What we have here
is a failure to negotiate.

— Variation on a familiar movie line

[This is very preliminary and incomplete.]

As I write this, in April 2008,
America seems to be trapped in conflict with the Islamic world,
most notably
in Afghanistan,
potentially in Iran,
in Iraq,
and, through Israel, in Palestine.
If that isn’t enough,
Pakistan certainly has the potential
to become less friendly to the U.S. than it has been,
and there are those in the U.S.
who have urged for a more hostile line towards Syria.

In the first instance,
this state of affairs is due to what some call “The War Party,”
or the neoconservatives.
But there are two linked underlying causes
for this state of hostilities:
  • Failure to negotiate.

  • Failure to recognize that
    the Muslim world has legitimate grievances
    which require U.S./Israeli concessions beyond those
    that the Zionist alliance seems to be willing to make.

Just as there seem to be
an ever-changing but endless list of “reasons”
for the United States to remain in Iraq,
so too there is an endless list of reasons
why the U.S. and Israel should not or cannot
engage in negotiations with Iran and the Palestinians.

In the case of Israel, we have seen such excuses as
  • “they’re terrorists”

  • “they haven’t yet recognized Israel’s right to exist.”

Well, both the abandonment of terrorism and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist can be viewed as the output of the negotiations.
Because with Israel’s overwhelming demonstrated military superiority,
what else do the Palestinians have to offer to get Israel to leave the West Bank?

Then, when negotiations do begin between senior leaders,
such as Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas,
the Israeli leader quite simply
is unwilling to make a respectable offer to the Palestinians.
In particular, there seems to be no ability on the Israeli side to
  1. divide Jerusalem or

  2. return to the Palestinians the land that Israel seized in 1967.

To cover for the unwillingness of Israel to give up the land it conquered,
some people talk airily about “compensating land swaps.”
But some of those who have examined the land that Israel is offering
claim that the land Israel is offering
is by no means equivalent to that which it has seized.

2003 Iranian Negotiation Offer

[The following is Appendix A, pages 341–2, of Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance,
and also appears on the web, per Nicholas Kristof, here and here (showing edits).
Emphasis is as in Parsi’s book.]

Iran’s May 2003 Negotiation Proposal to the United States

Iranian aims:

(The US accepts a dialogue “in mutual respect”
and agrees that Iran puts the following aims on the agenda)
  • Halt in US hostile behavior and
    rectification of status of Iran in the US:

    (interference in internal or external relations, “axis of evil”,
    terrorism list.)

  • Abolishment of all sanctions:
    commercial sanctions, frozen assets, judgments(FSIA),
    impediments in international trade and financial institutions.
    [Note, e.g., the
    1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act and the
    2003 Iran Democracy Act.]

  • Iraq:
    democratic and fully representative government in Iraq,
    support of Iranian claims for Iraqi reparations,
    respect for Iranian national interests in Iraq and
    religious links to Najaf/Karbal.

  • Full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology
    and chemical technology.

  • Recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region
    with according defense capacity.

  • Terrorism:
    pursuit of anti-Iranian terrorists, above all MKO
    and support for repatriation of their members in Iraq,
    decisive action against anti Iranian terrorists,
    above all MKO and affiliated organizations in the US.

US aims:

(Iran accepts a dialogue “in mutual respect”
and agrees that the US puts the following aims on the agenda)
  • WMD:
    full transparency for security that
    there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD,
    full cooperation with IAEA
    based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments
    (93+2 and all further IAEA protocols)

  • Terrorism:
    decisive action against any terrorists
    (above all Al Qaida) on Iranian territory,
    full cooperation and exchange of all relevant information.

  • Iraq:
    coordination of Iranian influence for
    activity supporting political stabilization and
    the establishment of democratic institutions and a non-religious government. [!!]

  • Middle East:
    1. stop of any material support
      to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad etc.)
      from Iranian territory,
      pressure on these organizations
      to stop violent action against civilians within borders of 1967.

    2. action on Hizbollah to become
      a mere political organization within Lebanon

    3. acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration
      (Saudi initiative, two-states-approach)

  1. Communication of mutual agreement on the following procedure

  2. Mutual simultaneous statements
    “We have always been ready for
    direct and authoritative talks with the US/with Iran
    in good faith and with the aim of discussing - in mutual respect -
    our common interests and our mutual concerns
    based on merits and objective realities,
    but we have always made it clear that,
    such talks can only be held,
    if genuine progress for a solution of our own concerns can be achieved.”

  3. A first direct meeting on the appropriate level (for instance in Paris)
    will be held with the previously agreed aims
    1. of a decision on the first mutual steps
      • Iraq:
        establishment of a common group,
        active Iranian support for Iraq stabilization,
        to actively support Iranian reparation claims
        within the discussions on Iraq foreign debts.

