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January 30, 2007

EU Gives the Run Around on Iran
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

The NYT reports today that the Bush Administration is having a tough time winning European cooperation on tough economic sanctions for Iran.  The continent's excuses are two-fold: 1) they have vast commercial interests tied up with Tehran and 2) they lack the legal regimes and infrastructure necessary to implement the sorts of controls that the US Treasury Department is seeking.

Let's assume, as we are forced to in relation to all of the many foreign policy developments that do not break Washington's way of late, that part of their reluctance to cooperate is rooted in frustration and disgust with the Administration.  Let's venture that they don't trust the intelligence on the precise state of the Iranian nuclear program, that they fear that the US will make critical policy decisions without consulting them, and that they worry we will play into the hands of Ahmadinejad through ham-handed moves that make him look like a besieged innocent. 

Even given all that, they ought to promptly and fully cooperate with an effort to beef up sanctions.  Why?

- First off, nothing will embolden the Tehran regime more than a rift between the US and EU over how to react to its nuclear program.  With both Russia and China reluctant to clamp down on Iran, and the US bogged down in Iraq, transatlantic resolve is the only foundation for an international response.  If it fragments, Iran will think it has little to fear, and Israel may see no alternative but to act alone.

- There are initial signs that the tepid UN sanctions enacted on Iran thus far are having some effects - harming the country's economy and, more importantly, stimulating political dissent

- The logistical hurdles the Europeans cite seem surmountable - EU governments provided $18B in loan guarantees for transactions with Iran in 2005 even though many of the companies dealt with are known terrorist fronts.  Since the governments control these funds and guarantees, how hard can it be to cut them off?

- The commercial interests involved are another matter, but not an insurmountable hurdle.  If there's a war over Iran or Israel launches a preemptive attack, those interests will be jeopardized anyway.  Also, starting a program of distentangling those interests now will be less commercially disruptive than shutting them off suddenly and completely after, for example, an Iranian nuclear test.

- But the most important reason for the Europeans to get serious about sanctions is that they represent one among a precious handful of options for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions without military force.  Asset freezes and tightened export controls may well not accomplish much, but if they did tip Iran's precarious balance of power it could avert a frightening global crisis now in the works.



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I need help understanding why, if the UN measures seem to be "having some effects," further sanctions are needed at this time.

Furthermore, though my point of view is sacrilege in the US, in particular, I have to question why it would be so awful if Iran acquires nuclear technology. I question that we are necessarily at crisis stage, unless the US is unable to separate its conflict with Iran from the mess in Iraq. I really believe it's the US that is determinining how much crisis the world is in over Iran and will be in if Iran acquires a certain level of nuclear technology. It isn't Iran has not demonstrated consistently irrational foreign policy.

Not to defend Iran at all. But the US, it seems excrutiatingly clear to me, is not in a good position now to be dictating the terms of the peace between us. Negotiation is essential. Whatever it takes to get the US to the table--including lack of "cooperation" from Europe on sanctions--should be encouraged.

"many of the companies dealt with are known terrorist fronts."

Well the US government claims they are.
As a non-american that doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Anyway has the US actually produced a shred of evidence that Iran is actually trying to build a bomb?

Or are we europeans expected to shell out cash to punish Iran in the US's latest hatefest against Iran?

Without such evidence, and this time it will have to be cast iron, real (instead of faked
claptrap)evidence and certainly from non american sources(after all the US government is not a credible entity) then the notion that europeans should take an economic hit merely because Bush & co want it will be laughed out of court by every european electorate.

"a precious handful of options for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions without military force. "

Ah yes, 'the do what we want or we'll start shooting' gambit. How pathetic.

There is a world outside Europe. Russia, China, India, and the 115 nations of the nonaligned movement (including middle east countries) all support Iran. In fact, they welcome Iran's resistance to US world hegemony.

This whole situation with Iran is becoming more and more absurd with each passing day. Has any nation ever made itself look so ridiculous at the US looks right now? Our Iran policy is convoluted, perversely self-destructive and other-worldly in its denial of concrete reality.

The US has manically pushed this thing at every turn: arm-twisting allies, wheedling rivals, manipulating the IAEA and the UN itself, in the pursuit of a policy about which almost everyone besides the US and Israel clearly has grave doubts, and for which few other countries seem to see the pressing need. We forced a UN referral even though one was not called for by the substance of the IAEA report; we rammed a sanctions plan through the UN, aided by the embarrassing bullying of our never-confirmed, mouthy UN ambassador; we have misrepresented the contents of IAEA reports and our own intelligence in our public diplomacy; and we have basically demanded that the world trust our judgment on Iran - despite the fact that everyone knows US intelligence in the Middle East is extremely weak, lacking in skilled human resources and possessed of a clear track record of being wrong.

The rest of the world would clearly like to get on with the business of doing business with Iran, and prefers the standard approach of pursuing stability through engagement. Yet some of these other countries are humoring us and coddling us as like the big, fat, petulant, blundering babies we are - and it's embarrassing. The only reason things have gone this far down the road is that these other countries are trying to keep the acid-tripping US administration from wandering further off the diplomatic reservation and doing something stupid.

