What to Read on Iran

Iran’s Ties to the Taliban — Mohsen Milani

Iran’s views of the Taliban have changed considerably since 2001. Iran did not recognize the Taliban government and considered them an ideological nemesis and a major security threat that was created by Pakistan’s ISI, with generous financial support from Saudi Arabia partly for the purpose of spreading Wahhabism and undermining Iran. When the Taliban were in power in the 1990s, Iran, along with India and Russia, provided significant support to the Northern Alliance, which was the principal opposition force to Taliban rule and eventually dislodged them. Iran also contributed to dismantling the Taliban regime and to establishing a new government in Kabul in 2001.

Ironically, the strategic interests of Tehran and Taliban have converged today, as each, independent of the other and for different reasons, oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and demand their immediate and unconditional withdrawal.

A Taliban-dominated government is clearly not in Iran’s long-term interests, since it would generate considerable tension and conflict between Iran and Afghanistan and would inevitably lead Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia, becoming dominant foreign powers in Afghanistan, which Tehran vehemently opposes. At the same time, Tehran has for many years maintained that political stability in Afghanistan can be achieved only if the government reflects the rich ethnic and sectarian diversity of Afghanistan itself. Iran, more than anything else, wants to see a stable and friendly government in Kabul. Tehran now seems convinced that without Taliban participation in the government, as a partner but not as the main force, stability would be unattainable.

Tehran has attempted in vain to convince Karzai to call for the withdrawal of Western troops. Tensions between the two neighbors are likely to increase if there is a new agreement between Washington and Kabul about establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

Mousavian: Iran Is Ready to Negotiate…If — Semira Nikou

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,…does not object to transparency because he already issued a fatwa in 1995 against weapons of mass destruction. But he is against discrimination, suspension [of uranium enrichment], and the deprivation of Iran’s rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the nuclear issue, the end state for the Iranians is full rights under the NPT, without discrimination over enrichment. Other countries enrich but do not face sanctions. The nuclear impasse will not be resolved as long as U.N. resolutions are enforced because they require Iran to indefinitely suspend enrichment and provide access to sites and scientists for an indefinite period. These conditions extend beyond the framework of NPT.

Iran views indefinite suspension as a way for the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) to buy time for a long-term ban on Iran’s enrichment program and ultimately its discontinuation.

Iran and al-Qa’ida: Can the Charges Be Substantiated? — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett

[The] Iranians raised, almost immediately after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the problem of al-Qa’ida personnel trying to make their way from Afghanistan into Iran…

…Tehran documented its detention of literally hundreds of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives, repatriated as many of these detainees to their countries of origin as it could, and requested U.S. assistance in facilitating repatriations of detainees whose governments did not want to cooperate (a request the Bush Administration denied).

…Iranian officials acknowledged that a small group of al-Qa’ida figures had managed to avoid capture and enter Iranian territory, most likely through Sistan-Balochistan, in 2002. The Iranian government located and took some of these individuals into custody and said that others identified by the United States were either dead or not in Iran. At the beginning of May 2003, after Baghdad had fallen, Tehran offered to exchange the remaining al-Qa’ida figures in Iran for a small group of MEK commanders in Iraq, with the treatment of those repatriated to Iran monitored by the International Committee for the Red Cross and a commitment not to apply the death penalty to anyone prosecuted on their return. But the Bush Administration rejected any deal.

Of the six al-Qa’ida operatives sanctioned by the Treasury Department last week, only one is alleged to be physically present in Iran — and, by Treasury’s own account, he is there primarily to get al-Qa’ida prisoners out of Iranian jails. Moreover, the United States apparently has no hard evidence that the Iranian government is supportive of or even knowledgeable about the alleged al-Qa’ida network in the Islamic Republic.

Best of the Month: August 2010

10. U.S. Middle East Peace Talks: Wrong Approach to Region? — Tony Karon
9. The Surveillance State Thrives on Fear — Glenn Greenwald
8. Iraq Special Report: “American Soldiers Sacrificed a Lot. But We Sacrificed More.” — Jonathan Steele and Obama Plays Down Plan for Post-2011 Iraq Troop Presence — Gareth Porter
7. Enrichment Still the Key to Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett
6. Is Congress Subsidizing Slackers? — Ruth Marcus
5. Book Notes: Ramos’s “A Country for All” — Bryce Covert and Fact-Checking the Claims about “Anchor Babies” and Whether Illegal Immigrants “Drop and Leave” — PolitiFact
4. The Digital Surveillance State: Vast, Secret, and Dangerous — Glenn Greenwald
3. The Myth of the Social Security System’s Financial Shortfall — Michael Hiltzik
2. Filibusters and Arcane Obstructions in the Senate — George Packer
1. News at 11: How Climate Change Affects You — Amy Goodman and Media Wakes Up to Hell and High Water: Moscow’s 1000-Year Heat Wave and “Pakistan’s Katrina” — Joseph Romm
BONUS: American Dream Needs a Redesign — Anthony W. Orlando

