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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.


My question is this - even if Iran states it has nuclear weapons, under what pretext would action be sanctioned ? Threats to neighbouring countries ? Sponsoring terrorist activity ? There are few activities that Iran could be accused of that it might not offer (albeit weaker) examples from other countries, including the posession of such weapons. The only difference may be that we are in an age that aims to limit proliferation. Quite certainly the greater powers of the world possess enough information to place Iranian activity in severe doubt. Why are these powers allowing Iran to play them off against each other given that they know the greater reality ? It must only be that certain find they are unwilling to act, whilst being caught in a long diplomatic dance, whilst others have not the scruples to not take advantage in realms abandoned by the west due to the clumsiness of this dance. There is no limbo, the geopolitical maneuvers continue around the circumstance (and forgeting its use as propaganda) of the state of Israel holding its existence and thus its expansion to whatever degree you wish to read such, though most would aknowledge it has no direct intention of expanding its actual borders further than currently disputed territory , and Iran wishing to expand its influence whilst countering this Israeli expansion. I would not venture to judge as to what degree this Iranian stance is profiting from the current Israeli/Palestinian situation, and how much of the sentiment drawn in is absolutely genuine, the fact being that once boiled into the same potion the results are effective and the origins difficult to discern. Further, if we draw in the situation in Georgia, Turkey's relationship with its neighbours and Israel, Russia's relationship with Syria, Syria's relationship with Hezbullah and elements in Iraq, Iran's relationship with Iraq, Syria, Hezbullah and others and Russia's relationship with Iran, we have circles that don't square, assymetry that is illusional, or maybe layer upon layer of agreement and misunderstanding tied together by provisional and unscrupulous involvement. I think that is reason enough for the UN security council to insist in unison, that serious non proliferation measures are adopted against Iran and that they are seriously and unanimously endorsed, with serious consequence in the case of such not being so. At the end of the day the finger will be pointed at Russia and maybe China for encourageing and then capitalizing on the current state of affairs regarding Iranian proliferation, this should be made clearly known now , as there is absolutely no room to bargain over the possible eventual outcome. The current situation also makes the UN permanent security council obviously corrupt or non functional. This has far greater implications on global conflict resolution, especialy in terms of it acting as a disincentive . Instead it will encourage countries to align with one set of powers or another whilst ceding a certain amount of authority to them. At the very least we would expect the UN to ensure that this new form of polarization within its institution did not actually encourage and lead to nuclear proliferation.

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Just had dinner with US Marines from Guadalcanal (yes Guadalcanal!), Vietnam, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. All true Patriots! We all listened in complete awe at the 88 year old
Marine and his unbelievable stories!
You have a great website and one day we will not be a nation of sheep! Paul Mastromarino

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