Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

Obama's election win was a clear mandate for a change of policy regarding US relations with Iran and expectations of new diplomatic initiatives were briefly sustained by Obama's greeting to Iran on Nowruz, the Persian new year, and by the resumption of dialogue between mid-level foreign affairs representatives of both nations.

Then Ahmadinejad delivered his anti-semitic tirade in Geneva, although the Saberi case was basically a wash, an early provocation wrapped up by the speedy decision for her release.  Ahmadinejad, initially rebuked by Khamenei, now seems to enjoy his support and is likely to win the pending elections in spite of some heavyweight moderate competition.  The launch, recently, of the Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface intermediate range missle followed closely on Obama's unexpected imposition of a deadline on relations with Iran at his meeting with Netanyahu:


Iran's launch comes less than a month before Iran's presidential election and just two days after President Barack Obama declared a readiness to seek deeper international sanctions against Tehran if it did not respond positively to U.S. attempts to open negotiations on its nuclear program. Obama said earlier this week that Tehran had until the end of the year to show it wanted to engage with Washington.

But both U.S. government officials and independent American missile experts said Wednesday that the Iranian missile itself did not appear to be a new model.

Charles Vick, a senior technical analyst for GlobalSecurity.org, analyzed photos and videotape of the launch released by Iran.

"I'm not all that impressed," Vick said. "It's just another test that confirms they've got the system that was operational last summer."

Pamela Hess and Pauline Jelinik - Iran Missile Launch Confirmed By US Huffington Post (AP) 20 May 09

This suggests limited, if any, progress and the successful confounding by Netanyahu, on behalf of Likud, of the Iranian and Israeli relationships.  But things are not always what they seem and in spite of an almost wilfull ambivalence on the part of the mainstream media it may be up to us to modify some of our presumptions about Iran's intentions and the genuine level of risk they present before meaningful negotiations are possible:


Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them.

Fareed Zakaria - They May Not Want The Bomb Newsweek 22 May 09

The bottom line, however, is are we still intent on attempting to destabalise Iran through covert operations not unlike those prosecuted by Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel or by Iran itself against us in Iraq?:


But [Obama administration disappointment] ignores the real reason Iranian leaders have not responded to the new president more enthusiastically: the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush's second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government -- regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 -- will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile.

Flyntt and Hillary Mann Leverett - Have We Already Lost Iran? NYT 23 May 09

The Obama administration has a choice to make here which is governed by many factors, not least of which the somewhat narrow range of US public opinion largely informed by eight years of what is arguably alarmist neoconservative rhetoric regarding Iran.

Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker last year, exposed the scope of US covert activities against Iran:


Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in the President's war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Seymour M Hersh - Preparing the Battlefield New Yorker 7 Jul 08

These were merely the latest revelations in a long-standing covert war the US has waged against Iran, arguably credible in the hostile context of our relations during the Bush administration but of dubious legality in any case.  In spite of the climate of hopefully improving relations with Iran they seem doomed from the outset unless these activities are unilaterally stopped, wound down or are put on the table as part of our proposed bargain.

But there are other perceived obstacles as well:


More broadly, President Obama has made several policy and personnel decisions that have undermined the promise of his encouraging rhetoric about Iran. On the personnel front, the problem begins at the top, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a presidential candidate, then-Senator Clinton ran well to the right of Mr. Obama on Iran, even saying she would "totally obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel. Since becoming secretary of state, Clinton has told a number of allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf that she is skeptical that diplomacy with Iran will prove fruitful and testified to Congress that negotiations are primarily useful to garner support for "crippling" multilateral sanctions against Iran.

First of all, this posture is feckless, as Secretary Clinton does not have broad international support for sanctions that would come anywhere close to being crippling. More significantly, this posture is cynically counterproductive, for it eviscerates the credibility of any American diplomatic overtures in the eyes of Iranian leaders across the Islamic Republic's political spectrum.

Even more disturbing is President Obama's willingness to have Dennis Ross become the point person for Iran policy at the State Department. Mr. Ross has long been an advocate of what he describes as an "engagement with pressure" strategy toward Tehran, meaning that the United States should project a willingness to negotiate with Iran largely to elicit broader regional and international support for intensifying economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.

In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama's election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely. Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail? Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush's successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. Citing past "diplomacy" would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.

Iranian officials are fully aware of Mr. Ross's views -- and are increasingly suspicious that he is determined that the Obama administration make, as one senior Iranian diplomat said to us, "an offer we can't accept," simply to gain international support for coercive action.

Flyntt and Hillary Mann Leverett - Have We Already Lost Iran? NYT 23 May 09

One can understand, even admire, Obama's appointments from the perspective that he is covering the flanks of a more engaged foreign policy with personalities likely to reassure hard-line critics in both parties, not to mention public opinion.  As has been suggested elsewhere Hillary's selection as Secretary of State may go a long way to enhancing what is going to be a difficult and protracted series of negotiations on the Israel/Palestine settlement.  But it raises the bar on our initiatives with Iran, apparently, and it seems that both parties to the talks, with respective popular opinion to manage, are having a difficult time coming to terms with a genuine regional framework for normalisation of relations.

No doubt there are many other manoeuvers going on behind the scenes.  The signing, today, of a long outstanding natural gas pipeline agreement between Iran and Pakistan is an indication of the real geopolitical objectives of otherwise adversarial states:


The IPI project was conceived in 1995 and after almost 13 years India finally decided to quit the project in 2008 despite a severe energy crises in that country. Pakistan is also facing severe criticism from the US over any kind of economic deal with Iran.

Official sources say that the sudden change of stance from the Pakistani government and the pace of developments at the project suggest that the strong US opposition has softened.

