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A new rapprochement or more of the same?

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse

The news about the Iranian American scholar, Haleh Esfandiary, who has been accused of attempting to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran, has caused an uproar among the human rights activists on both sides of the planet and has drawn particularly harsh official protests by the US State Department and the President himself.

The typical reader could well be expected to wonder about the banality and ineptitude of the Islamic Republic of Iran for fearing that a frail little sixty-seven year old lady who is visiting her ninety-three year old mother is capable of toppling the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran!

In actual fact, Mrs. Bakhash (Esfandiary is her maiden name) was accused of being directly associated with an organization in the United States that, like several others that openly announce their mission, is believed  by the Iranian authorities to be engaged in programs with the aim of destabilizing the Iranian regime and paving the way for a "velvet" revolution.

Sure, Iran's security apparatus that has arrested and charged her, as well as several others under similar suspicions, may well be wrong in this assessment and may have simply overreacted in the current atmosphere of hostile rhetoric emanating from the United States. The accusations against a lady journalist, who works for a radio station officially and openly funded by the United States to broadcast propaganda into Iran, may also be a paranoid act by an overly cautious internal security organ in the Islamic Republic.

We have all learned to understand and even expect the same kind of treatment that Iranians or Arabs with similar backgrounds and connections with their home regimes receive here in the United States, because of the concern with homeland security, of course. We may not like that, but that's how the game is being played these days.

Now, let us examine Iran's "paranoia" over its security concerns.

It is actually quite ironic, if not downright comical, that some Republican congressmen recently accused the ABC network for blowing the cover off of what was supposed to be classified information about the recent presidential authorization for the CIA operations to infiltrate and destabilize Iran. This, in additional to the tens of millions of dollars officially budgeted by Congress to destabilize the regime in Iran, were neither secret nor new.

It really did not require the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Seymour Hersh, to blow the whistle on covert operations (covert only to the news media here, not over there) that have been going on for quite some time. The Iranian regime has been engaged in counter insurgencies against armed groups and saboteurs, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Azeris, etc., all armed, paid and directed by the United States and Great Britain, as well as by certain Gulf states, to infiltrate and destabilize the various provinces inside Iran. In addition, dissident groups and individuals inside and outside Iran are encouraged and financed to create as much trouble for the Islamic regime as they can.

This is neither to condemn, nor to condone, programs intended to pave the way for either a "soft (velvet)" or a bloody regime change in Iran. In other words, this is not an attempt to criticize or to rise in support of the Islamic Republic of Iran's government or policies. Nevertheless, the fact remains that such blatant interference in the affairs of any sovereign nation is clearly against the international law and the charter of the United Nations.

The presence of American naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, naval war games, and the establishment of bases along the Arabian shores of the Persian Gulf are all aimed at intimidating Iran without overtly violating the international law. The mission is a no-nonsense warning to let the Iranian regime know the potentials of the catastrophe awaiting it in case hostilities do break out.

However, coercing or otherwise convincing the Arab Emirates and the Saudis to help fund the Sunni insurgencies against the Iranian regime or anything Shi'a or Iranian is the kind of behavior the United States and Israel continuously condemn as support for international terrorism when it is Iran that supports insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine.

Surrounded by forces openly and officially hostile to it, with expressed mission of destabilizing and even changing the regime by force if necessary (not even ruling out the use of nuclear weapons), the Islamic Republic is left but with a very few options.

Knowing fully well that the issue of its nuclear program is clearly a pretext, and the danger Iran might present to the security of the United States, Europe and Israel even a more lame excuse, capitulating to any demands short of total surrender and abdication from power by Iran's clerical leadership will not ease the pressure against Iran's national integrity. Were the issue of Iran's nuclear program be satisfactorily resolved, other vague issues, such as whether the Iranian regime is responsible for the arms and weapons found in the hands of insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, could flag up, anyway.

Option "A", capitulation, is not likely to happen anytime soon! The more pressure that is put on Iran, whether economic sanctions or threats of military attacks, the more justification will be created for the hardliners in Iran to increase their power grip and impose stricter security measures with a higher degree of paranoia, not much unlike what has been happening right here in the United States.

