Detente With Iran
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Wrong
Ideas Are Sinking America
Iran policy was one blunder after another, beginning with placing
Iran on an "axis of evil" list. His policy set out not
to resolve the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. He followed through
by spurning the opportunity for a settlement in 2003.
was to fight the "evil", which meant getting rid of that
"evil". That meant either making Iran do what the U.S.
wanted or changing the regime in Iran. The methods were to confront
Iran, isolate it, stop it from becoming a regional power, get it
to back down, weaken it, get it to abandon any and all its nuclear
ambitions, sanction it, and support dissidents inside Iran. Iran
would not only be contained, it would be reduced.
was anti-detente. It was neoconservative policy, that is, arrogant,
self-righteous, vengeful, spiteful, pugnacious, and warlike policy.
It was blind and stupid policy, based on the mistaken beliefs that
U.S. military power is supreme and that the dominant and sole superpower
will therefore get its way, by bomb or by drone, by threat or by
sanction, by U.N. resolution or by war.
eight disastrous years, one might suppose that a new administration,
a Democrat administration, and a new president who had promised
change might change Bush’s policy toward Iran. This was not to be.
Obama has not altered the anti-detente policy nor, for that matter,
other of Bush’s policies. To all those who expected that he would
change Bush’s Iran policy, Barack Obama has been a major and complete
disappointment. He changed nothing but the occupants of the White
House. He hand picked Hillary Clinton and others who, acting as
his lieutenants, continued and expanded Bush’s policy. Congress
supported him by remaining firmly wedded to anti-detente.
between the U.S. and Iran has therefore not been resolved. It has
is going to resign after the next election. If Obama is re-elected,
that makes it easier for him to shift his Iran policy 180 degrees,
should he choose to. He should do it, because the current policy
has failed miserably and will continue to fail. The U.S. has gained
nothing from seeking to undermine and isolate Iran. Instead it marches
The U.S. cannot
eradicate the Iran regime, it cannot make Iran go away, and it cannot
bring Iran under its control, that is, not without creating a disaster
for itself and the entire world. The U.S. cannot change the regime
in Iran by anything less than warring on Iran and occupying the
country. Doing that entails huge costs and risks to the U.S., all
the countries in that region, and the many other countries that
would be affected by it, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan
and Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski recently said that an Israeli
attack on Iran would create a disaster, So would a U.S. attack,
possibly igniting the whole region, tying down the U.S. for years,
sowing enmity between the U.S. and the major powers, driving up
oil prices, undermining economies, and destroying world trade upon
which global progress is based. Morally such an attack would be
completely wrong. It would set peace back for the world’s dominant
power to launch a preventive or preemptive war. It would reinforce
this doctrine among other nations. Force would become the heart
of international relations. The peaceful application of rights in
international law would be thwarted.
Iran is not a rational option but that fact reduces by very little
the chance that Obama or a successor like Romney will make war and
be supported by other European powers. If these leaders should have
a few moments of sanity, then they may realize that what is rational
is accommodation with Iran, a deal, give and take, a quid pro quo.
What is rational
concerning Iran is detente.
"go to Iran" in the same way that Nixon went to China.
His policy should be detente. By that I mean quite a bit more, what
we might call "ultra" detente – a broad settlement of
issues via negotiation. One can also term it rapprochement or accommodation.
