Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Daily TIP: Iranian negotiators double down on red line against negotiations over ballistic missile program‏

  • Iranian negotiators double down on red line against negotiations over ballistic missile program
  • Amid Palestinian rocket barrage, U.S. and Britain emphasize Israeli right to self-defense
  • WSJ: "Growing consensus" among investors regarding opportunities for pushing into Iranian markets
  • Observers: Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood seeks to highlight support for monarchy, after destabilizing 2012 and 2013 protests

    A top Iranian official reiterated on Wednesday that Tehran will refuse to discuss its ballistic missile program in the context of comprehensive negotiations over its nuclear program with the international community, the latest in a long line of statements underlining that the Islamic republic views the issue as a red line. The dispute has the potential to impact the domestic policy debate in the United States both substantively and politically. Substantively, the issue is tangled up in a broader debate over the degree to which Iran will be forced to account for or roll back suspected military dimensions of its atomic program. Iranian negotiators had this week sought already to delay discussions wholesale of all such dimensions, which range from warhead development to the involvement of the Iranian military in uranium production. Politically an outright Iranian refusal is likely to erode confidence in the Obama administration's diplomatic nimbleness. Iranian negotiators had managed to exclude mention of Iran's missile program from the interim Joint Action Plan (JPA), an omission that White House figures justified to lawmakers and journalists as justified for the sake of building momentum. Lead U.S. diplomacy, including lead negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, instead insisted that Iran's ballistic missile program would be addressed in comprehensive negotiations.
    British media late on Wednesday conveyed statements by Prime Minister David Cameron condemning a Palestinian rocket barrage against Israeli civilians as "barbaric," after Palestinian fighters launched at least 60 rockets and missiles from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip at Israeli population centers. The Telegraph contextualized the statement against the backdrop of statements made by Cameron earlier in the day, in which the British leader committed to providing "rock solid" support to the Jewish state in defending itself, especially and specifically against "despicable" moves by Iran to provide anti-Israel terror groups with advanced weapons. The State Department issued its own statement condemning the attack "in the strongest terms" and particularly emphasizing that "Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself." The Israeli Air Force (IAF) subsequently launched what Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Peter Lerner described as "precise [and] prompt" targeting of terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, reporting that the IAF struck "29 targets that serve those that attack Israel and its civilians."
    The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday conveyed assessments from top financial experts describing Iran as "Turkey with oil" and outlining "a growing consensus that the withdrawal of sanctions on [Iran]... would be a huge boon for the country, the region and for investors who get in early." Brushing aside objections from U.S. officials that Iran is not open for business - a talking point that has been prominent in White House defenses of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), and that the Journal cited U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker as having recently reemphasized - the outlet noted that investors see "the scale of Iran’s potential is hard to ignore." At stake is the degree to which the initial erosion in sanctions under the JPA may lead to an international gold rush that would substantially erode the rest of the sanctions regime, enabling Iranian leaders to walk away from talks aimed at putting the Islamic republic's atomic program beyond use for weaponization. Skeptics had predicted a gold rush-style downward spiral, in which nations and companies scrambled not to get left behind as Iranian markets were reopened to the world. The Obama administration and analysts linked to the administration had derided those scenarios are among other things "fanciful." Recent months have seen empirical evidence pile up on the side of the critics. Evidence that the Obama administration misjudged the dynamics surrounding Iranian diplomacy are likely to fuel calls, already supported by lopsided majorities of Americans, for a stronger Congressional voice in determining the path of negotiations.
    Veteran Jordan-based journalist Osama Al Sharif assessed on Tuesday that Jordan was unlikely to follow the lead of Egypt and some Gulf states in branding the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, not because the Islamist group is supported by Amman - Sharif noted that Jordan's current ruler King Abdullah II is even "less sympathetic to [the Brotherhood's cause] than his father" - but because top Brotherhood figures have recently gone out of their way to emphasize that they support the current regime. Sharif specifically quoted Abdel Latif Arabiyyat, a top figure of the Jordanian Brotherhood's political arm, empathizing that there is "a historic relationship between the regime and the Brotherhood in Jordan... and differences between them are marginal, which could be resolved through dialogue." As recently as a year ago the Jordanian Brotherhood seemed to be on the same upward trajectory as allied organizations in countries such as Egypt, and there had been active speculation that the group was setting itself up to severely test the legitimacy of the monarchy. Brotherhood protests were seen as having crossed a kind of Rubicon in openly criticizing the King, and one activist infamously lit a picture of Abdullah on fire. The developments have in retrospect been seen as a bad miscalculation. The activist issued an abject public apology, insisting that his actions were driven by "very bad living conditions which affected [him] negatively," calling on lawmakers "to be tough against whoever may ride roughshod over this country and its resources," and supporting "his majesty’s vision in [that] regard because Jordan is the priority." Protests by the Brotherhood subsequently became muted as well. Other Brotherhood offshoots have declined even more precipitously, most pointedly in Egypt. 

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