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4/25/05

The Folly of "Imposed" Democracy

By Kam ZarrabiIntellectual Discourse

 

In an ideal world, peace and justice prevail, there are no conflicts of interests, and all human beings enjoy health and happiness, that very special kind of happiness that never infringes on or is at the expense of someone else's happiness.

 

But, Lake Hamoon in Zabul, at Iran-Afghanistan border, is dry these days, thanks to the decades-long draught in Afghanistan; so Zarathushtra's seed is not likely to germinate and emerge from the waters as the Savior, Sushyant, to rid the world of all evil. The Christian Messiah has not appeared as yet either, in spite of some claims that he is currently residing at the White House just waiting for Armageddon to blast off. Neither has the Mahdi (the Islamic Messiah), the hidden Imam of the Shi'ite Moslems, come out of his centuries-long occultation to bring final salvation to the world; notwithstanding the Baha'i's claims that he has come, but is still working on his plans.

 

This older Zoroastrian mythology encapsulates mankind's perennial dream of an idyllic future world where the spirit of righteousness, truth and justice prevails and the evil of greed, lie and deception is banished forever. Even after the gods of the Gilgamesh legend, and later the god of the Hebrews, unleashed the deluge and wiped out the surface of the Earth of all species, the descendants of Utanapishtim, and later of Noah, messed up god's creation all over again.

 

God or gods just simply gave up! They really had no other choice, they were dealing with human nature. After all, was it not this same sapient species whose creative mind, or collective subconscious, had generated that heavenly theater with its playwrights, lead actors, and the cast of characters? That's why this cosmic screenplay simply had to accommodate mankind's self-redeeming expectations.

 

And this is exactly how it came to pass that Yahweh, the god of Abraham, finally decided to pick a certain tribe of nomads out of all the others he had created, and he called them his Chosen People. Having literally disowned all the rest, he then ordered a merciless takeover of all the neighboring lands to make room for his personal Chosen People (Deuteronomy 7). The Book of Joshua is replete with the gory accounts of the slaughter that followed on god's very specific orders.

 

Mankind was simply obeying God's will; the playwrights had seen to it that the Chosen, themselves, would not be blamed. But, sooner or later, the god of the Hebrews had to lock horns with several other gods. The followers of these gods, the Babylonians, Assyrians and the Romans, proved to be more numerous and more powerful than the Chosen tribes. The Chosen lost their dominion and could only watch as the mightier deities sent their respective mercenaries to battle each other for dominance and control of the world as they knew it.

 

Of course, when the Hebrews were slaughtering man, woman and child, as well as the livestock or "anything the breathed", of their disfavored foes, and plundering their possessions, according to the very specific mandates from their god, they had a just cause, they were doing god's work. They wouldn't have done it otherwise. Neither would their predecessors, the Aryan tribes or the Noble People of north-central Asia, who had received similar mandates from their own god to head southward out of the frozen tundra and take over the greener pasturelands of the Iranian plateau some four or five thousand years ago.

 

Much later, the Forces of Islam, bursting out of the hostile climes of the Arabian desert, had a mission to deliver salvation to the hell-bound infidels and, in the process, set claim to territories and treasures beyond their wildest dreams.

 

Turks and Mongols followed, as did so many other tribes and nations, some carrying faith-based mandates and others ideological manifestos; but they were all self-righteously convinced of their respective moral and ethical justifications for whatever brought them what they wished.

 

The Spanish and the Portuguese colonized the new American continent and liberated the natives into oblivion in the name of Christianity. North America was to become the latter day Promised Land for the disenfranchised European settlers who struggled hard to manifest their god-given destiny, all at the expense of the native tribes who were thus cleansed and liberated from their ancestral lands, as the spirits of their forebears watched in hapless disbelief.

 

This is nature at work; gods, religions, secular ideologies and canons of law are simply tools created by man's marvelous intellectual resources to serve as guidelines and justifications for what comes naturally as the human survival instinct manifests itself.

 

The human cultural heritage is perhaps best represented symbolically in the Judeo-Christian Biblical myths. Man was supposedly created by God in God's own image, god-like, yet ungodly as the same time. First, man had to have been created in God's image in order to reign supreme over the rest of creation. But, to also rule supreme over fellow man, some members of the species had to have been disfavored by God; hence the legend of Abel and Cain - what a marvelous scenario!

 

Justice in the old Biblical tradition is represented in disproportionate brutality, vengeance, and often even as an act of preemption rather than retribution for an actual crime. This is also quite human, and nothing has changed in three thousand years. We read in what is called the revealed or inspired words of God by the devout, that Passover took place because the Egyptian Ferroah had ordered all the first-born sons of the Hebrews in Egypt to be killed on a certain night. Yahweh, rather than employ His good offices to change Farroah's sick mind or even to strike dead the tyrant, decides to reverse the table and have all the first-born sons of Egypt killed that same night. Of course, Ramses could not have been eliminated, since the scribes who wrote the legend knew that he had lived long after the Hebrews had departed from Egypt.

 

Should we be surprised that, in that exhibition of cosmic justice, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of perfectly innocent people died by Yahweh's command only because Egypt was supposedly ruled by a bad dictator? (Doesn't that sound familiar?) We see a very similar disproportionate and brutal act of preemptive vengeance in the story of Esther, again reflective of man's natural ability to justify and even celebrate any action, however brutal, that serves his interests.

