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Iran and the World
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, in front of pictures of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, before Friday prayers at Tehran University on Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. (AP)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, in front of pictures of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, before Friday prayers at Tehran University on Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. (AP)

President Obama, before the United Nations General Assembly and the world today, talking about the world’s challenges and how the United States cannot solve them alone.

In the middle of those challenges — and very soon at the center of six-party talks including the United States and, for the first time, the Obama administration — Iran and its nuclear program.

Can the Obama White House succeed where others have failed in rallying the world to cut Iran off from the path to nuclear weapons?

This hour, On Point: On and offstage at the UN — diplomacy, threats, and tackling the challenge of Iran.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us in our studio is David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times and author of “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power.”  You can read an excerpt here.

From New York, we’re joined by Gary Sick, senior scholar and professor of Middle East Politics at Columbia University. He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and was principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. He’s author of “All Fall Down: America’s Tragic Encounter With Iran” and “October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan.” He blogs at Gary’s Choices.

And from Berlin, we’re joined by Constanze Stelzenmuller, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She is former defense and international security editor at the German weekly Die Zeit.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Cory

    The advancement of science around the world is inexorable. More and more nations are going to develop atomic power, some we like and some we don’t. We’re going to have to find a better way to deal with this than unilaterally picking and choosing who can develop atomic power. Are we really ready to back this up? I think North Korea proves we are not. Is Iran’s leadership any more outside the mainstream than that of North Korea?

  • Lilya Lopekha

    Gary Sick, senior scholar and professor of Middle East Politics at Columbia University.

    This guy has always been on the wrong side of the issues during the last 200 years. Enough of Fair/Balanced shows, OnPoint!!!

    Where is Ramsey Clark when the subject is US Foreign Policy? Why can’t you bring poeople who did not dare profiting from wars and security.

    Can’t we have shows on a Fact/Issue without giving voice to the Liars!!!

    Please invite Architect Richard Gage.

  • Todd

    What about the intelligence aspect? Where is the hard evidence that Iran is actually developing a bomb? Is this just another Chicken Little scenario like we had with Saddam Hussein and WMDs? An excuse to wage yet another war in the Middle East without a justified cause? Iran-USA is sounding more and more like a repeat of Iraq-USA. Guess we can expect another false “yellow-cake” memo to emerge any day now, huh?

  • David White

    Why do we have to treat Amadinajab with such seriousness and respectability when he says outrageous things like denying the holocaust. What if the State Department was a little dismissive and maybe patronizing and say “Mr. Amadinajab just marginalizes himself when he makes statements like this. We have a great deal of respect for the intelligence and integrity of Iranians. Irresponsible statements like this don’t reflect the true opinion of the Iranian Street.”

    A question: Do we still provide substantial material aid to Israel?

    Thank you.

  • Todd

    The political unrest in Iran isn’t even organic; it’s a blatant destabilization campaign instigated by the CIA to effect a regime change. They did the same thing back in 1953 when they overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. History is merely repeating itself. Why isn’t On Point and its guests addressing this fact?

  • Don Neilson

    When will Americans wise up and s realize they are fighting Israel’s wars

    Slaughtering its young people in Iraq & Afganistan for the most unreasonable people on the face of the earth-Israelis

  • brianna

    What if Iran has freedom of speech?

    Is there any evidence that Ahmedinejad broke any international law by speaking about anything he wants.

    So why do we care about Iran and what he says about pre World War history in Europe.

    Who the hell cares about he denies holocaust or genocide in Rwanda. Why Why Why we hate Iran?

    Is it because our Masters in Tel Aviv say so?

    Gary Sick sickens me!

  • Putney Swope

    Gee Don I have to say your one dimensional take on this says more about your ideology and little else.

    I challenge people like you to discuss this without being antisemitic. Can you be critical of Israel without calling all Israelis “the most unreasonable people on the face of the earth” of course if one is a bigot then that is the lens with which they view the world. If this is the case, well there is not point, is there.

  • Putney Swope

    Oh boy, here we go the bigot brigade is out in full force.

  • Lilya Lopekha

    We have to get Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod out of the White House.

    Four months ago, Progressive (Peace) Movement was to meet with Obama about Foreign Policy and Where is the Change.

    Obama wanted to meet with the group alone, the group insisted to meet with him alone, but Emanuel and Axelrod just did not allow the meeting without their own presence.

    Emanuel is Israel’s Mole in the White House, controlling every appointment and the continuation of Bush’s corrupt foreign policy.

  • N.J.

