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The New York Times reports that negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have been productive. The article makes a point of noting that Russia is playing nice. Here's the full quote. "There is no doubt that the negotiations between the major powers and Iran over its nuclear program have been productive. All the nations involved - the United States, Britain, France, China, Germany, Iran, even Russia - appear committed to reaching a deal that will go beyond November's interim agreement and produce a permanent one."

Meanwhile, the United States is offering only token resistance to Putin's ambitions in Ukraine. And while the economy of Russia will take a temporary hit because of recent events, Putin's approval rating in his own country is way up. That's the sort of tradeoff Putin would take any day of the week.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that the United States is getting what it wants most (a less-nuclear Iran) at the same time Russia is getting what it wants most (token financial resistance while absorbing its neighbors).

If you don't believe in coincidences you might imagine that Obama and Putin made a deal that is best for both countries so long as it is never made public.

Obama and Putin both strike me as pragmatists. If an Iran-for-Ukraine deal were on the table, I believe both leaders would take it. The big question for me is whether Russia has the leverage to reign in Iran.

Obviously Israel would be happy with an Iran-for-Ukraine deal. And Israel has clout in American politics. So that has to be factored in.

Vice President Biden said recently about Ukraine (and I can't find the quote now) that he never tells people what their interests are. He says people know their interests. And here he's talking about Russian-speaking people who may or may not prefer being part of Russia. The writer in me calls that foreshadowing.

I'll close with a reminder that everything I write in this blog is wrong and ridiculous. I just love a good conspiracy theory.


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Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

I'm one step closer to getting my Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

 



 

 

 
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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 27, 2014
> "Meanwhile, the United States is offering only token resistance to Putin's ambitions in Ukraine."

lol .. you mean when the US organized a bunch of Nazis to hide among trojan-horse protestors in order to destroy a democracy and dictate the direction of government? And now that regions of Ukraine would like democratic self-determination, this is some kind of Russian aggression. As if the only reason anyone would want to distance themselves from US destruction and aggresssion is because the Russians told them so.

It's absolutely 100% clear this is just one more of the numerous anti-democratic nation destructions that the US indulges in. But, for some reason, we're all obliged to channel the US State Department. Or, if backed into a corner will say "they're both as bad as each other" to excuse the behavior of the rapist.

PS. now that the US has screwed up the capture of Crimea, it's restructuring the attack into an attempt to revive the Cold War. Of course, this will destroy Europe. But, whatever empowers the US Regime is OK by the idiots in control of Europe.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 24, 2014
Scott: "Coincidence or Conspiracy?"
I don't think it has to be one of them.

For me, it's plain haggling, not with words and meetings, but with actions and observations.

The US wants something badly, so Russia has leverage, which it uses.

 
 
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Apr 23, 2014
Phantom II,
Thank you for your intelligent response to my comment, but I wonder if you missed where I pointed out that the opposition party won the election for the assembly of experts.
When the current Ayatollah dies, his successor will be from the (pro-US) opposition. Granted, this could lead to a coup by the revolutionary guard, but given what happened with Khatami, I don't think the revolutionary guard could actually stop the pro-US forces moving in Iran.
 
 
Apr 23, 2014
One of the most interesting developments of the last half-century has been the sanctification of national borders. For most of recorded history, control of more land was the primary purpose of the essentially never-ending state of war; yet since the end of WWII, Israel is the only major sovereign state to be carved into existence at the expense of others -- the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the USSR were both peaceful, voluntary processes, and all other examples I can think of involve the former European empires ceding control of their far-flung holdings to the people who actually live there (e.g. many African, Caribbean, and Oceanic nations). Existing national borders have become virtually holy writ; the only real war of conquest was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and we know what happened there.

Yet here we are, almost 70 years later, and in response to a naked land grab by Russia, America does... nothing. Sure, you could question what power we have to do anything, but still, the response has been remarkably tepid. It is almost like our government can't quite believe that it happened. Or maybe we agreed to it.

I think AtlantaDude has it right, that unlike other conspiracy theories, this one involves few enough people to make it plausible. But I also agree with Drowlord, that to call this a "conspiracy" is stretching a bit; it is more akin to the tit-for-tat that is pretty common between powerful states to avoid all-out war.
 
 
Apr 23, 2014
In support of your theory, Israel declined to condemn Russia in a recent UN vote - exactly because Russia is helping with Iran.

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2014


Conspiracy.

I'm always up for a new Tom Clancy novel. Oh, he is? Darn.

I don't think it's an agreement between Obama and Putin. I think the USA doesn't have the will to protect Ukraine. We made deals to protect them for giving up their nuclear weapons, then leave them on their own. We can't be trusted. I guess we are not going to become the next greatest generation.

Right after the Olympics in February. (Weren't Para-olympians still in Russia?)
Iran enters 6 nation nuclear talks in mid-February.
Russia invaded Ukraine late February.
Is it coincidence that in March North Korea started lobbing missiles again, threatened a nuclear test, and continued boat skirmishes at the same time Putin invaded Ukraine?


