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Thinking Outside The Box

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


As Americans, regardless of our national origins, we want what is best for America, even if what is best for us might not always be what is best for others. After all, isn’t that what everyone else is doing or is supposed to be doing from their own perspective whatever nationality they espouse?


How far or how hard should we push in the pursuit our best interests? Simple; we should stop only when the costs of our pursuit outweigh the expected gains.


But, what are our best national interests and how do we measure costs versus gains? Who are the judges and the score keepers? Only through constructive skepticism and objective criticism might we separate myths from realities. And, unfortunately, powerful myths abound.


Altruism is a wonderful concept, selflessly serving others at one’s own expense with no expectations of any worldly returns. Fortunately for the human race, while we all admire the altruist, very few among us would take up the task. Yes, Bill Gates ranks as a genuine philanthropist when he donates a portion of his billions to fight disease and hunger in Africa; but the poor man who gives his only warm jacket to a shivering soul in need is more than a philanthropist, he ranks as a saint. But, there are only a very few saints or honest altruists around.


In a heavenly paradise, where saints and altruists reside, one does not have to worry about shelter, food, health care or national security. Here on earth, we all do - people, tribes and nations. Therefore, the desire to not only survive in a competitive world, but to prosper and grow, compels all nations to promote their self interests worldwide as best they can. Any generosity, cooperation or friendship would inevitably hinge around the potential benefits one would logically expect from such acts. Feeding the mouth that bites one’s hand might be an altruistic action by a saintly individual; but choosing to help and support a regime whose policies work against the best interests of ones own nation cannot be justified but by the insane or the idiot or, surely, by the agents of the recipient!


This introduction was necessary to bring us to the subject at hand: If America’s foreign policies in the Middle East during the recent decades have not been conducive to our best interests, and if these policies are leading us now into deeper quagmires in that region and creating bigger security problems for us at home, whom or what is really to blame?


Of course, there are diehards who truly believe that the nation is in good hands and that we are on the right track and heading in the right direction. If there is any disagreement among the proponents of our policies, it is not about the merits of America’s mission objectives as they perceive them, but mainly about the methods of approach. This group will, more than likely, find my analyses and suggestions unhelpful, wrong and even seditious. I am quite familiar with that mindset and actually sympathize with most diehard conservatives who, for their respective reasons, are sincere about their convictions. However, not all voices of radical conservatism come out of honest or innocent mouths.


Let us begin

We have all heard the phrase “The New Middle East” mentioned in political commentaries referring to America’s strategy of imposing reforms and restructuring the region in order to create conformity or, at least, compatibility with Western democratic values. We have been on that perilous course for nearly four years now, and there is no light at the end of the dark tunnel we have entered. Where did we go wrong?

Traditional presumptions

The idea that the Middle East has been, is, and will continue to be our playground is based on the old colonial attitude that the “burden” is on the Sahibs to administer the affairs of the region and its peoples and, in exchange, to exploit the wealth that nature had mistakenly placed in far away lands. This sense of natural entitlement emanates from the same cognitive faculties that also house the self-righteous attitude of “What’s good for us will be good for them, too, even if they don’t understand or accept it!”


While this natural human trait has been shared by practically all cultures and civilizations throughout history, the Middle East, because of its immense energy resources, has been especially affected by it. The industrialized countries and those on the way toward industrialization depend on the Middle East oil and gas to continue their developments.


Soon after the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the division of the Middle East into convenient geometric patterns that suited the English and the French, oil was discovered in southern Iran and what was to become Iraq, and later along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf.


Not to worry; the incompetent Iranian monarchy was easily seduced, and Iraq and the new protectorates of the Persian Gulf were under the British rule, anyway. Kings and Emirs were basically puppets on the British strings, and the respective populations were conveniently too illiterate and too busy simply struggling in their day to day lives to be of any concern.


In the British controlled Palestine Mandate, the efforts by the European Zionists to create a Jewish state finally overcame all local resistance. The European money and technology proved that the indigenous populations in that region were categorically inconsequential. The tractor defeated the ox-drawn plough, and thus the confrontation between the aggressive, dynamic, motivated and moneyed European intruders against the awestruck, sedentary and traditional populations began.


To repeat, the tribes and nations of the region were, at the time, considered inconsequential. Kings were paid off and emirs were appointed, with their very survival dependent upon their willingness to serve their benefactors’ interests, as well as their ability to maintain stability in their respective domains. Stability was to be guaranteed at any cost, which included social disenfranchisement of the masses, oppression and intolerance against dissent. Democracy and self-determination were definitely not part of the formula. They still aren’t to this day!


But something changed, starting in earnest around mid twentieth century. The second half of the last century could best be described as the age of information technology. The world was shrinking at an ever faster rate. Intercontinental travel, student exchanges, commercial and cross-cultural relations began to affect habits of life throughout the planet. There came a rapidly growing realization by many dormant societies that people, the citizenry, would no longer tolerate being regarded as inconsequential; they demanded to be reckoned with.