Two other options, however, remain open for Iran at the present time:

Option "B", staying the course:

This means ignoring the pressures and threats and continuing the defiant path as the only Middle Eastern nation that has dared to challenge the power and influence of the mightiest superpower, even at a cost to its own economic well being and internal tranquility.

Iran's map, we were shown as children in elementary schools in Iran, resembles a sitting cat. Well, the sitting cat has been pushed into a corner and is crouching now as it is being threatened with harm. Just like any cornered and threatened feline, Iran has been making itself appear as menacingly ominous as possible to ward off potential attacks. The lesson of Iraq and Korea, one that had no potential to defend itself, and the other that was merely suspected of having a deterrent capability, was not even necessary for Iran to react as it has been in recent years.

One thing is for damned sure: If attacked, this cat is not going to go down with a whimper. The cost to the region, to the attacked, as well as to the attackers, would be horrendous, with long-term global aftereffects.

The hope by the hardliners in Washington and Tel Aviv, at least superficially, has been that a continuation of the current standoff and the increasing economic and diplomatic pressures will weaken the regime to a point where the opposition groups inside the country, helped and financed by the masterminds of the regime change from outside, will be able to reestablish a more "compliant" government in Iran.

While this might actually be a bona fide pipedream in Washington, The Israeli regime is, I am quite sure, not quite as na´ve.

No doubt, sanctions and diplomatic pressures will continue to wear at and impede Iran's socioeconomic developments and create greater internal dissent and strife. However, on a regional scale, Iran has been gaining in prestige and influence. In the meantime, Iran's nuclear program, thus far quite honestly in the pursuit of fuel-rod production for peaceful purposes under the NPT agreements as verified by the IAEA monitors, does have the potential to be extended to weapons production, should the nation's security and territorial integrity require such weapons as a deterrent or as a retaliatory measure.

The Israeli leadership no doubt knows that Iran is not now, and will not be in the future, even if it had nuclear weapons, prone to attack Israel or start a nuclear exchange with anyone near or far. All the nonsense about Iran's threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map has been just that; nonsense. That deliberately misquoted, doctored up and exaggerated utterance by the Iranian President, for which part of the blame should be born by Iran's own overzealous news agency, IRNA, has been used for maximum propaganda effect against the Iranian regime to this day. Rather than correcting the mistake, something that should have been quite simple for international journalists to do simply for journalistic integrity, the phrase has now gained an undeserved historical authenticity and is being routinely used by the heads of states and the public alike.

More recently, the Iranian President said in a speech - to paraphrase as closely as possible - that, God willing, with the efforts of the Palestinians and Lebanon's Hezbollah, the clock has begun to tick on the regime of occupation. Again, the original Reuters reportage and the pursuant media reports here have changed the wording to sound as though the Iranian President has just announced that the clock is ticking on the destruction of Israel!  This, notwithstanding the fact that, just as the Soviet communist regime was not one and the same as Russia or the Russians, neither is the regime of occupation the same as Israel and the Jewish people. President Ahmadinejad, a man not known to be concerned with political correctness, has repeated this point himself (actually to my surprise) several times.

Israel, unlike its Zionist amen corner and the APAC-supported politicians here, is not really worried about any "existential threat" from Iran, contrary to what its leaders keep on repeating for whatever they expect to gain - and they do gain an awful lot - from this propaganda opportunity.

Unless one would prefer to believe that Iran is in the hands of some crazed mullahs who are prone to do anything, including sacrificing their own lives and those of their countrymen for some ideological cause, the thought of a nuclear assault initiated by Iran is simply ludicrous.

[Here, it might interest the reader to be informed about a subtle play of words that has a rather profound psychological effect aimed quite cunningly at the intended audiences:

The word mullah, when not a part of a cleric's or a scholar's formal title or name, has a rather derogatory connotation in Iran. Similarly, although the name Kiker or Kyker is not too uncommon as a surname among the Jewish people, calling a Jewish person a Kike is extremely insulting. When our politicians or members of the media refer to the Iranian leaders as mullahs, or the regime as mullah's regime, what comes to mind is a group of lice-infested, illiterate, dishonest and ignorant people who are running the affairs of that country.

