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Fire This Time? I Certainly Hope Not

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


Those readers who have followed my writings will recall certain recurrent themes that undergird my opinions and analyses of the turbulent US/Iran relations. Among these I can list as the most essential the axiom that all governments are obligated to pursue the best interests of their nations in the global arena, as far as they can and for as long as the costs do not outweigh the rewards of such pursuits. This holds true for the United States of America, as well as for Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran.


I also believe that what constitutes a nation's best interests in the global stage is often at the expense of other nations' best interests. In other words, in the real world, one nation's pursuit of its best interests is, more often than not, achievable best by violating the basic principle of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you'd want done unto you." This simply means that pragmatism and altruism seldom, if ever, coincide. So, to put it in simple and honest terms, the defining description of a "good" or successful administration, diplomat or politician, is one that does what is best for its constituents, while looking good doing so.


Looking good while serving one's own best interests is indeed a tall order. This is where "necessary" hypocrisy in the form of deceptive propaganda serves as the most effective tool of statecraft. All governments must engage in this charade in order to bridge the gap between what the administrations consider as the best course of action for their respective nations, and what the public, especially the population at home, is willing to accept as morally and ethically justifiable.


Opinions, however, may vary among the decision makers as to what policies would best ensure a nation's best interests, in the short term as well as long. While no party can be blamed for adopting the most effective ways and means of ensuring its own advantage, the repercussions from those policies ultimately force a balance between the costs of reaching the desired objectives and the anticipated gains. That's where we are in Iraq right now.


Expecting or demanding compassion, fairness or justice in the formulation of foreign policies, serves only as a self-redeeming delusional fantasy. The only legitimate expectation regarding the policies and tactics of any nation in the global arena is whether such policies and tactics will be effective in serving the nation's best interests. To be successful means reaching the objective by any means possible, any means at all, without having to pay an unbearably heavy price for the gains, materially, morally or otherwise.


Please read Patrick Buchanan's latest article, January 16, in The American Conservative. The statistics and surveys he refers to point to the general feeling in the Arab world about America's intentions and policies, that only some 6% of the general Arab public fall for our massive propaganda rhetoric about America's humanitarian objectives.


My reaction to Pat Buchanan's article is: So what? This is how thing are in the real world, not in some utopian dreamscape where men are clones of Jesus Christ and women are replicas of Mother Theresa. If America's best interests could be ensured by losing in the international popularity contests, so be it. But, if we are losing in popularity and, as it appears to have been the case, our strategic and security interests are under ever increasing threats, it is time to rethink our policies.


The point I am trying to make is, don't be surprised if by next spring or even sooner you wake up to a CNN broadcast showing flames rising from various nondescript sites in Iran in the aftermath of a sudden aerial bombardment by US or Israeli missiles. And, don't be surprised if the CIA or Pentagon produces irrefutable "slam-dunk" evidence in the form of laptop computers or hard-copy blue prints proving that Iran was unquestionably developing atomic bombs. But, be surprised if, once again, the evidence proves to be bogus as was the case in Iraq; but only because we weren't smart enough to plant the evidence and cover up our tracks in a foolproof way.  And, be madder than hell if the cost to American lives and taxpayers' moneys and threats to American safety and security prove to be magnitudes higher than they were in the Iraqi experiment.


I wrote an article in June, 2003, "Iran in the Crosshairs and at the Crossroads", in reaction to the crescendo of the anti-Iran drum roll after George W. Bush's State of the Union address of January, 2001 in which he labeled Iran as a member of the axis of evil. That was followed by several other articles highlighting the very real threats of aggression against Iran by the United States and Israel; basically all at the behest of Israel and for Israel's interests. Of course, nobody ever heard any international uproar or a UN Security Council condemnation against states that openly threaten violence against another sovereign state and a member of the United Nations. What's worse, we don't even hear why that is so.


As we enter 2006, Iran remains in the crosshairs; but, as it appears increasingly more clearly, Iran is no longer waiting at the crossroads, contemplating which fork of the road to take.


A little over a year ago, many if not most, political observers and analysts were predicting a preemptive strike against Iran's strategic military and nuclear research targets by the summer of 2005. Among these pundits was Scott Ritter, former US Marine and arms inspector in Iraq, and now a highly respected anti-war activist, who predicted an attack on Iran in June, 2005.