While the social and political atmosphere of nations, big and small, was undergoing rapid change, accompanied by the normal growing pains, the West’s dependency on the Middle East oil, and the strategic importance of several states as buffers against a potential Soviet excursion into the oil regions and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean had remained unchanged.


Old paradigms, new problems

Several global events served as milestones along the way to a newer world order. The nationalization of Iran’s oil industry in 1951 brought the British dominance over the region’s energy resources into serious question. The military coup of 1953, staged by the CIA and the British, punished the nation for that intransigence, but the newborn rebellion against the status quo continued to grow.


Next came the so-called defensive wars that Israel waged against its Arab neighbors in 1967 and 1973, resulting in very fortuitous territorial gains for Israel. The spoiled brat supported by its superpower benefactor across the seas began its systematic devastation of the Palestinians and their ancestral lands, thus creating an ever widening chasm between the United States and hundreds of millions of Arabs and non-Arab Moslems. Nevertheless, oil continued to flow, thanks to the loyal and obedient leaders of the oil states who were happy to accommodate in spite of the sentiments of their oppressed masses.


The downfall of the monarchy and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 was a serious wakeup call heralding the end to the business as usual in the Middle East.


Finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union created a vacuum for the emergence of a new and formidable candidate, Islam, to replace the old global counterbalance to the Western empires.


As we entered the new century, two sleepy and for the most part ignored giants had already come out of dormancy. China’s sun was rising prominently to the east, and Islamic militancy was rapidly gaining momentum as a serious power to be reckoned with.


Now, as the deadline at the United Nations Security Council is at hand to consider imposing sanctions against Iran for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment activities, there could be little doubt as to what Iran’s response will be. Frankly, it is rather presumptuously arrogant of even a superpower these days to expect that its bullying tactics would be taken seriously by a rising regional power with excellent reasons for its self-confidence. In fact, the voice of the United States at the UN Security Council could not have come from a less credible mouth, that of John Bolton, whose transparent affiliations beg for reciprocal mistrust and antagonism by the Iranian regime.


New realities on the ground

Only two states in the Middle East have thus far been able to stand up to our demands and get away with their blatant belligerence, Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Others who tried to be defiant have faced horrible consequences, even if at great expense to ourselves. Afghanistan was initially cleansed from the Taliban control and the country was basically abandoned in ruins, and the Taliban are now making a comeback, interestingly with much local support. The defiant Saddam Hussein is in jail and his Iraq has been torn to pieces with hardly any hope of reunification. Israel’s boisterous assault on the Hezbollah forces has devastated Lebanon’s infrastructure and infuriated even the competing factions in the Islamic Middle East against the Jewish state, as well as the United States for blindly supporting it.


The unintended consequences of our misguided efforts in our so-called war on terror in the Middle East are now flying at our face. First, by threatening the Islamic Republic of Iran with regime change, sanctions and even military attack we have in effect legitimized and strengthened the position of the hard-line conservative ruling class. Second, by failing to accomplish our stated objectives in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq, and now in the aftermath of Israel’s Lebanese debacle, Iran’s position, prestige and influence have been gaining ground.


Knowing fully well that the Security Council will not approve imposing economic sanctions against Iran, we are openly and officially threatening to go it alone. If this is not diplomatic masochism I don’t know what is. What in the name of sanity are we after? We might as well appoint the windbag Rush Limbaugh as the new Secretary of State, the consummate spin artist Bill O’Reilly as the new Secretary of Defense, and the psychopath Michael Savage as our new Ambassador to the UN. I am sure the arch Zionist Michael Ledeen would be a good candidates, then, as our expert policy maker in our Middle East affairs. This way, I am confident, the level of incompetence will be well preserved!


Thinking well outside the box

According to most credible intelligence reports, if Iran opts out of the NPT and is left unchecked to pursue a nuclear weapons program, should it desire to do so, it would be almost ten years before it could enrich enough fissile material to develop its first atomic bomb. The first question is: Why would Iran desire to devote so much energy and expense, as well as create potential international concerns, to acquire a nuclear weapons capability? The second question is: Why should Iran’s nuclear weapons capability be of concern to the United States of America? Finally, what could possibly be the incentive for, and the likelihood of, a nuclear-armed Iran initiating aggressive actions against another state in the region or outside?


Considering the decade-long open threats of regime change and outright attack on Iran by the Unites States and Israel, as well as the presence of America’s nuclear fleet and the Israeli nuclear-capable submarines patrolling the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, the Iranian regime would be betraying the trust of the nation by not doing everything possible to acquire the maximum deterrent tool against potential aggression by such powerful adversaries. If Iran does not have its nuclear deterrent at this time, failing to at least acquire the technology and the materiel for a retaliatory response, should the need arise in the future, would be a horrible strategic mistake. As long as “preemption-happy” Israel remains a nuclear power, and as long as no one could safely count on the Pakistani nuclear weapons not to fall into unpredictable hands, and as long as American forces remain poised for a potential attack upon Iran, it would be illogical and unreasonable to expect the Islamic Republic’s leadership to bow to the demands to abandon its nuclear research and development projects. It is really that simple and I am sure we all know that.