Pakistan, Iran finally sign gas pipeline accord Dawn Media 24 May 09

The mere fact of a Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan security summit may seem counterintuitive to our domestic perception of relations in the Middle East and South Asia but it highlights the real shift in the balance of power in the broader region which is all about energy resources, involves Europe, Russia and China and would probably warrant a future diary on the subject.  It would likely identify significantly different fault lines to those we have been led to believe exist on ideological and theological grounds by the superficial rhetoric of our punditry and explain much in the way of genuine regional alliances, threats and opportunities.  Russia, for example, is apparently way out in front of us here.

Nevertheless we have a challenge facing us in our diplomatic overtures with Iran.  We have had little in the way of clear objectives articulated by our leaders, past and present, and public opinion remains cautious and uncertain about the substance of our 'new' relationship.  Here's a realistic prescription, though it might prove hard medicine to take:


To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan -- a nation with an increasingly sophisticated nuclear fuel-cycle program that is carefully safeguarded to manage proliferation risks. Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran's relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East's core political conflicts.

Flyntt and Hillary Mann Leverett - Have We Already Lost Iran? NYT 23 May 09

But are you, and the public, prepared to accept such an outcome on those terms?  What are the alternatives?

Tags: ahmadinejad, Iran, khamenei, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

58 Comments

interesting.

but am i understanding your conclusion - is it that in order for the US to normalize its relations with iran, obama must allow iran to build a nuclear weapon? if so - wow.

also your comparison to japan doesn't apply for a myriad of reasons. but most important, that the geopolitics of iranian/american relations and the ramifications of any agreement have much more importance to the middle east than just israel. other countries in the region are equally as concerned for their own security and ahmadenijad has demonstrated lack of political expediency to quell those fears. just last month, there was a bit of a problem between tran/egypt not to mention a long-standing chilly relationship (at best) between those two countries.  

by canadian gal 2009-05-24 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: interesting.

Not build a nuclear weapon but perhaps pursue uranian enrichment within the context of the NPT, which Iran has formally signed, but disclaimed, and the IAEA, yeah.  The comparison to Japan wasn't mine, specifically, but the nuclear programs currently proposed by the Gulf states are almost equally problematic.  Pretty unlikely we are going to impose strict sanctions on them any time soon:


Following a civilian nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support across the world.

Fareed Zakaria - They May Not Want The Bomb Newsweek 22 May 09

Frankly if Iran agreed to the full IAEA regime of inspections within the context of the NPT I'm not sure what we could do to stop them.  And I am guessing that if we are counting on a trans-Arabian alliance against Iran we will be disappointed:


Obama administration officials are buying into a Bush-era delusion: that concern about a rising Iranian threat could unite Israel and moderate Arab states in a grand alliance under Washington's leadership.

President Obama and his team should not be excused for their failure to learn the lessons of recent history in the Middle East -- that the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics and that even moderate Arab regimes cannot sustain such cooperation. The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Flyntt and Hillary Mann Leverett - Have We Already Lost Iran? NYT 23 May 09

That's not to say it couldn't happen but it certainly doesn't seem likely.  And as for Ahmadenijad, he's a noisy firebrand but it is Khamenei who sets policy on foriegn affairs and the nuclear program.  The thesis of the diary is limited to the suggestion that US public opinion is going to have to shift before a meaningful negotiated settlement is reached with Iran and your response seems to support that notion.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 06:50PM | 0 recs
well..

its pretty evident since late january that obama is the antithesis of bush - has public opinion changed?  i wonder if there are any polls on this.  

what i am trying to convey (somewhat messily) is that iran/us relations have ramifications that seem to be ignored by some of the articles you cite. as to leverett's characterization of obama as foolish - i disagree completely (seemingly so do others involved) for instance:

Egypt sees in the peace process the key to most regional problems, from its diminished credibility to what it perceives as the rising threat of Iran. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with Mr. Mubarak on Monday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, has tried to promote the idea that Arabs, Israelis and Americans have a common enemy in Iran and should first unite against that threat.

Egypt agrees, but only to a point.

Egypt maintains that to tame Iran -- with which it is in open conflict -- the issue of a Palestinian state must first be resolved. As long as that conflict is festering, Iran will be able to undermine Egypt by attacking its allegiance to the peace treaty with Israel, officials here said. Egypt has struggled to convince its people, and Arabs around the region, that its commitment to the treaty is the best way to help the Palestinians and to preserve Egypt's own national security.

"I affirmed the importance of resuming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority for a clear political horizon that deals with all final status issues and that establishes an independent Palestinian state to live alongside Israel," Mr. Mubarak said after meeting with Mr. Netanyahu.


by canadian gal 2009-05-24 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Yes, that raises the fascinating subject of the linkage of these two issues, Iran and Israel/Palestine, and in what order they should be dealt with.  It's pretty clear where Netanyahu stands and the article you cited quotes Murbarak in the wake of their meeting.  Personally I don't think Obama can afford to let the Israelis set the agenda on this aspect of our dealings with Iran as it seems they have ulterior motives, not least of which just buying more time.  Murbarak's concern seems more to silence the criticism of the firebrand Ahmadinejad than Iran's nuclear capability and that ship has already sailed if Mahmoud is reelected.  We may have missed an opportuity there as Khamenei seemed disposed to censure him as recently as March.

I'm not sure I agree that Obama is 'foolish' either but I was surprised and disappointed by his statement setting a deadline for Iran's intransigence in company with Netanyahu, I hope that is a concession he made for an equally important quid pro quo by Israel but Bibi's statements and actions since his return to Israel don't inspire confidence on that point.

