Saturday, February 14, 2009

Diplomacy By Itself Won't Work With Iran.


by Michael Rubin
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last summer that Iran possessed 6,000 centrifuges. But the problem is no longer just enrichment. Last week the Islamic Republic launched a satellite into orbit, demonstrating an intercontinental ballistic missile capacity.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's confidants have repeatedly urged nuclear weapon development. Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, secretary-general of Iranian Hezbollah, for example, declared in 2005: "We are able to produce atomic bombs, and we will do that. . . . The United States is not more than a barking dog."

During his campaign, Obama promised to meet unconditionally with Iran's leader and conduct "tough diplomacy." These are mutually exclusive.


Be Suspicious

If he sits down with Ahmadinejad without precondition, he will not only have sent Tehran the message that it can win by defiance rather than diplomacy. He has also unilaterally set aside three U.N. Security Council Resolutions demanding Iran cease its enrichment.

Too often, new U.S. administrations assume that the fault for failed diplomacy lies more with their predecessors than with their adversary. To believe any Iranian leader is sincere is dangerous.

In a June 14, 2008, debate, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, government spokesman under Mohammad Khatami, criticized not Ahmadinejad's policy but his style, suggesting Khatami's strategy to lull the West better achieved Iran's nuclear aims.

"We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities," Ramezanzadeh explained.

Indeed, it was during Khatami's "dialogue of civilizations" that Tehran built its covert enrichment facility and, according to International Atomic Energy Agency reports, experimented with plutonium and uranium metal. Neither has a role in energy production, but have military applications.

And, according to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, it was under the reformists that Iran actively worked on nuclear warhead design.

Obama may seek out Iranian moderates, but he should understand that, on the nuclear issue, differences between Iranian factions are illusionary. The supreme leader tolerates no officeholder who does not support his line on national security.

On Feb. 3, the Kayhan newspaper — Khamenei's mouthpiece — drove home the point by calling Obama's attempts to reach out to moderates "futile."

All this does not mean diplomacy is useless. But to be successful, it must be carefully crafted. Cost matters. Here, the Iran-Iraq War provides a lesson.

Ayatollah Khomeini swore to pursue war with Iraq until victory, even after expelling Iraqi troops from Iranian territory in 1982. His counterinvasion bogged into stalemate and led to several hundred thousand Iranian deaths. Finally, in 1988, as costs became insurmountable, Khomeini changed course. He agreed to a cease-fire, saying it was like drinking "a chalice of poison."

Iran is willing to switch course, but only when the costs of its policy become too great to bear. This means fewer incentives.

Bailing out a failing Iranian economy makes no strategic sense unless Obama's goal is to preserve regime longevity and provide Iran a greater industrial and financial base upon which to develop nuclear weapons and support terrorist groups.

Neither is it wise to slowly ratchet up sanctions. No sanction yet imposed compares to the deprivation Iranians suffered in the 1980s. Instead, to achieve diplomatic leverage, Obama should impose maximal sanctions but offer to relieve them as Tehran complies with U.N. resolutions. Even without Moscow and Beijing's cooperation, Obama can leverage significant pressure.

Under Section 311 of the U.S. Patriot Act, the president can designate Iranian banks — including Iran's central bank — as guilty of deceptive financial practices. In effect, such action would remove Iranian banks from the international financial stage, for neither Russian nor Chinese banks could risk the associated liability.


Project Power

A military strategy role also exists. Obama, his adult life spent in sheltered circles, should realize that the military is not just about bombing, and that containment and deterrence are not simply rhetorical concepts but require military planning.

Nor should Obama repeat the mistakes of Jimmy Carter. Military deployments can provide diplomatic leverage.

During the 1970 Black September hostage crisis and after the 1975 Khmer Rouge seizure of the U.S. container ship Mayaguez, Nixon and Ford, respectively, quietly deployed forces to augment leverage as the two presidents muted any public bluster.

Two days after Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in 1979, Carter's aides leaked that the president would not consider military force — information that the captors said led them to retrench.

A quiet but steady buildup in the Persian Gulf can do more than the most skilled diplomat when facing the Iranian clerics.

George W. Bush had the luxury of time and squandered it. Barack Obama will not be so lucky. For him to succeed, he must abandon his idealistic notion that diplomacy by itself is a panacea.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and editor of the Middle East Quarterly, was an Iran country director at the Pentagon between September 2002 and April 2004

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Israel's right to the land.


by Sean Gannon


The view that the Middle East peace process, the latest phase of which kicks off in Annapolis this week, [this article was written November 2007 just before the Annapolis Conference] is essentially a mechanism for the vindication of Palestinian rights over the West Bank and Gaza is widely held here in Western Europe, where an awareness of Israel's legitimate claims and entitlements has been a casualty of the predominantly left-wing media's embrace of the Palestinian cause. Whereas Arab prerogatives are exhaustively documented, the Jewish right to this land is almost entirely ignored. The anniversaries this month of three of the founding documents of the modern Middle East present an opportunity to redress the balance and reassert the Israeli case.

November 2 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration,[in 2007] the letter in which the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, promised Lord Rothschild (and, through him, the Zionist movement) that his government would "use their best endeavours" to establish a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. Approved by the Cabinet two days earlier — according to Prime Minister Lloyd George it "represented the convinced policy of all parties in our country" — it made the creation of this "home" an objective of British foreign policy. The Balfour Declaration thus represented the first significant official endorsement of the Zionist project by a world power.

The Declaration was not, in itself, a legally binding document and it has often since been dismissed as nothing more than a statement of British aspirations and intent. However, this ignores the fact that its incorporation virtually unchanged into the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine in July 1922 gave its provisions the force of international law. The legal validity of the Mandate, which recognized both the "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and their right to the "reconstitute their national home in that country," was upheld in various international forums and was safeguarded after the dissolution of the League by the United Nations through Article 80 of its Charter. The League of Nations Mandate therefore represents the last legal allocation of the territory that now constitutes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; the rights it gave the Jewish people have never been abrogated and it remains the legal basis for the Jewish state today.

