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Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

The Iran Question – What Next?

Rouhanip5 1

It is only natural if there is a sense of deja vu over the inconclusive end to the P5+1 and Iran talks in Geneva over the weekend – and of course its photo finish dripping with high drama. The United States-Iran standoff has edged tantalizingly close to resolution many a time in the past in its three decades of history but only to remain on track. 

This time around, however, there could be a qualitative difference, although the templates of an adversarial relationship hardened through decades cannot be made to shift easily, even with the best of intentions. 

The first thing, of course, is to comprehend what really happened in Geneva to dash the high hopes that were aroused. Different interpretations are available, but most accounts agree that France was at its epicenter. The French motives in apparently throwing the wrench at the wheel need to be understood. The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius publically implied that Israel’s concerns were not adequately reflected in the interim agreement that the US, EU and the Iranian diplomats worked out. But beyond that, an impression has also gained ground that France was actually bidding to please Saudi Arabia and the other petrodollar-rich Gulf Arab regimes while ingratiating itself with Israel…
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Obama Sidesteps Detractors to Engage Iran

Obama Iran

Below the radar, the tortuous process leading to an Iran nuclear deal may have got under way in Geneva where the two-day talks between the protagonists – P5+1 and Iran – ended on a positive note on Wednesday. The joint statement issued after the talks was a “first” of its kind, symbolizing that there is reason to believe in the strong likelihood of a critical mass forming.
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The OPCW wins Nobel by default

Obamasyria

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons based in The Hague. This has come as a surprise – even to the OPCW. So far, according to the OPCW’s own records, only Albania and India have completely destroyed their chemical weapon stockpiles. The OPCW has a long way to go and why now?

The answer lies in a five-letter word – Putin. The OPCW got the Nobel by default. The only way to dodge the claim of Russian president Vladimir Putin for a Nobel was to sidestep gingerly and instead to award his contribution in the abstract. That explains the metaphysics of the decision to honor the OPCW. 

Looking back at the entire year behind us, it is clear that international security came to a flashpoint on August 30 when the United States president Barack Obama threatened to launch a “limited, narrow act” against Syria – shorn of diplomatese, when he threatened to launch a militarily attack against Syria. To cut short a dramatic story played out on the world stage over the next ten-day period, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s timely initiative to bring Syria’s chemical weapons under international control compelled Obama to come back to the path of negotiations.
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Saudis to Unify Hardline Islamist Groups in Syria

Salafists

The speculations about Saudi Arabia climbing down on the regime change project in Syria in tandem with the United States’ diplomatic moves following up the Russian initiative on chemical weapons, can now be laid to rest. So indeed the animated talk in hushed tones in the regional capitals that spy chief Prince Bandar Sultan, who is piloting the Saudi project in Syria might be given the sack by King Abdullah.

After carefully weighing the options, the Saudis have apparently decided to press ahead with the project in Syria, no matter the twists and turns in the US policies. The UPI has carried a special report that Prince Bandar is being assigned to work on bringing together under Saudi control the hardline Islamist groups operating in Syria. 

The Saudis are actually fighting a proxy war in Syria aimed at containing Iranian influence. There have been reports that Prince Bandar recently visited Israel. Saudi Arabia and Israel have a congruence of interests in the containment of Iran. Recently, in his UN speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly referred to Israel and some unnamed Arab states working together.
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Is Turkey on the Cusp of Rethink on Syria?

Erdogan

Through the past two-year period of turmoil in Syria, President Bashar Al-Assad has shown himself to be a master tactician who consistently outmaneuvered his regional adversaries. Syria has a tough neighborhood. Al-Assad’s regional adversaries are formidable people in their own ways. But he invariably pre-empted them, staying one step ahead of them, repeatedly forcing them onto the back foot and throwing into disarray their best-laid plots. 