 

Are we doing things differently these days?

 

Didn't some descendants of Ishmael, the other son of Abraham, ride those planes into our Twin Towers and kill three thousand perfectly innocent people for what they believed to be their just cause?  Doesn't Osama Bin Laden blame the leader of today's equivalent of the ancient empire of Egypt for tyranny and subjugation of his fellow believers, just as did Moses in his days? Isn't he, perhaps unwittingly, appealing to the same Biblical rationale?

 

From Bible to Baghdad.

 

In an article by Stephen Bender, Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran, April 5, 2005,  www.american idealism.com/  an idealist/moralist's erudite exposÚ of what has seemingly gone wrong with a superpower's sense of humanity, is superbly expressed. Perhaps Stephen Bender would have preferred to live on another planet where its sapient species had evolved somewhat differently. Here on this Earth, he'll have to wait for the real Messiah to arrive before his pleas might receive an audience. 

 

Until then, we humans must learn, perhaps the hard way, to accept and cope with certain realities of life as we are currently experiencing.

 

What are some of these realities?

 

  • Even if there do exist international laws and universally accepted codes of human conduct, there are no universally enforceable codes that would apply equally to all nations, big and small, weak or strong.
  • The more powerful rules and dictates what constitutes right and wrong, just or unjust.
  • Since even the powerful must accommodate a nation's sense of morality and righteousness, whatever the powerful does must appear as honorable and just to its own public.

 

Once these undeniable paradigms are understood and accepted as facts of life, the whole debate around today's international affairs, war and peace, conflict and resolution, take on a much clearer perspective. For example, consider the following:

 

  • The term terrorism or aggression, for instance, applies only to acts of militancy or insurgency aimed against the interests of the superpowers and their surrogates. The superpower's similar acts take the label of  just war, liberation, or the promotion of freedom and democracy; all that good stuff.
  • The powerful determines what is good and what is evil. The rationale is quite simple, as there are only two alternatives: Either a universal "Good" or "Right" does exist, or Good and Right are subjective constructs defined by mankind to serve some immediate purpose. If it is the Divine power that defines Good and Right, it is surely the god of the superpower - the one and only true God - who makes that determination. If, on the other hand, Good and Right are relative terms subject to time and place, then again, it is the powerful whose authority establishes what defines Good or Right. Either way, it is Might that makes Right; make no mistake about it.

 

Of course, for Might to continue to make Right, the mightiest must do everything in its power to retain its ultimate supremacy and dominion over the less fortunate; challenging the mandates of the mighty constitutes evil and will simply not be tolerated. Understood?

 

None of the above might sound fair or just from an unbiased ideological or moral standpoint in an idyllic world. But, neither are natural disasters, sickness or dying; yet these are all facts of life on earth. Rather than scream and holler over why earthquakes and tsunamis happen or why the kind and gentle pope has to die of old age, we all have to learn to deal with realities of life, however unfair or unpleasant they seem; after all, nature is quite indifferent.

 

There is another fact of life that has played a pivotal role in the process of human cultural history: no mighty can stay mighty forever; the baton of power has to change hands sooner or later.

 

Challenging the centers of power and authority, in spite of its repercussions, is a continuous process at all levels of human society. A child approaching adulthood leaves the comfort and security of home in search of freedom and independence; a nation rebels against dictatorship and tyranny in the hope of bringing about desired reforms; the oppressed and the exploited struggle against the colonizers and occupiers to regain what they believe is rightfully theirs; and blocks of humanity do occasionally dare to stand up and challenge the global superpowers. Even the authorities of the religious high commands havs often been challenged as new offshoots branched away from the orthodoxies. Rebellions, revolutions and world wars punctuate human history and will continue to do so. New dictatorships in the guise of what some people call democracies replace the old tyrannies; the disenfranchised that rise up and gain dominance create their own monopolies of power; and fledgling new global powers inevitably embark on establishing their own hegemony; and the circle remains unbroken. Of this much we can be sure.

 

Accepting these premises, we may come to a final conclusion before tackling an analysis of current world affairs:

Every government does, and must, pursue the best interests of its nation, with whatever means at its disposal, and at whatever cost to anyone else.

 

If this sounds too cynical or cruel, consider the following: When was the last time you refused to buy something from someone because you thought he wasn't asking enough for it? Not a common occurrence by any means, but it does occasionally happen, resulting on losing out to somebody else who took advantage of that hot bargain!

 

In the international scene there is really no altruism behind any substantial act of charity or philanthropy. Any such act is inevitably weighed against its direct and indirect material or ideological benefits to the benefactor, or it simply won't happen. Since every nation is out there to pursue its own interests, an oddball playing Jesus Christ by turning the other cheek is not going to survive for very long; remember, Jesus was crucified at a young age.

 

An asymmetrical encounter.

 

This essay does not argue for or against the wisdom or justifications behind the continued antagonism between the governments of the United States and Iran, now well into its third decade. The fact on the ground is that this animosity exists and has become deeply engrained in the psyches of both peoples and their respective regimes.

 

After twenty-six years, the memories of the American embassy staff taken hostage by hotheaded leftist students in Tehran are still alive in the minds of most Americans. The fire of anger over that incident has been kept alive by various means and for various reasons to this day. A country that was for thirty years America's staunchest ally and the most obedient and loyal friend in the Middle East had dared to stand up against and challenge the mandates of its former master. This had never been done before and was simply unbearably hard to tolerate.

 

The cost to the new Islamic Republic of Iran for such intransigence was very high. What exacerbated the antagonisms between the new Iranian regime and the United States administration even more was the Islamic Republic's exhibitions of open animosity against America's surrogate in the region, Israel, and Iran's support for the Palestinians' cause. The tensions have snowballed since, thanks mostly to the highly motivated Israeli lobbying organizations whose influence on America's foreign policy machinations cannot be exaggerated.

 

The Iranians, in turn, have had their own complaints against the American administrations. To this day the Iranians have not forgiven the Anglo-American instigated military coup of 1953 that toppled Iran's democratically supported regime of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, and reinstated the unpopular Shah back on the Peacock Throne.

 

Iran continues to hold America responsible for its support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war that cost Iran perhaps one million dead and tremendous economic setbacks. The Iranians refer to that eight-year war as the Imposed War, implying that America had encouraged Saddam's aggression in 1982, and helped him resist Iran's unexpectedly severe counterattacks.

 

The accidental downing of an Iranian civilian passenger plane over the Persian Gulf by an American warship that was patrolling the waters against Iraqi oil shipments is also in everyone's minds. Ronald Reagan never apologized for that incident and, In fact, rewarded the captain of the ship. That didn't sit well with the Iranians who watched for months on end on their television sets the bodies of small children floating on the waters of the Persian Gulf.

 

Right or wrong, justly or unjustly, deservedly or not, Iran has become the pariah of the Middle East, blamed for or suspected of literally anything that goes wrong in that sensitive region of the world. The accuser is the world's sole superpower, the United States, along with Israel, of course. Economic sanctions against Iran and lack of diplomatic relations with the United States on one hand, and exclusion of American corporations from participation in the Middle East's largest market, on the other, have proven counterproductive for both Iran and the United States.

 

The hottest issue of contention these days is Iran's nuclear energy program. The United States has been accusing Iran of clandestine activities in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In addition, the United States is accusing Iran of human-rights violations, as well as labeling Iran as the chief supporter of international terrorism in the world today.

 

Quite understandably, Iran, a proud nation and the only global regime that has been able for decades to stand boldly and defiantly against the propaganda onslaught and outright threats of the mightiest power on the planet, levels counter accusations against its detractors. The label of Great Satan and chants of Death to America, Death to Israel, are still seen and heard, even if such sloganeering has lost its initial venom. Israel continues to be referred to as the Zionist Entity, and regarded as the culprit responsible for the Middle East dilemmas and the principle obstacle to a US/Iran rapprochement. While the United States and Israel call Iran the biggest threat to international peace and security, Iran refers to the "Zionist Entity" as a terrorist state, and America as the state supporter of international terrorism for, among many other things, its support for Israel.

 

Whether the international community at large is more sympathetic toward Iran's cause or is supportive of the United States position is of little consequence at this time. The world did not support America's invasion of Iraq either, yet couldn't do a damned thing about it. Without question, the American president, George W. Bush, is regarded much less favorably around the world than is Iran's president, Khatami. There was a time not that long ago when America was admired and respected globally for what America stood for, while few on the globe even new anything about Iran. Today America is feared globally more than it is admired, and almost everyone knows where Iran is and what it is all about. Even America's allies in Europe are sharing in this global perception to an alarming degree. But, can Iran play that card to gain advantage over its detractor or save itself from the wrath of this superpower?

 

Whether America's behavior in the Middle East since the events of 9/11 can be rationalized as an anticipated response of a wounded bull elephant on rampage, or as a well orchestrated scheme that had awaited just the right pretexts to be put into action, America is there and the events are unfolding. And, Iran seems to be standing in the way, tall, defiant and, yes, concerned.  

 

Thus far, Iran has been playing its cards quite ingeniously as a world-class poker player, but only thus far! Pleading innocent against all charges brought against it and appealing to the world public opinion has had its limited psychological benefits. The United Nations agency in charge of monitoring compliance to the NPT bylaws, the IAEA, has also cleared Iran of all the allegations brought against it, in spite of the pressure to discredit the agency by the United States and Israel. But, the IAEA had also concluded that the Iraqi regime was not in possession of weapons of mass destruction, WMD, or in the process of acquiring a nuclear weapon, just before the invasion of Iraq by the "Coalition of the Willing" under those exact pretexts. So, where does that leave Iran; on the clear? No, not by a long shot!

 

Many experts on nuclear weapons development technology and disarmament have expressed their views that a/Iran is not in violation of its NPT agreements, and b/that the fear surrounding Iran's potential for acquiring an atomic bomb is simply a paranoia created for purely political reasons. Dr. Gordon Prather, a renowned nuclear scientist with vast experience in the field of nuclear technology and weapons development, has written numerous articles appearing almost on a weekly basis on www.antiwar.com web site, reiterating the same issues. Even though the allegations by Israel and the United States administration against Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions have nothing to do with the realities of the situation on the ground, they could serve as suitable pretexts just as was the case with Iraq. 

