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In battle for American hearts and minds, Iran says Obama did ‘macho… flipflop’ for Israel

Israel/Palestine
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A battle has begun for American hearts and minds. That is one obvious interpretation of Netanyahu’s belligerent speech to the UN yesterday, in which he dismissed Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s overtures to the west as a “charm offensive.” The same can be said of Iranian officials’ anger at President Obama for “macho” flipflopping in his meeting with Netanyahu Monday.

From the New York Times editorial today:

The Iranians were so angered by what they called Mr. Netanyahu’s “inflammatory” speech that they issued a rebuttal and spoke of the need to “sustain the current positive atmosphere” so that diplomacy could be successful.   Similarly, they were not happy that Mr. Obama, meeting Mr. Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, took a harsher tone toward Iran than he did when he spoke by phone with Mr. Rouhani last week.

Yes, the Iranian Foreign Minister called Obama macho:

Macho because Obama said that the military option is on the table, something he didn’t say at the U.N. From Obama’s appearance at the White House:

given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past — the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel — it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon. What I also shared with the Prime Minister is that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate.

The Iranian Foreign Minister says Obama is flipflopping, and Rouhani retweeted that:

The Times explains that Obama is playing to the Israel lobby.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani have hard-line domestic audiences and allies that they will need to consider and cajole as they undertake this effort to resolve the nuclear dispute and develop a new relationship. For Mr. Obama, that means working closely with Israel and helping Mr. Netanyahu see that sabotaging diplomacy, especially before Iran is tested, only makes having to use force more likely. That would be the worst result of all.

It’s about time they told us about that hard line domestic audience that commands the president’s tongue!

The Iranians are certainly aware of the lobby. From the apparently-official twitter handle, Meet Iran:

There’s evidence that the charm offensive is working. At the Forward, Larry Cohler-Esses reports that a group of congresspeople spent 3 hours — that’s three hours — at the home of the Iranian ambassador with the Iranian Foreign Minister the other day.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with a delegation of Congress members from both parties for three hours at the home of Iran’s UN Ambassador. “There were a lot of members present,” said Marshall Breger, a former senior official in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who was there. “And they included people normally considered hawkish.”

And here is Scott McConnell at the American Conservative saying that Americans may well learn to love Iran. Just as they learned to love China after the China opening in the 1970s.

Recall: in 1971, American elites fell in love with China. The “China Lobby”—that large complex of anti-communist Chinese and Americans with personal and professional ties to China who felt jilted by the Revolution and which had prevented any rapprochement until then—proved to be a proverbial “paper tiger” once President Nixon decided to reach beyond it. American elites were suddenly enthralled by ping pong and pandas. New York Times columnist James Reston had an appendectomy with no anesthetic beyond acupuncture, and it worked out wonderfully—and became the source of hundreds of respectful news stories about Chinese medicine. For years, China was the new flavor on the block. Growing ties with China were the backdrop to everything: America could be humiliated in Vietnam and the world hardly noticed.     Iran, of course, is a smaller deal—smaller in its size, cultural and military weight, and aspirations. But it is a Muslim country that is highly educated (which seems to be the nexus of the problem for Washington’s hawks) and is moving seriously towards democracy. It is not Saudi Arabia, whose ruling princes have all the corruptions and weaknesses associated with vast unearned wealth. Iran has all the traits of a modernizing state—mass literacy, mobilized working classes. It has managed to hold its head high throughout almost 30 years of confrontation with Washington. It promises a vast market for American businesses to help rebuild its infrastructure. My guess is that many Americans will fall in love with the place—or at least with the combination of exoticism and profits that detente with Iran promises.

Speaking of exoticism and profits, Hassan Rouhani hints he wants to start direct flights between the US and Iran, as an overture to Iranian expatriates.

 

Finally, the Iranian president is publicizing a CNN piece on the Jewish community in Iran, said to be the largest outside of Israel in the Middle East.

