American Diplomacy

Neoconservative Eliot Cohen's new position at the State Department
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2007-03-05

As they have done many times before,
neoconservatives, with Iran in their sights,
have installed one of their own at State
to block any war-avoiding rapprochement.

Clueless in Gaza
Karen Hughes and the collapse of American public diplomacy
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2007-03-07

[An excerpt; emphasis and a comment are added.]

Future historians might well observe that
the decline and fall of 21st century America was directly linked to
the cynical and deliberate exploitation of the quite legitimate fear
that followed the events of 9/11.

America’s face to the rest of the world
while dealing with the all too genuine threat posed by terrorism
has been delegated to
spin doctors for whom perception is everything and substance counts for little.
the product that the public relations mavens have had to work with
is not exactly in demand.
It is difficult to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse even in the best of times,
and American foreign policy,
which has been hijacked by ideologues
who have made even the most solid international relationships friable,
is both reactionary and seriously adrift.


The latest spinmeister is
the redoubtable Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes,
a Bush confidant and loyalist who accepted her mandate
despite having no experience in foreign affairs or in dealing with foreigners.
Predictably, she has been an unmitigated disaster.
Her misstatements are legion
and are rooted in a cultural insensitivity
that is astonishing considering that she has an experienced staff
that presumably carefully weighs and shapes her public utterances.
She is the ugly American writ large in her assumption that
her values and views are empowering for all peoples
and must have currency throughout the world.
They do not.
Many Second- and Third-World women are quite content with their traditional lifestyles
and are not necessarily interested in being able to drive or to become “soccer moms,”
a distinction that apparently eludes poor Texas-centric Karen.

[Leaving aside the crack about Texas,
it is more accurate to describe Ms. Hughes as pushing, as well as living,
a thoroughly feminist life style.
For a post to Slate’s Fray way back in 2004 (back when I was reading Slate)
related to this subject, see “The Ugly Feminist.”]

Bush's New Spin Master a Lame Duck?
by William Fisher
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-19

[Karen] Hughes,
a key adviser to the president since his days as governor of Texas,
resigned her post as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy last week
after just under two years in the post
to return to private life in Texas.
President Bush has nominated James Glassman as her replacement.


Remaking the Middle East
A new approach

by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2008-06-17

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

President George W. Bush has succeeded in
convincing many of America’s European allies
to tighten sanctions against Iran to inhibit its nuclear program.
He has also reiterated that
he prefers negotiations to end the impasse with Tehran
but that “all options” remain on the table,
a clear threat to use military force if all else fails.

One might well wonder
what precisely Bush means when he refers to negotiations,
as none are underway involving the United States,
and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also asserted recently that
there is no point in talking to Iran because there is nothing to talk about.
It might be churlish to suggest that

an unwillingness to engage in dialogue
over issues that are being portrayed as vital to the national interest
can only lead to eventual resolution by force of arms,

hardly a desirable solution for anyone.

If Bush and Condi are wondering what to do about Iran,
they might consider an alternative to war.
At present,
Iran has few incentives to cooperate with the United States over Iraq.
The lack of any incentives has been exacerbated by
the warlike rhetoric coming out of Washington and
the absence of anything resembling
an American policy toward the Islamic Republic or the region.
It is necessary to start with the assumption that
the current Iraq policy is a failure.
The “surge” can only buy time for a political framework to be constructed,
something that has not happened and currently appears highly unlikely given
the high level of hostility between the Shi’ite militias and
the increasing distancing of the Sunnis from the central government.
If Iraq continues to ignore America’s prodding to become a model democracy,
then the security provided by the surge of 158,000 troops
has been little more than a temporary success, if that.

It must also be conceded that the policy toward Iran has been a failure.
There has, in fact, been
no U.S. policy to speak of,
only allegations about Iranian behavior leading to threats.

There has been a series of uncoordinated responses to developing situations
but no comprehensive and realistic security strategy for the entire region
running from Lebanon in the West to Afghanistan in the East,
something urged by the recently dismissed Adm. William Fallon.

U.S. policy toward Iran must accept that
Iran is a rational player driven by self interest.
It must deal with four fundamental questions:
  1. What does Iran intend to do in Iraq?

  2. Does Iran seek to export its Islamic revolution?

  3. Will Iran support the insurgency inside Iraq to entangle U.S. forces?

  4. Do Iran and the U.S. have common interests in Iraq?
Iran appears to have no real prospect of
being able to export its religious revolution to Iraq
even if it wished to do so.
It clearly seeks a stable though politically weakened Iraq
that will not threaten it militarily and
that will lead to the expeditious departure of U.S. forces.
Both Washington and Tehran want the same things for Iraq –
stability and predictability.

