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22 March 2009


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James Montgomery

Col. Lang---

Please take a look at Juan Cole today.


Patrick Lang

OK Dippy

I don't usually read other blogs. I don't have time to do so, but I read Juan's comment on this today.

I think thst JC is being overly kind to the Iranians. They have to meet us half way. Khamenei needs to understand that the illusion that the Iranians may have of their own fearsomness was once shared by the Qaddhafi and Sadddam. It is currently indulged in sporadically by the Israelis.

The basic truth remains that in the international power game the United States has trhe power and the Iranians have the illusion of power relative to the United States. The relationship between the US and Iran will NEVER be a relationship between equals. If we Americans had a taste for mass murder there would be no Iran. The situation will NEVER be reversed. That is the basic truth. The opportunity is here to make noce and pretend that this is a relationship between equals but we should always remember that it is not.

The economic catestrophe? It is meaningless in the context of what the US could do to the Iranians with assets long paid for.

They should remember that. pl



We could stomp a Mississippi mudhole in most nations 'if' we took a hankering too. Just 'one' of our subs could turn Iran into green glass at the drop of a hat. We could also do the same to the Israelis, and the 'troublesome' Israelis 'need' to understand that since Israel has spilled American blood on more than one occassion and 'on purpose' with their murderous Israeli malice and forethought. Israel has no value (to U.S.) other than simply an affair of the heart, and could go 'poof' if we the U.S. so desired. And the sooner we drive that point home, the better off for the entire Mideast. The Mideast needs to become a 'quiet neighborhood' without all the Israeli mischief.


The Iranians should insist that the IAEA pursue unlimited inspections of ALL facilities and atomic programs in Iran.

They did that while the negotiations with the Europeans where ongoing and the results was that the U.S. still worked aggressively against them.

Why should they repeat that experience?

I find Khamenei's stand quite correct. Obama has changed nothing yet but the tone. Unless there is some tangible move from the U.S. site, there will not be one from Iran's side. Even a small move would be sufficient to get the talking started.

For was with Iran - I do not think the U.S. population is currently in favor of any additional adventure.

Obama's popularity already gets hurt by the hapless Geithner. Him starting a war would make is presidency rather short.


The Iranians have historically overplayed their hands in these type of diplomatic situations. They have been extremely effective out of the gate, but at the end of the day it is not worth anything if you can't "close the deal".

Sadly, this time may be no different. I suspect Iran will meet some of the overtures of this administration, but that they hope to do it behind the scenes. I agree with you Col that it is time for Iran to put the chess pieces away, they have already won that game.

The next game up is charades, and the media are going to try and get the public to guess War.

Patrick Lang


After all these years you still expect justice in international relations.

This has nothing to do with that. Khamenei's stand is "correct?"

So what? pl

John Howley

Crazy Iranian policies probably have as much to do with internal Iranian politics (i.e., who holds power?) as crazy American policies have to do with our internal politics. In each case, the domestic side of things is opaque to the other.

Competing to see who can be tougher and more intransigent vis a vis the Evil Foreign Power that is the Source of All Our Problems is a time-honored tactic for winning votes.

R Whitman

Reading both the Reuters stories and J Cole, I would say the mating dance is in its early stages.

I would like to hear from other SSTers and PL as to what the US eventual goal should be with Iran. Do we want them to be an ally like Pakistan, France or Japan or do we want them "out of the way" like South Africa, Argentina and Costa Rica?

Norbert M. Salamon

With due respect to President Obama, as a Canadian citizen reading US & international news and numerous blogs, I yet have to find any REAL change from the Bush years in foreign effairs.
While Mr. Obama two speeches were nice [Muslim/Arab and IRan], the actions were non-existent [new West BAnk settlement is "unhelpful", and absolute quiet while Israel destroyed GAZa].

Talking THOUGH as J does above can start WWIII - Russia will not look kindly to radioactive fallout, nor Kazastan, nor China loosing precious oil the world needs.


If it were Ahmadinejad who pooh-poohed the initial overtures from the Obama administration I would brush it off as electioneering on his part. But we all know that most real power resides in Khamenei's (apparently clinched) fists and his clerical allies rather than Iran's president. I'm thus inclined to think that powerful forces in Iran have miscalculated their hand, much as did Bush with his fantasy that the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad. If anything, Obama may eventually feel pushed in a direction he doesn't want to go, especially given the non-power of Israel's non-lobby in the U.S.--war with Iran. Hopefully, playing chess won't lead to either state trying to checkmate the other. It seems to this non-expert that reasonable assessments of both state's long-term interests means that the U.S. and Iran could find some areas of agreement. In particular, it seems logical to me that Iran would like us to "succeed" in Afghanistan (at least to the extent of neutralizing Taliban-Sunni extremism), and the same could be said of our soon-to-be limited presence in Iraq. The flip side would mean that we would find it beneficial to quiet things down on either side of Iran's border as well, leaving behind an Iraqi state that is too strong to be an Iranian cypher but just strong enough to dissuade the Iranians from thinking they can turn it into their cypher. Of course there are several wild cards in all this, including how much drama the Iranians are willing to tolerate in terms of their nuclear program.



