News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 18 – 20.
- NBC‘s Meet the Press: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC’s David Gregory, “I don’t think the, the stars are lining up for an attack on Iran either by Israel alone, or Israel in concert with the United States, or the United States alone. I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Powell said the U.S. should focus on finding a way for Iran to have a nuclear program dedicated to power production. Powell flatly rejected the arguments that a nuclear weapons possessing Iran would pose a threat to the U.S. or that the Iranian government is suicidal. “[W]hat can they do with a nuclear weapon compared to what we could do in return? I don’t think it is–you know, they are interested in remaining in power. The easiest way for them to lose power is to seriously threaten or use such a weapon,” he concluded.
- Reuters: International sanctions against Iran are having an impact and “creating leverage for diplomacy,” according to Stuart Levey, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The Treasury Department’s curbs on financial institutions doing business with blacklisted Iranian entities have created a “bleak” investment landscape for Iran. Levey adds, “We believe Iran’s leadership was caught off guard by the speed, intensity and scope of the new measures, misjudging the strength of the international community’s will.”
- The Washington Post: On Sunday, The Council on Foreign Relations’ Ray Takeyh arguedthe Obama administration’s emphasis on sanctions overlooks the domestic politics and ideologies which prevent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from making “subtle estimates of national interests.” “The Islamic Republic, however, is too wedded to its ideological verities and too subsumed by its rivalries to engage in such judicious determinations,” says Takeyh. He concludes the only way forward for the U.S. is to support “an Iranian political class that is inclined to displace dogma with pragmatism. And that still remains the indomitable Green movement.” Jeffrey Goldberg picked up on Takeyh’s piece today and claims the scenario described by Takeyh will result in a crisis, referencing his own Atlantic cover story, “The Point of No Return.”
- ABC’s This Week: On ABC‘s Sunday talk show, Christiane Amanpour sat down separately with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York, in town this week for the UN General Assembly. Clinton described sanctions as a “tool…not an end in themselves.” Sanctions were “biting,” she said, and called for Iran to return to the P5+1 talks over its nuclear program and allow full IAEA inspection. Ahmadinejad told Amanpour that all of Iran’s nuclear rector activity was monitored by camera, the IAEA was becoming politicized and the sanctions were “meaningless.” He did acknowledge he was taking “sanctions seriously” — a response to former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s request that Iran’s leadership not treat sanctions as a “joke.” However, Ahmedinejad also took exception to Clinton’s assessment of the effectiveness of sanctions: “Taking [sanctions] seriously is different from believing that they are effective.”
- The Guardian: In the left-leaning British daily’s Comment Is Free section, the University of Maryland’s Manuel Hassassian and Edward Edy Kaufman make a case for linkage — that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal “could actually neutralise the Iranian nuclear peril.” They note if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “can offer a credible alternative [to Iranian support for Arab resistance groups on Israel’s borders], it offers excellent prospects for trumping the rejectionists’ appeal.” They point out Iran is one of the 57 Muslim countries that have endorsed a plan by the Arab League to support a peace deal, in which the 22 members of the Arab League said they would normalize relations with Israel. “This kind of linkage” — and Israeli-Palestinian peace deal first — “may be the only way to achieve results in which all the parties – Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and Iranians – can ‘win,'” write Hassassian and Kaufman, who are respectively Palestinian and Israeli.