When is an act of war not an act of war?

The inimitable Matt Duss has a great post on Wonk Room today in which he notes that recent polling data from CBS News and Vanity Fair “indicates pretty strongly that Americans are not in favor of a U.S. war with Iran.”
He adds, however, that supporters of a U.S. war on Iran realize that a “war”, as such, is very unpopular– and hence, they prefer to couch their bellophilic musings in the less openly warlike (and more apparently “neutral”, or “surgical”) discourse of “military strikes”, “air strikes”, etc.
Thus, as Duss notes, though CBS and VF found that only around 10% of Americans would admit to supporting a “war” on Iran even if it tested a nuclear bomb or attacked Israel, when the Chicago Council on Global Affairs carried out its nationwide opinion survey recently it showed that Americans were “evenly divided” on whether Washington should launch military strikes against Iran “if diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions fail to stop or slow down Iran’s nuclear program.” (p.46 of the Chicago Council survey, PDF here.)
Well, two things are happening there to produce this interesting juxtaposition of results. Note first of all the difference in the scenarios the two polls were referring to. CBS/VF was asking what policies should be pursued if Iran actually tests a nuclear bomb, while the Chicago Council poll was referring merely to the (slightly vague) scenario in which– according to undefined criteria and unidentified judges of those criteria– it might seem that diplomatic efforts and sanctions have “failed to slow or stop” Iran’s nuclear program. (With the unexamined assumption embedded in there being that– “of course”– Iran’s program is indeed aiming straight at the possession of nuclear weapons… Wow!)
And so, under those circumstances, which might occur at a point when Iran’s nuclear-tech programs are still at a point far short of possession or testing of a nuclear weapon, around half the Americans surveyed say they would favor the launching of a “military strike” against Iran… Whereas a presumably similar sample of Americans, when asked the slightly different question about what would justify an American war against Iran, overwhelmingly say that even Iran’s performance of an actual nuclear weapon test would not persuade them that a war as such would be justified.
Oh, what a difference those weasel words, a “military strike”, can make!
But make no mistake about it, an unprovoked attack against the territory of another country is an act of war…. An act of war does not require the formal “declaration” of a state of war. The state of war is initiated with the launching of an act of war itself. A declaration of war can come after (or even, as as often happened in recent times, not at all.)
Think Pearl Harbor.
And this, I think, is where Matt Duss was a little misleading. He was robust in arguing that a Western “military strike” against Iran would indeed lead to a war. But his argumentation there suggested strongly that this would happen only because the hostilities would be long-drawn-out. He wrote, “war is what it would be. The idea that the U.S. or Israel will deal with the problem through a few days or weeks of air strikes should be put to rest.”
Japan’s air attack on Pearl Harbor did not last more than a few hours. But it was certainly more than grave enough to justify– under the international law situation prevailing at the time– the U.S. entry into the broader war on the anti-Japanese side, and therefore the United States’ sperpetration of all kinds of hostile acts against Japanese targets both inside and outside Japan.
In 1945, as the Crimes of War website notes,

    the United Nations Charter banned the first use of force, putting an end to declarations of war. Article 2(4) of the Charter states: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”

Well, it is true that that prohibition on the launching of acts of war–and even on the voicing of threats of such acts–has become sadly diluted in the 65 years since 1945. (The U.S. government itself has done a lot, especially under Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush, to hasten that dilution. So has Israel over the years.) But the prohibition still stands. It applies equally to the United States, and to Iran, and to all other states.
As revealed in the CBS/VF poll, the American people seem to have a gut understanding of the wrongness of starting a war.
But ask them about “military strikes”? Then, their answer is different.
The weasel words by which the warmongers try to tell people that an act of war is somehow not actually an act of war but only a “military strike” should be everywhere challenged.
And yes, that would include Sen. Joe Lieberman, who on Sept. 30 told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations that “the military option [is a] real and credible alternative policy” to diplomacy and sanctions, in dealing with Iran… But also that, ”we’re not talking a war.”
(Kudos to Ali Gharib and his colleagues for picking up on Lieberman’s dreadful weaseliness.)

