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JUST THINKING FREELY: Potentials for a US-Iran Rapprochement

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse

On Tuesday, February 26, the P5+1 and Iran commenced negotiations in Almati, Kazakhstan, and Chuck Hagel began his first day on the job as the new Secretary of Defense. Both these events bore great significance, considering what had gone on to lead to this stage of the game.

 Basketball fans promoting peace between Iran and U.S. (September 2010)

P5+1, meaning the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, comprising the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, met with the Iranian delegation to work toward resolving their differences regarding Iran's nuclear enrichment programs.

On the surface at least, and as far as the general public is led to believe (evidenced by the recent Gallup poll), the problem concerns Iran's nuclear "ambitions" and the threats the Islamic Republic would pose to global security should it succeed in its attempts to develop atomic weapons. Those who stand to benefit from this portrayal would like the public to believe, and have clearly succeeded in doing so, that negotiations aimed at resolving Iran's nuclear "crisis" through extended discussions and potential accommodations give the Iranians more time to proceed with their real objectives, in spite of their constant denials, to become a nuclear weapons power. Chief among the beneficiaries of the political demonization of the Islamic Republic is, of course, Israel, as amply demonstrated by Netanyahu's repeated statements and relentless accusations.

Those who bothered to watch the Senate proceedings for the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as the Defense Secretary saw on live TV, perhaps for the first time ever, the influence of Zionist power over our nation's highest legislative organs that are supposedly vested with the responsibility of safeguarding America's best interests. And thanks to the power of money and the pervasive control and influence over the nation's mass media, Israeli interests have succeeded in polluting the public mind in America with pro-Israel and anti anything that opposes Israel's agendas, to an extent that detoxification will now require some miracle of sorts.

In this, the gigantic Military/Industrial Complex is also complicit. The economic weight of America's industries and related services that cater to and depend on the maintenance and even the expansion of the various arms of the US military cannot be discounted. Actual, and too often concocted, threats against the safety and security of the United States and its allies are, therefore, essential to justify preserving this monster, even under the current budgetary constraints.

To complete the list, we should also mention the radical or extreme elements among the conservative mindsets, and the delusional, rapture-oriented evangelicals, who spew their anti-Islam and especially anti-Iran hatred purely based on their superstitious beliefs.

If a rapprochement between Iran and the United States is ever to be seriously pursued, formidable forces that stand in the way must be appropriately addressed. The process will require time, patience and a bit of courage on both sides.

Obstacles also exist on the Iranian side, but those obstacles are much easier to hurdle than we have been led to believe. For reasons that follow, the ball is actually in the United States' court to start the process, and the key is in America's hand to unlock the door.

Is there, and has there been, any deep seated animosity toward America or what could be described as anti-Americanism among the Iranians as has definitely been the case historically against the British imperialism or is now unquestionably against Zionism? There is no deep seated anti-Americanism that would stand in the way of an honest attempt toward a rapprochement.

We hear a lot about how the United States helped put an end to Iran's attempt to move toward a liberal democratic governance under the leadership of the charismatic prime minister Mosaddegh in 1953. We also hear that the bleeding wounds left behind have continued to hemorrhage and finally festered into the 1978 uprising against the regime of the pro-America Shah. This view is in need of major revisions. Let's, then, debunk this myth that Iranian's alleged hatred of America goes back to and is rooted in the coup d'etat of 1953.

The population of the country in the early '50s was about 16-17 million, mostly rural. This number is quite a bit lower than the current population of Tehran alone! The literacy rate throughout the country was quite dismal, with better than 98% of the literate public concentrated in major metropolitan areas, especially Tehran.

The pro-Mosaddegh or the anti-Shah movement, to which I also so proudly, and rather naively, belonged at the ripe age of 15, comprised of the National Front, as well as some minor left-wing and communist groups that were under a great deal of pressure ever since WWII. While the National Front included the patriotic nationalists and many among the educate elite, as well as most student groups from high schools and universities, the leftists included what we could label as the politically active intelligentsia; and all the above groups were concentrated in Tehran and few other bigger towns.

Even though it was known that the coup that led to Mosaddegh's downfall was spearheaded by the CIA, most, if not all, blamed the MI6 or the British government as the real mastermind behind it, and quite correctly so. Even after the return of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to the throne, and the harsh crackdown against the higher ranking former Mosaddegh supporters, there was little or no sense of anti-Americanism among the people, especially the millions of rural folks who actually had no clue as to what political events had taken place.

The nationalization of Iran's oil industry by Mosaddegh in 1951 led to the American and some European oil companies partially displacing the British Petroleum's monopoly, even though the latter managed to hold on the lion's share of Iran's oil industry, and a period of relative economic prosperity ensued.

