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April 14, 2015 0

How to Deal With Iranian Expansionism

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

At the very moment that a nuclear deal with Iran is look­ing closer to real­ity, Iran is expand­ing its influ­ence through­out the Mid­dle East. To the Saudis, the Emi­rates and Israel — all of whom see Iran as the great­est threat in the region — this is a dis­turb­ing phenomenon.

Israel has reacted by call­ing on the United States to link the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions to Iran’s broader behav­ior in the region.  In his address before a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu said the U.S. should not sign a deal until Iran halts its ter­ror­ist activ­ity and ceases its sup­port of extrem­ist groups. More recently, the prime min­is­ter has called for no agree­ment until Iran accepts Israel’s     legitimacy.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the U.S. rejected those pro­pos­als as unachiev­able and saw them as an effort to block any nuclear deal.

The Saudis, in their usual way, took a more restrained approach, say­ing nice things about the frame­work agree­ment while decry­ing Iran’s activ­i­ties on many fronts in the region. Clearly, at this moment when the U.S. is pro­vid­ing essen­tial sup­port for the Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, they are not look­ing for a full-blown con­fronta­tion with their main ally and sup­porter, the United States.

On the other hand, the Saudis con­tinue to express in many ways their frus­tra­tion with what they per­ceive to be weak Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the region. While not will­ing to link their cri­tique to the nuclear issue, they have found other ways to get their point across.

Their most extreme reac­tion took place in the fall of 2013 when in an unprece­dented fash­ion they turned down a seat at the United Nations Secu­rity Coun­cil. While they never stated a rea­son it was widely under­stood to be a protest over Amer­i­can pol­icy toward Syria and Iran.

Since then, Saudi con­cerns have only grown as they watch a con­tin­ued Iran­ian role in Syria and Iraq, U.S. coop­er­a­tion with Iran against ISIS and — more recently — the poten­tial for new sig­nif­i­cant Iran­ian influ­ence in Yemen through the Houthis.

Both the Israelis and the Saudis fear that lift­ing the deep­est sanc­tions against Iran through the nuclear deal will fur­ther embolden Iran­ian expansionism.

More­over, what­ever their views on the nuclear deal, they fear that the basic under­ly­ing theme, despite U.S. protests to the con­trary, is that Iran under Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani is an evolv­ing nation that can be moved toward a state of nor­malcy both at home and in its inter­na­tional rela­tions. So they worry that after the nuclear deal is signed, sealed and deliv­ered, the U.S. will be even more reluc­tant to iden­tify Iran for what is and to take action against it.

What is it that the U.S. admin­is­tra­tion can do to reas­sure its allies?

First, its rhetoric about Iran­ian behav­ior must be ele­vated by many deci­bels. The notion that such a change would jeop­ar­dize the nuclear talks does not ring true. The Ira­ni­ans have a huge inter­est in the removal of sanc­tions while also being able to main­tain its nuclear infra­struc­ture. They are not very likely to walk away because of a more hon­est and focused U.S. approach to Iran­ian behavior.

It was encour­ag­ing in that respect that Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on April 8 on PBS New­sHour crit­i­cized Iran for sup­ply­ing the Houthis in Yemen and added that the U.S. “could do two things at once” – the nuclear deal and con­tain­ment of Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in the region.

Still, a more sus­tained U.S. approach is needed, one which rec­og­nizes that Iran remains unre­pen­tant and extreme — includ­ing recent state­ments by its lead­ers call­ing for Israel’s destruc­tion — and is the great­est threat in the region.

Call­ing atten­tion to the huge arse­nal of mis­siles amassed by Iran­ian sur­ro­gate, Hezbol­lah, is a good place to start.

Using Holo­caust Remem­brance Day on April 15 to denounce Iran’s open call for Israel’s destruc­tion, most recently by the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, would add to the chorus.

And finally, the president’s remarks about hav­ing Israel’s back in the face of any Iran­ian threat should be reflected in clear agree­ments. What exactly does it mean for the U.S. to be there for Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This becomes more sig­nif­i­cant than ever because of the per­cep­tion that the eager­ness for the nuclear deal was partly moti­vated by a U.S. desire to pull back from the region. And, it is sig­nif­i­cant because Saudi con­cerns about a poten­tially expand­ing nuclear Iran could lead them to seek their own nuclear weapons.  The con­se­quences for the region and the world of such nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion would be disastrous.

Even before the nuclear frame­work agree­ment, the U.S. had a lot of work to do to reas­sure its allies in the Mid­dle East.

