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Cease fire! ...

Cease fire! ... pause ... consider accounts ... then move toward truce or regroup and trounce?

by Craig Rowley

Tonight seems to be the eve of the hoped for ceasefire in the conflict in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.  If all falls into place tomorrow there is a real opportunity to make a play for a greater peace, if only the pause in hostilities can be translated into something longer lasting and further reaching.  Will all those involved in the immediate conflict, and more importantly the war by proxy behind it, just give peace a chance? Or is hope in what is possible only false promise and do we face the prospect that, more probably, the parties will be taking us to the brink again before the year is out?

Comment on the recent post by Professor Jeffrey Sachs - The Middle East's Military Delusions  - has prompted me to look back over Should Iran be attacked? a post by Professor Joseph S Nye we published in May.

Professor Nye's post commenced with the question that reports had suggested was being explored by President George W Bush and his administration, and it becomes clear on reading the post that he sees how costly use of force against Iran would be (and he's not just talking about financial costs). Professor Nye concluded his post by offering some points to think about on policy alternatives the U.S. could take up and in the early part of our conversation thread we started exploring what could be done instead of attack, what the application of some clear thinking could come up with, and what might make up the steps on a better path to dealing with the potential threat represented by Iran's nuclear program.

Despite the promising start we didn't really build on the momentum. (It would be good if we could now, particularly as the translation of a ceasefire into truce can only come from new thinking by the parties involved.) I felt that in both the thread following Nye's post and that following Sachs' we didn't really bring the shift in U.S. foreign policy positions on Iran into focus and, from the basis of a better understanding of why such a shift occurred, develop ideas about how it could be shifted again to a position with better prospects for bringing about a little more peace.

That shift in U.S. foreign policy positions I speak of is evident in these quotes:

"...President Clinton and I welcomed the new Iranian President's call for a dialogue between our people.... Now we have concluded the time is right to broaden our perspective even further."

Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks Before the American-Iranian Council
March, 2000 

"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom ... States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world ... "

President George W. Bush
The President's State of the Union Address
January, 2002

"I think it's best I just leave it that all options should be on the table, and the last option is the military option."

President George W. Bush
on CBS's "Face the Nation" program
January 2006

Now we can debate whether the shift has been substantial or otherwise. Some take the 'last option' emphasis to signify that U.S. policy toward Iran has not shifted to a totally militaristic stance. Some see a shift from a policy prescription based on the premise that a dialogue could be opened and diplomacy would work, to one where plans to attack are being (or have been) worked up.

I understand that at the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency there were two groups in the administration waging an intense struggle over policy on Iran. The U.S. government went month after month without an official policy at that time.

Then the attack on America on September 11, 2001 created an entirely new strategic context for U.S. relations with other nations and certainly this was true with respect to its approach to Iran. There was a choice to make and official U.S. policy on Iran had to be determined.  Within the broader response to September 11 - the global war on terrorism - there were (and there continues to be) a variety of strategic options, various opportunities.

One was the choice of immediate response focus and the Bush administration decided on destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda network it had harboured.  When you think about it selection of this option opened a choice about how to deal with Iran. Washington could begin a period of extraordinary strategic cooperation between America and Iran in order to support the action to be taken in Afghanistan, it could select a status quo strategy leaving Iran on the sidelines to wonder whether it would be drawn in at some stage, or it could plot the point when Iran would become the priority in prosecuting the long war on terrorism and start preparing for it.

Gareth Porter, a historian and journalist who writes regularly on U.S. policy in Iran and Iraq for Inter Press Service, has reported that as America began preparing for the military operation in Afghanistan, the then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker held a series of meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva. Iran offered search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan. The Iranians, who had been working for years with the main anti-Taliban coalition, the Northern Alliance, also advised the Americans about how to negotiate the major ethnic and political fault lines in the country.

By November 2001, the U.S. Office of Policy Planning had written a paper arguing that there was “a real opportunity” to work more closely with Iran on al-Qaeda. This would have been a smart strategy to take up if your interests were in genuinely separating terrorist organisations from the sponsorship of states.  You aim to gain the cooperation of states considered sponsors of terrorism and say, ‘We will take you off the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list if you do the following.’” 

What happened instead was that a State of the Union Address was being prepared for President George W. Bush to deliver in January 2002 that included Iran in the “axis of evil”.   In the weighing up of the carrot and stick balancing act some wanted the U.S. to come on strong with the stick.

In the weeks after 11 September 2001, President Bush had been sent this letter supporting a "broad and sustained campaign" of military action by the US.  How much influence the authors of that letter from the Project for a New American Century actually had on the President's decision-making is a matter of speculation.  It may have had more to do with a President going gaga over reports that Iran was the source of an arms cache intercepted on route to Gaza. Whatever the case, it is clear that President Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, champion of the Coalition of the Willing and leader of the free world, decided that to engage with any of those on the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list was a concession to terrorism, a reward for bad behaviour. There would be no deals done with naughty boys. U.S. policy would be that Iran could never be treated as a sovereign equal on any issue. Iran was in the "axis of evil".

President Bush’s axis-of-evil speech was followed by talk of Iran deliberately “harbouring” al-Qaeda cadres who had fled from Afghanistan and signals came from the Bush administration discrediting the promising prospect of cooperation between Tehran and Washington as a means for Iran to obtain U.S. concessions. By May 2002, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the idea of negotiations with the United States as useless.

From the perspective of some the "real opportunity", ripe for the taking, was left to wither. From the perspective of others, Bush administration saying no to negotiations and taking a hardline with Tehran was the right thing to do.  By September 2002, the U.S. was set on a security framework that shifted its foreign policy away from decades of deterrence and containment toward a more aggressive stance of attacking enemies before they attack America.  With momentum building for military action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, with the White House setting out the Doctrine of Preemptive War, and saying it would never negotiate with terrorists (nowadays at term that seems all inclusive of organisations such as al-Qaeda and all nations on the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list), what other conclusion would Iran come to than that the path ahead might lead to more than the invasion of the neighbour it had even less love for than Afghanistan?

As the tension mounted amongst those searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq where they weren't located,  the only other member of the "axis of evil" without the bomb was feeling tense too.  What would the Iranians have made of President Bush telling the American people on 16 October 2002 that: "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope that the use of force will not become necessary"?  What would they then have made of what happened on 19 March 2003 when they witnessed the 'shock and awe' of the invasion of Iraq?  If they made haste in making the bomb, then perhaps it shows all the more what waste junking the "real opportunity" was.

Not everyone saw the "real opportunity" as totally wasted. The two contending camps within U.S. foreign policy setting circles struggled again in 2003 over a proposal by realists, like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, to reopen the Geneva channel with Iran that had been used successfully on Afghanistan in 2001-2002.  It would not have been easy given that by June that year a number of 'experts' were saying Iran would have nuclear weapons by 2006, but somehow Richard Armitage was able by October to say in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"Iran is a country in the midst of a tremendous transformation, and I believe American policy can affect the direction Iran will take ... United States policy is, therefore, to support the Iranian people in their aspirations for a democratic, prosperous country that is a trusted member of the international community ... As President Bush noted when talking about Iran last week, not every policy issue needs to be dealt with by force."

Though it was not really clear whether the American policy that would 'affect the direction Iran would take' included any carrot or just a thumping big "evil" regime changing stick. And by the end of 2003, Howard Dean (at that time the Democrat presidential frontrunner), was saying U.S. President George Bush has a "schizophrenic foreign policy" regarding Iran:

"Earlier this year, Bush said Iran was part of the Axis of Evil, now we're shipping food, medicine and other supplies to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Iranians. There seems to be a chronic disconnect in the Bush administration between the Iranian people and the actions of the Iranian government. The president needs to make up his mind -- is Iran evil or not?"

In January 2004, more of those shipments of food, medicine and other supplies would be much needed in Iran. Bush may not have made up his mind to use force to beat the bad guys and win out against "evil", but then Bam felt the brutal forces of nature that northern winter and the suffering people of Iran where to be in the Bush administration's thoughts and prayers. By the end of 2004, thoughts and prayers had once again turned to thoughts of bringing to bear that big stick. A new, more aggressive policy on Iran was said to have the backing of then secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser.

At the start of 2005, Dick Cheney had placed Iran at the top of Washington’s list of world trouble spots and said that he feared that Israel might strike Tehran in order to eliminate its nuclear threat. “We don’t want a war in the Middle East if we can avoid it,” said Mr Cheney in January 2005. 

A month later Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, was renewing criticism that Iran had been left on what he called 'a back burner' during the Bush administration. "Our policy on Iran has been a non-policy," he said. "The negotiating regarding the nuclear facilities in Iran have [sic] been conducted by other countries. We have not been a player in that, and I think that is too bad. As important as Iran is to a settlement of the problems we have in the Middle East the president should personally be involved. Certainly we shouldn't leave this to other countries."  California Democrat Bob Filner was echoing Howard Dean calling U.S. policy on Iran contradictory. "We have been going on this schizophrenic policy of preparing for war perhaps, which I think is a dangerous situation, just in a military fashion we seem to be overstrained to our limits just with Iraq and Afghanistan, and to try an even more problematic situation would be difficult for our nation," he said. 

At about the same time, John Bolton, the State Department's top international security official, was echoing Dick Cheney saying publicly that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear sites because the Jewish state has "a history" of such actions (referring to Israel's 1981 bombing raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor). 

President George W. Bush would later make 'clear' in his 2005 State of the Union address that he wanted a peaceful solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.  In the UK, Tony Blair would echo Bush saying "I don't know of anybody planning military action against Iran", news of which would break on the same day as Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his government 'has no intention' of launching a strike against Iranian nuclear installations and two days after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had never authorised sending reconnaissance planes over Iran to spy on it. 

By April 2005, state delegations of Iranian-Americans across the U.S. had come together for the first ever National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran was held in Washington. They declared their resounding support for democratic change in Iran and called for "third option" in policy toward Tehran, first introduced by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, at the time the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.  The third option: 'No to Appeasement, No to War, Yes to Democratic Change by the Iranian People'.

By June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who had invoked Iran's 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States in his campaign to become President, was 'elected' under circumstances seen by the U.S. and most of the democratic world as far more controversial than a hanging chad ever could be. A month later, outgoing President Mohammad Khatami said the prospect of dialogue resuming between the United States and Iran was more distant. "We are further from it (a resumption of dialogue) today than we have been for some years," he said.  He couldn't see a "real opportunity" for dialogue arising again.

By the end of 2005, influential Republican congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, a Bush loyalist who chairs a House of Representatives subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, expressed frustration over President Bush's approach to Iran. She wasn't just saying pressure was building for a tougher U.S. policy. Ros-Lehtinen said she did not believe the administration had a clear idea of "what they want to do there and what is the end game". Get out the big stick in other words.

At the beginning of this year Iran’s new hard-line President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Islamic Republic’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a great movement and a stepping stone to a final “great event” in the world. And you can understand why those who dismissed the "real opportunity" would now want that big stick so bad. By June a growing chorus of critics on the American right were saying the Bush administration is being soft on Iran and other so-called "enemies of freedom." Events of the past month give them all the more reason to raise the volume. But if there were a way to get back to what were once "real opportunities", if a way could be found, a firm and fair way, to have Iran take those steps needed for it to be taken off the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list without anyone being wiped of any map, would they tune in? 

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'Iranian meddling' - in quotes

"And where ... oh where ... have I said that the Iranian government is not meddling in Iraqi affairs?"

- Craig Rowley on December 28, 2006 - 3:21pm.

"Afterall, the Americans suspect links between the Quds force and Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Then having promoted that linkage, having reminded us that the Bush administration suspects the Iranians are 'evil', a US official points to 'Iranian meddling' in Iraq."

- Craig Rowley on December 26, 2006 - 8:55pm.

Funny, isn't it?

You can according to Craig 'attack a straw man' just by quoting him back at himself?

CP and meddling Americans vs meddling Iranians

So you can, according to Chris Parsons  (using only his own special interpretations of a comment) do a little malicious meddling with the meaning of a comment and pretend to be 'quoting' back in order to prop up your straw man.

Well at least you can if you are CP and you can't comprehend comment about the US official pointing to 'Iranian meddling'. You can't see the irony of 'American meddling' undertaken to highlight 'Iranian meddling' in Iraqi affairs.

And you see, as CP can't provide any considered comment on the situation, because he doesn't want to comment on those questions about why the Americans are now meddling in Iraqi affairs to point out 'Iranian meddling', he resorts to his standard attack.  A piss-weak one on a straw man of his own creation, of course. He'll bang on about Pilger and GLW and his pinkoslamic conspiracy theory again soon.  And roll out the map meme no doubt.

He just can't help himself.

Sad, isn't it.

Iran has no interest in Iraq whatsoever. Kidding.

Craig Rowley: "No doubt here that C Parsons is absolutely wrong."

That's probably the main difference between us, Craig. I'm prepared to acknowledge that I can be wrong.

But I'll also be very surprised indeed if it turns out that the Iranian government is not meddling in Iraqi affairs.

I mean, just how far fetched would it be to imagine they didn't do so regularly?

In fact, I'd go so far to say that only the most inept Iranian government wouldn't try to meddle in Iranian affairs.

I mean, that's what diplomats do, after all. Meddle.

What is more telling, given the standard Leftist analyses (ie: slogans) which insist the elected governments of both Iraq and Afghanistan are "Vichy-like" puppet regimes of the Great Satan, is that both Iraq and Afghanistan conduct routine diplomatic relations with Iran.

More or less impossible, according to the "analysts".

Argue with the strawman C Parsons

And where ... oh where ... have I said that the Iranian government is not meddling in Iraqi affairs?

Go set your strawman up somewhere else, C Parsons.

However, the story continues to

Craig Rowley: "No doubt there is more to this story. No doubt there is more to be commented on."

No doubt you wish you had waited.

No doubt

No doubt here that C Parsons is absolutely wrong.

And no doubt as well that we'll all have to wait for quite awhile to see the "credible evidence", though we're as likely to keep hearing about it as we are to see CP's pinkoslamic conspiracy theory and map meme campaigns go into hyperdrive this summer.

credible evidence?

"Here's a bit of the story about the Iranian diplomats you haven't commented on..."

And here is a bit C Parsons hasn't commented on:

A Foreign Ministry [Iranian] spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said the two Iranian diplomats and four other Iranians who were detained had been invited to Iraq by President Jalal Talabani to help with security issues.

