Friday, November 20, 2009


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders named Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, who is little known outside his own country, as the bloc's first president on Thursday to lead efforts to make it more influential on the world stage.

They also chose Baroness Catherine Ashton, a Briton little known even in her own country, as EU foreign affairs chief under a deal that kept out more established figures such as Tony Blair, and raised questions about how the bloc plans to lift its profile.

The appointments are intended to bolster the EU's standing and help it to match the rise of emerging powers such as China following the global economic crisis, but neither Ashton nor Van Rompuy is a familiar figure outside Europe....

Van Rompuy, 62, and Ashton, 53, are compromise candidates who plan to use quiet diplomacy and consensus. At least initially they will not have the weight in foreign capitals that a better-known figure such as Blair, a former British prime minister, would have had.

Agreement on the positions took weeks, undermining efforts to present the bloc as a united force, partly because Britain had demanded Blair should be president.

The breakthrough came when Prime Minister Gordon Brown dropped that demand and backed EU Trade Commissioner Ashton as foreign affairs chief and vice-president of the EU's executive European Commission instead.

The role of president of the council of EU leaders was created under the Lisbon treaty, which takes effect on December 1 and creates a diplomatic corps to be headed by Ashton. She replaces Spaniard Javier Solana.

The White House said Washington had no stronger partner than Europe in advancing security and prosperity around the world.

"These two new positions, and related changes to take effect on December 1 as a result of the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, will strengthen the EU and enable it to be an even stronger partner to the United States," it said.

EU leaders had sought a political balance to satisfy member states and the European Parliament, whose approval is needed for Ashton. This was achieved by appointing a center-right president and a center-left high representative for foreign affairs....

Ashton, a former member of the House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, has little foreign affairs experience. But she has made a good impression as trade commissioner".

"EU Names Belgian PM Van Rompuy as first President," 20 November 2009, in

"Who is Hillary Clinton’s “favourite new colleague”? Just take a look at this passage from a long profile of Clinton in Vogue that includes a gushing quote on the “vital and attractive” David Miliband:
When I mentioned to her over lunch that I had spoken with him, she lit up. “Oh, my God!” I joked that I got a crush over the phone in about five seconds partly because of his accent, and she said, “Well, if you saw him it would be a big crush. I mean, he is so vibrant, vital, attractive, smart. He’s really a good guy. And he’s so young!”"

Alex Barker ['Westminister Blog'], "Miliband's new admirer," 17 November 2009, in

On the first of the two above articles, all one can say is (to use a vernacular expression): 'I told you so'. To wit my piece in last week's entry, in which I predicted that the EU would not go for the most highly qualified candidates for either the Commission President or the Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs. In the event, the pick of Lady Ashton, more than represents something worse than even I could have imagined. A person (to para-phrase the great Lord Curzon): 'of the utmost insignificance'. As the Financial Times, Diplomatic Correspondent, Gideon Rachman notes, quite trenchantly:

"If the answer is Herman Van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton, what the hell was the question? Europe’s choices for its new “president” and “foreign minister” are like the result of some sort of computer-dating programme that has gone badly wrong. If you fed in all the criteria for the jobs into your computer and it spat out the names - “Van Rompuy” and “Ashton”, you would ring the systems department and tell them that there had been some sort of catastrophic breakdown.

Lady Ashton is not the best candidate in Europe for the job - she is not even close to the best candidate in Britain. If the EU leaders were determined to have a Brit there were plenty of other much better qualified people: Chris Patten, Mark Malloch Brown, Paddy Ashdown, Peter Mandelson, Geoff Hoon, Chris Huhne, Kenny Dalglish. It might be objected that none of these men are women. But that need not be an insuperable problem.

I am in Dubai and when I informed a fellow Brit that Europe’s choice was Ashton, he startled me by saying “what an interesting and imaginative choice”. But it turned out that he thought I had said “Ashdown”. Lady Ashton is the classic example of somebody who is not a household name, even in her own household. She is also a vindication of the accident theory of history. She was only sent to Brussels as trade commissioner because Peter Mandelson was unexpectedly summoned back to Britain by a desperate Gordon Brown. And Brown only chose Ashton to replace Mandelson because he could not risk choosing a prominent politician and thus sparking a by-election. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I bet she can’t believe her luck. As for Van Rompuy, I hope he writes some good haikus while chairing the meetings. He might even have material for an absurdist play.(
Gideon Rachman,"Europe's Computer-Dating System malfunctions," 20 November 2009, in

I think that absurd, is the best that one can say about the entire process that has landed Europe with Baroness Ashton as its 'high-representative' for Foreign Affairs for the next five year (!). No doubt when Henry Kissinger famously asked more than thirty years ago, 'who can I telephone who speaks for Europe?' I rather doubt that he imagined that it would be this innocuous, little suburban nobody.

Speaking of suburban nobodies, that brings us to the subject matter of the American Secretary of State, Mme. Hillary Clinton. After her disastrous tour of the Near and Middle East at the beginning of the month, it would have behooved her, one would have thought to say little if nothing at all, in matters diplomatic and otherwise. Unfortunately, as we can see, from this jeux d'espirit (if that is what it is), we were meant to be disappointed. What can one say about such gaucherie except that it merely reinforces Pericles dictum that the female sex should neither be seen nor heard. Unfortunately, we are left for another three (3) years, if not more with this very intelligent (just not in the art of diplomacy unfortunately), ambitious, provincial, bourgeois politician, who occupies the august precincts of Foggy Bottom. We truly live, dear reader in decadent, boring and banal times indeed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


"My Lord Mayor, my late Lord Mayor, your grace, my Lord Chancellor, your excellencies, my Lords, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Chief Commoner, ladies and gentlemen....

And the great questions of the day call not for hard power or soft power - but the power of people working together. Because none too can be resolved by national politicians pronouncing from on high while failing to listen to the citizens they serve; but only by great social movements which create the conditions for common action around the world.

So tonight I want to talk about the problems we face. But - much more than that - I want to talk about why I am an unremitting optimist, about Britain’s future and the world’s and about why I believe this generation, if we make the right choices, can create an unprecedented century of progress....

In the Nineteenth century Palmerston talked of a British national interest best served by the strength of those permanent interests - but not by permanent allies.

In a very different century, I see our national interest best served in a new way - by the strength of our permanent values and interests - and by our strong alliances.

Of course there are those who believe that multilateral co-operation and the defence of our national interests are mutually incompatible; and that a strong partnership with Europe weakens our capacity to pursue our national goals.

This view has always been short-sighted. Indeed, in a world where the historic challenges we face are so profoundly global, this view has never been more dangerous and threatening to the security and prosperity of our country....

The world has acted together to stop a recession becoming a depression. And I believe that while we are only half way through dealing with the causes of the crisis, we also have reason to be confident, because in the next two decades, the world economy will double in size, creating twice as many opportunities for business, for jobs, for exports. And as this new economy moves forward, I want Britain to be right at its centre-making the most of the unprecedented opportunities....

Britain must continue to lead the renewal of a grand global bargain between nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states. A fair and balanced deal in which non nuclear weapons states must accept clear responsibilities to end proliferation by renouncing nuclear weapons in return for the right to access civil nuclear power; and in which nuclear armed nations must accept the responsibility to work together on a credible roadmap to nuclear disarmament towards a world without nuclear weapons.

Never again should any nation be able to deceive the international community, and conceal with impunity its pursuit of proliferation. We face critical test cases in Iran and North Korea, with attention focused most recently on Iran. In September the truth about their secret facility at Qom was revealed. And on 1 October we again offered Tehran engagement and negotiation.

Over the last six weeks that offer has been comprehensively rejected. So it is now not only right but necessary for the world to apply concerted pressure to the Iranian regime. President Obama set an end of the year deadline for Iran to react. If Iran does not reconsider, then the United Nations, the EU and individual countries must impose tougher sanctions....

More has been planned and enacted with greater success in this one year to disable al Qaeda than in any year since the original invasion in 2001. Today 28,000 Pakistan security forces are inside South Waziristan again narrowing the scope for al Qaeda to operate. And our security services report to me that there is now an opportunity to inflict significant and long-lasting damage to al Qaeda....

It is because of the nature of the threat, and because around three quarters of the most serious plots the security services are now tracking in Britain have links to Pakistan, that it does not make sense to confine our defence against terrorism solely to actions inside the UK.

Al Qaeda rely on a permissive environment in the tribal areas of Pakistan and - if they can re-establish one - in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has links to the Afghan and Pakistan Taleban. We must deny terrorists the room to operate which the Taleban regime allowed the 9/11 attackers. So that is why I say the Afghan campaign is being prosecuted not from choice, but out of necessity.

So vigilance in defence of national security will never be sacrificed to expediency. Necessary resolution will never succumb to appeasement. The greater international good will never be subordinated to the mood of the passing moment. That is why 43 governments around the world now understand the importance of defeating al Qaeda and of preventing them ever again being able to flourish in Afghanistan. America with 60,000 and Britain with 9,000 are the largest troop contributors, but the rest of the international coalition has increased its numbers from 16,000 in January 2007 to over 27,000 today and I am confident that they will be prepared to do more.

But this coalition does not intend to become an occupying army: it is building the capacity of Afghanistan to deal themselves with terrorism and violent extremism, what we mean by ‘Afghanisation’....

Following the inauguration this week of President Karzai, I have urged him to set out the contract between the new government and its people, including early action on corruption. And I welcome today’s announcement that the new government in Afghanistan will dedicate the next five years to fighting corruption. I have pledged full UK support in this effort.

The international community will meet to agree plans for the support we will provide to Afghanistan during this next phase. I have offered London as a venue in the New Year. I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished. A strong political framework should embrace internal political reform to ensure representative government that works for all Afghan citizens, at the national level in Kabul and in the provinces and districts. It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible set a timetable for transferring districts starting in 2010.

For it is only when the Afghans are themselves able to defend the security of their people and deny the territory of Afghanistan as a base for terrorists that our strategy of Afghanisation will have succeeded and our troops can come home.

So tonight I want to leave you with a clear summary of Britain’s case, and that of the coalition as a whole. We are in Afghanistan because we judge that if the Taleban regained power al Qaeda and other terrorist groups would once more have an environment in which they could operate. We are there because action in Afghanistan is not an alternative to action in Pakistan, but an inseparable support to it. As I have shown, the world has succeeded in closing down much of the space in which al Qaeda can operate, and we must not allow this process to be reversed by retreat or irresolution....

In meeting each of the four challenges I have talked about tonight, Britain’s future is a future shared with our international partners....

When Britain is bold, when Britain is engaged, when Britain is confident and outward-looking, we have shown time and again that Britain has a power and an energy that far exceeds the limits of our geography, our population, and our means....

And that is why I say our foreign policy must be hard-headed, patriotic and internationlist: a foreign policy that recognises and exploits Britain’s unique strengths and defends Britain’s national interests strongly not by retreating into isolation, but by advancing in international co-operation....

So we will stand with countries that share our values and vision. We will engage with those who disagree with us but who are ready for dialogue. And we will isolate those who are motivated by the will to destroy the structures and principles on which a just global society must depend".

Prime Minster's Speech on Foreign Policy, 16 November 2009, in

"Prime ministers nearing the end of their terms and sinking in the polls tend to have wretched luck. The UK’s Gordon Brown bucked this trend briefly, basking in adulation only a year ago as the man who staved off financial meltdown through a courageous and widely copied plan to recapitalise the banking system.

All the more extraordinary then that Mr Brown is proving so shaky in the area considered his great strength. It is a bit as if a competitor on the TV quiz programme Mastermind keeps on making a hash of his special subject....

So why did he bung in a transactions tax, seemingly without preparing the ground within the G20? This looks very much like a collision between his intention to seize the high ground of debate and his quest for a banker-bashing headline. In the end, he got neither, squandering probably his last chance to shine on the G20 stage – the only sort of forum in which this tightly wound politician seems comfortable....

There is, of course, a debate to be had on how to raise revenue, and maybe on how to tax excess bank profits as rent. That should not be mixed up with the already difficult debate on how to regulate the banking system. Mr Brown pulled out different weapons from his arsenal of economics mastery and produced a damp squib".

"Brown's damp squib," Leader, The Financial Times, 9 November 2009, in

Having once (in a Freudian slip of wonderfully amusing proportions) claimed to have 'saved the world' (rather than merely the world's banks), Gordon Brown was on his old stamping ground as it were in his speech on Monday at the Lord Mayor's Banquet.
By tradition this speech is supposed to deal with foreign policy, and, Brown did in fact concentrate on that. That being the case, how does the speech read? As a mixture of sense and nonsense. In short a speech by a once clever politician who is on the run politically and who has only a very short amount of time to endeavor to avoid the political equivalent of being the Captain of the Titanic. With the iceberg being scheduled to appear in Brown's case, by no later than June of next year. As for the parts of the speech which are 'sensible', those that standout in particular are his defence of the Allied effort in Afghanistan; his warnings to the regime in Persia about the shortness of time to negotiate the nuclear proliferation issue; and, his overall defence of the United Kingdom's world role.

As for the parts of the speech which are nonsensical, or worse, they are mostly a mixture of cliches which everyone is ultra-familiar, which does not stop Brown from repeating them, again and again (such as: "We will stand with countries that share our values and our vision. We will engage those who disagree with us, but who are ready for dialogue...." Et cetera, et cetera.). And, some straight-hearted if rather crude, Tory bashing. AKA, the Tory Party as being throwbacks to the 'splendid isolation' spirit of the Victorian Era. Considering the fact that prior to his tenure at Number 10, Brown was notorious for being: a) rather anti-European, as that term relates to joining the Eurozone, and, other measures of greater economic integration within the EU; b) completely uninterested in his counter-parts on the continent. Indeed, Brown spend most of his time at Number 11 Downing Street, being seen as the ultimate Atlanticist. With the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, spending his summer holidays every year on the other side of the Atlantic, making friends with the Democratic Party pays legal, on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. Summer or other contacts with his fellow EU Finance Ministers being noticeable by its absence. In short, it is difficult for me at any rate to take seriously, Brown's efforts to label the Tory Party, especially its leadership (meaning David Cameron and George Osborne), as being dye in the wool isolationists or even dye in the wool anti-Europeanists (however much that descriptin might fit sections of their party). However, the piece de resistence as far as 'nonsense' goes in Brown's speech is his proposal to host "a conference to chart a comprehensive political framework in within which military action can be accomplished," in connection with the Afghan War. Why Bog knows, there should be either a 'confernce' to map out the intricacies of military and developmental strategy for Afghanistan, and, why such a conference should be held in London, is totally beyond me. And, I would imagine most others as well. My suspicion is that it will have the same likelihood of approval as the Prime Minster's recent attempt to get approval by his confreres for the Tobin Tax. Meaning of course that the proposal is nothing more than another damp squib. The same goes for the conjuring trick being employed by it seems everyone these days, to wit: the need for an 'exit strategy'. A meaningless string of words insofar as by definition an 'exit strategy', if it means something other than a hurried withdrawal prior to a debacle, will only follow from an Allied / Western victory, both at the local & national level. To conclude we can say of Mr. Brown's performance: Sic Transit Gloria Brown...

Monday, November 16, 2009


The Slavic Peoples, Russia in particular is too culturally backward to advance the spiritual interests of mankind. Under the rule of the knout, Europe will be lead into a state of spiritual barbarism."

Field-Marshal Graf von Moltke the Younger, November 1914.

The Russian empire — both the Czarist and Communist versions — was a vast, multinational entity. At its greatest extent, it stretched into the heart of Central Europe; at other times, it was smaller. But it was always an empire whose constituent parts were diverse, hostile to each other and restless. Two things tied the empire together.

One was economic backwardness. Economic backwardness gave the constituent parts a single common characteristic and interest. None of them could effectively compete with the more dynamic economies of Western Europe and the rest of the world, but each could find a niche within the empire. Economic interests thus bound each part to the rest: They needed a wall to protect themselves from Western interests, and an arena in which their own economic interests, however stunted, could be protected. The empire provided that space and that opportunity.

The second thing tying the empire together was the power of the security apparatus. Where economic interest was insufficient to hold the constituent parts together, the apparatus held the structure together. In a vast empire with poor transportation and communication, the security apparatus — from Czarist times to the Soviet period — was the single unifying institution. It unified in the sense that it could compel what economic interest couldn’t motivate. The most sophisticated part of the Russian state was the security services. They were provided with the resources they needed to control the empire, report status to the center and impose the center’s decisions through terror, or more frequently, through the mere knowledge that terror would be the consequence of disobedience.

It was therefore no surprise that it was the security apparatus of the Soviet Union —the KGB under Yuri Andropov — which first recognized in the early 1980s that the Soviet Union’s economy not only was slipping further and further behind the West, but that its internal cohesion was threatened because the economy was performing so poorly that the minimal needs of the constituent parts were no longer being fulfilled. In Andropov’s mind, the imposition of even greater terror, like Josef Stalin had applied, would not solve the underlying problem. Thus, the two elements holding the Soviet Union together were no longer working. The self-enclosed economy was failing and the security apparatus could not hold the system together.

It is vital to remember that in Russia, domestic economic health and national power do not go hand in hand. Russia historically has had a dysfunctional economy. By contrast, its military power has always been disproportionately strong. During World War II, the Soviets crushed the Wehrmacht in spite of their extraordinary economic weakness. Later, during the Cold War, they challenged and sometimes even beat the United States despite an incomparably weaker economy. The Russian security apparatus made this possible. Russia could devote far more of its economy to military power than other countries could because Moscow could control its population successfully. It could impose far greater austerities than other countries could. Therefore, Russia was a major power in spite of its economic weakness. And this gave it room to maneuver in an unexpected way".

George Friedman, "Twenty Years after the Fall," 9 November 2009, in

"(One) Soviet Power, unlike that of Hitlerite Germany, is neither schematic nor adventuristic. It does not worked by fixed plans. It does not take unnecessary risks. Impervious to the logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to the logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw---and usually does---when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige engaging showdowns.

(Two) Gauged against the western world as a whole, Soviets are still by far the weaker force. Thus, their success will really depend on degree of cohesion, firmness and vigor of which Western world can muster. And, this is a factor which it is within our power to influence.

(Three) Success of Soviet system, as a form of internal power is not yet finally proven....Soviet internal system will now be subjected, by virtue of recent territorial expansions, to a series of additional strains which once proved severe tax on Tsarism."

George Frost Kennan (Charge in Moskva) to Secretary of State ('the long telegram'), 22 February 1946, in Harry S. Truman Administration File, George Elsey Papers. Spelling and punctuation as in the original).

"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World."
Sir Halford Mackinder,Democratic Ideals and Reality,1919.

Sir Halford Mackinder notwithstanding, the events of twenty some years ago, disproves his 'heartland' theory and all such similar hypotheses like it. While there is many things to be said about what occurred twenty years ago in Central Europe, there are to my mind, two which stand out: first) that the 'Cold War', was 'won' (yes gentle reader, 'won') by the West (AKA the Americans and their allies); second, that this result, can in retrospect be seen as being over-determined.

