By Ryan Costello, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ryan Costello is a policy fellow at the National Iranian American Council. The views expressed are his own.
Sweeping sanctions on Iran appear to have claimed their latest victim: the Samsung App store. Samsung has reportedly decided to block access to its App store in Iran from May 22. If true [Editor’s note: Samsung declined to comment to CNN], it is the latest sign that Western sanctions are restricting technology from the Iranian people, damaging the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran.
In 2009, Iranians protesting a stolen presidential election utilized the internet, cell phones and social media to organize, skirt government censorship and capture their government’s incorrigible human rights abuses. The Iranian regime found that authoritarian repression was not so easily hidden in a highly connected, digital world. The murder of Neda Agha-Soltan by a government militia, captured on video with a cellphone, helped to galvanize domestic and international opposition to Iran’s repression. However, weeks ahead of the first Iranian presidential election since 2009, U.S. and European sanctions are blocking Iranians from the same technology that helped the Green Movement organize for human rights and democracy. Such counterproductive policies only help the regime’s hardliners to repress and censor the Iranian people, stifling democratic change.
By Geneive Abdo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Geneive Abdo is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Stimson Center and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the recent paper The New Sectarianism.
As Iran’s election draws near, powerful figures within the ruling establishment seem more worried about the future of the incumbent than they are about the potential for violent protests.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is prevented from running for a third term. But this does not appear to have diminished his ambitions to remain a political force after leaving office, a goal he hopes to achieve by hurting his political opponents and pushing his top aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as the best candidate in next month’s poll.
Alarmed by both of these prospects, Ahmadinejad’s many influential foes are working to stop him – and they are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts (including, according to the Iran News Network site, the blocking of text messages containing the family name Mashaei – a filter that was reportedly removed once the story broke.)
By Jonathan Adelman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The views expressed are his own.
Despite the rhetoric of the Obama administration and tougher sanctions, hard realities suggest a likely American policy of not attacking Iran but seeking to contain it.
For Iran, the benefits of nuclear weapons are significant: becoming the ninth member of the world’s exclusive nuclear club, spurring nationalist ardor at home, potentially dominating the Middle East, enhancing its leadership of the world’s neutralist bloc, offsetting the likely loss of their main Arab ally Syria and deterring an American attack. America’s desire to stop Iran, meanwhile, is constrained by many factors: withdrawal of an aircraft carrier battle fleet from the Persian Gulf, $80 billion in Iranian hard currency reserves, opposition from Russia and China, foreign efforts to help Iran evade international sanctions, American war weariness, economic malaise, Congressional hyper partisanship and the Obama policy of leading from behind.
Trying to contain a nuclear Iran avoids an unpopular military strike, regional war and harsher sanctions. And most appealing of all, containment succeeded for 40 years with the Soviet Union, culminating in its dissolution in 1991.
By Jonathan Schanzer and Emanuele Ottolenghi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Emanuele Ottolenghi, author of ‘The Pasdaran: Inside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,’ is a senior fellow. The views expressed are their own.
In a surprise development on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an apology to Turkish Prime Minister Yayyip Erdoğan over the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla conflict on the high seas between Israeli commandos and Turkish-backed activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The clashes left nine Turks dead. Erdoğan has been demanding an apology ever since, while ramping up his anti-Israel rhetoric – most recently, comparing Zionism with fascism. With relations at their nadir, the Israelis had nothing to lose by issuing this apology – Netanyahu's apology was clearly a concession to U.S. President Barack Obama, who just garnered a great deal of goodwill during his much-heralded trip to Israel.
But if Obama plays his cards right, he should make demands of Erdoğan, too. The relationship between the two men is already warm. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Obama has logged more phone calls to Erdogan than to any world leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron.” But the president has ignored the fact that Turkey has also become one of the more troubling epicenters of illicit financial activity.
By Andrew Parasiliti, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew Parasiliti is editor and CEO of Al-Monitor.com. The views expressed are his own.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel secured perhaps a year more for diplomacy with Iran and a chance for a political solution in Syria – if the United States is willing to seize it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to offer a hiatus in threats of a military attack on Iran when he said at a joint press conference on March 20 that the United States and Israel “have a common assessment” on Iran’s nuclear program, apparently agreeing with Obama’s timeline indicating that it could take “about a year” for Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon, if it decided to do so.
On Syria, Obama and Netanyahu also shared a “common assessment” about the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. But there seemed some light between the two on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” as Obama noted in his remarks, as Netanyahu failed to mention al-Assad at the press conference.
By Stephen Yates, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Stephen Yates is former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and currently CEO of DC International Advisory, a consulting firm. The views expressed are his own.
