Two recent articles pertaining to the United States/Iran confrontation have prompted me to offer my perspectives on this subject. One is the article written for "foreignpolicy.com", November 12, 2010, by Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi, titled: Want to Defuse the Iran Crisis?, and the other by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett: Israel Ups the Pressure for Military Action and Obama Sets Iran Up for More Sanctions, posted on CASMII web site, "campaigniran.org/casmii/", also on November 12th.
It should be obvious that any political opinion essay is necessarily based on certain primary assumptions upon which the author attempts to expound. I am certainly not excluding myself from this generalization.
Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi share the views of a great majority of American opinion molders and thinkers, whether American Americans, Iranian Americans, Native Americans or what-have-you Americans, and particularly "foreign" Americans, whose basic assumption or premise is the belief that the fundamental motivation behind America's foreign policy decision making draws from the core of American creed of honesty, integrity and fairness; in other words, the ideals of the Biblical Golden Rule of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. If we see that some of our policy directives have resulted in undesirable or even disastrous outcomes, the blame, according to the said groups, should be aimed at the incompetence of the decision makers or in the mismanagement in the implementation of the process.
Based on this presumption, Parsi and Marashi have quite ably put together suggestions as to how to deal with the Iranians in the upcoming "P5+1" meeting with Iran, in order to avoid another impasse in reaching some sort of a rapprochement. In essence, what these academics are trying to do is to show better or more effective ways of convincing the Iranians to abandon their stubborn defiance and escape the wrath of the Western superpowers to impose even harsher and more crippling sanctions upon them for their intransigence.
The mainstream thinking among our academics and intellectuals is that yielding to our requirements, even demands, would be much better for Iran than facing ever harsher sanctions or an outright military attack. In the absence of any other alternative, it so seems, this line of thinking sounds quite reasonable; doesn't it?
And, of course, as any decent Iranian American, especially the more high profile among us, would insist, we should never ignore or bypass the issue of human rights violations in Iran, which should perhaps take the center stage in any negotiations even ahead of the nuclear issue! The United States has just stepped in to reject Iran's candidacy to join the United Nations' women's rights body because of Iran's gross violations of human rights, endorsing instead Saudi Arabia to become a member! That says a lot; doesn't it? Wow; how compassionately humane and enlightened of us.
The bottom line in Parsi and Marashi writing is that the United States and the "G+1" as a whole have a genuine desire to create an atmosphere of understanding with Iran in the upcoming meeting sometime in early December. The aim, in other words, is to reach a resolution and to reduce tensions in order to alleviate the need for additional sanctions or worse.
They are sooooooo wrong!
Now to the Leveretts' essay:
As much as I have always admired the Leveretts for their astute, well informed and eloquent analyses of the US/Iran relations, I continue to have a problem with one fundamental assumption that I detect in most their writings.
Yes, they have, based on their very impressive professional experience and knowledge of the issues, argued against the prevailing accusations leveled at the Islamic Republic regarding Iran's nuclear programs and the always inordinately hyped human rights violations. They are certainly not intimidated by being called Iran apologists as are most Iranian American writers who, from that fear, avoid saying or writing anything, however correct, positive about the Iranian regime.
In their recent essay, the Leveretts express their concern that Obama administration's efforts to reach the Iranian side, as will be the case in the upcoming "G+1" meeting in December, are being torpedoed by the neoconservatives who are gaining more power in the Congress, and especially by the Israel lobby and its influence peddlers in the US Administration. The Leveretts are of the opinion that the Israeli regime and its lobby and supporters in the United States have been increasing pressure on the White House toward a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. They also correctly point to some high profile members of the Republican Party who have openly expressed their view that threatening Iran militarily should be more than just bark and no bite.
While the Israeli regime's stranglehold over the Congress and the White House decision making apparatus in dealing with the Middle East issues could only be hidden from the eyes of the mentally challenged, Israel's true intentions in pressuring the Administration to actually attack Iran is not necessarily a given.
True, there are vocal advocates of progress toward a war on Iran among major figures in the Congress, and there are quite a number of televangelists who'd like to see any antagonist of Israel in the region wiped off the face of the map, for Biblical reasons, of course. While the likes of Senators Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman, or Rep. Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros Lehtinen are driven by their respective self-serving motives, some even bordering on sedition, our overzealous pastors and preachers spew their venomous hatred from the depths of ignorance; one group is blinded by prejudice and the other by superstitious passion. However, Israel and its Zionist supporters here should not be regarded in the same light.
