Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Say meow if you're Persian but not much else

There are not many nuanced, rational and forthright voices on Iran these days. Everywhere you look, there is the same march to sanctions like a boys choir in unison (with a Merkel thrown in for good measure). It was refreshing then to hear Steven Miller, Director of the Kennedy School's International Security Program, on his recent visit through Dubai describe American policy under Obama as the same under Bush, although using perhaps smarter language. He lamented that there were not too many voices within the administration speaking truth to power, like George Ball under Presidents Johnson and Kennedy. Ball who had presciently predicted the ignominious failure of Vietnam, was ultimately cast aside. After he spoke out against U.S. Israel policy in his landmark book Passionate Attachment, he was tossed aside into permanent retirement. Speaking truth to power is not so attractive a quality - not then, not now.

When the U.S. led, so-called P-5 + 1 (i.e. France, U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and German) U.N. Resolution 1929 was passed on June 9 earlier this month, Brazil and Turkey voted against it. In fact just three weeks earlier President Erdogan of Turkey and President Lula de Silva were hand-in-hand with arch-enemy of good President Ahmadinejad. This was after the signing of a joint-declaration between Iran, Turkey, and Brazil on a nuclear swap of enriched fuel. Points 5, 6, & 7 of the draft (on the link) denote that Iran will swap its enriched fuel for higher-grade enriched fuel to be used in the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). This was essentially the follow-through to previously U.S.-led negotiations that Iran handover 1,200 kg of enriched fuel to then be sent through Russia and reprocessed in France and returned to Iran for use in the reactor. Of course, that was in 2009. For whatever reason, what a difference a year makes.

Turkey and Brazil's initiative took the steam out of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign for so-called crippling sanctions. Yet it was a diplomatic overture that should have been viewed positively. Instead the passionate attachment for a path of hostile confrontation meant that the Turkish/Brazilian agreement was tantamount to a step towards the axis of evil. In reference to Turkey's vote against the U.N. sanctions resolution, U.S. Diplomat Philip Gordon questioned Turkey's commitment to the West:

There are people asking questions about it in a way that is new, and that in itself is a bad thing that makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.

There is no question that there are a number of odious aspects of the Iranian regime, something that I have previously written about.  Nevertheless, the instant negative reaction to rapprochement leads the U.S. on an increasingly perilous path of confrontation, military or otherwise with Iran. Already the Iranians are indicating a much more suspicious view to any talks or negotiations. It is clear that President Obama's team are not simply President Bush dressed in sheep's clothing; there is a sincere desire for engagement. However, due to certain political calculations - domestic and international - engagement is looking like a forgotten or forgone strategy.

Now enjoy Maz Jobrani!

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