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By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse

Even though I am finding myself increasingly at odds with the Iranian American scholars and pundits regarding the analysis or the interpretation of the current sociopolitical developments in Iran, I am no less appreciative of the honesty and sincerity with which they have been voicing their opinions. In one sense we are all in agreement; we all want to see a democratic, prosperous Iran, governed by the will of the Iranian citizens and for the best interests of the Iranian people.

[A word of caution here: When we refer to the "Iranian people", we should not be focusing just on the very vocal urbanite, educated or "enlightened" elite in Iran's metropolitan centers, who are actually the counterparts of our Iranian American or European Iranian academics and socialites living abroad. Remember, Iran has a population of over 75,000,000, of whom about 45,000,000 actually vote!]

We also all agree that the current state of affairs is far from acceptable, approaching the point that for many Iranians the situation has become intolerable. Social injustices, restrictions and persecutions prevail, inflation, joblessness and economic pressures are reaching dangerous levels, and corruption is visibly rampant.

[Another word of caution here: Even graver social injustices, repressions and restrictions exist elsewhere in the same region and in the world. Although unacceptable or reprehensible as it is, Iran's case is actually far better than is the case among our so-called friends and allies in the Middle East.]

We all see that, and it is hoped that we all want to see positive changes that would translate into a better life for the average Iranian living in Iran.

It is only in finding a workable pathway out of the current mess that we might disagree, to a point of leveling regrettable insults and accusations at each other to degrade and defame those with whom we disagree. And we are all guilty of this unproductive behavior to some degree; not out of malice, but because of our passion or conviction of our beliefs.

It is worth repeating again that criticism that is not followed by workable remedies or alternatives is more than just frivolous, it could prove downright catastrophic. Also, advice or guidance coming from people who have nothing to lose should they be proven wrong, reminds one of the old cliché of sitting on the sidelines and coaching the wrestler in the rink (birun-e gowd neshasteh o miqe lengesh kon).

Photos Bachokheh wrestling tournament in Esfarayen, Iran

However, what is happening in Iran and, more precisely, to Iran, is not a sporting event to bet on or to assume the role of an armchair quarterback. It is not like the Super Bowl where the losing team, the Indianapolis Colts, walks away having earned mega millions for the effort, looking forward to the next season to earn even more millions.

Now, about those assumptions:

One wrong assumption is that Iran or any other major state of strategic importance, can behave as some isolated, distant island, merrily plotting its own course freely and independently. Any major development even in the internal affairs of the nation will have ramifications within the larger regional, even global, context.

Another potentially dangerous assumption is that the sick patient suffering from a malignancy that is ravaging its system would necessarily survive and recover from radical surgery to extract the infected organs. Even in cases where organ transplants might work, care must be taken to make sure the new organ and the body are able to tolerate each other and survive the ordeal.

But perhaps the most dangerous assumption is thinking that the global powerhouses and special interests that have the capability of making or breaking any development on the world stage truly prefer to see the Islamic Republic of Iran abandon its defiant posture and transform into a democratic regime in peaceful harmony with the regional states in the Middle East, including Israel.

However, evidence indicates that a belligerent, defiant Iran, portrayed as a regional, even a global, threat is serving too many purposes that benefit major global interests, far more than a friendlier, compliant Iran would.

Dr. Trita Parsi of NIAC, in collaboration with Alireza Nader, wrote an aricle posted on, How Washington Can Really Help the Greens in Tehran, suggesting some "simple" ways the United States could help the opposition's cause in the current developments in Iran.

Professor Hamid Dabashi maintains that the American Administration and media pundits here are basically clueless about the goings on in the Iranian sociopolitical sphere. He attacks people like Flynt and Hillary Leverett for even daring to express opinions about the subject. I am sure Dr. Dabashi would disagree equally strongly with Stephen Walt about the latter's perspectives, as well.

So, the Administration of Mr. Obama, we are to believe, is clueless and short-sighted in not understanding Iran and the Iranians, or in how to deal with the Iranian "problem", even though a few "simple" steps could really help! Perhaps the Administration should be alerted to the fact that there are some very well informed and capable Iranian American academics willing and ready to help President Obama chart the course toward a workable rapprochement with Iran!!

Mr. Mousavi's "five suggestions for reconciliation" also outlines some straightforward and seemingly easy steps that would bring the current rift within Iran to an end. Wow, how much simpler could the solution get?

Some 29 Iranian American scholars and business people have also prepared a declaration in support of the Green Movement, making some very positive statements. They also say some very nice things. Do they honestly believe this declaration might have some effect on the American government's approach toward Iran? Or, is it intended as a gesture of encouragement for the Greens to continue the struggle with the assurance that, should they fall, the signatories would be there to provide them with a soft landing?

On the other hand we could even site groups such as the Mojahedin Khalgh as desiring a regime change in Iran for what they believe are very valid reasons, reasons of their own, of course.

