Saturday, July 19, 2008

Diplomacy or a Disinformation Campaign?

“Diplomacy is not a synonym for talking. True diplomacy means structuring a set of incentives and disincentives to produce change in behavior” (Condi Rice, June 3, 2008)
Earlier this week we learned that the US is sending an envoy to be present at the European arranged negotiations with Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, the country which represents American interests in Iran. Present at the negotiating table were representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, in addition to the EU's Javier Solana.

This is a sharp departure from what has heretofore been the American position. There have been no diplomatic relations between the US and Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis, when a group of radical Islamist students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held several Americans hostage for more than a year. One of those students is now Iran's president. But there have also been some other unusual, even bizarre, events related to Iran in the past week or so. What are we to make of this?

Pajamas Media has had several reports on it, including this one by Meir Javedanfar. A key point in Javedanfar's article is found in a quote from a White House spokeswoman:
"What this does show is how serious we are when we say that we want to try to solve this diplomatically."
But is that really what they are after? Diplomacy, as defined in Condoleeza Rice's statement above, has in fact been happening for a very long time already. And a flurry of other Pajamas Media reports only add to the intrigue. Events are moving very fast.

Another of my favourite bloggers, Pat Dollard, who meticulously follows the news from the Middle East and elsewhere, has been tracking, even as far back as last fall, the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iran crisis. The crescendo began to build in his reports in the last two or three months. Witness May 1, May 22, June 3, July 7, here and here, July 8, July 9, here and here, July 10 here, here, here, and here, July 11, here, and here, July 12, here and here , July 13, here and here, July 14, here, July 15 here and here, July 16, July 17, here and here.

Although some on the right are dismayed and some on the left overjoyed at what could be interpreted as a sign of weakness and capitulation on the part of the US, perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. In the game of international politics, what happens behind the scenes is always critical and rarely surfaces in any way other than via a leak to the media, and even those may be deliberate strategies from inside the government concerned.

So, one must ask, what else will a US presence at the negotiations do for the increasingly tense showdown with Iran? There have been signs of disunity in Iran's ruling council for a while now. Israel has been playing war games with the intention of sending Iran a message. Various European countries have been actively engaged in diplomatic efforts with a number of Middle Eastern countries. The US itself was reportedly considering opening an "interest section" in Tehran, a less than full status ambassadorial appointment. After months of sanctions and isolation and increasing tensions, something is about to give.

But is America changing it's policy? I don't think so. I rather favour the interpretation of the author of this editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

Iran and US: Conflicting Signs
"It is also hard to believe that as his tenure is reaching its end, President George Bush and his administration have seriously adopted a conciliatory stance on Iran.

It may indeed be, as some analysts have argued, that the camp headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has won out over the neoconservatives led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

But it is also possible that Bush has adopted the tactic of hiding another intention. He may be willing to give the impression that he is trying to compromise, in order to prepare public opinion, at home and abroad, prior to toughening the measures against Tehran.

Bush might be aiming to signal that he does not reject diplomacy as a way of resolving the crisis, even though he does not believe in its efficacy. In the end, he will be able to argue that even the most conciliatory offer was not sufficient to assuage Iran. Perhaps this way he will be able to convince the international community to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, banning exports of fuel to it and possibly imposing a naval blockade. Such a blockade, already proposed in a petition signed by most members of Congress, will constitute a casus belli for Iran."
Indeed, only hours after negotiations began, Iran has already shown it is only interested in playing games.
"After a day of inconclusive talks in Geneva, a six-nation negotiating team warned the Iranian delegation that it had run out of patience and demanded a 'yes or no' answer to a proposal it put forward five weeks ago."

"The failure to reach agreement appeared likely to trigger new European and UN sanctions and to raise tensions in the Gulf. An Iranian rejection would also represent a rebuff to conciliatory moves from Washington, including the dispatch of a senior diplomat to Geneva to attend high-level talks with the Iranians for the first time in nearly three decades. The diplomat, William Burns, left Geneva without making any public comments."
and delaying tactics:
"A lot of excitement and hope preceded this current round of talks because, for the first time, a senior US [US Undersecretary of State, William Burns] official sat at the negotiating table."
"Although nothing concrete emerged from the talks, Solana said Burns presence alone was an important contribution to the negotiations. "It was very important that everybody notes in Iran the important meeting of today from the point of view of the composition of the table. You remember that we presented in Teheran three documents--a letter, a package and a way forward and it was signed by all the leaders of the countries represented. Today, physically, all the countries had been represented. So, it is very, very important and everybody has to be aware of that," he said."

"At the meeting, Iran presented a long paper of, what Solana called modalities. He said it offered no reply to the Western proposal."
Iran has basically told a group of the most powerful countries in the world to piss off. But should anyone be surprised. Still, they've given Iran two weeks.

I'm also inclined to agree with Pat Dollard's take on the whole thing. This is an exercise in "covering yer ass". It won't be long before Israel, and very probably the US, will bring this long, drawn out war to an end. Seems a couple of long time commenters at Iraq the Model also agree.
"Bush is doing this to show the world that what Obama proposes (direct talks with Iran) will accomplish NOTHING. This will be another example of Obama being a fool on the world stage." Kafir

"The negotiations should be on C-span. After a week of watching them, America will be ready for war.

Or better yet, negotiate for a day then bomb for a day. Repeat until finished." typos_R_us
(I love the way those two talk. They can speak that way because the US doesn't have Human Rights Commissions.)

But, no. I don't think this is an about-face in American policy. Indeed, I think it's an indication that American strategy with Iran over the past few years has paid off. Iran has been weakened by sanctions. It has, due to its own stupidity, decided to divert most of its efforts and resources to supporting terror in Iraq and Lebanon, among other locations, repressing its own population and, being governed by messianic cultists trying to bring on the end of the world and the appearance of the hidden Imam, it is utterly incapable of acting rationally, let alone in its own people's best interests. (Shades of Saddam Hussein.) The Americans know that Iran is in dire straits and that the time is now. They are taking one more kick at the diplomatic can for the world to see and for all I know, the Europeans may well be the ones signaling their readiness to change their policy. The signs are there.

It - is - time - to - end - this - nonsense.


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