Archives For: Iran

In a long and wide-ranging interview with David Rothkopf, Zbigniew Brzezinski opines on how the US should engage the Middle East today:

I think the whole region now, in terms of the sectarian impulses and sectarian intolerance, is not a place in which America ought to try to be preeminent. I think we ought to pursue a policy in which we recognize the fact that the problems there are likely to persist and escalate and spread more widely. The two countries that will be most affected by these developments over time are China and Russia — because of their regional interests, vulnerabilities to terrorism, and strategic interests in global energy markets. And therefore it should be in their interest to work with us also, and we should be willing to play with them, but not assume sole responsibility for managing a region that we can neither control nor comprehend.

He also thinks it’s wiser to pursue accommodation with Iran than to continue treating it as a greater threat than it really is:

Read On

Putting Off The Iran Deal

Jul 21 2014 @ 12:21pm

Over the weekend, negotiations with Iran were given a four-month extension. The state of play:

The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections. This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such “breakout” push.

The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections. But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran’s capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.

The administration is trying to stay upbeat:

Obama administration officials insist that the talks have made major progress that justified giving negotiators until November to pursue a final deal. In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said“the very real prospect of reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we seek more time.”

The Senate, however, remains a wild card – and AIPAC has been doing its usual work to buttress the case for war and for scuttling any agreement. The problem there, it seems to me, is that the necessarily private diplomacy has not allowed for a more robust and public discussion as to the costs and benefits. My own view is that the American public could be persuaded of the sanity of the least-worst option when it comes to preventing Iran getting a nuclear bomb; but the administration has been timid and defensive in its public outreach. Maybe that would change after a possible agreement. But it may be too late by then.

Majid Rafizadeh believes, for his part, that “the gaps between the six world powers and Iran would more likely require more than four months of extensions as well as a significant shift in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s stance on his government’s nuclear program, or a remarkable change in the six world power’s stance”:

Read On

Extends to the US:

A new study published this week by the National Iranian American Council argues that the various trade sanctions the United States has maintained on Iran for more than a decade actually hurts the American economy. The NIAC, a U.S.-based organization that pushes for a peaceful resolution of differences between Washington and Tehran, calculated that between 1995 and 2012, the United States has forfeited between $135 billion and $175 billion in export revenue as a consequence of not doing business with the Islamic Republic. …

Read On

Forced To Marry At 15

Jul 16 2014 @ 11:20am

Naimeh Doostdar highlights a troubling trend in Iran:

According to research conducted by [the advocacy group Justice for Iran], which covers 2006-2007 and 2013-2014, the rate of marriage for girls below 15 years of age is on the rise. Statistics published by Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration reveal that, between March and December 2013, more than five percent of married females were below the age of 15. The same figures reveal that, among the registered marriages in Iran, more than one third of women were below the age of 19.

But these are official figures only, provided for registered marriages. There are strong indicators that the actual numbers for underage marriage are higher, especially because the statistics released by the government do not include those marriages entered into by young women aged between 18 and 19.

Why is underage marriage on the rise in Iran? There are a number of reasons:

Read On

Iraq isn’t the only place where America and Iran are fast becoming best frenemies. “When it comes to Afghanistan,” Michael Kugelman argues, “Tehran and Washington tend to see eye to eye on many core issues, including the Taliban”:

Read On

A Hail Mary Pass From The Iran Hawks

Jul 14 2014 @ 12:02pm

With the July 20 deadline for a final agreement looming, John Kerry returned to Vienna yesterday for another round of nuclear negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, saying “very significant gaps” still remain between Washington and Tehran’s positions. Opponents of a deal have already moved to preempt any possible success in Vienna, with House Foreign Relations Committee chair Ed Royce and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel circulating a letter

demanding that Obama consult Congress more closely on the ongoing negotiations and suggesting that Iran will have to satisfy Congressional demands on human rights, terrorism, ballistic missile development, and other issues unrelated to the ongoing nuclear negotiations before it will approve major sanctions relief. …

Of course, President Barack Obama himself can provide a certain degree of sanctions relief under executive order as he no doubt intends to if a deal is struck. And there is no doubt that Congress has a role to play in lifting sanctions. But the letter’s assertion that there is no exclusively defined “nuclear-related” sanction against Iran under US law and that any relief can only be extended by addressing a host of non-nuclear-related issues appears calculated to sow doubts about Obama’s ability to deliver among Iran’s leadership, thus strengthening hard-liners in Tehran who argue that Washington simply cannot be trusted.

