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Bush Administration issues subtle Diplomatic Warning
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This comment means more than it may first appear...
A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region's rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.

"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world," Negroponte said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.
This statement was not for the edification of US Senators. I believe Negroponte's statement had two messages intended specifically for foreign (read: Islamic, Mid-East) audiences:

  • First: the US is aware of policies aimed at the destabilization of Iraq by surrounding countries — e.g., Syria, Iran, etc — and that we regard it as a serious problem.


  • Second: the US will work to secure a peaceful, stable Iraqi government, but if Mid-East nations succeed in destabilizing Iraq and pushing it to civil war, the US will allow those provocateurs to face the consequences of their policies.

This is a rather clear warning to Iran, et al, that their policies towards Iraq — including, perhaps, responsibility for the Samarra bombing — can result in a regional conflagration that could spill into their own countries and threaten their own regimes.

We've just warned the region that it'd be a real shame if war were to break out on their doorstep — for them, anyway. We won't be sticking around to clean up a full-blown civil war instigated by the Iranians. Iraq's neighbors have an interest in causing problems for us in Iraq, but they've got a vital interest in ensuring that our temporary problem does not become their permanent problem.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

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Yes, we’re really in a position to issue stern warnings to Iran after the bang-up job being done in Iraq. In the past, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, that would have been a threat backed up by something. Under the current administration, it’s hollow.
 
Written By: Oliver
URL: http://www.oliverwillis.com
Jon,

You are making this sound like the sort of trash talk heard between boxers before a fight; rhetorical flourishing that serves no martial value but helps "out-psyche" the opponent.

Gonna be a long summer...
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Yes, we’re really in a position to issue stern warnings to Iran after the bang-up job being done in Iraq. In the past, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, that would have been a threat backed up by something. Under the current administration, it’s hollow.
Indeed - some threat.

I think the Iranians probably have a better handle on what could happen in the Middle East than Mr. Negroponte does.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
It appears nobody here is familiar with the language of diplomacy. In diplomatic talk, one doesn’t necessarily issue a threat in clear language. One simply intimates in an oblique manner — as Negroponte has done.

This isn’t "trash talk", except insofar as any implied threat would tend to psyche out an opponent, and it doesn’t require being "backed up" with positive action. Merely letting the participants know that the civil war they want to instigate could be their own should be sufficient to raise their estimation of the cost of provocation.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
This isn’t "trash talk", except insofar as any implied threat would tend to psyche out an opponent
Perhaps not exactly like my boxer example above but the objective is precisely to "psyche out". Hence it is like "trash talk" which serves that purpose, above and beyond simple projection of bravado and excess testosterone. Good enough analogy for me, anyways.
It appears nobody here is familiar with the language of diplomacy.
No, I think we understand it sufficiently. Hence my "trash talk" analysis which should not have been taken literally.
Merely letting the participants know that the civil war they want to instigate could be their own should be sufficient to raise their estimation of the cost of provocation.
You don’t think that maybe we might just try to egg things along ourselves if need be? "Nice regime you have there, Mohammed, Bashar, etc. Be a shame if you lost it..."
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
"In the past, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, that would have been a threat backed up by something."

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha! Confirmation that Oliver (who?) is definitely part of the [lack of] reality-based community, that is, if by ’something’ you imply meaningful action.

And paint me three shades of surprise that Mkultra The Feckless chimes in affirmatively. Never would have guessed that.

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
If Iran and Syria succeed in creating a civil war in Iraq then America promises to leave.

H’uh?

I sincerely hope your interpretation is incorrect.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
First, why should either Syria or Iran fear spillover from what is happening in Iraq? Both regimes are more than willing to pull a Hussein (murder their own people on a grand scale) in order to keep the factions in their respective countries in line.

Two, as Oliver points out, what do Syria and Iran have to fear from us? So what that we view their efforts to meddle in Iraq, as you put it, "a serious problem"? It’s not as if we haven’t been aware of what they are doing in Iraq. It’s not as if those two countries haven’t been warned before. They know that Bush doesn’t have the stomach to escalate matters over there (no going into Cambodia for him). They have good reason to believe that we don’t have enough troops for both Iraq and dealing with them. They know the American people would throw up at the idea of getting into even more fighting in the Middle East. And since both Iran and Syria are doing what they are doing because they don’t like the alternative (a ’successful’ Iraq, whatever that means), my guess is they fear retaliation from us less than they fear our succeeding in Iraq.

