Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Obama Changes Tune on Iran Confrontation

In Setback, Obama Concedes Congress' Role - Patricia Zengerle

President Obama conceded that Congress will have the power to review a nuclear deal with Iran. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously, 19 to 0, to approve a bipartisan bill that would give Congress oversight of a final deal. 

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker [pictured] said the White House had agreed to go along with the bill "only when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this." 

White House: Obama Will Sign Senate Bill - David McCabe & Ben Kamisar

President Obama is willing to sign a new Senate deal that would allow Congress to review and vote on a proposed nuclear deal with Iran, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The new bill shortens the timeframe for Congress to review a nuclear deal with Iran to 30 days and allows Obama to submit the deal after the June 30 deadline for negotiators to conclude their work.

The president would have to submit the deal by July 9 to have the expedited timeframe. If Congress votes to reject the deal, the bill says the president could not waive sanctions that had been imposed through legislation.
(The Hill)

Obama's Approval Among U.S. Jews Narrows - Frank Newport 

For the first quarter of 2015, 54% of American Jews approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, compared with an average of 46% among all Americans.

That 8-point gap is lower than the average 13-point gap seen so far throughout Obama's term in office. In 2009, Obama's support among Jews was 77%.  

Netanyahu Urges Putin Not to Supply Iran with Missile Defenses
- Elhanan Miller

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing Israel's "grave concerns" regarding Russia's decision to provide Iran with advanced antiaircraft missiles. Netanyahu told Putin that the S-300 deal "will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East."

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "This sale of advanced weaponry to Iran is the direct result of the dangerous deal on the table between Iran and the P5+1. Can anyone still seriously claim that the deal with Iran will enhance security in the Middle East?"

(Times of Israel)

Rare Bipartisanship in Congress over Iran - Max Boot

Rare bipartisanship prevailed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to force President Obama to submit any Iranian nuclear deal for congressional approval.

Ironically, this legislation could actually strengthen Obama's hand with the Iranians: Secretary of State John Kerry can now plausibly tell his Iranian interlocutors that, however much he would like to concede their points, Congress won't stand for it.

The basic message, from Democrats and Republicans alike, is that there is deep unease in Congress, as well as in the country at large, about the terms of the accord, and for good cause.
The writer is a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Getting U.S.-Iranian History Wrong - Michael Rubin 

In defense of President Barack Obama's empathy with Iran, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gets Iranian history wrong. Friedman describes how: "We, the United States, back in the '50s, we toppled Iran's democratically-elected government. You know, there might be some reason these people actually want to get a weapon that will deter that from happening again."

The idea for the coup was British because Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (a predecessor of British Petroleum) and then refused to negotiate. The U.S. was more concerned by Mosaddeq's pro-Soviet proclivities. So, too, were the Iranians themselves, especially the military and the clergy. That's right, the folks who run the Islamic Republic today were co-conspirators with the U.S. and deeply opposed to Mosaddeq's anti-clerical attitudes. At the time of the coup, Mohammad Reza Shah was a popular head of state whom Mosaddeq was seeking to force out in order to assume dictatorial power himself.

Moreover, the idea that the 1953 coup motivates the Iranian nuclear program is bizarre. The resurrection of the Iranian nuclear program after the 1979 Islamic Revolution can be traced more to Iraqi chemical weapons attacks on Iran. The assumption that grievance motivates the Iranian nuclear drive is lazy thinking and belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic, which at its heart is an ideological state that seeks to export its revolution
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.


Ready for the Truth? Khamenei Wants to Destroy Us - Michael Ledeen

Our basic error is that we think our offer of a strategic alliance - President Obama's "outstretched hand" - is attractive to Iran. It isn't.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn't want a deal with us; he wants to destroy us. When he calls us the "Great Satan" or when he leads chants of "Death to America!," he means it. Khamenei wants to go down in Islamic history as the man who defeated America, not the imam who signed a deal with the devil. He's willing to accept our surrender, but he won't forge a partnership with Obama.

Why did they agree to negotiate? Because Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif convinced Khamenei that the Americans were desperate for a deal, that there was no danger of an American military option and that Iran could get all manner of favors from the Americans without conceding anything important. Think of the negotiations as a component in the Iranian war against us, not as a step on the path to detente. We have real enemies who don't want to seize our outstretched hand. They want to chop it off
The writer, the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was special adviser to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
(The Hill)

Jews Have Good Reason to Be Wary of Tehran's Rhetoric
- Shahrzad Elghanayan
  • During recent talks in Switzerland, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC's Ann Curry: "We have a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people."
  • That's not quite right. Iran's Jews did have something of a golden age relatively recently, but Zarif can't take credit for it. That era was a brief period when the conservative Shiite clergy were stripped of their power - after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 gave Iranians of all religions and ethnicity equal rights, and before Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979.
  • Jews have lived in Iran since 586 BCE. In the 16th century, conservative Shiite scholars and clergy under the Safavid dynasty had restrictions placed on all minorities, including Jews, to bar them from economic activity and to prevent them from passing their "ritual impurity" to Muslims.
  • It was during that window of relative Jewish affluence that my grandfather, Habib Elghanian, became one of Iran's most famous industrialists after he and his brothers introduced the plastics industry to the country in the late 1940s. In 1959, he was elected the chairman of the country's Jewish association. In 1962, when my family built the country's first private sector high-rise, the 17-story Plasco Building in Tehran, Shiite cleric Mahmoud Taleghani objected to the idea that a Jew had built the tallest building of its time in Iran.
  • In a 1964 address, Ayatollah Khomeini spoke about how: "The entire country's economy now lies in Israel's hands; that is to say it has been seized by Israeli agents. Hence, most of the major factories and enterprises are run by them." That speech singled out two people in particular: One was my grandfather, and the other was Baha'i industrialist Habib Sabet.
  • When Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979 as the head of the Islamic revolution, my grandfather was among the first civilians he went after. On May 9, 1979, my grandfather was executed after a 20-minute trial on trumped-up charges that included being a "Zionist spy." After a firing squad killed him, the new regime stole what he had spent his lifetime building.
(Washington Post)

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