 

Is Iran truly promoting terrorism and supporting terrorist groups in the region and the world, as it has been accused of doing? Yes, if you ask the Israeli regime and, by extension, the US State Department; and, it matters little if the rest of the world does not regard the Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, or the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, as any different than the Irish Sinn Fein with its IRA arm, much admired and supported by many Irish Americans right here in the United States.

 

So, what is it that the United States wants Iran to do or not to do? And, lest we forget, what is it that Israel wants Iran to do or not to do? In other words, what is it about Iran that seems to be of such grave concern for the United States and Israel?

 

To address this issue we must first, to use a colloquial phrase, cut through the crap.

 

First, with regard to Iran's nuclear "ambitions", the following points should be kept in mind:

 

A-    Iran has not been, and is not, in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

B-    Iran is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, such as electrical generation industries and research in other peaceful areas.

C-    Even though Iran sits on top of some of the world's largest hydrocarbon fields, dependence on fossil fuels for future energy production is economically and environmentally undesirable.

 

Points of legitimate concern:

 

D-    Advancements in nuclear technology will inevitably result in the creation of the potential for the development of nuclear weapons.

E-     The United Nations' nuclear monitoring arm, the IAEA, may not, under the current safeguards regime, be capable of detecting or stopping all violations of the NPT agreement, especially in a country as large and as geographically difficult as Iran.

F-     Iran should quite logically be motivated to have at least the potential to gain access to nuclear weapons, if only as a deterrent against hostile intents.

G-    The current threats of regime change and preemptive strikes against Iran's strategic sites by the United States or Israel give Iran a heightened incentive to arm itself with the ultimate deterrent as soon as humanly possible - and who could blame Iran for doing that? Interestingly, and quite alarmingly, this possibility could play well into the hands of those who have been accusing Iran of pursuing its nuclear arms ambitions, as evidence or proof, should Iran be attacked in the near future. This would indeed be a self-fulfilling prophesy by the neocon master-Machiavellians! 

 

The rationale offered by the Israeli regime and the United States for creating the current paranoia:

 

H-    The Iranian regime is run by insane, radical, religious fanatics.

I-       Should the regime gain access to nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, the state of Israel and US forces in the region will be targeted for attack.

J-      Portable versions of nuclear dirty bombs or other weapons of mass destruction will be put at the disposal of terrorist groups such as the Al-Ghae'da operatives to be deployed in the United States and Western Europe.

K-   The Islamic Republic of Iran has the ultimate goal of dominating the globe under the banner of fundamentalist Islam.

 

Editorials, speeches and books abound promoting the above points. The most recent was Jerome Corsi's "Atomic Iran",  www.payvand.com/news/05/apr/1052.html , (article by K. Zarrabi); and "Iran's Nuclear Option", by Al J. Venter

 

A more rational and logical view in a nutshell:

 

L-     The hardliner or clerical side of the Iranian regime, i.e., the theocratic leadership, has long been criticized for its repressive and anti-democratic tactics by the reform-minded Iranians, and blamed for Iran's economic and diplomatic isolation by the Iranian, as well as international, observers.

M-  The paradox here is that, even if Iran's theocratic leadership were to appreciate the social and economic benefits of the long overdue reform toward greater opening and democratization, the recent accelerated threats against the nation's security by the "Great Satan" and its local surrogate, "the Zionist Entity", have armed the conservatives within the regime with all the rationale they need to strengthen their legitimacy as the true guardians of faith and state.

N-   Providing total transparency as demanded by the US and Israeli interests would leave Iran's military establishment and national defense completely disarmed and impotent. No nation in the world could be expected to agree to such terms, unless its security was guaranteed by powers to be.

O-   Iran, the largest, most populous country in the region, strategically located and in possession of some of the world's richest hydrocarbon resources, is clearly a ripe target for takeover and exploitation. It would be insane for any responsible government in such circumstances to not attempt to acquire any means possible to discourage and deter any potential aggression. Nuclear weapons serve that purpose quite effectively.

P-     Iran may well be telling the truth about not being currently engaged in developing the means of creating its atomic weapons, a claim that has been substantiated by the IAEA inspectors numerous times. However, to think that the Iranian nuclear scientists are not seriously engaged in gaining the technology needed for a potential weapons development, should it become imperative for the nation's security, is also quite na´ve. 

 

To alleviate Iran's legitimate desire to embark on such weapons developments, the most logical method is to eliminate the incentive, not by blatant threats of aggression, but through dialog, diplomacy, mutually beneficial economic openings and, most of all, security guarantees.

 

Leaving the nuclear issue behind, the only remaining bone of contention between the United States (and Israel) on one side, and Iran on the other, is the allegations of Iran's involvement in the region, from sabotaging the Arab/Israeli peace initiatives, to creating anti-US disturbances in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

Some of the charges against the Iranian regime are more than mere suspicions or allegations. However, the true reasons or the justifications on Iran's part for such actions or involvements are often radically twisted by the US administration to accommodate politically motivated objectives. Such objectives doubtlessly include creating more reasons for condemning the Iranian regime, as well as for creating additional pretexts for war should the opportunity arise.