The need for such reas­sur­ance takes on a greater urgency as the real­ity of the nuclear agree­ment and the prospect of an embold­ened Iran loom larger.

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February 9, 2015 0

Time to Stop the Circus and Focus on Iran

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

I have recently writ­ten about the enor­mously high stakes involved in get­ting the Iran nuclear issue right. There is a broad con­sen­sus on this and on the dan­gers of a nuclear armed Iran. Yet, as the clock winds down on nego­ti­a­tions between Iran and the P-5+1, impor­tant dif­fer­ences in just how to effec­tively accom­plish the goal have emerged.

These dif­fer­ences are not about whether diplo­macy is the best way to resolve the issue — all agree it is.

It is not sur­pris­ing that Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu assesses the risks to Israel, the region and, ulti­mately, the world through a dif­fer­ent lens than Pres­i­dent Obama and some other world leaders.

Israel is directly in the cross-hairs of Iran­ian ambi­tions for regional dom­i­na­tion, as are the Gulf states, Egypt, Jor­dan and oth­ers. Pres­i­dent Obama and many among the Amer­i­can peo­ple are rightly wary of entan­gling the U.S. in yet another Mid­dle East war and Euro­pean lead­ers are focused on their fal­ter­ing economies, which would ben­e­fit from the reopen­ing of full trade with Iran.

This is pre­cisely the moment when there should frank, direct and open dis­cus­sion of the dif­fer­ent perspectives.

Now is exactly the time when Israel’s leader should be hav­ing those dis­cus­sions with all who have a say in shap­ing pol­icy out­comes on this issue, includ­ing the U.S. Con­gress. And the views of America’s clos­est ally in the Mid­dle East should be heard, so pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will have the ben­e­fit of hear­ing directly from Netanyahu how he sees what is at stake and what he believes is the best way to reach an agree­ment with Iran that will ensure the long term safety of Israel, the region and the world.

Yet, this point has been nearly oblit­er­ated by the waves of con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the invi­ta­tion to the prime min­is­ter to address Con­gress. I have called it a tragedy of unin­tended con­se­quences — and it is.

Instead of stay­ing laser-focused on the very real, very com­plex and very dan­ger­ous con­se­quences of the out­come of the nego­ti­a­tions with Iran, the pub­lic dis­course is now being hijacked by pol­i­tics.

It is being dom­i­nated by mock­ing come­di­ans, moan­ing pun­dits and manip­u­lat­ing politi­cians all talk­ing about who is insult­ing whom, who will and who won’t be in the cham­ber for the speech, who may or may not be pun­ished for not show­ing up, who will get an elec­toral advan­tage from the appear­ance, and who won’t.

These are absolutely the wrong ques­tions, and this is absolutely the wrong time to be rais­ing them.

As time grows shorter, there needs to be a pause in the uproar to enable every­one involved to find the way to get back to talk­ing about what really counts — Is Iran ready to give up its nuclear plans or must the West revisit its whole approach?

The venue for the dis­cus­sions on this weighty ques­tion mat­ters much less than actu­ally hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion — and hav­ing it sooner rather than later. Now is a time to recal­i­brate, restart and find a new plat­form and new tim­ing to take away the distractions.

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May 14, 2014 0

Iran Weekly: Selected News & Developments

The fol­low­ing is a selec­tion of news reports and com­men­tary from Iran­ian media and main­stream pub­li­ca­tions on devel­op­ments per­tain­ing to Iran. This weekly update includes a sam­pling of pub­lished reports from Iran’s Farsi-language media* as well as rel­e­vant arti­cles from the inter­na­tional press.

Iran­ian Media

66 years since the grand betrayal of the peo­ple of Pales­tine has passed*
(Mehr News Agency – May 14, 2014)

A report on the estab­lish­ment of Israel as an Amer­i­can and British plot to take over the region, one which has resulted in con­tin­u­ing pres­ence of this “malig­nant and incur­able can­cer­ous tumor.”

