Tag Archives: lack of a comprehensive American foreign policy

HAS AMERICA’S ATTITUDE TOWARD TEHRAN CHANGED?

            In my last blog, I suggested that the Obama administration does not have a coherent strategy for the Middle East. Egypt was the case in point. Let’s turn our attention to another of the major burning sights that has ramifications for the entire world. Iran.

            America’s game-plan that brought Iran to the bargaining table did not sit well with Saudi Arabia (to put it mildly). The Saudi’s are struggling to figure out what in the world America is doing. They were stunned by the 1lth-hour pullback from a military strike in Syria when Putin (of all people) pulled Obama out of the fire because of his vacillating behavior over a period of several months. Moreover, the Saudi’s were angry when America abandoned Hosni Mubarak who had been America’s long time ally and friend.

In Riyadh, the result of this vacillation has created a crisis of confidence in America’s actions and intentions. The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies reports that Saudi Arabia is now reassessing whether America can be a trusted ally and considering distancing themselves. The new questioning posture is another indication of how indecision leads to chaos.

And what about Iran?

Considerable angst has spread over the Middle East with President Hassan Rouhanni viewed as the victory in the recent negotiations in Geneva that led to the possibility of sanctions being lifted. Secretary of State John Kerry is not seen as the hero. The concern is that the agreement totally ignored the political realities within Iran. The current regime continues to repress its own people as well as export violence across the Middle East. The December 15, 2013 edition of The New York Times ran a story on the continued house arrest of two political leaders. Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi were former presidential candidates and opposition leaders jailed for no other reason that their political position. This action would be the equivalent of putting Al Gore or John McClain in jail after they lost the election. Sounds like the same old Iran–Revolutionary Guard and all.

Here’s the kicker. Analysts in the Middle East are raising questions about what American is actually about. Could the United States be working to cut some variety of self-serving deal with Iran?  Sounds bizarre but —  Michael Doran of the Brooking Institute recently suggested that Washington is in the first phase of seeking a “strategic partnership” with Iran as part of a quest for regional stability.

You think that doesn’t make the Israeli’s quiver? Some voices have suggested that Washington is actively seeking to rein in Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan because he favors a hard line against Iran. While this report has not been varied, it reflects that current prevailing attitude.

Is it possible that Secretary of State John Kerry is double-dealing with very different intentions that what appears on the surface? I have always hated these “behind-the-scenes” accusations that tend to foster suspicion. However, concerned and informed observers must keep their eyes on these possibilities.

They are not good.

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Filed under America, Iran, middle east, Saudi Arabia, Syria

WHO’S UP AND UP?

            Last week’s headlines proclaimed a breakthrough in US and Iranian relations. For the first time in over three decades, the leaders of the two countries spoke to each other. The new President Hassan Rouhani appeared to have come to the United Nations as a voice of reason and moderation. His message was that in a matter of months the problem of nuclear armaments could be settled. Obviously, international sanctions had made a difference in the Iranian viewpoint.

            But what is really going on?

Real transparency or more trickery?

The issues is far from clear. When Rouhani returned to Iran, he was met at the airport where protestors pelted eggs and one individual threw a shoe. Security guards scrambled to shield the president while other protestors blocked the road. Hard-liners shouted, “Our people are awake and hate America.” Other groups applauded Rouhani’s efforts and hoped he was bringing significant change to their country. Which group will prevail? The question remains, “What is really going on?”

For Israel and Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, President Obama’s phone call was equally questioned and believed to show a lack of wisdom.  Some Israelis believed Obama was the next Neville Chamberlain who wrongly appeased the Nazis in l938. Suspicion and paranoia reflected fears of the possibility of some variety of a secret deal between Iran and America that would leave Israel out in the cold.

The lack of a comprehensive American foreign policy has caused many Israeli analysts to view the Obama administration as having only a weak and wavering policy toward the Middle East. Because Iran has threatened to wipe Israel out, the issue for Israelis is not slip and slide negotiations but the possibility of life and death. If Rouhani is only hoodwinking the West to buy time for further development of The Bomb, then Obama is indeed as naive as Israel fears he might be.

The crunch will be whether Iran is truly open to the changes that will be demanded. The West is rightly concerned about a scientist named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who is the father of Iranians nuclear development. The work in his laboratories has set the stage for Iran’s rapid development of nuclear energy. A decade ago, Iran had l64 centrifuges (devices to enrich plutonium to a weapon grade level). Today they have 18,000. The Israelis point to this data as evidence that Rouhani may be attempting to trick the West again.

The bottom line for the West and Israel will be the degree of validation that Iran is willing to allow to prove they are not pursuing weapons development. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry must insist that inspectors have total access to all aspects of the Iranian system as well as having limits imposed on future developments.

Will Iran do so or are they only kibitzing again?

The trump card that USA now holds is sanctions. If America is shrewd, then Iran will fold because sanctions have proven too expensive for them. If America falters, then the game will probably be over.

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Filed under America, Iran, Israel, middle east