Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Distant Diplomacy

L. Bruce Laingen was working as a senior U.S. Foreign Service officer in Tehran in 1979 when student protestors, caught up in the...

Print Friendly

L. Bruce Laingen was working as a senior U.S. Foreign Service officer in Tehran in 1979 when student protestors, caught up in the fervor of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, seized the U.S. Embassy and irrevocably changed the course of relations between the two nations.

Laingen and 51 other U.S. diplomats endured 444 days in captivity until their release on January 20, 1981. On that day, as he prepared to board the Algerian airliner that would finally take him to freedom, the U.S. charge d’affaires turned to one of his Iranian captors and said, "I look forward to the day your country and mine can have a normal diplomatic relationship."

Last Sunday marked 28 years exactly since the United States cut off diplomatic, business, and military ties with Iran in response to the hostage crisis. At a discussion sponsored by the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation at Washington’s National Cathedral last Monday, panelists engaged in a sobering debate rarely seen on the U.S. broadcast news outlets or, it seems, in the halls of Congress or the White House.

And the current stakes, the debate participants agreed, could not be any higher.

The rhetoric has reached a noxious fever pitch: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bewildering Holocaust denial mixed with President George W. Bush’s warnings of an impending "World War III" should Iran acquire the means to develop nuclear weapons.

Citing the "poison rhetoric and policy paralysis that have characterized conduct of both countries," Laingen said: "We can all agree that the wall of mistrust is damn high. It will be difficult to remove."

Against the backdrop of U.S. failures in Iraq, Washington’s bellicosity toward Iran has intensified. The Bush administration last month imposed the most sweeping set of unilateral sanctions on Iran since 1979 and proceeded with its controversial decision to brand the Quds Force unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a "terrorist organization" for its alleged proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the Quds Force’s alleged support of terrorism in Iraq.

"The label of the word terrorist is so devoid of meaning now, it’s hypocritical," said Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times bureau chief and author of the book All the Shah’s Men, about the 1953 CIA-backed coup d’etat to oust Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq.

"First we find groups around the world we don’t like, then we find ways to label them as terrorists," he said, and referred to the U.S. double standard with regard to two Kurdish separatist groups that, on either side of Iraq’s borders, attack Turkish and Iranian troops.

"One [the Kurdish Workers Party] is a terrorist, the other [Party for Free Life in Kurdistan] receives support from us," he said.

Bush’s hard line has also drawn criticism from presumed international allies, such as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who likened Washington’s recent sanctions to "mad people wielding razor blades." Russia occupies a seat on the UN Security Council and maintains military and economic relations with Iran. Tehran remains defiant in the face of Washington’s pressure to monitor its nuclear program, a process that Washington alleges would give the Iranians the technology to develop nuclear arms.

Analysts last Monday night said the current tensions underscore Washington’s continued inability to understand Iran, its history, culture, the aspirations of its citizens, and the effects of the ill-fated U.S. policies on the overall psyche of Iranians.

"There is a fundamental sympathy for democracy [in Iran]. … Iranians have a democratic consciousness that is unique in the Middle East," said Kinzer.

"Had it not been for the fact that the democratic government came to power in the 1950s, and became obsessed with the great project of nationalizing the Iranian oil reserves, there wouldn’t be a 1953," said Kinzer. "Had we not overthrown the Mosaddeq government in 1953, we might have had a thriving democracy in the heart of the Middle East for these past 50 years."

The CIA-backed coup, code-named Operation Ajaz, was carried out during President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s tenure and was supported by Britain. Using widespread bribery, the CIA overthrew Mossadeq and his cabinet and reinstalled Iran’s unpopular pro-U.S. dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

And had it not been for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s 1981 invasion of Iran (and U.S. support for that invasion), the mullahs may not have been able to consolidate their political power, according to Iran specialist (and sometime Inter Press Service reporter) Trita Parsi.

"Khomeini survived, not in spite of, but because of the Iraqi invasion," said Parsi. "War with Iran would result in Iranians rallying around the flag rather than turning away. The government would be strengthened instead of toppled. The Iranian nuclear program would most likely accelerate than be destroyed."

Kinzer also criticized the U.S. mainstream press, which he argued, "has played a very shameful role in helping to fan the flames of war, just as we did in Iraq."

"We truly have failed because we have always presented the problems with the United States and Iran through the official U.S. paradigm," said Kinzer. "This is a classic failure of the press, which is why people so easily leap to support policies that are fundamentally against our own country."

And then, there are the missed opportunities: the 2003 memorandum signed by Ayatollah Khamenei, a grand bargain in which the Iranians agreed to open the nuclear issue for full transparency, offered to stop support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, agreed to make Hezbollah a political party (i.e. disarm the militia group), and promised to help support an Iraqi government that was not sectarian. The offer was presented to the White House by former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) several weeks after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but was ignored.

"The Iranians profess this offer doesn’t exist. It’s a prime example of missed opportunities and policy paralysis that can so easily set in," said Laingen.

The debate moderator, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), also offered his perspective: "For the Senate or House to ramp up the rhetoric on the Revolutionary Guard as being terrorists, or insurgents, or rebels, only reduces the ability of that mistrust to subside," he said.

"It’s beyond time for us to negotiate with Iranians. It’s time for old men to talk, before they send young men to die."

Khody Akhavi writes for the Inter Press Service.

Citations

Khody Akhavi, "Distant Diplomacy," Right Web Analysis (Somerville, MA: International Relations Center, November 6, 2007).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Established in Baltimore in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States—and also among the most aggressively anti-Arab ones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and chosen by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


Print Friendly

The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


Print Friendly

The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


Print Friendly

The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Print Friendly

Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


Print Friendly

This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


Print Friendly

President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


RightWeb
share