“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, November 25, 2014

Those who oppose a deal can be expected to step up their efforts to kill off the talks, with potentially drastic consequences

Iran nuclear talks extension raises risk of cataclysmic failure 

 Those who oppose a deal can be expected to step up their efforts to kill off the talks, with potentially drastic consequences 

Monday 24 November 2014 10.20 EST


 The longer the international standoff over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme continues, the more dangerous and volatile the situation becomes. All seven countries involved in Monday’s last-gasp negotiations in Vienna understood this, which is why they strove so hard and so long to forge a comprehensive agreement. 

 By extending the talks again they have avoided a total collapse, but they have also raised the stakes, ensuring that failure, if that is what eventually transpires, will be all the more cataclysmic. 

 The governments and leaders favouring a deal did not exactly lose in Vienna, but it is clear who came out ahead – the conservative rejectionists and clerical last-ditchers who dominate Tehran’s political establishment, parliament and media; the mostly Republican hardliners in the US congress who oppose an agreement at any price; Israel’s leadership and the Gulf Arab monarchies, who distrust everything Tehran says; and Islamist Sunni extremists in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, who exploit differences between Shia Iran and the west to pursue their vicious hegemonist fantasies. 

 Negotiators representing the Obama administration, Britain and European governments can justifiably claim important progress has been made in narrowing gaps in the nine months that followed last year’s interim agreement. Of greater significance, however, is the sense that a window briefly opened after the 2013 election of the centrist Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president is closing, and that a unique opportunity for a historic rapprochement has been, or is about to be missed. 

 Those opposing a deal can now be expected to intensify their efforts to kill the extended talks, while simultaneously blaming supposed Iranian intransigence and bad faith, and the naivety of Barack Obama and other western leaders, for the failure to achieve a breakthrough. Their argument is that a safe, sustainable and effective nuclear deal with Iran was always an impossible dream, and the latest failure to agree simply proves that contention. 

 “This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear programme in international law – an idea it finds an anathema,” said analyst Jeffrey Goldberg. “It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. 

It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.” The alternative could be worse, Goldberg said: “The collapse of negotiations could move Iran and the west quickly towards confrontation that could end in disaster, and could set Iran on the fast and steady path to the nuclear threshold. 

There are no fail-safe choices here.” The possible negative consequences of a continuing impasse or total collapse of the negotiations include the following:

 • The newly installed and Republican-controlled US congress, which takes office in January, could impose a new tranche of sanctions. The push for new measures, tightening financial and economic curbs on Iran and targeting its links with Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, would be as much about domestic US politics as international policy as battle-lines are drawn with the much-weakened Obama administration ahead of the 2016 presidential election 
 • The pressure inside Iran to replace Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s west-friendly foreign minister, and other members of Tehran’s negotiating team as part of a larger effort to undermine Rouhani by his conservative opponents could become irresistible. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cannot be expected to protect Rouhani. His support for the talks has always been lukewarm. In such circumstances, Iran could even withdraw previous concessions and harden its stance on its “nuclear rights”, enrichment and cooperation with the IAEA 
 • Increased sanctions-busting, principally by China, which is Iran’s largest oil customer, and Russia, which has agreed to build a new generation of nuclear reactors in Iran. A senior Iranian official was quoted this month as saying that Tehran could play the “eastern” card. “We have always had good relations with Russia and China. Naturally, if the nuclear talks fail, we will increase our cooperation with our friends and will provide them more opportunities in Iran’s high-potential market,” the official said. “We share common views [with Russia and China] on many issues, including Syria and Iraq.” Such a scenario would destroy the UN security council consensus on Iran policy 
 • Israeli military action against Iran, egged on by US neo-conservatives and the Gulf Arab monarchies, principally Saudi Arabia, becomes more likely the longer the impasse continues. Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has distracted attention from the Palestinian question by using the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran to rally domestic opinion and silence foreign critics. Obama has warned him off, but he reserves the right to take matters into his own hands in the interests of Israel’s security 
 • Any Israeli military action against supposed Iranian nuclear targets, however limited, could quickly suck in the Saudis and US forces in Bahrain, which might become the object of Iranian retaliation. Any such confrontation could also see Iran attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off western oil supplies and threatening a new global economic crisis 
 • The longer the negotiating process continues without results, the less likely that benefits accruing from a breakthrough will materialise. Such benefits potentially include the opening of Iran’s vast domestic market of 76 million people to western products, trade, travel and investment, the emergence of Iran as an alternative to Russia as a major oil and gas supplier to Europe, cooperation with the west in addressing regional problems such as Islamic State terrorism and the Syrian civil war, an exemplary success for international nuclear non-proliferation efforts, a prospective liberalisation of Iranian society and an end to Iran’s deeply damaging 35-year political, cultural and human isolation.