U.S. pressure on Tehran has been extremely counterproductive,
aiding only the conservatives who support hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The new parliament is also
more supportive of confrontation in the foreign policy arena,
though its newly elected speaker Ali Larijani
is believed to be amenable to compromise.
Iran meanwhile continues to expand a nuclear program
that could ultimately lead to the development of weapons
while the U.S. lacks resources to respond effectively.
As Iran and Iraq should not be viewed in isolation,
a new paradigm for the entire region is essential.

The United States should have
several strategic objectives relating to Iran and Iraq,

it first must accept the principle of
diplomatic engagement with Iran based on no preconditions.

This was the essential message of the bipartisan Iraq Studies Group (ISG),
a conclusion that was rejected by the Bush administration.
Currently, the United States does not actually talk to Iran.
An Iranian proposal to settle all outstanding problems
was made through the Swiss embassy in 2003
but was rejected by the White House.
It has been reported that Iran also signaled its willingness to negotiate
through its diplomats based in Afghanistan.
President Ahmadinejad has offered to discuss bilateral problems,
but his approaches to the Bush administration have been ridiculed.

Seeking a diplomatic solution is not to surrender on fundamental issues,
nor does it suggest that Iran should be given carte blanche,
but the playing field should start out even
so reciprocal steps can then be taken to build confidence and reduce tensions.
There are serious issues that must be resolved, including
Iranian nuclear ambitions,
the alleged interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
threats against neighboring Sunni Arab states and Israel.
The U.S., for its part, must satisfy Iranian security concerns
and stake out a path that will lead to
Iran’s becoming an accepted and unexceptional member of the world community.
The final objective of U.S.-Iran dialogue should be
a normalization of relations between the United States and Iran
to permit negotiation and compromise
on all outstanding areas of disagreement,
including the situation inside Iraq.
Establishing a new security framework for the Middle East that would
reduce tensions,
eliminate regional threats, and
guarantee an uninterrupted flow of oil and gas
would be major incentives for Washington.
As the United States is now militarily dominant in the region,
it should feel empowered to take the first steps,
possibly by explicitly ending its threatening language and
giving security guarantees to Iran
if it does not proceed with
obtaining technical mastery of the fuel cycle for its nuclear program.
As experts believe that control of the fuel cycle
would permit easy development of weapons-grade isotopes,
it would be a key concession by Iran,
and the security guarantee
would be a significant and commensurate offer by the United States.

Given the current state of Western anxiety about Tehran and its intentions
and Iranian concerns about the threat posed by the U.S.,
everything would have to be based on reciprocal actions
subject to detailed and intrusive bilateral verification.
Everything should be on the negotiating table,
including Iranian support of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas,
nuclear weapons programs, and
the scale of legitimate Iranian interaction with its neighbors,
most notably Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a first step in attempting to shift the regional strategic balance,
the U.S. should support
elements in Israel who are willing to engage with Syria to normalize relations.
the United States is blocking Israelis who seek a negotiated solution with Syria,
which Damascus reportedly is keen to obtain.
An agreement between Tel Aviv and Damascus underwritten by the United States
would end Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas and
would also perforce end the strategic relationship with Iran.
It would, at a stroke,
close the overland route between Iran and Lebanon
that permits militants to move across country
and obtain new supplies of weapons.

Without the Syrian and Lebanese nexus,
Iran would continue to be a major regional power,
but its reach and ability to meddle would be much reduced.
At that point,
the outstanding issues could be negotiated and hopefully resolved one by one,
recognizing that
the United States’ presence in the Middle East
is a given for the foreseeable future
and that
Iran is a regional power with legitimate national interests.
It is most important to realize that
the United States and Iran actually share an interest
in doing whatever is necessary
to help bring about a stable Iraq.
With normalized relations,
American soft power could have a major impact on Iran,
which has a young population that is attracted to Western culture and liberties.

While it is unrealistic to assume that
Iran and the United States can resolve all of their differences,
it is equally unrealistic to assume that
sustained and serious negotiation will bear no fruit
as the neoconservatives persistently argue in their case against Tehran.
Iran is, at the end of the day, like any other nation.
It is not suicidal, and it is responsive to the same needs and priorities
that drive any modern nation state.
Recent opinion polls clearly demonstrate that
the Iranian people are far from anti-Western, quite the contrary.
Iran is resentful of its status as a pariah,
which has been self-inflicted by leaders like Ahmadinejad,
and there is considerable evidence that
many in its political leadership would like to make it a more “normal” country.
It can only do so if the threat from Washington subsides.
The United States likewise,
cast in the role of the school bully ever since the events of 9/11,
is sorely in need of a change of direction and a refurbishing of its image.
That change of direction could be signaled by
a resolution of the issues dividing Washington from Tehran,
a troubled relationship that has been long viewed as
one of the most intractable in the world.

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