Friday, August 17

The Yalta play

ZenPundit Mark Safranski has weighed in on the announced US plan to designate the Pasdaran a terrorist organization (or to be more precise, give them a "special" terrorist status).

Mark takes issue with those who have voiced a negative view of the plan and states why he strongly supports the plan. (See this Pundita post for my view of the plan.) One of his arguments is that during the Soviet era, the US " ... saw no contradiction in bleeding the Soviets in one part of the world while negotiating with them in another."

Thus, Mark does not see the US plan as counterproductive:
... until we have an agreement with Iran we do not have any agreement and the regime should be squeezed at every point until we do. I'm all for negotiating in earnest [...] We should scrupulously keep our word and demonstrate to the Iranians through actions that we will deliver exactly what we promise. But until that point in time, Teheran should get no favors, no breathing space, no economic freebies of any kind until we come to an arrangement.
I agree, within the context that Mark is viewing relations with Iran; i.e., through the lens of negotiations. Yet there is a big difference between negotiating and asking for help.

The US request for help from Iran did not come through official channels; it was made public by Maliki. But the US agreement to meet face-to-face with Iran clearly signaled a request for help with ending the violence in Iraq.

Then, within about 24 hours of the first US working meeting with Iran about Iraq, out came the announcement to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization! And what did we hear about the reason for this plan? US negotiators working on Iran's nuke program are getting impatient with the UN. Well, tough cookies. The negotiators were the ones who set up the parameters of the negotiations. They set September as the time they would go back to the UN and attempt to wring out tougher sanctions on Iran.

American negotiators don't think China and Russia will go along in September with tougher sanctions; okay, but that situation has been going on for years with no sign of change. So that's not enough reason to blow up the footbridge on joint US-Iranian efforts to fight al Qaeda in Iraq.

(I have noted in some recent posts that I think the time has ripened for Iran's Supreme Leader to put the Pasdaran on a leash in Iraq. Pundita thinks military events in Iraq are making a strong argument for Iran to stop instigating strikes against the US military in Iraq.)

And notice the timing of the announcement! The plan to designate the Pasdaran a terrorist organization has been rolling around Washington for more than a year. But on the very heels of a history-making US-Iranian joint effort on Iraq, BAM! out comes the announcement about the plan.

I stress this is only an announcement of deliberations about whether to carry out the plan. So it seems as if some in Washington just couldn't wait to set off this firestorm -- again, on the heels of a joint US-Iranian effort.

Pundita bets these people are in the Washington camp that has already written off Iraq. That camp sees halting Iran's nuke program as the top priority. That's because their thinking about Qaeda has settled into a groove. They see the war with Qaeda as a generational one. Yet events are in the saddle, not Qaeda, and many events around the world are turning against Qaeda.

So at the risk of trying to sound like Roosevelt at Yalta, I think the top priority is to destroy al Qaeda as soon as humanly possible; for that we need all the help we can get, even if means holding our nose.

However, none of my arguments overturn ZenPundit's reasons for wanting to be tough on the Pasdaran, and which deserve attention. So what is the tiebreaker? I think we should let the Europeans do the heavy lifting right now with regard to negotiations with Tehran. I think we should let the Europeans hurl sticks at the Pasdaran. Let the Europeans designate the IRGC a terrorist unit.

The obvious retort is 'That's just the problem.' Yes, and that's why I led off my earlier post on the subject with a passage from Victor Comras's congressional testimony. We need to clamp down on our buddies who do business with Iran -- and keep going after US shell corporations doing business with Iran.

Those actions are the logical starting point for turning the screws on Iran -- because if we don't get more cooperation from allies who do business with Iran, the Pasdaran can continue to find banks and companies that will do business with them.

Yet those who cooked up the plan to block Pasdaran funds are treating the Pasdaran, who do many billions of dollars in business -- as if they were North Korea's army, which controls not a drop of petroleum. Hello, the Pasdaran are megabucks businessmen.

At the least, wait until the September meeting before launching financial war against the Pasdaran. What they should have done was float the Pasdaran plan in backchannel discussions with the Europeans. If the discussions leaked, well, it wasn't our fault and it just an idea we were batting around. In this way, we could have left some room for our request for help from Tehran.

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