Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 20, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

BURNT OFFERING....Gareth Porter has a terrific article in the American Prospect this month about the entire arc of Iranian-American relations since 9/11. In the beginning, things were looking up:

As America began preparing for the military operation in Afghanistan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker held a series of secret meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva. In those meetings, Iran offered search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan, according to one former administration official. The Iranians, who had been working for years with the main anti-Taliban coalition, the Northern Alliance, also advised the Americans about how to negotiate the major ethnic and political fault lines in the country.

Then came the infamous "axis of evil" speech, and progress stalled because the Cheney bloc in the White House was convinced that Iran would disintegrate all on its own. That didn't happen, of course, and after the Iraq War we received yet another overture from Iran. I blogged about that a couple of days ago, but Porter provides even more detail about exactly what the Iranians proposed:

The proposal offered decisive action against any terrorists (above all, al-Qaeda) in Iranian territory....To meet the U.S. concern about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the document offered to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for full access to peaceful nuclear technology.

....The Iranian proposal also offered a sweeping reorientation of Iranian policy toward Israel....The document offered acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states approach).

....The document also offered a stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc.) from Iranian territory and...action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon.

....Finally, its aims included respect for Iranian national interests in Iraq and religious links to Najaf/Karbal.....The list of Iranian aims also included an end to U.S. hostile behavior and rectification of status of Iran in the U.S., including its removal from the axis of evil and the terrorism list, and an end to all economic sanctions against Iran.

There's more detail in the full story, and it's well worth a read. The Iranian proposal clearly wasn't something we'd be willing to accept in toto, but it was just as clearly an extremely detailed and serious starting point. Ignoring it was a world class misjudgment.

Kevin Drum 12:31 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (54)

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Comments

Just goes to show that the administration doesn't believe in contigency plans. They assume the best, take it for granted that all their actions will have only the desired consequences, and go from there.

I know, I'm shocked.

Posted by: Viserys on June 20, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

A "world class misjudggment."

Who would have anticipated that?

Posted by: Chaz on June 20, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

They've been going around saying "Next Year Tehran" to each other for so long that they have to have it!

Posted by: R.L. on June 20, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose we "appeased" our way to winning the cold war, eh? Not everything is a choice between military action and being an "appeaser." Diplomacy and alliance-building are the preferred tools of a statesman. War as anything but a last resort is the tool of thugs and madmen.

Posted by: me2i81 on June 20, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

"Ignoring it was a world class misjudgment."

Made by world-class idiots, like Cheney. Yeah, Big Dick, diplomacy and sanity in foreign relations has worked pretty well throughout history.

Posted by: Jones on June 20, 2006 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney doesn't really understand causality. Iran is the sort of problem we can't appease now, because they are developiong nukes and influencing the Iraq mess to our detriment.

But, would they be doing that if we hadn't rebuffed their pre-afghanistan help and equated them with Saddam and North Korea? Hard to say. Clinton at one point developed plans to attack Iran (see Clarke's Against All Enemies), but the Iranians turned out to be mostly all talk. At the time GWB was inaugurated, it's hard to believe Iran was a threat deserving of military action.

Posted by: mmy on June 20, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

I just hope that my military hardware stocks are going up since profit from war seems to be this administrations gift to the world. How else can we profit from death?

Posted by: Where's osama on June 20, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

We are ruled by major league assholes. Big Time.

Posted by: nut on June 20, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ignoring it was a world class misjudgment.

That should be the GOP election slogan. That, or "Your GOP - on the wrong side of history since history began."

Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

Then came the infamous "axis of evil" speech, and progress stalled because the Cheney bloc in the White House was convinced that Iran would disintegrate all on its own.

You forgot to also mention that the progress stalled because Iran is forcing all Jews and Christians to wear badges like the Nazis forced Jews during the holocaust.

Link

"As reported by Canadas National Post: "Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.""

Posted by: Al on June 20, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Appeasing works well throughout history, doesn't it?
Posted by: Cheney on June 20, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it was shown several times to work for the Vikings, in France, Britain, Germany, and Constantinople.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot to also mention that the progress stalled because Iran is forcing all Jews and Christians to wear badges like the Nazis forced Jews during the holocaust.

Al, you forgot to read to the end of the blog post...

UPDATE 05-24 by Matthew Sheffield: The Post has retracted the report. "It is now clear the story is not true," Douglas Kelly, the National Post's editor in chief says.

Posted by: metawhore on June 20, 2006 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Al just jumped the shark. It was beautiful.