“I only prefer to live in Iran,” says Ciamak Morsadegh, a Jewish legislator. “There is a great difference between being a Jew and being pro-Israeli or Zionist. I think the behavior of the Israeli regime is not in the direction of Torah and Talmud…”

And CNN’s Reza Sayah says, “Those that remain say they face no discrimination…”

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21 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    October 2, 2013, 11:53 am

    “I only prefer to live in Iran,” says Ciamak Morsadegh, a Jewish legislator. “There is a great difference between being a Jew and being pro-Israeli or Zionist. I think the behavior of the Israeli regime is not in the direction of Torah and Talmud…”

    Quite so. And I — who have no concern to live “in the direction of Torah and Talmud” nevertheless am sure that the Iranian’s statement is true and his “prefer to live” at home and not in Israel is also the view of most American Jews.

  2. October 2, 2013, 12:08 pm

    Aren’t you ashamed (rhetoric question, I know) that you are supporting this dark regime of Ayatollahs which violates every human right imaginable and more. Read e.g. in the report just for 2012 (and in tens of others)
    link to amnesty.org
    “Freedom of expression, association and assembly were severely restricted. Political dissidents, women’s and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from travelling abroad. Torture and other ill-treatment were common and committed with impunity. Women as well as religious and ethnic minorities faced discrimination in law and in practice. At least 360 people were executed; the true total was believed to be much higher. Among them were at least three juvenile offenders. Judicial floggings and amputations were carried out. “

    Amputations and flogging!

    Aren’t you ashamed of where the bashing Israel has taken you? You wrote somewhere that your wife was appalled of the “negativity” on this blog. That was just when I “joined” it so I did not really appreciated her opinion. I do now. Just a shame how people thinking of themselves as liberal left can show such support for a such a oppressive regime. Even if Israel is all you are saying it is does this justify what you are doing supporting Iran just in spite of Israel. And if there is a small chance that Iran is indeed deceiving everyone? Just think- why were they willing to go so long with suffering from the sanctions if they do not have anything to hide. Just let the inspectors in and have all those sanctions cancelled. Think how stupidly you are acting. Just anti-Israel emotions. To hell with logic.

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 2, 2013, 1:20 pm

      >> fnlevit: Even if Israel is all you are saying it is does this justify what you are doing supporting Iran just in spite of Israel.

      Iran should be secular, democratic and egalitarian Iranian state – a state of and for all its Iranian citizens, equally. And it should be held accountable for (war) crimes it commits or has committed.

      I’m sure we can agree on this, yes?

      Similarly, Israel should be a secular, democratic and egalitarian Israeli state – a state of and for all its Israeli citizens, equally. And it should be held accountable for (war) crimes it commits or has committed.

      I’m sure we can agree on this, too, yes?

      • Sycamores
        Sycamores
        October 2, 2013, 4:55 pm

        do you think fnlevit sees the irony of what s/he writes? or does s/he get confuse by your counter-arguement and not able to reply?

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      October 2, 2013, 10:10 pm

      “this dark regime of Ayatollahs which violates every human right imaginable and more.”

      So the regime violates human rights that we cannot imagine? If we can’t imagine them, how can we tell that Iran violates them?

  3. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    October 2, 2013, 1:43 pm

    given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past — the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel

    Could someone please tell me which “acts against Israel” Obama is talking about?

  4. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    October 2, 2013, 3:05 pm

    RE: “[I]t is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.” ~ Obama

    FOR INSTANCE, CONSIDER ISRAEL’S DUPLICITY [ESSENTIALLY MAKING THE U.S. ITS “FRAYER”] REGARDING ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM:
    “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents”, By Morgan Strong (A Special Report), ConsortiumNews.com, 5/31/10

    [EXCERPT]
    ● Secret Nukes and JFK
    . . . Even as it backed down in the Sinai [following its invasion in 1956], Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal.
    In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

    Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.
    After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention.
    Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.
    In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith.
    Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.
    After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty
    and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, See “Israel and The Bomb” by Avner Cohen.] . . .

