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Iran and Syria: Best of Times, Worst of Times

Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities begins with those famous lines:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Today’s Middle East doesn’t enjoy the best of times.  But relations between Iran and the west are the most promising they’ve been since 1979.  We have a real opportunity to achieve something that was last possible in 2003.  Then , President Mohammed Khatami offered a Grand Bargain to freeze his country’s nuclear program in return for normalization of relations.  The overture was abandoned by a Bush administration too blind, stubborn or Iranophobic to recognize what it had been offered.  Though Barack Obama has many qualities lacking as president, he seems smart enough to realize that he must respond favorably to the open hand outstretched to him by Pres. Rouhani.

zarif

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Zarif at press conference during Geneva nuclear talks (REUTERS/Ruben Sprich)

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations are underway right now in Geneva and the news is quite promising.  Writing in Al Monitor, Barbara Slavin reports on a new offer Iran’s negotiator has extended.  It would suspend Iranian uranium enrichment at 20%, convert its existing stock to nuclear fuel rods (which could not then be used to enrich to bomb-grade), dispose of spent plutonium from a soon-to-be-completed reactor in Arak, and offer full IAEA monitoring of the newest Iranian facility at Fordo.  Iran would also be more transparent about its heavy-water nuclear facility in Arak, which had been kept under wraps.

The director of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, said the proposal reported by Slavin, if true:

…Is “a genuine, serious response to the P5+1 proposal presented in April at Almaty, which was not a final offer from the P5+1.” Kimball added that the offer to stop production of 20% enriched uranium and convert the stockpile into fuel rods “essentially meets the goal of the P5+1 to stop production and ship out the remaining material” while the “proposed solution on Arak should also be very appealing to the P5+1, especially since Iran doesn’t even have a plutonium separation facility that it could use to extract plutonium from Arak’s spent fuel rods. Arak also does not require enriched uranium fuel, rather natural uranium fuel.”

The chief U.S. negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said:

“Foreign Minister Zarif and his delegation came prepared for detailed, substantive discussion with a candor that I certainly have not heard in the two years I’ve been meeting with Iranians, and my P5+1 colleagues, some of whom have been doing this for quite some time, found quite new and different.”

I can’t think of better, more promising words than these for this stage in the talks.  Of course, there is a long way to go.  This is a negotiation that won’t happen overnight.  But there seems a much stronger will on both sides to get a deal done.

In her report, Slavin adds that the Iranians foresee an agreement being implemented in two stages, each of which would take six months.  Though she didn’t clarify what would happen in the second stage, presumably this would be when the west would ease the punitive sanctions it has put into place against Iran.  The only specific form of relief she mentioned was allowing Iran to import medicine, which is now impossible because of banking restrictions which prohibit this.

My criticism of the western approach has been that it involved a long series of demands of Iran with few, if any concessions from the west.  If our government thinks medicine is a sufficient lure to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program, it’s sadly mistaken.  We will have to offer significant relief.  And the end game will have to lead to normalizing relations between Iran and the west.  That is, the west will have to cease all efforts to destabilize Iran, while Iran will have to agree to play a constructive role in neighboring states in which they have significant interests like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon.  That means an end to efforts that the west has seen as destabilizing including military support for Hezbollah, Assad, and Shiite militants in Iraq.

So far, I’m not seeing this flexibility from the west.  But as I said, the talks are just entering a serious phase and I’m hoping for more substance from our side toward the Iranians.

Returning to that Dickens quote, it certainly is the worst of times in some places in the Middle East: Egypt has been swallowed by a military coup, which our country was far too slow to denounce.  In Syria, we came within a whisker of a disastrous military intervention; and were only saved by the outpouring of opposition from the American people, who showed collective wisdom for a change.  Despite averting disaster, Syria remains a horrific example of a failed state.  One that needs cooperation and collaboration between international interests in order to find a solution.  The Assad regime has two friends in the world: the Russians and the Iranians.  My hope is that success in the nuclear talks could lead to success in finding a way out of impasse between the regime and the rebels, who’ve presently carved up the country into Sunni and Shia ethnic enclaves.

