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Entries in Ahmet Davutoglu (7)


Gaza LiveBlog: Israel Forces Attack Freedom Flotilla, Up to 19 Killed (31 May)

0755 GMT, 1 JUNE: Updates continue in our LiveBlog, "The Politics After the Attack", for Tuesday.

2330 GMT: The New York Times reports one administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity concerning the future of Israeli-Palestinian talks mediated by Senator George Mitchell. In terms of the divide between the Israeli Government and the Obama Administration, the official said: “We’re not sure yet where things go from here.”

Mitchell is still expected to attend the Palestine Investment Conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday and Thursday.

2200 GMT: Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, head of the Israeli Navy, instructs the troops intercepting the Gaza flotilla:


Gaza Flotilla Video: Questions from Last Report Before Israeli Attack
Gaza Video: “If You’re Watching This, The Flotilla Has Been Attacked"

2110 GMT: The first result of the UNSC emergency meeting: Members urged Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip!

Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said the bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the "counterproductive and unacceptable" blockade of Gaza had been heeded.

Most members of the 15-nation body joined the call for an investigation.

2030 GMT: IDF releases pictures of weapons found on the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship.

1930 GMT: The opposition leader Tzipi Livni gave an interview to the Turkish channel, TRT. She said that "there was a need to stop these ships" which were "not on a humanitarian mission".


Gaza Flotilla Attack: Israel Line “We Are Sorry but It Was a Life-Threatening Situation!”

1915 GMT: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu criticized Israel harshly at UNSC emergency meeting. Remarkably, he said:
This assault against 600 civilians from 32 countries can never be justified. We watched a live barbarian show.

Israel committed a crime. It is a crime committed by the state itself. Any state committing this crime will loose its legitimacy in the international arena.

The day when the line between terrorists and states blurred is today, a day leaving a bloody stain on the history of humanity.

1855 GMT: Speaking to Channel 10, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said:
Israel is a sovereign state and cannot accept the undermining of its sovereignty. Israel has stopped ships in international waters before and when ships refuse to accede to warnings and obey instructions, we have the right to board them under international law.

1845 GMT: Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was scheduled to meet with former US Secretary of State George Shultz on Monday, canceled his meeting. He said:
Israel is a democratic country with an obligation to defend its citizens and cannot condone the arrival of Gaza-destined goods and ships without inspecting them. The violent and provocative flotilla was backed by Hamas, whose support was that of terror and opposition to peace.

1830 GMT: IDF released a new statement:
The following is a summary of the number of injuries and casualties in today’s incident in which IDF naval forces were met with extremely violent resistance on board the Mavi Marmara.  According to the most recent reports, a total of seven soldiers were wounded – four soldiers were moderately wounded, of which two were initially in critical condition, as well as an additional three soldiers who were lightly wounded.  Among the violent activists, there were nine casualties as a result of the soldiers defending themselves.

It should be emphasized that both the State of Israel and the IDF made repeated calls to the flotilla, telling them that all goods and humanitarian aid could be transferred according to the secure and approved methods in place today, as is done on a near daily basis.  Unfortunately, this was not the case. IDF naval forces were met with premeditated violence, evident by the activists’ use of clubs, metal rods, and knives, as well as the firing of two weapons stolen from the soldiers, causing for defensive action on behalf of the forces who felt their lives were endangered.

1815 GMT: UN Security Council's emergency meeting started.

1730 GMT: The Mavi Marmara was docked at Ashdod. 500 activists on board will be arrested of deported.

1700 GMT: Finally, pictures of Mavi Marmara reached media after 15 hours. The ship is being escorted by Israeli Navy off the port of Ashdod.

1645 GMT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he regretted deaths but also added that Israeli troops had right to self-defense.

1630 GMT: CNN correspondent Atia Abawi said: "Israeli government confirms that 25 activists are in stages of deportation and at least 50 are detained after not giving them identification".

