How To Deal With Iran

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a few pointers on handling the Iranians, among them:

Washington should refrain from making any grand overtures to Tehran that could redeem Ahmadinejad’s leadership and increase his popularity ahead of the country’s June 2009 presidential elections. Since assuming office in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has used his influence to amplify objectionable Iranian foreign practices while curtailing domestic political and social freedoms and flagrantly disregarding human rights; his continued presence could serve as an insurmountable obstacle to confidence building with the United States.

He also counsels avoiding heavy-handed rhetoric and focusing on dealing with Khamenei. Read the whole thing.

Diplomatic Timing

Tom Barnett for a long time has favored a diplomatic opening to Iran, but now contends that Obama doesn’t need to rush:

My advice? Do nothing before Iran’s presidential election except hint you’d welcome a new attitude from Tehran.

Ahmadinejad is sinking, so [his congratulatory letter to Obama] reveals his personal desperation more than the mullahs’.

Turks as Friends

Turkey’s offer to mediate between the Obama administration and Iran is getting good reviews.

Ezra Klein:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ivo Daalder, Susan Rice, and others have for some time been pushing this concept of “strategic leadership,” wherein America begins thinking more about its interests than its preeminence. Part of that means being willing to let allies take a leadership role in the regions where they’re most influential. It’s obvious enough how you do that in, say, Eastern Europe, but less so in the Muslim world. Unless, of course, Turkey is willing to step into a leadership role. And there’s evidence they want to do exactly that.

Patrick Barry:

A bajillion years ago, back when there were Byzantines, they called Istanbul the navel of the world, a metaphor which is at once gross but also useful for understanding Turkey’s traditional role as a node for East-West activity.  For centuries, Turkey has managed to fuse together cultures that to everyone else appared irreconcilable.  Today, for reasons political and economic, cultural and strategic, they seem willing to take on that part again.

A cautionary analogy, however, is the historical fact that Pakistan helped broker the Nixon Administration’s opening to China — to curry favor with both the Americans and Chinese. It didn’t make them a pivot, just a client, and not a particularly reliable one at that.

Russia: “We’re back”

It appears Russian forbearance is sorely lacking in Georgia:

Russian troops briefly seized a Georgian military base and took up positions close to the Georgian city of Gori on Monday, raising Georgian fears of a full-scale invasion or an attempt to oust the country’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Like I said previously, there’s really nothing to stop them if they don’t want to be stopped. With our army fully committed in Iraq and perhaps incapable of sustained high-intensity operations even if it weren’t, the only military option I can see we’d have is maybe forward-deploying what F-22s we have to Turkey. But the Russians would call that bluff. They know we have no interest in getting into a shooting war with them.

Galrahn has more, including a comment on “communications disruption” that is not fully explained; it’s not clear whether he means conventional EW, Internet attacks or both. He also notes that Russian casualties are likely high, not that Putin cares.

All in all, it’s shaping up as a big short-term loss for the U.S. As Rob Farley said early in the game:

Russia gets to demonstrate her power, solve two of the Frozen Conflicts (the Georgians are never getting Abkhazia back if Russia wins here), and humiliate the United States, all at the same time. They hit the trifecta if they win this war.

Question now is what we can make of it on the rebound vis-a-vis the EU and Iran.

Zbig on Georgia

Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, compares Putin’s invasion of Georgia to the pre-WW2 policies of Stalin and Hitler, then manages to recommend nothing much more solid than “mobilizing [a] collective international response” with economic sanctions to deal with it. Thanks for that, Zbig, nice to know that you’re as helpful today as you were back when the peanut farmer was running things. 

It seems not to have occurred to him, by the way, that the feistier the Russians get on their borders, the closer the EU countries will want to be to the U.S. Or that the feistier Russia is on its southern border, the more willing the rulers of Iran might be to seek a rapprochement with the U.S. In crisis, opportunity.