>>The U.S. seems to often act like a big friendly dog that wags its tail and breaks things in the house. In our case it is often countries that get broken.
Ya, sorry about that.


 
 
Apr 22, 2014
aaror2 - interesting thoughts.

The true power in Iran is the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. He was appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts (an Islamic religious advisory board). He holds the real power in the government. He oversees both the military and the judiciary, and appoints the members of the councils who approve both legislation and (wait for it) those candidates who can run for president.

So the only people on the presidential ballot in Iran are those chosen by the Supreme Leader. It is highly doubtful that he would choose someone who is pro-US, or that anyone who would believe in stronger ties with the west would be allowed to run.

But even if they were, it would make no difference, because the Supreme Leader is still the seat of power in Iran. Nothing happens without his OK.

Remember also that the current group of Islamic radicals in Iran have been in power since the Shah was deposed in 1979, and replaced by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni. It would be very difficult to imagine a situation where the current Iranian leadership would ever become pro-US. I doubt if old Vlad has much to worry about on that front.

Barring an Iranian revolution to overthrow the Islamic power structure and rewrite the Iranian Constitution, I very much doubt any pro-western tilt lies in the forseeable future.

 
 
Apr 22, 2014
States give and withdraw support of other states in exchange for favor happens all the time, so your hypothesis is entirely plausible.

I don't think that Putin needs to have a lot of "leverage" in Iran to be able to offer Obama something valuable. Backing off his previous stance would already make things much easier. Given that Iran's new president is supposed to be more moderate, this deal might come at an opportune time to gain some traction on the whole nuclear issue.

However, I don't think it makes sense for Putin to give Obama this deal. Russia might not want a nuclear Iran, but it can delay that process or make it manageable enough without ceding ground to Obama. Because of European reliance on the Russian economy and the fact that Americans don't really care about intervening in Ukraine, Putin has a strong position in Ukraine. In sum, Obama doesn't seem to have much to offer.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2014
Like Russia wants a nuclear armed Iran. Besides Russia is the one offering to reprocess their used fuel. Where do you think the plutonium they will be taking out is going to go?
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
If the deal is "Let Russia have the Crimea, and then we'll get Iran sorted out", then we're screwed. Russia has taken the Crimea. The only "diplomatic" negotiations seem to involve Putin promising not to take any more of the Ukraine (by force).

If there's a side-deal to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons, then it's a deal that Putin can easily ignore if he feels like it.

The question is: what is the benefit (to Russia) if Iran does develop a bomb? At the moment, the only benefit to Russia is that Iran is a thorn in the side of the US. If that thorn turns into a knife then it might not be so good.
 
 
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Apr 22, 2014
Then again, given how much the dictators of the middle east spend on US elections (see "US Chamber of Commerce), it isn't surprising that a lot of folks still want a hard line on Iran. The dictators can see the problems for themselves if we ally with Iran too.
I wonder if that is why places like the "Center for American Progress" are now speaking out in favor of cuts to military pay and retirement. They may want to weaken our military now.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2014
@Phantom/RayKremer/others who want a hard line on Iran.
Remember that the party that Ahmadinijad and the current Ayatollah comes from lost the election for the "Assembly of experts" which will appoint the next Ayatollah. Basically, when that guy dies, a pro-US supreme guardian will take over Iran. Add to that a pro-US president, and you can see why Russia wants to use their influence to styme Iran if they can.
Imagine what Gulf diplomacy would look like if the US and Iran were friends, we could stop supporting the dictators in Saudi Arabia and similar places.
It would also probably make us look better around the world to be allied to the democracies in the middle east and opposed to the dictators, instead of supporting dictators against a democracy...
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2014
The current attitude toward Ukraine is in a sad way interesting to me. Around the turn to the twentieth century my great-grandparents came here from several countries traditionally oppressed by the old czarist Russia. One pair of them was from Ukraine. They would probably have perished from one atrocity or another if they had stayed.

As it was, they were fortunate to miss two world wars, famines, pogroms, purges, and the various side effects of totalitarianism. Although they were dirt-poor here they had only to deal with the Depression. During that time, the policies of Roosevelt helped my family in the U.S., but ironically he later helped to sell out the ones left under Russian influence. Churchill also did that, and perhaps recognized his mistake too late to prevent the descending of an Iron Curtain.

Russian enclaves are all over the place in those countries. They colonized them when so many of the natives were killed or displaced or emigrated. Some people in the West seem to think that gives the Russians the right to decide the fate of those countries, to have them merge again with a new Russian empire.

It is not up to us to just casually give those countries back. It would be easy and convenient to do. We are so tired of fighting and unpleasant news and having ungrateful foreigners hate us. The same attitude was held by the French as the Nazis approached. It was, as related by William L. Shirer in BERLIN DIARY, known as je m*en fousism. The hell with it. Defeatism and national malaise. Let somebody deal with it later.

