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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

This week the European Union announced new sanctions against Iran. The sanctions are one part of the EU’s strategy to pressure Iran to resume negotiations on its nuclear program. The United Nations imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran last month, but the EU’s go farther, affecting the energy, transport and finance sectors. While American investment in Iran has decreased in recent years, the EU is Iran’s largest trading partner and the new sanctions could have a significant impact on many European economies.

The United States also imposed new sanctions on Iran this month, with the goals of halting financing for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees missile and nuclear programs as well as curbing even further investment in Iran’s energy sector. They also target federal contractors that do business with Iran.

Learn more about the sanctions on Monday, August 2 when the Council hosts Jillian Burns, the Acting Director of the Iran Office of the State Department. She will discuss U.S. policy towards Iran, offering insight into the effectiveness of current sanctions and exploring Iran’s role in the region.

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“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.” This famous quote from Albert Einstein is the best way of describing US foreign policy in the Middle East, according to author and journalist Stephen Kinzer. He believes that our approach to the Middle East is stuck in a Cold-War mentality and that the US must find a new set of partners in the region. Kinzer feels that when Americans can put aside their emotions, and look for countries that have similar long-term goals and societies, “we see that [Turkey and Iran] are the two countries that are our logical partners going forwards.”

To listen to the entirety of Stephen Kinzer’s June 18 program at the World Affairs Council—‘Reset: Turkey, Iran and America’s Future’—please visit our online audio archive.

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In his new book, Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling with the Ghosts of History, Ambassador John Limbert examined four case studies of United States-Iran negotiations to see what can be learned from them. Limbert joined the Council last Monday to present his findings and explained that any negotiations entered into by the United States with Iran must deal with two realities: the need for realistic expectations and the need for high expectations. He cited former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker‘s belief that negotiations will always be harder, take longer, and that, no matter how well they might seem to be going, someone will always come along and mess it up. Limbert said that if this is true in Iraq, “it is doubly true in Iran.” Limbert believes a primary goal should be to begin negotiations with Iran, whether we like its government or not, because there are countless issues to discuss. Referring to the subtitle of his book, “Wrestling with the Ghosts of History,” he said he hopes he can be a “ghost-buster” of sorts and clear away the ghosts of the past so we can move forward in the near future. A former hostage himself, held at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Ambassador Limbert has recently been appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State.

The entire program can be heard on our online audio archive here.

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This Monday, November 16, Ambassador John Limbert will join the Council to discuss the US approach to negotiating with Iran. Limbert, who has a distinguished history with the US Foreign Service, was just named to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Iran. The announcement came thirty years to the week of his being taken hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran.

To learn more about the appointment and Limbert’s experiences with Iran, read Laura Rozen‘s blog on Politico or visit the website of the National Iranian American Council, on whose Board of Advisors Limbert recently served.

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Next Wednesday, October 28, the Council will be joined by Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari. In 2007, Esfandiari was imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison because the Iranian government believed her to be a part of an American conspiracy for “regime change” in Iran. Her arrest sparked international outrage and protests from the likes of Barack Obama and Madeleine Albright. She will present her story and a view of Iran today and how it came to be.

This week Iran sentenced a friend of Esfandiari’s, Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh, to a 12-year prison term on account of his alleged involvement in the summer’s election demonstrations. Esfandiari spoke on NPR’s All Things Considered program this week about the case. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript here.

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Charles Ferguson, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force on US Nuclear Weapons Policy, and Scott Sagan, a Task Force member, joined the World Affairs Council on Monday for a very timely discussion of nuclear arms reduction and elimination. They spoke about the steps the Obama administration can take to lead the global reduction effort; the need to include Israel in any long-term solution, even though Israel has never officially acknowledged its nuclear arsenal; and the prevention of rearmament, should the goal of elimination ever be reached.

Given Friday’s disclosure of a previously unknown nuclear site in Iran and Sunday’s missile tests there, much of the discussion centered on Iran. Sagan cited a recent poll conducted by World Public Opinion, which found that 55 percent of Iranians prefer that Iran develop only nuclear energy and 31 percent would favor an agreement that would end uranium enrichment if sanctions were dropped. Sagan and Ferguson also spoke about their belief that a politically unstable country, such as Iran or Pakistan, poses a greater threat to global security than one with an unpredictable leader, such as North Korea.

For more on Nuclear Reduction, listen to the recording of the program with Charles Ferguson and Scott Sagan here, or check out a few of the articles and reports mentioned in the program.

