Smart Power Part 1

The Making of an Iran Policy – NYTimes.com:

This is an excellent article on IHT/NYT Global by Roger Cohen – a bit much to read, but it offers a highly informative detailing of Dennis Ross in addition to a number of other key figures/players in constructing the administration’s new policy for Iran. Obama’s ‘Smart Power’ concerning Iran, and the wider mid-east will be a focus of this blog.

“The bizarre official lambasting of Britain — and demonizing of the BBC rather than the Voice of America — can be seen as the Iranian authorities trying to keep their U.S. options open.”
Never really saw it that way… but it makes sense… for all they were lambasting Britain for being a modern imperial power, though it relinquished such ambitions and its colonial empire decades ago… there was hardly mention of real sources of U.S.-Iranian tension, during the election crisis. If Khamenei et al were making an all out attack decrying foreign intervention, which they were for the most part, you would have thought there would have been significant lambasting of the U.S. for its years of support of the Shah, not to mention overthrow of its Prime Minister in ’54… I mean, we were always wondering… why were they picking on Britain?

“Saudi Arabia may be full of millennial Arab suspicion of the Persians, and Ross may have all sorts of ideas about how the Saudis could use their petropower to undermine the Iranians (including by selling more oil to China), but the fact is the Saudis have had normal relations with Iran since 1991 and will always be more comfortable making life difficult for a Jewish state than for a fellow Muslim nation… If the Saudis are difficult, they pale by comparison with the Russians and Chinese, who are partners with the U.S. in the six-power effort (known as P5+1) to curb Iran’s nuclear program.”

How difficult would it be to push Saudi to sell more oil to China? How about Russia?

“It’s (the Obama Admin) working to prize Syria away from the Iranian orbit, adopt a more pragmatic tone toward Hezbollah and Hamas and change Tehran’s risk calculus by talking of a sharp upgrade of the defense capacities of allies in the region — all with the objective of further unsettling and isolating a shaken government.”

Our private defense industry sells defensive equipment to Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey – such a maneuver is highly strategic in not only preserving some sense of a status quo vis a vis Israel and its Arab neighbors… but also pre-empting a nuclear Iran, with what is undoubtedly the nascent stages of the “defense umbrella” mentioned by Secretary Clinton.

The president also has at his disposal a covert program inherited from the Bush administration aimed at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program by penetrating its supply chain and undermining its computer systems. This has been under review, but could, if pushed forward, be used as an argument to the Israelis to hold off any military action.”

A cyber-attack on Iran would be… ah… an interesting notion… I don’t think I’ve heard/read much about this at all – as everyone seems hell-bent on the idea of simply Israel militarily attacking Iran.

“Obama has staked a lot — arguably his whole “smart power” doctrine — on preventing that. For Ross, diplomacy is not just about realized goals, but about what you prevent, what you limit, what you contain, what you defuse. Successful diplomacy will take more than Obama-doctrine outreach. It will require a new form of American power to work, in avoiding the worst even if it cannot attain the dream.”

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