Sunday, October 21, 2012

Obama taps New York Times for Romney Debate Prep - Iran

President Obama has added another debate partner to help him prepare for the final presidential debate on Monday, primarily on issues relating to Iran's nuclear program. [The final debate will focus on foreign policy.] The New York Times on Saturday joined forces with the President, walking with him arm in arm and helping him spew out his latest talking points in an effort to marginalize criticism of his policies on Iran, while trying to put Mitt Romney on the defensive.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate, congressman Paul Ryan, has noted on several occasions that Mr. Obama, from the onset of his Presidency, deliberately dragged his feet on imposing stiff sanctions on Iran. And, the strong sanctions, that have been imposed in recent months, Mr. Ryan noted, have come only as a result of pressure from congress.

[A couple of examples of Obama's foot dragging on Iran sanctions can be gleaned here and here. Hopefully, I'll get around to writing a more comprehensive post on Obama's foot dragging on Iranian sanctions and his policy of appeasement with Iran.]

Obama's inability to get Russia to play along with his fictional "reset button" has also played a role in the painfully slow sanctions process: Bear in mind what then-Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said in a statement after meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in November of 2010.

Medvedev issued a statement, saying "Russia seeks to improve its political, economic and even military ties with Iran."

He added that "following the" adoption of the UN "sanctions resolution" certain countries "sought to intensify sanctions against Iran, to which Russia strongly opposed and took stances against it."

Medvedev also proposed that Russia and Iran adopt a joint stance in the international forums.

Likewise, Ahmadinejad issued a statement saying, "The era of bullying and sanctions is over. “[We] believe that in the current global conditions, if Iran and Russia stand together, the enemies will fail in their plots against Iran, Russia and the region."

And indeed, the Obama administration, on several occasions, admitted that it could not get Russia to agree on tightening U.N. sanctions on Iran.

But, Obama's new prep partner, the New York Times, is now offering its readers some of Obama's latest talking points on Iran. The talking points appear to be contradictory. However, the ultimate goal of the New York Times is to put Romney on the defensive during Monday's debate - and that's all that really matters.

The Times reports that
"The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials..."
Which raises the question: If the Obama administration and the Iranian regime have agreed to talk with one another, why haven't they begun the process? Who's stopping them?

Don't worry, the Times takes care of that dilemma.
"Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating."
Nice and smooth... Good job, New York Times!

The Times' debate prep against Romney continues:
News of the agreement — a result of intense, SECRET exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.
SECRET exchanges? Are you kidding?

These exchanges have been well-known for quite some time.

From the Seattle Times - March 2009:
The Obama administration is leaning toward making a major diplomatic overture to Iran before the country's presidential elections in June, possibly in the form of a letter from President Obama to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to two senior European diplomats who have met in recent weeks with key State Department officials.

The letter would be aimed at initiating talks over the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's role in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity...

Earlier this week, State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters: "We have offered our hand to the government of Iran, and we hope to be able to engage this government on a whole range of issues...."

US officials have already begun testing the waters of engagement. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently announced that Iran would be invited to an upcoming multinational conference on Afghanistan, and Iranian officials have reportedly signaled that they will consider attending.

However, some European officials have long warned that a major gesture toward Iran before the June presidential election risks influencing its outcome, perhaps improving the chances of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, running for re-election.
No problem, Obama would never meddle in Iran's internal affairs - right? Just ask Obama..., and the Iranian's who protested the election results in Iran.

Likewise, the Washington Times reported in June of 2009 that, prior to the disputed presidential election in Iran, "the Obama administration sent a letter to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself...

"The letter was sent between May 4 and May 10 and laid out the prospect of “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations” and a resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program...

"The letter was given to the Iranian Foreign Ministry by a representative of the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran...

"Asked about the letter, the Swiss ambassador to Washington, Urs Ziswiller, told The Times, 'I cannot comment on that.' "...

Obama also sent a second letter to Khamenei - in the beginning of 2012 or the end of 2011- in which he called for direct talks with the Iranian regime.

Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahhari said that President Obama, in the second letter to Khamenei, "announced readiness for negotiation" and talked about facilitating friendship with the Iranian regime.

Iranian lawmaker Hojjatoleslam Hossein Ebrahimi said that Obama, in his letter, "mentioned cooperation and negotiation... and stated... that [the US] will not take any hostile action against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Ebrahimi asserted that, “Obama’s letter indicates that the United States has become afraid of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s might..., and therefore, he has softened his tone when speaking about the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Mr. Ebrahimi added that the Swiss ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, who delivered the second letter to Khamenei, "quoted the US president as saying 'we recognize your nuclear rights' ".

Mr. Ebrahimi also said that the Swiss ambassador had relayed a message from Obama saying: "I didn't want to impose sanctions on your central bank but I had no options but to approve it since a Congress majority had approved the decision."

Contrary to the Time's assertion, these exchanges, between Obama and the Iranian regime, were not a secret, thanks to the Iranians who were kind enough to spill the beans.....

The New York Times, in its debate prep, and, as part of its efforts to put Mitt Romney on the defensive, goes on to say that
News of the agreement has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions... It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran...
However, the New York Times is acutely aware that, while news of an agreement between Obama and the Mullahs may put Romney on the defensive during the debate and might help Obama garner some additional votes, it could also turn off many voters who believe that, without a prior commitment from the Mullahs to dismantle their nuclear program, talking with Iran would be counterproductive. Hence, although the Times stated at the onset that, "The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials...", it later issued the following contradictory statement from White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor:
“It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections," said Vietor. He added, however, that the administration was open to such talks, and has “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”...
And thus, the New York Times and Obama, working in unison,  managed to cover all of the contradictory angles in one swoop, without missing a single beat!

Clearly Obama has an excellent debate partner in the New York Times; a debate partner with similar rhetorical skills.

Now, if he could only get the Grey Lady to MODERATE the debate, THAT would be the icing on the cake!