Trying to make sense of a meshuga planet

Robert Baer on the post-election riots in Iran (as the nukes draw near)

Robert Baer has an interesting insight on the recent Iranian elections and the ongoing riots: Don’t Assume Ahmadinejad Really Lost (TIME)

The absolute worst things we could do at this point would be to declare Iran’s election fraudulent, refuse to talk to the regime and pile on more sanctions. Hostility will only strengthen Ahmadinejad and encourage the hard-liners and secret police. We should never forget that Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatullah Khameinei, along with Ahmadinejad, have the full, if undeclared, backing of both the Revolutionary Guards and the army, and they are not afraid to use those resources to back up their mandate.

I can only add that totalitarian dictatorships know to lift the lid off the boiling cauldron – meanwhile keeping the watch – only to step up repressions later.

While the Rev. Guard deals with street demos, the regime keeps the grip on what they consider important: Iranian Envoy: We are Seeking Nuclear Weapons

Soltanieh said Iran has the right to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran’s envoy to the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Wednesday that his country has the right to build nuclear weapons, Agence France Presse reported. “The whole Iranian nation are united. on [the] inalienable right of [having a] nuclear weapon,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh said, in an apparent departure from the country’s usual refrain that it is only pursuing nuclear energy for civilian purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency noted in a recent report that it could no longer “provide credible assurance[s]” that Tehran was not diverting nuclear material for use in a nuclear weapons program. In addition, the report warned that Tehran has sped up its production of nuclear fuel and has increased its number of installed centrifuges to 7,200-more than enough to make fuel for two nuclear bombs per year.


June 18, 2009 Posted by | Iran | , | Leave a comment

Robert Baer’s proposed solution and UNSCR 242

This is an update to my earlier post about Baer’s book The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower.

As with his other books, I enjoyed the parts where Baer describes his own experiences. When he talks about his fallen colleagues (Baer is an ex-CIA who served in the Middle East, including Lebanon in the 1980s), it is truly touching.

He makes some very good points, but at times I find myself questioning his conclusions and recommendations, especially when he attempts to play prophet.

He sees a possible conflict the US vs. Iran as either
(1) a 30-year war, which may turn into a 100-year war, or
(2) the US acknowledging the “devil we know” as a “new superpower” and making peace with Iranian mullocracy/Revolutionary Guard regime according to its new dominating status: guarantee its security, lift the sanctions, jointly patrol the Gulf, give them a role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and basically let them spread their influence as far as they wish, including Iran’s takeovers from Bahrain to Iraq to Mecca to Lebanon to Gaza.

Baer prefers to deal with the Shia (whom he describes as a closed and secretive society, but ultimately rational, pragmatic and disciplined) rather than with the Sunnis (lacking central power/doctrine and often turning radical, e.g. uncompromising “takfiris”, who see the world strictly in black & white). He seems to take a defeatist position: we’ve already lost, and we don’t even know it (book title notwithstanding). According to him, Iran has perfected modern warfare in Lebanon and Iraq via proxies (Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shia majority & the Kurds) and by consorting with Russia and China. Characteristically, ch. 5 is entitled: “Lethal and Elusive: Why Iran’s Weapons and Tactics Make It Unconquerable – Even Without Nukes.”

But the biggest surprise for me was his recommendation for Israel: give up the alleged nukes and implement UNSCR 242 – I italicized the verb because Baer seems to (mis)understand it as endless Israeli concessions. He should know better: the resolution is so short that I will quote it in its entirety here:

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Note the absence of “the” in 1(i) and… not a word about the Palestinians, who were not a party in 1967 Six-Day War.
Here is one decent analysis
Here is another.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, Iran | , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming an expert on Iran

Yes, yes, I know: one book (or many books) is not enough to become an expert.
Jokes aside, I am reading The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer. It is a captivating and provoking read.

Baer doesn’t seem to have much of a web presence. I already mentioned his recent interview (Mar 2009), here’s another one (Oct 2008).

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Iran, US foreign policy | , , , | 1 Comment

Interview with Robert Baer

Audio: interesting interview with Robert Baer, the author of the book See No Evil that the movie Syriana is based on. I don’t always agree with him, but what do I know… BTW, if you liked the movie, I highly recommend the book: it’s much better.

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, Iran, Middle East, US | | 1 Comment