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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’
February 28th, 2012 at 1:53 pm
Some “Reset” – Only 8% of Iranians Approve of U.S. Leadership
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

So much for Barack Obama’s “Reset” foreign policy doctrine.

Presumably, the potential payoff from Obama’s constant prostrate manner, his willingness to meet dictators like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without preconditions,” his repeated apologetics and public disparagement of allies like Israel would at least be improved perceptions of America abroad.  Four years after introducing that doctrine, however, we’re still awaiting the payoff.  Russia and China continue to obstruct U.S. policy, Israel is more endangered each day and the Iranians dislike us as much as ever.  According to a new Gallup survey, only 8% of Iranian respondents approve “of the job performance of the leadership of the United States,” while 67% disapprove.

This should prompt recalibration within the White House, because its foreign policy weakness is not showing results.  Meanwhile, time is running out to halt Iran’s nuclear ambition.

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:06 pm
How Many Times Does Iran Have to Tell Us They’re Serious?
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Over at the Daily Caller, Jamie Weinstein has a piece today regarding the grave seriousness with which the Iranian regime approaches the prospect of wiping Israel off the face of the planet. The column opens by citing the widow of one of the recently-assassinated nuclear scientists working on the Iranian bomb, who says that her husband’s “ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel.”

The intellectual balm of choice for foreign policy sophisticates has been to tell themselves that this sort of language out of Tehran is purely for domestic consumption, empty rhetoric aimed at consolidating support for the regime. At last night’s Republican debate in Arizona, Newt Gingrich rejected that line of thought, saying “I’m inclined to believe dictators. It’s dangerous not to.” (lest that quote sound a bit strange, it should be noted that Gingrich was saying it’s important to take threats from dictatorial regimes at face value).

Weinstein riffs on that theme at length and does a fine job of fleshing out Gingrich’s point:

They’re just posturing or joking or have been misinterpreted, we’re told. Israel and the West can live with a nuclear Iran, foreign policy intellectuals in New York, London and Berlin proclaim.

But if you’re the tiny, embattled State of Israel, it is hard to see how you can afford to take the chance that the Iranian leadership is merely joshing with their eliminationist rhetoric. Even if the odds are only 5 percent that the Iranian regime is apocalyptic and would act to bring back the hidden Imam through a nuclear holocaust, a five percent chance of a second holocaust is five percent too much for Israel to tolerate. (And let’s forget entirely for a moment the dire strategic problems of dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran even if the Islamic Republic doesn’t immediately use the bomb once it obtains the capability to strike. Try handling Hezbollah when they have a nuclear shield.)

Quite so. The higher the stakes, the lower our tolerance of ambiguity should be. It’s becoming increasingly clear that — regardless of how Iran uses a bomb — the cost will be prohibitively high for the U.S. and our allies. We still have a limited window in which we can set back and ultimately undo the threat with means short of war. Should we fail, the remaining options will be as unpalatable as they are necessary.

February 21st, 2012 at 8:59 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Why Gas Prices Are So High
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

February 6th, 2012 at 11:59 am
Ramirez Cartoon – WH: “We Must Stop Them…”
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 31st, 2012 at 5:12 pm
Head of U.S. Intelligence: Iran’s Appetite for Terror Strikes in the U.S. Growing
Posted by Troy Senik Print

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was on Capitol Hill earlier today to brief lawmakers on the biggest national security threats facing the nation in the year ahead. While there was some good news (Al Qaeda, for instance, has been substantially weakened by the death of Osama bin Laden and many of its other senior leaders), Clapper’s warnings about Iran were ominous. As the Washington Post reports it:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, the U.S. spy chief said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said in prepared testimony that an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington that was uncovered last year reflects an aggressive new willingness within the upper ranks of the Islamist republic to authorize attacks against the United States.

That plot “shows that some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime,” Clapper said in the testimony, which was submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee in advance of a threat assessment hearing Tuesday. “We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas.”

Bracing stuff. It should now be clear that Iran poses a greater immediate national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation on earth. And our response — to the extent that we’ve had one — has been woefully inadequate.