The pretext for such a preemptive attack by the United States and, more likely, by Israel, was Iran's alleged attempts at producing enough fissionable material, against its NPT obligations, to create an atomic bomb. We are to believe that a nuclear armed Iran is a nightmarish scenario that the world will not tolerate. That concept would actually be true if we were to also believe the imageries and narratives created by Israel and Israeli interests in the United States and Western Europe. Accordingly, Iran allegedly harbors and supports international terrorists, tries to destabilize the Middle East and disrupt the flow of oil by spreading Shi'a fundamentalism throughout the Islamic world, and aims to destroy the only symbol of democracy and civilized values, Israel. With such agenda, we are told repeatedly, how could the mullahs be trusted with a nuclear technology, guaranteed them by their membership in the Non Proliferation Treaty, that could conceivably lead to the creation of atomic bombs?


Several highly qualified scientists and analysts on the subject of nuclear weapons and dangers of proliferation, among them Dr. Gordon Prather, whose commentaries on this subject appear regularly on , have refuted all those allegations and accusations as bogus and politically motivated. Just look up Gordon Prather in your web search engine and read his many articles on the subject.


My views on the subject were also reflected in two articles that appeared on ; one in June, 2004, "Iran's Nuclear Shell Game", and the other in August, 2004, "Hurray for Ambiguity", as well as many articles since then.


Below is a portion of an article I wrote for the payvand web site in January, 2005, "Iran Approaching the Flashpoint":

