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6/5/06

Olive Branch or Bombs: May Wisdom Prevail

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse 

 

The world is now awaiting Iran’s formal response to the recent gesture by the United States to enter a long overdue dialogue with that member of the Axis of Evil and the number-one supporter of international terrorism. There are, however, some preconditions that Iran is required to submit to before any dialogue could take place. According to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, any dialogue with Iran aimed at defusing the tension regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions could take place only after Iran abandons all uranium enrichment activities in a verifiable way.

 

When asked weather such potential negotiations might lead to other issues of concern, such as Iran’s security and economic worries, Ms. Rice pointed out that, in addition to its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran is also guilty of supporting regional terrorism and other violations, serious issues that it must deal with before such matters could be tabled.

 

Condoleezza Rice also emphasized that, should Iran refuse to accept the conditions proposed by the United States and endorsed by its European allies, and should the Security Council then fail to take appropriate steps in enforcing economic sanction against Iran, the United States might take action, with or without international support. Furthermore, she confirmed, as far as what the United States might do, all options remain on the table. This, of course, refers to military options, as well.

 

Now, just as a mental exercise, let us ponder what the reaction in the United States might be should Iran decide to make a counter offer in kind. In an open letter to the US State Department, the counter proposal from Iran might read as follows:

 

Recognizing the United States’ deepening problems in the Middle East, and the American people’s legitimate concerns over the loss of American lives and huge financial burdens resulting from their government’s misguided policies, and in view of Iran’s strategic and influential position in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to open a meaningful dialogue between the two states. However, before any negotiations could take place, the United States must satisfy the following conditions:

 

1-      Acknowledge the fact that its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq was illegal, unwarranted and based on false pretexts.

2-      Acknowledge the fact that the presence of its armed forces and military bases throughout the region and surrounding areas is a clear and present threat to all peaceful Islamic nations of the Middle East.

3-      Acknowledge the fact that its support of terrorist groups such as the Mojahedin Khalgh, and the terrorist state, Israel, has made it a state sponsor of international terrorism.

4-      Acknowledge the fact that its covert infiltration by military personnel and agents inside the Iranian territories to engage in inciting dissent and sectarian violence is a clear violation of international codes of conduct.

5-      Acknowledge the fact that threats of regime change or preemptive military attack against Iran is in violation of the charter of the United Nations and international norms.

6-      Acknowledge the fact that its non-compliance with the NPT regulations by developing new nuclear weapons, promoting and otherwise ignoring the proliferation of nuclear weapons by America’s allies, particularly Israel, Pakistan and India, and ignoring the Treaty’s principle of gradual disarmament, is in violation of a signatory to this international agreement.

7-      Acknowledge the fact that threats of economic sanctions against a sovereign state could lead to an economic blockade, which is tantamount to a declaration of war against that nation.

8-      Acknowledge the fact the its mission in the Middle East was never to promote freedom and democracy, but to perpetuate repressive political and economic conditions by creating and supporting compliant regimes while denying freedom and democratic aspirations in the region, in order to accommodate America’s own strategic interests.

9-      In view of the above, the United States must immediately, conclusively and verifiably reverse its rogue behavior and initiate the necessary steps to remedy the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty it has created in the international scene.

 

President Ahmadinejad’s now “infamous” letter, a much milder or benign version of the above, to President Bush was summarily dismissed by the Administration. Quite expectedly, commentators on Fox channels, the redneck radio talk-show hosts, and political pundits in major national publications, ridiculed the “Islamofascist” Iranian “nouveau-Hitler”.  Yet, several high-ranking members of the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, as well as some former Cabinet officials including Kissinger and Albright, saw Iran’s gesture as a potential or an excuse for initiating a meaningful dialogue between the two countries.

 

The accusatory and blatantly insulting conditional offer expressed by the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, for a potential dialogue with Iran reeked of self-righteous indignation, which, quite frankly, does beg for a response similar to the fictional letter above. Hopefully, however, such a response will not be forthcoming from the Iranian side, as it would inject more fuel under the boiling pot of this international crisis that is already close to spilling over.

 

Unfortunately, the general public’s attitude toward the Iranian regime is not likely to undergo a significant revision here. Neither can we hope for a more positive perception of America’s policies in the Middle East in the official domain within the Islamic Republic of Iran. In actual fact, the average man or woman in Iran has a much more positive perception of the American nation than the average American has of the Iranian people. The reason for this disparity is quite simple: Ironically, the public here is much more likely to accept the official propaganda line from the government as factual, while the typical Iranian is understandably suspicious and skeptical about what the regime portrays as factual.

 

The above notwithstanding, meaningful negotiations at official levels, aimed at a reasonable and mutually productive resolution of the conflict of interests between the two countries, can and must be pursued. At the same time, toning down the current counterproductive rhetoric from both sides will help bring about a more positive atmosphere of understanding in the public domain, which will play a most essential role in defusing the tension between the two states.

 

Again, ironically, such changes in diplomacy might be much easier and more likely to take place in Iran than here in the United States. The likes of Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bill O’Reilly, the ultraconservatives, the religious Right, and particularly the Israeli lobby and its supporters in the Administration and among the media moguls, will not look favorably to any rapprochement with an entity they have all worked so diligently to demonize.  

 

Similarly, the religious hardliners and ultraconservative elements within the Iranian regime, now increasingly and quite unwisely overconfident in their ability to maintain and even strengthen their control over the nation’s destiny, will resist any effort toward such a rapprochement with the “Great Satan”. In their case, however, pressure from above, from the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameneh’i, and President Ahmadinejad’s superficially inflexible position, could much more easily sway Iran toward a conciliatory direction.  And, there are indeed signs of such resiliency on the Iranian side.

 

In this grand chess game the ultimate goal would be a stalemate or a détente under conditions that both parties could claim victory and save face in their respective public domains.

 

There is no other solution to the current dilemma. All major players stand to lose as the crescendo of muscle flexing and saber rattling by both sides reaches new highs leading potentially to a catastrophic confrontation.

 

In my personal opinion, the ball remains in America’s court. It is not for the sake of fairness, justice or moral righteousness, but simply, pragmatically and purely for our own long-term benefit to allow a better understanding and resiliency to end this long-standing senseless animosity. Iran is surely to lose a lot more, perhaps many irreparable losses, in case of a serious confrontation with the West. But, in the long run, America’s best interests in that strategic and energy rich area will suffer irreparably, as well.

 

... Payvand News - 6/5/06 ... --



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