Saturday, September 30, 2006

What is Going on in Russia? A Quick Update

A quick update on our last blog entry focusing on current trends on Russian foreign policy. In particular we would like to present for our readers, a recent study of Moskva’s Foreign policy, by the leading German institute dealing with Slavic Europe: the Research Centre for East European Studies, in Bremen. The study titled ‘Trends in Russian Foreign Policy’ ( In essence, similar to my own analysis, the study emphasizes the pragmatic and indeed, one may say, opportunistic, nature of Russian policy abroad, especially vis-`a-vis the United States, Western Europe and China. As per the study, it is the specifics of the immediate international scene, id est, the International weakness of the United States, due to its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its unpopularity abroad, which are viewed as providing a ‘free hand’, for Russian policy
abroad. As per the study’s author, while “Russia’s position on the International stage is not strong….the Kremlin wants to have a say in shaping global politics”. It is due to the changed nature of the international scene, that this Russian wish, can now perhaps become to a degree reality:
“From the Russian point of view, the world has changed fundamentally since the botched US invasion of Iraq. From this perspective, the US is obviously not capable of handling major crises alone. On the contrary, the actions of the Bush administration have only further aggravated the conflicts in the Middle East. The EU, on the other hand, is not able to derive political clout from its economic weight, according to [the] Russian view….In the context of this new, multipolar, crisis-rattled world order, Russia perceives an opportunity to shape the course of International politics---and the Putin administration is now actively demanding the right to do so….The main priority is the consolidation of Russia’s position in the ‘near abroad’, i.e., its ability to influence developments in the CIS states---including the option of a confrontation with Georgia or Moldova. At the same time, when it comes to Europe and East Asia, Russia opts for a policy of close cooperation. Moscow aims for cooperation as a way of advancing its own political and economic interests, but avoids definitive commitments and seeks to secure maneuvering space in both directions. In its dealing with the US, Russia acts in a consciously independent manner and demands to be treated as an equal partner”.

As per the above analysis, the news wires (if not necessarily the Western Press) are full of the latest commotions coming from the looming confrontation between Moskva and the Republic of Georgia (see While nominally the dispute is over the arrest of five (now four) Russian servicemen, by the Georgian authorities, earlier this week, in fact the conflict has been spiraling for quite awhile. The Saakashvili Regime, from its very nature, is inimical to, and hated by Russia. It is in essence, rightly or wrongly as a Trojan horse for American and West European interests in the ‘Kafkaz’ [Caucasus] region. With his open aspirations of joining NATO, and the EU, as well as his open backing for the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, in 2004, Saakashvili is seen as ‘the enemy’ by Moskva. For months the Kremlin has more and more raised the pressures on Tbilisi, first banning wine and then other types of Georgian imports. Second, using the prospective ‘Independence’ referendum, in November, by the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, to put more pressure on Saakashvili (for the background to this dispute from a Russian, albeit ‘non-official’ perspective see: Dmitry Babich, ‘Russia and Georgia: Ignorance on both sides’ in

With the arrests of the Russian servicemen, Moskva has attempted to take the rising tensions with Georgia to another level entirely. It has recalled its Ambassador, and both official and un-official levels of disapproval of Georgia are emanating more and more from the Russian Capital. The debate in the Russian Duma, for what it is worth, saw all political tendencies joining in denouncing Tbilisi and demanding that in the words of the Deputy Speaker Yury Volkov: ‘diplomatic and economic sanctions, including the freezing of bank accounts, and suspending of business contracts’. Outside of the Duma, there have been small demonstrations in front of the Duma, as well as similar harsh words with the Kremlin aligned, head of the political think tank, Institute for Political Studies saying openly that: ‘a war was looming’, due to Saakashvili’s belligerence vis-`a-vis Russian interests. And, while the Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, attempted to play down the likelihood, of military conflict, it would appear that Moskva would not be entirely displeased if one were to erupt, due to Georgian clumsiness. In short, look for a possible, Russian ‘preventative’ military action, `a la the American rationale for the current war in Iraq, if Tbilisi overplays its anti-Russian card.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What is Going on in Russia ?

“And do you not dash forward too, Russia, like some eager, matchless troika? The road wreathes beneath you in a trail of smoke, the bridges rattle, everything falls back and is left behind. Struck by this miracle of God the onlooker stops short; is this not a bolt of lightning cast from the heavens? What does this terrifying motion mean? And what unearthly force lies hidden in these unearthly horses? What horses, what horses! Are there whirlwind caught in your manes? Is there some alert, sensitive ear straining through your every vein? You have heard the familiar song ring out above you, in one concerted surge you have set your bronze chests to the harness, and, your hooves barely touching the ground, you have turned into mere taut lines, flying through the air, and the entire troika hurtles forward, inspired by God!.. Russia, where are you flying? Give an answer!
No answer. With a wondrous peal the little bells ring out; torn into shreds, the air rumbles and turns into wind; everything on earth flies past, and with a wary look, other nations and states step aside and give way to the flying troika.”
N. V. Gogol, Mertvie Dushi vol. # 1.
“The mistake of the Slavophils lay in their thinking that Russia once had an individual cultured, obscured by various events and finally by the Petersburg epoch. Russia never had this culture and never could have had it….I even doubt whether the inner forces for their development would have been found without the Petrine epoch, without the period of European culture….Only the mighty thought of the West, with all of its long history is united, is able to fertilize the seeds slumbering in the patriarchal mode of life of the Slavs.”
A. I. Gertsen, Past and Thoughts, vol. # two.
“In his land Peter the Great found only a blank sheet of paper, and he wrote on it: Europe and the West; since then we belonged to Europe and to the West. One must not be mistaken about it: whatever the genius of this man was, his work was possible only within a nation whose precedents were not imperiously governing the development which it had to pursue, whose traditions did not have the faculty of creating a future for it, whose memories could be erased with impunity by an audacious legislator.”
P. Y. Chaadaev, ‘Apology of a Madman’.
“Russia, is the land of the Future, whose great growth and colossal demands dwell upon us, as an ever more terrible nightmare”.
7 July 1914, Theobold von Bethman-Hollweg.

What indeed is going on in Russia today?

Item: As per the Financial Times (21st of September edition), the Russian authorities have raised the possibility of canceling the permit for a huge (20 Billion Dollars) liquefied Natural Gas project (called Sakhalin-2), on the island of Sakhalin, in Russia’s Pacific coast, north of Japan. The project, which is jointly owned by Royal Dutch Shell, and two leading Japanese Zaibatsu, Mitsu & Mitsubishi, is intended to supply Japan with ten percent (10%) of all her energy needs. The Japanese foreign ministry officials say that any such cancellation would be a: ‘massive blow’ to Toyko’s plans to ‘secure a strategic energy partnership with Russia’. With the incoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, criticizing the rationale of the proposed cancellation.

Item: As per Moscow News, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources has informed ExxonMobil, which is developing in conjunction with the Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft, a second series of oil and natural gas fields off the Island of Sakhalin (Sakhalin-1), that notwithstanding sinking about 4.5 billion dollars into the project, that expanding it to exploit recently found oil fields in the area was not allowable. And, that the recent finds would be ‘auctioned off’. And, while the project itself was not likely to be cancelled, Russian Deputy Economics Minister Kirill Androsov, advised the ExxonMobil et, al., to voluntarily scrap its existing low tax regime, for something which would yield the Russian treasury higher tax receipts.

Item: In a preview of a meeting on the 22nd in Paris, between French President Jacques Chirac, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Le Figaro reports that notwithstanding attempts by the Quai D’Orsay to paint a rosy picture of the current state of Franco-Russian relations, officials at the French Foreign Ministry are in a ‘negative mood’, about the current and future state of relations between the two countries. As French diplomats put it: “despite Paris’ efforts to establish a close ‘strategic partnership’ with Moscow, France does not escape the common lot when it comes to the hard core of Russian policy – oil”. With the possibility that the French, oil combine, Total might have its license to drill for oil, withdrawn by the Russian authorities. As quoted by Le Figaro, the Quai D’Orsay now feels that it has ‘indulged in wishful thinking with regard to Russia’. As one French diplomat put it succinctly:
“ ‘Russia is regaining its health and conducting itself as a power which is a good thing….But this partner is increasingly inclined to reject compromise formulas. Cooperation is grinding to a halt’ ”.

Item: In a tripartite meeting on the 23rd near Paris between Chirac, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin pledged that Russia was a reliable energy partner for the EU. As per the New York Times, Putin also dismissed concerns that Russia’s recent purchase of a five percent stake in the pan-European controlled, EADS (the parent company of Airbus), was not “evidence of aggressive behavior on the part of the Russian side”.

What indeed is ‘going on’ in Russia? Well to be honest it is a very mixed picture. There are various currents in Russian policy at present operating. Some of those currents, are while not necessarily ‘pretty’, do bear some resemblance to rationality. Certainly, I would, unlike some of the more Liberal & Neo-conservative voices not regard every time that Russia refuses to go along with American wishes (viz policy vis`a-vis Persia, Hamas or even arms sales to Venezuela) as evidence that Russia was either inevitably hostile to either American, much less ‘Western’ interests or concerns. That being said however, there does appear to be more and more cases where Russian policy, particularly in the field of oil resources and international co-operation, appear to be less than rational. Rational not only for the Western concerns involved, but even for Russia itself. In the area of natural resource development, while Russia is a honeycomb of oil, natural gas, et cetera, it currently does not have either the technology (at least at the highest level) or the expertise to extract said resources. In addition, the hard evidence of the past five years is that Russian oil and natural gas companies (the state-owned Gazprom combine in particular) are: a) not as generous in funding projects like Sakhalin which need huge amounts of cash to get started, preferring to rely upon existing fields of current production; b) are notoriously inefficient, both in terms of waste at the production head, as well as transporting it.

Russia, as German Imperial Kanzler, Bethman-Hollweg noted above, has been a country of vast potential for quite awhile now. Indeed, going back perhaps almost two hundred years now. Unfortunately, it has until this time, remained just that: potential. Due of course for the most part, to the criminal insanity of Bolshevism (see Richard Pipe’s two volumes on the Russian Revolution for the best understanding of this). Which massively distorted and disrupted Russia’s natural, organic development, economically, politically and socially. The best example of which is that in 1913, the Russian Empire had a per capita incomes thirty-five percent (35%) of the West European average, with a significantly higher figure than for say Korea, Hong Kong, Greece, or Cyprus. Now of course all these nations have per capita income which are anywhere from three to five times higher than Russia, and the EU countries having a per capita income of almost nine times as high. Suffice it to say, whatever the spiritual correctness of Russkii Sorbornost, as a method of governance it leaves a great deal to be desired. The very last thing that Russia needs now, is for another historical chapter, of ‘taking leave of her senses’. The idiocy of Kvass Patriotism, is to my mind self-evident, and one does not need to emphasize the same. What Russia in particular needs at this time is a policy of intelligent patriotism, which sees the need, nay the necessity of openness to the outside, in particular European world, in the mode of say Munnich, Osterman, Nesselrode, Kankrin, Gorchakov, Bunge, Giers, Witte, et. al.

