Saul Singer at PostGlobal

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer, a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, is co-author of the forthcoming book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Middle East Quarterly, Moment, the New Leader, and (an Israeli/Palestinian e-zine). Before moving to Israel in 1994, he served as an adviser in the United States Congress to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Banking Committees. He is also on Twitter. Close.

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post. more »

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Iran Archives

December 14, 2007 8:01 AM

Bureaucratic Mutiny May Backfire

Readers of this blog may have noticed that Yossi Melman and I, though we are both from Israel, often don't agree. But in this case, I would refer readers to Yossi's excellent post on the new US National Intelligence Estimate. I would only add that an "intelligence" report should not be held immune from scrutiny by the light of an even higher authority: common sense.

One does not need satellites, defectors, and spies to determine that Iran remains, as the same U.S. intelligence community testified in January, "determined to develop nuclear weapons - despite its international obligations and international pressure. It is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations than reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution."

Even if one assumes that the discovery that Iran suspended its "military" nuclear program in 2003 is valid, this should not affect the consensus that U.S. intelligence judgment stated above. Nothing substantial has changed in Iran's behavior; what is new is the American national security system's decision to arbitrarily distinguish between Iran's "civilian" efforts to enrich uranium and the other two components of its bomb program: building missiles and assembling a weapon.

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June 3, 2008 11:10 AM

Iran the Pyromaniac

What should Olmert tell Bush when they meet on Wednesday?

Rarely has the combined unpopularity -- in their respective countries if not on each other’s soil -- of an Israeli prime minister and an American president been so great. But it would be a mistake to write off this week’s Olmert-Bush meeting as without potential, even if it is likely to be without result.

Olmert should make this meeting matter by proposing a change of direction that could outlive both leaders’ remaining tenure in office. Olmert points out a rather unavoidable truth: the prospects for Bush’s two-state vision for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as his vision of more democratic and secure region, depend on preventing the current Iranian regime from becoming a nuclear power.

The U.S. has been linking Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy to Iran, but in the wrong direction. Sure, solving the conflict would be a blow to Iran, but that’s a bit like saying putting out one fire is a blow to a pyromaniac.

Ultimately, the only way to stop a rash of fires is to stop the pyromaniac. Plus, it’s near impossible to put out a particular fire if, on the other side of the burning building, the pyromaniac is busy pouring fuel on the flames.

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August 29, 2008 2:12 PM

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Will Challenge An Obama White House

The Current Discussion: In their campaign, should Barack Obama and running mate Joseph Biden advocate a clean break in U.S. foreign policy, or should they rely on continuity and experience?

The Democrats should not be aiming for continuity or a clean break in American foreign policy but for a third option: synthesis.

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April 6, 2009 7:37 AM

Obama Scores A Two (For Showing Up)

The Current Discussion: Rate Obama's first performance on the international stage on a scale of 1-10, and tell us why you think so.

President Barack Obama is not only a lawyer, but edited the Harvard Law Review and is more than familiar with constitutional law. So it is difficult for me to fathom how, as the representative and leader of the American people, he could bow to any king, much less a despotic one like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. But that's exactly what he did.

This is not "only" a matter of protocol or national honor. It is emblematic of a syndrome that befell the U.S. president with the least successful foreign policy in modern times, Jimmy Carter. Carter was notorious for abandoning American allies, such as the certainly unsavory Shah of Iran, and being soft on adversaries, such as the Soviet Union. The results were disastrous, as implicitly acknowledged by Carter's own attempt to toughen up after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In the Talmud it says, "All who are compassionate to the cruel in the end are cruel to the compassionate." Kowtowing to despots is not just unseemly, it is betrayal of fundamental values, such as the pursuit of human rights. But, as in the case of the Obama's obsequious new year's wishes to the "Islamic Republic of Iran" and not just to the Iranian people, it is likely to invite aggression by America's enemies.

