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Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IRAN UPDATE....So how do things stand with Iran? Laura Rozen attended a CFR speech by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns yesterday and reports back:

All were looking to Washington's top Iran envoy for a signal about what the Bush administration plans to do on the Iran nuclear issue over the next ten months....And Burns did deliver a fairly clear message on that question. He said that he did not think the Iran nuclear issue would be resolved by the end of the Bush administration and would still be outstanding when a new administration takes office.

"I don't think conflict with Iran is inevitable," Burns said. "There is plenty of space for diplomacy."

"I think the issue plays out well beyond 2009," Burns said.

There's more at the link.

Kevin Drum 2:57 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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أولي, اّول, اولى!

Posted by: Boorring on February 26, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Burns:

"We don't have a clue what to do."

Posted by: john on February 26, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

If you went to warandpiece.com, Laura Rozen's other place, Kevin, you'd have found something even more interesting, a link to Noam Schreiber's(sp?) piece in TNR about Obama's policy advisers. It's very good and explains a lot to me about Obama's positions that I had found puzzling. Here's Schreiber's piece:
http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=4d40a39e-8f57-4054-bd99-94bc9d19be1a

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I tried to listen to Condoleeza Rice answer questions about this on TV the other night. It's no wonder she's been worthless at diplomacy. She loves nothing as much as the sound of her own voice droning on and on about what she has done in the years leading up to the question, the justifications for what she did, the irrelevant "achievements" of the Bush administration along the way and the tremendously complicated reasons why she can't answer the question after all. For her, to hear a comment or question is a signal to go into obfuscating defensive mode and give away as little as possible.

I doubt she's heard anything a leader from another country said to her in the last seven years, except maybe, "Those are great boots!"

Her long-winded response boiled down to "We expect that second round of sanctions to sail right through the U.N."

Posted by: cowalker on February 26, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

[Condi] loves nothing as much as the sound of her own voice droning on and on about what she has done in the years leading up to the question, the justifications for what she did, the irrelevant "achievements" of the Bush administration along the way and the tremendously complicated reasons why she can't answer the question after all.

Interesting observation, cowalker, since it ties in with a point about Obama's people in Schreiber's article -- they don't see their reputations as tied into B. Clinton's (for whom many worked as junior folks) in the way Hillary and her folks do, and they are thus freer to address problems in novel ways.

Conclusion -- those who spend all their time justifying their past actions are probably not your best folks for the future.

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Conclusion -- those who spend all their time justifying their past actions are probably not your best folks for the future.

I certainly agree with you on that. Rice has been totally out of her depth since day one in both positions she held. She reminds me of the faux smart kid who is asked a plain question in class and goes off on an unrelated but obscure and scholarly history of cheese graters to avoid answering.

Posted by: cowalker on February 26, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, when are you going to get around to updating this groaner:

[T]he Clinton campaign, given a chance to deny the charge [by Drudge that they circulated the Obama photo], rather loudly declined to do so.

I'm an Obama supporter, but as you well know the Clinton campaign has since denied the charge. Drudge's reliability (to borrow John Cole's line) compares unfavorably to that of the bathroom wall. Don't forget it.

Posted by: Crust on February 26, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I think is going to happen:

We are never going to have any kind of an open, military confrontation within Iraq that is not either covert or conducted through proxies. The whole thing is going to fizzle away into obscurity, Iran is probably going to stop caring so much about having a nuclear weapon because it's going to look to them less and less like they'll actually ever need to have it either to use it or just for intimidation and its ability to enhance bargaining clout, and this whole thing is going to be remembered as just a bunch of silly prating by the Bush administration.

Hopefull history will fit in Iran's leaders being deposed by the secular-minded portion of the populous at some point, too.

Posted by: Swan on February 26, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with cowalker and David in NY. Rice has been a total disappointment as Secretary of State.

I think neither Bush nor his successors will fulfill what I think should be the central point of our Iran policy -- preventing persuading them not to build nuclear weapons. I expect Iran to have a nuclear arsenal at some point in time, perhaps within 5 years or less.

At best, a nuclear Iran will change diplomatic parameters in the middle east in a way that's unfavorable to the US. At worst, Iran will give nukes to terrorists who will use them.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 26, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

We are never going to have any kind of an open, military confrontation within Iraq that is not either covert or conducted through proxies. The whole thing is going to fizzle away into obscurity, Iran is probably going to stop caring so much about having a nuclear weapon because it's going to look to them less and less like they'll actually ever need to have it either to use it or just for intimidation and its ability to enhance bargaining clout, and this whole thing is going to be remembered as just a bunch of silly prating by the Bush administration.

Actually, that's completely wrong. The pursuit of nuclear weapons in intrinsic for virtually every country in the world--it is almost required that each country has a kind of program in development. Developing a nuclear weapon is well beyond the capability of most nations; however, the guarantee of never being attacked by other nations is too strong. If the only thing that guarantees the preservation of the state is a handful of nuclear weapons, then the pursuit of those weapons becomes incredibly important. Iran pursues nuclear weapons because they already have nuclear power plants and nuclear technology that they have bought from France, Russia and China. When they shifted to building a heavy water reactor and started investing money into the program--and when they started doing business with AQ Khan--that meant that they were on the cusp of getting serious. What has happened is that they can't get over the hump--they don't have the infrastructure, the knowledge, or the fuel to get them to a weaponization stage in less than five years or so. The failure to understand how difficult it is to gauge what it takes to fully realize a nuclear weapons program means we have to rely on intelligence agencies to judge this for us. They messed up when judging India and Pakistan. What they're relying on is intel that is being funnelled through a politicized system that has ties to Israel and a number of other players that want Iran's oil industry off the world market. And that intel was manipulated until recently.

Hopefull history will fit in Iran's leaders being deposed by the secular-minded portion of the populous at some point, too.

That won't happen if we bomb them.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 26, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the link, David of NY
The Audacity of Data

Very interesting insight into the Obama advisor team. Since reality exhibits a distinct liberal bias, the pragmatists on Obama's team will have a good shot at being effective.

Posted by: cowalker on February 26, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Um, WHAT Iran nuclear issue? Iran isn't in fact currently developing nuclear weapons, despite now disproven lies to the contrary by the Bush regime, so what issue is this exactly?

Posted by: Stefan on February 26, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Does everyone remember the Iranian oil bourse that was talked a lot about a couple years ago? Well, it opened last Sunday. I wonder how much of Bush's antagonism against Iran really has to do with nuclear weapons and how much has to do with the coming decline of the dollar as a global reserve currency.

Slouching Towards Petroeurostan, Escobar

"It was a discreet, almost hush-hush affair, but after almost three years of stalling and endless delays it finally happened. Now more than ever, it may also signal a geoeconomic earthquake, a potentially shattering blow to US dollar hegemony."

Posted by: nepeta on February 26, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

**

Posted by: mhr on February 26, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Does Barack Hussein Obama consider it dangerous that Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs have the atomic bomb?

They do not have an atomic weapon, and the diminutive mouth that roars (and gets fraidy-cat wingnuts to piss in fear) will be gone as soon as aWol is out of the oval.

Or does he like many liberals view the United States as the most dangerous threat to world peace?

You sure do a lot of speaking for liberals, without having a fucking clue what we actually think. THAT we actually think is anathema to the likes of you and your slavering pathetic ilk, but that's beside the point.

The chances that any newsman or woman will ever ask Obama that question? Zero.

Idiot. CNN put a fucking poll up on cnn.com asking Americans if he is patriotic enough to be president because he soesn't wear a $2.99 rhinestone American flag lapel pin!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 26, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Since reality exhibits a distinct liberal bias, the pragmatists on Obama's team will have a good shot at being effective."

cowalker -- I was a bit disappointed that none of Obama's advisers had anything like a populist streak (as near as I could tell), which made me fear they could fall to big business lobbying (although Obama himself calls big pharma and others bad guys). But I consoled myself with the sentiment you expressed above -- a reality-based team, not shooting for anybody's legacy, will inherently be liberal and certainly not be doctrinaire right-wing.

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and the piece on Obama's adviser's is by Noam Scheiber. Apologies.

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

"There is plenty of space for diplomacy."--Burns

Yes, now that this agent for military action against Iran is gone we may no longer hear statements like: "Iran needs to learn to respect us and Iran certainly needs to respect American power in the Middle East."

Iran's nuclear program in in complete compliance with the NPT -- the real problem for the US, as Burns stated, is that Iran doesn't accept US hegemony in the ME and so the US is promoting regime change.

Actually, the "Iran issue" is really a low state of war when one considers: US naval fleets off Iran's shores, US support of MEK terrorists in Iran, economic sanctions, propaganda broadcasts and bombing threats. If someone did any of this to the US it would certainly be war.

Posted by: Don Bacon on February 26, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"US support of MEK terrorists in Iran"

Total irony. The US is prosecuting a woman in Brooklyn for alleged "material support" of a "terrorist organization," the MEK.

Posted by: David in NY on February 26, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

When it's 4th and 25 to go on your own 12 yard line, there's not much to do put punt.

Posted by: e. nonee moose on February 26, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, there might be incentives to pursue a nuclear program, but I'm just pointing out that there could be disincentives, too, and that circumstances may switch around in the future such that it will really be the disincentives, not the incentives, that stand in relief. I guess it depends a lot on where we go politically. The US is the #1 external threat to Iran. If the oil companies stay in control of our politics, then Iran faces a threat from us. If the oil companies don't stay in control, then actions like develpoing nuclear weapons probably do more to encourage economic sanctions against Iran (whatever regime is ruling the country) than they do to deter aggression.

Posted by: Swan on February 26, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Another example of the criminal Bush Administration kicking the can down the road for the next president to worry about. I pity any presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, who inherits the massive, putrefying can of worms that these war-mongering criminals are leaving behind.

I hope the Democrats continue to pursue criminal indictments and prosecution of Bush, Cheney and their minions after they leave office. They all deserve to spend the rest of their lives in a federal prison.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 26, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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