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“Choosing A Better Path”: Iran’s Moderate Reformists Performing Well in Elections, Validating Success Of Iran Deal

Good news out of Iran today: moderate reformists are performing well in early election results:

Early election results in Iran show reformists who favor expanding democratic freedoms and improving relations with the West are expanding their presence in parliament and a clerical body responsible for selecting the country’s next supreme leader.

Reports in the semi-official Fars and Mehr news agencies showed hard-liners losing ground in the 290-seat legislature. None of Iran’s three main political camps — reformist, conservative and hard-line — was expected to capture a majority, but the reformist camp is on track for its best showing in more than a decade.

It’s not just a victory for reform. It’s also a functional and political victory for the Iran deal. Contrary to the hyperventilating of the Republican message machine, it was not hardliners in Iran who pushed for the deal but rather moderates. Removing sanctions not only brings Iran closer to the West in exchange for nuclear concessions which is a great idea on its own merits, but the success of the deal itself politically empowers moderates over the strict Islamists:

A victory for reformists would be a boost for moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who championed the newly implemented Iranian nuclear deal with world powers in the face of hard-line opposition.

This is also, of course, a victory for the Obama Administration and for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who helped lay the groundwork for the eventual deal. In the fury of the presidential primaries it’s easy to overlook, but Democrats can and should hold the entire Republican Party accountable for its wrongheaded and frankly dangerous statements about the Iran deal. Everyone who supported the deal (and Clinton in particular) should do a victory lap and use the success of the deal as a political cudgel against every Republican candidate. It’s just another example of how liberal foreign policy creates better outcomes that improve the well-being of the world and make America safer as a result.

If anyone cares to make the case, it’s also another example in which American christian conservatives and Middle Eastern Islamist conservatives–despite claiming to be fierce enemies–yet again found themselves on the same side. They’re already quiet allies on issues like guns, gay rights, women’s sexual freedom, “political correctness,” religion in schools and the intervention of federal government in the affairs of local good old boys. In this case, neither side wanted a political rapprochement with the other: both American and Iranian conservatives benefit politically from treating their respective people not as fellow human beings but as agents of Satan, increasing the likelihood of a bloody war that would help strengthen radical conservative power in both countries.

Thankfully, both America and Iran chose a better path, and the success of more liberal forces in both nations is paying dividends.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 27, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Iran, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Negotiating A Good Iran Deal”: Negotiators Are On The Right Track To Resolve The Iranian Nuclear Crisis Peacefully

The United States, its international partners, and Iran will soon likely reach a final agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. Judging by the framework reached in April in Lausanne, Switzerland, the finalized deal will not only greatly enhance American and regional security by preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, it will also eliminate a source of great tension between the U.S. and Iran — freeing America’s hand to deal with other undesirable Iranian behavior.

Yet you can be sure that war hawks will be screaming “bad deal” — insisting on a better one.

What they mean by “better deal” is one in which Iran completely capitulates, gives up its entire nuclear program and changes its bad behavior on a wide range of issues outside the scope of the nuclear program, all without the United States having to give up much in return.

But that’s not really how negotiating works. Successful deals involve give and take. Most of the time, all parties walk away with something they like and something they don’t.

Don’t just take my word for it. Some of those closest to the negotiations agree. “[W]e do not live in a perfect world, and the ‘better deal’ proposed by the critics of the Lausanne framework is a fantasy,” said Phillip Gordon, who, until recently worked on the Iran issue in the White House and is now a senior fellow and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Those arguing for a better deal also believe that if only the United States increased sanctions on Iran, Iran would agree to even better terms. But, as former National Security Adviser to President Clinton, Sandy Berger wrote recently, more sanctions would not have their intended impact. Instead, they “would mystify and alarm the rest of the world, isolating and weakening us. Such sanctions would crumble under their own weight — amounting to, as Shakespeare said, “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Former national intelligence officer and Middle East expert, Paul Pillar, agrees. “[T]here is nothing in the Iranians’ record to suggest that at some level of economic pain they would cry uncle and capitulate to hardline demands,” he wrote earlier this year. “If this were possible, it would have happened by now after many years of debilitating sanctions.”

While the “better deal” crowd may continue to crow, the reality is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the nuclear and security expert community that the Lausanne Framework is a good deal, a deal that the six powers can be confident will prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. “When implemented,” a statement from 30 leading nuclear nonproliferation specialists reads, the agreement “will put in place an effective, verifiable, enforceable, long-term plan to guard against the possibility of a new nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.”

And it’s not just the experts: Numerous polls show that a majority of Americans support the framework. Moreover, a recent survey done in conjunction with pro-Israel group, J Street, found that 59 percent of American Jews support the framework; a result that can perhaps mitigate concerns that U.S. Jews feel the deal could be bad for Israel. The poll also found that a 78 percent of American Jews support the agreement when additional details of the deal are provided.

It’s rare to have such a large consensus on any particular issue these days. But it’s no fluke that the White House, many in Congress, experts and the American people support diplomacy with Iran over war and will support a good final nuclear deal. I am hopeful that Missouri’s Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt are part of that mix of support.

It is difficult to dispute that Iran is led by a dictatorial regime that oppresses its people, supports terror and wreaks havoc in the region. It is for these reasons that we should prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon and ink a good final agreement that is done on our own terms.

It appears that the six international powers and Iran will get past the finish line, but as the saying goes, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” President Obama has repeatedly stated that he prefers no deal to a bad deal. Fortunately, the negotiators are on the right track to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis peacefully, allowing all sides to walk away knowing that what they’re getting is better than they’re giving up.

 

By: Stacey Newman, Missouri State Representative, The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 5, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Nuclear Weapons, War Hawks | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“To The Permanent War Caucus, It’s Always 1938”: When The Hitler Card Won’t Do, Play The Chamberlain Card

If he accomplished nothing else during his presidency, Barack Obama has surely earned a place in the Bad Political Analogies Hall of Fame. According to savants on Fox News and right-wing editorial pages, Obama is both Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who capitulated to Nazi territorial demands in 1938.

That is, to the more fervid exponents of the Sore Loser Party, President Obama is both a psychotic dictator and a spineless appeaser of tyrants.

(I am indebted for this insight to Washington, D.C., attorney Mike Godwin, promulgator of “Godwin’s Law,” which holds that the first person to play the Hitler card in a political argument automatically loses.)

I’m thinking the law also needs a Chamberlain corollary, because the Permanent War Caucus on the Republican right accuses every American president who negotiates an arms pact with our putative enemies of weakening national security. Always and with no known exceptions.

President Nixon got compared to Neville Chamberlain for his (strategically brilliant) opening to China, as well as for the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) with the Soviet Union.

In 1988, something called the Conservative Caucus, Inc. took out full-page newspaper ads arguing that “appeasement is as unwise in 1988 as in 1938.” The ad mocked President Reagan with Chamberlain’s iconic umbrella, and compared Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to Hitler.

In 1989, of course, the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR imploded.

Jonathan Chait sums up the right’s paradoxical case against Obama, weakling dictator: “He is naive in the face of evil, desperate for agreement, more willing to help his enemies than his friends. The problem is that conservatives have made this same diagnosis of every American president for 70 years…Their analysis of the Iran negotiations is not an analysis at all, but an impulse.”

Despite the fact that Tehran made concessions most observers thought were impossible, the right hates this deal because they hate all deals. Today, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his U.S. supporters, such as the forever-wrong William Kristol, describe Iran’s leaders as the new Führer. The apocalyptic enemy before that was the Tehran regime’s bitter enemy, Saddam Hussein.

Anyway, we all know how invading Iraq worked out.

Iran is five times Iraq’s size, has three times its population, and has extremely forbidding terrain.

No matter. To the Permanent War Caucus, it’s always 1938 and blitzkrieg is eternally threatened. Netanyahu has been predicting Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons for almost 20 years now — although the Wile E. Coyote bomb cartoon is a relatively recent touch.

Israel, of course, has a nuclear arsenal of its own.

But what really makes the Hitler/Chamberlain comparison so foolish isn’t simply that it’s a cliché. It’s that it completely misrepresents the power balance between the U.S., its allies, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China, and militarily weak, politically and strategically isolated Iran.

In 1938, Nazi Germany had the strongest military in the world. (Indeed, there’s a revisionist school that holds Neville Chamberlain was wise to postpone an inevitable war while Britain re-armed.)

Shiite Iran, by contrast, can scarcely project power much beyond its borders, and is threatened by traditional enemies on all sides. Examine a map of the Middle East. Tehran is almost 1,000 miles from Jerusalem. Ethnically and linguistically distinct, the Persians are surrounded by hostile Sunni Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, which repress their own Shiite minorities, and are fanatically opposed to the Ayatollahs.

Almost unknown in this country, U.S. client Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran — complete with nerve gas attacks on the Persians and Kurds –remains a bitter memory. ISIS terrorists are massacring Shiites by the thousands in Iraq and Syria. For that matter, check out the U.S. military bases ringing the Persian Gulf, along with omnipresent, nuclear-armed aircraft carriers and submarines.

One needn’t have a particle of sympathy for Iran’s odious theocratic government to see that we’ve got them totally outgunned and surrounded. Economic sanctions engineered by the Obama administration have really hurt. So yes, if they thought they could trust us, it would be very much in Tehran’s interest to make a deal and stick to it — putting the nuclear temptation aside in favor of what amounts to anti-invasion insurance.

But can we trust them?

President Obama explained his thinking to the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman: “We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing…people don’t seem to understand.”

“[W]ith respect to Iran…a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

If you’re really strong, in other words, act strong.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Middle East, War Hawks | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Acknowledging Our History In Negotiations With Iran”: Avoiding Repeats Of The Past, A Stunningly “BFD”

This was a pretty stunning statement coming from the President of the United States.