The right of the Jews to a state in their historic homeland was underscored by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (UNGAR 181). Passed sixty years ago on November 29, it called for the partitioning of Mandatory Palestine into "Independent Arab and Jewish states." Described by the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, as "Israel's birth certificate," UNGAR 181 represented, for the majority in the Zionist camp, international recognition of an antecedent and inalienable Jewish right to self-determination. But as a non-binding recommendatory resolution, it actually constituted moral as opposed to a legal sanction of Jewish statehood. For the Arabs, it represented neither. It was comprehensively rejected at the time, condemned as "entirely illegal" in the Palestinian National Covenant of 1964, and declared "absolutely null and void" by the Seminar of Arab Jurists on Palestine three years later.

In what amounts to an astonishing u-turn, however, UNGAR 181's legal validity has since been strenuously asserted by the Palestinian side. For instance, the PLO's 1988 Declaration of Independence stated that UNGAR 181 provided "those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty." This position was still being advanced ten years later as Yasir Arafat sought global support for another unilateral declaration of statehood in the spring of 1999. He then proclaimed that "the right for a Palestinian state to exist is based on UNGAR 181 and not on the Oslo Agreements" while his UN representative, Nasser al-Kidwa, argued for its continuing relevance at the United Nations.

But if, as the Arabs contend, UNGAR 181 serves as the legal basis of a Palestinian state, then it must, according to their logic, equally serve as the basis of a Jewish state too. Indeed, the text refers to a "Jewish state" on thirty occasions and demands that the British facilitate "substantial [Jewish] immigration" to effectively ensure that the future Jewish state be Jewish in nature. Therefore, the Palestinians' present refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state flies in the face of their own legal reasoning. They implicitly accept what they explicitly abhor.

The third significant commemoration this month was the fortieth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (UNSCR 242). Unanimously passed on November 22, 1967, five months after Israel's stunning victory in the Six Day War, it has generally been interpreted as requiring a unilateral Israeli evacuation of the West Bank and Gaza, thus making illegal Israel's so-called "occupation" of the former. But UNSCR 242 in fact formalizes the status of these territories as "disputed" and therefore legitimizes the Jewish presence there. This status is rooted in the 1949 armistice agreements, which defined the new boundaries between Israel, Transjordan and Egypt as provisional, being "dictated exclusively" by military considerations.

In effectively launching the 1967 war, the Arabs violated these boundaries, thereby invalidating them as de facto borders. The Israeli conquest, the result of a defensive war, constituted a legitimate redrawing of the armistice lines, pending a final settlement. UNSCR 242, drafted as the roadmap to this settlement, stipulates that Israel should withdraw from these new armistice lines "to secure and recognized boundaries" only as part of a negotiated peace, something which has yet to be achieved. And while the resolution does not define what these boundaries should be, its framers made it clear that they should not be the 1949 lines, (i.e. the Green Line), lines they dismissed as entirely unsuitable for a permanent international border. The deliberate omission of the definite article from UNSCR 242's withdrawal clause was designed to facilitate the necessary revisions. So, until permanent territorial boundaries are demarcated in the context of a comprehensive peace, Israel has an equal right to be in these lands.

The fact is that Israel has a right to more than simply the "peace and security" generally presented as its anticipated dividend from any Middle East peace process. As the Balfour Declaration, UNGAR 181 and UNSCR 242 establish, it also has clear rights to the land and to exist as a Jewish state on it. If Annapolis is to be the beginning of a lasting settlement, all parties to the summit must recognize Israel's legitimate claims.

Sean Gannon is a freelance writer and researcher, specializing in Irish and Israeli affairs. He is currently preparing a book on the relationship between the two countries.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


FPC report exposes massive contradictions in European aid to Palestinians.


Summary by Elders of Ziyon


Funding for Peace Coalition (FPC) report documents dozens of recent disclosures, many from Arab sources little reported in Europe and the West.

LONDON, UK -- Since 1993, the European Union has contributed over €2 billion directly and indirectly to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Member states have donated a further €2 billion in the same period. The Funding for Peace Coalition has released a new report detailing the diversion of unprecedented sums of financial aid from the Palestinian people towards corruption and violence.

The report, entitled "Managing European Taxpayers' Money: Supporting The Palestinian Arabs — A Study In Transparency", exposes evidence showing a compelling connection between European funding and ongoing Palestinian corruption and terrorism. It highlights the utter failure of European organisations to monitor where these funds have been directed. The report details theft, nepotism, and embezzlement on the part of the PA, supported by incompetence and apathy on the part of European agencies.

FPC's work raises the following major issues, each of which strike at the very spirit of the Constitution of the European Union:

  • European aid has not reached its intended target population, but has been diverted towards graft, terrorism and incitement.
  • Despite strong denials from senior European politicians and civil servants, terrorists, such as those of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, have been recipients of Palestinian Authority salaries, which are financed from internationally funded budgets.
  • Even if European leaders truly believe that Parliament and the public in general have been given an honest appraisal of the risks involved, it cannot be stated with conviction that European taxpayers' money has been managed transparently and in accordance with the spirit in which it was collected.

FPC's study does not consider whether or not aid should be given to the Palestinians, or what level of aid would be appropriate. It begins from the assumption that it is important to provide aid to the Palestinians. The FPC report focuses solely on whether this aid is accomplishing the stated goals of the donor community, and the transparency of its management.

According to FPC's spokesperson, David Winter, "This new report highlights an astonishing lack of controls by the authorities in the European Union. The real facts about the continuing failure of the massive programme of international aid to the Palestinian people remain largely unreported. Our report shows that the watchdogs have been asleep on the job and it isn't for lack of public warning."

