Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fawaz Gerges: Turkey sole example for region, Iran a failed model, says expert

Fawaz A. Gerges -- professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and leading expert on the Middle East -- has singled out Turkey, with its functioning democracy and growing economic power, as the only regional example for Arab Spring countries.
He labeled Iran “a failed model” in that respect. See FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Bahman Baktiari

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Bahman Baktiari

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Report shifts Israel-Iran battle lines

Reports that Israel has access to airbases in Azerbaijan, Iran's uneasy northern neighbor, could point to a strategic shift in the battle lines between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic -- and could affect the smoldering U.S.-Iranian standoff. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Iran’s Domestic Politics & the Nuclear Standoff with the United States: Internal dynamic of Iran’s Nuclear Intentions

Speaker: Bahman Baktiari
Boston University
International Relations Department
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
12:00 to 1:30 pm
Eilts Conference Room, 154 Bay State Road, Room 203, Boston, MA

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stephen Walt's Top 10 lessons of the Iraq War

Stephen M. Walt
March 20, 2012
Foreign Policy

This month marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Regardless of your views on the wisdom of that decision, it's fair to say the results were not what most Americans expected. Now that the war is officially over and most U.S. forces have withdrawn, what lessons should Americans (and others) draw from the experience? There are many lessons that one might learn, of course, but here are my Top 10 Lessons from the Iraq War.
Read the full article

Why Saudi Arabia pushing Bahrain to solve its crisis ?

The Saudis are afraid of a Syria spillover effect in the region, and according to this article, they are encouraging the ruling elite in Bahrain to negotiate their internal problems.

Saudi Arabia pushing Bahrain to solve crisis, fears Syria effect

By Andrew Hammond
March 21, 2012

MANAMA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia wants Bahrain's government and opposition to resolve a political crisis that it fears could worsen because of the sectarian fallout of fighting in Syria and destabilize its Eastern Province, a diplomat and opposition politician said.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since the Arab Spring protest movement first erupted a year ago. Clashes have become a daily occurrence, usually in districts populated by majority Shi'ite Muslims who have dominated the protests.
"We heard that at end of January the Saudis were reaching out to Wefaq and wanted to hear how Wefaq - if Act 1 was last year - how they were going to play their role in Act 2," a senior Western diplomat said.

The leading Shi'ite opposition party Wefaq was involved in backroom talks during a pro-democracy uprising last year on reforms offered by Crown Prince Salman, but the they were cut short when Saudi troops rolled in and martial law was imposed.
The revolt was led by Shi'ite Muslim majority population on an island which is important to Washington as the base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The Shi'ite majority has called for sweeping democratic reforms that would reduce the Sunni ruling family's monopoly on power and allow parliament real powers to legislate and form governments.

One year on clashes between riot police and youths in Shi'ite districts have escalated, with heavy use of petrol bombs against police who in turn use large amounts of tear gas. Activists say at least 32 have died since martial law ended, though police question the causes of death.

In January Wefaq members met with Royal Court Minister Khaled bin Ahmed for preliminary discussions on a formal dialogue on democratic reforms.
The diplomat said Wefaq, which faces radicalization among many Shi'ite youth who oppose the monarchy, had met for a second time with the minister in recent weeks.
"There is stuff going on but it's getting more difficult than they imagined it would be. They are finding it difficult to get common ground," he said, citing government fears that Wefaq would command a parliamentary majority.

"You can foresee a political solution here that would keep the Saudis very happy, but I think the red lines would be slightly tighter than last year," he added.
Analysts say Riyadh sent troops last year because of alarm that Bahrain had not contained protests that had the potential to spill over into the Shi'ite Eastern Province region, where major Saudi oilfields are located.

An opposition politician, who did not wish to be named, said Saudi Arabia now feared that the conflict in Syria, in which Shi'ite Iran and its ally Hezbollah back Bashar al-Assad's rule, could sharpen Bahrain's sectarian divide - detracting attention from Syria and firing up Saudi Shi'ites.

"The Saudis are worried (the stalemate) could push the Shi'ites towards Iran... and at what could emerge as a consequence of Syria," he said.
Loyalist Sunni groups in Bahrain, who look to the ruling Al Khalifa for protection, have held protests against Assad and accuse Shi'ites of sympathy for Assad.
Media in Iran and Hezbollah give positive coverage to Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition, and Iraqi Shi'ites often demonstrate in support of their Bahraini coreligionists.
Some Sunni leaders in Bahrain fear the fate of Iraq's Sunnis, sidelined after Shi'ites gained power through elections.

Unrest in the Saudi Eastern Province has flared again in recent months.
"The Saudis really don't need unrest in the Eastern Province right now," said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Doha-based Royal United Services Institute. "The policy priority for Saudi Arabia has been Syria for last three months."
(Writing by Andrew Hammond)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Israel's Gift to Iran

Marvin G. Weinbaum
The National Interest
March 19, 2012

Are Iran’s leaders rational actors? This question matters when justifying any decision by Israel to preempt Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. An Iranian regime seen as driven to destroy the Jewish state has to be dealt with differently than one whose objectives are mediated by calculations of costs and benefits. Deterrents that would be normally expected to restrain a state would not work with an irrational Iran. But if the Islamic republic, for all its bluster, in fact carefully weighs its policies and values regime survival, then threats alone could succeed in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions—and presumably this Iran would allot high priority to avoiding armed attack on its homeland.

Playing the Victim

But could the same rationally thinking Iranian leadership instead be welcoming a military strike on the nation’s soil? Iran’s more provocative statements and actions in recent months offer strong evidence that some influential policy makers see an attack on the country’s nuclear assets by Israel or the United States as promising rich dividends. They would like nothing more than the opportunity it offers to shed the country’s present international-pariah status and assume the mantle of a victim nation.

Massive air attacks against nuclear sites across the country can be counted on to kill or injure hundreds of civilians. Should there be a release of radioactivity that threatens many more deaths, international sympathy for Iran would increase dramatically. Iran’s leaders can look forward to angry demonstrations erupting across the Muslim world. Popular participation would predictably be more massive and potentially violent in this season of the Arab Awakening. The Tehran regime also could enjoy watching political protests fueled by exploding oil prices breaking out across Europe. The hard fight for economic sanctions against Iran would, in all probability, fall apart. UN resolutions of condemnation would certainly be expected to follow, votes where the United States could very well be left standing virtually alone in rationalizing the bombings. Even were it only Israeli planes that carried out the raids, Washington and Tel Aviv would be lumped together as aggressors.

Iran’s leaders well understand that certain governing elites, especially among the Gulf countries, would be pleased to see a preemptive attack that dealt Iran’s nuclear ambitions a setback. Yet an Israeli attack offers an opportunity to put Iran’s regional rivals on the defense. Were these Arab leaders, some with restive populations, to fail to join the chorus decrying the strike on Iran, they would risk alienating their own citizens. After an attack, the continued presence of American military bases in the Gulf could become untenable.

Other regional windfalls can be anticipated by Iran. Already inflamed anti-American public sentiment in Afghanistan and Pakistan undoubtedly would be further stoked by the bombing of Iran. Anxious to have American troops out of its backyard, Iran could count on pressures from all directions for an accelerated U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Fears of a negotiated strategic agreement between Washington and the Karzai government allowing a residual presence of foreign forces would disappear. Opportunities for Iran to expand its already extensive political and economic influence over its neighbor would certainly improve. In Pakistan, with conspiracies about nefarious joint American and Israeli designs already a staple of popular opinion, Iran could take pleasure in witnessing a further blow to Pakistan’s relations with the United States and conceivably a genuine divorce.

This international political bonanza would be more than matched by an appealing domestic payoff. Notwithstanding the disdain that millions of Iranians have for their Islamic government, the country’s fiercely nationalistic public can be counted on to rally behind its leaders to the country’s defense. An attack on the homeland could set back chances for the revival of the reformist Green Movement for at least a decade. Even the reformers have been solidly in favor of Iran retaining its nuclear program. Who now at home or abroad would dare question the regime’s argument if it decides to build a bomb?

Iran Will Not Pay

And the price to pay for all this good fortune would be minimal. For all that Israel’s military operation could hope to accomplish, it would at best delay Iran’s eventual building of a nuclear arsenal by a few years. Iran would also have the pleasure of knowing that its elaborate construction program to protect its nuclear assets had given them a high degree of invulnerability. Destruction of any of attacking planes could be hailed as a victory against the aggressor.

A rational Iran is likely to refrain from openly retaliating against Israel. Iran’s leaders can be expected to forgo any immediate payback in favor of cashing in on their accrued political bounty. Undertaking a direct military response might invite a more general war, drawing in the United States and risking Iran’s entire military infrastructure. It would also detract from the country’s portrayal of itself as the aggrieved party.

