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14 July 2015

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The Twisted Genius

Brigadier Ali,

I find your analysis spot on. The same sentiment was expressed by jdledell in an earlier comment. This isn't a US-Iran deal . Our Congress can't derail the deal, only US participation in the deal. We will be the ones left out. Weeks ago I saw an interview with the old lady from South Carolina, Senator Graham. He seems to realize this. He was whining that a deal would marginalize the US no matter how Congress voted. The look of desperation on his face was priceless.

The only losers are Israel and Saudi Arabia and that's only because their leaders simply can't fathom this deal as anything but a loss.

mbrenner

For more than a decade, Iran's nuclear program has been near the top of the United States' Middle East agenda. To be more accurate, Iran has been near the top of the United States' Middle East agenda. That is to say, the nuclear issue has been vastly inflated - in part as a logical extension of the prevailing view of the IRI as a rogue state driven by demonic impulse; in part, because it was crucial to an all-out campaign to crimp Iran, to deny it the normal prerogatives of a sovereign state, and ideally to topple the current regime. This view prevails to this day - indeed, the representation of Tehran by Washington as the source of disorder in the region has intensified over time. The nuclear accord has changed nothing in the rhetoric of President Obama and his senior officials. In fact, he has taken several steps to align the united States with the Sunni cause against a purportedly Iran organized and directed shi'ite bloc in Islam's incipient sectarian war. There is ample evidence that: the IRI never had a dedicated nuclear weapons program; its potential weapons relevant activities ceased by 2003; its possible pondering of a nuclear option is no different than what every theoretically nuclear capable state has done since 1945; Iran's cardinal sin was in the nature of a technicality that placed it in violation of the NPT (a misdemeanor that several countries have committed, e.g. Brazil. Argentina. Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan) - like Al Capone's indictment for tax evasion when they really wanted him for bigger stuff. (In Iran's case, there has not in fact been bigger stuff beyond what every country does). Bigger stuff would be attacking, invading and occupying another sovereign state without an enabling resolution from the UNSC or any other collective security body - as the US did in Iraq.

As to who deserves credit, I believe it belongs to Rouhani and Khamenei. They made 90 % of the concessions and resisted the temptation to respond in kind to American efforts (largely successful) to keep upping the ante - e.g. the conventional arms embargo. I do not discern any concession or reorientation of thinking of consequence at the Washington end or any major diplomatic initiative.

So, let's turn around the logic of what is underlying the current discussion of the deal.Here are 6 questions.


1. Will the United States recognize the convergence of interest between Tehran and Washington re. ISIL, al-Nusra-al-Qaeda, Yemen, avoiding a region-wide low-grade sectarian confrontation, and Afghanistan?

2. Will the Obama people begin to make independent judgments about these and related issues from the perspective of American national interests and cease deferring automatically to Jerusalem and Riyadh?

3. Will the White House realize that it is pursuing contradictory objectives by giving priority to cultivating "good will" in those capitals unrelated to the actual policies of Saudi Arabia and Israel?

4. Will the White House realize the contradiction between its crusade against Islamic terrorism and turning a blind eye to Sunni states' overt support for al-Nusra and covert sympathies for ISIL?

5. Will the White House realize the contradiction between pursuing the stated goal of achieving zero threat to American security originating in the Middle East and its actions (especially the kinetic ones) that have markedly reduced our national security?

6. Will President Obama realize that the current make-up of his national security team leaves the United States incapable of giving constructive answers to these questions and reorienting American foreign policy?


confusedponderer

FB Ali,
excellent post.

I am impressed by the deal, have to look through the documents yet, but just this:

Iran is the only contry ever in the history of the UN that came under chapter VII and got out unbombed.

That is by itself remarkable, all the more so since it underlines a number of things:

#1
It indicates to which extent US policy runs on tracks once parameters are set. Once the US check the 'enemy' box that till now inevitably led to sucessive steps of escalation and eventually armed US intervention. No more. The Iran deal sets a precedent for how to get out of such a situation.

#2
The detractors wanted that this one-way-street to war to continue (US politicos intent to limit their own foreign policy options?!) because the object always was for the Izzies and their US surrogates and cravens to steer the US into a war with Iran. To them this is a real setback. So, three cheers for the deal, and eff them.

#3
Thwarting this idiocy is by itself worth it, but on a larger level it's about the first positive step in international law the US have set in two decades of a destructive rampage through it. The US still know how to do diplomacy if they put their mind to it. The neocon/neolib lobotomy isn't complete yet, and the festering wound they inflicted may yet heal. I welcome that, too.