One of the great ignominies of President Obama’s tenure in office was his decision not to side with the Iranian dissidents who rose up against the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, missing an opportunity not only to advance our strategic interests in the region but also to put our moral capital on the line for a people yearning to throw off the hand of oppression. At the time, the president was more concerned with preserving his diplomatic options with the mullahs’ regime, even though their actions proved exactly why such overtures would be fruitless.

Though the White House now seems to have a slightly more acute sense of the dangers posed by Iran, the upshot has not been a more effective foreign policy. The current response of choice is to step up economic pressure through the widespread use of economic sanctions by the U.S. and our allies. This will fail to stem the tide of Iranian radicalism. Sanctions and their corresponding decline in economic growth only serve to make life less bearable for workaday citizens. That may make the regime less popular, but in an undemocratic system that’s a development that comes with little cash value.

Khamenei and his ilk are true believers, convinced that history is winding inevitably towards an outcome ordained for them by God. There’s not an instrument of policy sufficient to change that orientation — other than regime change.

January 11th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: The Department of Wishful Thinking
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 3rd, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Tyranny, Thy Name is Syria
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Over the weekend, Nick Cohen in the UK Guardian provided halting testimony to just how macabre the  abuse of human rights by the Assad regime in Syria has become. From the piece:

To grasp the scale of the barbarism, listen to Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, who is one of the most reliable sources on the crimes the regime’s news blackout hides. “The repression is so severe that detainees are stacked alive and kicking in shipping containers and disposed off in the middle of the sea,” he told me. “It is so bad that they’ve invented a new way of torture in Aleppo where they heat a metal plate and force a detainee to stand on it until he confesses; imagine all the melting flesh reaching the bone before the detainee falls on the plate. It is so bad that all demonstrators have opted for armed resistance. They know it is about survival now, not about freedom any more. This needs to be highlighted: Syrians are fighting for their lives now, not for freedom.”

Looking back on 2011, remember that the Obama Administration pressured Hosni Mubarak to step down in Egypt despite the fact that it was clear that the upshot would damage American national security interests. We also intervened in Libya despite the fact that our interests there were peripheral at best. Now comes Syria: an ally of Iran, a sponsor of terrorism, and, as this article attests, an utterly wicked regime. Rarely is the confluence of our strategic interests and our moral interests so unambiguous. Let us hope that the administration doesn’t miss this opportunity, as it did in Iran in 2009.

November 18th, 2011 at 8:11 am
Podcast: Iran, GOP Presidential Field, ObamaCare and More
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Ken Blackwell, American Civil Rights Union Senior Fellow and contributing editor for Townhall.com, discusses the potential for an Israeli strike against Iran, the strengths and weaknesses of GOP presidential candidates and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review ObamaCare.

Listen to the interview here.

October 18th, 2011 at 6:06 pm
How to Eviscerate a Pundit
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Regular readers of the blog know that there is a small gallery of Washington pundits that I simply cannot abide; not because I disagree with their views, but because I despise the predictability of their positions, the ballast of their prose, and the intellectual laziness of their work.

That’s a group that includes Tom Friedman, Joe Klein, and E.J. Dionne, amongst others. But there’s a special place in pundit hell for the professional joiner: the columnist who always has to march in lockstep with Beltway fashion. That’s why it’s so delightful to see the once-respectable Fareed Zakaria get noted in the New Republic’s list of over-rated DC thinkers. The précis is priceless:

Fareed Zakaria is enormously important to an understanding of many things, because he provides a one-stop example of conventional thinking about them all. He is a barometer in a good suit, a creature of establishment consensus, an exemplary spokesman for the always-evolving middle. He was for the Iraq war when almost everybody was for it, criticized it when almost everybody criticized it, and now is an active member of the ubiquitous “declining American power” chorus. When Obama wanted to trust the Iranians, Zakaria agreed (“They May Not Want the Bomb,” was a story he did for Newsweek); and, when Obama learned different, Zakaria thought differently. There’s something suspicious about a thinker always so perfectly in tune with the moment.

Indeed. Fareed Zakaria is a man who writes Gallup polls in paragraph form. Nice to see the media take notice.

September 23rd, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Top 10 Craziest UN Speeches

Foreign Policy offers a Top 10 list of the “craziest things ever said during a United Nations speech,” to help give context to today’s request for statehood recognition by the Palestinian Authority.

Among the leaders contributing to the list are Russia’s Nikita Khruschev (shoe banging and epithet); Palestine’s Yassir Arafat leading a “Zionism = racism” movement; Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez comparing President George W. Bush to Satan; and Iran’s Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad blaming the South Ossetia war on Israel.

Of the top ten, three include racist criticisms of Israel.  If Palestine gets statehood status and speaking privileges, expect that number to rise.

June 13th, 2011 at 10:30 am
Ramirez Cartoon – Iran’s Ahmadinejad: Look! Weiner!!
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

May 24th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Pouring Cold Water on the Arab Spring
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The always-provocative strategist George Friedman (head of Austin-based STRATFOR) is out with a new analysis of President Obama’s Middle East policy today on RealClearWorld (caveat: Friedman is always provocative, but not always accurate. He wrote a 1991 book titled “The Coming War with Japan”). As usual, Friedman’s work is rife with insight, but no single passage deserves quotation as much as his dispassionate diagnosis of the Arab Spring:

The central problem from my point of view is that the Arab Spring has consisted of demonstrations of limited influence, in non-democratic revolutions and in revolutions whose supporters would create regimes quite alien from what Washington would see as democratic. There is no single vision to the Arab Spring, and the places where the risings have the most support are the places that will be least democratic, while the places where there is the most democratic focus have the weakest risings.

The piece deserves reading in its entirety for its thorough analysis of the region, but this is perhaps its most important point. The Middle East needs real change before hope becomes an appropriate response. Newsroom revolutions are not adequate.

February 18th, 2011 at 7:27 pm
Iran Tells Israel Not to Worry, Warships Sailing Past to Train in Syria

Who says Iran’s leaders don’t know how to lighten the mood?  With tensions in the Middle East boiling over – and Iran rumored to be behind many of the region’s revolutionary protests – the Islamic Republic is trying to downplay the threat of its decision to send two warships through Egypt’s Suez Canal and emerge off the coast of Israel.

Hard to blame Israeli officials in Tel Aviv for fearing the truth of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad’s repeated promises to destroy the Jewish state after getting the news about his navy’s surprise trip.  But as proof of Iran’s peaceful intentions the government offered two assurances.  First, the ships won’t carry any weapons or nuclear or chemical material.  Second, the duo is headed to Syria for training.

Unfortunately for Iran, its dishonest record of nuclear enrichment and ties to terrorist organizations in Syria and elsewhere aren’t fooling anyone – except the weakened Egyptian government looking to avoid a confrontation.

It’s worth noting that an Iranian warship going through the Suez Canal under the Mubarak reign is unthinkable.  Now, Israeli officials must consider more unthinkable scenarios with its sworn enemy soon sailing within sight of the Jewish homeland.

January 28th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
Mid East Situation Tests Obama’s Foreign Policy Leadership

If drawing a word picture of the increasingly uncivil unrest in the Middle East – and especially Egypt – the image would be dominated by the words “democracy,” “protest,” “youth,” and “change,” among others.  If the on-the-ground reporting and television pictures are to be believed, the one word uniting these themes is “hope.”  Specifically, hope in an end to corrupt government that robs people of wealth and ambition, as well as freedom and justice.

Writers of all stripes are focusing on the importance of President Barak Obama’s administration to ‘get it right’ on its position towards the protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon, and Jordan.  To date, Obama’s only foreign policy precedent in this realm is the lack of solidarity he showed towards pro-reform forces in Iran.  Could this week’s much wider conflagration see the implosion of Obama’s claim to be the worldwide symbol of change-hope-youth-democracy-uplift?

The complicating factor in all this is an American strategic interest that supports secular dictators over Islamist radicals.  Continuing that choice makes sense if those are the only options, but the remarkable thing about the protests is that Islamist groups (like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood) are not (yet) at the forefront of the movements.  Right now, it seems like most people are rebelling against the type of Mafioso government that keeps vast swaths of citizens repressed.

If nothing else, the knowledge and skill required at this level of foreign policy should serve as a warning to any 2012 presidential contenders (including the man likely to want a second term).  In these situations, you only get one chance to make the right decision, so you’d better be prepared.

