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Europe refuses to cut trade with Iran, and the U.S. refuses direct negotiations

"Europe resists U.S. push to curb Iran ties," writes Steven R. Weisman in the NY Times (HT: Joe):
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran. Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran. (...)
The Bush administration has called on Europe to do more economically as part of a two-year-old trans-Atlantic agreement in which the United States agreed to support European efforts to negotiate a resolution of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Typically, American officials say, European companies that do business with Iran get loans from European banks and then get European government guarantees for the loans on the ground that such transactions are risky in nature. According to a document used in the discussions between Europe and the United States, which cites the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, the largest providers of such credits in Europe in 2005 were Italy, at $6.2 billion; Germany, at $5.4 billion; France, at $1.4 billion; and Spain and Austria, at $1 billion each. In addition to buying oil from Iran, European countries export machinery, industrial equipment and commodities, which they say have no military application.
The European Union is now implementing the limited UN sanctions against Iran. Is it time for (full) economic sanctions against Iran? Unfortunately, there is not much of a debate about it in Europe, is there? Dear readers, are you in favor of tougher sanctions?
More after the fold:
Continue reading "Europe refuses to cut trade with Iran, and the U.S. refuses direct negotiations"

Chancellor Merkel and Queen Victoria (UPDATE)

"In her keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for closer trans-Atlantic cooperation, saying it would benefit both American and European economies." reports Spiegel International.
Foreign Policy Passport has learned in Davos:
The most powerful female political figure in Europe since Queen Victoria has turned the methodical scientific training from her upbringing in Communist East Germany into a formula for gaining admirers worldwide.
Has Foreign Policy Passport forgotten Margaret Thatcher? I wonder how long this admiration for Mrs. Merkel will last... When will they realize that Chancellor Merkel is not all that powerful? Unlike Baroness Thatcher, Merkel is in a coalition government. Besides, power depends on having international partners, but Blair, Chirac, and even Bush look more and more like lame ducks.

Meanwhile in Germany: "
Only 22 percent of Germans were of the opinion that their government was run in an effective and goal-oriented manner, according to a survey conducted by Infratest dimap for German public broadcaster ARD.
Continue reading "Chancellor Merkel and Queen Victoria (UPDATE)"

Translations of German Newspaper Articles

Watching America describes itself as "America's Public Intelligence Agency" and translates what international publications write about the US politics. Atlantic Review linked to some translations of German newspapers' articles about Iraq and the US Dollar in December.  Here are three new translations:

The Secret of America's Counterfeit 'Supernotes':
"America's accusations against North Korea are on very shaky ground ... A rumor has circulated for years among representatives of the security printing industry and counterfeiting investigators that it is the American CIA that prints the Supernotes at a secret printing facility.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. English Translation at Watching America

Germany Should Adopt U.S.-Style 'Paygo' Rule: "The U.S. Congress has reinstituted a rule that America applied once before to balance its budget. This so-called 'Paygo-rule' should be the model in Germany as well." Financial Times Deutschland.  English Translation at Watching America

Germany Germany's 'Obligation' to Tame America's Hawks: "The U.S. deployment rather points to the possibility of surgical strikes against the Teheran regime's nuclear facilities, airfields and military bases." Frankfurter Rundschau. English Translation at Watching America

UPDATE: 
Bush: 'The Great Failure':  "He is no longer the president that fantasizes about an 'Axis of evil' or flights to Mars. This is a president who can no longer use deceit to conceal disaster." Sueddeutsche Zeitung. English Translation at Watching America

Media Coverage and our Understanding of International Politics

"Why Are We So Lousy at Foreign Policy?" asks Prof Ernest J. Wilson in America Abroad:
We have a particular blind spot when it comes to nationalism in its various forms. From the Congo to Vietnam, American foreign policy mandarins kept confusing nationalism with communism. Ho Chi Minh and Patrice Lumumba become blank canvases on which policy makers could paint the face of their favorite bugaboo. Today, nationalists are called terrorists instead of communists.
He gives a few answers to that question, including the famous quote from the late German-American political scientist Karl W. Deutsch: "Power is the ability not to have to learn." Wilson explains: "Whether it was the Romans or the French, big empires get willfully ignorant and woefully arrogant."
FP Passport provides one illustration by pointing out that "foreign correspondents for American newspapers have become a dying breed, with their number sliding repeatedly in recent years," as FP Passport reports:
In 2000, American newspapers employed 282 foreign correspondents. Following 9/11, that number went up slightly, to 304. Then, newspapers like the  Baltimore Sun and New York's Newsday (both owned by the Tribune) shut down overseas bureaus. So in 2006, that number fell by more than 20 percent to only 249. Today, with the Globe's announcement, that makes roughly 239. By my calculations, that means that there is only one foreign correspondent per 1.3 million people in the United States. Paradoxically, Carroll finds that people who are interested in original, international news tend to be highly-educated with greater incomes, making them attractive to advertisers. (The Wall Street Journal seems to get it -- nearly half of U.S. newspapers' foreign correspondents work there.)"
Is the German media better? I don't know. I think Germany's newspapers have cut the number of foreign correspondents as well in recent years.
The German media writes more about US policy in Iraq than about NATO in Afghanistan, although Germany is involved in Afghanistan. How many German correspondents are in Afghanistan or in Congo, Nigeria, Algeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, or in Burma, and travel outside the capitals?
Perhaps I am wrong (please let me know), but it seems to me that there is more German media scrutiny of US foreign policy and more coverage of US debates on foreign policy than there is scrutiny of German and European foreign policy, although debates about our foreign policy are more important and much needed. How are we doing in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo? How well are our efforts in reconstruction, job creation, institution building, reconciliation etc? What should be done better, so that the Bundeswehr can return soon? Re Iran: Where is the debate about full economic sanctions?

