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  • 9 January 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Israel, US-Iran War

Hindsight is 20/20

Captain Hindsight on the new Senate sanctions bill

When the White House said that a new sanctions bill (S.1881) would “greatly increase the chances that the United States would have to take military action” against Iran, supporters of the bill bristled. Lead sponsor Robert Menendez (D-NJ) called the statement ”over the top” and accused the White House of “fear mongering.”

But a quick read of his bill makes clear that not only would it torpedo diplomacy by violating the interim deal with new sanctions, it even expresses support for the U.S. joining Israel in bombing Iran! The exact clause in question says, “if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

If you didn’t want people saying your bill could lead to war with Iran, you probably shouldn’t have pushed a bill that sabotages diplomacy and expressly threatens military engagement with Iran.

>>Don’t let your Senators rely on hindsight, contact them TODAY and tell them to OPPOSE this disastrous bill

  • 16 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Israel, US-Iran War

Graham proposal pledges support for Israeli strike

Americans don’t want to be dragged into war with Iran by Israel.  According to recent polls:

  • 59% of Americans oppose the United States getting involved if Israel strikes Iran according to the 2012 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey.
  • 55% of Americans say an Israeli strike on Iran would worsen the U.S. military and strategic position in the Middle East according to an October 8 poll released by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).
  • 53% of Americans say Washington should maintain a neutral stance if Israel strikes Iran according tothe PIPA poll.  29% said the U.S. should discourage such action and only 12% said the U.S. should encourage Israel to strike Iran.

But in the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a different agenda.  This November he is planning to introduce a resolution providing unconditional backing for Israeli military actions against Iran.  As NIAC’s Jamal Abdi writes in the Huffington Post, “Graham’s planned measure would outsource the decision about whether the U.S. goes to war to the Israeli prime minister, pledging that if Bibi decides to act — regardless of the consequences and our own calculations — the U.S. will provide money, troops, and political leverage”

Graham, who already used a Congressional resolution to endorse Netanyahu’s redline for war over the President’s, is now attempting to undercut the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staffs, General Martin Dempsey, who has warned, “I don’t want to be complicit if [Israel] chooses to [bomb Iran.]”

But Graham’s not stopping there.  He has suggested that, in 2013, he is lining up plans to pass a formal authorization for the use of military force against Iran.  And the supporters of such action are already setting that plan in motion.  A September 27 Washington Post op-ed advocates that an “explicit congressional mandate authorizing the use of force unless Iran meets specified requirements would demonstrate to all our resolve to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.”  The twist? It was written by Jeffrey Smith and John Bellinger III, two lawyers who work for Arnold and Porter, a registered foreign agent serving as Israel’s largest and longest serving lobbying firm in United States. The firm received over $1.2 million from the Israeli government in 2010 alone.

Barely two weeks later, according to Philip Weiss, there is speculation that Israel’s U.S. embassy may have planted a false story suggesting that the U.S. and Israel had agreed on a plan for limited strikes on Iran.  In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, the magazine’s CEO David Rothkopf quotes an unnamed source describing collaborative discussions between the U.S. and Israeli governments regarding a possible joint strike on Iran. The source describes the discussed strike in detail, saying that it would last between “a couple of hours” and a “day or two,” and that it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

But the “scoop” immediately triggered broad skepticism in Washington and accusations that it was planted by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.  According to the Philip Weiss, U.S. and Israeli military officials have denied the entire conversation about joint strikes.  Weiss notes that, following the publication of the story, Israel’s #2 diplomat in the U.S.–Baruch Bina, whom the White House preferred to deal with over Oren–was transferred to Denmark.  Weiss speculates that the “joint strikes” story was planted against Bina’s objections. Allegedly, Bina argued “that it was inappropriate of the ambassador to feed such a line to Rothkopf, because it could only damage U.S.-Israeli relations.”

  • 4 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Israel, Nuclear file, US-Iran War

Shredding the NPT

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gets bandied about on both sides of the Iran negotiations. Iranian officials often use the fact that Israel is not a signatory of the treaty to question Israel’s nuclear arsenal while defending their own right to a civilian enrichment program.  At the same time, U.S. and Israeli politicians use it much like Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat did today, at an Atlantic Council event, Rethinking Policy Toward Iran:

“[If Iran obtained a nuclear weapon it] would shred what remains of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. If a country can ignore a half-dozen UN resolutions with impunity and continue down this road then there is very little left of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

This position is certainly not wrong. A treaty that continues to be left or broken on a regular basis will shortly lose its meaning. But there’s yet another side to this coin, which Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst at the International Crisis Group, illuminated later in the event:

“I often hear this argument in Washington, that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, it would be disastrous for the integrity of the NPT. But another thing that would be disastrous for the NPT is actually attacking Iran. Because just imagine that a country that is not an NPT member, and has nuclear weapons attacking a country that is an NPT member and does not have nuclear weapons. I think that would equally undermine the NPT. And my biggest fear is the day that the Iranians, in the aftermath of an attack, just turn off the lights, and start building a nuclear weapon, and weld on it the same thing that the Israelis wrote on their first nuclear warhead, which is ‘Never Again.’”

  • 11 September 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, US-Iran War

Does Netanyahu have moral right to drag US into war?

In a not so-subtle jab at the United States, Bibi Netanyahu stridently announced today that “those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red line before Israel.”

Mr. Netanyahu made the claim following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s public commitment to continuing sanctions and negotiations without setting a deadline.

Now, let’s unpack this. First, Mr. Netanyahu says he believes that were Iran to build a nuclear weapon–something that most agree is not possible within the next 12 months–it would pose an existential threat to Israel and thus the situation requirer a preventive military response.  Netanyahu insists no other entity–not Israel’s closest allies, not the Israeli and US national security establishments, not the Israeli people, nor international law–can place restrictions on his freedom to preventively deal with this threat.

But there’s a serious bit of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, in Mr. Netanyahu’s lashing out at the US. The Obama administration has never placed red lines in front of Israel and has indeed placed redlines in front of Iran. Contrary to Netanyahu’s claim, when asked, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that “we respect their sovereignty and their ability to make decisions with their own security.”

US officials have, however, made statements discouraging Israeli military action, characterized by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey’s comment that he “doesn’t want to be complicit” if Israel chooses unilateral military action against Iran.  But that is because Israel is not operating in a vacuum–Netanyahu’s decisions regarding Iran would have significant impact on US security, not to mention detrimental impacts on Israel’s security.

Without going into them in significant detail, several Israeli officials believe that military action would push Iran towards nuclear weapons. Additionally, Pentagon simulations predict that the US would be forced into a conflict with Iran very quickly following an Israeli strike.

  • 6 September 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, Let's Talk Iran, US-Iran War

Ronny & the “Israel Loves Iran” Campaign

Ronny Edry - Let's Talk Iran PodcastIn this episode, we chat with Ronny Edry, an Israeli graphic designer, teacher, father, husband, and, most recently, known world-wide as the founder of the “Israel Loves Iran” campaign which later grew to become the “We Love You” community. The “We Love You” movement began on March 14 of this year when Ronny uploaded a poster of him and his daughter holding an Israeli flag. The poster said: “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.” Attached to the poster was also a letter that Ronny penned to the people of Iran. In it, he expressed his desire to prevent war and better understand his Iranian counterparts. Within hours, the poster and letter became viral and return messages started pouring in from Iran. The “We Love You” movement now has a loyal following all over 63 countries and its presence on the web and on Facebook is growing daily, with millions having viewed its videos and heard its message.

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  • 26 July 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Iranian American activism, Israel, Let's Talk Iran, Uncategorized

Lessons from the Jewish-American Community

The AIPAC membership is only a fraction the size of the membership for the other top two lobbying organizations in the U.S., those being the AARP and NRA. How has AIPAC has been able to reach such a level of influence? How do Jewish-American organizations interact and balance cooperation and competition? How does the community handle internal disputes? Find out the answers to these questions and more from former executive director of American Israeli Public Affairs Commitee (AIPAC), Tom Dine.  Currently, Tom serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Israel Policy Forum and will be participating as a panelist in NIAC’s 2012 Leadership Conference this fall.

