Iran has a lot more oil than we have in the U.S. We envy them that. However, that does not make them an evil empire as President Bush indicated several years ago. The fact that Iranians are enriching uranium for electrical energy, which is allowed under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s policy, also is not an indication that they are an evil empire. We can live with Iran without bombing it.
Trita Parsi, a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University, is president of the national Iranian American Council. He has just published a book called “Treacherous Alliance, The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S.” It analyzes the relationships among these countries, from the beginning of Israel in 1948 through the summer of 2007.
Parsi points out that there are 200,000 Iranian Jews in Israel and many thousands of Iranian Jews remain in Iran. Neither population is Arab. With these common segments of their populations and with Iraq as a common enemy, the two countries worked together fairly well from the days of the Shah to 1991. However, with Saddam Hussein’s army crushed by the Gulf War, things changed. Each country began to perceive the other as a threat.
The U.S. was double-minded about the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Donald Rumsfeld, later George W. Bush’s defense secretary, was a special envoy to Saddam and Oliver North sold arms to Iran in the Iran-Contra scandal. Israel supported Iran and encouraged the U.S. to do so also.
Writing in The Nation last November, Parsi challenged some U.S. assumptions about Iran:
• Iran is ripe for change. Untrue, says Parsi. They will not get rid of the ruling clergy, he says. They may, however, succeed in finding a new president instead of Ahmedinejad in due time.
• Iran is irrational and cannot be deterred. Untrue, he says. “Iran has followed a systematic, pragmatic and cautious maneuvering toward a set goal of de-containment and the re-emergence of Iran as a preeminent power in the Middle East.”
• Iran is inherently anti-American. Not quite, says Parsi. Iran seeks to play a major role in regional affairs, and the U.S. aim of isolating Iran goes against this goal. But if America changes its tune, so will Iran. Actually, Iranians like our society and culture, he says.
• Enrichment equals a nuclear bomb. Parsi says the U.S. goal of zero enrichment is not realistic and is contrary to international nuclear policy. He writes, “According to nuclear experts like Bruno Pellaud, former deputy director general and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Department of Safeguards, intrusive inspections is the best tool to assure that Iran doesn’t divert its civilian program into a military one. Yet these inspections can only take place as part of a package deal with Iran that includes some level of enrichment.
• Iran seeks Israel’s destruction. False, says Parsi. Ideologically they are opposed, but strategic concerns have led to cooperation, as in the 1980s when Iran was fighting the Soviet Union and Iraq.
• The pressure on Iran is working. Questionable, says Parsi. After 12 years of sanctions, Iran is more powerful and more defiant than ever.
• Stability in the Middle East can be achieved only through Iran’s isolation. Quite the contrary, says Parsi. Earlier peace talks between Israel and Palestine might not have collapsed if Iran had not been isolated after the Gulf War.
Despite the recent about-face of the U.S. intelligence community on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which they now say ceased in 2003, the Bush/Cheney administration has not changed its tune, warning that enrichment means the bomb and the bomb means World War III. But the real threat of World War III lies with the U.S. and its thousands of nuclear weapons.
Jim Hightower of “Lowdown” urges, as I do, that we demand that Congress vote that our president cannot take preemptive military action against Iran unless Congress declares war. This has been proposed by my congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), in HR 163. Hightower also recommends that we all talk, talk, talk about this issue with everybody we see — in our grocery, church, synagogue, mosque, meetings, on busses, trains, everywhere.
Reed Smith is a peace activist in New Haven, Conn.