Endnote: The courageous CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports "on the intense battle to wrest control of Baghdad's Haifa Street from the insurgency." CBS has the video on its
website, but does not broadcast it on TV. In an email quoted by Crooks and Liars, Lara Logan explains: "It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this is taking place very single day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located. (...) If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore."
Here's another video of Lara Logan reporting about US soldiers delivering aid to a Sunni neighborhood of Bagdad. Crooks and Liars has posted before about Lara Logan, when she "blasted the right wingers and Laura Ingraham in particular who were saying the media was biased against the war and afraid to leave their hotel balconies to report all the wonderful stories in Iraq."
Related post in the Atlantic Review from June 2005: "Dream on America" about The Globalist's assessment that the "real crisis [of American journalism] is about an increasing unwillingness to tell hard truths when it really matters." Fair assessment?

Press Reviews regarding the State of the Union address and Murat Kurnaz

German Politicians Praise Bush's Climate Change Initiatives: "German politicians reacted positively on the whole to Bush's State of the Union address, welcoming what they saw as a new pragmatism and praising his climate change initiatives."

Shadow Creeping Over Steinmeier: "German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in the firing line over whether he blocked the release of a German-born -- and innocent -- Guantánamo prisoner in 2002. The affair could turn ugly for him and the German government, write German media commentars. Meanwhile the German papers wonder what is to be done in Lebanon to stop Beirut burning."
For some background on Murat Kurnaz see the Atlantic Review post The Guantanamo detainee from Germany.

Liberal American sends Europe a letter on Iran

Writing in America Abroad, Rachel Kleinfeld agrees with Jim Hoagland's column in the Washington Post that "we don't need to follow Bush's 'hurry' to make his mark" in Iran, but she also encourages the liberals of America to send Europe a letter on Iran that went something like this:

Mea Culpa, Europe. We know that no one has been a better friend to the religious dictators in Iran as our President, George Bush. He helped it get rid of Iraq, its most formidable enemy on its Western flank, while creating a vacuum of power in Afghanistan that it could exploit to buttress its East. And for a president with a tin ear for pr, he has managed to boost Iran’s ratings throughout the Arab world—traditionally no friend to the Persians—by letting them stand strong against the U.S. while American-financed Sunni dictatorships waffled.
But as liberals, we're worried about Iran. It has the highest death penalty rate of almost any country in the world, according to Amnesty International, and has no qualms about executing minors. It is a country whose leaders sanction stoning women to death for adultery, and hanging teenagers for homosexuality. Union organizers are being arrested, as are human rights activists. To give a country like this even more power to oppress its own people with impunity is repugnant.
For that reason, we are hoping that Europe will look past its own anger with the U.S., and its economic self-interest, when George Bush comes to ask for help on economic sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Related: FP Passport: "Iran's oil industry could completely collapse by 2015, according to Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University. (...) Surveying their oil debacle, Stern believes Iran's desire for nuclear technology for power generation is genuine, and that the U.S. should just "hold its breath" until Tehran's position softens. "What they are doing to themselves is much worse than anything we could do," he said."

Duck of Minerva looks for evidence in the accusations that Iran has provided "support" for Shia militias in Iraq.

American Future summarizes a "promising proposal for a 'Grand Bargain' with Iran" outlined by Michael McFaul, Abbas Milani, and Larry Diamond in The Washington Quarterly. Quote from the proposal A Win-Win U.S. Strategy for Dealing with Iran (pdf):

If they rejected such an offer, the regime in Tehran would pay a significant price domestically. The vast majority of the Iranian people yearn for more engagement with the West and the United States in particular. Iran's economy urgently needs foreign investment, new technologies, and greater trade opportunities for the nonenergy sectors. A government that openly rejects such inflows will face a potent popular backlash.

