Iran News ...


11/5/03

Crossing over burnt bridges

By Kam Zarrabi

 

Iran is a Member of the Axis of Evil, is the Number-One State Sponsor of International Terrorism, is in breach of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and is in gross violation of human rights.

 

Taking these allegations from the bottom-up, yes, Iran should be charged with violation of human rights, as is practically every other country in the world today. But is Iran more guilty of this charge than, say, China or Israel?

 

How about Iran's breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Here the question becomes more intriguing. First of all, signing the NPT agreement was a voluntary move, and getting out of it remains equally voluntary, especially when the benefits promised to the signatories to the treaty are, as we have seen, blocked through intimidation and blackmail by the United States. No country can be denied the right to employ nuclear technology for its legitimate needs. Scientific cooperation and access to technical support for the peaceful applications of nuclear energy were the guaranteed rewards for signing the treaty. With continued diplomatic pressure on Russia by the United States and Israel (Sharon is there now, doing his damned best to convince Vladimir Putin to halt Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran), Iran has been employing its own in-house technological and material resources for its needs.

 

Second, allegations or suspicions alone are not enough to accuse a country of these violations or to demand exceptionally intrusive inspections aimed at exposing its strategically sensitive defensive apparatus to blatantly hostile adversaries, particularly Israel.

 

Third, looking at it from a purely pragmatic point if view, why should Iran refrain from the acquisition of nuclear weapons as a much needed deterrent to almost certain aggression? When was the last time Iran threatened or invaded another state near or far, to warrant the fear that its development of nuclear weapons would increase that threat? This is particularly ironic, since the only truly terrorist state by any definition in the region, Israel, is guilty of all kinds of atrocities within its own zone of occupation and against its neighbor to the north, and has a huge nuclear arsenal, and has openly threatened "preemptive" military strikes against "suspected" Iranian facilities. Would this little troublemaker dare contemplate such aggression with impunity if Iran could easily retaliate in kind or worse? Unless the entire region, including Israel, is disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, Iran's acquisition of Nuclear weapons is the best safeguard against potential aggressions that are otherwise sure to be initiated by Israel or on Israel's behalf.

 

In the current state of affairs, Iran is being denied access to legal technological support for its lawful peaceful purposes, demands are being made by the United States, as the mouthpiece for Israel of course, to expose Iran's military installation to its enemy's spying eyes, and the paranoid pit-bull, Israel, continues its threats to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities as a preemptive self-defense measure.  What madness is this?

 

Now to the issue of allegations against Iran as the chief sponsor of terrorism in the world: One guess, again, as to who stands to benefit most by this propaganda line!

 

To understand these allegations, international terrorism or the support for such terrorism must be clearly defined. Since, as the cliché goes, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter, some international standards must govern how the term should be applied.

 

One should now see more clearly why some countries, you can guess which ones, do not want to be judged by any international tribunal or to be held accountable in front of an international court of justice - Iran is not among them!

 

A simple examination will point to the real sponsors of these allegations against Iran. Chief among these accusations are Iran's direct and admitted support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, as well as indirect support for some Palestinian resistant movements in the Israeli occupied territories. If we listen to some of our own congressional representatives in Washington, we can clearly hear echoes of the voices coming out of the Israeli Knesset. In Lebanon, Hezbollah created for Israel what Vietnam had become for the United States, or Chechnia is becoming for Russia. Although Hezbollah resistance movement never struck at anything other than military targets, and never took actions outside its own land, it has been labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States. Ever wonder why?

 

The case against Iran's support for the Palestinian militants is somewhat more complicated. There is no question that suicide bombings and killings of innocent non-combatants are acts of terrorism that cannot be condoned under any circumstances. But such condemnation should not be limited to only one side of the equation. The barbaric atrocities committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people on a routine basis continues to be orders of magnitude greater than what the Palestinian terrorists could ever do in retaliation. At the same time, the support, financial, military and diplomatic, that America provides for this state-sponsored terrorism is also orders of magnitude greater than any such support Iran might give to the Palestinian groups. So, if we are to condemn Iran for its support of groups whose fringe elements are involved in acts of terrorism, shouldn't we also hold the United States responsible for supporting a regime that engages in terrorism in a much grander scale and as official state policy?

