The Great Debate UK

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Iran’s role in Afghanistan

ahmadinejadkarzaiIran has been hosting regional leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to celebrate the Persian New Year, or Nowruz (a spring festival whose equivalent in Pakistan, incidentally, is frowned upon by its own religious conservatives).

The Nowruz celebrations, which also included the presidents of Iraq, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, are part of Iran's efforts to build regional ties and followed renewed debate over the kind of role Iran wants to play in Afghanistan. As discussed here, it has also been improving ties with Pakistan, and both countries may have worked together on the arrest last month of Abdolmalik Rigi, leader of the Jundollah rebel group.

Depending on who you listen to, Iran is either an unlikely potential ally of the United States in Afghanistan, with shared common interests in stabilising the country, or a spoiler ready to support its old enemies the Afghan Taliban in order to undermine Washington's position.  Others put it somewhere in between, like every other country in the region biding its time in order to make sense of the U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan, while also picking its way through a showdown with the United States over its nuclear programme.

Evidence so far of its exact intentions on Afghanistan is sketchy. After initially supporting the United States following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 -Shi'ite Iran has no natural sympathy with the hardline Sunni Taliban - it found itself branded by former president George W. Bush as part of the axis of evil in 2002, and then after 2003 squeezed between U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Iran: What are the links to Pakistan?

A week after suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, a suicide bomber killed six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and 25 other people in Shi'ite Iran in one of the deadliest attacks in years on the country's most powerful military institution.

Were these two events connected only by the loose network of Sunni insurgent groups based in and around Pakistan? Or are there other common threads that link the two?

from The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

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

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Human bargaining chips in deals with Iran

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

Seven summers ago, in a crowded conference room of a Washington hotel, an Iranian exile leader gave the first detailed public account of Iran's until-then secret nuclear projects at the cities of Natanz and Arak. It greatly turned up the volume of a seemingly endless international controversy over Iran's nuclear intentions.

The disclosures, on August 14, 2002, did little to earn the group that made them, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), merit points from the U.S. government. A year later, the Washington office of the NCRI, the political offshoot of Iran's Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) resistance movement, was shut. The State Department placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations. (The MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, had been given that designation in 1997).

from The Great Debate:

Fake news gets real

Colbert in Baghdad

global_post_logoThomas Mucha is the managing editor in charge of correspondents for GlobalPost, where this article first appeared. The views expressed are his own. --

It’s been a fascinating few weeks for global news — the real kind, of course — but also for the fake stuff.

from The Great Debate:

America’s spies and a language crisis

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

"There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know…The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran."

from The Great Debate:

Reflections on Iran

John Kemp-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of much western comment on the unfolding crisis in Iran has been its over-simplification and lack of historical awareness. Perspectives are shaped by a single issue (western concerns about whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program) and the desire to draw a simple Manichean distinction between good guys (liberal-democrats) and bad ones (clerical-authoritarians).

The reality is far more complicated.

Part of the problem is a truncated sense of history. For most western commentators, the history of Iran's troubled relations with the west starts in 1979 with the triumphant return of the glowering Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the head of the revolution which swept away Shah Reza Pahlavi's western-backed regime and replaced it with a new Islamic Republic.

from The Great Debate:

It’s not a Twitter revolution in Iran

reeseportrait1-150-- Reese Erlich is a freelance foreign correspondent who covered the Iranian elections and is author of The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis (Polipoint Press) The views expressed are his own. --

Iran is not undergoing a Twitter Revolution. The term simultaneously mischaracterizes and trivializes the important mass movement developing in Iran.

Iranian election: Shock from afar

Photo
-

Leili Sreberny-MohammadiLeili Sreberny-Mohammadi is a British-Iranian based in London, and sometimes Tehran. The opinions expressed are her own. –

The past ten days have been among the strangest in my life. I returned from Iran three weeks ago, just when the election campaigns were heating up, cars covered with candidate posters trawling across Tehran’s highways.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Iran and a meaningless phrase

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

It's time to kill the international community. The phrase, that is.

Usually shorthand for the governments of "the West," the phrase is over-used (a Google search produces 447 million hits) and under-thought. It is often misleading and sometimes plain wrong. As in President Barack Obama's news conference remarks this week on Iran's post-election crackdown on protest:

  •