For the first proposition, regardless of statements by such individuals as Michael Meyers (The Year that Changed the World) among others, that there were no winners and losers in the Cold War, it is obvious and self-evident, that with the downfall of the Socialist bloc and less than two years later, Sovietskaya Vlast itself, that the Cold War was won by the Americans and their European partners. Meaning specifically, that the lands described by Churchill in his Fulton Speech of 1946:

"From Stettin in the Baltic, to Trieste in the Adriatic...Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe

No longer were under the thumb of Moskva, which until say November 1989, they very much were. Of that there is no doubt. Indeed, the upshot of the collapse of Sovietskaya Vlast was to see not only Poland, et al., freed from Russian domination, but, also for the first time since the entre-deux-guerre period (the Baltic States), if not since the reign of Peter I (Ukraine and Belarus) lands further east as well.
In short, the collapse of Moskva's empire, its sphere of influence, not only had the end-result of pushing it out of Central Europe entirely, but, it also resulted in almost entirely being kicked out of Eastern Europe as well (with the exception of Konigsberg and Trasnistria). In view of the fact that no such collapse was visited upon the Americans, it is quite accurate to say that it was very much indeed, Sovietskaya Vlast which lost the cold war.

As for our second point, the fact of the matter is, as the late, great, George Frost Kennan, the possessor of the greatest diplomatic mind ever produced by the United States in the 20th century pointed out in 1948, the entire point of the American policy of containment was that there were:

"only five regions of the world - the United States, the United Kingdom, the Rhine valley with adjacent industrial areas, the Soviet Union and Japan - where the sinews of modern military strength could be produced in quantity; I pointed out that only one of these was under Communist control; and I defined the main task of containment, accordingly, as one of seeing to it that none of the remaining ones fell under such control (George F. Kennan, Memoirs: 1925-1950, Volume One, 1967, p. 359)."

By the late 1950's, there was little doubt that Moskva would be unable to pick-off, much less conquer outright any of the other centres of industrial strength that Kennan mentions. Indeed, the failure of Khrushchev's blustering diplomacy, when coupled with the (hidden) failure of his economic policies at more or less the same time, pointed to the fact that the West had if not necessarily already triumphed, did by say circa 1961, held almost all of the trump cards in this particular diplomatic game. A fact which was obscured by the idiotic and unnecessary American war and then debacle in Indochina, commencing immediately afterwards. That, coupled with the first, mini-crisis of the post-war capitalist economies of the West in the 1973 to 1982 period, lead to the delusion that it was Sovietskaya Vlast which was making all of the running in the approximately ten years between 1968 and 1980. A delusion which was seemingly reinforced by Moskva's squandering its precious monies, resources and weaponry in supporting worthless client, or semi-client states in Southeast Asia (Vietnam), the Americas (Cuba), the Near East (Syria), or Africa (Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique). All for no material, or even much in the way of strategic value. The upshot was that by the time that the semi-reformer Yuri Andropov & a true reformer, Mikhail Gorbachev, succeeded to the leadership of Sovietskaya Vlast, theirs were a regime which was close to exhaustion, and, which, like the German army in July & August of 1918, only required one sustained set-back, to cause the entire edifice to begin to unwind and collapse. A collapse, in the case of Sovietskaya Vlast of elite confidence in the regime itself and its ability and legitimacy to rule (an insight which I fully acknowledge I have borrowed from Stephen Kotkin). The military stalemate in Afghanistan serving as a coup de grace for the entire regime. Lest anyone forget, it was in the beginning of 1989, that Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan. At the time, the collapse of the Russian Empire in Central and Eastern Europe appeared to be a completely unheralded event, but, with hindsight, one can see that the writing was on the wall, and, that it was merely a matter of time before the entire system of Russian control & influence in the so-called 'Peoples Democracies' went under. Of course the ultimate harbinger of this undoing of the results of the Second World War, was the fact that Soviet domination of the region was dependent upon one chief asset: brute force. Pur et simple. Indeed in a pattern which dates back to centuries of Russian and Soviet diplomacy, Soviet hegemony in the region from the Elbe to the Nieman was fundamentally weak, simply because it offered so little in the way of legitimizing goods and services to its client states. Ideology had become a non-starter by the early 1950's. Economic assistance for purposes of development and growth, while in existence never was large enough to enable the nations of East Central Europe to overcome the economic backwardness which being members of the Soviet bloc entailed. And, of course, Sovietskaya Vlast had little by the way of 'soft power', to make palatable its hegemony. Ergo, once the puppet rulers in all of these countries were overthrown, there was nothing to stop all of the nations of the former 'Soviet bloc', from allying themselves with the Americans and NATO. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"Persistent, hard-headed, day-in-and-day-out, high-level American engagement has also been a critical ingredient for success, from Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy, to Jimmy Carter at Camp David, to Jim Baker on the road to Madrid.

It is exactly that realization that has animated the efforts of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell, appointed as the President’s Special Envoy on the second day of the new Administration. Our goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security; a Jewish state of Israel, with which America retains unbreakable bonds, and with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, that ends the daily humiliations of Palestinians under occupation, and that realizes the full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people.

Toward that end, as Secretary Clinton emphasized last week in the region, we seek to re-launch direct negotiations, without preconditions. That emphatically does not mean starting from scratch; it means building on previous agreements, resolving the core issues of the conflict, and settling it once and for all. At every step of this process, the United States will be an active and creative partner.

We seek to create the best possible circumstances for negotiations, working with the parties, working with key regional partners like Egypt, and the Quartet. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements; we consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze. We seek to deepen international support for the Palestinian Authority’s impressive plan to build over the next couple years the institutions that a responsible Palestinian state requires. And we also seek progress toward peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, as part of a broader peace among Israel and all of its neighbors.

I wish I could stand before you today and point to substantial progress toward those goals. I cannot. But what I can say is that the Administration’s commitment and determination are undiminished, and that we will continue to work hard to bring about the early resumption of negotiations, which is the only path to the two state solution on which so much depends, not only for the future of Israelis and Palestinians, but for the entire Middle East. Setbacks and complications are the common thread that runs through every effort at Middle East peace. We need to learn from them, but not be deterred by them. We have made limited headway – a shared understanding between the parties about a two state objective; a shared interest in moving back to the negotiating table; wide international backing for this process; steady progress, in the face of very difficult odds, toward shaping reliable Palestinian security organizations and governmental institutions in the West Bank. Now we need to bear down, move ahead, fulfill our responsibilities for leadership, and challenge every other party to fulfill theirs".

