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Ed Webb

Iran's Rosh Hashana Twitter diplomacy stirs amazement, disbelief | The Back Channel - 0 views

  • Iran’s new Foreign Minister Javad Zarif joined President Hassan Rouhani in tweeting “Happy Rosh Hashanah” greetings Thursday, on the occasion of the Jewish new year’s holiday, setting off a new wave of amazement, and some disbelief, in both the social media and policy universes.
  • The rare and unusually direct Twitter diplomacy between Iranian leaders and western policy observers “will go down in history,” one Hill staffer, speaking not for attribution, said Thursday, expressing the wider sense of amazement heard from many veteran Iran watchers at the display of tolerance and public diplomacy initiative coming from Tehran.

    The welcome change in atmospherics has added to hopes for a diplomatic opening created by Rouhani’s election. But it must be accompanied by substantive progress in nuclear negotiations to lead to a broader easing of ties, western analysts and officials said.

Ed Webb

Twitter / JZarif: tragedy in syria is a trap ... - 0 views

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    A very interesting tweet from Iran's foreign minister, newly active on Twitter.
Ed Webb

Is Obama 'Letting Syria Burn'? | Stephen M. Walt - 0 views

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    Answer: yes.
Ed Webb

U.S. quietly allows military aid to Egypt despite rights concerns - Politics - Egypt - ... - 0 views

  • Secretary of State John Kerry quietly acted last month to give Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, deciding that this was in the national interest despite Egypt's failure to meet democracy standards.
  • "By issuing a waiver without any public discussion, it has at the very least missed a significant opportunity to ... raise its concerns about the political trajectory in Egypt," she said.
    Wittes said that last year's waiver occurred at a time when Egypt had made some progress toward greater democratic reforms, while this year "the waiver was issued in the context of a negative trajectory in Egypt's transition to democracy."
Ed Webb

Russia's Middle East Gambit - Carnegie Moscow Center - Carnegie Endowment for Internati... - 1 views

  • Russia is out to raise the stakes for U.S. military intervention, which it sees as destabilizing for the world order; to minimize the impact of Islamist radicalism and extremism born out of the Arab Spring; and to try to find political solutions to a host of issues, from the civil war in Syria to Iran’s nuclear issue to post-American Afghanistan
  • In Russian society, the long and painful experience of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan gave rise to what was called “Afghan syndrome,” i.e., shunning involvement, especially with military forces, in the Muslim world. Focused on itself and its immediate neighborhood, the Russian Federation physically quit and then neglected whole regions of former Soviet influence, including the Middle East. It continued selling arms to some of its ex-allies, including Syria, but now on a commercial rather than ideological or strategic basis.
  • Iran turned out to be a responsible neighbor and a useful partner, staying away from the Chechen conflict and even helping Russia negotiate an end to the bloody civil war in Tajikistan
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  • The Syrian civil war, however, has put Russia’s relations with the West, Turkey, the Gulf States, and Israel to a serious test
  • Unlike Europeans and Americans, Russian officials did not expect Western-style democracy to follow secular authoritarianism: What they began to brace for, early on, was a great Islamist revolution engulfing the entire region
  • In the hope of getting Western support for the Russian economic modernization agenda, Moscow decided in 2011 not to stand in the way of a humanitarian intervention in Libya. It was soon bitterly disappointed, however, when the no-fly zone in Benghazi morphed into a regime change in Tripoli. The experience of being used and then ignored by the West has informed Russia’s subsequent stance on Syria
  • From Moscow’s perspective, Assad may be problematic insofar as his methods are concerned—but his enemies constitute a real threat not just to Syria, but also to other countries, including Russia
  • Russia’s image has suffered in many parts of the Arab world, where it is portrayed as a friend of authoritarian regimes and as an ally of and arms supplier to Bashar al-Assad and therefore as a friend of Iran
  • The amount of heavy lifting required from both Washington and Moscow is stunning, and the odds are heavily against success at the new Geneva conference next month, but the alternative to a political settlement is truly frightening.

    One obstacle is that Russia has insisted in involving Iran in Syria-related discussions, to which the Gulf Arabs and the United States strongly object. Moscow is frequently referred to as Tehran’s ally and advocate. Indeed, Russia has built a nuclear power reactor in Bushehr and has supplied Iran with a range of weapons systems. Russia, for its part, sees Iran as not so much a theocracy bent on developing nuclear weapons to terrorize the region as a power that has been in the region forever and that is likely to play a more important role in the future.

  • the Iranian theocracy has more checks and balances than the old Soviet system
  • Tehran, they think, is probably aiming for an outcome in which it stops at a relatively small step before reaching a nuclear capability and trades its restraint in exchange for dropping all sanctions against it and respect for its security interests
  • According to U.S. diplomats, Moscow cooperates more with Washington on Iran than it is usually given credit for in the mainstream Western media. Unlike many in the United States, however, Russians believe that pressuring Iran has limits of usefulness: Beyond a certain point, it becomes counterproductive, undercutting the pragmatists and empowering the bad guys that one seeks to isolate
  • Russia’s attitudes toward Israel are overwhelmingly positive. Many Russians admire the social and economic accomplishments of the Jewish state and its technological and military prowess. Intense human contacts under conditions of a visa-free regime and the lack of a language barrier with a significant portion of Israel’s population help enormously
  • Putin knows that denying or withdrawing air-defense cover is the ultimate argument he needs to hold in reserve to make Assad buy into a real power-sharing deal
  • Moscow is beginning to step out of its post-Soviet self-absorption. Its main preoccupation is with security—and Islamist extremism features as a primary threat. This is a big issue. By contrast, Russia’s interests in the Middle East are relatively modest. They are centered on oil and gas exploration deals, pipeline geopolitics, and pricing arrangements; other energy opportunities beckon in the nuclear area. While Russia’s position in the regional arms bazaar has suffered in the last decade as a result of developments in Iraq and Libya (and may yet suffer more in Syria), Moscow is clearly determined to stay in the arms business. Finally, as Russia recasts itself as a defender of traditional Christian values as well as a land of moderate Islam, it is discovering a range of humanitarian causes in the birthplace of both global religions.
  • In the energy sector, Russia has accommodated to Turkey’s new role of a regional energy hub but has worked hard to protect its own share of the European Union’s natural gas market
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