Secretary of State John Kerry recently joined other foreign ministers of the P5+1 and Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister in Vienna, as the self-imposed deadline for a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program approaches. Sunday’s deadline will have huge ramifications for both Washington and Tehran. President Obama is already facing multiple crises in the Middle East: ISIS in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the recent clashes between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.
Tag Archives | Iran
On October 5, 1962, President Kennedy met Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, then-crown prince, in the White House alone. With his fair English, the king requested US intervention to defeat revolutionaries who just seized power in neighboring monarchical Yemen. Egyptian president Nasser backed revolutionaries, and his radio was saying the House of Saud would be next.
As enemy columns began a long, arduous advance to the capital, city after city and town after town fell. With a phased American pull out that left not a single combat troop in the country, US-equipped and trained local forces began to melt away, a combination of tactical defeats, surrenders, desertions and mutinies. The outlook of reengagement looked even bleaker: more involvement in the longest war to have ever been fought in American history was a politically unpopular and untenable position.
It is astonishing how rapidly the fragile state of Iraq is imploding, as the Islamic militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), advances on many Iraqi cities. The 2003 military intervention by the United States and its allies destabilized the political and social framework of the country, which Nouri al-Maliki has completed. Resulting in sectarian divisions, through a progressive marginalization of the Sunni population. The surrender of Iraqi troops is the result of this foolish and short sighted policy. The huge investment (about $25 billion) in their training by the international community was insufficient.
Charles Dudley Warner’s oft-quoted suggestion that “politics makes strange bedfellows” is never better illustrated than the prospect of a rapprochement between Iran and the United States. Stimulated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) rapid military advances in Iraq, both sides find themselves on the same side – albeit for vastly different reasons.
Last month, two Saudi Shi’ites received death sentences for allegedly committing crimes that caused no deaths or injuries, marking the harshest punishments issued by Saudi Arabia’s government against Shi’ite activists in the Eastern Province (EP) since sectarian unrest erupted in this strategically vital region of the Kingdom during 2011. In an effort to quell its citizens’ aspirations for political and social reform, the government has since spent $130 billion on public sector programs throughout the Kingdom.
A few weeks ago, a senior clergyman in Iran, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi Tehrani, did the unthinkable. He joined a gathering of human rights activists commemorating the sixth anniversary of the incarceration of the seven-person leadership group of the Baha’i community of Iran. Earlier, in April, Tehrani announced that he had created a calligraphic work from a passage from the sacred scriptures of the Baha’i Faith.
To acknowledge, let alone honor, Baha’i scriptures is unprecedented among Iran’s Shia clergy and, in the eyes of many clerics, amounts to blasphemy. Indeed, as recently as July 29 of last year, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, reissued a religious edict urging Iranians to avoid associating with members of the “deviant sect,” well-known terminology used to refer to the Baha’i Faith. Hence, joining the meeting of human rights activists added exponentially to the Ayatollah’s already stunningly bold creation of the calligraphic work.
On Nov. 24, 2013, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 reached a historical agreement known as the ‘Joint Plan of Action’ in Geneva. After numerous dead ends during intense diplomatic negotiations with the previous government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the interim agreement signed with the newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, relieved many countries. The United Arab Emirates was the first Gulf state to welcome the Iranian nuclear deal by sending their minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, to Tehran on Nov. 28, just a few days after the signing of the nuclear deal.
Positive remarks on the agreement were also issued by India, Japan, Spain and Austria. On Nov. 24, Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, welcomed the agreement as the “first significant step.” Spain’s government praised the deal as an important milestone towards achieving a general agreement that fosters stability and security in the region. German media, while appreciating the significance of the nuclear deal, emphasized that the bulk of sanctions on Iran must remain in place. However, several nations such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, along with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), continued to express concerns and scepticism towards a final agreement.
The barrage of criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy has cast a new and favorable light on the president and his role in the generally grisly parade of foreign policy cockups that have characterized his two administrations.
Particularly, it has highlighted the dissatisfaction of the neoliberal and neocon interventionists with President Obama’s chariness in committing military power to advance their cherished initiatives. And that’s a good thing for Obama. I discussed this issue when I characterized the president’s position as “don’t use stupid actions to follow up on stupid policies.” Remarkably, given the considerable energy and intellectual power exhibited in America’s non-stop overseas jiggery-pokery, US geopolitical strategy has abounded in stupid policies.
And, in my opinion, that’s no accident. I think it has to do with the mindset of the interventionist caucus in the US foreign policy government and private sector apparatus, which has been dragging or guiding the US government into wars (and enhancing its own power, profits, and influence) for generations. The gold standard for ham-fisted intervention is still Iraq War II, but it seems there is an inexhaustible supply of wonks, pundits, advocates, and agitators within the Beltway ready to be “heroes in error” for the next US crusade. A few points about interventionism in the Age of Obama.
An Interfaith panel and several Muslim organizations are upset over the film, The Rise of al-Qaeda, depicting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attackers as Islamic jihadists. They do not want the world to believe the hijackers that carried out the heinous attacks against the United States were linked to al-Qaeda, a radical Islamist movement founded by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1987. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, as per their website, represents “An educational and historical institution honoring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance.”
