The Daily Talking Points

News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for October 1, 2010.

  • Weekly Standard: On the Standard‘s blog, Jamie Fly, the foreign policy programs director of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative, warns that Russia’s decision to deny Iran S-300 anti-aircraft missiles could change at any time. Fly picks up on a post from Foreign Policy‘s The Cable blog and another from Max Boot at Commentary, and writes: “The problem is, this “bold” decision is not a final decision. Nothing in Medvedev’s announcement cancels the 2007 contract and, as [FP blogger Josh] Rogin notes, the ban could be lifted at any time.” Fly adds that if the deal goes through, Israel might be tempted to bomb Iranian nuclear sites before the hardware is in place, “given that nuclear facilities protected by the S-300 system would be much more difficult to attack.”
  • Reuters: Olli Heinonen, former chief inspector at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and current Harvard senior fellow, says in an interview that Iranian nuclear progress is “slow but steady.” While  “the clock is ticking…there is still time for a negotiated solution.” He believes only the Iranians themselves know why they are developing this capacity, but attribute it to “complex” Iranian desires for  “prestige,” “security” and to be a “regional player.” As for the Stuxnet virus attacking computers in Iran, he’s not convinced it was directly targeted to sabotage that country’s nuclear program.
  • Politico: Laura Rozen blogs about the Symantec computer security firm’s report (.pdf) on the Stuxnet worm and two markers that may, or may not, point the virus’s code to Israeli origins. One refers to an Old Testament story (see yesterday’s Daily Talking Points); the other comes from the Symantec report: a “‘do not infect’ marker” in the code that reads “19790509.” The report suggests that the date of May, 9, 1979 might be significant since it was just after Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the date of the execution of a prominent Iranian Jewish figure. While Israeli intelligence expert Yossi Melman thinks Israel, the U.S., or both are behind the attack, he believes “Israeli intelligence would not leave such clumsy clues.” Rozen herself wonders if the code is a “false flag” to mislead about the source of the attack or “a meaningful tea leaf as to the possible origin of the worm.”

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.