The question of American policy toward the Iranian nuclear program generated several interesting pieces this week. In the National Interest, Paul Pillar urged a fact-based approach, examining the “Wheel of Alarm” spun by those who hype the threat posed by Tehran. Meanwhile, William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, and Jim Walsh continue their recent work on the issue in a piece in the New York Review of Books that argues that the election of Hassan Rouhani and continued instability in Syria that threatens Iranian interests make the time right to strike a deal. In the Christian Science Monitor, Ali Vaez of International Crisis Group also urges new initiative by Washington to reach a diplomatic agreement in the wake of Rouhani’s victory, while Geoff Dyer tells Obama not to miss a historic opportunity in the Financial Times. In the National Interest, Geoffrey Kemp and John Allen Gay argue that even if an agreement is unreachable, going to war with Iran would be immensely costly with no guarantee of stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post takes us to Kish Island, the tourist resort off the southern coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf, to examine the prospects – championed by Rouhani – of revitalizing Iran’s tourism industry. It comes with a companion slideshow providing a glimpse of the island’s attractions built before and after the Islamic Revolution.
The controversies inherent in Iranian cinema were also on full display this week. The Guardian posted a video interview with noted Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a vocal supporter of the Green Movement (and prior to that, an anti-Shah activist in revolutionary Iran), about the reactions to his recent visit to Israel for the Jerusalem Film Festival, where he screened his most recent film. Meanwhile, advocacy group Arseh Sevom lamented the shutdown of the building that housed Iran’s independent House of Cinema organization, a move that has drawn protests from established directors like Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi.
The question with this administration is, what will Trump see as an acceptable return for this waiver [granted to India for its trade with Russia and Iran]? Will he demand a transaction in return, some give on the trade side or a big defence deal for the US as well? Russia and Iran are sticking points, but the fact that the Trump administration is dealing with these privately is a sign of how much the relationship has changed. [Mr Trump] usually doesn’t give out freebies.
Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit. The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity.