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October 15, 2009


The Language of Limbo

Language Indicates US Ceding Leadership And Principle To Russia On Iran

By Steve Schippert | October 15, 2009

Are we winning the diplomatic battle with Iran? Are we, for that matter, winning the diplomatic battle with Russia, which, with China, serves as Iran's principal protectorate? To put it necessarily bluntly, there is no indication that we are and every indication that we are indeed losing. Not simply losing, but ceding. A brief but careful examination of language reveals the unfortunate and frustrating truth.

A Washington Times editorial calls it "Incorrigible Iran." The messianic and tyrannical regime is certainly that. While most of us recognize the Iranian regime for precisely what it is - a maniacal theocratic dictatorship bent on exporting and executing terrorism to achieve its aims - we must pay careful attention to the tweaking of language we use in dealing with the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Because, quite simply, words mean things.

While Secretary of State is executing President Obama's foreign policy with regard to Iran, media reports abound note the US and Russia "seeing eye to eye" now on Iran. But the question is not whether this is true, but rather who moved toward the other's position.

In Moscow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood in approval as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia still stands "in principle very reserved on sanctions, as they rarely produce results." As the Washington Times describes it, the take-away is "that sanctions should only be a last resort when all diplomatic means are exhausted."

This is not a subtle change in language for American policy. Not long ago, it was war or limited strikes which was "a last resort when all diplomatic means are exhausted," with economic sanctions considered a part of that process. No more, apparently. Our potential actions and recourses are being walked back like a dog that has strayed too far from the yard.

Lavrov is, of course, right. Russia remains as it has always been, "in principle very reserved on sanctions." And sanctions indeed "rarely produce results." And sanctions have produced none whatsoever with Iran.

Yet this is a curious play. Beyond sanctions, what would Russia then do to "produce results"? Furthermore, what "results" does Russia actually seek? None of this is explained or answered in the detailing of the new Russo-Yankee eye-to-eye understanding.

Perhaps we can employ the logic and deduction given human beings by God and peel away from a rather poorly written mystery and glean some intent from the fact that Russia continues to build Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Or perhaps we can also gain some understanding from Israeli PM Netanyahu's emergency visit to the Kremlin where he reportedly produced a list of Russian nuclear physicists currently helping Iran in its nuclear weapons research. That was a meeting was described as tense.

And perhaps in exploring just a bit and employing a combination of logic, deduction and lessons learned from history we can also conclude that walking back our rhetoric, if not action, is one of the most unwise diplomatic efforts we could employ. This is certainly true in the face of a determined enemy who has good reason to declare victories at every turn in a war of words with an administration whose primary skillset centers around precisely that: words and speech.

One thing is certain. While the Obama administration claims a not un-small victory in 'bringing aboard' the Russians, it is painfully clear that it is Russia claiming true victory by 'bringing aboard' the United States. This is, by very short extension, another victory for Iran.

Our stance toward Iran hangs in curious limbo, suspended by the straps of tepid language. Russia and China are truly the Iranian protectorate. (Consider from the New York Times, "In Face of Sanctions, China Premier Warms to Iran.") And all of this is to say nothing of the error of a hyper-focus on their still-developing nuclear weapons aims at the expense of disregarding their established export of terrorism which exacts a daily death toll.

So long as we follow Russia - or China for that matter - rather than lead on the Iranian situation, the Iranian regime will achieve its aims beneath that security blanket. This is an inconvenient truth. Our manipulation of language in a war of words reinforces it, even while the American body count at the hands of the Iranians grows in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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