The messaging continued on the Sunday talk show circuit. After Zarif went on “Meet the Press” to reiterate that Iran sees no benefit in developing a nuclear weapon, hawk-in-chief Benjamin Netanyahu, on “Fox News Sunday”, called that “a joke.” Speaking of the Iran hawks, James Traub urges Obama to “tell them — politely of course — to go to hell”:

Read On

In an interview with Chotiner on Iran’s role in the Iraq crisis, Vali Nasr argues that Iraq now has a stake in the Iranian nuclear negotiations:

[I]t could hurt Iraq first of all if the U.S. and Iran stop talking to each other altogether and there’s no more positive momentum in the process. It’s much more difficult to say, “ok let’s forget about this gargantuan issue on which we failed, let’s focus on this other issue.” So you’re gonna make it much more difficult. The nuclear issue has now become the pivot of U.S.-Iran relations: It either creates an environment in which they can have constructive engagement more broadly, or not. Iran is going to follow its own policy, completely separate from the United States. But the irony is, unlike Syria, in Iraq, Iran’s independent policy is much more in line with the United States’, whereas in Syria they were clearly on opposite sides. …

But Nader Hashemi argues that there is “no connection whatsoever” between the nuclear and Iraq/Syria tracks when it comes to American-Iranian relations:

For 35 years, the two sides have been so distant. Getting to a nuclear deal—if we can actually get there—will be a huge accomplishment. I don’t think it necessarily means that there is going to be an agreement on any other regional issues.

Read On

Negotiators are meeting in Vienna this week to begin hammering out a final deal between Iran and the P5+1 on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, but the endeavor still faces a few major stumbling blocks:

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome, six-power diplomats said, is Iran’s stance regarding its uranium-enrichment centrifuges, which one negotiator described as a “huge problem”. … “The Iranians have not yet shown a willingness to reduce their centrifuges to an acceptable number, making it difficult to envision a compromise at this point that we could all live with,” the negotiator told Reuters. Another Western official close to the talks confirmed the remarks as accurate.

A senior Iranian official seemed to confirm the assessment. “Our Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has set a red line for the negotiators and that cannot change and should be respected,” he told Reuters. “Uranium enrichment should be continued and none of the nuclear sites will be closed.

On another key disagreement, however, Iran is backing down:

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, acknowledged amid a week of negotiations in Vienna that Tehran now accepts the principle that as part of the deal sanctions on its economy would be gradually eased as Iran gradually complies with limits on its nuclear activities.

Read On

Daniel Berman doubts the US can cooperate with Iran on Iraq. Not only does Rouhani lack the clout to do a deal with the Great Satan, he says, our interests there are not really aligned – a fact Iran hasn’t forgotten, even if we have:

Iran, is not … unduly concerned about the breakdown of the Iraqi state. While Tehran does not desire a Sunni Islamist Iraq, it doesn’t particularly want a multicultural or even strong Shia led Iraq either. Such a state, especially if it remains democratic, would IRAN-IRAQ-US-UNREST-ROUHANIpose a serious threat to the legitimacy of the Iranian regime, especially given the relatively “liberal” outlook of Iraq’s Shia clergy compared to Iran’s. Many senior Iraqi clerics showed sympathy for the Green Movement in 2009 and Iran is not interested in a repeat.

The best shot Iran has at preventing one is for Iraq to be dominated by a weak Shia regime in the south and center dependent on Iranian military support. Such a government would be unable to seriously oppose Iranian policies, or to allow its senior leaders to criticize Iran’s internal arrangements. It would also allow Iran to effectively exclude the United States from the country, something that would be harder in a state with substantial Kurdish and Sunni influence. Iran therefore has an interest in supporting Maliki to the extent that the fall of Baghdad is prevented, but has no real reason to want to win his war for him. This is also why the United States should not raise its expectations too high regarding cooperation with Iran. The goals of the Iranian and American governments in Iraq are still far too great.

A cautious Frum asks why we should protect Maliki when he’s really Tehran’s guy, not ours:

Read On

The US and Iran got to talking about the crisis in Iraq yesterday. The Guardian notes was “the first time the two nations have collaborated over a common security interest in more than a decade”:

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, pointedly declined to rule out military cooperation in an interview with Yahoo News, but US and Iranian officials later stressed that there was no prospect of military cooperation, and none was discussed in Vienna, where the talks were described as short and inconclusive.

“We are open to engaging the Iranians,” said a senior State Department official, who characterised the discussions as brief. “These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people,” the US official said, on condition of anonymity. The Iranians confirmed that military cooperation was not on the cards. “The disastrous situation in Iraq was discussed today. No specific outcome was achieved,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

The UK, meanwhile, is reopening its embassy in Tehran. Calling Iran “the most stable country in the Middle East right now,” Trita Parsi scrutinizes why cooperation with the US is a good move for the Islamic Republic:

Iran … will pay a price if it clings to an outdated understanding of the regional and global strategic landscape. Contradictory messages have come out of Tehran, with officials telling Reuters that they are open to collaboration with the United States against ISIS, and then having their Foreign Ministry spokesperson strongly oppose U.S. military intervention. Similarly, the U.S. position seems to be shifting, from first denying any plans for talking to Iran about Iraq to signaling a desire to sit down with Tehran.

Iran’s key objective is to be recognized as a stabilizing force. But that is a role it ultimately cannot play if it simultaneously wishes to challenge the United States. Unlike in Afghanistan, any cooperation in Iraq will likely be more public. If Iran plays a constructive role, the world will notice. But changing old patterns require courage, strength, and political will. It remains to be seen if the leadership in Tehran can deliver those — or if Washington will be receptive.

My own preference would be for very light coordination with the Iranians if they are really the only force capable of halting ISIS’s advance on Baghdad, and no US troops anywhere, but for defending key US assets like the embassy.

Read On