#4
Now just look how hard it was to implement that in face of domestic opposition riled up by foreign interests. It means that just as the US is meddling abroad, foreign nations meddling in US affairs just about as blatantly is a normality. If this is undesirable at home, what about the golden rule?

#5
Given the extent to which specifically that lunatic Adelson has invested himself and his millions in the endeavour, need there be more proof for the baleful interest of money on and in US politics and policy?

#6
A US president can make a U-turn, but has to expend considerable political capital and overcome massive foreign and domestic opposition to do so - a cautionary tale about the cost of a normalisation with Russia.

The Beaver

@ Brig Ali
Thank you for your analysis.

The biggest loser: Stephen Harper . As usual when the foreign corporations will be making $$$$ in Iran, the Canadian companies will be outside looking in and Alberta oil, well the future will tell us.
The ball is in his court considering Netanyahu has lost his relevance wherever IR is concerned. All he is buying himself is some votes in Winnipeg, Toronto and may be in one riding of Montréal.

Babak Makkinejad

EU as well as India were losers too; they bore the costs and had nothing to show for it at the end of the day.

The Beaver

Babak

I agree wrt Europe but India?
Is it about what the relationship between Israel and India wrt sales of arms and their "cooperation' wrt terrorism? or the issue with Jundallah?
Could you please elaborate since the Indian Press ( as usual it only has to start with one outlet then it spreads like wild fire across ) is claiming that this deal will benefit India?

Thanks

Joe100

For some in-depth assessment, the serious "wonks" at http://armscontrolwonk.com appear quite impressed with the deal -

"The agreement’s provisions are extremely complex and detailed. Reading the fine print brings flashbacks of the most detailed nuclear arms reduction provisions negotiated between the Kremlin and the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. All of this is new. At the outset of these negotiations, no one expected constraints this deep or this long".

Babak Makkinejad

Under the Hindu Fundamentalist Government of Vajpayee and the Reformist Government of Khatami India and Iran had reached certain strategic understandings.

In fact, Mr. Vajpayee went on to meet with Ayatollah Khamenei; the two evidently did not experience any religious conflicts.

That is now all gone.

On the commercial/economic side, the Indians did not act on any of their commitments to various projects in Iran - under instructions from the US Ambassador to India. Furthermore, they made Iran's trade with India very very difficult - they truly acted like a very junior partner to US when it came to Iran.

So, now, they are in an uncomfortable position in which they have to try to reconstruct their commercial relationships with Iran.

Their strategic understandings with Iran, in my opinion, cannot be recovered; India cannot go back to status quo ante of 2003 with Iran.

This was a triumph of US diplomacy which persuaded both EU states and India to harm themselves to please the United States over the course of a decade.

Magnificent Diplomatic Work on part of US diplomat, in my opinion.

Shah_alam_ca

Thanks for this very informative post, Brig Ali.

I view it as a glass half full—both won. The only losers are the naysayers amongst whom Netanyahu tops the list closely followed by a few of the Muslim ME countries who actually offered no viable alternative.

If blocking Iran from making a nuclear bomb was the real goal, this deal offered the best choice. As Obama claims rightly, "Don’t judge me on whether this deal transforms Iran, ends Iran’s aggressive behavior toward some of its Arab neighbors or leads to détente between Shiites and Sunnis. Judge me on one thing: Does this deal prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years."

Indeed time will tell if the deal does deliver what it’s supposed to. But even if it survives half its life—just five years—I think it’s still a success. In a changing world, as you suggest, the US may not be able to exercise this kind of leverage ever again. So it was also a good face saving for everyone.

Babak Makkinejad

Israel is emphatically not the loser; she will be harvesting dividends from fertile fields in US, Canada, Australia, and EU - posing as the "loser" while collecting all kinds of goodies in military hardware, economic infusion of resources, and political support.

And all throughout the last 12 years, Israel has been benefiting substantially from combined Western policy against Iran.

The most you can say is that the Israelis will not be collecting as much as they used to.

FB Ali

In my last paragraph I should have included the gains for the US that the deal provides.

Israel's Netanyahu has been trying very hard to embroil the US in a war with Iran. Unfortunately, the influential Ziocon lobby in the US has been beating the same drum. Such a war would have caused considerable damage to the interests of the US in the world, besides embroiling it in another open-ended conflict in the ME.

