Moment of Truth?

You know I was just reading my way though this article describing the frantic to-ing and fro-ing which seems to be taking place between Baghdad and Teheran at the moment, and I couldn’t help asking myself, well if, as now seems likely, the UN puts some effective sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks, is the Iraq government going to implement them? This doesn’t seem at all likely, so where does that leave us, imposing sanctions on Iraq for systematic sanctions busting?

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

16 thoughts on “Moment of Truth?

  1. Well, as Guy has just reminded us, today is 11 September, and I do think we should be remembering all those innocent people who died that day five years ago, as well as all the innocent people who have died in the aftermath.

    Clearly we are still living with the consequences, and indeed we may currently be nearer the end of the begining rather than the begining of the end.

    I note that the papers are now reporting that a compromise seems to be on the table in the Solana/Larijani conversations while suddenly Nouri al-Maliki has announced that he is postponing his visit to Teheran.

    It seems that the UN security council side of the table is looking for an exit stage left on almost any basis that would leave some shred of credibility, while Teheran seems to be happy to play footsy with them. I greatly doubt that Iran has any serious intention of halting enrichment. I don’t see why they would want to do this, since they really have every interest in spinning this out, and would probably be a net ideological beneficiary from having sanctions imposed.

    I don’t think that all this is a desireable outcome, but equally it is hard to see, given what I am suggesting is the case about Iraq, what real alternatives there are. Not a happy state of affairs.

    Meantime Waheed Mozhdah, ex-director of the old Taliban Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and Africa department, has been giving AP details of the Ahmad Shah Massood killing which preceeded the 11 September attack.

    I think that the main point to come out of this is that there was some sort of a plan in the background here. It was very much anticipated by OBL and others that the US would be drawn into Afghanistan amd possibly elsewhere. And this, of course, is what has happened.

    Now we are sending troops to the Lebanon, reinforcements are being sent to Afghanistan, and US troops are not likely to be leaving Iraq anytime soon. At the end of the day there must be a limit to just how many “Western Alliance” troops can be deployed across the globe. And the Iranian regime of course knows this, and is leveraging the advantage that this situation offers them for all it is worth.

    As I said, far from being at the begining of the end, we may well have some way to go before we even reach the end of the begining.

  2. It seems that the UN security council side of the table is looking for an exit stage left on almost any basis that would leave some shred of credibility, while Teheran seems to be happy to play footsy with them. I greatly doubt that Iran has any serious intention of halting enrichment.

    It would very much surprise me if the US accepted that. This means the US will consider robust action on its own.

    and US troops are not likely to be leaving Iraq anytime soon. At the end of the day there must be a limit to just how many “Western Alliance” troops can be deployed across the globe.

    What makes you think that the US will give more priority to Iraq than to Iran? It seems to me that it’ll rather let Iraq go to hell than let Iran have nukes. Maybe not under this president, but probably under the next.
    The world really cannot afford Iran with nukes sitting right at the straits the oil must pass through.

    As I said, far from being at the begining of the end, we may well have some way to go before we even reach the end of the begining.

    Given the state of Iraq it seems to me that the experiment of invading and occupying a large muslim country to remake its government cannot be repeated.
    What is the alternative? Large scale punitive expeditions?

  3. “It would very much surprise me if the US accepted that.”

    I severely doubt you are right here. My reading Oliver is that this is all being closely coordinated between the US, the UK, Germany and France behind the scenes. Remember it was Chirac who first threatened to nuke Iran if they threatened oil supplies to France through the straits, and Merkl isn’t exactly falling over herself with joy each time she hears Ahmadinejad’s take on the holocaust. This group I think will take a collective decision. Tied down as it is in Iraq the US is in no position to go anywhere alone on this. Also noone is in a rush to repeat the Iraq error.

    The ‘group of 4’ are held back by China and Russia, on the one hand, and by other EU countries who are reluctant to confront Iran on the other.

    But the main point I am making is that virtually noone has any appetite for this, and this is Iran’s strongest bargaining weapon.

    Really the issue isn’t about nuclear weapons as such. This is a pretext, since Iran has intentionally made a provocation here. But Pakistan, for eg, has nuclear weapons.

    No, I think the real issue is the presence of a rogue regime, who may have expansionary intentions near to strategic oil resources – I mean there is the South of Iraq as a sphere of influence, we’ve just seen what went off in the Lebanon, who is to say whether or not they are interested in the oil rich Shiite provinces of Saudi Arabia. Certainly they want to assume the leadership in the Shiite world, and their vehicle for doing this is their confrontation with the west.

    “Given the state of Iraq it seems to me that the experiment of invading and occupying a large muslim country to remake its government cannot be repeated.

    What is the alternative?”

    Well this is just the point. Noone is likely to commit ground troops to a country the size of Iran. Strategic bombing is not effective, as Israel has just discovered in Lebanon (indeed we shouldn’t misss the point that those Iranian anti-tank rockets proved very effective in urban warfare), and Nato found out in the case of Serbia. Sanctions I don’t think will work either, I suspect Iran will relish them, and effectively be able to bust them via Iraq. So your guess is as good as mine about what the next move should be, it looks like they have hold of us by a very painful part of the anatomy.