The FPC's report comes on the heels of growing pressure within Palestinian ranks, calling for an end to decades of corrupt leadership. According to Mohammed Dahlan, a former PA Interior Minister, who was quoted in The Guardian earlier this month, all of the funds which foreign countries donated to the Palestinian Authority, a total of $5bn, "have gone down the drain and we don't know to where."

Aware of the sensitive nature of the report and the need for careful research, Winter said: "Every piece of information in our report has been thoroughly checked. The extensive footnoting of the report allows the reader to check any and every fact presented."

When asked why was the report was issued, Winter responded. "We believe that, if we can draw sufficient attention to the issues, the political drive will be created to ensure that the Palestinian Arabs receive the intended benefit from the billions in aid channeled through their leadership and institutions. With proper management, we believe that mutual tolerance can be encouraged and ultimately regional peace can be achieved. Aid money will then be available to resolve other, often more pressing, humanitarian issues — possibly such as the crisis in Sudan and others."

Asked whether the European Commission had misled the European Parliament, Winter responded, "This is a key question which the FPC report addresses. For example, there have been countless reassurances that the PA payroll is tightly controlled. It is international donors who help pay for these employees. In fact the payroll has been found to be bloated with fictitious names or compromised of groups adjudged as terrorists by the EU itself."

Have public funds provided by Europeans been transferred transparently? Have the Palestinians really benefited from this massive inflow of aid — an estimated $10 billion from all sources? Members of the interested public are invited to read the facts in our report and decide for themselves.

This summary appeared August 2004 on the Elders of Ziyon website: The full report can be downloaded from


Israel's response is disproportionate.


by Jonathan Mark

I condemn Israel's disproportionate attack on Hamas because, so far, it has only lasted four days and I would like to see a proportionate response that terrifies Hamas for seven years, the years that have filled Sderot and neighboring towns with nightmares, death, amputations and trauma coming from rockets and mortars fired from Gaza.

Perhaps a proportionate response would have Gaza's leaders fearful of being killed every day for the next two years, as Gilad Shalit has been terrified of torture and death every day for the last two years in his solitary Gaza dungeon.

A proportionate response would have Hamas mothers and fathers as fearful for their children's lives as Shalit's mother and father have been fearful for Gilad's life.

A proportionate response would have Gaza's children crying for their mommies and daddies, the way at a Hamas pageant earlier in December a Palestinian actor dressed as Shalit got down on his knees, mock-begging in Hebrew for his Ima and Abba while the Gaza crowds laughed.

A proportionate response would so intimidate Hamas that they will grovel and, as a "gesture," send cocoa and jam into Sderot, the way Israel has groveled in response to rockets from Hamas, sending cocoa and jam into Gaza. Imagine Churchill sending cocoa and jam into Berlin as a humanitarian gesture after - during - the bombing of London.

A proportionate response would be one that will convince Hamas there is no military solution, no solution but surrender. They can then call surrender a "peace process," if they like, just as the mostly unanswered attacks on Jews have convinced some Jews that there is no military solution but surrender to any and all demands. They suggest a euthanasia by the euphemism of "peace process," that Israel become what some are already planning to call "Canaan," a non-Jewish state of all its citizens.

A proportionate response will convince Palestinians that if they insist that the starting point to peace negotiations is that no Jew be allowed to live on the West Bank, the proportionate response will be that Israel's starting point in negotiations is that no Arab be allowed to live in Tel Aviv. Horrible to contemplate? Fine, let there be a proportionate negotiation.

A proportionate response to Hamas, one might gather from the European scolds, would be as if the United States, after Pearl Harbor, would bomb just a few Japanese fishing boats and call it a day, believing the war would have ended with that.

A proportionate response will begin to remind Jews that there is no peace process like victory, just as Israel's decade of disproportionate restraint and self-doubt has convinced young Palestinians that their victory is inevitable, like Aryan youth in 1933 singing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me."

Let it be said to Israelis and Jews everywhere, in the words of Churchill: "You have enemies? Good. It means you've stood up for something." But remember: A war (and Hamas has repeatedly said this is war) is never won if you are disproportionately kind to someone who wants to destroy you and, failing in that, demands with indignation that you not destroy him.

When meeting that enemy, be proportionate.


Jonathan Mark is Associate Editor of the New York Jewish Week

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



Yes, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable: a memo to president-elect Obama.


by James Phillips and Peter Brookes


The Triumph of Wishful Thinking Over Past Experience

We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it's unacceptable. And I will do everything that's required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table.
Barack Obama, Second Presidential Debate[1]

President-elect Obama, you are right that the United States cannot allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon. Your statement during the second presidential debate indicates that you appreciate the unacceptable dangers posed by a nuclear-capable Iran. But statements like the following indicate a lack of understanding about the past record of failed attempts to negotiate with Iran:

Question: [W]ould you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?...

Obama: I would.[2]

Your Administration must learn from the experience of previous Administrations and European governments that have sought negotiations with Iran. The diplomatic path is not promising. Iran has strongly resisted international efforts to pressure it to abide by its legal commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and halt its suspect nuclear activities. Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, defiantly proclaimed last year that "Iran has obtained the technology to produce nuclear fuel, and Iran's move is like a train...which has no brake and no reverse gear."[3]

The diplomatic route would be more promising if the regime in Tehran was motivated primarily by a desire to advance Iran's national interests and promote the welfare of its people, but Iran's revolutionary Islamist regime is more interested in maintaining a brutal grip on power and spreading Islamist revolution. Ahmadinejad rose through the ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was created after Iran's 1979 revolution to defend and promote Ayatollah Khomeini's radical vision of revolutionary Shia Islam, and is committed to returning to the ideological purity of the revolution's early years.