    ENTIRE REPORT – http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/053110.html

  5. Les
    Les
    October 2, 2013, 4:22 pm

    Glen Greenwald Reddit interview Wednesday, October 2, 2013 8:06 EDT

    What’s one NSA revelation that’s been largely overlooked by the mainstream media?

    The document we recently published showing NSA gives unminimized (emphasis his) communications of US persons to Israel with very few binding safeguards.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/02/glenn-greenwald-takes-to-reddit-to-talk-about-edward-snowden-and-the-nsa/

  6. OlegR
    OlegR
    October 2, 2013, 4:49 pm

    /“I only prefer to live in Iran,” says Ciamak Morsadegh, a Jewish legislator. “There is a great difference between being a Jew and being pro-Israeli or Zionist. I think the behavior of the Israeli regime is not in the direction of Torah and Talmud…”/

    Oh yes Jews also loved living in the USSR the greatest country ever.
    Also the Theresienstadt concentration camp was a lovely place they even made a movie about it you should see it sometime.

    Why would you even put this quote in your post , are you really that dense or insensitive ?

    • Theo
      Theo
      October 4, 2013, 8:28 am

      OlegR

      What has living in Russia with Theresienstadt to do?
      Theresienstadt was not in Russia and there were hardly any jews from Russia there, but mostly from western Europe.

      I just happen to know a few jews in Russia who like to live there and have absolutly no intentions to immigrate to Israel. They rather come to Germany, Austria, Hungary, and most of all, to the USA.

  7. James Canning
    James Canning
    October 2, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Rouhani is well aware Obama must pander to Israel lobby to some extent, to protect his political flanks. And, to pander to Netanyahu.

    • Theo
      Theo
      October 4, 2013, 8:34 am

      No, he must not!!
      He is in his second term, cannot be reelected, so he could grow a spine and serve only those who put him into the WH, the american people. He may lose a few well paid speaking tours after he leaves DC, but how much money does one need, he is already a millionaire?!

  8. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    October 2, 2013, 6:50 pm

    The NY Times editorial board wrote:

    Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani have hard-line domestic audiences and allies that they will need to consider and cajole …. For Mr. Obama, that means working closely with Israel and helping Mr. Netanyahu see that sabotaging diplomacy, especially before Iran is tested, only makes having to use force more likely.

    Th trouble with that prescription is that Netanyahu (and a large proportion of the Israeli population) clearly don’t consider the use of force “the worst result of all,” but the best result under the circumstance. So if Obama makes the argument the Times suggests, it will actually incentivize Netanyahu to pull out all the stops in his campaign to sabotage diplomacy (not that he needed any encouragement to do that).

    • dbroncos
      dbroncos
      October 3, 2013, 12:10 am

      @Henry Norr

      “Th trouble with that prescription is that Netanyahu (and a large proportion of the Israeli population) clearly don’t consider the use of force “the worst result of all,” but the best result under the circumstance.”

      This is Netanyahu’s ace in the hole. Should we have any doubt that Obama did not spell out for Netayahu what penalties would be imposed on Israel should he decide to sabotage a deal with Iran?

  9. ToivoS
    ToivoS
    October 2, 2013, 7:47 pm

    Every time the US uses the term “all options are on the table” it makes me flinch. It is utterly disrespectful of the other side no matter how true it might be. Basically, the US is entering into a delicate diplomatic negotiation and they open it with an insult to the other side. That is not diplomacy. It is not as bad as using the metaphor “carrot and stick” which was Hillary’s favorite when talking about Iran. At that time the Iranians tried to remind the US that they would not accept being treated like a donkey.

    I have had the feeling for some time that the US foreign policy has been run by a bunch of amateurs under Obama. This is just the latest, if minor, act of incompetence. Obama’s response to the Snowden revelation was just one diplomatic faux pas after another. Foreign ministries around the world must have been scratching their head over those events.

    • Bandolero
      Bandolero
      October 2, 2013, 10:28 pm

      Toivos

      “Every time the US uses the term “all options are on the table” it makes me flinch.”

