Payvand.com - In the first part of this two part series, Obama and Iran, I tried to demonstrate that Obama's choice of well-known Zionist hawks, Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross, may well point to a positive change in the American administration's attitude toward the Middle East, particularly regarding relations with Iran. Obama's choice for the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the New York senator and quite convincingly, at least as far as appearances go, as pro-Israel as anyone in the Democratic Party, should reinforce this belief. Although this seems ironic at first glance, a more careful analysis would support my conclusions.
I based my arguments on certain undeniable, albeit disturbing to many readers, realities that cannot be simply wished away. Any suggestions as to ways to overcome America's dilemmas in the Middle East must take into account the limitations imposed on the system by such realities. These include the following:
America's historical bond with Israel has been referred to as a passionate attachment, a one-sided love affair or, more correctly, as a parasitic symbiosis. Whatever we call it, this umbilical cord cannot be severed without causing severe convulsions for the host body or even creating a catastrophic situation in the Middle East.
The Israeli regime is fully aware that aggression against Iran under any pretext by Israel would draw the United States into a protracted and costly military involvement which it can ill afford.
This military engagement with Iran would not serve America's best interests and would be catastrophic for Israel as well and, in addition, would cause tremendous damage to the already faltering global economy.
In view of the above, it is logical to draw the conclusion that the increasing bellicose posturing against the Iranian regime we have been witnessing lately is only designed to appear as a real threat of war in order to appease the extreme Likud hardliners in Israel, as well as the hardcore ultraconservatives and the so-called Christian Zionists, in other words, the ideological zealots, here at home.
With the fear of, and the justifications in the public's mind for, a possible Israeli preemptive attack on Iran, the stage is thus set for what I referred to in my previous article as "blackmail in the grandest scale" by the Israeli strategists who know that war is not what anyone wants, while the public perception of a threat of war accomplishes their objectives.
This ingenious stratagem guarantees that Israel's interests, no matter how grandiose, would not be jeopardized no matter what kind of rapprochement or horse grading might take place between the United States and Iran.
If this analysis is correct, the roadway toward a mutually constructive rapprochement between the United States and Iran would be opened when the foregoing prerequisite under #6 above is met to the satisfaction of Israel and its American supporters in the US administration.
The Obama administration might have already started on the right track by appearing even more pro-Israel than anybody expected. Mr. Obama must be fully aware that any constructive dialog revolving around points of common interest between the United States and Iran can only proceed if diehard Zionist hawks are convinced that Israel's interests are never compromised. Ignoring this truth would mean that any attempt at a diplomatic dialog would be torpedoed out of the water.
The fact is that Iran's pragmatic or achievable best interests would not be counter to America's realistic agendas in the region, and they do not necessarily conflict with Israel's rational ambitions which include indefinitely postponing any negotiations or agreements regarding grand concessions to the Palestinians or the creation of a contiguous Palestinian homeland.
It might surprise the uninitiated in the workings of this multi-dimensional chess game that Iran's support for the so-labeled international terrorists - Hezbollah and Hamas - is no different from America's stated strategy of spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Just as America's agenda in that region has absolutely nothing to do with promoting democratic reforms, Iran's support for Israel's antagonists has nothing to do with Iran's compassion for the Palestinians or fellow Shi'ites of Lebanon. In both cases the true motives are quite pragmatic: The United States uses the pretext of war on terror and promotion of democracy to pursue the underlying objectives of "securing the realm" for Israel and to maintain control over the oil flow from the region. The Iranian regime, on its part, has been using religious and humanitarian excuses to support the most troublesome thorns on Israel's side, the aim being to make sure that Israel pays a heavy price for its misbehavior and to discourage the Israeli hardliners from embarking on a brazen adventure against Iran.
This conclusion is admittedly hard to swallow for the ideologically motivated Islamic hardliners and the Palestinian hopefuls who are enduring their own version of a tragic genocide in the hands of the former victims of the Holocaust and their descendants. Unfortunately, what is fair and just has seldom been the rule in the course of human history.
Similarly, acknowledging the true motives behind America's involvement in the Middle East would not sit well with a large majority of Americans who prefer to believe that we are trying to stem the tide of international terrorism by promoting the concepts of freedom, democracy and human rights.
