Why Iran is no North Korea
by Hannes Artens, Fri Oct 05, 2007 at 05:45:22 PM EDT
With Iraq - as usual - casting a damp over this historic breakthrough, the Bush administration just scored their greatest diplomatic victory to date: North Korea pledged to close down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and to make its entire nuclear program public by December 31. One is tempted to detect an almost poetic justice in this war-president being denied to properly celebrate and mendaciously claim the first giant step toward a pacification of the Korean peninsula for himself by his cronies - also as usual - having turned carpetbaggers in Iraq. Yet it wouldn't be George Bush, if he were not to misuse this triumph of cautious diplomacy over dull saber rattling for beating the war drum on Iran.
On paper the North Korean deal may perfectly serve as a model of how to break the nuclear stalemate with Iran. On second thought, though, all deliberations in this direction quickly turn out to be nothing but pipe dreams. Iran is no North Korea. It may sound cliché, but the prime reason why Chris Hill doubtlessly would fail to pull off a similar stunt with Tehran as he did with Pyonyang is: oil - also as usual.
At the end of the day, North Korea is hardly more than a nuisance, the U.S. can count on China to keep off causing mischief; an ideologically and economically bankrupt system like Cuba dead ripe to sell out their last pair of long johns to stay in power; a flyspeck on the geo-strategic world map as insignificant as Belarus. Iran, on the other hand, is the prime beneficiary of George Bush's crusade in Iraq, as has been forcefully expounded by Peter Galbraith in Salon.com two weeks ago. The story of a scared Iran, surrounded by victorious U.S. troops on all sides, eating humble pie and offering George Bush all and even more he now demands for a song back in 2003, has been told a hundred times; interestingly, it has been kept under wraps in corporate media and flinched from being used by his opponents. Why? Because America has no interest in negotiating with Iran.
And by America I'm talking of both political establishments. Make no mistake: you won't get substantial talks with Iran with either of the two current frontrunners. They are two sides of the same coin, representing the same interests, advocating policies that only differ in scope but not in target, and their strategic thinking has been shaped by the United States dominating the Persian Gulf for fifty years. Neither Rudy Giuliani nor Hillary Clinton will go down in history as the president who was forced to share power on the Gulf with Tehran.
But this is the price Iran demands. Every Middle East analyst worth his salary and not paid by PNAC or in any other way taken in and nurtured by Dick Cheney's ideological cadre training unit will unanimously affirm that Tehran understands its nuclear program as a bargaining tool it is as willing to abandon as Pyongyang. It's all just a matter of the price. And the price has shot through the ceiling since 2003 thanks to George Bush displaying America's weakness in Iraq better than Osama bin Laden, Nikita Khrushchev or Mao Zedong would have ever dreamed of. With U.S. military power stretched thinner than blotting-paper and the American public desperately crying for the towel to be thrown in, why should Iran settle for anything less than what they've always wanted? North Korea was bribed with 950,000 tons of heavy fuel; that's laughable peanuts for Iran. They insist on the U.S. lifting their sanctions regime and recognizing Iran as the second hegemon at the Gulf on equal footing with the U.S.. Nothing more and nothing less.
It's true that Dick Cheney has cast his voracity-exuding-eye at Iran's oil and gas fields ever since acting as a ranking minority member on the Congressional Committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair; not for nothing he was one of the most outspoken critics of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and masterminded its evasion by Halliburton's Cayman Islands registered subsidiary, Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., setting up shop in Iran and shamelessly bribing the very regime he accused of pancaking the Khobar Towers in Dhahran. But of course, the DLC brand of Democrats, personified by the Clintons, and whose '93-'97 foreign policy was orchestrated by Warren Christopher, who as a lawyer for O'Melveney & Myers represented Exxon and Occidental Petroleum, is as afar from protecting big oil's interests in the Gulf as James Dobson is from dancing at San Francisco Pride. Today Christopher is a member of the board of the Martin Indyk - the one who bungled Camp David II - founded Washington Institute for Near East Policy, together with Robert McFarlane, Joshua Muravchick, and Richard Perle. That's where we've come full circle, and where either president - Hillary or Rudy - will recruit their Middle East advisers from.
I'm far from alleging that Hillary would go so far as to hire Norman Podhoretz, who currently is jumping the clouds in seventh heaven after revealing in an interview to The SundayTimes that President Bush listened to his war plans with a "solemn" expression; all I'm saying is we should not expect a North Korea-like grand bargain with Iran to happen under either Hillary's or Rudy's watch. Neither has the vision to think outside the box, neither is able to detach him/herself from the same kind of folks who keep making a mess of U.S. Middle East policy for the last thirty years, neither would dare to concede Iran the accrual of influence gained due to their predecessor's blunders, and thus neither would accept talks on the future of Iraq - which would have to include Iran or were doomed to failure from the get go - as a starting point for broader talks on an Iranian-American realignment. Simply because Iran is no North Korea; Iran pretends to U.S. respectability on eye level, North Korea just pretends to U.S. wallets.
Hannes Artens is the author of The Writing on the Wall, the first anti-Iran-war novel.