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View Diary: Threading the needle on Syria and Iran (69 comments)

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  •  Excellent, Ian (6+ / 0-)

    The problem with most analyses done in the US media is that they are US-centric and polluted by US exceptionalism and the barely hidden objective of maintaining an enemy in the world that the US must confront.

    It is an open question again whether the US can survive domestically the taking away of a foreign enemy.  The end of the Cold War was such an unexpected jolt that the loss of socialism and communism caused the US right wing to go absolutely nuts.  McCain's arguments about credibility and manhood are just a continuation of that right-wing anxiety.

    What most US analyses miss is any actual perspective from the point of view of folks in the region, or even of Russia.  What is substituted for perspective is a cynical narrative forged out of Realpolitik tropes.

    What moved Russia to act in Syria was these simple facts.  Iran has a mutual defense agreement with Syria that would obligate it to come to Syria's defense if attacked.  Iran is close enough to Russia that a US-Iran war would affect the stability of the Caucasus and put Russia's Caucacus republics even more in turmoil.  It is 24 hours driving time through Turkey to get to Russian territory from Turkey if the Syrian rebels ever got hold of the Syrian chemical weapons stocks.

    Mr. Putin is more rational than Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham, who think that posturing is "acting in the national interest."

    What motivates Iran is the fact that the US in the past decade conducted a war to their west and a war to their north--simultaneously--and listed them among three nations in the Axis of Evil.  In addition, they were the target of the first major offensive cyberattack against physical infrastructure in history.  The StuxNet attack delivered through deliberately compromised software destroyed the centrifuges that were part of their nuclear program.  The US has not (even now) acknowledged the sovereign right of any nation to develop civilian nuclear programs.  The US scuttled a deal whereby Brazil would act as a party to guarantee to that low-level nuclear fuel would not be diverted into a military nuclear program.  And the US used its political influence to change the head of the IAEA to a person more congenial to the US view of Iran's nuclear program, despite continuing evidence from frequent inspections that Iran was not secretly developing nuclear weapons.

    What moved Russia to intervene diplomatically on behalf of facilitating negotiations with Iran (and that likely was part of the agreements between Kerry and Lavrov and thus Obama and Putin) is the fact that Iran borders the Caucasus directly.

    Moving back to the US position.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries' behavior is going to be crucial to whether the US will be able to leave Afghanistan on the President's schedule as they hold a working agreement among the countries that might be tempted to meddle in Afghanistan.  Stability in Iran is also critical to Afghanistan stability.  On that, there is alignment of interests among the US, Iran, Russia, China, and the rest of the SCO countries.

    The Iranian government offered a relaxation of tensions in its relationship with Saudi Arabia and was favorably received by the Saudis.  The reduces the complexity of the relations that the US must contend with in talking to Iran.  Likewise this move (as well as the removal of chemical weapons from Syria) eases some of Turkey's security concerns.  And Turkey is a NATO ally.

    Who loses are those who still seek revenge 34 years later for the capture of the embassy staff in Teheran and the holding of hostages for 444 days (which could have been ended sooner if Ronald Reagan's campaign team had not negotiated a delay and an arms deal).   What might assuage those folks is that Rouhani was somehow involved in the negotiations of that deal and gets the respect of folks who were involved on the US side.

    But folks in the US must stop looking for enemies and foreign politicians to vilify.  Because the vilification most often is not as much an objective view of the leader but propaganda that covers (generally corporate) agendas that the US is pursuing in those countries.  Not that there aren't enough villains who are heads of state, and who often are tolerated because they are compliant with US interests.

    John Kerry might just come up with the holy grail of diplomatic service--restoration of normal relations with Iran.  If he can provide the framework for similar restoration of relations with Cuba and North Korea by 2017, that will represent a huge transformation in US foreign affairs.

    There is real possibilty of peace breaking out in spite of all the US politicians.  We last had this good a prospect at the end of 1945, but that generation blew it.  (Thanks for everything, Paul Nitze.)   Maybe with a little less fear and cynicism, we might make the first breakthroughs in 24 years.  At which point the enemy becomes military Keynesianism.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sun Sep 22, 2013 at 09:06:08 PM PDT

    •  Very well said, and glad you liked the post. (0+ / 0-)

      One quibble, I have to push back on your 1945 comment. Not that I'll change your mind, but there was no way to have good, peaceful relations with Stalin, whose aggressive actions in Eastern Europe began the moment the war ended. Had Stalin not been militarily aggressive, there would have been a very different U.S.-U.S.S.R. relationship. Remember that the US brought its troops home from Europe in the months after Berlin fell. You can argue that Stalin was reacting to the A-bomb, that's fine, but nothing gave him the right to occupy sovereign countries all over Eastern Europe that all the Allies had fought to liberate. Were his fears reasonable? Maybe, to him at least. But the one who throws the first punch starts the fight, and he did that in Eastern Europe.

      That said, your analysis in the main of your comment is spot on, thank you.

      •  Recent scholarship that (0+ / 0-)

        ...has examined the archives of the US and former USSR have challenged the conventional view about the possibility for peace after World War II and the notion that it was the USSR's aggressiveness that set the tone for that period.  The Republican move for isolationist to interventionist, best symbolized by Richard Nixon's rise and the 1946 Congress were the domestic political pressure for aggressiveness.  But so also was the business community's pushback on the labor gains of the 1930s and 1940s, wanting to tar unions with the "enemy" label.  And from a strategic view, the worst influence was the Cold-War long career of Paul Nitze and the emergence of the defense liberals like Scoop Jackson and Harry Truman.  And then there was the disastrous foreign policy of anti-union and South Carolinian, James F. Byrnes, the Secretary of State in the early Truman administration.  FDR could control him; Truman deferred to him.

        Both James Carroll and Oliver Stone have written popularized books based on that recent research.

        The Soviet Union's situation in Eastern Europe is that they wanted a buffer zone to lengthen the time of another aggressor's ability to reach Russian territory.  Eastern Europe was that buffer zone.  US exceptionalism would never allow Mexico or Canada to be other than an ally or neutral, but that standard never applied for an essentially expansionist US self-consciously (if your read the foreign policy arguments of the time) taking over the responsibilities for the British Empire.

        The United States acted like it and it alone had won the war in both theaters and ignored the fact that 8 million Russian and eastern troops helped secure eastern Germany and Eastern Europe, which prevent the sort of ethnic meltdown that happened in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  It was the US that was strutting around with its atom bomb, acting like that ultimate weapon gave it the right to rule the world.  That is apparent in the records, but that is not how folks in the West experienced it.  Nor folks in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  One of the advantages of not having the war ever hit the US mainland; people couls look at our intact cities with envy and longing.

        The first punch was actually the intervention in Greece's civil war.  Standing up rulers in Eastern Europe friendly to the Soviet Union was no different from the US and UK standing up rulers friendly to US/UK interests in France and Western Europe.  The issue at the end of WWII was occupation of Europe by the UK, US, and Soviet Union long enough to restore local order.   The Allied occupation of the Western zone of Germany lasted into the 1950s.  It was when occupation ended in Western Germany that Hungarians sought an end to occupation in Hungary in 1956.

        The metaphors of "first punch" and "start a fight" is a very American view of how diplomacy and international relations work.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:23:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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