It has been called a "grand bargain". Naturally, I do
not mean that he should go hat in hand to Teheran. I mean that the
U.S. and Iran should negotiate the issues and cap an agreement with
a symbolic meeting of some kind.
will immediately object that this is easier said than done. This
is a petty and false objection. Of course, it will take skilled
diplomacy. But what it really takes is something that the neocons
resist, which is a change of directions. Detente means that the
U.S. recognizes Iran, treats it with respect, pledges to leave it
alone, pledges its security from attack by the U.S., and integrates
it into the world. Detente means that Iran settles its differences
with Israel and stops using its proxies as threats to Israel. Detente
means that Israel changes its policies so as to settle its outstanding
differences with the Palestinians. Israel’s nature as a state has
to be clarified and settled if there is to be peace.
mean that Iran rises as a regional power and Israel declines, but
this can be done diplomatically. The neocons want the U.S. and Israel
to thwart Iran and for Israel to thwart the Palestinians. This is
a policy of perpetual friction, tension and war. Detente aims for
the opposite. If it can be done between the U.S. and Russia and
between the U.S. and China, then it can be done between the U.S.
and Iran and between Israel and its neighbors.
will claim that negotiation has been tried already. They will claim
that Iran’s leaders are irrational ideologues and that negotiation
is impossible. These claims are totally false. Dr. Trita Parsi,
in his 2007 book, Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of
Israel, Iran, and the United States, debunks them completely.
Parsi interviewed 130 American, Iranian and Israeli officials and
analysts in order to understand their foreign relations. I recommend
The best proof
that Iran is rational, will negotiate, and that detente is possible
is simply to read Iran’s 2003 negotiation proposal to the United
States. It is here
An interpretative article, one of many on the web, is here.
U.S. intransigence with respect to Iran (and to understand the misinformation
and lies that continually bombard Americans from their government),
I quote Parsi at some length concerning the proposal:
Iranians prepared a comprehensive proposal, spelling out the contours
of a potential grand bargain between the two countries addressing
all points of contention between them. The first draft of the
proposal was written by Sadegh Kharrazi, the nephew of the Iranian
foreign minister and Iran’s ambassador to France. The draft then
went to Iran’s supreme leader for approval, who asked Iran UN
Ambassador Zarif to review it and make final edits before it was
sent to the Americans. Only a closed circle of decision-makers
in Tehran was aware of and involved in preparing the proposal
– Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, President Mohammad Khatami,
UN Ambassador Zarif, Ambassador to France Kharrazi, and Ayatollah
Ali Khamanei. In addition, the Iranians consulted Tim Guldimann,
the Swiss ambassador to Iran, who eventually would deliver the
proposal to Washington.
proposal stunned the Americans. Not only was it authoritative
– it had the approval of the supreme leader – but its contents
were astonishing as well. (See Appendix A.) ‘The Iranians acknowledged
that WMD and support for terror were serious causes of concern
for us, and they were willing to negotiate,’ said Flynt Leverett,
who served as senior director for Middle East affairs at the National
Security Council at the time. ‘The message had been approved by
all the highest levels of authority.’ The Iranians were putting
all their cards on the table, declaring what they wanted from
the United States and what they were willing to offer in return.
‘That letter went to the Americans to say that we are ready to
talk, we are ready to address our issues,’ said Mohammad Hossein
Adeli, who was then a deputy foreign minister in Iran. In a dialogue
of ‘mutual respect,’ the Iranians offered to end their support
to Hamas and Islamic Jihad – Iran’s ideological brethren in the
struggle against the Jewish State – and pressure them to cease
attacks on Israel.
Hezbollah, Iran’s own brainchild and its most reliable partner
in the Arab world, the clerics offered to support the disarmament
of the Lebanese militia and transform it into a purely political
party. On the nuclear issue, the proposal offered to open up completely
the Iranian nuclear program to intrusive international inspections
in order to alleviate any fears of Iranian weaponization. The
Iranians would sign the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation
Treaty, and they also offered extensive American involvement in
the program as a further guarantee and goodwill gesture. On terrorism,
Tehran offered full cooperation against all terrorist organizations
– above all, al-Qaeda. On Iraq, Iran would work actively with
the United States to support political stabilization and establishment
of democratic institutions and – most importantly – a nonreligious
government. Perhaps most surprising of all, the Iranians offered
to accept the Beirut Declaration of the Arab League – that is,
the Saudi peace plan from March 2002, in which the Arab states
offered to make peace collectively with Israel, recognizing and
normalizing relations with the Jewish State in return for Israeli
agreement to withdraw from all occupied territories and accept
a fully independent Palestinian state; an equal division of Jerusalem;
and an equitable resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.
