Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Blunt Truths About Iran

Jack Ross writes:

The official line now appears to be that “engagement” has failed, for probably the third or fourth time at that. Over at Lobelog they see the glass half full, and they may be right. If we analogize to Nixon and China, it is worth remembering that the first two years of Nixon’s presidency were no less disappointing on this front: As with Obama on Iran, Nixon initially went hat in hand to China begging for all the obvious ways they could help extricate him from the foreign policy disaster of his predecessor, but China, like Iran, saw no reason to give away the store immediately, and so, as with Obama and Iran, both sides, each for reasons of their own, have played a long game of chicken.

Optimistic reading or not, this seems as good a time as any to reiterate some blunt truths that get lost in all the nonsense about Iran:

1. Iran is Israel’s problem and no one else’s, period end of sentence.
2. The Israeli obsession with Iran is simply not rational and cannot be understood in rational terms. Iran is nothing but a scapegoat for all of Israel’s problems – with the Palestinians as well as with the rest of the world.
3. Lest anyone still raise a concern about Iran having a nuclear weapon, Peter Beinart nailed it: “The dilemma you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto.”
4. There is no reason whatsoever that Iran should not be entitled to peaceful nuclear energy, to suggest otherwise is a betrayal of extraordinary bad faith.
5. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel is not.
6. The line that the Arab states see Iran in terms as ominous if not more so than the U.S. or Israel is a bad joke. They certainly aren’t pleased to see Iran become a more dominant power in the region, but few today can remember the analogous farce when the Israelis insisted that the real worry of the Arab states was the Soviet Union.
7. Lest anyone invoke any kind of principles of justice regarding the last point, Iran is the most democratic and bourgeois society which presently exists in Southwest Asia. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still fall far short of the ideal, but, to take just one example, Iranian restrictions on the rights of minor political parties can often pale in comparison to those that prevail in the United States.

In conclusion, I’ve long felt that the figure in history to whom George W. Bush was most comparable is Napoleon III, the short version being that Afghanistan was Mexico, Iraq was Italy, and, by the grace of God, we have been spared Iran as Prussia. But perhaps the most spot-on part of the analogy is that the most logical course for Napoleon III to take would have been to ally with Austria in order to contain if not thwart the rise of a unified Germany, but to his ultimate downfall he refused, blinded by republican ideology.

So it has been with the United States and Iran since 9/11. That we have installed the best allies of Iran in both Iraq and Afghanistan is but natural when we recall that Napoleon III had to frequently side with the Vatican in Italy and installed a Habsburg prince on the Mexican throne. But now American ideological blindness may lead to some disastrous consequences, such as standing in the way of what could be a powerful Iran-India alliance that could once and for all contain the lingering menaces of Afghanistan and Pakistan and provide a bright Metternichian future for the region. Yet as the inevitable ultimately brought on the downfall of the Second Empire, so shall it too the neocon regency.

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