1620 GMT: The details of the phone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama were given by the White House:
This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said he understood the Prime Minister's decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today's events. They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.

1605 GMT: Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that NATO's spokesman James Appathurai had stated that the organisation would be gathered extraordinarily, at the request of Turkey.

NATO issued a very short statement earlier today: "NATO is deeply concerned about the loss of life in this incident. We look forward to a further establishment of the facts of what has happened."

1600 GMT: IDF said Defne Y, the 5th ship in Gaza flotilla, cleared of its crew - Mavi Marmara currently being brought into Ashdod Port.

1555 GMT: Al Jazeera English correspondent Sherine Tadros reports, "We're hearing 14 activists have agreed to be deported and on way home;50 taken to prison in southern Israel resisting deportation."

1550 GMT: Pictures of wounded activists were released. Plastic handcuffs during the transport of heavily wounded ones are noteworthy.

1548 GMT: The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday afternoon for an emergency session that will start at 1 P.M., New York time.

1545 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Chile: "This is a state terrorism."

1515 GMT: While on his way to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: "This is clearly a piracy. Israel must apologize and answer. According to unconfirmed information, we have around 50 wounded and 10 martyries. No country is above the international law."

Meanwhile, tens of thousands people are protesting in front of Israel's Consulate General in Istanbul.

1500 GMT: Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning Israel:
Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians. We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel. This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations.

Besides the initiatives being conducted by our Embassy in Tel Aviv, this unacceptable incident is being strongly protested and explanation is demanded from Israeli Ambassador in Ankara, who has been invited to our Ministry.

Whatsoever the motives might be, such actions against civilians who are involved only in peaceful activities cannot be accepted. Israel will have to bear the consequences of these actions which constitute a violation of international law.

May God bestow His mercy upon those who lost their lives. We wish to express our condolences to the bereaved families of the deceased, and swift recovery to the wounded.

1440 GMT: Israel's Portrayal. Amidst the rush of Israeli depictions of the attack --- with the continuing use of the word "lynching", now from the commandos who carried out the assault --- this story stands out from a "Ron Ben Yishai" in YNet:

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapon.

1435 GMT: Washington's Reaction. The US statement, given by White House spokesman Bill Burton, is far more restrained than the UN denunciation of Israel (1330 GMT) and even Britain's expression of concern (1035 GMT). Burton said the Obama administration "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained" and officials are "currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy".

1430 GMT: The 4th ship in the flotilla is now being brought into port in Ashdod.

1420 GMT: The Israeli Line. The Israeli military has released its version of today's attack on the Freedom Flotilla, complete with an aerial video:


1410 GMT: Glenn Greenwald, in a bitter denunciation of the Israeli attack, offers an overview both of the Freedom Flotilla and of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

1400 GMT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his trip to Washington. He was due to meet President Obama tomorrow.

1330 GMT: The British Government, via Foreign Secretary William Hague, has issued this statement:
I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.‪ ‪

We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries. ‪

This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

1200 GMT: An Al Jazeera correspondent reports from Ashdod: "Israeli hecklers continue to make if hard for us to report the story....They are only heckling Arab media, such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya....While Arab protestors and left-wing Israelis escorted away by police, they don't seem to be doing much to stop the right-wing hecklers."

1105 GMT: The 2nd boat of the flotilla is nearing port in Ashdod.

1045 GMT: Amidst protests in Turkey against the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, the Turkish Ambassador to Israel has been recalled. Israeli authorities have advised citizens not to travel to Turkey.

The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister has condemned Israel: “This operation will leave a bloody stain on the history of humanity.”

1035 GMT: The first ship of the flotilla is now in Ashdod. Al Jazeera English is reporting up to 19 dead.

The United Nations has issued a statement: "Such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza."

1015 GMT: Justifying the Attack. Back from a break to find more of the same on Israeli side --- Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has claimed that the deaths resulted from a "provocation" by the passengers of the flotilla: "On the deck we found weapons which were used against the forces. The organizers' intent was violent and the results were unfortunate. Israel regrets the loss of life. We called the organizers once and again the stop the provocations."

