The Daily Talking Points

News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for October 21, 2010:

  • The Washington Post: Glenn Kessler reports that Iran is increasingly unable to conduct “normal banking” activities due to the sanctions, and is attempting to set up banking operations in such Muslim countries as Iraq and Malaysia “using dummy names and opaque ownership structures.” For their alleged support of Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. Treasury has blacklisted 16 Iranian banks.  Matthew Levitt, director of the counterterrorism and intelligence program at the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) told Kessler that “the banking operations, even if successfully created in other countries, are likely to be small-scale and insufficient to make up for the volume of banking activity Iran has lost.”
  • The National Interest: Ken Pollack, the director of Brookings’s Mid East Center, reviews the Obama administration’s Iran policy and concludes that “it is working, but it probably isn’t going to work.” He says an airstrike on Iran’s nuclear program — “and launching air strikes will be war” — will rally people to the government, justify an Iranian nuclear deterrent to further attack, cause Iran to withdraw from the NPT (meaning the world will be in the dark), and bring condemnations of the U.S. from the world. Following a lengthy analysis of U.S. policy options, he ends with thoughts on containment. He writes that given Iran belief that it can outlast sanctions, the United States and the international community needs to build “an aggressive new containment regime that Iran cannot possibly outlast. Like North Korea, Iran would not be allowed to enjoy any benefit from its acquisition of a nuclear capability or even a nuclear arsenal.”
  • The National Interest: Georgetown professor and former CIA officer Paul Pillar responds to Pollack’s article and disagrees that “pressure and more pressure” is the best way of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Pillar raises the question of why the Iranian nuclear program is such a preoccupation for the United States and whether assumptions about Iranian irrationality have any grounding in reality or are reflected in Iran’s record of behavior. Pillar also disputes the argument that a strategy of deterrence has “no guarantees of success” and “failure is invariably catastrophic” is reason enough to pressure Iran. “…[T]o make that observation as an argument for not tolerating someone else’s nuclear force would mean not only dismissing a lot of Cold War history but also throwing up our arms in despair over nuclear deterrence relationships that we continue to have to this day with the likes of Russia and China,” he contends.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.