The United States and Western “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” crowd – hysteria running at fever pitch ahead of Thursday’s multilateral nuclear talks in Geneva – could do worse than have a word with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula actually talked to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad face-to-face for over an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. He invited Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil in November. About the meeting, he went straight to the point, “What I wish for Iran is what I always wanted for Brazil – a peaceful, civilian nuclear program.”
Lula is an island of common sense in an ocean of hysteria. French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly gave a December deadline for Iran not to make a “tragic mistake”, as in provoking Armageddon. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini reiterated the Group of Eight was giving Iran only three more months.
United States President Barack Obama – now running three wars (Iraq and the AfPak combo) – demanded that Iran (which is not at war with anybody) demonstrate “its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu announced to the UN, “the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass destruction”. Impervious to irony, Netanyahu obviously forgot that Iran – like Iraq in 2003 – has no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Israel not only has WMDs, but still refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or allow its weapons to be inspected, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rushed to clarify. As for religious fundamentalism, Zionism is more than a match to Iran’s Shi’itism. [continued…]
As the United States and its allies consider further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fear that such punishment could have unintended consequences, strengthening the government’s hand against domestic dissent and triggering an even harsher crackdown on political foes.
On the eve of talks Thursday in Geneva between representatives of Iran and six world powers, Iranian opposition leaders, politicians and analysts warned that new financial or other penalties would hurt ordinary Iranians rather than change the government’s behavior.
Opposition leaders have denounced what they view as Ahmadinejad’s antagonistic foreign policy, but they are in no position to criticize the previously undisclosed construction near Qom of a second uranium-enrichment plant — the latest bone of contention between Iran and the West — for fear of being targeted as traitors to a national cause: the pursuit of nuclear energy and technological advancement. [continued…]
A new survey shows that a majority of American Jews would support a U.S. military strike on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons — a significant increase from a year ago.
Fifty-six percent of American Jews would support the “United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons,” according to the American Jewish Committee’s 2009 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion. That’s an increase of 14 percentage points from the AJC survey taken in the fall of 2008. In addition, 66 percent of those surveyed said they would back an Israeli strike on Iran.
The survey of 800 self-identifying Jewish respondents, interviewed between Aug. 30 and Sept. 17, comes as a wide swath of Jewish organizations are rallying support in the Jewish community and elsewhere for increased economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran — in particular tough sanctions targeting Iran’s importation and production of refined petroleum. With a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, the poll would appear to undercut the claims of some who charge that Jewish organizations are out of step with the Jewish public in pushing for pressure on Iran. [continued…]
As the West raises the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, Arab governments, especially the small, oil-rich nations in the Persian Gulf, are growing increasingly anxious. But they are concerned not only with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran but also with the more immediate threat that Iran will destabilize the region if the West presses too hard, according to diplomats, regional analysts and former government officials.
On Thursday, Iran will meet with six world powers to discuss a variety of issues in what will be the first direct talks between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran would appear to enter the discussions weakened by a bitter political dispute at home and by the recent revelation of a second, secret, nuclear enrichment plant being built near Qum.
But instead of showing contrition, Iran test-fired missiles — an example of the kind of behavior that has caused apprehension among some of its Arab neighbors. The cause and effect of conflict between Iran and the West is never experienced in Washington or London but instead plays out here, in the Middle East, where Iran has committed allies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
“If the West puts pressure on Iran, regardless of the means of this pressure, additional pressure, increased pressure, do you think the Iranians will retaliate or stand idly by and wait for their fate to fall on their head?” said Ambassador Hossam Zaki, spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. “The most likely answer is they will retaliate. Where do you think they will retaliate?” [continued…]
The United States hopes to launch a process here Thursday that could rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and possibly reorient Iran’s role in the world, though U.S. officials are skeptical that Tehran will act decisively when its diplomats sit down for long-awaited discussions with world powers.
U.S. officials signaled Wednesday that they will seek a rare bilateral meeting with Iranian diplomats during the discussions. The talks between Iran and major powers, expected to last through the day, have been structured to allow for both group meetings and informal, bilateral sessions with Iran; a senior administration official said the latter would be “an opportunity to reinforce the main concerns we will be emphasizing in the meeting.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity ahead of the talks.
President Obama has sought to make engagement with the Islamic republic and other antagonistic nations a central part of his foreign policy, but until now Iran has spurned his efforts. Nevertheless, the talks could be the most substantial and in-depth conversation between the United States and Iran since relations were severed after the Iranian revolution 30 years ago. The chief U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns, is a career diplomat who joined in similar major-power talks in July of last year, in the final months of the Bush administration, but was barely permitted to speak under rules set by the White House. [continued…]
As the United States and Iran prepared for critical talks over Tehran’s nuclear program, the Iranian foreign minister arrived quietly in Washington on Wednesday to visit the unofficial embassy here, the first visit to the capital by an Iranian of that rank in a decade.
While there were no plans for the minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, to meet with any American officials, his curiously timed visit, which was approved by the Obama administration, may help thaw the atmosphere as the administration puts its policy of engagement with Iran to the test.
The State Department said Mr. Mottaki asked for permission to visit the staff at Iran’s interest section, a diplomatic outpost Iran maintains in the Pakistani Embassy, since it does not have relations with the United States. The last time an Iranian foreign minister was permitted to make such a visit was in the late 1990s, during the Clinton administration. [continued…]