Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Post #169 - The Drums of Diplomacy

A number of individuals and groups are beginning to push back against the rush to war with Iran.

The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) "invites citizens of the world to join a global campaign aimed at averting a colossal catastrophe in West Asia." The campaign, entitled, "NO TO MILITARY INTERVENTION IN SYRIA; NO TO MILITARY STRIKES AGAINST IRAN" will collect signatures from "people in every continent to demonstrate to the centres of power in the West and their allies and proxies in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) that any military action by them against Syria and Iran in whatever form or guise is totally unacceptable."

Although JUST wants Iran to be "totally transparent about its nuclear programme and remove any suspicion that it is developing nuclear weapons," it also urges Israel to "immediately eliminate its huge nuclear arsenal," saying that these actions would constitute "a positive step towards peace in the region."

The on-line paper The Independent said this week: "The the European Union to ban imports of Iranian oil...makes even more perilous a confrontation that could yet lead to war..."  What also does not help matters, they said, is "the baying for military action from ill-informed Republican candidates on the 2012 campaign trail..." President Obama, they wrote, "has thus far played a difficult hand with impressive steadiness...But, in an election year, the pressure on Mr Obama to be 'tough on Iran' will only grow. As tensions increase, it is vital to remember that the West's goal is to bring Iran not to the battlefield, but the negotiating table...In short, the time for a deal has not yet run out. Nor must our patience."

Picture accompanying LA Times article
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times of January 10 was titled, "Iran war talk: Can we stop playing Hitler whack-a-mole?" The article notes how every conflict eventually calls forth the same terminology and imagery, whether speaking about Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad -- the ultimate scare tactic of finding yet another Third Reich looming somewhere in the world. They cite a bi-partisan list of those who treat a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands as an "unacceptable" outcome, quoting Mitt Romney and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta using nearly identical language on this point.

The author of the opinion piece says, "I think the American people are just a bit tired of playing Hitler whack-a-mole...And this is starting to give me 2003 deja vu: Everyone knows the Iranians are building a bomb, just like everyone knew Saddam Hussein was pursuing a bomb...Except he wasn't...And even if the Iranians are, what makes everyone so sure they'd use it?
"If we went to war every time someone said something bellicose, we'd be going to war a lot -- uh, I mean a lot more...We didn't want the Soviet Union to get the bomb, but it did. We didn't want China to get the bomb, but it did. Ditto North Korea. And Pakistan...Each time, some argued -- as some, especially Israel, argue now about Iran -- that it would be Armageddon if the bad guys got the bomb...Well, the United States has lived for more than 60 years with thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at it...It's no picnic, but we're still here.
"So why don't we give the war talk a rest. Hitler, after all, is dead."

The Atlantic (in its on-line version) ran an article by senior editor Robert Wright, in which he quotes Bill Keller of the New York Times

Robert Wright
"The point of tough sanctions, of course, is to force Iranians to the bargaining table, where we can do a deal that removes the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran... But the mistrust is so deep, and the election-year pressure to act with manly resolve is so intense, that it's hard to imagine the administration would feel free to accept an overture from Tehran. Anything short of a humiliating, unilateral Iranian climb-down would be portrayed by the armchair warriors as an Obama surrender. Likewise, if Israel does decide to strike out on its own, Bibi Netanyahu knows that candidate Obama will feel immense pressure to go along."

This leads Wright to observe:

"I can hear the armchair warriors (e.g., Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum) responding to Keller now: 'Well what's wrong with a humiliating, unilateral Iranian climb-down?' Nothing, except that humiliating unilateral climb-downs tend not to happen in the real world. For all the talk about how sanctions are supposed to bring about a 'diplomatic solution,' there has been little mention of a basic rule of diplomacy: If you want your demands met, you should give your adversary a face-saving way to meet them. As much as we may dislike Iran's leaders, we're going to have to figure out a way to let them plausibly declare victory to their people if we really want a diplomatic solution."

Iran critic Rick Santorum
One element of a deal that would be important to Iran, Wright says, "would be letting it enrich its own uranium as part of a peaceful nuclear energy program. (And as Princeton scholar R. Scott Kemp explains on Keller's blog, this would offer the key benefit of continued international monitoring.) But this is an unpopular option in Israel and on the American right, and I don't expect Gingrich, Romney, or Santorum to let Obama get away with anything that fits that description. "So far as I can tell, the position of the three people who might be the Republican presidential nominee can be summarized as follows: (1) If Iran doesn't meet our demands we must bomb it! (2) We must make demands that are essentially impossible for Iran to meet! The rest, as they say, may be history"

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