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Tea Party America.
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“…… There is indeed a mulish formalism to the thinking of some Americans that makes you wonder if they are serious. For Brennan the world possibly really is divided into “extremists” and “moderates,” and if an organization or country appears uncompromising, then that must simply be because the moderates haven’t yet been discovered.
But what a self-centered way of looking at politics, since it assesses the actions of others entirely from the perspective of the interpreter. Brennan assumes that Hezbollah’s thinking, rhetoric, conceptual universe and so on, is perfectly comprehensible within American categories, his categories, which is just another way of saying that the party is not as serious about its own ideas as we assume.A few years ago, the British government came out with an equally amusing sleight of hand, when it opened a dialogue with what it referred to as Hezbollah’s political wing, which it differentiated from the party’s military wing. This was rank hypocrisy, of course. The British knew enough about Hezbollah to realize that it is a highly centralized organization, in fact a Leninist organization in many ways, so that all the loose references to “wings” were just excuses to talk to party officials without being accused by the United States of chatting up what Washington officially labels a “terrorist organization.”But Brennan’s proposal doesn’t even have the saving grace of cynicism. When asked how he proposed to reach the moderates, the presidential advisor offered no answer. That’s because his scheme is thoroughly idiotic. One thing about Hezbollah, its militants generally believe what they say, and when they say that Washington is their enemy, they mean that too. The party’s structure and worldview leave no room for “moderates” or “extremists.” What they allow are debates over tactics, but within well-defined strategic parameters, usually set by Iran, of which opposition to America and Israel is essential.That lesson the St. Joseph University students understood instinctively. You might wonder, justifiably, how young people sent to an institution of higher learning where humanistic values are taught could so readily fall for Hezbollah’s catechism of violence and self-sacrifice. But at least they were not on an illusory quest for “moderates.” Their trip was about guns and war and death, and even if it was cool, they knew it was about guns and war and death.
Last week, as Iranian officials allowed the mothers of three American hikers imprisoned in Tehran to visit them, Iraqi authorities released two Iranians who had been detained by American forces in Iraq in 2004 and 2007 to the Iranian embassy. “A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that the two, Ahmad Barazandeh and Ali Abdulmaliki, had been arrested by American forces in Iraq but had been transferred to Iraqi custody in June and October 2009 respectively,” the AFP reported.
“Barazandeh was captured in March of 2004 and Abdulmaliki was captured in Nov of 2007,” the spokesman said, according to the AFP. The release of the two Iranians to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad came as the mothers of Shane Bauer, 27, Josh Fattal 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, were permitted to visit them in Tehran. The three University of California Berkeley graduates were hiking in northern Iraq in July when they were taken into Iranian custody. They have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison without charge for more than nine months. Cindy Hickey, the mother of Bauer, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” today that Bauer and Shourd are engaged, after Bauer proposed during one of the two daily meetings Shourd is allowed with her friends. The rest of the time she is held in solitary confinement.
Earlier this month, France insisted there was no deal when Iran earlier this month released a French researcher, Clotilde Reiss, who had been arrested in the post-elections protests and held under modified house arrest at the French embassy in Tehran. Earlier this month, a French prosecutor ordered the release of Majid Kakavand, an Iranian engineer and businessman sought by the United States on arms export control violations. Shortly after Reiss’s return to France, a French court ordered the expulsion of Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian serving a life prison sentence in France for the 1991 assassination of former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar.
Roger Cohen in the NYTimes/ here
“… Americans see Iranians as “devious, mendacious, fanatical, violent and incomprehensible.” Iranians, in turn, see Americans as “belligerent, sanctimonious, Godless and immoral, materialistic, calculating,” not to mention bullying and exploitive.
That’s Ground Zero in the most traumatized relationship on earth and the most tantalizing. Tantalizing because Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice. Limbert, a bridge-builder, has spent half a lifetime trying to deliver that message. It never flies. Poisonous history gets in the way. So do those that profit from poison.
If all the mistrust needed further illustration, it has just been provided by the Brazilian-Turkish deal on Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU), the peevish U.S. reaction to it, and the apparent determination of the Great Powers, led by the Obama administration, to burrow deeper into failure.
I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran. It seems not. (on Iran, Palestine …we all did) Presidents must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year.
More on that later, but first let’s take a cold look at the Brazilian and Turkish leaders’ achievement in Tehran, how it relates to an earlier American near-deal, and what all this says about a world undergoing significant power shifts.
I’ll take the last point first. Brazil and Turkey represent the emergent post-Western world. It will continue to emerge; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should therefore be less trigger-happy in killing with faint praise the “sincere efforts” of Brasilia and Ankara.
The West’s ability to impose solutions to global issues like Iran’s nuclear program has unraveled. America, engaged in two inconclusive wars in Muslim countries, cannot afford a third. The first decade of the 21st century has delineated the limits of U.S. power: It is great but no longer determinative.
Lots of Americans, including the Tea Party diehards busy baying at wolves, are angry about this. They will learn that facts are facts.
