Tag Archives: Iran
Goldberg, left, in conversation with Michael Oren, Bibi’s man in Washington
The first question to ask when considering how seriously to take Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest alarmist screed about Israel gearing up to attack Iran, is “Why do people talk to Jeffrey Goldberg?”
In the course of an Atlantic Monthly cover story that veers all over the place but whose intended message is that if President Obama won’t bomb Iran, then Israel will — and that everyone will be better off if the U.S. does the job because it can do it so much better — Goldberg describes conversations with 40 leading decision makers in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And all of them pretty much tell him the same thing; that Israel will give the Obama Administration’s sanctions until the end of this year to demonstrate results in forcing Iran’s surrender on the nuclear question, after which the Israelis will take matters into their own hands, launching an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without getting Washington’s go-ahead — because most of Israel’s key decision makers doubt whether Obama is willing to launch another war in the Middle East.
Goldberg, an early enthusiast for invading Iraq, also describes a White House meeting at which Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel appears to have convened the likes of Dennis Ross, Dennis McDonough and pretty much all of the President’s top national security advisers, all for the purpose of persuading a columnist from the Atlantic Monthly that Obama is, in fact, acting tough on Iran.
And the answer in both cases, is that people use Jeffrey Goldberg to send messages.
Last time around the U.S. encouraged this, what will Obama do?
Tuesday’s cross-border firefight between Israeli and Lebanese government forces might simply have been a misunderstanding. And the rockets fired from Gaza and the Israeli air strikes on the besieged territory over the past week could be viewed as periodic blip in business as usual on that front. By the same token, last Friday’s unprecedented joint visit to Beirut by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria could be viewed simply as a move to stop the conflict between their Lebanese proxies turning nasty. And British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pleas to Turkey to keep open its communication channels with Israel’s leaders are quotidian diplomatic common sense. Viewed in a wider context, however, each of those events could be taken as signs of why many in the Middle East believe that despite the outward calm, the region may be on the brink of another catastrophic war. Continue reading
Beinart chats with friends in high places: Liberal “hawks” like him played a major role in enabling the Iraq debacle
In 2003, the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a country that had neither attacked nor threatened it — and we, and the Iraqis, are still living with the consequences. Going to war in Iraq was made possible — easy, even — for the Bush Administration not only by Republican hawks and neocon extremists (the wannabe Army Corps of Social Engineers) baying for blood, but even more importantly, by supposedly sober and moderate liberal voices — the Peter Beinarts, Ken Pollacks, George Packers and the editors of the New York Times — not only failing to challenge the basic logic of the case for war, but providing their own more elegant (although equally brutal when stripped of their high-minded rhetoric) rationalizations for invading Iraq.
It was the liberal “hawks” and the New York Times, by failing to ask the right questions of the case for war, that did more to make the war a “thinkable” option for America than any neocon. They allowed the question to be posed simply as one of whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or not. And because nobody could give an absolute assurance in the negative, the argument became “better safe than sorry”. The liberals and the New York Times offered no challenge, and asked no questions, of the basic assumption that if Saddam had, in fact, had a couple of warehouses full of VX gas and refrigerator full of anthrax, that necessitated launching a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of upward of half a million Iraqis (and thousands of Americans) and left America weaker and more vulnerable.
And the bad news is that they’re doing it again on Iran. Continue reading
Despite the escalating war rhetoric, conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. military establishment and even President Obama himself believe that the potential consequences of a military strike that plunges America into a third war in the Muslim world are so grave — and the prospects for such a strike preventing or deterring Iran from eventually attaining nuclear weapons so dubious — as to render it too reckless an option. Nor is there any legal basis for it; a U.N. Security Council authorization for military action against Iran is unthinkable unless Iran attacked another country or was moving to do so. And most of the international community — including most of those countries that backed the latest round of sanctions — would strongly oppose it. President Obama is an indefatigable internationalist, and if he were planning to launch a military strike against Iran, it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be engaged in the protracted process of trying to establish a basis for such action at the U.N. and in international public opinion. No signs of that, at least not yet.
Obama has, however, insisted that a military option remains “on the table.”
Walking out on Monday’s U.N. speech by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have been good domestic politics for the Obama Administration and its closest European allies, but it won’t necessarily help them prevail at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that began Monday. In fact the move by delegates from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand and the Netherlands, among others, may have perversely played to Ahmadinejad’s advantage.