But we must be careful not to personalize the problem. Iran's nuclear program began under President Rafsanjani and flourished under President Khatami. Both were considered "moderates," extolled by some observers as leaders with whom the West could do business, but both also practiced diplomacy by taqiyyah, which is a religiously sanctioned form of dissimulation or duplicity.

If you sat down with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions, as you said you would, you would hand him an opportunity to practice his own taqiyyah, strut on the world stage, lecture you about the supposed superiority of Iran's Islamic system, and assert Iran's claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Such a meeting would dishearten Iran's repressed opposition, strengthen Ahmadinejad's hard-liners at the expense of reformist groups, give Ahmadinejad a boost in popularity that could greatly improve his chances of being re-elected if the meeting occurred before Iran's June elections, and allow him to go through the motions of a diplomatic dialogue to defuse international pressure while Iran continues its nuclear efforts.

Your nominee as Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), rejected meeting with Ahmadinejad without preconditions, saying during the July 2007 YouTube debate that "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes." The next day, she blasted your willingness to sit down with Iran's president: "I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naïve."[4] You should take the advice of your nominee and rethink your position on meeting with Iran's leader.

The U.S. should mobilize an international coalition to raise the diplomatic, economic, domestic political, and potential military costs to Tehran of continuing to flout its obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreements. This coalition should seek to isolate the regime, weaken it through targeted economic sanctions, explain to the Iranian people why their government's nuclear policies will impose economic costs and military risks on them, contain and deter Iran's military power, and encourage democratic change.

To drive home your point that an Iranian nuclear weapon is "unacceptable," you should craft an Iran policy that includes the following important elements:

  • Recognize that the U.N. is a diplomatic dead end that will continue to do too little, too late to stop Iran's drive for nuclear weapons. The United States has sought to coax another sanctions resolution out of the U.N. Security Council, which has passed three rounds of limited sanctions on Iran, but past U.S. and European efforts to ratchet up sanctions against Iran have been frustrated by Russia and China. Both countries have lucrative trade relationships with and strategic ties to Tehran, and both have used their veto power as members of the Security Council to delay and dilute efforts to impose sanctions.

If strong, concerted international action had been taken five years ago, shortly after Iran's concealment of its uranium enrichment activities was revealed, the rising economic and international costs of its nuclear defiance might have led Tehran to reconsider its drive for nuclear weapons, but such action is less likely now than ever before. Given Moscow's increasingly confrontational behavior and threats to retaliate for international criticism of its invasion of Georgia, the Security Council is sure to remain ineffective in addressing the Iranian nuclear issue because of the threat of a Russian veto. Moreover, Russia is upgrading its ties with Iran. On September 18, Russia announced plans to sell more military equipment to Iran, including new anti-aircraft missiles that Iran could deploy to protect its illicit nuclear weapons program.

  • Recognize that attempts to negotiate a diplomatic deal with Iran represent the triumph of wishful thinking over past experience. Under Ahmadinejad's predecessors, Iran concealed and lied about its nuclear program for two decades before admitting that it had built a secret uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in 2003. When confronted, Tehran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program, undoubtedly out of fear of a U.S.-led intervention after America took military action to remove regimes in neighboring states led by Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.

Iran engaged in a half-hearted charade of negotiations with Britain, France, and Germany — the EU-3 — in which it temporarily froze its uranium enrichment efforts, only to resume such dangerous activities after Ahmadinejad was installed in power in 2005 and the perceived threat of a possible U.S. military strike diminished. Tehran perceived that the international situation had shifted in its favor. The U.S. faced deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part because of Iranian meddling; oil prices surged, insulating Iran from the threat of sanctions; and Iran cultivated Russia and China to fend off effective sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

Despite this, there are continuing calls for further attempts to reach a "grand bargain" in which Iran would pledge to abandon its nuclear efforts and support for terrorism in exchange for various economic carrots and security guarantees. However, the prospects for such a grand bargain are grossly overstated and ignore the past history of U.S. diplomatic efforts to reach an accommodation with Iran, which exploited and sabotaged U.S. efforts at engagement during the Carter, Reagan, and Clinton Administrations.

Hopeful talk about a new effort at rapprochement represents the triumph of wishful thinking over disappointing experience. The simple truth is that Iranian hard-liners do not want genuinely improved relations with the United States. Not only do they see the U.S. as the "Great Satan," but they fear the temptations that the "Great Satan" can offer. They know that two previous Iranian revolutions were aborted by the defection of Westernized elites, and they fear that better relations with the U.S. will pose a growing threat to their hold on power. Moreover, making the hard compromises that would be necessary to open the door to improved relations would undermine the legitimacy of their revolutionary ideology and weaken their claim to leadership of the Muslim world.

Tehran may go through the motions of a diplomatic dialogue, as it often has in the past, to deflect pressure for more international sanctions and temporarily defuse the nuclear standoff. But a Grand Bargain strategy is likely to result in endless talks about talks that will only enable Iran to buy time to run out the clock, as it completes a nuclear weapon.

  • Recognize that diplomatic carrots alone won't work because for Tehran, attaining a nuclear weapon is the biggest carrot. The EU-3 diplomatic outreach was heavily based on the offer of economic benefits, technological assistance, and improved diplomatic relations in exchange for Iran's halting of its uranium enrichment activities, but these incentives pale in comparison with the advantages that the regime believes it will attain with a nuclear weapons capability. What is needed is greater focus on tougher disincentives for continuation of Iran's suspect nuclear efforts, including its perceived economic, domestic political, and potential military costs. When Tehran perceives these potential costs as very high, as it did after the overthrow of regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be more likely to make concessions and freeze its uranium enrichment program. To give diplomacy a chance, the United States and its allies must credibly threaten to impose rising costs on the regime, particularly in ways that threaten its hold on power, which is its highest priority.

