Friday, November 11, 2011

Dennis Ross Stepping Down

Dennis Ross has advised a number of presidential administrations on Middle East affairs. He is definitely of the neocon persuasion, and how to deal with Iran seems to have been mostly his baliwick.

Something I've been thinking of posting on has been my puzzlement over what seems to be an unnecessarily rigid aproach to a number of issues in the Middle East. This won't be that post, and I'll stick to Iran, since that's been so much in the news lately.

There has been little creativity from a president who, when he was campaigning, said he was willing to talk to Iran's president without preconditions. That hasn't happened, of course, and the precondition of Iran's ceasing to enrich its nuclear material remains.

It can be argued that that precondition is something that the United Nations insists on as well, although the way those United Nations resolutions were passed came from a United States, under the Bush administration, that wanted justification very badly for that precondition. Unfortunately, removing that precondition would now send a message of weakness to a stubborn and volatile Iranian government.

But I used the word creativity because the essence of diplomacy is finding ways around difficult situations like this.

It's highly likely that that sort of diplomacy went unpracticed because preconditions were just fine with Dennis Ross. As the articles I'll link at the end of this post note, his ideas are held more broadly in the administration, so it seems doubtful that much will change.

While Israel has been indulging in histrionics the past few weeks in preparation for the quarterly International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran, the US administration has been quiet and continues to be, now that the report has been issued.

Come to think of it, perhaps Ross's resignation in this quiet time signifies a disagreement with that quiet policy. It is a welcome change from some of the judgementalism that has been displayed in the past. And, now that the report is out, Israel seems to be quietening down too.

Iran is a difficult nation to deal with. It has its own internal splits and a complicated governing structure that makes those splits difficult to interpret. Its policy toward the United States has been hostile since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Apparent breakthroughs in the nuclear negotiations have fallen apart for unobvious reasons. So that leaves sanctions. China and Russia are unlikely to agree to UN-sponsored increases in sanctions, so the United States is considering unilateral sanctions and which other countries might be induced to join.

Sanctions are a frustrating means of dealing with another country. Their effect is long-term and the connection between sanctions and results is not obvious. But Paul Pillar argues persuasively that it was sanctions that caused South Africa and Libya to give up their nuclear programs.

So perhaps the sanctions, combined with negotiation when it is possible, will eventually result in a favorable outcome with Iran. That would be reducing the danger that now exists that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon; it would not necessarily mean the end of their enrichment program. That program might be internationalized as a production center for fuel for civilian reactors of many nations. A favorable outcome would also include Iran's making their information on their work on nuclear weapons related subjects available to the IAEA and allowing their inspectors greater freedom at its nuclear facilities.

On Dennis Ross: Michael Hirsh and Noam Sheizaf.


lidia said...

regarding your comment here

1)IAEA's called Danilenko "Soviet Nuclear Scientist" . Yes or no?
Not simple "working on weapons". So, your refutation is not really one.
2)If all the classified, for here IAEA knows about it? It seems - from Israel. Of course, Israel is known for providing only true info, esp. regarding Iran nukes (for about 20 years Israel has been telling that Iran is only few years from having nuclear bomb)
3) Porter DOES cited sources. At least, he was NEVER caught providing disinformation, very unlike "sources" you seem to believe without any questions.

4) Do you REALLY like to see the repeating of Iraq nukes story with Iran? Or am I a fool asking such question and you are only another tool of anti-Iran warmongering?

Cheryl Rofer said...

Hi Lidia -

For many reasons, I was hoping not to have to address Porter's article. My comment at Juan Cole's blog only touched on what is wrong with it.

Your questions are good ones. I will write a longer post later, but for now:

1)Danilenko could not have been working in the closed city Snezhinsk in the 1960s unless he was working on weapons. The diamond work requires expensive experimental setups that would not have been funded unless they were related to weapons.

2)Danilenko's son has now come forth to say his father worked on nuclear weapons. Danilenko's denial is very carefully worded and means little. We don't know that Israel was the source of this information, and for this quarterly report on Iran, the IAEA says that they have done significant work to track down the claims they have received.

3) Well, I'll have to read Porter's article again, but one of the things I am sensitive to in reading news reports is the sources cited, and I didn't see any in two or more readings so far.

4)I think that we have to understand what is going on in the world accurately. I argued against the war in Iraq because the WMD evidence was so clearly flawed. I have argued many times that bombing Iran would be counterproductive. But the evidence for Iran's interest in nuclear weapons is there. Their current interest is not clear, but they have done a significant amount of work that can only be explained by an interest in nuclear weapons.

I can understand why people would react to the IAEA report as if it were the same sort of warmongering that the United States provided against Iraq. Some of the reactions to the IAEA report have been overblown, as I have said here.

lidia said...

1) One MORE time - NOT all weapons are nuclear ones. Danilenko could be weapons scientist, but NOT nuclear ones. I am sorry for capital letters, but you the second time write as if it is the same.