Posted by: jimbo on June 20, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I don't think we should do anything to prop up the Iranian regime. And why do you think the Iranian government would keep any of their promises??

Posted by: Down goes Frazier on June 20, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Good point Frazier - after all, we don't. Why should they?

Posted by: craigie on June 20, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I just hope that my military hardware stocks are going up since profit from war seems to be this administrations gift to the world. How else can we profit from death?
Posted by: Where's osama on June 20, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

Are you joking? With the Bush Junta's lapdog SEC, the insiders will abscond with all the money when the crash comes. Small time investors like you are just suckers.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, have we got all the stupid commenters just waiting on the block, or what ?
The question should be, should Iran try to appease unreasonable America ? I put up the article in European Tribune for reference before, about how the U.S. deliberately trashed nuclear nonproliferation treaties : http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/4/9/85222/23557

Posted by: opit on June 20, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

about how the U.S. deliberately trashed nuclear nonproliferation treaties :

What about how the US trashed it's own counterproliferation intelligence asset Brewster Jennings?

How about how the US offers tacit approval of the "house arrest" for AQ Khan in Pakistan, who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly others?

How about how the US got itself bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq so that it has no credible sabers left to rattle?

Like I said before: Conservatives are just shitting their pants with glee over the prospect of a west-coast liberal city getting nuked by commies or terrorists. Here are the pros:
- 10 million less liberals in the US.
- hundreds of billions more in fraudulent reconstruction contracts for Halliburton.
- hundreds of billions more in fraudulent contracts for boondoggle Star Wars programs.
- saying "I told you so" about threats of WMD in the hands of wackos.
- a blank check to invade anyone anywhere on anyone's word that a nuclear weapons program is being considered.
- free cover for industrial pollution; that cancer-cluster? It's not the Duke Energy plant leaking, it must be fallout from the Iranian nuke.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

"As reported by Canadas National Post: "Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.""
Posted by: Al on June 20, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

That report has been been determined to be fraudelent. The National Post has retracted that article, and so should you.

Posted by: terry k on June 20, 2006 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

For link of above comment: National Post is wrong.

http://www.canada.com/topics/entertainment/story.html?id=6626a0fa-99de-4f1e-aebe-bb91af82abb3

Posted by: terry k on June 20, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Al won't retract the story: he's not paid to.

Posted by: floopmeister on June 20, 2006 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Political Animal: providing sustenance to wingnut trolls since '04. RNC approved.

Posted by: modus potus on June 20, 2006 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

All of which is why W jumped back into the bully pulpit today setting aggressive timelines, keeping negotiations off balance and making it difficult for Iran to see the benefit of moving forward.

Nice job, shit for brains.

Cheney's doing a nice job with his mouth too.

The New American Century? Mark it down. As an idiot idea I think that could figure right alongside the Thousand Year Reich. Hopefully less dramatic. But they've still got 2 1/2 years to snatch catastrophe from the jaws of disaster.

Posted by: notthere on June 20, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Osama. And for those lacking - for whatever reason - the Brewster Jennings reference - does the name Valerie Plame ring any bells ?

Posted by: opit on June 20, 2006 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

"As reported by Canadas National Post: "Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.""
Posted by: Al on June 20, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

As others have mentioned, this story was later shown to be false (maybe US taxpayer dollars paid some nice propaganda mill a few hundred thou for this?)

So, Al, are you going to get all up in arms and call for an invasion of Iran because they hanged a couple of teenage boys for being gay?

Or are you going to recommend Bush award the hangman a Medal of Freedom?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 20, 2006 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Kevin.

Posted by: jonku on June 20, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

Bush and Ahmadinejad are two of a kind - pseudo-religious fundamentalist wackjobs who aren't supported or liked by the majority of their own people and who seem anxious for Armageddon.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 20, 2006 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

Early on in the Afghaninstan campaign Aviation Leak had some pictures of supplies being delivered to a US special forces group in a remote area. What made the picture interesting was that the specialized type of airplane delivering the supplies is used by only the Russian and Iranian armies; no one else.

Let's see: pissed off South Korea. Alienated Italy. Did in the prime minister of Spain, and perhaps Great Britan as well. Transformed a respectful relationship with Russia to one of contempt (on their part). Passed up an opportunity for detente with Iran.

Yup, that George W Bush is a man approaching genius in foreign policy.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 20, 2006 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

When we wake up from the Bush years and dust is settling everywhere, one of the biggest questions that will have to be answered will be "Who lost Chatami?"

