Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff


Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff


Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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More Lessons: Iran Showed True Colors

I don't agree with my PostGlobal colleague Hossein Derakhshan that Iran has won this round of the PR war. While Iran has proven to be more flexible than some had anticipated, the incident has also shown what Iran is capable of doing.

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James Buchanan:

First you have to find better Generals,the ones in action so far are pathetic.

America a nation of 300 million went to war against Iraq a nation of 25 million. Which was already softened by 12 years of sanctions.

Not withstanding such a vast superiority in arms and weaponry American performance is so deplorable that future historians will shake their heads in disbelief. Already over 600,000 Iraqis have died.
And you have not achieved anything.

You cannot handle 6 million people in the Sunni Triangle in what is the 5th yr of the war with a defense budget greater than 34 of the world's leading countries put together.

If you read history you will find that many great conquests were accomplished with much less.
For example the British conquered India and ruled it for nearly 200 years with far smaller army.
Actually less than 10,000.
It is also very important to remember that the disparity of weaponry was nothing compared to what the American forces have at present.
The world is watching and I guess no one is afraid of American "shock and awe" any more.
Yes you can destroy but you cannot rule: for that you have to find some one of the caliber of
Lord Clive who started his career at age 18. A soldier of fortune.
Or let me tell you about someone better, another 18yr old who landed with 6000 troops and conquered a bigger population and area and changed the region he changed the road signs, the map the geography the names and nomenclature, calendar and customs, even changed their diet. He achieved all this in less than 2 years. This guy had sailed from Basra and landed near present day Karachi
(the third biggest city in the world by some estimates). By the time he was in Multan he had raised 50,000 (locals) under his command.
He achieved all this with much less blood shed than the Americans have done so far. He also did not have the great superiority in Weaponry the Americans enjoy. His name is Mohammad bin Qasim,710AD.
What the Americans lack is Conviction. You cannot fight without CONVICTION.
Lord Clive was fighting for the British Empire.
Qasim was fighting the Arab nationalistic war of conquests. What is the American General fighting for? his pension and 401K, and which Multinational Corporation he will join after he retires.
Where is the Conviction!
Half the nation is against the War any way.
So why are you sabre rattling. Is it because you have nothing to lose personally like so many in favor of a war.

James Buchanan:

Mike D, the British officers taken were operating under a UN mandate to control smuggling and contraband in the region. Mostly human smuggling,mind you, but smuggling nonetheless. The Revolutionary Guard knew this, and used the recent retaliations against Iranian interference in Iraq as an excuse.

Both the British and US Navies operate regularly out in the Gulf, at the behest of the local governments without sufficient Naval strength, on missions utterly unrelated to Iraq. This was one.


Apparently, the US has not gotten over the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the hostage taking that happened then, and are still looking for some kind of payback. Thank god Carter was a much more sensible man than GWB, otherwise there would be another bloddy mess in Persian/Babylonian lands. Iran is not being given the benefit of the doubt about the purpose of its enrichment program. IMHO, every nation has the right to become energetically self-sufficient, and I do not blame the Iranians for trying to develop nuclear technology for the future. Why does it has to be assumed that Iran is bent into Armageddon? I believe it is more likely that India and Pakistan (countries with PROVEN nuclear arsenals) use their weapons against each other during a confilct.

There are non-proliferation organisms with the expertise to assess the REAL threat (not the hyped threat of the paranoid US administration) of nuclear weapon development on the iranian facilities (and do not bring up Iraq b/c the inspections DID work and no WMD threat really existed)


this happenings message is: If you dismantle Western soldiers of their carriers and bombers you find anxiety. that spectacle will be repeatet.

German Voice:

Hear hear, brown shirt TKB has tried to educate himself. Agreed, Germany has close ties to the Islamofascists and is a safe haven for terrorists, therefore, it is TKB's job to spread the Nazi propaganda. Come on TKB, get real. Der Fuehrer is dead!

mike d:

How come no one (especially in the media) ask why were the Brits boarding a ship in the first place? What business was it of theirs if a ship was smuggling? If it was headed for Iraq, board it at the port, if it was headed for Iran, notify them. If it left Iraq it should have already been searched, if it left Iran it was none of the Brits business. Nothing more than lapdog Blair provoking Iran for Bush.

