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TA| Sie verspielen eine historische Chance

Heute gehen die Atomverhandlungen zwischen den USA und dem Iran in die letzte Runde. Scheitern sie, liegt das auch an Teherans Neinsagern, die in einem antiamerikanischen Reflex gefangen sind.

Die breite Front von Neinsagern bringt eine Einigung im Atomstreit in Gefahr: US-Aussenminister John Kerry (rechts) begrüsst den iranischen Aussenminister Javad Zarif zu Beginn der Verhandlungen in Muscat. Dahinter EU-Aussenbeauftragte Catherine Ashton sowie der omanische Aussenminster Yussef bin Alawi. (9. November 2014)

Die breite Front von Neinsagern bringt eine Einigung im Atomstreit in Gefahr: US-Aussenminister John Kerry (rechts) begrüsst den iranischen Aussenminister Javad Zarif zu Beginn der Verhandlungen in Muscat. Dahinter EU-Aussenbeauftragte Catherine Ashton sowie der omanische Aussenminster Yussef bin Alawi. (9. November 2014) Bild: Nicholas Kamm/Reuters

Wenn heute in Wien die vielleicht letzte Verhandlungsrunde zur Beilegung des Atomstreits mit dem Iran beginnt, steht mehr auf dem Spiel als nur die Zahl iranischer Zentrifugen oder die Menge des vom Iran angereicherten Urans. Es besteht die Möglichkeit, Teherans internationale Isolierung zu beenden und 35 Jahre Feindschaft mit den Vereinigten Staaten zu überwinden.

Die Chancen hierfür stehen freilich nicht allzu gut. Denn es scheint, als hätten nur Barack Obama und der iranische Präsident Hassan Rohani wirklich ein Interesse an einer Lösung zu beiderseits akzeptablen Bedingungen. Ansonsten lehnt eine breite Front von Neinsagern ein Abkommen ab oder versteift sich auf Maximalforderungen, die nicht durchsetzbar sind. Zum Beispiel Benjamin Netanyahu: Am Sonntag warnte der israelische Premierminister im amerikanischen Fernsehen erneut vor einer Abmachung, die seinen Vorstellungen nicht entspricht.

«Iran ist kein amerikanischer Alliierter, Iran ist nicht euer Freund, Iran ist euer Feind», erklärte Netanyahu. Notfalls setzt er auf die israelischen Verbündeten im Washingtoner Kongress: Sie sollen es richten und einen Vertrag blockieren. Die israelischen Bedenken sind teils verständlich, entlädt sich in Teheran doch in beklemmender Regelmässigkeit Hass auf Israel.

Die letzte Gelegenheit

Überhaupt ist es ein Kreuz mit den Hardlinern wie dem obersten iranischen Religionsführer Ali Khamenei. Unfähig, über ihre Schatten zu springen, erkennen sie nicht, dass die Präsidentschaft Barack Obamas auf längere Zeit die wahrscheinlich letzte Gelegenheit zu einem Rapprochment mit Washington bietet. Sie sind Gefangene der hässlichen Geschichte der amerikanisch-iranischen Beziehungen seit dem CIA-Putsch gegen den Nationalisten Mossadegh 1953.

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Reuters| Berlin lockt Iran mit Sanktionsabbau bei Atomstreit-Lösung

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gives a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. Rouhani said on Friday "courageous decisions" must be made to clinch a long-term nuclear agreement and that any deal without the lifting of all sanctions against Tehran was "unacceptable".  REUTERS/Adrees Latif   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Berlin/Wien (Reuters) – Bei einer Einigung im Atomstreit könnte Iran nach Angaben der Bundesregierung mit einem schrittweisen Abbau der Wirtschaftssanktionen rechnen.

„Sollte es gelingen, tatsächlich um den 24. November herum eine Einigung mit Iran zu finden, so würde dies in der Tat dazu führen, dass das Sanktionsregime Schritt für Schritt abgebaut wird“, sagte der Sprecher des Auswärtigen Amtes, Martin Schäfer, am Freitag in Berlin. Dies bedeute für Iran und die deutsche Wirtschaft mehr Potenzial für Wachstum und Handel. Die Internationale Atomenergiebehörde (IAEA) erklärte allerdings, Iran habe in wichtigen Punkten noch keine Zugeständnisse gemacht.

Bis zum 24. November wollen Iran und die sogenannte Sechser-Gruppe, zu der neben den fünf UN-Vetomächten auch Deutschland gehört, eine Einigung im Atomstreit versuchen. Der Westen verdächtigt den Iran, unter dem Deckmantel eines zivilen Atomprogramms Kernwaffen zu entwickeln und hatte deshalb Sanktionen verhängt, die Anfang 2014 etwas gelockert wurden.

In einem vertraulichen Bericht der Internationalen Atomenergiebehörde heißt es, Iran habe seit Ende August nicht die nötigen Informationen über vermeintliche Testversuche geliefert. Die iranischen Bestände an niedrig angereichertem Urangas seien seit Anfang September um acht Prozent auf 8390 Kilo gewachsen. Iran habe zudem viermal einem IAEA-Inspektor ein Visum für die Einreise verweigert. Es sei wichtig, dass die Regierung in Teheran den IAEA-Inspektoren einen Zugang auch zu den militärischen Einrichtungen in Parchin erlaube.

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Going against Netanyahu, 84 percent of US Jews favor Iran nuclear deal

Strong Jewish support for an Iran nuclear deal was a surprise finding of a poll of American Jews who voted Tuesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against any deal that leaves Iran with an enrichment program.

By Howard LaFranchi

  • Jacquelyn Martin/AP
    View Caption

As President Obama presses to reach an accord with Iranon its nuclear program by the end of the month, he can count on strong support from what might seem like an unlikely segment of the population: American Jews.

Jewish backing of the administration’s efforts to strike a deal suggests that American Jews aren’t heeding the alarms being sounded in Israel by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He warns that any deal that leaves Iran with an enrichment program constitutes a mortal danger to Israel.

Strong Jewish support for a nuclear deal that limits, but doesn’t completely stop, Iran’s uranium enrichment abilities was a surprise finding of a telephone poll of Jewish voters who took part in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The poll, commissioned by J Street – the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” Washington lobbying organization – also found strong support for an active US role in efforts to forge Arab-Israeli peace. At the same time, the survey found strong support for Israel’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, this summer’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza that resulted in strong international criticism of Israel over the heavy civilian toll.

Recommended: How much do you know about Iran? Take our quiz to find out.

But it was the findings on Iran and the implication that American Jews would be comfortable with Iran retaining a nuclear program that stood out.

The survey found that 84 percent of American Jews would favor either strongly or somewhat a deal with Iran that would alleviate tough sanctions on the Iranian economy in exchange for Iran’s agreement to limit its nuclear program to civilian purposes and accept inspectors at its nuclear facilities.

The United States and five other world powers face a Nov. 24 deadline for reaching a deal with Iran. Mr. Obama said Wednesday that the nations in talks with Iran have presented Tehran with a “framework” that would “allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs,” but he said he wasn’t sure if a deal could be reached by the approaching deadline.

The strong Jewish backing for a deal actually mirrors the level of support for a diplomatic solution with Iran among Americans in general, say political analysts at J Street.

“The American public generally is supportive of giving diplomacy time to work,” says Dylan Williams, J Street director of government affairs. “I don’t think Jewish Americans are different from where the general American population is on this.”

