16 January 2012

Counterintuitive development on Iran?

In the last couple of weeks Ian Masters interviewed several Iran hands about the apparently increased tensions between the US and Iran, in the wake of the draconian financial sanctions enacted in December and a number of other factors. Some of them, like Robert Baer, were quite alarmist in their assessment of how precarious the situation was, as in, an inadvertent or deliberately falsified (by either side) misunderstanding in the Gulf could lead to a Tonkin Gulf like casus belli. He stressed how out of touch with reality the hardline regime in Tehran is, and how unworkable the sanctions regime is, etc.

But then he interviewed Gary Sick, whom I believe to be one of the most informed people around on the subject. (His blog here). Sick noted that SOS Clinton had strongly condemned the clandestine assassination last week of a nuclear scientist in Tehran (almost certainly committed by Israeli agents), and that her condemnation was obviously directed, with notable anger, mostly at Israel, not Iran. There had actually been some signals that the Iranians want to seek to get some kind of negotiation framework going, and talks were actually set up in Turkey before this happened. Clinton was clearly trying to signal the Iranians that the Israelis were acting rogue, and that the US really does want to find a way out of this crisis short of military engagement, as, apparently, the Iranians do as well.

Sick also mentioned that the sanctions, which were part of the already notorious (for other reasons too) Defense Authorization Act signed by Obama in late December, may be having an unintended consequence. That is, by creating a totally untenable situation for all concerned, they have destabilized a status quo that everyone was pretty much just living with for some time, and now, something's gotta give. And what's given, perhaps surprisingly, is that the Iranians want to talk. Let's just hope the saner minds in the Obama administration are able to quell whatever neocon thinking may still reside in the halls of power here, and restrain the nuts in the Netanyahu government, long and well enough to actually change the situation and get us on the road to a negotiated resolution of the whole Iranian nuclear question.

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