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MARCH 28, 2012 10:39AM

One Thing American Iran Policy Needs Soon? Put Up-Shut Up

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 For MEB, always.

One thing that is very clear in the "coercive diplomacy" literature is that if one is trying to coerce a State into doing something it definitely wouldn't do, absent the coercion, economic sanctions being the most popular instrument of coercion, deadlines are an important tool, as that is put up or shut up time all around.

A deadline is put up or shut up deal, for both sides.

For the coercing party, putting a deadline out there puts all your credibility on the line. If you do that and are bluffing, and then waiver at the last second, your credbility is toast for other disputes, absent some higher than normal risk measures with the other relationships to prove that "We don't always bluff, just that time."

For the coerced party, haiving a deadline out there means that if negotiations are serious, put up or shut upon  a deal that is reasonable, and then the negotiations will be finished by that date, or there will be war, a war that will by definition of coercer and coercee is likely to be a very destructive even for the lattert, e.g. a war between America and Iran.

Or, and more generally, if people at some point don't make this type of tacit ultimatum, it means people in this dispute have been bluffing the entire time, and have never had any intention of doing anything that different than what they were already doing.

Maybe that's the case with Iran's nuclear program, maybe not, but given electoral timetables it is fairly obvious that the bluff no bluff issue would be revealed in the next several months.

Given the consequences of underestimating the risks that it isn't a game of pure bluffing, that would suggest taking a proactive approach from the American side as to continuing to force the issue, including at some point pretty soon,putting out a date certain beyond which negotiations are not the instrument of American policy, but others are, e.g. violent means.

As to the functionality of deadlines in bargaining, just like at work, where having a time certain focuses activity, having a deadline focuses the bargaining on the reality that if bargaining by exchanges of notes is always preferable, at some point in State relations, that won't be the case, and the use of force will, as it always can, be the arbitration mode of the dispute.

Maybe Netanyahu's bluffing that he would really go it alone, and maybe the Persians are bluffing that they'd actually be a nuclear armed state, both to please "hawkish" domestic constituencies. 

Then was would emerge is some face-saving deal where both sides can say "I was tough for you."

That's the policy argument for waiting and making them move first, and it's the one that is always popular in Dovish circles, and for understandable reasons.

On the other hand, if neither party is bluffing, and Ambassador Dennis Ross didn't think so as to someone who has good connections in both places, that's a recipe for us having to fight a war on other people's terms, and to have to fight a war around a core American national security interest in the process: Persian Gulf oil.

Persian Gulf oil was deemed a vital American security interest by President Carter in 1979, when he created CENTCOM to defend it, not so much because we get all our oil from there, which we don't, but because our allies do, who if cut off, would bid on oil we use, thereby having the same price effects at the spot margin, the spit price being important in determining prices even with the widespread use of long-term contractsin the oil industry.

China was an oil exporter then in 1979, and gets 500,000 barrels a day from Iran, as does Japan, as to the potential gravity of blowing something in that region, and something that argues for securing Iranian oil if you are going to really do that.

Unfortunately, Russia can't really quickly pick up a dramatic slack in oil production, and neither can we, although President Carter's creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was of course exactly for this sort of contingency, and Libyan oil  production could probably be increased somewhat, and there are alternate routes in Saudi Arabia that probably have a decent bit of emergency surge capacity for exactly this contingency.

Even with that, its pretty clear that any war between Iran and Israel would almost surely have dramatic implications for American national security interests, like it or not.

If it's the case therefore that we are really going down the line with Iran and its nuclear program, given electoral timetables here and in Israel, that means that we don't have a lot of time to make decisions.

Those decisions include: are we willing to make a time certain deadline, in which it is tacitly understood that there will be no more bargaining after that date, but an Ameircan bombardment that does serious damage to both the Iranian nuclear program, the regime, and some steps to secure what Iranian oil as we can to keep markets steady and bargain for favorable war termination.

April 13 is the next meeting between Iran and the Parties, more than two weeks.

We have been playing this game with Iran for a long time now, since 2002.

The North Korean example suggests that time isn't in the favor of trying to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.

History also suggests it's not easy to prevent any nuclear weapons program either, and look at Pakistan and North Korea for that proof.

Like they said in Pakistan, if people are willing to eat grass in order to have a nuclear weapon... they will probably end up with a nuclear weapon.

In fact, the former head of the Mossad has argued that all this pressure has made things worse, as the obviously elevated probability of an Israeli and/or American strike has incentivized Iran to rush with its clandestine efforts, although it's vital to note that he thinks any use of force would be a disaster, and vehemently opposes such a move, and has done so moreover in public at great personal risk in terms of a future in Israeli public life.

Clearly therefore, there are different views within Israel itself as to the wisdom of a military move,if maybe not among where it matters, Netanyahu's inner circle.

