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Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SANCTIONS AND THE NIE....Robin Wright reports that new sanctions against Iran are making steady progress at the UN:

The draft of the long-delayed third resolution is still being negotiated, and early versions are often tougher than the final product. But its scope is significantly wider than the two previous U.N. resolutions, even though it does not go as far as the sweeping sanctions the United States took unilaterally in October against the 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps, Quds Force and three banks, officials say.

....The proposal indicates that there is still an appetite for significant new punitive measures against Iran even after the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate last week concluded that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, according to officials from several countries.

"The international community is not being dissuaded by the NIE," says an unnamed European diplomat. Perhaps so. Or perhaps the NIE is actually making things easier?

Kevin Drum 8:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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I guess I need to be educated about the Iranian threat. I've just never felt threatened.

I got this crazy notion that the Iranian people are ripe for progressive notions if only we proceeded intelligently and strategically.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 10, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

We should all write to the President of Iraq thanking him for being more of a gentleman than Bush will ever be.

He writes a polite, lengthy philosophical letter, an obvious diplomatic effort and gesture of friendship, and Bush, clod that he is, ignores it.

You should all look at the new BBC documentary about the Queen, "Monarchy" (the one with the footage of Annie Leibovitz being even more of a clod than Bush). Bush stands be the Queen and sits by her at dinner making these asinine, infantile facial expressions like some 12-year-old squirming in church. And then there's the footage of him going ahead of her as they walk down the stairs, and then he back tracks, walking backwards up the stairs, with more silly, dopey facial expressions. Ridiculous.

Posted by: Anon on December 10, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

I meant the President of Iran, of course. And there's another small typo. Whatever. Sorry.

Posted by: Anon on December 10, 2007 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

"The international community is not being dissuaded by the NIE," says an unnamed European diplomat. Perhaps so. Or perhaps the NIE is actually making things easier?

Great news Kevin. I think we should take the Europeans at their word they weren't dissuaded by the NIE. They probably don't believe it any more than I do, and that's why they're continuing with the sanctions. If even the Europeans don't believe the NIE, it even makes less sense for the American left to defend the veracity of the NIE. But the left is known for talking nonsense.

Posted by: Al on December 10, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think Robin Wright means "Gordon Brown, Andrea Markel, and Sarkozy" when she says "Europeans". But I'll bet that Vladimir Putin is not on that list so I think enhanced sanctions getting by the Security Council are slimsky and nonsky and slimsky left for Siberia!

Posted by: richard locicero on December 10, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

From the referenced article:

Although European officials and Middle East experts agree that the new NIE effectively takes the military option off the table, tensions remain high between Washington and Tehran. Iran lashed out at the Bush administration yesterday after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Iran is trying "everywhere you turn . . . to foment instability and chaos," charging that its "destabilizing" policies are a threat to every Middle East country. .

Just think how this sounds to the rest of the world and to Iranian citizens. The guys who invaded and currently occupy the country next door are telling Iranians that they foment instability everywhere in the region.

The United States has zero credibility so long as Republicans control the Presidency. Zero.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 10, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

One other point. Everytime Bush mentions "sanctions" the price of oil goes up making the sanctions regime moot for Mr. Ahmadninijad anyway.

Posted by: richard locicero on December 10, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

little ole jim - Great comment. What sort of alternative reality are they living in? Let's see them get harsh sanctions past Russia and China. And how can you apply sanctions against Iran for enrichment when such enrichment for civilian purposes is absolutely legal under the NPT. I think the only threat the US and Europe see with Iran is the potential cooperation between Iran/Russia/Central Asia/China. That could indeed spell trouble for the oil gluttons.

Posted by: nepeta on December 10, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I need to be educated about the Iranian threat.

Not only you. Recently, Defence Secretary Gates tried to educate the Gulf states on the Iranian threat. AP reported:

Soon after Gates' speech, the defense secretary was challenged by Bahraini Minister of Labor Majeed al-Alawi, who wanted to know whether Gates thought "the Zionist (Israeli) nuclear weapon is a threat to the region."

Gates paused, and answered tersely: "No, I do not."...

Asked if U.S. acceptance of that was a double standard in light of Washington's pressure on Iran, Gates again said "no," and described the government in Jerusalem as more responsible than the one in Tehran...

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani countered Gates' comparison of Iran and Israel.

"We can't really compare Iran with Israel. Iran is our neighbor, and we shouldn't really look at it as an enemy," said Sheik Hamad. "I think Israel through 50 years has taken land, kicking out the Palestinians, and interferes under the excuse of security, blaming the other party."