American Under-secretary of State, William J. Burns, "American and the Middle East in a New Era," 10 November 2009, in

"Mahmoud Abbas told senior Palestinian officials yesterday he will not seek reelection as president of the Palestinian Authority next January, in a sign of the mounting frustration felt by the veteran leader over the lack of progress in the peace process....

But such a move would cause alarm in Washington and other western capitals, where Mr Abbas is seen as the principal Palestinian advocate of a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. It could also be perceived, especially among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world, as a sign that negotiations have failed for good - opening the way for further radicalisation in the region.

Despite enjoying close ties with western governments for many years, Mr Abbas recently voiced deep frustration with the policies of the US administration in particular. He and other Palestinian officials were incensed last weekend when Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, called for an immediate resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Israel's continuing refusal to freeze the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority argued that it should not enter into talks with Israel as long as settlement growth continued - a position that until recently appeared to have the backing of the Obama administration. Mr Abbas held negotiations with a succession of Israeli governments, but remained deeply sceptical that the current, rightwing Israeli leadership was serious about talks.

There are no obvious successors to Mr Abbas, leader of the Fatah party and its presidential candidate."

"Frustrated Abbas will not seek re-election." 6 November 2009, in

The Clinton debacle continues with the now for certain resignation come January of PA President Abbas. An action which fills most Arab & Western governments with alarm if not active dread. And, yet other than the fact that the American President was sufficiently aware of the fact that having himself photographed with Israeli PM Netanyahu is political dynamite in the Near and Middle East at the moment, there is absolutely nothing being done to remedy the absence of an existing American strategy for the problem of the Arab-Israeli dispute. Indeed, as per the Financial Times, who are for the most part, still favorably inclined towards the new American Administration, American policy in the entire region is: 'under siege' (see: "US Fails to Match Mideast Rhetoric," 10 November 2009, in Need I add that this is all in line with what was predicted in this journal a year ago and less? And, that it comes with confusing hardheaded realpolitik with useless words and verbiage (Remember that famous speech in Cairo last June? Does anyone?). Something that people the likes of that professional Panglossian Mr. Philip Stephens of the Financial Times among others, loves to indulge in (see: "Relax, Mr. President. There's no need to rush," 5 November 2009, Unfortunately, sans some real hard-headed diplomacy `a la James A. Baker III, or Henry Kissinger, I do not foresee any likelihood of success in the search of Near Easter peace in the near future.

Friday, November 06, 2009


"They have one line and they just repeat one line. It is a very bizarre sense of autism....

It's pathetic. It's just very sad to see Britain, so important in Europe, just cutting itself out from the rest and disappearing from the radar map …. This is a culture of opposition … It is the result of a long period of opposition. I know they will come back, but I hope the trip will be short....

They are doing what they have done in the European parliament. They have essentially castrated your UK influence in the European parliament.

I have told William Hague: 'go away for two to three years, in your political economic situation you're going to be all by your self and you'll come back. Go ahead and do it'. That is my message to them … You want to be marginalised? Well, you go for it. But it's a waste of time for all of us.

It's not going to happen for a minute. Nobody is going to indulge in rewriting [treaties for] many, many years. Nobody is going to play with the institutions again. It's going to be take it or leave it and they should be honest and say that....It is a time of tumultuous waters all around us. Wars, terrorism, proliferation, Afghanistan, energy with Russia, massive immigration, economic crisis. It is time when the destiny of Europe is being defined – whether or not we will exist as a third of the world's GDP capable of fighting it out on climate, on trade, on every … issue on the surface of the Earth.

We need to be united, otherwise we will be wiped out and marginalised. None of us can do it alone. Whether you're big or small, the lesson is the same. And [Britain's] risk is one of marginalisation. Irrelevance.

If we get a government that is ferociously anti European that will vote down this kind of legislation then I think the relationship is going to be very difficult. As we enter the next phase one of the issues we have to discuss midterm is of course finances. France is a net contributor to the tune of €5bn a year, of which €1.5bn is the same as British rebate. That should tell you quite a bit huh?"

Comments by the French, Minister for Europe, Pierre Lellouche, in "France: 'autistic Tories have castrated UK in Europe." Guardian, 5 November 2009 in

" I must admit that my thoughts rest primarily in Europe - the revival of the glory of Europe, the parent continent of the modern nations and of civilisation. It woud be measureless disaster if Russian barbarism overlaid the culture and independence of the ancient States of Europe. Hard as it is to say now, I trust that the European family may act unitedly as one under a council of Europe. I look forward to a United States of Europe in which the barriers between the nations will be greatly minimised and unrestricted travel will be possible. I hope to see the economy of Europe studied as a whole....Of course we shall have to work with the Americans in many ways, and in the greatest ways, but Europe is our prime care, and we certainly do not wish to be shut up with the Russians and the Chinese when Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Dutch, Belgians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Poles, Czechs, and Turks will have their burning questions."

Winston S. Churchill, Prime Minister's Minute of 21 October 1942, to Anthony Eden.

The comments by the French Europe Minister are easy to dismiss out of hand, as merely the remarks of a well-known and somewhat marginal politician. However, as the London Times notes, in very very undiplomatic language, Monsieur Lellouche was uttering the thinking of much of the European pays legal, about the feared European policies of David Cameron's incoming government (see: Charles Bremner, "Lellouche Outburst - does he speak for Sarko?" in The pity of it is, that most likely au fond, Cameron, being an essentially, Harold Macmillan-style, paternalist, de haut en bas, type of Tory leader, probably realizes that his drum banging on the subject of Europe has little or no rationale other than to keep his party faithful happy. Unfortunately, the smoothness which he has shown in domestic British politics seems to desert him so far on the International scene. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who is not by any means hostile to either the Tory Party or its leader, recently commented:

"But abroad it has been a quite different story – a series of missteps and own goals, culminating in the gruesome embarrassment of his volte face on a referendum, and his forlorn attempt to explain it away. The French Europe minister Pierre Lellouche may have been using rather ill-chosen language when he told the Guardian that the Tory position was "pathetic", and accused William Hague of "bizarre autism" on Europe. But the whole episode is certainly a huge self-inflicted wound which not only casts a shadow over Cameron's judgment but raises the question of whether the Tories actually have a sane foreign policy – for Europe and beyond – that they can conduct in office. Every way Cameron has turned has led him into a blind alley".

