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The Spotlight on Iran Darkens the World

The Spotlight on Iran Darkens the World

by Dan Lieberman
July 22, 2013

Iran has its political limitations, human rights violations, governance failures and domestic problems - all indefensible. Not a rational for excuse, but qualify each of the contemporary rights violations with case stories and quantify them with statistics, and Iran, in year 2013, is much less repressive compared to other nations whom the United States favors.

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, cites that in March 2012 Iran had "at least 160 Iranians imprisoned on charges including 'propaganda against the regime,' 'illegal assembly, 'communication with one of the opposition,' 'having relations with opposing groups of the Islamic Republic,' and other political indictments. These prisoners include students and student activists, Kurdish activists, woman rights activists, and people of the Baha’i faith" - a relatively few incarcerated from a large assembly of dissidents.

Saudi Arabia, pronounced in one day, on July 2, 2013, prison sentences for sixty-eight citizens who had been linked to the local Brotherhood branch and charged them with sedition. Opposition activists say there are some 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia (Ed: Probably a large exaggeration). Israel in its oppression of the Palestinian people inflicts daily casualties in the West Bank and Gaza and has 5000 Palestinians presently in Israeli prisons, down from 8000 in 2009. Amnesty International reports on violations of human rights in Bahrain show they far exceed those in Iran:

At least 200 men were arrested on 2 February when police raided a party in al-Muharraq believed to involve gay men after neighbours complained about noise. Most were released without charge but 50 were prosecuted, 30 on charges of prostitution and other illicit acts. They were sentenced in March to prison terms of up to six months. The High Criminal Court of Appeal confirmed the sentences in December; by then all had already been released.

And periodically,

More than 1,000 people were arrested in connection with the protests; some were Sunni Muslims but the vast majority were Shi’a Muslims. Most were arrested in March and April, many in pre-dawn raids at their homes, often by armed, masked security officers who did not produce arrest warrants and often assaulted those they arrested and, sometimes, their relatives.

The arguments against Iran are valid but purposefully selective. Its government's repression of media, political opponents, and minorities, and its singular religious dominance characterize much of the Middle East. By focusing on Iran and ignoring similar situations in other nations, the western powers are not resolving the cause of the problems - religious intolerance and ethnic rivalries that fuel internal and external conflicts. Sanctions against Iran weaken the populace and, as decades have shown, have little affect on its regime. Weakening one side only strengthens the other side and demagoguery become more difficult to restrain.

Despite its failures, Iran has several qualities that can be helpful to the United States' foreign policies. Its derogatory image, as depicted by the U.S. government and media, is poorly presented, politically motivated and counter-productive. U.S. State Department announcements portray Iran as:

Greatest menace to peace in the Middle East
Being classified as the greatest menace to peace assumes there is peace in the Middle East. Is there peace and has there been since the words Middle East entered the lexicon? The conflagrations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria would exist without the presence of Islamic Iran, and the former two wars would not have occurred without the United States interference in those nations. Is the Islamic Republic responsible for Israel's continuous wars with its neighbors and with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the Emirates continuous battles with their own citizens?

Today's rationale has Iran developing nuclear weapons (which it can never use offensively), starting a nuclear arms race (nowhere to be noticed) and destabilizing the constantly unstable Middle East. Is it possible that these accusations against Iran, which have proceeded for decades, make the Mullahs uncomfortable, fearful and threatened, and provoke them to develop nuclear weapons?

Until Iraq escaped from Saddam Hussein's control, Iran had few friends in the region, principally because it is a Shi'a nation surrounded by Sunni countries. The October 10, 680 AD battle in Karbala of present day Iraq, between a small group of supporters of Muhammad's grandson Hussein ibn Ali and the larger military forces of Yazid I, the Umayyad caliph at that time, divided Islam, disbursed the more social-minded Shi’a followers throughout the Arab world, and eventually brought Iran to become a Shi’a nation. Credit the Safavids, who ruled Iran from 1501 to 1732 AD, with making Iran the spiritual leader of Shi’ism and framing the institutions for the eventual theocracy of the Islamic Republic.

Naturally, the Islamic Republic seeks close relations with Hezbollah and Assad's Syria, two Shi'a brethren. Many Shi'a, regardless of where they live, are indirectly related to Iranians or look to Iran as a religious guide. It is neither strange nor contrived that Shi'a support each other's ideals and unify themselves in common pursuits.

