News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 14.
- Reuters: Louis Charbonneau reports Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to attend a UN-meeting next week on moving forward global disarmament talks, which have been stalled for the past 12 years, during the annual General Assembly gathering of global leaders. “The schedule has not been firmly set, but I understand [Ahmadinejad] is going to participate in the high-level meeting on disarmament,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. It is not clear who will be the U.S. delegate. President Obama, who has identified nuclear disarmament a major foreign policy initiative of his first term, will probably be attending other meetings.
- The Washington Post: Thomas Erdbrink reports Iranian authorities released American hiker Sara Shourd on bail who then boarded a plane to meet family in Oman. Shourd and two other American hikers were arrested last year when they reportedly crossed into Iran from northern Iraq. All three of the hikers face espionage related charges but Shourd, who has been reported to be in poor health, has been permitted to leave Iran on $500,000 bail. Iran has indicated Shourd’s two hiking companions will be detained for at least another two months. Shourd is obliged to return to Iran for future legal proceedings.
- Foreign Policy: Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an often hawkish spin-off of AIPAC, observes Obama’s biggest test in Middle East peacemaking will how he deals with “the regional challenge that poses the most serious consequences for Middle East security” — Iran’s nuclear program. Only with a clearly articulated policy will the U.S. have enough regional clout to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, he argues. Satloff comments, without evidence, that Obama has abandoned ‘linkage’ and espouses in its place ‘reverse linkage.‘ Experts doubt sanctions will work, he says, which “leaves U.S. military power as the last repository of credibility” for a U.S. commitment to stopping an Iranian bomb. He concludes that “U.S. action to prevent Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapons capability would buoy America’s friends and undermine its adversaries from Morocco through the Persian Gulf.”
- New York Times: ‘Politicus’ columnist John Vinocur questions the direction of Obama’s leadership on Iran. Citing some hawks, including neocon Robert Kagan, Vinocur focuses on Obama’s August meeting with journalists where the President touted his record on sanctions (summed up in our August 5th Talking Points). He notes ahead of that briefing, CIA director Leon Panetta, his predecessor Michael Hayden, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen all seemed to hint about the possibility of a U.S. strike against Iran. Only, writes Vinocur, “nothing was reported among the president’s comments to match it in substance or tonality.” Carnegie Endowment official George Perkovich told Vinocur, “it would be desirable for the United States to have credible use of force in relation to Iran, but in my view we do not.” Vinocur cites Tony Blair’s recent blustering and draws the conclusion that “American leadership is difficult to detect.”