But a measured reaction to an Israeli attack would not preclude any violent response. Iran might encourage Hezbollah and Hamas to act as surrogates and launch rockets against Israel, or it might increase the clandestine stream of weapons it provides to the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, many would applaud the Tehran regime for showing restraint. For Iran, a Western-led attack could be a gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interview with Eugene Rogan, Oxford-based historian & author of the book The Arabs: A History

"During an in-depth interview for Al-Akhbar, Rogan draws parallels between the current wave of reform movements that collectively formed the “Arab Spring” and the fervor that shook the Levant, North Africa, and proceeded to the Gulf and beyond two centuries ago, ending with results favorable to representative governance."

Arab Struggle for Democracy a Historical Norm

The End of Ahmadinejad's era in Iran

Max Fisher, associate editor at The Atlantic, looks into how the results of the latest parliamentary elections in Iran is signaling the end of Ahmadinejad's presidency in Iran.

The End of Ahmadinejad
By Max Fisher

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

NEW PUBLICATION: Reflections on Women in the Arab Spring: Women’s Voices from Around the World.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012, the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center asked a cross-section of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the United States, and other countries to reflect on how women have fared in the Arab Spring.

Download: Reflections on Women in the Arab Spring: Women’s Voices from Around the World

Friday, February 3, 2012

Iran paper accuses government, Majlis of ignoring economic "realities"

Mardom-Salari website, Tehran, in Persian Jan. 21. 2012.
BBC Monitoring Middle East [London] Feb, 02, 2012.

Text of analytical commentary by Sorush Ershad headlined: "The fluctuations in the rates of coins and foreign currency changed from days to hours: the silence of the government in the face of the economic chaos" published by Iranian newspaper Mardom Salari on 21 January

The fluctuations in the rates of coins and foreign currency have reached from days to hours, and this occurs while the government has decided to remain silent regarding this issue; and the point that remains unclear is the response the government officials will have to the chaotic situation of the coin and foreign currency markets. At the same time, the fluctuations in the price of foreign currency, in particular coins, result in losses for the majority of the people, under the conditions that a number of people are benefitting from this tension and taking advantage of the situation when they want. Last Wednesday, the dollar broke the record at 1,800 tumans; and the new design coin broke the record of 800,000 tumans, and the coins per gram, the record of 100,000 tumans. These records stem from the chaotic market of gold and coins and the artificial prices, and the faith in the improvement of the situation of coins and foreign currency is unsteady. On Wednesday of last week, the rates of foreign currency and coins fluctuated every hour, such that the rate of the old design coins from morning to afternoon reached from 790,000 tumans to 820,000 tumans, and then 785,000 tumans. Correspondingly, the price of the new design coins on Wednesday, 28 Dey [ 18 January], reached from 770,000 tumans to 800,000 tumans and then to 775,000 tumans; the half-coin, from 390,000 tumans to 380,000 tumans; the quarter coin, from 190,000 tumans to 197,000 tumans; and the price of the coins per gram, from 90,000 tumans to 94,000 tumans, and then 100,000 tumans. In addition, the price per gram of 18-karat gold last Wednesday reached from 73,000 tumans to 71,800 tumans, then 75,000 tumans, and was finally traded at 74,000 tumans. While the buyers of foreign currency would return empty handed if they went to the foreign currency exchange stores to purchase foreign currency, despite all the threats, the street market of foreign currency was heating up moment by moment, such that the rate of the dollar on the foreign currency black market on Wednesday, 28 Dey, reached from 1,750 tumans in the morning to more than 1,800 tumans in the afternoon. The old design coin on Thursday was traded at 790,000 tumans; the new design coin, at 781,000 tumans; the half-coin, at 384,000 tumans; the quarter coin, at 197,000 tumans; and the coins per gram, at 96,000 tumans. Correspondingly, every five grams of 17-karat gold on Thursday was bought and sold at 324,500 tumans; every five grams of 18-karat gold, at 345,310 tumans; and every gram of 18-karat gold, at 74,910 tumans. In addition, each dollar in the open street market was traded at 1,820 tumans; the euro, at 2,350 tumans; and the British pound, at 2,830 tumans. The government rate of the dollar was 11,317 rials [R]; the euro, R14,555; and the British pound, R17,481. The international price per ounce of gold on Thursday was 1,651 dollars; and the full coin was presold at the Melli Bank at 546,000 tumans. The buyer, however, should the price of the coin decrease while purchasing, has no right to protest, whereas the prices of the coin in the market and at the bank have a difference of at least 235,000 tumans.

These days, the chaotic situation of the economy has resulted in the creation of much reaction in the society. The moment-by-moment increase in the prices of foreign currency and gold in the Iranian market has imposed various pressures on different arenas, especially on production; but the interesting point worthy of contemplation is that the government is remaining silent; and Ahmadinezhad, who has a habit of talking about all the issues, these days is keeping silent only with regard to this issue, and the point that remains unclear is the response the government officials will have to this lack of a plan in the economy.

The hasty decisions that are made sometimes by denial and swift correction indicate that expert work has not been done. While the brakes on the prices of coins and foreign currency have been cut, the government wants to control them with some decision, and the issue of increasing banking interest rates was raised; but with Ahmadinezhad's return from Latin America, suddenly the issue was denied.

We should wait and see the answer that Ahmadinezhad has this time with regard to the uncontrolled market of foreign currency and gold. Last week, the press once again addressed the issue of the tumult in the market of foreign currency and gold.

In this connection, Tehran-e Emruz newspaper wrote: Only 24 hours were sufficient to prove once again the incorrectness of the opinion of the government with regard to keeping the banking interest rate low under the conditions that the national economy is suffering from inflationary recession. From the time that Ali Aqamohammadi, one of the government officials, denied the plan to increase the banking interest rate, the foreign currency and coin markets immediately reacted to this news; and within 24 hours, with an astonishing increase, the price of coins reached up to 60,000 tumans.

According to this newspaper, the reason was that the foreign currency market was faced with law enforcement oversight in some way, and the tangible and intangible presence of the police and the economic officials of the Central Bank (Bank-e Markazi) along with a great deal of restrictions imposed on the buying and selling of foreign currency caused the floating cash flow to suddenly change course and move toward the gold and coin market, confronting that market with a frightening wave.

Sharq newspaper also addressed this issue and wrote: This rapid increase in the prices occurred under the conditions that the coin market after the low price offerings at the branches of the Melli Bank had reached relative stability and a balance had been established between supply and demand. The increase in the prices in the past few days stems from three major factors: first, the increase in the world prices; second, the increase in the rush of people stemming from the psychological climate that governs the market; and finally, the end of the [Islamic] month of Safar and the start of celebrations and weddings, which general speaking result in the growth of demand. This article states: In the recent leap of prices, the role of the governing psychological climate has been greater than that of the other factors. Indeed, after a period of calm in the coin market, with the rise in the prices once again, a large number of people began again to think of new purchases, and thought that perhaps they could benefit in the days after the price fluctuations and gain more profit. Interestingly, those who are caught up in the affliction of buying can at this time, by paying only 546,000 tumans, pre-purchase the Spring of Freedom coin for delivery next year.

The end of the article by Sharq states: Under the conditions that the open market in practice does not play a role in setting the price of the dollar, given the Central Bank's price of 1,400 tumans, and the pricing is done in the black market, the point that is not clear is the number that should be placed in this formula to take the place of the dollar figure. For this reason, the price of coins at the present time, until further notice, is determined on the basis of supply and demand. In other words, the greater the demand, the higher the prices that will be imposed on the buyers.

Also, Ruzgar newspaper wrote: From the start of the turbulence in the foreign currency market in the course of the past weeks, the rate of the dollar breaking records, and the mandated setting of the price of this foreign currency, some have offered the artificial notion that the foreign currency market has reached stability and that the government has been able to prevent the rise in the price of the dollar and other foreign currencies by making the necessary decisions. We should note, however, that this notion is as incorrect and unrealistic as saying that these days the market of gold and coins is stable and calm.

This article states: If the police conditions are removed from the foreign currency market, most certainly, the trend of the rise in the prices of foreign currencies will begin, because in addition to international conditions, the Central Bank is facing problems in connection with supplying the market with foreign currency.

The Government and the Repeated Story of the Budget Delay

Additionally, the delay in presenting the budget is one of the repeated stories of the government every year. This year, as well, again the government has delayed in presenting the budget; and even the reminder by the speaker of the Majlis in connection with the violation by the government was not effective.

In this connection, the press wrote: Indeed, what is the explanation or even the justification of the government and the Majlis regarding the delay in presenting and examining the budget bill, and what extraordinary situation has occurred that has forced the government to set the issue of the budget aside because of it and deal with the emergency issues? The government seems not to have any rational explanation regarding the delays one after another in preparing and presenting the budget bill on time; and the least effect of these delays is the freezing of the national economy and the failure to allocate the developmental budgets for the first few months of the year. At the same time, most of the mottoes of the government of Ahmadinezhad have been about increasing the developmental budgets and the allocation of these budgets on time. With the astonishing delays that it makes in presenting the budget bill, however, in practice, it is taking steps toward shutting down the developmental activities of the country in the first few months of the year; and this is indeed contrary to the mottos that it has had thus far.

