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10 August 2007

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dws

Hi. I remember the media at the time of the "offers" referred to here describing incentives: Iran would get EU help developing a light water reactor so long as there were safeguards, better access to trade and banking.

Two questions for the experts here:
(1) Has no one (not just the U.S.) offered any carrots of substance?
(2) Can there be a meaningful carrot without the U.S.?

Babak Makkinejad

dws:

EU has no capacity to pursue a foreign policy that is at variance to that of US. [UK is the only state that has understood this and thus sticks closely to US positions.] The other EU states will go through the motions as though they are a US alternative but they are not. All they can claim is that they are US Lite.

Without US there can be any useful incentives for Iran.

Binh

U.S. foreign policy in the M.E. since the 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew America's strongman, the Shah, has consistently aimed at keeping Iran in check, first through dual containment (arming both sides in the Iran-Iraq war, tilting more towards Iraq at the end as it was losing) in the 80s and 90s to I guess what could be called aggressive containment (invading Iraq and Afghanistan to militarily encircle Iran, stationing almost half the navy off of Iran's coast).

This probably won't change anytime soon for the simple reason that the U.S. does not like governments in the oil-rich M.E. to be too politically independent of U.S. wishes/control. The region is the most strategically important in the world because it is home to the world's energy supply. I believe that is the underlying reason why the U.S. is not willing to consider a "Grand Bargain" with Iran (recognizing Iran as a legit power in exchange for decreasing aid to Hezbollah for example), even though that would do much to stabilize the region. It would explain why the Cheney administration has backtracked on N. Korea, begun negotiating again, etc but has not done so in a nearly identical situation with Iran.

U.S. policymakers see Iran as the main impediment to unchecked American (and Israeli) dominance of the area. Not only that, but a "Grand Bargain" with Iran would encourage Iran to pursue its own interests more aggressively in foreign policy, creating the possibility of developing much closer ties with China or Russia and creating the possibility of a truly multipolar world.

Fred

DWS:
You ask: Can there be a meaningful carrot without the U.S.?

I'm sure the Russians and Chinese will be able to come up with something!

W. Patrick Lang

binh

1-The US did not arm Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Their equipment came from the Warsaw Pact, China and France. As I recall, US MATERIEL assistance consisted of a few low-boy trucks and Hughes 500 helicopters.

2-Iraq was never in any serious danger of being defeated by Iran. The Reaganites and their Saudi friends thought so but it was not true. pl

chimneyswift

This is a very good point, and I have also seen (in the media at large, even) what seems like the beginning of a realization of a need for something more creative with regards to Iran.

I have a question and a thought.

Question: Not to put too fine a point on it, but when was the last time the US did anything creative diplomatically with regards to any situation anywhere? I am not an insider, nor even seriously well informed, so please understand that this is a serious question, not just snark. Can anyone come up with a simple example of a diplomatic maneuver by the US in the last, say 25 years that was significantly "outside the box"? Hopefully this example will be of a successful one, BTW.

My thought is that the forign policy establishment in the US has grown far too used to approaching things with the intent of dictating terms to others. People who assume themselves to be stronger, and believe themselves able to enforce their will on others do not tend to think laterally or dimensionally, which seem to me to be the best approaches to successful diplomacy. There are probably several reasons for this, not least of which being the rise of a culture of force within the American Elite stemming from business practices around and since the industrial revolution. This mindset would have matriculated in to the arena of foriegn policy during WWII and the Cold War.

I'm thinking about the acceptance of the use of brute force intertwined with a sort of Manichean world view (binary good v. evil overall, ironically coupled with moral relativism in evaluating our own actions). Given this approach, once the Soviet Union collapsed there would be no real need to employ any kind of creativity.

Mind you, I'm just thinking out loud, here. But it strikes me that we now face a much more complicated world than we did twenty or twenty-five years ago. How I'm seeing this is that while we are obviously still the strongest of world powers, we now face a global political environment that requires us to try to influence others rather than simply dictating terms.