23% of Israelis ready to leave Israel at any hint of problems?

In the latest issue of the always informative journal Middle East Policy, University of Pennsylvania prof Ian Lustick expresses the notable observation that,

    Last year, a poll by David Menashri of the Iran center at Tel Aviv University reported … that 70 percent of Israeli Jews said they would not consider emigrating if Iran got the bomb. That’s an odd way to report a finding — how many would not consider emigrating. So there is deep fear.

I guess I have seen several references to the judgment that has apparently been reached by several Israeli decision-makers to the effect that the main bad thing that would ensue for Israel if Iran gets nuclear weapons is not necessarily a high probability that this would be used against Israel– which, goodness only knows, has 1,000 times the capability to deter such an action– but rather that Iran’s attainment of nuclear weapons would cause a mass flight of Israelis from the country.
But I hadn’t seen any reference to any data on this until I read Lustick’s piece. Then I Googled around a bit and found this report in Haaretz from May 2009. And actually, despite the way that Lustick wrote about the way the poll’s findings were reported, Haaretz reported outright that,

    Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

So much for them thinking that Israel is their eternal homeland, etc etc. As one expert on Algeria’s long battle for independence from France commented to me, “This makes Israeli attitudes seem very close to those of the French pieds noirs colonists in Algeria. The vast majority of them fled back to France when the going got tough and Algeria won its independence.” That, even though until that point they had all been adamant that Algeria was an integral part of France.
Or, one might say, the attitude of those many “White” former South Africans whom one meets in various spots around the world today, in which they have resettled after “giving up” on South Africa.
From the point of view of hardline Zionists, Jewish Israelis probably have far too many options for citizenship or longterm residence in other places around the world today. For starters, just about all of them could settle in the U.S. tomorrow if they chose, no questions asked. In addition, as my friend Yossi Alpher explained to me a couple of years ago in Tel Aviv, since the end of the Cold War a couple of million Jewish Israelis have either hung onto the citizenship they formerly had in the former Soviet Union or the countries of (former) Eastern Europe– or, in many cases, the Israeli children and grandchildren of people who fled to Israel from Eastern Europe during the Nazi era have been going back to Poland, or Hungary, or Slovakia, or wherever and reclaiming their citizenship “rights” there by inheritance… Something that’s especially valuable now that all those former Warsaw Pact countries are now firmly in the E.U.
(That, while they continue to totally deny to the Palestinian refugees any analogous right to return to their grandparent’s homes and properties within what is now Israel.)
But the bottom line in this phenomenon of Israelis being ready to leave so easily– if Iran even gets, let alone shows any sign of moving towards using nuclear weapons– seems to be that actually, the Zionist project of building Israel as the last, safest haven for Jewish people worldwide seems not to be terribly successful.
… All the above is interesting and notable even though I– like many other people– have still not seen any evidence that convinces me that the Iranian government is in fact aiming at building a nuclear weapon. This is more about Israel than it is about Iran.
Anyway, the rest of what Lustick writes there is also well analyzed and important.

Obama reining in anti-Iran militarists?

David Ignatius had an extremely important piece in today’s WaPo, in which he reported on a small-group interview in which Pres. Obama spoke about Iran in a way that seemed calculated to rein in the numerous militarists who still populate some of the upper reaches of his administration (though notably not the Department of Defense.)
David’s money quote from Obama:

    “It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons,” Obama said, adding: “They should know what they can say ‘yes’ to.” As in the past, he left open the possibility that the United States would accept a deal that allows Iran to maintain its civilian nuclear program, so long as Iran provides “confidence-building measures” to verify that it is not building a bomb.