      • Terrorism:
        to disarm and remove MKO from Iraq
        and take action in accordance with SCR1373
        against its leadership,
        Iranian commitment
        for enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran,
        agreement on cooperation and information exchange

      • Iranian general statement
        “to support a peaceful solution in the Middle East
        involving the parties concerned”

      • US general statement that
        “Iran did not belong to ‘the axis of evil’ ”

      • US-acceptance
        to halt its impediments against Iran
        in international financial and trade institutions

    2. of the establishment of the parallel working groups
      on disarmament, regional security and economic cooperation.
      Their aim is an agreement on three parallel road maps,
      for the discussions of these working groups,
      each side accepts that the other side’s aims (see above)
      are put on the agenda:
      1. Disarmament:
        road map, which combines the mutual aims of,
        on the one side,
        full transparency by international commitments
        and guarantees to abstain from WMD
        with, on the other side,
        full access to western technology (in the three areas),

      2. Terrorism and regional security:
        road map for
        above mentioned aims on the Middle east and terrorism

      3. Economic cooperation:
        road map for
        the abolishment of the sanctions,
        rescinding of judgments, and
        un-freezing of assets

    3. of agreement on a time-table for implementation

    4. and of a public statement after this first meeting
      on the achieved agreements

on the 2003 Iranian Proposal and the US Nonresponse

[The following is from pages 243–8, of Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance.
Emphasis is added.]

An Offer Washington Couldn’t Refuse
Defeating Iran militarily [in spring 2003] turned out to be
the cakewalk the neoconservatives had predicted....
During their twenty-four-year reign,
the [Iranian] clerics had seldom felt so vulnerable....
Figuring that the regime’s very existence was at stake,
the Iranians put everything on the table—
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad; and
Iran’s nuclear program.

The Iranians prepared a comprehensive proposal,
spelling out the contours of
a potential grand bargain between the two countries
addressing all points of contention between them.
The first draft of the proposal was written by Sadegh Kharrazi,
the nephew of the Iranian foreign minister and Iran’s ambassador to France.
The draft then went to Iran’s supreme leader for approval,
who asked Iran UN Ambassador Zarif to review it and make final edits
before it was sent to the Americans.
Only a close circle of decision-makers in Tehran
was aware of and involved in preparing the proposal—
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi,
President Mohammad Khatami,
UN Ambassador Zarif,
Ambassador to France Kharrazi, and
Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.
In addition, the Iranians consulted
Tim Guldimann, the Swiss ambassador to Iran,
who eventually would deliver the proposal to Washington.

The proposal stunned the Americans.
Not only was it authoritative—
it had the approval of the supreme leader—
but its contents were astonishing as well.
(See Appendix A.)
“The Iranians acknowledged that WMD and support for terror
were serious causes of concern for us,
and they were willing to negotiate,”
said Flynt Leverett, who served as senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council at the time.
“The message had been approved by all the highest levels of authority.”
The Iranians were putting all their cards on the table,
declaring what they wanted from the United States
and what they were willing to offer in return.
“That letter went to the Americans to say that
we are ready to talk, we are ready to address our issues,”
said Mohammad Hossein Adeli, who was then a deputy foreign minister in Iran.


Perhaps most surprising of all, the Iranians offered to accept the Beirut Declaration of the Arab League—that is, the Saudi peace plan from March 2002, in which the Arab states offered to make peace collectively with Israel, recognizing and normalizing relations with the Jewish State in return for Israeli agreement to withdraw from all occupied territories and accept a fully independent Palestinian state; and equal division of Jerusalem; and an equitable resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.
Through this step,
Iran would formally recognize the two-state solution and consider itself at peace with Israel.
This was an unprecedented concession by Tehran.
Only a year earlier, hard-liners in Tehran had dismissed the Saudi initiative, arguing that an Israeli return to the pre-1967 borders would be an unjust solution for the Palestinians.

In return, the Iranians had both tactical and strategic demands.
At the tactical level, the wanted members of the Iranian terrorist organization based in Iraq, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) handed over to them in return for the al-Qaeda operatives the Iranians held….

At the strategic level,
the Iranians wanted to reach a long-term understanding with the United States by
putting a halt to hostile American behavior,
such as the “Axis of Evil” rhetoric and interference in Iran’s domestic affairs;
ending all U.S. sanctions;
respecting Iranian national interests in Iraq
and supporting Iranian demands for war reparations;
respecting Iran’s right to full access
to nuclear, biological, and chemical technology; and finally,
recognizing Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region.