Through this step, Iran would formally recognize the two-state
solution and consider itself at peace with Israel. This was an
unprecedented concession by Tehran."
The Bush administration
this offer. I quote Parsi:
and his deputy, Richard Armitage, favored a positive response
to the Iranians. Together with National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice, they approached the president about the proposal, but instead
of instigating a lively debate on the details of a potential American
response, Cheney and Rumsfeld quickly put the matter to an end.
Their argument was simple but devastating. ‘We don’t speak to
evil,’ they said."
pursue detente if he retains office? The signs are anything but
favorable at this time, but political shifts of this nature are
always possible – possible but unlikely.
detente is recognized as the best course, chosen, begun and carried
through, the better. If, for example, Bush had engaged the Iranians
constructively at the outset, the nuclear issue would have been
much easier to handle than it now is, because now Iran has much
more knowledge and has built up a greater capability to exercise
various nuclear options, should it choose to.
But even before
detente, right now, Obama must stop Israel from attacking Iran.
He must do so in the strongest ways available to him, like denying
airspace to Israel for refueling its bombers. The urgency of this
is extremely high. It overshadows anything else in the immediate
future. This is because Israel has a preemption doctrine that it
has acted on before, and because the rhetoric now coming out of
Israel has grown more and more strident, paranoid and open about
In this regard,
the recent reports about Leon Panetta’s thinking are extremely troubling.
We have been told that Panetta "was concerned about the increased
likelihood Israel would launch an attack over the next few months."
Concerned?! Is that all? Just concerned? What’s he doing about it?
If this is what he was willing to leak, it makes the U.S. sound
passive and helpless, which it is not. He should already have formulated
a strong response that such an action was absolutely not acceptable
and that the U.S. would prevent Israel from doing it by preventing
their airplanes from flying over Iraq and refueling. Is Obama asleep?
Does he not understand the implications of an Israeli attack? I
can only hope that the cables being sent to Israel are unambiguously
warning off the Israeli government from bombing now or ever.
policy toward Iran is being conducted so poorly by the U.S. government
that it would be better to choose a dozen Americans at random, give
them a few weeks to acquaint themselves with the now-secret information,
have them educate themselves, have them reach a unanimous opinion
and then negotiate with Iran. I have more confidence in a "jury"
of this type than in the U.S. government.
A shift to
detente requires serious and persistent diplomacy, not threats and
not sanctions. In his latest book, A Single Roll of the Dice
- Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, Parsi documents that Obama and
Hillary Clinton have spurned detente and not given diplomacy a chance.
suggestion for detente is the assumption that the U.S.-Iran conflict
is not fundamentally ideological or religious. It is geopolitical.
Parsi makes a case that this is factual. The 2003 grand bargain
that the Iranians put on the table confirms this, but there is much
other evidence to confirm it.
Going for detente
assumes that Iran’s leaders are rational. They are. Any kind of
thoughtful research that goes below the headlines to examine Iran’s
policies confirms that fact, including Parsi’s book.
come out of the Republican camp?
that is now out in front for the nomination is Mitt Romney. His
on Iran, like that of Bush and Obama, is identical to the Bush-Obama
it’s worth putting in place crippling sanctions. It’s worth working
with the insurgents in the country to encourage regime change
in the country. And if all else fails, if after all of the work
we’ve done, there’s nothing else we could do besides mil – take
military action, then of course you take military action."
Why? Why is
all this worth it? Because, says Romney,
gravest threat that America and the world faced as – and faced
was a nuclear Iran..."
Not at all.
