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Opportunity missed to improve US-Iran relations, says Gary Sick

London, Oct 19, IRNA -- Former US President Jimmy Carter's principal aide for Iran, Gary Sick, blames both Washington and Tehran for squandering the opportunity to improve bilateral relations following the events of September 11.

Sick, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, believed that a real prospect existed last year for a rapprochement between the US and Iran after more than two decades of deadlock, but suggested that it was scuppered by Israeli claims on Iran arming the Palestinians.

"There was the cooperation on rebuilding Afghanistan. Everything was done in terms of putting a new government there and Iran was remarkably good," he told IRNA.

"But as far as the Bush Administration was concerned there was 'Karine A' in December and the president had no doubts whatsoever, no qualms at all that Iranian factions were involved very actively in getting arms to the Palestinians," Sick said.

He said that George W. Bush backed away from the rapprochement and that it was just a month after the weapons smuggling charges against Tehran which Bush' infamous 'axis of evil' speech, which included Iran, was made.

"The US is just being very much more belligerent and taking a much shorter fuse than even a few months earlier that is due to 9/11," the former member of the National Security Council said.

"That may not be a satisfactory answer as far as Iran is concerned but the reality is that the United States did accept that information and it has been a dominant feature," he said.

Pressed about the primary role of the Zionist regime in US policy, he said Israel is "certainly a very big problem and clearly complicates any relations," said Sick, who heads the Persian Gulf 2000 project at Columbia University.

"If Karine A was an Israeli put-up job, it was unbelievably brilliant because it played right into the position of the US with regard to terrorism and showed Iran was playing a double game, which was in Israel's interests," he conceded.

But if it was not completely an Israeli fabrication, it was "very foolish," Sick added, comparing the incident with the Iran-Contra scandal, which was contrary to official US policy during the 1980s.

He told IRNA that although he was basically an optimistic, he did "not see any prospects right now" for a breakthrough on relations between the US and Iran.

"The US policy is getting worse and worse, Iranians are being harassed and humiliated coming into the US, there is this belligerent attitude 'if you are not with us, you are against us' that is very, very strong in policy-making circles in Washington," Sick said.

He said that the threatened war against Iraq was also dominating the political agenda. In turn, he believed that the "rhetoric coming out of Tehran was also not very conducive to relations."

"If you really want to be optimist you can look at the last few statements Bush has made. For instance, in the Strategic Document, which lists a number of countries being dangerous, Iran is not there, it is not mentioned," the professor of international relations said.

"In his speech on September 11 anniversary and at the UN, he either left out Iran and referred to it in a positive way," he said, adding there are "tiny signs and they are not by chance" even though the US president focused on Iraq and realises he may need support.

Sick felt it would be wrong to over-emphasise the good news, saying that there was also "a lot of bad news that could not be overlooked."

On Iraq, he suggested that the US would want Iran to play a similar neutral role as it did in the 1991 war.

"Iran has been taking a very moderate position with regard to the Iraqi issue, staying quiet, not looking for a fight, when clearly it had mixed concerns," said the former aide of Jimmy Carter, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

"There is no question on anyone's mind that Iran would like to see Saddam Hussein gone. It would be of great benefit to them. On the other hand having an American puppet regime in Baghdad is the last thing any Iranian wants," he said.

Sick said it was "absolutely right" that Iran was concerned that it was being slowly encircled by American troops in neighbouring countries.

"I am a personal believer that the United States should not go out and make enemies it does not have to and lately we have been making enemies we do not have to and that is a real mistake," he said.

The former US aide to Iran, who was visiting London, spoke about Bush's doctrine at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) on Friday, when he cited the policies of pre-emption and military domination as two new cardinal principals.

"The imperial moment was quite prevalent in the new US Strategic Document but was not comprehended or being absorbed by the American people," he said. "My impression is that violent overthrow is not popular," he added.

In his interview with IRNA, Sick criticised Bush's policy, saying it was "very bellicose and just goes out and tries to offend as many people as possible."

"It sometimes scares them into cooperation and also scares them away and makes them only work with us when they absolutely have to. That is a very inefficient way to run a foreign policy," he said.

The adjunct professor said that although it was not spelt out explicitly in the Strategic document, one objective was to "remake the Middle East."

"Saudi Arabia, I think, is a real problem," he said predicting that there would be a "prolonged very rocky period of relations" between Washington and Riyadh."

With regard to Iran, Sick said there was a "lot of people around Bush arguing it is on the verge of total collapse, and that the US does not have to do much," but stressed that he "totally disagreed."

"I don't see signs. It is nonsense," he said, referring to his experience as Carter's special aide to Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

The former National Security Council member also ridiculed US plans to install a democratic system in Iraq, saying it was "extraordinary, complicated and messy" and that the people there had never had any familiarity with democracy.

But he suggested that the outcome of Iraq could be a defining moment in shaping the future of US foreign policy.

... Payvand News - 10/19/02 ... --

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