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* Missed messages on Iran  Robert Kagan

* Envoy Condemns US Officials' Irresponsible Comments on Iran  News Report

* 'Israel will be destroyed if it attacks Iran'  News Report

* Warning of long war if Israel attacks Iran  News Report

* Iran unlikely to halt nuclear program, secret letters show  News Report

* Iran denies Ahmadi-Nejad was attacked  News Report

* Sanctions set stage for a new push on Iran  News Report

* اطلاعیۀ آیت الله منتطری دربارۀ حرام بودن مقاومت در برابر رأی مردم  Ali Behrooz

* لیست اسامی با حروف فارسی، تا تاریخ 08/09/08  Ali Behrooz

* War of words, or words of war  Ali Behrooz

* Could Israel use submarines against Iran?  News Report

* Iran deplores UAE claim on 3 islands  News Report

* 'Iran will respond to any attack'  News Report

* Carter to meet Hamas leadership in Cairo  News Report

* No Peace Without Hamas  News Report

* Ahmadinejad again voices Sept. 11 doubts  News Report

* Clinton, Obama tackle Iran issue in debate  News Report

* Bomb kills at least 9 in Iran mosque  News Report

* Iran demands Israel stop force threats  News Report

* Ahmadinejad to dismiss 2 cabinet ministers in Iran  News Report

* Iran: Naval encounter routine check  News Report

* Tony Blair's Palestine  News Report

* Clinton attacks Obama and McCain over Iraq  News Report

* Reza Pahlavi: Leadership for Democracy in Iran  News Report

* Petraeus: Return to 'pre-surge' troop levels, then wait  News Report

* Blast rocks US complex in Sanaa  News Report

* Clashes in Nile Delta after strike aborted  News Report

* When a great power goes mad  News Report

* Iranians defy censor with bootleg DVDs  News Report

* Putin says Iran is no threat  News Report

* Creating a US-Iran Bridge  News Report

* Court removes PKK from terror funds list  News Report

* 12 militants wanted by Israel flee Palestinian jail in West Bank after fight  News Report

* Limiting Tehran’s Influence?  Ali Behrooz

* UAE detains ship as grip on Tehran tightens  News Report

* Iranian critic not guilty of espionage  News Report

* Israelis and Palestinians pledge to reach peace pact by end of 2008  News Report

* Conference in Qom focuses on Iran-US challenges  News Report

* FM spokesman: Iran's plan on Iraq not put for voting  News Report

* Iran's top dissident cleric calls for U.S. talks  News Report

* Islamic militants take fight against Musharraf to 'Pakistan's Switzerland'  News Report

* 'Desperate' Musharraf declares martial law  News Report

* US Sanctions on Iran Leave Europeans in a Quandary  Sir Cyril Townsend

* After Thamilselvan  News Report

* Analysis: Is Abbas playing his cards right ahead of ME summit?  News Report

* Bahrain accuses Iran of nuclear weapons lie  News Report

* Senior Tamil Tiger leader killed  News Report

* US declares PKK 'a common enemy'  News Report

* Iran urged to join Gulf nuclear deal  News Report

* Iran's leaders need enemies like Bush, and at every turn he obliges them  News Report

* Giuliani hits Democrats on Iran  News Report

* Iran: We have no information on Arad  News Report

* Clinton hails US move on Iran  News Report

* Israel to prepare for potential missile attack  News Report

* US First Lady in Kuwait  News Report

* Rice: Mideast solution in jeopardy  News Report

* Kurdish fighters defy the world from mountain fortress as bombing begins  News Report

* Protesters confront Condoleezza Rice as she testifies on Middle East  News Report

* Showdown With Iran  News Report

* U.S. outlines Baghdad security handover plan  News Report

* Poll shows global opposition to Iran - and U.S.  News Report

* Iraq promises Turkey it will curb Kurdish rebels  News Report

* Big shoes to fill  News Report

* LUKOIL says halts Iran oil project on US sanctions  News Report

* Three soldiers killed in Darfur camp attack - UN  News Report

* There's a better - and cheaper - way that Washington can help Lebanon  News Report

* Lebanese patience for Nahr al-Bared displaced wears thin  News Report

* Iran, Syria urge diplomatic means instead of military incursion into Iraq  News Report

* Talabani refuses to deliver PKK leaders to Turkey amid protests against incursion  News Report

* Turkey vows to defeat PKK rebels  News Report

* Iran N-case on Olmert's Paris agenda  News Report

* Motaki (FM): US in No Position to Attack Iran  News Report

* We will fight to the death, Kurdish rebel leader vows from his hideout  News Report

* Deaths And Hostages In Border Clash  News Report

* Flash News: Kurdish separatistand 12 Turkish soldiers killed  News Report

* IRGC Commander:Aggressions to Be Reciprocated with a Rain of Rockets  News Report

* 2 leaders back Blair as European Union president  News Report

* Babacan stresses dialogue as key to solving Lebanese crisis  News Report

* Jordan hopes for positive outcome of Annapolis meeting  News Report

* Iran's nuclear negotiator resigns  News Report

* Larijani Resigns  Ali Behrooz

* NATO says shipment of roadside bombs was 'from Iran'  News Report

* Israel impeding effort to clear cluster bombs  News Report

* Bhutto defiant over bomb attack  News Report

* Democrats' stance on Iran criticized  News Report

* Top Palestinian negotiator may resign  News Report

* UN condemns killing of its truck drivers in Darfur  News Report

* Kurds sign oil deals beyond regional borders – former minister  News Report

* Jerusalem is ours, warns Likud  News Report

* Rice back in Israel after Egypt talks  News Report

* Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane workers in southern Iran go on strike  News Report