That’s what makes his latest interview last week with the Turkish television channel Halk rather significant. Al-Assad came down very hard on Turkey’s Syria policies and on Prime Minister Recep Erdogan personally. He warned Ankara of a blowback of terrorism that it has been promoting in Syria – “In the near future these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey. Turkey will pay very dearly…” 

"All that he [Erdogan] says about Syria and its people is a heap of lies, that is all ... Erdoğan is doing nothing but supporting the terrorists," said al-Assad.
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The Dragon Enters NATO's Orchard

FD 2000 Air Defense


What a tumultuous week it has been. It began with United States president Barack Obama’s speech in the UN General Assembly last Monday signaling that the era of American dominance of the Middle East is ending. But the signal is already being acted upon before the week ended.

That is what the stunning announcement in Ankara on Thursday signifies – over the decision by the Turkish government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to select a Chinese defence firm, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp [CPMIEC], for a $3 billion contract to co-produce a long-range air and missile defence system for the country… 

From a long term perspective it is a close call to decide which is going to be more fateful – the American-Iranian thaw that Obama visualized in his UN speech and kick-started immediately thereafter, or the appearance of a Chinese company that is allied to the People’s Liberation Army to undertake the highly sensitive task of building a missile defence ensemble for a country on Europe’s doorstep that also happens to be a key member country of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO].
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Obama at the UN: Syrian Blues and a Persian Puzzle

Obamaun

The general expectation was indeed that the United States President Barack Obama’s annual address at the United Nations General Assembly session on Tuesday would contain some major pronouncements of new American policy direction on the Syrian conflict and over the situation around Iran

No doubt, the Middle East dominated his speech and all but edged out other global issues such as climate change or the US’ rebalancing strategy in Asia or global disarmament. This in itself is stunning: America, the lone superpower, in a diminished role as regional power. 

The overpowering impression one gets out of Obama’s speech is that the Middle East remains a major foreign policy preoccupation, perhaps, even the most important preoccupation, for the rest of his presidency. Obama has zeroed in on the Iran question as the one area where he will seek a presidential legacy.
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Syria: The Iron in Obama's Soul

Boehner Cantor

For the first time through the two-year old Syrian conflict, the United States has mentioned the sacred cow – "boots on the ground". The Secretary of State John Kerry has pleaded that the US Congress should approve the use of American ground troops although the Obama administration may not intend to take recourse to such action. 

This is a hugely significant turning point in the fast-developing scenario of US military intervention in Syria. There was added poignancy that Kerry was speaking at a congressional hearing on Tuesday with the Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey seated beside him listening.


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Obama Nearing Point of No Return

Obama Joker

President Vladimir Putin’s remarks on the Syrian crisis, while on a visit to Vladivostok over the weekend, were his first ones since the crisis began snowballing over the United States’ moves to launch a militarily attack against the Middle Eastern country.

What is striking from the Kremlin’s transcript is that Putin spoke far more extensively than what the media reports suggested, and, second, he spoke on virtually every aspect of the explosive situation.

The timing is very important, too, as less than a week remains for the major international event G20 summit which is scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg on Thursday, bringing together the world’s top leaders, including President Barack Obama, around a conference table.
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Iran Can Finesse Obama's Legacy

Obama Peace Prize

President Barack Obama is setting a new precedent in America’s history as an imperialist power. 

He is all but apologizing before he orders a military attack against a sovereign country with which the United States is not war, and which has not offended America’s vital interests and concerns as a sovereign country even remotely. 

The Obama administration is publicizing in advance that it is going to be a "limited" military attack by the US on Syria. It is even willing to give advance notice of when the attack can be expected – most likely on Thursday. Who would say Obama is not a humane and considerate statesman?

By "limited" attack, the Obama administration is indicating it will not directly attack Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles but only their "delivery systems," which means the Syrian air force and the army units that are capable of staging a chemical weapon attack. Indeed, someone is in command of any country’s armed forces and, therefore, the "command-and-control" systems of the Syrian armed forces will also be targeted.
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