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Posts Tagged ‘State Department

Clinton and Obama on Iran – Diplomacy 101

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subtlety? that's the other guy's problem

subtlety? that's the other guy's problem

To say that the Obama administration is all over the place on Iran is an understatement.

During the campaign, President Obama assured us that he would work hard to start a dialogue with Iran. His view remains, apparently at least, that engagement is the best way to deal with Tehran, their sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas, and most importantly the thorny issue of their nuclear ambitions.

Take today’s diplomatic shuffle on Iran. During her flight from Ramallah to Brussels after meeting Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made the mistake of holding court with the press during which she gave Tehran a piece of her mind with rhetoric that was straight from W’s dusty old “axis of evil” playbook. HRC suggested that Iran seeks to “intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach.” She went on to say “It is clear that Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all of these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it’s Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies.”  Yeah, Hil, we’ve heard this about fifty thousand times before.

During the same in-flight interview, probably after a whisper from an advisor, she remembered that she was working for Obama, not still campaigning against him, and went on to reassure the press corps that the President was in fact still seeking to engage Iran in a dialogue, “but wanted to make sure it’s constructive”.

First Hilary lambasts the Iranians then she wants our negotiations with them to be constructive.  Uhh.  Okay, what’s the best way to put this? 

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of the word “diplomacy”.

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Sudan’s Al-Bashir Indicted. Time to Save Darfur.

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tispdarfur2

Human rights isn’t exactly China’s strong suit, so their exhortation to the UN to back off the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for the war-crimes arrest of Sudan’s President Al-Bashir seems pretty much par for the course. China’s in deep in Sudan, as they are all over Africa spreading around their wealth and patronage and laying waste to the land.

Chinese style colonialism is very much your run of the mill old-school exploitation without the actual raising the flag bit (it’s always the silly part that really pisses off the locals). Their MO? Bribe the hell out of the government, bosses and warlords, put some personnel with big smiles and bigger wallets on the ground and grab every shred of natural resources they can get their hands on. So far the world has been far too preoccupied with other issues like our Iraq disaster and the small matter of the economic meltdown to get a bead on China’s resource-grab, but as of today that might just change.

If nothing else China’s very loyal to Al-Bashir. Not many world powers are going to back a guy indicted on charges of genocide. But China’s sticking its neck out for this guy even though from a PR perspective it seems like a bad idea. Of course, the Chinese don’t do anything without a damn good reason, and that reason usually has to do an awful lot with money. Perhaps the alternative to Al-Bashir is less China friendly, but whatever Beijing’s motivation, China has the ability to neuter the arrest warrant by vetoing it as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. If they do they run the risk of becoming indelibly linked to the Darfur genocide, and not in a good way.

That possibility opens up some interesting avenues for the United States. As the State Department looks to recalibrate our relationship with China – and stop them loading the dice in their favor, this Al-Bashir moment might just give us the focus we need. As mentioned on this blog a number of times, China is our number one adversary, and we need a much more forthright policy that emphasizes what America needs out of the relationship rather than merely what China can offer us. A big part of the problem we face with Beijing is China’s virtual invasion of Africa which has gone on uncontested for far too long. It’s time to shine some light on it, challenge it, and most importantly do what should have been done years ago – use US military forces to stop the genocide in Darfur.

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Obama’s Letter to Medvedev – A New Diplomacy in Action

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the russian bear likes a good bargain.

the russian bear likes a good bargain.

President Obama’s not so secret letter to his counterpart in Russia, President Medvedev, seems like a strong beginning to a new, more robust and directed diplomacy. Applying an unspoken quid pro quo that the serious application of pressure by Russia on Iran to stem Tehran’s nuclear ambitions could mean the removal of the US nuclear shield in Eastern Europe draws a big lesson from history. During the missile crisis, Khruschev seriously overreached when he planted missiles in Cuba. Kennedy didn’t back down, but instead offered to give up some obsolete missiles in Turkey in order to save the world from Armageddon.

Okay, we’re not quite on the edge of the nuclear abyss just yet, but Obama’s clearly done his homework on dealing with the Russians. He shrewdly realizes how important ‘saving face’ is to in the machismo world of Moscow foreign policy, rightly regards the missile shield as an expensive boondoggle, and understands why Moscow is less than enamoured of Bush’s feeble remonstrations that the shield was primarily in place to protect against Iranian missiles headed for the US or Europe (about a thousand times less likely than a briefcase bomb which would bypass the shield altogether). Add to that the very strong likelihood that the shield won’t work even if challenged and the prospect of canning it isn’t exactly a stretch. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

March 3, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Potus Heralds a New Era on US-Iranian Relations? Bad Start

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Mullen says Iran has enough fissile material for a bomb on the same day that Gates says they’re not close to getting a bomb. Now it’s true that these two statements are not mutually exclusive on a factual basis, but they are contradictory in terms of their diplomatic intent. Potus, Pentagon and State need to control communications channels a little better. It doesn’t look good.

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Written by coolrebel

March 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm

The Mumbai Massacre – An Opportunity For Clarity

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800px-taj_mahal_palace_hotel_at_night

peace will once again come to the taj

“Rogue Elements” is a big word du jour right now. The idea that within an organization there’s often a fifth column conjures up all sorts of conspiracy theories about CIA spooks with their own twisted agendas. Usually, this stuff is confined to fiction or the far reachs of the blogosphere. But what happens when the lunatics truly have taken over the asylum?

The strong suspicion that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group of jihadists once nurtured by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, ISI, is behind the horrific massacre in Mumbai a few days ago has turned the simmering distrust between India and Pakistan into a potential supernova. Read the rest of this entry »

Using Peace as a Weapon. Dealing With Iran.

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ahmadinejad

hey, barack, you wanna like talk or something?

To paraphrase Clausewitz, “Peace is war by other means”. It sounds nutty, but in certain situations, extending the hand of peace and cooperation is far more devastating to our adversaries.

In April, Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying on Good Morning America of all places that if Israel was attacked by Iran, “we would be able to totally obliterate them”. Now this was said during the heat of a brutal primary campaign that Hillary was in the process of losing to Obama, and the primaries she was fighting at that moment were in Pennsylvania, where muscle flexing is valued highly. But it also happens to be the same a quote from Hillary Clinton that has just been nominated as the nation’s next chief diplomat. And dealing with Iran will be one of her top priorities.

President Ahmadinijad is the kind of sly propagandist who can take the “obliterate” comment and turn it into more opportunities for mischief than Baskin Robbins has flavors. Hate-talk about Iran is a big fat BP fastball to the Iranian President. Every angry word about Iran can be used to keep the Iranian population fired up. It’s an old trick in the Middle East. When your people have no jobs, high inflation, a stagnant economy, a crumbling infrastructure, and no political freedom, just blame it on Israel or the Great Satan. This kind of stuff has been Iran’s second-most effective export after oil. It’s used it to finance it’s highly effective proxy networks in Lebanon, and to a lesser extent in Iraq. It’s used it to drive forward it’s nuclear policy. They all perform one profound function. Preservation of domestic power. Read the rest of this entry »

Time For A Change – China Policy

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tiananmen

has china really changed that much?

Sometimes it takes an aging rock band to make a great point. Take Guns n’ Roses new album, its first for seventeen years. The band’s insightful leader created a fabulous oxymoron, bringing together the words “Chinese” and “Democracy” for it’s title. Now that’s comedy.

The Chinese authorities did what they always do in these situations and censored everything about the album they could get away with at the same time as lashing out at the band for its insulting stance on the People’s Republic. How dare some old rock stars attack China’s non-democracy?

But does the vast plastic toy police state protesteth just a little too much? The irony seems completely lost on most of the world’s leaders, who are busy toadying to the Chinese to keep them buying the mountain of freshly issued Western debt. The British have backtracked on their decades-long fudge about Chinese control of Tibet to appease Beijing, and America, which has been pushing democracy like Avon pushes makeup is simply too scared to issue any kind of statement about censorship or human rights abuses in China. We allowed them into the World Trade Organization even though they brazenly broke its rules before and after they joined. Slowly but surely, we seem to be handing China superpower status on a plate. Another word for it is appeasement. And just like back in Munich in 1938, it strikes me as a very bad idea. Read the rest of this entry »