Commentary Magazine


Topic: Government of Iran

Iran Strike, Out

In case you missed it, the Obama administration has unequivocally taken the option of a military strike off the Iran-policy table. Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a February 15 Al Jazeera interview:

MR. FOUKARA: Just as a follow-up to what you said about Iran, Madam Secretary, you said in your speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that more pressure should be applied to Iran. And there are a lot of people in the Middle East wondering if the United States is planning, at any one time, whether before the withdrawal from Iraq or after the withdrawal from Iraq, planning to launch a military attack of one kind or another against Iran.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran. I mean, that is how we see it. We see that the Government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view.

And so, what we are trying to do is to send a message to Iran, a very clear message, that we still would be open to engagement, we still believe that there is a different path for Iran to take. But we want the world united in sending an unequivocal message to Iran that, “We will not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbor, and even beyond.” And we hope to try to influence the decision making within Iran. And that is our goal.

If you don’t believe that no means no, check out the follow-up:

MR. FOUKARA: So, Madam Secretary, now you are saying there is no plan on the part of the United States to launch an attack? Not in the immediate future, not in the middle term, not in the long term?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are interested in changing Iran’s behavior and — now, we will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies. And we will certainly defend countries here in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran. But we have pursued a dual track, not a triple track, but a dual-track approach of engagement and potential pressure, and that is what we’re focused on.

Anyone remember this? “I don’t think the President of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.” — Barack Obama, the New York Times, January 11, 2007

In case you missed it, the Obama administration has unequivocally taken the option of a military strike off the Iran-policy table. Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a February 15 Al Jazeera interview:

MR. FOUKARA: Just as a follow-up to what you said about Iran, Madam Secretary, you said in your speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that more pressure should be applied to Iran. And there are a lot of people in the Middle East wondering if the United States is planning, at any one time, whether before the withdrawal from Iraq or after the withdrawal from Iraq, planning to launch a military attack of one kind or another against Iran.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran. I mean, that is how we see it. We see that the Government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view.

And so, what we are trying to do is to send a message to Iran, a very clear message, that we still would be open to engagement, we still believe that there is a different path for Iran to take. But we want the world united in sending an unequivocal message to Iran that, “We will not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbor, and even beyond.” And we hope to try to influence the decision making within Iran. And that is our goal.

If you don’t believe that no means no, check out the follow-up:

MR. FOUKARA: So, Madam Secretary, now you are saying there is no plan on the part of the United States to launch an attack? Not in the immediate future, not in the middle term, not in the long term?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are interested in changing Iran’s behavior and — now, we will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies. And we will certainly defend countries here in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran. But we have pursued a dual track, not a triple track, but a dual-track approach of engagement and potential pressure, and that is what we’re focused on.

Anyone remember this? “I don’t think the President of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.” — Barack Obama, the New York Times, January 11, 2007

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Re: Axis of Uranium Meets Middle East Peace Process

How many Middle Eastern leaders have to visit Brazil in one month for the U.S. State Department to figure out something’s going on? More than three, apparently. After I wrote Friday’s post on the serial visits of Peres, Abbas, and Ahmadinejad, Rick Richman called my attention to the exchange in the State Department briefing on Ahmadinejad’s visit:

QUESTION: Ahmadinejad is going to be visiting Brazil in a couple of days. Is the fact that a friendly government like that welcoming Ahmadinejad – does that tend to dilute international solidarity on the nuclear issue?

MR. WOOD: Well, President Ahmadinejad going to Brazil, that’s an issue between the Government of Brazil and the Government of Iran. What we would hope is that the Government of Brazil would raise some of these concerns that we have, many of which I’ve just laid out here, about Iran in those meetings. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to add to that.

So: Brazil is hosting the three major regional players in Middle Eastern dynamics this month. One of them is the president of Iran, the revolutionary, terrorist-sponsoring state Obama is trying to pressure on its nuclear program. Brazil – a nuclear client of Russia – has been following Venezuela’s path toward “increased economic ties” with Iran, which in literal terms means banking arrangements that circumvent sanctions, plus plenty of “legitimate” manufacturing and container shipping to obscure trade in prohibited goods. And the views of our State Department on these circumstances boil down to an absurdly banal bromide (the Ahmadinejad visit is “an issue between Brazil and Iran”) and a “hope” that Brazil will raise some of our concerns with the Iranian president.

Far from acting as our deputy, Brazil seems to be positioning itself to gain leverage with Iran regardless of how its policies undermine the P5+1’s threat of sanctions. Mahmoud Abbas probably overestimates the leverage Brazil already has with Iran, but in requesting Lula da Silva’s help with discouraging the Iran-Hamas link, he has shown a keener understanding of this month’s diplomatic flurry than Foggy Bottom.

One projection seems sound: if Brazil does go through with a line of credit for Iran, we should expect that move to bring Brazil into conflict with the U.S. Treasury Department, as Venezuela’s similar activities have in the past. What we do about such a financial arrangement between Iran and Brazil will tell both parties – and all our negotiating partners – everything they need to know about the credibility of Obama’s threats of sanctions.

How many Middle Eastern leaders have to visit Brazil in one month for the U.S. State Department to figure out something’s going on? More than three, apparently. After I wrote Friday’s post on the serial visits of Peres, Abbas, and Ahmadinejad, Rick Richman called my attention to the exchange in the State Department briefing on Ahmadinejad’s visit:

QUESTION: Ahmadinejad is going to be visiting Brazil in a couple of days. Is the fact that a friendly government like that welcoming Ahmadinejad – does that tend to dilute international solidarity on the nuclear issue?

MR. WOOD: Well, President Ahmadinejad going to Brazil, that’s an issue between the Government of Brazil and the Government of Iran. What we would hope is that the Government of Brazil would raise some of these concerns that we have, many of which I’ve just laid out here, about Iran in those meetings. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to add to that.

So: Brazil is hosting the three major regional players in Middle Eastern dynamics this month. One of them is the president of Iran, the revolutionary, terrorist-sponsoring state Obama is trying to pressure on its nuclear program. Brazil – a nuclear client of Russia – has been following Venezuela’s path toward “increased economic ties” with Iran, which in literal terms means banking arrangements that circumvent sanctions, plus plenty of “legitimate” manufacturing and container shipping to obscure trade in prohibited goods. And the views of our State Department on these circumstances boil down to an absurdly banal bromide (the Ahmadinejad visit is “an issue between Brazil and Iran”) and a “hope” that Brazil will raise some of our concerns with the Iranian president.

Far from acting as our deputy, Brazil seems to be positioning itself to gain leverage with Iran regardless of how its policies undermine the P5+1’s threat of sanctions. Mahmoud Abbas probably overestimates the leverage Brazil already has with Iran, but in requesting Lula da Silva’s help with discouraging the Iran-Hamas link, he has shown a keener understanding of this month’s diplomatic flurry than Foggy Bottom.

One projection seems sound: if Brazil does go through with a line of credit for Iran, we should expect that move to bring Brazil into conflict with the U.S. Treasury Department, as Venezuela’s similar activities have in the past. What we do about such a financial arrangement between Iran and Brazil will tell both parties – and all our negotiating partners – everything they need to know about the credibility of Obama’s threats of sanctions.

Read Less




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