What Russia needs, is the same thing that its last great statesman P. A. Stolypin, said it needed in 1910: twenty years of peaceful development. A development one might add, which at the time was fully funded by West European capital and to a degree, personnel. Instead of attempting to either frighten off, or hamstring international investors in Russia’s energy sector, the Kremlin should be welcoming them with open arms. It is only in conjunction with the outside world, and in particular Europe, that Russia can and will find its full potential. Eurasianist tendencies as elaborated by the late historian and thinker L. N. Gumilev, and his followers, are the very last thing that Russia needs at this stage in her historical development (on ‘Eurasianist’ tendencies in Russia at the moment, see articles in: any such path would be by definition a historical cul de sac. The end result of which would be that Russia would in fifty years time, could possibly revert to another ‘Tartar Yoke’, id est, Chinese domination, both economically, demographically as well as militarily. What Russia needs is a wise policy of reasonable reliance on Western, especially West European partners. Of course this policy must be reciprocal and have benefits for both sides. But, as the article cited above in Le Figaro points out, elements in the French establishment, from Chirac on down would love to enlist Moscow as part and parcel of a countervailing European force vis-`a-vis the USA. In essence, in permanence, the anti-Iraq coalition of 2003: France, Germany and Russia. Of course with the replacement of Gerhard Schroder by Angela Merkel, and the retirement of Chirac next year, such an alignment is far from a surety. However, in conjunction the Russo-Chinese dominated, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as its seat on the UN Security Council, and membership of the Quartet, Russia certainly possesses enough levers to bring to bear its presence on the world stage, vis`a-vis the USA (on the idea that the SCO is a ‘counterbalance to America’s perceived dominance’, see: Shaun Walker’s 21 September article in A similar rational can be seen in Russia’s reemergence in the Putin period, as a major player in the Near East. Admittedly not on the same scale as say in from the mid-1950’s to the end of Sovietskaya Vlast, but enough, to (to quote the great French writer Andre Malraux), put her ‘scar on the map’(for this see, Vladimir Frolov’s 14 September article in

What however could potentially ruin this arrangement, is if Russia, through the mysterious way in which she fashions her internal arrangements, especially on energy policy in particular, and foreign investment in general, completely alienates Western and especially West European major investors. The maneuvers around both Sakhalin projects are hardly the best advertisement for Russia’s reliability as an energy partner for both Europe and Japan. Particularly since the Byzantine nature of the decision-making in the Kremlin on energy issues, leave a lot to be desired. No doubt with a mind to reassure his Western European interlocutors in particular, Putin, has, emphasized the ‘reliability’ of Russia as an energy supplier and has signed on Friday in Paris, two projected commercial projects with French concerns, worth upwards of 10 Billion dollars. Additionally, Putin has made verbal attempts to co-operate with the USA, on the Persian issue, even floating the idea on the 16th of this month, that Russia would, if need be, agree to vote for sanctions at the UN Security Council. And, while the Bush regime’s attempts at promoting (mostly rhetorically these days), a ‘democratic transformation’, in Russia’s ‘near abroad’, has been viewed by the Moscow in entirely unfriendly terms, unless the USA, were to go beyond rhetoric, there seems to be an intelligent willingness, on Putin’s part, to ignore mere words, and focus the reality of American policy. As Russian State Duma, Deputy Committee Chairman, Sergei Shishkarev has commented:
“Russia will continue to resist U.S. attempts to govern the world through democracy promotion and economic sanctions. But that does not mean that Russia will mount an across-the-board challenge to U.S. interests. Instead it will apply a policy of selective containment and selective engagement on differing international issues”
(8th September 2006 in

Of course, if the more antagonistic elements in the American administration, were to have their way, and say, attempt to back Georgia, in its (so far diplomatic) conflict with Russia, over the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, than all bets would indeed be off. Currently Russian policy is thoroughly anti-Georgian, and any attempt by Washington to back Georgia, even rhetorically, would be seen in Russia as an attempt to interfere in a vital Russian interest (see Sergei Blagov’s 18 September article in . To expect any Russian co-operation in such an atmosphere, on almost any issue, least of all vis`-a-vis Persia, would be completely illusory (see George Perkovich’s comments on the 28th of August, in Currently, Bush and Rice, appear to recognize the value of co-operating with Putin, notwithstanding the occasional bumps in the road, so far. The fact that they gave no thought to boycotting the G-8 Summit in Saint Petersburg, is on indication of that. One only hopes that they will see clear to not lose sight of that fact, both for securing American interests, and for Russia’s own future development.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Believe it or not, and for those of us, such as myself, who are ultra-skeptical of the Bush regime, it is difficult not to be more than a bit skeptical (which is not to say that I am an adherent of the monkey-like antics of a Chavez, as per his comments of the 20th in New York…), when one finds that Washington has to one’s great surprise behaved in intelligent fashion, the recent news out of New York, is most refreshing indeed. As per the Financial Times (, on two critical fronts, there has been a very useful and important, rapprochement, between not only Washington and the European powers (plus Russia), but, also a willingness to grant some needed concessions to two entities (Hamas and Persia) that are regularly lambasted by the former.

Concerning Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority (hereafter PA), following up a meeting on the 20th between PA President Abbas, and Bush, Washington agreed to the Quartet powers (USA, EU, Russia and UN), easing sanctions that were imposed on the PA, after the victory of Hamas, earlier this year. Specifically, they called on Tel Aviv, to release almost one billion dollars in customs revenues and taxes withheld, after the Hamas victory, approved additional funding for the PA (albeit not directly given to the Hamas government) and even agreed to soften the three conditions, that Hamas must agree to, id est: recognition of Israel, renouncing of violence, agreement to abide by Oslo, prior to being brought out of the diplomatic isolation, imposed earlier this year by the International Community. As the EU’s external relations commissioner, Mme. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commented: “The Americans have shown understanding and openness’. And, while American sources denied that Washington was ‘going soft’, on Hamas, it is quite clear that the Americans have decided for once, to not veto the possibility (admittedly not very bright at the moment…) of some progress, in possibly resuming talks between Israel and the PA, supervised by the Quartet. The news that Abbas, has raised the idea of an ‘international conference’, to be attended by all the concerned parties, plus some Arab countries, is also positive news. As is the endorsement of the same by French President Chirac. Make no mistake however, the ‘road map’, is not going to be an easy road to traverse. And, indeed it would seem to be the case, which Bush, and Omert, would most likely prefer not to have to use this road to begin with. Both would prefer to spin out, negotiations, until the end of time. And, indeed, already there were claims by Israel’s right wing Likud, that ‘the Quartet’s decision, including the US, behind Israel’s back to support a Palestinian unity government together with Hamas, is very grave’. However, with the discrediting of Sharon’s idea of unilateral disengagement by the Lebanon debacle, and the all too apparent diplomatic weakness of the American position, not only in the Near East, but indeed, one is tempted to say, worldwide, neither Bush nor one hopes Omert, will have the strength of will, or position to veto, any useful proposals that the EU will throw up, in the near future.