I would not be surprised if an Iran deal is connected with a Ukraine deal. Winning over Iran is a matter of U.S.pride and to avoid possible disruption to energy supplies. The Ukrainians and surrounding nationalities are slavic peasants used to being pushed around, after all, and so sad they live next to the Russian caldera. With a wave of the pragmatic hand, we let them go and it is Yalta and Potsdam all over again. Maybe Russia will release them again forty years from now.

The U.S. seems to often act like a big friendly dog that wags its tail and breaks things in the house. In our case it is often countries that get broken.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
Well, one must certainly wonder what President Obama was asking Russian President Medvedev
to tell Putin last May when he said, "After my election I'll have more flexibility." He was originally talking about missile defenses being placed in new NATO members' states such as Poland, but it's not unreasonable to consider that he might have been talking about more.

We also must remember that Russia, the UK and the US signed a pact to ensure Ukraine's protection from foreign military action, which was used as a reason to justify keeping US missile defense batteries out of the Ukraine. That gave Putin the green light to invade. Could there have been a purposeful wink and a nod to Russia? Again, not unreasonable.

But I can't see Russia offering us anything in return. They didn't have to. I also am pretty sure that the NYT wrote it's "everything's great in Iran" article more to provide support for the Obama administration's inaction than as unbiased, accurate reporting.

A couple of things to consider: Putin doesn't like us. He's an ex-KGB weasel who blames the US for the fall of his old Soviet Union. He (Putin) also sees Iran as an ally, particularly in their thumbing their nose at the US. Putin has no reason to not want Iran to get nukes, particularly considering the strong alliance between the US and Israel.

Putin has a lot of reasons to support Iran getting a nuke, and few reasons to oppose it. Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world; moreover, Putin has to worry about Chechnyan Muslim rebels - look at the problems they caused Russia during the last Winter Olympics - he doesn't want to give Iran any reason to start supporting those rebels.

I don't think there's anything short of military action that will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That will start a nuclear arms race in the middle east - first, Saudi Arabia will be looking for nukes to keep Iran in check. Then Jordan, and the UAE.

So what's going to happen? The most likely outcome is that the Obama administration won't take any action against Iran, and will pressure Israel into not doing anything, either. The Iranians will get the bomb, and use it to threaten Israel, their mideast neighbors and the US. What will happen then is anyone's guess. But it won't be pretty.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
Well, in March 2012, Obama did tell a Russian operative, Medvedev, that "After my election I have more flexibility." Perhaps this is what more flexibility looks like.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
I'm not sure I see what makes this a conspiracy theory. You're suggesting that the USA decided to back off on the Ukraine issue, where we had a nominal ability to interfere and very little public interest. In exchange, Russia is supporting a non-nuclear policy for Iran, which is probably already in their better interests. Sounds like pretty run-of-the-mill stuff to me.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
I give this about a week before it appears on another website with the last paragraph removed. And perhaps three weeks before it appears in a tabloid.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2014
I think the reason that the Russians are playing nice about Iran is to avoid more aggressive push back from the US regarding Ukraine. Putin is clearly more skilled at the old cold war skills than the Obama administration. Further, I think Iran will end up with nukes without a major air strike from Israel. Iran has nothing to lose by playing along while making progress toward a nuclear weapon.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
Unlike your conspiracy theories regarding rigging the stock market, which would require an implausible amount of people to work together and keep their mouths shut, this particular conspiracy theory is not far fetched at all. It basically requires two men, and their close knit advisors, to agree and keep quiet.

Much more plausible. Doesn't make it true, but no one will throw you in a rubber room for thinking it.
 
 
Apr 22, 2014
People who are politically left, such as Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and the New York Times, generally believe that the United States should not interfere in any matters of foreign countries, and that we should make up for being the bully of the world for the last century. What I'm saying is I'm not so sure that Obama and the New York Times are actually opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. Their reasoning includes things like "we have them, it's not fair to keep others from having them" and "if we show Iran we aren't the bag guys we will have nothing to fear from them."

Similarly I'm not sure that Obama or Kerry really care what happens to Ukraine. The only thing Russia's done lately that makes leftists unhappy is enacting an official government stance of frowning on homosexuals.

However, there are still some adults left in our foreign policy structure that may be in a position to engineer the deal that you suggest. It's hard to say what Iran's actual game here is. They don't need nuclear arms for defense in terms of a cold war-style mutually assured destruction strategy. They don't have any enemies that will ever attack them unprovoked. So one could conclude that they want nuclear arms in order to strike their enemies first, but they also know that doing so would lead to their own obliteration very quickly, so they aren't likely to do that either. At this point it seems like mostly posturing on the part of Iran, an attempt to look like global bad-asses.

(Note that this kind of behavior in the middle east is not new, part of Saddam Hussein's problem was he needed to look unarmed to prevent attack from the USA, but he needed to look armed to prevent attack from Iran. He was more afraid of Iran than of the USA, but ultimately it was a no-win situation.)
 
 
 
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