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Advice from Fischer and Richardson regarding EU and US Policy on Iran

Various statements on sanctions and war from Joschka Fischer and Bill Richardson on the one side and more hawkish statements by Dick Cheney and Barack Obama on the other side. Besides, CNN's Christiane Amanpour talked to an anonymous Iranian government official about the US and Iran as "natural allies."

• Quote from Joschka Fischer's internationally syndicated op-ed "Europe, America, and the Drumbeat of War with Iran":
To be precise, two overriding EU security interests are at stake: avoiding a war with Iran and preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. These two apparently contradictory interests can be reconciled and translated into a common strategy by adopting a three-pronged approach based on efficient isolation, effective containment, and direct negotiations. The Europeans – led by Merkel, Blair, and Chirac – should agree to assure the US that Europe is ready to pay a high, perhaps very high, economic price by taking decisive action to intensify the sanctions against Iran. But they should offer this only on two strict preconditions: that the military option be taken off the table, and that all parties involved – including the US – enter into direct negotiations with Iran.
Joschka Fischer was Germany's Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 to 2005. A leader in the Green Party for nearly 20 years, he is now a visiting professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.

• Similarly Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico and a presidential candidate of the Democrats writes in his Washington Post op-ed "Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran" (Hat tip to 2020):
Saber-rattling is not a good way to get the Iranians to cooperate. But it is a good way to start a new war -- a war that would be a disaster for the Middle East, for the United States and for the world. (...) No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don't. This feat will take more than threats and insults. It will take skillful American diplomatic leadership. (...)
As the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as energy secretary, as a member of Congress and as a diplomatic envoy, I have always believed in and worked to achieve tough, credible and direct negotiations with adversaries. To be tough, you need strong alliances and a strong military. And to be credible, you need a record of meaning what you say. By alienating our allies, overextending our military, making idle threats and antagonizing just about everyone, the Bush administration has undermined our diplomatic leverage.
• "A desire for U.S. ally": Christiane Amanpour interviews a "top government official" on condition of anonymity for CNN:
"We are natural allies. Why?" he said. "Because now the major threat for both Iran and the U.S.A. is al Qaeda." He said al Qaeda had attacked the "symbol of our faith" when it struck the Golden Dome mosque -- the Al-Askariya Mosque -- in the Iraqi city of Samarra last February, setting off much of the sectarian violence that has plagued the war-torn nation over the last year. Similarly, he said, al Qaeda struck the "symbols of American power" on 9/11.
• The American Future blog discusses "Iran’s Economic House of Cards" (thus sanctions would be powerful) and writes that "Obama Agrees with Cheney on Iran," because both say that the military option remains on the table.

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Zyme on :

I agree to Fischer´s point that the americans first have to put all military options off the table as he put it. Only then they can expect serious support. At least we should say so, as they never will rule out such options. In the meantime, I have an even better idea how to deal with Iran. But others have been more quickly: [url=http://de.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=companiesNews&storyID=2007-03-04T155022Z_01_HUM457004_RTRDEOC_0_DEUTSCHLAND-FIRMEN-EON-IRAN.xml&archived=False]Magazin: E.ON Ruhrgas will Flüssiggas im Iran kaufen[/url]

JW-Atlantic Review on :

For those who can't read German: the article deals with a German energy company asking the German government if it may import gas from Iran. The German government says that it has not received a formal request. Zyme, FYI: I have edited your comment to make the link clickable.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Zyme, If Iran is ready to compromise, they can export as much gas they want to Europe and the US. The more customers Iran has, the more it can ask for its products. If the EU puts sanctions on Iran, then Iran has less customers and cannot make as much a profit... I think, Iran has made several huge deals with China, which are highly favorably to China. Basically, China is getting very good deals in support for voting against UN sanctions. If Iran would solve the nuclear issue with the EU and US, then Iran would not need to make such deals with China, i.e. Tehran would make more money in deals with EU and US. Question: You support Joschka Fischer's call for ruling out the military option: [b]What do we gain by ruling out the military option? [/b] My advice would be to stop talking about the military option. It does not make sense. If Europeans and Americans debate whether the military option is on the table or off the table, then we lose. Bill Richardson makes good points.

Zyme on :

"What do we gain by ruling out the military option?" A safe environment for our investments.