Should any empire begin to act in the way you suggest, the natural status of the world is such that other nations form a block that overwhelms/isolates the nation (this has happened numerous times in history). I do not believe for a second that the US does not do any of those things because we are "good." Our last president redefined good to include numerous actions that were termed evil when performed by our non-allies, and did not turn any country into glass (even when his military dreams of US mideast domination crashed into reality). Why not?

I think the US has not gratuitously turned other nations into glass for the same reason the Soviets did not randomly genocide nations outside their borders. It is not in the US long-term self interest. And other nations know this, too. And if one makes a threat like that continuously and does not follow through occasionally, the threat all effects.

Colonel: while I think Khamenei's public statements are "correct" for his own politics," I sincerely hope he is going far more than half way in private. I just don't see how any progress can be made in US-Iran relations if negotiations the public (media) eye.


Dear Colonel,
the US is neither independent of the world's economy, nor of the world's opinion, nor of the opinion of their own population. what do you think would happen if the US bombed Iran? do you think the US could win the ensuing arms race with the economy being what it is? don't you think it is futile to prove to countries that they need nuclear power to protect themselves by bombing them? why do you not mention the Koreans? Iran has been threatened by the US for a long time, why should they believe it now, when the US army is still stuck in Iraq and has a problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan? do you really think they would sit back and do nothing whilst being bombed? what do you think would they do?


a smart audacious American move would be a surgical strike on BOTH Israeli & Iranian ballistic and air assets as well as known new-clear sites not disclosed to to the IAEC.

A commander in chief could do a lot on his own. The national security of the U.S. demands it. Otherwise we would allow Israel to lead us into a war. A balanced strike at both nations new-clear assets would be applauded by the whole world as the only way out.

new-clear* that is the way it is spelled out on the teleprompter I kid you not.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

You wrote: "This situation has nothing to do ... the Iran-iraq War..."

I think you are only partly correct; correct about Mossadegh, incorrect about the importance of Iran-Iraq War.

Babak Makkinejad


George Perkovich had presented some useful ideas back in 2005 in regards to improving the relationship between Iran and the United States. He had enumerated a number of unilateral moves that the President of the United States could take which did not require approval of US Congress.

The Treaty of San Francisco, which settled all outstanding issues between Allies and Japan, was concluded in 1957 - 12 years after the end of WWII. And that was with a defeated country.

I should expect that there will be a Treaty of XYZ or Agreement ABC that will settle all outstanding issues between US and Iran. However, such a thing, in my opinion, will take years (if not decades) to negotiate and conclude between Iran and the United States. [Specially since the US Congress has passed so many laws against Iran.]


Col: a counterfactual point...If the Iranians do what you say, how can they trust that they won't be attacked anyway. Being defenseless draws predators, doesn't it?

Look at NK. We are really reluctant to take them on--and we know they have have nuclear weapons.

It's not about justice. It might be that the Iranians understand humanity's simian nature.

Ken Hoop

Mr. Lang, did you ever read Phil Giraldi's "world war" scenario re Iran?


Perhaps if you did you would be sonmewhat more subdued.

Cloned Poster

Why can't USA acknowledge Israel as a Nuclear Power?


pl: "So what?"

Sure, that is what Geithener is thinking when he empties your pockets. That doesn't make it right nor does it mean you won't fight back.

After all these years you still expect justice in international relations.

As a (former) "tool(?)" of U.S. imperialism, you indeed may wonder about that.

But yes. There are still people who expect justice and respect in international relations. Many people. It does not mean they will get justice, but they strive for it and, more important, fight for it.

Remember, how the U.S. was born?

Some of those people who believe in justice kicked my ancestors out of their countries. Some of these people kicked the U.S. out of Vietnam. Some are right now shifting the U.S. out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan.

They all payed a high price. But the got some justice.


An air/missile war is one thing. The Iranians most likely can't defend their airspace well enough to avoid a severe thrashing -- one that could set back the "forces of moderation" for quite some time, and might even negatively impact their nuclear program. By the way, does anyone in the room recall how a similar engagement "played out" in the hands of Paul van Riper? Just asking.



re. Iran, I would suggest we hold off any interpretation of Iranian responses until after the June elections.

I would not expect conciliatory noises that would encourage a "reformist" candidate from Khamenei.


Joe Stiglitz points out in this interview with Josh Marshall at TPM that one of the reasons why Obama/Geithner want the taxpayer to overpay for the toxic assets on bank's balance sheets is because only Wall Street is at the table. There is no one representing the taxpayer's interests despite what Obama claims.

