Iran News ...


7/30/07

Diplomatic Sensibilities Versus Public Sensitivities

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse
 

So, we've had two so-called face-to-face meetings between the American State Department representatives and their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad. After nearly thirty years of no official diplomatic relations between the two countries, this was hoped by many on both sides to signal a potential new rapprochement that could help defuse the heightening tension and pave the way to a diplomatic solution to the issues of contention.

However, a much more influential and vocal group see any reduction of tension in the region as anything but desirable. In this group we can include our neocons and their Zionist masterminds and cheerleaders who dragged us into the current quagmire in the first place, as well as the increasingly more active Christian Zionists, the highly influential buffoons who want to speed up the arrival of the End-Time and the Biblical Armageddon, purely for religious reasons.

On the Iranian side, an understandably similar situation prevails. The hardliners gain further legitimacy as threats of aggression and new sanctions against Iran loom more imminent. The strength and sustainability of their power and authority depend on, and are nurtured by, the Iranian public's paranoia about another devastating war, this time potentially more catastrophic than the eight-year war with Saddam's Iraq, from which the nation has not fully recovered. 

Iranian leaders, whether clerical or secular, who see the nation's best interests in a meaningful and productive rapprochement with the United States, are clearly handicapped by the current of events we have been witnessing in recent years.

If, in fact, America's foreign policy and its so-called War on Terror are aimed at an indefinite continuation of instability and strife in the Middle East and a permanent military presence in the region, we are doing exactly the right things! A more isolated and pressured Iran, with its quite predictable reactions to such threats and pressures, will no doubt create a more potent pretext for the United States to expand its theater of military and economic involvements in the oil rich Middle East.

If, on the other hand, we are truly interested in a reduction of tensions and hostilities and prefer a diplomatic solution to an explosive encounter with its predictably unpredictable consequences, neither our Administration's policies at home, nor our apparent behavior half-way around the world, indicate that we are on the right track.

Understandably, there are distinctly two separate plains upon which diplomacy plays its roles. One is at the actual negotiating table away from the press and the public media, where chest thumping, saber rattling and propaganda rhetoric are checked at the door, and honest concerns over the issues of contention are expressed and discussed. Once back outside, and before entering the stage of the public domain, what was checked at the door is retrieved and the propaganda game is resumed.

US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, addressing the media, left no doubt that he had made it abundantly clear to the Iranians that Iran's behavior in Iraq was unacceptable. Yet, at the same time, Ambassador Crocker did say that both the United States and Iran support a stable, democratic Iraq, a statement that for obvious reasons never received any significant airtime by the media.

The Iranians, headed by Ambassador to Iraq, Kazemi-Ghomi, on the other hand, did their share of playing the propaganda game for their own public by putting all the blame on America's military presence in Iraq for the problems in that country, while privately sounding off positive comments about the trilateral meeting.

The Iraqi representative at the meeting, however, gave very optimistic statements about the results of the negotiations. To quote the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Zaberi, "This meeting has been challenging but productive and we feel it has produced some real results."

If we believe the propaganda side of these statements, clearly tailored for public consumption, we must conclude that the meeting between the representatives of the two governments was nothing but pure hogwash and a total waste of time and effort! Many in the mainstream media here had already predicted that this meeting or any others that might follow would be a waste of time. Their position has always been that hoping for any negotiated settlement of issues with the Iranians is a pipedream, and that the only thing that the Islamic Republic regime might understand and respect is force.

We can clearly see that this mindset is reflected in the presidential campaign rhetoric by the front running candidates in both political parties. While the Republicans advocate the use of military force, the Democrats prefer to begin with economic and diplomatic strangulation of the Iranian nation to bring about a soft or velvet revolution and regime change.

In short, it seems as though they all agree that dialogue with this "designated" enemy is simply a charade, showing to the international community that America has at least tried!

Whether this conclusion is true or false is one thing, but the ramifications of such pronouncements by the media and our officials to the public do, however, have profoundly more consequential effects.

The public perception of the goings on between the United States and what has been portrayed as America's arch enemy, Iran, is so effectively established that any attempt to rectify that image is viewed with great suspicion and skepticism.

The Iranians, on their part, feel the economic pressures and fear the consequences of some military strike, whether accidentally initiated or intentionally planned, by Israel or the United States. >From their perspective, an Israeli attack, however surgically precise and limited in scope, cannot be simply overlooked without a response in kind; ignoring it would be totally unacceptable by the Iranian nation, and a political suicide by the regime.

There wouldn't be any doubt that a retaliatory attack on Israel by Iran would give the United States the pretext to strike at Iran with full force, without appearing guilty of initiating a war with Iran. Many both in Iran and in the United States fear that Israel, prompted by certain elements within the American administration or on their own initiative, would do just that to provoke Iran to retaliate and force America into another endless entanglement.