 

Iran claims that its support for the Palestinian resistance is purely moral and philanthropic, and has routinely condemned acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. The United States also maintains that it does not support Israel's excessive use of force or the non-stop expansion of its illegal settlements in the occupied territories. However, the United States has thus far openly sanctioned Israel's indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas and targeted assassination of political dissidents as acts of self-defense!

 

Is it not clear that classifying Iran as the #1 State Sponsor of International Terrorism is purely and simply an Israeli ploy, serving only Israel's interests, that is sold to us as an American security imperative?

 

Finally, the biggest foot-in-the-mouth masterpiece; the Axis of Evil phrase shrewdly interjected in the President's State of the Union Address over a year and a half ago. Any statement made by the President of United States, especially during a formal, prepared speech, is always viewed and analyzed with greatest seriousness. These are not casual remarks by some junior Administration official that could be retracted or revised at a later date. How did the President of the United States of America reach the conclusion that Iran belonged alongside Iraq and North Korea in any kind of axis, evil or not? What was the common denominator between these three international demons that uniquely qualified them as members of this exclusive club?

 

North Korea is a starving nation at the verge of economic collapse. Left alone, it will gradually deteriorate, dissolve, and become absorbed by South Korea. But North Korea has managed to develop a weapons' type nuclear industry, and medium-range missile technology, its highly lucrative and only cash crop. North Korea's nuclear and missile technologies could potentially arm states like Iran or Iraq with the arsenal that would neutralize Israel's heretofore unchallenged military supremacy in the region. We can't have that, can we? If Syria had the money to purchase this technology from North Korea, it too would have been included in the Axis of Evil grouping.

 

Anyone who believes that the so-called Axis of Evil states pose any threat to the United States, or stand to gain anything by doing so, must also believe that Israel is a peaceful democracy and the sole outpost of the civilized world in a hostile region. Such Cecil B. DeMille type Hollywood imageries have helped create this fantasy in the minds of most Americans who have historically never had the urge to be skeptical or inquisitive about world affairs.

 

Again, could there be any doubt as to who would benefit the most by demonizing Iran as a member of a dreaded Axis of Evil. This creative mythology was a cunningly implemented ploy by one David Frumm, the speechwriter, whose affiliation with the powerful Israeli lobby is well known. Who put him up to this, and why?

 

Interestingly, there are much more appropriate prospects for membership in the global evildoers' club, even if we only look at the picture from the point of view of America's best interests. These include countries that are known to promote, support, or give sanctuary to terrorists and saboteurs who plan operations against the United States, also those countries that, solely for their own legitimate or illegitimate benefit, manipulate and draw the United States into harms way. Non-state groups such as the Colombian drug cartel and the Al Gha'eda camp are indisputably among global evildoers targeting America. But, what kind of a threat does, or could, Iran pose to the United States of America, and for what gains?

 

Now to the next chapter in this entangled saga: Why does Israel insist on creating dissent and turmoil in the region?

 

To understand that, one has to only review the history of the region since the first Arab/Israeli clashes in 1958. In each confrontation since that time, Israel managed to gain at the expense of Arab losses. Israel's biggest gains occurred as a result of the "preemptive" war against its Arab neighbors in 1967. In the meantime, Palestinian resistance and their resort to violence and terrorism against the occupying power gave Israel the seemingly legitimate pretext or excuse to transgress into the Palestinian territories, creating and expanding illegal Jewish settlements, establishing military outposts, and violating Palestinian people's dignity and human rights, all in the name of self-defense. Israel has prospered and expanded its territories and access to water resources for its rapidly increasing immigrant Jewish population. Without the annexation of additional territories and creation of new settlements and procurement of resources, these gains would have been nearly impossible.

 

With its unquestioned military superiority, as well as the unequivocal economic, military and diplomatic support by the United States, Israel has managed to use Palestinian resistance, violence, terrorism, and even legitimate demands, as further excuses to fragment, isolate, and disenfranchise them in the direction of some final solution. This final solution definitely does not include, at least not at this time, the creation of one state that would include both the current Israeli citizens and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; that would be antithesis to the concept of a Jewish state.  On the other hand, creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel for a large Palestinian population, without allocating enough contiguous land, water resources, and the right-of-return, is not a workable plan, either. Perhaps even the most radical conservative Israelis do not really believe that the Palestinians could gradually be squeezed out of existence or pushed into Jordan or the Sinai as the ultimate Palestinian homeland. But, as long as this rather one-sided tug of war continues, Israel also continues to make territorial gains in form of new settlements, while increasing its repression against the Palestinian population.