The Zionist movement that culminated in the establishment of the Jewish state, which continues to grow in size, economic growth and military dominance, owes its success to shrewd, calculated and strategically brilliant maneuvering throughout its short history - at least thus far. The leadership responsible for Israel's status as the symbol of Western style "success" in the turbulent region of the Middle and Near East could not be regarded as ignorant, misinformed or stupid. Diabolical, ruthless and genocidal, perhaps yes; but crazy or stupid, certainly not.
Just as the so-labeled peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been and continue to be a charade for public consumption, with absolutely no intention of it ever reaching a meaningful resolution, similarly are the off and on transparently fake attempts toward a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which have always been contingent upon various clearly irreconcilable preconditions in order to ensure their failure. The process is simply too obvious to need any elaboration. There is no intention of easing the tensions; the effort has been to ratchet up these tensions just short of an actual flashpoint.
Israeli leaders are not stupid. Israel would much prefer a believable threat of war against Iran to an actual war by the United States against the Islamic Republic, with or without Israel's own participation. Israel could care less if the Iranian regime thinks of the threat of war as a strategic bluff, as long as the threat of attack by the United States is taken seriously by the American public and the US Congress. Ironically but quite logically, the Iranian hardliners also welcome hostile posturing by the United States and Israel, as their grip on power as guardians of the nation's security is thus further legitimized in the eyes of their own public.
Having portrayed itself as an ally under threat of annihilation by a joint enemy, Israel has successfully created the proper imageries of the horrendous consequences of another war in the region. This portrayal has paved the way for the United States to increase and extend its military, economic and diplomatic support for the Jewish state, as well as making it more difficult for the Administration to pressure this ally into any compromise regarding the settlement expansions or peace negotiations while it is under an existential threat! Israel has been and is blackmailing its patron, the United States, with the blessing of the US Congress.
In my opinion, President Obama wants nothing more than shaking the monkey of Israel off his back, so that his foreign policy with regard to the War on Terror and the Iranian issues could take a turn toward what would be in America's best interest. Under the prevailing conditions, Mr. Obama is powerless to assert himself as the "decider". The monkey on his back has the weight of the Congress behind it. In my opinion again, neither Obama nor whoever succeeds his presidency will be able to shake that monkey off.
If Trita Parsi, Reza Marashi and the Leverett team are truly interested in paving the way toward a meaningful rapprochement with Iran, their efforts should focus on first demonstrating the benefits of such a rapprochement between the two administrations - mutual benefits, that is - and second, to come up with ways of achieving this task. And that is not going to be easy.
However, one way to further sabotage a potential dialog is what Parsi and Marashi have suggested, that of putting yet another precondition against Iran on the table. The human rights issue, as noble a cause as it certainly is, should not dominate or be even a part of any negotiations, for the following reasons:
1- A superpower that Iran and indeed most non-aligned nations rightly or wrongly accuse of gross violations of human rights on a global scale and who is an unequivocal supporter of Israel regardless of its atrocities, is hardly in a position to give advice to anyone else.
2- Iran could easily turn the table and accuse the United States for its repeated and open threats of regime change and military attack, which have forced Iran to adopt ever harsher measures to control and subdue dissent and restrict freedoms, leading to the violations of human rights.
3- Accusing Iran of human rights violations and making this one of the primary issues of concern by the United States in any negotiation with Iran, while justifiable, is totally unnecessary and is a clearly hypocritical act. American friends and allies in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Israel and Egypt, are in far more egregious violations of human rights in their own domains than is Iran.
Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to , with focus on US/Iran issues. More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: intellectualdiscourse.com
One last advice for Trita Parsi and colleagues; Please don't take the State Department, the CIA or the NSC as fools who need our guidance in how to approach the Iranians. I am sure you know better than that. So, don't try to look good in order to maintain your tenures by championing noble humanitarian causes. Instead, use your knowledge, good judgment and wisdom to come up with meaningful suggestions to break through this impasse.
I admit I do not have any solution to getting out of this dark ally. I hope smarter people such as you do.
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