News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for Sept. 19 – 22
Commentary: While most of the U.S. celebrated the release of the remaining two U.S. hikers imprisoned in Iran after they illegally entered the country, American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin was perturbed. After quoting a book by Matthew Levitt about Hamas in 2006, Rubin suggests the 1 million that secured Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal’s freedom will be used to fund terrorism. While offering no evidence about how the Iranian judiciary will make use of the bail money, Rubin claims the hikers’ release will lead to the death of innocents:
- It may be good to have our hostages home, but to celebrate their release is unfortunate without acknowledging the death sentences those who paid the bail just signed on innocent civilians elsewhere.
Rubin also suggests it’s unlikely that the hikers entered Iran accidentally as they claimed they did.
Pajama’s Media: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies Michael Ledeen vehemently criticizes the Obama administration for refusing to address “reality” as he sees it.
Ledeen calls Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “totally unsuitable partner” after quoting Barry Rubin’s gross mischaracterization of the Israeli attack against the Turkish Gaza-bound aid flotilla which resulted in the death of 9 passengers (1 of whom was a U.S. citizen) and Erdogan’s attempts to build diplomatic channels with regional Mideast players. He criticizes Obama’s refusal to force the Syrian president from power and uses NATO’s intervention in Libya as justification for something that he has been arguing for years: U.S. covert or open support for Iranian groups which want regime change. (As a side note, Ledeen and some other neoconservatives have argued against supporting the Mujahideen-e-khalq (MEK) which speaks volumes about the nature of that organization and those who support it.)
Despite U.S. refusal to speak directly to the Islamic Republic and rounds of sanctions which have strangled its economy, Ledeen claims the U.S. treats its most “dangerous enemies” (i.e. Iran) as “potential allies who have temporarily gone astray.” Ledeen continues to lament the fact that the U.S. has not called for “regime change” in Iran.
True to his neoconservative ideology which favors military force over diplomacy with enemies, Ledeen claims the U.S. shouldn’t resist war with Iran because it’s “already under way, and it’s no accident.” He argues against the proposed direct line to Iran to prevent accidental military conflict because it “offers them a golden opportunity to deceive us.”
Considering Ledeen’s constant alarmist claims about the Iranian government, nothing seems to scare him more than direct communication between the U.S. and Iran. That’s why it’s so important for those who don’t favor war.
Arms Control Association: At an Arm Control Association (ACA) press conference Mark Fitzpatrick, Admiral Joe Sestak and Greg Thielmann argued that there is still time for diplomacy with Iran because an Iranian nuclear power arsenal is “neither imminent nor inevitable.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London says sanctions against Iran have an aim which is not being executed properly:
- The whole point of sanctions is to persuade Iran to come back to the negotiating table. But how would we know when they’re ready to come back to the negotiating table if we’re not talking with them, if we’re not having some kind of a private, very quiet discussions?
- I think engagement will be absolutely crucial to any peaceful solution. Sanctions alone are not going to dissuade Iran because of the sense of national will. You don’t want to bow to pressure but if you are engaged in something where there’s a positive outcome, it’s more possible.
ACA senior fellow Greg Thielmann argued for direct negotiation with Iran without preconditions because any other approach is “counterproductive:”
- We’re under an environment here where the formidable diplomatic resources of the United States are basically banned from having any contact with Iranian diplomats except on very limited special occasions. This is cutting us off from a source of information about diplomatic opportunities about what is going on in Iran.
The panelists continued discussion at the highest levels of the U.S. military emphasizing that military conflict with Iran is the least favorable outcome because of the massive blowback it would result in. According to former three star admiral Sestak:
- …a military strike whether it’s by land or air against Iran would make the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion look like a cakewalk with regard to the impact on the United States’ national security.
Christian Science Monitor: Ralph Langner who discovered the Stuxnet virus which made headlines after it affected several Iranian organizations says the creators have opened a Pandora’s box of cyber warfare:
- It raises, for one, the question of how to apply cyberwar as a political decision. Is the US really willing to take down the power grid of another nation when that might mainly affect civilians? Could or should military contractors, instead of soldiers, wage cyberwar? What happens when cyberweapons dealers start selling sophisticated cyberweapons to terrorists? There is also the manner in which Stuxnet was used – which could be considered a textbook example of a “just war” approach. It didn’t kill anyone. That’s a good thing. But I am afraid this is only a short term view. In the long run it has opened Pandora’s box.
On Ledeen: Who cares what he says? I’ll worry when and if President Perry or President Romney takes office.
On Langner’s Stuxnet views: some of his questions are alarmist, some naive. But I grant the implications deserve more thought.
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