Opening an interest section would be in the national interest only if American diplomats received ironclad safeguards against terrorism and hostage-taking, which is not possible as long as Iran continues its efforts to support terrorism against American troops, coalition allies, and Iraqis. Your Administration must also be cognizant of the timing of any offer, which could be construed as a sign of weakness by Tehran. Making an offer before Iran's June elections would enhance Ahmadinejad's political prospects and should be avoided.

  • Lead an international coalition to impose the strongest possible targeted economic sanctions against Iran. The U.S. should try to toughen sanctions against Iran outside of the U.N. framework by working directly with its Japanese and European allies to impose the strongest possible bans on foreign investment, loans, and trade with Iran. The Achilles' heel of Iran's theocratic regime is its mishandling of the economy. There is growing dissatisfaction with this mismanagement and with corruption, high unemployment, and soaring inflation — officially reported at a 30 percent annual rate in September but believed to be higher. There is rising labor unrest. In October, tire factory workers demonstrated in front of the Labor Ministry to protest the failure of factories to pay six months of unpaid back wages. That same month, bazaar merchants rebelled against the imposition of a value-added tax, closing down the bazaars in many cities and forcing the regime to postpone its implementation. The bazaaris had been a cornerstone of support for the revolution against the shah.

Ayatollah Khomeini famously said, "We did not create a revolution to lower the price of melons." But Iran's current leaders lack the personal charisma, religious authority, and popular support needed to ignore the growing backlash against their dysfunctional economic policies, repression of human rights, and failure to meet the needs of the Iranian people. Falling oil prices will further aggravate Iran's festering economic problems and make sanctions more painful.

An international ban on the import of Iranian oil is a non-starter. It is unrealistic to expect oil importers to stop importing Iranian oil in a tight, high-priced oil market. Instead, the focus should be on denying Iran loans, foreign investment, and favorable trade deals. The U.S. should cooperate with other countries to deny Iran loans from such international financial institutions as the World Bank and any loans for a proposed natural gas pipeline to India via Pakistan.

Although Iran is one of the world's leading oil exporters, it must import approximately 40 percent of its gasoline needs due to mismanagement and inadequate investment in refinery infrastructure. An international ban on gasoline exports to Iran would drive up the price of Iranian gasoline and underscore the shortsightedness of the regime in the eyes of the Iranian people.

  • Mobilize allies to contain and deter Iran. Iran's continued support for terrorism and its prospective emergence as a nuclear power threaten many countries. Ahmadinejad's belligerence gives Washington greater opportunity to mobilize other states, particularly those in the growing shadow of Iranian power. The United States should maintain a strong naval and air presence in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran and strengthen military cooperation with the Gulf States, which are growing increasingly anxious about Iran's hard-line government.

The U.S. and its European allies should strengthen military, intelligence, and security cooperation with such threatened states as Iraq, Turkey, Israel, and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), which was founded in 1981 to provide collective security for Arab states threatened by Iran. Such a coalition could help both to contain the expansion of Iranian power and to facilitate military action, if necessary, against Iran. Washington should also offer to deploy or sell anti-ballistic missile defense systems to threatened states, enhance joint military planning, and step up joint military exercises focused on the Iranian threat.

  • Maintain the U.S. commitment to building a stable and democratic Iraq. A cornerstone of any policy to contain Iran must be strong support for an independent, democratic Iraq that is an ally in the war against terrorism. On January 20, you will become the commander in chief of the war in Iraq, and it will no longer be "Bush's war." You must reconsider your pledge to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. While this pledge may have made political sense during the campaign when you mistakenly concluded that the war was lost, such a policy will be disastrous if you cling to it as President. It is now clear that the surge has been a success and the war is winnable. If you remain committed to a rapid pullout according to an arbitrary deadline, you risk squandering the hard-won gains of the surge and plunging Iraq into a humanitarian catastrophe that will jeopardize U.S. national security interests, threaten the stability of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, and leave Iraq more vulnerable to Iranian meddling.

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called a withdrawal timetable "dangerous." You should accept his advice and the considered judgment of military professionals including General David Petraeus, the Commander of Central Command, in adopting a policy of gradual withdrawal and continued support for building Iraqi security forces. You should warn Tehran that continued meddling in Iraq, particularly cross-border support for the "special groups" and other forces hostile to the Iraqi government, will destroy the possibility of better relations with the United States, slow the pace of withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, and increase the size of the residual force that you have promised to maintain in Iraq to assist the Iraqi government in fighting terrorism.

  • Set conditions on any talks with Tehran that minimize Iran's ability to exploit such talks to defuse international opposition to its hostile foreign policy. One last attempt at a negotiated solution to the nuclear impasse may be necessary, if only to set the stage for the use of military force as a last resort, but your Administration must be careful not to hand Tehran the opportunity to go through the motions of diplomatic dialogue in order to undermine international support for economic sanctions and military action while it continues its nuclear program in secret. Given Iran's long history of taqiyyah diplomacy, duplicity, and denial on the nuclear issue, the United States should enter into direct diplomatic talks only if there is a clear understanding that the talks are not open-ended and that Iran must halt its suspect nuclear activities and agree to robust IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities for the talks to continue beyond a reasonable time limit — one that is measured in weeks, not months. The talks should be conducted through the State Department, not the White House, and the President should rule out any meeting with Iran's leaders unless they have agreed to halt their nuclear weapons program.
  • Support democratic opposition forces within Iran. A strategy of regime change is problematic and unlikely to succeed before Iran attains a nuclear weapon. The U.S. cannot depend on exile groups. The future of Iran will be determined by groups that have strength on the ground inside Iran. There is considerable grumbling at a lack of freedom, human rights abuses, corruption, and economic problems but no certainty that such grumbling will lead to meaningful change any time soon. A well-educated group of young reformers are seeking to replace the current mullahcracy with a genuine democracy that is accountable to the Iranian people. They were demoralized by former President Khatami's failure to live up to his promises of reform and by his lack of support for the student uprisings of 1999, but a growing popular disenchantment with the policies of President Ahmadinejad is likely to re-energize them.