This would be outside the experience of Cold Warriors (who took for granted hard and fast alliances and magnitude of scale differences in global power) as well as those who came up in the Nineties (when life seemed uni-polar and the World Bank and WTO were almost absolute power proxies for the US). Now we face a post-Euro economy and a global political environment where many of our former allies have no boogeyman they depend on us for protection from. In a present day where domestic political establishments have been becoming ever more shortsighted (if not hobbled by ideological dogmatism), who is likely to be able to offer any creativity?

Leigh

No carrots for Iran? Sounds a lot like Israel's method of negotiating with the Palestinians: you do this and this and this and this and after you've done it, we'll tell you what we might do in exchange...if anything.

Montag

There's a difference between North Korea and Iran--with North Korea the U.S. was like a dog chasing a car until finally they realized that there was nothing they could DO with it once they caught it. It's an economic basket case rich in starving people. South Korea has watched with alarm the crippling expense to West Germany of unifying with East Germany and is wary of becoming a sucker in this regard. So the only realistic option is containment.

Jim Schmidt

"binh

1-The US did not arm Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Their equipment came from the Warsaw Pact, China and France.

PL"

Also, as I recall, Iraq's better artillery came from South Africa, who manufactured a howitzer called the GHN-45 under license from Gerald Bull's company.

As you recall also, Gerald Bull was contracted by Iraq to manufacture a staged propulsion gun tube capable of launching a sub-orbital projectile thousands of miles. Warned by Israel to "walk away" from the project, he was later murdered in Brussels. What is happening now in the ME has a very long storyline.
But, overall, it has been very good for business.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GC-45_howitzer

Binh

Col:

When I said "arm Iraq" I was referring to the chemical and biological weapons (WMD) that the U.S. supplied to Hussein's regime care of special envoy Donald Rumsfeld. Did that not happen?

JohnH

"I think both US and EU, for some reason, really expected (expect?) cost-free negotiations and diplomacy."

The alternative explanation is that the US and EU don't negotiate because total surrender simply cannot be negotiated. No Iranian regime with any popular support will ever hand over its energy assets. The US and EU will take never accept Iranian control over those assets. So what's to negotiate?

It's really time for the US and EU to address their energy consumption problem and slow the rate of global warming at the same time.

dws

Chimneyswift,

I don't claim to be "even seriously well informed" either, at least compared to this group. But here's a thought.

I'm not so sure the U.S. has faced many challenges recently that required "outside the box" thinking. Competent "inside the box" could have served.

Some examples (hopefully):
* I didn't enjoy Bush Sr. continuing to engage China after Tiananmen, but it was the smart, inside the box, thing to do.
* Bush I's policy and preparation for war when Iraq invaded Kuwait seemed masterful, even if events before and after saw terrible flaws.
* Although Clinton's bombing campaign in Serbia got lucky, policy in that region has been okay since with okay results. Much worse could have happened.

The lesson I get from history is that good policy often takes time for its best results to come (e.g. containment and the Cold War over 40 years, hopefully Kosovo in the future). Do we have time in Iran?

Clifford Kiracofe

A perspective offered by K. Afrasiabi:
" Whereas the United States' new diplomatic approach toward Iran has already yielded tangible results, in light of Iran's enhanced cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US-Iran dialogue on Iraq's security, the opponents of this approach in the US and Israel are nonetheless upping the ante against Iran, pushing for a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic, which is bound to have disastrous consequences for regional stability and global peace...."
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IH11Ak02.html

I heard that that some potentially positive contacts were undertaken at one point between Washington and Tehran but that the "Axis of Evil" speech, January 2002, (remember White House speechwriter and Canadian neocon David Frum?) halted such contacts at that time.

Sidney O. Smith III

Dean Rusk, during a lecture, said, in essence, that one rule of diplomacy was always try to give an adversary an honorable exit. (He played a bigger role in the Cuban Missile Crisis than many may realize. ) His advice certainly passes the common sense test. Also, if conflict is inevitable, then this approach helps to establish the US as Sun Tzu’s sovereign imbued with the moral law, e.g. odds increase we win. Apparently, some of our vaunted diplomats have decided on the opposite approach. In the vernacular, it’s called smack talk and smack talk gets you nowhere. I find it disconcerting that Welch and others use Terrell Owens as their guide on diplomatic relations

W. Patrick Lang

binh

We (the USA) never participated in the Iraqi chemical or biological weapons programs. I would have known.