In the meantime, of course, mention must be made that the interesting point in the economic behaviour of the government is that Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, after his six-day visit to Latin America and upon entering the country, immediately raises the issue of increasing the cash subsidies and reports on depositing more subsidies than the present amount in the accounts of the households by the end of the year; but at the same time, neither he nor any other government official is prepared to show even 10 per cent of the eagerness that they show for increasing cash subsidies and depositing them in the accounts of the households for their most important economic duty, which is to prepare and present the budget bill on time. Everything seems to have been overshadowed by the election slogans; and no government or Majlis official is prepared to sign any bill or proposal that could possibly in any way result in discontentment regarding that proposal or bill in the two months remaining until the elections.

Futility of Manipulating the Economy

As discussed, the level of turmoil in the foreign currency and gold markets had astonished everyone; in addition, the press tried to examine these changes from various angles. Also, Farshad Mo'meni in an article stated: Those who imagine that by manipulating only one variable, the complex problems of the Iranian economy can be solved should clarify, under the conditions of the instability of the policies, whether with displaying that the greed of the speculators is uncontrollable in addition to the chaotic situation of the producers one could expect any motivation to be created for investment in production by increasing the banking interest rate, or whether the poor could imagine prospects for their future.

In the opinion of these economists [as published], these individuals, especially those who inside the government recommend or pursue such policies, should explain to what extent the manipulation of the banking interest rate by the monetary authority without regard for the realities of the actual sector, from the perspective of Islam, is defensible. From the perspective of looking at the economic realities of Iran, as well, the point that must be made clear is: From which source should this level of return on the monetary assets be provided under the specific conditions of production in our country? Do the realities of productivity in the national economy show such a prospect, or does following such a policy mean the intensification of the dependence of the national economy on oil revenues in order to respond to the insatiable appetite of those who do not want to work or make an effort and do not want to accept risk and endanger themselves but would like to have everything?

The Duty of the Majlis

The Majlis elections will be held in Esfand [ 20 February-20 March], while one of the most important criticisms that is made concerns the lack of the necessary reaction of the Majlis to the government.

Jahan-e San'at newspaper in an article discusses the position of the speaker of the Majlis in protecting the place of the legislative branch in connection with overseeing performance. This article states: According to the budget law of this year, which was implemented after a delay, the government was mandated to distribute stocks; but today, while only two months remain to the end of the year, we see no sign of stocks. As a result, the volume of floating cash flow instead of appearing in stocks is caught up in the vortex of foreign currency and coins.

Jahan-e San'at newspaper then wrote: These days, many politicians have also become involved in economic problems and analyzing the markets of foreign currency and coins. Yesterday, Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Majlis, mentioned the reason for the chaos in the foreign currency and coin markets as the result of the floating cash flow.

Larijani believes that because the government has not implemented the law, the floating cash flow has created problems for the economy.

While Mr. Larijani speaks as the speaker of a Majlis the term of which will soon end, then he, as well, as the overseer of the implementation of the laws that the government has not implemented, has an important share [of blame] regarding the present economic situation; because, if he had taken steps on time by making use of the oversight instruments that he had at his disposal, perhaps today such chaos would not be seen in the foreign currency and coin markets. Undoubtedly, Mr. Larijani has heard the voices of the economic experts and has read the letter of the economists to the government; and today he knows that those predictions have turned out to be true. If only the speaker of the Majlis in those days had paid more attention to those recommendations and, as the speaker of the Majlis, he had made use of the oversight instruments that were available to the legislative branch, or had blocked the way to the preparation of laws that would prevent such astonishments [as published], even though this is not the duty of the speaker alone but that of all the Majlis deputies; but perhaps the weight of the responsibility of the speaker is greater than that of the other members.

Sanctions from a Different Perspective

The issue of sanctions is also being discussed these days in the arena of the international policy of Iran. While Europe is trying to ratify more sanctions against Iran, Iran is also engaged in various discussions for the start of negotiations with the G5+1.

In the meantime, Keyhan newspaper, with its peculiar outlook regarding all the issues, discussed the sanctions from another angle. Pointing out that the issue of the sanctions on Iran is a redundant and tedious issue, Keyhan wrote: The efforts and the actions of the United States for the implementation of the oil sanctions on Iran have thus far failed.

The editorial writer of Keyhan wrote: "The Americans tried very hard in connection with the issue of the oil sanctions on Iran to gain the cooperation of China, because of the economic and political position of that country; but interestingly, they heard the results from Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to Beijing, who clearly admits that the lobby of his country to gain the cooperation of China regarding the oil sanctions on Iran has failed."

Keyhan newspaper also wrote: "In addition to the fact that Moscow officials have frequently and repeatedly declared their opposition regarding the issue of oil sanctions on Iran, that which requires more contemplation is the comment by Gennady Gatilov, one of the senior officials of the foreign ministry of that country, who recently pointed out that they will veto any resolution concerning sanctions on Iran." The editorial writer then concludes that the "point regarding which the slightest doubt does not exist is the inability and the conditions of the United States regarding the imposition of sanctions on Iran."

Also, in an article explaining the differences of opinion between Iran and the West, Ruzgar wrote: In these years, the extremists on both sides have taken charge of the field and brought the relationship to the most dangerous point, such that in addition to the Western extremists, in the course of the past six or seven years of the ninth and 10th governments, some people inside the regime, with their extremism and aggressive rhetoric, have even inflected a serious blow on the efforts of the previous governments on the course of creating understanding through protecting the national interests, and eliminated the possibility of returning to conditions in which one can solve the problems of Iran with effective negotiations and strengthening its position.

This article states: At one juncture, by raising the issue of dialogue among civilizations, an exceptional opportunity was created that, with the reception of the West, was going to create suitable grounds for relations between the two sides; but in this government, relations between the West and Iran went through the most unfavourable period, such that today the language of threats has replaced the language of diplomacy.

Emphasizing that the situation is not that simple, the Ruzegar article has suggested that in order to build trust, Iran should prove to the world that it is pursuing legal frameworks for making use of nuclear energy, and should reduce the role of the extremists on this course. At the same time, the unique opportunity of the election that is available to the regime should not be disregarded, through which by holding sound elections without problems and by providing the grounds for the presence of all political groups it can eliminate any pressure by the West. This important matter can be achieved as the result of the conditions in the country becoming suitable by reforming the government treatment of its opponents and changing the policies in dealing with human rights issues, the press, and so on.

Election Promises

Under this climate of the country, however, which is affected by the momentary prices of gold and foreign currency, election campaigns are also slowly beginning. Giving impractical promises has always been one of the issues that are seriously criticized in Iranian elections. Ebtekar newspaper has discussed the behaviour of the candidates in the elections and writes: "The experience of the past elections and the failure to respond to many of the demands of the people is a clear analogy that reveals that, for some Majlis candidates, the artificial promise of creating a flower garden in exchange for occupying a seat in Baharestan is easier than drinking a glass of water." Ebtekar newspaper wrote: "Of course, many of the Majlis candidates are thinking about building a better future for their city and country, and the idea of serving all the members of the society resonates in their subconscious; but this does not mean at all that all the candidates in the recent elections have come to the election scene with such a praiseworthy outlook. 'Seeking fame' and gaining power through the green seats of the Majlis is so tempting that some Majlis candidates have turned to the familiar discourse of 'harvest time promises.'" Quoting one of the sources of emulation, who had said that ruining the reputation of other candidates is a violation of religious law, Ebtekar wrote: "In any case, regardless of the results of the Esfand [ 20 February-20 March] election, we should say that passing the test at the ballot box does not always mean passing test of election ethics. The case often occurs that a candidate is not accepted as a Majlis deputy by the people; but during the process of the elections, he does not spend from the treasury on political blackmail and does not speak anything but the truth. Ultimately, at that time, he will certainly pass the test of 'election ethics' proudly before God and the people."

Credit: Mardom-Salari website, Tehran, in Persian 21 Jan 12
Mardom-Salari website, Tehran, in Persian 21 Jan 12/BBC Monitoring/(c) BBC

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Commentary by Bruce Riedel: A nuclear Iran is no existential threat

Important commentary by Bruce Riedel, former official in the National Security Council, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. He has advised four U.S. presidents on the Middle East and South Asia.

Commentary by Bruce Riedel: A nuclear Iran is no existential threat

Thursday, January 19, 2012

God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

Juan Cole has an excellent post today on his Informed Comment reminding us of a poll that tested Americans on their geography and knowledge. "Three quarters of Americans could find neither Israel nor Iran on a map. Despite the US being at that time the occupying power in Iraq, some two-thirds couldn’t recognize that one, either."