Concerning Persia [Iran] and the EU-3, and Washington, again an unexpected (except perhaps to this observer, see my 13 September posting) development has again just occurred. Specifically, Washington has dropped, its insistence on attempting to push through the Security Council, a resolution, implementing sanctions on Persia for failing to abide by Security Resolution # 1696, which had mandated the Tehran stop enrichment of uranium. Until the beginning of this week, it appeared that the Americans were adamant in wanting to have the Council vote on a sanctions resolution of some type. No matter how innocuous the sanctions in question (‘travel sanctions’ being of course the best example of the same). Whether Chirac’s statement at the beginning of the week, made Washington change its tune, or whether or not, a mature calculation by Ambassador Bolton, that the votes for such a Resolution were not there, and or that the EU-3 were unwilling to allow the possibility of seriously resuming the talks to go for naught, which Tehran’s concessions on Solana’s trip to Persia last week has revived, is unclear. What is clear is that once again, surprising most observers, Washington was able to cast aside its preconceived notions of the dangers of diplomatic negotiations, and allow for the possibility that they may actually get somewhere. Again, let us be realistic. Official Washington is divided between those who want to pursue the ‘regime change’ option (Cheney, Bolton, Abrams) and those like who do not (Rice, Burns, Hadley [?]) who do not. As in the case of Iraq policy, the most likely outcome of such divisions, is that a policy of ‘do nothing’, is more likely to be the end result. A policy outcome, which will of course, as in the case of the negotiations with North Korea, mean that nothing positive will come of any attempt to resolve matters. An outcome which will have nothing but negative results in dealing with Persia, just as it has had with North Korea…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


“I was reminded of all this [the question of the belief in God and the divorce between faith and reason] recently when I read the edition of Professor Theodore Khoury Munster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself – which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue

In the seventh conversation (controversy) edited by Professor Koury, the emperor touches on the theme of the Jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threaten (sic). But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the ‘Book’ and the ‘Infidels’, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely, with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached’. The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonable is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats…To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death….

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories , even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry....A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act ‘with logos’ is contrary to God’s nature”.

12 September A. D. 2006

“The Crusades no longer just haunt the memory but stalk the streets of twenty-first century international politics, in particular in the Near East. In an irony often lost on protagonists, these public perceptions of the Crusades that underpin confrontational rhetoric derive from a common source. The Near Eastern radical or terrorist who rails against ‘western’ neo-crusaders is operating in exactly the same conceptual and academic tradition as those in the west who continue to insinuate the language of the crusade into their approach to the problems of the region. This is by no means a universal set of mentalities , as demonstrated from the literary and academic cliché of a civilized medieval Islamic world brutalized by western barbarians, to the almost studiously anti-crusading rhetoric and policies of NATO and others in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, to opposition to the crude caricaturing of Islam after September 2001. The re-entry of the Crusades into the politics of the Near East is baleful and intellectually bogus”.
Christopher Tyerman, Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades (Oxford, 2004)

As the wise words of Christopher Tyerman point out, re-introducing the fighting words of another era, are something that one should, if one can studious avoid. Which leads one to ask, why this most intellectual and scholarly of Pontiffs, Benedict XVI, chose to use the quotes that he did on the 12th of this month, in Barvaria. In part his text clearly points to the main purpose of his lecture: the unnecessary and divisive divorce between Christianity and reason (‘Logos’ to use the original Greek). Id est:
“This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history – it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe....The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come to together in a new way.”

However, as the online intelligence journal, points out, the broadening of the discussion to include the dialogue between the Paleologus Basileus, and his (unnamed) Persian counterpart, cannot possibly have been by accident. Occupying approximately fifteen percent (15%) of the text of the speech, the inclusion must have been quite deliberate. And, while his Holiness, is first and foremost a theologian and a scholar, the twenty plus years that he has spent in Roma, at the summit of Vatican politics, means that he is well aware as anyone of the possible implications of his words. Indeed, as per the Vatican, his Holiness promises to: “supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes”. This was no accident, nor was meant to be. Indeed, according to the highly well connected, Catholic journalist and commentator, John Allen in today’s New York Times, his Holiness’s words are part and parcel of a new, tougher Vatican strategy vis-`a-vis the Muslim world. In Allen’s words:
“The new pope is tougher both on terrorism and on what the Vatican calls ‘reciprocity’ – the demand that Islamic states grant the same rights and freedoms to Christians and other religious minorities that Muslims receive in the West. When Benedict said in his apology on Sunday that he wants a ‘frank and sincere dialogue,’ the word ‘frank’ was not an accident. He wants dialogue with teeth”.

So, now that we have an inkling of what the Pontiff is trying to say, and why he said it, what is this diplomatic observer to make of it, and the violence of the Muslim reaction to his Holiness’s words? One particular reaction which is readily apparent, and is one which I have no intention of following, is the (for lack of a better way to describe it), is the ‘philistine’ reaction, of burying one’s head in the sand, and pretending that in some sort of Leibinezian fashion, all was well in the world, sans the Pontiff’s statement (for an example of which, see the editorial in today’s Financial Times on the subject). This particular mental reaction fully deserves the characterization ‘philistine’, because it is one, in which thought, is meant to be absent. Indeed, thinking, especially ‘critical thinking’, which does not follow the well traveled, bien pensant pathways, is by definition to be avoided at all costs. Well, for no doubt malentendu reasons, I am going to not play the philistine today. Tant pis.