Yes, there is no doubt that Mosaddegh was a national hero and a true patriot whose name shall remain as symbolic of a nation's aspirations toward freedom and democracy. But in reality, a Lenin, Gandhi, or Mandela he was not. To better appreciate this, I would recommend a book, Blood and Oil by the late M. Farmanfarmaian, Mosaddegh's contemporary and one of the founders of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

What I am trying to say is that, contrary to the commonly quoted reference, the Islamic Revolution that was on its ascendancy in earnest in 1977-78, and reached its final success in early 1979, was not caused or even motivated by or resulted from the coup of 1953. The anti-American slogans that erupted later were aimed at the Shah's strong American affiliation, which would have likely subsided if the embassy hostage crisis had not taken place.

Many left-oriented and remnant nationalist figures and groups, who had clearly underestimated the uprising's Islamist nature and the focused leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, tried to revive Mosaddegh's name and rejuvenate the National Front and dovetail it into the Islamic Revolution. Even though this effort was short lived, the American involvement in the coup of 1953 was thus interjected into the minds of a public, some 40 million at this time, a generation removed from the oblivious handful of millions of the early fifties, and created the now prevailing mythology connecting the events of 1953 to the Islamic Revolution of a quarter-century later.

The anti-American sloganeering we see and hear in Iran today has as much foundation in historical reality as does the anti-Iran sentiments among the American people; both a creation of well-orchestrated propaganda efforts!

I was personally involved and active in the Mosaddegh era, and didn't see or sense any anti-American sentiments even after the coup of 1953. The blame was always put on the British and Shah's own brutal crackdown on any dissent after his return. I worked in Iran in many capacities in the '60s and '70s and never saw or sensed any anti-American sentiments even among my leftist friends and colleagues. In my three visits to Iran in more recent times, I never saw or sensed any anti-American sentiments outside occasional token official regime pronouncements, whether in major cities or small towns and villages.

I haven't run into any American tourist/visitor to Iran who has complained about anti-American sentiments during their visit. In fact, Iran is without doubt the safest and the most hospitable to visit by tourists, including Americans, of any country in that region, including the "friendly" Turkey or Jordan and the "adorable" Israel. So, where is this anti-American hatred and animosity that our congressional representatives and media talking heads are warning and alarming us about?

Even the parliamentary rhetoric criticizing America's policies toward the Islamic Republic is seldom if ever as scathingly venomous as what our congressional leaders level against Iran.

Just as the anti-Mosaddegh coup of 1953 was mostly blamed on the British as the real culprit behind the CIA's TPAJAX Project, the current American animosity toward the Islamic Republic is clearly blamed by the Iraniansn on the Zionist or Israeli masterminds behind the American administration's hostile policies toward the Middle East and Iran. For the latest example see here.

I have no doubt that truths are not hidden from the top Administration officials, particularly the White House, the State Department, the intelligence community, and other Cabinet offices. The negative portrayals that continue to be seen when addressing Iran issues by the officials who do know better are carryovers from the previous administrations, amplified by the general public's perceptions that our captive news and entertainment media have cooked up.

The result is the immense difficulty we will be encountering in attempting to implement changes in policies that are required if a rapprochement with Iran is the target. That a new effort is actually underway, there is little doubt. The appointment by the President of Chuck Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense was a definite signal, a man who was known for his "undesirable" or rogue attitudes, according to his inquisitors at the Senate confirmation hearing, namely his lack of sufficient love for, and obedience to, Israel, and his insufficient hatred for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Vice President, Joseph Biden, offering to join the Iranian leaders in a serious dialogue was also a signal, as was the expressed views of the US representatives at the Almati gathering that the meeting had showed encouraging signs.

The Iranian delegation also expressed optimism after the two-day meeting in Almati, even though no definite agreements were reached.

This doesn't mean that the process will be easy or smooth. AIPAC, the Israel Lobby, is holding its biggest annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this weekend, and the main agenda is, again, concerning Iran. Looking at the list of confirmed speakers, the motives behind some of Chuck Hagel's inquisitors at the Senate hearings become clear. Perhaps to see the rest of them, we should attend one of Pastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel ministries, maybe to find Lindsey Graham standing next to him and showing him a copy of his new Senate Bill that he and McCain had just prepared to support Israel militarily, should it find it necessary to attack Iran preemptively!

Realistically speaking, any expectation of a quick shift in policy is impossible; a giant oceanliner cannot change directions on a dime. Not much was expected at the Almati conference, and not much was accomplished, except for the prospects for more conciliatory or back scratching approach in future talks. The door, in other words, is ajar. Any meaningful developments should not be anticipated before the upcoming presidential elections in Iran this summer, by which time the new Cabinet posts of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel would be well established as well.