The U.S. and its allies should discreetly support all Iranian opposition groups that reject terrorism and advocate democracy by publicizing their activities both internationally and within Iran, giving them organizational training, and inviting them to attend international conferences and workshops outside of Iran. Educational exchanges with Western students would help to bolster and open up communications with Iran's restive students, who historically have played a leading role in their country's reform movements. The U.S. should covertly subsidize opposition publications and organizing efforts, as it did to aid the anti-Communist opposition during the Cold War in Europe and Asia. However, such programs should be strictly segregated from public outreach efforts by the U.S. and its allies in order to avoid putting Iranian participants in international forums at risk of arrest or persecution when they return home.

America should not try to play favorites among the various Iranian opposition groups, but should instead encourage them to cooperate under the umbrella of the broadest possible coalition.

  • Launch a public diplomacy campaign to explain to the Iranian people how the regime's nuclear weapons program and hard-line policies hurt their economic and national interests. Iran's clerical regime has tightened its grip on the media in recent years, shutting down more than 100 independent newspapers, jailing journalists, closing down Web sites, and arresting bloggers. The U.S. and its allies should work to defeat the regime's suppression of independent media by increasing Farsi broadcasts by such government-sponsored media as the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe (Radio Farda), and other information sources. The free flow of information is essential to the free flow of political ideas. The Iranian people need access to information about the activities of opposition groups, both within and outside of Iran, and the plight of dissidents.
  • Prepare for the use of military force as a last resort. You have wisely promised that "we will never take military options off the table." There is no guaranteed policy that can halt the Iranian nuclear program short of war, and even a military campaign may only delay Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. But U.S. policymaking regarding the Iranian nuclear issue inevitably boils down to a search for the least-bad option, and as potentially costly and risky as a preventive war against Iran would be, allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons could result in far heavier costs and risks.

The U.S. could probably deter Iran from a direct nuclear attack by threatening massive retaliation and the assured destruction of the Iranian regime, but there is lingering doubt that Ahmadinejad, who reportedly harbors apocalyptic religious beliefs regarding the return of the Mahdi, would have the same cost-benefit calculus about a nuclear war that other leaders would have. Moreover, his regime might risk passing nuclear weapons off to terrorist surrogates in hopes of escaping retaliation for a nuclear surprise attack launched by an unknown attacker.

Moreover, even if Iran could be deterred from considering such attacks, an Iranian nuclear breakout would undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, and Algeria to seek to build or acquire their own nuclear weapons. Each new nuclear power would multiply the risks and uncertainties in an already volatile region.

Iran also might be emboldened to step up its support for terrorism and subversion, calculating that its nuclear capability would deter a military response. An Iranian miscalculation could easily lead to a military clash with the U.S. or an American ally that would impose exponentially higher costs than would be imposed by a war with a non-nuclear Iran. All of these risks must be considered before deciding on how to proceed if diplomacy fails to prevent the prospect of a nuclear Iran.


Preventing a nuclear Iran is one of the most difficult and dangerous problems that confronts your Administration. You should learn from the experience of past efforts to negotiate with Iran and deal with Tehran from a position of strength, stressing sticks rather than carrots, because for Iran, a nuclear weapon is the biggest carrot. Targeted economic sanctions and the possible use of military force are your biggest sources of leverage. The only hope of aborting the Iranian nuclear bomb lies in convincing Iran's leaders that the economic, diplomatic, and possible military costs of continuing their nuclear program are so high that they threaten the regime's hold on power. Any talks with Iran should be structured to produce quick results and preclude Tehran from stretching out the negotiations indefinitely.

You should rule out a presidential meeting with Iranian leaders until they have agreed to end their nuclear weapons efforts in a verifiable manner based on intrusive international inspections. Accepting anything less will only give Iran's radical regime yet another opportunity to renege on their commitments when it suits their purposes.  


[1]CNN, "Transcript of Second McCain, Obama Debate," October 7, 2008, at 10/07/presidential.debate.transcript (December 3, 2008).

[2] CNN, "Part I: CNN/YouTube Democratic Presidential Debate Transcript," July 23, 2007, at /POLITICS/07/23/debate.transcript (December 3, 2008).

[3] Reuters, "Iran's Atomic Work Has No 'Reverse Gear,'" February 25, 2007, at article/topNews/idUKBLA53622220070225 (December 3, 2008).

[4] Associated Press, "Clinton: Obama Is 'Naïve' on Foreign Policy," July 24, 2007, at (December 3, 2008).

James Phillips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and

Peter Brookes is Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs in the Davis Institute, at The Heritage Foundation.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Enough of radical Islam


by Ben Shapiro


Enough with the pseudonyms. Western civilization isnt at war with terrorism any more than it is at war with grenades. Western civilization is at war with militant Islam, which dominates Muslim communities all over the world. Militant Islam isn't a tiny minority of otherwise goodhearted Muslims. Its a dominant strain of evil that runs rampant in a population of well over 1 billion.

Enough with the psychoanalysis. They don't hate us because of Israel. They don't hate us because of Kashmir. They don't hate us because we have troops in Saudi Arabia or because we deposed Saddam Hussein. They don't hate us because of Britney Spears. They hate us because we are infidels, and because we don't plan on surrendering or providing them material aid in their war of aggressive expansion.

