Obama to the GCC: Getting the Message Right

Obama to the GCC: Getting the Message Right

Originally Published on LobeLog

By Robert E. Hunter
AIC Board Member
Former US ambassador to NATO

On May 13-14, President Barack Obama will host leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at the White House and Camp David. Ostensibly, the meeting is to try convincing these intense skeptics of nuclear negotiations with Iran that the US will not be a patsy for an Iran freed from economic sanctions following a deal.

But before he convenes this meeting “at the mountaintop,” Obama first and finally needs to decide on a long-term game plan, a strategy, for the Middle East. He has put off this moment for far too long. It must now all come together.

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Zarif speaks at New York University

Zarif speaks at New York University

A Conversation With H.E. Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran : In partnership with the NYU Center on International Cooperation

Dr. Zarif's remarks will focus on the current state of play in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 and the prospects of reaching a comprehensive accord by June 30, as well as a range of pressing issues in the region and the implications for Iran's relations with the United States. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius will moderate the discussion.

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Obama’s Strategy to Win Senate support for an Iran Nuclear Deal

Obama’s Strategy to Win Senate support for an Iran Nuclear Deal

By Kayvon Afshari and Michael Brooks

Now that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a bill to give Congress oversight over a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration would be wise to devise a strategy to turn Congressional review to its political advantage. Despite the ‘anti-Iran-deal’ money generously provided by big name donors, there are key vulnerabilities that the administration can exploit to put the pressure on both Democratic and Republican Senators who will be struggling to decide whether to vote up or down on a deal.

Given that the Republicans control 54 out of 100 seats in the Senate, the White House needs a strategy for picking off key Republicans to support a hypothetical comprehensive nuclear deal. While most Republicans are staunchly opposed to the deal that is being carved out, key Senators such as Bob Corker (R-TN), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeffrey Flake (R-AZ), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Susan Collins (R-ME) may be at play.

To coax the remaining key Republican Senators, the administration needs to relentless argue that this deal is the path to regional and national security, whereas those who reject the deal only offer irresponsibility and more instability. This message can speak to Republicans who are receptive to a realist foreign policy. Essentially, to put pressure on them, the administration needs to articulate the message that: “I’m tough on Iran; your colleagues delusional on Iran.”

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Zarif Op-Ed in The New York Times

Zarif Op-Ed in The New York Times

Originally published in The New York Times

We made important progress in Switzerland earlier this month. With the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, we agreed on parameters to remove any doubt about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to lift international sanctions against Iran.

But to seal the anticipated nuclear deal, more political will is required. The Iranian people have shown their resolve by choosing to engage with dignity. It is time for the United States and its Western allies to make the choice between cooperation and confrontation, between negotiations and grandstanding, and between agreement and coercion.

With courageous leadership and the audacity to make the right decisions, we can and should put this manufactured crisis to rest and move on to much more important work. The wider Persian Gulf region is in turmoil. It is not a question of governments rising and falling: the social, cultural and religious fabrics of entire countries are being torn to shreds.

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Emad Kiyaei Interviewed by Spanish Media

Emad Kiyaei Interviewed by Spanish Media

Originally Published in El Punt Avui

In an interview with El Punt Avui, AIC Executive Director Emad Kiyaei expresses his confidence that the recent "historic" framework agreement reached in Switzerland will be finalized in late June in a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn will extend cooperation between Iranian American and other sensitive issues such as Iraq, Syria and the fight against Islamic State.

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AIC Statement on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

AIC Statement on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee just passed S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which could allow the US Congress to block implementation of a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. The bill would mandate that the administration send the text of a final accord to Congress, halt any lifting of sanctions during a congressional review, and culminate in a possible vote to forbid the lifting of Congressionally imposed sanctions. This move means that the bill can now move to the Senate floor for a vote. It is worth noting that the version of the bill that was passed today has been softened since its more controversial version was originally proposed by Senators Bob Menendez and Mark Kirk. The compromise legislation would shorten a review period for a final deal and soften language that would make the lifting of sanctions dependent on Iran ending its support for terrorism. The Obama administration announced that while it is “not thrilled” about the legislation, it will nevertheless sign it in its softened form.

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Relationship-Building Key for US-Cuba Normalization

 Relationship-Building Key for US-Cuba Normalization

Originally Published on Voice of America

By Ambassador Thomas Pickering
AIC Honorary Board Member

The effort by the United States and Cuba to bridge gaps caused by more than 50 years of mutual hostility will require a heavy emphasis on relationship-building, says a former high-ranking State Department official.

Retired ambassador Thomas Pickering, who served as under secretary of state for political affairs during the Clinton administration, said one of the biggest challenges for U.S. and Cuban diplomats will be to establish ties that allow them to speak frankly to each other.
 