I concluded the Part I of Obama and Iran article by commenting that there are two realistic alternatives in dealing with Iran, and war is not one of them.
Before entering into this discussion, it would help to illuminate the true interests and strategic objectives of the United States, Iran and also Israel in the Greater Middle East region.
Currently, the biggest item of the agenda for the United States is how to extricate itself from the hellhole of its own creation in the war zones of the Middle East. The American people, rightfully concerned about the economic problems at home, are more anxious than ever for a quick withdrawal from that region, no matter what might befall Iraq or Afghanistan without our military presence. It is obvious, however, that such a withdrawal cannot be accomplished too rapidly or comfortably or, most importantly, without help.
The second point of major concern is the region's energy resources that fuel global economies. Securing the flow of that oil, its allocations, quantities and pricing, could not be left to chance or at risk by local political disputes.
The third matter of serious import is what has been happening in Pakistan and is likely to happen elsewhere if a sufficient measure of political and economic stability is not achieved in the impoverished and inaccessible tribal regions. In addition, an unstable Pakistan also means insecure borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is the mountainous and mostly impenetrable stronghold of the militant extremists. The presence of the American and NATO forces in that area is not only unlikely to accomplish the task of eliminating the source of troubles there, it has been contributing to the turmoil.
Finally, America's attempt to corral the Russian bear which is coming out of the post-Soviet hibernation is facing quite a challenge. Russia's vast oil and gas resources, the increase in the price of these commodities, and Europe's dependence on that source of energy, provide it with tremendous leverage. Even though the price of oil has been coming down in recent months, its relative value with regard to global economy remains substantially advantageous to oil exporting countries. It is imperative for Russia to play a decisive role in maintaining this leverage to sustain its economic growth and military strength. The decision to counter America's plans of erecting missile defense shields in Eastern Europe by threatening to install similar or more elaborate systems of its own is a good example.
Iran's pragmatic interests have little to do with what is interpreted, and most often deliberately so, from the leadership's defiant, inflammatory statements. Contrary to how it has been portrayed here, Iran's anti-Israel posturing has nothing to do with some deep seated anti-Semitism or hatred of the Jewish people. The fact is that the Iranians blame, and in my opinion correctly so, the Israeli regime and its powerful and influential supporters here for having prevented a rapprochement with the United States.
Historically, even the military coup of 1953 that brought down Prime Minister Mosaddegh's populist regime and reinstated the Shah has always been blamed more on the British who, most Iranians believe to this day, convinced the "simple-minded, gullible" Americans to help carry out. There are, of course, diehard vintage leftists and younger radicals in Iran who do blame everything on American imperialism, but the prevailing view is that the rift between the United States and Iran has been extremely costly for Iran and, more importantly, unnecessary.
Again, the Iranian leadership blames what it refers to as the Zionist Regime, in other words, the Israeli leadership and its influence peddlers in the United States, for America's hostile and unbending stance against the Islamic Republic.
At the same time, the Iranian people who have been on the receiving end of imposed economic sanctions blame the United States for creating the unsettling atmosphere in Iran that, ironically, legitimizes and emboldens the hardliners to increase their grip. This, it is widely believed, has thwarted the expected natural evolution of the post revolutionary Iran toward more opening and liberalization. Again, it is the Zionist influence that is held responsible for American administration's ill will toward the Iranian nation.
Then, what are Iran's "pragmatic" interests?
Of chief importance to Iran is a change in the United States' openly declared hostility toward the Islamic Republic, including the officially expressed strategy, albeit in violation of international law, for a regime change, as well as open support for the opposition elements inside and outside Iran. American and Israeli Special Forces elements have also been active in sabotage and espionage work inside the country for some time. Even though threats against Iran's security and territorial integrity have strengthened the power of the ruling clerical regime, it would be illogical to think that Iran's leadership would actually welcome threats against the nation's security in order to legitimize or increase its grip over the population.