Does the leadership running Iran consist of a bunch of mullahs as implied?  Hardly!

Staying the course, the favorite slogan out of the Whitehouse ever since the beginning of the War on Terror, has created a seemingly endless chaos in the Middle East, has made this nation less safe and secure, has jeopardized our national interests globally, and has caused this country to be more hated than respected word-wide.

On the other side, staying the course, Option "B", by Iran has stemmed the growth of economic prosperity and social reforms and has radically increased the danger of internal instability and external threats of impending invasion and potential war. There are some political observers who believe the assault on Iran has already begun in an undeclared war.

While the tension is building, the slightest spark from a variety of sources could potentially ignite the powder keg. An explosion near one of the many American naval vessels in the Persian Gulf could be blamed on Iran. A major assault on troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, especially if Iranian-made weapons are found nearby, would trigger a response. Worse yet, a deliberately staged or mock attack on any of our sensitive military targets would definitely serve as the pretext for war against the Islamic Republic. In other words, it won't really take much to set off the region on another hellfire.

Three things might trigger this potentially disastrous conflict, disastrous for both sides. First, is an accidental spark in the current explosive atmosphere of tension and suspicion. Second is a deliberate accident staged by those who stand to gain in the ensuing regional turmoil. Third, is the use of the many pretexts already being voiced by the hawks and warmongers in our Administration, those who believe in a final military solution to America's dilemma in the Middle East.

In any event, should war break out in earnest against Iran, countless lives will be lost, the region's oil production and shipping will be interrupted for a along time, and social chaos will spread throughout the region from the Arabian Peninsula to Turkey, and Pakistan to Egypt. What is also guaranteed is that none of these events is likely to result in a meaningful sociopolitical restructuring in Iran.

However, if all of the above, meaning an indefinite continuation of regional instability and unpredictability, is actually the desired objective by the proponents of war, there are plenty of concocted excuses already at hand to start the bombing. As diabolical as this scenario might sound, the beneficiaries of such a regional disaster are always ready to make their case.

Israel has recently been voicing its strong objections to the current change of venue in Washington toward a new rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Israel, as its leadership has stated, is quickly losing patience over this dialog between the United States and Iran! The Likud regime, or the regime of occupation (as the Iranian President calls it), and the supporters of the Zionist agenda in the United States, stand on the ground that there is no negotiating with Iran.

From the perspective of the current Israeli regime, resolutions resulting in a less hostile and a more tranquil environment in the Middle East will not serve Israel's best interests. Quite the contrary; should another war, this time against Syria, Iran or both, flare up, Israel will have its final chance to reoccupy the entire West Bank and Gaza, and use its entire military might to destroy Hezbollah, occupy Lebanon with our blessing, and hold Syria at bay. Under the cover of an expanded War on Terror, Israel will not be expected to yield to international or, least of all, American pressures to reopen a peace process with the Palestinians, exchanging land for peace. Instead, Israel will grab at the opportunity to expand its settlements and further marginalize the Palestinians and crush their will to resist the occupation, while benefiting from increasing financial, military and diplomatic support from its big benefactor, the United States.

Is it really too farfetched, then, to think that the Israelis might be aiming at sabotaging a US/Iran rapprochement by any means at their disposal, from lobbying the Congress to threatening a preemptive attack somewhere in Iran (They already have Dick Cheney's permission!), or creating some other mischief blamed on Iran, which would certainly draw the United States into a new war?

An extension of hostilities means a longer-term presence of the American forces in the region. That creates what the likes of Al Gha'eda would welcome with open arms. Rather than create an environment of security, an extended American military presence anywhere in the region further legitimizes the claims by Iran's hardliners that the Sword of Damocles might drop at any moment and impending doom awaits the nation should they lose control.

Meanwhile, the dangerous mix of suspicion, mistrust and mischief could reach a flashpoint with many unintended consequences.

Is this what we really want?

If not, let us give Option "C" a chance.

Option "C": A new rapprochement!

(To be continued)


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

... Payvand News - 6/8/07 ... --

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