Israel Defense Forces are claiming via Twitter, "5 soldiers injured during flotilla mission --- 2 severely and 3 moderately".

0845 GMT: The Arab League has said it will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow over the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

0830 GMT: More footage of the Israel attack, this time from a Turkish source, complementing the video we have posted, before commandoes boarded the ship. There are graphic images of wounded and a correspondent declaring, "We are under attack from all sides."

0820 GMT: Schools have been closed and shelters opened in the Israeli port of Ashdod, where Israeli forces are towing the Freedom Flotilla.

0815 GMT: We have posted video of the last report from Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal from the lead ship of the Freedom Flotilla, made moments before Israeli commandos boarded. I have asked some questions, in light of Elshayyal's report, about the Israeli account that commandos were merely defending themselves.

0745 GMT: Amidst the presentation by Israeli officials of their version of this morning's events, we post a video --- made before the assault --- by a Free Gaza Movement member: "If You're Watching This, The Flotilla Has Been Attacked". The speaker, Caoimhe Butterly, anticipates the post-attack political contest which is unfolding on this LiveBlog.

0730 GMT: Speaking on Al Jazeera English, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan counters the Israeli allegations: "None of those [on the ships] was part of Hamas; they were supporters and activists for the human rights of Palestinians."

0725 GMT: As Al Jazeera English tries to assess the Israeli military's press conference, members of the crowd in Ashdod stand behind the reporter with a large Israeli flag.

0720 GMT: Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning for those killed in the Freedom Flotilla.

0715 GMT: The "Lynching" of the Commandos. Israeli military spokeswoman Liebovich responds to a question:

"If you have one soldier and you have a dozen activists attacking that soldier, this is a lynch. When the passengers on this ship are trying to break the soldier's legs and arms, this is what I call a lynch. This is what happened....We had no intention to confront these passengers."

(Liebovich adds that she is "sure" the flotilla's passengers were not human rights activists but were connected with Hamas.)

Readers may compare this "lynch" to the live images aboard the ship when the commandos landed, currently being re-broadcast in the LiveFeed.

0710 GMT: The Israeli Propaganda Push. With communications with the aid ships cut off (CNN rather hopelessly is using vague reports from a correspondent in Cairo and then saying, "We have been unable to contact anyone in the flotilla"), Israeli authorities are trying to fill the space with their case.

Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Amital Liebovich has given a press briefing that Israeli commandos faced "severe violence" --- a "lynch" --- by the flotilla's passengers with "sharp items" and "knives": "Live fire was used."

Liebovich says six Israeli commandos were injured "as well as" 10 passengers killed.

Liebovich insists, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza" and adds, "The passengers of this flotilla...prepared themselves for violence against their soldiers."

Liebovich's press conference is complemented by this Israeli military statement: “During the takeover, the soldiers encountered serious physical violence by the protesters, who attacked them with live fire.” The "lynch" theme had already appeared, before the briefing, in The Jerusalem Post.

0644 GMT: The Israeli Line (cont.). The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pushing a film clip of the Israeli military issuing a warning to the Freedom Flotilla before boarding the Mavi Marmara: "The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and invites you to enter the Ashdod port."

I've already seen the clip on Al Jazeera English.

0642 GMT: Contrary to other reports, Israel authorities say the flotilla ships will be towed to the port of Ashdod.

0640 GMT: Political Reaction. Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas has asked the Palestinian Authority to suspend all negotiations --- direct or indirect --- with Israel.

0635 GMT: Israeli Army says four Israeli naval commandos were injured: 1 seriously, 1 moderately, 2 lightly. It claims "light ammunition" was coming from flotilla ships so their troops "fought back".

0625 GMT: The last blog entry from Abbas Al Lawati from the attacked ships:

I've just heard that Israel is expected send divers to take control of vessels from below.