I have tried to show here that not much stands in the way of Iran welcoming a rapprochement by the United States. There is no deep seated angst or animosity in the public domain against the United States, even though the real, although arguably deniable, American complicity in Saddam Hussein's war on Iran is still fresh in everyone's mind. Iranians in general blame the influence of Israel and Zionism as the main factor behind American administration's mistrust and pressure against the Islamic Republic.

A new opening with Iran does not have to be in the form of some historical Grand Bargain. Rather, it should be based on the simple fact that a less confrontational position between the two states could benefit both parties without negative consequences.

What Iran could do to help the United States in the Middle East region?

1- Iran already has, and is increasing, its relationship with the Pakistani regime. The joint gas pipeline and other cooperative efforts could serve as a conduit for the United States to allay its legitimate concerns over Pakistan's fragmented and unstable government and its nuclear arsenal.

2- Without Iran's direct involvement, and without Pakistan's cooperation, the so-called war on terror in Afghanistan could not be put to rest, ending the decade-long engagement there. Iran and the United State have the same enemies to contend with in a lawless Afghanistan.

3- In the aftermath of the ill conceived war on terror, Iraq is continuing to fall apart under sectarian unrest. Again, without direct Iranian involvement and cooperation, there is no hope that Iraqi situation could be brought under control. Fear of a Shi'ite hegemonic domination of the region is highly exaggerated and would be alleviated under some understanding between Iran and the United States to ease the concerns of the oil rich American allies of convenience in the southern shores of the Persian Gulf.

4- The turbulent Syrian situation could also be resolved by Iran's mediation, with its influence over the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Assad regime. The Syrian nightmare is not your typical civil war; the opposition is not a unified popular movement confronting the ruling party. The Salafists and Wahabis armed and funded by the Saudis and Qataris, the Al-Gha'eda factions, Kurdish separatists, and other foreign based militants, do not comprise a meaningful, united, alternative to the Assad regime. Syria is facing death and destruction, to which malicious outside interference has been the principle contributor. In other words, the United States does not need to and should not enter yet another war zone in the Middle East and ask for more trouble than it already faces.

5- Economically, the United States would benefit greatly by opening trade relations with Iran, and gain a meaningful and effective upper hand in Iran's oil trade with the rival China, especially if the Iraqi oil is brought under the same umbrella with the Iranian resources. Renewed economic relations would also help secure the position of the American dollar as the chief international monetary unit of trade.

6- Considering the increasing financial pressures we are experiencing, the costs of maintaining our current military presence in the region could be reduced significantly by pulling back the naval and ground task forces currently deployed.

7- Closer cooperation with Iran would also bring about more transparency and reduce the current paranoia that has been artificially generated in the public domain with regard to Iran's nuclear developments.

Needless to say, the big caveat in all this is the appeasement of the Israeli regime, which will be the major issue to be addressed by the United States if any progress is to be made in a rapprochement with Iran.

What could the United States do to gain Iran's confidence and cooperation?

1- Initiate direct and unconditional dialogue between the State Department and the Iranian counterparts; no carrots or stick or boss to subordinate approach, but a dialogue between equals. The Iranians will be more than anxious to participate in such a dialogue, as long as proper protocol is observed.

2- Remove unnecessary and counterproductive sanctions against Iran, which by all accounts have been doing nothing but hurt the nation and create more defiance and hatred against the perpetrators of such measures, viewed to be mostly the US Congress that is ruled by Zionist interests.

3- Openly comply with the international law and the United Nations charter, and abandon threats of a military attack or regime-change against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

4- The United States administration is fully aware, in spite of all the superficial rhetoric, that Iran is not trying to weaponize its civilian nuclear projects. The nuclear issue, in addition to being hyped by the Zionist interests, is being used to harness Iran's potential to gain too much independence in its global economic relations, particularly with regard to its oil and gas trade and the possibility of breaking away from the almighty dollar. Reopening of economic relations with the United States would alleviate this concern, and better relations would create the rationale for lifting the suspicions that Iran might feel the need to develop a nuclear weapon arsenal for self-defense.

5- Since improved relations with the United States would help remove the anxiety over any radical behavior by the Israelis directed against Iran, the need for the Islamic Republic to invest money and risk its own self-interests by supporting groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas as thorns on the side of the Jewish state would also subside. That support or assistance might then be limited to non-weapons humanitarian and diplomatic nature.

6- If the relation between Iran and the United States is allowed to normalize, the Israeli regime could no longer use the phony Iranian threat to find safety and impunity under America's umbrella and continue its expansionistic transgressions and defiance of the international law. This might facilitate new approaches toward the resumption of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, hopefully halting or limiting Israel's illegal settlement expansion and other violations of the Palestinians' rights. Unfortunately, the final fate of the Palestinian nation would have to await the implosion of the Jewish state under its own weight!

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 Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Contex.

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

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