October 19th, 2010 at 2:05 pm
From Tehran, With a Warning

A parallel alliance between the world’s governing thugs continues to follow a James Bond movie scenario: buffoonish villains pursuing absurdly dramatic evil.  Other than a shared penchant for casual clothing and over-the-top rhetoric, however, there’s nothing funny about the increasingly close alliance between Venezuela, Iran and Russia.

This week, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is traveling to Russia and Iran to secure cooperation agreements on nuclear enrichment, oil production and other stick-in-the-eye measures to America and its allies.

At some point, Americans will wake up to a clutch of hostile nations that have nuclear weapons in volatile regions.  Hopefully, the Obama Administration is doing much more strategic planning than waiting for a Felix Leiter-type CIA operative to save the day.

August 25th, 2010 at 6:27 pm
Vladimir Putin, Action Star

You can tell a lot about a man from his pastimes.  According to the Associated Press (with associated photos), the former Russian president shot a gray whale with a crossbow from a rubber speed boat in choppy arctic waters.

This isn’t Putin’s first brush with staged danger.

He has been photographed fishing bare-chested in Russia’s Altai region, and was shown on television diving into an icy river and swimming the butterfly stroke.

In April he attached a satellite-tracking collar on a tranquilized polar bear. He also has shot a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun and released leopards into a wildlife sanctuary.

While there’s no need for President Obama to wrestle an alligator or box with a grizzly bear, it would be nice if our dear leader could compensate by showing a bit more backbone in the foreign policy arena; especially towards Iran and the country that built its new nuclear facility.  (I.e. Russia)

August 16th, 2010 at 1:59 pm
The Unstoppable Bomb
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve been writing in this space for months now that Western policymakers who believe Iran can be contained or deterred by conventional methods once it goes nuclear are deluding themselves. As I wrote in a commentary nearly a year ago:

In the 1930s, Winston Churchill – virtually alone – called for swift action to remove Hitler before he could wreak havoc.  What was the source of his clarity? Churchill simply understood that Hitler meant what he said in “Mein Kampf” and was developing the capacity to act on it. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe’s political sophisticates believed that Hitler’s rhetoric was purely for domestic consumption – a tool used to exploit the grievances of the demoralized Weimar Republic.
 
Today, a similar debate rages over Ahmadinejad and the mullahs whose regime he leads.  But the sincerity of their beliefs should be in doubt to no one.  The Iranian President is a man who, during his tenure as the mayor of Tehran, ordered the city’s streets widened in anticipation of the return of the Twelfth Imam, a figure who accompanies the apocalypse in Shiite Islamic theology. The American left would call for the head of any mayor in the United States who wanted to widen Main Street to prepare for the return of the Christ. Yet they apparently think a similar figure in the world’s biggest hotbed of religious fundamentalism can be expected to be a benign wielder of nuclear launch codes.

In the new issue of Commentary, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, in a piece entitled “Iran Cannot be Contained”, comes to the same conclusion from a different angle, rebutting those who think that because containment worked on the Soviet Union it can work on the Iranian regime:

… The most important difference between the Soviet Union and Iran may be ideological. A credible case can be made that Communism is no less a faith than Islam and that Iran’s current leadership, like Soviet leaders of yore, knows how to temper true belief with pragmatic considerations. But Communism was also a materialist and (by its own lights) rationalist creed, with a belief in the inevitability of history but not in the afterlife. Marxist-Leninist regimes may be unmatched in their record of murderousness, but they were never great believers in the virtues of martyrdom.

That is not the case with Shiism, which has been decisively shaped by a cult of suffering and martyrdom dating to the murder of Imam Husayn—the Sayyed al-Shuhada, or Prince of Martyrs—in Karbala in the seventh century. The emphasis on martyrdom became all the more pronounced in Iran during its war with Iraq, when Tehran sent waves of child soldiers, some as young as 10, to clear out Iraqi minefields. As Hooman Majd writes in his book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, the boys were often led by a soldier mounted on a white horse in imitation of Husayn: “the hero who would lead them into their fateful battle before they met their God.” Tens of thousands of children died this way.

