In today's Iranian or Iranian-American community, it would be difficult to find a more interested and dedicated group than the National Iranian American Council that is actively working toward improving the relations between the United States and Iran. Trita Parsi, the Council President, has continued to contribute to this organization's mission with his writings, appearances and interviews.
Dr. Parsi's excellent article, Israel, Gaza and Iran : Trapping Obama in Imagined Fault Lines, appearing in payvand.com on January 17, 2009, is an example of his measured and balanced analyses for which he should be congratulated.
No doubt, if a resolution of the US/Iranian relations is in fact the desired objective of both parties to this ongoing, internecine conflict, anything that might exacerbate the rift between the two states should be avoided.
At first glance, this conclusion seems so commonsensical as to leave no room for skepticism or argument. But, as I have tried to explain in my more recent writings, appearing both in payvand.com and my own web site, intellectualdiscourse.com, Iran and the United States are not the only players on this stage. It is Israel and Israeli interests in the United States that have been and continue to be at the helm of America's policies in the Middle East. In better words, the United States administrations, whether run by the Republicans or by the Democrats, will not be able to adopt policies in the Middle East that do not, first and foremost, serve Israel's perceived interests, as misguided as those perceptions might be.
Given that premise, we must include Israel's preferences into any major equation that deals with the prospects of a new approach to Israeli-Palestinian agreements or, even more critically, a rapprochement between the United States and Iran.
At this potentially pivotal juncture in history, the presidency of Barack Obama has helped project rays of hope for long awaited changes in America's policies and conduct toward the Middle East, if not the greater Islamic world. While the Islamic world, particularly the Middle Eastern nations, are anticipating a positive shift in America's approach, any meaningful change in the long-established current trends could be easily interpreted as a potential shift that certain recipients of America's unequivocal support would not welcome.
It is not only Israel that might be concerned about a significant change in America's approach to Middle East affairs. America's so called friendly, moderate Islamic friends - friends of convenience, that is - might be equally at risk of losing their favored status should the United States decide to adopt a more honest policy of promoting freedom and democracy in that region. There is, however, a major difference between the two.
While the reliance of those "friendly-moderate" regimes on the United States for their very survival guarantees their loyalty and compliance, the situation is reversed in Israel's case. The United States must continue to pay heavy ransom to Israel to keep it from creating situations that would drag us into extensive and expensive new involvements in the region. Simply imagine an Israeli Special Forces group operating covertly in southern Iran, firing an Iranian marked rocket at an American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Or, suppose Israel does drop a couple of American made bunker-buster bombs on Bushehr nuclear power plant; just enough to force some reaction from the Iranians.
For this reason, the new Obama administration must make every effort necessary to convincingly demonstrate America's unwavering support for the Jewish state, lest the "Forever Entitled Ones" (I am coining a new phrase here) decide to force the issue!
The sad fact of the matter is, President Obama's hands are just as tied as were his predecessors' when it comes to accommodating Israel's wishes, wishes that are never presented as requests, but increasingly as demands, for which the Israeli political leaders have often claimed credit with pride!
It certainly doesn't seem as a simple coincidence that every time Israel embarks on some action that triggers global outrage and condemnation, the American public is drowned in a flood of pro-Israel propaganda. Rallying public sentiment in the United States has always been the backbone of Israel lobbyist's methodology. In this effort, the media and even the Administration voices have participated enthusiastically. This collaboration has much less to do with an honest expression of sentiment with Israeli actions or policies, but everything to do with the American public's perceptions about the Jewish state; positive portrayals that have long been injected into the American psyche and solidified in the nation's collective subconscious.
As long as this collective subconscious about the Jewish state remains alive and functional, Israel's agendas, whether legitimate and honest or egregiously opportunistic and even detrimental to America's best interests, will receive the American people's support and, hence, the American administration's endorsement.
Let us assume, as I have done, that President Barack Obama is aware of all this and is truly interested in changing the direction of America's policies in the Middle East. His first order of the agenda would logically include addressing three main issues: Pakistan/Afghanistan, Iran, and Israel-Palestine. I actually believe that the Iranian case deserves a more critical attention, as everything else in dealing with the region's dilemmas is ultimately peripheral to this core issue.
Now look at the potential ramifications of a détente or understanding between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The domino effect of a mutually advantageous cooperation between the former antagonists would extend to almost all areas of turmoil and concern where Iran's influence plays a major role, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and even to Gaza.
