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Western interests flummoxed by loss of ‘evil Iran’

This posting has these items:
1) Photo caption Iranian intentions Melanie Phillips and Jack Straw sharply disagree over Iran as a regime pyeparing for the ‘genocide’ of Israel';
2) Jewish Forward: How Will Benjamin Netanyahu Confront Iran’s Charm Offensive?, Leonard Fein, September 20th, 2013;
3) FT: Rohani’s charm offensive poses difficult challenge for Netanyahu, September 20th, 2013;
4) Ha’aretz:Rohani’s charm offensive poses difficult challenge for Netanyahu, September 20th, 2013;
5) Ynet: Obama to meet Netanyahu, but not Rohani, September 17th, 2013;
6) Press TV: No evidence Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapon: Jack Straw, from Iran’s pro-government news channel, July 6th 2013;

The unnervingly smiling President Rohani. Was Israel happier with the demonic figure of Ahmadinejad?

Iranian Rohani Misquoted as Saying Israel ‘Must Be Removed’ Bloomberg news, August 2nd, 21013

“In our region, there’s been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved al-Quds,” Rohani said in a video aired by Press TV of his appearance at the annual pro-Palestinian holiday in Iran, known as Quds Day.

The ISNA news agency, which is affiliated with outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoted Rohani as saying instead, “The Islamic world must show unity against the Zionist regime, since this regime is an old wound that has lain for years in its body and must be removed.”

Later ISNA corrected its translation. It came too late, as Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Rohani: “Rohani’s true face has been revealed earlier than expected,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime.” Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images
On BBC question time,  June 20, 2013  Melanie Phillips (commentator, right-wing, pro-Israeli) announced the West had allowed Iran to build nuclear weapons ‘which it intends, it says, to commit genocide against Israel.’ This was disputed in a programme on July 4 by Jack Straw, former Labour  foreign secretary. Also video
BBC News Iran and a nuclear bomb Jack Straw and Melanie Phillips.
Not only has ‘Iran’ never said this, but the person who is said to hold most power in Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini,  has explicitly said Iran woujd never build or use a nuclear weapon. See Notes and links.

How Will Benjamin Netanyahu Confront Iran’s Charm Offensive?

Hassan Rouhani’s Tweet Detente Puts Israel in a Bind

By Leonard Fein, Jewish Forward
September 20, 2013

A nasty altercation looms. No issue has been more central to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy and his rhetoric than the threat of Iran. For years now, Iran has been the touchstone against which all else has been measured, as also the heart of Netanyahu’s representation to the nations of the world. Now comes President Hassan Rouhani, an entirely different Iranian leader from his predecessors, a leader with whom President Obama is inclined to seek at least a modus vivendi if not a full-blown reconciliation.

We know already from his intemperate reaction to Rouhani’s evident moderation that Netanyahu will not adjust easily to the shift. Whether or not Rouhani actually tweeted Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jews — there’s controversy about that — it is for sure that Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, did send such greetings. But Netanyahu is not merely skeptical; he is dismissive. “The Iranian regime will be judged only by its actions and not by its greetings,” Netanyahu has said. He added that the greeting’s “only purpose is to distract attention from the fact” that despite the election of Rouhani, considered a moderate, “it continues to enrich uranium and build a plutonium reactor for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons that will threaten the state of Israel and the entire world.”

There’s a method to diplomacy: If you’re given an opening, use it. But for Netanyahu to use the apparent opening would mean his letting go, at least tentatively, of the issue that has defined him more than any other, learning to sing a new song. So he will not credit Rouhani for saying, as the Iranian leader did in a lengthy NBC interview with Ann Curry, that “We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.” Nor, presumably, will the neocons — yes, the neocons, resuscitated — for whom conflict is an aphrodisiac.

Déjà vu? Are we once more about to be trapped into a brittle war-like stance? No Iraq this time — been there, done that — but lots of pushing and shoving and nastiness. And push and shove hard enough, you’ll find that you’ve stumbled into something not fully intended.

That is one reason we should vociferously oppose those in Israel — and here, too — who recommend that Israel preempt, that it attack Iran even without American “permission.” And that is also grounds for relief, since there’s no question at all that the Obama administration will resolutely oppose unilateral action by Israel. (In that connection, it will be especially interesting to hear what Joe Biden and Martin Indyk have to say next week then they address the JStreet convention in Washington.)

Am I proposing that Rouhani be taken at his word? Hardly. But President Obama has wisely said that he is willing to test Rouhani’s willingness to discuss the nuclear issue. “There is an opportunity here for diplomacy,” Obama told Spanish-language network Telemundo in an interview, “and I hope the Iranians take advantage of it.”