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  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Mohammad Esfahlani
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Israel

Iran VP Rahimi’s Hard Times and Anti-Semitism

While anti-Zionist rhetoric from Tehran has become all too common, a recent speech by Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi seems to have hit a new low.  Going far beyond traditional anti-Zionist rhetoric, Rahimi’s anti-Semitic speech actually accused the holy text of Judaism of being responsible for the spread of illicit drugs around the globe. Beyond being deplorable (see NIAC’s statement condemning it here), it’s also truly bizarre.  Which begs the question: what is the calculus, if any, behind such inflammatory rhetoric?

Mohammad Reza Rahimi became the Vice President in September 2009 after the Supreme Leader dismissed Ahmadinejad’s first choice with a rare published handwritten note. That pick, Esfandiar Mashaei, is controversial for many reasons, but it was statement that “Iranians are friends of Israelis” that created controversy amongst some of the most hard-line conservatives.

Rahimi and Mashaei—who is now Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff—have been under withering attack since they were accused of heading a group that embezzled about $3 billion dollars, the largest case of financial embezzlement in Iran’s history. This scandal has intensified their internal conflict with their conservative political rivals—parliament members and supporters of the supreme leader—to the extent that some hardliners have called for their execution. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has been severely weakened since he dismissed the Iranian Intelligence chief and challenged the supreme leader’s decision for his reassignment, a battle which he ultimately lost.

  • 26 June 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Clinton and Baker on Iran, Israeli strikes, and diplomacy

In an interview with Charlie Rose at the State Department  last Wednesday, June 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former Secretary of State James Baker discussed the role of diplomacy in resolving US- Iranian tensions [watch the interview here, read the transcript here].

Baker said the U.S. must pursue all non-military means to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, but if those efforts fail, the U.S. would have to “take them out.”   Clinton insisted that diplomatic options for dealing with Iran had not yet been exhausted, and warned that a foreign attack could unify and legitimize the regime. She said,  there are some hardliners in Iran who ” are saying the best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody, just bring it on, because that would unify us, it would legitimize the regime.” Instead of giving the hardliners this credibility, Clinton said of the diplomatic process that the US should “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” in order to find a peaceful agreement.

  • 5 June 2012
  • Posted By Milad Jokar
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Ending characterization of “the other” is key to an Iran agreement

As a French-Iranian who has been exposed to both Iranian and Western mindsets, I have witnessed the lack of understanding that exists between Iran and the United States firsthand. During my travels and personal meetings, I have been able to access both narratives and what has struck me most is the harsh and intense misleading characterization of “the other” made by the political and media presentation. These different narratives create a problematic rift that heightens the political cost of finding a compromise between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany). Hence, the decision-making on both sides is constrained by a political narrative driven by ideology more than the geostrategic and economic realities. One step to de-escalate is to lower this political cost by deconstructing the “otherization” of each side to allow a diplomatic resolution to be framed such that neither side loses face.

Unlike France, the United States and the Islamic republic have had more than 30 years of institutionalized enmity and this is why the political discourse on both sides has specifically been more aggressive and more prone to misconceptions. The rhetoric between the United States and Iran is still ratcheting up and the representation given of “the other” still deeply divides the average uninformed citizens in both countries. It is increasingly evident that the discursive strategy used by both the United States’ and Iran’s hardliners has been to simplify the representation of “the other” and to frame its complexity as an evil/demonic monolithic entity.

  • 31 May 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Israel, Let's Talk Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Part 2: Assessing the Baghdad Nuclear Talks

Last week, the P5+1 met with Iranian officials in Baghdad to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. While many questions were left unanswered, the one known fact is that there will be another round of negotiations on June 18th and 19th in Moscow.  Listen to a NIAC policy panel hosted last week in DC on the nuclear talks in Baghdad. The panel features top experts and former U.S officials including PJ Crowley (Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs), Bijan Khajehpour (Iranian Political and Economic Analyst and Chairman of Atieh International), Aaron David Miller (Distinguished Scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), George Perkovich (Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and moderated by NIAC’s very own, Trita Parsi.

Listen to Part 2 of NIAC’s panel discussion on the Baghdad nuclear talks.

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