Getting the proposal to the United States was a major operation.
As the caretaker of U.S. interests in Iran, the Swiss ambassador in Iran, Tim Guldimann, served as the go-between when the two countries needed to communicate.
The channel was set up in 1990, right before the first Persian Gulf War, because Washington recognized that it needed to communicate with Iran to avoid potential misunderstandings during the war.


For many in the State Department, the proposal was a no-brainer.
Iran offered major concessions in return for an end to the sanctions policy sponsored by the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which probable had cost the United States more diplomatically than it did Iran economically.
More importantly, the offer was authentic and had the approval of the highest level of authority in Iran, a fact the State Department recognized.
Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, favored a positive response to the Iranians.
Together with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, they approached the president about the proposal, but instead of instigating a lively debate on the details of a potential American response,
Cheney and Rumsfeld quickly put the matter to and end.
Their argument was simple but devastating.
“We don’t speak to evil,” they said.

Miscellaneous Articles
on the 2003 Iranian Proposal, the US nonresponse,
and related missed opportunities for direct US/Iran negotiations

Bush administration paralyzed over Iran
By Jim Lobe
Asia Times Online, 2003-08-09

Divisions Over the Road to Tehran
Who's Next? Iran or al-Qaeda?
CounterPunch.org, 2003-08-14

[A minor variant on the previous article, 2003-08-09-Lobe.]

Iran: The Gulf Between Us
by Flynt L. Leverett, Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution, 2006-01-24
(also at the New York Times)

A missed opportunity with Iran
Newsday, 2006-02-19

Islamic country said to have notified U.S. in '03
of willingness to negotiate over WMDs,
but ex-officials say Bush team didn't want to deal

How Neocons Sabotaged Iran's Help on al-Qaeda
by Gareth Porter
Antiwar.com, 2006-02-23

(Also at CommonDreams.)

"Cabal" Blocked 2003 Nuclear Talks with Iran
By Gareth Porter
IPS, 2006-03-28

The George W. Bush administration
failed to enter into negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program in May 2003
neoconservative zealots who advocated destabilisation and regime change
were able to block
any serious diplomatic engagement with Tehran,

according to former administration officials.

Leverett: Bush Administration ‘Not Serious’ About Dealing With Iran
Interview by Bernard Gwertzman of Flynt Leverett
Council on Foreign Relations, 2006-03-31

Burnt Offering
by Gareth Porter
The American Prospect, 2006-05-21

How a 2003 secret overture from Tehran
might have led to a deal on Iran's nuclear capacity --
if the Bush administration hadn't rebuffed it.

Iran Proposal to US Offered Peace With Israel
by Gareth Porter
Antiwar.com, 2006-05-25

In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran's Offer of Dialogue
Some Officials Lament Lost Opportunity
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post, 2006-06-18

Iran's gulf of misunderstanding with US
By Gordon Corera
British Broadcasting Company, 2006-09-25

What We Wanted to Tell You About Iran
New York Times, 2006-12-22

Redacted Version of Original Op-Ed
New York Times, 2006-12-22

Rice Denies Seeing Iranian Proposal in '03
Remark Adds to Debate on Whether
U.S. Missed Chance to Improve Ties With Tehran
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post, 2007-02-08

More on the Provenance of
the Spring 2003 Iran Proposal for Comprehensive Negotiations with the U.S.

by Steve Clemons
The Washington Note, 2007-02-13

2003 Memo Says Iranian Leaders Backed Talks
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post, 2007-02-14

Iran’s Proposal for a ‘Grand Bargain’
By Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Times, 2007-04-28

Diplomacy at Its Worst
By Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Times, 2007-04-29

The Guldimann Memorandum
The Iranian “roadmap” wasn’t a roadmap and wasn’t Iranian
by Michael Rubin
Weekly Standard, 2007-10-22

Calmy-Rey will Guldimann nicht in Israel
Von Bettina Mutter
Tages-Anzeiger, 2007-11-02

[No good deed goes unpunished.]

Working notes:
Tim Guldimann had a longer discussion with Sadeq Kharrazi


Miscellaneous Articles

Visiting congressmen advise Israel
to resist administration pressure to deal with Arafat

Jerusalem Post, 2002-05-06

[Emphasis is added.]


A visiting delegation of US congressmen believes that
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should
rebuff attempts by the Bush administration
for him to deal with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

“Yasser Arafat is a terrorist.
He is a leader of the terrorists.
As a matter of fact he is a motivator of terrorism,”
said Jim Saxton (R-NJ).
“If I were in [Sharon’s] position, I would find someone else to talk to.”

Another member of the bipartisan team, Joe Hoeffel (D-PA) said
America needed to seek another leader of the Palestinian people.

[See the problem?
It’s not up to America to either seek or determine
“another leader of the Palestinian people”;
that’s the job, and responsibility, of the Palestinian people.
Talk about arrogance!]

