Friday, March 30, 2007

The essential Iran

"Forty-eight percent of Germans think the United States is more dangerous than Iran, a new survey shows, with only 31 percent believing the opposite.(...)(in) a Forsa opinion poll commissioned by Stern magazine. Young Germans in particular -- 57 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds, to be precise -- said they considered the United States more dangerous than the religious regime in Iran."
Der Spiegel
David Seaton's News Links
I include below an editorial from the Washington Post, which is typical of the speculation floating around the capture of the British sailors by Iran. Lots of speculation about possible divisions in Iran's leadership; speculations about the success or lack of it of the UN sanctions. Is it really all that complicated? I don't think so.

The United States is making a huge effort to isolate, pressure and intimidate Iran, this has meant an enormous calling in and of extending I.O.U.s. Most countries have been hauled kicking and screaming into this. Despite this full court press, as we can see in the quote from Der Spiegel above, world public opinion is not behind any conflict with Iran. (A similar poll in Spain would show far worse numbers).

Here is another example: Timothy Garton Ash, published an article ln The Guardian yesterday, (reprinted in the LA Times) hysterically demanding that the European Union stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain in this crisis and if they didn't, Garton-Ash demanded, "What is the EU for?". It was interesting to skim through the reader's comments in The Guardian and I suggest you follow the link and read them. Overwhelmingly the readers were opposed to Garton-Ash's arguments. "Boo, fucking, hoo!" one reader wrote in. Another, signed in as "Weeper", if less colorful, was more explicit and neatly summed up what the majority of readers opined.
"Very convenient to be "European" when it suits us while sleeping in US's bed most of the time. Why is Britain now provoking Iran on behalf of the US, hasn't it enough trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq? And the scandal of the prisoners being shown on TV! A lot worse than 650,00 deaths (probably nearer 1 million now, not counting the 1st "Gulf War" and 10 years of sanctions) Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, cluster bombs, DU, and beating Iraqi civilians as shown on UK TV and for which no one was found guilty, don't you think. I hope that the Brits learn such a lesson from Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Iran, that they never again set out on another mad imperial adventure on behalf of US/Israel." - "Weeper", commenting on T. Garton - Ash in The Guardian
Bottom line: There is practically no public opinion siding with the USA, what support there is shallow and meant more than anything else to keep up appearances, while hoping that, "something may turn up". The Arab League meeting in Riyadh didn't even mention the hostages!

By simply taking 15 British hostages (balance that cost against the US maintaining two carrier battle groups in the zone) Iran bloodlessly exposes how shallow that support is and how little the USA controls the situation. Meanwhile,the price of oil was climbing toward $70.

Also, any military threat against Iran's atomic installations would have to take into account how simple it would be for Iran to share out the hostages among those installations. That among other things, is what hostages are for. It is hard to imagine, given how thin the support for armed action is, both in the world at large... and in the USA itself, that lame ducks Bush and Blair could try anything more than a "surgical strike" if that. Iran would survive it and its victory in terms of prestige in the third world would be immense.

I don't see anything but lose/lose here for Britain/USA/Israel here. The party that began when H.M. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia met Franklyn Delano Roosevelt on board the U.S.S. Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake of Egypt on February 14th, 1945 is drawing to a close. DS

The Results of Diplomacy - Editorial - Washington Post
(...) Administration officials were encouraged by signs of dissension in the Iranian leadership after the first of two unanimous sanctions resolutions passed the Security Council in late December. Before the second resolution was introduced, there were talks between Iranian and European officials about ways to renew negotiations. Yet the Iranian work on uranium enrichment has continued; there are signs the regime is racing to complete an industrial installation with thousands of centrifuges that it can present to the world as an accomplished fact.

Now Iran is parading captured British sailors before cameras and using their purported confessions of trespassing in Iranian waters as propaganda in a way that suggests an eagerness to escalate rather than defuse confrontation with the West. Yesterday, Britain offered evidence that its service members were captured in international waters and rightly called their treatment "completely unacceptable." Though Iran's foreign minister said a female sailor would be released "very soon," the television broadcast suggested the prisoners had been coerced.

It's widely believed that power in Iran is divided among competing factions, and it could be that hard-liners are seeking to preempt any steps by the regime to comply with the Security Council. It's impossible to predict what might come out of Tehran before the next U.N. deadline in late May. Yet what has happened so far is sobering.

Bush administration officials have been congratulating themselves on the relative speed and deftness with which the latest sanctions resolution was pushed through the Security Council. They are right, in a way: The diplomatic campaign against Iran has been pretty successful by the usual diplomatic measures. Not only has the United States worked relatively smoothly with European partners with which it differed bitterly over Iraq, but it has also been effective lately in winning support from Russia, China and nonaligned states such as South Africa.

Critics who lambasted the administration's unilateral campaign against an "axis of evil" a few years ago ought to be applauding the return to conventional diplomacy. We, too, think it's worth pursuing, especially when combined with steps short of a military attack to push back against Iranian aggression in the region. Still, two years after President Bush embraced the effort, it has to be noted: The diplomatic strategy so far has been no more successful than the previous "regime change" policy in stopping Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon.


Anonymous said...

Solano et al in Bremen simply agreed with Garton-Ash's analysis of Europe's interests after Bush, Blair & Baarthists. You were wrong.

Anonymous said...

Why are the British prisoners in Iran automtically labled as " being kidnapped and held as hostages" rather than "captured and held as prisoners"? Has Iran asked for some sort of ransom for their release? Let's face it, if the shoe was on the other foot, the press would be using the second phrase. Mmmm. On the other hand, maybe not. They would more likely be described as terorists.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I'm afraid you'll find it little more than talk in the end. There is no public support for anything more than brave talk.

Anonymous said...

Germany can be pretty dangerous too...

Stewart Stogel,
Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006

Germany Sells Nuclear Attack Submarines to Israel

UNITED NATIONS -- Israel's Channel 10 television is reporting that two new dolphin class submarines being sold to Jerusalem by Germany will "be modified" to allow them to fire "nuclear" tipped cruise missiles.
Dolphin class submarines are conventional, not nuclear powered subs, but will be able to launch nuclear weapons.
The two submarines, valued at more than $1 billion (U.S.) each will be "modified" to "allow Israel a second strike nuclear capability."
Israel has never publicly admitted it possesses any nuclear weapons.
The decision by the government in Berlin comes as Iran continues to defy United Nations demands for a halt to its uranium enrichment program.
Tehran claims the program is related to its efforts to establish a domestic civilian nuclear power system.
Western intelligence agencies suspect that the enrichment program is really intended to provide key elements for a future nuclear weapon.
The U.N. security council has given Iran till August 31 to halt its activities or risk possible economic sanctions.
IBA-TV is also reporting that Germany will "modify" the dolphin submarines to allow to remain submerged for an extended period of time.
The dolphins are believed to be among the "quietest" subs in operation and extremely difficult to track when submerged.
When delivered, the two submarines will be the most advanced in the service of the Israeli Navy.
They will join several earlier model dolphins already in use by Israel.