Nineteen jihadists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks–fifteen came from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon, and one from Egypt. Osama bin Laden, the planner, was indoctrinated by Wahhabi preachers–a fundamentalist Sunni Islam sect– having its origins in Saudi Arabia. Killing of infidels had become a justifiable act in the teachings of the Wahhabi doctrine. Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the United States took root in 1991, when the Saudi monarchy invited the U.S. to use their soil as a staging area for the military incursion into Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. Bin Laden was upset that the Saudi government would allow American boots on their soil. As a result he declared a “jihad” against the United States, stating it was not permissible for infidels to step onto the sacred soil of the “Land of the Two Holy Mosques, Mecca and Medina.”
A new report released by the cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, a FireEye Company, concluded that the cybersecurity threat landscape is expanding at a rapid clip globally. This year’s report also highlighted the continuing emergence of Iranian-based attacks that are increasingly becoming more targeted. In Mandiant’s annual M-Trends: Beyond the Breach assessment of cybersecurity trends, the company noted, “One conclusion is inescapable: the list of potential targets has increased, and the playing field has grown.”
The report goes on, “Cyber threat actors are expanding the uses of computer network exploitation to fulfill an array of objectives, from the economic to the political,” the report said. “Threat actors are not only interested in seizing the corporate crown jewels but are also looking for ways to publicize their views, cause physical destruction, and influence global decision makers.”
Hassan Rouhani has been Iran’s president since June of last year and it is useful to examine the legacy of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
For those who have come to believe that Iran is the country dominated by anti-Semites or Holocaust-deniers, I think the most categorical response is what Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, told the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Christine Pelosi, in a Twitter exchange on September 5, 2013: “Iran never denied it [the Holocaust]. The man who did is now gone. happy new year.”
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as Iran’s president in June of 2005, neither I nor any journalist or political expert in Iran had a clear idea of what his foreign policy would be. Domestic and economic policies are not the subject of our discussions here. As time went by, it became clear that Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy was based on no single principle, but adventurism, ultra-idealism and frantic decisions that would render him a publicity stunt rather than a chief executive.
The three-year old Syrian crisis presents dire dilemmas for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and in refugee camps across the Middle East.
Given Syria’s traditional role as a sponsor of Palestinian resistance movements and a home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, Palestinian leaders are understandably torn between loyalties to President Bashar al-Assad and his enemies. Palestinians have fought in Syria on behalf of both the regime and the rebels. The conflict has deepened ideological and political wedges between Palestinians and complicated their patchwork of international alliances. Moreover, as various proxy battles are waged within Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, the Palestinian refugees there are now enduring an underreported humanitarian crisis.
Syria’s Role in the Palestinian Resistance
Historical bonds between Palestinian resistance movements, refugees, and the Syrian government have complicated Palestinian attitudes toward the grinding civil war in Syria. In 1948, 90,000 Palestinians fled to Syria as refugees. Since then, several hundred thousand more have arrived and settled in large refugee camps, such as Yarmouk in Damascus.
The Obama administration says Iran’s nomination of a former hostage-taker as its ambassador to the United Nations is “extremely troubling.” US senators have also balked at Iran’s pick of Hamid Aboutalebi, who was part of a Muslim student group, which seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The 52 Americans were held for 444 days during the crisis.
Senator Ted Cruz says he will introduce legislation to block Iran’s application for a US visa for Mr. Aboutalebi. Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf said at Wednesday’s daily briefing: “I will say that we think this nomination would be extremely troubling. We’re taking a close look at the case now, and we’ve raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran.” Mr. Aboutalebi has reportedly said he had minimal involvement in the hostage-taking group, named the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line. Officials for Iran’s Mission to the United Nations have so far declined to comment.
Mr. Cruz, a Texas Republican, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday: “It is unconscionable that in the name of international diplomatic protocol, the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard of the status of diplomats when they were stationed in his country.” He added, “This person is an acknowledged terrorist.”
His legislation would require US President Barack Obama to deny a visa to any UN applicant determined to have engaged in terrorist activity. Fellow Republican Senator John McCain called Mr. Aboutalebi’s appointment “a really kind of an in-your-face action by the Iranian government,” the Associated Press news agency reports.
Kuwait is now hosting its first Arab League Summit. The slogan for this year’s Summit is “Solidarity For A Better Future.”
Question is: will the Kuwait Summit ensure solidarity for the region? It is a well known fact that the Arab World has seen its own share of regional alliances formed on the basis of ideological, sectarian and regional dynamics. With the recent cases of the Arab Spring, such dynamism has become all the more complicated and thus, regional solidarity is surely a challenging task to accomplish. Back in the 1950s-60s, the Arab World was divided into two factions: pro-Soviet Arab nationalists led by Egypt, and pro-West conservatives led by Saudi Arabia. The division between the two factions was so paramount that Malcolm Kerr termed it as The Arab Cold War.
Alignments changed in the year 1978 after the signing of the Camp David Accord, when Egypt decided to quit the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both Syria and Iraq tried their best to isolate Egypt after Camp David, but the situation refused to remain static. Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, Iraq’s attention shifted towards Iran, and the Arab World witnessed another set of factionism. This time, countries such as Syria, Libya and Algeria sided with Iran, whereas the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan aided Iraq.