“It is time for the United States to indicate that
it would look for a different leadership in the Palestinian Authority
and that
we would welcome a leadership of the PA
that would recognize Israel’s fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state,”
Hoeffel said.


A member of the House Appropriations Committee and
the Foreign Operation Sub-Committee which deals with foreign aid for Israel,
Kingston said very many Americans
don’t understand how badly the Palestinians are violating the Oslo Accords.

Hoeffel, who is a member of the House International Relations Committee,
said seeing the [Palestinian] weapons
made him feel as if Israel was engaged in a “second war of independence.”
“There should be no Yasser Arafat exception
to that zero tolerance to terrorism rule,” he said.

The four congressmen embarked to Israel
after successfully working to push through ...
a strongly worded resolution of solidarity for the Israeli government
in Congress by a vote of 352-21 with 29 abstentions.

Breach in Gaza
... Hamas blockades the peace process
Washington Post Editorial, 2008-01-24

[An excerpt; paragraph number and emphasis are added.
This is double posted in “Anti-negationism” and “Washington Post’s Foreign Policy”.]

Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
committed themselves to reaching a peace accord in 2008 [?]
during President Bush’s visit this month.
Yet since then, political attention in the region has been focused on
the rocket attacks,
Israel’s retaliatory strikes against militants in Gaza and the subsequent blockade,
and yesterday’s dramatic breach of the border.

it is impossible for the peace negotiations to make progress
in these conditions.

So those who say their priority is an Israeli-Palestinian settlement
ought to be trying to stop Hamas’s disruptions.

[In the first place, the assertion in the box hardly seems true.
It is not like the rockets were landing
on the building in which negotiations were taking place.
Peace negotiations between belligerents throughout history
have taken place while hostilities continued.
The requirement that hostilities must stop
before Israel will deign to enter into negotiations
is yet another manifestation of its prima donna character.

Secondly, the conditions that the Post asserted made negotiations "impossible"
have, in later months (I write this in November 2008),
all been mitigated.
Yet limited progress toward an agreement has taken place.
The stumbling block has been revealed to be (as many of us knew all along)
Israel’s refusal to give up what it conquered in the 1967 war.
All the other excuse-mongering from the Post’s editorial page
only shows, yet again,
its desire to bamboozle and flim-flam the public
to serve the interests of Zionist hawks.

What amazes me is that so many of its readers accept this without outrage.]

The New Cold War
New York Times Op-Ed, 2008-05-14

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The big debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is over
whether or not we should talk to Iran.
Obama is in favor; Clinton has been against.
Alas, the right question for the next president
isn’t whether we talk or don’t talk.
whether we have leverage or don’t have leverage.

When you have leverage, talk.
When you don’t have leverage, get some —
by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures
that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore.

That is where the Bush team has been so incompetent vis-à-vis Iran.

But of course we do have negotiating leverage, and plenty of it.
See the May 2003 proposal from Iran,
in particular, the section showing Iranian aims.
Note that this proposal was first widely publicized
by Friedman’s fellow New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof,
in 2007-04-28-Kristof and 2007-04-29-Kristof,
only a year earlier.
How could Friedman not have known, and remembered,
what Kristof told the world that Iran was seeking?
And even if one makes the argument that the proposal was not really from Iran,
but only from the Swiss ambassador Guldimann,
that still doesn’t invalidate the clear value to Iran,
and thus the “leverage” that Friedman denied the U.S. has,
that is clearly manifest in those “Iranian aims.”

Friedman is not the only member of the ruling elite
who ignores the leverage that we do have.
Note the agreement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates with Friedman’s opinion.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
at the American Academy of Diplomacy

by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Q (Name inaudible.)
Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.
I have a question that may not be your favorite subject.
You were on the Iraq Study Group. (Inaudible) --
and the other members sought quite assiduously to follow up
in terms of implementation and general acceptance.
The view around this town is not so friendly
on what has been done by the way of follow up.
What do you believe should be done in terms of what hasn't been done?
Is there something else that has changed that needs to be focused on
in terms of attention on this very difficult question?
is there a role in this process
that most of us haven't seen yet for diplomacy,

as the study group pointed out,
particularly in connection to the region?


SEC. GATES: Okay. Well, I think that --
I mean, there was some interest in trying to get some follow up on that.
But I think it just didn't get off the ground for whatever set of reasons,
unlike the 9/11 commission which really was vigorous afterward
in trying to make sure people were following up.

The reality is, I think,
most of the recommendations of the group are in fact being followed.
And if you read the report carefully,
you’ll even see that there was a recommendation in there for a surge.
And the original recommendations were actually much larger
than the president eventually did.