2)"IAEA says that they have done significant work to track down the claims they have received" - so what? You do not believe Iran but believe IAEA? Why? You give them all benefits of doubt but none to Iran. I suppose it is because USA rulers NOW like IAEA but do not like Iran's nuclear development. It was not always thus, as you know.

3) It is funny that I am writing this under your post of sanctions against Iran. You have cited them working against Libya - do you think Iranians are so stupid not to see how Qaddafi was rewarded by USA for his giving up nukes? Anyway, any non-biased person know that all that bruhaha against Iranian "nukes" is NOT about "nukes" but about Iran not being a puppet of USA. USA is hell bent on "regime change" in Iran, just as they were in 1953, and IAEA is just one tool of it.
As about SA, it was helped by the same Israel in its nuclear ambitions. Funny that you are NOT demanding the sanctions against Israel. Not you are asking why USA are virtually supporting India's nukes against ALL treaties.

In short, your opposition to bombing Iran - a country of 70+ millions people is not based on sere criminality and insanity of such bombing but simply of it being "counterproductive". It could mean that you do not see Iranians (who overwhelmingly support nuclear development) as a human beings worth the same as Americans or Israeli Jews. Or that you just say things without feeling how they sounds for everyone who are not for USA/Israel domination of the ME - and I suppose we are the majority of the world.

And "people react to the IAEA report as if it were the same sort of warmongering that the United States provided against Iraq" just because it IS. If somebody sounds like a warmongering, if somebody serve warmongering, if it done by the same methods (mostly by lies) and by the same actors, it IS one.

lidia said...

Then, it was NOT his son, but his son-of-law, and only if one believe some "unnamed diplomat". So, why should one believe such source, even if son-of-law somehow knows classified facts? Is Danilenko discussing his top-secret (as you stated) work with his family?

Anyway, Danilenko is still not a nuclear scientist, and never was, or do you have real proofs of him only moonlighting as a nano-diamonds pioneer and working at the same time as nuclear weapon scientist. Even his know-all not son does not seems claim it.

It looks like IAEA first used not too well-made fake and when it was proven that "nuclear scientist" was not nuclear, they changed the story. It looks just like Yellow cake to me, and not only to me.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Lidia, it looks to me like your mind is made up. I'll say a few more things here and save the rest for my post.

There is some quibbling over words in your comments and in other places. The fact is that Danilenko could not have worked in Snezhinsk in the 1960s without learning things that would be useful to a nuclear weapons program, whatever you want to call him.

I believe evidence. A problem with both Porter's and Cole's articles, and your comments, is the idea that one chooses, out of faith, to believe in one person/organization or another. I prefer to look at the evidence.

You make a number of accusations toward me and others. Those accusations are based on chains of inference that you might reconsider.

Although it does look like your mind is made up.

lidia said...

yes, sure, and YOUR mind is not made up. Such as :

1) Israel could have nukes
2) Iran should be pressed by USA for "maybe" wanting to have nukes
3) Everyone who does not agree (like me) with 1 and 2 has one's mind "made up"

Please tell me WHERE I was mistaken ?

And of course, one who still tries to salvage "Danilenko-the nuclear-scientist" claim regardless the facts and calls the facts "quibbling over words" has not one's mind made up. One simply is being logical, sure.

I just wonder, still, why was you against USA raping of Iraq? (if you really was). After all, the "proof" was about as good as it is now. And you sure think that USA/Israel entitled to attack any country they choose.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Lidia, if you continue with personal attacks, I will delete your comments. If you have something to present in the way of evidence, I'm willing to listen.

For example, if you claim I have my mind made up, please show where I said the things you say I have said.

lidia said...

"I believe evidence"- only regarding people asking question about IAEA (or USA) "evidence". IAEA you sure give benefit of doubt, even if they just "says that they have done significant work to track down the claims they have received". Very good evidence, sure.

Or "evidence" being some unnamed diplomat citing Danilinko "son-of-law". Such evidence is not questioned at all.

Just to think that the lives of many millions of people depends of such sort of "evidence" and people who should know better supporting the politics which could very well mean one more aggression by USA in the ME. Do you still not have enough of it? Or do you not believe that Obama would start another war?

Cheryl Rofer said...

... and your evidence for your assertions is...?

lidia said...

My evidence? What about

1) USA long history of imperialist wars on the ME and beyond often under flag of false "evidence". Iraq being just ONE of them
2) USA long and sordid history of support for Zionism regardless Zionist crimes, having nukes and many times being caught lying
3) USA long and sordid history of crimes against Iranian people - from 1953 till now, including not only support for terrorists (by USA definition as well)but also for regime change by other means - i.e. "Green movement" copyrighted by USA both state and non-state bodies for a lot of states which are not firmly enough under USA control
4) USA relatively new quest to suppress any possibility of rivalry by China (most of it being played not in the ME, but part of it is - esp. in Iran but not only).
5) IAEA having a new head - much more beholden (to put it mildly) to USA/Israel than previous, even though El-Baradei was still not much of an independent from USA international official.