Iran's former prince has also voiced his support for the Green Movement: That is truly encouraging!

Does anyone among our Iranian American academics believe that the opposition leaders, Mousavi, Karrubi, Khatami, would welcome Price Reza's warm support? What are Reza's motives? His support for the regime-change in Iran, as well as the support expressed by the MEK, is very similar to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) welcoming and encouraging Pastor John Hagee, the founder and National Chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel, at their annual mega event in Washington, D.C. last year. Hagee is an advocate of the Biblical End-Time or Armageddon scenario, whereby the Jews, after overcoming all their enemies, will convert to Christianity, and those who don't shall surely perish! But since this overzealous maniac is supportive of Israel's current agendas, the Israeli lobby is quite appreciative of all the support it can get from Hagee's powerful evangelical following in the United States.

Of course there is some logic here, a classic case of syllogistic logic: The enemy of my enemy is my friend!

But not so fast, my friends. Some of these syllogistically acquired "friends" have venomous ulterior motives of their own; some carry a vendetta and want to settle old scores, some are after their personal gains, some are worried about their "bottom line" if they do not jump on the bandwagon, and some seem more interested in "looking good" among their peers as progressive liberals and advocates of human rights or, more specifically by some of them, women's rights, a very popular cause célèbre. We know that looking good is much better than being chastised and isolated!

Regardless of the above, there is hardly anyone who doesn't agree that the situation in Iran is in dire need of improvement, even though all those groups and individuals are not in agreement as to what changes need to take place or toward what end.

What is missing in all this can be divided into two categories:

One: how could the proposed changes or reforms be implemented, by whom, in what order and during what period of time?

Two: what are the potential ramifications or peripheral effects of such changes on the internal and external affairs of the nation?

Before entering into this discussion, I would like to draw readers' attention to the following web links:

Contrary to the prevailing views expressed by Iran observers and analysts, I have long concluded that the rift between the United States and Iran, although counter to both countries' best interests, is not the unintended consequence of chaotic mismanagement on the part of the Iranian regime, and callus incompetence of the United States administrations, as some of our scholars believe.

The effort by our scholars and pundits on both sides has been to find and suggest ways of clearing the atmosphere of mistrust and misunderstanding that has obscured the path to a mutually beneficial rapprochement between the two nations. And quite naturally, looking at the situation from this side of the world, the onus has always been on the underdog in this equation to bow under pressure and be more accommodating for its own survival's sake.

However, the events of the past decade indicate otherwise:

The original fire and turbulence in Iran's revolutionary mood began to show signs of moderation during Mr. Rafsanjani's presidency, and reached a state of relative equilibrium by the time Mohammad Khatami was elected President in 1997.  Khatami, a reform minded moderate, was elected by a majority of 70% of the voters, reflecting the general attitude of the Iranian public. His proposal that the year 2001 be designated as the year for dialogue among civilizations was officially adopted by the United Nations. Hopes were then high that a rapprochement between the United States and Iran was underway.

Just a few months after that, George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address, referred to Iran as a member of the international Axis of Evil and supporter of international terrorism. This was shortly after Iran had helped the United States in defeating the Taliban and in drafting Afghanistan's first Constitution, securing Hamid Karzai's government!

Few now doubt that our invasion of Iraq was actually part of a longer term plan for "securing the realm" by Israel's Zionist friends in the American administration. The Zionist mole that had inserted the phrase "Axis of Evil" in the President's speech was the Jewish Canadian, David Frum, who has reaped the rewards of his service to the "cause" by being admitted to various influential think tanks and appearances in network broadcasts.

It soon became abundantly clear that no rapprochement was to be initiated or even welcomed by the American administration, no matter what policies or reforms the Iranians were to adopt.

Mohammad Khatami, disappointed and under criticism by his Iranian rivals for presenting an ill-fated conciliatory image for Iran, an unnecessary, embarrassing, compromise in the minds of the ultra conservatives, was succeeded by the firebrand, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2005. And all the experts were wondering what the hell happened!

Kam Zarrabi is the author of
In Zarathushtra's Shadow

In fact, it wouldn't have mattered how conciliatory Khatami's approach had been or how much progress toward reforms or liberalization he might have made; Iran was to remain the designated enemy under relentless threats of sanctions, regime change and even preemptive attack by the United States.

Some observers and analysts even thought that the entrepreneur businessman/cleric, the pragmatic former President Rafsanjani, running against Ahmadinejad in 1995, would be the perfect candidate to engage in some serious horse trading and bring the two countries closer to a meaningful engagement.

I have to admit I also thought so at the time; but in hindsight, I can see that I was wrong to think that Rafsanjani's "realpolitik" pragmatism and horse trading skills could have mended the fences between the two countries.

