The Daily Talking Points

News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for December 7, 2010:

  • Commentary: J.E. Dyer, writing on Commentary’s Contentions blog, says that talks with Iran are futile and “the current process of negotiation and inspection is worse than irrelevant. It is counterproductive — because it gives Iran time.” Dyer describes Iran’s announcement that it is producing yellowcake from its uranium-processing facility as “pulling a ‘North Korea’” and argues that the costs of negotiations have gotten too high. He concludes, “Today the cost includes Iran’s posting all its biggest weapons-program triumphs after UN sanctions were first imposed. Ultimately, the cost is likely to be much higher.”
  • The Wall Street Journal: The WSJ’s hawkish editorial board opines that North Korea’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island was a “barbarous” act and questions China’s role as Pyongyang’s “principal apologist, protector and enabler.” The editorial board raises the stakes, asking what role North Korea and China had in proliferating nuclear technology to Iran. The Chinese metals and metallurgy company LIMMT, a company sanctioned by the Bush administration for proliferation, is “perhaps the largest supplier of weapons of mass destruction to Iran,” according to former Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau in accusations made last year. The Journal‘s editorial board writes that China “[pledges] good faith in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materiel, especially to Iran,” but China is a major proliferator of nuclear technologies to both Iran and North Korea.
  • Washington Post: Jennifer Rubin writes up a letter by a group of Senators looking to push President Barack Obama to express the view, as an unnamed Senate staffer put it to Rubin, that “sanctions need to keep ratcheting up.” Written by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joe Liberman (I-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), and later signed by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) (as updated by Rubin), the letter says Iran “cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory.” ‘No enrichment’ has widely been seen as a (long since violated) Israeli red line, while the U.S. under Obama has mentioned Iran’s rights to nuclear enrichment as an NPT signatory. Rubin comments: “Like Margaret Thatcher, these senators are warning the president not to go ‘wobbly.’ Let’s see if he listens.”
  • Commentary: Evelyn Gordon, blogging on Contentions, compares Iran with the Communist government of North Vietnam in the run-up to that war. While the U.S. seeks compromise with Iran now, and sought it with North Vietnam then, Gordon writes, the U.S.’s “opponents’ aim is often total victory.” She writes that with pressure on Iran more out in the open after WikiLeaks disclosures that show strong Arab hostility, Iran is returning to the negotiating table because it “feels pressured.” “So Iran, cognizant of the West’s weakness, has taken out the perfect insurance policy: as long as it’s talking, feeding the West’s hope for compromise, Western leaders will oppose both new sanctions and military action,” concludes Gordon. “And Tehran will be able to continue its march toward victory unimpeded.”

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.



  1. We did not seek a serious compromise with North Vietnam during the critical 1965-67 period. The turn of the year 1966-67 was an interesting point in time; Hanoi might have been willing to draw back and accept the status quo for another ten years had the Johnson administration shown more imagination. But the opportunity was lost, and catastrophe followed.

    Despite all the neocon rumblings, Iran is headed to the back burner until negotiations resume early next year. Meanwhile the Israelis are startimng to build on the occupied territories again and peace talks look dead. It might be time to devote more thought and writing to I-P, at least over the next few weeks.

  2. Jon, I trust you’re aware of Kissinger’s role in encouraging Saigon to balk on the peace talks, since they’d get such a better deal under Nixon. Ten years later, they surrendered on the same terms.

    That IS possible in Afghanistan AND Iraq from a military perspective. Iraq is largely ethnically divided, and the likely worst case would result in partition. Afghanistan is meaningless to anyone save the kid playing Risk and Unocal’s day-dreaming engineers. The reward isn’t worth the opportunity cost.

    I do agree with you on expanding the topics of discussion. How about a bit more on Lebanon, the Palestinians (especially the South Am. recognition wave) What about N. Korea and now America being the intransigent one and China seemingly willing to jettison N. Korea in exchange for undermining our presence, Japan too seems to be eager to see us on our way. The US is wearing out it’s welcome in the Indian Ocean and the Yellow Sea, let’s hear more about that.

    I asked Eric Margolis if there wasn’t something fishy in the recent back and forth with Korea and suggested American conspiracy–I was hoping he’d say I was going too far, he didn’t. The fact is, that we can’t know what’s going on.

  3. I specifically referred to 1966-67. Nothing to do with 1968, which is what you’re thinking of. There is at least one excellent book about the 1966-67 missed opportunity for peace, but unfortunately I forget the title. The book was in my library until I sold it about a year ago. It had two authors; I want to say Henry Truitt was one of them, but I could be mistaken. If you have a bio of Robert Kennedy lying around, that could be helpful; he was involved tangentially in the 1966-67 events. I could do a little research and get the title of the book I’m thinking of, but why should I do your work for you? As my mother used to say, you learn when you look things up yourself.

  4. I want to say the book was called “The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam,” but I could be wrong, and I’m not going to look it up. McNamara may have said something about the turn of the year ’66-’67 in one of his books, but I might be dreaming that. In any case there was a chance for compromise in the first few months of ’67, but the Johnson administration blew it. Then in April LBJ denied Westmorland’s request to block the Ho Chi Minh trail by sending forces into Laos. Tet and everything that followed from 1968-75 then became inevitable. A compromise peace in early ’67 (or a year later if the Ho Chi Minh trail had been cut) would’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives and averted some of the economic and social consequences of the war. The North would’ve taken over the South eventually, but the costs for everybody would’ve been far lighter.

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