Iran was willing to limit its nuclear ambitions to peaceful uses
and swear off any nuclear arms production. This is rational for
Iran because if it produces a nuclear bomb, then the nearby Arab
states will want to do the same. If they do so, that will neutralize
Iran’s current advantage in conventional arms. It’s rational for
Iran to want to have at hand the option to build nuclear weapons
but not actually to build them and set off a nuclear arms race that
equalizes them and their neighbors.
is no more useful for establishing a foreign policy toward Iran
than the notion that Saddam Hussein was a "grave threat."
the U.S. and Israel threaten Iran. If it did ever arm itself with
nuclear weapons, they would be at best a counter-threat and a deterrent
to their own country being bombed and destroyed.
The U.S. has
Iran surrounded. Israel reportedly has hundreds of nuclear weapons
and is prepared to drop them, altogether too readily. Important
elements in Israel do not believe in Iran’s rationality. This is
a very dangerous misconception upon which to base its foreign policy.
The U.S. can destroy Iran’s infra-structure in a matter of a few
months, even without nuclear bombs. The U.S. is making the demands
on Iran, it is imposing the sanctions, not the other way around.
Iran has no nuclear weapons, in possession, in production, or in
development, and everyone agrees on that. Its missiles can go no
further than about 1,500 miles.
If Iran did
have nuclear weapons or the capability to make them, this would
change the balance of power in the region. But Iran would not use
them because of the retaliatory power possessed by both Israel and
the U.S. The Iranians are not crazy. They are not going to commit
suicide and end their own regime by launching a nuclear attack that
is met by retaliation that is 500x worse. What do they gain?
It is true
that, by definition, Iranian nuclear weapons would be a threat or
even a grave threat if Iran developed them, but the weapons of the
U.S. and Israel are now a threat and a grave threat to Iran.
Iran is going to respond somehow. Iran is not going to remain
passive indefinitely. It has responded in rational ways. It has
threatened asymmetric warfare if attacked, and not only in the region.
It has built up forces to fight such a war. It has threatened to
cut off oil to Europe. It has threatened to close the Strait of
Hormuz. It is developing the knowhow to build nuclear weapons. What
else can it do?
The ogre that
is raised by such statements as Romney’s is that the Iranians would
use nuclear weapons, if they had them, in a first strike against
Israel. The crude idea is that they are ideological nutcases, and
we do not want nutcases in possession of these weapons because they
might give in to their ideological or religious biases and drop
one or two on Israel. These are the false beliefs behind all efforts
to paint Iran as some kind of grave threat.
The main reason
for such beliefs is the rhetoric of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from
the pages of history."
He has also
questioned the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical excesses are
matched by extreme replies coming out of some quarters in Israel
Iranian Jews take Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric seriously,
and they point to the fact that little has changed for Iranian
Jews under him. ‘Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it’s
not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon – anti-Semitism is a European
phenomenon,’ Ciamak Morsathegh, head of the Jewish hospital in
Tehran, explained. Iran’s forty synagogues, many of them with
Hebrew schools, haven’t been touched. Neither has the Jewish library,
which boasts twenty thousand titles, or Jewish hospitals and cemeteries.
Still, Iran’s Jews have not sat idly by. The Jewish member of
the Iranian Majlis, or parliament (most religious minorities are
guaranteed a seat in the parliament), Maurice Mohtamed, has been
outspoken in his condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s comments."
is no movement to detente, the U.S., Iran and Israel are having
a war of words. Almost every day threats and counter-threats are
being issued by all three states. Calculations and mis-calculations
are being made as to the effect of these words. Ahmadinejad’s comments
fall into this category.
reality is that there is no Iranian policy to wipe out Israel. Ahmadinejad
did not say that anyway. Furthermore, he is not the supreme leader
in Iran or the only one who would decide such an important matter.
situation, including the misperceptions of extreme elements in all
three countries, can be defused by a change in U.S. policy to detente.
This, I am
sorry to say, is not in view. The U.S.-Iran story does not have
a visible happy ending, not at this time.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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