The Daily Talking Points

News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for December 31, 2010 to January 5, 2011:

  • The Wall Street Journal: David Feith adds his voice to the neoconservative criticism of HSBC’s recent advertisement that highlighted the high number of women in the Iranian film industry. Feith characterizes the bank as “Iran’s useful idiots” and says that the ad suggests that “a murderous theocracy is actually a progressive place.” The op-ed lists a number of human rights abuses against women in Iran and concludes that the ad is comparable to defending Nazi propaganda produced by females. “Imagine a 1939 ad pointing to Leni Riefenstahl—Hitler’s court filmmaker and a pioneering female artist—as evidence of the Third Reich’s unexpected “‘potential’,” he writes.
  • National Review Online: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘ Benjamin Weinthal blogs that Germany’s attempts at engagement with Iran, while Iran continues to detain two German journalists, “is yet another example of what a flop this cognitive-behavioral therapy for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and company has been.” Weinthal goes on to compare the arrest of three American hikers in 2009 to “replicating the 1979 model” of holding Americans hostage. Weinthal says that engagement with Iran has only produced more hostage crises and is a form of appeasement. “Germany’s flourishing trade relationship with Iran (German exports to Iran reached €3.4 billion this year) and a steady stream of German members of parliament travelling to Iran to meet Holocaust deniers, human-rights violators, and haters of women, reveal the bankruptcy of critical dialogue and change through trade,” he concludes.
  • The Wall Street Journal: Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, opines in the WSJ Asia edition that the Reserve Bank of India’s crackdown on domestic buyers of Iranian oil marks a major improvement in international sanctions against Iran’s energy sector, but that “further measures, and time for them to work, will still be needed to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.” Dubowitz argues that the U.S. could do more to ensure that oil supply will not tighten if sanctions are more strictly enforced.  He writes, “Provided the United States and its allies can get more oil on the market—for example the Iran-loathing Saudis could increase production, or President Obama could lift the moratorium on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico—then the world oil market would have considerably more elasticity.” He concludes, “The near-miraculous attack of the Stuxnet virus on Iran’s centrifuges and the untimely deaths of key Iranian nuclear scientists may have bought the administration that time, and further strengthened those who want to use economic sticks to beat back Iran’s nuclear aspirations.”
  • The Wall Street Journal: Emanuele Ottolenghi, a fellow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, opines in the WSJ’s Europe edition that European countries could do more to expand sanctions against individuals associated with human rights abuses in Iran. In contrast to those who argue that the West’s approach to pressuring Iran must focus on either human rights or Tehran’s nuclear program, he writes, “If Western democracies were to target the Islamic Republic for its human-rights abuses, bolster the country’s internal opposition, and speak directly to the Iranian people over the heads of their oppressors, they would cause significant harm to Tehran.” Ottolenghi concludes with the suggestion that “every day, a member of the U.S. Congress or of the European Parliament spend just 30 seconds recounting the tale of one Iranian dissident, or one victim of Iran’s suppression, and plead for their freedom.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.