American Jews “have accepted that some level of uranium enrichment will be part of a viable deal,” Mr. Williams says. Now, he adds, the key to acceptance of a deal – by Jews and the general public alike – will be “a robust verification and monitoring regime” that blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

The survey registered a strong sense of connection to Mr. Netanyahu among American Jews, even though its results suggest they don’t support his policies. Asked to gauge on a scale of 1 to 100 their feelings of warmth toward various leaders and personalities, respondents gave Netanyahu a 61 – higher than Obama (49) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (57).

“The prime minister is personally popular with American Jews,” says Jessica Rosenblum, J Street communications director. “The difference here is that they have deep concerns about the policies he’s pursuing.”

The survey also found that American Jews continue to support by a wide margin Democrats over Republicans. This is despite repeated predictions over recent years from conservative Jewish pundits that US Jews – because of Obama’s push for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state settlement, his overtures to Iran, and his frosty relations with Netanyahu – are on the verge of a wholesale shift to the Republican column.

“It’s comical how every two years the small segment of our community that leans conservative says, ‘This is the year that Jewish-Americans will vote for more hawkish politicians and policies,’ and it never happens,” Williams says.

In Tuesday’s elections, American Jews voted for Democrats over Republicans by a decisive margin of 69 to 28 percent.

And on that “feelings of warmth” gauge, they gave the Democratic Party a 51. The Republican Party got a 28.

http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=90962&siteSection=csmonitor_nws_pol_sty_vmpp&videoId=28114690

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

WELT| „Möchte die Stimme derer sein, die sprachlos sind“

Die iranischstämmige Schriftstellerin Bahiyyih Nakhjavani lebt im Exil. Ihre Gedanken aber sind bei ihren verfolgten Glaubensbrüdern von den Bahai im Iran – um die macht sie sich derzeit große Sorgen.

Sie werden verfolgt, inhaftiert und in den Untergrund gezwungen – die etwa 300.000 Anhänger des Bahai-Glaubens im Iran leben unter extremem Druck. 120 Bahai sollen laut des UN-Sonderberichterstatters für Menschenrechte in iranischer Haft sitzen. Viele Anhänger des Glaubens verlassen das Land, denn auch unter der etwas moderater auftretenden Regierung von Präsident Hassan Ruhani hat sich ihre Lage bisher nicht verbessert. Die Schriftstellerin Bahiyyih Nakhjavani beobachtet die Situation der Bahai in ihrem Geburtsland mit großer Sorge. Die 66-Jährige gehört dem Glauben an, war allerdings erst drei Jahre alt, als ihre Eltern mit ihr den Iran verließen. Inzwischen lebt sie als Autorin in Frankreich. Im Jahr 2000 hat sie mit ihrem ersten Roman „Die Satteltasche“ einen internationalen Bestseller geschrieben, derzeit arbeitet sie an ihrem neuen Buch über die Diaspora. Mit der „Welt“ spricht sie über die Lage der Bahai im Iran, Heimatgefühle und den Einfluss ihres Glaubens auf ihre Arbeit.

Die Welt: Sie wurden im Iran geboren, sind in Uganda aufgewachsen und haben in den USA, Sierra Leone, Zypern, Großbritannien und Belgien gelebt. Mittlerweile wohnen Sie in Frankreich. Wie haben diese vielen Ortswechsel Ihre Arbeit als Autorin geprägt?

Bahiyyih Nakhjavani: Ich habe einige Dinge beobachtet, die mich schockiert haben. Solche Empörung treibt mich sehr stark an, und sie bringt mich dazu, schreiben zu wollen. Ein anderes Mal habe ich etwas gesehen, das Mitgefühl bei mir ausgelöst hat. Dann möchte ich die Stimme derer sein, die selbst sprachlos sind. Das ist ebenfalls ein starker Antrieb für mich, zu schreiben. Ich denke aber, im tiefsten Inneren sind all diese verschiedenen Erfahrungen, das Reisen, der Aufbruch und das Bestreben, irgendwo sesshaft zu werden, eine Metapher für jeden Versuch eines Autors, etwas zu schreiben. Jede weiße Seite ist wie ein neues Land.

Die Welt: Im Alter von drei Jahren haben Sie den Iran bereits verlassen. Fühlen Sie sich trotzdem als Perserin?

Nakhjavani: Die Auswanderung war keine bewusste Entscheidung. Obwohl wir im Ausland lebten, haben wir eine Art persischen Stempel aufgedrückt bekommen.Uganda, wo ich aufgewachsen bin, war britisches Protektorat. Die Hauptstadt Kampala war in drei Sektoren unterteilt: Es gab Inder, Afrikaner und Europäer, die Briten. Wir als persische Familie passten nicht in diese Struktur. Deswegen waren wir dann Perser. Ich will keine Klischees nennen, aber wenn man in einer persischen Familie aufgewachsen ist, dann hat man diesen Geruch in der Nase und dann ist da natürlich noch die Sprache.

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KAS| Die iranische Demokratiebewegung holt sich ihre Stimme zurück |5. Hafis-Dialog in Weimar

5. Hafis-Dialog in Weimar

Oliver Ernst,  Berlin, 21. Okt. 2014 – Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.

Referenten vor dem Goethe-Hafis-Denkmal in Weimar

Referenten vor dem Goethe-Hafis-Denkmal in Weimar

Der Hafis-Dialog in Weimar bringt seit dem Jahr 2010 deutsche und iranische Experten zusammen, um aus verschiedenen Perspektiven über die Entwicklungen im Iran und die deutsch-iranischen Beziehungen zu sprechen. Kaum ein Thema ist dazu besser geeignet als die politische Entwicklung im Iran, die sowohl im Iran selbst als auch im Ausland extrem unterschiedlich bewertet wird. Mehrere der Experten waren zum fünften Hafis-Dialog aus dem Iran angereist und brachten ihre aktuellen Erfahrungen in die Diskussion ein.

Bijan Khajehpour, iranischer Wirtschaftsanalyst bei Atieh International, Dr. Rouzbeh Parsi, von der Universität Lund, Dr. Walter Posch, von der Berliner Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Adnan Tabatabai, vom neuen Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, und Christian Funke, Lehrbeauftragter an der Universität Bayreuth, diskutierten auf dem Panel über das Thema „Die Entwicklung der demokratischen Identität im Iran“. Moderiert wurde die Diskussion von Dennis Schröder, der in Teheran das DAAD-Informationszentrum leitet, das in diesem Jahr seine Arbeit aufgenommen hat.

Im Mittelpunkt der Diskussion stand die sehr dynamische Entwicklung seit der Wahl von Präsident Rohani im Juni 2013. Was bedeutet seine Wahl für die politische Landschaft im Iran, die in stark polarisierte Lager gespalten ist? Welchen Einfluss haben die Ereignisse von 2009, als Millionen gegen die mutmaßlich manipulierte Wiederwahl des damaligen Präsidenten Ahmadinedschad demonstrierten, heute noch auf die aktuelle Situation?

Ein Panelist des Hafis-Dialogs 2014, der 2009 im Iran dabei war und wie viele andere Iraner inhaftiert wurde und nach seiner Haftentlassung aus dem Land fliehen musste, ist der Wirtschaftswissenschafter Bijan Khajehpour.

Sehr präzise analysierte Khajehpour, warum nach den acht Jahren unter Präsident Ahmadinedschad, der die liberalen Reformen seines Vorgängers, Präsident Chatami zurückgenommen hatte und den kalten Wind der Intoleranz durch das Land wehen ließ, Rohani im ersten Wahlgang zum Präsidenten gewählt wurde:

„Im Jahr 2009 war das Regime nicht bereit, eine pluralistische Gesellschaft zu akzeptieren. Heute das das Regime verstanden, dass man der Gesellschaft mehr Raum geben muss und nicht weiter unterdrücken kann.“ Allerdings dienten die aktuellen Verhaftungen und Hinrichtungen dazu, die Regierung von Präsident Rohani „zu unterminieren“.