There were reports of helicopters flying overhead a little while ago but it turns out it was a flase alarm. There was, however, a flashing light hovering above one of the challenger ships. It could be a helicopter, possibly commandos. The Mavi Marmara is massive so I doubt commandos will approach us but both Challengers are just small passenger boats.

0615 GMT: The Israeli Line. David Saranga of the Israeli Consulate in New York gives an early indication of how West Jerusalem will defend the military operation, despite the 16 deaths.

Saranga lifts this line from London's Daily Telegraph, in an article on the Israeli attack: "Marine commandos had opened fire after being attacked with axes and knives by a number of the passengers on board the ships, the [Israeli] private channel 10 said."

(Minutes later, Saranga points readers to a page, "The Jewish Internet Defense Force", which recycles the line about axes/knives.)

In Israel, police have declared a heightened state of emergency, deploying thousands of forces around the country. A crowd in the Israeli port of Ashdod have been heckling the crew of Al Jazeera Arabic.

0605 GMT: The Turkish Government has condemned the Israeli attack. A crowd of demonstrators have surrounded the house of the Israeli Ambassador and asked him to leave the country.

The ship attacked this morning, the Mavi Marmara, is Turkish-registered.

0603 GMT: The Israeli attack was on the Mavi Marmara, one of the six ships in the flotilla. In a report from the ship just before communications were cut during the raid, Jamal Elshayyal of Al Jazeera said two people had been killed and organisers were ordering passengers to go inside the ship's cabin. The ship's white flag had been raised.

Sounds of live fire could be heard as Elshayyal reported, despite the raising of the flag of surrender.

0600 GMT: We are continuing the live feed from Turkish outlets of the Freedom Flotilla. Warning: images may be distressing.

0545 GMT: We wake this morning to find that overnight Israeli forces have attacked the six ships of the "Freedom Flotilla" carrying aid to Gaza.

Israel Army Radio says at least 16 members of the convoy were killed and more than 30 injured when troops boarded the flotilla. The assault took place in international waters, 65 kilometres (40 miles) off the Gazan coast.

The attack by armed Israeli soldiers was accompanied by helicopters. Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops used live ammunition.

Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire "after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects".

The Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, say the ships are now being towed to the Israeli town of Haifa, instead of the port of Ashdod, where Israel said members of the flotilla would be held in detention. The Movement claims the step is to avoid waiting journalists.

Turkey's Diplomatic Dance: The Nuclear Two-Step Between Iran & the US (Yenidunya)

Now we know why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, saying that Ankara had "slightly opened the door" to a resolution but the ball was now in the court of the White House. The Washington Post reported:
On Wednesday, Obama spent more than an hour on the telephone explaining to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan why the deal his country cut with Iran was incongruous with a U.S. push to isolate the Islamic republic over its nuclear program, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Iran Nuke Analysis: Reading the US-Turkey Discussions

Obama acknowledged Turkey's mediation efforts and "stressed the international community's continuing and fundamental concerns about Iran's overall nuclear program as well as Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations", the White House said in a statement. Obama also told Erdogan that the sanctions push would continue, despite Turkey's opposition to new U.N. penalties on Iran. The U.S. official described the conversation as "frank".

The newspaper also published the analysis of Henri Barkey, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, who believes Ankara is acting indpendently vis-a-vis Washington's regional policies:
For the Turks, it might be a Pyrrhic victory. They look great in the Third World that they thumbed their nose at the United States. But they are really screwing up the relationship with the U.S.

The Post headlined, "Spat over Iran May Further Strain Relations Between Allies U.S., Turkey".

Well, let's have a think about that. Ankara is trying to enhance its relative autonomy against Washington's dictations and the gains of its neighbours through its "zero problem" policy and "active diplomacy-first" approach.

However, Turkey is not going to move against Washington's interests as long as Ankara cannot find a balancing power. Wasn't it Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who talked to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in prior to his victory on the table in Tehran?

