Friday, November 21, 2008

Talking with Iran

Howard LaFranchi of The Christian Science Monitor mulls over events that are or will be driving the process towards talks with Iran. Preparation and timing are of the essence.
[...] neither close Obama advisers nor Iran experts are expecting a rush to dialogue with Tehran come Jan. 20, for a number of tactical and event-driven reasons:

• The economic crisis will consume much of the new president's attention and is likely to put off major diplomatic initiatives.

• The sinking price of oil is seen as having clipped Iran's wings, raised domestic woes for Tehran, and made negotiations somewhat less urgent.

• And, most important, Iran holds presidential elections in June, leaving the United States wary of doing anything beforehand that might be used by Iran's extremist and anti-Western forces – in particular President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – to electoral advantage.

Also interesting is the piece that appeared on Link TV dealing more particularly with President Ahmadinejad, titled Ahmadinejad: Guns N' Roses.

Mennonite Uni's in exchange with Iran

clipped from
AKRON, Pa. – A delegation from six U.S. and Canadian Mennonite universities visited Iran from Oct. 4 to 10 to explore opportunities for academic collaboration with Iranian universities.
Iranian university officials expressed particular interest in academic exchanges related to peace, justice, conflict and religion, according to several members of the delegation.
Sommer said she hopes that such exchanges can contribute to peace between Iran and the U.S. despite high tensions between governments. She noted that many Iranians fear a military attack by the U.S. or its allies, and many Americans would be afraid to travel to Iran.

"There's nothing scary about going there," she said.

The delegation's visit is part of MCC's ongoing work to build relationships between people in Iran and the West.
Iranian educators are particularly interested in fostering future interactions between Iranian and North American students. Part of the rationale is to combat harmful stereotypes between Iran and the West

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Who has money to buy weapons these days? Surprise: Israel!

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Lockheed Martin Corp, the U.S. maker of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is lobbying Israel, which has largely weathered the global financial crisis and has ample U.S. defense aid, to close a deal for the jet.

Israel is not a full partner-nation in the production of the F-35, but is among U.S. allies slated to have first pick of the radar-evading, multi-purpose planes early next decade. The F-35 could be a key Israeli bulwark against Iran and other enemies.

U.S. officials have predicted a sale to Israel may be clinched early next year. Funding for the jets, which will cost $40 million a piece, would come mainly from U.S. defense grants to Israel, which will total $30 billion between 2007 and 2017.

Israeli officials have quietly voiced reluctance to be rushed into a deal given discussions on how many Israeli technologies could be incorporated on the Lockheed planes, their delivery schedule, and pricing.

Lockheed Chief Executive Robert Stevens, in a visit to Israel on Sunday, said such concerns could be better addressed by finalizing a sale.

"The earlier one can participate in a program, the greater the amount of participation," he told reporters.

A Lockheed source said seven Israeli companies had already been contracted to contribute to the project.

Robert Trice, a Lockheed senior vice president who accompanied Stevens on the trip, said they had urged their Israeli hosts to speed up proceedings on the F-35.

Asked if Lockheed was attracted by the fact that Israel has a large budget available and has managed, so far, to avoid the fiscal crunches of the financial meltdown, Trice said: "Yes."

Stevens said Lockheed's financial prospects looked good thanks to Washington's awareness of ongoing military needs and the fact that the U.S. defense budget has been set through October 2009, with talks under way about the next fiscal year.

"Our business remains competitive, and it's healthy and it's strong," he said.

There might be some creaks in the international coalition of F-35 production partners. An early order by Italy, Trice said, was scrapped as not affordable. And Norway may see domestic political opposition to going through with the F-35, Trice said.

An Israeli defense official said Israel planned to place an order for the plane, anticipating its delivery by 2014. But he said there were also discussions in Israel on alternatives, such as buying more of the mainstay F-16 jets.

Israel's last major order of American warplanes was for 102 of the custom-built Lockheed F-16I jets. The last four of that batch are due to arrive in Israel in January, Stevens said.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland and Tova Cohen)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spurned by Bush, Iran again offers talks

Ahmadinejad says offer of talks made to Bush (and spurned by him) is still on the table for the president-elect:

Iranian President Congratulates Obama on Election Win

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written Obama a congratulatory letter following his election win. It’s the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution that an Iranian leader has congratulated the winner of an American presidential election. Obama has pledged to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions. In his letter, Ahmadinejad suggests Iran would be open to talks with the United States in accordance with previous overtures that the Bush administration ignored. Ahmadinejad also writes that he hopes “the unjust actions of the past 60 years will give way to a policy encouraging full rights for all nations, especially the oppressed nations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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