Die grüne Bewegung, die 2009 nach ihren Massenprotesten unterdrückt worden war, habe man zwar nicht mehr auf der Straße gesehen, sie habe sich aber ab 2010 in eine „online-Bewegung“ verändert und in vielen Blogs engagiert. Tatsächlich gehört Iran zu den Ländern im Nahen Osten, die am aktivsten soziale Netzwerke im Internet und Blogs betreiben. 2013 wurde daher im Iran auch online für eine starke Wahlbeteiligung mobilisiert. Der Einfluss der grünen Bewegung wurde durch den damaligen Slogan der Reformbewegung deutlich „Mousawi und Karroubi: Wir haben damals versprochen, unsere Stimmen zurück zu holen!“ Mousawi und Karroubi sind die beiden Anführer der Grünen Bewegung, die seit mehreren Jahren wegen ihrer oppositionellen politischen Arbeit unter Hausarrest stehen und die 2009 im Namen der Grünen Bewegung Neuwahlen gefordert hatten, da sie die Rechtmäßigkeit der Wiederwahl Ahmadinedschads anzweifelten. Die Proteste im Jahr 2009 standen unter den Motti: „Wo ist meine Stimme?“ und „Gebt uns unsere Stimmen zurück!“

Die Kluft, die es 2009 zwischen Regime und Gesellschaft gegeben habe, sei noch nicht ganz geschlossen, so Khajehpour. Aber die iranische Gesellschaft habe sich in einem „sozialen Sprung“ fortentwickelt. Ein diesbezügliches Phänomen gesellschaftlichen Engagements sei aktuell beispielsweise die unter anderem auch von Künstlern und Sportlern getragene Kampagne gegen die Todesstrafe. Khajehpour beschrieb die gesellschaftlichen Entwicklungen im Iran als einen wechselnden Kontrast zu den dominierenden politischen Kräften: Unter dem pro-westlichen Schah sei die Gesellschaft weniger westlich gewesen, unter der Herrschaft des Religionsführers seinen die Iraner dagegen heute weniger religiös. Die drei vorherrschenden und ehemals stark polarisierten Identitäten – religiöser, nationalistisch-vorislamischer und westlicher Ausprägung, passten heute, in einer „moderaten Generation“ zusammen, so Khajehpour.

Khajehpour schlug einen Bogen zu Hafis, dem großen persischen Dichter und Namensgeber des Hafis-Dialogs: „Was hat das alles mit Hafis zu tun? Hafis sei zu seiner Zeit auch ein Dissident gewesen und habe seine Dichtung als Dissident eingesetzt.“ Er zitierte einen Hafis-Vers: „Obwohl unsere Haus sehr gefährlich ist und unser Weg sehr weit – es gibt keinen Weg, der kein Ende hat.“

Walter Posch stellte in seinem Impulsreferat „Das iranische Machtgefüge und Reformperspektiven unter Präsident Rohani“ vor. Er beschrieb die komplexen politischen Institutionen im System der Islamischen Republik und das jeweilige Zusammenspiel bzw. die Konkurrenzen, die teilweise zu einem „doppelten Machtkampf zwischen den Eliten und zwischen den Leuten auf der Straße“ beitrügen. Reformperspektiven unter Präsident Rohani sah Posch als große Herausforderung an, da es nicht allein mit dem Ende der Sanktionen zu einer Lösung der „strukturimmanenten Probleme Arbeitslosigkeit und Unterentwicklung“ kommen werde. Die von Rohani in einem umfassenden Buch dargelegten wirtschaftspolitischen Vorstellungen bewertete Posch eher kritisch: Auf den 600 Seiten käme kein einziges Mal der Begriff des „freien Unternehmertums“ vor. Allerdings hielt er Rohani zugute, dass dieser Regeln aufstelle und gegen Korruption vorgehe. Der Rechtsstaat werde so „irgendwann Zug um Zug verwirklicht.“

Enttäuscht von der bisherigen Amtszeit von Präsident Rohani sind nicht nur die Anhänger der Grünen Bewegung, da ihre Anführer immer noch unter Hausarrest stehen, sondern auch die Menschenrechtler. Die Situation der Menschenrechte beschrieb Rouzbeh Parsi als weiterhin sehr schlecht. Es gebe erhebliche Unterschiede zwischen der Gesetzeslage und der gerichtlichen Praxis. Folter sei zwar gesetzlich verboten, existiere aber. Eigentlich dürften die Iraner per Gesetz ohne Anmeldung demonstrieren, in der Praxis sei dies aber nicht so. Die sehr schlechte Menschenrechtsbilanz sei „seit der Wahl von Rohani nicht besser geworden“. Auch die Beendigung der gegen Iran gerichteten Sanktionen würden in der ersten Zeit – aufgrund der zu erwartenden Reaktionen der gegen liberale Reformen eingestellten Hardliner – keine Verbesserung der Menschenrechtslage bringen, aber in der langfristigen Dreijahres-Perspektive seien diese Verbesserungen wahrscheinlich. Rouzbeh beschrieb die lange Geschichte der europäischen Menschenrechtspolitik gegenüber Iran, die z.B. in europäisch-iranischen Menschenrechtsdialogen mündete. Dialoge über Menschenrechte und gute Regierungsführung setzten aber innenpolitische Diskurse voraus, die sehr langsam wirksam würden, ohne Einflussnahme von außen, meinte Parsi. Wie wichtig der Menschenrechtsdiskurs im Iran heute sei, bemerkte Parsi: „Auch die Leute die gegen die Menschenrechte sind, müssen sich damit befassen – sie haben keine andere Wahl.“

Adnan Tabatabai befasste sich in seinem Beitrag mit dem Legitimationsbegriff einerseits und mit dem Interesse des Systems andererseits. Dabei zeigte er das Spannungsverhältnis auf zwischen dem Bedürfnis, die Stimmen der Bevölkerung zur Legitimation zu gewinnen und der Notwendigkeit der Systemgefährdung durch Antagonismen in der Herrschaftselite entgegenzutreten. Gerade die Präsidentschaft Ahmadinedschads sein von diesen Antagonismen durchsetzt gewesen, die gegen die Interessen des Systems waren. Iran brauche daher eine „Phase der De-Radikalisierung“. Der Sieg des „Pragmatikers“ Rohani war letztlich die Konsequenz aus dieser Entwicklung, da nach Tabatabai „Pragmatismus eher in der Lage ist, die Responsivität des Staates gegenüber der Bevölkerung zu sichern“. Allerdings sei schon vor der Präsidentschaftswahl 2013 klar gewesen, dass, „egal wer Präsident werde, es einer langen Phase der Aussöhnung und Entradikalisierung“ bedürfe.