The former Iranian President was as open-minded and liberal a leader as we are likely to see in Iran in the next generation. Both a devout religious scholar and a real intellectual, Chatami had the capacity to engage in dialogue with non-Shiites and non-Muslims, and his intentions for reform were genuine. The costs of "losing Chatami" should not be underestimated.

Posted by: Gabor on June 20, 2006 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a country that the U.S. said was a part of the "axis of evil" seems to be the more reasonable, practical and rational of the two?

Posted by: Kurzleg on June 20, 2006 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Has our foreign policy apparatus been taken over by space aliens who hate America? We need to demand DNA checks of Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and everybody else who has a hand in American foriegn policy.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 20, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Come on, seriously? We're supposed to believe that Iran just up and offered not only to help the U.S. fight Al-Queda, stop supporting Hamas, change Hizbollah from a terrorist organization to a political one, accept the existence of Israel, and -- on top of all that! -- agree to tighter IAEA controls. In exchange for what? "Peaceful" nuclear technology, recognition of Iran's religious interests in Iraq, and a cessation of U.S. "hostile behavior", whatever that means. So basically Iran offered to unilaterally surrender but it was all blown to hell by "axis of evil". You have to be one hell of a deluded idiot to believe that.

Posted by: Homer on June 20, 2006 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Homer have you paid any attention at all these last three years? The Muslim world is divided into two major camps. The Sunnis and the Shiites. They have hated each other since the 8th century.

The Sunnis are the largest group. They control most of the Arab world. Most of the terrorists (including al quada and everybody you mentioned) are Sunnis.

The Shiites control Iran and about 1/2 of Iraq. Al Quada in Iraq has not had any trouble killing Shiites. It feels natural for Sunnis to kill Shiites. Saddam used to terrorize the Shiites, big time. He was Sunni. He and his Bathists used to keep Shiites down. They killed hundreds of thousands of Shiites.

After the fall of Saddam the Iraqi Shiites are poised to take over in Iraq. The Iranians want to extend their influence. What better way than to help the Shiites take charge in Iraq. All of a sudden the Mullahs in Teran have great sway over their Iraqi neighbors. Good for them.

Looking at it from their perspective, their previous offers of peace and help were the best way for them promote the Shiite cause. It doesn't mean they would love America. It means that Iranian and American interests would have alined around promoting the Shiites in Iraq.

Once upon a time, when grown-ups were in charge, deals were struck between groups who, at least for the moment, had common foreign policy interests. Remember the old saying "politics makes strange bedfellows." Well it is equally true in diplomacy.

Homer, most of America has awoken to realize that not all Arabs are a like. Why don't you?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 20, 2006 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

I mispoke. Iranians are not Arabs.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 20, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

We don't negotiate or talk to brutal regimes, unless it's Hussein's Iraq in the 1980s. In that case it was not only OK to talk, but to also give military aid, including chemical weapons.

Maybe if Bush and Condi spent less time in the sack and more time actually thinking about foreign policy, we wouldn't have so many problems in the Middle East.

Who would have thought that jungle fever could be so harmful?

Posted by: NSA Mole on June 20, 2006 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Conservative Failed Predictions on Parade:

Iran will soon collapse on its own.

Chalabi will be vindicated.

Iraq has massive stockpiles of WMDs.

Iraq has a nuclear weapons program only months from deployment.

WMDs will eventually be found in Iraq and liberals will eat crow.

The Iraqis will greet us with parades and open arms.

The Iraq war will last six weeks.

Social Security is doomed.

Global warming will be proven a myth.

O'Connor will overturn Roe.

Kennedy will overturn Roe.

We will ultimately win in Vietnam.

We have Saddam under our thumb and right where we want him.

We have Noriega under our thumb and right where we want him.

Large numbers of US troops will die in Haiti.

Large numbers of US troops will die in Bosnia and Kosovo and Clinton will fail there.

You can't win a war based primarily on use of air power.

Bush will be back to 60% approval in no time.

Bush's "get tough" stance in Iraq will be a lesson to regional powers and cow other nations and they will dance to the US's tune and we won't even need to project military power to get our way.

-------------------------------------

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney: Appeasing works well throughout history, doesn't it?

Bush 41 proved that with his appeasement of Saddam, right Cheney?

And Bush 43 with his appeasement of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

And Cheney with his appeasement of Chalabi.

And Bush 43 again with his appeasement of the Far Right, especially the Christian Far Right.

==================

Your only problem is, you really don't know what "appeasement" means.

Or, you've simply redefined it, using that Conservative Dictionary of Convenient Misdefinitions, to mean something that only applies to foreign policy decisions of liberals that you disagree with.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Appeasing works well throughout history, doesn't it?