Iraq had purchased some strains of micro-organisms before the war from US commercial and European sources, but this was not arranged by the government and the organisms were available for purchase by research labs across the world. all you had to be was a university or a phrmaceutical company. Their BW program never amounted to more than reesearch.

As for the gas agents, they developed them all by themselves. Not that hard to do.

I doubt if it was illegal under international law then. pl

eaken

WPL:

You are correct in that the US did not directly provide weapons (for the most part) to Iraq, however it did:

1) allow Egypt and Saudi Arabia to re-export bombs, aircraft, and other equipment/weapons

2) Gave Iraq the loans it needed to acquire the weapons, etc.

3) US and UK blocked a security council resolution condemning the us of chemical weapons by Iraq.

4) Riegle Report. Google It.

W. Patrick Lang

eaken

I was a participant in these events. I don't give a damn what Reigle thought.

1-95% of all the equipment the Iraqis had was of Warsaw Pact (direct), Chinese (direct) or French origin.

2-We did not have the power to "allow" or "forbid" the Egyptians or Saudis to do anything. I suppose that the Egyptians might have re-exported Warsaw Pact equipment to the Iraqis. Why the Iraqis would have wanted that is beyond my ken. They got all they wanted "new." The Saudis and Kuwaitis held special ports open for the importation of military materiel destined for Iraq. The Iraqis did not have military equipment of US manufacture or design unless it had come in before 1967. I was all over the country at that time and would have seen it.

2- The thing about the loans is nonsense. Iraqi oil money, Saudi oil money and Kuwaiti oil money more than paid for anything they wanted to buy.

3- So what. pl

r@d@r

WPL,

count me among the ignorant googling laymen, but i'm wondering what your take on the following document is [sorry for the illegibility] - has this individual perjured himself?

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq61.pdf

thank you for your insight.

W. Patrick Lang

R@d@r

Teicher has exagerated the extent of his role is this as in most things. He was a vociferous opponent of any assistance to Iraq of any kind. He seemed to have an agenda.

Casey wanted a lot of things. That does not mean that he got them. It was of no importance if he thought the Iraqis needed cluster bombs. So far as I know they did not get them.

The "bear's spares" program was used to support many countries that had been armed by the Soviets. The % of their materiel that the Iraqis would have gotten from this was quite small compared to what they got in direct shipments from the countries of manufacture in Europe and Asia.

I will say again that no Middle Eastern country re-exported US designed or manufactured military equipment to the Iraqis. The only dual use equipment that the Iraqispurchased in the US were Hughes 500 helicopters equipped for agricultural spraying. It has bee claimed that these were used for spraying chemical or bological weapons. They were not. The Iraqis delivered chemical weapons using artillery shells or aerial bombs.

The Gulf states did not need encouragement to provide Iraq with funds with which to defend them from the Iranians. Your point about the US guaranteeing loans for the Iraqis is true.

I do not see how this differs much from what I said earlier?

r@d@r

I do not see how this differs much from what I said earlier?

not by much apparently - i'm just trying to understand the actualities of the scenario in the face of conflicting narratives. as you say, yours is compelling, being firsthand.

Cloned Poster

Col. Lang, you seem to making the groundwork for the story that the US failure in Iraq is because of Iran.

geos

The US did not arm Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Their equipment came from the Warsaw Pact, China and France. As I recall, US MATERIEL assistance consisted of a few low-boy trucks and Hughes 500 helicopters.

