Friday, February 03, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 2/3/2012: Iranian Isolation As It Threatens US

From DG:
1) Increasing Iranian Isolation

The New York Times reports Effort to Rebrand Arab Spring Backfires in Iran. The article is about a conference held in Tehran about the "Arab Awakening.":
The Tehran conference coincided with fresh signs of division between Iran and other Muslim countries. On Sunday, Turkey hosted a conference of the Syrian opposition, whose members denounced Iran’s assistance in the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters. And on Tuesday, a Saudi delegation walked out of a pan-Islamic conference in Indonesia, after a former speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Nateq Nouri, said the Saudi monarchy was corrupt and oppressive. (Needless to say, there were no Saudis at the Tehran conference.)
The Iranian effort to hold up the struggle against Israel as a crucible of Islamic unity comes across to many Arabs as doctrinaire and shopworn, no matter how strongly they sympathize with the Palestinian cause. 
The cast of characters presiding over the Tehran conference — seated at a table on the stage — seemed strangely removed from the events of the past year: gray-bearded clerics, a former prime minister of Iraq, and aging Islamist leaders from Hezbollah and a Palestinian faction.  
The point of the article is that despite the growing Islamization of the Middle East, fewer of those Sunni countries wish to associate with  Shi'ite Iran.

Charles Krauthammer writes in Syria: It’s not just about freedom that the Sunni-Shi'a split should be exploited:
It’s not just the Sunni Arabs lining up against Assad. Turkey, after a recent flirtation with a Syrian-Iranian-Turkish entente, has turned firmly against Assad, seeing an opportunity to extend its influence, as in Ottoman days, as protector/master of the Sunni Arabs. The alignment of forces suggests a unique opportunity for the West to help finish the job. 
How? First, a total boycott of Syria, beyond just oil and including a full arms embargo. 
Second, a flood of aid to the resistance (through Turkey, which harbors both rebel militias and the political opposition, or directly and clandestinely into Syria). Third, a Security Council resolution calling for the removal of the Assad regime. Russia, Assad’s last major outside ally, should be forced to either accede or incur the wrath of the Arab states with a veto. 
Force the issue. Draw bright lines. Make clear American solidarity with the Arab League against a hegemonic Iran and its tottering Syrian client. In diplomacy, one often has to choose between human rights and strategic advantage. This is a rare case where we can advance both — so long as we do not compromise with Russia or relent until Assad falls.  
2) More hostile but less threatening? 

Jonathan Schanzer recently wrote about A new view of the Arab Spring. After discussing the various changes in the Middle East and acknowledging that the new leaders are more hostile to Israel, he argues that the actual chance of the hostility turning to conflict is smaller for various external factors. In the end he writes:
Of course, the sands shift daily. Israeli security analysts must struggle to make sense of the ongoing instability. As they do, they continue to churn out new worst-case scenarios on a daily or weekly basis. 
Here's the best of the bad news: the Arab protests amount to a much-needed reminder to the Israelis that their region is filled with Islamists, and that paying off dictators cannot solve Israel's problems in the long term. 
But here's real bad news: the Arab protests are a distraction from the threat of a nuclear Iran. The regime in Tehran continues to inch closer to the nuclear threshold, but the Israeli response is still fuzzy. Will the Israelis neutralize it with force? Has the Obama administration given them a green light? Judging from the heated debate inside Israel, and the outward disagreements with Washington, Israel's way forward is far from settled.
3) The Iranian threat to America 

Recently in testimony before a Senate hearing, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper said that Iran might target the United States.
The top U.S. intelligence official, James R. Clapper, told a Senate hearing that a purported Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington in the fall convinced U.S. officials that leaders in Tehran are increasingly likely to support bombings on U.S. soil, especially if they feel that their hold on power is threatened. 
"Some Iranian officials, probably including supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have changed their calculus and are now willing to conduct an attack in the United States," said Clapper, director of national intelligence. 
Tension with Tehran has risen sharply in recent weeks as the European Union and the Obama administration have imposed punishing economic sanctions in an effort to persuade Iran's leaders to abandon what they suspect is a nuclear weapons program.
In a similar vein, the New York Times reported the Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned that Iran was trying to develop a long range missile capable of reaching the United States.
The Israeli, Moshe Yaalon, a deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs, said the blast at a missile base of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps hit a system “getting ready to produce a missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers.”
Mr. Yaalon was trying to make the point that the Iranian nuclear program is a threat not only to Israel but to other nations, creating “a nightmare for the free world.” He said that it was a concern to Arab states as well as to the United States and Israel. 
American officials said they believed that Mr. Yaalon’s assertions were at best premature, and at worst badly exaggerated.
The article was rewritten and now carries the headline, U.S. Plays Down Warning By Israeli Over Iran’s Missile.
Technorati Tag: and .
Post a Comment