Given that the US has the widest freedom of action in direct, bilateral discussions with Iran I think we should try to keep these two policy areas distinct and try to manage them concurrently.  There's nothing in Murbarak's remarks that convince me he has the will to engage in a regional entente against Iran which included Israel as a partner, which is inevitable.  Quite the contrary, it seems that is the problem he is seeking to avoid as Egypt has 'struggled to convince its people' that there existing treaty with Israel is not disloyal to the Muslim world.  He wants a settlement with Palestine to get Ahmadinejad off his back.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 07:42PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

some good points in there but i would like to reiterate that my point is that us/iran relations has ramifications than extend beyond american short-term interests.

in fact i would go as far as to say that "the crossroads" is as much (or more) about egypt's geopolitical interests than israel's in many ways.

by canadian gal 2009-05-24 08:33PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I'm suggesting that normalised relations with Iran is in our long-term interests, especially as the scramble for energy resources and distribution networks to Europe and Asia shifts away from the maritime Persian Gulf model which has been largely in US control for generations.

I certainly agree that the ramifications extend far beyond the current issues we face in the Middle East and South Asia, and would further suggest that Iran is potentially an ally in many respects regarding Afghanistan, specifically, and a necessary partner in ensuring a Shi'ite majority Iraq transitions out of instability.  These are long-term objectives, to be sure, but seem achievable.  I'm assuming that Iran seeks to be recognised as a significant player in the region but also, ultimately, aspires to prosperity and relatively peaceful coexistance with it's neighbours.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 08:45PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Shaun,

This is a very helpful diary, particularly for those of us who are under-informed or tangentially informed.  This exchange with CG is also quite useful.

Generally, my under-informed position is that belligerence will prove less constructive than pursuit of both smart and tough diplomacy with well defined goals and economic incentives.  Those who argue that Iran is an emergent NAZI Germany seem as simple-headed as those who suggest that Iran is just a trumped up red herring.  Your diary seems to validate the position towards which I lean.

What I understand from this last comment is that Netanyahu is purposely twisting things the wrong way around.  Instead of Iran presenting an obstacle to the two state solution, the impasse on I/P stands in the way of normalizing relations with Iran.  Ehud Barak himself has asserted that a two state solution will not solve the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel.  I am unsure as to how real a threat it is, of course.  There is no way for Iran to nuke Israel without causing massive harm to Palestinians.  It would be like nuking South Dakota to liberate the Sioux.  I read very little of that consideration.  Now, I don't think Iran would have a problem launching a nuclear strike on a Muslim state they consider an enemy.  But Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have been positioning the plight of Palestinians as central to their attempts to assert their leadership in the Muslim world.  Whether this advocacy is sincere or merely opportunistic, and it can of course be both, attacking Israel with a WMD would blow this rationale out of the water, along with many Israelis and Palestinians alike.

But if a two state solution can be a stepping stone toward defusing the escalating conflict between the US and Iran, and if by normalizing US/Iran relations whatever threat to Israel's security Iran presents can be contained, then this needs to become part of the discussion regarding the US position on the I/P conflict as well.

As for the question of whether Obama is playing or getting played, my hope is of course the former.  It seems like every time anyone underestimates Obama as being naive, or simplistic, or insufficiently strategic, they end up being proved wrong even if they still disagree with the result.

But all in all, this is great stuff and of immediate use to those of us trying to orient ourselves on this topic.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Iran has no intention of nuking Iran. Iran's role is indeed more complex than the two state solution, but this...

"Ehud Barak himself has asserted that a two state solution will not solve the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel."

is rediculous. Nuclear weapons are first of all limited to deterent value, and since Israel has nuclear weapons, which it doesn't admit to, it is enough to deter anyone from nuking Israel.

The two state solution and Iran's nuclear program are totally separate issues, in spite of Netanyahu's insistence that they are. How? No one has been able to answer that question.

How? I can. It is "as simple-headed as those who suggest that Iran is just a trumped up red herring," because it is that simple. Netanyahu sought to relax Obama's call for a two state solution using Iran, but it did not work. Obama simple mind likewise knows that is Iran is a red herring, of no significance with respect to Iran.

The idea that Iran will nuke Israel is a simple-minded conclusion, and anyone who would repeat it is undoubtedly simple minded himself or is nerely repeating Israeli hasbara, a propaganda ploy to distract from and continue the colonization of the Palestinian territories.

People are just not that stupid to believe this garbage. And it is only hope that Obama will not play the game with Netanyahu and get the job done.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Once again, you twist what I wrote for your own purposes.  You completely skip over the central point.  I'll paste it here as you failed to read it above:

There is no way for Iran to nuke Israel without causing massive harm to Palestinians.  It would be like nuking South Dakota to liberate the Sioux.  I read very little of that consideration.  Now, I don't think Iran would have a problem launching a nuclear strike on a Muslim state they consider an enemy.  But Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have been positioning the plight of Palestinians as central to their attempts to assert their leadership in the Muslim world.  Whether this advocacy is sincere or merely opportunistic, and it can of course be both, attacking Israel with a WMD would blow this rationale out of the water, along with many Israelis and Palestinians alike.

In case it still eludes you, let me point out that this adds up to an argument against the credibility of Iran as a nuclear threat to Israel.

I trust Shaun will actually have a helpful and civil response, one that is both intelligent and appreciates the complexities of the situation.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

"Now, I don't think Iran would have a problem launching a nuclear strike on a Muslim state they consider an enemy."

On what conceivable grounds could you make such a statement. It implies that the Iranian leadership is stupid, but more than that, that they have ominous intentions if they were to gain a nuclear weapon.

Now isn't that what Israel would like people to believe: that Iran would use a nuclear weapon to attack another nation.