Anti-Ahmadinejad protestors in New York last time: The Iranian leader will hope to see the Israeli flag flying prominently among those denouncing him
The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was clearly unsettled by the news that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plans to show up in New York on Monday at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
As far as the US is concerned, Iran is a pariah in the international conversation about proliferation, and halting its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons is one of Washington’s key objectives at the New York conference.
“If [Mr Ahmadinejad] believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to … then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.” At least she hopes not.
Somewhere in Tehran, Mrs Clinton’s remarks will have prompted Mr Ahmadinejad to smile his pantomime villain’s smile. He’s going to New York because he believes he’ll have an opportunity to confound US objectives.
Sure, he’ll be the focus of much opprobrium – senators from Mrs Clinton’s own party tried to reverse her administration’s decision to grant him a visa, apparently ignorant of their country’s obligations as host to the United Nations. And there will be hundreds of demonstrators across from the UN headquarters, perhaps some waving Israeli flags. At least, Mr Ahmadinejad hopes so, because he too intends to make an issue of Israel – not by threatening to wipe it out, but by pointing that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out Iran 20 times over, and yet doesn’t feature in Washington’s non-proliferation agenda.
So while the US hopes to use Iran’s failure to fully comply with the transparency requirements of the treaty to raise support for new sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians plan to draw attention to western double standards in applying the NPT. Continue reading
This from my latest on TIME.com.
Having concluded that President Obama’s outreach has failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, the final weeks of 2009 find his Administration focused on mustering support for new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Iran’s rejection of the terms offered thus far by the U.S. and its partners has prompted Obama to largely revert to the Bush Administration’s approach of ultimatums backed by sanctions — with little obvious prospect of producing a substantially different result.
So how did he get here? In a nutshell, he allowed the Washington hawks, in concert with Israel and European hawks such as Sarkozy, to paint him into a corner by setting an artificial deadline on his diplomatic effort, and more importantly, basing them on the same demands as the Bush Administration which Iran had repeatedly rejected. Not only has Iran’s domestic turmoil limited its own regime’s room for maneuver, Iran’s opposition is as vehement as its conservatives in rejecting Washington’s demand that Iran give up uranium enrichment.
So Obama is going out on the road of further sanctions, now, but it’s generally agreed that sanctions aren’t going to change Iran’s position. At which point those who set the time-limits on diplomacy will demand that Obama go to war….
The surest sign that another neocon bill of goods is being hawked in respect of the Iran “nuclear peril” is the revival of Rumsfeld-esque “unknowable unknowns”, a la Iraq WMD panic circa late 2002. In the real world, of course, solid progress is being made towards a plausible diplomatic deal to strengthen safeguards against Iran weaponizing the nuclear material it is producing. (See my latest on this at TIME.com)
But in the fevered world of the neocons, which the New York Time has, once again, bought into wholesale, the progress is illusory; Iran is playing games by only showing us the tip of the iceberg. Utterly shameless in its willingness to repeat the Judith Miller debacle, the Times tells us that Iran at Geneva agreed “to send most of its openly declared enriched uranium” to Russia for reprocessing into fuel rods for a medical research facility. Twice more in the story it uses the phrase “declared stockpile” — unmistakably signaling the reader that he or she ought to believe that Iran, of course, has other stocks of enriched uranium that are undeclared. Continue reading
The political turmoil in Iran over the past two weeks was no “Color” Revolution in the sense that much of the Western media imagined it, superimposing the narratives of the fall of Eastern European regimes (in the way that a 24-hour cable news culture is prone to do) on a situation whose dynamics and character was profoundly different. Iran’s electoral contest was always, first and foremost, a battle between rival factions of the regime. And what brought the protesters out into the streets was that the ruling faction so blatantly broke the system’s own rules during the election…
…Khamenei and Ahmadinejad may well find that the cost of stealing the election is actually diminished authority within the regime. The battle is far from over, even if it’s not being fought primarily on the streets. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad would like to impose something akin to what Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe, when he lost the election but stayed in power, with his opponent in a subordinate role. While Mousavi is very much part of the regime, he may have reason to believe he can do better than Tsvangirai, though…