I think that
the one area where the Iraq Study Group recommendations
have not been followed up
is in terms of reaching out the Iranians.
And I would just tell you
I’ve gone through kind of an evolution on this myself.
I co-chaired with Zbig
a Council on Foreign Relations study on U.S. policy toward Iran, in 2004.
But we were looking at a different Iran in many respects.
We were looking at an Iran where Khatami was the president.
We were looking at an Iran where
their behavior in Iraq actually was fairly ambivalent in 2004.
They were doing some things that were not helpful,
but they were also doing some things that were helpful.

And one of the questions that I think
historians will have to take a look at is
whether there was a missed opportunity at that time.
But with the election of Ahmadinejad
and the very unambiguous role that Iran is playing
in a negative sense in Iraq today,
you know,
I sort of sign up with Tom Friedman’s column today.

We need to figure out a way
to develop some leverage with respect to the Iranians
and then sit down and talk with them.

If there’s going to be a discussion, then they need something, too.
We can’t go to a discussion and be completely the demander
with them not feeling that they need anything from us.

[For an argument that Secretary Gates is ignoring
the very real leverage that the United States does have vis-à-vis Iran even today,
see my response to Friedman’s original column.

Note that Secretary Gates again denied
that the U.S. has current leverage vis-à-vis Iran
in these 2008-05-20 remarks to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense:]

France Admits Contacts With Hamas
New York Times, 2008-05-20

[The relevant extract; emphasis is added.]

So far,
all three main American presidential candidates have said
they will continue
the Bush administration’s ban on discussions with Hamas

until it meets previously agreed-upon criteria:
recognition of the right of Israel to exist,
acceptance of previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements and
an end to violence.

[What a shame.
It is only reasonable to expect that two of these,
the right to exist and an end to violence,
would be the end-product of the negotiations,
not a precondition for negotiations.
As to the third, acceptance of previous agreements,
a strong case can be made, and has been made
(documented, e.g., in Norman Finkelstein’s Image and Reality)
that the Oslo accords were unfair to the Palestinians
and deserve to be renegotiated.]

Bush Team Criticizes New Report About Iran
New York Times, 2008-05-21

[The relevant extract; emphasis is added.]

Mr. Gates ... questioned whether talks
could end the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programs,
given that country’s current leadership.

“I think the key here,” he said,
“is developing leverage
either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures
on the Iranian government,
so that they believe they must have talks with the United States
because there is something they want from us.”


Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, pressed Mr. Gates on
whether he still believed that
negotiations with Iran were possible
after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq in 2003,
his position in 2004 when he served as co-chairman of a task force of the Council on Foreign Affairs that reviewed policy toward Iran.

“I was in a happier place,” Mr. Gates replied.

[That’s a non-answer.]

Tehran Urges New Round Of Talks
By Robin Wright
Washington Post, 2008-05-21

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

As the presidential candidates debate whether to deal with the Iranian regime,
Tehran has called for new international talks
on political, economic and security issues,

including its controversial nuclear program and the Arab-Israeli peace process,
according to a copy of the proposal released yesterday.

The proposal, attached to a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,
includes cooperation spanning
  • nuclear disarmament,

  • peaceful nuclear technology,

  • improved supervision by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and

  • establishing “fuel production consortiums” in several countries,
    including Iran.
It also urges wide-ranging negotiations to help the Palestinians
achieve a “sustainable, democratic and fair” solution to the [??]
and calls for joint efforts to strengthen democracy
in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Latin America.

The proposal also calls for
collaboration against terrorism, drugs and illegal immigration.

[What’s not to like?]


Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday
questioned dealing with the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
because of the
“resurgence of the original hard-line views of the Islamic revolutionaries.”

Gates told a Senate panel:
“The key here is developing leverage,
either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures
on the Iranian government,
so that they believe they must have talks with the United States.”

Advice From White House Is Not Always Followed
New York Times, 2008-05-22

[An excerpt.]

While Mr. Bush and his advisers have repeatedly scorned the idea of
talking to enemies
without first getting preconditions met,
administration policy over the last seven years has been far more nuanced.
In fact, the United States under the Bush administration
has shown a sliding definition
of just when it is beneficial to talk to whom.


Elliott Abrams, Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser,
has cautioned against an Israeli-Syria negotiation,
according to Israeli and Bush administration officials.
Administration officials said they feared that
such a negotiation would appear to reward Syria
at a time when the United States was seeking to isolate it
for its meddling in Lebanon and its backing of Hezbollah.

[There it is again, the idea that talks are rewards.
I wish I knew what the history of that notion is.]

E.U. Backs Sanctions on Iran, Freezes Bank Assets
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post, 2008-06-24

[The end of the article, which is the only part relevant to this post.]