The deal has enabled the US to avoid this very harmful possibility.

The Beaver

Thank you for clarifying.

I know that India was overcharging Iran with a 20% premium on Basmati rice and other commodities.
However, it is laughable to read the Indian press, they are so giddy about making lots of sales, even on opportunities in Afghanistan via Iran. They are already anticipating big revenues for Indian refineries and oil rig service providers.

Hussan Zia

Brig. Ali summation is indeed clear and succinct.
It is not simply with Iran, the US attitude towards Pakistan also underwent a profound change not so long ago. She is no longer being subjected to the same pressure as she had been until a year or so ago. The reason in both the cases may have more to do with their geographic location.
The only access to Central Asia for the West is either through Pakistan or Iran. They need both of these just in case one becomes unavailable for some reason.
Iran serves an additional purpose because of her influence with the non-Pashtoons in Afghanistan. India too has the same interest to an even greater degree.
These are weighty considerations and it is doubtful if powerful vested interests will allow the spoilers to interfere with the arrangement in the foreseeable future.

jld

"... will not be collecting as much as they used to."

In my terms this is called a "loss".

jld

Is there anything as THE White House?
Does not The Borg infest any nooks and crannies that it can meddle with?

FB Ali

You will notice that Babak M. is talking about the situation before the deal!

This is not what my post was dealing with. The Indian expectations from the situation after the lifting of sanctions are not entirely misplaced. They may not reap as much of a windfall as they could have (had Vajpayee's gambit materialised) but they will still benefit.

As for Stephen Harper, I notice the Jewish lobby is urging him not to join the US and EU in easing sanctions. As you know, Mr Harper is only interested in how many votes he gets in the next election - Canada be damned. He will probably find a way to get some electoral advantage from this development.

FB Ali

I think the change in the US attitude towards Pakistan has much to do with that country's recent swing towards China, as well as the problems looming for the US in Afghanistan.

mbrenner

Obama is a member of the Borg - the rest is for his memoirs and future as a world statesman cum global pontificator

robt willmann

One good thing about the agreement on nuclear power with Iran is that this time people are actually going to read it.

William R. Cumming

A wonderful post IMO General Ali! Do you think that the rationale knowledge Of those in Iran wanting the deal included the perception that the cost of nukes [militarily worthless IMO] greatly exceed benefits?

Farooq

The real prize for Indian grand strategy viz-a-viz Iran is not bilateral trade with Iran itself (which is important though still secondary), but access to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Chabahar port
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chabahar

Farooq

Sir,
China has been important for strategic reasons and as a reliable weapons technology supplier but US is still the economic life line for Pakistan. I am skeptical that this will change anytime soon despite the new China corridor project.

The biggest cause of bitterness in Pak-US relationship was their conflicting policies about Afghanistan and how to deal with Taliban. Gen Durani hinted in a program on Al Jazeera about a grand bargain with US on Afghan end game, which is why the relationship has improved.

The Beaver

@ FB Ali

From this and from Ukrainians for harbouring the anti-Russia activists during the Maidan revolution last year.

FB Ali

I'm sure it did for some. For others the realization must have occurred some time ago that it was unlikely that Iran would be able, or allowed, to develop such a capability. So, instead of sticking obstinately to emotional considerations of national pride and autonomy, they chose the realistic alternative of getting the sanctions lifted while paying for it with worthless 'paper money' (ie, giving up formally just a theoretical choice).

President Rouhani and FM Zareef deserve kudos for this. And for the brilliant tactical moves that led to the deal. It makes me think of the expert angler who hooks and then lands a very large and suspicious fish that fights him all the way .

Croesus

I"ran is the only contry ever in the history of the UN that came under chapter VII and got out unbombed."

So far.

Darrell Issa was on C Span Washington Journal to deride the deal and heap more coals on Iran.

He dredged up every evil thing Iran has done from the hostages to the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in a restaurant in Washington, DC. Right there in Washington, DC!
(Issa neglected to mention the US shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus, and the US-encouraged Iraq-Iran war and gassing of Iranian civilians.)

Issa's main argument for his opposition to the deal was that "a nuclear deal should mean capitulation; complete abandonment of nuclear ambitions," not just signing papers. Libya gave up its nukes and when "Libya fell apart" and Qaddafi's regime overthrown, "not a single element of nuclear technology was discovered" by the invaders.

There's a persuasive argument for giving up nukes!

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