2-Iraq was never in any serious danger of being defeated by Iran. The Reaganites and their Saudi friends thought so but it was not true. pl

But didn't the U.S. share satellite intelligence when we thought the Iraqi Army was in danger of collapse under the "human wave" attacks? That would have been more valuable than materiel assistance (and the chemical munitions were also a tactical response to the human wave attacks like WWI). Why are you so sure the Iraqi Army was going to hold?

pre-1979 U.S. policy in the Middle East was built around the Shah as primary U.S. proxy in the gulf. I think we were quite open about a wish that the Iran-Iraq War go on indefinitely. I have no idea what we thought the end-game would be. I can't decide whether the first Bush adminsitration wanted the first US-Iraq War or not. "Conspiracy Theory(tm)" aside it doesn't seem to me that the U.S. planned very well for the eventual end of the Iran-Iraq war: the first gulf war should never have happened. We needed a stable Iraq to counter-balance Iran.

As I have opined in a previous thread, I don't think the U.S. will willingly allow any independent power to have real influence on Saudi Arabia (much less threaten them.) A failed state in Iraq virtually assures that Iran will have influence in the gulf...

'Containment' was always a global strategy, we cannot contain Iran in it's own neighborhood without keeping the Navy permanently in the gulf.

I think that is a recipe for military conflict, regardless of who controls the presidency in the U.S.

I think the idea of engaging Iran is built on real multi-polar global diplomacy in the Middle East. I think that would be a real revolution in U.S. policy, a radical change that goes against what I think is bipartisan consensus. Am I wrong?

I just don't see any constituency in the U.S. for engagement with Iran.

W. Patrick Lang

CP

You will have to explain that to me. I thought I was making a case for caution in dealing with Iran. pl

W. Patrick Lang

geos

The issue of whether whatever we gave them was justified by the real situation on the ground raises the ugly truth that decision makers are often ignorant fools who run around in flocks like sheep and get their wisdom from each other and from trashy journalism rather than from people who may know better.

Who am I to make a judgment about the Iran-Iraq War? Interesting. Check my CV and WIKI entry. I was the man responsible for making that judgment for the Defense Department.

The Reagan Administration had no idea what the end of the war might be, but many were inclined to see it go on indefinitely.

There was no planning that accompanied the end of the Iran-Iraq War nor the First Gulf War. There was just a vague and unjustified hope that the Iraqi Army would remove him. The same guys got another chance this time.

You have far too much faith in the idea of historical purposefulness. Most s--t just happens.

Well (in re US-Iran "engagement") there's you and me. Seriously, constituencies are created. They do not appear by magic. pl

frank durkee

Despite all the rhetoric and talk the issue seems to be "What do we {US et.al.] do about Iran and especially their drive toward a combined atomic weapons and delivery modes? It can be argued that they are closer to the 'street' aspirations of the ME, even though shite, than most of the so called 'moderates'. Granted that they have, beginning with the overthrow of the shah, been a contray force to our interests in the area, at least as percieved at the national level in this country. Further they clearly pose a risk to our so called allies in the area and as such they pose a serious threat to 'stability' in the area. We seem somehow to be caught in a mind warp that is unable to deal effectively with these reralities and seeks to act as though we had final say on how things were to be. We have a say, but a limited one. we have not been able to be deeply clear about our botttom line 'state interest' and then to act on it. We may be the most powerful nation, and that by a large margin. None the less people operating somewhat under the radar as with AQ, Hezeballa, the insurgency, th e Iranian revolution have been able both to harm and defy us. we seem unable to find a way to begin the process of finding how to link our interests with at least some of theirs in ways that both can live with. we seem to be losing the struggle for peoples hopes and becomming the bug- abears of their fears. Part of this is simply not understanding our own journey and it's dificulties wel enough, part of it is knowing that our interests do not jibe with the peoples interests in some major areas, and part of it is our thralldom to the past in the area. We may be falling behind the curve more than we need too and if so we will pay a significant price for it. I do not know the area as the col and others do. But based on years of working with the poorer and oppressed menbers of our own society I can recognize the ease with which we risk loosing the battle of hope, ideals, and simple human recognition. I suspect that very few of those who are involved in the decision making have this perspective and can therefor read the reaction in its human terms. Community organization like state building is not just ablut emotion, it's about very basic and prgmatic issues , including emotion. all of it needs to be respected and acted on. Mostly to be effective you have to learn to listen and respect what you hear. You are inboth asking people to choose, not aquiese. We've too mudh forgotton or ignored that, both about ourselves and those we now seek to control.

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