And then, in common with US officials, CP didn't seem keen to comment on questions like these:

Why did the American military in Iraq seize six Iranians, including two diplomats, last week? If they had proof of criminal activity wouldn't the proper legal course have been to provide this evidence to Iraqi authorities?

However, the story continues to unfold ...

The New York Times reports today that the US military is now saying that it had "credible evidence" linking the Iranians they've detained to criminal activities, including attacks against US-led foreign forces in Iraq.

"Evidence", reports the NYT, "also emerged that some of the detainees were involved in shipments of weapons to illegal armed groups in Iraq."

Evidence ... what evidence?

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command, said that the [US] military had gathered specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel.

Specific intelligence ... what specific intelligence?

They seized documents, maps, photographs and videos, at the location, the military said. The military declined to say precisely what the items showed, nor did it specify if the Iranians themselves were suspected of attacking Americans, or if the Iraqis arrested with them were suspected, or both.

No doubt there is more to this story. No doubt there is more to be commented on.

Serious Crimes Unit - and the false flag operation

Angela Ryan: "Yep, foreigners caught red handed with bombs and disguised as Al Sadr men. Nice false flag attempt, but how many have not been caught. "

If I'm not mistaken, Angela, these "false flag" operatives (as you term them) were "exposed" by the very same chaps running this very lovely "serious crimes unit"...

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 — Hundreds of British and Iraqi soldiers assaulted a police station in the southern city of Basra on Monday, killing seven gunmen, rescuing 127 prisoners from what the British said was almost certain execution and ultimately reducing the facility to rubble.

So, obviously, we should trust their version of events come what may, shouldn't we?

Anyway...

Craig Rowley: "I suspect this event validates how the hawks of the Bush administration just used a 'dang' good opportunity to sell the 'Iranian meddling' message, and that Johndroe and his bosses would be happy if people would please excuse the evidence of American meddling once again."

I'm not sure what the big deal is here? For example...

"Iraqi President Jalal Talabani travels to Tehran.....This visit is the latest in a series of contacts between the governments of Iraq and Iran, following by two months Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's trip to Tehran."

Also, Craig. Here's a bit of the story about the Iranian diplomats you haven't commented on....

"The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released."

Also, it's worth noting that Afghanistan, too, has full diplomatic relations with Iran, and that the Afghan President Karzai has visited Iran.

Indeed, now that the Sunni "leadership" (you know, the "resistance" heroes "we have no choice but to support") have got the civil war they have worked so hard for and are getting the shit kicked out of them by Shi'ite militias, it might be an opportune time for Bob Gates and Condi Rice to be making a few more contacts inside Iran themselves, seeing as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political stocks are falling .

And none of that would for a moment suggest the Iranians are not meddling in Iraq. I mean. Moqtadr al Sadr is connected directly with some of Iran's leading political families - and probably takes his orders more or less straight from Tehran.

Who could be surprised by any of this?

There are spinners and there are spinners.

G'day Craig, it is easy to be distracted by other events more attuned to the interests of many Australians. The events at the MCG yesterday were brilliant and even an atheist might at least believe that if no other gods exist, sporting gods do. Perhaps it was not scripted but rather just happened, coincidence being kind to the master of his craft.

But you keep your eye on another ball as well, the dangerous situation in the M E. I have more items to add to the mix.

Jorge Hirsch - Why did Russia and China vote to sanction Iran?

Lots of internal links of interest.

Linda S Heard - Iran backed dangerously into a corner.

Whatever readers think of the substance of the above article, the header has merit.

This article might jiggle people's sense of irony.

Thanks for the additional information about the capture of those Iranians - I had not seen the Kuwait News Agency article. Nice for you to introduce readers to Mr Johndroe - someone else who lacks a sense of irony. "Damn those foreigners interfering in Iraq" say Yanks. I wonder if reality has intruded into the Commander's bubble sufficiently to cause him to reflect upon his words from a Christmas past:

"Iran and Syria have to learn that nothing is to be gained by interfering in the internal politics of Iraq."

Or Iran.

Perhaps when you are guided by a Higher Father, you do not have need for such reflection.

politically delicate seizure

A "politically delicate seizure" by US forces of at least four Iranians in Iraq,  reported on Christmas Day by the New York Times, should raise an eyebrow or two.

But it is a story that is likely to get lost on Australian newsdesks with the 'need' to focus this week on boats bobbing about from Sydney to Hobart and a brilliant Boxing Day display put on for the benefit of the Barmy Army by our heros in their baggy greens.

You see, these Iranians you're unlikely to read about in our newspapers, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, were seized in a pair of raids said to be aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces:

A senior Western official in Baghdad said the raids were conducted after American officials received information that the people detained had been involved in attacks on official security forces in Iraq. “We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,” the official said. “This was based on information.”

