Friday, March 17, 2006

Iran Comes To The Table

In an interesting and surprising turn of events, Iran has agreed to sit down with US negotiators to discuss the situation in Iraq. While the US claims that the talks will be limited to Iraqi security, the Washington Post is reporting that Iran is hopeful the talks will turn into a more comprehensive document. Iran, as the primary Shiite power in the Islamic world, may be able to play an important role -- either helpful or harmful -- in the domestic situation in Iraq, which has already caused Iraqi Sunnis to denounce the plan.

Why the change? A few things come to mind. First, as Thomas Friedman points out (rr) in today's New York Times, while Iran has a lot to lose from either a US success in or retreat from Iraq, it seems as if a US failure followed by a collapse and civil war in Iraq is a nightmare scenario for Iran.

Second, perhaps the National Security Strategy issued by President Bush yesterday has had its effect. Even though nation-building in Iraq is far from complete or successful, even the limited steps toward democracy that have occurred are a big threat to Iran. And let's not forget that the military part of the Iraq invasion was a HUGE success. Iran knows that if the US turns its military might loose, the mullah regime stands no chance (again, this says nothing about the likelihood of succeeding in the after-war phase; only that the Iranian regime would prefer not to be deposed). With US troops now stationed on Iran's borders in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran cannot ignore the warnings and threats of preventive/pre-emptive war contained in the NSS.

All of this is not to say that Iran is about to give up its nuclear program or welcome democracy with open arms. But even getting Iran to the table is a step forward.

UPDATE: Here's a perfect example of why Iran is worried about what goes in Iraq.

1 comment:

Teresias said...

Sorry, you've got it completely backwards -- but that's not your fault.

You fail to read between the lines on the US-Iranian "dialogue". It's not that Iran has been intimidated by the US -- it's really Iran that has the US by the shorthairs.

With the unmitigated military and poltical disaster in Iraq, it's the US that has been pleading with Iran to come to the table so it can extricate itself from it's self-made Mess-o-potamia.

Only with Iranian cooperation can the US begin disengaging from Iraq in time for the '06 elections. There is incredible pressure on the administration from the Congressional GOP to at least make some kind of show of withdrawal so they might be able to salvage themselves from their disastrous position in time for November. Not that they should be that concerned because they can always manipulate the results via black box voting and other measures.

So Bush has had to do something, including this charade of an "air assault" Operation Shwarma (they call it "Swarmer" but it's really a Shwarma, the Middle Eastern meat dish.) They're so lame they can't even vet the name of the operation with an Arabic speaker to avoid being a laughingstock of.

The US military is in meltdown in Iraq and could not handle an Iranian assault if it tried. It's a broken force and the US knows it and so does Iran. McCaffrey said the wheels were off over a year ago and things certainly haven't chancged since then, they've only gotten worse.

The only option open to Bush-Cheney is a massive air attack on iranian nuclear installation with conventinal and nuclear weapons.

Even though they've been feinting in this direction for 2 years now, an actual attack would finish the US off in world public opinion for good and we'd lose the entire Middle East. So this option is really out of the question, not for moral reasons but for purely pragmatic ones. (Business is their main concern -- they'll buy the very rope to hang themselves with.)

Iran is the fly in the ointment for the US which is boxed in in Iraq and has nowhere to go except to sue for peace with the mullahs. But Teheran expects concessions and the idiots in DC would rather do no such thing.

So they make it appear that Iran is asking for talks when in reality it was probably Washington that made the request. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out.

What incentive is there for Iran to make such an offer which was proffered by the US in the first place six months ago. Do you think they really want to initiate a good will gesture while the US gathers world opinion and its military might against Iran and conspires against it in international circles?

The Security Council is deadlocked, all options are awful so now the US goes hat in hand to Iran. The Iranians play nice and go along with the US face saving request that they requested the negotiations and each side is free to spew public mutual recriminations to divert attention from what is really going down.

Neither side can afford to lose face with their hard core constituencies when it comes to rapprochement with the "enemy". So instead they cut a deal where Iran agrees to help rein in the Shi'ite militias via its power over the purse vis a vis the SCRIE, Badr brigades and Moqtadr. In return the US secretly allows Iran the green light on continuing with nuclear fuel cycle research.

There are probably other codicils to this agreement as well including allowing operations and investment by US companies in Iranian nuclear plant construction, oil and other infrastructure projects (Kerr-McGee, Bechtel, Halliburton, etc.) This is the heart of the matter anyway -- US companies want business and our top politicians are looking for more filthy lucre from kickbacks. The US wants in on Iranian investment and markets and Iran is only too willing to oblige as long as they control the conditions.

This is undoubtedly what's going on now. The US has lost the war -- that's clear and we need a face-saving way to declare "victory" and get out.

This my friend is how diplomacy works, particularly when the US needs to cover its butt. They can then mount all kinds of offensives and claim that the military strategy worked after all in averting civil war and regaining control.

Then they can turn around and bash the Democrats charging the Dems with a discredited policy of cut and run while their policy of "stay the course" finally won the day. In reality of course they descended to back door negotiations to save their asses. This is what we've always done with the Iranians especially in the 80's on Iran contra -- backdoor channels, arms trading involving Israelis, etc. It's a long tradition.

Please recall what the US did in the Cuban missile crisis. The Russians withdrew their missiles all right, but what was not divulged until years later was that the US agreed to dismantle its Jupiter IRBM's from Turkey which was one of the main reasons the crisis was triggered in the first place. This the US insisted be kept secret so Kennedy and the US military would not lose face and declare victory.

You need to do more intuitive thinking instead of taking on faith what's fed you by the US media. Almost everything that has to with diplomacy and military matters are elaborate and not-so-elaborate confabulations. This has been true throughout history and is rarely written in the history books til decades later.

Good luck with your endeavors however.