Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: Diplomatic Spin


Bizarre reading of the Vienna agreement about Iran’s atomic program in the Washington Post this morning. In a news analysis Glenn Kessler writes:

For years, the Bush administration has warned of the Iranian threat, but its concerns were belittled or ignored as yet another example of American hyperbole. Now, however, Washington has persuaded Russia, China and European allies to agree to the same red line.

In the cast of this global game we have the American President in the starring role, clear-sighted, visionary, warning the world of the dangers ahead while the other actors, blindly, scramble about. Now, the supporting cast has finally gotten it. Due to strong American leadership and superior reasoning the others have reached the point where the Americans have been waiting for them.
Well, my own recollection of the process is a little different: the Europeans, in the form of the EU-3, have negotiated with the Iranians for years, precisely because they saw the danger to their own security if a revolutionary, revisionist, anti-semitic Iranian regime aquires the bomb. They have realized the real threat is Iran while the US got bogged down in Iraq, a place where no threat could be found (the Brits, as always, being in both camps at the same time). They have tried to establish red lines vis-a-vis Iran. They have tried to convince the Americans to come aboard. Only now, running out of options, the Bush administration has agreed to join the talks. The White House is doing so with a smart move: it is trying to extract concessions from all parties before they even join. The Iranians are supposed to suspend their uranium enrichment process; the other security council powers plus Germany shall agree on carrots+sticks first.
Somebody help me: Am I getting this wrong? Am I just looking at things from the perspective of a self-righteous European? Or is someone in Washington trying to rewrite history?
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is the Washington Bureau Chief of the German weekly DIE ZEIT.


5 comments on “Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: Diplomatic Spin

  1. richard power says:

    I would like to think that all the noise about Rice’s “overture” to the Iranians meant something, and that it signaled reality setting in, i.e., their lack of options. But I am skeptical. It is probably only for domestic political consumption, i.e., Rove’s seasoning for Rice’s appetizer prior to Rumsfeld’s next war. (Or so their thinking goes. Reality-based centers of influence, e.g. the Joint Chiefs, may still intervene).
    Writing on “Rice’s Ruse,” The Progressive’s Matthew Rothschild articulates the skepticism we share:
    “We’ve seen this play before, haven’t we?
    You know, the one where the Bush Administration pretends to be interested in a diplomatic solution but is really trying to get its ducks in a row for going to war?
    This is the very same ruse that the Administration wheeled out in the months leading up to the Iraq War, and some of the language is identical….
    Listen, this is a setup, plain and simple.
    According to The New York Times, some European and Japanese negotiators “questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran’s intransigence.” One former U.S. official added, ‘It came down to convincing Cheney and others that if we are going to confront Iran, we first have to check off the box’ of negotiations.
    Behind the façade, ‘the Pentagon is ramping up two plans for bombing Iran,’ Conn Hallinan notes in a piece at
    And, writes Hallinan, “Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, is organizing a ‘front’ of Iranian ex-patriots to overthrow the present regime in Tehran.”
    For Bush, diplomacy is but a formality, a preface, a prelude—mere calisthenics before the big event.”


  2. alex says:

    To the best of my knowledge, the Bush admin made no mention of the nuclear ambitions of two “axis of evil” nations — Iran and N Korea — with actual nuclear weapons program, until late 2004. Doubtless this reflected the need to sustain the storyline that Iraq was the urgent nuclear threat. The peice Clemons quotes appears to represent a new damage-control historical revision: the Decider as the lone voice of alarm on Iran.


  3. hoplite says:

    Mr. Bush gradually grew more comfortable with offering talks to a country that he considers the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, and whose president has advocated wiping Israel off the map. A Talk at Lunch That Shifted the Stance on Iran, NYT, HELENE COOPER and DAVID E. SANGER
    That’s not all:
    Iran is the base of the two most powerful political parties in Iraq, namely, Al Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq.
    Al Dawa is a terrorist group with direct and long standing ties with Iran.
    A `suicider’ from the Al-Dawa party bombed the US embassy in Kuwait in 1983.
    In 1984, four men from Al Dawa highjacked a Kuwait airbus travelling from Kuwait to Pakistan.
    They held the plane for six days.
    During this time, these four men from Al Dawa shot and killed two Americans: Mr Charles Hegna and Mr William Stanford.


  4. Hoplite says:

    Kleine-Brockhoff: Only now, running out of options, the Bush administration has agreed to join the talks.
    Running out of options?
    What options are left?
    Bush ran out of options with the democratic electing of the Al Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) which have been based in and funded by Iran during the twenty plus years prior to the deposing of Saddam Hussein.
    Bush has no leverage.
    After tens of thousands of oceans of spilt blood and treasure, the USA has only a burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic republic with extremely close and long standing ties to Iran which Bush called an `axis of evil’.
    9/11 + Iraq = Bush’s Fundamentalist Islamic Republic


  5. bert says:

    the Brits, as always, being in both camps at the same time
    I sense you have some kind of ideal in mind, some standard of conduct that you feel Americans are now belatedly conforming to. The West uniting in the cause of the Enlightenment. A recognition that those values of liberal democracy which prevailed in the Cold War now bind us together and provide a model for our dealings with the rest of the world.
    One of the tragedies of the past few years was the abandonment of this view, and the willingness of people who should be natural partners to conceive of themselves as divided into two ‘camps’. The hysterical unilateralism of the Bush administration – all that chest-puffing and finger-jabbing – allowed Chirac’s France to scuttle onto the moral highground with a Gaullist agenda. There was hypocritical nationalism at the head of both camps.
    Tony Blair has been rightly criticized for his failure to stand up to George Bush. But throughout, his declared aims have been the same as yours. A common front; strong multilateralism. Your talk about two camps comes easily, and that is in itself testament to Blair’s failure. But was the stance of Gerhard Schroeder – allowing himself to be washed by the electoral tide into a Franco-Russo-German alliance – any more creditable?
    In the end, place the blame where it belongs, with the Bush administration and with their public abandonment of the ideals you hold. Spare us the cheap shots against the British. They tried to square the circle, and failed.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *