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08 August 2015


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"would think that might be the best real option the US has left. America has never been exceptional at diplomacy or negotiation IMO"

I would dispute that. They have negotiated at times extremely successfully and they are quite skilled at that. Just look at US negotiated trade treaties, into which they to a considerable extent managed to insert US interests. I would contend that closing the Iran deal is another example of US diplomatic skill.

Even John Bolton, a destructive nightmare as far as policy goes, is a shrewed diplomat and, in his own, corrosive way, an able one.

The problem lies in what diplomats are being tasked with negotiating nowadays. Don't fault the diplomats for not being skilled enough to sell shit as chocolate icecream.

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a school of policy that saw unconditional surrender as a totally legitimate and desirable policy goal, and that set up negiotiations as a prelude to (the much preferred) military action (because that doesn't involve this messy give-and-take and compromising with 'evil').

It's in pursuit of maximalist and unrealistic policy goals that the US sucks and fails at negotiations, and must suck and fail. The best diplomacy cannot secure unrealistic policy goals.

Yesterday I watched with some dismay COINista John Nagl in an interview repeatedly accuse Obama to have 'withdrawn prematurely' (from screwing?) Iraq, just as if Bush 43 had never signed the SOFA with Iraq that committed the US to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011. It was not the fault of the diplomats that the Iraqis never offered the immunity to US troops that the US demanded as a precondition for a continued presence.

After that, there was nothing whatsoever Obama could have done to keep US troops in Iraq.


I wouldn't call the Iran deal great. It's not the end of the world but I wouldn't call it great either. Time will tell though.

A nuclear weapon was not absolutely vital to Iran's strategy of deterrence or regional ambitions. Additionally, it's not as if Iran stands any chance of using a nuclear weapon for offensive purposes.

That and I don't see any relaxing of sanctions curtailing the Iranian regime's ambitions or inspiring them to become significantly closer to the US. The relaxation of sanctions would also relieve pressure on the Iranian economy which as I understand it, is a source of weakness for the regime.

On the other hand though, a war with Iran is clearly not a realistic option. Additionally, sanctions do not have a history of inspiring regime change and tend to piss the citizenry off. Iran also has a limited capability to impose its will through force in the Middle East and the world while a less antagonistic approach to Iran might improve the US's ability to engage in productive ties with certain other nations.

I don't think the US ever had great diplomats. It may have had better diplomats in past, but in years past the US also had more to sell and was in a stronger position. I think to a large extent, the US never developed outstanding diplomatic skills because it didn't have to try all that hard, given its strong position and what it had to sell. I don't ever think the US was as good at diplomacy or negotiation as the ME players are though.

I'd agree Obama stood practically no chance of negotiating a SOFA agreement in Iraq. Among other things, the Iranians had more influence over the Iraqi government than the US did and didn't want US forces in Iraq that could be used to stir shit up in Iran or impede Iran's ability to supply Assad. Keeping troops in Iraq was also unpopular with the US public.



"A nuclear weapon was not absolutely vital to Iran's strategy of deterrence or regional ambitions." Both the US and Israeli security and intelligence communities are in agreement that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Have you read the letter from physicists to Obama, sent in the last few days that approves the nuclear deal.
Why should I not think you are not hasbara? pl


I agree with your evaluation of US diplomacy. It's been ok for short-term business deals (w/ military power back-up) and not so good at long-term statecraft. (but who is, anymore?) We seem to get more Dulles Bros & Henry types (at best!) & fewer the Georges (Marshall & Kennan).


Hank P & Ked

"Goal?" No. You sound like a lefty conspiratorialist. The ignorance, personal agenda and ineptitude of political appointees, the ass-kissing of careerists who would sell their mothers for advancement, and the effect of foreign interests (in this case Israeli and Saudi) on our foreign policy. These are the things that produce the mush that we make. I know nothing of Kennan but you will not see another Marshall. We no longer have a society that produces such people. pl


Is this sarcasm? Every country you named in which the natives form a majority of the population had a bloody civil war except Kuwait (just waiting for that even if it is a city state), Uruguay (did England really form it?) and Ghana (Obvious because it is a former Dutch colony ;-) of which i know nothing). Singapore wasn't even a state when the English left.

The record of the USSR is better in a sadly not sarcastic way

East Germany
The Stans

Babak Makkinejad

US diplomats convinced India and Pakistan and EU states to go against their national interest in the economic war against Iran.

US diplomats could have negotiated a better deal (for US) 12 years ago if they had been permitted by the policy principles to do so.

