping double standard to most people around the globe. I’m unaware, either, of Iran assassinating Israel’s nuclear technicians. And yet we accept the reverse with nary a quibble. At some point, the US has to deal with this glaring discrepancy in the eyes of the world. Another reader:
I’m confused. According to your logic, Obama was right to threaten force in Syria because that was the only way the world would get serious about Assad’s chemical weapons. But AIPAC/neocons are wrong to push Obama to threaten force in Iran because that would … scuttle the possibility of a deal and give them the war you allege they’ve been gunning for?
Refusing to talk to people or countries with whom we differ is really just a childish form of spite and one the United States indulges in mostly because we can get away with it. But it also makes it more difficult to resolve differences in ways that would advance U.S. interests. In short, it’s dumb.
There are several points (pdf) at which I spluttered. To wit:
The human tragedy in Syria represents a painful example of catastrophic spread of violence and extremism in our region. From the very outset of the crisis and when some regional and international actors helped to militarize the situation through infusion of arms and intelligence into the country and active support of extremist groups, we emphasized that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis.
One of those regional actors was clearly Iran, protecting its Shiite ally, the murderous Bashir al-Assad. Was Rouhani criticizing some factions in his own country – or bullshitting? I’d say bullshitting. On Syria, he said:
I should underline that illegitimate and ineffective threat to use or the actual use of force will only lead to further exacerbation of violence and crisis in the region.
But of course it was only the threat of US force that prompted the world to get serious about Assad’s chemical weapons.
There were other weirdnesses – “Shia-phobia”? But nonetheless, it seems to me, Rouhani’s critique of the US as a hegemonic power is onto something – not because it is the worst such hegemon in world history. Au contraire. But all hegemonies lead to abuse, and in the case of the US since the end of the Cold War, American unipolar hegemony has led us close to a self-defeat and bankruptcy. Increasingly isolated, engaged in pre-emptive war, America’s wars of invasion and occupation have been morally corrosive failures – and incredibly costly ones at that. The neoconservative vision simply foundered in a world that simply resents the nosy bully – as you could see in the Brazilian president’s speech earlier today. That doesn’t help the US. It doesn’t help our interests. You don’t have to adopt Rouhani’s worldview to see that. We have to live in a more multi-polar world.
And in foreign relations, Rouhani has a point about Iran’s relative moderation. Yes, it exports terror via Hezbollah and Hamas. But it has not launched wars; it has cooperated even with the Bush administration with respect to the Taliban. Gone are the despicable Holocaust denials of Ahmadinejad. And he’s right about double standards. The US is exerting force to insist on Syria’s destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal, even as we send military aid to Israel, which has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have threatened force to prevent Iran getting a nuclear bomb, but we give military aid to Israel, which currently has a break-out capacity of up to 300 nuclear warheads. Is it not reasonable for humankind to look at this double standard and say collectively: WTF?
And is he not within his rights to complain about Israel’s assassinations of scientists?
For what crimes have they been assassinated? The United Nations and the Security Council should answer the question: have the perpetrators been condemned?
The key point of the speech, though, was roughly Ken Pollack’s point. Iran is an advanced society, despite crippling sanctions, and has every right to pursue nuclear power. There is no way to stop this. Indeed, telling a country it cannot develop its scientific and energy expertise this way is abhorrent. The question is whether this is about nuclear weapons. And Rouhani says no – emphatically:
Iranian President Rouhani said Tuesday that his country is prepared for immediate nuclear talks that are "time-bound and result-oriented ..— International Desk (@CNNInternatDesk) September 24, 2013
Judis calls Obama’s UN speech today “his most significant foreign policy statement since becoming president.” The reason why:
If Obama does achieve a rapprochement between the United States and Iran, it could have repercussions throughout the Middle East. It could make a political settlement in Syria possible. It could ease negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s hardliners would no longer have an excuse for ignoring the West Bank occupation, and Hamas would no longer have international support in refusing to back a two-state solution. And, finally, of course, a rapprochement could give the United States a strong ally in reducing the threat of terrorist movements in the Middle East and South Asia.
