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The Unanswered Mail Of Insecure Males

The Unanswered Mail Of Insecure Males

From Undernews compiled by Editor Sam Smith

SAM SMITH - What drives American foreign policy as much as - if not more than - ideology is male insecurity mitigated occasionally by women secretaries of state trying to prove that they can act just as insecurely as males. It is a foreign policy led by an intelligentsia that went to Ivy schools or Georgetown but wishes it had played football for Notre Dame.

The aim of American leaders is not merely to impress foreigners with their manliness but their colleagues, constituents and the media as well, the latter happily joining in the myth that Washington is nothing more than the world's largest junior high playground. The GOP is the best at this illusion, leaving the Democratic Party to act like dysfunctional bully victims.

According to the playground rules it is far better to get bogged down in a country you have invaded than to have engaged in peace talks that didn't lead any place. A peace conference can be pronounced a failure by the media before that last participant has arrived home, but that same media to this day refuses to call our Iraqi invasion a failure.

For such reasons does the letter from Iran's premier to the president remain unanswered.


FARHANG JAHANPOUR, TRANSNATIONAL FOUNDATION - The 18-page long letter does not contain any new suggestions on Iran's nuclear file, but has criticized some of the United States recent policies in the Middle East. US officials have summarily dismissed it as 'rambling' and not addressing the nuclear standoff. They have also indicated that they do not intend to respond to the letter.

However, the very fact that the hard-line Iranian president who had declared only a short time ago that there was no need to talk to the United States has decided to take this unusual step is of enormous significance, at least as a reflection of Iran's internal politics. This is the first time in more than a quarter century since the Islamic revolution that the Iranians have broken the taboo of directly communicating to US officials. If the wiser heads in Washington decide to take the letter more seriously and use it as an opening shot in more detailed and substantial communications between the two countries, it could usher in a new era in Iran-US relations. . .

Before jumping to yet another disastrous war in the volatile Persian Gulf region, it is necessary to weigh all the options and to see if there is a more realistic way of resolving the dispute. Given the American preoccupation in Iraq and Afghanistan a full-scale invasion of Iran, which would require hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars of expenditure, is beyond the realm of possibility. However, it is argued that the US could launch an aerial and naval attack on Iran's suspected nuclear sites and delay Iran's program by a number of years. The best case scenario for such an attack would be that thousands - most probably tens of thousands - of Iranians would be killed, US's image in the Islamic world and beyond would be further damaged and the outcome of the raid would be uncertain.

The worst case scenario is too horrible to contemplate. It is absolutely certain that the Iranians - even the opponents of the present regime who could be counted on as the West's best friends - would fall behind the regime and any prospect of democratic reform in Iran would be put back by many years. Worse still, the Iranian regime is bound to retaliate not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also against Israel and against American interests in the Persian Gulf. More than three years after the invasion of Iraq when it was alleged that Iraq's abundant oil would pay for her reconstruction and the price of oil would plummet, Iraq's oil output is still less than the pre-invasion level and oil price has not gone below $60.00 a barrel. It is difficult to remember that only a few years ago the price of oil was a quarter of what it is now.

Oil installations are very easy to sabotage and massive installations on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf provide very rich pickings. Nearly two-fifths of the world's oil exports pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which is dominated by Iran. It does not require powerful missiles or sophisticated means to make shipping through that narrow Strait very risky indeed. . .

The mutual feeling of hostility between the United States and Iran runs deep, but is not something that could not be overcome with some farsighted diplomacy. After all, Iran was America's chief ally in the Middle East under the shah. With American assistance Iran had become the gendarme of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and the shah's arsenals were brimming with the most advanced American weapons.

It is often forgotten that the American Administration was helping and indeed encouraging the shah's regime to build more than 20 nuclear reactors. The Bushehr reactor, which is at the centre of dispute, was nearly completed by 1978. Iranian students constituted the largest number of foreign students in American universities for many years and there were more than 100,000 US military advisors and civilian contractors working in Iran.

The Islamic revolution put an end to all that and replaced the strongest pro-American regime in the Middle East with an intensely anti-American theocracy. The images of US diplomats taken hostage by militant Iranian students have been etched on American memory and are difficult to erase. Yet it is often forgotten that the hostage crisis did not come out of the blue. The Iranians who had the memory of US backing for the CIA-led coup that toppled Dr Mohammad Mosaddeq's nationalist government in 1953 were suspicious of the repetition of the same scenario when the shah was admitted to the United States for medical treatment. It should also be remembered that during the first year of the Islamic regime there were three unsuccessful military coups against the regime organised by the shah's former generals and his last prime minister Dr Shapur Bakhtiar, and the mullahs suspected US backing or acquiescence for those attempted coups. . .

Iran was hoping to get the sanctions imposed by the United States over the past quarter century lifted, having her frozen assets released and above all receive security guarantees. The EU3 could not provide any of the above, while the US Administration and Congress continued with threats of regime change and invasion.

After over two years of stalemate in the talks, Iran decided to resume limited enrichment activities that she had voluntarily suspended, after informing the IAEA. This provided the United States with the excuse to push for the referral of Iran to the Security Council. In his report to the IAEA in March 2006, [director Mohamed ElBaradei] stated:

"As our report earlier this month made clear, Iran continues to fulfill its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol by providing timely access to nuclear material, facilities and other locations."

After Iran's file was referred to the Security Council, ElBaradei urged caution and a return to negotiations. "Everybody is looking forward to a political settlement," Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency's director general and the most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, told reporters in Vienna at the end of the meeting on Iran. He added: "What we need at this stage is cool-headed approaches. We need for people to lower the rhetoric." He also urged that once security issues began to be discussed with Iran, "the U.S. should be engaged into a dialogue."

What ElBaradei said makes eminent sense. Given the alternatives to talks, the only sane solution to the dispute is for Iran and the United States to leave the past behind and to get engaged in substantive talks about a whole host of issues. The United States should expand the scope of the proposed talks on Iraq and should discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran's support for Hizbullah and HAMAS, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the security in the Persian Gulf, the issue of sanctions and Iran's frozen assets. It is only as a part of these comprehensive talks that both sides would be willing to make substantial concessions in return for receiving meaningful compromises. . .

The present Iranian regime is deeply unpopular with a large majority of educated and young Iranians who constitute 70 percent of the population. A military attack on Iran is the surest way to unite all the Iranians behind the regime.

Israel's security, meanwhile, would best be served by an Iranian government that is more engaged with the West than one that is isolated, or by inflicting yet one more disastrous conflict on the region.

The policy of sanctions, followed by military action and regime change has failed and is bound to fail again. The time has come for a bold initiative that would stabilize the region and would also help Iran towards greater democracy.

[Farhang Jahanpour is a British national of Iranian origins. He is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Iran, a former Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at Harvard, and a part-time tutor on Middle Eastern Studies at the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford]

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