Iran talks: a new potential "red line" for hawks?

After Obama and Netanyahu’s meeting, it appears there’ll be no unilateral Israeli attack on Iran just yet. And today there’s news that there’s to be a new round of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, plus Iran is looking to grant limited access for IAEA inspectors to the Parchin military base. All good, Right?

No, Iran isn’t exactly out from under the threat of preventative war yet.

The Guardian reveals why the talks will likely fail, before they’ve even begun. Sarkozy’s taking the hard line.

French officials argued that in order to satisfy Israel that all was being done to resolve the nuclear crisis by peaceful means, the international response would have to make it absolutely clear that the talks would have to end with the “full implementation” of UN security council resolutions calling for the suspension of uranium enrichment. That language was spelt out in Ashton’s latest letter.

In my humble opinion, there’s no way Iran will agree to such a thing. It would be a domestic political disaster as well as a crippling submission in the eyes of the world. So if France sticks to its demand and the rest of the P5+1 agree, then the talks will fail (probably with Iran being blamed for the failure, as ever).

After that? Well, Michael Tomasky is spot-on about Obama’s rhetoric at AIPAC probably not being the most auspicious.

the important part of the speech, the sentences that historians might be ruing and Americans regretting 15 years from now, was this: ”œIran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

Here’s why this is important. Ironclad vows like this tend to lock a nation into a position from which it cannot later retreat. If you were already thinking ”œTruman Doctrine,” give yourself a point.

When Obama speaks today about a “window of opportunity’ for Iran, he includes implicitly the notion that the window will close at some stage, and over the last two days he’s made it impossible to walk that notion back. If these new talks fail, he’s going to be under immense pressure to say Iran’s “last chance” has finally come and gone, whether or not there’s an actual nuclear weapon “red line” in evidence.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • Breathless predictions that the Islamic Republic will soon be at the brink of nuclear capability, or – worse – acquire an actual nuclear bomb, are not new.

    For more than quarter of a century Western officials have claimed repeatedly that Iran is close to joining the nuclear club. Such a result is always declared “unacceptable” and a possible reason for military action, with “all options on the table” to prevent upsetting the Mideast strategic balance dominated by the US and Israel.

    And yet, those predictions have time and again come and gone. This chronicle of past predictions lends historical perspective to today’s rhetoric about Iran.

    – Scott Peterson, Staff writer
    read the rest at CSM

    h/t TomDispatch

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • …somewhat likely to throw Sarkozy under the bus. They’ve been the uber-hardliners on this for a while and it hasn’t gotten the rest of us much. France doesn’t exactly have a huge amount of skin in the game from what I’ve seen and at some point someone is likely to call bullshit – if the Iranian power structure is less fragmented as a result of the election (giving it more latitude for maneuver), this would be an ideal time.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • T.X. Hammes.

    The current debate on whether or not to bomb Iran is being framed as a false choice. Proponents state we must bomb Iran to keep it from developing a nuclear weapon. Yet in the same statement they often admit that even an effective bombing campaign will delay the program only a few years. Thus, the real choice being offered is not to bomb Iran or face an Iran with nuclear weapons. The real choice is facing an Iran with nuclear weapons or facing an Iran with nuclear weapons after you have bombed it.

    Emphasis mine, and I’d note Hammes is assuming – which we shouldn’t – that Iran will break through to having an actual nuclear weapon if it doesn’t get bombed. Still, the hawks assume that too so his criticism fits their arguments.

  • Let’s give every ‘On to Tehran’ screamer a gun and a flight to Iraq…I wonder just how gung-ho they’ll be on the front-line?

    I’m losing patience with these fools, and with those who enable them

    “It’s no longer IOKIYAR….It’s OK If You’re A Republican, but IOKBYAR–It’s OK BECAUSE You’re a Republican.” — Me

  • … words are just words. A courageous leader will walk away from war anytime – whether it is during or after the negotiating process.