    Anyone who knows anything about the history of Iran knows that Iran wants nuclear weapons for the same reason Israel does. Iran has not attacked a neighboring nation since the early 18th Century and this was because the Iranian Shi’ites were under political repression by the Sunni Caliphate that controlled the Muslim world. The Turko-Iranian war resulted in a military impasse, so the political solution was to allow the Iranians religious freedom of worship as long as they would accept being politically ruled by the Caliphate in Istanbul.After the fall of the Caliphate, Iran fell under the control of either the British or the United States.

    The current political situation in Iran is the first time that the Iranians have had a government that is truly free of some form of external control or influence and they intend to keep that at least.

    Israel has a greater history of attac-ing its neighbors, on real or trumped up charges of “pre-emptive” strikes.

    When the Iranian government says “Give up your talk of regime change” they mean exactly that. The Iranians said this to George Bush. Stop threatening to overthrow our government and we will stop even thinking about making nuclear weapons.

    The only means by which we can guess the future actions of any nation, including Iran, is to look at their past. The same group of people who were the real rulers Iran during the Turko-Iranian War, the mullahs and ayatollahs, rule it today. The period of the Pahlevi Dynasty was an anomaly in Iranian history caused by a military coup immediately after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the loss of the central control of the Caliphate. While there was a shah in Iran during the Caliphate, he was generally subservient to the Caliph of the Ottoman Empire. When the courts failed to resolve a political or even a religious case in Iran, they were booted up to the courts in Istanbul for a decision.

    Americans and especially American politicians would do well to study Iranian History before developing policy and make certain that the historian they are relying on for advice does not happen to be an Iranian exile.

    There is nothing more that the Iranians and the current Iranian government wants than to be left alone to live the way they want to. They are a Shi’ite minority swimming in a Sunni Sea. For more than a millenium they have lived that way. A minority nation surrounded by nations that viewed them as heretics.

  • Lilya Lopekha

    Let’s leave Israel alone in the Nuclear Weapons area.

    God has chosen Isreli’s to be the only Nuclear power in the Middle East. To verify this claim, please look up the definition of “chosen” in Websters.

    A cool Tel Aviv joke for Obama’s foreign policy team.

  • fouad sayegh

    In response to N.J., I have to say that I am in agreement on the question of why Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. I believe that becoming a nuclear power on a regional scale is an insurance policy that the Iranians desperately need specifically against the possibility of a radical sunni regime in Pakistan. This is an aspect of the crisis that is never discussed , even by the experts. It is insane to think that Iran’s nuclear objectives center on Israel and the West. They are not so stupid as to be oblivious to the fact that they stand no chance , in nuclear terms , against the U.S. and even Israel alone. I wish some of the “experts” would enlighten us on this aspect of the problem.

  • Putney Swope

    I see the producers are letting all the anti-Semites have free range today

  • Todd

    “I see the producers are letting all the anti-Semites have free range today” Posted by Putney Swope

    And I see the producers are also letting you whine ad nauseum, as usual. Legitimate questioning of Israeli policy is not anti-Semitic. Just as it is not racist to question Obama’s policies. Putney, not everyone prefers to be blindly led around by the nose; but, perhaps, those who do (such as yourself) should remain mute as well as blind.

  • Putney Swope

    There is a difference between having critical ideas on the Israeli government and making absurd comments about Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. Or saying that Slaughtering its young people in Iraq & Afghanistan for the most unreasonable people on the face of the earth-Israelis

    This kind of comment is just plain dumb.

    Todd I don’t care what you think of me, I will say what I want and when I want. You don’t like it, to bad.

    I find the most of the comments to be offensive and thinly veiled attacks. Being critical is one thing, being a jerk is another. Ranting on about Rahm Emanuel and Israel all the time and calling him a spy for Israel is just absurd.

    You seem to think by insulting me your gaining points with the anti Israel crowd who uses every show to make a comment on the subject no matter what. Oh the one exception is the show on dogs yesterday.

    For the record, I don’t Rahm Emanuel but not because he happens to be Jewish.

  • Putney Swope

    For the record, I don’t like Rahm Emanuel but not because he happens to be Jewish.

    They could use an edit button on this forum.

  • Putney Swope

    What is interesting is how not one person posting here is critical of the oppressive regime in Iran. Not one. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a despot, if you support this man you support his ideas.

    It seems most are going to tie all the bad crap going on in the Middle East to Israel. Which shows how one dimensional people are and how uneducated they are with the exception with N.J. and fouad sayegh.

  • wilhemina

    We should appoint some muslim brothers and sisters to posts that control and execute our foreign policy and also the financial rules of the game.