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "The Tories Foreign Foibles go far beyond just Europe,"
5 November 2009, in

The above is not to gainsay the fact that Cameron and his circle are made up of intelligent and personable chaps. A great improvement by far, over the mauvais ton crowd that no forms the government of the UK. However, it is not really credible nor reasonable to allow Britain's place in Europe to be defined by the parameters of such semi-outworn concepts as 'the Special Relationship', and, the harangues that former Prime Minister Thatcher was used to indulge in, when she was in power. That fact is that by itself, the UK, is never going to be the Americans sole partner, either in Europe or elsewhere. Especially with the end of the American 'unilaterialist' moment of the Bush years. If Britain wants to 'punch' above its weight in world affairs, it can either join up with the other leading powers in the EU to formulate one policy for the same worldwide. Or, spend an incredible amount of money on its arm forces to provide Britain with a true 'ally' for the USA, on the world stage. With its economy hit by the 'great recession' worse than most, I am skeptical if there is any political tolerance in the UK body politic for the latter option. Which means that the former is the only plausible one possible. Presuming that the UK wishes to have under Cameron a foreign policy at all...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Innocents Abroad Revisited or the Clinton Follies in the Near East: a brief comment

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: No, there has not been a precondition for entering or continuing with the peace process between us and the Palestinians. There’s not been a demand coming from the Palestinians that said we will not negotiate with you unless you freeze all activity – something that is problematic in so many ways, judicial and in other ways. I won’t get into that. But this is a new demand. It’s a change of policy, the Palestinian policy. And it doesn't do much for peace. It doesn't work to advance negotiations. It actually – this uses a pretext, or at least does something as an obstacle that prevents the reestablishment of negotiations.

Now, mind you, the issue of settlements, the issue of territories, the issue of borders – these will be engaged in the negotiations, and they’ll have to be resolved for a peace agreement to be achieved. But you can’t resolve it in advance of the negotiations, and you certainly shouldn’t pile it on as a precondition.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would add just for context that what the prime minister is saying is historically accurate. There has never been a precondition. It’s always been an issue within the negotiations. What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described – no new starts, for example – is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations. It’s also the fact that for 40 years, presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements.

But I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations. The prime minister will be able to present his government’s proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements, which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented but in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed. There are always demands made in any negotiation that are not going to be fully realized. I mean, negotiation, by its very definition, is a process of trying to meet the other’s needs while protecting your core interests. And on settlements, there’s never been a precondition, there’s never been such an offer from any Israeli government. And we hope that we’ll be able to move in to the negotiations where all the issues that President Obama mentioned in his speech at the United Nations will be on the table for the parties to begin to resolve.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you very much.

American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu", 31 October 2009, Jersusalem, in

"Secretary Clinton : "Our policy on settlements has not changed. And I want to say it again: our policy on settlement activity has not changed. We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity. And we have a very firm belief that ending all settlement activity, current and future, would be preferable, and that is what we have put forth, and that is what we have continued to support. What we have received from the Israelis to halt all new settlement activity – and I’ll repeat that again, too – to halt all new settlement activities and to end the expropriation of land, and to issue no permits or approvals, is unprecedented."

American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister
Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit,"
4 November 2009, Cairo, in

"If truthfulness be the first essential for the ideal diplomatist, the second essential is precision. By this is meant not merely intellectual accuracy, but moral accuracy. The negotiator should be accurate both in mind and soul. The professional diplomatist is inured, from his earliest days as an attache, to rules of precision. It is the amateur diplomatist who is apt to be slovenly. Even politicians, even cabinet ministers, have been known to overlook the fact that diplomacy, as its name implies, is a written rather than a verbal art and the great high-roads of history are strewn with little shrines of peace which have either been left unfinished, or have collapsed when completed, for the sole reason that their foundations were built on the sands of some verbal misconception."

Sir Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy. 1939.

There is little to add than what one may read in say the Financial Times, or indeed, if one reads carefully, the American State Departments own web site, to the near complete Clinton debacle this past five days. Originally, the American Secretary of State was going to be making various stops in the Near and Middle East, for purposes of endeavoring to (in the words of an unnamed State Department official):

"get a clear picture of where the two sides stood before she met Arab foreign ministers at a development summit in Morocco next week to try to drum up regional support for peace moves. 'She reported to the president last week that the process is going through a difficult patch and she is using the opportunity, being in the region, to consult with the leaders, see where they are, and how we can get the process moving forward again,'"

"Abbas rebuff to Clinton's Peace Push," 30 October 2009, in

Any likelihood of success in that effort, completely collapsed after the press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister on the following day. It was pur et simple a complete wreak of any possibility of moving the peace process forward. Either with the Palestinian Authority or with the Arab governments in the region. Of course, this is not to imply that the peace process was going anywhere prior to the events of the 31st of October. They were not. As, by the bye, gentle reader I predicted in this journal would be the case almost one year ago. There is no history of Democratic Party, American President's putting pressure on Israeli leaders over the peace process (or anything else), particular in the first years of their term. And, so it has proven to be the case with the new American administration. With a keen insight into his antagonists, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, understood this completely. Notwithstanding the fears in certain sectors of the Israeli press five to six months ago, about the Right-wing Likud government being cast adrift by the new American administration over the former's defence of their settlement policies, Netanyahu, did not blink, merely offering up a few sugary words for American consumption, and, voila! We have those wonderful mots of Madam Secretary Clinton of the week-end just past. The fact she has post-facto tried to take those words back, does not obviate the fact that she has enraged the PA authority and kicked the entire 'peace process', over aboard. Need I say any 'I told you so', about appointing someone with almost no diplomatic experience as Secretary of State, as I did about eleven months ago? Well, now we all know the end-result of such truly American hiring practices. Perhaps the Americans will reconsider them in the future? Lest more mistakes be made unnecessarily.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Curieux, tout de même, ces travaillistes britanniques ! Cela fait treize ans qu'ils sont au pouvoir, sans jamais avoir manifesté de tropisme particulier pour l'Union européenne. Et voilà qu'en fin de parcours, la veille d'une probable victoire des conservateurs au prochain scrutin législatif, ils sont saisis d'une crise d'europhilie aiguë comme le royaume n'en a jamais connu. Le plus gravement atteint est le jeune et brillant secrétaire au Foreign Office, David Miliband. Déjà, au congrès du Labour, le mois dernier, il avait dit toute sa foi dans l'Union européenne".

Le Monde, 'Too Late...' 29 October 2009 in

"William Hague recently made a speech about his approach to foreign policy. He set out five priorities. He couldn't bring himself to mention Europe. Except to say he wanted alliances outside Europe. Wrong values. Wrong judgment. Wrong decision. In the last two years, we have negotiated the release of diplomatic staff arrested in Iran, launched a naval force against piracy off Somalia, sent police and judges to keep the peace in Kosovo, brought in sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies when the UN failed, and led a step change in the fight against climate change. Mr Hague, you say you support us on all those things; but all of them, every single one, depended on Britain playing a leading role in a strong, powerful European Union that you oppose.