James Buchanan:

The truth is, it doesn't matter one way or the other where they were, and who has the claim on that particular stretch of water. The reality is, the Brits got caught with their pants down. The rest is political theater, the truth be damned. Iran can stay a threatened country, and when the time comes, it can be a scorched country. What will the world do? Europe is too spineless to step in our way, China doesn't give a damn, and Russia has enough problems of its own. When the US decides its time to hurt Iran, Iranians will suffer, and that's good enough for me.

Old Atlantic:

The lesson he still can't learn or say:

Stop all Muslim immigration.

Until you can say that, you've learned nothing. It isn't what you think that counts, its what you say according to Lawrence Auster.


Afterall, this is an English language media and most likely to tilt towards Britain. There are always three sides: Side 1, side 2 and the truth.

Another imporant point to observe is that Iran has been threatened, justly or unjustly. They have to do what they find proper and best for them.

The Yanks and Brits ought to stay quiet since they have botched Iraq. It is more than years now. Their version of the story cannot be all that reliably believed.


Fred , Bos

I think you are describing the ever present influence of AIPAC; neocons are her handmaidens. It is true that Bush opposed taking out Saddam for no good reason. He told neocons at one point to shut up about it. Then 9/11 happened. His cowboy swagger and American triumphalism got the better of him and with the cheering on of the neocons he took out Iraq just because he can, especially since he found taking out Afghanistan was a cinch. What is worse, he told Iran to "take a number" AFTER the Iranians(majority Shiite) helped the U.S. against the Sunni Taliban and the EXCLUSIVELY SUNNI Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the common enemy of both Iran and the U.S., and helped set up the central government in Kabul by reining in the greed of the victorious Northern Alliance.

Iran did not get $2B a year like Pakistan and was not called "our key ally in the war on terror" even though Pakistan harbors Taliban(local Islamic radicals) and Al Qaeda in the Pashtun areas, and cut some heads off of a many headed monster, Al Qaeda, for show. As long as Musharaf does not bother Taliban, the locals, Taliban does not care to lose a few non-local Al Qaeda. Taliban apparently does not share in Al Qaeda's global agenda; it's only concern is local Islamic radical rule.

So, even apparently, the current Sunni-Shiia conflict is strictly American made or exacerbated. Kissinger said of Iran and Iraq, "I hope they kill each other off". Israel is busily building up a Sunni alliance with corrupt states of Egypt and Saudi Arabia(Sunni states that recognize Israel) to pit against the Shiite states like Iraq and Iran, who do not recognize Israel, to the goal of Sunni-Shiite mutually assured destruction. This is what pissed off the local Egyptian and Saudi Sunni radicals, Al Qaeda, into attacking the U.S(biggest sponsor of Israel) and the West in general.

James Buchanan,

I wanna see you and Ahmadinejad in a hand to hand to combat to the death. I think for all your idiotic swagger, Mahmoud can probably kick your derriere to oblivion; he used to be a soccer player-- they're good at kicking round small objects.

Iran is a small threatened country that is acting erratically only because two carrier battle groups of the vaunted U.S. Navy is parked outside its front door threatening to do it major physical harm. America has a long history of Evil against Iran. You really wanna risk escalating the crisis over a few hapless Brits and threaten the flow of the world oil, which is NOT in the interest of the U.S. Iran has not invaded another country in over 250 years. It's only sin is having too much oil and not recognizing Israel, America's bi**h.

A British writer, David Cox, said in The Guardian, that it is unforgivable, in the face of Israel's nukes(250-300 circa 1984) and her history of belligerence against all her neighbors not to have the Bomb already, from the point of view of the Iranian national security.