    “OTP – Occupy The Patriarchy” ~ me

  • Obama derides Republican ‘posturing’ over use of force against Iran

    President responds to criticism of his Iran policy by challenging GOP candidates to address the consequences of an attack

    Chris McGreal in Washington, Tuesday 6 March 2012 17.02 EST

    Barack Obama has accused Republican presidential candidates of casually “beating the drums of war” over Iran without having the political courage to directly advocate a military attack or considering the human cost of battle.

    In his first press conference of the year on Tuesday, Obama turned on the Republican politicians who for days have been accusing him of weakness and naiveté over Iran, ramped up by the visit of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and a meeting of the US’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

    The president said his policy of sanctions has united much of the international community to pressure Iran and that “we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically”.

    “That’s my track record. Now, what’s said on the campaign trail – those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war,” he said.

    “I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it.”

    Obama returned to the theme later in the press conference.

    “When I sign letters to families that haven’t – whose loved ones have not come home, I am reminded that there is a cost. Sometimes we bear that cost. But we think it through. We don’t play politics with it,” he said.

    “Typically, it’s not the folks who are popping off who pay the price. It’s these incredible men and women in uniform and their families who pay the price.”

    The president went on to challenge his Republican opponents to say if they want a war and then address the consequences of attacking Iran.

    “Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk,” he said.

    Obama’s comments were aimed, among others, at Mitt Romney, who described the president as “feckless” over Iran in Tuesday’s Washington Post and advocated a policy of “peace through strength”.

    The press conference came hours after the announcement that the US will join Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany in a new round of negotiations with Tehran, a move that led Rick Santorum to accuse Obama of “appeasement”.

    Obama defended those talks, saying they are an opportunity to judge whether Iran understands that “the world community means business”.

    “I don’t expect a breakthrough in a first meeting, but I think we will have a pretty good sense fairly quickly as to how serious they are about resolving the issue,” he said.

    Obama derided the aggressive posturing of some of his opponents and more hawkish supporters of Israel who have pressed for an explicit commitment to the use of force against Iran by setting “red lines” that Tehran’s nuclear programme must not cross.

    “When I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem,” he said.

    The president had a similar reaction to calls for military action against Syria, including Senator John McCain’s demand this week that the US bomb in support of the forces fighting the regime in Damascus.

    Obama said events in Syria were “heartbreaking” but that military intervention was not the answer.

    “For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake. What happened in Libya was we mobilised the international community, had a UN security council mandate, had the full co-operation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation,” he said.

    “The notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, that hasn’t been true in the past and it won’t be true now. We’ve got to think through what we do through the lens of what’s going to be effective, but also what’s critical for US security interests.”

    The president has been accused of weakness over both Syria and Iran, but the focus of recent days has been on Tehran because of differences with Netanyahu over the value of sanctions and diplomacy.

    The Israeli prime minister on Monday derided the effectiveness of sanctions in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and said that “none of us can afford to wait much longer” to act against Tehran.

    Romney told Aipac on Tuesday that Obama’s policy of “engagement” with Tehran was naive and gave the Iranian leadership time to develop its nuclear programme.

    “Hope is not a foreign policy. The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve backed by our power and our readiness to use it,” he said. “As president I’ll be ready to engage in diplomacy but I will be just as ready to engage our military might.”

    Newt Gingrich went further in telling Aipac that as president he would give Israel the means to attack Tehran’s nuclear facilities and let it do so without question.

    “I will initiate a strategy in the tradition of Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II to undermine and replace the Iranian dictatorship by every possible method short of war in order to achieve a government we could trust and could deal with,” he said.

    “At the same time I would provide all available intelligence to the Israeli government, ensure that they had the equipment necessary and reassure them that if an Israeli prime minister decides he has to avoid the threat of a second Holocaust through pre-emptive measures that I would require no advance notice to understand why I would support the right of Israel to survive in a dangerous world.”

    Santorum said Obama should put an ultimatum to Tehran to end its nuclear programme and “that if they don’t tear down those facilities, we will tear down them ourselves”.

    Obama’s pushback was reinforced by the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who told the president’s critics not to mistake a willingness to pursue diplomacy for weakness.

    Panetta, speaking to Aipac on Tuesday, said the military option is on the table as a last resort if sanctions fail and the president’s record demonstrates that he will use it if he believes there is no alternative.