Hey, it worked for Bush in the China spy plane incident in 2001, when he kow-towed to his Chinese masters.

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I don't think we should do anything to prop up the Iranian regime. And why do you think the Iranian government would keep any of their promises??

Exactly. Remember that the Soviet government couldn't be trusted to keep any of their promises, which is why we never negotiated arms-control agreements with them but instead invaded....oh, wait, that never happened?

The fact is, you don't have to trust them -- you just have to be able to check independently that what they're claiming is true. As Reagan said, "trust...but verify."

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

We don't negotiate or talk to brutal regimes, unless it's Hussein's Iraq in the 1980s. In that case it was not only OK to talk, but to also give military aid, including chemical weapons.

While at the same time we were negotiating with Iraq's enemy and ours, the brutal regime of Iran, to trade hostages in exchange for advanced weaponry in defiance of US law.

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Homer, most of America has awoken to realize that not all Arabs are a like. Why don't you?

Not only that, but the Iranians aren't Arabs.

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Early on in the Afghaninstan campaign Aviation Leak had some pictures of supplies being delivered to a US special forces group in a remote area. What made the picture interesting was that the specialized type of airplane delivering the supplies is used by only the Russian and Iranian armies; no one else.

Yes, Iran was helping us in the Afghanistan campaign, since they were enemies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and allies of the Northern Alliance. They'd been supplying Ahmed Shah Massound and his NA for years. Ironic, no?

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK


kevin: progress stalled because the Cheney bloc in the White House was convinced that Iran would disintegrate all on its own. That didn't happen, of course

let me guess.....no one could have anticipated that?

"I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered.." - VP Dick Cheney 6/19/06

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees..." - President GWB 9/1/05

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and...use an airplane as a missile." - National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice 5/16/02

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Since no one is so prescient as to anticipate all the disasters that continually happen under the GWB watch, may be he should appoint No One as his principal security advisor.

Posted by: nut on June 20, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Peace doesn't play well for the fearful, huddled masses. Gotta have an enemy. Gotta have a boogeyman. Be it the new Al Qaeda Iraq public enemy number 1 or Iran. Defense spending and Republican candidates don't do well in an atmosphere of peace.

Posted by: ckelly on June 20, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

nut: Since no one is so prescient as to anticipate all the disasters that continually happen under the GWB watch, may be he should appoint No One as his principal security advisor.

Ha!

He can stand in proud opposition to the shadowy Democratic spokesman Some Say, whom Bush continually references in his speeches: "Some Say Iraq can't succeed...I reject that charge...Some Say we should surrender to Al Qaeda and convert to Islam, but I believe that's wrong...."

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Peace doesn't play well for the fearful, huddled masses. Gotta have an enemy. Gotta have a boogeyman. Be it the new Al Qaeda Iraq public enemy number 1 or Iran. Defense spending and Republican candidates don't do well in an atmosphere of peace.

Well said. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Republicans were able to grow fat on the spectre of Communism. In the 1990s, poor wretches, they had only Clintonism (and his dread comrades Peace and Prosperity) to combat, but now, in the '00s (?) they have their new Ism, Terrorism -- "It's everywhere! It's under your bed! It's in your closet! We're all gonna die! Mommy, Mommy!"

Posted by: Stefan on June 20, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

quite frankly, I don't believe they genuinely offered all that. there's no way.

Posted by: Nathan on June 20, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum = Neville Chamberlain?

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on June 20, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK


nothing to fear but fear itself...


sucker born every minute

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 20, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney (Charlie): "Peace" in our time.

Not while a war president is on the rampage engaging in preemptive strikes against non-threatening countries while ignoring the real threats.

In Charlie's world, attacking where the enemy is not is not appeasement, capitulation and cowardice.

Protested any military funerals with your anti-gay demonstrations lately, Charlie?

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 20, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, Kevin, how come you're only recognizing Porter's efforts now? He's been documenting Iranian machinations for quite some time over at IPS. There's nothing new here in the American Prospect piece.

In general, you would do well to check out IPS more often. In particular, the fact that Jim Lobe's reports never appear here, or on any of the other big liberal blogs, is damn near criminal. He's easily one of the best journalists working in Washington.

Posted by: Bill on June 20, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"After" the Iraq War?

Posted by: durakje on June 20, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Appeasing works well throughout history, doesn't it?"

A great analogy, Cheney, except you may be forgetting one thing:
to most of the world, WE are now Germany, 1939.

Posted by: Kenji on June 21, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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