It is certainly significant that the President himself met with these journalists– the other participants have not yet been named– to send this message, rather than leaving the task to someone else in his administration who might then become the subject of smear and whispering campaigns from the dedicated coterie of Likud supporters that’s so powerful in Washington DC and the U.S. mainstream media. (Such as happened, for example, to his national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, around a year ago. And before that, of course– and to even more deadly effect– to Chas Freeman.)
Obama also gave Ignatius and his colleagues the message that the administration is eager to talk to Tehran about Afghanistan– though David gave no record that he said anything similar about coordination over Iraq. That, even though the politics/diplomacy of the the U.S. military effecting its now firmly promised cessation of combat operations in Iraq remain extremely unclear, complex, and potentially hazardous.
Ignatius wrote that after Obama left the room two un-named “senior officials” (one of whom was almost certainly Jones– the other, who knows? Dennis Ross???) in effect spun, or perhaps more politely “contextualized”, what the journos had just heard from the commander-in-chief by saying that the timing is now good to “test” Tehran through a diplomatic overture because Tehran has now started hurting from the new sanctions imposed by the U.N. in May/June.
Right now, the President needs all the support he can get for a policy of real and sincere diplomatic engagement with Iran. (As opposed to the kind of faux ‘engagement’ that is designed to fail, and whose sole intention is to prepare the way for a new war.)
Over at Time mag, Joe Klein has a thoughtful essay summing up the woeful series of developments that was set in train the last time pro-Likud extremists managed to jerk our nation into a quite unnecessary and unjustified war of aggression in the Middle East. (Iraq, 2003.)
It must not happen again.

Is an attack on Iran really more ‘do-able’ now?

Time magazine’s often well informed Joe Klein has a significant piece on their website today, tellingly titled An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.
He argues there that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other high-ups in the Obama administration are now more optimistic than they were a year ago about the chances of “succeeding” in using military force to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
This looks like part of a concerted campaign to make the launching of a military attack against Iran– by the U.S. or by Israel– seem more “feasible”, and less disastrous all round for the American people’s true interests.
The money quote in Klein’s piece is, however, this one:

    Israel has been brought into the [U.S.] planning process, I’m told, because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own.

How’s that again?
U.S. officials are frightened that the Netanyahu government might “go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own”? But, um, the U.S. has for many decades been the main backer of Israel and continues to be so; and if Israel should “go rogue” and take acts that harm the American people’s interests then the U.S. could just stop that aid cold. Right?
Why on earth would we have to accede to the blackmail threat wielded by the government of a very small country on this or any other point?
If a person or entity is subjected to blackmail, the very best policy is always to go to the authorities. In this case, the U.S. government can simply go to the U.N. and invite the other members of the Security Council to join it in fashioning a response to the blackmailer.
… I have to note that the argument of Klein’s (presumably American?) source on this point is absolutely analogous to the kinds of arguments that the dreadful Mr. Blair made to his public in late 2002 about “having to go along with” George W. Bush’s increasingly escalatory policies towards Iraq because sticking close to Bush was, Blair argued to some people then, the best way to prevent Bush from jumping off the cliff and actually attacking Iraq.
Which Bush did anyway. The fact that his “good friend” Blair had indulged his warmongering up until then in fact made it far, far easier for him to launch the war than it would have been otherwise.
Now, from these unidentified informants of Klein’s we are getting the same sick argument. That Washington “has to go along with” Netanyahu in his policies towards Iran because that’s “the only way” to prevent him from jumping off the cliff and actually launching an attack against Iran.
It isn’t “the only way”. Indeed, it’s not a way to restrain Netanyahu, at all. The only way to restrain a blackmailer is by calling his bluff. Take the whole tangled case to the proper authorities and don’t think that by appeasing the blackmailer you’re going to get off the hook…
As for the broader argument Klein is trying to make there, that an Israel or U.S. (or U.S.-Israeli) attack against Iran need not necessarily be as downright damaging and disastrous all round as all the experts have thought until now… Well, actually, nothing has changed to make it seem more “do-able”.
And among the so-called “western” nations, remember that it is still us Americans who have by far the most to lose in the region… including many thousands of U.S. service-members strung out along very vulnerable supply lines all around Iran.
The Israelis? They barely have any skin in this game. They need, quite simply, to butt out, and let the U.S. and the other adult nations of the world negotiate a resolution to the multiple, overlapping security challenges in the Gulf region.
By the way, the always intelligent and estimable Paul Rogers has a very good analysis of this whole question on Open Democracy today.
He argues that,