Don S on :

"The Europeans – led by Merkel, Blair, and Chirac – should agree to assure the US that Europe is ready to pay a high, perhaps very high, economic price by taking decisive action to intensify the sanctions against Iran." Ummm, yes. Can the US assume that the continental EU allies mean that assurance with the same degree of solemnity that they regard the NATO alliance and the sanctions upon Iraq after Iraq War I? Ohhhh, goody! SUCH a deal!

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What Iraq sanctions did Germany or any EU government violate? Some European companies violated the sanctions without government knowledge, but so did US companies. Are you saying that German companies violated the sanctions more than American companies? [b]Please be specific.[/b] This blog is promoting controversial and thoughtful debates. This requires everyone to be specific. Thanks. US allies Jordan and Turkey were importing oil from Iraq throughout the 90s. Very openly. The US must have seen the oil trucks crossing the border every day, but the US did not care. The US did not want to upset its Arab allies. The US was enforcing the no-fly zones, but could not be bothered with all the oil smuggling, which was a vital source of income for Saddam. Thus, I do not understand why you accuse European governments. Please elaborate. [b]Thank you![/b]

ROA on :

Joerg, I think you are probably correct about EU governments not openly violating the sanctions. But as far as France's attitude toward Iraq was concerned, please provide us with specific reasons why France, and Russia, would veto Rolf Ekeus' nomination as executive chairman of UNMOVIC. UNMOVIC was the group that followed UNSCOM, the group established to disarm Saddam after the first Gulf War. Ekeus was the first executive chairman of UNSCOM and earned high marks from everyone except Saddam, but when he was nominated by Kofi Annan to chair UNMOVIC both France and Russia vetoed him. (The Greatest Threat, Richard Butler p. 227). Hans Blix, who was acceptable to Saddam, was nominated instead. (The Greatest Threat, Richard Butler p. 228). What is really interesting is that Saddam offered Ekeus $2 million dollars to doctor his reports. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/03/12/wsaddam12.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/03/12/ixworld.html So Saddam doesn't want Ekeus, who he couldn't bribe, and does want Blix who had worked in Iraq previously as head of the IAEA from 1981 to 1997. The same IAEA that had no idea Saddam was developing atomic, chemical, and biological weapons. You should really read the book “The Greatest Threat” by Richard Butler (the second UNSCOM chair), but only after you develop a list of specific valid reasons for France and Russia to reject Rolf Ekeus' nomination.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"please provide us with specific reasons why France, and Russia, would veto Rolf Ekeus' nomination" That's not my job. I am willing to research Germany's policy, but I am not in the business of defending France and Russia. "So Saddam doesn't want Ekeus, who he couldn't bribe, and does want Blix who had worked in Iraq previously as head of the IAEA from 1981 to 1997." That's not sufficient information to discredit Blix. BTW: What is Richard Butler saying about Scott Ritter??? Ritter was Butler's chief inspector in Iraq, I believe. If I remember correctly, Scott Ritter resigned in the 90s because he thought that the US wasn't interested enough in finding Saddam's WMD. Then in 2003, he was one of the very few people, who thought that Saddam did not have any WMDs. The book title “The Greatest Threat” refers to Iraqi WMD?

ROA on :