Best of the Week: August 1-7, 2010

10. Would Small Business Be Hurt by Obama’s Tax Plan? — Edmund L. Andrews and What’s Holding Small Business Back? — National Federation of Independent Business
9. Massachusetts Mandates at Work — Austin Frakt
8. Behind the Columbia/Venezuela Tension — Conn Hallinan
7. Like New Deal, Stimulus Should Create Jobs Directly — Robert J. Shiller and The Real Reason Banks Aren’t Lending — Marshall Auerback
6. Extreme Function: Why Our Brains Respond So Intensely to Exaggerated Characteristics — Vilayanur S. Ramachandran & Diane Rogers-Ramachandran
5. Whose Hands? Whose Blood? Killing Civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq — Tom Engelhardt and 2010 Arabic Public Opinion Poll — Shibley Telhami
4. Unpacking Claims on the Auto Bailout — e21
3. Enrichment Still the Key to Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett
2. Book Notes: Ramos’ “A Country for All” — Bryce Covert and Fact-Checking the Claims About “Anchor Babies” and Whether Illegal Immigrants “Drop and Leave” — PolitiFact
1. Filibusters and Arcane Obstructions in the Senate — George Packer
BONUS: Topic of Cancer — Christopher Hitchens

Best of the Week: April 4-10, 2010

10. Why More Immigrants Are an Answer to the Coming Boomer Entitlement Mess — Robert B. Reich and Across the Border, Over the Line — Linda Greenhouse
9. The “Kennedy Court,” Only More So — Lyle Denniston and Justice Stevens and the Benefits of a Boring Court — Evan Thomas & Stuart Taylor, Jr.
8. Just Like Ike (on Deterrence) — Campbell Craig, All Options, Still, on the Table — Tad Daley, Obama’s New Nuclear Plan Leaves Missiles on Hair Triggers — Dan Froomkin, Getting the Iran-Palestine Connection Wrong — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverettand Pros and Cons in the Nuclear Posture Review — Stephen M. Walt
7. The Hush on Abortion — Shell Fischer and A Question of Values: The Real Abortion Debate — June Carbone & Naomi Cahn
6. Why All of Us Should Want the President to Break His Promise on Taxes — Diane Lim Rogers
5. Why China’s Exchange Rate Is a Red Herring — Avinash Persaud and No Time for a Trade War — Joseph E. Stiglitz
4. The Magnetar Trade: How One Hedge Fund Helped Keep the Bubble Going — Jesse Eisinger & Jake Bernstein and Making Financial Reform Fool-Resistant — Paul Krugman
3. Pakistan: A Nation Under Attack — Robert Fisk
2. When Did the Senate Become Such a Lonely, Cynical Place? — Jennifer Senior
1. Sex, Drugs, and HIV: Let’s Get Rational — Elizabeth Pisani and The Pay-Any-Price Principle — David Sirota
BONUS: Take It to the Limit — Steven Strogatz

Best of the Week: March 28 – April 3, 2010

We will return to the “Top 10” format because the feedback didn’t suggest much value-add from the “Top 15”. If you wish us to return to the “Top 15” at any time in the future, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the site or email us. — AWO

10. Why Celibacy Should Be Abolished — Hans Küng
9. EIA: New Offshore Drilling Will Lower Gas Prices in 2030 a Few Pennies a Gallon — Joseph RommRisk Is Clear in Drilling; Payoff Isn’t — John M. Broder & Clifford Krauss, Grounded Ship: 3km Oil Spill on Great Barrier Reef — Marissa Calligeros, and What the Frack? — David Biello
8. Here We WMD Again — Scott Ritter, The United States, Iran, and the Middle East’s New “Cold War” — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett, and “Reporting” on Iran Should Seem Familiar — Glenn Greenwald
7. Is the Health Care Law Unconstitutional? — Jack M. Balkin, Randy Barnett, Abbe R. Gluck, David B. Rivkin, Lee A. Casey, & James F. Blumstein, Individual Mandate Penalties Are Adequate — Austin Frakt, Is “ObamaCare” Destroying Wealth? — Uwe E. Reinhardt, and Economy Will Get a Boost from Health Care Overhaul — Mitchell Schnurman
6. The Income Rollercoaster — Karen Dynan and High Income Disparity Leads to Low Savings Rates — Yves Smith
5. What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous? — Robert A. Pape, Lindsey O’Rourke, & Jenna McDermitLady Gaga vs. the Occupation — Thomas Hegghammer, and Hating Us For Our Degeneracy — Daniel Larison
4. Study: Two-Thirds of Boys in Afghan Jails Are Brutalized — Gareth Porter, Iraqi Children’s Growth Stunted by War, Says Study — BBC NewsPacified Populations — Kathy Kelly, Night Raids Belie McChrystal’s New Image — Gareth Porter, and Gen. McChrystal: We’ve Shot “an Amazing Number of People” Who Were Not Threats — Justin Elliott
3. 10 Questions for Finance Reformers — Barry Ritholtz and The Lone Star Secret — Alyssa Katz
2. Fiscal Policies in “Normal” and “Abnormal” Recessions — Paul De Grauwe
1. How to Combat Modern Slavery — Kevin Bales
BONUS: Power Tools — Steven Strogatz