Sunday, August 28, 2016


Will Obama Now Take A New Line On Iran?

Iranian women hold an anti-U.S. sign, bearing a cartoon of U.S. President Barack Obama, outside the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 2.
Iranian women hold an anti-U.S. sign, bearing a cartoon of U.S. President Barack Obama, outside the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 2.
By Charles Recknagel
U.S. President Barack Obama returns to office after an election campaign in which Iran's nuclear program often dominated foreign-policy debates.

Obama's rival, Mitt Romney, frequently accused him of taking too soft a line toward Tehran. "Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability," Romney claimed, "and it has never acted less deterred by America."

Now, as Obama begins a second term, the question is how much he has been stung by such criticism.

Will Obama retain confidence in his dual strategy of squeezing Iran with economic sanctions while also extending offers of rapprochement? Or will the fact that Iran keeps building centrifuges and enriching uranium despite Obama's efforts persuade the White House it needs to try something new?

The answer could come as early as the first months of Obama's second term.

Shahshank Joshi, a regional expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes the U.S. stance on Iran could be about to bear fruit. "I think there is no doubt that the sanctions have squeezed Iran and they have contributed, along with other factors, to pushing Iran back to the negotiating table," he says.

"We saw three rounds of negotiations over the course of this year and, even though they all failed, the fact that Iran was sitting at the table was evidence that Iran does feel under pressure," he continues. "And I think the hints we have been receiving of the prospect of direct U.S.-Iran talks on the sidelines of the multilateral talks is perhaps the best evidence that Iran is feeling the pressure and wants to reach some sort of a deal."

Israel's 'Red Line'

Israel's mass-circulation "Yediot Ahronot" newspaper quoted unidentified Israeli officials this week as saying that Washington had held secret talks in Bahrain with Iranian officials over several months.

Last month, "The New York Times" reported that the United States and Iran had agreed in principle to hold one-on-one negotiations after the U.S. elections, although Obama dismissed that report in the final presidential debate.

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the White House in MarchU.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the White House in March
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the White House in March
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the White House in March
Joshi says that if there are U.S.-Iran talks, the bargaining would be over Washington easing sanctions in exchange for Iranian concessions. The concessions Washington and other Western powers want is for Iran to comply with UN demands that Tehran suspend controversial nuclear activities until it proves its nuclear program is peaceful.

However, the time Obama has for negotiations may not be limitless.

A key question is whether Israel would strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a "red line" for Iran when he spoke at the UN in September.

He said Iran must not be allowed to amass enough 20 percent-enriched uranium that it would be in a position to quickly complete the remaining enrichment necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu referred to the spring or summer of 2013 as the time by which Iran might have that ability.

Economic Or Military Measures?

Many observers interpreted Netanhyahu's red line as the trigger point for when Israel would take military action. But whether Israel would indeed act unilaterally on Iran is uncertain.

Ali Ansari of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland suggests Israel may be more interested in influencing the Iran crisis than in directly intervening in it. "The one thing that probably will come to Obama's assistance in this regard is that the Israelis, for their own part, seem to be quite at odds in their policy toward Iran," he says. "There is a lot of dissension in the ranks as to what the best approach should be and you always tend to see a sort of move toward a much more bellicose attitude and rhetoric but, almost to plan, they then tend to walk back a bit from crossing that red line for themselves."

Perhaps the biggest decision Obama will have to make in his second term will be what to do if Iran conducts negotiations while continuing to do what it is doing now. That is, building centrifuges and continuing enrichment, but then converting much of the enriched uranium to nuclear fuel for civilian purposes in an effort to weaken Western claims that it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Such activities could bring Obama to the point where he might have to issue Tehran an ultimatum, including the threat of military action. But the success of the sanctions during Obama's first term makes it likely that the White House views economic measures as more effective than military ones, and will continue to do so in the future:

"I think the only situation in which a military strike would be realistically considered is if the Iranians sought to provoke something," Ansari says. "I don't see this coming to a preemptive strike at all because I think that simply complicates the issue."
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Comment Sorting
by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
November 08, 2012 02:15
Tehran has been dancing around this issue for over 20 years. They are not going to announce their intentions. The only way to prove the strictly peaceful nature of their nuclear program is to allow unfettered unannouned inspections of all of their nuclear facilities, which should have been negotiated long ago. Now that they are on the cusp of creating a nuclear weapon, are we going to wait until the first one goes off in Tel Aviv or Washington before we demand the disclosure? I think not. The chaos in Syria is a good distraction, but should not be allowed to distract us from the one critical issue; crush them now or allow this farse to continue. It's not their choise any more.
In Response

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA, USA
November 12, 2012 01:28
"Tehran has been dancing around this issue for over 20 years," true, but as we see nothing has ever come out of it. This is because they have always been confused. They do not know why they need their weapon for. One thing is clear for them though - they need a deterrent if someone would want to destroy their regime. Some people argue that there is a risk of proliferation. Well, there is some logic in this. However, whom they would give their weapon technology to? Sunny nations like Egypt or Saudi Arabia are their enemies, Pakistan has it already. As for the strike against Israel - what for? First, they will destroy Palestinians - whom they strive to support - and the holy Muslim sites in Jerusalem. Atomic weapon for Tehran is a "suitcase without the handle" - too cumbersome to carry but valuable enough to throw into a garbage can.

by: joe from: singapore
November 08, 2012 05:36
most educated Iranians I've talked to welcome Israel to attack, and take down the regime. They seem to think the Iranian people aren't able or willing to free themselves from within.

Think of all the persian culture that's being oppressed and hidden away. That country used to be something much greater, more prosperous and sophisticated than the current fascist Islamic state. There are people there who still want to return to that.

Of course there are the uneducated there as well, who can't see past the blindcloth of mohommad.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 08, 2012 21:15
You are saying: "That country used to be something much greater, more prosperous..." Joe, before the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s Iran was a semi-colony of the United States, which was looted by the small Westernized elite and their friends from the US - the same way as every Latin-American country was until some 15 years ago.
And this explains the reason for which the people of Iran rebelled against the regime of Shah and threw him and his US friends out of the country - just as the people of so many other countries did and continue doing.
Your "educated Iranian" friends will be very disappointed - neither Israel nor the US will attack Iran, as long as such an attack would put an end to the existence of the state of Israel. Moreover: now that the US has been losing the war in a much small country - Afghanistan - for the last 11 years, even the most primitive of those Beavuses understands that attacking Iran would have desastrous consequences for all the US friends in the region. That's why you, guys, will be waiting for this attack absolutely in vain. Sorry, dude, it's just that your US bosses are militarily defeated and broke financially - they can not attack anyone at all :-))).

by: Andreas Moser from: Vilnius
November 08, 2012 14:33
Here is my memo to Barack Obama about what to do with Iran:

by: Batwings from: America
November 08, 2012 17:57
If any of you think things will be any different from the last 4 years, you have your head up your dark place. It is going to get worse. Obozo's one and only aim is to turn America into a muslim/communist nation.
He is NOT a natural born American and congress needs to get off their dead butts and invetigate this issue to the end before obozo totally ruins America. He is hiding ALL of his records for what? Come on congress, get to the bottom of this issue.
In Response

by: Ivan from: California
November 09, 2012 02:52
If you think John McCain and Sarah Palin could have done a better job you are a complete fool.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 08, 2012 22:00
You may find the VIDEO of Bashar al-Assad's latest interview - that the RFE/RL mentioned in one of its news stories - on the web-site of Russia Today:
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 09, 2012 10:21
By the way, to all those "educated" ones (like Joe from Singapore): It has just "turned out" that the Iranian military aviation attacked a US drone at the very beginning of the current week. So, if the US (or Israel) had ANY INTENTION of really attacking Iran - would they really need a more convenient pretext for such an action?
Of course not! And the fact that they are not attacking Iran (nor Syria for that matter - and this is even after the Syrian airforce shot down a NATO (Turkish) military plane in the Summer and the Syrian artillery regualrly shells the national territory of a NATO member state Turkey) is indicative of the fact that the US imperialism has entered into a final stage of its existence: the stage on which the US has NO MORE military or financial capacity to engage into those extremely costly and doomed from the outset (as the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate) military operations abroad.

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