Christian Funke beschrieb die Bedeutung der Wahlen für die politische Entwicklung und Dynamik im Iran. Trotz des Manipulationsverdachts, der über Wahlen liege, seien diese verhältnismäßig offen und dabei das Hauptinstrument politischer Massenpartizipation. Dabei bewertet die Reformbewegung insbesondere eine hohe Wahlbeteiligung als positiv: „Hohe Wahlbeteiligung macht Manipulation nicht unmöglich, steigert aber ihre Kosten“, meinte er. Dass trotz der Wahlkrise des Jahres 2009 eine hohe Wahlbeteiligung bei den Wahlen 2013 zu verzeichnen war, begründete er damit, dass die Iraner meinten „abzustimmen gibt uns ein Fenster der Hoffnung“ und dass gleichzeitig die Ereignisse nach den Wahlen des Jahres 2009 verdrängt und relativiert wurden. Auch die Stimmung am Wahltag und das iranische Nationalgefühl seien wichtige Faktoren bei der Präsidentschaftswahl gewesen. Die Wahlen des Jahres 2013 stellen im Hinblick auf das Jahr 2009 eine ernüchternde Rückkehr zum status quo ante dar. Funke bilanziert, „dass es auf absehbare Zeit keinen legitimen Raum für grundlegende politische Veränderungen geben wird, der auf der Teilhabe von breiteren Schichten der Bevölkerung und der Zivilgesellschaft außerhalb etablierter Systemkräfte beruht.“

Wie wird es im Iran weiter gehen? In welchem Verhältnis wird sich die mögliche außenpolitische Öffnung zur innenpolitischen Lage entwickeln?

Auch wenn diese Fragen derzeit nicht abschließend beantwortet werden können, so skizzierte doch Bijan Khajehpour einen interessanten Analyserahmen: „Das islamische Regime möchte nie Schwäche projizieren, sondern aus einer Position der Stärke etwas machen“, erklärte er. Die Legitimität im Inneren, die der iranische Präsident Rohani durch den klaren Wahlsieg im Juni 2013 genießt, wie auch die recht selbstbewusste Verhandlungsposition des Iran bei den Nuklearverhandlungen, die durch die breite Unterstützung des zivilen Atomprogramms in der iranischen Bevölkerung abgesichert ist, machen deutlich, dass die Krise von 2009 und das harte Sanktionsregime den Iran nicht in eine Sackgasse getrieben haben. Im Gegenteil: diese politischen Krisen haben den Iran eventuell wieder ein Stück in Richtung einer republikanischen Entwicklung vorangebracht. Ob die demokratische Transformation an Fahrt gewinnen wird, hängt aber auch davon ab, ob die Reformer die urbane Mittelschicht dauerhaft für ein politisches Engagement gewinnen können. Die politische und wirtschaftliche Liberalisierung des Systems ist hierzu aber unabdingbar erforderlich.

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Reading Between the Red Lines: An Anatomy of Iran’s Eleventh-Hour Nuclear Negotiating Strategy

Video cameras are set up for the start of a news conference at the United Nations headquarters building (Vienna International Center) in Vienna (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger). After yet another round of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue this week in Vienna, Tehran is simultaneously reinforcing its red lines while raising expectations that a final agreement remains within reach. While these might sound like mixed messages, in fact they are part of a sophisticated, multi-prong strategy aimed at pressuring Washington and its negotiating partners to accede to Tehran’s stipulations for a deal.

Below, I have outlined the elements of Iran’s eleventh-hour approach, which has been remarkably effective in framing the final push toward a deal before the November 24th deadline. What remains uncertain still is whether it will succeed. The latest round of talks ended today amidst modestly upbeat statements from both sides. However, the frustration that has been expressed privately and the vague admonitions from U.S. officials in Vienna that „the Iranians have some fundamental decisions to make“ — together with recent statements by Iranian negotiators about extending the deadline — underscores that a resolution to the nuclear crisis remains out of reach.

Hold Fast on Enrichment By Leveraging Domestic Opposition

Since the June 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s presidency, the Iranian leadership has struck divergent tones on the nuclear issue. Rouhani and his charismatic foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have openly campaigned for a deal and advocated broader possibilities for U.S.-Iranian engagement, while Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has consistently expressed skepticism that an agreement can be reached and has maintained his traditional full-throated hostility toward Washington.

These divisions within the elite are genuine; Iran has always been a highly factionalized polity, with intense ideological infighting over foreign policy as well as other affairs of state. And Khamenei openly derided Rouhani’s achievements as the country’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003-2005. For that reason, analysts have importuned the West from the outset of his administration to „help Rouhani“ persuade his hard-liners by offering generous terms for a deal. And Zarif and his colleagues have repeatedly raised the specter of Iran’s politics hardening once again if a deal is not reached.

Increasingly, however, Iranian officials have sought to deploy their internal differences to justify inflexibility on key terms. That tactic makes a virtue of one of Iran’s persistent vulnerabilities; the divisions within its ruling system have enabled an elaborate game of good-cop-bad-cop. That dynamic has increasingly dominated the negotiations since early July, when Khamenei articulated an ambitious bottom line on enrichment – raising the stakes on an issue that has long been the foremost point of contention in the talks. The sermon came only weeks before the initial deadline for a comprehensive deal, as Iranian negotiators were sitting with their American, Russian, Chinese and European counterparts in Vienna.

The latest salvo was the release of a new infographic, below, by the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei via website and Twitter. The diagram aggregates various proclamations that Khamenei has issued regarding the nuclear talks over the past year to outline in no uncertain terms the regime’s “red lines” or requirements for an agreement. The information itself isn’t new, but the message is clear: Khamenei calls the shots, and the only way Iran will sign onto a comprehensive nuclear agreement is if it satisfies his maximalist requirements.

Red Lines During the Nuclear Talks

Many media reports have interpreted Khamenei’s interventions as an effort to box in his negotiators, a view that is apparently shared by at least some of the P5+1 governments. At the time, Reuters cited an unspecified Western intelligence analysis as declaring that Khamenei’s „remarks were aimed at severely curtailing his team’s room for maneuver, making it effectively impossible to bridge gaps with the stance of the (six powers)…In our assessment, Khamenei’s remarks were not coordinated with the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna at present, and were intended to cut off their ability to negotiate effectively.“

This is a reasonable interpretation, but ultimately there is no hard evidence that absent the Supreme Leader’s public rhetoric, Iran’s position on enrichment was particularly flexible. In fact, Rouhani has been explicit from the start of his presidency that he would not yield on the issue of enrichment, insisting instead that „(t)here are so many other ways to build international trust.“ And in the days after Khamenei’s speech, Zarif proffered Iran’s first and only substantive proposal on the issue of enrichment, which included no reductions in enrichment capacity whatsoever, suggesting instead that the most he could do was to „try to work out an agreement where we would maintain our current levels“ along with measures to reduce the applicability of the enriched uranium for weapons purposes.

This posture has not gone totally unnoticed; Brookings Foreign Policy Senior Fellow Robert Einhorn warned months ago that Iran’s position on enrichment could be „a showstopper“ for the negotiating process. And the International Crisis Group has repeatedly pointed out that „Tehran’s general approach is to trade transparency for capacity: accepting more intrusive inspections in return for a higher enrichment capability and continuation of research and development.“

Still, the presumption that there are wide gaps between Iran’s hardliners and its official representatives on what constitutes acceptable concessions in a deal remains an article of faith, and a convenient one for a system interested in perpetuating the negotiating process. By wielding Khamenei’s intransigence on enrichment as an immovable object, Iranian negotiators can claim to be bargaining in good faith even as they reject any compromise on the core issue on the table. „We are ready to stay with the negotiations until the very last minute,“ Zarif rhapsodized while in New York. „We are ready for a good deal, and we believe a good deal is in hand.“ Left unsaid was the vast gulf between what Tehran considers a good deal, and what might be considered acceptable to its negotiating partners.

Capitalize on Shifting Priorities to Dilute Terms of the Deal

The Iranian approach also relies on the calculation that after more than a decade of frustrating talks and amidst a context of regional chaos, international resolve on the protracted, intractable nuclear crisis may be waning. „The world is tired and wants it to end, resolved through negotiations,“ Rouhani asserted earlier this week. This alleged apathy toward the nuclear issue is exacerbated by the emergence of a more immediate and arguably more compelling threat emanating from the group known as the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL.) As I’ve argued previously, both Rouhani and Zarif focused their public remarks while in New York last month on the proposition that an expeditious nuclear bargain could be instrumental in securing Iranian assistance in the U.S.-led campaign to degrade ISIS.

