Two Red Herrings

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

My Google news alerts have whispered to me that two Red Herrings are diverting the focus of media coverage these days. Since I seem to have been programmed from youth to pass on what I think I’ve learned, here’s my guesswork:
Iran Sanctions. The solidity of the six-nation alliance confronting Iran is thought to rest on the question of sanctions. Indeed, sanctions apparently won’t pass the Security Council, as Russia has already publicly parted company with the US on this. But the key point is not sanctions; it is the refusal to negotiate.
It is not so easy for six nations to refuse to negotiate. It only takes one, in this case Russia, to pursue discussions with Iran, which they have emphatically promised to do. If they come back with something interesting, the other five nations will have to listen. They’re not refusing to negotiate with Russia.
France and Germany have reaffirmed that without a complete nuclear suspension, there will be no talks. At the same time, they have sounded awfully soft on this question. For example, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, “…Iran must understand that we cannot sit at the negotiating table if new centrifuges are built every day”–indicating that they just might sit at the table if the number of centrifuges does not grow.
This potentially puts the Bush administration’s core credibility at risk. It is one thing to have Russia and China split off on sanctions. But if France and Germany should split off on the refusal to talk, that is a diplomatic humiliation and a complete failure of policy. That leaves the US isolated–and on a very sore-headed point of policy too.
Disarming Hezbollah. Hezbollah will not be making use of its arms in the area where UN forces are present anyway, and they are not likely to shoot missiles over the heads of the UN forces, from further north. The key issue here is re-armament by sea and across the Syrian border. The UN forces will not disarm Hezbollah, but they will block the border, if the Lebanese government asks them to, and it will be extremely awkward for them not to ask. The Rules of Engagement do call for the use of force to enforce this provision of the cease-fire.
The non-disarmament of Hezbollah will look like a victory for them, but non-rearmament eventually puts them out of business.
If only the White House had access to Google!