The Daily Talking Points

News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for January 28:

  • The Atlantic: Jeffrey Goldberg lists his observations on the ongoing events in Egypt and mentions that friends of his, like FDD fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, advocate that democratically elected Islamist governments might be part of a “long-term process of gradual modernization.” But Goldberg is “not so sure” and suggests that not all democratically elected governments are worth ending “fifty years of peace” which have “meant propping up dictators for fifty years.” “I support democratization, but the democratization we saw in Gaza (courtesy of, among others, Condi Rice) doesn’t seem particularly worth it,” he writes.” Goldberg then tries to deny the importance of “linkage”—despite its embrace by the military establishment and the Obama administration—and concludes, “these uprisings are offering proof that Israel isn’t the central Arab preoccupation. Wikileaks showed us that Iran is the obsession of Arab leaders, and these mass demonstrations are showing us that the faults of Arab leaders are the actual obsession of Arab people.” (Jim Lobe and I took a closer look at those cables and found a very different message.)
  • The National Interest: Ben-Gurion University professor Benny Morris writes, “The regimes that have crumbled or appear to be on the verge of crumbling, are those linked to the West, and they are regimes characterized by a relatively soft authoritarianism, and are commonly perceived as weak, if not downright flabby, well past their prime.” He contrasts the end of Ben Ali’s rule and the escalating situation in Egypt with the suppression of protests by the Iranian government in 2009. “All of this stands in stark contrast to the Iranian regime’s successful suppression of last year’s street rebellion, triggered by the fraudulent elections that left President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in power,” he writes. Morris concludes, “What is clear is that the West, as usual, is faring poorly among the Muslims of the Middle East, where real savagery—sadly—wins respect, and irresolution, a kick in the pants.”

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.



  1. I have no sympathy for our “authoritarian friends” in the Middle East. But if they all fall down like a house of cards, will the U.S. then involve itself even more deeply in the region to protect Israel? If revolutionizing the Arab world would get us out of the region completely, I’m all for it. If it means an American war for Israel, or even an increase in U.S. material support, then I hope the dictators stay.

    It seems to me that Egypt will give the lead to the rest. And I think either Mubarak will survive or someone like him (an army general, no doubt) will take over. The Jordanian, Syrian and Yemeni regimes will survive unless the opposition wins through in Cairo.

  2. “[If the current Arab regimes] all fall down like a house of cards, will the U.S. then involve itself even more deeply in the region to protect Israel?”

    Would that matter? The USA’s power and influence is disappearing like water down a plughole.

    The Tunisians and Egyptians are not rebelling because of Israel or the USA, but because rising food prices are driving them to penury. Some of this has been caused by Wall Street speculation. President Obama’s failure to rein in the banks is having unforeseen consequences.

  3. I realize the Tunisians and Egyptians are not rebelling “because of Israel or the USA”; I didn’t say they were. I am interested in what effect a successful revolt in Egypt might have on U.S. policy in the future.

    If anti-U.S., anti-Israel governments were to emerge in Egypt and elsewhere, would that cause the U.S. to involve itself even more deeply in the region, i.e., in support of Israel? That’s what I’m wondering. I thought I was pretty clear the first time I wrote it.

    I feel for the Egyptians who can barely afford their daily bread. But I feel even more for my family and how they will keep warm if oil goes to $200 a barrel. I burn mostly wood, but I have a very large house and I need to burn 400-500 gallons of heating oil each winter to keep it even passably warm. If oil doubles, that’s going to burn a big hole in my pocket. The temperature reached 27 degrees below zero here a few days ago.

  4. Well Jon, then your anger belongs with the oil speculators, this Fall was the first in history where oil prices rose, that is related to financial speculation and not supply and demand. I wrote in an earlier thread, that the one task the military will commit to is holding/controlling the Suez canal.

    I think you have the causality backwards, these protests are a result of our wearing out our welcome, demanding corrupt leaders (only corrupt leaders would betray their people’s interests and sell out to ours) the utter venality are shown clearly to Europeans through Wikileaks and the Penatgon papers.

    The US relies on proxy influences to control North Africa, whether it’s France for Algeria and Tunisia, Italy in Tunisia and Lybia while Egypt has been an Anglo project. We’re seeing that the resource rich countries appear more secure, and equipped to subsidize these rising subsidies, whereas Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and Jordan are more economically strained.

    I bring this up to suggest that oil supplies aren’t likely to be too strongly affected by these events. The only current fear is that the Suez Canal’s closure could hinder transport, but again, I think the Egyptian Military will secure the Suez and the border, which are conveniently on the NE edge of the country.

    Jon, these events may be tearing the Magreb from our control (hopefully) This is how the English Empire fell, how the US was able to break away over a century earlier. England, in both cases was mired in a war, overextended and peripheral instability became too much to handle. Maybe, Israel has strained us to the breaking point, you know there was a time coming when they’d appeal and we will pass. These always seem to happen sooner than anyone would imagine.

    Finally, add to this another Black Swan event, the arrival of China on the scene. If you’ve missed it, China has invested heavily in North Africa. China has no Israel policy, they just want the same/similar trade concessions. This also dramatically undercuts our position, allowing China to operate for half the cost that we face. This makes us dispensable in the region for the first time since the Soviets tried to compete with us in the region.

  5. Jeffrey Goldberg has an intellectual dishonesty on top of the limited capacity of his brain to have more than one preoccupations in his head. It seems average Arab does not have that limitation.They can nurture simulataneously more than a couple of equally valid obsession .

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