[shorter version posted at dkos]
Behind the NY Times Select firewall today, some very sane comments from a “centrist” directed at an increasingly insane Bush administration:
“Not so strange Bedfellow”
Here’s a little foreign policy test. I am going to describe two countries — “Country A” and “Country B” — and you tell me which one is America’s ally and which one is not.
Country A actively helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and replace it with a pro-U.S. elected alliance of moderate Muslims. Country A regularly holds sort-of-free elections. Country A’s women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students and are fully integrated into the work force. On 9/11, residents of Country A were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations. Country A’s radical president recently held a conference about why the Holocaust never happened — to try to gain popularity. A month later, Country A held nationwide elections for local councils, and that same president saw his candidates get wiped out by voters who preferred more moderate conservatives. Country A has a strategic interest in the success of the pro-U.S., Shiite-led, elected Iraqi government. Although it’s a Muslim country right next to Iraq, Country A has never sent any suicide bombers to Iraq, and has long protected its Christians and Jews. Country A has more bloggers per capita than any country in the Muslim Middle East.
The brand of Islam practiced by Country A respects women, is open to reinterpretation in light of modernity and rejects Al Qaeda’s nihilism.
Now Country B: Country B gave us 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. Country B does not allow its women to drive, vote or run for office. It is illegal in Country B to build a church, synagogue or Hindu temple. Country B helped finance the Taliban.
Country B’s private charities help sustain Al Qaeda. Young men from Country B’s mosques have been regularly recruited to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq. Mosques and charities in Country B raise funds to support the insurgency in Iraq. Country B does not want the elected, Shiite-led government in Iraq to succeed. While Country B’s leaders are pro-U.S., polls show many of its people are hostile to America — some of them celebrated on 9/11. The brand of Islam supported by Country B and exported by it to mosques around the world is the most hostile to modernity and other faiths.
Question: Which country is America’s natural ally: A or B?
Country A is, of course. Country A is Iran. Country B is Saudi Arabia.
Don’t worry. I know that Iran has also engaged in terrorism against the U.S. and that the Saudis have supported America at key times in some areas. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that the hostility between Iran and the U.S. since the overthrow of the shah in 1979 is not organic. By dint of culture, history and geography, we actually have a lot of interests in common with Iran’s people. And I am not the only one to notice that.
Because the U.S. has destroyed Iran’s two biggest enemies — the Taliban and Saddam — “there is now a debate in Iran as to whether we should continue to act so harshly against the Americans,” Mohammad Hossein Adeli, Iran’s former ambassador to London, told me at Davos. “There is now more readiness for dialogue with the United States.”
More important, when people say, “The most important thing America could do today to stabilize the Middle East is solve the Israel-Palestine conflict,” they are wrong. It’s second. The most important thing would be to resolve the Iran-U.S. conflict.
That would change the whole Middle East and open up the way to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, because Iran is the key backer of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Syria. Iran’s active help could also be critical for stabilizing Iraq.
This is why I oppose war with Iran. I favor negotiations. Isolating Iran like Castro’s Cuba has produced only the same result as in Cuba: strengthening Iran’s Castros. But for talks with Iran to bear fruit, we have to negotiate with Iran with leverage.
How do we get leverage? Make it clear that Iran can’t push us out of the gulf militarily; bring down the price of oil, which is key to the cockiness of Iran’s hard-line leadership; squeeze the hard-liners financially. But all this has to be accompanied with a clear declaration that the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Iran, but a change of behavior, that the U.S. wants to immediately restore its embassy in Tehran and that the first thing it will do is grant 50,000 student visas for young Iranians to study at U.S. universities.
Just do that — and then sit back and watch the most amazing debate explode inside Iran. You can bet the farm on it.
A very important voice, one which cannot be accused of Bush-hating, surrender monkeying, liberalism, or the many other labels flung about by those who will blindly follow this jackass president to hell.
Juan Cole points out that as the US becomes weaker in Iraq, and loses influence to Iran, the saber rattling is ramped up on a daily basis. US forces are being prepared for an aerial bombardment of Iran. Acts of provocation have begun. Sometime after February 20, Buscheney and their neocon flying monkeys are going to take us to war with Iran, based on the rants of a powerless Iranian president and little else. They have to be stopped.
Please send this around.