Posted by: JS on December 10, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

even the Europeans don't believe the NIE

The Europeans don't believe what Americans say abut Iraq! Boo! Damn the pinko bastards! Freedom Fries! Freedom Fries!

The Europeans don't believe what Americans say abut Iran! Hooray! Finally, people with some sense! Yay for France!

Posted by: Finny on December 10, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Who else thinks the never-stated irritation has to do with the Russians being considered more reliable suppliers of nuclear tech than the U.S. ?
India was looking to toss its agreement with the U.S. and go with four reactors from Russia. That would really limit U.S. ability to meddle with other peoples' business while losing sales in an area of "vital strategic importance" - doublespeak to establish a basis for convenient fearmongering misinformation ( lying ) in the style of Iran.

Posted by: opit on December 10, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is presently the world's fourth largest oil exporter. Due to increasing internal consumption Iran is expected to become a net oil importer in the next few years. Denying them the ability to offset their oil consumption with nuclear electricity seems worse than bone headed, so of course that's what we're going to do, right?

Posted by: DFH on December 11, 2007 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Or perhaps the NIE is actually making things easier?"

Given that Israel, Germany and the UK (at least) think the NIE is a load of bollocks: perhaps not.

Posted by: am on December 11, 2007 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

Finny at 11.22 calls am at 3.01. Unlike am who seemingly flies willy-nilly from strong defense to attacks on the veracity of such reports - it depends on whether he agrees with them or not - I've always read such reports from a pretty jaundiced stance. From what I can see, the strongest real thing this NIE has to say is that there is a strong consensus among the rank and file under Junior against an attack on Iran and for blunting the neocons... And unfortunately this NIE report has perhaps got enough truth mixed in to give its lies some traction. That there was a nuclear weapons program and that it was halted in 2003 seems to have been all too readily swallowed by many who should know better by now.

And am, given what your "things" connotes, no wonder you read it this way. Making your things more difficult seems entirely a good thing; means my things might be easier.

(which is whatever policy best leads to the loss of power of the current Iranian regime and its replacement by a popularly determined government, preferably one not too readily responsive to U.S. imperial demands)

Posted by: snicker-snack on December 11, 2007 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Or perhaps the NIE is actually making things easier?"

Well, the pre-war WMD inspections in Iraq turned out to be just that - making sure that there were no dangerous weapons, so that the invasion was on.

Posted by: Barry on December 11, 2007 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

If Iran doesn't have an active nuclear weapons program, why is the int'l community considering sanctions?

It does seem like negative reinforcement for good behavior.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on December 11, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK
Or perhaps the NIE is actually making things easier?

Of course it's making things easier. Acting tough towards a country that is actively pursuing nuclear weapons can be dangerous. But if a country isn't pursuing nuclear weapons, then it's safe to punish them for it. That's why we invaded Iraq, isn't it?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on December 11, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

It may seem counterintuitive, but perhaps hyping the threat was counterproductive all along. Now that the US intelligence community has come clean in this new NIE about the actual Iranian threat, and shown real courage and integrity by embarassing a war-mongering administration in the process, the world community is more amenable toward cooperating on tough sanctions with a US whose honesty has gained it new-found credibility.

Posted by: Ted Frier on December 11, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK
….the world community is more amenable toward cooperating on tough sanctions…. Ted Frier at 3:12 PM
France, the UK, and the US can bluster all they want, Germany is reluctant while China and Russia say no.

…Despite strong support from NATO allies in the wake of a new U.S. intelligence report that concludes Iran actually stopped atomic weapons development in 2003, the top U.S. diplomat was unable to persuade Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the urgency of fresh sanctions…..
China, another key participant in the so-called "P5+1" group of world powers now trying to craft such a resolution, is also resisting. The P5+1 includes the five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany….

A Russian veto is almost guaranteed unless Bush's new sanctions are so watered down as to be meaningless.

Posted by: Mike on December 11, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

I've been absent for a couple weeks -- after the NIE was released, did Kevin apologize for his gulliblogging regarding the so-called threat from Iran? Did any of the so-called liberal hawks on here?

Posted by: Disputo on December 11, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. samsonblinded.org/blog/america-arranges-a-peace-deal-with-iran.htm ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn't it?

Posted by: Alex on December 11, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thank-you for your service, everything has arrived without any hiccups.

Posted by: Dwight Richard on December 12, 2007 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK



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