The U.S. and Iran: War or Dialogue?
No War With Iran
By Charley Reese
If we allow the Bush administration to drag this country into a war with Iran, we should all burn our voter-registration cards and go ahead and admit that we are no longer worthy of being citizens of a self-governing republic.
For heaven’s sake, the administration is employing the same tactics it used to justify the war against Iraq—refusal to negotiate, lies, disinformation and demonization of the Iranian leader. Are we going to fall for the exact same con job all over again? If so, we are far too dumb to be trusted near a voting booth.
Recently, a story was floated that the Iranians had passed legislation requiring religious minorities to wear an identifying badge. “Nazi, Nazi” cried the neocon warmongers. Trouble is, the story was completely false [see article p. 23]. No such legislation was passed, and this bit of disinformation was knocked askew by the representative of Iran’s Jewish community in the Iranian parliament.
The source of the story was an Iranian who had been a big shot when the shah was in power and is now with a public-relations firm that represents—surprise—many of the neoconservatives.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also told a big whopper when he said Iran was only months away from making a nuclear bomb. No nuclear expert I’m aware of agrees with that assessment, and Olmert is no nuclear expert. Even assuming Iran wants a bomb, it is years away from being able to produce one.
It’s clear that the Bush administration has chosen war. One, it refuses to negotiate with Iran; two, it refuses to recognize Iran’s right, as a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes; three, it has already set up an office in the Pentagon and another in the State Department to agitate for regime change; and four, it has begun its anti-Iranian propaganda campaign.
President Bush is a liar when he says he wants to use diplomacy to end the crisis. In the first place, he created the crisis; in the second place, he refuses to negotiate; and in the third place, he has, for all practical purposes, issued an ultimatum: Give up your right to enrich uranium, or we’ll attack.
No country in the world wants us to attack Iran except Israel. That’s no surprise. If the American people haven’t figured out that Israel exerts an undue and injurious influence on the American government, then that’s another reason for them to tear up their voter-registration cards.
And if driving toward war with Iran isn’t bad enough, the Bush administration has restarted the Cold War with Russia by its incessant criticism of Vladimir Putin’s government. I think, sometimes, that the whole Bush administration is out of touch with reality and should be on medication, starting with the president and vice president.
When you consider the wars, the profligate spending, the out-of-control debt and trade deficits, the refusal to control the borders, the alienation of most of the world and the constant spitting on the Constitution and civil liberties, you can conclude that this administration is going to destroy the United States as we know it. I don’t say that lightly. I never in a million years would have imagined that this administration would do what it’s done.
And if you are one of those arm-chair jingoists who thinks it’s fun to kill foreigners, just keep that thought in mind when you have to pay $10 a gallon for gasoline and the economy comes crashing down on your head. Sure, we can damage Iran’s nuclear facilities and kill a lot of Iranians, but we can’t do it and keep the oil flowing out of the Persian Gulf at the same time.
It isn’t out of concern for the Iranians that the rest of the world doesn’t want a war. It’s because other nations recognize the damage it will cause the world economy. It’s also because they recognize that this is a phony crisis, like Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.
Even if Iran developed a nuclear weapon, so what. We have thousands; the Israelis have hundreds. Iran isn’t going to attack anybody. It hasn’t attacked anyone in the past 100 years.
Charley Reese is a nationally syndicated columnist. This column was first syndicated June 2, 2006. Copyright ©2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
If Iran Is Ready to Talk, the U.S. Must Do so Unconditionally
By Jonathan Steele
It is 50 years since the greatest misquotation of the Cold War. At a Kremlin reception for Western ambassadors in 1956, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced: “We will bury you.” Those four words were seized on by American hawks as proof of aggressive Soviet intent.
Doves who pointed out that the full quotation gave a less threatening message were drowned out. Khrushchev had actually said: “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.” It was a harmless boast about socialism’s eventual victory in the ideological competition with capitalism. He was not talking about war.
Now we face a similar propaganda distortion of remarks by Iran’s president. Ask anyone in Washington, London or Tel Aviv if they can cite any phrase uttered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the chances are high they will say he wants Israel “wiped off the map.”
Again it is four short words, though the distortion is worse than in the Khrushchev case. The remarks are not out of context. They are wrong, pure and simple. Ahmadinejad never said them. Farsi speakers have pointed out that he was mistranslated. The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” just as the shah’s regime in Iran had vanished.
