Tag Archives: Iranian nuclear program negotiations

THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE IN THE EAST

BLOG 436
July 15, 2019

iran (2)

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation,
ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

THE ON-GOING STRUGGLE IN THE EAST

Iran continues to enrich uranium and America increases the sanctions. Where’s it all going?

Of course, predictions about what’s happening inside Iran are difficult. Their society certainly doesn’t invite American newsmen to drop by for a story. However, some aspects are discernible.

Some years ago, I was in Damascus, Syria (where Western tourists did not go!) and sitting in a hotel eating breakfast. A group of tourists came filing in. One glance said they didn’t look like Arabs or the usual racial groups one sees on the streets in Damascus. I guessed they looked like Iranians. Everybody in the restaurant had already given me a second once over. My attire, haircut, countenance, screamed American and there usually wasn’t anyone around who looked like me.

In the center of the café (as well as the taxis, rest rooms, lobbies, you name it) were pictures of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, the current despot. The impression was clear; the Assads are WATCHING YOU! Not exactly, the most comfortable place for an American to be.

I noticed one couple kept looking at me. I smiled; they smiled back. After a few minutes, they got up and came over to my table. I quickly learned they thought I was a Canadian. They confided that they were trying to get out of Iran and escape to Canada. They were sure I could help them.

Because I had once worked in Canada, I could answer many of their questions. Finally, I asked why they wanted out. The wife said firmly, “The leaders of our government are crazy. The country is ruled by religious lunatics.”

Her response revealed a sharp division in Iran that exists to this day. Groups like the Revolutionary Guard are fanatical extremists while many, many of the average citizens strongly disagree with them. Periodically, there is an explosion between the extremists and the ordinary citizens with revolting in the streets.

In the current situation with sanctions crippling Iran, this division continues to deepen. The average citizen knows that to oppose the government and the Supreme Ruler will bring imprisonment and probably death. On the other hand, the government realizes that a huge percent of the population does not agree with their race to build a nuclear weapon and start a war.

While no one is saying so, probably insiders in the American government are hoping that a revolution will follow before the Islamic extremist government yields.

Keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s coming next!

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Filed under America, Iran, Syria, War

THE REAL DEAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 273 October 5, 2015

Barring some unforeseen huge political shift, the negotiations with Iran will be approved and go into effect. This entire episode has been a monumental strain on the American Jewish community as well as for many Americans. President Obama told 22 Jewish leaders at the White House on August 4, that failure to approve the agreement would pressure the US into a war with Iran. The not-so-subtle suggestion was the US Jews could end up being held accountable for dragging the US into a war. This has created severe tensions in the Jewish community between those who support the agreement and those who stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition. Most feel the struggle is now a “done-deal”.

Jewish attorney Alan Dershowitz suggests that we should neither demonize nor lionize Obama. He feels Obama has not treated his relationship with Netanyahu in a mature or productive manner. Dershowitz is also critical of Obama’s suspicion that Netanyahu doesn’t want a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. However, he feels there is far too much extremism at work in these reactions. Well then, what is the real possible quid pro quo coming up for Israel? What will Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian agreement cost Israel?

An assumption has existed that any threat from the agreement to Israel or increased pressure from Hamas and Hezbollah will be met by increased armaments. But is this the “real deal?”

Insiders believe this present situation is only the first step in a rapprochement with Iran that will end in the creation of a Palestinian state during Obama’s final years in the White House. In their view Israel is the intransigent and immoral party in the dispute. As this issue is pressed back and forth, the often missed point in all of the problems of the Middle East from ISIS to the Sunni-Shi’ite wars, is that Israel has nothing to do with any of this conflict beyond being a scapegoat. The Iranian nuclear deal is not about The Bomb as much as it is strengthening Shi’ite Iran as a counterweight to balance the power of the Sunni Gulf states. Then, the pressure will be on to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel would then be pressured to negotiate a settlement. The vise will tighten. (Or the armaments won’t be shipped.) Quid pro quo.

