Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 and Iran

As we commemorate today the anniversary of 9/11, we must remember the lessons of that tragic day. We need to remain vigilant and proactive in the face of real dangers, while also understadning that the strain of hatred that attacked us that day was not representative of Islam as a whole.

Iran is not Al Queda, but the hatred is the same. The boasts are the same. And the potential for destruction is even greater. Here are today's foreboding headlines about Iran, culled from the Daily Alert:

U.S.: Iran Nuclear Proposals "Not Really Responsive"
Iran's latest proposals to the UN are "not really responsive" to international concerns about its nuclear program, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. He said Tehran's latest proposals continue to insist that its nuclear file is "closed," and "That is certainly not the case." Iran has failed to clear up questions about the goals of its nuclear program with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Crowley said, and it has defied a Security Council demand that it halt its production of enriched uranium. (CNN) See also Iran Not Prepared to Discuss Halting Uranium Enrichment - Thomas ErdbrinkIran is not prepared to discuss halting its uranium enrichment program in response to Western demands but is proposing instead a worldwide control system aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons, President Ahmadinejad's top political aide Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said Thursday. In a set of proposals on Wednesday, Iran also offered to cooperate on solving problems in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism and to collaborate on oil and gas projects. (Washington Post) See also Text: Iran's Nuclear Program Proposal (Pro Publica)

Russia Rejects New Iran Sanctions - Marc Champion and Jay SolomonRussia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear Thursday that Moscow will not back tougher sanctions such as a ban on petroleum sales to Iran, and said the world would have enough time to respond if Tehran ever did try to enrich uranium to weapons grade. "Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way," Lavrov said. Russia had agreed only to sanctions in the past aimed at pressing Iran to engage with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tough sanctions aimed at pushing Iran to agree to demands to shut its nuclear program were a different matter. Lavrov said, "I do not think those sanctions will be approved by the United Nations Security Council," where Russia wields a veto. (Wall Street Journal)

Kremlin Confirms Netanyahu's Trip to Russia - Andrew OsbornRussia's Kommersant on Thursday, citing a senior Kremlin source, confirmed that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, made a secret visit to Moscow last Monday to discuss Russian arms shipments to Iran and Syria. The revelation appeared to support maritime and military experts who have claimed the missing Arctic Sea cargo ship was carrying S-300 anti-aircraft missiles for Iran, that the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, found out, and that the Kremlin was given time and space to stop the delivery and cover it up in order to save face. (Telegraph-UK)

See also Diplomacy Can't Stop Arms Sales - Benny AvniThe story of the Arctic Sea teaches an important lesson about stopping the sale of weapons to rogue nations like Iran. International agreements aren't enough to stop such arms deliveries in a world of shadowy arms dealers, greedy former generals and rogue regimes. It requires the use of all available means - including some clandestine acts. "Israel regularly follows and intercepts attempts to smuggle arms to Iran and other countries in the region," an Israeli intelligence source told me, adding, "In most cases you won't even hear about it." (New York Post)

Time to Get Serious about Helping Iran's Opposition - John P. Hannah
The chances that diplomacy will convince this Iranian regime to change course and truly abandon its nuclear ambitions seem next to nil. Yet a mass protest movement has risen (and persisted) that has rocked the Iranian regime to its core and is genuinely threatening its collapse. That movement's survival, strengthening, and eventual success has become the most viable option available for satisfactorily resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis short of war. The administration's entire strategy with respect to Iran has been premised on getting the current regime into talks and negotiating some sort of deal. Working with its allies, the U.S. needs to make clear now that the Islamic Republic will not get away cost-free if it moves against the opposition's top le aders. The writer, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2005-2009. (Weekly Standard)

Any U.S. Distancing from Israel Strengthens Islamists - David Makovsky (New York Jewish Week) In the post-9/11 world, there are numerous cases of converging interests between Israel and Arab regimes, shaped by a perception of common enemies. After the 2007 Israeli bombing of the Syrian reactor, the Arab regimes remained silent, with none condemning the action, indicating their displeasure with Syria's growing ties to Iran. Arab states led by Saudi Arabia were horrified that Hizbullah went to war with Israel in 2006 without the vote of the Lebanese government in a unilateral decision, facilitated by Iranian weapons. The Arabs wanted Hizbullah to be defeated, not to emerge stronger from the conflict. With Iran's support for Hamas, combined with Iran's emerging nuclear program, Arab leaders see an Iran that appears to be on the march. At the start of the Gaza conflict last December, Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers publicly blamed Hamas as being responsible for the crisis. Egypt still refuses to open its border to Gaza on a regular basis.

The Arab states fear that if Tehran gained a bomb, it could lead to the provision of nuclear materials to non-state actors by Iran. They also recognize that a nuclear Iran could engage in much greater coercion of its neighbors.

If the U.S. distanced itself from Israel, this would be the greatest windfall imaginable to the strongest Islamist elements, whether al-Qaeda or Iran, who would see it as a validation. It would lend a sense of momentum or inevitability to their cause, and countries throughout the region would view future U.S. actions through this lens. Therefore, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship remains key and a cornerstone for Mideast peace.

The writer is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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