Israel isn’t exactly the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but it’s mighty big and could do a great deal of damage in opposing these hopeful developments.  Israel, under the leadership of its extreme right-wing prime minister, opposes any compromise with Iran.  It promises to use all its power in Congress to derail any agreement.  It also has allied itself with Iran’s Sunni enemies in the Gulf region, especially Saudi Arabia.  Currently, the Saudis are incensed by Obama’s decision not to attack Assad’s forces.  They are also deeply alarmed that we may reach a deal with their enemy, Iran.

Pres. Obama may, at some point, have to choose between America’s old allies, nations ruled by autocratic strongmen; or a series of new alliances (or at least relationships) with previous enemies like Iran.  We will have to decide whether we want to remain implacable enemies of Islamism, whether terrorist or political; or whether we want to learn to accommodate to a Middle East that increasingly expresses its politics through its religious identity.

Infusing Islam into a nation’s politics, is no more dangerous than infusing religious themes or ideas into American or Israeli society.  The key is what form this religious expression takes.  If it is intolerant, extremist, and violent (as these forms have taken regarding Al Qaeada and Israel’s settler movement) then it must be rejected.  But if it is tolerant, populist, and non-violent (as the Muslim Brotherhood has been in Egypt), then it is entirely legitimate.

The United States has not embraced such a view of Islam in the Middle East.  Instead, we’ve seen Islam, no matter how it’s practiced, as our enemy.  Our targeted drone killings, which murdered more than 3,000 people, many civilians, have made enemies of virtually all of Islam.  This is unsustainable if we are to have a constructive relationship with the Muslim-Arab world.  And we must.

This is a talk I delivered tonight at the Seattle Fellowship of Reconciliation meeting.

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Bellerophon October 21, 2013, 9:10 PM

    What’s the famous saying? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?

    In Feb 16, 1979 Princeton Prof of international times published an op-add in the NYT stating that Ayatollah Khomeini is the Iranian equal to Gandhi.

    “The historical record of revolutionary zeal’s degenerating into excess is such as to temper enthusiasm about Iran’s future. Nevertheless, there are hopeful sign, Including the character and Role of Ayatollah Khomeini.
    “In recent months, before his triumphant return to Teheran, the Ayatollah gave numerous reassurances to non-Moslems communities in Iran.”
    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=vg1zjs&s=7

    Your statements and optimism are very much like Falk’s. We know Falk was wrong and the price paid first of all by the Iranian community throughout the last 30 years – extremely high.

    This time, there is a nuclear weapon on the table – the ante much higher. We followed American stupidity once; it was American stupidity that allowed Khomeini to return from exile in France, In return he responded in kind and Iran’s paramilitary forces stormed the US embassy and arranged the blow-out of US Marines bases in Lebanon. Hopefully Americans have learned a lesson – doubtful.

    • Richard Silverstein October 22, 2013, 1:35 AM

      @ Bellerophon: This is nonsense. Nothing in the Falk quote says he equated Khomeini to Gandhi. In fact, he seemed guardedly optimistic. Plus it doesn’t seem fair to dredge up a 45 year old quote to prove Falk was wrong about Khomeini.

      As for the “price paid” by the Iranian community I’d say that’s quite debatable. Only if you’re a monarchist or MEK supporter would you make such a statement. I’d guess you’re one or the other.

      There is NO nuclear weapon on the table or anywhere else concerning Iran. But there are 200 Israeli nukes on the table. You neglected mention of that.

      • Bellerophon October 22, 2013, 4:55 AM

        “ Plus it doesn’t seem fair to dredge up a 45 year old quote to prove Falk was wrong about Khomeini.”

        Really? Shouldn’t we all learn from our own history? What better ways one has to learn other than pointing out the shortcomings in someone’s position as expressed over the media?

        You’re’ right, Falk’s comparison between the Iranian nonviolent revolution and Gandhi, was in a different article, the fool even repeated it in a much later article in 1998 (which you can see here http://www.oldsite.transnational.org/SAJT/forum/meet/r_falk_gandhi.html)

        Price paid – so now you are trying to argue that Iran is a beacon of human rights? That Iranian people can freely use Twitter and Facebook? Free Elections? That Rafsanjani’s wasn’t arrested? Is he a MEK supporter ? That is laughable.

