Friday, April 07, 2006

# Posted 6:22 PM by Patrick Porter  

IRAN, WHAT IF? Taylor Owen warns that belligerent diplomacy has radicalised Iran's stance when more constructive negotiations could have averted this crisis.

I am more pessimistic. While not convinced that military strikes are politically possible or strategically sound, conciliatory negotiations with this kind of regime in 2003 may have also led to aggression on the part of the theocracy, as concessions might have emboldened it.

I guess Taylor and I have different interpretations of what fundamentally drives the Iranian rulers: reactions against US policies and behaviour, or self-directed tendencies which the US can do little to appease. On the other hand, its disturbing that diplomatic alternatives apparently were not even seriously considered after Iran made an offer in 2003, at least according to an article by Gareth Porter, which is worth reading despite its misleading description of the decision makers as a 'neo-con cabal':

Iran’s offer also raised the possibility of cutting off Iran’s support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and converting Hezbollah into a purely socio-political organization, according to Leverett. That was an explicit response to Powell’s demand in late March that Iran “end its support for terrorism”.
In return, Leverett recalls, the Iranians wanted the US to address security questions, the lifting of economic sanctions and normalization of relations, including support for Iran’s integration into the global economic order.
Leverett also recalls that the Iranian offer was drafted with the blessing of all the major political players in the Iranian regime, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini.
Realists, led by Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were inclined to respond positively to the Iranian offer. Nevertheless, within a few days of its receipt, the State Department had rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer.
Open thread: what if the US had not adopted an 'absolutist' rhetoric about Iran? Were there other ways the current tensions could have been avoided?
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

I am sceptical about interpretations of state behaviour that do not make a healthy allowance for those states having objectives and strategies. These might be unrealistic, they might be poorly executed but they are there. The alternative seems to cast states into the role of sensitive drama queens.
Those familiar with Iranian history are in a better position to say whether or not there is a broad strategic pattern but it seems to me iran does have relatively consistent views about what it wants in the way of regional power. On this basis, I would want to find out more about the detail of the 2003 offer - so maybe it wasn't such a great deal. Absent this, I'd be inclined to say our present situation doesn't derive just from iran being hurt and all that the US was unreasonable.
"Destroy the Great Satan" seems like
a fairly clear statement of foreign policy, and what part of that offers a point for negotiation and 'appeasement'?

Oh, you mean, we're supposed to somehow achieve a zen moment and understand that they really meant 'we can be pals' if only you'd ...

Sorry to be snarky, but the idea that this is the fault of the US, who allowed the E3-n to proceed with the 'negotiating' to arrive at "We made fools of them all, aren't we clever." is just silly.
Is it just me or does everyone think it strikingly silly of the US to rebuke the Swiss Ambassador for relaying a potentially important negotiation opportunity? Which State Dept. muffin decided that was a good idea?
Iran’s offer also raised the possibility of cutting off Iran’s support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and converting Hezbollah into a purely socio-political organization, according to Leverett.

Sorry, Leverett has been so drastically wrong in his interpretations of what's going on in Lebanon and Syria, in his eagerness to throw Lebanon to the wolves of Syria, and in his trusting of Baby Assad every time he threatens to reform, that I just can't believe him at all, noted scholar or no.

Methinks that this "offer" would be just as false as those that Leverett had touted from Assad.
I am not an expert on Iran but it seems to me that the Iranian leaders a) believe that their brand of religion is true and needs to be spread or b) they are cynical, jaded, and selfish politicians wrapped in religious garb. If the former is true, Iran’s activities in the region are an effort to promote this brand of religion. If the second option is true, the Iranian leaders are using a belligerent foreign policy to divert attention from domestic social, economic, and political issues. Nationalism is seen as a way to channel the energy of its people into ways that suit the politicians. The US response (whether right or wrong, intentional or not) only aids this process.

I’ve outline here (http://scriberal.blogspot.com/2006/04/iran-in-nutshell.html) some options that the US and world have when it comes to dealing with Iran. All of the options come with a heavy cost and harsh consequences. If only for that reason, I would’ve liked some dialogue on the offer in 2003.
Taylor Owen warns that belligerent diplomacy has radicalized Iran's stance when more constructive negotiations could have averted this crisis.

Mr. Owen seems to be obvious to the fact that Iran is hell bent on developing nuclear weapons and has been using "diplomacy" as a delaying tactic. The current Iranian regime has seen how the United States has dealt with the last two major threats, North Korea and Iraq. North Korea was allowed to develop nuclear weapons under the asleep-at-the-wheel Clinton administration, and is still being treated with kid gloves. Iraq on the other hand, we all know what happened.

The Iranians will stop at no cost to get their membership card in the Nuclear Club now that United States is no longer a Paper Tiger.
Steve, be careful of your use of "facts". There have been lots of bad ones going around in the past few years. Iranian power is remarkably diffuse, monolithic assessments must be avoided. Scott, I agree, although I think the decision can be traced to elements in the White House. Both Powell and Armitage wanted to engage. Sahil, as a Pentagon advisor recently put it: “If the diplomatic process doesn’t work, there is no military ‘solution.’ There may be a military option, but the impact could be catastrophic.”

There should be little doubt, however, that this confrontation is about more than Iranian nuclear capability. I have a new post up on the deeper rationales for US diplomatic recalcitrance and in some circles a desired military strike (including tactical nuclear). Interested in thoughts.
Damn nuclear weapons. The Americans will have to deal with this and it will ruin the delightful sexual relationship we could have developed with the Persians. Such is life.
To answer your question, we need to see how we got to this "tension" in the first place. Iran's nuclear ambitions did not suddenly surface in the past 6 months. What has changed is US rhetoric towards Iran (or specifically, the new Iranian president). Any body with even elementary knowledge of the Iranian political system knows that the office of the presidency does not set foreign policy agenda in Iran. The head of the current negotiating team does not even talk to Ahmadinejad.
So it seems that yes, we are here at a crisis moment because two ideological governments are busy playing a game of chicken.

p.s. it's not "destroy the great satan" but "down with the great satan." and yes, i guess it's as clear of a statement of foreign policy as president Bush's we will hunt them down and smoke them out of their caves.
Gosh, Porter, are my comments starting to hurt you and you're trying to get all your friends to come in and make suave, eduacted comments to save you from the rabble?
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