The reason the seizure of the Iranians is 'politically delicate' is that US forces acted on 'information' that may have included knowledge that at least two of the Iranians were in Iraq on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during the visit he made to Tehran earlier this month.

And some information, it seems, is too delicate for Western media to share, so we must turn to the Kuwait News Agency to learn that the American military raids included raids on the Al-Jadriya compound in Baghdad -- the headquarters of the Iraqi president.

You'd have thought the Americans could link the invite from the Iraqi president with the Iranians purpose for being in his compound, but the Bush administration is keenly making the most of some other 'linkages'.  

The Americans appear to be 'justifying' the seizure on the basis that the Iranian military officials were suspected of being members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. And that they were suspicious.

Afterall, the Americans suspect links between the Quds force and Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. 

Then having promoted that linkage, having reminded us that the Bush administration suspects the Iranians are 'evil', a US official points to 'Iranian meddling' in Iraq.

Gordon D. Johndroe, a young Bush political staffer now spokesman for the National Security Council, said:

“We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”

I suspect this event validates how the hawks of the Bush administration just used a 'dang' good opportunity to sell the 'Iranian meddling' message, and that Johndroe and his bosses would be happy if people would please excuse the evidence of American meddling once again.

UN Security Council Resolution 1737

The United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to impose a first round of technical and trade sanctions on Iran yesterday for refusing to answer demands that it suspend all enrichment of uranium.

Resolution 1737:

  • Orders Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and nuclear reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Orders Iran to suspend work on all heavy-water related projects, including construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water, also to be verified by the IAEA.
  • Orders all states to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of all material and technology that could contribute to Iranian activities related to enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water projects, or to the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems, such as ballistic missiles.
  • Orders all states to prevent technical or financial assistance to Iran for such activities.
  • Orders all states to freeze the financial assets of companies, organisations and individuals involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and listed by the UN.
  • Establishes a Security Council committee to monitor sanctions against Iran.
  • Asks all states to report the movements of individuals on the UN list to the sanctions committee and to “exercise vigilance” regarding their entry or transit.
  • Orders the IAEA to provide only technical cooperation to Iran for food, agricultural, medical, safety or other humanitarian purposes.
  • Asks all states to report to the sanctions committee within 60 days on the implementation of sanctions.
  • Asks the director general of the IAEA to report within 60 days on whether Iran has suspended uranium enrichment and reprocessing.
  • States that it will suspend sanctions if the IAEA verifies Iran's suspension of nuclear activities to allow for negotiations.
  • States that it will lift sanctions if the IAEA Board of Governors confirms that Iran has fully complied with all Security Council and IAEA obligations.
  • States that if Iran does not comply with the resolution, the council will adopt further nonmilitary sanctions.

The Iranian reaction is given in the statement attached to the UN's press release on what Javad Zarif said about the resolution:

Only a few days ago, Israel’s Prime Minister had boasted about the country’s nuclear weapons, but, instead of raising an eyebrow -- let alone addressing that serious threat to international peace and security and the non-proliferation regime -- the Security Council was imposing sanctions on a member of the NPT that, unlike Israel, had never attacked nor threatened to use force against any United Nations member.  Also unlike Israel, Iran had categorically rejected development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons on ideological and strategic grounds, and it was prepared to provide guarantees that it would never withdraw from the NPT.  It had placed all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and it had fully implemented the Additional Protocol for more than two years and stated its readiness to resume its implementation.

...

The same Governments that had pushed the Council to take “groundless punitive measures” against Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme had systematically prevented it from taking any action to nudge the Israeli regime towards submitting itself to the rules governing the nuclear non-proliferation regime, he said. By so doing, they had provided it with wide latitude, even encouragement, to indulge freely in the clandestine development and unlawful possession of nuclear weapons and public boasting about it, with impunity.  The Israeli regime had an unparalleled record of non-compliance with Security Council resolutions -- if that was the criteria today -- and a “long and dark” catalogue of crimes and atrocities, such as occupation, aggression, militarism, State terrorism, crimes against humanity and apartheid.  Nuclear weapons in such hands posed a uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security.  The reversal of the hypocritical policy of “strategic ambiguity” had removed any excuse, if ever there had been one, for continued inaction by the Council.

Peace and Goodwill.

Cheers, Craig, I have had quite enough of those events you mention, although I might be remiss about the contents of the fridge. I will be bidding a farewell to test cricket to two of the greatest bowlers we have seen. And hoping "Peace and Goodwill" is more than an advertising slogan. 

All the best to you and your family and enjoy the time with the young ones.

All the best to you Michael and  your family. And to all.

Wheels within wheels

G'day Craig, thanks for that very useful discussion piece. Oh, the complexities! Rather different from the simplified picture pushed by some - "demonisation" is a good word for it. Far too much of that going on. Anyway, those who read your link can add it to the results of the recent elections and see what they make of the dynamics at play.

