Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Sarkozy’

Turning Back From the Point of No Return – Implications of the Threat to Bomb Iran

August 26, 2010
Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, August 26, 2010

The drums for war on Iran have been banging louder than ever lately, with a spate of articles by political commentators either directly encouraging the bombing of the Islamic Republic or otherwise offering a narrative in which this is effectively portrayed as the only option to prevent Iran from waging a nuclear holocaust against Israel. A prominent example of the latter is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article last month in the Atlantic magazine, “The Point of No Return”.[1] Goldberg’s lengthy piece essentially boils down to this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence comparable to the Nazi Holocaust, and although the U.S. recognizes this threat, the Obama administration is weak, so Israel will have no choice but to act alone in bombing Iran to ensure its own survival.

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The New World Geopolitical Order: End of Act I

September 16, 2008

Immanuel Wallerstein, Commentary No. 241, Sept. 15, 2008

It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of the agreement on September 9 between Nicolas Sarkozy of France in his capacity as current president of the European Union (EU) and Dmitri Medvedev, President of Russia. It marks the definitive end of Act I of the new world geopolitical order.

What was decided? The Russians agreed to withdraw all their troops from what are called “central Georgian areas” or “Georgia proper,” that is, those parts of Georgia the Russians recognize as Georgia. These troops are being replaced by 200 monitors from the EU. This is done on guarantees by the EU that there will be no use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The issue of Russian recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has been left entirely open. Sarkozy and the EU’s Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, “hope” that Russia will agree in the future to allow EU monitors into these two areas. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said they had made no such promise and that “all future monitoring arrangements would require ratification by the Abhaz and South Ossetian governments.” Lavrov said that Russian troops would remain in the two areas “for the foreseeable future.” And the secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, Alexander Lomaia, while applauding the clear deadlines for Russian withdrawal from Georgia proper, did note that “the bad news is that [the agreement] doesn’t refer to [Georgian] territorial integrity.”

This accord was reached between Europe and Russia, and the United States played no diplomatic role whatsoever. Medvedev charged the United States with having given its blessing to the original Georgian action of entering South Ossetia. He said that, by contrast, the Europeans are “our natural partners, our key partners.” Georgia’s president received the strong encouragement of John McCain, and Vice-President Cheney flew there to say that the United States was giving $1 billion in aid for Georgian reconstruction. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, explaining why this aid would not include military aid and why there would be no economic sanctions against Russia, said that “if we act too precipitously, we could be the ones who are isolated.”

So, what is the bottom line? Russia has gotten more or less what it wanted in Georgia. Its “irrevocable” recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia could well be something it might trade in the future for a basic turn-around in Georgia’s relations with Russia. If not, not. The fact is that Europe believes it needs to come to terms with Russia, and has ruled out renewing what the Chinese call “the European civil war.”

The United States finds it has no real cards to play. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, it finds itself publicly rebuffed by its closest allies. In Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki is being a very tough negotiator about the continued presence of U.S. troops, and it is not impossible, barring further major U.S. concessions, that the current agreements that terminate on December 31 will simply run out.

In Afghanistan, President Karzai is so exasperated with the bombing missions of U.S. special troops that he has demanded “a review of the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in the country,” in what CBS News calls a “harshly worded statement.” The immediate provocation was an air raid in Azizabad that the U.S. army said had few casualties and attacked a Taliban group. The Afghans insisted there were no Taliban there and a large number of civilians were killed. When UN officials and others gave credence to the Afghan version, the senior U.S. general in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, back-tracked on the U.S. position and called for a further high-level U.S. investigation by a general who would come from the United States.

And in Pakistan, President Bush authorized U.S. hot pursuit of Taliban from Afghanistan into Pakistan against the advice of the National Intelligence Council who said it would carry “a high risk of further destabilizing the Pakistani military and government.” The incursion brought what the New York Times called “an unusually strong statement” by the chief of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who said his forces would defend Pakistan’s sovereignty “at all costs.” Since the U. S. government has been looking on Gen. Kayani as its strong supporter in Pakistan, this is not exactly what the United States has been hoping to hear.

So, ignored in Georgia and under attack by its closest allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the United States is somewhat unhappily entering the realities of the post-Cold War world, in which it has to play by new rules that it seems to find rather unpalatable.