 

The principle charges or allegations, excluding the utterly ridiculous, against Iran are:

 

a-      Creating instability in Afghanistan and promoting insurgency there to obstruct America's military mission in that region.

b-     Infiltrating Iraq and supporting anti-American insurgencies, helping the saboteurs and attempting to steer the fledgling Iraqi regime toward a pro-Iranian Shi'a theocracy.

c-      Disrupting the Lebanese move toward democratization and potential reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors.

d-     Encouraging and aiding militancy against Israel within the occupied Palestinian territories, and opposing any progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

e-      Attempting to destabilize the Saudi regime by promoting Shi'a insurgencies among the labor groups and oilfield workers who are predominantly Shi'a Moslems.

f-       Harboring some Al-Gha'eda leaders within the Iranian territory for possible terror campaigns against American, Israeli and Saudi interests.

 

A less schizoid approach to the above list of allegations might be as follows:

 

g-      Iran has played a significant role already in helping the Kabul regime by discouraging insurgencies by groups with long historical ties to Iran. This has included covert cooperation with the American military in the border areas. What Iran does not want to see is a semi-permanent or permanent American military presence in Afghanistan, at least not until a reasonable non-aggression treaty or understanding is reached between Iran and the United States.

h-      The situation in Iraq is very similar. It is more than a long border and religious affiliations that is shared between the two nations of Iraq and Iran. Iran's interests do actually lie in the true democratization of Iraq, where the majority Shi'a will have the strongest voice in the Iraqi affairs. This is something that, under the current environment of threats and suspicions, does not sit well with the United States. This paranoia about the Islamic Republic of Iran's influence over the Iraqi regime might be short-lived, if the US/Iran discord is resolved. It goes without saying that a true democracy is not what the United States is interested in for the post-Saddam Iraq. The hope is for a new Iraq under a compliant authoritarian regime that can keep the nation from splitting along ethnic fault lines.  Again, what Iran does not want to see is permanent American bases on its western borders

i-        It is interesting to note here that both Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, and the new Iraqi President, Jalal Talebani, have expressed their desire for an extended presence of American military in their respective countries! Mr. Karzai depends on the American military to hold on to the modicum of authority he enjoys, let alone his very life. And, Mr. Talebani, a Kurdish leader, was basically chosen by the US to become the new Iraqi president in the hopes of stemming the tide of autonomy and independence long sought by the powerful Iraqi Kurds in the vital oil bearing northern Iraq. Iran and Turkey are both quite thankful for that decision. Therefore, any allegations against Iran for sabotaging progress in stabilizing Iraq seem baseless at this time.

j-       With the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, the Lebanese Shi'a majority is close to realizing its historical dream of accessing power within the new Lebanese government. An attempt, very similar to what is being implemented in Iraq, is underway by the US to avoid the creation of another Shi'a-dominated regime in that country. How successful that will be, will depend on Iran's cooperation in persuading the shi'a leadership in Lebanon to moderate their expectations. Clearly, the alarm over the Hezbollah is purely an Israeli concern. The bargaining chip in resolving this dilemma would be Israel agreeing to withdraw from what territory they still hold in southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

k-     The concern over Iran's support for the Palestinian resistance movements will be alleviated once the so called Roadmap to Peace gets underway. The hope is that President Bush will be able to overcome the Israeli influences in his own administration and overrule the Likud government's belligerent demands voiced by Ariel Sharon. Iran has long expressed its views that whatever terms in a peace settlement are acceptable to the Palestinians, will be honored by Iran.

l-        Regarding Iran's covert actions in Saudi Arabia, it must be understood that the Saudi Shi'ites do not need Iranian support to voice their dissatisfaction with the Wahabi regime. No doubt Iran does not like to see land-based US military strongholds in Saudi Arabia; but, with the presence of nuclear-armed American navy in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, the Saudi land bases might be regarded as simply redundant. Iran, therefore, would have no logical incentive to cause problems for the Saudi regime.

m-    Just as was the case with the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Al Gha'eda leadership has had no fondness for Iran. One of the greatest benefits to Iran in America's anti-terror campaign in the Middle East was the dismantlement of the Taliban regime and the marginalization of the Al Gha'eda network. No doubt there are Al Gha'eda members or sympathizers currently living in Iran's vast territory, as they might be anywhere else in the Middle East. But, accusing Iran of knowingly harboring this terrorist group for ulterior motives within its boundaries is very much like accusing the United States of aiding and abetting the MEK group in Iraq for possible infiltration, sabotage and terrorism against Iran, considering that this group is officially labeled as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. If there is a level of legitimacy for the United States to use a terrorist group as a weapon against Iran, Iran's similar use of another terrorist group against its detractors could also be legitimized. The best way to defuse this kind of potential confrontation is to negotiate for the dismantling of both terrorist groups.

 

Now, to the core of the problem.

 

"We are going to build a different kind of Middle East, a different kind of broader Middle East that is going to be stable and democratic and where our children will one day not have to be worried about the kind of ideologies of hatred that led those people to fly those planes into those buildings on Sept. 11."

Condoleezza Rice, to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, March 17, 2005

 

Really; Ms. Rice?!