Tbis is just like there are probably differences within the Iranian regime as to the wisdom of taking the full step and testing and deploying a nuclear device on some set of available delivery vehicles, not necessarily in that order at this point, but in which again, what really matters is people who are rather opaque as to real intentions, to put it mildly.

As to how Iran would proceed, if you were them, you might well think that a nuclear test would instantly bring a bombardment down on your head, and not do that before going ahead and putting an untested design on a missile, and then testing and firing a missile opposite Israel as the signal that deterrence was now operative.

That might be a happy ending, if you think nuclear deterrence between those parties would hold, in which of course that question, "Will deterrence work between Iran and Israel," is the central problem at issue.

It would seem risky in general to keep adding more and more nuclear deterrent relationships too, in this case Saudi Arabia via Pakistan.

The Saudis funded the Pakistani program somewhat, and very, very indirectly to be fair, if on the theory of "If everyone else has a bomb, Muslims need one too."

Would that not tend to spread, and would that not tend to place more Russian and Chinese interests at stake too?

It's great to diffuse power in the international system, if you are Russia and especially with what is according to observers in The Nuclear Express the Chinese theory on this topic, right until there are too many relationships to manage by anything other than absract models of nuclear deterrence that miss local variations, and so therefore are more prone to errors that propoagate.

That is why in the theory of economics, there are firms, rather than all contractual relationships, per the economics of law.

It does make some states more powerful than others to limit the number of nuclear armed states, which puts a duty on those states to take other measures to make such relationships more palatable, because they are more just.

This is why if we are really going down the line with Iran, we need to have an offer that, even given cultural barriers, and especially conceptual barriers, is so obviously just, that only a non-rational actor would refuse, if a deadline is probably on balance important in that regard, if and only if, you are really serious, and are not just playing a sequence of bluffs and hoping everyone else is too.




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Donny, you know, I really like you, even more than rwnuttyjobby, and maybe I'll hijack a mule cart to Alabama sumday an' we'll pig out on Dim Sum...but you keep underestimating the constraints of dumbed down politics in the amphitheatre of Late Republikan Amerika, and yes, it is as corrupt as late Republikan Rome, if still humanized by 1900 years of the Christian ethos which prevents us from having real entertainment in the Colosseum, like mass beheadings, etc.
But I digress....

First, there is the presupposition in Amerika that, being a military hyperpower, there is no need for all the finesse of solid strategic thinking in the run up to potential the focus of the administration, of the opposition, of the chattering classes, is on vain, self-referential and trivial domestic socio-political Trayvon, like the birth kontrol poppycock, gay marriage, blah blah...right?

Obama's hands are tied by the received wisdom in this dumbed down political atmosphere, to wit, NO dialogue with Iran. It is VERBOTEN to engage in dialogue with them. If, the Goddess forbid, Obama was caught 'dialoguing', the Republikan attack machine would spin that as APPEASEMENT and WEAKNESS on Obama's part, and maybe that imagery would sway the crucial swing voters towards the Republikans, so Obama MUST appear as STRONG and in command. So no overt dialoguing...period.

Now, you know who has initiated this state of affairs....the Israeli lobby of course. Their fear, and justified it is, is that, should the US begin to show independence of strategic and political thought on this issue, that a deal can be cut, without Israel's knowledge, to bring Iran in on a GRAND COMPROMISE and COMPREHENSIVE peas/peace process to settle ALL the outstanding issues in the Middle East. That would mean that the US would no longer be the office boy for intransigent right wing Israeli that possibility must be precluded, hence the absolute prohibition on any independent US foreign policy vis a vis Iran.

