Posts Tagged ‘Iran policy’

President Obama’s ‘Nixon to China’ opportunity

September 19, 2013

Pepe Escobar reports that Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, has the full approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, who holds the real power, to negotiate with President Obama to end the 34-year-old cold war between the two nations.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani

Ayatollah Kamanei says that Iran never has had a nuclear weapons program, because nuclear weapons are immoral.  But President Rouhani is willing to negotiate concerning Iran’s nuclear development program anyway.

Obama and Rouhani have exchanged letters, and may meet when Rouhani visits the United Nations in New York next week.

It was the Iranians, together with the Russians, who leaned on President Assad of Syria to agree to international control of chemical weapons.  It remains to be seen, in my opinion, how meaningful that international control will turn out to be, but Assad’s announcement enabled the President Obama to back away from a war threat supported neither by the American people nor by world opinion.

This is a great opportunity for President Obama to leave a positive legacy equivalent to President Nixon going to China.  This doesn’t mean approval of Iran’s government, any more than it meant approval of China’s.   It only means that nothing is being accomplished by the economic and covert war that the United States is waging against Iran.

Peace with Iran would require Obama to break free of entanglement with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the war party in the United States on this issue.   I hope he will do so.


Mr. Obama, tear down this wall by Pete Escobar for RT News.

Obama-Rouhani: lights, camera, action by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times

Iran frees political prisoners ahead of Hassan Rouhani’s UN visit by Saeed Kamail Dehghan for The Guardian.

Those who do not learn from history…

April 3, 2012

President Obama’s deep game

March 14, 2012

President Obama’s admirers say that he plays a deep game, that he is always thinking three or four steps ahead of everybody else.   You shouldn’t take what he’s doing and saying at face value, they say; the logic of what he’s doing will be revealed after the fact.

Is President Obama playing a deep game on Iran?  If so, who is he playing it against?

Recently he gave an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly.  Goldberg served as a young man in the Israeli Defense Forces and has good sources within the current government of Israel.   Here is part of what the President told him.

We are going to continue to apply pressure until Iran takes a different course. … … It means a political component … a diplomatic component …  and it includes a military component.  And I think people understand that.

I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.   I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are.  But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.

via The Atlantic.

A day later the President said the following in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.


Now if President Obama’s aim is to avoid war with Iran, and to use sanctions and diplomacy as a stalling tactic, this interview was a terrible blunder.  If sanctions and diplomacy fail to pressure the Iranian government into abandoning its nuclear program, which seems to me quite likely, then Obama by his words has put himself in the situation in which he either has to go to war or admit that, in fact, he really was bluffing.

But what if his aim is not peace, but war?  What if his aim is to co-opt liberals into going along with an attack on Iran?  He has redefined the issue so that it is no longer war against Iran vs. peace with Iran.   Now it is war against Iran right away vs. war with Iran when and if economic sanctions and covert action fail.

An attack on Iran would not be an isolated event.  Iran is a larger, more powerful and more united nation than Iraq or Afghanistan were.  This would be the start of an open-ended conflict which would not be limited to Iranian soil.

Of course I can’t know President Obama’s mind.  I can only know what he publicly says and does.  And right now his statements and his actions duplicate all the mistakes of the George W. Bush administration, but on a larger scale.

Click on Obama to Iran and Israel: ‘As President of the United States, I don’t bluff’ for the complete interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Click on Transcript of Obama’s AIPAC speech for the complete speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Click on The 0% Solution: War as the President’s Private Preserve for analysis of the implications of President Obama’s statements by Tom Englehardt on his TomDispatch web log.

Click on Top Ten Dangers for Obama of Iran Sanctions on Behalf of Israel for moral and political objections to economic warfare against Iran by Prof. Juan Cole, professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, on his Informed Comment web log.

Iran and the bomb

March 10, 2012

The excellent documentary by Al Jazeera reviews the evidence that the Iranian government is working on nuclear weapons.  Unlike, say, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Al Jazeera goes beyond the usual English-language sources and the default assumptions of American journalism.  The documentary provides strong circumstantial evidence that Iran obtained nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, shows that a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report condemning Iran is based in part on a forged document, and concludes that it is impossible to say for sure what the Iranian government is doing.