What is missed in all of these calculations is that many voices doubt that a two-state solution will ever be a viable possibility. The economic viability of a Palestinian state is virtually never discussed. The tax base is almost non-existent and collection of taxes extremely relaxed. They have almost no money to run a state at this time.

In Padraig O’Malley’s book The Two-State Delusion, he notes that Palestinians view a free-standing state only as preparation for the next phase which is the liberating of all of Palestine –or pushing Israel into the sea. By contrast, Israeli Jews support a Palestinian state only with Israeli troops on their soil. O’Malley argues effectively that a two-state solution is a delusion. He concludes, “Ain’t gonna happen.”

If any of these projections are correct, there is significant turmoil ahead.

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DECIPHERING THE TENSION BETWEEN OBAMA & NETANYAHU

BLOG 243 MARCH 9, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington came at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner – not the Obama administration. With Netanyahu only weeks from a re-election vote, his visit has been protested in Israel as well as by the current administration. The Western nuclear negotiators on Iran put out leaks to the media that ran from Netanyahu is a liar to a disruptive element for the White House. On the other hand, Israel maintains publically that if a bad deal is struck in Iran, their fate will end in total annihilation.

How do we sort out these contradictions? Possibly by considering what is behind each side’s position. One of the lingering criticisms of the Obama era will be the withdrawal of America from an international leadership position. As we now know, the vacuum was not filled by “good-guys.” Putin’s march into the Crimea following Obama’s backing away from his red-line in Syria is such an example. America appears to be back-tracking from its former role of leadership in maintaining world order.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Israelis recognize that radical Islam comes into two varieties: Shi’ites and Sunnis. They worry more about the Shi’ites because they have a well-entrenched state in Iran that is hot pursuit of The Bomb. The potential capacities of this group are real. Israel lives daily with that fact.

The U.S. government continues to point to the United Nations as the enforcer of world peace. America resorts to the UN in debates and discussions of possible actions. Does anyone really believe the UN can enforce world peace? No.

Israel points to the fact that UN has repeatedly sided with the Palestinians and ignored such realities as Hezbollah shooting thousands of rockets into Israel. Study groups and committees within the UN have been labeled anti-Semitic. Israelis (as well as most of the rest of the world) see the UN as going nowhere when it comes to war and peace.

There is with Shi’ite Islam a “quietism” tradition that believes politics and religion don’t mix.  This ends up with the idea that ultimate leadership should come from the Muslim clergy. (i.e. Iran.) The Israelis certainly don’t see that system working out on their behalf.

Obama recently called the attacks in France “senseless violence.” Israel would call it “logical violence.” They see it as having definite reasoning.  For example, the New York Times refused to publish cartoons that Muslims protested while publishing cartoons that are offensive to Christians and Jews. An Islamic purpose was accomplished. This contradiction displays how what may seem pointless can mean a great deal in the Muslim world.

The bottom line is negotiations to end nuclear pursuit in Iran would be Obama’s major accomplishment in his second term. The agreement would be his legacy. On the other hand, the Israelis believe Iran has no intention of signing a treaty that halts their pursuit of The Bomb on a permanent basis. This view seems them as only stalling for time.

Does this amount to a problem between Israel and the United States? Big time.

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FROM OUT OF THE FOG: AN OBAMA POSITION

            For the last few months I have been pointing out that the current administration appears to have no strategy for the Middle East. The Obama administration fumbled in Egypt and couldn’t seem to be able to make up its mind whether the coup was a public uprising – or really a coup. To avoid cutting off funding, they finally decided it wasn’t a coup – after the entire world knew it was a military coup. Even worse indecision paralyzed any action in Syria until Putin pulled Obama off the hot seat. Following that mess, Israel declared they would go it alone in responding to Iran’s nuclear program (Because they couldn’t count on the Obama administration to act with any backbone) My question has been, “where is this going and are greater disasters ahead.”