    An Israeli security perspective, for example, is concerned almost as much with Iran’s development of medium-range solid-fuel missiles as with its nuclear projects; so missile-research, development and production sites would be key targets. Moreover, the people who design, develop and build the nuclear and missile programmes – and the facilities that train these specialists – are as significant as the physical infrastructure; so housing-complexes around nuclear and missile plants, key research-centres, factories, and even university departments training scientists and engineers would also be in the line of fire.
    In practice, then, military action will be much more generic than specific; it will certainly involve raids in and around greater Tehran; and it will be seen as more an act of war against the country as a whole than a limited dropping of bombs in remote locations.

Rogers quotes from a longer study he has undertaken (PDF linked to here), noting that it concludes that

    a war to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions will “lead to sustained conflict and regional instability”, and that it is “unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.” Thus, “military action against Iran should be ruled out as a means of responding to its possible nuclear ambitions.”
    The crisis sparked by an Israeli assault on Iran could indeed become at least as destructive as have been the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. The fact that the United States and Israel itself are using an undefined threat of military action to reinforce diplomatic pressure on Tehran actually makes other approaches more difficult. This predicament has to be faced, and innovative thinking needed soon, if the region and the world are to avoid catastrophe.

Rogers was one of that stalwart band of informed observers (myself included) who correctly predicted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq would turn out very badly for all concerned– including, very rapidly, the U.S.
So will members of the policy elite in the U.S. be more inclined to listen to us this time– or to the war-mongering enablers of escalation whom Joe Klein has evidently been talking to?

Clumsy US disinfo on Saudi Arabia?

Several people have sent me a copy of this article in today’s London Times, in which journo Hugh Tomlinson breathlessly “reports” that,

    Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.

It’s crazy. The substance of this is intrinsically non-credible.
So what sources did Tomlinson mention? Two kinds (which might actually be one and the same source?):

    * “a US defence source in the area” and
    * “Sources in Saudi Arabia”

All these source (or all this one source) is/are un-named, and Tomlinson does nothing further to identify them. Naturally.
Just in case anyone might be inclined to take the report seriously, they might want to read this recent piece by the NYT’s David Sanger.
Sanger was trying to figure out what options the Obama administration might be considering the event of the almost-certain “failure” of the latest U.N. sanctions resolution to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear technology program (routinely described in the western MSM as a nuclear weapons program.)
He writes,

    There is a Plan B — actually, a Plan B, C, and D — parts of which are already unfolding across the Persian Gulf. The administration does not talk about them much, at least publicly, but they include old-style military containment and an operation known informally at the C.I.A. as the Braindrain Project to lure away Iran’s nuclear talent. By all accounts, Mr. Obama has ramped up a Bush-era covert program to undermine Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, and he has made quiet diplomatic use of Israel’s lurking threat to take military action if diplomacy and pressure fail.

Bingo. But hey, what can you expect from a Rupert Murdoch rag?

China’s confused role on Iran sanctions

China Hand has a great post today about the notably muddled-looking role that China’s been playing on the Iran sanctions issue.
CH notes that while it’s understandable (given the exigencies of U.S. politics, the big role of AIPAC, etc) why Hillary Clinton came down like a ton of bricks against the Turkey/Brazil deal, what is far less comprehensible is the apparently clear support that China gave to Hillary’s rushed announcement of the new round of sanctions that Washington has been pushing for.
CH notes that subsequent to the release of a first statement that announced the endorsement that China and the rest of the P5+1 group gave to the new sanctions arrangement– and that also justified China’s role in those P5+1 negotiations– Beijing did try to walk its position back a bit, including by giving more props to the efforts of Turkey and Brazil.
The justifications given in the earlier article do, however, give an interesting window into the thinking/argumentation of China’s rulers on this matter and perhaps many other issues in world affairs.
As CH translates them, they cover the following four points:

    Point 1:
    China acts on principle. It is opposed to nuclear proliferation and the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran.
    “At the same time” China affirmed the dual track strategy and “the discussion of the draft of the six nations [i.e., the P5+1] concerning sanctions should not affect the peace and stability or influence the recovery of the international economy.