 

Israel's internal policies vis a vis the Palestinian population, and external strategies in dealing with the neighboring countries, are dependent 100 percent on the multilevel support from the United States. Should the huge, and ever increasing, financial support in form of cash, loan guarantees, trade advantages, and military aid and supplies cease to flood in, Israel's economy would not be able to sustain its ambitious development and expansion projects or its gigantic military expenditures. How to maintain this relationship with the United States has been the principal concern of all Israeli leaders, from Ben Gurion to Sharon.

 

Each Israeli administration has used tactics tailored to the political atmosphere of the times in order to preserve this umbilical chord. The most troubling and potentially dangerous tactic has been the more recent (Netanyahu and Sharon administrations) threats of unilateral military actions against potential adversaries, in order to gain additional concessions from the United States. Rather than be drawn into an unwanted quagmire in the region, the United States has chosen to pay the ransom for this kind of political blackmail by increasing its support for Israel in every form, and acting as Israel's surrogate in applying pressure on the regional states whom Israel regards as potential problem.

 

In short, the prevalent political atmosphere in America, and the American public's general mindset about Israel and the Middle East, favor Israel by a significant margin while holding the rest of the region, or the Islamic states as a whole, in a pretty dim view.  Is this trend likely to change? Not anytime soon, we can be assured. The recent exchange between Howard Dean and Joseph Lieberman, the front-runner and the hopeful Democratic candidates for President in next year's elections, should leave no doubts as to the established political attitude in this country. Mr. Dean stated his position regarding America's role in influencing a peaceful settlement in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, by saying that he would adopt a more evenhanded approach. This evenhandedness did not sit well with Mr. Lieberman who reiterated America's unwavering support for Israel, regardless! Mr. Dean has since reaffirmed his position regarding America's unquestioned support for Israel in his subsequent speeches and interviews, to save his candidacy, of course.

 

To hold political office here, it would be a suicide to criticize Israel in any form or way. Whether running for a two-year term in the House of Representatives, a six-year term in the Senate, or a four-year term as the President of the United States, political campaigning is a way of life. Campaigning for the large African American or the Hispanic votes encompasses a wide array of socio-economic issues that affect large segments of the American public. Issues ranging from immigration policies, bilingual education, affirmative action, jobs, low-income housing, taxes, etc., affect the entire population. But, in attracting the Jewish vote the main issue is concern for Israel, a foreign entity whose contribution to America's best interests is absolutely zero. Yet, without the endorsement by the Israeli lobby with its money and tremendous influence in the mass media, the struggle to gain any political office is an uphill battle.

 

As an American, it is not too difficult to subscribe to the philosophy that what is good for America must be, is, or could be, good for the world, depending on one's degree of selfishness, patriotism, or naivete. But to maintain that what is good for Israel is necessarily good for America requires years of indoctrination, self-delusion, or a gigantic leap of faith!

 

But, be that as it may, this is in fact how Israel and Israeli interests and concerns are viewed by the average voting American citizen, and the American Administration as a whole - and the world simply has to deal with it, like it or not.

 

As stated before, an agitated and unstable Middle East is exactly the kind of atmosphere where Israel can prosper and grow. Regional disturbances necessitate America's military presence to safeguard its strategic interests such as the flow of oil. Additional protection for Israel means more money and arms; and regional chaos means less attention to or criticism of Israel's draconian measures against the hapless Palestinians. We can see that already happening. As long as Israel can be assured that its military superiority and nuclear arsenal remain intact, the more agitated the region the better for Israeli interests.

 

This is exactly why Israel cannot tolerate the creation of another nuclear power nearby that might neutralize that superiority. Without the ability to blackmail Iran, for example, Israel cannot force Iran to back off from its support of the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Palestinian resistance movements. Israel wants to carry on in its current course unimpeded and with total impunity; and why not, if it has done so all along?