But other than that, I’m sure Negroponte’s speech went over just as he intended...
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com/
The US will not commit itself to stopping a burgeoning Iraqi civil war that looks like it could spread to neighboring countries, no. But, as much as Iran and Syria might like to create a little bit of havoc in Iraq right now, there’s no way in hell they want a full-blown Iraqi civil war. It’s a delicate balancing act they’re trying to play, inciting enough violence to help their interests, but not so much that it rebounds negatively upon them.

It’s in our interest to let them know that they can get burned.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
First, why should either Syria or Iran fear spillover from what is happening in Iraq?
A full blow civil war would destabilize the region even more, threatening to spill violence into their territories, incentivizing internal unrest and possibly leading to a Kurdish secession (and Kurdish demands for a Kurdistan). The last thing those countries want is another anarchic, failed state/terrorist breeding ground over which they have no control on their borders. And let’s thrown Saudi Arabia into that interested bystander mix, too.

Neighboring states have specific interests in the outcome within Iraq — they want certain groups to take power, they want certain groups to be marginalized, they want the eventual government to be a strong ally, etc — and a civil war throws all of that into the trash. CFR has a decent rundown of the Iran/Iraq issue here.
Two, as Oliver points out, what do Syria and Iran have to fear from us?
As intimated by Negroponte, one possibility is to walk away from an outright civil war. Another option would be too throw US support behind Iran’s enemies, to pressure Iraq to adopt policies not terribly conducive to Iranian interests, or to simply leave our troops there indefinitely.

Finally, there’s the nuclear issue. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room on that, frankly, but Iran is probably not convinced that we won’t go ahead and intervene anyway. Plus, there’s always the behind the scenes work — covert ops, diplomatic manuevering, and temporary counter-Iranian alliances with regional neigbors like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon:

I wish you were right, but me thinks you’re barking at the moon, you’re looking for the silver lining, you’re tilting at windmills, you’re clicking your heels together, you’re trying to turn lemons into lemonade.

Assuming that Syria and Iran are helping to fan the flames of civil war in Iraq, why would they fear our walking away if that happens? And you don’t really think that they fear our troops being left in Iraq indefinitely? They know, as we all know, that our troops start coming home from Iraq no later than January 21, 2009 - regardless of who wins the Presidency and no matter what is going on in that god-forsaken corner of the world.

You also didn’t address my point that neither Syria nor Iran has anything to fear from violence spilling into their terrortories (like the word I coined?) as they both are more than willing to kill a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there if that is what it takes to keep the riffraff in line. And wouldn’t the regimes in Syria and Iran prefer any intermural squabbling to be done in Iraq rather than within their own countries?
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com/
The Iranian theocrats bombing one of their own sacred sites? I’m a little surprised you didn’t posit that the illuminati was in on it.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
Jon: Any tough talk from the USA is a joke in the real world. Muslims watch on their satellite televisions Americans wringing their hands when the price of gasoline goes over $2.50 or when their heating oil goes up even more.

Muslims are sitting right on top of all the World’s oil and they are now trying to buy American ports. No way is the USA gonna nuke Iran and raise the price at the pump. After all, the USA is bankrupt and nobody wants to accept the paper money anymore.

This tough talk is all a bluff hiding real fear. American Gold Eagles are now at $586 and going up daily. Bankruptcy on all levels.

 
Written By: root
URL: http://
I think you’re reading too much into those few sentences. It seems as though he said "Civil war could spread destabilization to the rest of the region". Whether that was supposed to mean, "hey, cool, screwing up in Iraq could unintentionally end up screwing over the Iranians!" or just "If we let this thing fall apart we could have a much bigger mess on our hands than just Iraq" is debatable.
 
Written By: Adam
URL: http://sophistpundit.blogspot.com
Assuming that Syria and Iran are helping to fan the flames of civil war in Iraq, why would they fear our walking away if that happens?
They’re not trying to incite a full-blow civil war. Just incite enough violence that their interests — the US harried and then gone, their allies in power — are served. Read the CFR Q & A.
You also didn’t address my point that neither Syria nor Iran has anything to fear from violence spilling into their terrortories
I disagree. They’re certainly willing to kill when necessary, but that doesn’t mean there’s no risk involved. Their regimes do not exactly enjoy rock solid support. Instability threatens them as well.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

 
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