“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."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

US and Iran Talk.

US and Iran hold fresh Iraq talks

The US and Iraq are having a little chat. This is the second meeting since the envoys met in May for their historic first encounter in Baghdad, the second bilateral meeting in 27 years. The US envoy to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, are meeting in Baghdad. Last night in the Democratic debate Barack Obama claimed he would meet with just about anyone anytime, including Iran. The US is meeting Iran for the second time (officially)in twenty seven years. There does seem to be some room in the middle.

...The US blames Iran for supporting some of those who are attacking US and UK troops in Iraq, while Iran blames the US troop presence for Iraq's troubles.

The insurgency and related sectarian violence in Iraq are causing thousands of deaths every month.

Separate talks

The talks began with a heated exchange between the Iranian and US ambassadors, the Associated Press quotes an anonymous Iraqi official as saying.

Mr Crocker charged the Iranians with providing training and weapons to the Shia militias behind violence in Baghdad and beyond, the AP reports.

Mr Kazemi-Qomi reportedly brushed aside the allegations, saying that the US had no proof of its claims.

On Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani held separate talks with the two ambassadors to urge them to work together to improve his country's security.

However, ahead of the talks, the US and Iran continued to blame each other for the situation.

Timeline: US-Iran ties

A chronology of key events:
1953 US and British intelligence services help Iranian military officers depose Prime Minister Muhammad Mussadeq, a leading exponent of nationalising the oil industry.

Ayatollah Khomeini's legacy still overshadows US-Iranian relations
1979 16 January - US-backed Shah of Iran forced to leave the country after widespread demonstrations and strikes.

1979 1 February - Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile and takes effective power.

1979 4 November - Iranian students seize 63 hostages at US embassy in Tehran, prompting drawn-out crisis leading to severing of diplomatic ties and sweeping US sanctions against Iran. Their initial demand is that the Shah return from the US to Iran to face trial. Later Iran also demands the US undertake not to interfere in its affairs.

1980 25 April - Secret US military mission to rescue hostages ends in disaster in sandstorm in central Iranian desert.

1980 27 July - Exiled Shah dies of cancer in Egypt, but hostage crisis continues.

1980 22 September - Iraq invades, sparking a war with Iran which lasts the rest of the decade. While several Western countries provide support to Iraq during the war, Iran remains diplomatically isolated.

1981 20 January - Last 52 US hostages freed in January after intense diplomatic activity. Their release comes a few hours after US President Jimmy Carter leaves office. They had been held for 444 days.

1985/6 US holds secret talks with Iran and makes weapons shipments, allegedly in exchange for Iranian assistance in releasing US hostages in Lebanon. With revelations that profits were illegally channelled to Nicaraguan rebels, this creates the biggest crisis of Ronald Reagan's US presidency.

1987/8 US forces engage in series of encounters with Iranian forces, including strikes on Gulf oil platforms.

The hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran lasted 444 days
19883 July - US cruiser Vincennes mistakenly shoots down Iran Air Airbus over the Gulf, killing all 290 people on board.

1989 3 June - Ayatollah Khomeini dies. President Khamenei is appointed supreme leader the following day.

1989 17 August - Hashemi Rafsanjani sworn in as president, with apparent backing of both conservatives and reformers in the leadership.

1990/91 Iran remains neutral in US-led intervention in Kuwait. Rapprochement with West hindered by Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 religious edict ordering that British author Salman Rushdie be killed for offending Islam in one of his novels.

1992/3 Iran criticises perceived US regional interference in the wake of the Gulf War and the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

1993 US President Bill Clinton takes office.

1995 President Clinton imposes oil and trade sanctions on Iran for alleged sponsorship of "terrorism", seeking to acquire nuclear arms and hostility to the Middle East process. Iran denies the charges.

1996 Mr Clinton stiffens sanctions with penalties against any firm that invests $40m or more a year in oil and gas projects in Iran and Libya.

The Khatami presidency has not led to closer US-Iranian relations
1997 23 May - Muhammad Khatami elected president of Iran.

1998 President Khatami calls for a "dialogue with the American people" in American TV interview. But in a sermon a few weeks later he is sharply critical of US "oppressive policies".

1999 Twentieth anniversary of US embassy siege. Hardliners celebrate the occasion, as reformists look to the future rather than the past.

2000 18 February - Iranian reformists win landslide victory in general election. Shortly afterwards, President Clinton extends ban on US oil contracts with Iran, accusing it of continuing to support international terrorism.

2000 March - US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls for a new start in US-Iranian relations and announces lifting of sanctions on Iranian exports ranging from carpets to food products. Iranian foreign ministry initially welcomes the move, but Ayatollah Khamenei later describes it as deceitful and belated.

2000 September - Mrs Albright meets Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi at UN in New York - the first such talks since diplomatic ties were severed in 1979.

2001 June - The US alleges that elements within the Iranian Government were directly involved in the bombing of an American military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996. Tehran angrily rejects the allegations.

Bush branded Iran as part of an "axis of evil"
2001 September - Report by Central Intelligence Agency accuses Iran of having one of the world's most active programmes to acquire nuclear weapons. The CIA report says Iran is seeking missile-related technology from a number of countries including Russia and China.

2002 29 January - US President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address, describes Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil". He warns that the proliferation of long-range missiles being developed in these countries is as great a danger to the US as terrorism. The speech causes outrage in Iran and is condemned by reformists and conservatives alike.

2002 September - Russian technicians begin construction of Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr despite strong objections from US.

2002 December - The US accuses Iran of seeking to develop a secret nuclear weapons programme and publishes satellite images of two nuclear sites under construction at Natanz and Arak.

2003 February-May - The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducts a series of inspections in Iran. The country confirms that there are sites at Natanz and Arak under construction, but insists that these, like Bushehr, are designed solely to provide fuel for future power plants.

2003 June - White House refuses to rule out the "military option" in dealing with Iran after IAEA says Iran "failed to report certain nuclear materials and activities". But IAEA does not declare Iran in breach of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran's account of its nuclear programme failed to satisfy the US
2003 September - Washington says Iran is not complying with non-proliferation accords but agrees to support proposal from Britain, France and Germany to give Iran until end of October fully to disclose nuclear activities and allow surprise inspections.

2003 October-November - Tehran agrees to suspend its uranium enrichment programme and allow tougher UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. An IAEA report says Iran has admitted producing plutonium but adds there is no evidence that it was trying to build an atomic bomb. However, US dismisses the report as "impossible to believe". The IAEA votes to censure Iran but stops short of imposing sanctions.

2003 December - US sends humanitarian aid to Iran after earthquake kills up to 50,000 people in city of Bam. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Iran's permanent envoy to UN, Mohammad Javad Zarif, hold telephone talks in a rare direct contact.

2004 January - President Bush denies that US has changed its policy towards Tehran and says moves to help Iran in the wake of earthquake do not indicate a thaw in relations.

2004 March - A UN resolution condemns Iran for keeping some of its nuclear activities secret. Iran reacts by banning inspectors from its sites for several weeks.

2004 September - The IAEA passes a resolution giving a November deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran rejects the call and begins converting raw uranium into gas.

A US nuclear monitor publishes satellite images of an Iranian weapons facility which it says may be involved in work on nuclear arms.

2004 November - Iran agrees to a European offer to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for trade concessions. At the last minute, Tehran backs down from its demand to exclude some centrifuges from the freeze. The US says it maintains its right to send Iran unilaterally to the UN Security Council if Tehran fails to fulfil its commitment.

2005 January - Europe and Iran begin trade talks. The European trio, France, Germany and the UK, demand Iran stop its uranium enrichment programme permanently.

Condoleezza Rice says the US is looking for a diplomatic solution

2005 February - Iranian President Mohammed Khatami says his country will never give up nuclear technology, but stresses it is for peaceful purposes. Russia backs Tehran, and signs a deal to supply fuel to Iran's Bushehr reactor.

New US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says attacking Iran is not on the US agenda "at this point in time".

2005 March - President George W Bush signals a major change in policy towards Iran. He says the US will back the negotiation track led by the European trio - EU3 - and offer economic incentives for the Islamic state to give up its alleged nuclear ambitions.

Mr Bush announces the US will lift a decade-long block on Iran's membership of the World Trade Organization, and objections to Tehran obtaining parts for commercial planes.

2005 June - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran's ultra-conservative mayor, wins a run-off vote in presidential elections, defeating cleric and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani.

2005 July - The US concludes that President Ahmadinejad was a leader of the group behind the 1979 hostage crisis at its embassy in Tehran, but says it is unsure whether he took an active part in taking Americans prisoner.

2005 August - President George W Bush makes the first of several statements in which he refuses to rule out using force against Iran.

Ahmadinejad says Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear technology

2005 August-September - Tehran says it has resumed uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant and insists the programme is for peaceful purposes. The IAEA finds Iran in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

2006 March - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the US faces "no greater challenge" than Iran's nuclear programme.

