02 January, 2007

"in Western terminology . . ."

US reporters might serve the public much better if they were to recall the terminology of "Cold War" to refer to US-Iran relations. To recount some rather quickly forgotten history & view it through that frame. Certain remarks about Iraq being an historical footnote can take on a terrifying dimension.

Mahan Abedin:

Iran and the United States are at loggerheads over all the strategic issues in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world, ranging from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to America's half-hearted attempts at promoting "safe" forms of democracy in the region. Indeed, given the depth and intensity of animosity, the best the two sides can hope for in the foreseeable future is to prevent their "Cold War" from turning into actual military conflict.
. . .

Iranian-US relations since 1979 are truly unprecedented in the history of modern international relations. There are simply no paradigms or comparative frameworks to analyze against. The complete freezing of relations for more than a quarter of a century would not be so strange had there been more symmetry between the two countries. But this asymmetric Cold War pits a global hegemon with seemingly limitless resources against a regional power with modest means.

The confrontation works at historical, ideological and geopolitical levels. While all the levels are mutually reinforcing, usually one or two dominate the hostile dynamics at any given point in time.

The Iranian revolution of 1979 was the starting point of the conflict. The new revolutionary regime's misgivings toward the United States were in essence historical and revolved around America's highly questionable role in modern Iranian politics, ranging from organizing the 1953 coup against Mohammad Mossadegh's nationalist government to buttressing the Pahlavi dictatorship. However, America's refusal fully to acknowledge the new regime (best highlighted by giving sanctuary to the deposed shah) transformed the Iranian revolutionaries' misgivings into downright animosity.

From the revolutionaries' perspective, the United States simply did not respect Iranian sovereignty. . . .

Badly bruised by the Iranian revolution (and the 444-day hostage crisis that soon followed), successive US administrations have nurtured an obsessive hatred toward the Islamic Republic. America's irrational fear of Iran is best understood in the context of geopolitical loss (ie, the downfall of the shah) and the politics of humiliation that followed. After all, the Islamic Republic sponsored the most successful anti-American organizations in the Middle East in the 1980s, not least the nascent Hezbollah, which can claim most of the credit for driving US and other Western forces out of Lebanon in the 1980s.

. . . it is very difficult to see under what circumstances the current US administration would even consider implementing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that relate to dialogue with Iran. The animosity between Iran and the US is without parallel in the modern world and is also arguably the most dangerous friction point in international relations.

Asia Times also re-prints an interview with Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif, conducted by the rightwing National Interest Online, which lists "Honorary Chairman Henry A. Kissinger," and "Chairman, Advisory Council James R. Schlesinger" on its masthead:

NIO: Do you perceive any change in the US attitude toward Iran since the release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission (Iraq Study Group) report? And how would you identify Iranian goals for Iraq? What can the US offer Iran and ask from it in discussions regarding Iraq, in order to gain Iran's utmost cooperation in attempting to restrain the sectarian fighting?

JZ: Well, Iran has every reason to want stability, national unity and democracy in Iraq with representation of all Iraq's communities in the governing structure. That is our objective and that is what we believe would ensure security for Iraq and stability in the region. We have supported the government of Iraq and we will continue to support the Iraqi government. When the United States goes about arresting Iranian diplomats who are in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi government, and are there to help the government with security, that indicates that the US might not share these objectives with Iran.

As far as US polices are concerned and the aftermath of the Baker-Hamilton report, what is needed is a change in the approach of the US towards Iran, towards Iraq, and towards the region. What has brought all these miseries to the region is that the US has dealt with the region based on wrong perceptions and a totally erroneous approach. The US must come to realize that other countries have interests, have concerns, have anxieties. The US must deal with these anxieties, concerns and interests, and not be concerned with only its own. Of course, any country in any situation will try to maximize its national interest. That's a given. But you have to address any situation based on a recognition that the other side also has these similar national interests.

If you deal with the other side as less than a human society, then don't expect to have multiple outcomes. What I'm saying is that in Western terminology, concepts are used that would infuriate the other sides. Even the terminologies used by the United States in the liberal realist tradition - such as "carrot and stick" - are not meant for humans, but rather for donkeys. In studies of Orientalism, the Eastern part of the world is dealt with as an object rather than as serious, real human societies with longer, older civilizations with concerns and needs that have to be dealt with.


Iranian diplomats arrested by US forces

By Mariam Karouny in Baghdad, December 2006

The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, has objected to the arrest by American forces in Iraq of two Iranian diplomats. US officials say that they were seized during raids against Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Iraqi security forces.

Iran said that the diplomats taken by the US military had been invited by the Iraqi government and warned that the move would "provoke unpleasant repercussions".

"The President is unhappy," said Hiwa Othman, Mr Talabani's spokesman. "He is talking to the Americans about it as we speak. The diplomats came to Iraq at the invitation of the President." He said he was not aware if they had met with Mr Talabani.

Mr Talabani, a Kurd, travelled to Iran last month in the latest of a series of high-level contacts between the two neighbours.

The US said that "a small number" of Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids, but that they were turned over to Iraqi authorities and released.Several other Iranians remained in custody.

"Our actions [to release the diplomats] were in no way dictated by pressure from the Iraqi government or any party in the government," it added in the statement.
Good they clarified that decision-making process—wouldn't want anyone to forget who's in charge now . . .


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