Ultimatums Work - Sarkozy and Cameron intervene

Last week I posted a blog on my ‘Eisenman Line’  (JPost 11/3/11): ‘The Power of ultimatums – the forgotten diplomatic tool.’ In it, I pointed out that this could easily be applied to the Libyan situation – though with a little more difficulty, the Iranian, North Korean, and ultimately even the Pakistani.

Well, wonder of wonders, yesterday afternoon the Security Council voted 10-0 with 5 abstentions (Russia, China, Germany included) to basically give such an ultimatum; and Obama (probably with Hillary Clinton’s and William Daley’s encouragement) actually made a short speech on it from the White House Oval Office, extending its provisions and emphasizing the point about using ‘all necessary means’ to remove Gaddafi, before he took off for Brazil.
Excluding the First Iraq War - which had many anomalies associated with it - this was almost a Security Council first since the Korean War sixty some years ago, a resolution which had only succeeded at that time because the Russian Delegation inexplicably walked out and absented itself. For its part, the First Iraq War resolution was achieved in the aftermath of Perestroika. This time the Russians and Chinese, obviously unwillingly and with considerable antipathy only abstained. 

Now French planes are actually flying over Libya, ostensibly to enforce the resolution and over 100 tomahawk and cruise missiles, etc. have already been launched by the British backed by the Americans - obviously to take out ''command and control'' installations. Who knows what will follow? British Prime Minister Cameron has made forceful statements to the same effect as French President Sarkozy’s, though the former''s options are a good deal more limited than the latter’s, since Britain no longer even possesses any aircraft carriers or even Harrier jump jets, which have been mothballed.

Still, surrounding countries like Spain and Italy have expressed their willingness - even if perhaps unenthusiastically - to allow their bases to be used in line with their NATO commitments. An American flotilla, including a carrier, is on its way.
Ok, ok, but I admit to having been wrong about one thing. I never expected the UN Security Council to come to agreement on this matter. Rather I predicted that, if it came, such unanimity and such a resolution would only be able to be adopted through NATO. I was wrong.
What blandishments were offered the Russians and Chinese to, at least, refrain from using their vetoes and abstain will probably never be known; but it appears Gaddafi contributed to this with completely ill-advised and certainly unhinged bloodthirsty threats about what he was going to do to Benghazi when he captured it – go house to house and clean out all who had resisted him and ‘show no mercy.’

These intemperate harangues in the midst of these delicate negotiations at the UN in New York probably tipped the balance for Russia and China towards an abstention rather than a veto, as few could with equanimity stand by and watch this. Little else, under the circumstances, can really explain this puzzling turn-of-events and both nations are already voicing their displeasure at the speediness with which action has been undertaken. No doubt, as well, favored terms were being offered them to enter the World Trade Organization, which Russia was hungering to enter; but, by itself, this cannot explain it.
So I was obviously wrong here, but right about most of the rest. This is an incredible military and diplomatic occurrence – as I have said, the first really combined action of this kind since the Korean War. If it goes well, everyone is going to get a lot of credit for it. First, the French – for almost the first time since DeGaulle withdrew from NATO and, if one likes, the Indochina and Algerian Wars (misguided or otherwise), French war planes were flying in combat over enemy ground. This is all due to Sarkozy – his predecessors like Jacques Chirac having thrown every barrier imaginable in George Bush’s path when he sought to acquire similar international backing for the Second Iraq War.
Can one imagine what this means to the French People and Air Force to witness what will be perceived by many – particularly those in the Center and on the Right - as the resurgence of national power?  French planes are once more the first to be flying in a military manner, not depending on America, after almost fifty years. It might even be enough to tilt the balance towards the positive where Sarkozy’s Presidential re-election chances are concerned in the future if the operation turns out to be both effective and successful and with a minimum loss of blood on both sides.
The pride such an event will evince in some quarters – though, admittedly, not in others - should not be underestimated.
 The same can be said for Obama, though he will deny this aspect of things completely; and British newspapers are almost unanimous in praising David Cameron and he has received almost full backing for his actions in the usual fractious British Parliament.
But, in addition, in an article in The Huffington Post on Thursday, 3/16/11, ‘Israel has the Right to Attack Iran’s Nuclear Reactors Now’ (the response to which was rather vitriolic) and The Jerusalem Post Premium, this Friday, 3/17/11, ‘Iran’s shipment justifies Israeli attack on nuclear reactor;’ Alan Dershowitz echoed many of the points I was making two weeks ago on this blog site: ‘Israel’s Cuban Missile Crisis: Crunch time has now come’ (JPost, 22/2/11).
In it, I stated that all Iranian shipments through the Suez Canal needed to be inspected. If these were allowed through the Canal without inspection on the basis of false cargo manifestos and the pretext that they were only ‘War Ships’ and their ‘Supply Tenders’ as they were; then at some point, they would have to be inspected at sea by Israeli naval vessels - this in line with UN Sanctions against Iran and also Israel''s own right of self-defense and self-interest. This would be exactly as American vessels threatened to inspect Soviet vessels on the high seas at the time of the 1962 ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ under Kennedy 50 years ago – therefore the title of that posting.

