Gerecht and Dubowitz: “Squeeze Russia and China” or Iran Sanctions Will Fail

As mentioned in our Daily Talking Points yesterday, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Senior Fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht and FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz’s oped today in the Wall Street Journal offers an interesting insight into the lengths that neoconservatives will go to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Gerecht and Dubowitz argue that the U.S. should apply pressure to China and Russia for continuing to do business with Iran.

They write:

All of the offending Russian and Chinese companies could be banned from receiving U.S. government contracts and forcibly divested from state pension funds.

Of course, there would be consequences for participating in what Russia and China might perceive as an extremely hostile economic policy. But Gerecht and Dubowitz conclude that while such an action will anger those in Washington who have sought to improve relations with Moscow and Beijing, their examples of “hardball ways” that Russia and China might retaliate is limited. Specifically, they reference the possibility of Russia “delivering S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Tehran.” And they seem to understand the potential dire consequences of this action: “[I]t could well provoke an Israeli preventive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Gerecht, for his part, has already condoned this type of aggressive action from Israel. On July 26, he wrote a Weekly Standard cover article titled: “Should Israel Bomb Iran? Better Safe than Sorry.”

But the reality is that a tiff with Russia and China would have far-reaching consequences for U.S. strategic interests as well as global economic repercussions.

The Obama administration, after a rocky start, has found its footing in its relations with Beijing and will need to capitalize on those improved diplomatic ties as it attempts to deter an increasingly aggressive North Korea, navigate the tricky diplomatic high-wire act of selling the long-awaited upgraded F-16s to Taiwan, and improve cooperation from Beijing on RMB revaluations and intellectual property law enforcement.

A serious row between the U.S. and China could put all of those initiatives in a state of disarray.

As for relations with Moscow, there is a staggering number of ways that Russia could make life for the U.S., and, by proxy, Washington’s NATO allies more difficult. A brief example was offered in early 2009 when Russia shut off all gas supplies through Ukraine. It left more than a dozen countries scrambling to deal with fuel shortages during a particularly cold winter.

These scenarios have to be weighed against the benefits of pressuring Russia and China — two countries who display palatable antipathy to being publicly bullied — to cut their trading relationships with Iran. For Gerecht and Dubowitz, however, strategizing to avoid this conflict is useless. For them, it is an inevitable conflict and one which, presumably, they are comfortable paying the price.

To wit, they conclude:

We were always going to have a test of wills with Russia and China over Iran. That day has arrived. Connoisseurs of power politics—Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, and Ali Khamenei—are watching. So is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will decide one of these days whether a nuclear-armed Iran is acceptable, or not.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


One Comment

  1. according to Barry Rubin, summarizing the neocon Harold Rhode paper, this is what makes Iranians tick, they are basically making a case for Iran war.

    * This analysis identifies patterns exhibited by the Iranian government and the Iranian people since ancient times. Most importantly, it identifies critical elements of Iranian culture that have been systematically ignored by policymakers for decades. It is a precise understanding of these cultural cues that should guide policy objectives toward the Iranian government.

    * Iranians expect a ruler to demonstrate resolve and strength, and do whatever it takes to remain in power. The Western concept of demanding that a leader subscribe to a moral and ethical code does not resonate with Iranians. Telling Iranians that their ruler is cruel will not convince the public that they need a new leader. To the contrary, this will reinforce the idea that their ruler is strong. It is only when
    Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers, that they will
    speak out and try to overthrow leaders.

    * Compromise (as we in the West understand this concept) is seen as a sign of submission and weakness. For Iranians, it actually brings shame on those (and on the families of those) who concede. By contrast, one who forces others to compromise increases his honor and stature, and is
    likely to continue forcing others to submit in the future. Iranians do not consider weakness a reason to engage an adversary in compromise, but rather as an opportunity to destroy them. It is for this reason
    that good-will and confidence-building measures should be avoided at all costs.

    * What Iranians really believe, they usually keep to themselves. Instead, they tell those with power what they think their leaders want to hear. This is the concept of ketman, or dissimulation. Iranians do
    not consider ketman (taqiyah in Arabic) to be lying. And they have developed it into a fine art, which they view as a positive form of self-protection.

    * Western cultural biases regarding, and demanding, honesty make it easy to misunderstand Iranians. Iranians have learned to cope with adverse situations by being warm, gracious, polite, and obsequious. Westerners, especially Americans who place a high value on candor, straightforwardness, and honesty, are often bamboozled by Iranians who know that those in the West are easily taken in by their effusively
    friendly, kind, generous, and engaging behavior.

    * Negotiations are opportunities to best others, to demonstrate power, and to make sure opponents know who is the boss. In politics, Iranians negotiate only after defeating their enemies. During these
    negotiations, the victor magnanimously dictates to the vanquished how things will be conducted thereafter. Signaling a desire to talk before being victorious is, in Iranian eyes, a sign of weakness or lack of will to win.

    * When the West establishes itself as the most powerful force and shows strength and resolve, Iranians will most likely come on board. They do not want to be on the losing side. If military action is eventually required, the targeting of national symbols and leadership strongholds may be enough to demonstrate that the balance of power in Iran is quickly shifting. By applying this principle, the West may not need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities or launch a large-scale invasion to bring down Iran’s rulers and stop the nuclear program.

    * Iranians look around them and see that others in their neighborhood such as Russia, Israel, Pakistan, India, and China all have the bomb. To say that Iran shouldn’t have the bomb is considered an affront to
    Iranian patriotism. Using a little ingenuity, we could drive a wedge between the Iranian government and the Iranian people. We should make clear that we are not opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. We are only opposed to the current government having a nuclear arsenal because it is the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world and does its utmost to undermine its neighbors and remove U.S. influence in the region. If the current government acquires nuclear weapons, it might very well use them.

    * If the West is to succeed, Iranians must be convinced, in terms they understand, that America is prepared to establish itself as a powerful force and help the Iranian population liberate themselves from the tyranny under which they live.

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