The Daily Talking Points

News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for Sept. 29-Oct. 3

Los Angeles Times: Middle East analyst Trita Parsi warns us about the dangers of current U.S. policy towards Iran while explaining how an “accidental clash” in the Persian Gulf could take place in the meantime. According to Parsi, a desperate, weakened Iran can be more dangerous than an emboldened one:

When the strength of a state declines, its desperation increases. Its statements grow more aggressive and fear — more than calculation — guides its actions. Much indicates that the Islamic Republic is experiencing this right now, partly because of regional developments but mainly due to the state’s internal weaknesses following the 2009 elections.

Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon reports that “Iranian leaders have rebuffed” the idea of a direct military hotline between the U.S. and Iran to prevent accidental war between the two countries in the Persian Gulf. He adds that the “snubbing of the U.S. idea by Iranian naval and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders” appears to “further undercut the political position of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

But there was never any direct proposal, was there? So can we really consider this a formal rejection? When both countries are talking at the air rather than to each other, what are we supposed to believe? The Islamic Republic is puffing up its chest, yes, but that’s not uncommon for a defiant country when it’s on the defensive. When some of the highest ranking members of the U.S. military are suggesting opening channels of communication, shouldn’t more effort be made to do so? As Reza Marashi argues, it’s time to “Turn Rhetoric Into Results.”

Jerusalem Post: A short article in the JPost has a big headline: “Israel fears Iran will copy its policy of nuclear ambiguity.” Nothing is stated about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal, but the following statement is made about Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities even though it’s highly contested and certainly not a proven fact:

Iran has mastered the fuel enrichment stage of its nuclear program and has proven its ability to enrich uranium to as high as 20 percent. General assessments are that if it so decides, it would take Iran just a number of months for it to enrich a sufficient quantity of uranium to over the 90% that would be required for one nuclear device.

The few “months” time frame is a favorite for hawkish analysts, but that’s the lowest end of an estimate that reaches years. We are then informed that Israel guesses that Iran intends to “manufacture a number of nuclear devices” without any evidence provided other than a quote by an unnamed Israeli “senior official.”

Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño provides a fair assessment of Iran’s hosting of Taliban members at a Tehran conference in September:

“Iran considers itself a regional player with a legitimate stake in Afghanistan, and it doesn’t want to see progress that runs contrary to its political interests,” said Michael Semple, who has decades of experience in Afghanistan as a diplomat and a scholar. “If the price of Iran having a role in the next step is dealing with the Taliban, then they are prepared to do it.”

The State Department did not comment on the conference but Londoño importantly notes that

Administration officials have said that Iran has a legitimate interest in Afghanistan and a role to play in promoting regional stability. As part of its own efforts to promote Taliban reconciliation, the Obama administration has sent senior emissaries to all of the countries bordering Afghanistan, except Iran.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. If aggressive statements are an indicator of a declining state, then no wonder the US has been threatening Iran with bombings and clandestine operations for years. In fact, contrary to Trita’s argument, it is the US that is the threat to Iran, not vice versa.

  2. There’s no “ambiguity” about Iran’s nuclear program except what is manufactured in the media. Iran’s nuclear program is entirely legal, and Iran has allowed all the inspections it is legally obligated to provide under the terms of its safeguards agreement. Six former European Ambassadors to Iran have said so too. Speculation about what Iran could possibly one day decide to do at some indefinite point in the future can be equally applied to any other country on the face of the planet – Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, S. Korea, etc.

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