By Jalal Alavi, UK
In his May 19 interview with AFP , reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi reminded the world in no uncertain terms how Iran's nuclear program, including its uranium enrichment component, would remain under the sole authority of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, regardless of the outcome of the June 12 presidential election.
A week after Karroubi's reminder , Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, made the declaration that Iran 's nuclear issue was no longer up for discussion outside the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Lest the reminders by Karroubi and Ahmadinejad fail to end months of speculation in Western political circles, including the White House, regarding the possibility of a swift diplomatic breakthrough in the nuclear standoff once a new president is sworn into office in Iran, Khamenei, as part of an eight-day visit to the highly volatile Kurdistan Province, issued the warning that any sort of compromise with the "enemies" of Iran would be tantamount to sheer capitulation on the part of the Islamic Republic and thus would be unacceptable.
Accordingly, Khamenei urged the Iranian electorate not to vote for candidates who may be inclined to the possibility of ending Iran 's isolation in the international community through rapprochement with the West.
This, of course, was a call the immediate, though certainly not the only, ramification of which was Ahmadinejad's opportunistic chastisement of reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, during whose tenure Iran temporarily suspended uranium enrichment, so as to show goodwill and thus pave the way for more constructive negotiations with the West.
The above being the case, the question arises as to how the United States, as the main actor in the nuclear standoff with Iran, should deal with those aspects of Iran's nuclear program it deems suspicious, especially in the light of President Barack Obama's friendly overtures to Iran , which incidentally are being seriously challenged by Israel 's continued pressure on the United States to rein in that country's nuclear program in a more aggressive manner.
To answer the above question, one must be willing to entertain the idea that the Obama administration does not see war as an extension of diplomacy by other means, and that the United States is capable of learning from past mistakes, though obviously this has not always been the case.
Consequently, it would be proper to assume, for example, that the United States would, as a result of its failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, opt to pursue an approach that is diplomatic and multilateral, rather than military and unilateral, in nature for resolving the standoff with Iran, for the latter approach (i.e., military and unilateral) would surely further debilitate the US position in the international system of states, politically as well as economically.
That the US obligation to the safety and security of its allies, especially Israel, must not exceed the limits imposed by its own national interest and security considerations is a logical proposition hardly in need of further elaboration here.
But let us consider for a moment the removal of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power, which might have helped the strategic interests of Israel but surely not those of the United States, for whom stability in the Middle East is and has always, except for the period in which George W. Bush was president, been a priority.
Ever since the fall of Saddam Hussein (an event even George W. Bush's father was careful not to let happen during his tenure as president), Iraq has, in spite of what appears on the surface, been on the verge of collapse and disintegration, thus increasing the possibility of further instability and bloodshed in the region, which in turn would have more devastating effects on the US and the entire world economy.
The worsening situation in Afghanistan is yet another cause for worry, the reverberations of which have further destabilized America 's traditional ally Pakistan .
Clearly, then, America's hitherto military approach to issues relating to the Middle East has grossly backfired, thus requiring the Obama administration to be ever more diligent about opening a new front in the region by striking Iranian nuclear facilities based on mere hunches or fabricated intelligence.
This, of course, is not to mention the potential involvement of Russia , which should logically be the case if it were to prevent the further expansion of US and NATO forces in the region. Here, it is worth recalling Russia 's past warnings against a potential US or Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, which incidentally explains the ease with which Ahmadinejad has been able to threaten Israel with annihilation .
Viewed from the above perspective, it becomes all too evident that the standoff with Iran cannot be resolved militarily; hence the futility of US and Israeli threats to that effect as well as the strategy of pitting Arabs against Iranians in the hope of securing not so much the isolation of Iran as access to the former's funds and military bases, which has so far had the mere effect of destabilizing the very major and minor Arab states that have opted to become party to such an underhanded scheme.
Thus, in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, which, according to a recent US intelligence assessment, have, since 2003, been quite peaceful in nature, the US needs to focus more on how to make better use of such impartial instruments as the IAEA rather than the use of force, which could very easily ignite a third world war (see the latter part of note 3 below as to why this may happen).
What is more, dealing with Iran's nuclear program in the above rational manner can also have the effect of improving Iran's prospects for genuine democratization, for it will not play into the hands of the proponents of the status quo, for whom any sort of US or Israeli military threat can, unlike economic sanctions, for example, serve as a convenient pretext for cracking down on dissent.
Let us hope, then, that the above does not fall on deaf ears in Washington .
' Iran 's ex-assembly speaker vows "moderate" reforms', AFP, May 19.
' Iran 's Ahmadinejad rejects Western nuclear proposal', Washington Post, May 25.
Of course, the US backing of Israel has also made it easy for the latter to make threats against Iran . In a sense, the proper way of looking at the regional rivalry between Israel and Iran is to see it as an extension of a much deeper power struggle between the United States and Russia for the strategic control of the Middle East , which used to also be the case during the Cold War.
About the author: Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator based in Britain .
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