News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for December 15, 2010:
- The Diplomat: American Enterprise Institute Scholar Michael Rubin is interviewed on The Diplomat blog on “how sanctions can work with Iran.” Rubin says that sanctions are having both an economic and reputational impact. “[Iranians] look at themselves as a country that was once on par with European countries like Spain and Portugal, and they see themselves now following headlong into the third world,” he says. Rubin advocates tightening sanctions on Iran’s banking sector and on passenger air travel as a way of “[making] life a little bit more inconvenient.” Rubin says he’d “never rule out a military option” but acknowledges that containment might be a more likely path than bombing. He concludes that he’s pessimistic about stopping Iran’s nuclear program with either diplomacy or a military strike and questions whether Israel has the capability to launch military strikes on Iran.
- The Washington Post: The neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin writes that “pundits on the left” have for years said that negotiations with Iran should focus on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei instead of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Scholars and pundits critical of the administration’s Iran engagement policy” have argued that Ahmadinejad is a central player and “talking him out of pursuing nuclear weapons is a dangerous fantasy,” she argues. Rubin points to Ahmadinejad’s firing of Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki as the latest evidence backing up the ‘critics.’ Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations tells Jennifer Rubin that the move is part of an ongoing consolidation of power by Ahmadinejad. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy‘s (WINEP) Michael Singh e-mails her and says: “I view this as just the first move in a power struggle over foreign policy, and it is too soon to tell how it will shake out.” Rubin suggests the latest events support the idea of “reflect[ing] on our current policy,” presumably switching to her own flawed prescriptions for aggressive military action. She concludes: “Those who advocate continued engagement, I would submit, have the burden of proof to demonstrate that we are doing more good than harm in continuing to participate in the Ahmadinejad-orchestrated charade.”