You may not be in the business of defending France and Russia, but Joschka Fischer was in the business of defending the UN at that time and he didn't come up with any reasons either. He also didn't come up with any good reasons why China should be able to violate the sanctions against Iraq and install a $1 billion dollar fiber communications system that was to have been employed by Baghdad's military and internal security infrastructures, including its air defense command. (The Threatening Storm, Kenneth Pollack p xxviii) The actions of three members of the UN Security Council raised serious questions about their commitment to disarm Iraq, but no one opposed to the Iraq war ever mentioned them. Everything was always President Bush's fault. To say that the Europeans acted like sanctimonious prigs is an understatement.- But at least it established a precedent the the US may use in the future. If Russia decides to move west, Europe should have no objections to us selling short range weapons to them, after we remove all of our NATO troops of course. Hans Blix – Do you mean that he was the head of the IAEA for ten years and had no idea Iraq was very close to having a nuclear weapon is no reason to discredit him? He may be such an insufferable idiot that there was no reason for Saddam to bribe him. I have no idea, but the fact is he was blissfully unaware of Iraq's nuclear program. Scott Ritter: “First, the resignation, tendered in a letter to me. In the letter Ritter stated his view that UNSCOM's task had become impossible and that illusory disarmament action was worse than none.” (The Greatest Threat, p179) There is quite a bit more, too much for me to type. Butler disputes Ritter's criticisms of UNSCOM and himself, and states that he wanted to exceed the limits of UNSCOM's mission, but states :”Ritter was an outstanding field officer: tough, determined, able. I was impressed by the extent of his knowledge about Iraq and the concealment mechanism.” No one has been able to determine why Ritter changed his views so dramatically, but he received $400,000 to produce a film that criticized the United States for its role in the inspection process from a friend of Saddam. Ritter had previously been an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and issued dire warnings about the status of the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction. His sudden flip--he is now a leading apologist for Saddam's regime--and revelations about Ritter's 2001 arrest for soliciting sex with minors have fueled speculation about the reason for his change of heart. Yes “The Greatest Threat” is about Iraqi WMD's. Richard Butler was the second UNSCOM director.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thank you! Very interesting. About Blix: "I have no idea, but the fact is he was blissfully unaware of Iraq's nuclear program." Blissfully? I think, Blix did not have resources to learn more than he did. Intelligence is difficult business. US intelligence missed 9/11 and got the Iraqi WMD wrong (remember Tenet's "slum dunk"). Was the US blissfully unaware of the Pakistani nuclear program? After all Pakistan was/is an ally. Lots of US-Pakistani cooperatoin. The US is currently blissfully unaware of the Saudi nuclear program, which has strong ties to the Pakistani program. Quite a few cheerleaders for the Iraq war were on the payroll of Ahmed Chalabi and others. Scott Ritter might have been bribed for telling the truth about the non-existence of Iraqi WMD...? War cheerleaders were bribed to lie about the WMD... Anyway, my point is: There is some dirt on many people. Anyway, when did Scott Ritter receive that money? I am less interested in his position in 2003. [b]I am more interested why Scott Ritter resigned in 1998. [/b] I remember that he was accusing Sec. Albright of not being much interested in the inspections and instead only focused on the sanctions against Iraq. She was status-quo oriented. Not solution oriented. Likewise, the Clinton admin could not care less about the oil smuggling from Iraq to Jordan, Turkey and Syria. He was suggesting that the US was happy with the containment of Iraq and did not push for more thorough inspection, but I don't remember the details. Many folks in the US blogosphere accuse Europe of all kinds of things and regularly blame Germany for whatever Russia or France might have done. They seem to ignore that the US government was not very interested in the inspections in the 90s. That's why Scott Ritter resigned. He was angry with the UN, but also with the US, because he thought the US was not pushy enough. And as you said, Richard Butler praised Ritter's work for him in the 90s. I think, nobody has accused Scott Ritter of taking any bribes at the time of his resignation in 1998. Anybody who is criticizing Europe for Oil For Food (which was abused by US companies as well) and for advocating more inspections rather than war in 2003, should IMHO also take the US policy into consideration in the 90s. Germany is not a permanent Security Council member. Germany is a small country, that could not have pushed for tougher inspections in the 90s. [b]If the US had wanted tougher inspections in the 90s, then Germany would have supported the US. [/b] Helmut Kohl was chancellor till 1998. Germany financed the first Iraq war and bascially voted in favor of nearly everything the US wanted in the 90s. Can anybody think of any disagreement between Clinton and Kohl? Can anybody think of any situation were Helmut Kohl supported France rather than the US?

ROA on :

Scott Ritter: Link to his opening statement to the Senate in 1998: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/congress/1998_h/ws915981.htm Link to a summary of his appearance at that hearing: http://www.fas.org/news/iraq/1998/09/980907-in.htm On the US not really being interested in sanctions: From Richard Butler’s book: “Three permanent members of the Security Council of the United nations – the lawmaker and enforcer in this field – have decided to end any serious effort to disarm Saddam, to oblige him to conform with the law. Russia, France, and China have done this because they prefer to pursue their own national interests rather than carry out their international responsibility.” (The Greatest Threat xvi). Notice that he didn’t mention the US or Great Britian. Operation Desert Fox: “On December 8, UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler informed the Security Council that Iraq was continuing to impede the inspectors. On the fifteenth, after having withdrawn his staff from Iraq in expectation of an Anglo-American military operation, Butler delivered a formal report to the United Nations stating that Iraq was continuing to engage in a repeated pattern of obstruction and deception. The next day, the United States and Great Britian launched Operation Desert Fox, the mission they had halted in November, a limited punitive operation uncoupled from any coercive demands on Saddam.” (The Threatening Storm p92) Intelligence: Intelligence is a difficult business. True. What is interesting is that all the historical examples you list, except Iraqi WMDs are examples of underestimating problems. Are you surprised that President Bush, along with almost every European country believed Saddam had WMDs? Oil for food: “Today, the sanctions are hemorrhaging. Whereas as recently as 1999, Saddam’s regime netted only about $350 million, in 2002 it will rake in $2.5 to $3 billion, representing 15 to 22 percent of all Iraqi revenue.” (The Threatening Storm p 214) The sanctions problem became more serious over time. I have tried to answer all questions related to my original post, but no one has attempted to answer my original question: Give me one good reason Russia and France opposed the nomination of Rolf Ekeus to head UNMOVIC? Whether or not the invasion of Iraq was the correct option, the actions of European countries were disgusting. Sanctimonious prigs overly impressed with themselves. If Kohl had been in charge of Germany I am sure Germany’s reaction would not have been insulting. Germany may not have supported the US but it would not have glorified in insulting it.