2006 April - A report in the New Yorker suggests the US is planning a tactical nuclear strike against underground nuclear sites - a claim Washington denies. Iran says it will retaliate against any attack and complains to the UN.

Iran announces it has successfully enriched uranium - prompting Ms Rice to demand "strong steps" by the UN. An IAEA report concludes Iran has not complied with a Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment. Mr Ahmadinejad insists the pursuit of peaceful nuclear technology is Iran's "absolute right".

Tehran offers to hold direct talks with Washington on the situation in Iraq, in what would have been the first such talks since 1980. Tehran later withdraws the offer.

2006 May - The US, Britain and France table a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment or face "further action".

In response, Iran's parliament threatens to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if pressure over its nuclear programme increases.

Later that month, the US offers to join EU nations in direct talks with Iran if it agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing work.

2006 December - The UN Security Council unanimously passes a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

2007 January - Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns says that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had been arrested in Iraq. He said they had been "engaged in sectarian warfare".

In his State of the Union address on 24 January, Mr Bush lumps Iran with al-Qaeda: "It has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who...take direction from the regime in Iran," he says. "The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat."

A few days later, seeking to ease concerns about a future military confrontation with Iran, the US president says he has "no intent" to attack the country.

2007 February - US officials say they have proof that Iran has provided sophisticated weapons which have been used to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

This is rebuffed by President Ahmadinejad in an interview with an American television station. He dismisses the claims as an "excuses to prolong the stay" of US forces.

2007 March - The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, holds a meeting with an Iranian team at a conference of Iraq's neighbours in Baghdad.

The talks are the first formal encounter between the two sides for more than two years.

2007 May - The US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi Qomi hold the first high-level talks between the two countries in almost 30 years.


  1. Aquavelvajihad's threat to eliminate Israel got left out, I think.
    Iranian Strategy in Iraq

    Just as Iranian strategists do not limit themselves to support a single Shia political group or militia, they do not constrain their interests to a single sectarian group. The Iranian government is pragmatic.

    Iranian outreach to Sunni insurgents is a central component of their strategy in Iraq. While some academics and analysts argue that Iranian ideology precludes any such links to radical Sunni Islamists, history belies their analysis:

    Iran founded Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Sunni Islamist terrorist group, and the first foreign official whom Khomeini invited to Tehran after his the Islamic Revolution was Yasir Arafat, at the time, a Sunni Marxist.
    Arafat's ideology may have been anathema to Khomeini, but his mutual antipathy toward the West trumped such concern.

    Iran's strategy for Iraq is complex. Tehran sees establishment of functioning democracy in Iraq to be an existential threat. The Iranian leadership finds any alternate source of religious leadership intolerable. Rather than establish a parallel Islamic Republic, therefore, Tehran seeks a compliant, little brother. For this, informal influence is key. Militias, proxy politicians, and a sophisticated information operations campaign are important tools to establish and protect such influence.

    While U.S. authorities seek stability and security, the assumption that the Islamic Republic does--the basis of the Baker-Hamilton Commission findings--is as naïve as it is dangerous. Stability and security, if not on Iran's terms, may erode Iranian influence. Policymakers in Tehran may not want to live next to Somalia-like violence, but they do not want to live next to Swiss-style tranquility either, if it means ordinary Iranians will juxtapose their own society's stagnation and oppressiveness with growing affluence and freedom next door. Sometimes, there is no common ground. U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq are diametrically opposed, and will continue to be until one side wins and the other loses.

    Diplomacy in such a context becomes a mirage, a tactical tool to divert U.S. policy attention away from the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence officials charged with implementing the Iranian leadership's objectives.

  2. Off to the Peace talks!

    Wonder what the shape of the table will be?

  3. Just for Rat:
    (from Rubin link above)

    "While Washington wrings it hands over the bombings of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, it should not play into Iranian hands and repeat the mistake of Najaf: Following the August 29, 2003 bombing at the shrine of Imam Ali, Coalition authorities acquiesced to demands to empower militias for security. Once implanted, militias metathesize.

    The Iranian leadership is patient. While Washington rejoices in short-term calm, Tehran looks forward to long-term influence.

    Whackamole, cut a deal, all those short term "victories" have to add up to SOMETHING, right?
    (long, non-war?)

    Kick the can til it hurts.

  4. You're so kind, doug, to gift me that.

    Doubt if we hear Mr Bush utter the phrase:
    "Peace with Honor"

    But the sentiment is there, none the less.

