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The Obama administration’s hopes for a diplomatic settlement in which Iran would give up nuclear weapons in return for a greater regional role, including a sphere of influence of sorts in Iraq and a presence in Afghanistan, seem to be flaking apart. A New York Times op-ed this morning by liberal thinktankers Flynt and Hillary Leverett protests,

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed. On its present course, the White House’s approach will not stop Tehran’s development of a nuclear fuel program - or, as Iran’s successful test of a medium-range, solid-fuel missile last week underscored, military capacities of other sorts. It will also not provide an alternative to continued antagonism between the United States and Iran.

The trouble is that America is still running covert ops against the Iranian regime, the Leveretts complain. Let’s see; if only we remove all public as well as private pressure against regimes who threaten world security iby attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, maybe they will be nice to us. One suspects the Times ran the piece after it was rejected by the Onion as too improbable. The Leveretts conclude,

To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium...Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran’s relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East’s core political conflicts.

In other words, the US would have to give all the things to Iran that Iran hopes to get by acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place, while leaving Iran with the capacity to build nuclear weapons quickly (and probably build them covertly in any event). It is an astonishing statement, but a bold one that illuminates the logic of diplomacy with Iran.

It was not easy for President.

Der Spiegel’s website, actually one of the truly indispensable international news sources, reports this morning that UN investigators have smoking-gun evidence that Hizbollah executed the bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, in the form of traced cell-phone calls.

Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion: that it was not the Syrians, but instead special forces of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah (“Party of God”) that planned and executed the diabolical attack. Tribunal chief prosecutor Bellemare and his judges apparently want to hold back this information, of which they been aware for about a month. What are they afraid of?

According to the detailed information provided by the SPIEGEL source, the fact that the case may have been “cracked” is the result of a mixture of serendipity a la Sherlock Holmes and the state-of-the-art technology used by cyber detectives.

Why cover it up? Accuse Hizbollah of political murder and Lebanon comes apart, and with it any hope of “engaging” Syria and Iran, its sponsors.

Then there is the mess in Pakistan, where rooting out a few thousand Taliban fighters has driven a million people from their homes. It is remarkable that the United States feels comfortable requiring that Pakistan employ methods against irregular forces embedded in a civilian population that it decries elsewhere. A comparison of the behavior of Pakistani forces in the Swat Valley to that of the IDF in Gaza doubtless would show far greater concern for civilian casualties on the part of the Israelis.

What the tinkerers in Washington miss, and what Ali Allawi understands, is what he called the “crisis in Islamic civilization,” the title of his new book, which I reviewed recently in Asia Times Online. Unless Muslims can restore Islam as a “complete way of life” embracing the public as well as the private sphere, writes Allawi,

The much heralded Islamic “awakening” of recent times will not be a prelude to the rebirth of an Islamic civilization; it will be another episode in its decline. The revolt of Islam becomes instead the final act of the end of a civilization.

Existential despair motivates flight forward. There is nothing that the West can give to Iran or the Taliban that will satisfy them; nothing short of a sense of triumphal restoration of Islamic civilization would suffice, and too many Western interests stand in that way of that.

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