This kind of subtle antiIranian propaganda is just not appreciated. It makes the case for Israel to attack Iran. Nobody is listening to such propagandish crap.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

On the grounds that Iran used chemical weapons against Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war.

I couldn't give a "crap" what you appreciate or what you do not.  Nor do I think you are a reliable arbiter of what anyone listens to or not, or for that matter what constitutes propaganda.

But I reject as utterly silly that I am engaging in anti-Iranian propaganda, subtle or otherwise.

I'll request that you not use me as a straw man to "crap" up yet another helpful diary because no one wants to participate in yours.  Shaun's work deserves more respect than that, as do the efforts of others debating the issue here in good faith.

So please, cut the "crap."

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Agreed. Now if you would only stop using Shaun's diary to pump antiIranian propagamda, however, subtle you believe it to be, maybe some truthful assertions will survive.

As Juan Cole asserted, Iran has never attacked anyone since the demise of the Persian Empire. The same cannot be said for others, no names meed be mentioned.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Agreed.  Now if you would stop littering Shaun's diary with your stock trumped up slanders and twisting my position, I will desist from answering your simple-minded propagandistic bad faith "crap" altogether.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 11:17AM | 0 recs
I generally agree with what you say

But I believe you are misinformed in this

On the grounds that Iran used chemical weapons against Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war.

In fact, it was the other way around.  Iraqis used Chem Weapons, against Iranians... which resulted in a near defeat of Iran.. while the world (including the US) watched and winked.  Iran was able to avert total defeat by recruiting and sending armies of teenagers into battle.

Given that history, I can understand why Iran wants nukes

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-26 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: I generally agree with what you say

This piece backs up your claim:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/ iran/cw.htm

I stand corrected and thank you for it.  I still believe that any concerns about Iran actually deploying a nuclear weapon make more strategic sense in a regional conflict than on Israel, given the damage to Palestinians and the role of their plight in Iran's regional rhetoric.  I amend my previous statement to address only the issue of a hypothetical Iranian attack on Israel about which I expressed great skepticism.  If Iran didn't use WMDs during the Iran-Iraq war, it seems unlikely they would deploy any in a regional conflict as well.

Thanks again for your correction.

by Strummerson 2009-05-26 11:27AM | 0 recs
Re: I generally agree with what you say

I would caution you against reaching this conclusion as well

If Iran didn't use WMDs during the Iran-Iraq war, it seems unlikely they would deploy any in a regional conflict as well.

The #1 reason (and perhaps the only reason) Iran did not use any WMDs in the Iran-Iraq conflict was that they did not have any.  To paraphrase Rummy, one must go into war with the WMDs one has, not the WMDs one wishes to have.  

I am sure Iran would use WMDs if they had it, and if they faced a similar existential threat.  Same goes for Israel.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-29 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Correction: Ehud Barak was correct in implying that no relationship exists between Iran and the solution of the IP conflict, two states. But he is wrong by implying that Iran is a problem, a threat for Israel. In that sense, he is on board with the latest Israeli propaganda re. Iran. If I recall correctly, he stated that it would take nuclear tipped bombs to penetrate the Iranian nuclear facilities.

We hope that he never gets them.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I agree. An excellent illuminating diary, and I'm putting my comment deliberately here - though it's mainly in praise of Shaun - in an effort to create a buffer zone with Mainstreet who is become unproductive and trolling on these thread.

From what I gather from my Iranian friends, there is a symbiosis between the hardliners there and the Neocons in the US who both seem obsessed with creating each other as an apocalyptic enemy.

But on the scales of demonisation, let us not forget that Iran is the necessary devil of US foreign policy since it took over Cuba's starring role in 1979.

The reality of Iraq, despite the Ayatollah and Shi'ite fundamentalism, is that it remains a much more cosmopolitan and advanced place compared to Iraq. To see Iranian fundamentalism in the same light as Wahabi extremism, when they are both competitors, is one of the major blunders of US foreign policy in the last ten years.

Though I've never been there, I know many people who have or used to live there. It couldn't be more different than our received image. True, the Ayatollahs still wield immense power, but women are educated (and train in the armed forces) and amongst the young who have internet access, there is a samizdhat culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Iran also tolerates many Armenian, Christian and Jewish minorities in a way rarely seen in the rest of the Gulf these days.

For some reason, Iran became the next disastrous step in the domino of the neocons, and the rapture of the theocons.

Of course Israel has understandable fears about a resurgent and regionally dominant Iran. But everything US foreign policy has done since 2001 has strengthened Iran's hand.

by brit 2009-05-25 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Great points and helpful context, and thanks for helping us get back on track.  

I wonder about this: "Of course Israel has understandable fears about a resurgent and regionally dominant Iran."  Certainly Israel opposes the support Iran gives Hizbullah and recently HAMAS.  And yet the Israeli right and center seems to be in as symbiotic relationship with those two movements as you describe between US neo-cons and Iranian hardliners.  If Israel really wants to shed its "necessary devil," good faith diplomatic progress and demonstrable acts of good faith will go a long way to undercutting their support.  But as far as how understandable Israel's fears are, do you have any insight into why no one brings into this discussion what a nuclear strike on Israel (which I don't believe is a credible concern) would do to Palestinians whom Iran claims to support?  It seems like that would totally deflate the rhetorical position, but no one seems to raise it.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

From what I gather from my neocon contacts, Iran is part of a democratic domino effect which starts with the Hashemites of Syria and Jordan taking over Iraq, and then a cascading democratic flip of Iran.