An aggressor nation
In the year 1826 Persian Crown Prince Abbas Mirza invaded a Russian Empire that had attacked Persia for generations - the last time an Iranian military attacked another nation. Not until the September 22, 1980 attack from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, did Iran fight another war – an enviable record. Since its 1990 treaty with Iraq, Iran has engaged in a few short and defensive hostilities to protect its sovereignty, but not in any war. Nevertheless, western media give the impression that Iran is an aggressor nation.

Although the Islamic Republic fought a defensive war against Saddam Hussein's aggression, it received no assistance from a western world that responded strongly to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait - just the opposite - the United States supplied Iraq with credits, intelligence, dual-use weapons and military advice. Dutch, Australian, Italian, French and both West and East German companies exported chemicals to Iraq, which were used to manufacture poison gas. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf states provided Iraq with an average of $60 billion in subsidies per year.

A declassified 1991 CIA report estimates that Iran "suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq's use of several chemical weapons." Casualty figures are highly uncertain, and estimates suggest "the war claimed at least 300,000 Iranian lives and injured more than 500,000, out of a total population which by the war's end was nearly 60 million."

Place this information in perspective.

Although Iraq showed willingness to stop the war, Iran's terms included Saddam Hussein's disposal. This is the same Saddam Hussein, which the western nations, led by the United States, vigorously combated in the 1990 Persian Gulf War and again in 2003 in "Operation Iraqi Freedom." This is the same Iraq nation that is now a haven for al-Qaeda look alikes and is engaged in protracted civil strife. By not seizing the opportunity to assist Iran during the 1980s, the western world encouraged two wars, hundreds of thousand of casualties, a revived al-Qaeda and a destroyed Iraq. The United states befriended its eventual enemy (Saddam Hussein), made a perpetual enemy from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and then ponders why Iran is angry.

If Iran is an aggressor nation, where have they committed aggression?

Sponsor of international terrorism
Iran is charged with being responsible for international terrorism and accused of assisting international terrorist organizations. Recently, the charges have included operations in the western hemisphere. Most of these charges are superficial, inconclusive and lack supporting facts.

The label international terrorist originates from the July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires and Prosecutor Alberto Nisman's early indictment of Iranian intelligence in this affair. Considered as a rush to judgment, other investigators have refuted Prosecutor Alberto Nisman's conclusions and the present Argentine government has exonerated Iran. The search for culprits has now reached a bizarre twist - a former Jewish interior minister of Argentina will be investigated for his ties to the bombing.

Jewish Telegraph, June 30, 2013
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Jewish ex-interior minister of Argentina will be investigated for his ties to the AMIA Jewish center bombing.

The Buenos Aires Federal Appeals Court last week ordered the probe of Carlos Vladimir Corach in connection with an illegal payment of $400,000 to Carlos Telleldin, an auto mechanic who was among those charged in the 1994 attack that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.

Telleldin, who allegedly provided the car bomb that blew up the Jewish center, has not been indicted.

The three Appeals Court justices called on Federal Judge Ariel Lijo to investigate “the existence of concrete allegations involving Carlos Vladimir Corach, which have not been investigated until now” regarding the illegal payment to Telleldin.

Corach was interior minister during the Carlos Menem government in the 1990s. He was responsible for obtaining the building for the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires and was the main speaker at its inauguration.

Based upon superficial evidence, a US House sub-committee examined "Iran's threat to the homeland." Dr. Matthew Levitt, Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in written testimony before House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency on July 9, 2013, testified to "Iran’s Extending Influence in the Western Hemisphere."

Dr. Levitt cited a 500 page report written by the already discredited Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nismann. His testimony from the former prosecutor's report had no firm evidence of Iranian support of terrorism; only a claim that some apprehended individuals had apparently met Mohsen Rabbani, who "was serving as the Iranian cultural attaché in Buenos Aires at the time of the AMIA blast."

This association led Nisman to state that "In 2011, evidence emerged suggesting (not proving, only suggesting) Rabbani was still doing intelligence work (normal for a cultural attaché) in South America." And what is this evidence: " In the words of one Brazilian official, 'Without anybody noticing, a generation of Islamic extremists (not Iranian conspirators) is appearing in Brazil.'" Only in Brazil? These miscreants are all over the world, but what do they have to do with Iran?