The Independent Task Force’s full report.

“Toward a Nuclear-Free World”, a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. Printed on January 15, 2008, the piece preceded the formation of the Task Force, which is chaired by Perry.

“Spreading Temptation: Proliferation and Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreements”, an article from the summer issue of the journal International Security on the correlation between the sharing of nuclear knowledge and the decision to make a nuclear weapon.

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The disclosure on Friday of a nuclear site near the city of Qum and Sunday’s test-fire of three short-range missiles has put the world’s focus on Iran. Iran insists it has done nothing wrong, but leaders of the United States, France, and Great Britain have called on the country to allow intense international inspections of the nuclear facility. Opinions differ on whether or not to impose harsher sanctions against Iran, with the US arguing for stricter economic sanctions and European allies against them for fear of the damage they might do to ordinary Iranians. To learn more about the debate on sanctions, check out this article from the New York Times.

Tonight’s program at the World Affairs Council is a discussion with Charles Ferguson, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force, and Task Force member Scott Sagan. They will present key recommendations to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal. Ferguson spoke to CNN on Friday about the events in Iran. You can watch the interview here.

This event will be followed on Wednesday with a program featuring former Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik. He will discuss his work as president of The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights as well as his recent partnership with the former President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, and how the two have been working together to increase understanding, reduce tensions, counter stereotypes, and promote peaceful dialogue between the Islamic world and the West.

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The construction of the Nabucco pipeline, slated for completion in 2012, is part of the effort to reduce European dependence on Russian gas amid concerns and fears that Russia, the supplier of between 30 and 40% of Europe’s natural gas, will use its economic leverage for political gains. However, recent developments in Turkmenistan, China, Iran, Turkey, and Europe itself, raise many questions and uncertainties regarding the future of the Nabucco pipeline. What are the new implications of and aims for building such a pipeline? Is continued construction necessary? What are the benefits and dangers of using the Nabucco pipeline—or rather the promise of its discontinuation—as a political bargaining chip? Steve LeVine, foreign affairs and energy correspondent for BusinessWeek and author of The Oil and the Glory and Putin’s Labyrinth, joined the Council and the Young Professionals International Forum (IF) last night to share his thoughts and insights into pipeline politics and Russia’s new energy diplomacy. Full program recordings will be available soon at our online archive. 

For more on pipeline politics, check out this article from Deutsche Welle on the recently signed agreement between Russia and Turkey to build the South Stream pipeline, a new rival to the Nabucco pipeline.

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Monday evening at the World Affairs CouncilNeil MacFarquhar, UN Bureau Chief to The New York Times, offered his unique perspective on life in the Middle East. With a collection of anecdotes collected over 25 years of both personal and professional experience in the region, MacFarquhar brought the diversity and character of the people to light. These experiences range from a night in an Iranian prison where he shared a cell with men who had skied on the women-only ski slopes to receiving electronic birthday greetings from Hizbollah, the inspiration behind the title of his latest book, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday.

For more of Neil MacFarquhar’s stories and insights into the Middle East, visit our online archives for full audio and video recordings of Monday’s event. Check out a short clip below.

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David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times, drew a large and attentive audience to our auditorium last night for his lecture, “The World Obama Confronts.” Although accounts of the Iraq War often focus on its direct costs, Sanger, in his lecture and recently published first book, The Inheritance, explores the depth of the potentially greater opportunity costs. He argues that many challenges Obama currently faces stem from imminent threats in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran that had been ignored by the previous administration while fighting the War in Iraq. The award-winning veteran reporter provides extensive knowledge of the “costs of distraction” inherited from the previous administration that Obama is now only beginning to confront, as well insight into current issues including the Iranian elections, North Korea’s nuclear test, and challenges in the newspaper and publishing industries.

To learn more about the challenges Obama faces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, listen to the full program here.

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Today, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted the first session of the Center for Preventative Action Symposium on preventative priorities for the next administration. Madeleine K. Albright, Principal, The Albright Group and former U.S. Secretary of State, moderated the event with CFR President Richard N. Haass. Interestingly, panels throughout the day did not focus heavily on the global financial crisis, threats posed by Al-Qaeda, wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, Iranian or North Korean nuclear ambitions, climate change, or any other major threats that the news has focused on so heavily. Rather, the day focused on the importance of crisis prevention – of anticipating threats not even yet on the horizon, rather than on immediate issues. Madeleine Albright and other panelists make a thought-provoking case.

Watch the event here.

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