        Back to the subject…..
        Just before he arrived in Tehran in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini succeeded at waging a successful deception campaign from his place of exile at Neauphle-le-Chateau, just outside of Paris. He completely hid his true intentions of what he planned to do once he would become the ruler of Iran
        A committee of advisers recommended to him that he refrain from rhetorically attacking the US or saying anything against women’s rights. He sent his personal representative, Ibrahim Yazdi, who had American citizenship and would later become his foreign minister, to meet U.S. officials in Washington as well as many influential academics
        Among American experts there was little knowledge about Khomeini’s background (Just as much knowledge as you have on the subject) except for information transmitted by his supporters. The one exception to this trend was the case of Professor Bernard Lewis, One of his assistants found a written book by Khomeini in the Princeton University Library that contained the Arabic lectures he had delivered in 1970, while he lived in exile in Najaf. The book was entitled “Islamic Government.”

        The CIA, as well as other parts of the American government, apparently did not even know the book existed. But Lewis studied the text, revealing Khomeini’s extremist positions, which he shared with the Washington Post. These included calls for “armed jihad” and the need to “take the lead over other Muslims.” The book was plainly anti-Semitic, suggesting that the Jews were seeking “to rule over the entire planet.” (very similar to your “Israel seek dominance claims)

        There were American academics who were cultivated by Khomeini’s people and were prepared to suggest that Lewis had quoted Khomeini “out of context.” Henry Precht, who was head of the Iran desk at the U.S. State Department, went even further and rejected Lewis’ conclusions. He even said that the book that Lewis found was a forgery. He criticized the Washington Post for publishing excerpts of the book. Precht, who had met with Khomeini’s envoy, argued in internal meetings in Washington that after the fall of the Shah, Khomeini’s government would leave Iran more stable
        Years later, Khomeini admitted that he employed traditional techniques of deception, specifically referring to the tactic of khod’eh, which according to his biographer, Amir Taheri, meant “tricking one’s enemy into a misjudgment of one’s true position

        1, it seems that history has a nasty tendency of repeating itself.
        2. The Number of self-appointed know-it-all experts is always on the raise.

        • Richard Silverstein October 22, 2013, 5:32 PM

          @ Bellerophon: There were no shortcomings in Falk’s thinking in 1979. 45 years later, after all the history that happened since, Falk and many of us have different views of Khomeini (though those views have nothing to do with yours). Hindsight is always 20/20. People opine based on the best available knowledge they have at the time. As you said, many hoped that the Islamic Revolution would be more tolerant and less violent than it turned out to be. But the history of revolutions around the world, including in some countries we now consider the epitomy of tolerance & culture, is quite bloody. In that, Iran is no different.

          As for what Khomeini did or didn’t do, and whether or not he betrayed some imagined policy that you expected but which didn’t materialize–I’m afraid that’s of little import to anyone except you & your monarchist (or is MEK?) friends. Iran is what it is. Its government is what it is. Attempts to smear Iran based on what it could’ve been or should’ve been are hopeless exercises in irrelevance.

          It’s certainly proof positive of your anti-Iran, and even anti-Muslim views that you bring the Orientalist faux Islam expert Bernard Lewis into the mix. We’re way ahead of you here. You can’t get away with this sort of intellectual fraud as you might elsewhere. As for Khomeini being anti-Semitic, I’d say Lewis is an Islamophobe; or at least ideologically biased & therefore far from a credible source on these subjects. That makes us both even.

          You’ve also brought that other fraud and faker Amir Taheri into the mix. The fellow who made up the Iran yellow star hoax & got some media outlets to swallow it hook line & sinker.

          I do not tolerate commenters who do so in bad faith. The points I’ve made above show that either through ignorance or deliberate fraud, you’re doing so. I warn you to tread carefully & only bring credible sources and base your arguments on facts rather than your own or other’s biased, fact-free prejudices.

          I want you to directly answer my question and acknowledge whether you’re a monarchist or MEK. If you refuse, I will consider that bad faith as well.

          • Bellerophon October 22, 2013, 6:55 PM

            Shame that you can’t act with civility.
            To answer your last question, I am neither Monarchist nor MEK.

            “Hindsight is always 20/20″
            Yes you are absolutely right, and those who where wrong before should at least learn modesty and humbleness from previous experiences, which is not the case with prof Falk, or with yourself.