What the Israeli regime and its supporters in the American administration stand to gain by fanning the fire of instability and strife in the region has been the subject of much of what I have written and spoken about, and is outside the topic of this article. The reader can access my articles in my web site, www.intellectualdiscourse.com

The invasion of Iraq and the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's rule eliminated the influence of the Ba'athist Sunni elite, leaving the Sunni minority increasingly powerless and marginalized. The group that most benefited from America's actions and the political sea change in Iraq was the disenfranchised Shi'a majority whose sudden resurgence was, in turn, welcomed by the Americans as the core of a friendly and compliant new Iraqi administration. It seemed at first to be a gain-gain situation, all the way around.

This seemingly copasetic development has proven to be more problematic than expected.

Looking at this situation objectively, the problem is not the uncomfortable reality that Iraq's Shi'a ascendancy has made Iran, the home of Shi'ism, even a more powerful and influential player in the Middle East stage. This reality could not have been hidden from thinkers and analysts of Middle Eastern politics from the beginning.

However, why the historical and religious connections between the Shi'a Iran and the resurgent Shi'a power in Iraq is today such a worrisome concern for the United States, should be the subject of careful, dispassionate study.

Is there, in reality and not just in the propaganda saturated public playing fields, some cause for concern over Iran and its interests or motives in the region?

Based on official rhetoric, Iran is classified as the world's chief supporter of international terrorism. Nobody in our major media seems to seriously question the validity of such an assertion. Some, whose motives are worthy of careful scrutiny, go even as far as to claim, albeit with absolutely no supportive evidence, that Iran intends to access nuclear weapons, attack Israel, then Europe and even the United States, and expand its hegemony throughout the oil rich Middle East.

The same folks have succeeded in creating a sense of uncertainty and fear among the Sunni Arab regimes in the region, convincing them to purchase billions of dollars of American weapons to defend themselves against a potential Iranian assault. Apparently, we are to believe that the formidable American task force in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding regions, each aircraft carrier or military base armed with more firepower than the total forces in the entire region, is not enough to deter any aggression by the Iranians!

Sanity dictates that this charade is the superficial manifestation of realities that must have much deeper roots.

Behind all the fašade and disinformation, there lies the core of our problems. We have created, by design or default, an Iraq whose stability, as well as America's own vital interests in that country, could best be secured through Iran's cooperation.

Here lies the problem: In this turbulent ocean of negative propaganda and in the face of the prevailing public mindset on both sides of the planet, how could the policy makers engage in a meaningful dialogue to initiate a rapprochement between the antagonists. Can such a dialogue be open and in plain view of the public? When final decisions have to meet the acceptance of people's representatives in the American Congress or the Iranian Parliament and be approved and implemented by respective Cabinet officials, how could these folks speak or vote counter to the rhetoric that they have been singing all this time?

It would require some kind of divine intervention, some miracle or a diplomatic magic act, to overcome such obstacles and pave the way for a mutually acceptable and beneficial cooperation between the two administrations. The primary prerequisite is, of course, finding and focusing on mutual interests and common concerns.

As Ambassador Crocker has said, both the United States and Iran are interested in a stable and democratic Iraq.

Let us look at what a democratic Iraq might mean to each side. A democratic Iraqi government means a majority Shi'a dominated friendly state on Iran's eastern flank, supported by the mighty American forces that might be less likely this way to cause any problems for Iran.

Stability means a lessening of internecine bloodshed and sectarian feud between the various faction, meaning a further isolation or marginalization of the Sunni insurgencies and, above all, the elimination of Al Gha'eda nests, something that both the United States and Iran are concerned about. Stability also means keeping the Kurdish separatist movements in check, something that is of great concern for Iran, Turkey and, above all, Iraq itself. Iran, therefore would gain much by a stable Iraq.

For the United States, a stable Iraq equates to a gradual reduction of American forces and their possible replacement ultimately  by a United Nations peace keeping force stationed in the several strategically placed military bases in Iraq we have erected at a cost of tens of billion of US dollars.

A democratic Iraq, even if only in name, means success in the eyes of the American people for the United States in having finally established the right kind of regime in a country "liberated" from tyranny and dictatorship. Whether the new Iraqi regime is simply another form of dictatorship such as what exists in other Arab regimes, as long as it remains "compliant", it will be classified as yet another moderate or friendly Islamic state. To maintain its status as "compliant", and its classification as friendly or moderate, Iran's needs and concerns must also be taken into account, creating, by extension, a mutually beneficial symbiosis between the US and Iran.

The reduction of hostile rhetoric and threats of attack or regime change, followed by lifting of the economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran, would inevitably lead to economic developments and an opening for a nation suffering too long under stress. Any hope for reform toward broader democracy and moderation in Iran can only be realized through diplomatic and economic opening with the West, particularly with the United States. Additional pressures and sanctions against Iran will, by nature, harden the conservative core and lead to greater anger and frustration of a nation that blames its ills on what it views as an aggressive, imperialistic West, rather than putting the blame, even partly, on the mismanagement by its own rulers.

Finally, how could one not wonder what forces are at work and whose interests are involved in pushing the United Stets toward a more aggressive stance against Iran. Will a major military confrontation with Iran or a toughening of sanctions to strangulate that nation prove in America's best interests?  

I personally doubt that very much.

 

About the author: Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. Please visit intellectualdiscourse.com for ordering.

... Payvand News - 7/30/07 ... --



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