My worry is over the point that the opportunity might have been missed for honest and open negotiations between Iran and the US - the window that was there three years ago might be closed until further changes in the political leadership of both states occur. Let us hope that extreme measures are not embarked upon in the meantime. We have seen a great deal of material on the various factors at play.

On the sanctions vote - Russia is wary.

And for those with a sense of humour, Iran raises someone else's nukes.

Speaking of nukes - here is a nightmare scenario.

And other nuke related issues.

On things the Administration don't want published - the NYTimes publishes a redacted report on Iran. Internal links. Handy to read in conjunction the the above discussion. The bits that are left, that is.

A comment on linkages - surely if states in the region claim there are linkages, regardless of their motives for doing so, then there are linkages.

I join Michael Coleman (G'day) in thanking you for all you've done, not only in general but also in the case of this thread in keeping your eye on the ball despite the wild ride it has sometimes been. Funny how some people have been averse to the need for deeper understanding and honest negotiations.

Craig R: Cheers Bob, and Michael too. Have fun this festive season ... and stay safe (away from fires in our forests and fields, idiots on our roads, sharks in our seas, food that smells funny in our fridges, that kind of thing).

Paranoia, Wheels And The Stench Of War. Seasons Greetings.

"demonisation" is a good word for it

Who am I to argue? After all, you guys invented it.

Wheel within wheels.

Maybe he just wants new tanks (or better protection for those he has) and the JPost guys are happy to help out? A perpetual state of insecurity is good for some forms of business afterall.

The best 'spin' I can put on this is that it's part of 'expectation management'

Yep. Although another "spin" you could put on it is that these people know who they are talking about when the conversation is about the Syrians.

Changes?

G'day Craig, yes, the gunboats are on the move and the sanctions look likely. Meanwhile in Iran there have been some interesting developments such as the results of the local elections and student activism. Changes could be afoot so why the external pressure?

DemocracyNow! presents a conversation between Scott Ritter and Sy Hersh. Takes up most of the program and is available as audio, video and transcript.

Robert Parry - A Very Dangerous New Year.

An Iranian reaction to the sanctions.

Perhaps if Bush is so determined to prevent states developing WMD he could set his attention in this direction.

And while the pieces are moved around the international chessboard, don't forget the Siberian permafrost.

The significance of the elections

G'day Bob, thanks for the links on some very interesting developments. 

This morning I read the transcript of a Brookings (Saban Center) policy luncheon discussion on Iranian domestic politics (PDF—87kb).  At the luncheon, which was held in November prior to the recent Iranian municipality and Assembly of Experts elections, Hadi Semati, who is described as the Iran experts' Iran expert, shared his view on the significance of the elections (particularly the municipal elections):

What could this election signify, given this dire state of affairs in one way or another? I think there are basically three issues involved. This is a test for reformists and their viability, at least a test for their viability, whether they can make a comeback organizationally, financially, and politically or not and whether they can pull together the resources to form a broader coalition among the different factions of reformists in that they have expended too much infighting over the last couple of years.

At the same time, secondly, this is also a test of conservative momentum, whether the conservative momentum can be sustained or not and survive and, of course, if that proves to be the case, whether they would be able to further consolidate in the next year or so before the next Presidential election which would be very critical or could be very critical.

...

Thirdly, this is also a test for the constituencies, whether there is any public appetite for real politics and real politicking.

Perpetual Insecurity

Hi Craig and thanks for all the work you've put into keeping the good ship Webdiary afloat. I hope you and the family have a good holiday and a happy, healthy 2007.

Interesting to see Olmert come clean about the real reason he will not take up Syria's latest offer of unconditional peace talks. How long must the region and the world suffer from the Bush administration's abysmal foreign policies?

The tactic of demanding that your foe give up every bargaining chip before entering into serious negotiations is guaranteed to fail. As the people making these choices appear to have no interest in negotiated settlement of disputes, it seems that a perpetual state of insecurity is the preferred option.

Want insecurity? Time to demonise Syria again

G'day Michael, it sometimes does seem that a perpetual state of insecurity is the preferred option exercised by the powerful. 

Will Howard has mentioned how the Israelis and Syrians are so often "out of synch" in their willingness to enter into serious negotiations.

And if you follow the storylines flowing from Israeli media outlets this week you will find that, after Syria's very obviously signalling that it is time to talk, some editors (or possibly people pressuring those editors) have decided to demonise the Syrians yet again.

The best 'spin' I can put on this is that it's part of 'expectation management'. It could be a kind of 'insurance policy' should negotiations start and stall or fail, a case of setting up to be able to say something like "They caused the failure of negotiations, they never wanted peace, they just wanted time to prepare for war."

It could also be seen as possibly a tactic by some in the IDF to secure more funding, better materiel, etc.  Note the unnamed IDF Northern Command officer is reported to have said one of the major lessons the Israelis drew from the August conflict in southern Lebanon was "that antitank missiles can penetrate the Merkava tank." Maybe he just wants new tanks (or better protection for those he has) and the JPost guys are happy to help out? A perpetual state of insecurity is good for some forms of business afterall.

