Posted by Albert Gersh - March 31, 2014
- Bloomberg: "dilemma" for President Obama as Iran appoints diplomat linked to 1979 hostage crisis to top UN post
Businessweek on Monday assessed that Iran's appointment of Hamid Aboutalebi to be Tehran's new ambassador to the United Nations may become "a dilemma" for President Barack Obama, just days after the outlet originally revealed that the Iranian diplomat - who had belonged to the group that captured and held 52 Americans hostage in 1979 - was having trouble acquiring a visa to enter the United States. Aboutalebi has reportedly been waiting to enter the U.S., and there are fears that the situation could escalate diplomatically. Washington Institute Managing Director Michael Singh told Bloomberg that granting Aboutalebi a visa now would "reinforce the impression among regional allies that Washington is willing to ignore Iranian misbehavior in our pursuit of a nuclear accord." The President had already last week reportedly received a chilly reception in Saudi Arabia due to Washington's diplomacy toward Iran. The incident itself may damage the White House’s credibility in reading Iranian intentions. The administration has for months leaned heavily on the Iranian claim that any Congressional move against Iran would shatter the delicate "spirit of Geneva" needed for negotiations to succeed, Geneva being the site where the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) had been hammered out. The theme may be difficult to reconcile with what critics of the President were quick to characterize as a poke in his eye. Bipartisan lawmakers from both chambers of Congress have lately again begun calling for a broader Congressional role in negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel late Monday as reports emerged that Jerusalem had presented Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas with a draft proposal designed to extend U.S.-brokered negotiations beyond their originally scheduled April 29 deadline. Palestinian diplomats threatened last week to abandon talks should the Israelis refuse to release a fourth batch of prisoners, after Jerusalem had previously released three other groups to entice the Palestinians to join and then stay at the negotiating table. Israeli leaders - including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who has consistently pushed for talks from within the government - emphasized that Israel would not release dozens of murderers after the Palestinians had spent the last several months flatly rejecting a U.S.-backed peace framework. Palestinian leaders, up to and including Abbas, had also repeatedly threatened to renew diplomatic warfare against the Jewish state, and Reuters had reported last January that Ramallah had a list of "international bodies from which they could harass Israel - including the International Criminal Court." Palestinian boasts aired last week, which cited potential long-term campaigns in international bodies, deepened concerns that they will pocket functionally irreversible Israeli concessions and walk away anyway. Abbas and other top PA figures had also soured the Israeli public on additional releases by ostentatiously celebrating previously freed terrorists and murderers as heroes.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Sunday that he will "enter the lair" of his rivals and force them to "pay for" having leveled accusations of corruption against him and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), after local elections held across Turkey saw the AKP securing a plurality of the national vote. At least six people were killed in clashes during the polling. A range of graft scandals, which eventually ensnared AKP elites including Erdogan and his family, last year plunged Turkey into open political warfare. The AKP initially moved to purge thousands of judiciary and police officials, and in recent days had also sought to dampen the tempo of public criticism by banning Twitter and YouTube, generating by turns international condemnation and widespread ridicule. Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News on Monday published an interview with Sabanci University professor Ahmet Evin, in which Evin linked what he described as a "deliberate effort" to stifle free speech inside Turkey to a broader collapse in Ankara's regional stature. Erdogan had nonetheless long been expected by analysts to ride a superior political infrastructure and his enthusiastic political base to continued electoral success. The post-election dynamics seem set to reignite long-standing criticisms of Erdogan as a majoritarian ruler who - per a June 2013 write-up in The Economist on his ideology - "holds that electoral might always makes you right."
Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Monday blasted Iran for seeking to destabilize the country “through its support” for a range of separatists and rebels, a repeat of accusations that he has consistently and explicitly been leveling against Tehran for quite literally years. In February 2013 Sana'a announced that it had intercepted an Iranian vessel trying to smuggle explosives and surface-to-air missiles into Yemen, prompting Hadi to accuse the Iranians of trying to directly assist Shiite rebels fighting in the country's north. The charges have been widely echoed by other Gulf countries. In March of that year Saudi Arabia announced that it had arrested 18 people on charges of spying on behalf of Iran. In May Bahrain blasted the Islamic Republic for "flagrant interference" in its affairs. The renewed expressions of concern come amid increasing analyst recognition that the region has fractured and hardened into three regional blocs, with an Iranian-led camp aligned opposite a group comprised of the U.S.'s traditional regional allies, and both aligned opposite a radical Sunni alliance anchored at various times by Turkey, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turks, for their part, have also within the last week accused Iran of having infiltrated the Turkish government. One English-language Turkish outlet bluntly opened its coverage of the incident by conveying comments from Ali Fuat Yilmazer, a former chief of the Istanbul Police Department's intelligence unit, claiming that the 'Iran-linked notorious terrorist organization Tawhid-Salam has penetrated deep into the Turkish government in what amounts to international espionage.'
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