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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Mitt Romney will be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Israeli opposition party leaders. In doing so, he’s playing a dangerous game. American Jews don’t vote solely or even mostly on Israel; like most Americans, their main concerns tend to be domestic. And it may have the unintended consequence of encouraging the Iranians to rattle their sabers again. Iranian leaders may want to keep ‘the devil they know’ – President Obama, whom some (erroneously in my view) see as weak on Iran after he did not actively support the opposition protests in 2009. If so, they can hurt Romney’s campaign by ramping up their war rhetoric, making him look like he has stepped into something he doesn’t understand and causing a bigger problem. As an added bonus, it’s also good for the Iranians politically to be talking about something other than their own flagging economy.

The vast majority of Americans still remember the Bush Administration’s handling of America’s role in the world; most don’t want Romney emulating the Bush model. Romney cannot afford to look ham-handed in dealing with the Middle East. He will need an excellent performance to justify this trip; right now, it appears to be a whole lot of risk for not much reward.

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The recent arrest of a man in Texas on charges of conspiring with Iranian intelligence to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. is mildly surprising in that if true it’s a bold, if ill-advised, plot. But it should not surprise anyone that the ambassador would be a target. Americans are often fixated on our own international rivalries. We generally think about the Iranians vis-a-vis us. The Iranians, however, view their main regional rivalry as Saudi Arabia and vice versa. The Persians and Arabs are the main two peoples of the Gulf region. Iran is the sole state of the Persian people, while Saudi Arabia is the main Arab state in the region. (It’s a sign of American myopia that we refer to the Saudi Arabians as “Saudis”. They’re Arabs or Arabian in their own eyes. Saudi refers to their ruling dynasty, the House of Saud. Don’t mistake the rulers for the people.). The two great Gulf powers look across the water and see their real opposition.

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