            The importance of examining Khomeini’s action is with the understanding that the west had already been fooled once by an Iranian charm offensive. Willingly “surrendering” to the same method is simply stupid.

            You can call Prof Lewis all you want, the different between you and him is that he base’s his opinion on actual research, you base your opinion on thin air and no research. That makes him a successful scholar who has tremendous influence, and You ? What does it make you ? At best it makes you gullible, the worst you can guess for yourself.

            One last thing, Your claim that the Iranians are not trying to develop nuclear weapons is laughable. The heavy water reactor established at Arak, has no use in a civilian nuclear program.

          • Richard Silverstein October 22, 2013, 9:39 PM

            I show civility to those whose ideas are fair and fact-based (without having to agree with mine), which yours aren’t. You claim I should learn from my mistakes and show humility. But you haven’t proved any ideas of mine were wrong. The term “charm offensive” is demeaning & offensive. Don’t use it again in reference to Iran. As for your claims not to be a monarchist or MEK, I think you’re lying. If I can ever prove you are, it will mean you are lying, which is grounds for banning here. Bernard Lewis, the greatest Islamophobe ever to claim to be a scholar of Islam–his views are based on “research?” I know 20 Islamc scholars who would beg to differ. Lewis is the laughingstock of the field, and darling of neocons.

            I never said Iran is “not trying to build a nuclear weapon.” But there is no concrete evidence and no definitive statement from the IAEA or U.S. government that it is. The only figures who say otherwise are MEK, monarchists, Bibi Netanyahu, and neocons. Whether Iran’s nuclear program might be used eventually to build one is another question. But it is not building one now. It takes a long time to build a nuclear weapon. Even if it were pursuing such a goal, which no credible source has said definitively, it will be years before it will even be close. When you have definitive proof, as opposed to fraudulent claims & documents from Mossad and MEK, let us know.

          • Bellerphone October 23, 2013, 5:44 AM

            The term “Charm Offensive” Is widely used by all MSM outlets in the US:
            MSNBC, CNN, FOX, Reuters, and many other and you find it offensive? Why because it presents the Iranian effort as being a not genuine effort? Or is it because you would like to neuter and real discussion?

            Where you wrong? First your reports and ideas are not based on knowledge they’re based on pure speculation and agenda, you are trying to bend reality to fit your agenda (and that’s the main reason you were fooled many times including the time you stated Israeli is going to blow out the Western Wall, Published Feb 28 2010 ) You don’t speak Arabic or Farsi you don’t know the differences between Shi’ites and Sunni’s I doubt that you can quote the Al-Fatiha (I doubt you know what it is without using google) You never read the Quran. You don’t understand the structure of the Iranian government, you don’t know the difference between the Guardian Council to the Expediency Discernment Council, or the specific role they each play You don’t understand the relationship any of the bodies have between itself and the Iranian Parliament. You don’t understand the mechanism that enables the Supreme Leader to control The Parliament & the President. In Short – Gornisht mit Gornisht.
            To compensate for your lack of knowledge, you dismiss any substantial claim as “Islamophobic” and “racist” (which is pure BS) you try to stop a real debate from happening, and you become extremely rude towards those who don’t say Amen to every nonsense you spew. How do I know that? I experienced it first hand on this thread, and you were kind enough to show me a glimpse of your true colors while linking to a 2007 thread (yellow star) on which you were equally rude towards someone else.
            And just FYI, Bellerphone is a hero from the Greek Mythology, it has nothing to do with MEK or Iranian Monarchy.

            P.S
            If you want to understand the impact on radical islam on political islam and how it hurts mostly they Islamic communities around the world, You should listen to Dr. Qanta Ahmad – A Muslim herself.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_YGPb9HIxI&feature=share

          • Oui October 23, 2013, 11:52 AM

            Self-explanatory – ‘nuf said. I read no proposals on UN resolutions, international law and illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Of course she has an audience, just like Hirshi Ali and Geert Wilders.

            Israel’s battle is mine by Dr Qanta Ahmed

            (TOI) – Israel’s eight-day operation “Pillar of Defense” sought to dismantle the Hamas apparatus from within Gaza. The predictably seamless alignment of the Muslim world against Israel was even more breathtaking than usual in the face of Syria’s 22 months of systematic genocide, one which has consistently failed to trigger unanimous Muslim protest. What does this say about us as Muslims?