Another fallacy is the notion that bank's are not lending and such lending if restarted by bailing out bank counterparties and bondholders would cause the economy to recover. What Geithner and Bernanke I suppose fail to recognize either intentionally or unintentionally is that US households have too much debt relative to their disposal incomes and not enough wage growth - so even if bank's have the ability to lend, households will likely not further increase their indebtedness and in fact will start the long process of shoring up their own balance sheets as they have been doing over the past few months. And bank credit has increased by $300 billion (3%) year over year.

If their theory that problems of insolvency and indebtedness can be cured by more debt is proven correct then we have reached financial nirvana. The free lunch is it.

Patrick Lang


Some of you live in a world reminiscent of a college bull session/seminar.


My comment had nothing to do with the justice of Iranian complaints about the US and everything to do with what would be in their best interest.


"imperialist tool?" I envision you as sitting around in coffee houses holding court for the young at heart.


Economic competition? wow! you don't really understand how much instantaneous power the US has. Arms race Against who" Iran" What a joke!!!

We have just been through a period in which the United States chose to fight the most expensive possible kind of war far away. We may do that again in Afghanistan. There are other possibilities. pl


"President Obama has now made some significant gestures toward Iran. "


Khamenei himself answer Obama's TV address. I think that's quite a gesture. That's the equivalent of somebody talking to a congregate, skipping the entire church hierarchy, and the Pope himself answering. We are talking about a revolutionary body that was created out of a reaction to Shah/US intervention in Iran. The Iranians are engaging.

I sort of have the feeling state department still believe the little BS that, there is significant legitimacy problem between the Iranian people, the government and supreme council. (eg. state dept. believes their own BS. So close, yet so far away. Not quite getting the whole thing down correctly)

The Iranian equivalent would be Khamenei talking on TV addressing US audience with a speech directly to AIPAC regarding middle east foreign policy as if they are in charge. (tho' that would be hilarious, and I would pay good money for that show.)

Second. Now that Obama has put his own words to the Iranian people at the level of revolutionary council (eg. think religious speeches internal coherency) State dept. better knows that they are putting US entire credibility in line. Obama speech now has moral dimension to the Iranian public. It's not going to be the usual mea culpa DC game when things go wrong. Cause a speech will be cited over and over again as if it has moral authority. It doesn't matter much in Iran, but will matter a lot to US image in the middle east.

But more serious question that Iran probably wants to know. What good is talking to Obama if he a)has a crew that plays neocon game and b)He can't control Israel and congress and ultimately has to put US foreign policy and defense posture on Israel side in an international incident. In the ends it's all the same anyway.

That's the real politics.

Which comes to basic Iranian demands a)recognize US past interventions b)not doing it again (basically non hostile treaty of some sort, lay off nuke, gimme back my frozen money, bla bla. the usual junkets) .. then maybe cooperation in return. (energy stability, persian gulf, Afghansitan route, Iraq)

But everybody knows that's not going to happen. US foreign policy is in schizophrenic mode. It can't reconcile between Israel alliance vs. national interest. (aka. the Condi's clown show.)

So. it's pretty much more of the same. managing Israel aggression fallout. And perpetual damage control and propping regime/regime change game.

So what is Iran's logical move? Play the bullshit and say whatever. They ware winning entire middle east audience by doing nothing and stand up to their basic demand. All they have to say "Saudi - when are you going to quite becoming a zionist stooge."

next up: Israel launching attack, Saudi's King dead, Palestinian PM dead/west bank flip, another Lebanon war, Egypt transition of power, Iraq, Iran's nuke, Afghanistan/Pakistan collapse ripple ...

same BS, different days.


I agree with the thrust of Col. Lang's comments. Iran and the US have rhetorically painted each other into corners over the past eight years (longer, actually). To reverse that requires baby steps that begin with the moderation of tone before moving onto substantive issues. Obama got the ball rolling and for Iran to let that ball pass by is foolish on their part. They should understand that he cannot offer something of substance for nothing.

It should also be noted that historically, nations like the US and Iran talk in secret as a preliminary step to reduced tensions. The public face of rapprochement is, historically, coordinated and predicated through secret talks. I hope such talks are occurring and that both sides are committed to them.

Back when I was in the US Navy, I spent a few years of my life during the 1990s as an Iranian military analyst. I have followed Iranian military capabilities regularly since then as a kind of hobby (yes, I'm a bit weird). In my estimation, Col. Lang is also right about the relative power of the US and Iran, even given the current economic weakness in the US and the strain on US military forces. None of these problems materially weaken America's ability to wreck Iran should the US choose to do so. It would not even require a long or destructive campaign. To give one example, the Iranian government gets 70% of its revenue from oil exports and 90% of those exports pass through a single oil terminal. Iran has similar vulnerabilities in other areas the US can exploit with a minimal application of force while causing Iran severe problems.

Iran aspires to be the most important power in the region - it should not risk those aspirations through a hubristic attempt to press a perceived a and illusory advantage against the US.


I think you raise a good point with the elections. Unfortunately, I think Ahmedinijad and the hard-liners will probably win. That's my prediction anyway.

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