I am not mentioning all little things USA/Israel have been caught lying about Iran or simply citing "wonder laptop" info. It is just some new lines on the very familiar pattern

So, maybe my mind is really made up
1) I do NOT see USA as a benign force, but as an predator imperialist one
2) I do not see Israel as an "only democracy in the ME" but as a colonial body on Palestinian land
3) I do not see Iran as "mad" or "outlaw" but as a state which have a sort of democracy not worse or even better than USA. Of course, it is still not good enough to me, but who is to blame for resurgence of political Islam in Iran? Sure not the secular popular elected Mossadegh who was toppled by CIA for being "mad" enough to want Iranian oil to belong to Iranian people and not to UK firm. (Have you ever heard what USA media wrote about him?)

And, of course, I do not see Iran as a threat to the peace, but USA/Israel very much so. More than that, USA and Israel both have nuclear weapons and both are waging countless wars. Unlike Iran

You could call my mind "made up". I would call me simply "well-informed". And not afraid to call spade a spade, too.

You see, I do not have anything about you personally. I have heard about you first today. But, sorry, I am not happy with Iraq being turned into sequel Iran and you and many others being complicit in such horrible development.

By the way, I do not like Cole at all. He is a warmonger on his own right. It always was a riddle to me - why he was all for bombing Libya but not Iran? He is aware of my opinion so I was unable to answer you on his blog :(

Arnold Evans said...

Hey, I found out about this place from lidia.

I wonder what your thoughts would be about a recent blog post I made here.

"Why is it important to Westerners that Iran not have legal nuclear weapons capabilities?"

It refers to a discussion at about Iran's nuclear program.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Simple answer to your question, Arnold.

Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, promising not to develop nuclear weapons. It has also signed an Additional Protocol, allowing extensive inspections to let the world know it isn't developing nuclear weapons, but it won't put that Protocol into effect. So Iran has obligated itself not to make nuclear weapons and to show the world that is the case.

Treaties are important, considered by most countries to rank with their internal laws.

I wouldn't have phrased a question the way you did, though. It sounds too much like you're making a bunch of assumptions.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Ahhh...I've looked at the discussion at Arms Control Wonk and have to agree with Jeffrey.

Arnold, you and Lidia both characterize anyone who disagrees with you in extremely unfavorable terms. Some of the commenters at ACW noted this.

You are trying to put forth a point of view and smear all those who disagree, rather than to argue the issues.

So, as I said to Lidia above, I'm happy to hear any substantive argument. I'll delete anything else.

Arnold Evans said...

Smear? Seriously?

Which sentence or statement read to you like a smear?

Also which issue did I not argue?

You do know that the Additional Protocol, by its terms, comes into force when it is ratified, correct? And that it was not ratified by Iran, correct? So that it is not in force or legally binding on Iran, right?

Japan has ratified the AP, and that document is legally binding on Japan. You are aware that, despite that, Japanese politicians claim they could make thousands of nuclear weapons in months, right? The Japanese politicians who say this are right according to every expert I've come across who has examined that issue.

So the question is, can Iran reach that same state of capabilities Japan has reached, legally, and if not, why not.

I have no interest in smearing you or anyone else, but if you think Iran should not be able to reach the state Japan has reached, I would expect there to be some reason.

Deleting comments honestly strikes me as very cowardly. Even if I don't have a response to something you write, I won't pretend you didn't write it.

But do as you will. This comment and a link to this post will be in my comments section, so that if you do delete it there'll be a record.

Cheryl Rofer said...

From Wikipedia:
Iran signed an Additional Protocol on 18 December 2003, and agreed to act as if the protocol were in force, making the required reports to the IAEA and allowing the required access by IAEA inspectors, pending Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol.

Your "contribution" to the ACW discussion thread was to ask tendentious questions, as you did here, and misrepresent other commenters' contributions. The other commenters called you out on that, as I did.

You're already clogging this thread up with non-substance and threats. Regard this as your second warning.

Arnold Evans said...

So no smears and no characterizations of anyone in extremely unfavorable terms? OK. I thought I might have missed something.

When Iran was reported to the security council, it withdrew its agreement to "act as if" the protocol was in force. Iran had a right to do that. Iran no longer acts as if the Additional Protocols were in force.

Treaties that are not ratified do not "rank with the internal laws" of the United States or any country. Not Iran either.

But with that aside, Japan, legally can build many weapons in a matter of months. That is legal for Japan and Japan does have the AP in force.

Should Iran be able to reach that position? Why or why not?

Cheryl Rofer said...

As someone said at ACW, the only way not to get caught up in your game (and that's the point of your tendentious question) is not to play. So I'm closing this post to comments.