 

How do we exactly see to it that ideologies of hatred do not lead people into flying planes into our buildings? This kind of propaganda rhetoric is a good example of expression of self-righteous indignation; clearly, she knows better. The world or the Middle East does not take too kindly to being regarded as America's playpen to be rearranged as the Secretary of State foresees. Yes, America may well be able to shatter it all to bits and rebuild it closer to its heart's desire, as Omar Khayyam would have put it; but, not without major resistance - rose petals will not line the path of the "liberating" invaders.

 

We own a couple of acres in a hilly suburban area. It is our home, we own it; it belongs to us. I try to keep it respectably clean and manicured for our own benefit as a reflection of the image we'd like to project. If I notice the wrong kind of weeds growing on a corner of the property, I take notice. Over lunch or dinner on a weekend, we casually talk about how to handle that patch of unwanted growth in our property. There are several options: We can use a chemical spray to eradicate the weeds along with other vegetation that might also be there, we can drive our small tractor over the area and mat it down, we can use a Rota tiller and uproot the patch, we can even wait until the weeds dry up and torch it all off. Some environmentally conscious friends suggest we might introduce another, more agreeable, type of plant that would replace the weeds in time. Of course, some of these measures might not sit well with our neighbors. We might have to consider some give and take with them to gain their trust and support.

 

Just imagine a nation of 70 million people who take pride in their long history, culture and identity, being regarded as a patch of undesirable weeds growing on somebody's backyard and treated accordingly. Well, should Iran be attacked preemptively, should it be put under more severe economic and diplomatic pressure, should it be infiltrated and destabilized by our friendly terrorist groups, or should its regime be replaced with a more agreeable one?

 

Does Ms. Rice truly believe that promoting democracy and self-determination in the Middle East is what suites our national interests best? Are we really loved and respected that much that a truly democratic and independent state in the oil-rich Middle East would accommodate our best interests gladly and from their own free will?

 

No, Ms. Rice; that ain't the case; don't talk down to us, please.

 

What America wants in the Middle East, and has a right to pursue from a realistic perspective, can be split into two categories: A/ what might truly serve the best interests of the American people; and, B/ what special interest groups and lobbies have convinced us as to what constitutes our best interests.

 

A- What are America's best interests in the Middle East?

 

The short-term interests certainly include the following:

 

1-     Somehow crawling out of the current quagmire in Afghanistan and especially Iraq, and doing so while saving face and after leaving in place a reasonably stable regime that would remain compliant or "friendly".

2-     Getting the Israelis off America's back by forcing through the Roadmap to Peace at whatever one-time cost.

3-     To secure America's strategic interests in the area by establishing semi-permanent military bases in as many places as needed. This would include anti-missile batteries to safeguard against any potential attempt by any regional state to launch ballistic attacks against US targets. The least such a program would do is to alleviate the current paranoia about a rogue regime attacking American targets with nuclear warheads atop ballistic missiles.

 

Some of the more important longer-term interests include:

 

4-     Control over the flow of oil and gas from the Persian Gulf region in order to regulate the availability and the price of crude in the international market.

5-     Control over access to the Persian Gulf oil and gas by America's future economic, and ultimately military, competitors such as China and India.

6-     Maintain strong, mutually beneficial, relationships with the strategic states in the Middle East to discourage alliances between the energy rich regional countries and energy-hungry rival powers.

 

The above six points are what the United States, today's sole global superpower, should pursue with no apologies or regrets. As outlined in a rather lengthy dissertation above, every nation seeks to pursue its best interests as it sees fit, by any means at its disposal, and at whatever cost to anyone else.  

 

This axiom may seem unjust and unfair at first glance; but considering the limitations of means available to any end in today's world, the paths of least resistance are often charted through mutually rewarding grounds. Increasingly, the blowback from certain actions makes some options counterproductive. Even though old colonial habits of ensuring obedience or compliance through force, intimidation and bribery are hard to break, realities of modern politics dictate a radical revision in this kind of approach to international relations in the modern world. The costs are simply too high and the results too uncertain to justify the old methods.

 

To put it in simplest terms, for the United States to achieve its economic and strategic objectives in the Middle East, any cooperation or compliance in the part of the regional states must entail equitable benefits for those states; benefits that would offset by a significant margin any gains they might appreciate from their alliance or cooperation with competing global regimes. The alternative means, i. e., threats or the use of sanctions or force, have lost their effective potency and are becoming increasingly unrewarding.

 

When it comes to the US/Iran relations, the appreciation of this fact could serve as the formula to solve the dilemma between the two antagonists. One thing to remember is that two nations might find common grounds to enjoy a mutually productive relationship without having to share in all values or belief systems.

 

 

B- What could possibly be the motivating machinations behind America's Middle East policies that might not necessarily serve America's best interest?

 

To avoid a lengthy dissertation on this well documented issue and to simplify the case, we can point to three main culprits that, to put it figuratively, have high-jacked America's foreign policy toward the Islamic world and particularly vis-Ó-vis the Middle East.