The extension of the argument, as articulated by Zarif and others, is that the temptation of a deal — any deal — should be powerful enough to override any meticulousness on the details, particularly for an Obama administration that is struggling to develop an effective response to regional instability. The latest purveyor of this message is a group of renowned Iranian film directors who recently launched a savvy new social media campaign, No2NoDeal. Although the Foreign Ministry has denied reports in the Iranian press that this campaign was orchestrated by the government, the campaign’s moniker and its mantra is a word-for-word repetition of one of Zarif’s regular talking points and its advocacy is entirely directed at Western publics and, by extension, the P5+1 governments. The notion has taken hold with some audiences, including former British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who recently importuned that the P5+1 must accept „not to make the best the enemy of the good.“

Iranian officials see Western leniency in the nuclear talks as a fair price to be paid for extending the Islamic Republic’s proven capacity to shape outcomes in Iraq and Syria to the Obama administration’s newborn campaign against ISIS. As I wrote last month,

Once again, as in so many previous iterations of the U.S.-Iranian flirtation (Iran-contra, goodwill-begets-goodwill), a quid pro quo is being dangled before Washington; for the small price of nuclear concessions, Iranian assistance against ISIS can be bought. „If our interlocutors are also equally motivated and flexible, and we can overcome the problem and reach a longstanding agreement within the time remaining,“ Rouhani cajoled in his UNGA speech, „then an entirely different environment will emerge for cooperation at regional and international levels, allowing for greater focus on some very important regional issues such as combating violence and extremism in the region.“

Tehran is eager to reinforce its bonafides in this effort — which explains the sudden proclivity of the previously reclusive Qasem Soleiman, commander of the Revolutionary Guards‘ Qods Force, to indulge in battlefield selfies from the frontlines of the assault against ISIS in Iraq. „Iran is a very influential country in the region and can help in the fight against the ISIL (IS) terrorists,“ a senior Iranian official told Reuters recently, adding, „but it is a two-way street. You give something, you take something.“

Depict Iran’s Rehabilitation as a Fait Accompli

The third aspect of the strategy is a skillful, and largely successful, campaign to redefine Iran’s image on the world stage in order to move beyond the nuclear standoff. The media blitz associated with Rouhani quickly began to erase Iran’s identification in the popular imagination with the noxious rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the appalling repression that occurred in aftermath of the preceding presidential ballot. Instead, Rouhani and company have sought to persuade the world that the era of Iranian isolation has now passed, the nuclear impasse is — well, effectively — relegated to history, and that business as usual can resume immediately.

This is why Rouhani told a New York audience that the Obama administration should „leave behind (this) insignificant issue,“ and why he proclaimed on state television earlier this week that despite widespread pessimism about the status of talks, „we believe that the two sides will certainly reach a win-win agreement.“ Others in the Iranian establishment have made similarly dismissive noises about the outstanding issues; Ali Larijani, the current speaker of the parliament and former nuclear negotiator, recently sniffed that the enrichment impasse is a „trivial matter.“

Ironically, Rouhani’s declare-victory-and-go-home stance is somewhat reminiscent of his predecessor’s approach; Ahmadinejad repeatedly proclaimed that Iran was already a „nuclear state“ in what was interpreted by some analysts as a pretense for assuaging Iran’s national pride while testing the possibilities for an exit strategy from the impasse.

Rouhani’s motives are similarly elastic. He has invested heavily in seeking a deal to end the nuclear stalemate, but he also insists that Iran must not „not sit idly to see whether the foreign parties will respond positively or negatively.“ Instead, he has sought to stabilize the country’s economy and expand its diplomatic horizons in a fashion intended to elevate Iran’s prospects irrespective of whether the nuclear issue is ever resolved.

Enhancing Iran’s economic prospects represents a fundamental driver of this aspect of the nuclear strategy. Rouhani has asserted that „the sanctions regime has been broken.“ While this is patently false, Tehran can trumpet its improved policies for a preliminary turnaround as well as minor evidence of sanctions attrition, including judicial reversals of selective European designations and indications of revived European interest in Iran’s energy sector. Even today, London is the scene of an industry conference hyping the trade and investment possibilities in Iran.

Begin to Play the Blame Game

The fourth essential element of Iran’s late-inning strategy is more forceful efforts to ascribe responsibility for the continuing difficulties in achieving a deal to Washington. In Tehran’s telling, the Obama administration is the unreasonable party, insisting on „excessive demands“ while Iranian negotiators have exhibited only generosity and forbearance in defending Iran’s „rights.“ Throughout their recent visits to New York, both Rouhani and Zarif insisted that Iran has fulfilled its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action to the letter.

By contrast, Zarif repeatedly criticized Washington for what he alleges are departures from the provisions of the interim accord signed last November. „There is no international mechanism to measure how the United States has lived up to its commitment, if there were, I’m sure the United States would have gotten a failing score.“ His complaint appears to derive from Washington’s ongoing implementation of existing sanctions, although enforcement is not prohibited by the JPOA and Iran’s negotiators plainly understood it would continue during this period.

More broadly, Zarif has frequently attributed the lack of progress in the nuclear talks to American caprice, contending that „the United States is obsessed with sanctions.“ He blithely told another interviewer that Washington is the obstacle to an agreement and that Iran has articulated very modest requirements. „So there is a deal at hand. Within reach,“ Zarif declared, adding „all that the United States needs to do is to get an agreement that can lead to the removal of sanctions. There is nothing else that we’re asking the U.S. to do. We are not asking for security guarantees, we are not asking for any money, we are not asking the United States to do anything — simply to remove the sanctions.“

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, he asserted that the difficulty in achieving a comprehensive agreement „(t)he fact that we’re not close [to a deal] means that the United States and some of its Western allies are pushing for arbitrary limitations which have no bearing whatsoever on whether Iran can produce a nuclear weapon or not.“

These messages are amplified by more strident Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Khamenei in his role as head of state. In an August address to the country’s Foreign Affairs ministry, Khamenei expressed bitterness about the talks, noting that „the Americans‘ tone also became harsher and more insulting and they expressed more unreasonable expectations during negotiations and in public podiums…Not only did the Americans not decrease enmities, but they also increased sanctions.“ The bottom line for Iran’s ultimate decision maker? Thenuclear talks „are not helpful at all“ and „establishing relations and speaking to the Americans will not have any effect on reducing their enmity.“

For their part, U.S. officials have remained profoundly restrained in their public statements, insisting that they will not negotiate in public and simultaneously trying to avoid any rhetoric that would further complicate the prospects for a resolution. They also have a wider array of audiences to consider, including negotiating partners with a diverse interests and domestic rivals as well as regional allies that fiercely oppose the prospective terms of a nuclear deal. As a result, Washington has slowly lost its advantage in shaping the public narrative on the negotiations, despite unparalleled capabilities for disseminating its messages.

If, as expected, negotiators are unable to produce an agreement by November 24, the blame game may be the most important part of Tehran’s nuclear strategy, because it shapes the alternatives available to each side. Depicting American obstructionism as the cause of the talks‘ demise will facilitate Iran’s acknowledged Plan B — an end-run around sanctions and an attempted breakout of the economic pressure and international isolation that helped generate the conditions for constructive negotiations in the first place.

Will Iran’s Strategy Succeed?