Enough with the niceties. We don't lose our souls when we treat our enemies as enemies. We don't undermine our principles when we post more police officers in vulnerable areas, or when we send Marines to kill bad guys, or when we torture terrorists for information. And we don't redeem ourselves when we close Guantanamo Bay or try terrorists in civilian courts or censor anti-Islam comics. When it comes to war, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Enough with the words. Talking with Iran without wielding the threat of force, either economic or military, won't help. Appealing to the United Nations, run by thugs and dictators ranging from Putin to Chavez to Ahmadinejad, is an exercise in pathetic futility. Evil countries don't suddenly decide to abandon their evil goals — they are forced to do so by pressure and circumstance.

Enough with the faux allies. We don't gain anything by pretending that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are true allies. They aren't. At best, they are playing both sides of the table. We ought to be drilling now in order to break OPEC. Building windmills isn't going to cut it. We should also be backing India to the hilt in its current conflict with Pakistan — unless Pakistan can destroy its terrorist element, India should be given full leeway to do what it needs to do. Russia and China, meanwhile, are facilitating anti-Western terrorism. Treating them as friends in this global war is simply begging for a backstabbing.

Enough with the myths. Not everyone on earth is crying out for freedom. There are plenty of people who are happy in their misery, believing that their suffering is part and parcel of a correct religious system. Those people direct their anger outward, targeting unbelievers. We cannot simply knock off dictators and expect indoctrinated populations to rise to the liberal democratic challenge. The election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is more a rule than an exception in the Islamic world.

Enough with the lies. Stop telling us that Islam is a religion of peace. If it is, prove it through action. Stop telling us that President-elect Barack Obama will fix our broken relationship with the Muslim world. They hate Obama just as much as they hated President George W. Bush, although they think Obama is more of a patsy than Bush was. Stop telling us that we shouldn't worry about the Islamic infiltration of our economy. If the Saudis own a large chunk of our banking institutions and control the oil market, they can certainly leverage their influence in dangerous ways.

Enough. After the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the plane downed in Pennsylvania, the endless suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks in Israel, the Bali bombings, the synagogue bombing in Tunisia, the LAX shootings, the Kenyan hotel bombing, the Casablanca attacks, the Turkey synagogue attacks, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, and the repeated attacks in India culminating in the Mumbai massacres — among literally thousands of others — its about time that the West got the point: we're in a war. Our enemies are determined. They will not quit just because we offer them Big Macs, Christina Aguilera CDs, or even the freedom to vote. They will not quit just because we ensure that they have Korans in their Guantanamo cells, or because we offer to ban The Satanic Verses (as India did). They will only quit when they are dead. It is our job to make them so, and to eliminate every obstacle to their destruction.

So enough. No more empty talk. No more idle promises. No more happy ignorance, half measures, or appeasement-minded platitudes. The time for hard-nosed, uncompromising action hasn't merely come — its been overdue by seven years. The voice of our brothers blood cries out from the ground.

Ben Shapiro is a regular guest on dozens of radio shows around the United States and Canada and author of Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Don't flatter your enemies, protect your friends .


by Barry Rubin


Part I: Dear President Obama

They say that you prefer the name Barry and so it pleases me no end that another Barry is finally president of the United States. In addition, I once worked as a community organizer so we have two things in common.

On that basis, then, I hope you don't mind my making some suggestions about how you might think about the Middle East. I'm not looking for a job in Washington. In fact, as I look back on my life, I note that if I'd been successful in some obsession for a U.S. a government post I would have been a proud participant in such endeavors as the catastrophic mishandling of Iran's revolution, the failed U.S. dispatch of troops to Lebanon, the botched trade of arms for hostages with Iran, the crashed peace process, and the Iraq war.

So don't be misled! Today, everyone's talking about how wonderful you are. Those are the people who want jobs, favors, and access. There are others who want something else from you — like control over Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, or Georgia — who are more likely to be psychopathic than sycophantic.

Your expressed theme for your administration's Middle East policy can be described in one word: conciliation. You think that your predecessors made unnecessary enemies and blocked, rather than furthered, progress. Building on the basis of your perceived popularity and sincere good will, you believe that it is not so heard to make friends with Iran and Syria, soothe grievances that have caused Islamism and terrorism, and solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Good luck. We hope you succeed.

But please bear in mind some important points as you go along in this effort.

  • In the Middle East, it is not so useful to think yourself popular and show yourself to be friendly. You have to inspire fear in your enemies and confidence in your friends. And if you don't inspire fear in your enemies — if you're too nice to them — then you will indeed foment fear among your friends.
  • Not everyone thinks the same way. When you talk of "empathy," America's enemies hear the word "fear." When you speak of change, they, too, want change. Unfortunately the change they want means wiping other states off the map, creating radical Islamist dictatorships, and kicking the United States out of the region.
  • This is no misunderstanding: it's a conflict.

(In the film, "Cool Hand Luke," the noble convict (played by Paul Newman), jokes to the sadistic guards, "What we have here is a lack of communication." The audiences laughed. What everyone has forgotten is that a moment later they shoot him dead. Harvard Law School meets the law of the jungle.

You are going to talk to Iran, negotiate with Syria, and try to buy the Palestinians or press the Israelis into making peace. It's your presidency and many Americans think — whether rightly or not — that this hasn't been tried enough.

But please keep in mind four very important points for when the going gets rough:

  1. How much do you offer them and at who's expense? Not too much, please.
  2. How closely will you monitor whether or not they are keeping their commitments? Be tough please.
  3. At what point will you conclude that they don't want to end existing conflicts or be America's friends? Don't wait too long, please.
  4. What do you do when you figure out this doesn't work? Don't be afraid to admit failure, blame those responsible, and try something else.

Let's take Iraq. You want to withdraw and turn the war over to the Iraqis. Makes sense. But what will you do if Iran escalates in order to make your withdrawal look like a defeat and fill the vacuum — subtly, of course, not too openly.

And what do you do to combat Iranian and Syrian efforts to turn Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip, into their sphere of influence? They will pump in money, pump up hatred, and kill anyone who stands in the way. Making a good speech, apologizing for the past, or offering more concessions won't work.