Turkey is not defying Washington; rather, it is strengthening its position, amidst regional calculations, for the approaching UN Security Council vote on Iranian sanctions. Indeed, let me put forth a challenging prediction: for the time being, Washington will not be disappointed when Turkey abstains in the Council. And America will still need Turkey on the Iranian nuclear issue after the vote.

Middle East/Iran Analysis: How the US Has Lost (Narwani)

Sharmine Narwani writes in The Huffington Post:

It's official. There is no longer any serious "cost" for defying the United States in the global arena. Unable to win wars or deliver diplomatic coups - and struggling to maintain our economic equilibrium --- Washington has lost the fundamental tools for global leadership. And no place does this impotence manifest more vividly than the modern Middle East.

Our pointless and protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be the last time we will launch a major battle in the region. That massive show of flexing brawn over brain burst a global perception bubble about our intentions, capabilities and reason.

This credibility was compromised further with our irrational support of Israel's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008/9 respectively. And it has eroded with the double standards employed over Israel's violations of international law and its illegal nuclear weapons stash, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of our startling rhetoric over Iran's nuclear program.

But nothing highlights our irrelevance more than two recent developments:

1) The US's inability today to convene even perfunctory peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, let alone push through a negotiated solution --- and this after 19 years of a "US-sponsored" peace process.

2) The US's inability to achieve a resolution with Iran over its nuclear program. The only breakthrough in this long-winded effort to tame Iran's nuclear aspirations was struck by Turkey and Brazil last week.

In short, the US seems incapable of resolving even a traffic dispute in the Middle East. It is Qatar that stepped in to broker a deal between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government in 2008, and is knee deep in negotiating a solution to the conflict in Darfur. Syria helped gain the release of prisoners in Iran and Gaza. And now Turkey and Brazil have cajoled Iran into accepting an agreement that the US, France, England, Germany, Russia and China could not.

We have been rendered irrelevant, despite our insistence on involving ourselves with every peep heard in the Mideast.

The Iran Nuclear Fiasco

After pushing for the nuclear swap deal with Iran since last October, we did an about turn and scorned the very same "confidence building" measure we had touted while simultaneously accusing Iran of bad intentions and negotiations trickery.

And we openly sneered at the valiant effort of two important UN Security Council member states --- one a NATO-member and the other the largest economy in our Latin American backyard --- to troubleshoot on behalf of the global community. The very next day, we childishly chose to undermine this important breakthrough by announcing an agreement on UN Security Council draft sanctions against Iran.

The fact is that no one other than England, France, Germany and Israel seems to want us to win this fight anymore. This is increasingly being viewed as a David vs. Goliath standoff, with Iran as the David, and its nuclear energy program a sacrificial lamb that is meant to appease our substantial ego as the world's remaining superpower.

Pundits and analysts, such as Pierre TristamJames Lindsay and Ray Takeyh,  are even starting to argue for making room for a nuclear Iran --- all thanks to our unwavering scrutiny of this issue.

Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said in Tehran two days after the nuclear swap deal was struck, "India praises Iran for fighting for its interests... We are both developing nations and we should make use of each other's capabilities and experiences in order to make progress."

These so-called "Middle States" like Brazil, India, and Turkey are regional economic and political hegemons with collective clout --- certainly more so than the waning authority of our European partners who are dealing with weak economies and uninspired geopolitical thinking, much like our own.
Who needs us when all we seem to bring to the table is bluster, threats and our dubious "hard power?" The "regional hegemons" have demonstrated that the cleverly-wielded soft power of diplomacy goes a lot further in easing tensions globally and creating vibrant trade and economic conditions across borders.

No Consequence to Defying the US

In a very significant perception shift, many of these countries are beginning to realize that there is no longer a "cost" to ignoring US threats.