He said diplomats laid the groundwork in the lead-up to the December announcement that the two countries will start an effort to normalize relations.

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Don't let Congress Scuttle Diplomacy!

Don't let Congress Scuttle Diplomacy!

Diplomats from Iran, the United States, and the rest of the P5+1 just reached a historic political framework to diplomatically resolve the nuclear issue, a thorny international issue that has persisted for over a decade. Now, some in the US Congress want to scuttle all the progress that our top diplomats have achieved by passing a bill that would strip President Obama of the ability to waive sanctions and demands congressional oversight over any final deal. These moves could generate a retaliation from Tehran, which would likely put an end to this historic diplomatic process.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill. However, the supporters of the bill are close to reaching a veto-proof majority of 67 Senators. We can prevent this from happening by pressuring key undecided Senators

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Iran Nuclear Deal: There Is No Alternative

Iran Nuclear Deal: There Is No Alternative

Originally Published in EconoMonitor

By Marvin Zonis
AIC Board Member

On April 3, President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to fill him in on the P5+1 deal with Iran. But the prime minister wasn’t buying. He told the President:

“The deal based on this framework would threaten Israel’s survival (and would) legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.” Later, Netanyahu said that any deal with Iran must “include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

The fervor of the prime minister’s rejection of the existing deal and his new condition needed for Israeli approval indicates how Israel’s ardent Evangelical and Jewish supporters in the U.S. will react to the deal.

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ISIS is the Product of Muslim Humiliation and the New Geopolitics of the Middle East

ISIS is the Product of Muslim Humiliation and the New Geopolitics of the Middle East

Originally Published in Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

By Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi

A third wave of geopolitics has been making its way into the Middle Eastern political geography since the end of the Cold War. The first wave began with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The second wave followed World War II, when the European colonial order collapsed. The third wave will reach its fullest extent when the American order in the Middle East fades and is replaced by sustained regional disorder. The contemporary Middle East is the product of these three geopolitical waves and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) represents one of its ugliest humiliating consequences.

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Sir Richard Dalton discusses Iran deal on BBC Radio 4

Sir Richard Dalton discusses Iran deal on BBC Radio 4

AIC Board Member Sir Richard Dalton is a former British Ambassador to Iran who participated in negotiations until 2006. He recently spoke to BBC Radio 4 on the Iran framework agreement.

When asked about his take on the recent events in Lausanne, Dalton said, "The framework agreement does make the region safer and it does protect the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty from erosion, which is integral to international security. Finally, it is a vindication of diplomacy."

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Parties reached understanding, but much work remains.

Parties reached understanding, but much work remains.

Following many months of very difficult negotiations, Iranian and P5+1 diplomats announced an understanding for a political framework to resolve the nuclear issue. To read the specific details of their announcement, please read our previous statement.

After 25 years of concerted effort toward improving US-Iran relations, the American Iranian Council is pleased to see so much emphasis on the diplomatic process. Motivated by our mission to normalize US-Iran relations, the AIC has played an important role throughout this negotiating process, by directly engaging both sides. In fact, the AIC’s own 2009 White Paper became the roadmap for the Obama administration’s ambitious engagement with Iran.

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Obama’s Leadership and the New Framework Agreement with Iran

Obama’s Leadership and the New Framework Agreement with Iran

Originally Published on LobeLog

By Robert E. Hunter
AIC Board Member

Well, Obama did it. Or, rather, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, the other members of the P5+1 (the UN Security Council members, Germany, plus the EU)—and let us not neglect Iran— have done it. This is not a bad several months’ work. But now for the denizens of Washington and Washington-watchers everywhere, plus every possible party in the Middle East, the “fun” really begins.

For people who care about Obama’s core objective, to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, the framework agreement concluded in Lausanne has to be seen as a good deal, a very good deal indeed. Yes, hard negotiations still lie ahead, to meet the June 30 deadline to reduce the framework to some form of formal agreement—with the form itself likely to be debated thoroughly—in part to meet legitimate concerns in the US Congress over its constitutional role in critical foreign policy and security matters.

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Diplomats in Switzerland just held an important press conference

Diplomats in Switzerland just held an important press conference

Diplomats representing Iran and the P5+1 just held a press conference at the Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, in which they announced that the parties had reached an understanding that specific limits would be placed on Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of EU, US, and UN nuclear-related sanctions. The American Iranian Council was one of the first organizations to report that the negotiating parties had reached an understanding on Tuesday, and we are pleased to see that it has now been outlined in a public setting.

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Amirahmadi interviewed by JNS on Iran's regional strategy

Amirahmadi interviewed by JNS on Iran's regional strategy

“The issue is not the number of centrifuges or the amount of enrichment. It’s the trust. [Such countries] say [Iran’s] regime is a cheater… [that] they will go behind the backs of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S., and everyone else to build a bomb,” Amirahmadi said.

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