    Muslims don’t believe in charging interest and making unfair amounts of money by playing with other people’s money.

    Religiously, they are also against starting wars and killing innocent people for financial and territorial gains.

  • Alex

    “Religiously, they are also against starting wars and killing innocent people for financial and territorial gains.”

    Hmm… (expressing skeptisim). Just need to be sure we don’t publish certain cartoons.

  • Cory

    Yup… It’s all Israel’s fault. (whatever!) I’d blame oil and imperialism before I’d blame Israel.

  • Alex

    “Muslims don’t believe in charging interest and making unfair amounts of money by playing with other people’s money.”

    There are other ways to structure finance transactions to make profit without charging interest. I am not going to get into it now, but islamic lenders don’t work for free, believe me.

  • wilhemina

    Alex…..speaking of cartoons

    Don’t forget….the Danish Cartoons incident was a provocation by Daniel Pipes.

    Don’t forget….The Muslims were and still are were getting daily dosage of bombings each day and every day in a multiple countries around the planet….from Somalia to Afghanistan.

    Don’t forget, just “one” angry was overtaken by the feelings of Revenge and Religious outrage.

    How far you can push them around and don’t expect anybody to push you back. Please, get real.

  • dianna g

    Wait a minute…. I found the Daniel Pipes connection:

    There are other caveats that need to be stated: The Muslim world has been under assault from western, Christian crusaders for a thousand years. We’ve colonized and despoiled their lands. Many in America regard their oil as rightfully ours — an underlying if not complete explanation for George Bush’s war of conquest. We’ve carved up the Middle East, overthrown democracies (pre-Shah Iran, for example), and fostered despots to suit the West’s imperial whims. And we wonder why THEY don’t like us, and why THEY take insults from us so seriously.

    So, let’s look at the guy who started this whole cartoon escapade. He’s Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper. In all of the Lexis-Nexis database of stories from the American media on the Mohammed cartoons, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Rose is a close confederate of arch-Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, there is almost no context at all about Rose’s newspaper. On a brief mention in the Washington Post gave a hint at a fact desperately needed to understand the situation. The Post described the affair as “a calculated insult … by a right-wing newspaper in a country where bigotry toward the minority Muslim population is a major, if frequently unacknowledged, problem.”

    How bad is Pipes? He wants the utter military obliteration of the Palestinians; indeed, from the Muslim world, his racism is about as blatant as that of the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pipes’ frequent outbursts of racism — designed to toss gasoline on the neo-cons’ lust for a wholesale conflict of cultures — earned him a Bush nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think tank. Rose came to America to commune with Pipes in 2004, and it was after that meeting the cartoon gambit materialized.

    It’s also worth noting that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrapped himself in protestations about freedom of speech, and that’s commendable. But he is one of Bush’s few fans in Europe, steeped in the we-versus-them rhetoric, and having sent troops to the Iraqi Crusade.

  • Alex

    I don’t know. Muslims were at each other’s throats as soon as Muhammad died in the 7th Century. Their peace loving credentials throughout history have been less than stellar. I guess, I agree that Iran specifically has not attacked other countries in a great while.

  • wilhemina

    Alex

    You are piece work, but we love you.

    We hope one day you educate yourself in history, tolerance, peace and love.

    Have a wonderful day.

  • Alex

    “We hope one day you educate yourself in history, tolerance, peace and love.”

    Fine. I’ll start by declining to pick this fight.

  • Potter

    To NJ and Fouad in particular regarding Iran. In general I would agree with you but since the Iranian elections in June, and even before that, we have seen more of the true character of the present leadership which is not to be trusted. Why does Ahmadinejad, who many see as illegitimate, continue to make threats against Israel, and to ice the cake, punch all Jews in the belly with his ( apparently internally tolerated) Holocaust denial? Why, if Iran’s nuclear program is not about making nuclear weapons, as they say, do they not allow inspections? At this point I don’t even trust that if they did allow inspections that it they would be totally open and honest. And if they want weapons for deterrence (understandable but in the wrong direction vis a vis non-proliferation) why wouldn’t they be open about it? (MAD) And why wouldn’t the capability ( as suggested on the program) be a better option than actually having weapons? The point is there is no trust in this regime, there is no good will coming from it.

    That said- Israel should come clean about it’s nuclear weapons and allow inspections. Iranians point to Israel’s exceptionalism and with good cause.

    Formally ending the Israeli Palestinian conflict would be a big plus; it removes the rationale for the Iranian’s threat to Israel (and also support of jihadists).