Westerners are eager to resolve conflicts; revolutionaries want to use conflicts. You think grievances can be resolved; their grievances are insatiable. Make a concession, they ignore it and demand another. Withdraw from a territory, they occupy it and turn it into a base for the next advance. Explain that you feel their pain, and they add to your pain.

This is what it is like to deal with extremists and ideologues.

Right now you don't understand why Bill Clinton and George Bush couldn't solve a little thing like the Arab-Israeli conflict. Don't worry. Be patient. You will.

The truth is that an emphasis on Afghanistan is no panacea because Afghanistan is far tougher than Iraq. no one tames Afghanistan, it is a product of geography, ethnic conflict, macho militarism, and degree of development. In Iraq, the majority is very basically on your side and a stable government could definitely emerge, in Afghanistan, it is a permanent holding action or collapse.

I'm not the least bit worried about a good U.S.-Israel relationship, but what about the indirect threat.

What happens when the Europeans hug you, kiss you and then refuse to extend sanctions. Will Austria, Germany and Switzerland cut off their deals with Iran or will you even ask them to toughen up?

How will you convince the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians and others that you are their reliable protector against Iranian nukes?.

Part II: Don't flatter your enemies, protect your friends

In explaining why he was too fearful to vote in Jerusalem's mayoral election, an east Jerusalem Palestinian shopkeeper, Issam Abu Rmaileh, said, "I would have liked to vote because it's in our interest, but who's going to protect me and my family afterwards?"

So let's call it the Abu Rmaileh principle, and it is extraordinarily important in the Middle East. Why should someone support you if you cannot protect them? Because if they cannot depend on you to be tough, they might as well play it safe by doing nothing or make their own deal through appeasement and shout radical slogans.

Here is the Abu Rmaileh principle at a higher pay grade. Jordan's Foreign Minister Salah Bashir stated in a closed meeting, "For us the Iranian surge for hegemony has become a crisis," according to the participant who asked not to be named.

And here's the flip side from a frustrated American colonel fighting in Iraq, "All these guys we rounded up, they're saying in the interrogation, if we don't torture them, we're not going to get the information."

How important is popularity? According to the school enthusiastic about President-elect Barack Obama in the United States, it is everything. One journalist explained that al-Qaida is afraid of Obama because, presumably, he will win away Muslims from supporting radical Islamism. It is written in the Washington Post: "Even among the followers of radical groups, such as Hamas and the Taliban, Obama has inspired a sense of change and opportunity."

That last statement — intended to imply that even the extremists like Obama — is worded with a shocking, though unintentional, ambiguity. It is sure true that Hamas, the Taliban, Hizballah, Iran, Syria, and al-Qaida view this "change" as an "opportunity." Unfortunately, they view it as an opportunity for being more aggressive.

Here's how Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami put it, in words typical of the reaction from Iran and these other groups. He attributes Obama's slogan of "change" as a retreat due to Iran's revolution which has brought down American power, though the United States is continuing to decline.

For them, Barack is seen as a bringer of a popular America but a figure of weakness. Should there be any doubt that his flexibility will be interpreted as retreat, no matter how well-intentioned he is?

The debate in Washington is far away from the debate in the Middle East. In America's capital, the talk is of how the radicals are more moderate than thought, how they will be won over by Obama's charisma and changed American policies. The disconnect between the region and the rationalizers is frightening.

There is no policy change in Washington that will appease the radicals. And there are no concessions that will make an American president popular in a meaningful way among Middle Easterners. Even more worrisome, such steps are not going to make moderates feel more secure.

Here the al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri gets it just right. He tells Obama: " It appears that you don't know anything about the Muslim world and its history....You are neither facing individuals nor organizations, but are facing a Jihadi awakening and renaissance which is shaking the pillars of the entire Islamic world; and this is the fact which you and your government and country refuse to recognize and pretend not to see."

Zawahiri even invokes the Abu Rmaileh principle: "It appears that you don't know anything about...the fate of the traitors who cooperated with the invaders against it." In other words, anyone who cooperates with the United States or fights the Islamists will die.

Al-Qaida is not a very important group nowadays. But the rise of Islamist forces is clear, even though some of them are hostile to each other. It is Iran, not Ayman, who is the main beneficiary of this phenomenon, though Muslim Brotherhood groups — most notably Hamas — are also advancing.

How are President George Bush and his successor exactly alike? Because both believe that being liked in the Middle East will bring victory. Bush thought that by gifting the locals with a non-dictatorial Iraq and democracy they would come to love him. The opposite happened. Obama's strategy of being a nice guy and making concessions is likely to be less costly in direct terms for the United States but will also be used by the radicals for their own benefit.

One problem with the belief that Obama's popularity and flexibility will succeed is the Abu Rmaileh principle: Don't tell me who is nice; tell me who is going to protect me. Being feared and respected, as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad rightly put it, is more important than being liked. Usama bin Ladin noted that people understandably prefer to put their money on the horse that seems most likely to win the race.

A second problem is how people in the Middle East are going to find out that you are such a great guy. They don't follow the American or European media but local sources, including both government and radical Islamist propaganda.

The frustrated American colonel in Iraq quoted above was bewildered by the fact that "We poured a lot of our heart and soul into trying to help the people" only to hear them say the most inaccurate things about the United States stealing their oil, taking their land, and "turning our country over to Israel." A U.S. pull-out may well be the right policy, but it will not bring gratitude.

What's needed is not a president who can work with Iran or Syria but a president who can work with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese forces who want their country to be free, and so on, along with Israel and Europe in a grand alignment. Yes, it is in large part a zero-sum game. What makes Tehran or Damascus happy is going to damage their intended victims.

Alas, just because something isn't true doesn't mean people can't believe it. That's a truism applicable both to the Middle East and to Washington DC.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.