* Ahmadinejad: Caspian states to form economic cooperation organization  News Report

* Putin lands in Iran for nuke talks  News Report

* Mideast Conference and the Illusive Peace  News Report

* Coalition of the Reluctant  News Report

* World bank neglects African farming, study says  News Report

* Putin dismisses threat of assassination in Iran  News Report

* Israel signals readiness to cede parts of Jerusalem to Palestinians  News Report

* Christiane Amanpour: 'People think I relax with a Kalashnikov - I don't'  News Report

* After honeymoon, Sarkozy method poses three risks  News Report


Coalition of the Reluctant
[ News Report]  [2007-10-15 16:08:32]
[Source: NY Times - 15/10/07]


Op-Ed Columnist

By ROGER COHEN

A senior Pentagon official has spent this month on a magical mystery tour of little-known European and Eurasian capitals trying to deliver a dribble of troops for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The low-profile trip reads more like a geography test than a geostrategic foray. It has whisked Debra Cagan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for coalition affairs, from Tirana to Skopje, and on to Chisinau and Astana, among other luminous world metropolises.

In Chisinau — you guessed it; that’s the capital of Moldova — Cagan asked for more sappers in Iraq. Moldova currently has 11 bomb-disposal experts there. Yes, 11.

In downtown Tirana, hub of a 20th-century exercise in Communist folly and now a place in need of American money, Cagan pressed the Albanians to go beyond their 120-strong contingent in Iraq. Albania is considering an additional 125 to 150 troops.

As for Cagan’s stops in the Macedonian capital of Skopje and Kazakhstan’s Astana, it’s unclear what transpired. Macedonia has 40 troops in Iraq; the Kazakhs have 27 military engineers. Other states visited included Ukraine, which may offer a little help in Iraq, and the Czech Republic, which has 100 troops in Iraq and got promises of military equipment.

Cagan declined to comment and a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Almarah Belk, said in an e-mail message: “It is premature to discuss the nature of her trip or any potential outcomes of her discussions with the various countries.”

It is not premature, however, to say the trip smacks of desperation. Keeping many flags flying in Iraq is critical to making talk of a “coalition” credible. The 168,000 U.S. troops already account for about 94 percent of the forces there. The largest other contributor, Britain, is to halve its presence to 2,500 next year.

Against this fraying backdrop, the strange idea of Pentagon brass spending two weeks hop-scotching continents to cajole countries — many economically hard-pressed — into sending a platoon or two looks less outlandish. That’s where we are seven years into the Bush administration: stretched to the limit.

The United States is as isolated in Iraq as a great power can be. A first term spent riding roughshod over friends and vaunting “coalitions of the willing” over alliances has not been righted by a second term of diplomacy rehabilitation. Wounds linger.

I don’t know Cagan and she wouldn’t talk to me, but the least that can be said is her reputation is more for Rumsfeldian bluntness than the discretion of his successor as defense secretary, Robert Gates. At a big NATO political-military conference in Brussels on Sept. 19-20, anxiety over her trip ran high.

A Europe-based U.S. NATO official who attended e-mailed me to say American diplomats are looking “for ways to limit the damage she is sure to leave.”

The note portrayed her as “John Bolton on steroids” with a tendency to be brusque with allies.

The Pentagon describes Cagan as a highly effective player in the securing of basing rights in Central Asia for the war on terror and a well-connected builder of international coalitions.

A biography says she “was critical in transforming NATO’s military forces to make them more responsive, agile and expeditionary.” Even critics say she gets results.

But at a Sept. 11 meeting in Washington with six visiting British parliamentarians, Cagan caused alarm similar to that expressed in Brussels a week later. The M.P.’s were briefed on the difficulty of dialogue with Tehran and U.S. concern that a British troop withdrawal from southern Iraq could benefit Iran.

At one point, according to a British press report, Cagan expressed hatred toward Iranians, prompting a formal call for her resignation from the National Iranian American Council, which represents about one million Iranian-Americans.

The Pentagon denied the remark. Alasdair McDonnell, a Social Democratic and Labor M.P. who was present, told me: “I won’t confirm or deny she said that. She might nuke me in the middle of the night. She’s not somebody I’d want to tangle with.”

Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative who was also present, said “Cagan is straightforward, and if you’re politically disposed to be put out by her, you would be.” He himself was not.

Colonel Belk said Cagan’s briefing emphasized “the U.S. administration’s position that a precipitous U.K. withdrawal from Iraq could lead to the forfeiture of some gains and would help Iran.”

Whatever Cagan’s exact words, this much seems clear: a U.S. administration casting around for soldiering scraps in Moldova and Macedonia should be careful about saber-rattling toward Iran.

U.S. hands are full in Iraq. Gates knows that. Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s point man on Iran, knows that. My reading of them is that predictions of war with Iran are overblown, however hawkish the likes of coalition-cobbling Cagan may be.

Please comment at my blog: www.iht.com/passages.

Nicholas D. Kristof is on book leave.

 





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