David on :

"Do you mean that he was the head of the IAEA for ten years and had no idea Iraq was very close to having a nuclear weapon is no reason to discredit him?" Are we still trotting out these lies to justify the Iraq debacle? Even Cheney has backed off this particular lie.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Not ten years! Blix was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency between 1981 and 1997. I think ROA was refering to the first ten years of Blix' time as IAEA director. Iraq had a nuclear program in the 80s. The CIA did not know about it. Not even at the time of the Iraq war in 1991. The program was discovered by UN inspectors in early 90s. The UN inspections were quite successful. Many old WMD were destroyed thanks to the UN inspections.

David on :

ROA claims that Iraq was "very close to having a nuclear weapon" which is a lie, and even the Bush administration has backed away from this. I'm sick of right-wing fanatics lying about the reasons for Iraq debacle, which has resulted in the deaths of ten more Americans just this week. Hey, the SURGE is really working! ROA, how old are you? Why haven't you enlisted? Most of these delusional Bush fanatics are physical cowards, just like their glorious Leader.

ROA on :

Actually Dave, I was talking about 1991 when Saddam did come very close to having a nuclear weapon. And as for how old I am I will be 64 in a week so I doubt if I would have been accepted if I had volunteered. I did spend 1967 in Vietnam though.

Don S on :

Joerg, I watched the 'Food for Oil' program largely administered by the French. Corruptly and profitably for the french (and others not excluding the Annnan family). I also saw lots of Saddam's 'oil vouchers' going to various cut-outs for influential french political and business figures - and also UN figures. And I saw the French ink advantageous deals to develop Iraqi oil fields, whereupon the French agitated to have all significant restrictions taken off Iraq - despite utter noncompliance with UN resolutions. I think cause and effect is extraordinarily obvious. Perhaps you believe in coincidence in these matters? :) Sorry. Jacques Chric and Gerd Schroeder have converted me into a sceptic entire about such things.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You saw it? Did you take any pictures? ;-)

Don S on :

You have a short memory, Joerg? ;)

Pat Patterson on :

I'm sorry but its impossible to take Gov. Richardson seriously except on a slow news day. After all as the US Ambassador to the UN he did manage to stop the bloodletting in the Sudan as well as getting the North Koreans to forego their various nuclear programs. And as Secretary of Energy he completely stopped the Jordanians and the Turks from smuggling petroleum out of Iraq. I do however agree that the US was sending some mixed messages to the rest of the world. But then again we trusted Annan then Sevan and even earlier Hans von Sponeck to run the program to benefit the Iraqi people not Saddam or any number of middlemen. I don't think that the Turks would appreciate being described as "...Arab allies."

Pat Patterson on :

Since the initial quote for Gov. Richardson, "...no nation..." appears to be more than a rhetorical device then I would ask I Germany chose to give up its nuclear program because it wanted to or was forced to do so? Plus late in the war Hirohito asked his scientists to speed up their nuclear weapons program but was told that Japan had neither the time nor the money to get an effective weapon. The constitution, written at Gen. MacArthur's behest, clearly stated that the Japanese renounced forever the use of nuclear weapons.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Pat Re your point about Germany renouncing nukes after WII. Good point, but Western Germany was and still is under the nuclear umbrella of the United States (and other NATO members). If Western Germany had not joined NATO and Eastern Germany had not been forced into the Warsaw pact, then things might have been different re nukes. The German Defense Review (White Paper) states that nuclear deterrence is crucial: "Besides conventional means, the Alliance will continue to need nuclear assets in the foreseeable future as a credible deterrence capability." I will write more about US and German policy on nukes soon. Iran does not have the option of joining a military alliance with nukes. Germany was forced to give up nukes, but Germany is under the nuclear umbrella of NATO members now. Thus Germany is different case than the other countries who gave up nukes: South Africa, Ukraine, Kasachstan, Brazil, Libya, Argentina (?) and probably a few more countries (?) renounced their nuclear weapons or nuclear programs through diplomacy. These countries are NOT protected under a nuclear umbrella of any alliance. Thus I think Richardson has a point.