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Syria's Brotherhood rejected Iran-mediated deal

Reuters News Agency, BEIRUT | Wed Jan 18, 2012

Iranian officials contacted Syria's Muslim Brotherhood to try to mediate a political solution to a 10-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad but their efforts were rebuffed, a senior Brotherhood member said on Wednesday.

The unrest in Syria is threatening to slide into civil war as Assad's forces try to crush a protest movement. In recent months, armed rebels backing the protesters have brought the fight increasingly to security forces.

A senior Muslim Brotherhood member, Melhem al-Droubi, told Reuters that the group had seen no details of the Iranian offer made on December 20 but that it would not deal with Tehran unless it revoked its support for Assad.

"They (Iranian officials) asked about the possibility of the Brotherhood visiting Tehran, or Iran sending mediators to meet our leadership," said Droubi. "We didn't hear details about the offer and we didn't open an opportunity for them to discuss it.

"We refuse to either go there or receive them until they clearly stop their support of the regime and take a neutral position between the Syrian people and Bashar al-Assad. As long as they remain a party in this struggle, we will refuse to meet them."

Another high ranking Brotherhood official was quoted by the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Wednesday as saying Iranian mediators had proposed a deal offering control of the government in Damascus if President Bashar al-Assad could remain president.

But the Brotherhood refused to hold talks with Iranian negotiators or the Syrian government, Brotherhood secretary general Tayfour Farouq told al-Hayat.

It said that Iranian mediators offered a plan in which the Brotherhood would head up four government ministries but gradually obtain full control of the government.

Over 5,000 civilians and army defectors have been killed by Assad's forces during the uprising, by a United Nations count.

Damascus says it is fighting Islamist militants steered from abroad and blames them for the death of more than 2,000 members of its security forces.

Al-Hayat also cited Farouq as saying that his movement's relations were almost completely severed with the Islamist militant group Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhood still officially headquartered in Damascus with Assad's support.

Hamas has drawn down its presence in Syria but has refused to take a stand for or against the anti-Assad protests.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis

Great analysis by STRATFOR Global Intelligence that discusses the sources of conflict between Iran and the United States, and its impact on the region.

Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis

Monday, January 16, 2012

“ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran“, ABC News, 3 April 2007

It is useful to re-visit this special report by ABC News broadcast in April 2007 that talked about some of the covert operations inside Iran. The report opened with the following:

"Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials."

We now know that the agents were not American, but Israeli agents posing as American !

Murder in Tehran

Farideh Farhi has an excellent essay on the dehumanizing manner in which the media and pundits have talked about the assassination of the Iranian scientist. A highly recommended reading. Farhi is an Iran expert, and an Independent Scholar and Affiliate Graduate Faculty at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Murder in Tehran

Farideh Farhi
Jan 16, 2012

I do not know who killed Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, the procurement director at Iran’s Natanz Enrichment facility. Washington has categorically denied involvement and while Tel Aviv has, as usual, been coy about its role, Israeli President Shimon Peres shed doubt on his country’s culpability in a CNN interview. Adding further confusion, “Western intelligence sources” have told Time Magazine that Israeli Mossad was responsible for the assassination.

In reality, it really does not matter who killed the young man and his driver as they sat in Tehran traffic. For all we know, given the mileage the Iranian government has gotten out of the murder, forces inside Iran could have been responsible. Nevertheless, in light of the public discourse on Iran in the United States, Israel, and even Europe, it has been quite difficult for the leadership of these governments to convince the world and, even more so, the Iranian public that they are not responsible for Ahmadi-Roshan’s murder.

After months of chuckling over the murder of several other Iranian scientists – with pundits and politicians declaring that economic sanctions against Iran, even crippling ones, are not enough, and that “covert war” is better than overt war, killing better than doing nothing – it is hard for Western leaders to suddenly plead innocence. The Israeli government, of course, has the added complication of really wanting the world to think that this is its doing. The image of an all-menacing intelligence service with extensive reach is, after all, an integral part of Mossad’s bravado.

Promising revenge, Tehran is doing its part to add to the drama. The culprits shall pay, says the intractable Sardar Massoud Jazayeri, the deputy head of Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff who is never at a loss in his use of bombast. The Iranian government has already sent a letter to the British government reminding it of statements made by MI6 head, Sir John Sawyers, who in October 2010 said, “stopping nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed purely by conventional diplomacy. We need intelligence-led operations to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons.” A letter has reportedly also been sent to the United States via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran regarding the “credible documents” that allegedly show CIA’s “guidance, support, and planning” with the “direct involvement of dependent agents.”

In many ways, Tehran has already taken its vengeance. It was not long ago that the Obama Administration accused Iran of planning the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. That case has already left our collective consciousness given the Administration’s inability to sell its plausibility. Now Tehran has an actual murder for us to savor with the United States and United Kingdom standing accused notwithstanding their vehement denials.

Tehran was quite ready for this. No bloodied picture of the murdered man was shown; no routine passport pictures. Instead Farsnews, the mouthpiece for Iran’s hard-line political camp, immediately posted a photo of Ahmadi-Roshan with his adorable young son, both sweetly gazing at the camera. The picture went viral and, with it, a rather explicit message: America, Britain, and Israel, have killed a human being; they have killed a father and made a son orphan. It must have been pure fortuity for Tehran that, on the same day, a video of American marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies also took the internet by storm.

I remember when in 2009 the image of another murdered Iranian went viral. Most of us had no doubt that the image of the bloodied Neda Agha-Soltan was a testimony to the cruelty of the Iranian government. Since then, many others have died in Iran and many more imprisoned for their political views. But today it is the inhumanity and immorality of U.S. policy and public discourse that is on display. A murdered Iranian father looks into the camera and shames our flippant discussions of the killing of Iran’s nuclear scientists and our proclivity for using sanctions and other forms of collective punishment to hold an entire nation responsible for the alleged crimes of its leaders. Meanwhile, we in the United States wonder at the kind of military training that teaches soldiers to delight in urinating on emaciated, faceless, and already dehumanized dead bodies.

Some Iranians inside and outside the country have tried to highlight the immorality and ineffectiveness of the Iranian intelligence service, which displays outmost strength in interrogating and imprisoning Iranian citizens for their political views and peaceful activities but has proved powerless in securing the country against acts of terrorism. In the current international climate, however, it is not hard to understand why these voices have gone unheard.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jim Lobe: The False Flag Story and Provocations

Jim Lobe is The Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS). This piece was published on his Lobelog.

The False Flag Story and Provocations

January 14th, 2012

By now, I’m sure most readers of this blog are informed about Mark Perry’s blockbuster story Friday on Foreign Policy that describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as U.S. spies to recruit and use members of the Jundallah group to carry out what the State Department and others have called a campaign of terror against Iran focused in particular on the largely Sunni province of Sistan va Balochistan. If you haven’t read it, you must, and you can find it here.

This story naturally raises a host of questions, among them, why Jundallah was not put on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list before November 20, 2010; how much control the Mossad has exercised over Jundallah and its operations; whether Mossad may be operating another “false-flag” operation with PJAK, the Iraqi Kurdistan-based Iranian branch of Turkey’s PKK. (PJAK was designated an FTO 15 days after Obama’s inauguration, reportedly as a gesture to both Ankara and Tehran, and, as Mark reminded me Friday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly recommended last summer that Israel begin providing assistance to the PKK in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to downgrade relations with Tel Aviv.) And hanging over all this is the big question of why, if Washington knew of Israel’s sponsorship of one or more FTOs, particularly one as bloody-minded as Jundallah, did it not do more to discourage that relationship? Deliberately averting one’s eyes to terrorist activity is, after all, a form of complicity, particularly if you know that this terrorist activity is being done in your name.

Meanwhile, a remarkably and unusually candid discussion of Israel’s strategy of provocation for a mainstream medium took place yesterday with an interview by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews of former CIA officer Robert Baer can be seen here. It runs about five minutes. Baer makes clear his view that these assassinations, about which I hope to write more later, have little to do with setting back Iran’s nuclear program in any meaningful way, but are rather designed to provoke an armed response that would increase the likelihood of a U.S. or U.S./Israeli attack.

I think that these two forms of terrorism — support for Jundallah and possibly other terrorist groups, and the assassination of scientists associated with Iran’s nuclear program — share the same goal. (Killing a handful of scientists will not stop Iran’s nuclear program, and Jundallah is essentially a ragtag group with no hope of seriously destabilizing the regime.) The primary aim of these programs, therefore, appears to be provocation. And, so long as the U.S. is seen as supportive of or at least complicit with these efforts (as Israel clearly wishes the U.S. to be seen), hard-line forces in the Iranian regime will always have a leg up in internal discussions about whether Washington can be trusted in any negotiation. That’s why it seems to me that it’s incumbent on the Obama administration, if indeed it wishes to avoid war, to make as clear as it possibly can that it has absolutely nothing to do with these covert programs. In that respect, public denials, no matter how categorical, by Clinton, Panetta, and the White House to that effect are not nearly sufficient.