I think you are significantly under-estimating the capabilities of US diplomats - that they are saluting the flag - as it where - and carrying out stupid orders does not detract from that fact.


Col Lang sir,

"Why should I not think you are not hasbara?"

Because I was being hypothetical regarding Iranian nuclear weapons. I also didn't come out ardently against the deal or advocate an attack on Iran.

As things stand, I see the nuclear deal as neither a grand victory of diplomacy or the end of the world.

Only time will tell though.



I'd still say the US is hardly a nation of diplomats.

IMO, the US has had more to offer the world in terms of both carrot, stick, and business opportunity than the Iranians.

Additionally, the Iranian regime is not very popular throughout the world and has done little to endear itself to the world since the 1979 revolution.


"I think you are significantly under-estimating the capabilities of US diplomats"

Nope. He is simply not-so-crypto deal bashing by denigrating the ability of US diplomats. Here's more explicity how it goes:

* The Iran deal is bad because he would have preferred a different outcome.

* The only reason the deal is so bad must then be because the US sucks so much at diplomacy, why else would they accept such a bad deal?

* Because if they were good at it they would have produced the (non-)deal of his dreams in which the Iranian would have surrendered and abandoned any claim to master nuclear technology.

There you go.


You shouldn't agree with Fred82, because what he is doing is bashing the deal by bashing US dimplomatic skills. Read my reply to Babak.

As for the rest of your remark, I reiterate my point from above:

It's in pursuit of maximalist and unrealistic policy goals that the US sucks and fails at negotiations, and must suck and fail. The best diplomacy cannot secure unrealistic policy goals.


I responded in my remarks to Babaks reply on your comment.


"I'd still say the US is hardly a nation of diplomats."

While the US certainly 'is not a nation of diplomats', I ask you which nation is. You know Gregory Levey's book "Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government"? ISBN-13: 978-1416556169

The US has an excellent and able diplomatic service, to the extent the professional career level is concerned they are formidable. Period. US negotiators are very good, capable people, well informed, well prepared and good tactically. And they do have a deserved reputation for that abroad. If you say otherwise you know shit.

"IMO, the US has had more to offer the world in terms of both carrot, stick, and business opportunity than the Iranians."

What would it be that the US negotiation team has forgotten to offer? More stick? More sanctions as an 'incentive'? Perhaps they should have waited because the sanctions were working and regime change just a week away? Perhaps they forgot to do an Adelson, drop a nuke in the desert and demand unconditional surrender?

"Additionally, the Iranian regime is not very popular throughout the world and has done little to endear itself to the world since the 1979 revolution."

What is your proposed solution to that lamentable state of affairs? Regime change and the glorious return of the Shah's son? And in the absence of the Iran of your dreams manifesting deus ex machina, perpetual isolation?

Popularity is in the eye of the beholder. The Netanyahoo is not very popular throughout the world and has done little to endear himself to the world. He almost literally has world leaders roll their eyes when he subjects them to another one of his tirades on the phone.


Alas, the world suffers his insolence, nowhere more than in the US, and maintains diplomatic relations with Israel anyway. Because Bibi, just like Israel, is a reality that has to be accepted as a reality. Iran is another such reality that isn't going to go away. Deal with it.


"As things stand, I see the nuclear deal as neither a grand victory of diplomacy or the end of the world."

"Because I was being hypothetical regarding Iranian nuclear weapons ... Only time will tell though."

The two alternatives - 'diplomatic victory' or 'end of the world' - make no sense, unless you in fact do believe that Iran does have a nuclear weapons program. You're not merely hypothesising.

Because your hypothesis makes no sense in face of a consensus in the US and the Israeli intelligence services that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

Given that there is no empirical evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapon program, what do you build your hypothesis on? It doesn't make any sense unless you

(a) believe that Iran does have nukes and that the US services and the Mossad are wrong, or

(b) use the 'posible military dimension' of Iran's nuclear program as your point of departure.

In the case of the former you're a conspiracy theorist, in the latter case you're expressing a fiction with a political purpose - or bullshit that has no relation to any discernable reality.

Come clean. You'll feel liberated.

Babak Makkinejad

The natives could not or did not care to operate the apparatus left to them by the English; that was not the fault of the English.

Armenia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan had experienced historical statehoods during historical times; not so Belarus, Tajikistan and many others.

We shall see if the Central Asian states will not go the way of Middle Eastern states; I am not optimistic. The founding leader/dictator dies and the whole thing gradually starts disintegrating.