  4. The ‘group of 4’ are held back by China and Russia, on the one hand, and by other EU countries who are reluctant to confront Iran on the other.

    Likely, but that group is too weak to impose effective sanctions on its own. China and Russia are needed. What else can be done? UNO sanctions had a chance of working, a small chance, but a chance. Without the Security Council I see little options between giving up and war.

    But the main point I am making is that virtually noone has any appetite for this, and this is Iran’s strongest bargaining weapon.

    It seems to me that Iran is overplaying its hand right now. They could have offered a limited halt for inspections or something, but they didn’t.

    Really the issue isn’t about nuclear weapons as such.

    Nevertheless a nuclear armed country has never been invaded.

    But Pakistan, for eg, has nuclear weapons.

    Promptly the US has made a deal with India.

    who is to say whether or not they are interested in the oil rich Shiite provinces of Saudi Arabia

    Doing that without nukes is suicide.

    Noone is likely to commit ground troops to a country the size of Iran.

    This leads us to two questions.
    1. How long will the US stay in Iraq?
    It seems to me that the Republican legislators will revolt if the election of 2008 comes close with troops still in Iraq.
    2. What exactly was the Iraqi mistake?
    Did the US just screw up the occupation, or was the strategy flawed from the beginning? I’d say the latter. Exporting democracy at gunpoint doesn’t work.
    On the other hand the invasion part worked just fine, the occupation part failed.

    So I cannot really follow you when you say that troops are not available. The size of Iran is important only if you want to occupy. If all you want is to smash anything that looks important, you care about military opposition.

    it looks like they have hold of us by a very painful part of the anatomy.

    What happens to a matador who kicks a bull into that part and finds out that he has forgotten to bring his sword?

  5. “Is the Iraq government going to implement them?” This implies that the Iraqi government is actually doing what they want. Look back into history and tell me if the German or Japanese governments were doing what they want in ’48. Indeed, it could be possible that part of Iraq will be renamed Saarland and transformed into the 5n-th state, but there is no chance that Iran will find a friend in these appointed Bagdad guys, whose lives and fortunes are at stake if the US protection is withdrawn from them.

  6. “whose lives and fortunes are at stake if the US protection is withdrawn from them.”

    Well their lives would most certainly be at risk inside Iraq if they didn’t come to the aid of an Iran under threat. You seem to be forgetting that you are talking about people like Moqtada al-Sadr here. Or put another way, the strains could tear Iran apart.

  7. Moqtada is only a small problem. The Arab part of the Iraqi army is mostly made up of people who were not so long part of the Iranian army. I would really trust them. I also wouldn’t compair Iraq with Germany in 48 but with France in 48. On which side do you think Chirac would have fought if America had invaded the USSR

    The problem with Iran is not that the Mullahs want nukes but that the people want (and i would say need after their history of the last 150 years) nukes more. Get a regime change and a nuclear Iran is more likely while the reason why a nuclear armed Iran is bad stays the same. (they would make Western military adventures in the Gulf very difficult)

    “But Pakistan, for eg, has nuclear weapons.

    Promptly the US has made a deal with India.”

    The US “supplied” the technology that allowed Pakistan to make nukes. (They stopped the Dutch from arresting Khan)

    “who is to say whether or not they are interested in the oil rich Shiite provinces of Saudi Arabia

    Doing that without nukes is suicide.”

    Doing that with a strong America is suicide. But it is a possibility after the American defeat in Iraq.

    “2. What exactly was the Iraqi mistake?
    Did the US just screw up the occupation, or was the strategy flawed from the beginning? I’d say the latter. Exporting democracy at gunpoint doesn’t work.
    On the other hand the invasion part worked just fine, the occupation part failed.”

    It is a lie that America was exporting democracy at gunpoint. America was not interested in a democratic Iraq because it would likely lead to a pro Iranian and anti American goverment and it would for sure lead to a goverment that wants high oil prices and no Israel. The only reason why the elections were so soon was it was clear that there would be a massive rebelion if there was no election after the great Shiites demonstrations of 2003.

  8. Well this is really becoming a ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ situation, since we learn this morning that Iraq prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s is now in Tehran. I wonder what they could be talking about.

    And just at the same time as Khatami has been visiting the US. To be continued……

  9. There is no need to read anything sinister into the Iranian government talking to an Iraqi minister. While Iran does not want a powerful neighbor, and some level of civil strife provides a context in which Iran can increase its influence in Iraq, it most emphatically does not want a civil war next door, either. Nor does the present Iraqi administration want a civil war. Preventing that is something they can talk about.

  10. It is a lie that America was exporting democracy at gunpoint. America was not interested in a democratic Iraq because it would likely lead to a pro Iranian and anti American goverment and it would for sure lead to a goverment that wants high oil prices and no Israel.

    That is the reason for the occupation being an error. That doesn’t mean the US didn’t make that error for this reason.