Israel's Iran strategy--US Embassy Cable- August 17, 2010 Cable

In this US Embassy Cable dated August 17, 2010, Undersecretary of State Nick Burns meets with Mossad chief Meir Dagan and discusses the Israeli perspective on a range of Middle East issues including Iran's nuclear ambition. According to the cable, Dagan mentions five pillars to Israel's Iran strategy: “Political Approach,” “Covert Measure,” “Counter-proliferation,” “Sanctions,” and “Force Regime Change.” Immediately following the conversation on this issue, there is line that states “Dagan and the Under Secretary agreed not to discuss this approach in the larger group setting.”

In light of what has been happening in Iran, it is useful to re-visit this Cable to see how thestrategy outlined in this document has been implemented.

US embassy cables: Israel grateful for US support

Friday, 31 August 2007, 12:45
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 TEL AVIV 002652
EO 12958 DECL: 08/24/2017
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones. Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d).



1. (S) In an August 17 meeting, Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan thanked Under Secretary Burns for America's support of Israel as evidenced by the previous day's signing of an MOU that provides Israel with USD 30 billion in security assistance from 2008-2018. Dagan provided his assessment of the Middle East region, Pakistan and Turkey, stressing Israel's (a) concern for President Musharraf's well-being, (b) view that Iran can be forced to change its behavior, and (c) sense that Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are unstable with unclear futures ahead of them. Dagan probed for more detail about U.S. military assistance to the Gulf states, and -- while signaling agreement with the U.S. approach to the Gulf states vis-a-vis Iran -- cautioned that they may not be able to absorb significant military assistance. Dagan reviewed Israel's five-pillar strategy concerning Iran's nuclear program, stressed that Iran is economically vulnerable, and pressed for more activity with Iran's minority groups aimed at regime change. Dagan urged caution in providing assistance to the Siniora government in Lebanon, noting Syrian and Iranian efforts to topple the GOL.

2. (S) Under Secretary Burns cited the MOU as tangible evidence of the USG's commitment to Israel, and stressed that the U.S. would support all of its friends -- Arabs included -- in the Middle East, and will remain engaged in the region for the long term. He described U.S. efforts to support the Musharraf and Karzai governments as they face opposition from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and explained that the Gulf Security Dialogue is meant to bolster Gulf states facing threats from Iran. The Under Secretary reviewed U.S. efforts to isolate Iran and increase pressure on it, stressing that the U.S. is currently focused on the diplomatic track. He shared USG thinking about the Siniora government in Lebanon, and urged that the U.S. and Israel continue to consult on Lebanon. END SUMMARY.




3. (S) Dagan observed that the signing of the MOU on security assistance could not have come at a better time, and stressed that Israel appreciated America's support. The Under Secretary agreed about the timing, noting that the U.S., Israel and like-minded countries were facing multiple threats around the world, and that the Middle East is a very dangerous region. He said that the MOU serves as a concrete reminder that the U.S. stands by its long-term security commitments to its friends, and is ready to help them with their needs. The Under Secretary noted that the Middle East is now at the heart of American interests. Because Egypt also plays a vital role in the region, the U.S. would also renew its security assistance commitment to that country. U.S. relations with the Gulf states were longstanding, and America would stay true to those friendships, as well. The Under Secretary stressed that the USG is committed to Israel's QME. He noted that the majority of systems and equipment that the U.S. would sell to Egypt and other Arab partners would replace items that had been sold to those countries in the past.




4. (S) Assessing the region, Dagan said Israel sees itself in the middle of a rapidly changing environment, in which the fate of one Middle Eastern country is connected to another. Dagan then said he was concerned about how long Pakistani President Musharraf would survive: "He is facing a serious problem with the militants. Pakistan's nuclear capability could end up in the hands of an Islamic regime." Turning to Iran, Dagan observed that it is in a transition period. There is debate among the leadership between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad and their respective supporters. Instability in Iran is driven by inflation and tension among ethnic minorities. This, Dagan said, presents unique opportunities, and Israelis and Americans might see a change in Iran in their lifetimes. As for Iraq, it may end up a weak, federal state comprised of three cantons or entities, one each belonging to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shias.

5. (S) Dagan said that the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are concerned about the growing importance of Iran and its influence on them. They are taking precautions, trying to increase their own military defensive capabilities. Referring to the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD), Dagan warned that these countries would not be able to cope with the amount of weapons systems they intend to acquire: "They do not use the weapons effectively."

6. (S) Dagan said that Jordan has successfully faced down threats from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and that Egypt is struggling with the question of who will replace President Mubarak. He said he sees no hope for the Palestinians, and that Israel looks at Syria and Lebanon, and sees only instability. Further afield, it looks at Turkey and sees Islamists gaining momentum there. The question, he asked, is how long Turkey's military -- viewing itself as the defender of Turkey's secular identity -- will remain quiet.

7. (S) If Israel's neighborhood were not unstable enough, Dagan observed, it did not help that Russia is playing a "very negative role" in the region. He observed that all of these challenges have to be addressed globally -- they could not be dealt with individually. Returning to Jordan as an example, he noted that the more than one million Iraqi refugees in Jordan were changing Jordanian society, and forcing it into a new relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is evidenced by Saudi King Abdullah's recent visit to Jordan, which implies greater understanding between the Jordanians and the Saudis.




8. (S) Turning to the Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD), Dagan said that enhancing the capabilities of the Gulf states "is the right direction to go," especially as they are afraid of Iran. Such a U.S. commitment will be a stabilizing factor in the region. Dagan clarified that he would not oppose U.S. security assistance to America's Arab partners. He expressed concern, nevertheless, about the current policies of those partners -- especially with regards to Syria and Iran. Dagan added that if those countries must choose between buying defensive systems from the U.S. or France, then he would prefer they buy systems from the U.S., as this would bring them closer to the U.S.

9. (S) Dagan observed that the challenge facing the U.S. now is how to unite the Gulf states under a shared policy, and pointed to Qatar as the weakest link in the chain, trying to play all sides. Under Secretary Burns replied that the U.S. is trying to get Qatar and its neighbors to look at issues from a regional perspective, and to focus on threats in a unified way. Acting PM Assistant Secretary Mull expressed understanding for Israel's frustration with how the region looked, but stressed nevertheless that if America did not engage the Gulf states through the GSD, the situation would become much worse. It is critical to get the Gulf states focused on the Iran threat, and to adopt a regional approach to countering it. Encouraging and supporting their counterproliferation efforts would be crucial. Dagan said he agreed with this approach, stressing that the threat of radical Islam is real.

--------------------------------------------- ----


--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (S) Dagan led discussion on Iran by pointing out that the U.S. and Israel have different timetables concerning when Iran is likely to acquire a nuclear capability. He clarified that the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's (IAEC) timetable is purely technical in nature, while the Mossad's considers other factors, including the regime's determination to succeed. While Dagan acknowledged that there is still time to "resolve" the Iran nuclear crisis, he stressed that Iran is making a great effort to achieve a nuclear capability: "The threat is obvious, even if we have a different timetable. If we want to postpone their acquisition of a nuclear capability, then we have to invest time and effort ourselves."

11. (S) Dagan described how the Israeli strategy consists of five pillars:

A) Political Approach: Dagan praised efforts to bring Iran before the UNSC, and signaled his agreement with the pursuit of a third sanctions resolution. He acknowledged that pressure on Iran is building up, but said this approach alone will not resolve the crisis. He stressed that the timetable for political action is different than the nuclear project's timetable.

B) Covert Measures: Dagan and the Under Secretary agreed not to discuss this approach in the larger group setting.

C) Counterproliferation: Dagan underscored the need to prevent know-how and technology from making their way to Iran, and said that more can be done in this area.

D) Sanctions: Dagan said that the biggest successes had so far been in this area. Three Iranian banks are on the verge of collapse. The financial sanctions are having a nationwide impact. Iran's regime can no longer just deal with the bankers themselves.

E) Force Regime Change: Dagan said that more should be done to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime.

12. (S) Dagan clarified that the U.S., Israel and like-minded countries must push on all five pillars at the same time. Some are bearing fruit now; others would bear fruit in due time, especially if more attention were placed on them. Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic minorities in Iran. He said he was sure that Israel and the U.S. could "change the ruling regime in Iran, and its attitude towards backing terror regimes." He added, "We could also get them to delay their nuclear project. Iran could become a normal state."

13. (S) Dagan stressed that Iran has weak spots that can be exploited. According to his information, unemployment exceeds 30 percent nationwide, with some towns and villages experiencing 50 percent unemployment, especially among 17-30 year olds. Inflation averages more than 40 percent, and people are criticizing the government for investing in and sponsoring Hamas, saying that they government should invest in Iran itself. "The economy is hurting," he said, "and this is provoking a real crisis among Iran's leaders." He added that Iran's minorities are "raising their heads, and are tempted to resort to violence."