I elaborated that, should an exchange of fire take place because of refusals to stop or during such inspections, then this would constitute a ‘causus belli’ and Israel would have the right to act accordingly. Moreover in my ‘The Power of ultimatums - the forgotten diplomatic tool’ last week (which like Dershowitz’s two articles  appeared in the Huffington Post too), I cited the Israel-Iran conflict as a possible additional area where an ultimatum with a timeframe could be applied.
Now Prof. Dershowitz has taken this one step further, arguing that just by carrying armaments meant for war supplies in Gaza - not to mention the subterfuge of carrying false cargo manifestos - and transfer of said equipment in Syria to cargo vessels headed for Egypt – carrying equally false cargo manifestos – in effect, ‘the causus belli’ had already occurred. I am grateful for his more legal if somewhat abbreviated analysis of the problem. 

For my part I was arguing for a little more cautious, slow-moving approach, comparing the problem, as I said, to the US-USSR ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ and suggesting that an ‘ultimatum’ be given carrying a timeframe which would allow ample time for a given government to back down and evacuate the areas concerned and for innocent persons to take themselves out of harm’s way far from the sites in question just as those in today’s nuclear crisis in Japan. That being said, one can get a sense of the animus surrounding questions of this kind from the ferocity of some of the talkbacks in the Huffington Post - though not the Jerusalem - to the Dershowitz piece (not to mention my own).

Finally, let  me close with a word about the subterfuge of using ‘false manifestos,’ a point some persons might find puzzling. I intend to address issues of this kind in a future follow-up post: ‘Israel’s Cuban Missile Crisis Part II,’ which will set forth the implications of the establishment of a Syro-Iranian seaport at Latakia on the Mediterranean and Israel''s discovery and exhibit last week – in the midst of all the upset  – of the rather large stockpile of falsely-manifested military supplies, including dangerous shore-based anti-ship missiles and the launching mechanisms and instructions for their operation in Farsi that had originally been carried by the Iranian ‘War Flotilla’ and allowed uninspected by the new Egyptian Authorities through the Suez Canal.
It has now become clear that these were, in fact, being carried by this ‘Flotilla’ just as I was pointing out and apparently meant for hostile, anti-Israel terrorist forces in Gaza and perhaps elsewhere. The parallel of this and what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean generally with the 1962 US/Soviet ‘Cuban Missile Crisis,’ which Kennedy handled via surveillance, blockade, ultimatum, and threatened inspections on the high seas will be spelled out, but it should already be obvious to any informed observer.

At the moment, it should be sufficient to point out that many persons - particularly the young and the ‘unschooled’ thinking in the most tolerant and well-intentioned manner conceivable - do not have a  comprehension of or understand the Islamic concept of ‘dissimulation.’ This is very straightforward and recognized as legitimate (even ‘recommended’ by some) in all schools of Islamic law – Sunni or Shi’ite. It allows that it is permissible ‘to dissimulate’ or not to tell the truth to pagans, non-Muslims and even backsliding or apostating Muslims (this of course depends upon who makes the judgement about who is doing the ‘backsliding’ or ''apostasy'').

''Backsliders'' are considered to have ‘apostated themselves from Islam'' anyhow – Salman Rushdie and the bans placed upon him are a good example of how this kind of thing can work in the extremist mind. Put in another way, it is permissible ‘to lie’ to pagans, non-Muslims or apostates in the interests of Islam. Western persons of good will sometimes have trouble digesting ‘multi-cultural’ norms such as these and are, in fact, often ‘surprised’ when confronted by them. In fact, Gaddafi is now using the strategy to good effect in his sudden return to ‘Islamism'' and insistence that he is observing the  UN.Security Council Resolution and its call for a ceasefire. ''False manifestos'' and inaccurate cargo lists are just part and parcel of the same mindset. They are not a problem.