    As Obama said, to be part of the international community, means responsibilities.
    If nations ( regimes, governments) insist on being outlaws to international law they should feel some pain.

  • Louise

    I give President Obama credit for at least trying to start a peaceful dialogue with Iran. Unfortunately the goverment in Teheran has decided to ignore President Obama’s peace overtures. Iran is developing the the technology to build nuclear bombs, but the notion that Iran will launch missles at Israel in a surprise attack is not realistic. That would be suicidal on Iran’s part.

  • Todd

    “They could use an edit button on this forum.” Posted by Putney Swope

    Finally, a point we can agree on!

  • david

    Watching Iran’s little military parade and all the goose-stepping soldiers pass by the little man on the stage,reminds me of another little crazy man and his goose-stepping soldiers. This little man was working towards a nuclear bomb. Can you imagine what he would have done if he had been able to produce one? He also hated the Jewish people and tried his best to annihilate them, millions. Will history repeat itself? The only way evil will triumph is for good people to sit around and do nothing. I hope the Iranian people will soon get a belly full of this oppressive ideology.

  • B.G.

    Lilya Lopekha is another leftist loony on the side of every sick muredering dictator.

    We need to listen to the people of Iran who want fair elections and not to evil posters in the pay of that regime.

  • millard-fillmore

    Those who are supportive of Holocaust deniers, I bet they also deny the native-American genocide. Gotta have one yardstick (of denying genocide), right? ;)

    *****

    “We should appoint some muslim brothers and sisters to posts that control and execute our foreign policy and also the financial rules of the game.”

    Yes, yes. Why just foreign policy? Why not Secretary of State and other posts in the Cabinet? Why not the entire Cabinet? Let’s keep the “us vs. them” divide alive.

    ****

    “Muslims don’t believe in charging interest and making unfair amounts of money by playing with other people’s money.”


    Yes, nothing works like stereotyping a billion Muslims – all of whom share the above mentioned belief with no exceptions whatsoever! Amazing!!!

    *****

    “Religiously, they are also against starting wars and killing innocent people for financial and territorial gains.”

    Agreed. They start wars and kill innocents in the name of Allah and to teach the infidels a lesson. Or, if it’s Shia-vs-Sunni, then no problem blowing each other up.

  • Ann-Marie

    David,

    nobody is standing in your way. Leave the country, join Israel’s army, and attack Iran. The people of Iran will greet you as liberators. We promise.

    There is a holocaust going on right now in Darfur, what
    have you done lately to help out in that situation? What has the U.S. done? Instead of helping populations that are truly suffering right now, we spend all our energy towards this game being played by Israel and Iran. Why get our hands dirty taking care of real problems?

    —————–
    Watching Iran’s little military parade and all the goose-stepping soldiers pass by the little man on the stage,reminds me of another little crazy man and his goose-stepping soldiers. This little man was working towards a nuclear bomb. Can you imagine what he would have done if he had been able to produce one? He also hated the Jewish people and tried his best to annihilate them, millions. Will history repeat itself? The only way evil will triumph is for good people to sit around and do nothing. I hope the Iranian people will soon get a belly full of this oppressive ideology.
    Posted by david,

  • Potter

    Ann-Marie- “we spend all our energy towards this game being played by Israel and Iran. Why get our hands dirty taking care of real problems?”

    Those are the world’s intractable problems not just ours. It’s not either or, nor is either simple as your cynicism indicates. Every nation looks at it’s own interest first. The difficulties are finding that space where it is understood that we are all in this. Every “problem” has it’s effect on the whole- including Israel Iran and Darfur. On the world stage Israel and Iran stand out because they can do the most harm to everyone’s well-being. That does not make Darfur less important on a political and humanitarian level. I could be so smarmy and say you should go to Darfur if you feel so strongly and help out.

  • millard-fillmore

    There is a holocaust going on right now in Darfur, what
    have you done lately to help out in that situation? What has the U.S. done?

    *****

    Ann-Marie, what, according to you, are the roots of this holocaust going on in Darfur, who is responsible for it and why?

    And why should the US intervene in the affairs of another country wrt Darfur? Didn’t we learn from Iraq? In your opinion, should the US continue to play the big brother in the world?

  • Ann-Marie

    Potter wrote: On the world stage Israel and Iran stand out because they can do the most harm to everyone’s well-being.
    ————————-

    Potter, that is just not true. What happens in Israel and Iran has as much affect on our lives as what happens in Darfur, or China. Which is to say as much as we CHOOSE to have it affect our lives. People are simply obsessed with Israel and Iran because we have a large population of immigrants from those countries. Were it reversed, Darfur would be viewed as a critical problem that could bring the whole world to it’s knees. It’s all about the ability to lobby for a country and how much propaganda you get across in the media. Just like Iraq was sold to us as a threat to our daily lives. And people believed it.

