“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, December 22, 2006

How important is Iran to the future of Iraq? A lot, say the Russians.

Only Iran can help Bush in the Middle East

By Pyotr Goncharov Kuwait Times

The Bush administration now faces a difficult and extremely unpleasant decision: Should it, and can it, involve Iran in the effort to stabilise the Middle East, notably Iraq? This time the issue has been raised by the Americans. According to the much publicised report by former US Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, delivered to George W Bush, the situation in Iraq may drift into chaos, which will not just result in the toppling of the government and a humanitarian catastrophe: there is a great danger that the bloodshed will spread to other Middle Eastern countries, spawning a regional conflict.

The Baker-Hamilton report's verdict is very pessimistic: the US's international image will be damaged for the foreseeable future, while domestic opinion will polarise even more. What is to be done? The report proposes involving Iran in stopping the violence in Iraq. The advice makes sense, but given the mutual dislike of Tehran and Washington it is not likely to be followed. American-Iranian cooperation in Iraq would require direct bilateral talks, which has so far been unthinkable for the Bush administration for several reasons.

The first is the notorious Iranian nuclear dossier. A White House spokesman has already said that they have ruled out bilateral talks with Iran until it stops uranium enrichment and processing.

Another reason is even more sensitive for Washington: it is unclear how Iran, which has recently been positioning itself as a new Middle East superpower, will behave. There is no doubt that it will demand a lot, if, of course, it vouchsafes its participation in talks at all. Besides, Iran is the last country to want the United States to leave Iraq now. Tehran is perfectly aware of the responsibility it would have to shoulder if it did. But does Iran have the strength, money and capability to prevent the situation in its neighbour from escalating into a war, given the developments in Lebanon and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

It does not, of course. Moreover, Iran's aspirations to develop its nuclear program and assume a leading position in the region have been met with hostility in the Arabian Gulf states. Evidence of that is their rejection of Tehran's initiative on signing a non-aggression and non-interference pact that would remove tensions around the Iranian nuclear file. So if the US leaves, Iran may be left to face not only all potential problems in the region alone, but an anti-Iranian coalition as well. Nevertheless, Tehran will continue "boycotting" America's presence in the region, without crossing over the line it has drawn. This stance has obvious advantages in indirect bargaining with Washington, both on the nuclear program and on protection of regional priorities.

In addition, there is the current Iraqi government, which for obvious reasons does not want to speak too loudly in favour of a US withdrawal, a fact that creates additional difficulties for Iran. This could be seen at the recent Iran-Iraq summit. Tehran positioned Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's visit to Iran as an emerging strategic alliance in the Middle East. The joint statement signed by Talabani and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touches upon many important issues, such as a bilateral agreement and relations between the two countries in general, but it does not say anything about the coalition forces deployed in Iraq.

The White House does not rule out that President Bush may announce changes in the strategy in Iraq before the year is out. This will be done after he compares the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group with the recommendations of two other similar reports on Iraq. One of them is being drafted by the National Security Council, and the other by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces. Meanwhile, the Bush administration should probably acknowledge that the US does not have a clear stand on any Middle East developments, whether it is the situation in Lebanon or Israeli-Palestinian relations. Its position on Iraq also needs a major adjustment. The key to many problems might be found in Iran, but this will not be an easy task.

NOTE: Pyotr Goncharov is a political commentator for the Russian News and Information Agency Novosti - MCT


  1. I hope someone can help me.

    When did last you hear of a Shi’a madrassa or mosque in Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Afghanistan, the UK, France, Nigeria, Iraq, Thailand, or Detroit preaching death to America? Is CAIR affiliated with the Shi’a or the Sunni? Whence came the financing for the 9/11 attacks? Were the 9/11 attackers Shi’a or Sunni? Which country in the world provides the vast bulk of financing for Wahhabi mosques and madrassas? Which country in the world has control of OPEC?

  2. “Talibans with Oil and a Good P.R. Company”

  3. In the Pulitzer Links:
    "Holy War Lured Saudis
    as Rulers Looked Away"

  4. doug,

    Keep posting. The Saudi ambassador will call offering money. At least, that's how it works in DC.

  5. But, of course, Israel is much more threatened by Iran via the Hesbos, and Yoni and Ledeen and many others think the existential threat should not be taken lightly.

  6. doug, thanks for the links.

    allen, I found the JAG article you mentioned, including this.

    Though the current consensus is shifting away from Cheney's "Go Shiite" to "Go Anything-but-Sadr", it might still be too early to tell if we've avoided the implicit Saudi threat to increase funding for Sunni insurgents in Iraq - though they've been doing it since forever.

    After all, the Saudis are already building up their conventional forces as if hinting at an inevitable showdown with Iran, so perhaps their paranoia has been pushed to the brink. If so, nothing can be discounted. Expect an upsurge of funds to the Sunnis in the near future.

  7. Can't we all just get along?

  8. Harrison said, "After all, the Saudis are already building up their conventional forces as if hinting at an inevitable showdown with Iran, so perhaps their paranoia has been pushed to the brink."

    Tsk tsk. Osama founded al-Qaeda when American boots were seen walking on holy Saudi sand, what's he going to think when Iranian jets start bombing Islam's holiest sites in a Sunni-Shi'ite pissing contest? Zarqawi started a slow fuse burning when he "crossed the Rubicon" and took out the Golden Mosque. We could soon see the self-immolation of the Religion of Peace.

  9. Allen 04:40:43

    Very good indeed.

    Doug, you are one funny guy.

  10. Tiger over at Observanda is not happy with the chief decider.

    Read the bottom link on the CIA.

  11. Doug,
    I have modified the Yugo to accept helium, as my poor old lungs were wearing out.
    She's ready for deployment, my "red team" is going over the proposal to Lockheed with a fine tooth comb.

    She can fit six circus clowns in her and still lift enough to support an "eye in the sky".

    Stay vigilant, there's a bad guy behind eve'r tree and rock.

    Our ground Yugos also packs a punch with fertilizer and fuel oil ignited by a small hikers propane tank and Vietnam era zippo lighters. We've had to limit the small hikers to those under 4'8" and 55 lbs so we've recruited Somali lingerie models.

    They will of course be camo'd in our unique Halal Kabab Lunchwagon design complete with Muslim prayer calls.

  12. Observada into a wee bit of yellow journalism stating that the CIA was preparing for defeat.
    They ran a simulation of the effects of a US loss. That's part of their job, but it was far from a preparation for defeat.

    I can't figure out if the blogshere is anti-war, anti-Bush which forces them into an anti-war position but they are for the most part doing a masterful reenactment of Walter Cronkite post Tet. Just throw in a few Crosby Stills Nash and Young anti-war tunes and they're there.
    We can't do this, we can't do that, the president is an idiot, the situation is hopeless,we need to pull out, we need to talk to Iran,blah,blah..
    Yeah the blogsphere will tout it's, "oh we're just acknowledging the facts on the ground", same line Jane Fonda, the SDS, and other "pro-American" 60's "moderates" used.
    "yeah anyone supporting this war is blind,deaf,dumb,uninformed,a fanatic,warmonger....yeah there's a good deal of leftist propaganda on the sphere now. And it's crap, just like the MSM was in Vietnam.

  13. Rufus insists you replace the Helium with BioMethane.
    Think "Green Zeppelin"
    Holy Hindenburg, Batman!
    It's the Green Zeppelin Suicide Bomber.