Clearly, he added, “part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I’ve told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past.”

In case you don’t know what he’s talking about, in 1953 the United States and Britain coordinated a coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh after their parliament voted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, was set up to effectively rule the country as an absolute monarch. It was the brutality of the Shah, supported every step of the way by the United States, that led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and set up the theocratic Islamic State.

The involvement of the United States in the 1953 coup is not simply the stuff of leftist conspiracy theorists. Less than two years ago, the documents describing what happened were declassified.

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

None of this is meant to justify the behavior of Iran’s current leadership. But do you think that perhaps when the West comes marching in talking about nuclear programs this time instead of oil – maybe they’d have reason to be a bit cautious?

For President Obama to not only talk openly about these events and Iran’s reaction to them (as he did previously in his 2009 speech in Cairo) – but to instruct his negotiating team to keep those concerns in mind strikes me as a stunningly BFD. Therefore, I’ve been surprised that at this point I can find no one who has commented on it.

It is the contention of many of us on the left that this kind of covert meddling in other countries around the globe contributed to much of the unrest we’re witnessing today. Now we have a President who is not only acknowledging those mistakes, he is doing so publicly as he attempts to heal some of those wounds. I’d suggest that it’s time we noticed.

 

By: Nancy LeTournea, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 11, 2015

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Iran Deal Is About Restraining A Barbaric Regime”: It Neither Legitimizes Nor Appeases That Regime

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, writing about Iran in the New Jersey Jewish Standard on April 1, sought to alter perspectives on that country with some speculation about race. “Imagine if Ayatollah Ali [Khamenei] was threatening to murder all blacks in the Middle East,” he wrote. “What if he tweeted regularly that people of dark skin are of the devil and must be annihilated. Would the American government be negotiating with him?”

Boteach suggested that a U.S. administration would face “international opprobrium for legitimizing a government with racist, genocidal intent against an identifiable ethnic group.” He asked, “Why is it that threatening to murder the Jews is acceptable?”

Boteach referred to President Obama as “a historic figure, the first African-American president” and said that he didn’t doubt that Obama “is a friend of the Jewish people.” But, he added, “We are witnesses to the world’s foremost republic and sole superpower negotiating with a government with a clearly defined agenda of carrying out a second holocaust.”

Boteach declared of Obama: “We need him to stand up for us.”

Boteach, an author, TV host and self-described “America’s Rabbi,” recently took out full-page ads in The Post and the New York Times to tell Obama that any pact that allows Iran to retain a significant nuclear infrastructure will make him an appeaser on par with Neville Chamberlain.

I have no idea how Obama might respond to Boteach’s fantasized Khamenei with murderous intent against blacks. Neither can I presume to speak for other African Americans. For my part, were my family and I in the Middle East and faced with such a threat, I would want my government to take all necessary steps to cut off every pathway that such a racist leader could take to develop a nuclear weapon.

Which brings me to the recently negotiated framework with Iran.

If there happens to be a way to create a comprehensive, long-term oversight effort that includes robust and intrusive inspections of that country’s nuclear program, I say do it.

If my government can deny a genocidal leader the plutonium necessary to build a bomb, go for it.

If my government, working with other world powers, can shut down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium, that’s a good thing.

Should this president, working with world leaders, get Iran to: agree not to stockpile materials needed to build a weapon, give international inspectors unprecedented access to its nuclear program, set strict limits on its program for more than a decade and impose unprecedented transparency measures that will last 20 years or more, then I say hooray. And, of course, economic sanctions should not be lifted until Iran complies with terms of the final agreement.

Because if a fantasy Iran were to aim to liquidate all blacks in the Middle East or elsewhere, just as the real-life Iran has threatened to annihilate millions of Jews in Israel, I wouldn’t ever want it to become a nuclear power capable of delivering on its threats.

Locking down a barbaric country in an internationally enforced agreement is a start. It neither legitimizes nor appeases that regime.

And it’s something any U.S. president should try to do, not just on behalf of Jewish people, with their long and painful history, or African Americans with painful experiences of our own, but for the sake of all Americans as well as all those worldwide who could be threatened.

Iran is everybody’s business. Or it ought to be.

Yet, it doesn’t — or shouldn’t — follow that U.S. policy toward Iran can be dictated from anywhere other than the United States.

It was, therefore, shocking to read a National Review article titled “Netanyahu, Not Obama, Speaks for Us,” which was posted online March 2.

Who is writer Quin Hillyer referring to when he says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not the president, speaks “for you and for me”?

Obama speaks on the world stage for this country and its values. He has more than demonstrated a willingness to exercise American power in defense of our national interests. (Ask Osama bin Laden.) To suggest that this president is less diligent in the safeguarding of our civilization, more deficient in moral courage and less likely to pursue justice on our behalf than a foreign leader is as absurd as it sounds.

I also happen to believe that Obama promotes equality, justice and dignity for all, and not because he is black or because he views the world through any racial or religious prism.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 10, 2015

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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