The martyrdom mentality factors into Iran’s nuclear calculus as well. In December 2001, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—a man often described as a moderate and a pragmatist in the Western press—noted in his Qods (Jerusalem) Day speech that “if one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.”

We are, quite simply, running out of time.  We can try to ignore reality, but reality won’t return the favor.

August 12th, 2010 at 7:17 pm
Bibi Redux
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Back in March, after his speech to AIPAC, I offered the notion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the last statesman left in the Western world.

Unfortunately, nearly six months later, nothing much has changed. Iran continues to develop its nuclear capacity, the United States continues to toothlessly chide the mullahs, and Israel continues to gird itself for a task that is only palatable in light of the alternative: to attack the regime in Tehran rather than to risk annihilation at its hands. Throughout all the world, only one man is treating this threat with the gravity it deserves. That man is the Prime Minister of Israel.

Netanyahu is tough, smart, and morally courageous: three things that you don’t see much of in politics these days. He deserves your respect and should gain even more of it in light of George Will’s profile of him in today’s Washington Post. From the coda of a piece that begs to be read in its entirety:

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of “the confirmed unteachability of mankind.” Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu’s office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old — 200 years younger than Jerusalem’s role as the Jewish people’s capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

August 5th, 2010 at 3:56 pm
Obama Outsources Iran Negotiations to Office of Cultural Sensitivity
Posted by Troy Senik Print

You know that obnoxious college undergrad who tries to prove his worldliness by being overly deferential to any foreign culture he comes across? He won the electoral college.

Buried deep in a report by ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour on the White House’s diplomatic engagement with Iran comes this little nugget:

A senior U.S. official said the administration is waiting to see if Iran comes back to the negotiating table after Ramadan as it has publicly indicated in the past, but there have been no direct contacts with Iran about engagement.

In politics, as in romance, deadlines mean something. And apparently Iran is busy washing its hair on Ramadan.

Let’s be clear: Iran blows us off when we ignore them and blows us off when we try to engage them. They’re irascibale when there are sanctions in place and irascible when there are none. They hate us on Ramadan and they’re not wild about us on Hanukkah.

Mr. President: They’re just not that into you.

July 17th, 2010 at 7:53 pm
Foreign Policy ‘Realism’ as a Proxy for Doing Nothing

There’s an interesting column in Foreign Policy I commend to anyone trying to make sense out of the realignment going on in the Democratic and Republican parties.  With former president George W. Bush firmly entrenched in the public’s mind as a neoconservative nation-builder, President Barack Obama did what most political opponents do – adopt the opposite strategy.

Thus, we’ve got a Commander-in-Chief who looks and sounds a lot like former president George H. W. Bush, the highest ranking member of the foreign policy “realist” school.  To my lights, foreign policy realism is shorthand for “The world is a really dangerous place run by a lot of bad people.  Since there’s nothing we can do to change it we might as well make nice with some of the friendlier dictators.”

Perhaps that notion is correct; at least in general.  Such a view of the world helps explain why President Obama can’t seem to summon his emotions when pro-democracy marchers are killed in the streets of Tehran.  Bad people do bad things, but hey; it could be worse.

But while Jacob Heilbrunn’s Foreign Policy article does a nice job of recounting the ebb and flow of Realism’s popularity with Republicans, he seems to miss a more obvious point about the kind of politician who would be attracted to the philosophy.  Consider the presidents Heilbrunn identifies as fans: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, and now Barack Obama.  Their commonality?  Each president is motivated by pessimism about the world around him.

Eisenhower’s most memorable speech was his farewell address warning about a military-industrial complex.  Nixon had enemies’ lists.  Bush didn’t see the value of “the vision thing” and preferred to talk shop with elites instead of connecting with everyday citizens.  And then there’s Obama.  He might be the most negatively-oriented president we’ve had since Nixon.  The reason America needs “Hope” and “Change” is because everything is currently broken.  Besides, who are Americans to lecture the world on morals when it’s so obvious to Progressive faculty members that the United States is probably at fault for their problems?

Foreign policy realism may be a necessary corrective to neoconservative empire-building, but realism’s lack of popularity doesn’t mean it is right; just that if offers an unsatisfying view of the world.