Max Fisher thought Obama’s UN speech was harder on Iran than his recent remarks:
NIAC president Trita Parsi reveals which country while discussing how average Iranians make sense of the Syrian conflict:
In his UN speech today, Obama made a point to include Iranians among those who have suffered attacks from chemical weapons (go here and here for Dish coverage of how the US was complicit in those attacks).
In other Syria-Iran coverage, we recently featured some remarkable footage showing Iranian military advisors leading Assad’s forces inside Syria. Along those lines, last week the WSJ published a detailed report on Iran’s military assistance to Assad, including ongoing efforts by the Revolutionary Guard to train thousands of Syrians within Iran. The report also explains how the regimes in Iran and Syria were originally linked:
Tehran’s alliance with Syria began shortly after Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. Damascus under Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, was the first Arab country to back Iran’s revolutionary government. Tehran’s ayatollahs, in turn, recognized the Assad family’s Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, as a legitimate branch of their religion.
The Guards’ influence in Damascus grew significantly after Bashar al-Assad took power in 2000, according to current and former Syrian military officers. Operations between the Guards and Syria’s security forces started to grow more integrated, with Iranian advisers basing themselves in Syria. Iran’s government opened weapons factories and religious centers in Syria as well.
Matt Steinglass likewise urges Obama to pursue diplomacy:
Barack Obama would have to be crazy at this point not to take up the diplomatic overtures the Iranian government has been making over the past few weeks. We shouldn’t have any illusions about what is on offer here. America and Iran are never going to be terribly friendly, or not on any foreseeable time horizon. We have commitments to Israel and the Persian Gulf states which we’re not about to drop and the Iranians are not about to forget. They have a partially theocratic system of government that entails human-rights violations we’re not about to overlook, and they’re not about to abandon their support for Hizbullah or for the ideology of Shiite jihad. But we have by now given up on the illusion that our problems in the Middle East will be solved by “regime change”. Indeed, the countries where the regimes change seem to be the ones where our problems now lie. We need to start approaching the regimes that aren’t likely to change and trying to arrange a wary but peaceful standoff, because the level of carnage and chaos at the moment is more than we can handle.
Beinart encourages Obama to follow in Reagan’s footsteps:
[T]he same “Reaganites” who will bash Obama for compromising with Rouhani once bashed Reagan for compromising with Gorbachev. As late as December 1987, Charles Krauthammer was writing that “the fundamental misconception about Gorbachev is that he has somehow broken the ideological mold.” Until virtually the day the Soviet empire collapsed, Rep. Dick Cheney was calling glasnost a fraud. In 1988 George Will accused Reagan of having “accelerated the moral disarmament of the West … by elevating wishful thinking [about Gorbachev] to the status of public policy.” When Reagan brought the intermediate missiles deal to Congress for ratification, a right-wing group called the Anti-Appeasement Alliance took out newspaper ads comparing Reagan to Neville Chamberlain.
Yes, those political struggles were easier for Reagan because he hailed from the political right. But that wasn’t the only reason he triumphed over the “Reaganites” who now take his name in vain. He triumphed because he had the moral imagination to envisage a relationship beyond confrontation and war. Musing in late 1987 about the opponents of his nuclear deal, Reagan declared that “some of the people who are objecting the most … whether they realize it or not, those people basically down in their deepest thoughts have accepted that war is inevitable.” Because Reagan refused to accept what others considered inevitable, he achieved one of the greatest successes in the history of American foreign policy. Now it’s Obama’s turn to imagine a future that his critics cannot and to have the guts to make it real.
Obama’s careful speech at the UN today did not sound like Reagan’s dreamy optimism toward Gorbachev at Reykyavik – another moment when neoconservatives denounced Reagan as aggressively as they will surely denounce any diplomacy with Iran. It was designed to express caution – too much caution, in my view. Money quote:
I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight – the suspicion runs too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship – one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
I understand the delicacy. But what Rouhani needs is what Gorbachev needed – a big gesture – or the nit-pickers and nay-sayers and militarists in both countries will once again seize the initiative.
