Iran and the Grand Bargain

Eric Umansky’s CJR article (via The Interpreter) on the failure by the American press to cover Iran’s 2003 backchannel overtures, and the Bush administration’s refusal out of hand to consider them, has re-opened the question of whether a “Grand Bargain” with Iran is possible, what it would look and how we might get there from here. It’s admittedly a long row to hoe, but this Congressional hearing from last November on “Negotiating with the Iranians: Missed Opportunities and Path Forward” (Subcommittee forOversight on National Security and Foreign Affairs) is a good place to start. To begin with, I think it’s […]

The initiative of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to repeal the country’s headscarf ban has received a great deal of attention in both the Turkish and international media over the past month. Analysis has been divided on whether this signals a creeping Islamization of the country or rather, quite to the contrary, it is a signal of growing civil liberties — a maturing liberal democracy moving towards Western ideas of decency and freedom. It is unusual that a singular political initiative can be viewed in two such diametrically opposed ways. It’s a perfect illustration of the difficulty of […]

The Basra Paradox

The dust is starting to settle in Basra, and the consensus that’s emerging is that we know who won, and we know who lost, but we don’t know what happened. Now if that’s not a metaphor for the Iraq War in general, I don’t know what is. First up among the unanswered questions seems to be, What the heck was Maliki thinking in pulling the trigger on this one? Retired Major William “Mac” McCallister writing over at Danger Room suggests that the battle was a form of “negotiation” between Maliki and al-Sadr: The short-term objective is to assist Sadr in […]

The unnerving footage of the black-turbaned, hirsute, pudgy-faced, snarling, 30-something Moqtada al-Sadr has reappeared on television screens across the world. Wrapped in his black cloak and eyes pointed down at a script, he rattles off his statement to a bouquet of microphones, flanked by a posse of grinning henchmen, occasionally raising a finger for emphasis. His gravitas is his very presence: an outlaw who dares show his face. With his new nine-point plan, he is Iraq’s most important politician currently outside the government, exercising a seeming ability to turn a full-scale insurgency on or off at will. Gen. David Petraeus […]

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