Meanwhile, as an ironic but not unimportant footnote, on September 10, a major development in particle physics was celebrated in Geneva when the European laboratory called CERN achieved a scientific breakthrough after 14 years of work and $8 billion in expense. This was such a major moment in world science that their U.S. counterparts at the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois opened the champagne bottles at 4:38 in the morning to celebrate. Nonetheless, Pier Oddone, the director of the Fermilab, admitted this was a “bittersweet moment.” Until 1993, the United States ruled particle physics. That year, the U.S. Congress, flush with the self-confidence of having “won” the cold war, believed it was too expensive – and no longer geopolitically necessary – to build the kind of supercollider needed for this new advance in particle physics. The Europeans made a different kind of decision, and the United States now finds itself in second place here too.

I call this the end of Act I because it has sealed the reality of a true multilateral geopolitical arena. Of course, there are still further acts to come. And any faithful playgoer know that Act I merely establishes who are the actors. It is in Act II that we see what really happens. And then there’s Act III, the denouement.

Israeli Attack on Iran Timed Between November and January?

September 10, 2008

By OLIVIER GUITTA | Middle East Times, Sep 8, 2008

Almost a year ago to the day, in a totally surprising move, the Israeli Air Force bombed a suspected nuclear facility in Syria. Interestingly, over the previous summer, Israel had reportedly warned the George W. Bush administration. Despite opposition from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Israel moved to eliminate what it believed was an imminent threat.

Since Iran is a much bigger threat than Syria was and since the diplomatic efforts and sanctions have led almost nowhere, the question is not if Israel will strike but rather when. One of the people convinced of this outcome is French President Nicolas Sarkozy who on Sept. 4 from Damascus, of all places, warned Iran: “Iran is taking a major risk by continuing the process of seeking nuclear technology for military ends, because one day, no matter which Israeli government is in power, one morning we will awake to find Israel has attacked.”

While some pundits and analysts classify this kind of statement in the psychological warfare/bluff game, the truth is quite different. Interestingly Iran dismissed Sarkozy’s statement and a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Nour Ali Shoushtari boasted that “the enemy does not dare attack Iran, as it knows that it will receive fatal blows from Iran if it ventures into such a stupid act.”

But in reality, Iran should not take these warnings lightly because time and again Israel has proven in its short history that it will not tolerate a deadly threat.

In a recent appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, deputy Israeli Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz‘s speech and body language could not be clearer especially when he repeated several times, talking about Iran’s threat: “Israel will not allow a second Holocaust.”

At this point in time it seems like Israel is left with the least desired option: the military one.

The main reason for this is the total failure of the international community to pressure Iran to give up its quest for a nuclear weapon. In fact after five years of official non-stop negotiations and three U.N. sanctions, Iran has advanced unopposed its military nuclear program.

While some view that Iran has fooled the international community, it is rather the West that has accepted to be fooled. Indeed by not succeeding in applying real tough sanctions on Iran, the world has come to the point where Iran is ever so close to have access to a nuclear bomb.

It is no secret as to what could force Iran to give in: crippling its oil-based economy. In fact, 85 percent of Iran’s revenue comes from exporting oil and at the same time Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline. Sanctions that would include banning import of Iranian oil and exporting of gasoline to Iran will never pass because of a Russian and/or Chinese veto. Also the passing of a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran is very unlikely especially since the recent Georgian crisis, Russia will block anything the West will suggest and even more so when it is a condemnation of its Iranian ally.

The solution around this would be for Western navies to block the Strait of Hormuz and not allow any oil to flow in and out of Iran. While this would have very negative impact on the oil market in the short run if the blockade just lasts a few days and Iran caves in, then the world could have averted a new war.

A small price to pay, isn’t it? But since this suggestion seems unlikely to be followed anytime soon, Israel is going to be left with the only choice, that of a military strike against Iran.

Now as to the timing? First, the timing of a new incoming Israeli prime minister is going to have a clear impact on when the strike will occur. But what is sure is that like in all military operations, the element of surprise is crucial so the longer Israel waits, the more prepared Iran will be. Interestingly, experts are placing the risks of an Israeli attack on Iran by January 2009 at anywhere between 0 and 30 percent.

That clearly leaves Israel with a potential opportunity to surprise everyone including most importantly the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. Taking a contrarian view, the ideal time for a strike would be in the transition period in the United States between Nov. 4 (the election of a new president) and Jan. 20 (his entering office).

But depending on who is elected, the odds are not the same. In fact, if Dem. Sen. Barack Obama wins, the likelihood of an Israeli strike during the transition is significantly higher, maybe up to 70 percent, than if Rep. Sen. John Mc Cain becomes president because of Obama’s and Joe Biden‘s appeasing views on Iran and less favorable to Israel.

In this eventuality, it would make more sense for Israel to strike while the more favorable President George W. Bush is still in office.

Olivier Guitta, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant, is the founder of the newsletter The Croissant (www.thecroissant.com).


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