The Pontiff’s words deserve not only respect, but close study, as well. They do so for the following reason: the malady that he describes: the divorce between faith and reason, has, for reasons which appear to be intrinsic to itself (but which I will refrain from exploring at this juncture) most clearly and acutely afflicted the Muslim world, with results that are readily apparent for all to see. Whether or not, Islam, has been afflicted from its very origins, with the need to dominate, to spread its message via the sword, is something for a scholar of the Near East, in the 6th and 7th century’s, to discuss rather than someone like myself, whose specialization is European and World politics of the last two hundred and fifty years. What is observable, to even the least very student of the Near East, in the period of late antiquity, is that Islam, did, emerge out of the Arabian Peninsula, by virtue of military conquest. Indeed, one of the most tremendous examples of military conquest that the known world has ever seen. Either praise it, as the working out, of God’s will, or berate it, for the work of the anti-Christ, what cannot be denied that it took place, within fifty years of Mohammed’s passing. And, that indeed, it was Mohammed himself who foresaw the expansion that subsequently took place and, one can, find enough quotes in his book, to justify what took place after his death. It is this foundational fact, that the origins of Islam or part and parcel bound up with military conquest, with the ‘sword’, as it were, which one may argue, has to an extent, encumbered Islam with a host of ‘unreasonable’, indeed, inhuman metaphors, quotes, processes of thought, which make the transition of many parts of the Muslim world to modernity, to rationality, in short to logos, so difficult. And, indeed, provides the radical current, of Islamic thought, with its current platform and legitimacy.

While it can be argued that Christianity, and indeed Judaism, also have had their bouts with violence, with conversion by the sword, as indeed, they have, with one important caveat: neither faith was so deeply imprinted with the imagery of conquest and of violence as part and parcel of the faith. In the case of Judaism, after the fall of the Second Temple, and especially the failure of the revolt in 133-135 A. D., with the banishment of population into the diaspora, Judaism, lost that implacable, xenophobic, military geist which can been seen in the time of the Maccabees, and of course earlier.

In the case of Christianity, there is the much criticized Crusades, and of course the fact that missionary work, went arm in arm, with European Imperialism of the Early Modern period (1500-1789). And, indeed this is quite true. However, in the case of Christianity, these episodes occurred much, later in its history, indeed almost a thousand years later in the case of the Crusades. And, unlike either Judaism at the time of the Kingdom’s (from what little that we really know of it, as a period of historical research), or Islam in the first one hundred years of its existence, Christianity’s growth, was not dependent upon either military power or its being allied to the dominant state apparatus. Id est, by the time that Constantinus Magnus, granted it legal recognition only) as a religion in the early 4th century A. D., Christianity was probably the majority religion in the Empire. By the time that Christianity became engrossed with things of this world, including its ties to state power, its structure and ideology were already fully formed. And, being fully formed, it was and is capable to divorcing itself from the being tied to secular state, without perishing (the USA being perhaps the best example of this). Again, the contrast with Islam is palpable.

What may one ask is the above ‘ancient history’, so important for us now? Well it is important, insofar as, the persecution of religious minorities in the Islamic world, which range from the merely tiresome (Turkey) to the murderous (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera), is based upon, justified and indeed legitimized by the need to adhere to the Qu’ran. As a close study of the State Department’s 2006, report on International Religious Freedom, worldwide shows, adherence to the Islamic holy text is used to justify throughout the Arab and Muslim world, de facto and de jure discrimination, against Christian and other minorities ( And, unless and until such a necessary modernization of Islam is reached, a recognition that faith is not a matter for enforcement by the state apparatus, but something arrived at by reason, than there is little hope that this important section of the world will join it, in arriving at modernity. And of course, unless and until the Muslim world, understands that logos, is not compatible with the type of Islamic expansion as practiced in its early years, for which of course, the Islamic radicals, `a la Bin Laden, look upon as being part and parcel of the their faith, then the reconciliation of modernity, with Islam will be further out of reach, rather than nearer. Burying one’s head in the sand, and trying to pretend that this is not part and parcel of a longue duree [long-term] change in the psyche of the countries and people’s of the region, will only do more harm than good. A change which by definition cannot be brought about, by American bayonets, but, which needs to be helped along, by careful diplomacy, all the same. His Holiness, deserves all of our thanks for bringing this topic to the forefront.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Israel-Lebanon War: an updated analysis

In his usual analytical style, Anthony Cordesman(, has recently published an updated version of his earlier analysis of the Israel-Lebanon war. While for the most part, his analysis endorses his earlier remarks about the failure of Israel’s war effort, this time; it is enlivened by third-party, on the spot commentary. In giving a run down of the overall failure of the IDF, Cordesman notes that in each of the five major goals that Israel set for itself, at the start of the conflict:
  • Destroy the ‘Iranian Western Command’ before Iran could go nuclear.
  • Restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence after the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, countering the image that Israel was weak and forced to leave.
  • Force Lebanon to become and act as an accountable state, and end the status of Hezbollah as a state within a state.
  • Damage or cripple Hezbollah, with the understanding that it could not be destroyed as a military force and would continue to be a major political actor in Lebanon.
  • Bring the two soldiers the Hezbollah had captured back alive without major trades in prisoners held by Israel-not the thousands demanded by Nasrallah and the Hezbollah.

