Obama’s delusional diplomacy and other matters

The New York Post continues to be an engaging, interesting, useful paper.

In today’s issue, Kyle Smith talks about the alien in chief’s interruption of Monday Night Football to give a blatantly political talk to the nation about how “we’re all one” (he said it in Spanish in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month) and must be responsible for each other—the barely concealed message being that we must support Obamacare.

Movie reviewer Lou Lumenick writes about the making of the lavishly produced 1943 movie Mission to Moscow (available now for the first time in DVD), in which Warner Brothers, asked by President Roosevelt to make a movie in favor of the U.S.-Soviet alliance, went way over the top in presenting a picture of Stalin’s Russia so celebratory that it got Warner’s and screen writer Howard Koch in trouble with Congress after the war.

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute gets down to the meat and potatoes of Obamacare. He says you should forget about the big complicated issues that are being discussed. The main thing you need to know is that Obamacare will cost you a lot more, for which you will get a lot less.

Finally, the Post’s editors spell out the Obama administration’s breathtaking fecklessness in its dealings with Russia. The administration, instead of using the Eastern European missile shield as a bargaining chip to get the Russians to help us with Iran, canceled the anti-missile program for nothing, thinking that this display of good will would make the Russkies feel warm and cuddly toward the U.S. In fact, America’s unilateral act of appeasement (right out of the fictional world of Come Ninevah, Come Tyre) left the administration with no leverage over the Russians, who immediately proceeded to humiliate the U.S. by dismissing even discussions of possible sanctions against Iran.

It’s a valid and cogent criticism. However, the problem with the editorial is that the road the Post castigates Obama for not traveling would have been as useless as the road he did travel. The Post assumes that if we had gotten the Russians on our side, the Russians could have persuaded the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. But how would they have done this? What power does Russia have over Iran to make them give up something that is so precious to them, something that would be the ultimate fulfilment of the adherents of the religion of war, the acquisition of nuclear weapons?

My point is that even the more realistic, hard-nosed approach that the Post says Obama should have taken would still have been delusional. All the words, all the meetings, all the quid pro quos in the world are not going to get the Iranians to abandon their nuclear ambitions. The Iranians want what they want, and it’s within their reach. Why should they give it up? Why should any amount of “diplomacy” (“We are committed to diplomacy,” Hillary Clinton announced recently, which was tantamount to declaring, “We’re committed to playing pretend, we’re commited to keeping our heads in the sand”) get them to sacrifice that which they’re so clearly determined to have? What is it that makes Western elites not only believe in obvious illusions, but keep believing in them after they’ve been shattered over and over?

The answer, to paraphrase Chesterton, is that once you stop believing in reality, you’ll believe in anything.

Here is the Post editorial.

Played by Putin
October 18, 2009

If only the world matched President Obama’s rosy image of it. Perhaps then pre-emptive concessions to other nations, in the hope of prompting reciprocation, might make sense.

Alas, the world doesn’t work that way.

And nothing demonstrates this more than Moscow’s increasingly problematic position on Iran, despite the White House’s “goodwill.”

This sorry lesson began last month, when the president unilaterally scrapped plans to deploy an Eastern European missile-defense shield meant to take out incoming Iranian missiles.

The decision broke a Bush administration pledge to US allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. But Obama officials spun it as a gesture meant to improve relations with Russia, especially in dealing with Iran’s growing threat.

Earlier, Washington seemed to be eyeing a deal: Russia’s cooperation with efforts to contain Iran in exchange for America’s ditching its missile-shield program. After all, with Russia’s help against Iran, it was argued, the shield might not be necessary.

Moscow refused to bite. It wasn’t going to accept US anti-missile missiles in Eastern Europe no matter what. Nor would it make any commitments regarding Iran.

No matter. A rosy-eyed White House nonetheless went ahead and canceled the missile-defense plans anyway, in the hope that its show of good will would be reciprocated.

Was it? Please.

Consider the response Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got from her Russian counterpart last Tuesday.

Clinton said that while America is committed to pursuing diplomacy to curtail Iran’s nuclear-weapons drive, eventually, sanctions must be considered.

That’s obvious enough, especially if the goal is to avoid military action.

Alas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would have none of it: “Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

It gets worse: The next day, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, visiting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, called talk of sanctions “premature.”

Moscow’s settled that question, huh?

Washington lost a huge bargaining chip. With the missile shield no longer a worry for Russia, there now may be no way to push it to help stop Iran.

The mullahs can continue their march toward nuclear statehood unimpeded—while Team Obama scratches its head over what to do, sans sanctions or military threats.

Which, of course, raises the prospect of Tehran getting its nukes soon after all.