As it has been demonstrated time and time again, in every instance that a glimmer of hope appeared in the horizon of US/Iran relations, something happened to torpedo the prospects for improving those relations.

A perfect example has been the controversial history of Iran's nuclear program.

There is neither space, nor need really, to reiterate in any detail here how this one issue was made the ultimate scapegoat against the Iranian regime in the international arena. The volume of reports by the officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations (IAEA), independent analysts and observers and nuclear weapons and proliferation experts is indeed staggering.

The other two principle accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran are its support for what the United States and Israel regard as terrorist organizations and the now increasingly looming allegations of human rights violations.

As the concerns over the nuclear issue soften on occasion, as is currently the case with Iran offering to purchase or exchange for 20% enriched uranium for the creation of medical isotopes, the issue of human rights takes the center stage.

We saw the pitifully sophomoric political chicanery put on display by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman and two more drafters of the new sanctions bill against Iran the other day. Senator McCain, true to the tenets of political gamesmanship, lied about Mr. Ahmadinejad's recent statements regarding the plans to obtain enriched uranium for medical research purposes. He clearly knew better, but he chose to lie to the American public.

Senator Lieberman, always ready to add the icing on the cake, jumped in to make sure the American people would be aware of Iran's human rights violations, as well as its support for the international terrorists.

The concern of these philanthropic congressmen about the people of Iran suffering under the brutal dictatorship of the oppressive fundamentalist Islamic tyranny would have brought tears to my eyes were they not so diabolically dishonest. What moron would buy into that bull.....?

The McCains, the Liebermans and the like, indeed all our foreign policy decision makers, must know the truth behind the charade, and yet they continue to play the game as actors following a pre-scripted and well-choreographed plot.

It would take an idiot not to realize that the current policy adopted by the United States administration toward the Iranian regime is exactly the right recipe to prolong the agitated state of affairs in Iran and to push back any chance for meaningful reforms indefinitely.

Is this because they do not know what they are doing or that they need sage advice and guidance from our brilliant Iranian American scholars and academics? If that were the case, perhaps some of the signatories to the various declarations by the Iranian American scholars mentioned above should offer their services to the State Department! Who knows; maybe some of these hopefuls might be recruited by the White House! Are there really some among them who are thinking along those lines?

But if that is not the case, if the aim is not in fact to promote reforms in Iran to create a more stable, prosperous and peaceful society? What then, my overanxious friends?

What are we to conclude when we hear our hawkish congressmen use the pretext of Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions to pass resolutions for new sanctions, at the same time that the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs claims Iran is not even capable of enriching uranium to the 20% level needed for medical purposes?

The Israelis have been barking for several years now that Iran is within just a few months of developing its nuclear bomb; and each year the deadlines are moved back to justify new warnings!

Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has made several trips to Israel to talk to the Israeli military bigwigs, on the surface to discuss Iran's nuclear threats and how to stop those imminent threats. But each time his effort has been to give assurances to the Israelis that an Iranian attack on Israel is not in the books, therefore any preemptive assault on Iran would have grave undesirable consequences.

So, what are we to believe: Is Iran developing nuclear weapons to launch attacks on Israel and on American forces and bases in the region? There is not a shred of evidence of that being the case.

To clear this hodgepodge of chaos and confusion, we should rise above the street level to see the broader picture. Let us see who benefits from the portrayal of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a real threat to regional and global peace and security.

Without doubt, the biggest beneficiary is the state of Israel. The Israeli regime, particularly the Likud and other hardliners, insist on remaining the region's unchallenged sole superpower. When Iraq's Saddam Hussein began to beef up his arsenal and had his eyes on potential nuclear weapons, the Israelis first bombed and destroyed his nuclear power plant and, years later, took advantage of the American administration's post 9/11 war on terror campaign to target that country. With the able assistance and guidance of their dedicated  Zionist insiders, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, etc., and the cooperation of the controlled media, plus Israel's own proven capability of forging or doctoring up deceptive material, we were drawn to the catastrophic war in Iraq under false pretences. Now the same tactics are at play against Iran.

Iran, however, is too big an adversary for such cavalier adventurisms, and the American public is a little more concerned and skeptical about buying into the kind of deceptive tactics that were used about the nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Nevertheless, the perception of an Iranian threat is not only risk free, it serves the purpose quite well. Israel has been able to dodge every effort by the international community and even the United States to moderate or compromise any of its claims  and show willingness to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians. Israel is not ready or willing to give up a square inch of the occupied territories, discontinue building additional Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and stop its illegal expansions into East Jerusalem.

As long as Israel can sell Iran's image as an existential threat, who could blame them for that? Thanks to the threatening image of Iran, not only is Israel excused for its paranoid behavior, it has been granted additional billions of dollars worth of the latest military aid to boost its "defensive" capabilities.  Even Germany has donated several nuclear submarines to boost Israel's naval forces in the region. And more is definitely under way.