Were either not fulfilled and or dependent upon the third parties, id est, the United Nations and the International Community, to be implemented. Such as the ‘disarmament’ of Hezbollah, which has now been quietly dropped as a practical goal, regardless of its initial inclusion in the cease-fire resolution. In short, far from reinforcing Arab perceptions of Israeli invincibility, which have indeed taken a bit of a knocking from the events of the last six years, the war will no doubt lead to the opposite impression in the region as a whole. As Cordesman himself, notes:
“Deterrence is a matter of perceptions, not reality. Israel retains its conventional superiority or edge against the regular military forces of its Arab neighbors, and particularly against the only meaningful threat on its borders: Syria. It has made massive improvements in its forces since 1982, adapting the most modern technology and tactics available to the US to its own technology and tactics, and retaining a nuclear monopoly.... The problem however is Hezbollah, regional and global perceptions. Some serving Israeli officials and officers claim Israel succeeded in this goal, and that the deterrent impact would grow as Arab states and peoples saw the true scale of damage and refused to allow Hezbollah and other non-state actors to operate on their soil because of the cost and risk. In contrast, Israeli experts outside government felt that the fighting did weaken deterrence and did show Israel was vulnerable.... In general, both serving and non-serving Israelis seemed to underestimate the anger Israel’s strikes might generate, and the fact that the level of damage inflicted might create many more volunteers, make Arab populations far more actively hostile to Israel, strengthen the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and weaken moderate and pro-peace regimes like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia”.

In short, the entire gambit was a debacle from start to finish. In particular the ‘stop’ and then ‘go’, and ‘stop’ again, ground offensive, which only really commenced in earnest in the last two days of the campaign would be comical, if matters were of not so serious import. One can only comment, that the in-experience of both the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister were readily apparent, in believing that a mere 10,000 ground troops, many of them, recently called-up reserves, would be able to tackle in a credible and forceful way, Hezbollah. The comparison with 1982, when about 100,000 ground troops were utilized, in going to Beirut in seven days, requires no commentary from this observer. Particularly revealing are the comments by an (un-named) Israeli, tank reserve officer, on the campaign:
I have known Danny (a pseudonym) for many years but never have I seen him as angry as now.
He is a commander of a reserve battalion in the armored corps and a moshav farmer in civilian life. His epaulets rank him as major. Tall, muscular, bulky, in his late forties, he cuts a dashing figure speeding in his armored jeep through a curtain of diesel fumes and whirling dust alongside his clanking, snorting column of Merkava tanks returning to base from Lebanon.
Danny is angry at the last three chiefs of staff - Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, and Moshe Ya'alon -for having neglected the land forces in favor of the air force, for sacrificing ground mobility on the altar of high-tech wizardry, and for squandering tank specialists in the nooks and crannies of the Intifada.
Danny is angry at them for slashing the army budget by 13 percent, and for downgrading the reserves by a whopping 25 percent. To be in top form, a tank reservist needs a five-day refresher exercise each year. Most hardly got that in the course of three years, others in the space of five, and yet others none at all.
Danny is angry at the rushed fashion his reservists were mobilized, with depleted provisions, outdated equipment, and insufficient supplies. Their transition from family normality to a place of hazard and death was too abrupt to allow for battle conditioning. His reservists, living by a bond that is impossible to describe and impossible to break, had too little time to pound themselves into front-line discipline through tough exercise, ruthless discipline, and absolute obedience. Some were so out-of-shape they caved in under the grueling stress.
DANNY IS angry at the lack of aptitude of the younger enlisted recruits. Tankists by designation but drafted into the Intifada as foot soldiers by necessity, their stance was not that of tank crews but of crack commandos. Full of drive and guts, they know more about tracking down terrorists in the labyrinths of the refugee camps in Jenin and Nablus than a tank's maneuverability, technology, and self-protection mechanisms in Lebanon.
Inevitably, the first such crews to cross the blue line had little notion of how to function in the forbidding and grim terrain of the fractured Lebanese battlefields, with their steep hills, dry stream beds, twisting roads, deep ravines, and Hizbollah's formidable anti-tank arsenal.
Danny is angry at the armchair pundits for disparaging the formidability of Israel's main battle tank, the Merkava. Its latest version, the Merkava 4, is perhaps the finest in the world. Born of necessity in the seventies when countries refused to sell Israel their main-line tanks, a brilliant armor tactician named General Israel Tal conceived the Merkava whose latest innovative design combines maximum firepower and maneuverability with paramount crew safety. There is no such thing as an impregnable tank, but the Merkava 4 is the closest thing to one.
NOW IN its fourth generation, the Merkava 4 proved its mettle in the harshest tank battle of the war, fought in a precipitous gorge west of the crook of the Litani River in the central sector – the battle of Wadi Saluki.
Two of the eight Merkava 4s were knocked out of commission and their commander was mortally wounded, caught in the sights of long-range, Russian-made, Syrian-supplied, laser-beamed, self-propelled Kornet anti-tank missiles, with their lethal dual warheads that penetrate the armor and then detonate incendiary blasts within. But the reserve commander saved the day, rushing to the rescue of the other six by leading their climb up sheer slopes to the top of the gorge, an ascent few other tanks in the world could navigate. In all, four crewmen died in the battle of Saluki, a battle which was an unqualified triumph of the Merkava 4. Had those tanks been of an earlier generation, not equipped with state-of-the-art technology and active self-protection mechanisms, 50 crewmen might well have perished.
DANNY IS angry at being caught off-guard by a highly sophisticated, well-armed guerrilla force, shielded by civilians in villages now laying coated with brown dust from the shattered walls of houses and pockmarked with the debris of battles which time and again one of our generals declared to have been won - places where our wounded were slow to be rescued, where the smell of unbathed, dehydrated men lingered long for lack of logistics, mingling with the stench of blood and medicine and dead bodies.
Danny is angry at the initial reports claiming the enemy was decisively beaten and that Hizbullah's retreat was a rout and a flight. He was suspicious at the lack of the signs of disorganized retreat: why so few prisoners? Where were the jettisoned boots, the dumped weapons and ammunition along the roadsides? Who in Military Intelligence knew of the fight-to-the death doctrine of the fanatical foe, or of the ten-meter deep bunkers and tunnels, impervious to the greasy black puffs of the 130,000 bursting shells which rained down on them through the hot summer sky of this futile campaign?
DANNY IS angry at the strutting Napoleonic pomposity of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz at the war's start, and at their unrealistic war goals, not least the return of our two kidnapped soldiers.
Standing now amid the tumbled shambles of Israel's hopes, they remain magically unperturbed with a marvelous incapacity to admit error. All is laid at the door of the generals: had but the prime minister been told this, retreat would have been an advance; had but the defense minister been told that, defeat a victory.
Danny is angry at a government whose conduct of the war was marked by sluggishness, negligence, divided counsel, and fatal misjudgments. Lax management at home translated into lax management in the field causing contrary and confusing orders. Once divinity of doctrine was questioned by the troops, there could be no return to perfect faith. And thus it was that on the very eve of the cease-fire, the cabinet squirmed uncomfortably through a long summer morning and afternoon, unready and unwilling to grasp the nettle until it was too late, until there was hardly any point any more to what they said and did, until more young men had to die.
Like a fated creature blown by the winds of Homeric gods, they did not change direction. Cutting losses, removing blunder, altering course - these are repugnant to this government, to any government. Admitting error is out of the question. Everyone has an alibi.
Danny is angry most of all at the shirkers of Shenkin Street - a metaphor for the bon ton, chattering, elitist draft dodgers who mock and scoff and sneer and leer at every symbol of Jewish patriotism which he and his fellow reservists cherish.
A wise prince aught always be a good asker, said Machiavellian. What Israel needs now are great askers. Danny and his angry men are the greatest askers of all.