We know how fervently the President favors diplomatic solutions over armed intervention. (I am grateful for that, even as I wonder how he squares that perspective with his apparently very heavy use of drones.) We need only consider that, with all the missteps along the way, there seems now to be a viable resolution of the Syrian chemical weapons problem without a shot having been fired. The judicious threat of force can be and in this case appears to have been an effective tool of diplomacy.

But we know as well how fervently the neocons favor muscle over moderation. The immediate danger is that Jewish neocons, of whom there is a surfeit, will be seen as urging confrontation rather than cooperation, will resist the effort to test Rouhani’s intentions. So we have Bill Kristol, on CNN on June 18, calling himself “a knee-jerk negativist,” describing Rouhani’s statements as “the same old lies,” part of “a charm offensive.” The script is by now familiar; if it were not so dangerous, it would be boring.

Netanyahu sings his song, perhaps the only song he knows. The neocons sing theirs, with gusto. That is why it is so very important that those who sing a very different song make their voices heard.

Contact Leonard Fein at

Rohani’s charm offensive poses difficult challenge for Netanyahu

By John Reed in Jerusalem, Financial Times
September 20, 2013

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government fears that a diplomatic offensive by Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, is weakening US and European resolve to stop the country’s nuclear programme and leaving Israel increasingly isolated on what he sees as its central foreign policy challenge.

The Israeli prime minister and government officials are dismissive of Mr Rouhani’s overtures to foreign leaders this week asserting that Iran will abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for a lifting of western sanctions, warning the world not to be taken in by what he calls the Iranian president’s “fraudulent statements”.

“The Iranian regime’s goal is to reach a deal that would require it to give up an insignificant part of its nuclear programme, while allowing it to charge forward quickly towards acquiring a nuclear weapon whenever it chooses,” Mr Netanyahu’s office said on Thursday, after America’s NBC News network aired an interview with Iran’s president.

Speaking to the Financial Times this week, Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence minister, said that Mr Rouhani was on a “smiling campaign”, and added: “If nothing is done, he will smile his way all the way to the bomb.”

Mr Netanyahu’s government has long embraced the role of Cassandra in warning of the dangers an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose to the region and – as the country’s ballistic technology improves – Europe and North America, too.

However, with the French and US leaders talking of meeting Mr Rouhani, the tough remarks by Israeli officials point to their underlying worries that Israel is being outmanoeuvred on a fast-changing diplomatic landscape by what Mr Netanyahu sees as his country’s biggest enemy.

The essence of Israel’s fears is that the west will ease sanctions – which its government estimates have cost Iran’s economy more than $100bn – just when they are starting to work, in exchange for partial concessions by Tehran that still leave it within sprinting distance of a bomb.

Iran, Mr Netanyahu’s government argues, would then be left with both nuclear weapons capability and a political tailwind from an improved economy. “The problem with sanctions is once you lift them, to put them back is very hard,” said Yoel Guzansky, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s prime minister is to raise his country’s concerns at a meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington on September 30, and will address the UN General Assembly a day later in a speech focusing on Iran. A year ago, Mr Netanyahu made world headlines with his speech in New York, in which he laid out Israel’s “red lines” for military action against Iran, using a cartoon of a bomb for illustration.

But this time he risks being upstaged by Mr Rouhani, who is due to address the body himself and will meet top European officials, amid growing hope on both sides of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear showdown.

Israeli officials this week said that a credible military threat needed to remain on the table to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme. Mr Obama said this week that the US military option of striking Iran if diplomacy failed was not off the table.

However, Mr Steinitz told the FT that the US military threat was “not credible enough”.

Israel and the US have never fully agreed on the threat of military force against Iran. While Mr Netanyahu a year ago made clear Israel’s “red lines” that would trigger military action, his government has failed so far to push Mr Obama to make more specific commitments about when the US would take military action.

On Wednesday Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a close associate of Mr Netanyahu, told Israel Radio: “I am not certain that both leaders are in the same place.”

Rohani’s charm offensive poses difficult challenge for Netanyahu

The Iranian’s sophistication coupled with America’s disdain for confrontation begs the question: where is Ahmadinejad when we really need him?

By Chemi Shalev, Ha’aretz
September 20, 2013

Call it a charm offensive, seduction sortie, bewitchment blitz or wooing war, one thing is certain: Iranian President Hassan Rohani is waging an all-out public relations onslaught on American hearts and minds that poses unprecedented new challenges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli policymakers.

Following initial skirmishes and reconnaissance patrols over the past few weeks on Twitter and Facebook, Rohani has now unleashed a preparatory salvo of moderate-sounding, peace-hugging statements on NBC and in the Washington Post. The main thrust of his campaign will be rolled out next week in New York, where Rohani will use his status as the star sensation of this year’s United Nations General Assembly to launch a barrage of interviews, speeches and public appearances, all aimed at convincing America of Iran’s benevolent policies and benign nuclear plans.

The attention, some of it fawning, that is already being bestowed on the so-called “moderate” Iranian president has confirmed the widespread assumption of most analysts following Rohani’s election in August as Iran’s 7th president: that it wouldn’t take long for Israel and other critics of Iran to sorely miss his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After all, for the past 8 years, Israel’s efforts to convince the world and especially the U.S. to tackle Iran’s nuclear designs head on relied on two main figures: the relentless Netanyahu and the equally adamant, Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad. And with all due respect to Netanyahu’s formidable public relations prowess, it was Ahmadinejad who served as Israel’s number one talking point, its strategic propaganda asset, a poster boy who self-explained Tehran’s sinister designs.

Rohani, it should already be obvious, is a different kettle of fish altogether, a sharp and formidable foe that should not be underestimated. He is experienced, sophisticated and wise to the ways and wishes of Western audiences. Compared to Ahmadinejad’s deterring demeanor, Rohani appearance seems completely benign: his resemblance to Homeland’s likeable Mandy Patinkin has already become a viral Facebook hit.

As Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Rohani has confessed to engaging European concerns as a cover for accelerating Tehran’s nuclear program. His interview on NBC and his carefully crafted oped in the Washington Post show his capacity to appeal to American audiences while trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the “pressure groups” that support “troublemaker” Israel.

Confronting Rohani after years of dealing with the coarse and uncouth Ahmadinejad was bound to be a daunting task under any circumstances. Disparaging knee-jerk reactions, such as the one issued on Thursday by the Prime Minister’s Office about the Iranian president’s “fraudulent words” along with the obligatory too-clever-by-half pun about “spinning” the media in order to keep the centrifuges “spinning” wouldn’t have cut it any more, even in the best of times.

And the Syria chemical weapons confrontation may have created the worst of times, in fact, as far as making the case against Iran is concerned.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the deal hashed out between Russia and the U.S. to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, events of the past two weeks have diluted the credibility of an American military threat against Iran, a sine qua non, in Netanyahu’s eyes at least, to convincing Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Obama’s decision to ask for Congressional approval for a military attack against President Assad’s regime achieved the opposite of what the president presumably intended: it solidified public and political opposition to a military attack, especially in cases where there has been no direct attack on American targets or U.S. personnel. The more the issue was discussed, the more the public’s opposition to an attack was cemented in stone. By the time the Russians intervened, America had effectively handed in its badge as the world’s only policeman.

The Syria debate has changed America’s political landscape on war and peace in ways that can’t be quantified before the dust finally settles. The reemergence of a strong anti-war faction on the Democratic Party’s left coupled with a widespread isolationist sentiment in the Republican party – even if it was partly motivated by anti-Obama sentiments – has created a political fait accompli in the form of a strong, bipartisan Congressional anti-war caucus.

When Netanyahu addressed Congress in May 2011 and received scores of standing ovations for his staunch anti-Iranian message, as well as throughout the recent presidential campaign, Democrats were still loyal to their president and Republicans were still the uber-hawkish opposition lambasting the president for not bombing Israel’s enemies to smithereens. Other than John McCain, everything has now changed.

And while Obama may feel indebted to Netanyahu, AIPAC and other Jewish organizations for enlisting in his cause of persuading Congress to support a military strike against Assad, it’s far from certain that the American public feels the same way. Whatever the justification for lobbying on Obama’s side – and there were a number of good reasons, including a direct, can’t-be-refused presidential appeal – the bottom line is that the Administration ultimately bailed and Israel and its supporters were left holding the proverbial bag.

To catapult straightaway from pushing an unpopular proposal to embroil the US in Syria to playing Debbie Downer on Rohani’s encouraging flirtations is a precarious undertaking which could lend credence to hostile claims of Israeli warmongering. It is a fine line that needs to be walked, one that requires less sledgehammer and more finesse, a trait not usually associated with Israeli hasbara efforts.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to overcome is that Americans are in a peace-in-our-time kind of mood, in which they would like to imagine that Vladimir Putin can really turn into a savior and Iran to a constructive mediator, a role that Rohani cleverly volunteered to fill in his Washington Post article.

It’s not so much American naiveté as a willing suspension of disbelief, for the sake of keeping American troops at home, its airplanes on the ground and its Tomahawk missiles in their pressurized canisters.

It’s like that old Tim Hardin song, made famous by Rod Stewart: “If I listened long enough to you, I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true,Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried, Still I look to find a reason to believe.”

Netanyahu, who will come to America after the conclusion of next week’s mating rituals between Rohani and Obama at UN headquarters in New York, should bear in mind that refrain: Americans are looking for a reason to believe, not the other way round.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev

Obama to meet Netanyahu, but not Rohani

US president won’t be meeting Iran’s leader at sidelines of General Assembly later this month. Bibi-Obama meeting set to September 30. Netanyahu presents four terms he says must be set for Tehran

By Attila Somfalvi, Ynet news
September 17, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US President Barack Obama in Washington on Sept 30, it has been confirmed Tuesday.

The meeting would be incorporated in the Israeli leader’s scheduled attendance at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Syrian crisis and Iran’s nuclear programme are expected to top the agenda of the planned meeting.

Netanyahu would likely address the General Assembly the day after his talks with Obama. The two leaders last met in March when Obama visited Israel.

However, Obama will not be meeting Iran’s President Hassan Rohani. Nevertheless, Rohani, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, may be the main attraction of the event.

In the backdrop of a potential rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, Netanyahu presented the terms he felt should be set for Iran in regards to its nuclear program.

“There are four steps,” Netanyahu said. “The first is the cessation of all uranium enrichment activity, the second is the removal of uranium from Iran, the third is the closure of the Qom facility and the fourth is the halting of plutonium enrichment.”

Netanyahu stressed that “only all four steps will constitute an actual halt of the nuclear endeavor. Pressure on Iran must be intensified, not withdrawn, until all four goals are achieved.”

The prime minister further added, “Events in recent weeks have strengthened the assumptions under which we operate: A rogue state that develops or obtains weapons of mass destruction may use it, or better yet will eventually use it. Only a credible military threat can allow diplomacy to stop armament. Israel must maintain force so as to be able to defend itself at all times, against any threat. If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

UN sources said that many are “standing in line” to meet the new Iranian president and foreign minister. Rohani will meet with foreign ministers from the UN Security Council’s member states and from Germany, though there is no indication on whether US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the meeting.

FM Zarif will meet with ministers from the European Union and other European ministers who wish to meet him.

Despite efforts by Obama and Rohani to ease relations between the two countries, and although they’ll both speak at the General Assembly, no meeting has been set.

No evidence Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapon: Jack Straw

From Press TV (quasi governmental Iranian news agency)
July 06, 2013 

No evidence Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapon: Jack Straw, former Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary  2001 to 2006 and  Lord Chancellor and  Secretary of State for Justice 2007 to 2010 under successive Labour governments.

The US, Israel and some of their allies falsely claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Tehran strongly rejects the allegation over its nuclear energy activities, maintaining that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”

Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has rejected the baseless allegation that there may be a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear energy program by emphasizing that there is no evidence for such a claim.

“There is no evidence, not from the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency), not from the Americans… There is no evidence that they (Iranians) are involved in building a bomb,” Straw said at a Thursday TV panel discussion at the British state-run broadcaster, the BBC.

Straw, who served as acting shadow deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom in 2010, also referred to the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that verified Iran was not after nuclear arms.

The NIE report, prepared by 16 US intelligence agencies, confirmed with “high confidence” the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. A similar report was also published in 2011.

At one point during the discussion, Straw struck back at a fellow panelist, who was insisting on the unfounded allegation about Iran’s nuclear energy program, and asked her, “Have they (the Iranians) got a nuclear bomb?” and then posed the rhetorical question to the defiant panelist, “Where is the evidence?!”

Straw welcomed the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s next president in the June 14 vote, saying, “What I have been urging the government is that we do our best to reengage with Iranians, because there is a chance now that we can.”

Rohani, who was Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator from October 2003 to August 2005, won Iran’s 11th presidential election, garnering 50.7 percent of a total of 36,704,156 ballots.

The US, Israel and some of their allies falsely claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with Washington and the European Union using the unfounded claim as a pretext to impose illegal sanctions on Iran.

Tehran strongly rejects the allegation over its nuclear energy activities, maintaining that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Straw underscored the importance of Iran’s role in regional developments, calling for Iran’s involvement in resolving the Syrian crisis, including the need for Tehran’s participation in the upcoming international Geneva conference on Syria.

“Critically, we have got to get Iran to this peace conference that is planned at some stage in Geneva,” Straw said.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of government forces, have been killed.

Notes and links
Hans Blix says- Click for rest of story
The threat from Iran is overhyped and there is no evidence to suggest the Islamic Republic is even interested in developing nuclear weapons, according to UN official Hans Blix.

Blix was head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in the run-up to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. His commission found no weapons of mass destruction, of course. March 6th, 2013

Nuclear weapons are a great and unforgiveable sin: Ayatollah Khameini Last item in 10-item post, September 2nd, 2012

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