"Iran Must have the Bomb"

Fred , Bos:

PT :
Not only the shift is quite evident but fate has displayed inadequate knowledge about Iran , both the past and present political struture, as well as domestic and foreign policies ,again in the past and present , to a great extent .
As for the Bush and neocons's desires , well , I have always maintained Mr. Bush is not capable of all these catastrophic foreign policies resulting in so many innocent lives lost and displaced and desovereigntization of a nation with such a long history and needles to mention , not any worthy accomplishments at home either , all on his own .
It must be noted that the neocons initially , 22 of them to be exact , wrote a letter urging President Clinton to start establishing , removing Hussein , permanent US bases in Iraq , without much success whereupon they banked and won the installation of the current president with the help of his father's appointed Supreme court judges and whom according to Mr. Paul Oneil ,his first treasury secretary , the Iraq agenda was on the table from the very begining .
As for their Iran adventurism , I think they have been through enough not to go through any miscalculation again .


Nobody really knows what happened, but all want to put forth their own conception of "what really happened" to support their particular position on the issue. It was a minor incident that has been cleared up; that is all ye on earth know, and all ye need know.



It's interesting that you've shifted your position completely from inferring a domestic motive for the capture of the Brits by Iran to an acknowledgement that the principle concern relates to a so-called new cold war.
The antipathy between the US and Iran traces back to the 1954 overthrow by the Brits and the US (MI6 & CIA) of a duly elected government in Iran, a government that openly expressed its wish to nationalize BP's extensive holdings in Iran. They installed the Shah who instituted a far more brutal regime than the present one, which nationalized the oil companies in any case after 5 years. Moreover, the US was prepared to give Iran nuclear capabilities under the Shah.
The present hostilities came about because the US has never forgiven Iran's mullahs for holding our embassy personnel hostage. We went so far as to supply Saddam with the gas he used against Iran's soldiers. Remember it was Iraq that started the Iraq-Iran conflict. Moreover, we routinely gave him satellite shots of Iranian military formations. In short we waged a proxy war against Iran in which they lost in excess of 300k soldiers. Altogether we helped inspire Saddam to proceed with a war that killed in excess of a million people and displaced millions more. So much for your cold war thesis. The reason for the cold war with the Soviets was a perceived rough equivalence of power. Such a balance of power does not exist between Iran and the US. It is world opinion alone that inhibits a direct attack by the US in Iran. Mr. Bush and the neocons have long expressed their desire for a hot war. Remember "Everybody wants to go to Iraq, real men want to go to Iran."


PT wrote:
---This is tit for tat---

Probably, at least that's probably how the Iranians see it. The Soviets and the west had a lot of tit for tat. When we captured a Russian spy the Russians just went out, claimed one of the US diplomats was a spy, held him and then arrange an exchange. I would imagine that the US has a sub trailing every Iranian warship. I agree, we're in another cold war. But I don't think the Iranians are prepared for a cold war. The west knows how to handle a cold war and I don't think the Iranian government has the same grip on its people as the Soviets did. The question is, if the west ratchets up the sanctions and isolates Iran, how long will the Iranian people take it before demanding change at home?


Fate said:
The only reason I can understand why they would do this [Iranians] is for internal politics. If so that means Iran is moving toward a political crisis. Like the Soviets, the west needs to contain them and wait for the Iranian people to straighten things out.

When the US kidnapped 5 Iranian diplomats in Iraq on the eve of the SOTU address by Mr. Bush, in what the Independent newspaper has now reported was a botched job (they were after higher ups), the Iranians were put on notice that the US was prepared to use force in dealing with Iran. This is tit for tat. And the proof is in the quid pro quos... the release of another Iranian diplomat kidnapped by Iraqi forces and consideration by the US of visiting rights for the 5 Iranians the Americans still hold. However this plays domestically in Iran, it was done for geostrategic reasons to wrongfoot the British and US. Iran has good reason to believe that they will be attacked by either the US or by proxy Israeli forces for proceeding with enrichment of uranium. This move amounts to an exchange of pawns in the chess game the US has initiated. And it points to a need for containment of the big powers as well as Iran. Most of the violence in the region at the moment is on the hands of the US, who, unlike the Iranians, are meddling well outside their neighborhood.