In theory, these sorts of gestures could be combined with toughness, in the spirit of Obama's inaugural statement calling on other countries, such as Iran, to "unclench" their fist. Carrots can be combined with sticks. But where are the sticks? Where is the American campaign to galvanize Europe into toughening sanctions on Iran? Without such a campaign, the chances of diplomacy succeeding fall to zero.

Obama was supposed to show us the effectiveness of "soft power," as opposed to the Bush's supposedly less sophisticated approach. I agree that Bush's approach was lacking, but will Obama's be more effective? Not if it's all "soft" and no "power." Diplomacy is not an objective but a means to one. Obama has the potential to wield non-military measures, such as diplomacy and sanctions, much more effectively than Bush did in the Iranian case. But if that potential is not exercised, the result will be a continuation of the Bush failure to thwart Iran's nuclear campaign.

Why not start with something basic, like asking the Europeans to stop subsidizing trade with Iran with export credits? So far, Obama's outstretched hand has been met with verbal slaps from Tehran. This trend will continue and worsen until the mullahs can see that there will be consequences for their actions.

My score for Obama at the summit: 2 (for showing up).

May 12, 2009 5:02 PM

Opportunity in Iranian Nuclear Crisis

The Current Discussion: Are Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama on a collision course over Iran and the Palestinian problem? What would be the consequences of a breach between the United States and Israel?

This isn't the collision course that people think. Conventional wisdom has it that Obama wants to move on the Palestinians and Netanyahu wants to deal with Iran, so it will be difficult to come to agreement. In reality, this is not a bad "dispute" to have because it is, in theory, easily reconcilable. The solution is to move on both fronts, as both leaders want to do.

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June 17, 2009 10:28 AM

Side With the People Of Iran

The Current Discussion: Are we witnessing a pro-regime coup in Iran? What should the world do in response? How will the election aftermath affect Iran's projection of power into the Middle East?

We are seeing the end of the mullah-ocracy in Iran -- the best outcome for both Iran and the world. While the West is (perhaps understandably) focused on the regime's nuclear buildup and support for terrorism, the ultimate source of Iran's problem is the nature of the regime itself, not its particular ambitions and tactics. If this regime falls, the Iranian people will gain their freedom, the world will be a much safer place, the chances for Mideast peace will increase enormously -- and all at the same time.

Attempts to address the nuclear and terror issues while leaving the regime in place are less effective and more risky. The North Korean experience shows the danger of being fooled into a deal that is quickly violated and circumvented. Similarly, a military strike might prove a temporary setback to the regime's nuclear program while triggering an escalation in Iranian aggression.

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June 24, 2009 11:19 AM

Refuse to Recognize Ahmadinejad's Government

The Current Discussion: Are we witnessing a pro-regime coup in Iran? What should the world do in response? How will the election aftermath affect Iran's projection of power into the Middle East?

The best and only serious way to help the protesters is for the United States and Europe to refuse to recognize a new Ahmadinejad-led government in Iran. Read Bret Stephen's column on his interview with Mohsen Kadivar, a prominent Shiite cleric in exile. Kadivar was a university colleague of the opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi. With Mousavi's help, Kadivar was released after 18 months in prison in 1999.

"There are two interpretations of Islam. The aggressive Islam of Ahmadinejad, or the mercy Islam of Mousavi," Kadivar says. Stephens writes that, "Mr. Kadivar praises President Obama's 'no meddling' stance so far, but insists the president not recognize Mr. Ahmadinejad's government once its second term officially begins in August."

Obama should start saying now that the U.S. will not recognize a government that has stolen an election with brute force. This is the approach that was successfully taken by the West in the case of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. While it is true that the U.S. does not consistently refuse to recognize dictatorships, the question is which precedent to follow: the many cases where the democracies have sided with popular opposition to illegitimate governments (Ukraine, South Africa, Philippines, Nicaragua, etc), or the other times when they have turned a blind eye toward oppressive rulers.

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