Speaking of facts, I must get a little technical here. Iran has been producing, under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection, LEU (enriched to about 5 percent). It is this LEU that would have to be turned into bomb-grade uranium (over 90 percent) if Iran were to produce a nuclear weapon. The idea behind the American deal in Geneva last October was to get a big chunk of LEU out of Iran to build confidence, create some negotiating space, and remove material that could get subverted. In exchange, Iran would later get fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
Iran, doing the bazaar routine, said yes, maybe and no, infuriating Obama. Iran now wanted the LEU stored on Iranian soil under I.A.E.A. control, phased movement of the LEU to this location, and a simultaneous fuel rod exchange. Forget it, Obama said.
Well, Turkey and Brazil have now restored the core elements of the October deal: a single shipment of the 1,200 kilograms of LEU to a location (Turkey) outside Iran and a one-year gap — essential for broader negotiations to begin — between this Iranian deposit in escrow and the import of the fuel rods.
And what’s the U.S. response? To pursue “strong sanctions” (if no longer “crippling”) against Iran at the United Nations; and insist now on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal (indeed this was a core Obama departure from Bush doctrine).
Obama could instead have said: “Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions. It’s come back to our offer. We need to be prudent, given past Iranian duplicity, but this is progress. Isolation serves Iranian hard-liners.”
No wonder Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal: “What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap. We have done our duty.”
Yes, Turkey has. I know, the 1,200 kilograms now represents a smaller proportion of Iran’s LEU than in October and it’s no longer clear that the fuel rods will come from the conversion of the LEU in escrow. But that’s small potatoes when you’re trying to build a tenuous bridge between “mendacious” Iranians and “bullying” Americans in the interests of global security.
The French and Chinese reactions — cautious support — made sense. The American made none, or did only in the light of the strong Congressional push for “crushing” sanctions. Further sanctions will not change Iran’s nuclear behavior; negotiations might. I can only hope the U.S. bristling was an opening gambit.
Last year, at the United Nations, Obama called for a new era of shared responsibilities. “Together we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” he declared. Turkey and Brazil responded — and got snubbed. Obama has just made his own enlightened words look empty.
Yesterday afternoon CNAS released another of the papers which has been keeping me away from the blog: America’s Extended Hand: An Assessment of the Obama Administration’s Global Engagement Strategy, written with my former Elliott School colleague and current CNAS Vice President Kristin Lord. This report started out with a meeting I convened in September with a group of high-level administration officials to talk about the follow-up to Cairo and the overall approach to public diplomacy. Kristin and I originally planned to do a 5 page policy brief, but then it began to grow. We ended up talking to around 50 current and former government officials involved with public diplomacy and strategic communications, and greatly expanding the scope of the analysis. America’s Extended Hand presents a comprehensive overview of how the Obama administration thinks about public engagement, how it has attempted to reorganize the government to deliver on that vision, and how it has performed across a number of crucial issues (including Muslim engagement, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, China, democracy promotion, and combating violent extremism).
We argue that the administration has succeeded in its initial goal of "re-starting" America’s relations with global publics, taking advantage of the fresh start offered by the Presidential transition, and has effectively used President Obama’s particular gifts to focus attention and global debate on issues which he has identified as key American priorities. The administration has been less successful, however, at executing engagement campaigns in support of specific tactical objectives, at adapting to changing circumstances and at meeting the high expectations generated by those speeches. With a palpable sense of the Obama bubble deflating, and a pernicious consensus emerging of a "say-do" gap in which the U.S. fails to deliver on its highly public promises, we urge the administration to do more to prepare the ground and to follow through on its engagement.
America’s Extended Hand goes into considerable detail about the administration’s philosophy, its efforts to reshape the inter-agency process and individual government agencies (from the Defense Department and State Department to the NSC and the BBG), and its efforts across a range of issue areas. And it makes a number of specific recommendations for how to adapt to the emerging second phase of the administration’s foreign policy. I’m not going to rehearse all of that detail here — if you’re interested in America’s public diplomacy and strategic communications, download the paper here from the CNAS website. This report has been a long time in the making — I look forward to feedback and debate!
Dr. Munir Jiwa, Graduate Theological Union
Announcing a new area of concentration in Islamic Studies for fall 2010
We are pleased to announce this new concentration with a primary focus on the study of contemporary Islam within its theological, historical, and cultural contexts. The application deadline for this program has been extended until May 21. To apply, follow the instructions on this webpage.
A specialized program offered by the Graduate Theological Union faculty at the Center for Islamic Studies and Associate Faculty
The primary focus of this area is on the study of contemporary Islam within its theological, historical, and cultural contexts. In addition to the core courses in classical Islamic scholarship, students have the opportunity to develop expertise in specific topics such as Muslim Cultures (especially Muslims in America), Islamic Education, or Islam and Media. Interdisciplinary and interreligious approaches to the study of Islam in which Muslims are understood in their diversity and in dialogue with other religious traditions are an implicit part of the program, fostered by the unique environment of the GTU.
