A blueprint for solving the Iran crisis
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Getty Images)
April 12th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

A blueprint for solving the Iran crisis

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

A new round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, namely the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, is upon us. Based on the failures of previous talks, the upcoming discussionsscheduled for April 14 have had an air of pessimism hanging over them.

But not all hope is lost.

A recent proposal by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), as well as a leaked report about U.S and European demands for the upcoming talks, suggest some common ground may be emerging between the two sides.

The report, leaked to the New York Times, find the U.S and European position in the upcoming talks is centered around demands that Iran ceases uranium enrichment of 20 percent at the Fordo nuclear site near the city of Qom. This is in addition to a demand that Iran transfers its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. FULL POST

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Topics: Diplomacy • Iran
March 23rd, 2012
01:00 PM ET

How to make Iran change its mind

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

The Iranian regime can live without its nuclear program. But it can’t live without its economy, and the recently imposed sanctions, if continued, could turn into an existential danger for the Iranian regime by precipitating an economic collapse.

The sanctions imposed against Iran’s central bank in December 2011, which have started to dissuade an increasing number of countries from buying oil from Iran as they have to deal with the bank, are proving particularly damaging. These sanctions came in addition to a move by the EU that prompted the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to discontinue offering service to Iranian banks. This means that from now on, Iranian banks won’t be able to send and receive money to and from the vast majority of banks abroad. Ultimately, this could mean Iranian businesses having to send suitcases full of banknotes to suppliers or abroad - or even to stop trading altogether.

A $900 billion economy simply can’t be run like this. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Nuclear
What Iran’s election means
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Getty Images)
March 1st, 2012
03:10 PM ET

What Iran’s election means

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

The results of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran, scheduled for March 2, will tell us much about Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ambitions and concerns, but little about what the people of Iran want.

This is because in all likelihood, these elections will be anything but democratic. It will be the Iranian supreme leader who decides who the winners and losers of these elections will be, and he won’t want to leave things to chance. With U.S.-led sanctions hurting his regime and undermining his legitimacy since the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, control of the regime is now more important than ever for Khamenei. This’s why he won’t want – or allow – the results of tomorrow’s election to be decided by anyone other than himself. FULL POST

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Topics: Elections • Iran
February 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

The ball is in Iran's court

Editor’s Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst and the coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of Iran. He teaches the Contemporary Iranian Politics course at the Interdisciplinary Center, in Herzliya, Israel. 

By Meir Javedanfar - Special to CNN

“Will Israel attack Iran?” That’s the question of the hour. Pundits and policymakers are asking it. But the real existential threat to Iran’s leadership lies elsewhere and the question we should be asking is: “Are the tough economic sanctions against Iran's central bank working?”

To Iran's rulers, regime survival is of utmost importance; there is nothing more important to them - not even the nuclear program. The Iranian regime can live and survive without its nuclear program. But it cannot survive without its economy.

In recent months, the value of the riyal has collapsed, portending greater troubles for Iran’s economy ahead. More and more countries are turning away from Iran to buy oil. This is bad news for the regime, which relies heavily on oil income.

Those countries that continue to import oil from Iran are taking advantage of its diplomatic isolation to squeeze it for all it’s worth. China has halved its monthly oil import from Iran and is demanding discounts on the other half. The Turks are asking Iran to reduce the price it charges for gas and are threatening to take Iran to the International Arbitration Court over this matter. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Nuclear • Strategy
January 23rd, 2012
08:54 AM ET

Iran: Stuck between U.S. and a hard place

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

If war with Iran is to be avoided, then negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group have to succeed. Turkey has already offered to host any talks, and Iran has said it’s ready to attend. It also seems likely that the P5+1 will also be willing to proceed. But with no date having yet been set despite tensions running so high, U.S. President Barack Obama should be willing to offer to go the extra mile and hold bilateral talks with Iran during any negotiations.

Yet doing so won’t be easy. Although the situation is delicate enough to make it well worth Obama’s while, Republican presidential candidates have been breathing down his neck demanding that he take a tougher line. And they aren’t alone - allies the U.K., France and Israel have also been pressing him, meaning Obama’s room for maneuver would likely be limited even if such talks take place.

