Sunni Countries Planning for the Worst

"One diplomat involved in the talks said the officials are focusing on the proposed U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq and the implications on Arabs and Turkey of any "American-Iranian deal.""  CNN


Zalmai Khalilzad is a native of the Islamic culture continent that extends from Morocco to India.  He knows that US-Iranian negotiations over Iraq are viewed in the Sunni dominated countries of the "Greater Middle East" as deeply threatening and de-stabilizing.  Middle Easterners see processes of negotiation as a means of arranging the surrender of a weaker party to a stronger.  The final outcome is thought to be indicated in advance by the willingness of the supplicant to parley. The idea of negotiations as a Hegelian process of dialectic argument producing a result which emerges in the discussion is Western and not well accepted in the region.  The very fact that Khalilzad is willing to talk to the Iranians about Iraq is seen in this context as indicative of the weakness of our position in iraq and a desire to find "a way out."  It is not surprisiing that the Sunni powers are preparing to defend themselves against what King Abdullah of Jordan called the "emerging Shia Crescent."  Pat Lang

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11 Responses to Sunni Countries Planning for the Worst

  1. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    When one engages a rug merchant in a bargaining session it is assumed by both sides that there is a serious intent on buying and selling a rug. This is a Hegelian process fairly common in the Middle East. US-Iran meetings is in the same vein.
    The Sunni Arab governments are not completely wrong either; clearly neither US nor Iran can achieve all that they wish in Iraq by themselves at an acceptable cost. So they bargain with each other.
    The Sunni Arab governments have lost their merchandise (Saddam Hussein’s government) and thus are not party to this very Hegelian bargaining process. They have nothing to sell. Well, Life is tough.!

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I have bought a lot of rugs in the ME and North Africa. The bazaari is always at a disadvantage because the purchaser knows that he wants to sell the rug while the purchaser may not really be very interested in buying. The buyer’s hand is always stronger. I have bought rugs at below cost through the manipulation of the various needs of the seller. I am not proud of that but it is not that difficult to do. This is not really a Hegelian process since it is viewed by all as a zero-sum game in which there will be a winner and a loser. the same thing applies to business negotiations at a much higher level of commitment. I have participated in quite a few of those in the region and the object has always been to screw the other guy.
    I think the Iranian hand is much stronger than you credit.
    Surely you do not think that the Sunni governments are going to accept Iranian and Shia domination of Iraq? pl

  3. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I have to think about what you wrote. I had not looked at bargaining the same way.
    As for the Sunni Governments’ policies, I do not know the answer to your question. But given the sustained hostility of many Arab governments to the Iranian state over many decades (both under the Monarchy and under the Islamic Republic); you mught be right.

  4. anna says:

    The remark above horrifies me, but it is typical of the right. The Sunni have nothing to sell??!!!!
    Oil and Pakistan may be selling nukes to the Sauds as we blather.
    Over and over and over the right has decided to focus on one aspect in an interwoven set of events, the influenced of those they don’t pay attention to or dislike is ignored.
    Yet even with subtle tools such as demphasizing the dollar a bit in their reserves the Sunni nations can hurt us.
    Right now they seem to commonly believe our “plan” was disruption of Iraq, part of a complex divide and rule. This is what the Jihadists said it was and their claim is accepted while the right cheers because we’ve taken care of public relations with Ms. Hughes!!!

  5. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Here is a commentary from the Al-Ahram Weekly. This is a Sunni Arab view.
    “The Arab exit” By Salama A Salama
    “Its (US) approach to Tehran may well be one of stick and carrot, but surely that is better than the stick without the carrot it adopts towards the Arabs.”
    As for Pakistan selling nuclear weapons to or stationing them in Saudi Arabia, NPT does not forbid that.
    The so-called “Right” and the so-called “Left” in US were on the same page on Iraq War. You see, most people like quick victorious wars with few casualties; in my opinion.
    The Sunni States can hurt US by permitting the transfer of funds to the insuregency in Iraq. That is already happening.
    The Sunni States (all nominally US friends and allies) also hurt US by not helping the previous US administration in the heavy lifting required for teh settlement of Arab-Israeli conflict.
    Beyond these, I cannot think of what they oculd do that is going to be significant.

  6. zanzibar says:

    Anyone have thoughts/insight into what could be going on behind the scenes considering:
    1. US talks or plans to start talking with Iran about Iraq.
    2. US & UK media report stories that increase speculation of a US attack on Iran.
    3. Iran publicizes tests of a new missile and torpedo and military exercises.
    4. Arab & Turkish intelligence chiefs meet.
    5. Khalilzad/Condi working hard to oust Jaafari.
    Just a normal day in the bazaar? Or something more than meets the eye?

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    They will continue to fund and support the insurgent forces in what is now referred to as the “Sunni Triangle” but which really reaches to western Anbar and Tel Afar/Mosul in the north.
    This will truly be the “Land of Insolence” (bilad as-siba’) pl

  8. Happy Jack says:

    1) Trying to salvage Iraq
    2) Positioning for negotiations
    3) Same as above
    4) Advance planning for the break up of Iraq (side benefit: a chance to get together and laugh at what we’ve done)
    5) Trying to correct mistakes of the past

  9. ali says:

    You could turn that around; DC saw no reason to talk to Tehran when it was filled with Jacobins confident of their absolute power. DC is now negotiating from a position of weakness, they should have got to table with Tehran after 9-11 when they still held all the aces. The Saudis might be right; DC’s extraction strategy may be discretely cutting its losses by handing the mess in Iraq over to Tehran and that’s why Zal is playing the carpet salesman.

  10. Glen says:

    Have you read Sy Hersh’s article at the New Yorker? It’s here:
    Dropping nukes on Ian? It sounds as if we should all plan for the worst, not just the Sunnis.
    The US policy with nukes ever since WWII has been mutually assured destruction (MAD). What this boils down to is essentially that the US will only use nukes IF FIRST ATTACKED BY WMD (i.e. nukes, chem, or bio WMD). There were senarios during the cold war where if pressed, we would have used tactical nukes in Europe (or elsewhere). There was always a profound understanding that opening the nuclear Pandora’s box could lead to a complete nuclear war, and was not to be done unless our backs were against the wall.
    Planning a pre-emptive air attack using nukes on questionable intelligence estimates, on an undeclared war, with no current hostilities is INSANE. MAD worked, but only because all of us STAYED SANE.
    If the old saying was a butterfly flapping it’s wings over China changes the weather in New York, well, imagine just how may trillions of butterfly wings a couple of nukes are going off in Iran. You don’t know what will come of this except that it’s nothing good.
    If we open this Pandora’s box we may never get it closed again.

  11. RJJ says:

    I wonder this is Dick Cheney’s cure for his timor mortis.

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