    Millard-fillmore and Potter,

    I simply think it’s hypocritical to claim that one is concerned about some theoretical war between Israel and Iran while one ignores real wars in the world. If we are motivated to interfere in the affairs of other countries due to concern for human life then the life of a person from Darfur should be just as valuable to us as the life of someone from Iran or Israel. You either care about all countries equally or be honest and say that our foreign policy is driven by the selfish interests of our immigrant communities. Why do we treat Cuba differently than we do China, because of the feeling of Cuba-Americans. Chinese-Americans aren’t as vocal and as organized so we ignore their feelings about how to engage with China. Even though both China and Cuba have horrible human-rights violations.

    I think we as a nation have enough problems to deal with and should focus on rebuilding our country. Our military should be used ONLY to protect our country not to be loaned out as hired guns to the world. Our mission should be to help in any global humanitarian crisis that we are capable of. Otherwise, we need to stay out of the affairs of ALL other countries.

  • Potter

    Ann- Marie- Our foreign policy is not run by Iranian Americans, nor Israeli’s ( or Jews). We focus on Israel and Iran because it’s in our national interest; they are making serious threats and the goal is to avert war with an exchange of missiles as well as nuclear proliferation ( especially in the region). As well, we still run on oil… a reality check for you.

    This is not “theoretical”.

    As for humanitarian crises they often come with war and political issues to solve, including Darfur, China, Cuba. If the UN worked better perhaps we would not feel the need to go it alone-we waited a long time to intervene in the Balkan crisis; we waited for the Europeans to do something. With regard to Iraq-that unnecessary war- we should go after our own war criminals, starting at the top with our previous president and VP. We made Saddam’s humanitarian crisis in Iraq much worse going after WMD’s that were not there.

  • millard-fillmore

    “..we should go after our own war criminals, starting at the top with our previous president and VP.”

    ****

    Yes, Potter. And don’t forget the Democrats and Republicans in the Congress who voted for the Iraq war. No need to exculpate them from the criminal proceedings, unless it’s some version of partisan justice that one is interested in.

    I find it amazing how people simply forget – or ignore – that without those ethically challenged people in the Congress, Iraq war wouldn’t have happened.

    BTW Potter, have you talked to your Rep(s) and Senator(s) and asked their views on this issue of starting criminal investigations regarding Iraq war? Let us know what their position is, and whether you’ll still continue to vote for them in the future if they don’t agree with your strong sense of justice.

  • Potter

    Millard ( if I may),

    Our representative ( Jim McGovern) hears from us and he is a stand-out ( and speaks out) in the Congress. He was against the war and he is for and against everything (practically) that we feel he should be. We send him dollars to, as well as emails, to thank him and support him. It’s very easy to make your views known to your reps and senators, if you take the time. And it apparently means something.

    Et tu?

  • millard-fillmore

    Potter,

    Good for you. Is McGovern in favor of starting criminal investigations of Iraq war? Did he support or co-sponsor Kucinich’s impeachment article against Cheney?

    Unfortunately, while my Rep (Capuano) did vote against Iraq war resolution, he gave an evasive answer to my email when it came to the issue of investigating the Iraq war. He hasn’t got my vote after that.

    And Kerry hasn’t even got my vote once as he voted ‘Yea’ on the Iraq war resolution. I just don’t see how a strong anti-war position can be consistent with voting for someone who either voted for the war, or takes no action.

  • millard-fillmore

    Potter,

    I also keep track of votes in the Congress by my Rep and Senators through Megavote (http://www.congress.org/congressorg/megavote/) – it’s easy to see what votes are coming up and find out how my representatives voted on issues that matter to me.

  • millard-fillmore

    “It’s very easy to make your views known to your reps and senators, if you take the time. And it apparently means something.”

    Agreed.

    I have a feeling many people are happy just having intellectual discussions and taking a high moral ground (true of some of my friends) but not really keen on calling or emailing their representatives and letting them know their views which they feel so strongly about. It’d be interesting to take a poll of readers and commenters at HuffingtonPost, On Point and other progressive forums and see how many walk their talk. :)

  • Potter

    Back to Iran- What happened to Ann-Marie and her ideas that amount to nuclear proliferation, Iran, war between Israel and Iran being “theoretical” ? Perhaps she was listening to the latest news: the just disclosed secret facility Iran is building near Qum.

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