January 30, 2005


Iran puzzle: U.S. and Europe on separate tracks (Elaine Sciolino, International Herald Tribune, January 28th, 2005)

Iran is shaping up as the most serious diplomatic challenge for President George W. Bush's second term, and conflicting pronouncements by Bush and his national security team have left Iran's leadership frustrated and angry about the direction of American policy and the Europeans more determined than ever to push Washington to embrace their engagement strategy.

To the outside world, the administration seems divided over whether to promote the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran, perhaps by force, or to tacitly support the negotiating approach embraced by the Europeans.

That approach implicitly recognizes Iran's legitimacy because it would give concrete benefits to Iran if the country permanently stopped key nuclear activities.

"You need to get everybody to read from the same page, the Europeans and the Americans," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday. [...]

The Europeans have made the determination that any negotiation - however flawed - that slows and perhaps eventually even halts Iran's nuclear program is better than the alternatives put forward by the United States.

"Is this approach free of risks? No," Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said in a telephone interview. "Does it have a guarantee of success? No. But at this point in time it is the only game in town, no doubt about that. The other options are worse."

Some senior Iranian officials make the same point. "The West has suspicions about our nuclear program; we have suspicions of the Europeans," said Mohammad Javad Zarid, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations and a key negotiator with the Europeans.

Speaking in a telephone interview, Zarid said, "We are eager to use any possible avenue to resolve those suspicions. That's why we have had the pragmatism to understand that the European game is a very serious game. Washington has yet to understand that the European game is the only game in town."

Finally we understand the problem here.

Posted by Peter Burnet at January 30, 2005 6:00 AM

Nothing would bring Iraqis together like joining us in a war with Iran.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 30, 2005 8:32 AM

"But at this point in time it [the European approach] is the only game in town, no doubt about that. The other options are worse."

If it's the only game in town (curious, the use of an American phrase), then how can there be other options? And isn't it suspicious that the EU and the Iranians are using exactly the same phrase? I guess they're truly reading from the same page -- it's the obstinate Americans who refuse to.

Posted by: jd watson at January 30, 2005 10:26 AM

The costs of the Iraq campaign in men and materiel show the limits of that strategy. America is not an endless well of money and men no matter what OJ and some others here might think. Any Iranian campaign would be exponentially more difficult.

The correct strategy is ratcheting up the economic pressure on the mullahs as the country is very close to imploding, while strengthening and publicizing the success of democracy among Iraqi Shi'ites. Forcing a Syrian withdrawl from Lebanon would also help matters, and that is something where the Euros could be forced to come on board.

Posted by: Bart at January 30, 2005 10:28 AM

Forcing a Syrian withdrawl from Lebanon would also help matters, and that is something where the Euros could be forced to come on board. --

I thought frogistan is involved in that and just issued another statement on that topic?

Posted by: Sandy P at January 30, 2005 12:25 PM

You mean like the ten years of economic pressure (and aerial patrol in "no-fly zones" )that got Saddam to volutarily put himself in that hole in the ground?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 30, 2005 4:16 PM


Precisely. The French establishment has a proprietary interest in preserving the Maronite Christian community of Lebanon. The ties are close, the Maronites are Francophone, one(Edouard Balladur) has even been PM of France. Chirac is following in the steps of another paid stooge of Muslim terrorists, deGaulle, and selling Lebanese Christians out, just as DeGaulle sold out the pieds noirs and Francophone Jews of Algeria. This is not popular on the right wing of the French political spectrum.

The French may be nonchalant about Syrian and PLO butchery of Lebanon's Christians, but they really would detest an American or Israeli presence as the erstwhile protector of Lebanon's Maronites instead of their own. It would merely further drive home the point that France is increasingly an irrelevance on the world stage. The French can deal with being hated as they were when they blew up the Greenpeace ship or when they conducted openair nuke testing in violation of treaties they had signed. What they cannot deal with is being as irrelevant to world affairs as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are to the AL East.

Iraq has stuff people want, i.e. oil. What does Syria have besides Syrians? And nobody wants them.

Pruning the edges of Iran's putative empire will put pressure on the mullahs. Nobody likes a loser and even fewer people fear one.

Posted by: Bart at January 30, 2005 4:39 PM