"And now for Iran
This brings us to the current developments with regard to Iran and the heightened state of alert that has been saturating the media, especially since the president's inaugural address last week.
Accusations against the Iranian regime parallel those brought against Iraq shortly before the actual invasion of that country by US forces. These accusations can be split into three main categories: First is the threat that a nuclear-armed enemy state could potentially pose against the United States and its strategic interests elsewhere. Second is the issue of Iran's alleged support for terrorist groups in Middle East hotspots. Finally, it is the humanitarian concern over Iran's treatment of its own citizens, particularly women and minorities, and the general atmosphere of suppression of civil liberties.
These allegations constitute ample pretext for the Bush administration hawks to put Iran on notice, as verbalized by the president and his secretary of state-designate, Condoleezza Rice. She was not short for words when questioned by senators during her confirmation hearings about her views regarding the issue of US-Iran relations. In response to Senator Joe Biden, she resorted to her usual rhetorical style of stringing along a profusion of academically erudite yet contextually vague phrases, simply echoing unsupported charges that have been mouthed by her superiors. In her case, that is actually all that is expected of her, and that is exactly how she acted in her capacity as the president's national security adviser.
Here it is important to note that, just as was the case with Iraq, suspicions, allegations and accusations do not require verification and proof to justify action. When it comes to foreign policy, the philosophy of this administration has been quite simple: do what you want to do; rationalize it later. This has been a time-tested Israeli model, now openly and, unfortunately proudly, adopted by the US administration.
Those who mobilized anti-war demonstrations, gave speeches, wrote books and created websites to reflect the perspectives of reason, sanity and experience in world affairs did find a substantial nationwide audience. However, the voices of reason, as welcome as they were, had the same effect as singing to a chorus. Now it is Iran's turn to become the subject of brilliant news analyses and debates between pro-war and anti-war journalists and opinion gurus.
A well-intentioned scientist with vast experience in nuclear-weapons technology and proliferation issues has been writing articles for a prestigious anti-war website, pointing to the fact that Iran is far from being able to develop a nuclear bomb. There is an international consensus, outside of the US and Israel, that Iran, far from causing agitation in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq, has been quite helpful in supporting the stability of those countries, even if for Iran's own sake.
Iran's alleged support for terror organizations such as Hezbollah is yet another guise, both in terms of what defines terrorism and what constitutes support, that seems to suit the agenda at hand. And when it comes to promoting democratic reforms and fighting tyranny, injustice and violations of human rights, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China, among many others, are, as Biden pointed out to Rice, far more deplorable than what we are accusing the Iranian regime of.
Are we forgetting that the invasion of Iraq was carried out with similar pretexts or excuses? Iran is, of course, a much larger country, with three times the population of Iraq and a terrain that is, unlike Iraq, nearly as difficult as Afghanistan's. Short of an all-out military attack from several flanks, followed by a massive invasion, no military action or insurgency can do to Iran what was done to Afghanistan or Iraq.
Surgical strikes at nuclear facilities by the Israelis, something that the US vice president has already hinted at, will not even effectively slow down any effort the Iranians might be making toward nuclear-weapons development. Any such attack will result in three outcomes: First, it will generate an even greater animosity toward the perpetrators and will strengthen the hardliners' grip on Iran, thus creating added obstacles for the reformists and pro-democracy movements to achieve their goals. Second, efforts would then be initiated or accelerated to acquire the ultimate weapon as a deterrent, if not to use in retaliation at an opportune time. Third, with its vast resources and great influence, the Iranian regime would do what it is already accused of doing - supporting insurgencies and creating as much trouble in the region against Israel and the US as possible.
So why Iran?
So, what is the logic, if any, behind all the recently intensified saber rattling from Washington? To answer that, we can believe the official pronouncements that the administration is trying to sell to the public, or an alternative version that risks the chance of being labeled as too conspiratorial; make your own choice.
The official version:
1 The world cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
2 Iran harbors and supports international terror organizations.
3 Iran intends to disrupt our efforts to bring peace and democracy to the region.
4 Iran's mission is to destroy Israel.
5 Iran must go through a regime change, by military intervention if need be.
There are some who might question the method of approach to defusing the Iranian threat, but few in the United States would doubt that the Iranian threat is real and that it must be dealt with. This perception is not limited to political conservatives or Bush supporters; the Democrats share equally in this view, as was clearly demonstrated by their candidates during their presidential campaign speeches.
Nearly one-half of the US public is now aware, and to a degree surprised, that the invasion of Iraq was based on a less-than-honest appraisal of an Iraqi threat to America's security, and that it did not unfold as promised by the administration. Having learned from those mistakes, they now believe, the Iranian threat must surely have been much more clearly verified, and any military action will certainly be much better planned.
When the news of the death of talk-show host Johnny Carson occupies all headlines for days on end, and the major debate in the public domain is over which weight-loss diet works better, can we expect more?
Of course, if we accept certain conjectures as facts, the situation and the strategies to deal with it cannot be challenged. These pretexts, in addition to those enumerated above, include:
1 Iran is led by a group of turban-headed crazies.
2 Given the chance, they would not hesitate to destroy Israel, even if it meant an assured total devastation of their own country and people.
3 Iran is rapidly developing its weapons of mass destruction, including atomic bombs and long-range missiles, not for defensive purposes, but to attack Israel and to threaten Europe and North America.
