Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (11/1)

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Hassan Rouhani (Wikimedia)

“Iranian regime may be too fragmented to come to a consensus”

“Anytime you see a statement coming out of the government, just remember there’s a rat’s nest of people fighting underneath the surface,” Kevan Harris, a sociologist at Princeton who has studied Iran extensively, told me. As [President] Rouhani tries to engage the West, he will have to contend with the hard-liners … who for more than a decade have defined their foreign policy as a covert war on the U.S. and Israel.

The Shadow Commander, Dexter Filkins, the New Yorker

Compartmentalization in Nuclear-Weapons Program Recipe for Disaster

There was an enormous amount of compartmentalized secrecy, and that was to prevent secrets from being too widely shared and potentially leaked. But what that meant was people in different parts of the system didn’t have an overall view of how the system was operating—and that can be very dangerous. The people designing the weapons literally often didn’t know how they were being handled in the field by the Air Force—and a lot of people in the Air Force didn’t understand some of the dangers. There’s a very strong element of madness in this.

Eric Schlosser: If We Don’t Slash Our Nukes, “a Major City Is Going to Be Destroyed,” Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones

“It is outside Iran that much of the action needs to be taken to resolve the nuclear issue”

In thinking about whose half of the court the ball is in right now, we should note that this whole issue is not an issue because the Iranians made it one or wanted it to be one. They are doing with their nuclear activities what several other nations have been doing and that they believe with good reason they have a right to do as well. They had no reason or desire to make a stink about it. The issue is a big stinking issue because people outside of Iran have made it so, and it is outside Iran that much of the action needs to be taken now to resolve the issue.

Which, and Whose, Concrete Actions? Paul Pillar, the National Interest

Understatement

Such activities led Angela Kane, U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs, to comment in September: “Robust nuclear weapon modernization programs… raise legitimate questions over whether these steps are heading toward global zero, or instead to a permanently nuclear-armed world.”

Western powers talk nuclear disarmament, upgrade what’s left, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters

“America’s Middle East policy remains stuck in fantasy land”

And, as we have pointed out for many months (and which American pundits themselves are now finally noticing), Obama will face enormous and largely self-inflicted legal difficulties in lifting or modifying U.S. sanctions to encourage and support diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. During Obama’s presidency, many U.S. sanctions that started out as executive order sanctions have been written into law, with conditions for their removal that go well beyond progress on the nuclear issue. These conditions include requirements that Tehran cut its ties to groups like Hizballah that the United States foolishly designates as terrorist organizations and effectively transform the Islamic Republic into a secular liberal republic. [Emphasis added.]

Will Obama Blow His Diplomatic Opportunity with Iran?, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going to Tehran