But almost as troubling is the thought of a naive administration unable to leverage key assets, like the missile shield, in critical negotiations with uncooperative regimes.

That doesn’t bode well for America wherever US interests are at stake.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

“The Post assumes that if we had gotten the Russians on our side, the Russians could have persuaded the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. But how would they have done this? What power does Russia have over Iran to make them give up something that is so precious to them, something that would be the ultimate fulfilment of the adherents of the religion of war, the acquisition of nuclear weapons?”

Russia is the major source of arms for Iran. More than 70% of Iran’s arms came from Russia from 1995-2005. Russia is the major source of Iranian missile and nuclear know-how, both directly and through other Russian proxies. Russia built, and will provide fuel for, Iran’s nuclear plant at Bushehr. Russia, of course, has been the major diplomatic protector of Iran for a long time, and could pressure Iran by threatening to withdraw that protection if Russia so desired.

It does not go too far to say that Iran is a Russian client state, and if Russia wanted Iran to stop doing something, then Iran would stop. However, it is precisely because Iran is a Russian client state that Russia does NOT want Iran to stop developing its nuclear program. Russia simply does not want the United States to have the ability to coerce Iran, and therefore it is impossible to “get Russia on our side” no matter how often Hillary goes to Moscow to grovel. It is no more realistic to expect Russia to persuade Iran to “behave” now than it was to expect the USSR to persuade North Vietnam to “behave” from 1959 to 1975. Of course people entertain such deluded hopes about Russia now just as they did during the Vietnam era.

James P. writes:

You write:

By way of partial excuse for my not knowing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is what gives the “international community” the power to demand that Iran stop its nuclear weapon development, of perhaps hundreds of news and opinion articles I’ve read about the Iran nuclear issue over the last several years, I don’t remember one mentioning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I have seen such references frequently, but that’s because I’ve been paying attention to Obama’s deluded, criminally insane effort to abolish nuclear weapons. Here is an interesting take on Iran and the NPT:

Iran Has No Right to Nuclear Technology
Accepting Iran’s “right” to nuclear power is a recipe for disaster.


The international community has treated the recent disclosure of another secret uranium enrichment facility in Iran the way it has treated Tehran’s previous violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—with calls for yet more “dialogue.” The continued pursuit of fruitless diplomacy at tomorrow’s talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany is based on an incorrect understanding of international law, one that was spearheaded by the Europeans and is now unfortunately shared by the U.S. president.

“Any nation—including Iran—should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power,” Barack Obama declared in his famous Cairo speech, “if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The problem is that Iran is bound by its own constitution to violate the treaty, which is why insisting that the NPT still confers any rights on Iran is not only politically absurd but also wrong from a purely legal point of view.

The treaty was signed by Iran in 1968 under the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza. It aims, as outlined in its preamble, at “further easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between states.” Its purpose is thus to stabilize the international system. The Islamic Republic, though, wants to abolish this “Satanic” secular world order and replace it with a Sharia-based system of Islamic rule. “The struggle will continue,” promised Ayatollah Khomeini, “until the calls ‘There Is No God but God’ and ‘Muhammad Is the Messenger of God’ are echoed all over the world.” The atom program is part of this revolutionary quest. “Iran’s nuclearization,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his supporters, “is the beginning of a very great change in the world.” It would “be placed at the service of those who are determined to confront the bullying powers and aggressors.”

The opposition to the treaty’s lofty intentions is not just politically affirmed but legally enshrined. Iran is probably the only country in the world that has declared comprehensive armament against “Allah’s enemies” to be a constitutional requirement. In Article 151 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution, Koran verse 8/60 is cited as a binding precept for government policy: “Make ready for them all you can of armed forces and of horses tethered, that thereby you may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom you know not.” To Western ears, this recourse to 7th-century scripture may seem quaint. But the mullahs are serious. Their idea of interpreting the Koran for the modern world is to replace “horses tethered” with “nuclear installations.”

An Islamist state like Iran can by definition not be considered a bona fide signatory to the NPT. The mullahs, although opposed to the treaty’s overall purpose, never withdrew from the NPT to take advantage of the privileges the document grants its signatories.

It is often assumed that the NPT actually blocks access to the bomb. In reality, the opportunities afforded to aspiring nuclear-weapons makers are enormous. Article IV of the treaty enables signatories to produce all components necessary for a bomb under U.N supervision, as long as they do not combine these components into nuclear explosives. The significance of this loophole was explained in April 2007 by Hossein Shariatmadari, a confidante of Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei: “A country that has attained the knowledge and technology of uranium enrichment is only one step away from producing nuclear weapons. This [additional] step is not a scientific or a technical step, but a matter of political decision.”