      I think it’s quite normal. The mafia rules the US and whenever the mafia finds someone not accepting under mafia terms it threatens them with nuclear annihilation.

  10. just
    just
    October 2, 2013, 9:46 pm

    It makes me flinch and very angry, Toivo.

    Good comment.

  11. just
    just
    October 2, 2013, 10:21 pm

    “For more than a century, since the Qajar dynasty of the 19th century, Jews have had a representative in the Iranian parliament. But very few Iranian Jews enter politics, even though they are not barred from doing so by the current regime.

    “We are not tenants in this country. We are Iranians, and we have been for thirty centuries,” Ciamak Morsadegh, Iran’s lone Jewish lawmaker, said Monday. Morsadegh traveled as a member of Rouhani’s delegation during his trip to the United Nations.

    In his office at the Dr. Sapir hospital, one of the oldest medical facilities in Tehran, Morsadegh dismissed criticisms by Israeli officials and others who dismissed his presence in the delegation is mere window dressing for what the critics call an anti-Semitic political system. “As a member of parliament, it is my duty to represent the interests of all Iranians not just Jews,” Morsadegh said.

    Community leaders say that Jews here have become more religious since Iran’s revolution say community leaders. With sixty active synagogues spread across Iran, and a dozen in Tehran alone, sermons and religious courses are perpetually filled.

    But that gravitation toward deeper faith has not included an embrace of Zionism or any upsurge in emigration to Israel, the leaders say.

    “There is a distinction between us as Jews and Israel,” said Haroon Saketi, who owns a clothing boutique in Esfahan. “We consider ourselves Iranian Jews and it has nothing to do with Israel whatsoever. This is the country we love.”

    Iranian Jews are quick to point out that, besides their religious beliefs, there are no cultural differences between themselves and other Persians, the ethnic group that dominates Iran.

    At Tapo, one of three Jewish owned restaurants in Tehran, diners relish plates of Kebab Koobideh, minced lamb on skewers, and ghormeh sabzi, a stew of fresh herbs, dried lemons and kidney beans that many consider Iran’s national dish.

    “Our food is exactly the same as what other Iranians eat,’’ said Davood Shoumer runs the restaurant during the day shift. “No difference, but our meat is Kosher.’’ ”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/irans-jewish-community-reflects-a-complicated-relationship-with-israel/2013/10/02/e531039e-2ac4-11e3-b141-298f46539716_story_1.html

    I guess you just got called a LIAR, Netanyahu.

    Again. You insult the President of the Iranian Jewish community so glibly?

    Nice, real nice.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      October 2, 2013, 10:50 pm

      In the “Don’t Tell My Mother” series, in Iran the presenter is has a drink of alcohol with a Jew who tells him that alcohol is not forbidden for Jews. Maybe all staged, but so far no-one has offered me a reason to suspect it.

  12. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 2, 2013, 10:37 pm

    I don’t think one should accept the statements of the President of Iranian Jewish community at face value. Interviews with Iranian Jewish expatriates would give a more realistic view of how the Iranian Jews are faring or at the very least give some balance to the report of an officially appointed Jew. When Roger Cohen made some comments accepting the official Iranian position voiced in the presence of an official Iranian government tourist “guide”, he was raked over the coals by the Iranian Jewish expatriate community (in Los Angeles in particular).

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 3, 2013, 8:51 am

      “I don’t think one should accept the statements of the President of Iranian Jewish community at face value.”

      Well, of course you think that; accepting their opinions would put a crimp in the zionists’ all out stampede to war.

      “When Roger Cohen made some comments accepting the official Iranian position voiced in the presence of an official Iranian government tourist “guide”, he was raked over the coals by the Iranian Jewish expatriate community (in Los Angeles in particular).”

      And if you say something good about Cuba, the ex-pat community in South Florida does the same. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t plenty of Cubans who are, on balance, satisfied with their government, even if there are plenty who are not.

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