The Daily Talking Points

News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for Oct. 28 – Nov. 2

IPS News: Further to Jim’s post yesterday is his article about the approval of two bills calling for “sweeping sanctions” against Iran by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. Lobe quotes the two bills’ leading sponsor and committee chairperson Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen saying that she hopes the House and the Senate enact them quickly to “hand the Iranian regime a nice holiday present”. Lobe notes that regardless of if or when the bills are passed, the “draconian legislation” will further stoke tension in the region while giving leverage to Israel lobbyists who are pushing for more militant sanctions against Iran by the U.S.

Indeed, Israel’s test-firing Wednesday of a long-range ballistic missile – the first such test in more than three years – appeared designed to heighten the speculation. The fact that the test was overseen by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who, along with Netanyahu, is reported to favour an attack, did nothing to dispel that notion, despite denials by the government.

According to some observers here, the war talk in Jerusalem may be intended primarily to encourage lawmakers here to support the strongest possible sanctions legislation, which Netanyahu has repeatedly called for over the last several years.

Haaretz: Lending support to the idea that Israel’s recent military chest-banging is actually posturing intended to pressure the U.S. to pass more militant sanctions against Iran are comments by Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff in an Israeli daily. The authors argue that Israel stands to benefit from the recent increase in war talk about Iran as long as the plan doesn’t backfire:

Ostensibly, Israel is in a win-win situation. If its scare tactics work, the international community will impose paralyzing sanctions on Iran. If the world falls asleep at its post, there are alternatives.

But this is a dangerous game. A few more weeks of tension and one party or another might make a fatal mistake that will drag the region into war. Barak, the brilliant planner, should know this. More than once in the past his complex plans have gone seriously awry.

Jerusalem Post: Despite considerable doubts raised about the U.S.’s controversial allegations about an “Iranian plot” to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Benjamin Weinthal of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (also a Jerusalem Post correspondent) urges for “crippling” sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) in response. Weinthal cites a 2007 New York Times article quoting an Iranian-German exile to support his linking of the CBI to Iran’s revolutionary guards. He adds that the U.S. will need to “strongly twist Europe’s economic arm” to get the EU to support the U.S.-led initiative against Iran. Weinthal’s odd focus on Germany in the article was likely inspired by his recent attendance at an Israel lobby conference in Frankfurt which he wrote about here. His other quote about why the CBI needs to be sanctioned comes from an “expert” at the FDD’s Brussels’s branch.

Huffington Post: Former George W. Bush advisor Frances Townsend writes an article with the president of United Against Nuclear Iran (where she serves on the advisory board), Mark D. Wallace, urging the U.S. to “isolate Iran further” through its financial sector and support anti-regime forces inside the country. They end by arguing that Iran refused the “olive branch” that the Obama administration apparently offered it and that the U.S. should respond to alleged Iranian aggressions with “swift and effective financial and military action.”

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is an Iranian-born journalist based in Washington, DC.