When you say foreign policy has nothing to do with Europe, you show you have learnt nothing, know nothing, offer nothing, and every single government in Europe knows it. In the European Parliament the Tories sit with a collection of outcasts. Last week on the BBC, and you should go through the transcript, Eric Pickles, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, explained without a hint of shame that we should not condemn one of their new allies, the 'For Fatherland and Freedom' party, who every year celebrate the Latvian Waffen SS with a march past of SS veterans, because they were only following orders.

It makes me sick. And you know what makes me sicker? No one in the Tory party batted an eyelid".

David Miliband, Speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, 1st of October 2009, in

The scuttlebutt in the chancelleries of the European Union is that: a) the Blair boom to become the first European 'President', has almost completely deflated. With French President Sarkozy abandoning the former British Prime Minister after the Socialist party group in the European Parliament declared itself against sponsoring Blair's undeclared candidacy; b) as a consequence of 'a', there is now talk in the self-same circles of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, being chosen for the equally (if not more important) position of Vice-President of the Commission and Foreign Affairs Chief (see: "Socialists Bank on Miliband for Foreign Post," 31st of October 2009, in As the Financial Times notes, the rationale for appointing Miliband is not so much because he is as Le Monde puts in 'young and brillant', but, because "there is not much competition,". At least that is among those personages coming from the 'Left' side of the European political ledger. For reasons which fully expose the essential mediocrity at the heart of the current European project, it has been so determined that the Socialists, not having the position of the European President, nor the majority of the Commissionships in the Barroso Presidency, need to be placated by being offered the important position of Vice-Presidency and Foreigh Policy supremo.

The fact that with the partial exception of Miliband himself, the Socialists do not have anyone who is qualified for this position, does not appear to be a determining factor in the exercise. So, we will potentially end-up in a situation with a President who is (potentially) at loggerheads with his Vice-President and Foreign Policy chief. Of course, if one were to in fact search for a truly qualified candidate for the post, one can think of two names who far exceed Miliband in qualifications: Dominique de Villepin and Lord Patten. Both being from the Conservative side of the political spectrum, are apparently disqualified for the position...

So, leaving aside the issue of who is the most 'qualified' for the post of Foreign Policy chief, what does one make of David Miliband? Aside from the fact, to paraphrase Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Trotsky), 'that there are few things more boring than reading David Miliband's blog', can we say anything positive about this: 'young and brillant Foreign Secretary'? In point of fact the answer is: not much. As the speech to the Labour Party conference shows, he is a political animal, who is quite prepared to throw political stones at the opposition, whether or not it involves outside parties. Aside from this case of diplomatic malapropism, Miliband is to my mind notoriously a man of cliches and bien-pensant thinking. His online journal is full of them. Viz:

"We don't always see eye to eye with Russia, but we share the same global challenges and it is important that we work on them together. And as we are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and members of the G8 and G20, there is a wide range of questions where, by working together, we really can make a difference.

The wealth of people-to-people contacts and the dynamic business links which have grown between Britain and Russia over the last twenty years make political engagement all the more important. While I am in Moscow I will be meeting representatives of Russian civil society - I look forward to hearing what they have to tell me about the issues which matter to them".

David Miliband, "Visiting Moscow," 29 October 2009, in

In short, aside from an admittedly intelligent, and genuine support for the European project, Miliband has done and said virtually nothing which has made him stand out in his more than two years at the Foreign Office. Perhaps that would have been true of anyone who had the post under Gordon Brown. Just as the same could be said for the holders of the position under Tony Blair. However the fact of the matter is that this hardly qualifies Miliband to become the next Vice-President of the European Commission and Foreign Policy chief. Especially since this will be the first time that the Foreign Affairs supremo will be able to actually run something approaching a separate European Union foreign policy, since as part of the upcoming Lisbon Treaty (to come into effect within the next month at the latest), the next foreign affairs head will have a large budget and a diplomatic service numbering in the thousands to direct. Keeping that fact in mind, is someone as jejune as David Miliband the best that the European Union can offer?

Monday, November 02, 2009

State of the Nuclear Negotiations with Persia: a new look

"Rarely, in the 30 years of name-calling and visceral animosity between the US and Iran triggered by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has the prospect of detente between them been so tantalisingly within reach. But Tehran is recklessly close to frittering away this opening. That would be a disaster.

The tentative deal struck at landmark talks in Geneva at the beginning of this month bought vital time to stave off what was looking like an inexorable confrontation between Iran and the west over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Under the outline accord, Iran would ship abroad the bulk of its known stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for reprocessing into higher grade medical isotopes for cancer treatment. Russia agreed to enrich the uranium to greater purity, then send it to France to be packaged up for use by an Iranian research reactor in Tehran. Iran is meanwhile allowing international inspection of a previously undeclared nuclear site near Qom. There is an elegance to this deal....

But what is now happening? The Iranian regime, as ever, is playing hard to get. While Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the mercurial president ruthlessly re-imposed by fraud in this summer’s bitterly contested elections, has welcomed a US shift to “co-operation”, Tehran wants a sort of instalment plan to phase its exports of LEU.

There is some wiggle room – not least because Iran has not set out a formal, written position. When it does, it should be clear what is at stake. Take the path to detente; the other road leads to perdition".

"Iran's [Persia's] Last Chance," The Financial Times, 31 October 2009 in

"Too often, Iran’s security concerns are dismissed in the United States and Israel as false or manufactured, re-enforcing the stereotype of Iranians as chronically duplicitous and unprepared to keep any commitment they enter into. These stereotypes are unfortunate for two reasons. First, they are wrong and simply not supported by the historical record. This is certainly not how Iran approached previous episodes of engagement with the United States – including two years of extremely constructive official talks between the United States and Iran over Afghanistan and al Qaida following the 9/11 attacks (talks in which I directly participated).

Second, these stereotypes are fundamentally racist. If someone were to criticize Israeli diplomacy by referring to rabbis lying and conspiring behind their beards -- as far too many commentators accuse Iran’s “mullahs” as lying and conspiring behind their beards -- we would rightly denounce that as an anti-Semitic stereotype.

We should not approach negotiations with Iran on the basis of stereotypes. We should approach these negotiations with a serious understanding of our own interests and an informed appreciation for the interests of the other side....