For more information, contact
Munir Jiwa, Ph.D.
Director and Assistant Professor
Center for Islamic Studies
Graduate Theological Union
2400 Ridge Road
Berkeley, CA 94709
Office: 510 649 2562
Whether the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil with Iran ultimately actually defuses the stand-off between Tehran and the international community remains to be seen. And even if it does, it seems unlikely to actually stop Ahmadinejad & Co. from continuing surreptitious efforts to cultivate nuclear weapons capability — especially given the Iranians’ decision to simultaneously announce that they will continue their enrichment program in any event. Indeed, it, like the sanctions program the United States has been engineering, seems more likely to simply hit the “pause” rather than the “reset” button, thus buying the one commodity the Iranians want most: time.
That said the effort is significant on another level. It represents the return of Plan B both to Middle Eastern and global relations. During the Cold War, international actors typically had a binary choice. They could seek the favor and advocacy of the East or the West, the Soviets or the Americans. Then, almost twenty years ago that all ended. And for a while it appeared, the choice was America or an international community that couldn’t get its act together terribly effectively.
But Turkey and Brazil working closely with Russia, India, and China, have effectively sent a message that Plan B has returned to the global equation. They have essentially said they didn’t want to go along with the American approach to solving the problem (sanctions) and were vehemently against the Israeli approach (bombs away). The Turks in particular have been vocal with their BRIC partners in expressing their skepticism of the effectiveness of sanctions and their sense they would be very counterproductive.
The Iranians in turn seem to have recognized that the Brazil-Turkey deal is a win-win for them. It makes them look like they want to be constructive and thus takes the heat off of them and buys time. They get to tip the geopolitical scales in the direction of the relevance of emerging powers, tweak the U.S. efforts, and seemingly help usher in a new era in international diplomacy.
Something else vitally important to notice has happened here. This has become the first Middle Eastern stand-off in which the most important player from outside the region was China — because China is the one country that had and has the power to determine whether or not a sanctions regime would work. The Chinese, while still internally debating just how much they want to lead on the international stage, have played this deftly so far. They have engaged in talks with the United States and with their BRIC plus one partners. They have evaluated. Behind the scenes they have been constructive and moderate with reports coming out of recent meetings among BRIC leaders that they have made the case for understanding the pressure that President Obama is under. And they have pressed the Iranians to make a deal while sharing like the others in the emerging power leadership a healthy skepticism of Iranian motives and likely compliance.
Thus this deal may seem smallish and technical from afar, but it could well signal a change in the way international diplomacy works. Certainly, it signals an intent on the part of a group of vitally important emerging powers not to be cowed by the “with us or against us” mindset that still permeates some in the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
Some in White America will now say: what do Arab-Americans have to complain about? Did not the sexist Trump industries select an Arab-American as Ms USA?
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, longtime head of Saudi Intelligence and later Ambassador to London and Washington, has given a speech in which he sharply criticized US policies in Afghanistan. He has argued that US policy towards Hamid Karzai “beggars disbelief and amazement. Both sides are now filled with resentment and a sour taste in their mouths.”
For a figure with such close ties to the US, it’s a sharp critique. He urges the US to “get the terrorists, declare victory, and get out.” Here’s the longer version:
Afghanistan has a special place in my heart. I not only love the country and its people, but I also believe that it has not been given its due of peace and prosperity. It is a clear example of unilateral and naked ambition on the part of a former super power to change the status quo without regard to moral principle, international law, or human consideration. Alas, we have seen that repeated in Iraq by the other super power. What Afghanistan needs, now, is a shift from nation building to effectively countering terrorists. The point has been made that America and the rest of the world cannot accept that any country be the launching ground of terrorist activity as Afghanistan was from 1997 until today. The moral high ground which America acquired after September 11th has been dissipated since then because of American negligence, ignorance, and arrogance. Mr. Obama’s declared policy in Afghanistan is to go after the terrorists. He should do so. He should not be misdirected into believing that he can fix Afghanistan’s ills by military means. Hunt down the terrorists on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, arrest them or kill them, and get out; and let the Afghan people deal with their problems. As long as GI boots remain on Afghan soil, they remain targets of resistance for the Afghan people and ideological mercenaries. The inept way in which this Administration has dealt with President Karzai beggars disbelief and amazement. Both sides are now filled with resentment and a sour taste in their mouths. How can they both get out of that situation, I don’t know. Nor can I pretend that future resentment and bad taste will not happen. The attempts being made now are a step in the right direction. That is why I suggest that America get the terrorists, declare victory, and get out. The Taliban of today are no longer the exclusively Pashtun warriors who ruled Afghanistan until 2002. They are now any and every Afghan of whatever ilk who raises arms against the foreign invaders. By declaring them the enemy, America has declared the people of Afghanistan the enemy. Here also, there should be no more platitudes and good wishes. Boots on the ground, chasing the terrorists is what is needed.