Hadi Moham­madi: The dis­course of the Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion is the solu­tion to the issue of Pales­tine*
(Fars News Agency – May 14, 2014)

In a round­table dis­cus­sion mark­ing the 66th anniver­sary of the nakba, the Ara­bic term mean­ing ‘cat­a­stro­phe’ to describe Israel’s estab­lish­ment, Hadi Moham­madi, an expert in Mid­dle East affairs, said, “The project of Palestine’s occu­pa­tion has three com­po­nents. One is of the Zion­ists, whom built upon the [Zion­ist] pro­gram, and they had sev­eral choices and Pales­tine wasn’t their pri­mary choice, and it is here when the great pow­ers of the time, Eng­lish, Ger­many and France, entered the equa­tion. These coun­tries par­tic­i­pated in its [Israel’s] estab­lish­ment to facil­i­tate [Jew­ish] immigration…”

Tehran’s Fri­day prayer and ser­mon*
(Tehran Uni­ver­sity – May 9, 2014)

Fri­day prayer leader Aya­tol­lah Mova­hedi Ker­mani said: “Iran and Amer­ica are on two anti­thet­i­cal paths, and we will not back down from our rights and Amer­ica will not lift its hand from devour­ing the world and being a mali­cious enemy. So our posi­tion is to sup­port the oppressed of the world and America’s posi­tion is to kill the peo­ple of the world. Our posi­tion is [based] on logic, wis­dom and laws, and America’s logic is force and bul­ly­ing. Our posi­tion is related to being just with the world and Amer­ica is wor­ried about our expand­ing rela­tions with the world.”

Qom Fri­day prayer and ser­mon*
(Islamic Repub­lic of Iran News Agency – May 9, 2014)

In his ser­mon to the faith­ful in the holy city of Qom, Aya­tol­lah Ahmad Khatami issued a num­ber of threats against Israel. “Amer­ica is the life­line of the ter­ror­ist Zion­ist regime, and to secure the safety of the Occu­piers of Jerusalem, they do not want Iran to have any mis­siles. Our mis­siles are aimed to the direc­tion of the Occu­piers of Jerusalem’s sen­si­tive cen­ters. If they make a mis­take we will raise Tel Aviv to the ground.”

ayatollah-mezba-yazdi-iran

Aya­tol­lah Mezba Yazdi

An explicit warn­ing by Aya­tol­lah Mezba regard­ing the direc­tion of some politi­cians’ pol­i­tics and cul­ture*
(Rasa News Agency – May 8, 2014)

Aya­tol­lah Moham­mad Mezba Yazdi, the pres­i­dent of the Imam Khome­ini Insti­tute for Edu­ca­tion and Research, made anti-Semitic com­ments, posit­ing, “What plan do the Jews have in store for our coun­try?” Aya­tol­lah Yazdi added that adher­ents of the Baha’i faith are not con­sid­ered pro­tected cit­i­zens, “We should not say Baha’i under the excuse of the rights of the cit­i­zens. Jews and Mus­lims have no dif­fer­ence between them because the Qur’an has pro­vi­sions for such cases expressed in it.”

Araghchi: “Dark forces” seek to destroy Iran and P5+1 agree­ment*
(Iran­ian Stu­dents’ News Agency – May 8, 2014)

Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Abbas Araghchi alluded to Israel, and said, “I don’t want to use the word ‘war­mon­ger­ing’, but this group wants to con­tinue the dis­putes and crises in our region. They don’t want the sanc­tions against Iran to come to an end. They also don’t like that Iran is trans­form­ing into a pri­mary player in the region.”

Inter­na­tional Media

ADL Global 100: Anti-Semitism in Iran is lower than the rest of the Mid­dle East and North Africa
(Anti-Defamation League Global 100 – May 14, 2014)global-100-iran

The Anti-Defamation League released its much antic­i­pated Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism. The com­pre­hen­sive poll shows that Iran is the least anti-Semitic coun­try in the Mid­dle East and North Africa at 56% com­pared to 93% in the Pales­tin­ian Ter­ri­to­ries, and 92% in neigh­bor­ing Iraq.

Six pow­ers, Iran launch crunch phase of nuclear diplo­macy
(Reuters – May 14, 2014)

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the P5+1 and Iran launched into the deci­sive phase of nego­ti­a­tions on Wednes­day in Vienna, hop­ing to ham­mer out an agree­ment within the next two months.

Nuclear talks will con­front Iran’s future capa­bil­ity to enrich ura­nium
(The New York Times – May 13, 2014)

As nego­ti­a­tions resume this week in Vienna, the issue of Iran’s right to enrich and how much it will be allowed to retain, are seen as the crit­i­cal issues at hand.

Break­ing bad in Tehran: How Iran got a taste for crys­tal meth
(The Guardian – May 13, 2014)

Locally known as sheesheh, crys­tal meth pro­duc­tion and use has sky­rock­eted in Iran at star­tling rates.