To keep Israel from doing "something stupid" like launching a preemptive strike against Iran, an act already sanctioned by the likes of Dick Cheney and other "bomb Iran" advocates, the American administration can easily convince the Congress to approve more financial, diplomatic and military assistance to protect this little ally and friend or, more correctly put, the big extortionist.  That would cost the American taxpayers a lot less than would the consequences of such a stupid action by Israel.

Now let us look for other beneficiaries of Iran's negative portrayals.

No doubt, the Israel issue is the main contributor to Iran's mounting problems in the ongoing propaganda battlefield. But equally important is America's dilemma in extricating itself from the quagmires in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This will happen, but not as quickly as some anti-war activists  anticipate, or as painlessly as they hope. We are dug in for as long as it takes to find a face-saving way to get out without leaving behind a still smoldering powder keg that could be ignited once the wind shifts direction.

The American naval forces in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean will have to remain on guard, and the multitude of bases established throughout the region will be there for the duration.

As is  clearly the case with America's so-called missile defense shield projects, Iran is being used as the scapegoat to put the real target, Russia, on notice. On the other front, the Arab states of the Gulf are directed to purchase tens of billions of dollars worth of "defensive" arms from the United States to prevent an Iranian attack upon their oil rich territories. This alone is a fantastic source of revenue for the world's biggest arms exporter. In addition, playing the role of the protector of their sovereignty against the perceived Iranian threat, the United States can exercise full control over these wealthy Arab oil states.

Whichever way we choose to look at it, an unpredictable, unstable and threatening Iran in pursuit of the ultimate weapon, plays an indispensible role in this regional drama.

As long as all cast members follow the script, the play will go on smoothly; but there is a chance that they might not. All it takes is one rogue element to tip the entire apple cart.

The scenario calls for the Iranian regime to remain under international pressure and threats of regime change so that its hardliners could further legitimize tightening their grip and imposing more restrictions against voices of dissent or liberalization and reform, all in the name of national security.

The main guarantor of the nation's security is, of course, Iran's military might, which consists of the regular armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards and the voluntary militia or the Basiji elements.

Since the nation's territorial integrity and security rests on its defensive capabilities, the military, under the command of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamene'i, has been allowed to gain an inordinate amount of prominence, to a point that many regard Iran's military establishment as a country within a country.  Iran's military-industrial-financial complex has becomes the country's dominant economic force, to the point that it might someday challenge the constitutional authority of Iran's Supreme Leader. Should that happen, a rogue element within the military command might just throw the script away and take matters into his own hands.

The same could also happen within the Israeli command structure; there are rogue elements and loose cannons there, too.

Thus far, the play is performed like a well-oiled machine. The Israelis keep raising sounds of alarm about Iran's nuclear weapons and missile technology advancements, and threaten preemptive strikes against Iran no later than a certain date, which is always pushed a "safe" distance back in order to keep the charade going.

The United States and some European allies, meanwhile, impose various economic sanctions against Iran, knowing full well that their effects would be far from crippling. Targeted sanctions against the elements of the regime or the military would be equally ineffective. In fact it is a joke to think that sanctions could be devised is such a way that only the "bad" guys would be affected and the people would be spared any suffering.  This is as ridiculous an idea as has been the case with foreign aid programs for poor, developing countries, where the moneys assigned to various targeted projects end up in the pockets of the same folks whose allegiance we intend to buy! Just look at Egypt and the two-billion dollars a year it receives from the United States.

The tragedy is, while this macabre charade continues, those who suffer are the Iranian people, the Palestinians, and the innocent populations who perish or are made homeless as the unintended casualties of our so-called war on terror.

Iranians deserve better economic and social conditions, the Palestinians must someday realize their dreams of an independent statehood, and the devastation and wholesale massacre of innocent civilians must stop and meaningful reparations must begin soon.

Finally, I would like to know how the show of support and solidarity with the opposition movement in Iran is going to resolve this dilemma. Obviously, this show of support by the American or the British, French or German administrations is exactly what the opposition in Iran does not need.  

I would be very interested, indeed anxious, to see what our Iranian American community of thinkers and academics have to offer beside some "feel good" gestures of sympathy, that might have a chance as workable remedies to Iran's ills. I am hoping that the caveat, workable, has gained a more meaningful status in view of this article.

Once again, criticism that is not followed by workable remedies or alternatives is more than just frivolous, it could prove downright catastrophic. Also, advice or guidance coming from people who have nothing to lose should they be proven wrong, reminds one of the old cliché of sitting on the sidelines and coaching the wrestler in the rink (birun-e gowd neshasteh o miqe lengesh kon).

Kam Zarrabi

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 Iran, 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 More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at:

... Payvand News - 02/19/10 ... --

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