As further proof, Nisman refers to a 1982 seminar in Iran attended by” hundreds of religious men from 70 countries". This meeting is highlighted in the report as a “turning point for the regime’s method to export the [Islamic] Revolution.” The regime subsequently summoned each Iranian embassy “to turn into an intelligence center.”

The seminar date is 1982, thirty years ago, when the cost of a new home was $83,900.00 and a gallon of regular gas fetched $1.30. Things do change. Besides, who announces sinister intentions in a seminar, to where has the Islamic revolution been exported, and don't all embassies have intelligence agencies.

To its credit, the U.S. State Department remained unperturbed and contradicted all this 'Vital evidence."

Statement on the State Department’s Report on Iranian Activity and Influence in the Western Hemisphere,” June 26, 2013.

...the unclassified annex to a recent State Department report on Iranian activity in the western hemisphere downplayed Iran’s activities in the region; this material, however, appeared in an introductory section of the annex that listed the author’s self-described “assumptions.” While one assumption noted that “Iranian interest in Latin America is of concern,” another stated that as a result of U.S. and allied efforts “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”

By influence, is only meant social and economic; no mention of any nefarious or conspiratorial activities or efforts to gain support from Catholic nations in an Islamic revolution. And why has Iran sought to extend their trade and investment to Latin America? U.S. inspired sanctions have forced the Iranian government to research every corner of the world in order to find outlets for its oil and locate suppliers for its needs.

Who are the international terrorist organizations that Iran supposedly supports - Hamas and Hezbollah, whose tit-for-tat violent operations are only with adjacent Israel and its citizens, sometimes on foreign territory, but not International in scope What assistance does Iran render to these "international terrorists?" This is never detailed and only vaguely assumed.

The Iranian government has not been involved in terrorist acts against the United States, or proven to have engaged in international terrorism. The 1980 incident in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, when Iranian students held American diplomats and embassy employees hostage, was a spontaneous attack on U.S. interests and not a government planned terrorist action. Until 2012 there had been some accusations concerning one incident in Argentina, one in the U.S., one in Saudi Arabia and two in Europe, but these have been isolated incidents and involved assassinations of Iranian dissidents in foreign territory, retaliation against Israeli attacks and an unproven assistance in the bombing of the U.S. barracks in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Most accusation go back twenty years, and none are associated with a particular organization.

Iranian intelligence has assassinated dissidents on foreign territory, such as Pakistan. Technically, international terrorism, the Ayatollahs perceive it as counter-terrorism, actions against those they claim have committed terrorist actions on Iranian soil - maybe true in some cases, but not all. Compared to drone attacks by the United States and Israel against their "terrorists," the Iranian "counter-terrorist" actions are in the digits compared to the thousands from the others.

After Israel seemed to be complicit in the assassination of Iranian scientists, and Hezbollah and Hamas operatives, the Iranians and Hezbollah were judged as equally guilty in revenge attacks on Israeli officials and citizens. The most prominent and deadly attack occurred on July 18, 2012 in Burgas, Bulgaria, where six Israeli tourists were killed and 33 were wounded.. This attack is a terrorist action, but cannot be separated from Israeli attacks on Iranian citizens, which, because they involve a consistent set of planned operations of murder against citizens of another state must be considered state sponsored international terrorism.

University professor and nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi - assassinated in a bomb attack in January 2010.
University professor, Majid Shahriari - killed in a bombing in November 2010.
Later head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani, - survived the November 2010 attack.
Electronics expert Darioush Rezaeinejad - shot dead outside his daughter's nursery in Tehran in July, 2011.
Deputy head of Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan - he and his driver were blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door in January 2012.

U.S. intelligence officials have recognized the difference between the murders by noting:

The attacks (in Bulgaria) were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents — an accusation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

The greatest international terrorist attacks occurred on September 11, 2001 on U.S. soil, when foreign terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia (none from Iran), crashed airplanes into U.S. buildings and murdered more than 4000 persons. Reverse terrorist actions have been committed - downing of civilian airliners and murder of hundreds of innocent civilians.

On July 3, 1988, the cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iranian Air Flight 655, killing all 290 passengers and crew in Iranian territorial waters. No American excuses can alter the facts - the U.S. warship had no right to be in the waters close to Iran, the plane was a civilian airliner and it made no offensive action.

So, what do we have?