    For the US to admit that democracy is undesireable under certain conditions has serious consequences. It is most likely politically impossible to invade a country and install a dictatorship, at least until all other options have been tried.

  11. Well this news just in (see below) doesn’t surprise me. The ball is now back in our court. Continuing to have a confrontation with Iran means in all probability high oil prices all through 2007. This is one reason why noone on our side wants to proceed with the problem. Russia, OTOH, may well see not getting a resolution to this as an objective to go for, precisely for this reason: the carpetbagger model.

    China, of course, may be nearer to the rest of the security council on this point.

    That Iran is seeming to blow hot and cold doesn’t really surprise me. I think Larijani is just being played as the nice guy with the nice smile here (juats as, in a way, Solana is). When they meet and start chatting they would both like to find a way out, they are both probably reasonable men, but the real power back in Tehran doesn’t seem interested in this, so when he goes back the message changes. What Tehran really seem to want is continuing agro so they can consolidate their leadership position in the Shiite world.

    “Iran still refuses to suspend uranium enrichment before the start of talks on its nuclear program — a key demand by the six nations locked in a diplomatic standoff with the Islamic republic, officials said Tuesday.”

    “officials from delegations familiar with the outcome of the weekend’s negotiations between Iranian and European negotiators said Tuesday that Iran had also made clear it would not halt enrichment before broader, six-power talks aimed at persuading Iran to agree to a long-term moratorium. They demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging confidential information.”

  12. Robert:

    “There is no need to read anything sinister into the Iranian government talking to an Iraqi minister.”

    I’m not reading anything sinister into it. I’m just saying it highlights the problem. I am sure Nouri Al-Maliki doesn’t want the confrontation with Iran to happen, this would make his position in Iraq most diificult. The Shia street may well go with Moqutada al Sadr, this would be his worry, and Iraq could have, not civil war, since I think the only region problem is Baghdad in this context, and with 130,000 US peacekeepers the problem should be controllable, but maybe secession in the South and in the North. Again, it’s hard to say what significance this has:

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) –
    Iraq’s parliament delayed debate on Sunday on a divisive draft law on federalism that minority Sunni Arabs fear could lead to the partition of Iraq and stoke sectarian conflict that has already killed thousands.

    The Shi’ite and Kurdish-sponsored draft law paves the way for Iraq’s 18 provinces to form autonomous federal regions with their own governments and security forces. Kurdistan, encompassing three provinces in northern Iraq, is already largely autonomous and has its own president and parliament.

    But Sunnis, concentrated in Iraq’s resource-poor central and western provinces, are opposed to such a move, fearing it would seal their political doom by giving Shi’ites in the south and Kurds in the north control of much of Iraq’s oil.

  13. Mark,

    the US most certainly did.

    see http://www.hindu.com/2005/08/10/stories/2005081000711600.htm

    Oliver,

    you can invade a country and install a dictator, America has shown this ample, but you do need a just cause (or when the country is unimportant). But Iraq is a very important country and there was no just cause. The other reason is that America needed allies which wouldn’t exist if this was stated publicly has none wants to be in the way of a Shiite rising.

    I find the word sinister just completely wrong for the love-in between Iraq and Iran. There is no need for an evil reason for them to like each other (they have the same religion and fought on the same side in the war). I would call a visit to the US sinister as the only reason they (officially) like each other is pure and simple power

    There are no American peacekeepers in Iraq. They are occupiers and the more turmoil there is the longer they can stay as any independent government would kick them out. Also 130.000 is to little to and control Bagdad and resupply the army. I also doubt that the non Kurdish Iraqi want partition as Bagdad biggest group are Shiites but is also the place were a big part of the Sunni Iraqi’s live

  14. But Charly, you reference, although interesting, doesn’t really
    support your assertion.

    Does The Netherlands have nuclear weapons? I think not.

    What kind of uranium plant was this? Was it a weapons enrichment
    plant, or was it simply a nuclear power plant?

    Would arresting Khan have stopped Pakistan’s nuclear weapons
    program in it’s tracks? Maybe in retrospect it would have, but
    a reasonable conjecture at the time would have been that he was
    replaceable. Of how much value was it to have found and be
    tracking a person that we knew was involved versus not knowing
    what was going on?

    We can always second-guess and perhaps a wrong decision was
    made, but nothing in this story suggests that the US wanted
    Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather to the contrary.

  15. Can the Netherlands explode a nuke in 6 months time? Absolutely but it doesn’t have nuclear missiles like Italy so they would be kind of worthless.

    Urenco is an uranium enrichment plant. They enrich it for the nuclear power industry but there is not a real big difference between an weapons and a nuclear power enrichment plant. You just need to spin the uranium longer. The Pakistani enrichment plant is AFAIK build with the Dutch blueprints.

    It would have hindered the Pakistani program significant. He had not only stolen the blueprints but he had also the knowledge to implement them and the contacts to buy the parts.
    The Indians were since the Indian army mutiny always more on the hand off the USSR so the West ally, Pakistan, needed to have them too and the CIA made sure they got them.

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