 

Now, what does Iran have to gain by becoming a threat to Israel? We know that the allegations of sponsorship of international terrorism, being a member of Bush's Axis of Evil trio, or being a threat to the security of the United States are purely for Israel's benefit and nothing else. So, why would Iran want to launch aggressions toward Israel in the first place, knowing that an ensured retaliation would mean a catastrophe beyond imagination for Iran? What would Iran gain even if it could eliminate Israel as a viable state, stronger Arab neighbors as potential adversaries for itself in the future?

 

Simple logic tells us that Israel's true fear cannot be of a nuclear-armed Iran posing a military threat against it. Therefore, all the nonsense and hullabaloo about Iran's violation of the NPT is to cause further agitation between the United States and Iran, and to push Iran into deeper economic and diplomatic isolation. Israel anticipates that additional economic and political pressures might convince Iran to abandon its support for the thorns in Israel's side.

 

Pragmatically speaking, it is not possible for Iran to get America off its back and involved in any productive dialogue without consideration of the primacy of Israel's agendas. There is no doubt that Iran can and should play an instrumental role in economic and social development and stability of both Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States has already acknowledged that fact on several occasions. However, stability and prosperity of Afghanistan and Iraq are not on Israel's priorities list at this time.

 

Israel's true agenda is not too complicated: First, Israel wants all forms of resistance, militancy and hostilities by the Palestinian groups and their supporters to end, so that it can carry out its agenda without incurring any loss of lives or material damage. Second, Israel wants an uninterrupted continuation of financial and diplomatic support from the United States; financial support for its economic expansion needs, and diplomatic support to be able to defy world public opinion with impunity against its policies toward the Palestinians.

 

With Iraq all but defused as a viable threat, and Syria at the verge of submission to economic pressures, what does Iran have to lose by coming to terms with Israel's demands, at least behind closed doors? Both states have had their share of troubles with their Arab neighbors. Iran's support for the Lebanese Hezbollah had begun long before that political movement assumed that name; it was first the Amal Shiite party that was being supported by Iran under the Pahlavi regime, with America's blessing. Hezbollah gained its notoriety after Israel's invasion of Lebanon, creating the atmosphere for guerilla warfare against Israel's occupation of the Shiite's territories in southern Lebanon.

 

The only viable solution to this dilemma is a tripartite diplomatic engagement between the United States, Israel and Iran, away from public eyes. Iran agrees to abandon its support of groups hostile to the Israeli interests, in exchange for Israel allowing the United States Administration to engage Iran in diplomatic and economic relations. The United States will agree to guarantee Iran's security against any hostilities, including from Israel, in exchange for Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons programs.

 

For Iran, the only alternative to this scenario would be to proceed clandestinely with the development of the nuclear arsenal as the ultimate deterrent against potential aggression, and continue playing hardball at whatever cost to its economy and social environment that the Iranian people are willing to pay.

 

Either way, Iran and Israel must enter some from of détente, either through a mutual understanding and agreement, or through a standoff by the threat of mutual destruction. Israel as a country is here to stay, and nothing the Middle East can do will change this fact of history. And, Iran, as the largest, most populous country with the greatest industrial infrastructure and economic potentials in the region, cannot be sidelined forever.

 

It is my personal opinion that Iranian leadership today, from the conservative ranks to the reformists and the more liberals, those who have managed to remain in power after twenty-four years of adverse socio-economic conditions, know the facts of life as well as any diplomat or social scientist anywhere. Our highbrow academic pundits and backseat drivers are not teaching them anything they don't already know. The differences among their views are only differences in methods of approach to solving the same problem.

 

We can already see a mild effort being initiated toward a rapprochement between the State Department and Iran. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage is today the sole voice of moderation in this Administration, since Collin Powell's dovish approach was silenced by the Administration hawks long ago. From the Iranian side, even some of the hardliners are voicing more moderate or conciliatory opinions. They have to do so cautiously, just as does Mr. Armitage, as they are all walking a diplomatic tightrope.

 

Only if the troublemakers both here and there can be at least temporarily sidelined, there might be a good chance for positive changes to take place.

 

... Payvand News - 11/5/03 ... --



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