And despite the fact that the US and Iran clearly have a great deal to say to each other, the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. Apparently our leaders are convinced that diplomatic relations are a reward to be passed out like candy, rather than a practical means by which countries pursue their own interests. We are deprived of the opportunity of having a US ambassador communicate our positions directly to the Iranian government and people; deprived of the ability to develop confidence-building cultural exchanges; and deprived of our rights as citizens in a democracy to decide for ourselves about Iran and its intentions, rather than have our access to the country filtered through an imperious and secretive executive branch. And now we are reduced to passing notes back and forth to Iran through European intermediaries like a couple of schoolgirls. This is moronic! Even during the height of the Cold War the US maintained diplomatic relations with the Soviets.

Iran and the US have several coinciding interests right now, particularly in Iraq and in the war on terror, and our refusal to coordinate any policies at all with the Iranians is endangering American lives, particularly the lives of our soldiers in Iraq:

Iran is working to stabilize the Shiite and Kurdish majority government in Iraq, and invest in it – the very same government that we established and back. And they are working to prevent the overthrow of that government by the Sunni insurgency. Iran has given its strongest support to the very same groups - Sciri, the Kurds, Sistani - that the US has supported throughout most of the conflict.

Iran is also antagonistic to the global Salafist and Sunni jihadist movements, in and outside of Iraq. Since these are the people who have been responsible for almost all of the terrorism in recent decades against US and western interests, this is another area in which Iranian and US interests coincide.

Recall that there were no Iranians on the jets that hit the World Trade Center towers. There were 15 Saudis on those planes. And yet for some reason it is the Saudis whom US officials have no problem talking with. Iran has waves of women pursuing higher education and careers in Iranian society, and Condoleeza Rice wouldn’t even be allowed to drive a damn car if she lived in Saudi Arabia. Yet Rice will talk to the Saudis and kow-tow to their interests.

Suzanne, you speak of "dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions". What precisely do you, and we, know about Iran's nuclear ambitions?

For months we were assured by hawks that the Iranians must have a weapons program because it was absurd to think that such an oil-flooded country would need nuclear power. Now Business Week confirms that Iran's domestic energy consumption is increasing so rapidly that its exports might vanish by 2015, and thus it has surpassingly good reasons for desiring a domestic nuclear program.

And despite several overtures from Iran to open up discussions across the whole range of regional security issues, our government pretends these overtures have never occurred, and then lies to its own people about the existence of these contacts and seeks to censor those who would bring them to light.

And now our diplomatic message to Europe has been reduced to this: "Well you have to sanction Iran because otherwise the Israelis might attack them - and as we all know the Israelis are crazy paranoids about everything and nobody can control them." How compelling.

Iran has no nuclear weapons. Another country with nuclear weapons threatens an attack on Iran now almost daily. And yet we tell the world that the non-nuclear armed country must be sanctioned, while the armed and threatening country gets a pass. What is wrong with this picture?!

There is no logic to this policy, just politics.

What does it take to get this country to pursue its own interests? The failure to seize opportunities and make the changes called for by the times really is depressing, and speaks poorly about the capacity of a democratic country to conduct a rational foreign policy, rather than getting caught up in ideological and interest group side-wrangles.

Follow the recommendations of the Baker Commission. Somebody pick up the god damned phone and call the Iranians, and start getting to work on the long list of issues of common concern. Enough is enough with this bullshit.

Iran resists US hegemony in the Middle East, supports Hezbollah which is a democratic anti-Israeli force in Lebanon continually humiliating Israel, and is a major energy source for arch-rival China. Iran enjoys support from Russia, China, India and the non-aligned nations and is in a key geographical position between our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan and most importantly the energy-rich Caspian basin. Thus it is in the US interest to dominate Iran.

And then we have the rantings of our honorary Israeli ambassador, Hillary Clinton. The leading Dem candidate for president in next year's election said recently that a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the state of Israel and that U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. To prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, she said, "we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations. . . I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations," Clinton said. "I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines."

Fasten your seat-belts, it could be a rough landing. Even the usually cool and logical Captain Dan is using rough language.

And, most importantly, Iran is turning out to be an effective friend and sponsor of the new accidentally-fundamentalist "government" in Iraq, a situation the US can't abide.

Time to fold or raise the stakes. Sam Gardiner estimates April.

This sucks. The National Journal's Technology Daily is shutting down. This means that the country's only source of focused daily technology policy news will soon be no longer.

According to an email blast sent to subscribers today, the online pub closes at the end of January.

I was an original subscriber way back in 1998 -- back when Bara Vaida was the pub's first star reporter -- and stuck with it through what is (shockingly) almost a decade. It was and is the only place to get a consistent and in-depth perspective on issues that are otherwise glossed over or opined to-death by know-it-alls (who know little).

Over the years, Tech Daily, frankly, became a little too easy to take for granted. It was always there in a way that was almost overwhelming for even the biggest tech policy geek. But, when you really needed a quick perspective on policy doings related to issues like Health IT, cybersecurity, or copyright (to name just a few), you could get everything you need and more with just a little time on the site. Just as importantly, from a tech policy communications perspective, you knew that when you needed to provide a clients' viewpoint on an issue, there would very likely be an educated, highly-professional reporter at Tech Daily who would be up to speed.

Despite the high cost of a Tech Daily subscription, it's understood that the pub ran a tight margin. Apparently, for whatever reason, Tech Daily recently ran on the wrong side of the red/black line in the opinion of its corporate parent. buy discount cialis online buy cheap cialis online

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