He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The “page of time” phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon. There was no implication that either Khomeini, when he first made the statement, or Ahmadinejad, in repeating it, felt it was imminent, or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about.
But the propaganda damage was done, and Western hawks bracket the Iranian president with Hitler as though he wants to exterminate Jews. At the recent annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobby group, huge screens switched between pictures of Ahmadinejad making the false “wiping off the map” statement and a ranting Hitler.
Misquoting Ahmadinejad is worse than taking Khrushchev out of context for a second reason. Although the Soviet Union had a collective leadership, the pudgy Russian was the undoubted No. 1 figure, particularly on foreign policy. The Iranian president is not.
The remarks are not out of context. Ahmadinejad never said them.
His predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, was seen in the West as a moderate reformer, and during his eight years in office Western politicians regularly lamented the fact that he was not Iran’s top decision-maker. Ultimate power lay with the conservative unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Yet now that Ahmadinejad is president, Western hawks behave as though he is in charge, when in fact nothing has changed. Ahmadinejad is not the only important voice in Tehran. Indeed Khamenei was quick to try to adjust the misperceptions of Ahmadinejad’s comments. A few days after the president made them, Khamenei said Iran “will not commit aggression against any nation.”
The evidence suggests that a debate is going on in Tehran over policy toward the West which is no less fierce than the one in Washington. Since 2003 the Iranians have made several overtures to the Bush administration, some more explicit than others. Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to Bush was a veiled invitation to dialogue. Iranians are also arguing over policy toward Israel. Trita Parsi, an analyst at Johns Hopkins University, says influential rivals to Ahmadinejad support a “Malaysian” model whereby Iran, like Islamic Malaysia, would not recognize Israel but would not support Palestinian groups such as Hamas, if relations with the U.S. were better.
The obvious way to develop the debate is for the two states to start talking to each other. Last winter the Americans said they were willing, provided talks were limited to Iraq. Then the hawks around Bush vetoed even that narrow agenda. Their victory made nonsense of the pressure the U.S. is putting on other U.N. Security Council members for tough action against Iran. Talk of sanctions is clearly premature until Washington and Tehran make an effort to negotiate. In advance of Condoleezza Rice’s June 1 meeting in Vienna yesterday with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, the factions in Washington hammered out a compromise. The U.S. is ready to talk to Tehran alongside the EU3 (Britain, France and Germany), but only after Tehran has abandoned its uranium-enrichment program.
To say the EU3’s dialogue with Tehran was sufficient, as Washington did until this week, was the most astonishing example of multilateralism in the Bush presidency. A government that makes a practice of ignoring allies and refuses to accept the jurisdiction of bodies such as the International Criminal Court was leaving all the talking to others on one of the hottest issues of the day. Unless Bush is set on war, this refusal to open a dialogue could not be taken seriously.
The EU3’s offer of carrots for Tehran was also meaningless without a U.S. role. Europe cannot give Iran security guarantees. Tehran does not want non-aggression pacts with Europe. It wants them with the only state that is threatening it both with military attack and foreign-funded programs for regime change.
The U.S. compromise on talks with Iran is a step in the right direction, though Rice’s hasty statement was poorly drafted, repeatedly calling Iran both a “government” and a “regime.” But it is absurd to expect Iran to make concessions before sitting down with the Americans. Dialogue is in the interest of all parties. Europe’s leaders, as well as Russia and China, should come out clearly and tell the Americans so.
Whatever Iran’s nuclear ambitions, even U.S. hawks admit it will be years before it could acquire a bomb, let alone the means to deliver it. This offers ample time for negotiations and a “grand bargain” between Iran and the U.S. over Middle Eastern security. Flanked by countries with U.S. bases, Iran has legitimate concerns about Washington’s intentions.
Even without the U.S. factor, instability in the Gulf worries all Iranians, whether or not they like being ruled by clerics. All-out civil war in Iraq, which could lead to intervention by Turkey and Iraq’s Arab neighbors, would be a disaster for Iran. If the U.S. wants to withdraw from Iraq in any kind of order, this too will require dialogue with Iran. If this is what Blair told Bush at the end of May, he did well. But he should go all the way, and urge the Americans to talk without conditions.