Article X of the NPT further expands this loophole. A signatory state that, following President Obama’s wishes, “complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” could accumulate the most important components of a nuclear weapon under cover of the NPT, and then legally withdraw from the treaty by simply citing “extraordinary events.”

That’s why President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, ignoring the faded Iranian signature on the NPT, denied the mullahs the right to any form of nuclear energy. On October 21, 2003, however, came a “very important turning point,” as Hossein Mousavian, a high-ranking Iranian nuclear negotiator, described it. That was the day the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France and Germany—Jack Straw, Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer—traveled to Tehran, despite major reservations on the part of the Bush Administration, to “recognize the right of Iran to enjoy peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” as the text of a declaration agreed by Iran and the three foreign ministers states.

At that time, it was already known that Tehran had violated the NPT’s monitoring regime for over 18 years by building secret nuclear facilities. Nevertheless, the paradoxical course of events continued: The more Tehran violated the NPT, the more generous the concessions by Europe, and later the U.S.—always using the treaty as justification. In his Cairo speech, Barack Obama also officially recognized Iran’s alleged right to nuclear energy. Even after the existence of a second uranium enrichment facility was revealed last week, President Obama’s tone remained conciliatory: “It is time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations.”

As long as Iran is ruled by Khomenei’s doctrine, however, this confidence can never exist. Tomorrow’s talks will only encourage Tehran to continue feigning “trustworthiness.” The refusal to acknowledge this reality could lead to a dangerous compromise—one that would allow Iranian uranium enrichment as long as Tehran permits U.N. monitoring.

This would be a recipe for disaster. Allowing a theocratic regime dreaming of religious war to obtain nuclear weapons is a threat to humanity. It can neither be defused by the NPT provisions nor by continuing piecemeal sanctions. Short of a military strike, the only alternative is to make full use of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. In order to confront threats to peace, it suggests in article 41 the “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.” The time for “dialogue as usual” is over.

Mr. Kentzel is author of “The Germans and Iran: The Past and Present of a Fateful Friendship,” forthcoming in German in October 2009 with Wolf Jobst Siedler Jr. Belinda Cooper translated this article from the German.

LA replies:

Thanks for sending the Kuntzel article, which is very informative. The fact that the war verse that is quoted is in Iran’s constitution is very significant. Given Islam’s extremely warlike nature since its founding, given the calls to war and killing and eternal torture that are central to the Koran and Hadiths and Muhammad’s biographies, given the invocation of the “last day” in the Koran and Hadiths, when even the rocks and trees will facilitate the final extermination of the Jews, given all these things, even if Iran did not have a uniquely apocalyptic sectarian Shia theology, how could that Islamic sharia regime see its acquisition of nuclear weapons in the expectation of using them for jihad as anything other than the ultimate Islamic fulfillment? And therefore how could they give it up for mere political or economic advantage?

Why don’t people want to face this obvious and unacceptable threat? Because they don’t want to face the consequences of a war on Iran. So they pretend that the Iranian threat doesn’t exist.

Paul L. writes:

I was reading your latest entry on Obama’s foolish diplomatic miscalculations. You wondered how getting the Russians on our side will do anything to persuade the Iranians to abandon their nuclear program. Allow me to shed some light on this. An important diplomatic option, when it comes to dealing with Iran, is trade sanctions. Their importance because there is a widespread belief that they would be effective. This is primarily because oil-rich Iran is, perversely, dependent on energy imports due to the fact that Iran has very limited refining capacity. In order to survive, the Iranians must sell their crude overseas to be refined and for the most part, buy it back as Gasoline, diesel, av-tur etc Without refined petroleum products, the Iranian military and the Iranian economy would simply grind to a halt in a week or two. Obama believes that the fear of this prospect might lead the Iranians to stop refining Uranium in exchange for not getting slapped with sanctions. This is where Russia come in. Without Russian cooperation, trade sanctions would be meaningless as the Iranian could simply buy petroleum products from Russia and unlike imports carried by ships which could be stopped by a naval blockade, Russia could simply ship all the petrol that Iran needs by rail across its land border.

My take on this is as follows. Russia is not especially keen on a Nuclear Armed Iran. However, it sees this as an opportunity to squeeze concessions from a weak American president in regards to the eastward expansion of Nato and the American sponsorship of the various former Soviet/Russian satellite states.

October 19

James P. writes:

Incidentally, Lumenick should have noted that Bohlen and Kennan thought that “Mission to Moscow” should have been called “Submission to Moscow”.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 18, 2009 10:28 PM | Send

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