  1. Pressure Easing

    Still one Western diplomat at the talks said he thought the impetus for Iran to reach a deal was less intense now than last year, due to the limited easing of sanctions already negotiated.

    He also cited the eagerness of Western companies to end sanctions and go back to Iran, and European court rulings against some EU sanctions measures.

    "The pressure [on Iran] to go for a deal at all costs is less than it was 12 months ago," the diplomat said. "If there's no deal, Iran will turn to China and Russia, as well as some European countries that are prepared to do bilateral business with Iran."

    Another Iranian official said there are factions within Iran that are skeptical about deals with the West and prefer alignments with powers like Russia and China which have condemned unilateral U.S. and EU sanctions.

    "The president [Hassan Rouhani] is in favor of this deal because he can fulfill his promises to improve the economy but the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and also the Revolutionary Guards prefer moving towards the East and working with China and Russia instead of the West," he said.

  2. Russian President Vladimir Putin has emphasized Iran’s right to enrichment on its own soil.

    The Russian president made the remarks in a Monday telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after Iran and the Sextet of world powers agreed to extend the nuclear talks for seven months.

    “It matters that the negotiations lead to Iran’s achievement of its rights especially in the area of enrichment, and enrichment on its own soil is Iran’s right,” Putin stated.

    He further said that during the talks between Iran and P5+1 the two sides “lacked only time for reaching a comprehensive agreement.”

    Putin expressed hope that the negotiations culminate in an acceptable agreement that encompass the interests of all sides.

    The Iranian president also expressed hope that the talks lead to a comprehensive agreement which is in favor of all nations, the Middle East, and the world.

    In their last round of talks before a November 24 deadline, Iran and the P5+1 countries -- Russia, China, France, Britain, the US, and Germany -- held nearly a week of intense negotiations in Vienna on how to tackle the remaining obstacles that exist in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement.

    At the end of the talks, the two sides agreed to extend the Joint Plan of Action to July 1, 2015.

  3. China, India and Russia, three nuclear powers, are interested in further trade with Iran as well as are several European countries:

    Nov 17 (Reuters) - India bought 60 percent more Iranian oil in October than a year ago as refiners held to higher volumes despite signs that world powers and Iran might not reach a final agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme before a Nov. 24 deadline.

    Six world powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - are negotiating with Iran to clinch a deal that, in exchange for lifting economic sanctions, would ensure Tehran's nuclear activity is not aimed at making bombs. Iran says its nuclear work is for civil power needs only.

    A year of negotiations has not resolved deep disagreements between Iran and the major powers, and a final deal is unlikely by the November date, sources told Reuters.

    Any agreement would likely be followed by a rapid increase in Iran's oil exports at a time when global markets are already under pressure from a supply glut.

    India, Iran's top oil client after China, imported about 309,900 barrels per day (bpd) of crude in October from Tehran, tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources shows, the highest since March and up 28 percent from September.

    India's oil imports from Iran rose about 40 percent over January-October, partly due to a surge in the first quarter as an interim agreement easing Western sanctions went into effect.

    Growth in Iranian oil imports this year was also due to a bounce off the low base of last year, when shipments were hit hard due to insurance problems triggered by the sanctions, particularly over the April-August period.

    Private refiner Essar Oil was the biggest buyer of Iranian oil in October followed by state-run Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Ltd. The two are India's only regular monthly importers of Iranian crude.

    India's overall imports for the month totalled 3.63 million bpd, a decline of about 3.4 percent from a year ago, the data also showed. India's total crude imports for the January-October period fell 3.1 percent.

    Iran's share of Indian oil imports was about 7.2 percent in the first ten months of this year compared with 4.9 percent last year, the data showed.

  4. Doug Bandow -Senior Fellow, the Cato Institute

    Paying for the Neocon Moment: Sacrificing Lives, Liberty, and Wealth for Nothing

    Posted: 11/24/2014 9:41 pm EST Updated: 2 hours ago

    With President Barack Obama further tarnishing his Nobel Peace Prize by starting yet another Middle Eastern war, exuberant Neoconservatives claim their moment has arrived. And that was before Chuck Hagel, long the Neocon bĂȘte noire, was tossed underfoot. In fact, their moment has arrived, though not in the way they believe. The spectacle of Washington using the military in Iraq to destroy equipment provided by Washington in its last Iraq war illustrates the absurdity of the Neocons' claim that war-mongering and nation-building serve America's interests.

    In 2001 President George W. Bush initiated what was supposed to be The Neocon Moment, projecting a swaggering global presence in which the U.S. would bomb, invade, occupy, and otherwise intervene whenever and for whatever reason it chose. Autocrats would flee, candies would be tossed, enemies would be defeated, flowers would bloom, allies would comply, cakewalks would be held, democrats would flourish, and the lion would lie down with the lamb.