My own guess is that the Iranian government probably is trying to acquire either nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons capability.  This is based partly on circumstantial evidence but more on the logic of the situation.   But I don’t claim to know, and I easily could be wrong.

My question is:  Why is the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons a worse threat than the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union, Communist China or other countries?  I’m old enough to remember that there were people who seriously advocated “preventive war” against those countries.  And while we Americans, thankfully, rejected those arguments, they were stronger in the case of Russia and China than they are in the case of Iran.

Both countries were totalitarian dictatorships which were much worse than the authoritarian governement of Iran.  Both were avowed enemies of freedom and democracy as we Americans understand them.  The governments of both countries were rivals of the U.S. government for world power, and both supported anti-American political movements across the world.

Moreover the Soviet Union, unlike Iran, was able to develop the nuclear missile capability to destroy the United States as a functioning society (which power is retained by the Russian Federation today).  Mao Zedong, at the time China acquired nuclear weapons, made statements that sounded a lot crazier than anything Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is saying.  Mao for example said that it wouldn’t matter if hundreds of millions of Chinese were killed in a nuclear war because hundreds of millions would be left.

But we Americans were able to co-exist with these two countries through a combination of deterrence and diplomacy.  There were two good reasons for not attacking Russia and China before they had the capability to retaliate with their own nuclear weapons.

First, it would have been a crime against humanity.  If Presidents Truman or Eisenhower had ordered such an attack, they would have made themselves mass killers on the same scale as Stalin and Mao, and an infinitely greater scale than Osama bin Laden.

Second, it wouldn’t have worked.  The Russian and Chinese nations would still have existed, and would have been more determined than ever to acquire nuclear weapons and strike at the United States.  Deterrence would not longer have worked because, if a nation is going to be attacked no matter what its leaders do, the fear of attack will not influence its leaders’ actions.

This would have meant that the United States would have had to repeat its attack every 10 or 15 years, with increasing murderousness and decreasing effectiveness—what an Israeli called “mowing the lawn” in the case of Iran.  Thankfully our Presidents in the early Cold War era had sense enough to refrain from going down that path.


Drifting toward war with Iran

January 31, 2012

In this interview, Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a former adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says the Obama administration has backed the Iranian government into a no-win situation—accept economic sanctions that will destroy the country economically, or risk a war with the United States and its allies that will destroy the country physically.

President Obama’s intentions toward Iran are, as usual, hard to interpret.  I have read commentators who say his earlier talk of dialogue with Iran a setup to show that the Iranians are unreasonable so that he could organize an anti-Iran coalition and justify anti-Iran sanctions, covert action and threats.  I have read commentators who say his anti-Iran sanctions and threats are a setup to neutralize war hawks in the United States and Israel.

Whatever his intentions, the threat to block Iran’s oil exports is a threat to destroy the Iranian economy.  The Iranian government must choose whether to surrender or fight.  The Obama administration would no doubt reply that all the Iranian government has to do to end the sanctions is to give up its nuclear program—that is, its ability to defend itself.  The Associated Press reported in my morning newspaper that Israeli hawks are openly pressing for an attack on Iran while the country is still unable to retaliate.

War to change the Iranian regime is a risky business.  We would risk loss of access to Persian Gulf oil and a worldwide economic crash.  We would risk military confrontation with China and other countries.  We would face the certainty that the surviving Iranians would be committed to revenge against the United States and Israel, and the likelihood of a new regime that actually would be completely fanatical and irrational.

Stepping back from this brink would be a risk to the President’s re-election.  Continuing in the present policy would be a risk to the country.  President Obama has said all options are on the table.  One of these ought to be diplomacy.

Click on The Iranian oil embargo blowback for insight from Pepe Escobar of Asia Times on the impact of an Iranian oil embargo on the economy of Europe and the rest of the world..

Hat tip for the video to Glenn Greenwald.