"Eurabia" and "German NeoNazis and the Taliban in Iraq"

A few, but popular authors and journalists as well as many bloggers write a lot about "Eurabia." An extensive Wikipedia entry with many footnotes describes Eurabia as "a dystopian scenario where Europe merges with the Islamic world, and the alleged process of political and cultural Islamisation of Europe." One of the prominent supporters of this theory is Mark Steyn, who recently publilshed "America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de). (Some have assumed that Mark Steyn is a Jewish American, but he is actually a Canadian, who attends a small rural American Baptist Church.)
The Chicagoboyz' James McCormick has written a detailed book review with many quotes from the book, including this one:
Two forces are facing off on the European continent: on the one side, the modern social-democratic state that the American left thinks should be our model; on the other, the resurgent Islam that the American Left insists is just a scam cooked up by Karl Rove. We now have an excellent opportunity to test both propositions. How bad is it going to get in Europe? As bad as it can get — as in societal collapse, fascistic revivalism, and then the long Eurabian night, not over the entire Continent but over significant parts of it. And those countries that manage to escape the darkness will do so only after violent convulsions of their own.[p.104]
The best-selling author Ralph Peters disagrees, but has a distorted view of Europe nonetheless: According to him, Islamic fundamentalists will not conquer Europe. Rather Europeans will practice genocide or ethnic cleansing. Muslims are an "endangered species," he opines:
Continue reading ""Eurabia" and "German NeoNazis and the Taliban in Iraq""

BBC: "World View of US Role Goes From Bad to Worse"

"The global view of the United States' role in world affairs has significantly deteriorated over the last year according to a BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people across 25 different countries:" 
The poll shows that in the 18 countries that were previously polled, the average percentage saying that the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world has dropped seven points from a year ago--from 36 percent to 29 percent— after having already dropped four points the year before.  Across all 25 countries polled, one citizen in two (49%) now says the US is playing a mainly negative role in the world. Over two-thirds (68%) believe the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents and only 17 percent believes US troops there are a stabilizing force. The poll shows that world citizens disapprove of the way the US government has handled all six of the foreign policy areas explored. After the Iraq war (73% disapproval), majorities across the 25 countries also disapprove of US handling of Guantanamo detainees (67%), the Israeli-Hezbollah war (65%), Iran’s nuclear program (60%), global warming (56%), and North Korea’s nuclear program(54%). (...) Some of the sharpest drops in positive ratings over the last year came from four countries that have tended to be quite positive about the United States. Poland’s positive ratings dropped 24 points from 62 percent a year ago to 38 percent.
Does this indicate Anti-Americanism? Not necessarily. Americans have pretty negative and deteriorating opinions on US foreign policy as well. Can Americans be Anti-American as well?
Majorities [of Americans] disapprove of how the US is handling the war in Iraq (57%) and global warming or climate change (54%), while pluralities disapprove of US treatment of detainees in Guantanamo and other prisons (50%) and its handling of Iran’s nuclear program (50%). Views are divided on US handling of the war in Lebanon.  The one area that receives plurality endorsement is the US handling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program (50%). A majority of 53 percent of Americans say that the US military presence in the Middle East “provokes more conflict than it prevents,” with just 33 percent saying that it is a stabilizing force. More broadly, a majority of Americans (57%) say that the US is having a mainly positive influence in the world.  This is down from 63 percent a year ago and 71 percent two years ago.
Germans, however, seem to be more critical of US foreign policy than the average world citizen:
German views of US influence have worsened significantly over the last year, with negative attitudes increasing from 65 to 74 percent.  Only 16 percent of respondents say they have a mostly positive view of US influence in the world, down from 21 percent.  Negative attitudes about the US are also reflected in German views of US handling the war in Iraq, with an overwhelming 88 percent disapproving of the US approach to this issue.  Germans also judge the United States harshly on its handling of the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo (89% disapprove), global warming (84% disapprove) and the Israel-Hezbollah war (74% disapprove). Significant majorities disapprove of the approach to Iran’s nuclear program (64%), as well as to North Korea’s nuclear situation (56%).  Nearly three in four Germans (73%) believes the US is a destabilizing force in the Middle East, with just 17 percent saying the US military presence is a stabilizing element.
The above quotes are from the BBC World Service poll (pdf, 2 MB).
What conclusion shall we draw from the Germans' above average criticism? Regarding Anti-Americanism see the new Atlantic Review post "How widespread is Anti-Americanism?"
The BBC article about the poll "'Listen more' is world's message to US" also points out:
Comparable surveys suggest that there is still strong support around the world for the values enshrined in US society. But it looks as though America itself is seen to be living up to those values less and less. As a result, America's soft power - its ability to influence people in other countries by the force of example and by the perceived legitimacy of its policies - is weakening.