    Alas, administration policy wrecked Iraq. Although President Bush never repudiated what he'd done, he appeared to lose his taste for war. Vice President Dick Cheney became a forlorn figure, pining for the old Bush. Washington still attempted to micro-manage the globe, but adopted a gentler tone and refrained from invading more countries.

    Candidate Obama ran against the Bush presidency, but little changed U.S. foreign policy. President Obama followed his predecessor's exit plan from Iraq, pursued the Bush program in Afghanistan with additional troops, promised even greater support to populous and prosperous Asian and European allies, launched deadly drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, increased military spending throughout his first term, promoted democracy in the Arab world (with similar results), and started two new wars. Rather like the chastened Bush, President Obama used a friendlier tone and seemed reluctant even when he was starting a war. But no one could mistake the latter as a peacenik libertarian.

    Except, apparently, for the Neocons.


  5. {...}

    Horrified by the isolationist backwater they believed America became under Obama, they now proclaim The Neocon Moment. Explained Matthew Continetti, "monsters [have been] brought forth by American retreat," and "the threat of those monsters requires unilateral deadly force wherever necessary to kill our enemies and deter our foes."


    Admittedly, Obama could have done more from a Neoconservative standpoint. Bombing raids over Tehran and Damascus would have gladdened the hearts of ivory tower generalissimos everywhere. Deploying troops against the Russians in Ukraine would have been more fun than a collegiate game of Risk. Sending the 7th Fleet to safeguard Japan's claim to the Senkakus would have created an exciting confrontation with China. Threatening Beijing over Hong Kong's protests would have satisfied with sanctimonious chest-thumping.

    Yet even Bush might not have obliged in these cases. He didn't choose war with Iran, refused to challenge Moscow in its conflict with Georgia, and adopted a cooperative attitude toward Beijing. His end-of-term caution looked a lot like Obama's approach today.

    As well it should. More than a decade of foreign policy defined as "what Washington says goes" has been a bust. It would have been disastrous for a lesser nation. The good news for America is that when superpowers screw up, even badly, the greatest costs fall upon others. The bad news is that might change if the U.S. ever triggers a real war with a real adversary, one with nuclear weapons.

    In fact, "The Neocon Moment" is distinguished by its failure. As evidence of the need for a return to swaggering interventionism Continetti offers a parade of horrors either created by Washington or well beyond its control. While we all know what John McCain & Co. would do in response to Continetti’s examples -- bomb someone, anyone! -- doing so would solve nothing.


    1. {...}

      There's the Islamic State, which exists only because of the misguided Bush invasion of Iraq. Like modern liberals at home, neoconservatives use the ill consequences of their earlier wars to justify new wars. This one, argue Neoconservatives, justifies another round for ground troops.

      There's also Ukraine, a testament to what happens when one encourages one's allies to be helpless dependents while facing an adversary with a far greater interest in the outcome of any confrontation. There are al-Qaeda affiliates in several countries, which arose in response to promiscuous U.S. meddling abroad and persisted in the midst of multiple wars even while under attack by Special Forces, drones, and more.

      There's Hamas, now contained by Israel, which won an election demanded by the Bush administration. There's Iran, in which Islamists overthrew a U.S.-supported dictator who took power in a U.S.-supported coup. There's the Taliban, which survived more than a dozen years of Washington's efforts at nation-building. There's China, in which the Communist Party demonstrated its determination to preserve power during the first Bush administration.

      Neocons have no answer to any of these. They imagine a world of immaculate intervention, in which foreigners welcome being killed and never strike back. Washington should just bomb, invade, and occupy, never mind the enemies created or hostilities engendered. If there is blowback, the U.S. should double down and bomb, invade, and occupy some more.

      In fact, terrorism is a common political tool, long used by the weak against the strong. Two Russian Czars and an Austro-Hungarian Arch-Duke were felled in terrorist assaults. India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and other states all suffered from terrorism. America was targeted for its actions, not its freedoms. Understanding consequences is to explain, not justify. The simple fact is the more Washington attempts to micro-manage the globe, the more likely it is to be attacked.


    2. {...}

      Neocons also imagine a world in which America automatically deters and only America deters. If the U.S. president raises his voice foreign autocrats will cringe. If he indicates his willingness to use military force Russia will retreat from Georgia and Ukraine. If his officials make a few appropriate threats China will abandon its claims to Taiwan and Pacific territories, and perhaps even Hong Kong. If American leaders offer the right incantations Iran and North Korea will abandon their nuke programs. No one would dare challenge Washington, at least it is exercises "leadership."