4 Since they are lunatics, the Iranian Islamic leaders believe they will ultimately dominate the globe with their brand of fundamentalist Islam.
If such conjectures sound too stupid to be taken seriously, just listen to and read the same statements by some very high-profile national figures, from such journalists as Charles Krauthammer to the likes of House Majority Whip Tom Delay, or influential evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to the prolific conservative radio talk-show hosts who influence the minds of millions on a daily basis.
So, what might be an alternative view or interpretation of the current state of heightened anxiety between the US and Iran? But first, a list of facts on the ground that may illuminate some of Iran's concerns and objectives:
1 The average Iranian, as any other human being anywhere else, would prefer to live in a free and democratic society, in peace and with guaranteed security. However, just as is the case in the United States, when a nation is threatened by terrorism or military invasion, whether real or perceived, many social liberties and democratic aspirations or expectations may be put on hold, and in Iran's case, kept on hold indefinitely.
2 More than social liberties and democratic reforms, economic conditions play the most vital role in a nation's destiny. Sanctions and economic pressures imposed on Iran do no more than postpone the natural transition from a de facto theocracy to a more open civil society. The perpetuation and intensification of animosities toward Iran have been, and continue to be, the perfect recipe for further legitimizing the position of the hardliners in Iran's sociopolitical affairs.
3 Again, just as is the case in the United States, ultra-conservatives, even radical religious fanatics, be it Tom Delay, Billy Graham, or Ayatollah X Y Z at any given Friday sermon, do not hate their own country, but see the best course for their respective nations, each in their own way, as misguided as they might be.
4 Iran stands to gain nothing by posing a threat to Israel, unless, of course, in self-defense. Any hostile act toward the West or the US would mean a catastrophic end to all of Iran's hopes and aspirations as a viable nation. Aggression has never been an Iranian agenda, and would serve absolutely no purpose now.
5 Iran is a large country with some of the richest natural resources, including the region's biggest natural-gas reserves - the energy source of the future - rich oilfields, ore deposits and a growing industrial infrastructure. The Iranians are a proud people, proud of their national history and cultural heritage. They have shown resolve and resiliency in the face of many historical upheavals, ancient and recent, both foreign and domestic. Iran rightly expects to be acknowledged as a consequential player in the affairs of the region. Attempts to isolate and exclude Iran from any future designs for the Middle East will inevitably result in an unstable imbalance.
6 Diplomacy between two nations, no matter how large or small in relative terms, must be based on mutual respect, not as a dialogue between a master and a subordinate.
Who stands to gain?
By perpetuating and intensifying the tension between the US and Iran, who stands to gain? It is certainly not Iran; even the staunchest hardliner or religious zealot would prefer to not rule over the dust of a devastated nation. And it is certainly not the US, whose interests can be much better assured through a rapprochement with a strategically positioned and energy-rich Iran. A friendly Iran would more than help secure the stability of the neighboring states and, with certain security guarantees, would cease to be a concern as a military threat to Israel or anyone else.
Why is it, then, that while Iran has been trying so many times and in so many ways to demonstrate its openness toward a rapprochement with the US, the response has been suspiciously cold and negative? Who benefits from this arrogant defiance of common sense? It all started by the grand unified troika galloping ahead with the mask of power.
But this is not where the case ends. The neo-con gang is quickly coming to the realization that their ambitious designs for the creation of a new American empire is neither good for the United States, nor tolerated by America's allies in the West, or the rising rival powers in the East.
Had the situation both in Afghanistan and in Iraq been resolved expeditiously, the grand design for the conquest of the Middle East would have followed without delay. The evangelical crusaders have already accomplished more than they could have bargained for right here at home. Both these sources of influence are looking at the next presidential term four years away that will, more than likely, put the damper on their dreams.
That leaves us with only one remaining culprit whose mission is seemingly never-ending, and who has historically had the support, sometimes covert and sometimes explicit, of Washington, regardless of which political party has come to power. Now, with even the faintest prospects for a mediated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the border issues, the settlements, and the Palestinian statehood, the Ariel Sharon government is finding things not going its way. Nothing would serve the Likud regime's ambitious agendas more than a continuation of strife and hostilities in the Middle East.
As long as the United States remains militarily engaged in the region, Israel will enjoy an unquestioned level of support on all fronts, financial, military and diplomatic. This is exactly why striking at Iran's nuclear facilities, although a militarily fruitless act, will be intended to provide added fuel for the regional turmoil to further involve Iran and the United States in protracted antagonism and threats.
Any assault on Iran or Iranian targets would only benefit Israel. Can the US escape this folly that promises to be the biggest quagmire it has ever encountered? Can the US curb the pit-bull and, instead, do for a change what is best for the United States?
Threatening to attack preemptively a sovereign nation the size and significance of Iran in violation of all international norms should be taken a lot more seriously by the US media than it seems to be. A nationwide poll taken by America Online or CNN, where the participants indicate their choice of whether or not to attack or invade Iran, just as they choose which color car to buy next, brings the realities of life and death to the level of virtual realities of computer games.
Humans do suffer and die by the tens of thousands, as well as those American men and women sent to fight an enemy created in the domain of virtual reality by pundits with their own ulterior motives, those whose own blood or that of their children is never spilled in their pursuits of grandeur.
May reason prevail."