There is no doubt, that ‘Danny’ has a good number of American counterparts serving and has served in Iraq. We need to more of them, and if the Lebanon debacle has no other purpose, it will one hopes, have blasted to kingdom come, the idea, that military campaigns can be won, and won quickly by air power and high technology only. An ultra-dangerous illusion, best gotten rid of, as quickly as possible, lest our Neo-Conservative ideologues attempt to put it (yet again) into practice vis-à-vis Iran.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Events in Damascus

The attempted bombing of the United States embassy in Damascus yesterday morning, is a reminder, if one was needed, that the process of political change in the Near and Middle East, is and will be a much much more difficult and dangerous process than is commonly believed by our Neo-conservative ideologues. According to the, the operation was conducted by four young men, who attempted, in a rather amateurish fashion to ‘car bomb’ the walls surrounding the embassy, but were foiled by Syrian guards in the immediate vicinity of the embassy. As the characterized it, the attack was singularly “poorly executed”. Which in essence means that the attack was the work, not of well-trained ‘Jihadist’, but enthusiast, whose volunteerism fatally outran, their skills. Thankfully…

What makes the events that occurred yesterday of importance, is that this is not the first time that such events have occurred in the past few years, but have by now, become to a small degree commonplace. Obviously, the regime in Damascus is not facing the same type of problem as say the Iraq currently does. It would appear that at present, that Syria is facing a very low level of discontent, which at times now appears to Take an armed character. Quite similar to what has occurred in say Egypt, in the past few years. And, of course in the case of Egypt, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria, all of such activities are the handiwork of Islamist, oppositional groups. Groups, which it would appear, are much, much more popular than, the weak and mostly discredited, Liberal, Western aligned groups. Dr. Rice and her Neo-conservative opponents notwithstanding, there does not appear to be much evidence that in the ‘new’ Middle and Near East, that democratization will be either easy or straightforward. Quite the reverse in fact. If one wants to see a possible future, for a Near East, which escapes the seemingly dead hand of its current autocratic or semi-autocratic government, all one need do is remember the events that occurred in Algeria in the five years after the first (and only) ‘free election’ in 1989: hundreds of thousands dead in a civil war between secular and Islamist forces. Or look at what has happened in Iraq, since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Any type of unmanaged, ‘democratic’, transition in this region, will have a similar outcome I am afraid. At least that seems to be the case, in the absence of changes to the diplomatic foreground of the region. Meaning of course a needed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and, the stabilization of Iraq.

In the case of Syria, due to the nature of the current regime, still predominately secular, dominated by the marginal, Alawite sect, any ‘alternative’ regime will most likely be Sunni (the majority of the population), and Islamist. Whether or not they will be more moderate, Muslim Brotherhood organization (perhaps the largest oppositional tendency in the country), or an Al-Qaeda-type, grouping, is difficult to say at present. My colleague (in the ‘blogosphere’) and sometime epistolary correspondent, Professor Joshua Landis, of Oklahoma University, perhaps the leading American observer of the Syrian political scene, seems to indicate that at present, there is no pre-determined path, that a post-Assad Syria will take (see his brilliant site: What this fact means, is that the current American policy of trying to isolate Syria, in the futile hopes of overthrowing the current regime in Damascus, is absolutely wrongheaded and mistaken. What is needed in Syria, is a diplomatic, bridge building exercise, to bring the regime out of the cold, both for purposes of regime stability and to try to manage a stable transition, if need be, from the current regime to something, more pluralistic and transparent. Make no mistake, Democracy `a la Americaine, is not on the cards in Syria, anytime soon. Any more than it is on the cards in Egypt, Saudia Arabia or the other Sunni Arab regimes in the region. What this fact should not obscure is that a transition to more legitimate and transparent regimes in the region, will take years, nay perhaps decades, and will not be managed in one or two Presidential terms. This may not be the optimum solution, but it is the best perhaps that we can expect under the circumstances. For a worse alternative, one needs only look at the current situation in Iraq…

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


As per the papers, it would appear that there has been a possible breakthrough in the negotiations with Teheran by the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany), over the formers nuclear programme. According to the Financial Times, in meetings over the week-end, Tehran apparently floated a possible compromise in which Persia would voluntarily agree to ‘suspend’ for two months, nuclear enrichment. Simultaneously, formal negotiations, including Washington, would begin. While it is true that this is a concession on the part of the EU-3, since Security Resolution # 1696, of 31st of July had given Teheran until the 31st of August to comply with previous Security Council resolutions which, had mandated that Persia stop any and all enrichment activities, the EU-3, no doubt anxious to come away with something have tentatively agreed. The issue now becomes what Washington will say?