            We are hypocrites.

            … While Muslims define Israel as the enemy, we ignore Assad, and diabolically laud Hamas. Hamas is never sated – each year it devours ever more Palestinians, regardless of age or gender. If Israelis lose fewer citizens than the Palestinians in these conflicts it is for the same reason Israel exchanges more prisoners for each captive soldier: quite simply Israel values human life more than does Hamas, which relishes ground operations taking place among densely populate civilian areas.

            This is why Hamas does not represent me, or other believing Muslims. This is why Israel’s battle is mine. This is why Israel’s struggle – Israel’s jihad – is mine. These are the ‘Muslims’ that Israelis must confront and these are the “Muslims” who intimidate innocent Palestinians into subjugation to their monstrous political Islamism.

            This is the true nature of Hamas, which recites the Quran yet doesn’t hold it in their hearts, that “summon to the book of Allah but have nothing to do with it.” By the above, it would seem the IDF (that eliminates Hamas) is surely closer to Allah than Hamas.

            [Dr Qanta Ahmed is Associate Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York – Stony Brook]

          • Richard Silverstein October 23, 2013, 3:53 PM

            @Bellerphone: There is something about you that doesn’t smell right. You use Tor to conceal your tracks online. One of your IPs resolves to Ukraine, indicating you use a proxy server. Your Twitter account is protected. What are you hiding? I prefer transparency over secrecy. You prefer the opposite.

            I don’t care whether God himself called it a charm offensive. I hate the term & as long as you’re here you follow my comment rules.

            None of the claims you made about my supposed lack of knowledge indicate I don’t understand Iranian or ME politics. My understanding is also amplified by a number of Iranians with whom I share ideas on an intensive basis. I read broadly in the media on the subject. Your claims are lame, I’m afraid. My ideas are based on reliable, credible, knowledgeable sources. Yours are cranks, Islamophobes & Neo-cons. I’ll let my readers decide which one of us is a more reliable judge of events.

            You complain about my alleged rudeness rather than offering any substantive arguments to support your views (as opposed to bias, which you possess in spades). That’s a red herring seeking to divert attention from the inadequcies of your arguments, such as they are.

            And offering Qanta Ahmed as an authority on Islam is your funniest ploy yet. She’s what I call an Uncle Toma or in her case, Auntie Qanta. She has no expertise whatsoever in Islam and is, in fact, a medical doctor. But she is the Jerusalem Post and Jewish neocons’ favorite House Muslim. She’s a fawning Muslim Zionist. Truly disgusting.

          • Bellerphone October 23, 2013, 4:47 PM

            Why do i use TOR ? Because i come from a part of the world where people do not enjoy the same liberties as you do. Criticizing the regime the way i did can cost me my life. Only the president & supreme leader and other government officials can have access to that technology.

            The west is gullible Mr.Richard Silverstein. The West is gullible and stupid. Iran will not abandon it’s nuclear weapons program (You can read about it in the current president book) You simply don’t give away a plan you’ve been working on for the last 30 years. Oh, i forgot you don’t speak Farsi how stupid of me.

            Save me Your opinion about Dr. Ahmed, Your reference to her as the “House Muslim” is a combination of pure racism and stupidity. One should be able to have his / her opinion without facing such nasty comments in return. And by the way having a position in the Jpost doesn’t disqualify anyone.

            As for her expertise, she’s a part of the Muslim society – which you are not – and know what it is to live like one.

          • Richard Silverstein October 23, 2013, 8:15 PM

            @ Bellerphone: That’s a load of bunk. I’m not interested in where you “come from.” I’m interested in where you are now. You’re not in Iran. So what are you afraid of? That the IRG thinks so highly of you that they’d harm you? If so, you flatter yourself. As for whether you come from Iran originally: possible. But your views are totally divorced from those of any Iranian within Iran. You are a political irrelevancy.

            I told you not to confuse opinion with fact. You’ve mentioned Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” Iran has none nor have you or anyone proven they do. That is a patently false statement. As for whether the Iranians will end their uranium enrichment program (the only thing the west is currently demanding of Iran related to its nuclear program aside from inspections of Fordo & Arak), you’re about as good a judge of the Iranian government’s current intentions as my 13 month old puppy.