This is clearly the approach preferred by some in Washington, some of Israel’s supporters here, and the current Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear, publicly, that full suspension of Iran’s fuel-cycle development is the only acceptable outcome to nuclear dialogue with the Islamic Republic. But it is dangerous and delusionary. If, in the near term, the United States insists on strict quantitative limits on further development of Iran’s fuel cycle infrastructure, and, in the longer term, on zero enrichment in Iran, the negotiating process started in Geneva on October 1 will implode.

That implosion will put the United States on the path to policy failure as it seeks to impose what Sec Clinton likes to call “crippling” sanctions on Iran. And when the U.S. is unable to get Chinese or Russia, or even French, support for anything approaching “crippling” sanctions, that policy failure will increase the chances for military confrontation over Iran’s nuclear activities with all of the predictably profound consequences such a confrontation would have for the Middle East, especially for Israel.

The other, far more preferable, approach would entail the United States pursuing a genuinely workable diplomatic strategy towards Iran. With regard to the nuclear issue, this would mean stepping back from a quixotic quest for zero enrichment in Iran and, instead, seeking to identify monitoring arrangements for Iran’s nuclear program so that the proliferation risks associated with Iran’s program were tightly controlled.

Pursuing this strategy would also require embedding diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue in a broader, comprehensive, strategic framework for U.S.-Iranian discussions. Such discussions would deal with the full range of bilateral differences between Washington and Tehran, with the aim of reaching what I have often described as a U.S.-Iranian Grand Bargain. This is something which Iran very much wants. It is also something that would be very strongly in the interests of the United States and Israel....

At this point, the United States cannot achieve any of its high-priority objectives in the greater Middle East -- in the Arab-Israeli arena, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, with regard to energy security, etc. -- without a more productive relationship with the Islamic Republic....

Second, without U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, the United States will not be able to achieve any of its high-priority goals in the Middle East. This would be bad for Israel, which needs credible and effective American leadership in the region to maintain a stable balance of power, address serious threats, and ensure its safety and survival. We should think hard about what Israel’s strategic situation would be like if the United States is seen, to a much greater extent than is already the case, as a declining power, unable to deliver".

Hillary Mann Leverett, "Pragmatists in Teheran," Foreign Policy,
30 October 2009, in

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all'.
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass. Chapter Six, 1872.

Which or rather who 'is to be master - that's all,' sums up the current status of the Six Great Power negotiations with the regime in Tehran over its nuclear programme. In its response on Thursday last, to the proposal put to it by the Six Powers in late September, the regime of Mullahs, countered with what Reuters correctly characterized as 'killer amendments'. Specifically, the Persians called for the following:

"will not ship out LEU [low enriched uranium] except in small, staggered portions, not all in one go by the end of the year as the draft text stipulates. Another demand is to import fuel for the reactor from foreign suppliers at the same time that Iran is sending its own material out".

"Snap Analysis: Iran [Persia] stalls atom plan but no new sanctions soon,"29 October 2009, in

The upshot of the acceptance of any such amendment to the original offer by the Six, would be that Persia would be able to replenish the uranium stocks while, at the same time it is shipping, bit by bit, the LEU to Russia. Id est., there is every danger that at a time of its own choosing, Persia would be able to denounce the agreement, and, present the Six with a fait accompli, as it would have continued with its nuclear programme, sub rosa, using the new supplies that it had imported (with the approval of the Six!). It is difficult to tell whether Persia seriously expects for the Six to respond or take seriously this proposal, or it merely wishes to play for more time and string out negotiations in the hope that: a) its programme will advance even further along; b) the Six will become exhausted and lose the taste for any additional or 'tough' sanctions. All of which make the arguments pro-offered by Hillary Leverett, difficult to take seriously, except in a sort of Looking-Glass sort of fashion. So for example her argument that we should not characterize the regime in Tehran as being controlled by 'Mullahs', since this is a 'racist' sort of argument, and, uses the counter-example of how horrid it would be to use Rabbis in the case of Israel. This argument is completely devoid of logic of course: I and other commentators refer to 'the regime of Mullahs', in the case of Persia by virtue of the fact that the head of state and principal player in the entire regime, as well as many other policy-makers, are in fact 'Mullahs,' aka, Muslim clergymen, of one rank or other. As far as I am aware of, there has never been an Israeli President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, who was a Rabbi. If there were, and, if the Jewish clergy exercised a prominent position in the governing of the State of Israel, then indeed, it would be quite in order for anyone to refer to that status in characterizing the nature of the Israeli polity.

Similarly, her argument that now is the time for a 'grand-bargain,' between the USA and Persia, and, that the USA will be unable to achieve its goals in the Near East, overlooks the fact that: a) the regime in Persia is not especially either strong or popular at the moment. As the recent bombing of the Revolutionary Guard barracks in Baluchistan last week, clearly shows. It faces many challenges on its home ground b)there is very little evidence that the regime is interested in such a 'grand bargain,' since there is little evidence of the regime's bon fides in the matter. Leveritt's mis-reading of the situation on the ground in Persia, is of a piece with her mis-reading the larger diplomatic tea leaves. Specifically, her comments that were the USA to endeavor to keep Persia to the original terms of its offer of late September, and, were Tehran to refuse, there would be little support for further, more serious sanctions, by the other Six powers. In fact, as the editorial in the Financial Times clearly shows the is a widespread recognition by the other powers involved in the negotiations that more substantive sanctions are needed if Tehran refuses to accept the Six's offer. Indeed, as per the Financial Times, the other member of the Six are critical of what they regard as the American Administrations excessive faith in Teheran's good will at this stage of the negotiations(see: "Tehran seeks big changes to nuclear deal," 30 October 2009, in In short, the time for talking and coddling the regime of Mullahs in Tehran is rapidly drawing to a close. If Tehran fails to offer up a serious modus vivendi to resolve the matter of its nuclear programme, then the Six will have to take steps to apply ultra-serious sanctions. Including stopping the shipment of refined oil to Persia. And, since the incompetent regime in Tehran relies upon outside suppliers for a considerable portion of its refined oil supplies, sanctions on this product will very rapidly bring the entire country to a standstill. As per the likely Persian response to this? I for one, rather doubt that the elites who control policy, both clerical and non-clerical alike, are ready to throw overboard, all of their ill-gotten gains, for the nuclear programme. And, Tehran surely knows that any attack on either American forces in the Persia Gulf, or the neighboring Gulf countries will result in an annihilating counter-stroke. And, last time I checked, Wagner notions of Gotterdemmerung, are not part of the thought processes of our amici in Tehran...