War of words

New political space in the US-Iran relations


War of words
by AmirAshkan Pishroo

If you favor a forward, nonviolent strategy to tackle the Middle Eastern challenges of the 21st century, “diplomacy” is the only game in town. To illustrate my claim that, for us liberals of the Middle East, talk or negotiation with adversaries has become the only alternative for ending a row that has triggered regional tension, I shall discuss the recent shift in the US policy toward Iran.

When Senator Barack Obama expressed his readiness to pursue diplomacy with America’s adversaries should he win the November election, President Bush was quick to denounce such plans to engage the enemy, saying: “We have an obligation to call this what it is—the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

On the contrary, various other great politicians—political figures who wanted to refrain from war—have done that. One of the key turning points in the peace process in the Middle East was Anwar Sadat’s momentous journey to Jerusalem in 1977 to meet face-to-face with Menachem Begin. Another notable diplomatic breakthrough was the establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Communist China. This was surely the result of Henry Kissinger’s and Richard Nixon’s readiness to go to Beijing for direct negotiations with Mao Zedong.

The attendance of Under Secretary of State William Burns in the Geneva talks is, indeed, a sign of not appeasement, but of realism. It is a crack in the US diplomatic door for giving negotiation a chance, or as the Middle Eastern proverb has it: “When the head of the camel enters the tent, the rest of it is bound to follow.”

I can crudely sum up the six-hour meeting by saying that the six world powers asked Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment for a so-called “freeze-for-freeze” offer which, boiled down to its essence says: you suspend your nuclear activities; at the same time we refrain from any new Security Council resolution on sanctions; plus, we work out a multilateral deal to develop nuclear energy for your civilian purpose, and lifting of sanctions.

The Iranians, who are, to put it mildly, still going strong, insisted that “suspension - there is no chance for that.” At the meeting, Iranians did not give a yes-or-no answer to the proposed "freeze-for-freeze" offer. At the same time they urged Western powers not turn away from negotiations. The six diplomats gave Iran two weeks to come up with answer, emphasizing that the given time-period is not an ultimatum.

The Iranian response seems to cancel out the desirability of negotiation over “military confrontation” in resolving the nuclear crisis by providing ammunition for those who advocate that diplomacy as a mean to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear bomb has always been a fantasy: “It will take military means.” In commenting over the US attendance in the Geneva talk, John Bolton, a neoconservative and Mr Bush’s former Ambassador to the UN, told The Times: “This is a complete U-turn and very disappointing to say the least.” (…) “Under the freeze-for-freeze deal Iran only has to not increase its nuclear material. This is an acknowledgment and validation of its existing enrichment activities.”

Of course, proposals to bring nuclear programs under multilateral supervision are neither new nor few in number. What is new is the political space that has recently emerged and become ripped for the implementation of any of these alternative plans. This new political space represents three objective conditions and one subjective one.

First, the December National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said Tehran had halted development of nuclear weapons in 2003. Moreover, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report suggests that progress has been made by Iran.

Second, the improvement in US–Iranian relations over Iraq policy, which was the result of direct talks, has given a great boost to the American surge strategy in Iraq.

Third, the failure of the strategy of containment and sanctions to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment in line with Security Council demands. Nicholas Burns, US undersecretary of state, believes that “Iran’s work on enrichment - which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material - was “outpacing” the sanctions.” This is because Iranian political elites rightly believe in what Nietzsche once said: What does not kill me, makes me stronger!

Fourth, for good reason, if all credible experts on Iran and the Middle East agree on anything it is this: offer Iran a chance for a resumed relationship (Ray Takeyh and Joseph Cirincione); make a direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran (Reuel Marc Gerecht); and, the reward of such negotiations will be a more stable and peaceful Middle East (William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, Jim Walsh).

Napoleon once said to understand the policy of a country, look at the map. Unlike most states in the region, Iran was not born this century. It is the world’s second-oldest state after China. If the US offers Iran nothing but sticks, the Iranians are going to say, “Screw you and the horse you rode in on.”


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Euphamism free????

by constitutionalist2 (not verified) on

you must be living on planet Pahlavi?
or is it L.A.??

I hate this regime just like the 80% of Iranians in Iran.
but, what Shahanshahis like yourself don't understand is the majority of Iranians blame the Pahlavis for selling us out to the west to begin with. The Mullahs are just another western puppet, they just play the game a little different now.

If they hadn't been so power hungry and greedy, the Brits and the US would've never been allowed to do what they did.

I see the Mullahs as just an extension of US rule in Iran.
Savak turned into Savam and they're still killing thousands of our people every year just like Pahlavi.

Human Rights Watch called Pahlavi II "the worst the dictator the world has every seen".

I'm still dumbfounded by Iranians who think Pahlavi brought "freedom" and "modernization" to Iran.

remember Reagan's october surprise? These bastard NeoCons are the ones that handed Iran's military over to Khomeini instead of Bakhtiar. That's what turned the revolution against the Iranian people, not the communists or the socialists or the workers like right wing morans like you believe.


Ready to Date Her Anytime

by A Hassan Danesh, Sociologist (not verified) on

... Ms. rice is my most favorite sweet heart american politicians and I am willing to date her anytime at her most earliest convenience and if everything worked out alright together move permanently to a glitterinf condo with ocean view start writing a joint poerty book together...

"Together we go to different cool places"


Why does the U.S. get a free pass?

by 1970Kashani (not verified) on

Iran and the Arabs are the source of the Mideast's troubles: bring back the Pahlavis and it will all be alright again. The U.S. and Israeli governments are blameless. Before 1979, the Mideast was a place of "tranquility". Why hold the U.S., the planet's most powerful government and chief supporter, instructor and arsenal for the world's right wing murder-and-torture regimes, accountable for anything?


Euphemism free

by Fred on

Boiled down to its unvarnished essence, free of euphemism, the Islamist republic wants an ironclad guarantee from the West, chiefly U.S. to insure its survival. The nuke business is their backup plan and also a way of forcing the issue. Allowing it a modicum of plausible deniability this has been communicated in a thousand and one different ways by the regime’s unofficial spokesmen.  Short of that guarantee the Islamist regime is in for, to put it mildly, rough ride.  The sad, heart wrenching part is their captive, the Iranian nation, has been paying a high price for the past three decades of Islamist republic's misrule. Neither Iranians nor the region will have any chance of experiencing tranquility until this regime is overthrown.