At first glance, the whole world, and not just the entangled populations of the Middle East, should welcome the new spirit of peace and cooperation. Before long, questions will be raised here in the United States as to the merits or the necessity of maintaining heavy military presence in the Middle East at exorbitant costs to the taxpayers. Next, without an imminent "existential threat" from a belligerent Iran and its surrogates, the international community, including the United States, would have to put pressure on Israel to come to terms with the Palestinian nation; and the disturbing issues of land-for-peace, the pre 1967 borders, the illegal Jewish settlements and the status of Jerusalem would all surface again.
We cannot have that; can we? What; no more land grabbing and slaughtering in the guise of self-defense for the "Forever Entitled Ones"? And, no more unlimited and unquestioned financial, military and diplomatic support by the United States, no matter what Israel does? No, not if Israel and its supporters here can help it!
Thanks to the seldom interrupted perception of threats against our strategic interests and our allies, particularly Israel, in the Middle East we continue to have ample pretexts for maintaining a strong military presence in the region.
Fortunately for Israel, the threat of terrorism from Palestinian militants (terrorists, if you prefer) will remain a real concern as long as their grievances are not properly addressed; and properly addressed those grievances won't be, as long as Israel can remain under America's diplomatic protection.
I believe the "perception" of threat against American interests, in particular against Israel, would serve three purposes at the same time:
1- It justifies America's presence in the region to promote and protect our legitimate national interests, which includes the flow of oil from the region.
2- It provides Israel with all the excuses it needs to commit aggression in the guise of "self-defense" by any means at its disposal, even if it means committing what the rest of the world would regard as genocide. Constant "perceived" threats against Israel would also justify what Israel truly seeks; uninterrupted unequivocal financial, military and diplomatic support by the Big Daddy, as well as an indefinite postponement of any meaningful resolution of the Palestinian grievances.
3- And most importantly, parading as a constant threat against the Jewish state, the Islamic Republic of Iran avoids real collision with the United States. This last point needs further clarification.
Neither the United States, nor Iran and, most significantly, not even Israel, would want or would benefit from a real military engagement. What the Israeli regime is after is a continuation of the atmosphere of threat against its existence by regional troublemakers and particularly by a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. This charade happens to also serve America's current strategy of maintaining a heavy military presence in the region to protect against assaults on vital Persian Gulf petroleum lanes.
A perceived Iranian threat, therefore, serves the purpose perfectly well, alleviating the need to embark on any actual confrontation that would be potentially disastrous for all concerned.
It is behind this veil of theatrical threats, accusations and counter accusations that real negotiations between the United States and Iran might result in a new understanding and cooperation. But this approach would only work if Iran continues the charade as a belligerent, hostile threat to the region's peace and security.
"I believe that a carefully guarded perpetuation of instability in the region, just below the flashpoint, is the best therapeutic measure in preventing a catastrophic meltdown. Any rapprochement between the United States and Iran must pass through the ultimate checkpoint guarded by the Forever-Entitled-Ones."
Quite ironically, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad is, perhaps unwittingly, actually helping ward off the danger of an Israeli or American attack on Iran by his inflammatory and defiant rhetoric against the "Zionist Entity" and its supporters!
I do agree with Trita Parsi that a rapprochement between the United States and Iran would serve the interests of both countries, as well as the region as a whole. Where we might disagree is in the methods of approach to this desired eventuality. I believe that a carefully guarded perpetuation of instability in the region, just below the flashpoint, is the best therapeutic measure in preventing a catastrophic meltdown. Any rapprochement between the United States and Iran must pass through the ultimate checkpoint guarded by the Forever-Entitled-Ones.
As I have pointed out in previous articles, Obama's choices of the vocally convincing pro-Israel, Hillary Clinton, as the Secretary of State, and the often talked about Dennis Ross or some other staunch Israel-supporter as his potential envoy to negotiate with the Iranians, point to an understanding of how this diplomatic show should be staged in order to satisfy the gatekeepers at the bridge.
Various analysts and commentators have already started criticizing the Obama administration for choosing known foxes to guard the proverbial chicken coop. Their fear is that the new American policies in the Middle East are simply a continuation of the same unmeasured and misguided approach as before.
But, perhaps not.
In the meantime, I shall have my fingers crossed, but will not hold my breath waiting to see if my analysis proves correct.
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.
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