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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gulf War III

The war of words has started and the diplomacy is breaking down over the Iranian nuclear situation. Depending on your point of view the recent P5+1 Talks in Baghdad had limited success. The Chinese representative at the talks, Ma Zhaoxu was quoted after the second round of talks as saying, "Based on a step-by-step approach and reciprocity, all sides, during the meeting, declared their willingness to address the issue through dialogue,"  Ma Zhaoxu offered his opinion that all sides are " gaining new achievements." He did not expand on what those achievements were.

Catherine Ashton The European Union's foreign policy chief offered her insight after the latest meeting. During a press conference Ashton said "It is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground. However, significant differences remain. Nonetheless, we do agree on the need for further discussion to expand that common ground," Ashton was optimistic in a statement that a "step-by-step approach and reciprocity”, will eventually solve the Nuclear issue. For Ashton to embrace this fresh approach is not surprising because the European Commission is growing super-saturated with sanctions and needs to produce a unanimous vote on sanctions for them to take effect. 

It was the Russians that provided the “Step-By-Step” approach to the draw down of Iran’s nuclear capability. This proposal would give Iran rewards in the form of sanction relaxation when certain goals are met. It seams to be the exact opposite of what the Americans have been pushing. This makes sense for the Russians to make such a proposal seeing as though Iran is a economic and strategic partner in the region. Currently Iran and Russia have several treaties in place for the supply of weapons, consumer goods and technology which includes nuclear facilities. 

The Russians and the Chinese have no interest in becoming confrontational with Iran on this issue because it just does not serve their purposes. As a trading partner Iran offers oil to the Chinese and in return China ships commercial goods of all sort to Iran. Iran is China's second largest supplier of oil, in 2011 Iran sent over $13 billion in oil to china. China in return has supplied Iran with over $11 billion in non-weapons durable goods.

Iran is a $50 billion a year trading partner and because of sanctions imposed on them by Western and Asian countries Iranian trade within the European Union, Great Britten and the United States has dwindled to a trickle. Since 2000 Iran's trading partners Russia and China have increased their trade ten fold and is now sucking up all the gravy that previously went to the EU. Disrupting this symbiotic relationship is not in the interest of either party. This situation along with the double dealing that the Obama administration is doing with the Iranians puts the P5+1 talks at an indefinite stalemate. 

A week before the talks in Baghdad a clandestine deal was reached between the Israeli and American governments that it would make it acceptable to both parties if Iran enriched their uranium to low levels under the supervision of the IAEA. This deal would keep Iran's centrifuges spinning and nuclear stockpiles at reasonable levels. The deal was even publicized by Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The DM came out with a written statement consenting to Iran's enrichment of uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, as well as  allowing a few hundred kilograms of 3.5% enriched uranium to remain in that country under IAEA controls. However when the two sides sat down in Baghdad the Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili was blindsided with a list of demands for Iran to comply with or have further sanctions imposed upon them. The list of demands included that Iran give up all centrifuges and halt enrichment activities, surrender current uranium stockpiles and expose all their nuclear facilities to the IAEA for inspection. This was a take it or leave it proposition not a deal at all, their was no compromise just demands it was something that the Iranians could not ever agree to. 

In respect to the Iranian situation Obama promised compromises to Russia's Medvideve during the G8 meeting. Those compromises now appear to be hollow and disingenuous and now his piers at the G8 summit see him for what he is. President Obama is quickly becoming a international pariah and the arm twisting that his Administration is employing is being looked at as a prelude to war in the Persian Gulf. The Chicago style bully tactics that he cut his teeth on for many years is not working and seams to be an attempt at placating the Israelis and Jewish American voters. This strategy is not only driving Iran further from the table but is also alienating Washington from longtime European allies, soon President Obama my find himself on an island all his own. 

Since the current round of talks have concluded National Security Director Leon Panetta has been escalating the war of words by publicly stating “The fundamental premise is that neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon,” Panetta was referring to the massive show of force that the US currently is displaying in the Persian Gulf. Many now see the Obama Administration as a group using the P5+1 talks as a way to antagonize and provoke Iran into a military confrontation. During a Sunday morning current events television program Panetta was asked to comment on the P5+1 talks and he responded with “One of the things that we do at the Defense Department is plan.  And we have – we have plans to be able to implement any contingency we have to in order to defend ourselves,” American ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro is also poring gasoline on the fire by publicly commenting that “It would be preferable to solve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure, than to use military force, But that doesn’t mean that option isn’t fully available. Not just available, it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready,” he said.

Obviously it is unacceptable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons simply because of their sponsorship and association with terror groups around the world. But the US still has the obligation to negotiate with an open mind and with sincerity in order to advance the dialog. 

President Obama at the beginning of his term toured the Muslim world and in Cairo Egypt he said this “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

So what has changed since that speech? Most people in the world take the President of the United States at his word and that his words are sincere and truthful. Was that speech in Cairo not meant for Iranians or is he excluding Iran from the rest of the Muslim world? The President also said this “There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.” So was the president lying to the Middle Eastern people during that speech in Cairo or is he lying now? The answer is both and not just to the Middle Eastern Muslims, Christians and Jews but to the Israelis, the Russians, the Europeans and the American people too. The best path to peace in the Middle East is as Mr Obama said “to seek a new beginning” but that beginning ends with President Obama and begins with a new administration.

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