Iran has been suffering economically as a direct result of sanctions imposed directly or through proxy by the United States. Even though economic setbacks have stymied growth and development and have contributed to joblessness and social hardships nationwide, the anticipated outcomes of a breakdown of social structure, discord and fragmentation of the nation and the collapse of the ruling regime have not occurred and are not likely to take place. The result has thus far been to give more power and legitimacy to the hardliners and also to fuel the anger and frustration of the public that blames the United States and those who steer America's foreign policies for their problems.
Iran expects to play an instrumental role in formatting any restructuring of the Middle East. Iran has the most developed industrial infrastructure in the region, the richest mineral resources in addition to its oil and gas reserves, the largest population and a history of technological leadership. Iran's southern coastline stretches the entire length of the Persian Gulf and its shipping lanes. In short, Iran cannot be marginalized in any policy decision or implementation that has any realistic hope for success.
With Iraq on one side and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the other, Iran is rightly mindful of sociopolitical developments in these countries. Clearly, the stability of its neighboring states is of prime importance to Iran. But the kind of stability that would be acceptable to Iran could only be achieved through Iran's direct participation. If Iran is equated out of any grand arrangements made in Iraq, Afghanistan, even Lebanon, or on the issue of sovereignty over certain Persian Gulf islands, there would be no guarantee that such agreements would last the test of time. In other words, Iran's concerns are quite legitimate and cannot be overlooked.
Finally, in any negotiation or dialogue between the United States and Iran, whether open to the media or held in secrecy, the Iranian side would not respond well if treated as the underdog. In a day when a small band of lightly armed pirates riding fifteen-foot fishing boats can hijack a supertanker carrying a $100,000,000 worth of crude oil in the high seas while the naval forces of the world's greatest powers prove helpless, one should not underestimate the tenacity of any adversary, no matter how small.
To illuminate the last point, I would like to share a true event that I have recounted numerous times to my audiences:
Sitting inside a rather fancy establishment, my children's place of business in an affluent mostly retirement community, I was somewhat alarmed to see a young teenager carelessly riding his bicycle back and forth in the pedestrian walkway. The kid almost ran down an elderly lady who was approaching the store, managing to miss her by mere inches.
I went outside and comforted the startled lady, and waited for the young fellow who was approaching me, pedaling ever faster and screaming with great joy. I stopped him and reminded him that his behavior was [unacceptable, in today's diplomatic parlance] endangering the pedestrians and against the rules as posted on numerous signs around the shopping center.
He jumped on his bike, made an obscene gesture [rogue behavior], and resumed his high-pitched screaming triumphantly.
This was some twenty years ago, I was younger, quite athletic and very confident in my own prowess [a superpower] and my ideas of the right and wrong and how things should be.
The kid clearly represented a juvenile delinquent, a troublemaker with no concern for the rule of law or civilized behavior [in today' terms, a terrorist !]. I, on the other hand, felt like a superpower and was definitely on the side of what was right and lawful. And I decided to take action [a noble cause].
The next time the kid came around I grabbed him and lifted him off his seat. Holding his bike in one hand, I dragged him to the parking lot and told him that was where he could ride his bicycle, and that if I saw him again in the pedestrian walkway I would break his bike [threat of preemptive strike before he could cause real harm].
Walking back to the store I proudly declared that I had finally taught the nasty little fellow a good lesson.
It wasn't long before the same young boy, this time on foot, showed up in front of the store accompanied by four other teenagers [other members of the axis of evil], all carrying rocks in their hands and, I was suspecting, in their bulging pockets [weapons of mass destruction].
The scenario was quite clear; they were there to teach me a lesson. They didn't have to do anything right then and there. And as long as I could stand vigil at the doorway, my presence would prove intimidating enough to keep them from doing what they had in mind [military show of force]. But the business would close at around six o'clock [bringing the troops home], and who was going to protect the premises then?
In the absence of a security patrol, I thought of calling the police [the United Nations] and requesting help. However, I knew better. The police were not going to respond to a call that some young teens might be up to doing something wrong; they have more urgent matters at hand to worry about.
I had no doubt that soon after closing the business and leaving the area, every window would be broken, as well as much valuable showroom decoration, etc. The kids could even wait until nightfall to do their thing; they clearly had the upper hand.