      In fact, countries with the most at stake will risk and spend more than their adversaries, as the U.S. demonstrated during the Cold War in Latin America. Russia and China are no different. Moreover, they are no less adept at playing the game of deterrence. Does the U.S. have anything at stake in Ukraine and the Senkakus which warrants the risk of war? Is Washington prepared to spend what is necessary to overcome Russian and Chinese deterrent capabilities? The answer is no in both cases.

      Neocons imagine America is strongest when it keeps its allies dependent and weak. Of course, Washington wants them all to do more militarily, but only under its direction. Allies are not to speak unless spoken to, but always should feel reassured that America will do whatever is necessary to protect them. Thus, the U.S. must dominate whenever it is involved, which is always.

      Yet governments, no less than individuals, respond to incentives. So long as Washington promises to defend allied states, irrespective of how prosperous or populous (for instance, South Korea enjoys a 40-1 economic and 2-1 population edge over North Korea), it discourages them from doing more on their own behalf. Indeed, even during the Cold War America's Asian and European dependents routinely underinvested in defense and subsidized their adversaries while being shielded by the U.S. military. It is even worse today. Why should America be expected to risk Los Angeles to protect Seoul or Tokyo, Tallinn or Warsaw?

      One doesn't have to look far to see the wreckage left by today's interventionist consensus, generally advanced by Neocons, nationalist hawks, and liberal interventionists. Washington has attempted to fix the Middle East and Central Asia for decades. The result? War, instability, autocracy, brutality, collapse. Which Neocon triumph is falling apart more spectacularly--Iraq, Libya, or Yemen? As the administration was upping its support for "moderate" Syrian rebels, an internal CIA study revealed that prior efforts to arm insurgents "had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict." The most successful program, in Afghanistan, resulted in bloody terrorist blowback against America on 9/11. U.S. officials consistently have demonstrated the reverse Midas touch, leaving Washington widely despised and American forces constantly at war responding to the unintended consequences of the previous military intervention.


    3. {...}

      The Balkans has turned out little better, with nationalist divisions still evident two decades after Washington imposed an artificial political settlement. Europe represents the globe’s greatest aggregation of economic power, but is not inclined to defend itself, preferring instead to rely on the U.S. while carping when Washington acts without the continent’s approval.

      European countries, including Germany, so long defended by American troops, refuse to place their own forces along Eastern Europe’s border with Russia. The Europeans were unwilling to act forcefully in Ukraine, Georgia, or even the Balkans. Determined for war in Libya, the same countries lacked enough missiles to take on Moammar Qaddafy's military.

      Every year the Vietnam War looks ever more foolish, as Hanoi moves toward America out of fear of China. Only now is Japan finally emerging from hiding behind the U.S.-imposed "peace constitution" to consider a more active military role. South Korea continues to subsidize the North even as American troops guarantee the former's security. The Philippines hopes Washington will make up for Manila's lack of a serious military in any confrontation with Beijing. With China's future at stake, Washington is pushing that nation and Russia together.

      There are many reasons to be skeptical of "The Libertarian Moment" advanced by some. Not because libertarian policies have failed. Few have been tried domestically. None are evident in America's international relations. In fact, politicians of all partisan stripes naturally resist libertarian thinking. Almost all government officials like to use power. Especially overseas.

      The world today is an unruly mess. But Neocons are more responsible than anyone else for America being stuck in the chaos. Embarrassed at the havoc they have wreaked, they blame President Obama for every problem big and small. However, he is a worthy successor to the Neocon-friendly Bush. If there's anyone who can't be blamed for the status quo, it is libertarians.

      We are living in The Neocon Moment, a testament to the foolishness and arrogance of those who believe themselves to be engineers of peoples, societies, and nations. Yet Washington officials have yet to tire of America's permanent state of war. Only when the American people insist that politicians make peace, not war, will The Libertarian Moment finally arrive.

      This article was first posted at Forbes online.

      Follow Doug Bandow on Twitter:

  6. The world today is an unruly mess. But Neocons are more responsible than anyone else for America being stuck in the chaos. Embarrassed at the havoc they have wreaked, they blame President Obama for every problem big and small. However, he is a worthy successor to the Neocon-friendly Bush. If there's anyone who can't be blamed for the status quo, it is libertarians.

    We are living in The Neocon Moment, a testament to the foolishness and arrogance of those who believe themselves to be engineers of peoples, societies, and nations. Yet Washington officials have yet to tire of America's permanent state of war. Only when the American people insist that politicians make peace, not war, will The Libertarian Moment finally arrive.

  7. Mr Libertarian, Rand Paul, wants to declare war on ISIS.

  8. The convenience store robbed by Mike Brown has now been looted.

    That place can't catch a break.

    Store Robbed by Brown Looted...........drudge