 

On top of the list and the longest at work by far are the Israeli lobby and Israel supporters in the United States. Thus far at least, Israeli regimes, particularly the conservative Likud, have seen their ambitions best served through regional turmoil and instability. This strategy has provided their arch benefactor, the United States, with the pretexts to confront regional regimes that are in fact simply Israel's antagonists in the guise of protecting America's safety and security. At the same time, Israel has enjoyed increasing financial, military and diplomatic support from the United States. Israel's fear is that, should peace and security prevail in the region, its unique advantage or pretence as the "civilized world's" outpost in that turbulent strategic region and as the guardian of America's interests might be lost.

 

Newcomers into the game, particularly since the 9/11 event, are the ultraconservative evangelical Christian Right, and the more impressionable hard-core conservative Joe and Jane. Rather than take up more space in this article, I would refer the interested reader to my own web site, www.intellectualdiscourse.com , where several articles addressing this subject appear under the "Archives" section. The reader may also find my older articles, going back to March 2003, in the Archives section of www.payvand.com/news/ web site.

 

Cutting through rampant hypocrisy.

 

Let's face it; all the loose talk about America's mission to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East is just that. So are all the allegations that Iran intends to build an atomic bomb to attack Israel and threaten the "civilized" world; or that the Islamic Republic is the world's top supporter of international terrorism and opposes the peace process in the Middle East. Let's forget the nonsense.

 

America's mission is not, and cannot be expected to be, promoting freedom and democracy or self-determination in areas where America's strategic interests are at stake. Take, for example, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, two states with most of the Middle East oil reserves. To guarantee America's access to and control of these resources, it would be imprudent or even stupid to relinquish the decision making powers to any democratically elected autonomous regime, unless such regime agrees to relinquish its own autonomy in favor of American interests. What is currently evolving in Iraq, and soon to follow in Lebanon and possibly Afghanistan, might serve to demonstrate the point.

 

It goes without saying that the United States as a superpower guarding its interests overseas would much prefer to deal with democratic and politically stable states in the Middle East that would accommodate those interests freely and gladly; it is much easier and less costly that way. But, in the absence of such guarantees of willful compliance, any aspirations for an honest or true democracy in this region will be forced to give way to a conditional democracy at best, or to a compliant dictatorship at worst. The 1953 coup in Iran that abruptly aborted the premiership of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh is a perfect example.

 

Of course, even a "compliant" democracy may be a workable improvement over what practically every Middle Eastern state is enjoying today, or has enjoyed in the past. The prerequisite to establishing a workable "friendly" democracy is to establish, first and foremost, that such compliance remains predicated on the long-term interests of the nation; and second, that the rewards for entering into such cooperation are substantial, tangible and visible to the public. 

 

The real-world options for the Iranian regime.

 

Being in the crosshairs of the world's mightiest power doesn't leave much wiggling room to maneuver. The Islamic Republic remains under the threat of regime change or worse, depending on which of several options will be adopted by the architects of change sipping iced tea at the conservative think tanks in Washington and Israel. This isn't fair or just, or even legal under the international laws.

 

As mentioned before, fair, just, legal or not, mean nothing at all; caretakers will follow after the facts to clean up the mess, anyway; very much like natural disasters such as the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean. But, if a tsunami or a devastating earthquake cannot be prevented, a human-caused disaster can.

 

Iran is finding itself reacting like a cat cornered by a couple of vicious Rottweilers. The cat puffs up to nearly twice its size and shows its teeth and claws to discourage the imminent attack. Unlike people, the cat is not capable of opening a dialogue to negotiate its way out of a potential disaster; the cat can simply stick to its bluffs and hope for the best. The cat has no way of conveying the message to the anxious Rottweilers that their best interests might actually lie in abandoning their hostility. A little skunk or porcupine has fewer problems dealing with the same problem.

 

As North Korea has amply demonstrated, the mere possibility of the capability to retaliate by the awesome power of a nuclear weapon has been enough to discourage overt military actions against that rogue state. Based on all the information available, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons capability at this time, and based on expert opinions, it will take several years before it can acquire that capacity. Attacking Iran, whether by Israel or the United States, will not be answered by an Iranian nuclear retaliatory counter attack. In such case, however, Iran will no doubt acquire the technology and develop the capability in an accelerated pace, as it well should, to pay back the debt as expeditiously as possible.

 

There is a short window of opportunity, no longer than a couple of years, before Iran might gain access to the ultimate weapon. Any aspirations for a regime change or a political restructuring of Iran would have to take place while this window remains open.

 

Even though an outright invasion of Iran by foreign forces is realistically out of the question, infiltration by dissident groups and promoting divisions within Iran's dissatisfied masses, particularly the youth who comprise most of Iran's population, seem to be the logical methods of approach to bring about the change.

 

Iran, meantime, also has a short window of opportunity to intelligently and proactively embark on a more conciliatory approach to bridge-building, while avoiding counterproductive inflammatory rhetoric that plays in the hands of the lobbyists who look for any excuse to condemn Iran and portray it in the worst light possible.

 

To deny Iran this opportunity, hostile interests are doing what they can to destabilize the regime through massive propaganda, encouraging dissent by openly subsidizing such movements, spreading false rumors, etc. There are reports that Iraqi Kurdish militants in northeastern Iraq, near Iranian border areas, are preparing to join their Iranian counterparts and create insurgencies aimed at bringing down the current regime. It is also well known that the Israelis forces have long been training and equipping these same Kurds for exactly that same purpose.

