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Garfinkle: Iran and Russia are Playing The West

Adam Garfinkle has another excellent essay up on where the roller-coaster that is the Obama administration’s Syria policy is at right now. He wonders aloud whether the uptick in reports of back-channel dialogue between Washington and Tehran has anything to do with President Obama’s series of swift pivots on whether to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons. Hmmmmm:

There is reason to believe that some senior Administration decision-makers have believed in the past that if the U.S. government does nothing to interfere with Iran’s getting its way in Syria, the Iranians will toss up a nice quid pro quo and agree to negotiate over its nuclear weapons program in good faith. This is delusional and dangerous thinking, but perhaps the election of a new President in Iran has brought this particular delusion back into play. […]

[I]t seems to me clear, insofar as anything about this mess can be clear, that the President’s reluctance to actually strike Syria, after having gone forward to prepare it, was affected, perhaps decisively, by this Iranian showing of ankle. The question thus forms itself: Are the Iranians really suddenly serious about negotiating, or did they do what they did, starting about three weeks ago (no doubt with Russian assent and support), mainly if not exclusively to prevent a U.S. attack on its Syrian ally?

Perhaps needless to say, Adam thinks there’s nothing new really going on in Tehran, and that the U.S. is being played:

So the Syrians may offer up a report on their chemical weapons stocks that passes the laugh test, but it won’t matter because it is hard to see at this point how the UN monitors can get authorized in a way that both U.S. and Russian sides can agree on. So it is entirely possible that by this time next week we will be back where we started: no operable political deal, no prospect of a ceasefire, no likelihood of stopping the war, and no deterrence of another chemical attack. If that happens, the soft fuzzy noises the Iranians have been making about a nuke deal might, just might, softly disappear in a cloud of suppressed laughter in Tehran. They will note U.S. concessions for the record and move on, just as they have before.

As to the predictions, we shall certainly see. But please do read the whole thing. And bookmark Adam’s blog if you haven’t already. It’s worth adding him to your reading repertoire.

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  • Kevin

    At least Neville Chamberlain had the good sense to undertake rearmament while he was negotiating awaiting the Sudatenland at Munich. These clowns we have now think appeasement combined with defense cuts will end well.

    • bpuharic

      Oh brother, cue up the violins. Do conservatives EVER, even ONCE, make an argument WITHOUT hysteria?

      Syria ain’t Germany and Obama isn’t Chamberlain.

      War is a failed policy the right seems destined to try and try and try, hoping for a different outcome.

      As Einstein said, that’s the definition of insanity. And so it is.

  • Corlyss

    No kidding?

    • Fred

      My reaction exactly.

      • Corlyss

        These academics who pretend there’s some kind of respectable policy coherence buried somewhere in Val and ‘Chelle’s galloping naiveté just discredit themselves.

  • bpuharic

    Rather odd to see the conservative insistence on war as the first, rather than last option, given the relentless failure of their policies.

    How many people have to die, and how many trillions do we have to spend before conservatives finally get it?

    Garfinkle’s article, as quoted by WRM, is a hash of maybe’s, possibly’s and perhaps. As the saying goes, if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a car.

    This is a dynamic situation and we’ve managed to hook Russia into taking responsibility for its success. Great! What would it benefit US to get deeply involved in ANOTHER fiasco in the Arab/Muslim world?

    WRM is SO committed to failure he couldn’t possibly recognize success

    • Tom

      Maybe I missed something here, but since when does “Obama mismanaged this situation” mean “We should nation-build in Syria?”

      • bpuharic

        What, exactly, would a ‘success’ be in Syria? To date not a single person has told us. All the caterwauling about Obama’s ‘failure’ seems to have ignored the fact his critics

        1. have a notable and unenviable record of catastrophic failure

        2. no one has defined what ‘success’ looks like

        Other than that, you have a great argument

        • Tom

          And your caterwauling about his critics ignores that that said critics

          A. In the case of Garfinkle and WRM, were not policymakers, and so, therefore, have not failed

          B. Have defined success as “accomplishing the objectives that Obama has set for himself”

          So, other than that, you have a great argument.

          • bpuharic

            A. Since they have failed to compare Obama’s ‘failures’ to anything, again they have failed to define success

            B. “Objectives Obama has set”. And what, pray tell, in a dynamic, civil war setting, are those from day to day?

            There are OBJECTIVE goals we could look at. But the right, enthralled with a Jacksonian, testosterone laden foreign policy, is already ready to scream for the 82nd Airborne.

          • Tom

            A. That you’ve missed the alternatives they’ve been laying out is your problem.
            B. How about “Assad must go?”

          • bpuharic

            No one cares about Assad. What’s important is the US. Assad must go? Yeah, until the situation…which was fluid…changed.

            Fact is, the right wing screwed us in Iraq. They showed the limits of their ‘nation building’ fantasies.

            Obama’s doing the right thing which is let the Russians handle it. Show the Arabs how much the Russians and Chinese value democracy

          • Tom

            I don’t care about Assad. What I do care about is US influence in the region.

            And why do you think the Arabs will be against the antidemocratic tendencies of Russia and China?

          • bpuharic

            Hmm…US influence in the region. Which, of course, was at an all time high as a result of our excursion in Iraq, right?

            And if Arabs are against democracy, why are we involved to begin with? What makes you think we can have an influence in a fascist state?

          • Tom

            And, as we all know, we should follow up someone having their legs blown up by a land mine with a bullet to the stomach.

            And do you really think that the only alternative to democracy is fascism?
            At any rate, influencing undemocratic states is something that we’ve done before, and we’ll do again.

          • bpuharic

            Yeah we influenced them by sending in Kermit Roosevelt. That option isn’t available today.

          • Tom

            Or by sending money and guns.
            It’s not pretty, and I’m not a fan, but it can be done.

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