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed-Ali Hosseini,
speaking before the European Union made its decision on the sanctions,
said Monday in his weekly press briefing in Tehran that

“Iran is ready for talks” with the major powers
on their incentive package,

according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
But he reiterated that Iran would not end its enrichment program first.

“Suspension of enrichment has no logic and therefore,
Tehran’s stand on the issue has not changed,”
the agency quoted Hosseini as saying.

A Middle East Vote
Washington Post Editorial, 2008-11-01

[An excerpt; paragraph number and emphasis are added.]

Most Israelis, however, are skeptical that
it will be possible to settle anytime soon with Palestinians
who are divided into two territories and two factions.
Mr. Abbas’s moderates in the West Bank and the militant Hamas in the Gaza Strip
are negotiating to end their rift,
but even if they succeed,
the qualms of Israelis over Hamas’s fundamentalist agenda will remain.
They may also not feel much urgency:
Thanks to the construction of a fence along the West Bank border
and a cease-fire deal with Hamas,
Israel has been more peaceful in recent months than it has been in years.

[Notice the duality:
When terrorists strike Israel,
Israel cannot negotiate because that would be “rewarding the terrorists.”
When there is no terrorism against Israel,
Israel is not interested in negotiations, because, well,
it might actually have to give something up.
In other words,
heads, Israel wins,
tails, the Palestinians lose.
How can any sane man not hate Israel for such intransigence?]

That favors right-wing leader Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister.
It is likely that
he would seek to put off a settlement with Palestinians indefinitely.
Mr. Netanyahu is seen as inflexible and untrustworthy by many in Washington;
his election could spell a fractious period in Israeli-U.S. relations.

At the moment, the parties of Ms. Livni and Mr. Netanyahu are tied in the polls.
A clear victory by Ms. Livni could energize the peace process,
and its pursuit by the new president
could strengthen the U.S. position around the region.
But more likely is a narrow victory by one side
or a coalition government that hamstrings Israel’s negotiating ability.
That would perpetuate what at present is the leading obstacle to a deal,
which is
the political weakness of both the Israelis and Palestinians who seek it.
As the Bush administration has discovered,
intervention by the United States, even if energetic,
cannot easily compensate for that deficit.

Facing Obama, Iran Suddenly Hedges on Talks
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post, 2008-11-13


Gates Says U.S. Overture to Iran Is ‘Not Open-Ended’
New York Times, 2009-07-28

[Its beginning; emphasis is added.]

AMMAN, Jordan —

Strains between the United States and Israel
surfaced publicly in Jerusalem on Monday,
as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tried to reassure Israelis that
American overtures to Iran were not open-ended,
and as
Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel
expressed impatience with the Americans
for wanting to engage Iran at all.

“I don’t think that it makes any sense at this stage
to talk a lot about it,”

Mr. Barak said at a joint news conference with Mr. Gates
at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem,
referring to the American offer to talk to Iran
about giving up its nuclear program.

he said Israel was in no position to tell the United States what to do.



Don't expect progress from talking to Syria
Washington Post Editorial, 2010-02-19

[When it comes to negotiations with Arab states that might lead to concessions
that Israel does not want to make, or for the U.S. to make,
the Washington Post editorial page is indeed the abominable no man.]

What would reconciliation look like for the U.S. and Taliban?
By David Ignatius
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2010-06-29

Both the United States and the Taliban
have set heavy preconditions for negotiations,
which for now have stymied serious dialogue.
Washington insists that
Taliban fighters disarm,
renounce any links with al-Qaeda and
accept the human-rights provisions of the Afghan constitution.
The Taliban demands
the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.


In his ABC “This Week” appearance,
[CIA Director Leon] Panetta reiterated
the goal that Mr. Obama had set for the Afghan war:
“The fundamental purpose,
the mission that the president has laid out is that
we have to go after Al Qaeda.
We’ve got to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda and their militant allies
so they never attack this country again.”

New York Times, 2010-06-28

The prerequisite for any deal with the Taliban,
Afghan and American officials have said repeatedly,
is that
insurgents renounce their support of terrorists
(including Al Qaeda),
and that
they promise to support the Afghan Constitution.

New York Times, 2010-06-27

Wait a minute.
Is the goal of the Afghan War
to end the terrorist threat to America from Afghanistan,
or is it that, and also that
the Afghan Constitution reigns supreme in Afghanistan
(which, of course, is code for women’s rights)?

Don’t the American people deserve clarity on what our war aims are?
Doesn’t Congress care?
Or are the Republicans just happy to keep us in perpetual war,
while the Dems, of course, are in thrall to the feminist vote?

On 2010-07-14, some senators also expressed concerns.
Holbrooke, to no surprise, didn’t answer the question;
it requires a decision from the president:
Does the president support Hillary Clinton and the feminists,
or the peace wing?