Slow progress in IAEA inves­ti­ga­tion may com­pli­cate Iran nuclear talks
(Reuters – May 13, 2014)

The IAEA stated this week that Iran is mak­ing lit­tle progress to fully imple­ment a series of nuclear trans­parency mea­sure Tehran has agreed to.

Khamenei adviser backs Iran­ian nego­tia­tors
(Al-Monitor – May 13, 2014)

Ali Akbar Velay­ati, Supreme Leader Khamenei’s senior for­eign pol­icy advi­sor, stated this week that he sup­ports the cur­rent Iran­ian nego­ti­a­tions team in their meet­ings with the P5+1.

In thaw, Saudi extends invite to Iran
(The Wash­ing­ton Post – May 13, 2014)

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter has received an offi­cial invi­ta­tion from his Saudi coun­ter­part to visit the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia, in what is seen as a pos­si­ble thaw­ing of rela­tions between the two regional giants.

A ‘night­mare becom­ing real­ity’? Iran unveils Amer­i­can drone replica
(The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor – May 12, 2014)

Iran has unveiled its own copy of the Amer­i­can stealth drone it cap­tured in its ter­ri­tory in late 2011. IRGC offi­cers have stated that the Iran­ian replica will be tested soon.

Iran­ian women post pic­tures of them­selves with­out hijabs on Face­book
(The Guardian – May 12, 2014)

An online cam­paign is call­ing on Iran­ian women liv­ing in the Islamic Repub­lic to post pic­tures of them­selves sans hijab. Women are required by law to wear the head­scarf in pub­lic or risk arrest by the moral­ity police.

Israeli held for sell­ing Iran spare parts for fighter jets
(The Times of Israel – May 12, 2014)

An Israeli cit­i­zen was arrested at Ben Gurion Air­port for allegedly sell­ing arms and spare parts for fighter jets to Iran. The sus­pect, Eli Cohen, is expected to be extra­dited to the U.S.

Ben­jamin Netanyahu com­pares Iran nukes to North Korea
(The Jew­ish Daily For­ward – May 12, 2014)

In a meet­ing with Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu com­pared Iran’s nuclear pro­gram and the dan­ger it poses to that of North Korea.

Iran leader slams West’s ‘stu­pid’ mis­sile stance before talks
(Reuters – May 11, 2014)

Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei blasted U.S. demands for Iran to end its mis­sile devel­op­ment, call­ing this “a stu­pid, idi­otic expectation.”

How the West gets Iran wrong
(CNN con­tri­bu­tion by Akbar Ganji – May 9, 2014)

Akbar Ganji, a well-known Iran­ian dis­si­dent and jour­nal­ist, writes that despite Iran’s author­i­tar­ian rule which rejects lib­eral democ­racy and fem­i­nism, many impor­tant books on lib­er­al­ism, democ­racy and fem­i­nism are trans­lated and pub­lished in the Islamic Repub­lic. Among the avail­able titles found in Iran are John Locke’s Two Trea­tises of Gov­ern­ment and Mil­ton Friedman’s Cap­i­tal­ism and Free­dom.

Shi­raz ceme­tery demo­li­tion con­tin­ues by the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards
(Baha’i World News Ser­vice – May 8, 2014)

The IRGC con­tin­ues to destroy a his­toric Baha’i ceme­tery in the south­ern city of Shi­raz. With an esti­mated 300,000 mem­bers of the faith, the Baha’i reli­gion is Iran’s largest reli­gious minor­ity and unrec­og­nized by the gov­ern­ment as a pro­tected minority.

Iran­ian rev­o­lu­tion­ary guards com­man­der: US prepar­ing for attack
(The Jerusalem Post – May 8, 2014)

Rear Admi­ral Ali Fadavi, the com­man­der of the IRGC’s naval forces, claimed that the U.S. is plan­ning for an attack against Iran’s navy. Fadavi added, “They [the Amer­i­cans] know noth­ing. We have been mak­ing and sink­ing repli­cas of US destroy­ers, frigates and war­ships for years, and we have sunk the repli­cas of their ves­sels in 50 sec­ond through a series of oper­a­tional measures.”

What Iran really wants: Iran­ian for­eign pol­icy in the Rouhani era
(For­eign Affairs, Op-Ed by For­eign Min­is­ter Zarif – May 7, 2014)

In a piece pub­lished in For­eign Affairs, Iran­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Moham­mad Javad Zarif makes the case for Iran as nuclear nego­ti­a­tions pave the way for pos­si­ble changes in rela­tions with the West and the region.

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