The Iranian strategy appears to be working – to a point. Iranian brinkmanship has succeeded in redressing the inevitable power imbalance between the isolated Islamic Republic and the powerhouse coalition comprised of world powers that already slashed Iran’s oil exports in half. By sticking to its guns, Tehran has gone from supplicant to sought-after in the talks, with Washington and its allies scrambling to devise formulas that might meet the supreme leader’s imperious mandates.

Still, it seems unlikely to me that Washington will acquiesce to Iran’s obstinacy on enrichment. The Obama administration has already extended major concessions to Tehran in devising a formula that Tehran could claim acknowledged its nuclear rights and in backing away from previous American insistence on a suspension or end to all enrichment on Iranian soil. Any deal that fails to redress the breakout timeline would gainsay a decade of efforts to deter Iran from nuclear weapons capability, as well as the strong preferences of America’s regional allies.

And more importantly, I think the presumption that the Obama administration is so desperate for a foreign policy victory, so feeble in its assertion of American interests and the security of our allies, or so eager for Iranian cooperation on other regional challenges that it will accept a hollow deal represents a profound misinterpretation of this administration’s foreign policy and the capabilities of the United States.

For that reason, I believe that Tehran’s four-point hedging strategy is a dangerous bluff, and one that will ultimately fail. I suspect that will not prove the end of diplomacy with Iran, but neither will it facilitate the end of Iran’s self-imposed forfeiture of its rightful place in the world. As a senior U.S. official said — not for the first time — yesterday in Vienna, „the question remains whether Iran’s leaders can and will seize this opportunity.“ The cost of another failure is high, and the durability of the multilateral sanctions regime and the long reach of U.S. unilateral measures means that it will be paid entirely by the Iranian people.

Source: Iran at Saban

Assessing the Obama Administration’s Iraq-Syria Strategy

In many ways, the Obama Administration’s new strategy toward Iraq and Syria is a work in progress.  Each week, new elements emerge or get added.  And there are certainly a number of important aspects still missing.  However, overall, what is emerging is a smart, coherent approach that is checking off any number of key military and diplomatic boxes.  Of greatest importance, American actions in the region and Administration statements (particularly General Martin Dempsey’s testimony before the Senate last week) indicate that Washington is putting in place a comprehensive strategy meant not only to defeat ISIS, but to address the wider circumstances of Iraq and Syria.  That is critical because ISIS and its ilk are not the problem in the region; they are the symptom of the problem.  The problem is the intercommunal civil wars burning in both Iraq and Syria.  Unfortunately, that’s also where the missing pieces of the strategy remain.

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria (REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch).

Intertwined Campaigns

At heart, the Administration’s approach is a dual strategy, coupling two similar but not identical approaches to the two countries.  Although some of the Administration’s critics have demanded a single strategy toward both, the Administration’s approach is probably the right one.  It reflects the reality that the two civil wars are different in many important ways and it is not possible to employ the same exact approach to both.  Each needs a tailored version of the broad strategy.  What they do require is close coordination, and it appears that the Administration is doing just that, at least for now.

In both countries, the Administration hopes to empower moderate forces—both Sunni andShi’a to the extent possible—to fight against all of the extremists, both Sunni and Shi’a.  Indeed, to the extent that there is an overarching theme to the strategy, it is one of empowering moderate forces, an idea that ought to be applied more broadly across the Middle East.

In Iraq, the Administration is essentially building on the progress made in 2007-2010 to try to resurrect the power-sharing arrangement forged by the United States as part of the Surge and recreate a unified Iraqi government.  While that government may only be united in name, the willingness of Sunni, Shi’a and perhaps Kurdish leaders to cooperate under that rubric should allow the U.S. to move forward militarily against ISIS and its allies while helping the Iraqis to sort out the final shape of a new Iraqi political system.  In Syria, in contrast, the focus is on building a new Syrian opposition army, one that can defeat both the Asad regime and the Sunni radicals like ISIS, and then use its military successes to create the political incentives for a new national reconciliation/power-sharing agreement as the 1995 Dayton Accords did for Bosnia.

Indeed, to the extent that there is an overarching theme to the strategy, it is one of empowering moderate forces, an idea that ought to be applied more broadly across the Middle East.

These interwoven strategies toward Iraq and Syria have some critical advantages.  Both are reasonable, feasible and historically well-grounded.  If successful, both would produce end-states consistent with American interests.  Moreover, both can be consistent with the interests of America’s allies in the region, hence the publicly-enthusiastic if privately-tepid reception from many of America’s Middle Eastern allies to the new strategy.  Nevertheless, both have important challenges to overcome as well.

The Military Campaigns

In both Syria and Iraq, the American strategy is in the first phase of its military campaign.  Since Washington is determined not to deploy American ground combat troops—or, rightly, to rely on those of other neighboring states—it must build indigenous ground forces.  Air power alone, even American air power, is unlikely to be adequate to drive ISIS, other Sunni militant groups, or the Asad regime’s military forces from the territory they control.  Coalition airstrikes will need complementary ground forces of some kind to fix enemy ground forces and occupy terrain, particularly population centers.  However, as General Dempsey and others have noted, it will take months before such ground forces are ready.

It is worth noting that these ground forces do not have to be first-rate.  They simply need to be good enough that, with the addition of American air power, they can defeat both Asad’s forces and those of ISIS and the other Sunni militants.  That isn’t a very high standard.  In its grandest moments, the Syrian armed forces never rose beyond a rigid mediocrity, and while ISIS has certainly shown both some strategic acumen and tactical ability, it faces both quantitative and qualitative problems of its own.  By comparison, in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance could not defeat the Taliban until 2001 when it was backed by U.S. air power, and the Libyan opposition was a joke in 2001, but it defeated the remnants of Qadhafi’s military with NATO air support ten years later.  Thus, the historical record demonstrates that indigenous ground forces too week to win without American air support can win handily with it.[1]

American and other Western governments have just begun the long process of building Iraqi and Syria ground forces.  Again, in both cases, the approach the U.S. will take is now clear, but there are a number of potential hurdles that have not yet been addressed.  For instance, in Iraq the Administration has reconciled itself to the need to build, in effect, two separate militaries: a revamped Shi’a-dominated Iraqi Army and a new Sunni national guard.  It remains to be seen how those forces will be able to work together.  In particular, the Sunnis will not want any (Shi’a) Iraqi Army units operating in the Sunni-dominated provinces, and the Shi’a are likely to insist that they do so.  That speaks to a second-order problem, which is that the conduct of the military campaign will be seen by both communities as setting precedents for the eventual reform of Iraqi politics, which is likely to make them dig in their heels even harder over these military considerations.

In Syria there are different but equally challenging issues.  The first among them being whether the U.S. is going to simply try to train, arm and unify the existing hodge-podge of militias, or will create a wholly new, homogeneous Syrian opposition army.  The former would be faster and easier, but the result would have very limited utility.  Indeed, it might be of no use whatsoever.  The latter would be far more militarily effective and politically helpful, but would take much more time and effort.  While General Dempsey’s testimony suggested that the United States planned to take the latter approach (which I consider the better course by far) the matter does not appear settled at this point.[2]

A huge, unanswered question on the military side in Syria is whether (or when) the air campaign will expand beyond ISIS and the Sunni militants to begin targeting the Asad regime’s forces as well.

In the meantime, as these ground forces are readied, the air campaign will roll on.  The strikes we have seen to date in Iraq and Syria give a good indication of what that air campaign will look like.  It will be a unified campaign, striking targets in both Iraq and Syria ore or less simultaneously.  (In that sense, it is the one piece of the strategy that will be truly unified).  Moreover, it will have two primary target sets.  The first will be terrorist targets.  Anytime the U.S. identifies groups interested in striking the U.S. or its allies, it will get hit.  The “Khorasan Group” of Jabhat al-Nusra falls into this category, but so too would ISIS operatives planning terrorist operations.