It is, therefore, quite apparent that Iran’s nuclear issue is just a pretext or excuse for some higher objective, as was the issue of WMDs before the invasion of Iraq. That higher objective cannot be anything other than regime-change in Iran.


It would be redundant for me to elaborate here why the promotion of “freedom” and “democracy” could not possibly be what would motivate us to press for a regime change in Iran. In truth, a compliant, dictatorial regime, very much like Iran under the Shah, but much more ruthless in cracking down on dissents or opposition movements, and much more capable of violating all sorts of human rights than before, would be the perfect recipe.


In fact, should some internal uprising topple the clerical leadership and lead to a much anticipated democratic reform, there is absolutely no reason to assume that the new system would abandon the current confrontational stance and drop its guards against the United States and Israel.


So, what could our motives be for insisting on a regime change in Iran? In other words, what do we stand to gain by such a regime change? Unless we anticipate that the new regime will be installed by our hands and manned and managed by our own people, an independent and democratic Iran will have no reason to abandon its position of advantage it has been gaining as a regional powerhouse. It should also be more than obvious in this day and age that a country like Iran, after what it has gone through during the past three decades, will never accept any regime change that is imposed from the outside to serve the outsider’s interests. It is, therefore, clear that any regime change promoted by other than the Iranians inside Iran would be a stupid mistake.


An architect’s dilemma

An architect is assigned the job of creating the ideal resort facility in a most valuable piece of real estate. There is, however, a big problem; a large outcropping at the center of the property is in the way of his construction plans. The rock is simply too big and too deeply rooted to be dynamited out of the way. Rather than waste time and expense on a futile effort, the architect decides to look for better alternatives. His only choices are to either isolate the rock and block it from view, or to incorporate it into the plan as an integral part of the architecture. The latter choice would make much more sense.


Do I really need to draw you a clearer picture?


My solution

The following is an encapsulation of some thoughts that can only occur when one chooses to think outside the proverbial box:


1- The United States officially reemphasizes its defense treaty with the state of Israel, guaranteeing Israel’s territorial safety and integrity against any and all attacks.

2- This treaty will be contingent upon Israel agreeing to abide by a new peace settlement to be signed with the Hamas led Palestinian government, requiring the return, in good condition, of all illegal Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and Gaza, and establishing the international borders between the new Palestinian state and Israel as those before 1967.

3- The money allocated annually for Israel as financial aid or otherwise will, from now on, be divided equally between Israel and the new Palestine.

4- Israel must join the NPT and abandon its stockpile of nuclear weapons immediately.

5- The United States and Iran sign a joint non-aggression treaty, and the United States officially abandons all attempts to foment a regime change within Iran. Full diplomatic and economic relations will resume between the two states.

6- Pursuant to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Iran will officially recognize Israel and a non-aggression treaty will be signed between the two states.

7- The Middle East will be declared a nuclear-weapons-free region, Pakistan will be forced to abandon its nuclear weapons project, and the entire region will be under constant monitoring by the IAEA.

8- The United States shall keep its non-nuclear-armed fleet, as well as sufficient land bases in and around the region as necessary to maintain order and safeguard against potential violations of non-aggression treaties.

9- An autonomous Free Kurdistan will be formed in Northern Iraq, provided that the new state signs non-aggression treaties with the neighboring Turkey and Iran.

10- The areas south of Kirkuk will be declared as the new Islamic Republic of Iraq.


This, in effect, will create a new Middle East that might have a good chance to remain coherent and stable. Iran’s sphere of influence will stretch through Iraq and Afghanistan and the oil regions of the Persian Gulf, making Iran the natural policeman of the region, this time with both parties’ blessings, Iran and the United States.


A more secure and prosperous Iran will no doubt gravitate toward positive reforms, democratization and broader social and cultural openings that have remained on hold for far too long. The same fears and inhibitions that persuade us here in America to accept infringements on our freedoms and liberties, are also at work in Iran, providing the rationale for that nation’s conservative core to legitimize its position and tighten its grip.


With American money and might and with a new alliance with the regional superpower, Iran, we will be able to dig ourselves out of the current quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our war on terror can proceed on the course it was intended to follow from the beginning. This alliance will also help alleviate the incentives behind the historical regional grievances between the warring factions in Palestine, Lebanon, and even in Afghanistan.


The other option, I am afraid, is facilitating the prophesied Armageddon so that we might all go up in flames and never worry again about the stability of the Middle East; there will be no Middle East left to worry about!



... Payvand News - 8/31/06 ... --

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