It was this barking mad political science mumbo jumbo that caused the debacle in Iraq. I'm sure most Likud politicians don't believe it, just encourage it because

a) It keeps them under the US military and development umbrella

b) It distracts from settlement policy in the occupied territories

In that way Iran is a useful and necessary devil to play. But the idea of nuclear exchange is nonsensical. It would take Iran several decades to catch up with Israel's 250 or so warheads. Obviously, from a national security point of view, Scuds were bad enough let alone nuclear warheads. But the reality is that even Saddam in his maddest moments didn't deploy biological or chemical weapons, and Iran, which is much less dictatorial, would be basically committing mass suicide by threatening Israel with a nuclear strike.

Just my pennysworth, Strummerson. No particular insight here, except that we were in a much more lethal and precipitous position vis a vis Cuba or Berlin a few decades ago. What Israel needs to do is ratchet down the tension by bringing its nuclear warheads to the table, and forswearing any kind of 'first strike' against Tehran.

Nato and the Warsaw pact did it with the SALT talks. Rather than just bang on about Iraq's nuclear programme (1991/2001) or Iran's now, we should be pushing for multilateral disarmament.

by brit 2009-05-25 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Agreed on all but 2 points.

1. The scuds were a joke.  One fatality and that was due to a heart attack.  Maybe that was luck.  But the scuds turned out to be more a nuisance and a danger.  We were scared at the time.  In retrospect, they were quite risible.

2. The scary thing is the degree to which some Israeli politicians and their constituents actually do believe they are under a threat of annihilation from Iran.  I think you are right regarding Bibi.  He's nothing if not slippery and cynical.  But you'd be surprised how many others do indeed find this credible.  At my most nervous moments, I am skeptical.  When I look at the political landscape, I calm down.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 01:54PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

"But as far as how understandable Israel's fears are, do you have any insight into why no one brings into this discussion what a nuclear strike on Israel (which I don't believe is a credible concern) would do to Palestinians whom Iran claims to support?"

You agreed to stop pumping Israeli propaganda by repeating silly concepts like...Israeli fears...nuclear strike on Israel, etc.

So may I therefore correct these false impressions: Israel's fears are created via propaganda, and Iran has never threatened a nuclear strike on Israel.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I never agreed to stop doing anything of the sort, as that's not what I have ever done in the first place.

Now go away.  We're having a civil and substantive discussion here.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I'm doing an exceptional thing and hiderating this comment MS. You're just trolling Strummerson again.

I've actually mojoed your substantive comment at the bottom of this diary, so it's not about what you say, but your persistent attack on one poster on this thread.

You have interesting contributions to make. Don't undermine it with this mean and pointless vendetta.

by brit 2009-05-25 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

i don't agree (big surprise?)  Israeli has had the bomb for generations, and there is no credible belief that any middle east government would commit suicide by nuking Israel, that is propaganda and should be called for what it is. Israel's only credible fear is that Jews will become a minority in Israel and there won't be a strong enough constitution in place to protect them as a minority.  The way to protect the world from nuclear aggression is to get along with each other. Even hot heads need hot button issues.  If there is enough to eat, medical care, some safety from crime, schools and libraries and recreational facilities, and no hot button issues for unmarried young men to get all hot and bothered over, I think we'd all get along fine.  

by anna shane 2009-05-30 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Thanks for your kind words.  You make an excellent point about the role that Iran plays in domestic US politics and it is interesting to note the parallel with Ahmadijenad's rhetorical demonisation of us and Israel for largely domestic consumption.

And Iran is an arguably cosmopolitan nation, with a rich and long history.  It is unfortunate that the narrow grip on power by the theological oligarchy has led us to conceive of the Iranian people as an implacable enemy, it is far from the truth.  The Iranian leadership is facing immense domestic problems, economically and socially, and it is partly our willingness to continue to engage in adversarial dialogue which permits them to keep their population distracted by perceived external threats.

Ironically this suits, as you noted, the lesser angels in both nations and the same applies to Israel.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Thanks.  As a rule of thumb I prefer to ignore Ahmadinejad and watch for the statements of Ayotallah Khamenei, the actual leader of Iran.  That's not to say that Ahmadinejad is irrelevant, just that his role in the heirarchy is more informed by domestic than international policy.  However it's probably not fair to say that Netanyahu is entirely wrong about Iran's hostility toward Israel either, or that their rhetoric represents an 'existential' threat, at face value:


Praising the effectiveness of Arab terrorism against Israel, Khamenei continued: "Today, the Islamic world is becoming more sensitive and motivated about the Palestinian issue in comparison to 60 years ago, when the enormous catastrophe occurred. The resistance of the brave Palestinian people is one of the most important factors behind the world's support for them. Palestinians have proved that they deserve to be called a vital Muslim nation."

Khamenei claimed that "even senior Zionists admit" that Israel is weakening. He added that he foresees the present generation witnessing the "big day" of Israel's demise.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz - Iran's Khamenei: Islamic World 'Awakened' to Israel 25 May 09

Whether that implies that a nuclear capable Iran would preemptively attack Israel is left to the imagination.  I doubt it, and I doubt that it would be any different if a Muslim nation was Iran's perceived enemy either, given the history of nuclear capability, deterrence and restraint.  But it seems clear that the issue of Israel's existence is being used by those with pan-Arabic political ambitions, like al-Qaeda and Iran.  Khamenei has gotten a lot of mileage out of the hard-line position Iran has taken with Israel and has made many moderate Sunni states very uncomfortable.  It is a tactic used to promote the 'legitimacy' of the Shi'ite theocracy for leadership of the Muslim world and it is working.  They are unlikely to give it up even in the context of renewed diplomacy with the United States and resolution of the nuclear issue, and in that respect Netanyahu is right.

