Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

What if Iran gets the bomb?

Bernd Debusmann
Jun 22, 2012 15:25 UTC

The West worries too much about the prospect of Iran going nuclear. If it did get the bomb, the Middle East would probably become a more stable region. So says Kenneth Waltz, a veteran scholar, in an essay in one of America’s most influential magazines.

“Why Iran Should get the Bomb,” says the headline in Foreign Affairs, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank. “Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability.”

The author is a senior research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His contrarian essay coincides with yet another unsuccessful round of negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of countries who insist the government in Tehran must do more to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, as it claims, rather than intended to build weapons.

The talks this week in Moscow brought Iranian negotiators together with officials from the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. The negotiations produced no breakthrough and no sign of compromise. New U.S. and European sanctions, including a ban on Iranian oil imports, are coming into force next month. Whether they will be more likely to make Iran bow to Western demands than previous turns of the sanctions screw is open to doubt. What next?

“Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff,” Waltz writes. “In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability in the Middle East.”

Iran ramps up courtship of Latin America

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 30, 2011 14:07 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

For decades, American foreign policy on Latin America has gone through cycles of neglect and concern. It’s in a cycle of concern again, prompted by an Iranian campaign to make friends and influence people in the American backyard. Washington’s message to Iran’s Latin friends – don’t get too close – does not appear to impress them.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in unusually strong language, sounded the first warning on December 11: “I think if people want to flirt with Iran, they should take a look at what the consequences might well be for them. And we hope that they will think twice.”

President Barack Obama followed up eight days later with a message focused on Venezuela, Iran beachhead in Latin America. Ties with Iran had not served the interests of Venezuela and its people, he said in an interview with a Venezuelan newspaper. “Sooner or later, Venezuela’s people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is isolated from most of the world.”

Goodbye to the myth of Iran’s “Mad Mullahs”?

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 9, 2011 18:25 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

After years of portraying Iran’s leaders as irrational actors driven by religious zeal, American neo-conservatives and their Israeli allies appear to be shelving the “mad mullah” argument used to underline the danger of Iran getting nuclear weapons. The mullahs are now seen as shrewd calculators of risk.

The change of tone was reflected in a report on Iran and the bomb by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Washington-based conservative think tank whose hawkish views influenced the decision-making on going to war in Iraq.

The report, published this week, is based on the assumption that sanctions and sabotage will fail and Iran will have a nuclear weapon by the time the next U.S. president takes office in 2013.

America, Iran and mowing nuclear grass

Bernd Debusmann
Nov 15, 2011 18:33 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In the long-running Western debate over what to do about Iran’s nuclear program, fresh language has been as rare as fresh ideas. But here’s a novel phrase worth noting: “Striking Iranian nuclear sites is like mowing the grass.” How so?

The man who coined the simile, Middle East scholar Aaron David Miller, argues that no strike, or series of strikes, could permanently cripple the Iranian capacity to produce and weaponize fissile material. Absent complete success in wiping out Iran’s hardened and widely dispersed nuclear sites, “the grass would only grow back again.” The Iranians would “reseed” the grass “with the kind of legitimacy that can only come from having been attacked by an outside power.”

The presidential hopefuls of America‘s Republican Party could do worse than take note of that assessment. In the first foreign policy debate of the Republican primary race on November 12, all but one of the nine would-be presidents supported an attack — by the United States or Israel — on Iran to stop it from getting the bomb, if sanctions failed, as they have done so far.

Obama, Iran and a push for policy change

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 25, 2011 15:27 UTC

Could the administration of President Barack Obama hasten the downfall of Iran’s government by taking an opposition group off the U.S. list of terrorist organizations? To hear a growing roster of influential former government officials tell it, the answer is yes.

The opposition group in question is the Mujadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and the growing list of Washington insiders coming out in its support include two former Central Intelligence Agency chiefs (James Woolsey and Michael Hayden), two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Peter Pace and Hugh Shelton), former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and former FBI head Louis Freeh.

The MEK was placed on the terrorist list in 1997, a move the Clinton administration hoped would help open a dialogue with Iran, and since then has been waging a protracted legal battle to have the designation removed. Britain and the European Union took the group off their terrorist lists in 2008 and 2009 respectively after court rulings that found no evidence of terrorist actions after the MEK renounced violence in 2001.

from The Great Debate:

America, Iran and a terrorist label

Bernd Debusmann
Nov 19, 2010 16:52 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Who says that the United States and Iran can't agree on anything? The Great Satan, as Iran's theocratic rulers call the United States, and the Islamic Republic see eye-to-eye on at least one thing, that the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) are terrorists.

America and Iran arrived at the terrorist designation for the MEK at different times and from different angles but the convergence is bizarre, even by the complicated standards of Middle Eastern politics. The United States designated the MEK a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, when the Clinton administration hoped the move would help open a dialogue with Iran. Thirteen years later, there is still no dialogue.

But the group is still on the list, despite years of legal wrangling over the designation through the U.S. legal system. Britain and the European Union took the group off their terrorist lists in 2008 and 2009 respectively after court rulings that found no evidence of terrorist actions after the MEK renounced violence in 2001.

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