14. (S) Dagan suggested that more could be done to get the Europeans to take a tougher stand against Iran. Under Secretary Burns agreed, and suggested that Israel could help SIPDIS by reaching out to the Europeans. Dagan said that Israel is already doing this, and would continue to do so. Dagan reiterated the need to strike at Iran's heart by engaging with its people directly. Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts are important, but more radio transmissions in Farsi are needed. Coordination with the Gulf states is helpful, but the U.S. should also coordinate with Azerbaijan and countries to the north of Iran, to put pressure on Iran. Russia, he said, would be annoyed, but it would be fitting, as Russia appears bent on showing the U.S. that it cannot act globally without considering Russia.

15. (S) Under Secretary Burns stressed that the USG is focused on Iran not only because of its nuclear program, but also because it supports terrorism and Shiite militias in Iraq. The U.S. approach is currently focused on the diplomatic track and increasing pressure on Iran through sanctions. Work in the UNSC helps to define the Iranian nuclear threat as one that affects international security, and not just that of Israel. While UNSC members Russia, China and Qatar will water down efforts to increase pressure on Iran, it is still worthwhile to push for a third sanctions resolution. In the meantime, the U.S. will encourage the Europeans, Japan and South Korea to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran outside the UNSC framework. The U.S. will continue to encourage banks and financial institutions to slow down their operations in Iran and financially isolate it. Regarding military pressure, the Under Secretary noted that the U.S. has deployed 1-2 carrier battle groups in the Gulf over the last six months, and that President Bush has stated that he will interrupt Iran's activity in Iraq. As for outreach to the Iranian people, the VOA is now broadcasting programs in Farsi, and the USG is trying to get more Iranian students to visit the U.S. to promote people-to-people relations.




16. (S) On Pakistan, Dagan said that President Musharraf is losing control, and that some of his coalition partners could threaten him in the future. The key question, Dagan said, is whether Musharraf retains his commander-in-chief role in addition to his role as president. If not, he will have problems. Dagan observed that there has been an increase in the number of attempts on Musharraf's life, and wondered whether he will survive the next few years. Under Secretary Burns replied that South Asia has assumed vital importance in American foreign policy since September 11. The U.S. is committed to denying Afghanistan as a safe-haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity. The USG will continue to support Pakistani President Musharraf, and is seeking to boost his military defensive capabilities. At the same time, the U.S. is encouraging Pakistan and Afghanistan to work with each other militarily. Turning to India, Under Secretary Burns noted that U.S.-Indian economic cooperation is growing, and that the USG is working effectively to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.




17. (S) Dagan urged caution with respect to Lebanon, noting that the results of efforts there to bolster the Siniora government would impact Syria and Iraq. The U.S. and Israel, he said, are on the edge of achieving something in Lebanon, and so cannot afford to drop their guard. What is necessary is finding the right way to support PM Siniora. "He is a courageous man," Dagan said. Syria, Iran and Hizballah are working hard against him. Dagan noted that much of what is animating the leadership of Lebanon to take on Syria is personal: "Hariri, Jumblat and others had their parents executed by the Syrians." This anti-Syrian sentiment has forged an alliance based on personal and national interests. Siniora has worked well with the situation, but Dagan suggested that the odds are against him. Under Secretary Burns replied that the U.S. is trying to give PM Siniora as much support as possible, and that we would continue to consult closely with Israel on Lebanon. He noted that he would return to Israel in October.




18, (SBU) Accompanying Under Secretary Burns in the meeting were: -- Ambassador Richard H. Jones -- Acting PM Assistant Secretary Stephen Mull -- Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long -- NEA/IPA Deputy Director Nicole Shampaine -- Embassy Tel Aviv Counselor for Political Research -- Embassy Tel Aviv Political-Military Officer (notetaker)

19. (SBU) Accompanying Mossad Chief Meir Dagan in the meeting were: -- Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Salai Meridor -- Advisor to Foreign Minister Livni Omer Caspi -- Two unidentified Mossad officials

20. (U) Under Secretary R. Nicholas Burns cleared on this cable.

********************************************* ********************

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Origin Of The Term "Arab Spring"

Iran's Supreme Leader & the Poison chalice

When the founder of the Islamic Republic and its spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini finally had to accept a UN arranged cease-fire between Iran and Iraq in July 1988, he compared the decision and the acceptance of the cease-fire terms as being equivalent to drinking “a poisoned chalice.” After eight years of insisting on Saddam Hussein's removal as a condition for ending the Iran- Iraq war, Ayatollah Khomeini had to accept the terms that not only kept Saddam Hussein in power, but also came at an enormous cost to Iranian economy and its international status.

Now tensions over Iran's nuclear ambition are taking the country toward a major crisis point. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz. In response, the United States sent a blunt warning to the Supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei that such an action will result in serious consequences for Iran. This comes on the heal of the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist by a sophisticated bomb attached to his car, marking the seventh attempts of its kind that point to the involvement of Israeli agents. The assassination comes after a major explosion at an Iranian missile compound that killed a senior Revolutionary Guards commander and dozens of people in the base. Now a radical paper in Tehran has issued a statement calling for retaliation in kind. Combined with the imposition of tough sanctions, it is not an exaggeration to conclude that a dirty war has started with Iran that carries potentials for further military escalation in the Persian Gulf.

The Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei finds himself cornered into the same position as his predecessor the late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988.This is the most serious challenge facing Khamenei since he was selected as a Supreme Leader in 1989. While his Revolutionary Guards commanders issue blunt warnings that they will not allow U.S. ships to return to the Persian Gulf, and the United States insisting that such action will not be tolerated leaves Khamenei in a no win position since it Iran is no match for the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards people know this, but the question is whether they are capable of accepting a compromise solution at this late stage, and find a respectable exit when it is hard to couch it in anything but a defeat for Iran.

My reading of the situation is that the Iranian leadership realizes that they have pushed the country into a corner, but there is no consensus on how they can get out of it without endangering the credibility of the regime. Perhaps they can borrow a chapter from their own history, and allow the Iranian parliament to come up with a solution similar to how Ayatollah Khomeini started the process of negotiation for the release of American hostages in April 1980.

In any case, history may repeat itself here, and Khamenei has no choice but to drink from the poison chalice. As Gary Sick aptly stated in his latest opinion piece, "when two important countries appear to be goading each other into a dangerous and meaningless war, it can be useful to take a deep breath, lay the rhetoric aside for a moment, and go back to basics."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Economist: Far from “appeasing” Iran, did Barack Obama give up on diplomacy too soon?

Jan 14th 2012 | from the print edition

WITH the glaring exception of Ron Paul, most of the Republicans who want to be president agree on one thing. Barack Obama has been soft on Iran. Mitt Romney calls Iran “the greatest threat we face” and accuses Mr Obama of a woeful failure to understand the danger. Newt Gingrich, who spends a lot of time reminding voters of his hitherto overlooked role (along with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II) in the downfall of the Soviet empire, says that as president he would put together a similar plan to topple the regime in Tehran. Rick Santorum, on the stump in the old mill towns of New Hampshire, takes time out from the economy to alert voters to the perils of Shia theology. He and Mr Gingrich agree with Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that under its present leadership Iran is to be understood not as a rational actor but as an apocalyptic suicide cult which, if it built a nuclear bomb, would not be constrained by the usual logic of deterrence. Mr Santorum promises that if he were president and Iran did not submit, he would send in the bombers.

The Republican focus on Iran makes sense on two levels. First, Iran is unarguably dangerous. It is uttering threats against American warships in the Strait of Hormuz. It is developing the wherewithal to make a nuclear bomb. It has spent years ignoring United Nations instructions to stop enriching uranium. It says it wants Israel to disappear. Second, Iran is a national-security problem that Mr Obama has so far failed to solve. He may have killed Osama bin Laden, decimated al-Qaeda and helped to rid the world of Libya’s grotesque Muammar Qaddafi, but the hand he stretched out to Iran three years ago was in the end met with a clenched fist. Here at least, foes at home have concluded, is one area in which he can be safely accused of “appeasement”.

And yet that is a strange choice of word—unless you believe that the very act of talking to an enemy is tantamount to appeasement, a view that would have astonished the sainted Reagan during his long chats with Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. It is an especially strange word given the unprecedented pressure Mr Obama has methodically persuaded the world to apply to Iran. That pressure, it is true, has not yet achieved its aim: Iran continues equally methodically to enrich uranium. But Mr Obama, who insists that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, appears to be trying every means short of war (including, some say, sabotage, cyberwar and the assassination of scientists) to stop it. And if all else fails, war could follow. He has made a point of saying that “all options” remain on the table.