On the other hand, the plight of the Palestinians is clearly the driver of these calls for jihad and here is where Netanyahu's insistence on resolving the issues with Iran first is troublesome.  The political opportunity it affords fundamentalist leaders to rally militant sympathy or support would be deeply undermined by a permanent two state solution and a sovereign Palestine, in fact it is the only logical solution to this problem.  It is often overlooked that after 9/11 Osama bin Laden's demands were twofold, the resolution of the Israel/Palestine issue, I think he suggested Israel's destruction, from memory, and the removal of 'heathen' US military forces from the holy land of Saudi Arabia.  We quietly left Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter and have heard no more about it.

My position is that these two issues are linked, yes, but that they will not be resolved serially.  I agree with your assessment, we must pursue them both concurrently and Netanyahu's position is just the mirror image opposite of Iran's, and equally motivated by political ambition, not necessity.  On the other hand Iran's intractable position regarding Israel is going to be hard for them to climb down from, under any circumstances.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Then if we are right, the internal rhetoric in the US regarding the two state solution should incorporate its anticipated effect on undercutting the same hardliners who stand in the way of reform and threaten Israel's population.  It strengthens the appeal of sanity in terms of US, Israeli, and regional mid-east interests.  It also introduces one level of removal within the linkage, potentially getting us out of the back and forth regarding the presumed linkage.  They are linked, but less directly, more complexly, and thus more credibly.  It also describes a possibility for action that will appeal to the US public.  Americans love feeling powerful.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Well said.  It's ironic that I hadn't stressed this aspect of the issue because it seemed so obvious.  Thanks for pointing out this essential, underlying linkage.  I also agree with Brit's comment above that formal discussions which bring Israel's nuclear capability into the scope of negotiations, perhaps even in the context of international non-proliferation talks, would be helpful.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Indeed.  The game around Israel's nuclear capability is just silly at this point.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

An interesting quote buried within Ahmadinejad's rejection of US nuclear 'freeze-for-freeze' proposals:


"In principle we oppose the production, expansion and the use of weapons of mass destruction," Ahmadinejad said.

Parisa Hafezi and Zahra Hosseinian - Iran's Ahmadinejad rejects Western nuclear proposal Reuters 25 May 09

It tends to reinforce the view that Iran would accept a proposal which permitted civilian nuclear development within the constraints of Article X of the NPT, with IAEA inspection, of course.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

The only thing I would disagree with is this notion of 'existential' threat.

Iran poses a nominal threat by refusing the recognise Israel, but it is a long long way from posing an existential threat.

This term is best applied to the Cold War scenario of Mutual Assured Destruction. Too many times since 9/11 has the idea of an existential threat been played like an ace poker card.

I know many politicians on the Hill, especially after the Pentagon attack combined with anthrax, felt they were physically at risk of annihilation, but the reality is that 'Ground Zero', the cafe at the centre of the Pentagon, was a much more dangerous place to be in the 50s-80s.

Israel has many fewer 'existential threats' than it did from 1948-1973. We should keep on ratcheting down the fear, because it justifies all kinds of oppression.

by brit 2009-05-25 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I agree, I meant an 'existential' threat only in a rhetorical sense, which is perhaps an awkward way to put it in the context of the inflammatory discussion we have witnessed.  It is clear that the Iranian leadership is calling for, or supporting, Israel's destruction.  Whether that comes in the form of a nuclear payload on a missle or a suicide bomber is relevant but I can see where Israel would object to this narrative, in any case.

Whether this rhetoric would evaporate in the event of a two-state solution remains to be seen but it seems fair for Israel to insist that it ceases.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:08PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I agree that it seems fair for Israel to demand that Iran cease with this rhetoric, but not of course a s precondition to a fair and just settlement with the Palestinians.  No one knows if the two state solution would be the magic bullet for regional peace and stability.  I actually believe that it will not offer a utopian panacea.  But this is where the linkage is unhelpful.  Israel has a moral obligation to end the occupation and this is in its best interests.  Israel also has a right to demand that Iran ceases with this rhetoric and to stop funding the movements that are opposed to peace and stability.  But these should not be linked.

by Strummerson 2009-05-25 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I think we should stick with the 'best interests' argument and leave the morality for the theologians.  But I completely agree that these issues are relevant, that Israel has a point about IRan's rhetoric but that they should not be 'preconditions' or even necessarily linked to the Israel/Palestine settlement.  The way to solve one big problem is to break it up into a bunch of little problems and solve them individually.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

Shaun,

It has been reiterated time and again by Farsi experts like Juan Cole that the language in these statements by the Iranian PM or the ayatollas does not imply a threat to attack Israel. Certainly the statements in the quotes are correct regarding the Palestinian situation, but nowhere is there some indication that Iran would attack Israel as a consequence. They are doing what they can by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas in fighting Israeli occupations and the colonialism that continues. As for being a supporter of terrorism, if anyone cannot see that these groups were so characterized by proIsrael hasbara groups, which extended to the US State Department and eventually the EU, at least during the Bush administration, then they have been taken in.

But you are quite correct I believe concerning the Al Qaeda threats. But that is an issue unto itself.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 01:43PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

I am not suggesting these statements indicate a policy of preemptive attack on Israel by a sovereign Iran, but they are certainly a rallying point for militants and encourage aggression towards Israel.  Personally I think Iran is doing it strictly for pan-Arabic political motives but that doesn't make it any more helpful and I think it is fair for Israel to object to it.

Whether we make suspending this narrative a subject of our direct, bilateral negotiations with Iran, assuming we have any, is one of the difficult questions we will face.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: well..