What ‘Washington will say’? Is indeed a subject for much thought at the present? In the past, it has been the pattern, for the Bush regime to pull the rug out underneath the Europeans, whenever there appeared to be the prospect, of some type of settlement of this issue. Something in which, the Neo-Conservative clique around Cheney, and their supporters in the press, have allies in the more hard-line sections of the regime in Tehran. Now, I am not, unlike say the editors of the Financial Times, a blind adherent of compromising with the Mullah’s regime in Persia. Far from it! In fact it is without a doubt, that Tehran, and not only messianic fanatics of the Ahmadinejad variety, has the bit between their teeth at the moment. For them, and in fact many commentators in the West, it is Tehran, ironies of ironies, which has triumphed at the overthrow of the Hussein regime and the subsequent morass of American policy subsequently. Indeed, fairly typical are the comments, by Chatham House in London, in a new report just issued:
“There is little doubt that Iran [Persia] has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East. The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments-the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 – but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures…. Consequently, Iran [Persia] has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies.”

An atmosphere, which the Israeli debacle in Lebanon only reinforced. As the American online, security web service, commented on 22nd August:

“Given the psychological impacts that Hezbollah’s successful resistance brings throughout the region, it is little surprise that Iran is surging forward with new, and probably excessive confidence. From Tehran’s standpoint, this is the perfect moment to press its advantage and establish itself as a regional hegemon and global player”.

Given this background, given the feeling that as the Council on Foreign Relations’ Ray Takeyh put it, in Monday’s Financial Times (FT), that Persia’s rulers ‘no longer feel compelled to offer concessions’, why has Tehran decided just to do that? Because, dear reader, while psychologically and in a negative sense, Tehran has been immensely strengthened, that strength is to a degree illusory. It is strength which comes from the absence of enemies (the Taliban, Saddam Hussein) and, not from any internal improvements to itself. As Kofi Annan noted in today’s FT, Persia is that strange amalgam of a major oil producer, who does not have a ‘single oil refinery’, and consequently, suffers from shortages in gasoline products constantly. As any Persian car driver will tell you. A country which suffers from fairly regular plane crashes because their airplanes ‘have no spare parts’. Similarly, in the military sphere while the regime is quite content to loudly proclaim their invulnerability to American or Israeli Air strikes, the reality are something quite different. As the American military strategist and researcher, Anthony Cordesman, has recently noted, Persia has no air force to speak of, and their air defense network is of essentially a late Sovietskaya Vlast vintage. Even the closure of the straits of Hormuz, is beyond, Tehran’s capabilities (see: “Iranian Nuclear Weapons?” in So, the with perhaps more feeling for their vulnerability than one would necessarily credit for a regime which projects such an Ideological front, the Persians have thrown the ball back into the Western, nay the American court. What will Bush, Cheney et al., do with it? That is something that we will have to wait and see. I for one, anticipate a battle royal within the American administration, as each side: the ‘pragmatists’ around Dr. Rice and her deputy Mr. Burns, try to reason with the neo-conservative faction around Cheney. My own guess for what is it worth, is that with little likelihood of hard sanctions coming out of the security council anytime soon, and with the prospects of being split from the EU-3, if Washington attempts to veto the Persian demarche, the Bush regime might very well indeed, between clinched teeth, allow the talks to go forward. Reasoning that if need be, they can always be sabotaged later on, by Washington. Any attempt at trying to either veto negotiations now, or to railroad the Security Council, into voting on sanctions, will have the end result of the USA, rather than Persia being in a party of almost exactly one.
Splendid isolation indeed!

What can be said, in all seriousness, is that the idea of an American or an Israeli military strike as on simple one-off, `a la the Israeli strike on Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981, is the grandest of all illusions. While no doubt both could hit and hit hard any facilities that Tehran does possess, the questions is whether the programme would survive such strikes, is not easy to answer. ‘Expert’ opinion runs from pessimistic see the relevant reports in to somewhat optimistic views such as held by Anthony Cordesman. In terms of Israeli capabilities, the consensus, appears to be that while the IDF could no doubt, easily bomb and destroy Tehran’s aboveground facilities, it would not be able to capability to ‘generate and sustain the necessary number of strikes’ (Cordesman). The distance between Israel and Persia (at least 1,500-1,700 kilometer), as well as the lack of refueling facilities, make repeat strikes on given targets almost impossible. Particularly since, the entire operation would require that Israel, over fly of Arab air space. In the case of American military operations, none of these problems are apparent. Except that any such operation will require, in order to be able to assume that at least ‘80%-90%’ success (as per Cordesman), at least several weeks to a month of repeat bombing runs on any and all targets, with no doubt, the number of civilian dead and wounded running into the thousands, if not the tens of thousands. With all the diplomatic complications that implies. At the very least, there might very well be a concerted attempt by the various Shiite militias in Iraq to commence hostilities with American forces. Indeed, it is not, impossible (admittedly very unlikely though) that Iraq official forces might decide to attack American troops in Iraq, in retaliation for the ‘crime’ of killing fellow Shiites. It could well be that the end result of American military action against Persia, would be to almost make the American presence in Iraq, untenable. Not to speak of course, of possible attacks on American ‘soft targets’, throughout the region. Something which might also occur in the case of Israeli military action as well. To conclude, the dangers of Tehran possessing nuclear weapons are immense. However the dangers of premature, American or Israeli military action are also immense. Under the circumstances it is by far preferable that the EU-3 take all steps to try to negotiate a solution with the Mullah’s regime. Will that latter try to ‘spin out’ the talks so that they can proceed with enrichment, perhaps even on the sly? Yes, of course. It is almost a guarantee that they will attempt to do so. Particularly since any acceptable compromise formula, will require a good deal of internal negotiations in Tehran as well, as with the outside world. However, we do have some time, to resolve this problem in a manner In which force, can truly be a last resort. For force to be the first resort, would be in the current circumstances well neigh a disaster of the first magnitude.