A Child's Guide to US-Iran Relations

09.25.2007 | POLITICS

There's no denying that Iran is an unsavory state. It funds Hezbollah. Its record on women's rights is abysmal. It hangs citizens -- including gay teens -- in public. Also, new evidence suggests that not Libya, but Iran, was responsible for the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

But, contrary to the administration's claims, no hard evidence exists that Iran ships arms to Iraq. Nor does the International Atomic Energy Agency believe it's capable of developing nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. While only a fool would put such behavior past Iran, as pretexts for war they're at lest as threadbare as those the administration used on Iraq.

After all, why attack Iran now when we didn't in response to more obvious offenses, such as the hostage crisis, the Marine Barracks bombing or Hezbollah's campaign against Israel in Lebanon?

Recently noted analyst Gareth Porter cited a paper called "Rebuilding America's Defenses." Written in 2000, it served as the Neocons' blueprint for the Bush administration's military policy.

They actually admitted that Iran was "more the status quo power" –- in other words, no real threat. Then why obsess about Iran? It seems, Porter quotes the paper, that it wasn't the nukes so much as the "constraining effect" a nuclear Iran would have on the administration's plans for regional transformation.

They expect to achieve said transformation by means of another Neocon catch phrase. "Regime change" though, as Peter Galbraith writes, is "identified with the most discredited part of the Iranian opposition and unwanted by the reformers who have the most appeal to Iranians." Of course, neither can anyone come up with an example of bombing driving out a country's rulers.

In fact, it would require sending in troops on the ground to usher Mahmoud and the ruling mullahs out. Shades of Operation Eagle Claw (the star-crossed attempt to rescue the American hostages in 1980).

Why did Iran impose the Great Embassy Embarrassment on us anyway? What triggered it, if you'll recall, was our decision to admit the deposed Shah into the US for cancer treatment. But the US and Iran have a longer history.

You remember history. It's that stuff that those who don't remember it should and those who remember it too much shouldn't.

The US and Iran's mutual history –- all history, in fact –- can be broken down to two basic grievances that even a child can understand. In other words: He hit me first and it's not fair.

In 1952, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) controlled oil in Iran. At 85% British and 15% Iranian ownership, it sounds like a model for the arrangement the US seeks with Iraq. Worse, the British sought to further leverage their advantage by withholding their financial records from the Iranian government.

In response, Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, nationalized the company -- just Iran's 15%, though. That didn't stop the United States, which stood to benefit from Britain's hand in the Iranian till, from organizing protests to overthrow Mossadeq.

Once reinstated, our designated despot, the Shah, made his country safe for the West again. Today the administration expects Iranians to accept on faith that democracy will break out in the wake of regime change. But we forget that the rest of the world doesn't have as short a memory as us. It was only 50 years that we nipped Iran's democracy in the bud.

In other words, it's obvious who hit who first.

Unjust as that was, another element of Iran-U.S. relations is even more likely to elicit that plaintive cry no parent is spared: "It's not fair." In the words of Iran's President Ahmadinejad, "Justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program too. Then, we can hold dialogue under a fair atmosphere." [Emphasis added.]

The injustice in question breaks down to four grievances. First and most obvious: We seek to deny Iran the right to develop nuclear weapons while in possession of same. (Of course, since it insists it's not developing them, Iran can't press the point.)

Second: We also seek to to deny Iran the right to develop nuclear energy. Yet that right is guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which both the US and Iran have signed.

Third: We looked the other way as Israel developed nuclear weapons and we've drawn up a plan to provide nuclear energy and technology to India. Unlike Iran, neither are signatories to the NPT. Can you say WTF in Farsi?

Fourth: Not only does the administration fail to draw down our nuclear weapons in blatant noncompliance with the NPT, as well as oppose the Nuclear Test Ban and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties, it's developing new weapons. Americans may console themselves with the thought that nuclear weapons are less dangerous in our hands than in those of other countries supposedly less irrational. But Iranians look on, jaws agape, at how oblivious we are to our hypocrisy.

Like other international treaties, the NPT, thanks to the Bush administration, is on life support. Tearing down the "Do not resusciate" sign is a job for the next administration.

Who better to right these wrongs and restore justice? In other words who will not only save Iran from us, but spare us retaliatory attacks on our troops in Iraq and on our own soil, not to mention the havoc it could wreak on the economy? Every child looks up to heroes -- or today's hi-def version, the superhero.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the midst of a four-year makeover from hawk to diplomat. Scarcely the stuff of which legends are made, she's notorious for capitulating when the going gets rough. To pin one's hopes for avoiding war with Iran on her is to grasp at straws.

Meanwhile, as Porter wrote in another column, CENTCOM chief Admiral William Fallon may have "privately vowed that there would be no war against Iran on his watch." But he recently met with Arab leaders to convince them to unite against Iran. In other words, "Don't look at me when it comes to stopping war with Iran in its tracks."

Is there no public figure speaking out against an attack on Iran? The lack of anything more than an occasional peep from Congress leaves one with a sinking sensation. Where's the hero who will not only save Iran from us, but ourselves from us?

Such a person, however unlikely looking and despite his advocacy of nuclear energy, exists: Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He may be a Nobel laureate, but he's not one to sit on his laurels. A recent New York Times profile termed him "everyone's best hope."

But the Washington Post referred to him in a recent editorial as the "Rogue Regulator." Guess it thinks he takes the "peace" in Nobel Peace Prize too literally. In fact, he's about all that stands between the administration and its plans to attack Iran.

Here's a collection of his preemptive strikes against preemptive war:

"I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons."

"So, [Iran has] the knowledge [to build a nuclear weapon]. Sure, they have the knowledge. Are you going to bomb the knowledge?"

"Careful! If we turn up the heat too high the pot could explode around our ears."

And, for those who were wondering why, every chance it gets, the administration smears ElBaradei. . .

"I have no brief other than to make sure we don't go into another war or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say 'let's go and bomb Iran.'"

"If practically all nuclear powers are modernizing instead of reducing their arsenals, how can we argue with the non-nuclear states? I deplore this two-faced approach."

Finally the coup de grace:

"It's hard to tell people not to smoke when you have a cigarette dangling from your mouth."

International affairs really aren't much different from the schoolyard. It's all about who hit who first, what's fair and who will stand up to the bully.

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