            What would you call an alleged Muslim touted by the far-right Jerusalem Post as a “good Muslim?” The Post is a Likudist house organ and would never feature a Muslim who wasn’t a Zionist. A Muslim Zionist is, once again, a political irrelevancy in the same way Neturey Karta is a political irrelevancy which anti-Zionists like to tout as a true expression of mainstream Jewish attitudes toward Israel. Ahmed is nothing less than an Uncle Toma or House Muslim.

            As for whether she’s part of “Muslim society,” again crap. She’s a rich NYC doctor who hangs out within her rich upper Eastside right-wing Jewish 1% milieu. That’s as much Muslim society as SHeldon Adelson is “Jewish society.”

          • Bellerphone October 24, 2013, 5:57 AM

            A “load of bunk” ? i am sorry I’m unfamiliar with the term.

            As for where i am, I am in Iran. There are ways to use TOR even in Iran. Funny how you think you know anything about my country from “reading in the news” and “talking to people”

            I admire your “Chutzpa” of calling me “political irrelevancy.” It seems that you have forgotten about the Green Movement of 2009, it seems you have forgotten about the House Arrests of Mousavi & Karroubi.

            It’s funny how you state that the US should select between old alliances with dictators to those who represent new spirit, and you bring Iran a country ruled by the iron fist of a crazy old Ayatollah as an example to a country governed by new spirit.

            I read that Marijuana has been declared legal in Washington State. Reading your nonsense I’m convinced they are growing good strains where you reside, care to send me some ?

        • Davey October 22, 2013, 7:57 PM

          “rise” not “raise.”

  • pabelmont October 22, 2013, 7:15 AM

    Bush-shrub didn’t act alone. He was surrounded by neocons, especially the VP. His “committee” got us into all those wars. Without all that support, Bush-shrub probably couldn’t have been elected dog-catcher. Bush-shrub was not a surprise. We’ve got the political system we deserve, we Americans. Americans had “a democracy if you can keep it” (to paraphrase Ben Franklin), but we lost it to the big-money-boys — who were either supporting the neocons or not disposed to oppose them.

    Obama is more surprising. He too is surrounded (and seems for most purposes “captured”), most importantly by the Zionist crowd. Therefore it is amazing that he waived off war with Iran and now seems to be negotiating. One wants to know what is going on inside “The Establishment” — which I take to consist of the CEOs of a lot of major corporations. Some, the Zionists among them, doubtless push for war with Iran. But it would seem that others, more powerful, have pushed against that war. (Or, of course, Obama may be operating “on his own” and not subservient to “The Establishment” (if any, in that case). But if he is operating “on his own” in this case, why not on other aspects of the Zionist agenda — like ending settlements? So I must believe that “The Establishment” is against war and in favor of negotiation with Iran, but still indifferent to (or actively opposed to) human rights generally and as to Palestine in particular.

  • Dana October 22, 2013, 9:27 AM

    It would certainly be nice if, as part of negotiating with Iran, the US would come around to discouraging Saudi Arabia’s extremely destabilizing efforts to unleash Sunni extremism on the Middle East. That includes the tacit – and not so well hidden – support given to the terrorists who are carrying out daily bombings in Iraq. It also means exerting pressure on the bandar idiot-prince to call off his legions of terrorist goons that are still unfortunately wrecking havoc in Syria. It would be especially nice if attention shifted on the human rights front to the horrid regime of the despotic saudi Arabia monarchy, which continues to try and bring the darkest of dark ages to the rest of the Middle east through Wahabism.

    Perhaps, with enough pressure on Saudi Arabia’s and other slave labor dependent theocracies in the gulf – like Qatar and Bahrain, a rapproachment with Shiites can be achieved. The two keys to a more peaceful Middle east are the curbing os Saudi power and, of course, israel’s which must sign the NPT and allow inspections of its nuclear arsenal, before it can be considered a civilized nation.

    Hezbollah should also be removed from the terror list where it was put through machinations of one mad-cap,bleary-eyed, messianic state, so it can better project its pragmatic approach to sectarian relations in regions beyond lebanon and act as peace maker. Hopefully, by that time order will have been restored to Syria and the foreign mayhem makers, including Israel, US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, would withdraw their support of terrorism long enough to reunite the country and move forward with elections and reforms.

