Posts Tagged ‘Ali Khamenei’

ISIS takes Ramadi and Palmyra; Obama undercuts Merkel and the EU with direct negotiations with Putin—who responds by cutting Russian transit routes to Afghanistan

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

U.S. foreign policy is in utter disarray, failing to meet the two greatest challenges to international peace and security in the world: (1) Russian military aggression in the Ukraine; and (2) The growing power of the Islamic State, emerging from the maelstrom of Syria and advancing against the collapsing military of an Iraqi state riddled by sectarian divisions.

Several factors and the cumulative impact of poor decisions over the last six years have contributed to this situation.

President Barack Obama has not been a trustworthy partner with U.S. allies.

In 2012, he apparently undercut Turkey and others as they were contemplating intervention in Syria.

He has cut adrift the Gulf States, among  America’s closest allies for 50 years, and has lost their trust, as evidenced by the failure of many of the Gulf’s leaders to attend Obama’s Camp David summit last week.

The conference showed all the signs of an impromptu affair suggested by someone in Obama’s entourage (like, “We better do something to placate the Gulf states which are unhappy over the Iran nuclear deal. Let’s invite them all to Camp David for a summit.”). The Summit was not well prepared, and produced no results worthy of note. Just words.

Secretary of State John Kerry apparently didn’t even bother to attend, busy as he was off on his fool’s errand of meeting with Putin in Sochi. Instead of the Secretary of State speaking to the media at the summit, it was Obama’s assistant, Ben Rhodes, who commented on the achievements of the gathering, such as they were.

This was amateurism run amok, evidence of a foreign policy in full disarray.

Kerry’s meetings with Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov broke Russia’s isolation, and severely undercut Angela Merkel’s efforts to take a tough line during her visit to Moscow on May 9-10, where the emphasis was on German atonement for the depradations unleashed on Russia during World War II, and the “criminal” aggression by Russia against the Ukraine in the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, in violation of international law and the bases of the European peace and security order.

In a follow-up to the Sochi discussions, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria “F… the EU” Nuland was scheduled to meet with her counterpart in Moscow.

By undercutting Merkel, Obama also undermined efforts to hold a consensus together within the EU for the reauthorization of sanctions against Russia when they cime up for renewal at the end of July.

In Iraq and Syria, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS, as well as Palmyra, demonstrated the bankruptcy of Obama’s (non) strategy for dealing with Syria, and the growing power of the so-called Islamic State, which has now occupied large portions of Syria (up to 50%), seized Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq, and  sent fighters to Afghanistan and Libya.

If we want to understand the true significance of Benghazi, we need to reflect on the fact that Obama campaigned in 2012 on the proposition that Al Qaeda had been vanquished, just like Bin Laden, whereas the administration knew for a fact this was not the case. That is the significance of the removal from Susan Rice’s talking points of any reference to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-connected groups.

On the two greatest challenges facing civilization and the West and the maintenance of international peace and security, (1) Russian military aggression against the Ukraine and purported annexation of the Crimea, and (2) the Syrian maelstrom which has given birth to ISIS and the growing threat to civilization it poses, the Obama administration has done next to nothing, aside from the modest economic sanctions imposed on a small number of Russian individuals and entities.

Even with respect to the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama has maneuvered himself into a weak bargaining position in the run-up to the self-imposed June 30 deadline for reaching a final agreement. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reiterated his opposition to intrusive inspections, for example. With Obama pitching the deal to others before its final text has been agreed, and much of his legacy riding on its conclusion, the United Stats is in a poor position to walk away from a bad deal. Khamenai and the Iranians know this.

Obama’s bottom line with Putin appears to be that he wants to deal, to talk, to “negotiate”—even with Russia illegally occupying the Crimea and engaged in active military aggression in the eastern Ukraine. He wants Russian help on dealing with Syria (despite the evidence of the last four years that Russia has been anything but helpful), and also feels he needs Putin’s help in closing the nuclear deal in the P5 + 1 talks with Iran.

Obama is essentially proceeding from a position of weakness in dealing with Putin, having yielded to big business interests demanding that he impose no economic sanctions on Russia beyond those imposed by the EU. The threat of further sanctions against Russia for its continuing military invasion of the eastern Ukraine is politically impossible in Europe, and as a result is for all intents and purposes off the table.

Obama is unwilling to send lethal weapons to the Ukraine to help that country defend itself against Russia’s invasions.