  5. Islamic Creationist and a Book Sent Round the World

    So far, no similar response is emerging in the United States. “In our country we are used to nonsense like this,” said Kevin Padian, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who, like colleagues there, found a copy in his mailbox.

    He said people who had received copies were “just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is.

    “If he sees a picture of an old fossil crab or something, he says, ‘See, it looks just like a regular crab, there’s no evolution,’ ” Dr. Padian said. “Extinction does not seem to bother him. He does not really have any sense of what we know about how things change through time.”

  6. Let US not forget the words of Cat Stevens who transformed himself into Yusuf Islam, in 1978.

    Now Ive been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come
    And I believe it could be, something good has begun

    Oh Ive been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one
    And I believe it could be, some day its going to come

    Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
    Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

    Now Ive been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come
    And I believe it could be, something good has begun

    Oh peace train sounding louder
    Glide on the peace train
    Come on now peace train
    Yes, peace train holy roller

    Everyone jump upon the peace train
    Come on now peace train

    Get your bags together, go bring your good friends too
    Cause its getting nearer, it soon will be with you

    Now come and join the living, its not so far from you
    And its getting nearer, soon it will all be true

    Now Ive been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
    Why must we go on hating, why cant we live in bliss

    Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
    Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

    First stop Kuwait, then on to Okinawa, just a hop, skip and a jump from the center of the action.

    Get on board the Peace Train, it'll be stopping ar a station near you, soon.

  7. "Change through time"

    Any examples of a mammal becoming a reptile?

    Or of a reptile becoming a mammal?

    Of a bird becoming a fish, or a fish becoming a bird?

    I have been involved with selective breeding for years, and change occurs and can be managed. But dogs remain dogs, horses remain horses.

    If dogs are left to breed, indiscriminately they reach a common denominator:
    Feral dogs are highly adaptable, social carnivores. Most are about the size of a coyote or slightly larger. Many breeds of dogs are capable of existing in the wild, but after a few generations of uncontrolled breeding, a generalized mongrel tends to develop. Often it has a German shepherd or husky-like appearance.

    They do not become cats, or small horses.

  8. James Baker and the rest of Team 41 are large and in charge, regardless of the rhetoric from the White House:

    BAGHDAD (Associated Press) -- The United States, Iran and Iraq have agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward talks on restoring stability in Iraq, the U.S. envoy said Tuesday at the end of a second round of groundbreaking talks with his Iranian counterpart.

    "We discussed ways forward, and one of the issues we discussed was the formation of a security subcommittee that would address at a expert or technical level some issues relating to security, be that support for violent militias, al-Qaida or border security," Ambassador Ryan Crocker said after the meeting that included lunch and spanned nearly seven hours.

  9. So the US will address, with Iran, its' support of the Baathist terrorists of the 1920 Brigades, or of the Kurdish PKK?

    Hard to fathom the reasoning behind that.

    The US admits to arming and training Iraqi, Sunni, militias, and arming the Shia militias in a de facto manner, through the Security Services and Police. The Turks accuse US of de facto arming of the PKK. While the Iranians deny the charges that they supply either Shia or Sunni militias in Iraq.

    Which destabilizing actions will be discussed first, those admitted to, or those denied?

  10. Three dead in a CT home invasion, bet none of those dead folks were not carrying a weapon on their hip

  11. This is serious business,is all I can say.The idea of having truly insane people mishandling the bomb, gives my Idaho bones a hell of a shiver. I think we should prevent this, if we can, and if Bush does soething 'big', you won't see me protesting.

  12. something, all that sheet lightning last night.

  13. DR
    Re: your 9:29 post.
    A simple yet profound observation. Too bad that evolutionary biologists are so blinded by the party line that they can't see what is in plain sight.

  14. Who first said, 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny'? In the womb, many changes.

    We've all been there.

  15. Rat had gills once, and so did Viktor, and Bob, and Deuce, and Trish, Whit, Doug,Rufus,Teresita, and all the others, once, in mummy's tummy.

    We're born from an old chaos of the sun, impossible, immaculate--unbelievable.

  16. I was once a tadpole, by

  17. Yup, but I grew out of it Doug. I got over it:)

    Who's to say we are not now living in a new womb, as it were,creating spiritual organs, we will need, when we exit this birthing place, at death, entering a new spiritual world? Can you deny that, and really make it stick?

  18. I think we should have the option of going back to the Tadpole Stage.
    Going forward, who's to say we won't end up in Raisin Heaven?

  19. Us, Doug,you and I, we are able to put down, that 'tadpole heaven'--you and I, we can do it.