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News

* 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


Iran's leaders need enemies like Bush, and at every turn he obliges them
[ News Report]  [2007-10-30 15:15:05]
[Source: Guardian Unlimited - 29/10/07]


Comment

 

This latest batch of sanctions has little to do with diplomacy and only makes US military action more inevitable

Max Hastings

Guardian

America's undersecretary of state for political affairs, Nick Burns, told the world last week that his country's latest batch of economic sanctions against Iran is designed to support diplomacy: "In no way, shape or form does it anticipate the use of force." Perhaps Burns believes what he says, for the state department is thought to oppose military action. But in the White House sits a man who may be discredited but remains, in the phrase of Robert Draper, his most recent biographer, "dead certain". For another 15 months George Bush retains almost unchallengeable mastery of the greatest military arsenal on earth. There seems a real prospect that he will use this to cripple Iran's nuclear programme.

These sanctions are directed more at foreign businesses that deal with Iran than US commerce, which is already barred. It is hard to believe that Washington expects them to have much practical impact. As long as China and Russia keep trading, those imposed on Iran will, even by the historic standards of international sanctions, leak like Tony Blair's Downing Street.

The Iranians have oil, which the world wants to buy. The EU is eager to build a gas pipeline there, to diminish its dependence on Russian energy. Beijing and Moscow show no interest in helping Bush face down the Iranians. The principal causes of Tehran's economic turmoil are not sanctions, but the incompetence of the government and its refusal to allow foreign companies to develop its oil resources, for which the domestic skills are lacking.

There are two strands in the west's sanctions activity. The first is the elaborate minuet being performed by the Europeans. Led by France's Nicolas Sarkozy, their chief objective is to rebuild relationships with Washington by being seen to support US objectives. It is unlikely that anyone in the chancelleries of Europe supposes that sanctions will cause the Iranians to stop building their bomb. But they might deflect the Americans from military action.

As for the US, the main purpose of last week's action is to focus on what it believes is the violent meddling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq. There is also a school of thought that anger about economic mismanagement is a more powerful driver of Iranian public opinion than enthusiasm for an Islamic bomb; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is already unpopular, they argue, and in the perpetual power struggle that characterises Iranian governance, tightening the trade screws might tip the balance. Iran's moderates, the pragmatists who despair of rampant inflation, soaring unemployment and an economy wholly dependent on oil and gas, could gain the upper hand.

Unfortunately, this seems fanciful. It is easier to accept the view of the Texas academics who concluded in a recent study of sanctions that they make military showdowns more likely. Christopher Sprecher, of Texas A&M University, says: "The country being sanctioned views the sanctions as weak, and therefore becomes almost provocative." A genuine global diplomatic coalition against Iran's nuclear and foreign policies would be far more likely to impress Tehran, Sprecher and a colleague argue, than sanctions perceived as an overwhelmingly American play.

Few strategists dispute either that Iranian revolutionaries are playing a prominent role in frustrating the stabilisation of Iraq, or that Iran is doing its utmost to build nuclear weapons. Doubts focus on what can be done about these things. Europeans will continue to support diplomatic and economic measures adopted by the UN, designed to exhibit the world's dismay at Iran's behaviour. There is chronic scepticism, however, about such initiatives. Next month the UN will debate further sanctions, but neither Russia nor China will support tough action.

President Vladimir Putin last week compared Bush's behaviour towards Iran with that of a madman "running about with a razor blade in his hand". Not many Europeans suppose that it is desirable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet most think this almost inevitable, and preferable to the ghastly geopolitical consequences of adopting military action to stop it.

The seven years of the Bush presidency have witnessed a haemorrhage of American moral authority of a kind quite unknown in the 20th century. Even in the darkest days of the cold war, and indeed in the Cuban missile crisis, most people around the world retained a faith in the fundamental benign nature of American purposes. This has been lost in Iraq. All manner of folk, outside Europe and America anyway, admire Iranian defiance of US hegemony. Iran aspires to become a regional superpower. The US now commands much less support than it needs to check Iranian ambitions by diplomacy, or indeed sanctions. The appeasers, as Bush would call them, may be foolish, but that is how they feel. Even in Europe there would be negligible public support for American military action.

Yet two parties see matters differently: Israel, and America's president. The Israeli attitude is familiar and implacable. It is plausible that Washington would endorse Israeli air strikes against Iranian nuclear plants if Israel possessed the right ordnance to do the job, which it probably does not.

As for Bush, one of his confidants assured me two years ago that he would never leave the White House with the Iranian issue "unresolved". That still appears to be his position. Such is his strange brand of serenity that he is unmoved by slumping opinion polls and foreign policy disasters. He believes that Iraq could still be redeemable, if the Iranian "terrorists" are checked. His military advisers tell him that air strikes would not destroy Iran's nuclear project, but could delay it by five years.

Six months hence, when it has become plain that sanctions have failed to move Tehran and his own departure from office is imminent, there must be a real prospect that he will launch Stealth bombers. Among the consequences of such action would be a steep rise in oil prices, and a dramatic and perhaps historic increase in tension between the Muslim world and the west. There would also be an agonising dilemma for Gordon Brown. Most of the British people would want the prime minister to distance this country from any such US initiative. Whether he would summon the nerve to do so is debatable.

An American writer, Barbara Slavin, recently published a book in which she argues that in 2003 Iran was ready to strike a "grand bargain" for a rapprochement with the US, a proposal rebuffed with indifference by the Bush administration. Whether or not such a deal was then plausible, meaningful dialogue has since become impossible amid the dominance of Washington's neocons.

Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard need US enemies to justify their idiocies at home and mischief-making in Iraq. At every turn the Bush administration obliges them, by seeming to welcome confrontation. The rival governments in Tehran and Washington deserve each other. It is another matter as to whether their peoples, and the world, do so. But relations between Iran and the US are likely to get much worse before either nation changes leadership and gives peace a chance.

comment@guardian.co.uk

 





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