Either way, negotiations are about give and take. So just what exactly would Obama be able to offer? FULL POST

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Topics: Iran
Iran's imperfect trap for Obama
Iran's Navy Commander Adm. Habibollah Sayari speaks to the press last week about Iran's 10-day military exercise.
December 30th, 2011
09:20 AM ET

Iran's imperfect trap for Obama

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

The publication of an analysis last week by Tehran-based ASR Iran made for interesting reading. Entitled “Iran’s blows against the White House; will Obama have the same fate as Carter?” the writer concluded that:

“What has happened in recent months, and will probably continue, brings up memories of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and its impact on the defeat of the Democrats and Jimmy Carter’s personal failure.  Perhaps finally, as a result of the blows received from the Iran front, Obama will become one of the few single term U.S. presidents – unless in the few remaining months he carries out serious reforms in bilateral relations and comes down from his ivory tower and returns to the negotiating table with Iran as an equal.”

The line about Iran’s recent “blows” against the United States is no doubt referring to the U.S. drone currently in Iranian hands, thecapture of a supposed U.S. spy and Iran’s continuing ability to continue with its nuclear program, including claims that Tehran is transferring sensitive nuclear activities to fortified underground sites.

FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • Foreign Policy • Iran • Military • President Obama
Will Ahmadinejad be Iran’s last president?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures as he delivers a speech in front of portraits of Iran's late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (L) and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R). (Getty Images)
October 25th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Will Ahmadinejad be Iran’s last president?

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir JavedanfarThe Diplomat

The message from Iran’s most powerful man was clear: the post of president could be removed sometime in the future. If this happened, the parliamentary system could instead be used to elect officials holding executive power. ‘There would be no problem in altering the current structure,’ stated Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a speech in the city of Kermanshah on Sunday.

What we have here is a tussle between Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over their respective legacies. And Khamenei is taking this matter so seriously that he’s threatening to remove the very position of the presidency altogether. For now, this is only a threat. But it’s one that can’t be ignored, especially by Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad isn’t eligible to run for president again when his term expires in June 2013, as Iran’s Constitution is clear a president can run for only two consecutive terms. To ensure his legacy, then, Ahmadinejad seems to be backing his right hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as a presidential candidate. Ahmadinejad likely hopes that with Mashaei as president, he will be able to retain a powerful cabinet position – think an Iranian twist on what Vladimir Putin has done in Dmitry Medvedev’s government. When Mashaei finishes his four year term, Ahmadinejad would then be able to use his likely high profile in Meshai’s government as a platform to develop a renewed bid for the presidency.

This concerns Khamenei, and rightly so. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran
Was Khamenei reckless - or set up?
Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei in 1997. (Getty Images)
October 12th, 2011
10:22 PM ET

Was Khamenei reckless - or set up?

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of IranThe following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.

By Meir Javedanfar

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department accused ‘agents of the Iranian government of being involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, with help from a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel.’ This warning came as ABC News, citing an unnamed official, reported that the plot also included ‘plans to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington, as well as those belonging to Saudi Arabia and Israel in Buenos Aires, Argentina.’

The success of the U.S. case against Iran will clearly depend on the quality of the evidence that the U.S. government has at its disposal. Certainly, if this evidence is found wanting, and the case against the two suspects being held — an Iranian American and an Iranian Quds Force officer —  is thrown out, it would be a major blow to the credibility of U.S. law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. government.

Looking ahead, what if the U.S. government should be able to prove its case, including allegations of a plan to hit the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires? This would undoubtedly show the Iranian leadership's continued commitment to a tried and tested strategy. After all, Iran has been accused of being behind the 1992 suicide attack against Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people and injured 242. Meanwhile, Interpol has issued arrest warrants against Iranian officials over their alleged involvement in the AMIA bombing, which took place in Buenos Aires in 1994.

But concrete evidence that Iran was planning to strike in Washington as claimed would mark the opening of a whole new chapter in Iran’s dealings with the United States and Saudi Arabia.  FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism
September 2nd, 2011
09:21 AM ET

Why civil war in Syria would serve Iran well

Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of Iran.

By Meir Javedanfar, The Diplomat

Revolutions are unpredictable, but so are post-revolution periods – something that will be evident if and when the Bashar al-Assad regime falls in Syria.

It is, of course, possible that when the regime falls, the fighting will end and a single body will manage the country’s affairs until elections take place. But it’s also possible that there will be chaos or even civil war. If this happens, expect fighting between the minority ruling Alawites and the majority Sunni population to ensue. FULL POST

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Topics: Civil War • Iran • Syria