He is willing to accept Putin’s invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea.

While only America can lead the Western alliance, instead of forging unity in facing down Putin, Obama has actively undercut his allies in Europe such as Angela Merkel.

In all of his actions toward both Putin and ISIS, Obama has demonstrated that he has no capacity for formulating a coherent strategy, and no stomach for ordering strong actions, with more than words, in response to the policies of military aggression and conquest in which both Russia and ISIS are engaged. In his pacifism and appeasement of Putin, he is immovable.

This is the tightly-controlled foreign policy Obama has been running out of his mind, and these are the results.

See

(1)  Ian Black (Middle East editor), “Seizure of Palmyra and Ramadi by Isis reveal gaping holes in US jihadi strategy; Far from being on the defensive, Islamic State has shown that the arms-length approach of the US to Iraq is failing and Washington is operating ‘day by day’,” The Guardian, May 21, 2015 (18:15).

“Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, put it even more bluntly: “We don’t really have a strategy at all. We’re basically playing this day by day.” The urgent delivery of new anti-tank missiles for the Iraqi army has been one short-term response. But larger military and political questions are still unanswered.

But Obama’s credibility is extremely low. “Next time you read some grand statement by US officials on [the] campaign against Isis or see a Centcom [US Central Command] map about Isis reversals, just bin it,” commented Emile Hokayem, a respected Middle East expert with the International Institute of Strategic Studies.”

(2) Editorial Board, “The U.S. continues to send the wrong message to Russia,” Washington Post, May 21, 2015 (8:49 PM).

(3)  “Nachschub für Afghanistan: Russland schließt Transitweg für Nato; Für die Nato wird es schwieriger, ihre Kräfte in Afghanistan zu versorgen. Russland stellt sich quer. Regierungschef Medwedew beendet den Transit über sein Land,” Der Spiegel, 18. Mai 2015 (19:05 Uhr).

(4) Josef Joffe, “Im Bomben-Basar; Teheran zeigt den USA, was wahre Verhandlungskunst ist,” Die Zeit, 15. Abril 2015 (08:00 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer

A gift for Nowruz and Easter: The nuclear framework agreement with Iran

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

The United States has led the P5+1 in reaching a historic framework agreement with Iran over the future of its nuclear activities. UN and other sanctions will be lifted, in sequences yet to be determined, in return for measures and guarantees that will restrict to at least a year Iran’s so-called “breakout” capability, i.e., Iran’s ability to break its international agreements (including the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a party) and race to build a nuclear weapon.

The “framework agreement” signed on April 2, 2015 does not resolve all questions, but includes agreement on many major issues. The parties have set themselves a deadline of June 30, 2015 for reaching a final, definitive agreement.

One of the most significant aspects of the last year of negotiations has been a growing relationship by which problems can be addressed through serious discussions. Slowly, the parties are learning to trust each other while dealing effectively with critics at home and abroad.

The interim agreement builds momentum for reaching the final agreement, which if consumated would constitute President Barack Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievement since assuming office in January, 2009.

The timing of the agreement is doubly propitious.

The celebration of Nowruz or the Persian New Year takes place for 13 days following the vernal equinox, which this year was on March 21 in Iran. It is a celebration of “out with the old and in with the new”. Evil spirits are exiled from the home, new clothes are worn, and Persian families visit each other at each others’ homes throughout the period of celebration.

In the West, Easter is celebrated as a time of hope and redemption.

Both are celebrations of life and hope for the future, as Spring in the northern hemispere begins.

For Iranian reactions to the agreement, see

(1) “Iran-P5+1 agreement seeks removal of sanctions, not suspension: Rouhani, Press TV (Tehran), April 5, 2015 (1:3PM).

(2) “Iran top general hails nuclear success in talks with P5+1,” Press TV, April 5, 2015 (3:27PM).

“A senior Iranian military official has heaped praise on the country’s negotiating team for emerging successful in talks with the P5+1 group in Switzerland, expressing hope that a final agreement would be reached soon.

“In a message to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Sunday, Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said the 1979 Islamic Revolution’s progressive movement is continuing “strongly and successfully” thanks to the Leader’s guidelines.

“He congratulated Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian nation on the breakthrough and praised efforts by President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s nuclear negotiating team led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.”

(3) “Iran, P5+1 joint statement calling for removal of all anti-Iran sanctions,” Press TV, April 2, 2015 (5:38PM).