Sure, Mr Obama has made mistakes. While promising that all options are on the table, he has let successive defence secretaries say that bombing Iran would be futile and dangerous, which may be true but blurs the message. He also fumbled his response to the popular demonstrations that followed Iran’s fraudulent presidential election of June 2009. Having worked hard to start a dialogue with the Iranian leadership, and calculating that the Green movement would not be able to topple the government, he was slow to denounce the crushing of the protests. That looked weak. But the Republican claim that this squandered an opportunity to fell the regime is questionable. In contrast to Egypt, where America had influence on both Hosni Mubarak and the army it had helped to equip, it had no serious leverage on the ground in Iran, and its verbal support might have damaged the credibility of the very people it was trying to help.

Iran’s internal crisis also paralysed decision-making in Tehran and so killed a confidence-building deal that might have created more time for nuclear diplomacy. The idea was for Iran to ship 1,200kg of its low-enriched uranium overseas to produce fuel for a research reactor, thus leaving the country for a while with too small a stockpile with which to make a bomb. After the election this idea became too hot for the regime to handle, especially after one of the reformists’ leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi, denounced it as a “surrender” to foreigners. Turkey and Brazil resuscitated the deal in the spring of 2010, but by then Iran’s stockpile had grown and Mr Obama was on the point of guiding a new, hard-won sanctions resolution through the Security Council. After the work he had invested in bringing Russia and China on board for the new resolution, the president seems to have decided that he could not risk letting the sanctions unravel.

Why not try again?

While Republicans accuse him of appeasing Iran, Mr Obama faces critics from the opposite direction who say his biggest mistake was to withdraw his outstretched hand too soon. In a thorough new history of the president’s engagement with Iran (“A Single Roll of the Dice”), Trita Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council in Washington, DC, regrets Mr Obama’s failure to accept the proposal from Brazil and Turkey. Having chosen to pursue diplomacy and pressure simultaneously, he bet all the diplomacy on a single roll of the dice, and when that got nowhere was left only with the pressure—which may in time also fail. If diplomacy is ever to succeed, Mr Parsi says, America must not retreat at the first sign of Iranian intransigence or congressional opposition, both of which are inevitable. The trouble, he concludes, is that the 30-year enmity between Iran and America is no longer a phenomenon, “it is an institution”.

Inside both countries, accusations of appeasement have become part of the institution. Mr Obama has not yet “failed” on Iran: Iran grew stronger on George Bush’s watch and has grown more isolated on his. Among all the options supposedly still on the table might be another go at diplomacy. But time is short, and this week’s Republican ruckus from New Hampshire will make it hard to try again until America’s election season is over.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Assassination in Iran

Professor Paul Pillar is Director of Graduate Studies at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies. He retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. Earlier he served in a variety of analytical and managerial positions, including as chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia.

In this post, he talks about the consequences of covert operations in Iran.

January 11, 2012
National Interest
Paul R. Pillar

The killing of an individual foreigner overseas, if carried out for a political or policy purpose by either a non-state actor or clandestine agents of a state, is an act of international terrorism. At least that is how U.S. law defines it , for purposes such as the State Department's annual reports on terrorism. This form of terrorism is part of what put Iran on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, the Iranian regime perpetrated numerous assassinations of exiled Iranian political dissidents, in Europe as well as in other countries of southwest Asia. The Iranians effectively ended this assassination campaign about a decade and a half ago, largely to improve relations with the European countries on whose soil many of the assassinations occurred and perhaps also because by then Iran had bumped off nearly all of the people on its hit list. We should assume, however, that Iran retains the capability to assassinate far-flung targets again, and that it would consider doing so if searching for ways to strike back at adversaries that are striking it.

Iran itself has been a victim of this form of terrorist violence. This has included some instances, such as the killing of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan, in which Iranian interests have paralleled those of the United States. It has included during the past two years the killing in Iran of several nuclear scientists, the most recent of whom died this week from an explosive placed on his vehicle. Actions are more important than nomenclature, so if you prefer not to apply the T-word to these killings then just imagine what the reaction would be if something similar were occurring in the United States. Imagine the response if even just one scientist (let alone four or five) who was employed, say, at one of the U.S. national laboratories had been been similarly assassinated and a foreign hand was suspected. There would be screams of “act of war” and the U.S. president would be hard-pressed to hold back impulses to strike back forcefully. Now put yourselves in the Iranians' place. Not only do they face the serial assassination of their scientists, but they face it amid an environment filled with numerous other indications of foreign hostility, including the economic warfare, the saber-rattling, and the contest among American politicians to see who can shoot the most rhetorical venom at Iran. From this perspective, aptly described by Vali Nasr, it should hardly be surprising if Iran strikes back while it sees more reason than ever before to develop a nuclear weapon in the hope of deterring U.S.-led aggressiveness.

I don't know, of course, who is responsible for the assassinations of the scientists. I do not believe my own country is, and Secretary of State Clinton has explicitly denied “any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.” Although over the last thirty years the United States has edged away from the strict prohibition on assassination embodied in Executive Order 12333, we Americans are still morally (and esthetically) squeamish enough about such things that the kind of hit job that took place this week on a north Tehran street doesn't seem to be our thing. We assassinate people, but in addition to euphemizing the act by calling it “targeted killing,” we limit the targets to people we are convinced are themselves terrorists, not scientists or something else. We also use means that we can think of as “war,” preferably means that can be employed from several thousand feet in the air so we don't get too close to the bloody reality. The one time we did get close to it, last May, we still used military means and that was to eliminate the most notorious terrorist in the world.

My hunch about responsibility for the killing of the Iranian scientists is similar to that of Trita Parsi, who says [6] the assassination “was likely conducted by a regional actor who prefers a military confrontation with Iran over a compromise that would permit Iran to retain nuclear enrichment capabilities, even if it doesn’t build a bomb.” The trouble for the United States is that because it so obsequiously does the bidding of the regional actor in question, it is seen as responsible for anything that actor does and can be expected to share in any resulting opprobrium or retaliation for what that actor does. This gets back to Iran's continued presumed capacity for making assassinations a tit-for-tat business. Do not be surprised if it endeavors to do exactly that, although Tehran will pick its targets, timing, and methods carefully to achieve a degree of deniability. The last confirmed official Iranian involvement in committing a terrorist act that killed Americans—the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996—left tracks well enough covered that it took years of investigation to determine the Iranian role. Possibly the caper last year involving the DEA informant and the used car salesman from Texas was intended as a reprisal for earlier assassinations of Iranian scientists, but the public story of that supposed plot is still so murky that any Iranian role can hardly be considered “confirmed.”

A further tragedy in all of this is that it is a stretch, to put it mildly, to think that murdering some scientists would delay the oh-so-feared Iranian nuclear weapon, as if the only plans and knowledge useful to the program resided in the heads of the murdered men. And this is entirely in addition to the moral dimension of what has taken place. What do we know about Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan that makes him any more worthy of being a victim of assassination than counterpart scientists in the United States or elsewhere would be?

The proper U.S. response to all this is to pursue—vigorously—negotiations with Iran, with the starting point being the most recent Iranian proposal for a new round of talks with the P5+1. That is the only way out of the larger spiral of mutually reinforcing hostility of which the assassinations are only a part. And if, as Parsi suggests, the most recent act of terrorism was intended at least partly to scuttle such talks, that is all the more reason to negotiate in earnest. To do otherwise would be, to use a hackneyed phrase, a victory for the terrorists.

Letter from Iran: Christmas is No Time for an Iranian Revolution

Hooman Majd is the author of recently published book entitled The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge. As he points out in this Foreign Affairs piece, "The government is less powerful than it was, but the regime itself is firmly in control. The nuclear program continues; Iranians go about their business, grumbling as they do. But a nation that weathered a revolution, an eight-year war with Iraq, and more than 30 years of sanctions and the enmity of the West is not about to crumble, nor to change direction."

The "Shadow War" against Iran

The "Shadow War" against Iran

Another nuclear scientist has been assassinated in Tehran. This is the 3rd scientist killed in the past year by assassins who use sophisticated bombs attached to their cars in the middle of traffic. This press round up summarizes the tensions in Tehran, and the uniform consensus that Israel and the United States are engaged in a "shadow war" covert operation inside Iran.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor provides a good picture of this shadow war. Heightened tensions "have driven oil prices higher, with Brent crude up more than 5 percent since the start of the year to above $113 a barrel."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Majid: Why America Matters to Muslims

Anouar Majid, the author of Islam and America: Building a Future Without Prejudice, and a professor at University of New England ( Maine) has a very good piece on why America matters to Muslims.