Although the Iranian government has not been involved in any attacks on U.S. citizens, and both Israel and the United States have perpetrated terrorist attacks against Iranian citizens, Iran is labeled as a sponsor of international terrorism, and the U.S. and Israel treat their violence as everyday politics.

Human rights violator
No argument, Iran is a human rights violator, but much, much less than Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Tanzania, Pakistan and other nations that the United States supports. Human Rights Watch reports on three nations:

IRAN
In 2012, Iranian authorities prohibited opposition candidates from participating in parliamentary elections. They have held prominent opposition leaders under house arrest for more than a year-and-a-half. Executions, especially for drug-related offenses, continued at a high rate. The government targeted civil society activists, especially lawyers, rights defenders, students, and journalists. It also continued to clamp down on Baha’is and other minorities, and announced plans for the first phase of a halal (legitimate) internet. Authorities continued to block access to the United Nations special rapporteur on Iran.

SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens. Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention, and public and other executions continue. Human rights defenders and others regularly face trial for peaceful expression or assembly, or for demanding political and human rights reforms.

ISRAEL
Israeli authorities demolished homes and property under discriminatory policies in the Israeli Negev and the West Bank, and harassed non-violent protesters and built unlawful settlements in occupied territory. Unlawful Israeli attacks in Gaza killed dozens of civilians, and the Israeli blockade, which Egypt tacitly supported, harmed Gaza’s economy.

Human Rights violations in Iran are a significant issue, which deserve condemnation and attention from the more free nations of the world. A UN human rights report states that:

...information indicates Sunnis, along with other religious minorities, are denied by law or practice access to such government positions as cabinet minister, ambassador, provincial governor, mayor and the like, Sunni schools and mosques have been destroyed, and Sunni leaders have been imprisoned, executed and assassinated. The report notes that while some of the information received may be difficult to corroborate there is a clear impression that the right of freedom of religion is not being respected with regard to the Sunni minority.

"May be difficult to corroborate" because these Sunni leaders may have committed crimes. Jundullah, a Sunni resistance force based in Pakistan, committed a suicide bombing near the Pakistani border in October 2009, in which six senior Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders died. The same organization killed 27 people in an attack on a Shi'a mosque in Zahedan, Iran during July 2010. An ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran, Apr 3, 2007, claims that Jundullah has been "responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran [and] has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005." From where did the American news network obtain its information? ABC cites U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services as their source.

Repressive Government
Iran's principal negative qualities are its theocratic and repressive rule. The fundamentalist government does not sit well with many of its own people or with the world community, and its retrograde nature serves to make U.S. actions in the Middle East seem credible. Repressive rule arises mainly from challenges to Mullah power and from attempts to dictate morality - bans on liquor, pornography and some music, rigid control of relations between sexes and dress codes for women. These moral codes are not much different than dictates of extreme orthodox religions - Salafists, Amish, ultra-orthodox Jews, extreme Christian sects, even parts of Mormonism - only national in scope, more controlled, severe penalties and dictated by harsh laws.

Despite U.S. State Department rhetoric, Iran has had no detrimental effect on the U.S. domestic economy or legitimate U.S. overseas interests. The U.S. describes the fundamentalist Iranian government, which is less fundamentalist, repressive and corrupt than the Saudi Arabian jet setting and opulent living sheiks, as a threat to Middle East peace and western civilization that must be countered. Uncle Sam has volunteered to counter the invisible threat. This altruism permits the U.S. to staff a fleet of warships in the Persian Gulf and serve as protector of Arab nations, which coincidentally slakes the U.S. economy's thirst for oil.

The obvious hypocrisy of declaiming Iran and excusing more radical Islam nations solicits explanations. Could it be that Iran, with its oil and gas resources, vast area, educated and energetic population (75 million), and 3500 year history of great civilizations, literary and early scientific achievements, if integrated into the world of nations and permitted to develop itself to its potential would be a formidable challenge to the United States in the Persian Gulf? Is it feared that a more powerful Iran, whose parliament passed a bill in November 1957 declaring Bahrain to be the 14th province of Iran, would request its military to bring the Kingdom's oppressed Shi'a majority into its territory? Would Shi'a dominated eastern Arabia then join their brethren in Bahrain? The Middle East from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and to the Persian Gulf would be rearranged, and not to United States' benefit.