This reality is swiftly becoming apparent in the Middle East. What have several rounds of Security Council sanctions done to harm Iran thus far? Iran has just learned to be more self-sufficient and our constant bullying has earned it a permanent global podium from which it has rallied impressive developing nation alliances from countries that admire its struggle and resolve.

And the Arab world, once hostile to Iran and its brand of Islamic government, has also warmed to the idea of a new regional worldview that rejects an aggressive American role and embraces a homegrown narrative that more honestly addresses their problems. Hence the growing influence of the Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas mindset, bolstered by their good relations with rising regional stars like Turkey and Qatar and the widespread support of the Arab and Muslim Street.

But more importantly, traditional US allies like Saudi Arabia and Lebanon are slowly shifting strategies. Both have sought rapprochement with Syria and appeasement of Iran in some form this past year. Lebanon has defended Hezbollah's right to maintain its weapons so long as a belligerent Israel exists down south. Saudi Arabia and Syria worked together to ensure a smooth, crisis-free election in Lebanon last June, and helped broker the formation of a government in its aftermath - with Iran giving its blessings along the way. And there is increased disunity amongst the six pro-US Arab nations of the Persian Gulf on whether Iran poses a serious threat in the region.

Perceptions Altered --- Can We Adapt Fast Enough?

A recent article in Foreign Policy magazine by Aaron David Miller argues that the Mideast climate has changed and therefore the US should examine its participation in regional affairs, specifically the peace process. Miller also warns:
The broader Middle East is littered with the remains of great powers that wrongly believed they could impose their will on small tribes. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran...need I continue? Small tribes will always be meaner, tougher, and longer-winded than U.S. diplomats because it's their neighborhood and their survival; they will always have a greater stake in the outcome of their struggle than the great power thousands of miles away with many other things to do.

As we contract economically and our appetite for waging wars shrinks, those who resist our policies in the Middle East can flex their influence with fair certainty that we will not and can not retaliate effectively.

With no real cost to bear, the sympathy of the larger international community, and now a genuine compromise to wave in front of detractors, Iran is sitting pretty, leaving us to look like a churlish, patronizing bully that chooses to lead with club in hand.

In a rapidly changing Middle East, this fight with Iran is just churning up trouble for us and underlining our own shrinking relevance on the world stage. Iran's deal with Turkey and Brazil and our subsequent sanctions threat has demonstrated conclusively that the US is not necessary for brokering deals and may in fact be an impediment to conflict resolution.

And this perception makes our regional allies uncomfortable enough to investigate their options, specifically, dealing with those we call our foes. Regional state and non-state actors will be taking note of the against-all-odds success of the tripartite deal and wondering if they should look more locally for Arab-Israeli peacebrokering too.

The US needs to take a page out of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's foreign policy playbook before taking another false step in the Mideast. This is geopolitical thought leadership the likes of which we haven't seen in more than half a century.

You could call it Diplomacy 101. I'd like to call it our "last chance to practice what we preach".

Iran Nuke Analysis: Reading the US-Turkey Discussions

A bit of background to Monday's agreement between Iran, Turkey, and Brazil on procedure for an uranium enrichment deal....

Four days before the announcement, on 13 May, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had a telephone conversation with his counterpart Hillary Clinton. Two days after that, on Saturday, they met, just before Davutoglu went to Tehran.

Hours later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan --- who had cancelled his own trip to Iran on the Friday --- reversed course. He set aside a visit to Azerbaijan and flew to Tehran.

So what happened in the high-letter US-Turkey encounters just before the IBT agreement? According to the State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley:

During the call [on 13 May], the Secretary stressed that, in our view, Iran’s recent diplomacy was an attempt to stop Security Council action without actually taking steps to address international concerns about its nuclear program.

There’s nothing new and nothing encouraging in Iran’s recent statements. It has failed to demonstrate good faith and build confidence with the international community, which was the original intent of the Tehran research reactor proposal. It has yet to formally respond to the IAEA.