I thought of going out and confronting them and perhaps slapping some of them around a bit to scare them off [very much like what Israel tried to do by invading Lebanon ]. That, of course, would have been the worst thing I could have done [just as it proved for Israel ]. Not only would I be in violation of the law for abusing the minors, nothing I could have done would eliminate the danger of their returning and damaging our property with impunity.
After the reality of the situation set in, the prospects did not look good, to say the least. Neither force nor the threat of force would work to our advantage. We could picture in our minds what the place would look like the next day or the day after, hundreds of dollars of property damage, mostly not covered by insurance.
I stepped outside, acted as though unfazed and totally in charge, I told the young troublemaker and another guy, the biggest of the group, to come inside, commanding the rest of them to get lost. The two sat down on plush leather seats, with surprise written all over their faces. I was now in charge of the situation. I began by telling them about the problem we were having with kids on bikes or skateboards harassing the residents, mostly seniors, and that the center did not have security guards to ward off the kids. I then told them that I had been thinking about hiring our own security patrol, and wondered if they were willing to take the job. I patronized the little fellow for his tenacity and vigor and the other guy for his physical size. They were clearly flattered and delighted. They agreed to monitor the frontage area in our section of the strip mall for five dollars a day each, plus a sandwich for lunch.
These delinquent kids did a job that an adult guard could not have done. After two weeks the older fellow came in and told us that his little buddy was taken back to the juvenile detention from which he had escaped, and he himself was tired of walking around as our security patrol and miss out on goofing around with his buddies.
The situation was defused quite peacefully with minimal cost for us and a good lesson in cooperation and responsibility for the two thugs.
This miniature exercise in diplomacy demonstrates how a seemingly no-win situation was resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
Unlike those young teenagers, Iran is not a little immature troublemaker determined to cause trouble, as so convincingly portrayed by the American and the Israeli administrations. If Iran's legitimate needs and concerns are not acknowledged and respected, the repercussions will surely be far greater than a few broken windows and shattered showcases.
Before offering opinions as to how a meaningful rapprochement between Iran and the United States could take place, we must seek and emphasize areas of mutual interest and see how they might outweigh points of contention.
Both the United States and Iran want to see an acceptable degree of political stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. The political unrest, ethnic and sectarian violence and economic uncertainty in its two neighbors have threatened Iran's own security and internal stability. Granted, political stability and ethnic harmony in Iraq or even in Afghanistan as envisioned by the Iranian government may not parallel exactly what the American administration might have in mind. But if Iran's exercise of influence can, in fact, help establish a sustainable equilibrium, sufficient pretexts would be provided for the American and allied forces to leave the troubled areas in a face-saving way.
Both parties are concerned about the situation in Lebanon and the Palestinian unrest. For the United States, anything that would heighten Israel's anxieties is of major concern, as the proverbial tail that wags the dog. For Iran, support for Israel's major antagonists, Hamas and Hezbollah, has been extremely costly financially and diplomatically. Under less paradoxical circumstances, wealthy fellow Sunni Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia or the Persian Gulf Emirates would be the ones to rise in support of the Palestinian resistance movements. But, as we know, these wealthy states, no matter how they pretend by shedding crocodile tears for the Palestinian cause, are our own de facto surrogates, subservient to our mandates for the sake of their own survival and continued prosperity. This has allowed Iran to fill the vacuum and use the opportunity to employ the Palestinian cause as a tool against Israel. Once the United States and Iran reach a reasonable degree of understanding, Iran's relation with Hamas or Hezbollah will inevitably evolve into less expensive gestures of ideological empathy and token financial support.
In spite of any effort by individual oil exporting states or the oil cartel or OPEC, the price of oil is ultimately regulated by the international marketplace. Oil producers with substantial industrial infrastructure and populations need the revenues from their oil exports to sustain their economies. If the security of the main oil exporter from the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, is not jeopardized by a hostile neighbor or as a result of an expanded theater of war, this source alone would help guarantee a reasonable degree of control over any artificial fluctuations in the supply and the pricing of crude. With Iran in the fold, not only would this guarantee be more sustainable, Iran's share of exports from the Persian Gulf would also be secured, commensurate with its economic needs. This, again, calls for mutual accommodations between the United States and Iran.
