Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reply to WSJ Why U.S. Diplomacy Will Fail With Iran

This is my comment on Why U.S. Diplomacy Will Fail With Iran by Edward N. Luttwak.

Edward Luttwak doesn’t miss a beat here in relating all of Iran’s politics, history and policies to the US and Israel. Neither does he fail us for an instance in imagining that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s political dominance in many areas of Iraq could not be overwhelming, even aginst a strident, naive, psuedo-reformist opponent such as Mir-Hossein Mousavi. What all this right-wing analysis so au current in the press fails to appreciate is that while Mousavi is well to the left of Ahmadinejad is several respects, his positions are much less acceptable to the dominant right wing of Iran’s clergy than even Ahmadinejad’s, who is also seen by them as a potentially dangerous progressive. Another weakness in this analysis is that neither Mohammad Khatami nor Ahmadinejad were “chosen” by Ayatollah Khameni, as Mr. Luttwak alledges. Regardless of their strict control of media and the police, the fact is the Iranian clergy are still operating a type of theocratic democracy, no matter how lunatic it may appear to outsiders in love with their own democratic systems.

Add into the mix, Mr. Luttwak’s complete historical reinvention of the details of Operation Ajax, the incredible coup against Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953, and you have seen the value the neoconservative movement in America today. What we have here is exactly the view that Iran is anti-American, and anti-Israel, because, well, they’re bad, instead of recognizing that Iran is possibly, and continues to be, the the number one victim of America’s continuing plots to control it and many other countries in the middle east, and the recipient of continuing threats from Israel, a country well-known for its clashes with bordering peoples and military surgical strikes against “common enemies”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that America is “bad” either - it’s just that all belligerent countries are considered badly by their opposing belligerent countries. The main implied assertion by Luttwak that Iran “needs” the US to be an enemy is not at all substatiated: Remember when we were all “Imperialists”, and how quickly that changed once dialogue became possible?

I think I can do Mr. Luttwak one better in his analysis of the 2009 elections. Mir-Hossein Mousavi is, as we know, an old hand in Iranian politics, having served as prime minister of an almost completely totalitarian government from 1981 to 1989. The fact that he was available to oppose the phlegmatic and problematic Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2009 shows strong signs of being an “inside job”. The fact that he was allowed to stay under house arrest and maintain claims of election racketeering and stir up dissent on his website while 3,000 of his supporters were arrested, and in many cases, tortured or abused, also looks very fishy. It is still not clear whether he himself will be charged by his old cronies.

Mr. Luttwak wants to return to the good old days of sanctions, threats, and even better, nevertheless he doesn’t take into account is that our perception of Iran is based on our own sociological assumptions about their role in the world, based in turn, here, on the neoconservative world view. What is much superior, is Mr. Obama’s position of staying open to dialogue, and possibly achieve important gains for the Iranian people and ourselves. Even if Iran’s plans to develop nuclear energy are countered prematurely by Israel, or a combination of Israel and America, Iran will not suffer; it will, like Hezbollah, merely impose on its opponent whatever it perceives as a necessary countermeasure, damaging our interests, and sink back into the anti-American, anti-Israel morass it is in even deeper. This is the nature of limited war and sanctions: The opponent never really gets to change their position and appears to be the eternal enemy. Barack Obama’s Iran policy is the exact opposite and carries the possibility of transformation.
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