    Point 2:
    China’s important interests are maintained. China’s important interests are…in the matters of Iran’s energy, trade, and financial sectors. China believes that normal economics and trade should not be punished because of the Iran question nor should those countries that maintain normal, legal economic relations with Iran be punished…Through negotiations, this point was satisfied, doing a relatively good job of upholding China’s…important interests.
    Point 3:
    Maintaining China’s image as a responsible great power…China has repeatedly emphasized although the six nations are discussing sanctions in New York, diplomatic efforts should be completely unaffected. The door to diplomatic efforts has not been closed…China’s consistently positive and constructive attitude has gained the favorable comment of the concerned nations.

    Point 4:
    China has energetically tended to good relations with the various parties…During the course of discussions we have maintained good communications with the various parties, including Iran. We have reported relevant circumstances to the concerned party Iran in a timely manner. We have encouraged and supported Iran’s expansion of cooperation with international society. The most recent conclusion of an agreement of Brazil and Turkey with Iran for the swap of nuclear fuel was also the result of China supporting diplomatic efforts and creating the space and time for diplomatic efforts. This also includes obtaining precious time for the Brazilian and Turkish leaders to go to iran to engage in diplomatic efforts and achieve a positive result. Therefore, the representatives of both Brazil and Turkey have in various venues and through different channels expressed thanks to China. At the same time, Iran has also indicated that this is also the result of the work done by China’s leadership on the Iran side, actively urging and promoting discussions.

I think maybe point 3’s mention of China’s “image as a responsible great power” is the key. It wants to maintain its role in the world economy, as well as its access to natural resources from Iran and elsewhere– all without rocking the boat too much in its relations with Washington?
Well, I guess I can see that that position might have some, very China-centered, logic to it…. over the short term, at least. But it would have been nice to have seen Beijing less ready to be stampeded by the manipulators in Hillary’s State Department (and their very good friends in AIPAC.) It would have been nice to see China a little more ready to embrace the cause of the mid-size nations whose weight in world affairs derives from their soft power rather than their possession of nuclear weapons.

Davutoğlu replies to Hillary (and Barack)

Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu today made clear his resentment about the tepid reaction most western governments had toward the deal his government and Brazil concluded with Iran yesterday on a swap of low-enriched nuclear materials, and Washington’s continued push to win a tough anti-Iran sanctions resolution from the Security Council.
Hurriyet Daily News reported today that:

    “The discussions on sanctions will spoil the atmosphere and the escalation of statements may provoke the Iranian public,” the Turkish foreign minister told a group of reporters after an official press conference in Istanbul.
    “Our mandate was limited to striking a deal on the swap,” Davutoğlu said. “If reaching an agreement on the swap was not important, why would we spend so much time and energy on the issue?”

HT to China Hand, who had an excellent round-up about the whole issue on his blog yesterday.
The Hurriyet account continued:

    “With the agreement yesterday, an important psychological threshold has been crossed toward establishing mutual trust,” Davutoğlu said. “This is the first indirect deal signed by Iran with the West in 30 years.
    Davutoğlu … objected to criticism over the amount of fuel that will be swapped. Critics of the deal argue that the 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium that Iran agreed to have stored in Turkey was an amount set in October, when the idea of a swap first about. Since then, they say, Iran has continued to produce more low-enriched uranium.
    According to Davutoğlu, U.S. President Barack Obama recently sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regarding the negotiations and the quantity mentioned in this letter was exactly 1,200 kilograms. The foreign minister said all relevant parties were kept informed at all stages of the negotiations with Iran and claimed that the early skeptical reactions stem from the fact that a successful deal was not expected.
    “I think there is no problem with the text of the deal. The problem is that they were not expecting that Iran would accept,” he said. “They had a reflex conditioned on the expectation that Iran will always say no. That’s why they were a little bit caught by surprise.”