Under these ridiculous strategico-political constraints it is no wonder we are drifting toward war. War is in Israel's interest, as it is in Syria's Assad's interest, because it will radicalize Islamist opinion and thereby justify Israel's continuing drift toward fascism. War iz cumming...QED...hugs
War is also in Volodya's interest because it skyrockets the price of oil, and Russia is a petro-state, and it gives Russia, in the run up to war, options to play the Messenger of Truth, by stepping up and proclaiming that it is ONLY FAIR that, if Iran is to be held to the provisions of the NPT, then Israel must be likewise treated. That is an un-rebuttable argument. And Iran's hardliners will profit from war too. Their position is being gradually eroded by the slowly creeping liberalizations of 21st century globalization. Their reactionary, repressive regime can only thrive in a war context. War will erupt...there are too many subtle and malicious forces and influences aligning now in its favor. Triple shoulder pat...sniffle...ain't life grand?
No, double hugs, although we should invite Ms Scarapina I believe her poor name is to the Alabama Dim Sum festival.
Yes, Jejeune CA, there is much truth in that domestic issue, and its easier to do sometimes a "Nixon goes to China" from the Right.
But, time is running short now it seems obvious, and I think that there are enough people who would provide the President cover from the Right, given the gravity of the situation.
Where I disagree, hug, is with Russia's interest. I think stability is in their real interest, if of course you identify a way of looking at it that could be how it plays out.
That is why from the beginning, I have favored moving large numbers of B-1s to Diego, but, making an offer too, and a generous one, but one that isolates the issue to the nuclear program in turn, for the reasons that you outline.
Another mid east war is insane.
Donny, you may be right about Russia, certainly China wants stability, but has no serious influence in the region. I think where you're wrong is on domestic cover for Obama. You agree with me that late republikan Amerika is as bad as late republican Rome. The right wing in Amerika would PREFER a war that undermines Obama, with the high oil prices, and thereby strengthens their chances in November...that is preferable to co-operating with the Democrats on a vital foreign policy issue, regardless of what they say in public, that's how corrupt they are. Even reasonable Republikans are getting scared now that Romney won't win in the fall, given his mounting negatives, so, given that Amerika is a hyper power and will prevail in the end, then having some initial US casualties because of US unpreparedness and bumbling initially, because of lack of political co-ordination between the two parties, may be what they want. You know that secretly the elites refer to the military rank and file as 'working class trash'...a few thousand more casualties there will doom Obama's re-election chances. Politics in post modern Amerika is exceedingly dirty now you winks allowed...smirk

The US absolutely sucks at the use of hard power.

We no longer have the stomach for a couple of dozen dead people, so its time to quit kidding ourselves.

1. Time to knock Syria out of Iran's orbit. Syria is way more important than nukes.

2. Sanctions didn't work in 50 years on Cuba. Not that I am against them in principle.

America is great at exerting soft power. Corrupt them with internet porn, social media, drugs and rock and roll.

My answer for everything.

Plus, these people don't really want to live under the imams.

Collapse the place from the inside.

Leave war to those that don't care about PR, and are willing to kill their way to victory.

The US absolutely sucks at the use of hard power.

We no longer have the stomach for a couple of dozen dead people, so its time to quit kidding ourselves.

1. Time to knock Syria out of Iran's orbit. Syria is way more important than nukes.

2. Sanctions didn't work in 50 years on Cuba. Not that I am against them in principle.

America is great at exerting soft power. Corrupt them with internet porn, social media, drugs and rock and roll.

My answer for everything.

Plus, these people don't really want to live under the imams.

Collapse the place from the inside.

Leave war to those that don't care about PR, and are willing to kill their way to victory.
Nick, the US is fatigued with war, indeed, so IF a war can be engineered now with Iran, Obama is blamed for the consequences, the few hundred, or thousand casualties, that ensue. Exactly. Exactly why the Republikans would secretly pray for many others.
When it comes down to time to use hard power, America has never been defeated in the field, if it has lost will over wars that ... had issues in execution and/or conception.
The US does well in wars where it can kill itself to victory.

Not so much the limited shit wars we seem to be getting into these days.
Nick is a good example of the angst that may propel a once Great Power, once great morally if still great technically, into a spasm of nuking at some point. Nuke the Iranian nuke sights Israel, bang bang bang. 5 or 6 nukes, 4-5 kiloton warheads, (sub kiloton would be preferable but I don't think Israel has anything that small in its inventory) delivered on the 5-6 principal Iranian sites...and you change the world FOREVER. Israeli fascism is locked in, into the foreseeable future... and you DON'T have to risk precious pilots, or have refuelling tankers, or overflight rights. People can talk themselves into ANYTHING, if the society continues to evolve in the direction of decadence and corruption, as Rome has lit the path for us. Fuck the Persians...once and for all. Usher in the Newest, and Oldest, of Brutal World Orders...shrug
Oh, Jejeune needs a hug, not a shrug. It's always been a mixed up muddled up world, full of good and evil and mainly funny mixtures of the too, if more good than bad.
As long as the good is in proportion to the whole as the bad if smaller is in the same ratio to the good, phi, .61 good, .39 bad, that's as good as it gets this side of 72 virgins. 72 hugs wink
I meant the US is a once Great Power, morally, but still supreme technically and organizationally. Israel is the world's oldest sophisticated culture, still extant. Everybody should read Larry Collins' and Dominique Lapierre's excellent 1970s book 'O JERUSALEM' to just get a little feel for the toughness and determination of the conservative side of Israeli/Sabra society. Don't forget, Bibi's older brother was an officer commando, the only fatality, in the Uganda Entebbe raid in '76, and Bibi's dad iz an historian of the Hebrews. Most Americans have NO IDEA of the toughness lying therein...pray for war, Hear Me O Israel!....genuflection to Moloch, wink
Oh I know exactly who Yonathan was Caracella, as he, had a guy with the same name trigger an alert at the Pentagon named melaku, some African looking cat walking around Arlington with explosives.