The U.S. Undercuts Its Own Power - Ray Takeyh
In the nuclear talks with Iran, the U.S. is not dealing with the Soviet Union but a beleaguered middling power that may still be coerced into more expansive concessions.
A close reading of Iran's political scene reveals that Ayatollah Khamenei's most important red line has not been on the nuclear issue but on preventing moderates from regaining political power. Given the disparity of power between the U.S. and Iran, Washington has an opportunity to craft a durable accord for arms control while preserving its coercive leverage. Such are the advantages of being a superpower with the world's largest economy and intact alliances.
But for that to happen, the U.S. must stop underestimating its power and overestimating its adversary's resilience.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Obama Weapons Expert: No Chance of Success - Jeffrey Goldberg
Gary Samore, who was until recently the Obama administration's top expert on weapons of mass destruction, says the Iran nuclear talks have an almost zero chance of success because the West has given the Iranian regime insufficient cause to feel as if it must give up its nuclear dreams.
The Impending Clash between Iran & Saudi Arabia
- Jonathan D. Halevi
In 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini declared that Mecca was in the hands of a "band of heretics." For the current Iranian leadership, Khomeini's remarks remain authoritative and frame the way Iran views Saudi Arabia.
In January 2014, Frederic Hof, a former adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, disclosed during a congressional hearing that he heard from the Iranians that they viewed Saudi Arabia as their primary enemy, and not the U.S. or even Israel.
In Riyadh's eyes, Iran remains the most serious security challenge to the stability and territorial integrity of the Saudi kingdom. Saudi Arabia is preparing to purchase an atomic bomb "off the shelf" from Pakistan in order to create deterrence against Iran. Iran's determination to persist with its nuclear program and the Saudi determination to acquire a nuclear shield may drag the Middle East into a nuclear arms race.
Whatever understandings might be reached between Iran and the West on the nuclear file, Iran has no intention of retreating from its efforts to establish its hegemony in the Middle East.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Long Iran Stall Begins Again - Jonathan S. Tobin
- It's not just that the Iranians are pouring cold water on any optimism about the negotiations, with their Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying they "will lead nowhere" or his representatives' adamant refusal to even discuss the dismantling of any of their nuclear infrastructure.
- What is most distressing about the Iran talks is the blithe assumption on the part of the negotiators that they will drag on for as long as a year, allowing the Iranians to keep delaying while they continue to get closer to their nuclear goal.
- The deal Secretary of State John Kerry signed in Geneva on November 24 stipulated that the talks that would follow were to take place over a six-month period. Kerry and his boss President Obama stressed the six-month time frame in order to assure Americans and nervous Israelis that the agreement couldn't be used by Tehran to stall the West indefinitely.
- Yet we are now being assured that we should expect the negotiations to drag on until 2015 with little hope that they will end even then. With Iran's economy showing signs of a revival in the wake of the West's loosening of sanctions, there appears to be no reason to expect Tehran will ever give up its nuclear dream.
- Open-ended negotiations were exactly what the president promised he would not be drawn into. For a decade, Iran has been able to engage in diplomatic tricks that have enabled it to stall the West indefinitely as they tried to run out the clock until their nuclear project was completed.
- Right now, faith in diplomacy with Iran seems to have more to do with a disinclination to pressure them than it does with any belief that the U.S. can achieve its objectives.
The coming crash of American diplomacy in the Middle East
President Obama has three significant Middle East diplomatic initiatives underway, treating, respectively, Iran's nuclear weapons program; Syria's deadly, exhausting conflict; and the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Into these negotiations, Obama and his administration have poured enormous amounts of American prestige, time and effort.
Although rarely considered collectively, these three efforts constitute a significant strategic package...
[A]ll three of Obama's diplomatic maneuvers are based on errors and will almost certainly fail. And what will happen then? Failing on one is bad enough, but failing on all three will be devastating.
Iran will emerge more powerful, verging on deliverable nuclear weapons, while still financing and arming terrorists worldwide. Assad seems likely to survive, which is bad enough by itself, but it will be compounded by the affirmation it affords Iranian and Russian strength. Israel will trust Washington even less than now, and ironically, Palestinians will be even more anti-American because Obama will not be able to deliver to them the Israeli concessions he predicted.
Perhaps this prospect of massive strategic failure will awaken Obama and America as a whole, but that seems unlikely. Instead, the increasing danger is that only another 9/11, another disaster, will produce the necessary awakening. There is tragedy ahead for our country if we continue on this course.
[Los Angeles Times]