The Big Mistake
The manner in which U.S. agencies describe Iran, and the use of sanctions that greatly harm the Iranian people are sinister and bewildering. More bewildering is why Uncle Sam permits the U.S. State Department to harm its own nation. If correctly approached, the Islamic Republic can assist the U.S. to resolve foreign and domestic problems.

Iran can help ameliorate the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the United States is serious about bringing peace, stability and non-antagonistic governments to Iraq and Afghanistan, why does not the U.S. State Department solicit Iranian support and cooperation in joint endeavors? Because the United States is physically, culturally and economically thousands of miles from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran borders on both these nations, the Islamic Republic has a vital interest in stabilizing its neighbors. Already in good relations with Iraq's Shi'a dominated government and with Afghanistan's President Karzai, Iran has influence in these nations that the United states cannot deter or ignore. If the Mullahs perceive the U.S. as a perpetual threat to them, which it is, they will use their influence and try to shape their neighbors to offset the threat. By not being more cooperative and conciliatory, the United States has placed itself in a "lose-lose" situation - reckless behavior replacing wise diplomacy. Add the Kurdish problem in Iraq and Iran and the burden of Afghan refugees fleeing across the border into Iran to the mix and the Mullahs will welcome participating in forming a satisfactory solution to these Middle East conflagrations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Iranian Ali-Akbar Salehi claims, and no reports have contradicted him, "Iran has already invested over $600 million in infrastructural projects in its Southeastern neighbor (Afghanistan)." He adds,” over 3 million Afghan refugees live in Iran, above 300,000 Afghan students are studying at the Iranian schools and over 7,000 Afghan students are studying in the country's universities."

More allied with Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'a dominated government, and prone to assist Maliki, Iran has been accused of supporting the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants, a split faction from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, with contributions of $5 million worth of cash and weapons every month. Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whom Iran previously supported, has called for "unity among all people and an end to divisions among religious sects and ethnicities in the Arab country," and has issued an ultimatum, calling on Iraq President Nouri al-Maliki to "withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants from the streets of Baghdad within 24 hours."

What do we have here? U.S. and Iranian objectives and endeavors coincide - the former passively accepts al-Maliki's dictates and rejects al-Sadr's conciliations and the latter does the same more actively. As if looking at the world upside down, the American government excoriates Iran when it is helpful and refrains from criticizing Iran when it is dangerous.

As in Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic is assisting in the re-building of Iraq. The guardian.co.uk reported on January 2012 that "Iran is one of Iraq's most important regional economic partners, with an annual trade volume between the two sides standing at $8bn to $10b." Iran's FARS agency quotes Representative of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Nazzem Dabbaq as saying that "the value of the trade ties between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan region will exceed $4bln this year (2012) thanks to the two sides' growing cooperation."

Of course Iran operates for its self-interest. Isn't that how all nations operate? Nevertheless, the U.S. should not confuse competitive advantage with diabolical meddling and not regard Iran as a troubling factor in the Fertile Crescent, especially when the inhabitants of Mesopotamia consider the United States as the troublemaker in the region. Iran has leverage in Iraq and that cannot be ignored nor easily combated. Expanding the mutual distrust between Iran and the United States amplifies the harmful vibrations to U.S. interests that radiate from Baghdad.

Iran can help combat al-Qaeda
Note there is no al-Qaeda in Iran, no terrorists have been Iranians, and no terrorist attacks against U.S. interests have proceeded from Iranian soil. Compare Iran to Saudi Arabia, which preaches the most fundamental Islam, Wahhabi, and is the breeding ground for terrorists. Shi'ite Muslim Iran and the strict Sunni militant groups are natural enemies.

Al-Qaeda fighters have sheltered (not been sheltered) and passed through Iranian territory, incidents that have triggered accusations against the Islamic Republic. Again, take this in perspective:
(1) Iran cannot keep track of all the thousands of al-Qaeda associates throughout the world.
(2) The borders with Iraq and Afghanistan are long and not simple to control.
(3) Many nations have al-Qaeda within their borders. How did the 9/11 conspirators, many of whom lived in Germany, travel to and live in the United States?
How do these al-Qaeda travel from Saudi Arabia and Libya (where they live) to Iraq and Syria?
(4) Only a few al-Qaeda members are mentioned as having been through Iran. Thousands live and travel through other nations allied with the United States.