For details of the agreement and how it is being portrayed at home by both sides, see

Michael R. Gordon, “Outline of Iran Nuclear Deal Sounds Different From Each Side,” New York Times, April 4, 2015.

With this hopeful development, perhaps thbe world’s leaders can now turn their thoughts from visions of war, which have dominated their thinking in recent years, to visions of peace and how to turn them into reality.

The Trenchant Observer

Iran, Syria, and the nuclear question

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

(Developing story)

Iran is within reach of achieving an expansion of its influence through solidifying an arc of Shia states or Shia-led states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterrean Sea. Iran, Iraq, Syria under Alawite rule, and a Lebanese state where Hezbollah is the largest party, has its own well-trained and well-armed militia and blocking or veto power over the actions of the government, represent a formidable challenge to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have significant Shia populations subject to the pull of Iranian influence.

Despite the obvious benefit of removing chemical weapons from Syria and greatly resducing the chances they might fall into the wrong hands, the chemical weapons deal does not signal an advance for U.S. interests in the region, for it leaves al-Assad in power and increasingly dependent on Iranian economic and military support (including troops and commanders), with Hezbollah providing battle-hardened troops from Lebanon to support al-Assad militarily, particularly in decisive battles.

Proponents of a much-touted potential nuclear deal with Iran need to keep these broader considerations in mind. A nuclear deal that doesn’t address the Syrian question or that leaves Iranian nuclear weapons break-out capabilities intact, could prove to be an illusory achievement. In particular, an accord that would allow work on the Awak heavy water reactor to continue during an initial six-month “freeze” on Iran’s nuclear program is viewed by experts as allowing Iran to continue its advance toward achieving a nuclear weapons capability while sanctions are loosened.

Moreover, we must ask what made Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suddenly become willing to settle the nuclear issue with the group of P5+1, immediately following Obama’s military back-down on Syria and what must have appeared in Tehran as lack of resolve to use military power.

For recent commentary, see:

(1) Jackson Diehl, “John Kerry’s Middle East dream world,” Washinton Post, November 10, 2013.

(2) Raniah Salloum, “Teherans Mann für Syrien: Irans gefährlichster General,” Der Spiegel, 10 November 2013 (17:34 Uhr).

Er ist Teherans Mann für heikle Missionen im Ausland: Kassim Soleimani, Chef der Eliteeinheit al-Kuds. In Afghanistan und im Irak hat er den Amerikanern bereits schwer zu schaffen gemacht. Jetzt soll er Irans Einfluss in Syrien retten.

(3) Julian Borger, “Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling; US negotiator leaves talks to reassure Israeli prime minister after France sinks bid to seal temporary agreement,” The Guardian, November 10, 2013.

(4) Julian Borger, “Last-minute rethink stalled deal on nuclear Iran; Details have emerged of how talks with Tehran in Geneva broke up at 11th hour after France and US took a robust stance,” The Guardian, November 11, 2013 (13.06 EST).

The Trenchant Observer

The U.S., Iran, and Afghanistan; attacks on home of Karroubi and offices of Moussavi

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Iranian Help on Afghanistan?

In an interesting column in the Washington Post, David Ignatius reports on the possibilities for engaging with Iran to gain its assistance in dealing with Afghanistan, and the arguments for and against such an approach within the Obama administration.

Ignatius quotes President Obama’s statement, in an August 4 meeting with journalists, that he was in favor of establishing a “second track” (in addition to that on nuclear issues) for talking about Iran’s potential role in helping to stabilize Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Iran have a “mutual interest” in battling both the drug trade and the Taliban.

The question for the Obama administration is whether to take up these feelers (from Iran). Advocates argue that stabilizing Afghanistan is a strategic priority and that the United States should seek help wherever it can. They also argue that rather than undermining talks on the nuclear issue, contacts on Afghanistan could be an important confidence-building measure.

Skeptics contend the Afghan gambit would dilute the main focus of Iran policy, which is stopping Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. That same logic led the Bush administration to pull back in March 2006 from its proposal for talks in Baghdad with Iran, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had appointed a key adviser, Ali Larijani, as his representative.

–David Ignatius, “The U.S. should test Iran’s resolve to stabilize Afghanistan,” Washington Post, September 17, 2010.

Attacks on Home of Karroubi and Offices of Moussavi

Meanwhile, in Iran paramilitary militia and/or government security officials on September 2 reportedly attacked the home of opposition leader and 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi.