And most would say that you are correct including the experts, like Juan Cole:

Saturday, February 21, 2009
Iran Nuclear Program Hyped again

Note to mainstream media:

Iran cannot construct nuclear bombs with uranium enriched only to less than 4%. It needs to be enriched to something like 90% to make a bomb. Iran is not known even to have that capability, and no it cannot be done in 2 months (try a decade), assuming they were trying to do it, which our $40 bn. a year intelligence agencies say they are not. So all the silly articles on Friday about how iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb are just illiterate. Moreover, the report in question actually says that Iran is slowing its enrichment activities.

h/t Jay McDonough.

Now that the Likud is back in control of Israel, flanked by even less savory far-right forces, we will unfortunately be bombarded by inflammatory propaganda about how dangerous Iran is. Iran hasn't aggressively invaded another country in at least a century and a half. In contrast, the Likud never met a war of aggression they did not like.

Nobody is listening to Likud any more, including Netanyahu's voice, because there are other more truthful sayers around telling the truth, and not just about Israel's intentional misinterpretations of Amaj's statements. There is a lot of evidence, however controversial, that we invaded Iraq for Israel's sake, and the role of Israelophile Neocons.

American needs its "never again" man in the White House and I think we have him in Obama.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: well..

And Mubarak as Obama is not the fool Netanyahu thinks he is. The cat is out of the bag. It is just not 1996 anymore.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

Relations with Iran are likely on hold until after their elections. I wouldn't expect much movement until then.

There is a sizable contingent of scholars and govt officials that believes that Iran's goal is not a nuclear weapon per se but rather the ability to build one at a moment's notice if needed.

The problem for the so-called moderate Arab states is that the Arab street prefers Iran's hardline stance on Israel to their own government's rapprochement.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-24 08:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

Yes, that's true, which mitigates against the likelihood of a regional entente against a nuclear capable Iran, I'm guessing.  The irony of the electoral delay is twofold, Ahmadinejad isn't really the 'head-of-state,' although he is a barometer of policy, and we may have had a chance in March of dealing with a moderate if we had acted expeditiously on some genuine concession, like suspending or scaling back covert activities against Iran itself.  But I agree, hence the diary, it is but a matter of weeks.

The notion that Iran would have a 'breakout' capability but remain within the constraints of the NPT and IAEA inspections is something we might just have learn to live with in coming years.  What other options would we have?  My understanding of 'breakout' capability is that it refers to a time frame of not 'a moment's notice' but a matter of months as weaponisation violates the NPT.  There are several other powers already in that situation, with more likely, many of them among our regional and international alliances.  Short of a global renegotiation of the NPT we are stuck with it, aren't we?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

Yes, a moment's notice = months.

I think your analysis is spot on. Options are limited. The Iranians have played the game exceedingly well.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-24 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

Going beyond Fareed Zakaria's assessment in the Newsweek article, "Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think." this article appeared yesterday in the New York Times also supporting another view of Iran:

With summit, Iran demonstrates regional clout

Tehran hosts talks with Pakistsan and Afghanistan to discuss cooperation

By Michael Slackman
Sun. May 24, 2009

CAIRO - Iran hosted its first three-way summit meeting on Sunday with Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss cooperation on regional issues, the latest sign of Iran's emergence as a regional power.

With Pakistan and Afghanistan fighting to hold back the rising tide of radical, Islamic insurgencies led by the Taliban, the meeting in Tehran seemed intended by Iran to assure its neighbors that working together the three could solve their problems without having to rely on the West.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran suggested that the United States was the main problem when he described "others who are alien to the nations and culture of our nations." It was a not-too-subtle swipe, but still one that Washington's allies from Pakistan and Afghanistan did not rebut. That served as another sign that Iran was increasingly seen as less of a threat to the West, and the region, than the prospect of the Taliban's controlling Pakistan or Afghanistan.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30920707

Thanks for this very informative diary. It helps to cut through some of the propaganda we keep hearing about Iran on the international level.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 03:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

The interesting thing is that this was a 'security' conference, among other things, and Iran is no ally of the Taliban either, though they do have their meddlesome fingers in Afghanistan in other ways.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

In today's Haaretz: proof that Israel is living in a bubble.

If the US or even Israel (with or without US permission) took to bombing Iran, it would immediately turn into Obama's Vietnam. The Obama recession would turn into a depression, and the Republican party would finally have an issue to bring it back again.

Barak: U.S.-Iran nuclear talks have 'very low' chance of success

 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that new diplomatic overtures made by the United States to Iran were highly unlikely to halt the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

"I believe that the chance the dialogue has of stopping Iran's nuclear efforts is very low," Barak told Army Radio.

"I also believe the Americans understand this. They only think that there is logic to this, even if the chance is low... in order to contend with what needs to, or is likely to happen in the future."

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

That strikes me as hopeful thinking which echoes the 'engagement with pressure' articulated by Dennis Ross as cited in the dairy.  And Ross' position as 'point man' on Iran policy in the State Department would certainly encourage that view.  So, no, I don't think they are living in a bubble but they are hoping that US policy is to engage Iran as a blind, make demands the Iranians will refuse and use it as an excuse to preemptively attack them later.  There is a genuine risk of that happening, especially if US public opinion remains uninformed and adversarial, which is basically why I posted the diary in the first place.  That's one of the clear directions facing us at the crossroad where we now stand.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

No bubble? Do you really believe that there is a chance that Iran would nuke Israel?

Here is another article published in Haaretz today. It reminds one of the Bush terror alert system, which somehow slowly disappeared from view, but at the time was a great paranoia button.  

'Israel will face terror, missiles in future war'  
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent  

Israel is likely to face simultaneous missile strikes and terror attacks across the country in the event of a war breaking out, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Monday.

Vilnai made the comments during a session of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which he said the Home Front Command would simulate defending against such an assault as part of a large-scale drill to be held next week.

"This isn't an imaginary situation. This isn't detached from reality and if there is a war, it's very likely that this is what will happen," said the deputy minister.

