News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 15.
- The Washington Post: Thomas Erdbrink reports on comments made Tuesday by former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in which the cleric criticized the government for not taking U.S.-led sanctions seriously and warned that Iran could become a dictatorship. “The remarks by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani represent a rebuke of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though Rafsanjani did not mention him by name,” writes Erdbrink. The Iranian government maintains that sanctions have strengthened Iran, but Rafasanjani, speaking at the influential clerical council, said, “I would like to ask you and all the country’s officials to take the sanctions seriously and not as a joke.” Rafsanjani is seen as a major force behind the opposition Green Movement and longstanding rival of Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad has faced increasing criticism from all strata of the Iranian political system.
- The Washington Post: The Post picks up an AP article by George Jahn chronicling the U.S.’s request that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) take “appropriate action” in response to alleged Iranian intimidation of nuclear inspectors. The message was delivered to the IAEA in Vienna by Glyn Davies, the U.S. representative to the UN’s nuclear watchdog. The request for “action” came after Iran barred two inspectors several months ago. Jahn reports that Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, accused the agency and its director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, of “entering into a political game of certain countries,” a clear shot at the U.S. and its allies. Reuters has reported similar comments from the head of Iran’s atomic program, Ali Akbar Salehi. Earlier this week, Amano said Iran had not provided “necessary cooperation” that would allow the IAEA to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful. Salehi responded yesterday that, if Amano knew what he was implying, “he made a big mistake which is very dangerous because it indicates that he has been under political pressure.” Iran, which like all participants in inspections, is entitled to approve inspectors, last banned particular inspectors in 2007, after the IAEA reported Iran to the UN Security Council.
- Huffington Post: John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) at the Institute for Policy Studies, has a new post up outlining some basics of Iran’s conflict with the West and pointing to FPIF pieces about how war with Iran is avoidable. The piece is a solid primer of where the sides stand now and where they are coming from. Feffer thinks a U.S. or Israeli strike is not likely, nor does he think economic and other international sanctions will work. An expert on North Korea, Feffer makes this apt observation: “The Bush administration’s failure to continue Clinton’s engagement of North Korea shows us what happens with the isolation strategy. With no other options, North Korea simply pushed ahead with its nuclear program.” Obama should wait until after the political dust of the mid-term U.S. Congressional elections settles, writes Feffer, then use help from third parties such as Turkey to cut a deal with Tehran.