He can’t do both.
There is no way to straddle this issue.
Eloquent words will not paper over this dichotomy:

women’s rights in Afghanistan is a necessary condition
for the U.S. to allow peace to prevail in Afghanistan
(with the corollary of perpetual war
between the U.S. and
Afghans who view women’s rights
as anathema to their religion),
it isn’t.

Clinton arrives in Kabul for Afghanistan summit, meets with Karzai
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2010-07-20


“There are going to be hot-button issues -- I understand that,”
[U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton said
after her departure [from Islamabad, Pakistan].

One of those issues is
reconciliation with insurgent groups,
the subject of recent bilateral discussions
between Karzai and Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani,
and intelligence director, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The administration has cautioned both sides
against peace talks with groups that refuse to meet
preconditions that include
laying down their arms and breaking ties with al-Qaeda.

“It seems to us there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions
and others who are not,”
Clinton said at the news conference.
“We would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan
to deal with
those who are committed to a peaceful future.”

During a live TV interview, one journalist questioned U.S. pressure
for more aggressive Pakistani military action
against insurgent groups in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
In particular, the journalist asked,
why had the administration rejected reconciliation talks
with the Haqqani network of fighters?

“Not every extremist group can be reconciled,” she said.
“That’s just a fact.
It doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying,
but you have to try it with your eyes wide open.”

[Neither Clinton nor the reporter mentions it here,
but it has been widely reported elsewhere that
one of the preconditions amounts to acceptance of the Afghan constitution,
which in turn implies recognition of what Westerners often call “women’s rights.”

Now, the question comes,
how is it decided, and by whom, as to
“which groups can be reconciled”?

My supposition is that this is being decided, ultimately, by Hillary,
and the method amounts to this:

She goes and confers with her friends in the Afghan feminist community,
and asks them which groups they can live with.
Those that are rejected by the Afghan feminists as being too irredeemably sexist
are put on the enemies (or terrorist) list.
In other words, what, and whom, we are fighting in Afghanistan
are not just those who might want to do harm to America,
but also those who simply believe in more fundamentalist views of Islam,
in particular as it relates to women.]

Leaders Renew Vows of Support for Afghanistan
New York Times, 2010-07-21


The concerns of women were a special focus for Mrs. Clinton,
who has made women’s rights, especially in the developing world,
a recurring theme.
She met with leaders among Afghan women before the conference began
to discuss their concerns that
the peace effort with the Taliban
would lead to renewed disenfranchisement for many women.

Fouzia Kofi, a former deputy speaker in the Afghan Parliament,
said she was concerned by recent signals from Mr. Karzai’s government.
If the reconciliation process is mishandled, she warned,
it could “take the country back hundreds of years.”

[Possibly to a better time...]

Arezo Qani, who works with disadvantaged women in northern Afghanistan,
expressed fears that
rearming local militias, something the United States has pushed,
would also threaten women.
And she said women should be consulted in the drafting of new laws.

Mrs. Clinton assured them that protecting women’s rights was
a “personal commitment of mine.”
While she said the United States was open to an Afghan-led reconciliation,
she added that “it can’t come at the cost of women’s lives.”

[Am I misinterpreting it,
or does that not clearly indicate that to Hillary Clinton
the lives of Afghan women
are more important than
the lives of American men

Karzai's road map for reforms wins diplomats' support at Afghan conference
By Karen DeYoung and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post, 2010-07-21


Clinton stressed that a peace deal with the Taliban could not come
“at the cost of women’s and children’s lives.”
On Tuesday morning, she met with a group of Afghan women
who voiced concern that a Taliban return
could sacrifice the hard-won progress they had made
in this conservative Muslim nation.

“Peace here with the Taliban and bringing the Taliban on board,
with a compromise of basic human rights and women’s rights,
means taking this country back hundreds of years,”
said Fouzia Kofi,
a former member of parliament and head of a political advocacy group.

Clinton gave the women her “personal commitment”
that she would continue to raise the issue of women’s rights
with Karzai and with other governments.

Best course for dealing with the Taliban: Win, then negotiate
By Michael Gerson
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2010-07-27


Recently, I attended a meeting of
diplomats, foreign policy experts and journalists
at which
a diplomatic settlement with the Taliban was broadly endorsed.
The participants admitted that some regrettable abuses would result.
... Around the polished table,
every participant was a well-dressed Western man,
casually condemning millions of poor and powerless women to fear and slavery.

The prospect of serious negotiations with the Taliban
does not seem particularly realistic.
If America were to insist on protections for
the rights of women, ethnic minorities and civil society
as preconditions for power-sharing discussions with the Taliban,
it would probably be a deal-breaker.
As it stands, the Taliban has every reason to think that it wins by enduring.
A panting desire for a hasty deal only encourages this belief.
Coming to the table at this point,
the Taliban would have little motivation to make concessions on
the most fundamental aspects of its ideology.

