News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for January 29 – January 31:
Council on Foreign Relations: Elliott Abrams blogs on the jailed American hikers and USAID contractor in Iran and concludes that it is time for the Obama administration to ratchet up demands for their release. He asks rhetorically, “I hope we have conveyed to the regime that if a hair on their heads is injured, there will be hell to pay—immediately. Should we go further right now, and tell the ayatollahs to let them go by a date certain or suffer some sanction? Bluffing would be counterproductive, so if we make that statement we must follow through with a blow to some Iranian asset.” Abrams acknowledges that making demands for the prisoners’ release might backfire, but reminds his readers that American prestige is on the line. “[W]e are paying a price by acting as if we were Belgium or Costa Rica, unable to do more than wring our hands and plead. We are reducing respect for the United States in a capital where the level of respect matters, Tehran,” he writes. “We are allowing two fellow citizens to be used as human sacrifices by an odious regime that puts no value on human life, and pays little price for doing so.”
The Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin, writing on her Right Turn blog, attacks the Obama administration’s unwillingness to publicly denounce Hosni Mubarak or immediately cut aid to Egypt. She ends her post with a brief swipe at the administration’s hesitancy to take a harder line with Iran, writing, “[L]et’s not forget the most egregious mistake: failing to recognize the nature of the Iranian regime and confront the aggression of its proxies in the region.” She concludes, “Is it any wonder the Obama team is now struggling to keep up with events in Egypt?”
Tablet Magazine: The Hudson Institute’s Lee Smith examines the U.S.’s relationship to Egyptian protestors and the test of “George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda.” He writes, “If Egypt moves out of the American fold, it might well align itself with Iran,” or worse yet, “…it would challenge the Iranians, in the way regional competition has worked since 1948—by seeing who can pose the greatest threat to Israel.” Smith takes issue with the media’s portrayal of Mohamed ElBaredei as a leader of the democracy movement. Attacking his record at the IAEA, Smith writes, “[T]his so-called reformer distorted his inspectors’ reports on Iran and effectively paved the way for the Islamic Republic’s march toward a nuclear bomb.” Smith concludes that liberal democracy in Egypt will fail because young Arabs have an irrational hatred of Israel and because “…the United States will not come to the aid of its liberal allies, or strengthen the moderate Muslims against the extremists… the Freedom Agenda is not going to work, at least not right now.” He continues, “The underlying reason then is Arab political culture, where real democrats and genuine liberals do not stand a chance against the men with guns.”
The Wall Street Journal: Former George W. Bush National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley writes about the possible outcomes of pro-democracy protests in Egypt. In one scenario, Mubarak rides out the crisis and calls for elections later in the year. Hadley compares this option to the government following Pakistani elections in 2008. “[I]t is a democratic government, and by its coming to power we avoided the kind of Islamist regime that followed the fall of the Shah of Iran and that has provoked three decades of serious confrontation with the U.S. and totalitarian oppression of the Iranian people,” writes Hadley, implying a surprisingly good human rights situation under the Shah’s rule.