The English created India, Pakistan (and Bangladesh) and then the English institutions started decaying because Indians were not Englishmen.

My wider point was this: "Some states can do nation-building, some cannot and they best accept their limitations in that regards."

Babak Makkinejad

Then your opinion be wrong; Pakistan was cooking in 54-centigrade heat because she abandoned the IPI - ditto for India.

Ukraine got nothing (no carrots) when she broke her contract with Russia and refused the delivery of completed containment vessel of Busher I to Russia.

And EU states have nothing to show for the deliberate destruction of their commercial and cultural and business relations - built over 300 years - with Iran.

Nothing, Nada - no carrots there for EU states.

William R. Cumming

Thanks David for this perceptive comment. I believe NSC 68 was largely a policy error and resulted in failure not success.

William R. Cumming

During the NATO intervention in Libya the Chines evacuated by sea 16,000 construction workers. Have they returned?


you're right, it is only in re-reading that I noticed the peculiar wording in ... "the US has had more to offer the world in terms of both carrot, stick, and business opportunity than the Iranians" ... which in fact suggested that the Iran deal is the result of the US not ... yes, what ... coercing, buying the craven Euros out of wanting to restore relations with Iran fore purely economical reasons?

The reason why the West wants normalisation with Iran is because the standoff is destabilising and distorting power relations in the region.

It's not because of trade with Iran. Even though that opportunity will be seized as it offers itself, it isn't the root of the policy.

It has, at last, been understood in the West that the perpetual standoff isn't good for anybody, including the Israelis, irrespective of Bibi being for his own ideological reasons incapable of accepting that.

Babak Makkinejad

It was a grand diplomatic victory for the Iranians without a doubt.



Marcus called from an undisclosed location somewhere in Central America to opine that what Erdogan has done is profoundly de-stabilizing for Turkey and may well lead to civil war among the Turks, let alone the Kurds of Turkey. I am afraid I must agree. Once again the policy genius of The Borg has shone through the darkness.

Marcus also mentioned that he yearns for disclosure of the details of prior Iranian nuclear weapon work. He thinks that the true scope of the Iranian success in negotiation will be clear then. pl

Babak Makkinejad

That is what I always thought - given the religious as well as ethno-linguistic composition of Turkey anything but "Zero-problems with neighbors'" policy made no sense.

Initially I had great hopes for AKP government.


Be honest, English institutions are simply not well design. To little buy-in. If i look at England is see mostly decay and that has been true from at least the war.

My wider point is this:"The USSR was best in it and they unbelievable sucked at it"


Thanks. Given the quality control among our pols & the diplo-corps in these times, I think there's blame enpugh to go around for all. However, I generally give civil servants a break 'cause they are duty-bound to serve the system... & my Dad was a civil servant after his AF career.
I also think it is possible to be in favor of the Iran Deal (as I am) & yet be critical of both policy-makers & civil servants. We can, & should, all strive for higher standards.



Hypothetical can also be used to refer to the possible or "what-if". Intelligence services do not bat 1000 and the Iranians have a history of deception, which makes it perfectly rational to consider the possibility the Iranians would acquire a nuclear weapon. That said, the evidence available did not justify any advocacy of military strikes or stating Iran definitely had a weapons program, though reporting on the letter from 29 scientists approving of the deal indicated they felt Iran was weeks away from producing fuel for nuclear weapons prior to the onset of negotiations.

That said, I also acknowledged even if Iran got the bomb, it would not be the end of the world. It's not like the Iranians could use a nuke for offensive purposes and I can think of two states who already have nuclear weapons the world should be much more concerned with IMO.

I'm not one to advocate regime change in Iran. Any attack or invasion of Iran is currently unrealistic. Additionally, though I came away with the impression the Iranian regime is not popular among most of the populace, I didn't see where the populace was able or more importantly, willing, to take a serious risk in attempting to overthrow the regime. I don't think a US or Western attack would be that supported either. I certainly wouldn't advocate or endorse supporting any Shahista scheme for regime change.

I would generally call US diplomatic capabilities mediocre. The Middle East always struck me as having the best negotiators. I've seen some of that first hand and my old teacher/mentor used to say, "Don't ever try negotiating with Iranians." Just my two cents there though.

On another note, I think you fail to acknowledge the receptivity of the US domestic public to various propaganda efforts. There are propaganda efforts designed to sway opinion on the deal and some potentially beneficial aspects of the deal.

There are also valid reasons to oppose or take a lukewarm approach to the deal.

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