The account also notes that Davutoğlu “said the deal could not have happened had it not been for Obama’s multilateral engagement policies.”
But I do think Obama should have been paying a bit more attention to what the Turks and Brazil’s President Lula Da Silva were doing in this whole affair.
Interesting that Obama “recently” sent a letter to Turkish PM Erdoğan regarding the negotiations– but that then, over the weekend as the negotiations proceeded to their end-game, according to spokesman Robert Gibbs he made no effort at all to reach out to the two fellow heads of government who were conducting them with Iran.
This was especially disturbing, since both Turkey and Brazil are fellow members of the Security Council, along with the U.S. It is highly unlikely that novice diplomatist Hillary Clinton will be able to get much of what she wants in the world body if she continues to fundamentally disrespect the diplomatic heavy lifting undertaken by Erdoğan and Lula.
By contrast with Sec. Clinton, Davutoğlu is a person with rich credentials as both a theorist and a practicioner of the art of diplomacy. The fact that even he brought himself to express a bit of (thinly veiled) frustration with the stance of Washington indicates to me that the frustration elsewhere in the Turkish government must be running even more strongly.

Obama cool toward ‘mid-size states’ deal

Pres. Obama’s spokesperson Robert Gibbs was yesterday extremely cool toward the agreement that Turkish PM Rejep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil’s Prez Luiz Ignacio Lula Da Silva reached with Iran concerning a swap of low-enriched uranium for medically suitable fuel rods.
By the way, I should have noted explicitly in the post I wrote on this yesterday that Turkey and Brazil are both currently members of the U.N. Security Council. Which obviously makes the active engagement of their leaders in this diplomacy much more important and immediately operational than it would have been otherwise.
Here in the U.S., some of the MSM commentary has been along the lines of, “Gosh, how worrying that this latest deal might lessen our chances of getting the U.N. to support tougher sanctions against Iran!”
Well, yes, they are right to the extent that it does that. But why on earth be worried about that prospect? … Unless, that is, your main aim is the sanctions themselves– often seen over the past 17 years, qua Martin Indyk, as an important way of weakening the regime prior to its overthrow– rather than resolving the questions and uncertainties around Iran’s avowedly civilian nuclear program?
(Of course, the kinds of sanctions imposed by the U.S.– and Israel– on their opponents– have usually has the reverse effect, of strengthening regimes those states don’t favor. But the primal urge to punish, punish, punish is so strong in these countries that simple rationality sometimes doesn’t even get a look-in.)
U.S. commentators who’ve been railing against the mid-size states deal also fail to take into account the fact that in today’s world, Brazil and Turkey are both democratic states that enjoy real power, in a number of different ways. Both are relative economic power-houses, whose current, well-regarded governments have done a lot to ensure that the economic growth of recent years has been paired with some good (and innovative) attention to social justice issues within their own societies. Both enjoy wide respect from their neighbors. Both have numerous economic, political, and military ties to ‘western’ nations.
In addition, Turkey– as I’ve noted here numerous times before– is a key member of NATO in that it is NATO’s only majority-Muslim member state at a time when NATO’s fate as an alliance really hangs on the success (or quite possible failure) of the lengthy expeditionary mission it has been undertaking in Afghanistan. Which, hullo, is a Muslim country many of whose people have a deep distrust of westerners, including Christians and perhaps especially the sporadic efforts of western Christian evangelizers.
Does Obama really want to maintain a stance of publicly belittling and disrespecting the diplomatic engagement and real diplomatic achievement of Turkey’s prime minister (and of Brazil’s president)? I can’t believe he does.
Reaction from other P-5 powers includes this from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman:

    China welcomes and places importance on the agreement that Iran signed with Brazil and Turkey on fuel supply to its research reactor, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said here Tuesday.
    … Ma said at a routine press conference that China hopes this move will help advance the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation.
    Ma said China has always adhered to the dual-track strategy on resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. China has always insisted that dialogue and negotiation are the best way to resolve the issue.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev gave the deal a seemingly more measured welcome. Moscow Times reported that he “cautiously welcomed a uranium swap deal between Iran and Turkey, but warned that it may fail to fully satisfy the international community.”
As for the European “powers”– Britain and France who, as nuclear-weapons-waving states, by an amazing coincidence get a veto on the security Council; and Germany, which by some sleight of hand got folded onto that strange, ad-hoc, Iran-focused body called the “P5+1”– right now they are all fairly busy with other things like, um, Europe’s own continuing financial crisis and the Brits’ attempts to establish a workable direction for the new coalition government in London.
And besides, I really don’t intend to puff Europe up by giving it any kind of equal billing with the other governments mentioned here. Three seats out of six in a global body, just for Europe? Didn’t anyone think at the time that that was just a tad nineteenth century?*
Well, back here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., I was interested to see this exchange in Robert Gibbs’s press conference yesterday:

    Q And did the President speak with leaders of Turkey or Brazil as this proposal was being put together?
    MR. GIBBS: No, again, I believe the State Department has been in contact with them. But the President has not talked directly with any leaders.

Boy, that looks like a very serious mis-step, right there.
I was also interested to see, in that press conference, the degree to which some of the questioners really did seem more concerned about the fate of the sanctions efforts per se rather than getting the nuclear issue with Iran actually resolved. There’s the MSM for you!

* Population figures for these states:
China………….. 1,330 million
U.S………………… 304 million
Brazil…………….. 196 million
Russia……………. 141 million
Germany………….. 82 million
Turkey……………. 72 million
Iran………………… 66 million
France…………….. 61 million
Britain…………….. 61 million

Livni shows a little real vision on the Iran issue?

I just read this account, from the BBC’s Tim Franks, of what looked like some kind of cross between a ‘war-game’ and a panel discussion about Iran’s nuclear program, held yesterday at Israel’s close-to-power ‘Inter-Disciplinary Center’ (IDC), in Herzliya.
Well-connected and high-level participants from both the U.S. Israeli took part in the event, though not, apparently, any currently serving officials in either government.
Franks wrote this about Tzipi Livni, the head of Israel’s main opposition party, Kadima:

    Ms Livni directed particular criticism at the current Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu repeated warnings about a second Holocaust.
    “The role of leadership is to give an answer to this kind of threat,” she said, rather than to stoke worry.
    “Israel in 2010 is not the Jews in Europe in 1939.”

Franks also wrote that Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that, time and again, during ‘war-games’ or consultations of this type held jointly between Israeli and American participants,

    a marked difference of emphasis would emerge from the role-playing, with the Israelis favouring military action as a ‘first course of response’, and the US tending to look at alternatives.
    In that context, there was a particularly striking contribution from Dan Halutz, the previous chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, and another participant in the day of war-gaming.
    He argued strongly not just for talk of military pre-emption, but diplomatic pre-emption.
    He said that the Iranians should be isolated from the rest of the Muslim world, which, he claimed, was “by and large more concerned than Israel is about a nuclear Iran.”
    The way to do that, he said, was clear: a comprehensive regional peace settlement. “The price is known, all the files are ready.”

Ah, Dan Halutz! The guy who was so certain back in July 2006 that he knew exactly how to “isolate” Hizbullah from the rest of the Lebanese population!
What an idiot. Why should anyone consider him an expert on anything to do with the politics of the Muslim countries of the region?
Still, it sounded like an interesting gathering.
And I find it interesting that some high-level Israelis are willing to talk so openly about the way they see the ‘linkage’ operating between the Iran situation and the need for Israel-Palestine peacemaking. This, though Israel’s willing armies of hasbaristas inside the U.S. body politic are still so absolutely adamant that no-one in the west should assert that there’s any linkage between the two issues at all…
My assessment is that current PM Netanyahu also believes that there is and should be linkage between the two– but that he sees it operating in a way that’s almost 180 degrees turned round from the view Halutz was expressing. I think Netanyahu’s real view is something like the following:

    1. He may well believe that Iran is aiming at, and may get to, the possession of a nuclear weapons capability within the next few years. But he isn’t really very scared by that prospect– despite what all his armies of hasbaristas are yelling in the west– because he knows full well that Israel’s own nuclear arsenal is completely well poised to destroy Iran and come to that the whole world if Israel chooses what we might call the “Samson option”. (The hasbaristas, of course, are not allowed to make any mention at all, however indirect, of Israel’s own NW capability.)
    2. Nonetheless, Netanyahu is very happy indeed to keep tensions high around the Iranian nuclear program, and to carry on inciting/pressuring the U.S. to escalate these tensions (including by delivering threats that if the U.S. doesn’t act ‘forcefully’, then Israel just might have to launch its own military strike against Iran)– primarily because keeping the attention of U.S. officials focused on ‘containing’ and threatening Iran prevents them from giving due attention to what’s happening on the ground in occupied Palestine. It’s all an elaborate distraction ploy!
    3. Therefore, meanwhile, as American officials are fussing around and devoting huge resources to ‘containing’ and combating Iran, Netanyahu’s government is very busy indeed continuing with its policy of colonizing the West Bank and shutting up all its rightful Palestinian owners inside the increasingly overcrowded open-air pens called “Oslo”. Every time Americans dare to challenge that policy, Netanyahu distracts their attention to Iran. And any Americans appeals to the idea that what Netanyahu’s doing in the OPTs might be making the fight against Iran harder is met with squeals of outrage from the hasbaristas to the effect that there really cannot be any “linkage” between these two issues.

Bottom line: Whereas Halutz judges there is cross-issue linkage, but within that picture assigns the need to counter Iran a higher priority than the need to preserve the entire, continuing settler-colonial project in the West Bank, Netanyahu judges there is linkage but assigns the need to preserve the settler-colonial project a higher priority than the need to do anything to actually counter Iran.
… Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the “initiative” on the Iran issue seems to be slipping out of the hands of Washington and into the new hands of Turkey’s Erdogan and Brazil’s Lula, backed up by the broad network of supporters that both those leaders have around the world.
Is Netanyahu perhaps already planning the launching of Israeli dirty tricks against both those governments?

Midsize, non-nuclear powers enter world stage

Treading where the U.S. and its European allies have failed to make any significant headway, the leaders of Turkey and Brazil have now engaged personally in dealing with the globally important Iran/nuclear issue– and they seem to be making real progress in de-escalating the tensions around it.
In Tehran today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters his government has agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for the further enriched kind of fuel required to run a medical reactor.
The deal comes as the culmination of personal visits undertaken to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva.
If this deal goes through, Erdogan and Lula’s diplomatic breakthrough will have a large impact not only on resolution of the globally vital Iran/nuclear issue itself but also on the whole face and structure of world politics.
The U.S., Britain, France, and Germany have all been pushing– within the ‘P5+1′ forum established specifically a couple of years ago to add Germany’s economic (and pro-U.S.) heft to the UN’s traditional P5 leadership– to impose a U.S.-designed solution on Iran, primarily by ratcheting up hostile economic actions against Iran backed up by a threat of military action.
Within the P5+1, the other two members of the P5, China and Russia, have adopted a fairly passive stance on the issue, showing neither any great support for the western countries’ line nor any readiness to actively resist it.
Enter the leaders of Turkey and Brazil– two significantly rising, mid-size countries whose current governments are generally pro-western but have also shown their willingness to challenge Washington where they judge their own core interests outweigh those of the U.S.
In contrast to the P5’s membership group, which coincides exactly with the group of five nations “allowed” to have nuclear weapons– for a while anyway– under the terms of the worldwide Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Turkey and Brazil are determinedly non-nuclear states. Both have good relations, including military relations, with the U.S. But perhaps most importantly, the current governments of these two states enjoy a wide and indisputable democratic mandate from their own citizenries– as well as considerable soft-power (diplomatic and economic) heft within the regions of which they are a part.
Therefore, though some European diplomats have apparently been a little huffy about the deal Erdogan and Lula achieved in Tehran, it would seem very counter-productive for the western governments to try to do anything active to try to undermine it.
That does not mean they won’t try, of course. All the western governments have been subjected to great pressure by Israel to continue ratcheting up the pressure on Iran; and it seems doubtful that either that pressure or those governments’ susceptibility to it will end overnight.
This is a great– and potentially very hopeful– story, in so many different respects. Watch this space.