If the coalition does not insist on the protection of human rights
as a precondition for negotiations,
the whole thing gets much easier.
It is always easy to end a conflict by giving in to the enemy.
Reconciliation with the Taliban from a position of weakness --
granting the Taliban control over portions of the country --
bears a close resemblance to surrender.
No paper assurances could hide the reality that
America, under military pressure from Islamist radicals,
had betrayed millions of Afghan men and women
into comprehensive tyranny.

When asked last month about the possibility of
an American settlement with the Taliban, CIA Director Leon Panetta responded:
“We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation,
where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce al-Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society.
We’ve seen no evidence of that and very frankly,
my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they’re convinced that the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated,
I think it’s very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful.”

This is the realistic alternative: Win first, then negotiate.

Petraeus Says Taliban Have Reached Out to Karzai
New York Times, 2010-09-28

PARWAN, Afghanistan —

The top American commander in Afghanistan said Monday that high-level Taliban leaders had reached out to senior Afghan government officials in the context of starting reconciliation discussions that could pave the way to end the fighting in Afghanistan.

For months, efforts at reconciliation have been stalled at every level, and this is the first explicit public suggestion that there is extensive behind-the-scenes contact between insurgents and the Afghan government.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, in a meeting with reporters after a tour of the largely United States-run detention facility here, where American forces detain Afghans they suspect of supporting the insurgency, said the Taliban were making efforts to establish contact with senior members of the Afghan government.

“There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government and, indeed, have done that,” General Petraeus said.


The conditions of President Hamid Karzai
“are very clear, very established, and, certainly,
we support them as we did in Iraq, as the U.K. did in Northern Ireland;
this is how you end these kinds of insurgencies,”
General Petraeus said, referring to the conditions among others that
the Taliban respect the country’s Constitution
and lay down arms.

He added that any strategy had to be comprehensive and also include traditional elements of counterinsurgency strategy, like training Afghan security forces, and also “coming to grips with the situation in which there are sanctuaries for the insurgents outside the borders of the country in which we are located, and it involves, in a sense, a war of words, of information.”

American support for the process is in part a recognition that “Oh, by the way, you are not going to kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency,” General Petraeus said, underscoring the scale of Taliban activity.


[Well, to an extent
the condition that the Taliban “respect the country’s Constitution”
is clear.
It seems to be universally interpreted as meaning, in particular,
that the Taliban respect and honor
the “women’s rights” positions that were placed in that Constitution,
by a process that was less than entirely indigenous to Afghanistan.

But even granting that, what is not at all clear is:
What is the relation between
the Taliban “respecting the country’s Constitution”
and the statement of President Obama that
our sole goal in Afghanistan is
to eliminate the threat of another terrorist attack on the United States
originating in that geographical region?

Quite frankly, that is not a question to be determined by the U.S. military,
no matter how well-educated it or its leaders may be.

The goals stated by General Petreaus
(and he is certainly not the only government person who has enunciated those goals)
are clearly
well in excess of
merely eliminating threats to the United States from Afghanistan.

The crucial question of how to respond to threats,
whether to use the hammer of the military or carrots of diplomacy,
is one that must be left to the politicians.

does the defense of the United States really require that
Afghan men give their women what some call “women’s rights”?

If not,
how much is the U.S. willing to pay, in lives and dollars,
for those “women’s rights”, when Afghan men will not.

It is really up to the American politicians,
if they had balls (which they evidently do not),
to explicitly decide whether the feminization of Afghanistan is worth fighting for,
and if they do so decide (as of course they to date have, by implication)
have the balls to admit that that’s part of the reason we are fighting,
and accept the verdict of the public on that decision.

What we have now is nothing but a bait-and-switch:
Obama says we are solely fighting to prevent a terrorist attack (that’s the bait),
but then State (under the direction of Hillary Clinton)
and Defense (run by the Gates/Mullen coalition)
go off and support and fight for
those “women’s rights” conditions (that’s the switch).]

U.S. Aids Taliban to Attend Talks on Making Peace
New York Times, 2010-10-14


Mr. Obama signed off on a policy early this year that
talks were possible as long as Taliban leaders, at the end of the process,
agreed to
renounce violence,
lay down their arms, and
pledge fidelity to the Afghan Constitution.

[The way that is phrased,
the requirement that Taliban leaders
“pledge fidelity to the Afghan Constitution”
is not Obama’s.
Whose is it?
How about some answers to the classic questions:
who made that a requirement and why did they do so?
If the Taliban should request a different governing arrangement,
why would that threaten American security?
Why is American security, and all the costs of this war,
dependent on that particular form of government for Afghanistan?]

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