Why America Matters to Muslims

One thing that is striking about the recent revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain is the absence of any anti-American slogans or denunciations of the Great Satan, as the Iranian regime refers to Uncle Sam. On the contrary: signs of pro-American sensibilities abound. Democracy protesters carried homemade placards displaying slogans and statements (sometimes translated into French) of fundamental American rights. The United States’ republican culture, founded in the late eighteenth century, and given a brief burst of energy during the early days of the Obama administration, walked side by side with the protesters. President Obama expressed support for the demonstrators, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned Arab leaders that they were sinking in the sand the day before Ben Ali fled Tunisia. One should not forget also that the Tunisian revolt was sparked by the dispatches of U.S. diplomats revealed by WikiLeaks. For many, WikiLeaks was proof that the United States was an imperial power whose consuls never ceased to keep an eye on the world’s nations and their doings; to Arabs and Muslims, however, the leaks were further proof that their regimes had no credibility whatsoever and that they were, indeed, sinking. That’s because the consular reports reflected America’s belief in freedom and equal opportunity; they expressed contempt for palace corruption even as they did business with Ben Ali and other rulers to safeguard their nation’s interests. And then, of course, the United States helped dislodge Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi from power through its military intervention.

This is a great moment for both the United States and Muslims around the world to reassess their relations and change negative perceptions that hinder a better dialogue. Americans should try to get out of the crusading mindset that they had inherited from Christian Europe. We may think that the old clashes between Christianity and Islam are things of an ancient past, but all anyone has to do is listen to what many evangelical leaders today say about Islam and its prophet to get a sense of this legacy. Islam, in such speeches and sermons, is portrayed as evil, whereas the Judeo-Christian tradition is considered God’s truth. This religious attitude has a lot to do with the stalemate in Israel and Palestine, for the belief that God has promised Palestinians to Jews and, ultimately, Christians, is well entrenched in these evangelical circles and informs a lot of U.S. policy making. One way to temper such prejudices is to highlight the positive contributions of Arabs and Muslims to American culture, whether through the scientific and commercial advances that were introduced to the West in the Middle Ages, or though the work of Arab or Muslim immigrants. To be sure, American presidents never fail to express pride in America’s Islamic component, but Americans need to do more to show that they care about Muslims in their midst. Maybe Hollywood could help change attitudes.

Muslims, on the other hand, have a lot more work to do. One problem in American-Muslim relations is the old American conviction that Islam fosters tyranny. This view was widely shared by America’s Founding Fathers as they saw, righty or wrongly, that the Muslim world, with its despotic sultans and caliphs, was antithetical to the republican spirit of liberty. No sooner was the United States created than it had to contend with the harassment of U.S vessels on trade missions by Muslim corsairs in the Mediterranean. The so-called Barbary states of North Africa demanded tribute for safe passage, but leaders like Thomas Jefferson were at a loss to understand why his newly liberated nation had to pay protection money. This encounter, with its ransoms, skirmishes, and eventual defeat of the Muslims in Tripoli, further strengthened America’s belief in the superiority of its system and worsened its prejudice against Muslims. American missionaries would later flock to the Middle East to convert the locals and, in the process, introduce modern education and health care systems. Americans praised Muslim civilization when warranted, modernized Egypt’s army, and laid the foundations for a new Arab nationalism. The United States was so highly admired during the late 19th century that some Arabs didn’t mind being part of an American mandate. This is one of the glorious moments in American-Muslim relations, one that needs to be widely known. The discovery of oil and the establishment of Israel, however, affected this relationship negatively, and things have spiraled out of control since then.

For relations to be restored to a level of high trust and mutual respect, Muslims need to face the facts and realize that old perception of their societies as despotic had some basis in truth. They need to understand that they have only themselves to blame now for their backwardness in almost every cultural and scientific endeavor and that their future rests on rethinking their approach to religion. Sunni Muslims must speak out against the wanton murders of Shiites and Christians in their midst, not just complain about Westerners. They also must accommodate themselves to the historical reality of Israel and realize that all nations—including many Muslim ones today—were born out of violence against native populations. (Many Berbers in my native Morocco still resent Arab invasions to this day.) The history of nation-making is a bloody one, but we can still turn tragedy into an opportunity. Israel has a lot to teach Muslims with its know-how and democratic spirit, while Israelis need to temper their biblical prejudices and break out of their quarantine and tap into the huge Arab market to grow stronger and more stable.

So much could be done with the right attitude, but hanging on to the dysfunctional methods of the last five decades would be a colossal waste of opportunity at this historical juncture. Belligerence will help no one—not Americans, not Muslims, and not Israelis. Americans can still teach Muslims how to build nations that keep religion and politics safely apart and how to unleash the creative spirit of enterprise, but the United States must also get its house in order, too, and fix its fast deteriorating social structures without delay. When a nation is a city upon a hill it can’t afford to neglect its affairs. As President Obama would say, this is the time for change. We can’t afford to wait.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Guardian Editorial--Iran: Time for cool heads

Monday 9 January 2012

This would be a good time for the US and Europe to decline the ayatollah's kind invitation to be his faction's re-election agent

The following three propositions are all true: in March, Iran is facing one of the most crucial elections in the history of the regime; it is doing so in an atmosphere which has become militarised, not just externally, but internally too – the Revolutionary Guards control Iran's oil industry, key business interests, the nuclear programme and the oil and gas infrastructure; and the more militarised the election gets, the more it will benefit the hardliners around the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He himself has called the vote a potential security challenge. Given this, why are the US and EU about to impose oil sanctions, which even if they do not go as far as Ron Paul's "act of war" will squeeze the source of 60% of the regime's revenue?

Ayatollah Khamenei's reaction to the forthcoming sanctions has been to breathe fire. On Monday he said Iran would not falter in the face of the western-imposed sanctions and, to reinforce the point, Iran announced it had begun uranium enrichment at the Fordo plant, a bunker built into 90 metres of mountain rock near the city of Qom. If the recent sabre-rattling over the Straits of Hormuz had not been enough, Iran said it intended at Fordo to enrich uranium to the highly sensitive 20% enrichment level, regarded in the industry as the technical threshold for bomb-grade material. The ayatollah and the Revolutionary Guards appear to be going out of their way to provoke a western response.

The moderates in this forthcoming election, a relative term at the best of times, are President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and the "deviant group" around them. Whether these men have taken over the banner of reformism within the elite is debatable. But outside it, the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who turned the last poll in 2009 into a major domestic crisis, are languishing under house arrest, and a campaign to boycott these elections will be easy for the regime to ignore. The Guardian Council, a conservative body of clerics and lawyers, will this week publish the names of those candidates who have been approved by the regime. Faced with the overwhelming superiority of the Revolutionary Guards, Ahmadinejad has got three cards to play: he is unpredictable, he claims to have compromising information on his political opponents, and the ministry of interior will hold the elections.

Given the stakes, this would be a good time for the US and Europe to decline the ayatollah's kind invitation to be his faction's re-election agent in Iran. Fordo remains under IAEA inspection. No tanker is being prevented from passing through Hormuz. Another round of nuclear talks with Iran could be in the offing. This is a time for cool heads.
What values drive the Arab movements of revolt?

Where is the UN Secretary Gerneral Ban Ki-moon ?

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has remained surprisingly silent and out of sight during the rising tensions between Iran and the United States. The only statement I have seen from UNSG is a statement issued last week in which he "asked the parties to resolve their differences through peaceful means, but stressed that it is Tehran's responsibility to prove their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only." It is clear that the UNSG is not interested in utilizing the UN Secretary General's office to mediate between Iran and the Western powers. It is useful to compare his approach to his predecessor Javier Pérez de Cuéllar who served as UNSG during the eight year war between Iran and Iraq. He was an active UNSG who mediated between Britain and Argentina in the aftermath of the Falklands War, helped with a peace process in Central America, assisted in the negotiation with the independence of Namibia, and even tried to resolve the intractable conflict in Cyprus. But his most important accomplishment was opening the path of negotiation for Iran by traveling to Tehran several times and engaging the Iranian government and encouraging it to go for the UN Resolution 598 that called on Iran and Iraq to "cooperate with the Secretary- General in implementing this resolution and in mediation efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and honourable settlement, acceptable to both sides, of all outstanding issues in accordance with the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations." But most importantly, Pérez de Cuéllar's engagement with the Iranian leadership gave him the understanding of how important it is for them to have the United Nations acknowledge the injustices committed by Saddam Hussein and the fact that it was Iraq who started the war in 1980. Article Six of the Resolution requested that "the Secretary-General to explore, in consultation with Iran and Iraq, the question of entrusting an impartial body with inquiring into responsibility for the conflict and to report to the Security Council as soon as possible."

The South Korean diplomat was elected Secretary General in 2006, was re-elected for a second term in June 2011 without any competition. He is clearly pro-American and campaigned very hard for the position of UNSG. With the exception of Darfur situation in which he took a strong position and pushed for peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan, Ban Ki Moon has not tried to use his office and position to mediate any conflict, particularly if such involvement may upset his supporters in Washington and London. The case of Darfur is obviously very popular in US Congress, so he did not have to run the risk of alienating anyone in Washington. But mediating between Iran and the Western powers takes courage and leadership, requiring a person with a long-term vision and commitment like Pérez de Cuéllar. It is not surprising that one UN official has criticized him for "leading the global institution into an era of decline."