The second will be a more conventional air interdiction campaign that will seek to attrite and disrupt enemy forces whenever they are vulnerable.  That will include command and control facilities (and personnel), logistical infrastructure, training facilities, barracks, motor pools, economic targets like the oil fields hit this week, transportation assets, and field-deployed combat forces whenever the Coalition receives actionable intelligence on such targets.  That last is an important point: given how much time it will take for the ground forces to be readied, the air campaign is likely to focus on targets of opportunity, striking enemy assets whenever they are vulnerable, whatever and wherever they may be.

Good analogies of this part of the strategy would be the air campaigns against Iraqi forces in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations during the first 39-days of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, or the Allied air campaign against German targets in France during the build-up to D-Day in 1944.  In both cases, the United States and its allies spent weeks/months working over the enemy’s forces, killing combat forces when available, but otherwise relentlessly busting up logistical facilities, transport assets (trucks, trains, cars, etc.), leadership targets, communications systems, and chokepoints (like bridges and overpasses).  In both cases, these constant attacks wore down the enemy to the point where when the ground forces finally attacked, they had been considerably weakened.

A huge, unanswered question on the military side in Syria is whether (or when) the air campaign will expand beyond ISIS and the Sunni militants to begin targeting the Asad regime’s forces as well.  That is a necessary component of the strategy that the Administration has laid out, and it is not something that needs to start right away.  But it will have to happen at some point, and well before the new Syrian opposition forces are ready to take the field to ensure that they can succeed when they do so.  But going after the regime’s forces will mean both a much bigger military operations, since it will have to first neutralize the regime’s residual air defense network, and a much bigger diplomatic and political fight since Russia and Iran will protest loudly and may try to increase their support to Syria—or even cause trouble for the U.S. elsewhere.

Political-Military Tensions

It is also important to note that there are likely to be significant tensions between military best practices and immediate political needs.  In an ideal world, the Coalition would spend a year or more doing nothing but training the relevant Iraqi and Syrian ground forces, while the air campaign slowly wears down ISIS, other militant groups, and potentially the Asad regime as well.  We would only unleash those ground forces (with U.S. air support) when they were completely ready to go both quantitatively and qualitatively.  Again, D-Day or Operation Desert Storm are good historical analogies.However, the political reality is that American, European, Arab, Iraqi and Syrian opposition leaders will all be under pressure to demonstrate that they are taking action and not simply giving their adversaries a free hand to consolidate power over the territory they control.  All will want ground operations to start as soon as possible, and they will likely press the military commanders to mount limited operations as soon as the first ground forces are ready—or close to it.  The old phrase “close enough for government work” comes readily to mind.  The danger in that is if these limited operations are unsuccessful and the first of the newly-trained ground forces are defeated, it could demoralize the rest of the force, set-back the broader training programs, and exacerbate the inevitable political-infighting that attends any military coalition.  (The failure of the Dieppe raid in 1942 is a good historical example illustrating these issues.)

Political Challenges

The military dimensions of the strategy are increasingly clear, and the challenges they face are not insignificant, but relatively straightforward.  On the political side, the situation is far more murky.

First off there are the problems likely to attend the international effort.  Americans always prefer to fight as part of a coalition, and in this case, some of the countries that Washington is working on have important—even unique—assets that they bring to this particular fight.  The problem is that the countries that are most enthusiastic about the fight, namely the Europeans, have the least to contribute. Whereas, those with the most to contribute, the Sunni Arab states and Turkey, are the least enthusiastic about the American strategy.  Certainly, the European states can and already have contributed some small military forces and they may also be helpful with limited reconstruction funding, but that’s about the extent of it.  And ultimately, the United States does not need European aircraft, at least not militarily.  While European financial contributions will either be inadequate or irrelevant depending on whether the Gulf Arab states make good on their pledges to shoulder the vast bulk of the costs for Syria.

For the Sunni states of the Middle East, the problem is complicated.  They all do hate and fear ISIS.  But they also hate and fear the Shi’a and Iran even more.  Most believe that Iraq and Syria are simply two fronts in a much bigger, more important Sunni-Shi’a struggle for the soul of the Muslim Umma.  What’s more, many of the Arab Sunni states—including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan—fear the moderate Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood more than they fear the Salafi extremists of ISIS.  In Syria, these differences are less of a hassle because Washington’s new strategy is about defeating both ISIS and the (the Iranian-backed and predominantly-Shi’a) Asad regime.  However, in Iraq, the Administration hopes to empower both moderate Sunni forces, which may include Brotherhood elements, and the (Iranian-backed and predominantly-Shi’a) government against ISIS and its allies.  That is not terribly comfortable for the Sunni states, and an important reason why they have been far more supportive of the Syria half of the strategy than the Iraq half.  In the future, it may be possible to convince them that even in Iraq the approach will not simply empower their worst enemies at the expense of lesser enemies, but it will take some doing.

The military dimensions of the strategy are increasingly clear, and the challenges they face are not insignificant, but relatively straightforward. On the political side, the situation is far more murky.

In Iraq, the new cabinet is an important step forward, but it is only a very small step.  Iraqis still need to sort out the new shape of their political system.  The Sunnis are determined to see a fully-articulated federal structure emerge, one in which the majority-Sunni provinces have enormous autonomy, including control of their own military forces as the Kurds already do.  Some Shi’a recognize that there will need to be change, but many want a return to the status quo ante, with a strong central government and limited federal powers—essentially the Maliki era without Maliki’s excesses.  Not only will it be difficult to reconcile these competing perspectives, but these differences will play out right from the start in virtually every military, political, or economic decision that the new Iraqi government makes.  Both sides will be constantly weighing any move to assess which side it advantages in that ultimate fight, and that is likely to hamstring the fight against ISIS at every turn.

With Syria, the weakness of the political element of the strategy is even more pronounced.  Simply put, the United States will have to lead an effort of nation-building to heal the wounds of the civil war.  It is unavoidable.  President Obama himself recognized this reality in his interview with Tom Friedman of The New York Times in August.  There he observed that a lesson he learned from Libya in 2011 was that military intervention that was not backed by a major effort to build a functional state afterwards would simply lead to chaos and a new set of threats to American interests.  In the interview, the President implied that this recognition was one reason that he did not want to intervene in Syria because he was not ready to commit to such a program there.  Now, having committed the United States to just such an intervention, he cannot escape the logic of his own contention.  But neither the United States nor any of its allies appear to have given any thought to what post conflict reconstruction in Syria would entail, let alone begun to plan and prepare for that effort.[3]  That could be the largest and most difficult aspect of the entire strategy.

The Big Picture

Despite all of the challenges the new U.S. strategy toward Iraq and Syria faces, it should not be seen as hopeless.  The new strategy is entirely feasible, the challenges identified could all be addressed (and have been, in other efforts elsewhere in the past), and the primary variable is the extent of the American commitment.  Of equal importance, there is no other alternative strategy that has a higher likelihood of succeeding.

Articulating all of the challenges this strategy faces, including those that the Administration simply has not addressed yet, should not be seen as suggesting that its proposed course of action is foolish.  It is not.  However, it is heavily dependent on their willingness to properly implement and resource it.


[1] Of course, that does not mean that it always works.  Kosovo in 1999 is an important contrary example.  There, U.S. air power, weaponry and advisors were not sufficient to enable the Kosovo Liberation Army to defeat the Serbs.  That said, the Serbs were far more powerful than either the Asad regime’s residual armed forces or ISIS and its allies.

