The Daily Talking Points

News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for November 9, 2010.

  • The Washington Post: Senior Council on Foreign Relations fellow and former George W. Bush policy adviser Michael Gerson writes that after the midterm election, Obama may choose to focus his efforts on foreign policy. He warns that Obama will make little headway in bringing peace in the Middle East because “Palestinian leaders are divided – unable to deliver on the agreements they are too weak to make in the first place. Israelis feel relatively safe behind security walls, uninclined toward risky compromise and concerned mainly about Iran,” echoing the reverse linkage argument frequently employed by hawks in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Gerson concludes that threat of military force against Iran is unlikely because, “When a president threatens force, he also loses control. And Barack Obama seems to be a man who values control.”  As for the Tea Party movement,  Gerson says it represents a “Jacksonian ascendancy” on Capitol Hill and “will urge more forceful policies against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela – along with Russia and China.”
  • Time: Tony Karon discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pressure onVice President Joe Biden to get tough with Iran. “The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu reportedly told Biden. Karon writes that the Obama administration would have neither a legal basis nor international support in initiating a war with Iran. But the real challenge for the Obama administration, says Karon, may lie in the charges voiced by Republicans that Obama is “soft on Tehran” whenever any attempt at engagement with Iran is pursued. “That will certainly suit the Israeli leadership, who not only want to see a more confrontational U.S. position on Iran, but who also came into office insisting that Iran’s nuclear program, rather than peace with the Palestinians, should be Washington’s priority in the Middle East.”
  • The Wall Street Journal: Walid Phares of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies opines on the imminent judgement of the tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minsiter Rafik Hariri. “Thanks largely to bountiful Iranian aid, Hezbollah is winning its war against international justice,” writes Phares. He expects many Hezbollah members will be charged, but not arrested. He views Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to Lebanon as an indication that “Iran, and not only its minions, would act in the event of an adverse ruling.” Phares concludes by imploring the UN, which helped set up the tribunal, to adhere to the UN charter which permits the use of force to ensure such rulings are enforced.He concedes this is unlikely, since it requires consent of the Lebanese government.
  • AFP: The newswire reports on the comments of the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, who said that “Iranian influence has diminished somewhat.” Via a video conference, Cone told reporters in Washington, “We see all sorts of Iranian influence — some of it positive, in fact.” He added that some of the negative influence is “very difficult to attribute that to the Iranian government” — a reference to the fact that the alleged Iranian weapons entering Iraq may come from non-state actors.

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.