(Photo: Former US President Ronald Reagan greets former president of the former Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev upon his arrival in the US. By Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images.)
In our latest video from NIAC founder Trita Parsi, he explains that, if Rouhani hopes to maintain his power, his diplomatic efforts must ultimately improve Iran’s economy:
Near the end of the video, Parsi wonders if Congress will stand in Obama’s way. You think? Eli Lake talks to Israel’s proxies on the Hill:
If Obama seeks to take advantage Rouhani’s outreach, he will need support from a Congress that appears unconvinced about the new Iranian president’s charm offensive. One House staff member who spoke to The Daily Beast Monday said Iran would need at the very least to suspend uranium enrichment to stop legislators from moving a new sanctions bill aimed at the regime’s nuclear program. A memo released last week from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel group that has made Iranian sanctions a centerpiece of its lobbying efforts since the 1990s said, “The international community should only consider sanctions relief if Iran complies with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that require suspending its nuclear activities. Any such relief must be commensurate with the extent of Tehran’s actions.”
Which means that the Greater Israel lobby will do all it can to prevent any conceivable deal that could ensure Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy – the sine qua non of any breakthrough. Which means they aim to kill diplomacy to get the war they have been wanting for more than a decade. In this sense, AIPAC is the American equivalent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in terms of scuppering any possibility of genuine peace, by refusing to treat Iran as anything but a pariah state. Israel, meanwhile, sits on a couple hundred nuclear missiles aimed in part at Iran. But that inconvenient truth cannot be uttered on Capitol Hill.
Yesterday, Parsi detailed the very limited window Rouhani has for success, as well as how he thought the US should tackle this new opportunity for rapprochement.
David Corn echoes a lot of what I’ve been arguing about Obama’s trajectory at this point in his second term. Politico-style pageview-grabbers keep talking about a “lame duck” while the GOP keeps talking as if Obamacare, which only truly gets going next month, is already fatally wounded. McCainiacs talk as if getting Putin to take ownership of preventing further use of chemical weapons in Syria is some kind of defeat for the US – which it is only if you truly want another Middle East War. And in Washington, Obama’s solid refusal to jump into negotiations over the defunding of Obamacare or the debt-ceiling has allowed the Republicans to organize themselves into a Dick Cheney hunting expedition. After Syria, moreover, there is the first real chance of a deal with Iran over its nuclear program along the lines of Assad’s sudden volte-face. The long term strategy of sanctions and an open hand is bearing fruit.
None of this will please Maureen Dowd. And yes, of course, much can still go awry. Politics requires nimbleness of action and steadiness in strategy. But when I watch Karl Rove laying into Congressional Republicans, and Bill Kristol, in panic-mode, calling for Israel to strike Iran, I can’t help but smile. This terrible strategic president, this useless schmoozer, this aloof, Washington inadequate has a lot of foes back on their heels right now.
Kenneth Pollack outlines it in a must-read. How far the US should be willing to go:
Rouhani may ultimately need more than the removal of the multilateral sanctions. He may need the U.S. to pledge, as we did to Cuba after the 1962 Missile Crisis, that we will not invade or otherwise try to overthrow the Iranian regime. He may need a commitment from the international community to help Iran develop its nuclear energy sector, which can be done by providing lightwater reactors that would not significantly bolster Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons. He may also need economic support from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. He might even want to try to bring Iran into the World Trade Organization, although that seems unlikely given Khamenei’s insistence that the WTO is a subversive organization whose requirements would undermine the Islamic regime. The United States and our allies ought to be ready and willing to agree to any or all.
Amen. But the resistance from the Greater Israel lobby will be intense, as will opposition from Christianists and the 20th Century faction in the GOP, like McCain and Butters. Hence the president’s remark in his UN speech right now about how “the roadblocks may prove to be too great.” But Obama needs to drop some of his caution and defensiveness on this – and embrace the “Yes We Can” of his 2008 campaign. Those of us who supported him back then in the wake of neoconservative catastrophe dreamed of a moment like this one. He must not let it pass.