[2] For those interested in a more extensive explanation of how (and why) the United States should build a new Syrian opposition Army as the Administration has indicated it will, see Kenneth M. Pollack, “An Army to Defeat Assad: How to Turn Syria’s Opposition Into a Real Fighting Force,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 93, No. 5 (September/October 2014), pp. 110-124.

[3] For a fuller treatment of this problem, see Kenneth M. Pollack, “We Need to Begin Nation Building Right Now in Syria,” The New Republic online, September 24, 2014, available at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119556/obamas-syria-strategy-must-include-nation-building.

To Light a Candle – trailer for a film by Maziar Bahari

The Baha’is are a religious minority in Iran. They are systematically imprisoned, tortured and killed by the Iranian government. The Islamic regime bans the Baha’is to study or teach in Iranian universities. But the Baha’is do teach, and they do study. Since 1987 the Baha’is started BIHE, an underground university with hundreds of students in Iran, and dozens of teachers in Iran and around the world. Through powerful interviews, exclusive secret footage shot by citizen journalists, rare archival material and dramatic letters written by a Baha’i prisoners currently in jail in Iran, To Light a Candle shows how a small minority has defied the brutal systematic religious persecution through non-violent resistance and educating their youth. A film by Maziar Bahari.

Radio 91,2| Steinmeier drängt auf Lösung im Atomstreit mit Iran

In den Atom-Verhandlungen mit dem Iran drängt Deutschland auf eine baldige Lösung. Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier mahnte am Rande der UN-Vollversammlung in New York, die Chancen für eine Einigung jetzt auch zu nutzen.
Bundesaußenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (l) begrüßt am am Rande der UN-Generalversammlung in New York den Präsidenten des Iran, Hassan Ruhani. Foto: Daniel Bockwoldt

Bundesaußenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (l) begrüßt am am Rande der UN-Generalversammlung in New York den Präsidenten des Iran, Hassan Ruhani. Foto: Daniel Bockwoldt

«Es liegen viele Angebote und Vorschläge auf dem Tisch», sagte Steinmeier am Donnerstagabend (Ortszeit) nach einem Treffen mit dem iranischen Präsidenten Hassan Ruhani. «Es ist jetzt die Zeit, den Konflikt endlich zu beenden.»

Der Iran steht seit vielen Jahren im Verdacht, unter dem Deckmantel eines zivilen Nuklearprogramms an der Entwicklung eigener Atomwaffen zu arbeiten. Die Regierung in Teheran weist dies zurück.

Die Verhandlungen zwischen dem Iran und den fünf ständigen Mitgliedern des UN-Sicherheitsrates – USA, China, Russland, Großbritannien und Frankreich – sowie Deutschland (5+1) liefen auch am Rande der Vollversammlung weiter. Letzter Termin für eine Einigung ist eigentlich der 24. November. Als wichtige Wegmarke gelten die Zwischenwahlen in den USA Anfang November.

Steinmeier betonte nach seinem etwa 45-minütigen Treffen mit dem als gemäßigt geltenden iranischen Präsidenten, in den vergangenen Monaten habe es durchaus Fortschritte gegeben. «Jetzt ist es an der Zeit, den Abschluss zu suchen.» Zugleich dämpfte er Hoffnungen auf einen baldigen Durchbruch. «Der letzte Teil der Strecke, der jetzt noch vor uns liegt, ist vielleicht der schwerste. Es sind noch Hürden zu überwinden.»

Von iranischer Seite gab es zu dem Treffen zunächst keinen Kommentar. Irans Vize-Außenminister Abbas Araghchi sagte jedoch, insgesamt habe sich sein Land von den Verhandlungen in New York mehr erhofft. «Bei den Streitpunkten haben wir immer noch erhebliche Differenzen», wurde Araghchi von iranischen Medien zitiert.

Vollständiger Artikel

The Perils of Drinking Coffee ‘Provocatively’

According to Article 638 of Iran’s 1996 Islamic Penal Code, “women who appear in the street and public places without the Islamic hejab will serve time, between ten days and two months, and will have to pay a cash fine”.

The law, however, does not define the exact parameters surrounding the “Islamic hejab,” leaving that crucial judgment up to the police and the paramilitary Basij force. This leaves a gap open for security forces to exploit, despite the fact that morally the hejab is something that cannot be enforced by law or through coercion.

Through my work as a lawyer I have paid numerous visits to the Ershad Judicial Complex, which is responsible for fighting so-called “social corruption.” I have witnessed many abuses of power, and also things that are simply not quite right.

Take, for instance, the printed form the police and the Basij use as they patrol the streets and shopping centers looking for women they believe are not properly wearing the hejab.

The form has three parts, the first dealing with woman’s hair, and includes checkboxes for ‘completely uncovered head,’ ‘partially uncovered hair,’ ‘styled hair showing’, ‘uncovered neck,’ ‘thin headscarf’ and, oddly, ‘visibility of the breasts.’

The second part applies to the use of make-up: lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, blusher, nail polish on fingers or toes and banned glasses.

The third outlines the various ways a woman’s attire may be grounds for legal action: ‘a tight-fitting manteau,’ ‘a short manteau,’ ‘a manteau with slits showing the body,’ ‘an unconventional manteau,’ ‘stockings with a banned pattern,’ ‘no stockings’ and the ominous ‘other.’

Many of the form’s checkboxes are vague and open to interpretation, such as ‘banned glasses’ and ‘unconventional manteau,’ leaving the individual policeman or the Basiji to make their own judgement on what qualifies what.

The breadth of the form also gives security forces both an incentive and opportunity to constantly scan women in public whose necks are showing or who are wearing lipstick or mascara.

Islam definitely forbids scrutiny being this close. According to the prominent 13th century Shi’a jurist Allamah al-Hilli, a proper Muslim should look at a woman’s hand or face just once and only if necessary. A second look is forbidden. With these forms in hand, policemen and Basijis have an excuse to relentlessly stare at women so that they find ways they are violating the law as far as how they are dressed and how their bodies look.

A second form is dedicated to drivers and passengers. The checklist includes ‘inappropriately dressed’ passengers, ‘passengers with make-up,’ ‘naked body parts,’ ‘tight-fitting dress’ and ‘uncovered hair.’ This form is likely to have more serious consequences than the form dealing with women’s appearance on the street, because it requires the inspection of all moving vehicles to discover whether or not a female driver or any of their passengers are wearing a tight-fitting dress or whether a body part is on show.

In 2009 a young woman came to my law offices and recounted how she had been arrested in a coffee shop as she was drinking coffee with her cousin. They were both taken to the Department for Fighting Moral Corruption. After a few hours she and her cousin were released on bail and the processing of the case was scheduled for several days later.

When I became an attorney I went to the courthouse to review the case. It turned out that they were arrested for drinking coffee “in a provocative manner.”

Fortunately when the court was convened I was able to defend them successfully and they were acquitted from this absurd charge.

Offense Type

Hair:
  • Completely Uncovered
  • Partially Uncovered
  • Breasts Showing
  • Styled Hair Showing
  • Uncovered Neck
  • Thin Scarf
Make-Up:
  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Eye Shadow
  • Face Make-Up
  • Forbidden Glasses
Dress:
  • No Stockings
  • Thin Stockings
  • Stockings with Forbidden Symbols
  • Short Socks
  • Other
  • Tight-Fitting Manteau
  • Short Manteau
  • Manteau with Body-Showing Slits
  • Unconventional Manteau
  • Manteau with Forbidden Symbols

Source: IranWire

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