    “As the president made clear, the United States does not bluff. In this town it’s easy to talk tough. Acting tough is a hell of a lot more important,” he said.

    “The president ordered 30,000 additional troops to battle in Afghanistan to confront a resurgent Taliban. He launched a comprehensive precision bombing campaign to protect the Libyans and ultimately toppled a brutal dictator. He has ordered US warships to pass through the straits of Hormuz despite the threats that we have received from Iran.

    “And he has been the driving force behind the most successful and lethal counter-terrorism campaign in US history culminating in the bold decision to send US special operations forces hundreds of miles into Pakistan to take the risk to take down bin Laden. And he did.”

  • John Irish | Paris | March 8

    Reuters – France voiced skepticism on Wednesday that a planned revival of talks between six world powers and Iran would succeed, saying Tehran still did not seem sincerely willing to negotiate on the future of its contested nuclear program.

    The EU’s foreign policy chief, who represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in dealings with Iran, said on Tuesday they had accepted Iran’s offer to return to talks after a standstill of a year that has seen a drift towards conflict in the oil-rich Gulf.

    The talks could dampen what U.S. President Barack Obama has called a rising drumbeat of war, alluding to talk of last-resort Israeli attacks on Iran that he and many others worry would kindle a wider Middle East war and hammer the global economy.

    French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, however, raised doubt about what the talks could achieve. “I am a little skeptical … I think Iran continues to be two-faced,” Juppe told France’s i-Tele television.

    “That’s why I think we have to continue to be extremely firm on sanctions (already imposed on Iran), which in my view are the best way to prevent a military option that would have unforeseeable consequences,” he said.


    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • CBS – Santorum: With economy improving, foreign policy may be dominant issue

    Rick Santorum suggested on Saturday that a nuclear-armed Iran may be the emerge as the most important issue of the 2012 election and told a crowd of voters here that his foreign policy experience may make him the most qualified candidate for the presidency.

  • Ken Dilanian | Washington D.C. | March 11

    LA Times – Despite President Obama’s assurances that the United States will know if Tehran begins to secretly build a nuclear bomb, some senior officials familiar with U.S. intelligence and spying capabilities in Iran are doubtful.

    The issue is a crucial one because the White House has suggested that U.S. satellites, sensors and spies, as well as United Nations inspections, provide a reliable tripwire to decide whether diplomacy has failed and military action is needed to stop Iran from assembling a nuclear device.

    The officials’ doubts stem, in part, from Iran’s record of deceit.

    Over the last decade, Western intelligence agencies have twice discovered large-scale clandestine Iranian facilities built to enrich uranium. The question now is whether Iran is hiding other nuclear enrichment sites or weapons research centers.

    “You have to assume that, if they went clandestine once, they could well go clandestine in other places,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    “As someone who deals with this stuff every day, I’m not sure how [the president] is that confident,” said Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “I am confident that at some point … we would know, probably. The problem is, you wouldn’t know if that meant they’d have a weapon in three days or in three months.”


    [Dear Congress, Please fuck off. I know you assholes are convinced that your high level executive review makes you experts on tasking, collection, analysis, and dissemination – in short, on all aspects of the intelligence cycle – and area and subject matter experts to boot. I have news for you – it doesn’t. Do us all a favour and stop the posturing bullshit. ~ JPD]

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • what do you think of the clearing of land at Parchin? I haven’t put much stock in it since it is all anon diplomats. I’m not sure diplomat means diplomat these days 😉 I am surprised the press hasn’t run hard with it.

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • …until we see the overheads. Parchin is a big place and there’s a lot of activity that goes on there. I would expect that ISIS has an order in for Quickbird coverage and we’ll see if anything comes from that.

    I’m not terribly surprised that the press hasn’t made a lot of it yet – most of the stories that I have seen have come from folks that have some time on the file. I’m sure the secondary “Iran issue” folks and polemicists will pick it up shortly, particularly if the overheads show signs of widespread scraping rather than digging foundations or something less ambiguous. ;(

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • …of this is Sarkozy and how much of it is the professional guidance of the Quai d’Orsay.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

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