Pro-government crowds swarmed outside the battered home of a key Iranian opposition leader Friday after militiamen attacked with firebombs and beat a bodyguard unconscious in a brazen message of intimidation and pinpoint pressure on dissent.

Mobs of hard-line militiamen — known as Basij — began breaking down the front door of Karroubi’s residence before being driven back by warning shots from guards, according to the Sahamnews website, which supports Iran’s pro-reform movement.

Karroubi was at home at the time, but was not injured, his son Hossein told The Associated Press.

Media restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities blocked journalists from reaching the site and independently verifying the accounts. A video posted on the Internet by a group backing the opposition showed smashed windows and graffiti on the walls and door panel of the house, located on a tree-lined street in north Tehran.

Hossein Karroubi said dozens of hard-liners — some on motorbikes — continued to damage the opposition leader’s home on Friday and that police were not responding to the scene. Some security cameras outside the building were torn down, he said.

–Brian Murphy and Nasser Karimi, “Mobs attack home of Iranian opposition leader,” AP, published on Iran on MSNBC, September 3, 2010.

On Wednesday night, September 15, Iranian government security forces and/or paramilitary militia reportedly attacked the offices of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate in the June, 2009 presidential elections.

–Associated Press, “Forces raid office of Iran’s opposition leader,” September 17, 2010.

–See also Ramin Mostaghim and Meris Lutz, “Iran opposition leader’s offices raided,” Los Angleles Times, September 17, 2010.

AP also reported that

Adding to the pressure on the opposition, Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi issued a new warning that the movement’s leaders could be brought to trial, Iranian newspapers reported Thursday.

See also

Ladane Nasseri, “Iran Pledges to Bring to Trial Opposition Leaders Who Challenged President,” Bloomberg, September 16, 2010

These attacks follow the surfacing of an alleged official letter to Iranian newspapers and media outlets banning any reporting on the activities of Karroubi, Moussavi, or former president Mohammad Khatami.

–See William Yong and Robert F. Worth, “Iran Clamps Down on Reporting on Protest Leaders,” New York Times, August 25, 2010.

Khamenei’s January call for opposition members to be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law

In January, two days after groups believed to be linked to the Revolutionary Guards allegedly open fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for such groups to abide by the law, stating

“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clerics and seminary students bused to Tehran from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.

“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”

Borzou Daragahi, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Militias not to Meddle,” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010

See The Trenchant Observer, “NEWS TO NOTE: In Iran, Khamenei calls for non-interference by militias and for officials “to fully respect the law,” January 14, 2010

The contradiction between Khamenei’s call for the authorities and paramilitary groups to act within the law and these recent attacks raises basic questions as to whether Kamenei has lost or is losing influence over the Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary groups such as the Basiji.

The Trenchant Observer

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NEWS TO NOTE: In Iran, Khamenei calls for non-interference by militias and for officials “to fully respect the law”

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times reports that two days following the firing of shots at the car of former Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi,

…Iran’s supreme leader Saturday told shadowy pro-government militias not to interfere in the nation’s postelection unrest even as the head of the notorious Basiji militia warned that his forces would “jump into the fray” if authorities didn’t act strongly against the opposition movement.

In his first public comments since protests last month that coincided with a major religious holiday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a rare attempt to ease tensions. Two days after gunmen with suspected ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard allegedly opened fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi Khamenei urged all to abide by the law.

“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clerics and seminary students bused to Tehran from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.

“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”

Borzou Daragahi, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Militias not to Meddle,” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010

Khamenei’s remarks on January 9 were also quoted extensively by Iran’s English language television channel, Press TV, as follows:

…Ayatollah Khamenei warned that the enemy was drawing up an “intricate” plot for a “dangerous game.”

“In these unclear conditions, we must act with vigilance and open eyes. However, when the conditions require, we must also show firmness. This way we can stop the enemy in its tracks,” the Leader explained.

Ayatollah Khamenei then asked all responsible bodies of the Islamic Republic to precisely implement the articles of the law in a “full and firm” fashion.

The Leader said that “those who have no responsibility or legal duty” must not interfere in that process.

“Some innocent people, who hate these villains, may seriously be hurt. Therefore, everyone must refrain from taking any action on their own. Everything must be done according to the law.”

Press TV, January 9, 2010

Tehran’s leading English language newspaper described the remarks in similar terms. The Tehran Times, January 9, 2010