Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Listening to Merkel: Inevitable Trade-Offs

President Bush and Chancellor Merkel held a press conferencetoday following their talks. Reading it, it becomes clear, that even if not explicitly discussed, some choices have been made--and as a result, priorities have emerged.

Merkel said, "if Iran does not meet its commitments, then further sanctions will simply have to follow. We again said we want to give room for diplomatic solutions."

Some of the conclusions that flow:

--any thought of using Iranian gas to fill the Nabucco pipeline is now completely off the table; this effectively makes the project unviable, leaving the Russian-backed routes in place;

--the UN Security Council is not going to be bypassed, and later Merkel referenced the need to have Russia and China play active roles.

On a related note, some observations from Ted Carpenter from his recent visit to China which suggests some problems Merkel may encounter in Beijing.

Merkel sees Ahmadinejad as a dangerous figure whose country can't have nuclear weapons. Russia under Putin and Medvedev may be a problem but they can be dealt with rationally. So easy choice for her to prioritize.
If the US wants to do in Iran without empowering Russia, then the EU is insufficient as a partner. Brzezinski was right--you have to cut a deal with the Chinese.
Ahmadinejad is not your problem; and he will win the next election too.

Your problem is the Iranian power, either accomodate it or leave her alone.

And the go-to guy in Iran is Mr. Khamenei, the Philosopher-King.
US couldn't go to the P-K in Iraq, Sistani, so why do you think they can go to Khamenei?
Mr. Sistani is not the Philosopher-King of Iraq; just the most senior member of the Shia scholars. He has no role in the State.

His power is entirely based on his religious credentials. US - the occupier of Iraq and the Defender of Israel - cannot be admitted to his presence since that meeting will sully his piety.

Mr. Khamenei, on the other hand, has an specific place in the Iranian political system and the Supreme Jursiprudent. His power is not derived from his learning or his piety; his power is political. He has stated that he is willing to negogiate with US when he sees fit.
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