Friday, April 21, 2006

Every Diplomatic Option 

Think back. When did you know with absolute certainty that the much-ballyhooed threat of Iraqi WMD's was a risible load of bollocks, a carny spiel for all the rubes on the midway who just couldn't believe that that nice Mr. Bush was going to lead them into war whether they needed it or not? We tumbled to the truth when various administration officials started bragging that they had learned the specific locations of Saddam's hidden stockpiles -- and then, oddly enough, refused to share that information with the UN weapons inspectors who were, at that very moment, scouring Iraq in search of weapons to dismantle, and not having a damned bit of luck. Of course we'd been lectured ad nauseum about the menace these fearsome bioweapons posed to our very existence as a nation, yet here was Our Side inexplicably passing up a cheap and easy opportunity to take them out of circulation.

Now that didn't shock us. We understood that they wanted war and needed a viable pretext to invade. We knew the WMD threat was exaggerated -- but even Yr. Mst. Bnvlnt. Dspt., a war skeptic from the git-go, initially assumed that Saddam Hussein must be keeping a little something in his back pocket. What turned us around was this: if Messrs. Cheney, Powell, et al had been able to steer the UN to one can of powdered A-234, one beaker of botulinum toxin, one lousy envelope full of weaponized anthrax . . . bingo! They would've had their pretext. Now there's a casus belli for you: Look what we found! Sarin gas! Who knows what else he's got stashed in that innocent-looking sand dune over yonder?

But they couldn't. And that's when we knew they had exactly bupkes.

In our vast readership there is undoubtedly a small contingent of amnesiac cretins who, owing to severe head injuries, congenital aphasia, etc., believe the Bush administration's latest, eerily familiar claims that Iran poses an immediate nuclear threat and must be dealt with sooner rather than later. Bringing up the rear of that hapless band is a tiny handful of ultracredulous subcretins who buy the line that "every diplomatic option" will be exhasted before we go to war (again). If we thought that they were educable -- and past experience offers no cause for optimism -- we would happily direct them to the items immediately below, unearthed by our eminent colleague K. Drum of Political Animal:
Last January, Flynt Leverett, who worked for Condoleezza Rice on the National Security Council, provided some initial clues:
In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A conversation I had shortly after leaving the government with a senior conservative Iranian official strongly suggested that this was the case. Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.
In February, Newsday picked up the story:
The fax was one of a series of informal soundings that emanated from Tehran in the months after the United States invasion of Iraq. Iran's envoys to Sweden and Britain also began sending signals that the regime was ready to negotiate a deal, according to a former Western diplomat closely familiar with the messages. Iran was sending messages through other back-channels as well, according to Paul Pillar, who served as the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

...."No one at a senior level was willing to push Iran on diplomacy," said Leverett. "Was there at least a chance that we could have gotten something going? Yes, there was a chance."
Three weeks ago, Gareth Porter added some more details:
Realists, led by Powell and his Deputy Richard Armitage, were inclined to respond positively to the Iranian offer. Nevertheless, within a few days of its receipt, the State Department had rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer.

Exactly how the decision was made is not known. "As with many of these issues of national security decision-making, there are no fingerprints," [Lawrence] Wilkerson told IPS. "But I would guess Dick Cheney with the blessing of George W. Bush."

As Wilkerson observes, however, the mysterious death of what became known among Iran specialists as Iran's "grand bargain" initiative was a result of the administration's inability to agree on a policy toward Tehran.

A draft National Security Policy Directive (NSPD) on Iran calling for diplomatic engagement had been in the process of interagency coordination for more than a year, according to a source who asks to remain unidentified.

But it was impossible to get formal agreement on the NSPD, the source recalls, because officials in Cheney's office and in Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans wanted a policy of regime change and kept trying to amend it.
You recognize the pattern: 1.) If the country with the oil makes on any peaceful overtures, reject them immediately. 2.) Announce that the target nation has refused to cooperate. 3) Attack. Regretfully, and as a last resort.

If the target country does cooperate, you can always deny if after the fact. For example, President Bush continues to insist that Saddam Hussein would not let UN inspectors into Iraq (although of course he did; they were there right up until Mr. Bush ordered them out so he could start bombing). Mr. Hussein's retroactive, counterfactual failure to cooperate left Mr. Bush with no option but to invade the country, seize control of its oil-production facilities, and establish fourteen permanent military bases to use as staging grounds in future campaigns.

UPDATE (via Zemblan patriot J.D.): Damn their eyes! The shifty bastards are already attempting to undermine our plans by making nice:
Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s nuclear watchdog said here Friday that Tehran was ready for “full” cooperation with that agency and was prepared to answer all questions about its nuclear program, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

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