She [Clinton] stressed that the burden is with Iran and its lack of seriousness about engagement requires us to intensify efforts to apply greater pressure on Iran. Now, that was the primary purpose of the conversation. They briefly touched on other subjects, including Middle East peace and the relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Throughout the question-and-answer session, Crowley was giving the message: Iran was not going to give up its own enrichment of 20-percent uranium and so there was still the "urgent" need for sanctions as a result of the dual policy towards Iran. Translated, Washington said that there would be no unclenched fist extended to Iran as long as Israel's protests  over Tehran's nuclear programme and the regional contest for influence continued.

Crowley continued:
Iran has been very busy in recent weeks having conversations with a range of countries. Part of that conversation did occur last week in the dinner in New York. And not only – during the conversation in New York, not only did Iran not offer any new, Foreign Minister Mottaki indicated during the dinner that notwithstanding any potential agreement on the Tehran research reactor, they would continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent, which we –-- which is of great concern to us and violates their obligations under the IAEA.

So they had initially, when they announced they were going to enrich uranium to 20 percent, they claimed at the time that it was for the Tehran research reactor, but it’s obviously part of a broader agenda. And that’s what we are concerned about. That’s why we continue to pursue the sanctions resolution as part of our pressure track.

When asked whether Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's expected visit to Tehran was a "last opportunity", Crowley said:
Well, I mean, we are –-- we continue to move forward on a sanctions resolution, and we have a sense of urgency about this. We want to get this done as quickly as possible. But our view remains that we are doubtful that Iran is going to change course absent the kind of significant pressure that comes with a resolution and the consequences that come with them.

Then, when he was asked whether the State Department gave Davutoglu any red lines that Turkey should not cross, Crowley replied:
Regarding the TRR [the Tehran Research Reactor], it [a proposal for "third country enrichment"] was put on the table last fall to build confidence with the international community about the true intentions of Iran’s nuclear program. We have drawn conclusions from Iran’s failure to even respond –-- much less engage constructively –-- even respond to the proposal formally to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].

[Clinton] stressed to Foreign Minister Davutoglu again today that it’s not about the public statements that Iran makes. If Iran wishes to engage in –-- regarding the TRR, come up with alternatives that meet the fundamental intent of the proposal, then they can pick up the phone and call the IAEA, which is something they have failed to do.

Following the announcement of the IBT agreement, Crowley restated the reasons for an "urgent" sanctions draft:
In the statement, the White House acknowledged the efforts made by Turkey and Brazil and now called upon the IAEA to clearly and authoritatively convey the results of this arrangement to the IAEA. That said, the United States continues to have concerns about the arrangement. The joint declaration does not address the core concerns of the international community.

Iran remains in defiance of five UN Security Council resolutions, including its unwillingness to suspend enrichment operations. In fact, today Iran reaffirmed that it plans to continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent despite the fact that it previously justified this increased enrichment as for the Tehran research reactor. So public statements today suggest that the TRR deal is unrelated to it ongoing enrichment activity. In fact, they are integrally linked.

And then Crowley became very coy and even deceptive about how much Washington knew of the Turkish and Brazilian efforts:
I think we had conversations with Foreign Minister Amorim and Foreign Minister Davutoglu prior to their arrival in Tehran. I’m not aware of any specific contacts with them over the weekend.

But, setting aside Crowley's public spin, did the US know in advance of Erdogan's sudden decision to go to Iran? Most likely, Washington did not anticipate that the diplomatic efforts were moving towards an agreement, leading to the Turkish Prime Minister's change of plans. Ankara had made a decision: the benefits of a joint proposal with Iran and Brazil meant that it would exert autonomy and risk the US reaction.

Now the question is "What will Turkey will do in the UN?" This week, Erdogan wrote a letter to President Obama, saying that Ankara had opened the door slightly for a resolutio. Now the ball was in Washington's court.