 

The recent clashes between Arab Iranians in the southern provinces of Iran and the Iranian security forces that resulted in the arrest of many demonstrators, began by suspiciously generated rumors about a decision, already declared as false, by the government to rearrange the area's population mix for political reasons. It is worth noting here that the White House has voiced objections to the treatment of these Arab Iranians by the Iranian government forces. Such concern by the White House is rather suspiciously curious, as similar objections are never heard regarding the continuous brutal treatment of Palestinian Arabs by the Israeli security forces.

 

There are a number of newly sprouting organizations in the United States dedicated to "liberate" or "democratize" Iran. Some of these organizations are established by non-Iranians, the likes of Mr. Jerome Corsi of the Atomic Iran fame. The US Congress has added to the budget for radio and television propaganda broadcasts to Iran, and there are moves underway by several pathological Iran haters within the administration to push for more legislation to support dissident groups inside and outside of Iran to undermine Iran's stability.

 

Those who forecast an actual attack on Iran's strategic nuclear facilities, perhaps as early as June, 2005, are hoping that such action would further exacerbate the internal rift among the various groups in the country and lead to a chain reaction that is expected to topple the theocratic regime and open the way for a regime change.

 

Those who believe that such a change, especially in that manner, is against Iran's best interests must fight an uphill battle to offer their alternative to a violent and potentially catastrophic scenario. The proponents of radical reform, right now, and at any cost to the nation, are usually those whose own blood and tears will not be shed in the ensuing struggle and, should things go wrong, have nothing to lose.

 

There is no question that reform is long overdue and the Iranian people from all walks of life are impatient for reforms that would result in the improvement of their economic conditions and in a broadening of social liberties. Their anxiety and impatience for reforms are undeniable, and not even the conservative establishment would argue against such appeals. What the nation will not accept is reform at the expense of Iran's national sovereignty and cultural integrity.

 

It is this sovereignty or national identity that is currently threatened from outside. An Iranian Iran, independent and self-reliant, is what Iran's antagonists are worried about. The fear is that a confident Iran might refuse to bow to unreasonable demands, such as is the case currently regarding Iran's legal rights under international law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreement to enrich uranium for peaceful projects. Iran might just accept to give up its legitimate right voluntarily as a bargaining chip and a gesture of good faith, but certainly not as the result of threats to its national security.

 

For Iran, at this juncture in history, and in the face of grave threats to its security and national identity, there is but one option, and this option is definitely not in surrendering to pressures and threats. The Iranian regime should be less paranoid in considering any attempt for a rapprochement by the United States as a Trojan Horse and, instead, make an honest effort to start building bridges from that side, as well. While the window of opportunity is still open, proactive measures should be employed to cut through the fog of mistrust and to convince the American administration that the Interests of both Iran and the United States can best be assured through a reopening of economic and diplomatic relations between the two nations.

 

There are many seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the course to reconciliation. The chief among these barriers are: the Israeli lobbying organizations and their surrogates in the US administration, difficulty of finding face-saving methods of approach, and last, but not least, the arrogant bullheadedness of the administration officials on both sides. Sufficient time is critically essential to overcome these obstacles; but sufficient time is exactly what the opposition to any rapprochement between Iran and the United States would do their very best to deny. Their most effective way to implement their plans is to exploit the existing discontent and disunity among the various groups within Iran, while pushing through legislations in the United States Congress for financial and diplomatic support of groups or organizations that aim to destabilize Iran. A recent bill introduced to the Congress under the name of Iranian Freedom Support Act would make the regime change in Iran an official policy of the United States.

 

A survey carried out by the Iranian American Council indicates that 82.5 percent of Iranian Americas surveyed oppose this measure and consider this act as counter to democratic principles and in violation of international law.

 

The best way to neutralize such efforts that are quite clearly counter to the best interests of both the Iranian people and the United States is for the targeted groups to appeal to their sense of patriotism and national integrity with a show of solidarity and a united front to oppose foreign interference in Iranian affairs.

 

It is foolish to think that positive reforms could or should be forced into a nation through chaos or war. If reforms toward democratization and liberalization are truly the objective, the clearest path in that direction would be through a rapprochement between the United States and Iran, meaning a lifting of economic sanctions and reopening the diplomatic channels; in other words, easing off the pressures that are needlessly strangulating Iran.

 

In the end, let us reiterate the principles of political coexistence in today's world - the real world, not a utopian world of dreams:

 

1-     Each people or nation will do everything to secure its best interests by any means at its disposal, and at whatever cost to others. It is only the blowback in this give and take that regulates how aggressively one pursues one's interests.

2-     The interests of the dominant power can be challenged, but cannot be ignored or discounted.

3-     Crying foul, begging for mercy or thumping ones chest will not discourage the mighty; removing the incentive through dialogue, flexibility and reason can.

4-     Reforms, as badly as they might be needed, cannot be imposed from outside; they must come from within, perhaps adopted from or inspired by other role models but, to survive, they must blossom on the indigenous cultural roots of a nation.

 

 

 

 

... Payvand News - 4/25/05 ... --



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