The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed a new resolution sanctioning North Korea for its third nuclear test. North Korea's reaction to the announcement of a vote? Threatening to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States.
This latest verbal volley is likely bluster, but there is a troubling quality to what we see in North Korea, and it is strategically significant.
On the surface it appears to be a cyclical melodrama – a spoiled child seeking attention or a cynical rogue extracting rewards for bad behavior. But over the last 20 years we have been through multiple leadership changes, multilateral and bilateral negotiations, humanitarian aid and U.N. sanctions, and the one constant is the steady progress North Korea has made on enrichment and other requirements for nuclear weapons. And that progress appears to have accelerated since Kim Jung Un succeeded his father.
Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed sits down for a rare and exclusive interview with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, who discusses whether Tehran is open to direct discussions over its nuclear program.
"The clear message of Iran is that if we see that the United States is serious and is honest about its proposal for negotiations, cooperation, direct talks with the Iranians, Iranians will accept it and we will welcome it, definitely.
"There is no doubt about that. I can confirm it here with you and also for your distinguished audience, that Iran welcomes the negotiation and direct talks with the United States, provided that we make sure that the U.S. is serious and does not act differently."
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Argo picked up the Best Picture Oscar last night, but did the operation to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran go just like it did in the movie? Fareed spoke with the mastermind behind the plan, former CIA officer Antonio Mendez, just before the movie was released.
Watch the video for Mendez’s take on what happened.
For more What in the World, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
By Global Public Square staff
A historic event took place this past week – an Iranian leader visited Egypt for the first time since the 1970s, marking a thaw in relations between two of the Middle East’s heavyweights.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy quite literally laid out the red carpet for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, greeting him with a kiss on each cheek.
But when Ahmadinejad visited a Cairo mosque, he was greeted with a very different Arab tradition – a shoe hurled at him by a protestor. And the head of Egypt’s greatest Islamic center, al-Azhar, warned him to stop meddling in Arab countries. The Iranian president has had a turbulent week, not just in his travels, but, more importantly, at home. Why? Well, try this comparison. We all know President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are not best buddies, but imagine Obama playing a video in the middle of Congress, a video that claims to show Boehner’s brother soliciting a massive bribe.
By Matthew Levitt, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew Levitt directs the Stein program on counterterrorism at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the author of ‘Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.’ The views expressed are his own.
The announcement by Bulgaria that the airport bus bombing there last July was likely the handiwork of Hezbollah operatives now has European officials scrambling to decide what, if anything, to do about the fact that the group has now resumed executing attacks on European soil.
In the 1980s, Hezbollah carried out attacks across the continent, and since then it has used Europe as a near-abroad where it could conveniently raise money, procure weapons and provide logistical support for attacks to be carried out elsewhere. But the Bulgarian investigation raises as many questions as it answers. In particular, why would Hezbollah specifically choose to carry out an attack there? And why now?
While it kept up its relentless campaign of military and terrorist activities targeting Israel, and despite unabated tensions with the West, Hezbollah had not carried out a successful spectacular attack targeting Western interests beyond Israel since the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
By Fareed Zakaria
Making coercive diplomacy work requires a mixture of threats and promises. In Iran's case, the Obama administration has made threats plenty of times with clarity and credibility.
But while the sticks have been handled shrewdly, the carrots have not. The U.S. has been unable to define for itself or for the world what would be an acceptable deal and, most important, what it is willing to do if Tehran agrees to such a deal. Would sanctions be lifted? Which ones? Would the U.S. stop its efforts to overthrow the regime? Would it be willing to discuss normalization of relations with Iran?
Watch the video for the full Take
By Fareed Zakaria
Opponents of Chuck Hagel's nomination to be the U.S.'s next Secretary of Defense claim he is outside the mainstream in his views on Israel. Hagel's actual policy positions don't reflect that. On many issues, he sounds a lot like Israeli President Shimon Peres, who lamented in an interview published Jan. 9 by the New York Times that Israel was not doing enough to make peace. In any event, Hagel's views on Israel are irrelevant, since policy on that issue will be set by the White House and Congress. Where Hagel does appear out of the mainstream is on Iran, which is a good thing because Washington desperately needs fresh thinking on the topic.
In 2013, perhaps in the next few months, President Obama will face a crisis on Iran. He has categorically ruled out living with a nuclear-armed Iran under a Cold War–style policy of containment. That means either Iran will capitulate to U.S. demands or the U.S. will go to war with Iran. Since the first option is extremely unlikely and the second extremely unattractive, the Obama Administration needs to find a negotiated solution. That means using sticks and carrots–or what is often called coercive diplomacy–to get a deal that Washington and Tehran can live with.