The Daily Talking Points

News and views related to U.S.-Iran relations for Oct. 24 – Oct. 28

Washington Post: CNN’s Fareed Zakaria bravely singles himself out as one of the last media commentators to still be talking about “engagement”.

Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

Haaretz: A professor at Purdue University who chaired Project Daniel in Israel and two retired U.S. military members with high security credentials write a hawkish editorial discussing the legal and practical issues involving a preemptive U.S. attack on Iran. Louis René Beres, Admiral (ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney and Lt. Gen. (ret. ) Thomas G. McInerney argue that if there isn’t “an American defensive strike on Iran”, the U.S. and Israel will have to deal with a “fully nuclear Iran, led by irrational Shiite clerics”. In case readers aren’t alarmed enough by such a prospect, the authors also tell us that we are at the “11th hour.”

Most interesting about this article is the considerable time the authors spend discussing how imminent a “threat” must be for the “survival” of a state before a preemptive attack can be legally launched and the quick and simplistic way they dismiss those arguments to justify their hawkish stance.

Yet, we no longer live in the 17th, 18th, 19th or 20th centuries…The permissibility of anticipatory self-defense is understandably much greater in the nuclear age. Today, waiting passively to absorb a nuclear attack could be clearly suicidal. A particular danger is posed by terrorist groups serving as surrogates: If not prevented from receiving nuclear weapons or fissile materials from patron states, such proxies (e.g., Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaida ) could inflict enormous damage upon targets.

And why should the U.S. protect Israel from this alleged threat? A strange, almost paternalistic answer: Israel is “at greatest risk from Iranian nuclear weapons” and there is a “long and venerated international legal tradition that Great Powers have commensurately great responsibilities.”

Wall Street Journal: Mansour Arbabsiar, the number one witness and defendant in the U.S.’s controversial case about an “Iranian plot” to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, has plead not guilty to the charges laid against him. This is important because all the evidence made public so far is based on Arbabsiar’s confession and calls.

IPS News: Reporting from Iran, Yasaman Baji informs us that the U.S.’s allegations about an “Iranian plot” have stirred complex and nationalistic feelings in Iran.

Hussein, who has a degree in economics, insists that until now he never believed the narrative peddled by regime hardliners that the West wants to destroy Islamic Republic. But with the loud public pronouncement of Iran’s guilt “before a trial is held and solid proof is offered”, he says, he no longer has any doubts.

Foreign Policy: Dalia Dassa Kaye, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation, explains that a military attack on Iran is still inadvisable for a list of reasons  including

…the aftermath of an attack could be devastating militarily and politically. It could unleash a wave of Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces, allies, and interests. Iran maintains a wide array of levers across the region, including militia groups it has trained and funded, that it could employ to retaliate against U.S. forces or diplomatic personnel, particularly in countries like Iraq. Iranian missiles have ranges that can reach Israel and all its Gulf Arab neighbors, including those hosting U.S. military forces. Such an attack could also backfire by fomenting nationalist sentiment within Iran (particularly if large numbers of civilians are killed) and boost support for more hard-line elements within the regime that current policies are attempting to marginalize. It could also increase Iranian incentives to obtain nuclear weapons to avoid such attacks in the future

Tikun Olam: Richard Silverstein has been tracking a growing wave of hawkish articles appearing in Israeli media about a pending attack on Iran. This week Silverstein pointed out that Israel’s most prominent journalist, Nahum Barnea, is also warning of an Benyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak led strike. Silverstein argues that Barnea’s article makes the prospect of an Israeli attack imminent, but this is debatable considering how previous Israeli threats along these lines were mere posturing which resulted in further “concessions” made to them by the U.S. The article is in Hebrew, but Silverstein has translated excerpts of it. Here’s one:

Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are the two Siamese twins of the Iranian issue. A rare phenomenon is taking place here in terms of Israeli politics: a prime minister and defense minister who act as one body, with one goal, with mutual backing and repeated heaping of praise on each other…They’re characterized as urging action. Netanyahu portrayed the equation at the beginning of his term as: Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he is not stopped in time, there will be a Holocaust. There are some who describe Netanyahu’s fervor on this subject as an obsession: all his life he’s dreamed of being Churchill. Iran gives him with the chance. The popularity that he gained as a result of the Shalit deal hasn’t calmed him: just the opposite, it gave him a sense of power.

Barak does not use the same superlatives, but is urging military action: he is certain that just as Israel prevented nuclear projects in the past, it must prevent this one as well. This is both his strategy and legacy…There are those who suspect Barak of having personal motives: he has no party; he has no voters. A strike on Iran would be the big bang that would make it possible for Netanyahu to bring him into the top ten of the Likud in the next elections. This way he could continue to be defense minister.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.


One Comment

  1. I think you mean “not guilty”, rather than “guilty”.

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