Finally, Iran would benefit more being allied with the West than throwing its future in the laps of the Eastern block. For the United States, Iran's friendship and cooperation would prove to be a valuable asset far offsetting the costly and counterproductive and, sadly, unbreakable alliance with Israel.
As mentioned before, there are only two realistic alternatives for the United States to deal with the Iranian dilemma, and both approaches entail accepting Iran's role as the regional superpower, which Iran is becoming sooner or later, anyway.
Alternative 1: This alternative would require as a first step the opening of diplomatic channels and engaging in serious dialogue without any preconditions whatsoever. Next is backing away from economic sanctions and trade barriers, especially now considering the global economic downturns. Finally, with the United States as a silent partner, arbiter and expediter, a measure of understanding could be achieved between the region's military and economic powerhouses, Iran, Turkey and Israel, to secure the interests of all parties and those of the United States. In this case, there will be enough checks and balances between the members of the pact or the triangle of power to ensure the stability of the region. With this partnership and with Iran's participation, the stability in both Iraq and Afghanistan can be achieved much more expeditiously and painlessly than anything the United States could do on its own or even with its Western allies.
Alternative 2: Here, the final step after resuming diplomatic relations and lifting of all trade barriers is for the United States to step back and allow Iran to exercise its natural role as the dominant regional power. The ball would then be in Iran's court to exert its influence, and at its own expense, in Iraq and Afghanistan to establish the necessary political stability in the region in order to ensure Iran's own security and economic interests. Whatever the outcome, there is no logical reason to believe that an Iranian hegemony over the region would necessarily work against the interests of the United States and, by extension, Israel. In the absence of an American or Israeli threat against its security, Iran's realistic interests and those of the United States or Israel would not be mutually exclusive. Israel should remain safely under the protection of the United States and continue to receive the lion's share of American aide and assistance, regardless of its actual needs or the pretence of need, as the case has most often been. Iran should be able to live with that.
Years of negative portrayals and propaganda have instilled in the minds of the American public a distorted view of Iran and its ambitions. The most recent example is what has been selectively extracted from a report on Iran's nuclear activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and deliberately highlighted for maximum negative impact by the media.
The report mentions that Iran has thus far managed to produce some 1,400 kilograms of 5% enriched uranium. Iran is not only legally entitled to enrich uranium to this low-grade level necessary for fuel rods intended for its perfectly legal nuclear power plants now nearing completion, all of that activity has been, and will be, monitored by the IAEA observers. But the alarmists contend that 1,400 kilograms of 5% enriched uranium could potentially be re-concentrated to enough 90%+ uranium isotope to make one atom bomb!
The idea that Iran could convert this stockpile to weapons-grade material under the watchful eyes of the IAEA observers and cameras, and proceed to make a bomb is stupid enough. Add to that ridiculous hypothesis the prospects that Iran would then want to use this one bomb that may or may not even work against Israel, Europe or America, and the level of paranoia created by this type of propaganda hype simply blows the mind.
It is in this kind of atmosphere that the new administration must reformulate its foreign policy in the troubled Middle East and, in particular, toward Iran.
In my opinion, the traditional dogs of war should continue to bark to make their presence known to friend and foe; this charade is absolutely necessary. In the background, at least for the immediate future, diplomatic efforts should be extended from both sides to iron out the obvious difficulties in the way of reaching some common grounds. The needless and destructive animosity between the two countries has gone on long enough. It is high time for sane, sober and mature thinking on both sides before the elements of the real axis of evil gain the upper hand.
In a true Machiavellian sense, Barack Obama has managed to corral his friends close to himself, and his adversaries even closer. This strategy might prove effective enough to marginalize and neutralize the efforts by the likes of the Likudnik mole, Joe Lieberman, to drag this country into another even more disastrous escapade for the sake of Israel. The irony in Lieberman's kind of loyalty to Israel is in its similarity to the affection of a particular mama bear for its cub. When the mama bear, according to an old Persian anecdote, saw a wasp circling around the baby bear's nose, she picked up a huge rock and smashed it on the baby bear's face! She killed the wasp, alright...................!
Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to , with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: www.intellectualdiscourse.com.
... Payvand News - 11/24/08 ... --