Pat Patterson on :

I think the difference is semantics, though I can see your point. Germany was forced to give up its weapons program but, as a member of NATO, obviously did not renounce using them. I believe at the time of the Unification Fischer had argued for adding a no first strike clause into the constitution but considering NATOs strategic reliance on first strike the proposal didn't sit too well with the other NATO members and died quickly. But I still think that Gov. Richardson's comments are simply campaign boilerplate that gloss over Germany and Japan having their weapons programs ended by force of arms not by negotiation. And other countries that have "renouced" did so through a combination of treaty restrictions and outright bribes, ie., South Africa and The Ukraine. But talking about how much money Gov. Richardson will be willing to bribe Iran, witness some of the backlash at the cost and security of the NK deal, is not going to be the stuff of stump speechs.

Don S on :

Libya renounced it's nuclear program through diplomacy. Interesting way to look at things, Joerg. Wouldn't you say? Seems to me that Libya renounced it's program primarily because the US and UK stomped Saddam Hussein like a cockroach - and the renunciation was unlikely to have occurred without the Iraq War. No? Perhaps it was the sweet reason of Jaoshka Fischer? If so I missed it in the headlines somehow.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

The US did not invade Libya, but negotiated with them. If the US starts negotiating with Iran in the same way as it did with Libya, then you can later praise the Iraq war for the successful negotiations with Iran as well. It will make you feel better. So why does not US start negotiating with Iran. After all according to you, the Iraq war convinced Libya to give up its program... Why does not the Iraq war convince Iran to give up its program?

2020 on :

Don S., Libya renounced its nuclear programs before the Iraq invasion and it wasn't the result of diplomacy, but due to the seizure of a cargo ship by NATO forces in the mediterranean loaded with uranium centrifuges for Tripolis.

Don S on :

That must have been an unlawful seizure. As such it should be condemmed by all good pacifists and Germans. But I repeat myself!

Pat Patterson on :

Even a little research would have revealed that Libya didn't even agree to talk with British and American non-proliferation officials until October of 2003. Then formally renounced use and agreed to a framework for the surrender and dismantling of its nuclear weapons program on December 19 of the same year. Since the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces began on March 20, 2003, the supposition would be that Libya gave up its program because of the invasion not some US seizures, not NATO, of centrifuges off of a German ship after Libya had agreed to talks. The seizures might have convinced Libya of the seriousness the US and its allies concerning proliferation but the chronology reveals that such talks were already ongoing. At least in the hated USA March still comes before October!

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Good point re Germany's nuclear program. I was wrong to write "Arab allies." I was thinking that there were other Arabs besides Jordan, who made a lot of money from the oil smuggling. But Syria was not an Arab ally, which makes it even more surprising that the US (and others) did not criticize much. Was Bill Clinton trying to get the Syrian and Jordanian support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Or why did not he bother about the oil smuggling? Why did not he tell the Turks to stop the trucks? Anyway, so many folks [b]now [/b]make a fuss about the Oil for Food program, but still don't care about the oil smuggling. I think Saddam made more money from the oil smuggling than from the oil for food program. The UN Security Council (not Kofi Annan) was supposed to monitor the oil for food program. Thus the Sec Council should get at least as much blame as the UN administration. "As Secretary of Energy he completely stopped the Jordanians and the Turks from smuggling petroleum out of Iraq." Wasn't that the job of the secretaries of state and defense?

Pat Patterson on :

Absolutely, however as Secretary of Energy, Gov. Richardson was at the Cabinet meetings and not surprisingly had access to Britsh and US photo surveillance along those affected borders. As to blame, I think that there is plenty to go around. And under those conditions it certainly is not surprisisng that those with the most to gain would try hardest to get around the rules.

ADMIN on :

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