In other words: "We did our part (and gained diplomatic and political advantage from doing so). You want to mess up this agreement with sanctions, so be it --- although don't expect us to vote for the resolution in the Security Council.

"We've got our ties with the US, which we value. But we also have our economic and political ties with Tehran."

Iran's Uranium: US Shows a Middle Finger to Tehran...and Turkey and Brazil and... (Gary Sick) 

Gary Sick assesses Washington's response to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement:

Well, that didn’t take long.

Yesterday I wondered if we were smart enough to declare victory and take yes as an answer from Tehran. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that a new package of sanctions against Iran had been approved by the major powers and would be sent to the UN Security Council later in the day.

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In case anyone overlooked the significance of this action, which followed by one day the announcement by Brazil and Turkey of the successful conclusion of their negotiations with Iran, she added: “I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Take that, Tehran! But it turns out that this lifted middle finger was not limited to Iran. Only hours before Clinton’s announcement, the foreign minister of Turkey held his own press conference. Obviously unaware of what was about to happen, he described in some detail not only the tortuous negotiation process with Iran, but his perception that he was acting directly on behalf of the United States.

According to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, he had been in “constant contact” with Clinton herself and with national security adviser James Jones, while his prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had face-to-face encouragement from President Obama in December and April.

The objective of Turkey and Brazil was to persuade Iran to accept the terms of an agreement the United States had itself promoted only six months ago as a confidence-building measure and the precursor to more substantive talks. There were twelve visits back and forth between the Turk and his Iranian counterpart, some 40 phone conversations, and eighteen grueling hours of personal negotiations leading up to the presentation of the signed agreement on Monday.

What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap We have done our duty,” said Davutoglu, calling the deal an important step for regional and global peace. “We were told that if Iran gives 1,200 kg without conditions, then the required atmosphere of trust would be created [to avoid sanctions]. So if we do all these things, and they still talk about sanctions … [it] will damage the psychological trust that has been created.”

The Turks and Brazilians, who felt they had “delivered” Iran on the terms demanded by the United States, were surprised and disappointed at the negative reactions from Washington. Little did they know that their success in Tehran, which had been given a 0-30 percent chance just days earlier, came just as the Americans were putting the final touches on a package of sanctions to be presented to the UN Security Council. The Tehran agreement was as welcome as a pothole in the fast lane, and the Americans were not reluctant to let their displeasure be known.

The five major powers had made up their minds (without consulting other members of the Security Council that currently includes both Turkey and Brazil), and these two mid-level powers were told in so many words to get out of the way.

The gratuitous insult aside, which approach do you believe would most likely result in real progress in slowing or halting Iran’s nuclear program? We have been imposing ever-greater sanctions on Iran for more than fifteen years. When we started they had zero centrifuges; today they have in excess of 9,000. To those who believe that one more package of sanctions will do what no other sanctions have done so far, I can only say I admire your unquenchable optimism.

More likely the Turkish ambassador to the UN had it about right when he said quite plainly about sanctions, “They don’t work.”

Would a negotiating track do better, perhaps mediated by two middle-level powers who have built up some credibility with Iran, like Algeria when it finally engineered the end to the US-Iran hostage crisis in 1980-81?  We’ll never know. Tonight the hardliners in Iran (and their American counterparts) are celebrating.

The Iranian hardliners had already begun asking questions about the deal, fearful that Iran had given away too much. Now they don’t have to worry since everyone knows that Iran will never be willing or able to negotiate under the threat of sanctions.

For the Revolutionary Guards it is a huge bonus. As foreign companies are driven away, the Guards progressively take over more and more of the economy. And as restrictions on trade grow, so do their opportunities to manage the immensely profitable smuggling routes. Like their American counterparts, but for different reasons, they thrive on an environment of threat and isolation.

The presidents of Turkey and Brazil have been humiliated. But the Great Powers are confident that their lesser cousins know their place and will show deference when the chips are down. They’ll do what they have to do. They always do.

Don’t they… ?