A view from the Busher Nuclear Power Plant in Iran, courtesy IAEA Imagebank/flickr
Opinions differ on the pivotal role of sanctions in opening the door to constructive engagement with Iran. Some, like Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, believe Iran was able “to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.” Other perhaps more clear-eyed observers interpret Iran’s opening gambit at the Geneva negotiations—a proposal to scale back its existing uranium-enrichment program and allow increased international monitoring—as strong evidence of the coercive—and containing—power of UN targeted sanctions,
which have been in place since 2006.
Setting aside decades-long bilateral tensions that bred deep resentments, radicalism, and successive layers of US sanctions, the twin interventions of UN-sanctions and P5+1 diplomacy may serve as a model for future non-military responses to complex geopolitical predicaments. This potential success is now evident in the counterweights that have been put on Geneva’s bargaining table: against the reduction, if not elimination of sanctions, the lead-negotiator for the P5+1, Lady Catherine Ashton, demands the reduction, if not elimination, of Iran’s nuclear program. » More
President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013. Photo: The White House.
Iran has a new president, Hassan Rouhani. He speaks eloquently about wanting a rapprochement with the West and of a desire to refrain from developing a nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration has responded by opening the first serious high level diplomatic engagement with Iran since 1979. The two leaders have even spoken by phone. But, the odds are that this is a waste of time despite Rohani’s insistence that the environment for negotiations is ‘quite different‘ from that of the past.
Any official representative of the Iranian regime cannot be trusted. The regime has frequently used brinkmanship tactics over the nuclear issue for its own benefit. This takes the familiar form of Iran coming to the table when it feels the squeeze of negative attention and/or sanctions. After a period of ‘diplomacy’ Iran then retreats from the talks and goes back to the business of being a pariah state. Meanwhile, an unbroken pursuit of attaining mastery over the nuclear cycle goes on. The goal always has been for Iran to have a nuclear option due to its precarious regional situation in which it is under threat from all directions, including internal. This pattern has repeated itself so often in the last decade that there is no reason to believe Rouhani this time. » More
Watchtower in Rafah, Gaza, April 2009. Photo: Marius Arnesen/Wikimedia Commons.
There is a feeling of trepidation in the Gaza Strip these days, and since the Muslim Brotherhood—Hamas’ fellow journeyers—were ousted from power in Egypt in early July, living conditions have deteriorated dramatically. The new rulers of Egypt have launched a much-vaunted campaign against armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula and against the tunnels that connect that territory with Gaza. The latter has brought life in this tiny strip of land where 1.6 million Palestinians live—most of them in refugee camps—to almost a standstill.
Since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, the Gaza Strip has been under a strict siege. Until last month’s military intervention in Egypt, the Islamic Resistance Movement—branded a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel—was able to undermine this blockade by smuggling a myriad of products, including food, medicine, weapons, and even people, into the Gaza Strip. The two most important benefits of the tunnels were the flow of cheap fuel and other goods, and the taxes that Hamas raised from this. » More
Battle of al-Qusayr. Photo: Syria War/Wikipedia.
PRINCETON – The prospect of a US military strike on Syria has dimmed following President Barack Obama’s embrace of an international initiative to take control of Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile. The eleventh-hour U-turn on the push for military action has come against a backdrop of intensifying diplomatic pressure from the international community to avoid escalation of the violence in Syria. And that outcome is not possible without Iran.
In a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tabled a proposal, originally agreed with Iran, calling for Syria to “place chemical weapons storage sites under international control.” The stockpiles would then be destroyed and Syria would fully join the international Chemical Weapons Convention. The second component of the Russian-Iranian proposal calls for international efforts, under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, to rein in Syrian rebel forces’ chemical-weapons capabilities.
Moallem immediately embraced the proposal. Hours later, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did as well, while Obama said that “I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a non-military way.”
This initiative would allow Obama to escape from a messy political and foreign-policy predicament. But the matter is far from settled: Obama has not ruled out a military strike. So here are 12 reasons why America should grasp the opportunity for a diplomatic resolution afforded by the Russian-Iranian plan.
Image by Aieman/Wikimedia Commons.
Many women who helped vote Hassan Rohani into office as Iran’s new president did so in the hope that he would push for equality. Yet, when Rohani released his proposed new cabinet on inauguration day on August 4, his list had the makings of an all-male club.
In an apparent response to the criticism that followed from female voters and rights watchers, the cabinet now has its first woman. Elham Aminzadeh, a former conservative lawmaker who reportedly teaches at several universities, has been named vice president for legal affairs.
Rohani said in an August 11 decree that Aminzadeh was given the job because of her “scientific competence” and “legal qualifications” and also for her “moral virtues,” Fars reported. » More