Richard Barrett, former head of counter-terrorism for Britain's MI 6 Intelligence Service, has another answer. "It's not a strategic alliance. An al Qaeda presence may suit the Iranians because it allows them to keep an eye on them, it gives them leverage in the form of people who are akin to hostages."

The U.S. can take advantage of Iran's aversion to al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, U.S. administrations have done the opposite - they have deliberately associated Iran with international terrorism and forced Iran to lessen its cooperation in combating the United States' major international problem.

Iran has a vital role in reducing the Shi'a/Sunni divide
Using slogans of democracy and freedom as the path to peace and stability, the U.S. in the last ten years has brought neither peace nor stability to the lands between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. One reason - the Shi'a/Sunni divide, which grows larger each year.

The Sunni/Sh'ia divide, portrayed as a religious conflict, is actually an economic conflict. Caliphs and Imams who centralized rule of each of the two Muslim sects, exist as spiritual but no longer as temporal leaders. Differences between the two Muslim groups on Mohammad's succession, Muslim prayer, and Sunnah/Hadith interpretation incite resentment between Muslim's extreme religious leaders, but are not sufficiently significant for many of the 1.2 billion Muslims to waste their time and energy in futile battles. A Muslim is defined by adherence to the five pillars of Islam. Both Sunnis and Shiite follow those principals and are therefore 'fellow' Muslims. The masses of Islam are no different than the masses of Protestants who don't care to whom and how their neighbor prays.

Similar to Northern Ireland, where Irish Catholics protested against their second class citizenship and economic persecution by English Protestants, the deprived Sh'ia minorities (majority in Bahrain) in Sunni led nations and suppressed Sunnis in Shi'a dominated nations legitimately protest their political and economic subservience. What is the nature of the civil war in Syria - a political and economic protest, which Radical Islam from foreign sources converted into a religious war. The protest was internal and had an internal solution. The war, dictated by externalities, requires an external solution, which is neither evident nor in preparation.

By constantly maintaining Iran in a line of fire, and giving its antagonists advantages in the shot, the United States has contributed to the widening of the Sunni/Sh'ia divide. Recognition that Iran is a major part of the solution will be a huge step toward achieving a peaceful and more egalitarian Middle East where Muslims pray freely, regardless of their differences, rather than continuance of a religiously polarized Middle East where citizens align socially and politically in accord with sectarian principles.

Iran can provide economic benefits
The U.S. ignore Iran's huge gas and oil reserves and how those reserves can benefit the American appetite for energy. Iran holds the world's third largest known oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves. Its inefficient and unstable government has been unable to develop these resources or solicit foreign capital for their developments. Why make them more unstable, more opposed to western influence, more inefficient? What can be more absurd in a world of limited resources?

A negative strategy of "harm Iran" drives United States' policy towards the Islamic Republic. If the regime is guilty of harming its people and needs admonishment, then the U.S. is more guilty and needs more admonishment - sanctions are doing more harm to the Iranian populace than the edicts from the Mullahs. If Iran's policies harmed other nations, then intervention to contain its actions is warranted. This is not the case - maybe the regime trips and falls at times and bumps against others, but its foreign policies are mostly defensive and reactive rather than offensive and pro-active.

Focusing on the embers in Iran while the Middle East goes up in flames is arson.
Containing a resource rich nation, which serves as a bridge between Arab and Oriental regions, with seaports on the Caspian Sea, Straits of Hormuz, Persian Gulf, and entry to the Indian ocean is global sabotage
Arresting the progress and development of 75 million people, and growing, is criminal and counter-productive.

Those who constantly refer to the sanctions against South Africa as a paradigm for forcing nations to change their ways do not recognize that the white population, the Afrikaners, sympathized with their government and did not want it overthrown. They deserved sanctions. If Iran is allowed to expand its economy, and if its people benefit from education and prosperity, they will demand more freedom, social justice and liberty. Increase of wage laborers in manufacturing, shipping and extraction industries will confront the clerics with a major unified force whom they will need and to whose concerns they will be obliged to respond. That is the trend of civilizations. By sanctions, the United States and its allies are attempting to prevent the inevitable, an irresponsible behavior doomed to failure, another "we had to kill them in order to save them." Them continues to widen in area - from little Vietnam to larger Iraq, to much larger Iran and then...

*************

Dan Lieberman is editor of Alternative Insight, a commentary on foreign policy and politics. He is author of the book A Third Party Can Succeed in America and a Kindle: The Artistry of a Dog.

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