    Finally, before anything good can happen with Iran, I believe the ghetto of gaza needs to be re-opened to the world. Whatever pressure must be exerted on the israeli regimes to do that, has to happen, before anyone is willing to believe that the US, under whatever corporatocratic acting-president it happens to be, is really willing to do something half-way good in the world. Personally, I place my hopes on the corporatocracy that rules us all. When they feel threatened enough, they will act decisively to curb excesses. Heartless though they may be. the corporatocracy abhors disorder, which can, god forbid, rally the masses enough to notice where all the wealth is going.

    • Dana October 22, 2013, 9:59 AM

      Ok, so it looks like the scenario I was describing – a cooling down in the relations with Saudi Arabia is happening. From today’s WSJ:

      “Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said. ”
      And there’s more:
      “Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as “angry.” Another senior U.S. official added: “Our interests increasingly don’t align.”‘

      Does this mean that cooler heads are prevailing in Washington (or, more likely, the corporatocratic establishment has come to realize that it, like any other establishment” needs stability to affect its aims)?

      i do, however, get a kick out of saudi Arabia threatening to stop funding its army of crazy jihadists-terrorists. I wonder whether it plans to offer them all a good retirement plan, somewhere on one of those hideous man-made islands qatar is building (in preparation for the rising sea levels no doubt)?

      To watch Saudi temper tantrums is to wallow in some good old-fashined schadenfreude. More please, bandar-boy.

      Next are the israeli tantrums. Can barely wait.

      • Richard Silverstein October 22, 2013, 5:23 PM

        @ Dana: I wonder if Saudi Arabia’s semi-official jihadists will have Obamacare-style health insurance built into that retirement plan?!

        • Davey October 22, 2013, 8:06 PM

          They’ll have the best that money can buy.

          Aren’t there US bases in SA? And they threaten to end “cooperation,” these Saudi “officials?” Aren’t they just royal kinfolk? They have seen how the US destroyed Iraq, so who are they kidding?

        • Dana October 23, 2013, 11:38 AM

          That’s funny, Richard. Besides, after doing some hard times engaged in old-fashioned Jihad, navigating a somewhat unwieldy web site should be no problem…..

      • Oui October 23, 2013, 1:48 AM

        Obama and Kerry have broken with 35 year policy of doing Israel and Saudi’s bidding in the Levant. The major shifts in the region are quite impressive. The US decision not to do a bombing raid on Syria was crucial. I have long advocated Iran would be a better long-term ally to the West than the House of Saud. The policy decisions of the last 60 days have opened this opportunity.

        The Bush years and the decision to invade Iraq was the moment the bald eagle lost its feathers and the Saudi King was confronted with a Shia majority government as northern neighbor. Saudi Arabia changed policy and began overt funding and supplying arms to the Sunnis in Iraq. In Lebanon and Syria the Gulf states were already heavily involved with investments and meddling in domestic politics.

        Wahhabist teachings in mosques intensified the Sunni/Shia divide to undermine the Assad regime. In Lebanon the House of Saud was split in support for Rafiq Hariri (King Fahd) and Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (crown prince Abdullah). New Saudi King Abdullah won out.

        Dark Prince Bandar was sacked as US Ambassador in 2005, reasons unknown to me. He has made a come-back to lead the jihadists in the Syrian civil/sectarian war. Saudi Prince Bandar reportedly threatened Russia with terror activities during the Sochi games, so nothing new here to see by threatening the Levant and counter US policy.

        WikiLeaks: BAE secret papers reveal threats from Saudi Prince Bandar
        (Guardian) Feb. 15, 2008 – Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed.
        See also the BAE ‘Al Yamamah’ scandal. Bribes likely used to fund covert ops, read: jihadists.

  • Davey October 22, 2013, 7:59 PM

    “(Israel) … promises to use all its power in Congress to derail any agreement.” This is a striking and peculiar statement. Can anyone imagine “Germany promises to use all of its power in Congress…?”

  • Oui October 23, 2013, 6:21 AM

    Al Jazeera docu – Inside Shin Bet with interview Avigdor Feldman

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