            For the first time, we are now catching a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Sunday, October 27th New York Times had a front page story detailing where the Obama administration now seems to be headed. Entitled “Rice Offers A More Modest Strategy for Mideast,” the story describes the influence of former Ambassador Susan E. Rice’s term that have now articulated an American position in the Middle East.

Ms. Rice has now made it clear that there are limits on what the United States will do to nurture democracy in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc. George Bush promised to raise the flag and start democracy in Iraqi. We now know how disastrous that idea was as religious war continues. Some voices will decry this change as a retreat from responsibility, but it reflects a new realism. The United States has learned that an educated and informed electorate is necessary. Many parts of the Muslim world simply prefer a religious system with imams at the top. However, the shift reflects President Obama’s personal concern that Middle East events could swallow his foreign policy agenda as it did with Bush.

Obama appears to be embracing pragmatism while eschewing military force except in a direct attack on American soil. The American public will embrace backing away from war. However, making this position a known policy has its problems as it does appear retreating from where the country has been. Holding back also makes the administration venerable  to being  kicked back forth between crises.

It is clear:

  1. America will make settling the Iranian nuclear issue a priority.
  2. Creating peace between Israel and Palestine remains at the top of the list.
  3. More attention will be given to Asia.

The situation in Egypt remains up for grabs and the administration still remain uncertain about how to respond. They will allow the turmoil in that country to settle before acting.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia appear to be backing away from their previous positions as major allies. Not good.

Is the new Obama position an improvement? Only time will tell.

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ISRAEL GOES IT ALONE

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned during Israel’s Independence Day Celebration that Israel may have to go it alone in their defense against Iranian nuclear intentions. Ya’alon noted that Israel is unimpressed with the steps the West has taken to stop the Iranian nuclear program. In his speech in Herzliya, he noted that the Iranian race to build a bomb as the “most significant” threat out there not only for Israel but the Middle East and the world. He recognized that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions could start a arms race in the entire region that would only have disastrous consequences.

So, why can’t Washington get on board?

Look at the situation from Israel’s point of view. The truth is that depending on the American government is like being a marriage counselor for a totally dysfunctional family. The Democrats and Republicans are locked in their own war that is beyond rationality. Democrats are scrambling to defend the administration over the Benghazi disaster and protect Hillary Clinton for the future. Mitch McConnell is willing to filibuster whatever he doesn’t like to keep everybody else from voting. John Boehner’s leadership is about as inspired as a high school football player being sent in to quarterback the Notre Dame football team for a national championship. Obama now has the IRS issue hanging around his neck because the agency has acted in a dictatorial and arbitrary manner. It appears that Obama cannot even get gun legislation and immigration reform through congress because of the petty politics of the members. The president is looking tired and more than a little worn.

The bottom line? Can Israel really depend on Washington to do anything? Moshe Ya’alon’s answer seems to be no.

His point is clear. While the nations gather to talk and Iran always backs away with some lame excuse, the centrifuges in Iran keep spinning. Why should Tehran worry about Washington? Sure, the sanctions have hurt the Iranian little man on the street, but the country continues to press on. Once they get the BIG BOMB, they know all bets are off.

Hanging in the balance is the issue of whether the already nuclear armed North Koreans will be fearful of Washington if the USA does not keep their threats. Syria appears to have already challenged Obama’s statements on the use of chemical weapons. Ya’alon states the obvious. Words won’t do the trick; only actions will count.

In his speech Ya’alon noted that the Israeli war of independence has not ended yet. The battle goes on in new forms and expressions. Recently, the Israeli military shot down an unmanned drone Hezbollah had flow over Israel near the northern city of Haifa. Prime Minister Netanyahu had warned that Hezbollah might try to take advantage of the conflict in Syria to attempt to obtain game-changing weapons. In response, Israel has knocked these invaders from the sky.

They believe they can do the same in Iran.

What’s ahead? I believe Israel will not linger until they are thoroughly endangered. Don’t expect them to wait on the United States.

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