Now, a year later, nothing has changed except what we are seeing and hearing about the new Iranian administration's foreign policy strategies as reflected in President Ahmadinejad's hard-line statements. In my last article, posted on payvand web site in December, 2005, I had asked the rhetorical question implying whether the new Iranian president, Mahmood Ahmadinejad was in charge of his senses when he made those now infamous comments about wiping Israel off the map and casting doubts about the Holocaust.


There is a historical anecdote relating to the Mongol conquest of the Middle East and the seat of the caliphate in Baghdad. After the fall of Baghdad, the Mongol Khan wanted to execute the Caliph. He was warned, however, that killing the Islamic Caliph is said to anger Allah and unleash sudden cataclysmic meteorological events that would devastate the world. The Khan, mindful of that warning, ordered the Caliph rolled up inside a large carpet, which was to be gradually rolled tighter and tighter, while his guards watched for any signs of an impending storm appearing on the horizon. Smart Khan; determined, as well as cautious! Is Ahmadinejad using the same strategy?


OK; let the international media have a field day over Iran's arrogant defiance in response to increasing US, EU, and IAEA demands for total transparency and even abandonment of its lawful uranium enrichment process that Iran restarted as promised. No need to explain that the decision to stop such activities on a temporary basis was purely voluntary on Iran's part to show its goodwill. And, no need to clarify that the breaking of the seals on the enrichment equipment was with IAEA's prior knowledge, presence and supervision, as dictated by the NPT regulations; nothing clandestine or illegal and no breach of commitments or agreements has occurred.


And, why apologize for holding Israel and its US supporters responsible for all that has muddied the waters and prevented a rapprochement between the United States and Iran? And, finally, why hope for a possible change in the US administration in the next elections, when the likely contenders, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean or John Kerry, or any other high profile Democratic Party candidate we know of, is even more deeply imbedded with, and indebted to, the Israeli lobby than were the Republicans?


The moderate, reform oriented policies of Iran's former president, Mr. Khatami, did nothing to defuse the tension or threats against Iran's safety and security. Economic sanctions and diplomatic pressures by the United States continued to intensify. The European Union, cowed by the US pressure, joined in the diplomatic assault on Iran over Iran's alleged schemes to develop nuclear weapons. In December, 2005, the Israeli leadership went as far as setting a date, late March, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year, for a probable preemptive attack on Iran. This threat continues to be intensified at this writing.


So, when Mr. Ahmadinejad jabs at the sensitive issue of Israel's legitimacy or the accounts of the Jewish Holocaust, or when the Iranian nuclear delegation snobs the IAEA, what he is doing is what the Mongol Khan did some nine hundred years earlier; pushing the issue and watching for signs of impending doom over the horizon.


If Ahmadinejad proves to be wrong and the storm clouds do rise and shower Iran with bunker-busting bombs and tactical nuclear weapons, the world will be plunged into a bigger and more protracted mess than the Second World War. Will that serve America's best interests?


This is the real question: will an attack on Iran by the United States or Israel serve America's best interests? If the answer is yes, Mr. Ahmadinejad must be thinking, why wait around for the enemy to choose the time, the place, and the tactics of such attack? Bring it on, he seems to be saying. If indeed an attack on Iran serves America's strategic interests, nothing, no amount of appealing to the international conscience or consensus, begging for mercy or invoking divine intervention, will prevent this action; so, why even bother?


The only thing that has a chance of stopping a disaster that is sure to engulf the entire region with America caught in the middle is to come up with convincing arguments against the prevailing current trends. How will it benefit the United States to attack Iran or allow Israel to do that, assuming that the Israelis would give a damn about what Washington might dictate?


Let us hope that meaningful behind-the-scenes negotiations are taking place between Iran and the United States to remove the roadblocks to a long overdue rapprochement. The current state of affairs is escalating rapidly toward a flashpoint with global implications.


Could it be that, in spite of all the anti Iran rhetoric by Israel and the Israeli lobby in Washington, now permeating the entire news media, including lately the NPR under its new director, Cheryl Halpern, an Israel-firster, and the slanted reportage by even the so-called liberal press, somebody is wise to these propaganda tactics and is holding on tight to the pit bull's leash? Is there hope that the President and the Secretary of State can rein in the overzealous cabal around them and insist on focusing on what is good for America, for a change?


In 2004, many experts had predicted an attack on Iran by the US and/or Israel by the summer of 2005. It didn't happen. A year later, the same experts are even more certain of a pending Israeli and/or American preemptive strike against Iran as early as late March, 2006. I personally doubt it very much; let's hope I am right.



... Payvand News - 1/13/06 ... --

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