JRLR wrote:
---Yes, I saw on TV Palestinian elected members of Parliament abducted by the Israelis paraded on their way to jail---

Why oh why is it that when there is a discussion about the West and an Islamic country someone ALWAYS bring up the Isaeli/Palestinian problem? As though one has anything to do with another. You sound like the American conservatives in the last century, everything they didn't like was attributed to communists. In both cases I just role my eyes knowing this discussion is going no where but off track.

The Iranians have dug their hole a little deeper. The only reason I can understand why they would do this is for internal politics. If so that means Iran is moving toward a political crisis. Like the Soviets, the west needs to contain them and wait for the Iranian people to straighten things out.


Yes, I saw on TV Palestinian elected members of Parliament abducted by the Israelis paraded on their way to jail.

Yes, I saw on TV President Saddam Hussein being displayed disgracefully by American media, after his capture. I even know people who watched, on TV (I refused to watch that degrading spectacle), President Saddam Hussein being hanged.

No, unfortunately, the Palestinians were not given suits and ties to wear, they had to do without. Apparently, their captors had not been that generous.

No, they the Palestinians were not released, not even as a "gift" to anyone (that was true of imprisoned women and children as well).

Those were only some of the rotten oranges.

Personally, I prefer the beautiful Iranian fruits I saw (on TV) offered to the British service men and woman.

You may have the oranges.


JRLR wrote:
---Indeed, you cannot conduct covert operations in Iran (as reported repeatedly by Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker), attack embassies and consulates, abduct diplomats and elected officials, and expect fair treatment.---

Have we seen these abducted "diplomats" on TV? Were they given suits and ties to wear? Have they been released as a "gift"? You compare apples and rotten oranges.


"You cannot be beligerent and expect fair treatment. Iran crossed a line and will be treated differently now. That will be the price it pays though very few will see it, but the Iranian government will see it and feel it."

Indeed, you cannot conduct covert operations in Iran (as reported repeatedly by Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker), attack embassies and consulates, abduct diplomats and elected officials, and expect fair treatment. Britain, the US and Israel have crossed a line and are now treated differently. That is the price they pay (though very few of us are aware of the whole price paid), but the British,US and Israeli governments see it and feel it.


The Iranians have put Britain, the US and everyone else in the neighborhood on notice that they have hostile intent. You can expect every British patrol checking ships to now be heavily armed with supporting ships at the ready and watching for trouble from Iran. I expect the US will tighten the Iraq/Iran border, even hastling Iranians trying to cross. You cannot be beligerent and expect fair treatment. Iran crossed a line and will be treated differently now. That will be the price it pays though very few will see it, but the Iranian government will see it and feel it.


"I don't agree with my PostGlobal colleague Hossein Derakhshan that Iran has won this round of the PR war."

That Iran did is what seems to be reflected in the media all around the world, so far. Even critics of Iran do not dare state that Britain came out of that crisis not having to eat much humble pie...

But once the British had not seen to it that their people were not arrested by the Iranian Guards, they had no choice but to make the return of those men and woman, safe and sound, their top priority. The British public would not have accepted the loss of those people, least of all following a failed (always a possibility) rescue operation, or a military raid on Iran.

I think those years of lies and deception have taken their toll on the British population. As Commander General Dannatt has stated already, in relation to Iraq: "It's over, and time is running out."

James Buchanan:

In response:

#1. Diplomatic relations aren't necessary, though convenient. Unfortunately, those relations result in this kind of public theater when one side possesses sufficient resolve to yank the other's chain.

#2. Tony Blair didn't do dick. He sat in front of a camera making all the appropriate noises, but not one iota of "negotiation" went on. This was a PR ploy by Iran to jerk the West's chain that was carefully choreographed between the supposedly out of control Revolutionary Guard and the benevolent President swooping in to the rescue. Tony Blair demonstrated that negotiation just buys time for those who control the initiative to act unopposed.

#3. Iran showed its a country savvy enough to tug the heartstrings of the pedantic bleating hearts that run what's left of Europe and can manipulate them with the skill of a master conductor.

#4. Taking foreign prisoners is nothing more than another move on the chessboard. It does rouse passions, unfortunately, lacking a proper backbone, it tends to melt resolve like acid.

#5. Case and point of #4...

#6. Probably the only sensible part of your commentary. There's hope for you yet.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.