Iran is not mentioned in the article, but is everywhere present. This is a government created bubble, if not a virtual Truman Show. The Iraeli public are being manipulated into paranoia.

by MainStreet 2009-05-25 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Relations with Iran at the Crossroad

I was speaking directly to Barak's interesting quote you cited:

"I also believe the Americans understand this. They only think that there is logic to this, even if the chance is low... in order to contend with what needs to, or is likely to happen in the future."

That clearly sounds like a concession to US engagement with Iran only for the sake of justifying subsequent hard-line policy or military action.  I didn't mention anything about the likelihood of a preemptive nuclear attack on Israel, which I have specifically discounted elsewhere.  That Barak would be making that inference seems a reasonably realistic, though hopeful, assessment of the possible outcome and in that respect, no, I don't think that quote was evidence of Israel 'living in a bubble.'

As for the other inflammatory rhetoric about Israel's 'existential' threat I believe it is overstated.  It still must be addressed, however, but that's another subject.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 03:30PM | 0 recs
Re: "Crossroads"

to me, at least, always implied a deal with the devil...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMR_3BJCm h8

That's probably why.

by QTG 2009-05-25 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: "Crossroads"

Great stuff and apt too.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 02:29PM | 0 recs
Excellent diary

And I also agree with your 2 conclusions (at least, the 2 that I come away with)

(a) better relations with Iran would be a good thing

(b) US public opinion must shift before that can happen.

Any thoughts on what must be done on (b) ?

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-26 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent diary

Write diaries on MyDD?  Just kidding.  It's pretty obvious that we have been 'informed' by opinion which is heavily freighted with the political ambitions of vested interests, here, in Iran and in Israel.  It is very difficult to counter a narrative that gets under the skin of one's sense of national identity and patriotic 'duty.'  It has been used by unscrupulous leaders for centuries to manage public opinion.  Israel, for example, is about to stage a nationwide 'air raid drill' which will do nothing to assuage public concerns.  Our media, though arguably biased by liberal values, is geared for sensationalism, hyperbole and simplistic storylines.  It's up to us, ultimately, to become well informed and talk with our friends and neighbours.  We need to challenge some of the more questionable 'conventional wisdom' wherever we encounter it.  Beyond that I wouldn't know, frankly, it is the source of considerable frustration for me, personally.

By the way, your point about the Iranian experience in the Iran-Iraq war was very interesting.  You raised a much overlooked but profound influence on the current generation of Iranian leadership.  Underlying the pragmatic, fact-based analysis of international affairs I tend to believe there is a cultural animus of a nation, or more accurately a people, which is emotional, shaped by traumatic experiences and deeply affects their collective will and behaviours.  Though it argues against the thesis that Iran would be content with peaceful nuclear technology your theory goes a long way to explain what chord Ahmadinejad is striking within the Iranian population with his nationalistic insistence on pursuing their nuclear program.  I'm guessing there is a powerful sentiment among an entire generation of Iranians along the lines of 'never again.'

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-26 01:30PM | 0 recs
Apologies for the delayed reply

I had to make another trip to Wash DC, and I decided against bringing a laptop this time.

Under the issue of bringing about a change in US perceptions, I think you may have a harder time than you think.  Basically, Iranian-US relations are somewhat akin to Cuban-US relations ~ they are both held hostage by the expats who came to the US.

For both (although to a lesser extent for Iran), the expats in the US are those that had largely benefited from the regime that was supplanted by the evil revolution (Castro in Cuba, Khomeini in IRan).  Thus, the expats have a substantially hostile position to the current regime; and the opinion of the expats drives the opinion of the rest of the American public.  

Not to mention that expats can donate with enthusiasm...

It will take a lot of education to make up for that bias.  

If you will, this situation is very different from Jewish Americans, or Indian-Americans etc.

You may have to create exchange scholar programs, and then wait for a whole generation for the results.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-27 10:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Apologies for the delayed reply

No worries, always glad to hear back from you.  I guess if eight years of fear-mongering can create these perceptions than another eight years of calm reason and steady leadership can ameliorate them.  The Republicans often leave us with public perception messes to tidy up.

As for the influence of expatriates, I can see it in the case of Cuba but in this case, not so much.  I think it was 9/11 and the subsequent neoconservative propoganda which intentionally created a climate of fear.  You guys still taking off your shoes to board a plane, for example?  It's laughable.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-28 01:37AM | 0 recs
Just doesn't square with what info I've got.

Both Clinton and Obama were negotiating with Iran throughout their primary.

The Info that I've got is that Iran panicked with George Bush's Axis of Evil speech, tried to get a bomb, decided it was too hard, and 'probably not worth it' and now really doesn't want it anymore.

I'm strongly pro-Iran rapprochement, but Obama is allowed to play the game at ten different levels... which includes having destabilizing actions, while being in truly good faith at other levels.

One can negotiate with good faith even if one has the superior hand. Iran is, as always, a very complicated state.

by RisingTide 2009-05-26 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Just doesn't square with what info I've got.

Are you in a position to share your 'info?'

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-26 01:59PM | 0 recs
considering I just shared it, I guess so ;-)

I don't know much more than what I hear. And my little bird tends to be quite a bit impatient.

by RisingTide 2009-05-27 07:50AM | 0 recs
I am doubtful that Japan is the ONLY solution

to Iran's power goals. For one thing, you have many fewer people... And I do remember the wind there being quite strong.

Somehow, we will offer carrots, and sticks.

But please don't take Hillary's talk with other Middle Eastern people too seriously -- they are scared stiff of her dissolving their way of life by rapprochement with Iran.

by RisingTide 2009-05-26 01:51PM | 0 recs

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