Let Us Talk

September 30, 2009

Iran — What Should The World Do?

Middle East 9 09

World powers put pressure on Iran ahead of crucial nuclear talks scheduled for Thursday, amid growing concern about the covert build up of Tehran’s nuclear program.  Iran has insisted for years that it has a right to civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to make enriched fuel for power plants — although its first Russian built and long delayed nuclear plant is still not online. Iranian officials underscored that their nuclear “rights” (uranium enrichment which the UN Security Council wants suspended) were not negotiable.

But its announcement last week of the ongoing construction of another uranium enrichment plant, underground near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, prompted stern warnings from western capitals led by Washington and concern from some Arab states.

Arab states from the Gulf have joined talks with the six Western nations preparing to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Envoys from the Arab states are said to have met at the United Nations headquarters in New York over the weekend with the five permanent powers (P5) in the UN Security Council plus Germany who want guarantees from Tehran on the civilian nature of its nuclear ambitions.  The ‘P5-plus-one’ group is set to meet with Iran on Thursday, October 1 in Geneva.

“It will be in the best interests of everybody that this situation stays under control,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the disclosure of a secret Iranian nuclear site under development near the holy city of Qom. “The new facility is being looked at by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it seems there will be positive co-operation with Iran for inspecting this site.”

Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, spoke of “ongoing consultation with our Gulf friends about what is our policy toward Iran and how we are going to address the October 1 dialogue with Iran.  There’s a profound concern on their part that we do not try anything that could be construed as trading their interests for our interests.”

Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated he has no objection to Gulf countries directly joining the talks.

Gulf States, fearing the encroachment of Iranian power throughout the region, have urged the country’s leadership to comply with international demands regarding the development of its nuclear program.

“Nuclear weapons is a tough issue, but it’s hard to know whether all this is just talk,” Dr. Ghanim A-Najjar, a political scientist at Kuwait University, told The Media Line. “Nuclear weapons are not a joke and I don’t think Iran will go that far. They don’t have the ability; the technology is not available to them.”

Dr. A-Najjar argued that recent efforts by Gulf States to explore nuclear power were in direct response to Iran’s nuclear development. “The Gulf States want to put pressure on Iran with threats of their own nuclear energy plans.”

“But I don’t see how Gulf States can be serious about nuclear development,” he added. “There’s a big step between saying we want nuclear power to actually having it and I don’t think the Gulf States are capable of this kind of development.”

Dr. Stephen Steinbeiser, Resident Director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, argued that there was more concern over Iran’s overall influence in the region than the potential of a nuclear armed Iran.

“People are definitely interested in Iran, if one day it’s proven that Iran has nuclear weapons the balance of power in the Middle East really squeezes Arabs out of the middle between Iran and Israel. That’s something that makes people pause and people are starting to question just how powerful Arab states really are.”

“The Israelis have a very palpable fear of Iran,” he said. “Yemenis don’t have that but there’s a concern about the influence that Iran is presumed to yield.”

“People here are less interested in these negotiations than in what is perceived to be Iranian interference in the northern rebellion,” he said, referring to an ongoing military conflict between Yemen’s central government and a Houthi-led rebellion in the country’s North. “You never hear it in the mainstream media but locally people feel that the northern rebels are receiving Iranian support and that this is not so much a war against rebels but a war against Iranian intrusion.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said this week that Moscow would like to see “substantial progress” on the nuclear program in Geneva, days after President Dmitry Medvedev signaled he might endorse sanctions against Iran.

This is a strong indication of a change in Russia’s position and that probably has something to do with the US attempts to reset the relationship with Russia. 

China has an important import/export relationship with Iran — will they put pressure on Iran now that Russia seems willing to do so? 

June 4, 2009

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

November 8, 2008

Who Is Rahm Emanuel – Why Is The Chief Of Staff So Important?

 

 

Obama

The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President.  The Chief of Staff is often nicknamed ‘The Second Most Powerful Man in Washington’ because of the influence and access to the President.

pres-elect-rahm-emanuel “I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a President and administration to accomplish an agenda,” President-Elect Obama said in a statement. “And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.”

Traditionally the Chief of Staff has been responsible for overseeing the actions of the White House staff, managing the President’s schedule and deciding who is allowed to meet with the President.  Because of these duties, the Chief of Staff has at various times been called ‘The Gatekeeper’ and ‘The Co-President’.

Most White House Chiefs of Staff are former politicians and many continue their political careers in other senior roles once they leave the White House.  Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff was Dick Cheney.  Cheney became US Representative for Wyoming, then Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under George W. Bush.

The roles of the Chief of Staff are both managerial and advisory and can include the following duties depending on President Obama’s vision and style of conducting business:

·       Select key White House staff and supervise them

·       Structure the White House staff system

·       Control the flow of people into the Oval Office

·       Manage the flow of information to the POTUS

·       Advise the President on issues, politics and policies and management issues

·       Protect the interest of the President

·       Negotiate with Congress and other members of the Executive Branch and other governmental political groups to implement the President’s agenda

Rahm Israel Emanuel, President-Elect Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff was born in Chicago, Illinois.  His first name Rahm means ‘high’ or ‘lofty’ in Hebrew and his last name, Emanuel, means ‘God is with us.’

Rahm’s last name was adopted by his family in 1933 after Rahm’s paternal uncle Emanuel Auerbach was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem.

Rahm’s father, Benjamin Emanuel was born in Jerusalem.  He is a pediatrician and former member of the Irgun – a staunchly nationalist Zionist militia active in the British Mandate of Palestine between 1931 and 1948.  His mother, the former Martha Smulevitz, worked as an x-ray technician and was the daughter of a local union organizer.  She became a civil rights activist and was also the owner of a Chicago- area rock and roll club.

Rahm attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School – a Jewish day school.  After his family moved to Wilmette he attended public schools: Romona School, Wilmette Junior High School and New Trier West High School.  He and his brothers attended summer camp in Israel. During high school while working at an Arby’s Emanuel severely injured his right middle finger.  Instead of getting medical treatment he went swimming in Lake Michigan.  His finger became severely infected and was partially amputated.

Rahm graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a Masters in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. While an undergraduate he joined the congressional campaign of David Robinson, Chicago.

Emanuel was a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and served in one of Israel’s northern bases.

Amy Rule, Rahm’s wife, is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Amy converted to Modern Orthodox Judaism shortly before their wedding.  They are active members of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel – a Modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago.  They have three children: a son Zachariah and daughters Ilana and Leah.

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