Re: Want Insecurity?

Craig Rowley writes: "And if you follow the storylines flowing from Israeli media outlets this week you will find that, after Syria's very obviously signalling that it is time to talk, some editors (or possibly people pressuring those editors) have decided to demonise the Syrians yet again."

It is interesting that you chose the word "demonise" here. Do you know, for example, that the IDF Northern Command officer is wrong in his assessment of Syrian moves and intentions near the Golan Heights? If you know something the IDF Northern Command doesn't know, I think we should all hear it.  In the interests of peace. The Jerusalem Post simply reported the assessments, including the caveat: "Lacking clear intelligence regarding Syrian intelligence, the officer said that the Northern Command's 'working assumption' was that there was a possibility of war and there was a need to prepare accordingly.

Yet you characterise this report as "demonisation." Why? Do you think that simply reporting a story like that is "demonisation" and that the Post's editors should have put it on the spike?

The IDF officer may well be wrong. It is difficult, as we all know, to assess the intentions and capabilities of potential enemies and/or negotiating partners (Israel and Syria in this case are both to each other). It sounds to me like a precautionary stance, to be expected from a military officer. He noted a "possibility" of war with a neighbour which, technically, is still in a state of war with Israel.

Ask yourself this question, Craig: if a Syrian military officer were quoted making similar comments about Israeli intentions towards Syria, would you describe them as "demonisation" of Israel?

It's worth noting, Craig, that IDF Intel thinks the Syrian peace overtures are genuine, whereas Mossad is more suspicious of the Syrians' apparent moves towards negotiation (I'll try to track down that story, which I read last week). There's nothing unusual or sinister in this kind of disagreement between different intellegence agencies (e.g. the CIA/Pentagon disagreements prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion), and political leaders must often make decisions in face of such conflicting assessments.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on 28 December that:

"In an apparent gesture to Syria, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday he is open to 'any whisper of peace' from Israel's enemies.

Syria has recently signaled it would like to reopen peace talks with Israel, which broke down seven years ago. Olmert has rejected the offers, citing Syria's support for anti-Israel militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian areas.

In a speech to graduates of an air force pilot's course, Olmert indicated he is softening his opposition.

'The state of Israel is open to any whisper of peace from our neighbors and across our borders,' he said."

"Demonisation," Craig? 

"Demonisation" is it? Yes, it is.

Thanks for raising those questions Will Howard.

Do I know that the IDF Northern Command officer is wrong in his assessment of Syrian moves and intentions near the Golan Heights? No, Will, I don't.

Do we know that his assessment of Syrian moves/motives is correct? No, Will, given the 'caveat' I think you'd agree that we don't.

Is it newsworthy to report an assessment by an IDF Northern Command officer "lacking clear intelligence regarding Syrian intelligence"?  Perhaps. 

Was it news that absolutely had to be reported to the Israeli public immediately after the Syrians signalled their willingness to enter into serious negotiations? No.

Did the JPost editor need to use the headline "Syria building 'death trap' villages" given the caveat contained in the story? No.

Was reporting IDF assumptions founded on a lack of clear intelligence at this time and headlining the article "Syria building 'death trap' villages" a decision made by the JPost's editors in the interests of peace? No, I don't believe it was.

That's why this article, amongst others I saw published at the time but didn't link to, is IMHO an example of "demonisation".

Should the JPost's editors have spiked the story? It's their prerogative to publish what they want to.  It's mine to call it a case of "demonisation" if that's what I see it as, and it is what I see in their motivation to publish that article at that time. 

Will, I have asked myself your question: if a Syrian military officer were quoted making similar comments about Israeli intentions towards Syria, would you describe them as "demonisation" of Israel?  The answer is yes.

I've noted the disagreement between different Israeli intel agencies.  As you say it is nothing unusual and I was aware of that before you kindly pointed it out.  I'm looking forward to seeing that article on Mossad's suspicions you've mentioned, that's an item I was not aware of.

Is your closing question asking whether I think Olmert's statement reported by AP is a case of "demonisation"?  If it is, then the answer is: No, it is not. 

If I may ask you a question (and open it to others): Why do you think the JPost published that particular story quoting that particular commander's assessment at that particular time?

Israel & Syria

Michael Coleman: "Interesting to see Olmert come clean about the real reason he will not take up Syria's latest offer of unconditional peace talks. How long must the region and the world suffer from the Bush administration's abysmal foreign policies?"

Michael, you're right on target here. The Bush Administration is really missing a huge opportunity. If they're really interested in isolating extremists, what better way than to bring Syria into the peace tent? Think how peace talks between Syria and Israel would pull the rug out from under Iran's bluster. Think how that would defuse Hezbollah.

There are many good reasons to be sceptical of Syria's offer, but there's no reason not to put it to the test. At least see how serious they really are.

The "offer" was made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in a Washington Post interview. Commentator Ami Isseroff's analysis on his excellent Website MidEastWeb is well worth reading. Isseroff notes the ambiguities in Moallem's comments about "preconditions" - reasons to be sceptical but not to dismiss the possibility of talks out of hand.

He also makes a very astute (IMHO) comment about the benefits of engaging Syria in talks:

"What is to be gained for Israel, the United States, Syria and the entire Middle East? In the best case, for Israel, a chance to remove an enemy on its northern and northeastern borders. With Syria part of the peace camp, the Arab "refusal front" would collapse, living only Iran isolated among regional states that refuse in principle to make peace with Israel. Syrian support for Hezbollah would collapse, ameliorating the threat to Lebanon and perhaps making possible peace between Lebanon and Israel. Syrian support for Hamas and other Palestinian groups would collapse, hopefully making possible peace between Israel and the Palestinians. With Syrian backing, peace might be concluded with all Arab states, along the lines of the Saudi peace initiative. Syria would be torn out of the Iranian-Syrian alliance, simplifying the problem of dealing with Iranian nuclear ambitions and presenting a united Middle Eastern opposition front to Iranian ambitions for regional hegemony. Syrian cooperation might be enlisted for US efforts in Iraq as well."

Unfortunately Israel and Syria have been "out of sync" for a long time; when one side's been ready to talk the other has not. But here's a chance to put Israel at peace with all its immediate neighbors save Lebanon - and if there was a Syria-Israel deal how long would it take Lebanon to get on board?

What was the quote from John F. Kennedy? "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never be afraid to negotiate." ? Something like that.

 

Never fear to negotiate

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But, let us never fear to negotiate.”

Will, as I understand it, pressure is building in Israel for a positive response to the Syrian moves.  This week President Bashar Assad’s outreach filled the Israeli media.

It's time they got in synch and started talking.  They've got to make the most of an opportunity.

Gunboats to the Gulf, again

Outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has pleaded for a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran's nuclear agenda in his farewell press conference, saying the use of military force against the Islamic state would be "unwise and disastrous" and could lead to another Iraq.

So the United States and Britain 'wisely' plan to send more warships into the Persion Gulf  to display "military resolve toward Iran", whilst on the non-gunboat 'diplomacy' front Britain and France hope for a UN Security Council vote today on a resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran and Russia drags its heals.

Re: Gunboats to the Gulf

... and they're both right.

For the moment.

Regional Linkages again

Craig Rowley, I forget on which thread we've been discussing linkages among various MidEast regional issues. But anyway, the discussion forum Bitterlemons (again - I cannot recommend this virtual roundtable strongly enough!) takes on linkages in its latest two issues: "How Middle East crises interact:  I & II."

The only US born "black flag" operation carried guitars

C Parsons: "Oh, puh-lease. Now we have to pretend the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands of "resistance" militia thugs attacking Iraqi civilians - and fighting it out between themselves - are "really" under-cover Coalition agents conducting 'black flag' operations."

I don't think it would matter what you said it would not change some of these held opinions. Some people believe them because they must believe them. There is no other option outside of changing ones entire outlook. Arguing these things is like arguing religion. People never change their mind one way or the other.

Anyhow it is really not all that important what some in the West think is going on. The fact is the Iraqis on the street do not think it is "black flag" operations tearing their nation asunder. For them, unfortunately, they feel they have only three options left:

1. Pack up and get the hell out.

2. Take up arms and join the struggle.

3. Sit back and hope for the best. That one day perhaps the madness will end and sanity will prevail.

The divide is there and it is even deeper then religion

Craig Rowley: "Could it be that Iranian [Shi’a] help directed toward the [predominantly Sunni] Palestinians stems from a genuine sense of shared identity as mostazafin?"

I find that highly unlikely. Though I have not asked every Arab so cannot say for sure. What I can do is judge from their actions so I would say no there is no shared identity.

Middle East Muslim society is plagued with multitudes of problems. Economic development as well as structural is failed and well behind where it should be let alone anywhere near competeting with regions such as Asia in a globalised world. This lag behind will come much more pronounced as the world progresses.

One can come up with a number of reasons and causes why this is so, the fact remains it is so. I did note there was a backlash toward the Iranian President in the minds of those young educated Iranians I witnessed on CNN. Much of it had to do with the economic development and the complaints about opportunity or the lack thereof. I would also expect this to grow as the world becomes smaller.

When huge mistakes are made it is only natural to find a scapegoat. Israel and indeed the US fits this bill. Unfortunately whilst perhaps making the "blamer" feel justified it will not fix the problems.

Middle Eastern society will undergo radical changes this coming century. And at the moment they are approaching the situation like deers caught in the headlights. Similar in fact to many as the communist system of government equally fell apart.

The Israeli/ Palestinian problem is minor issue in the larger context of the changes underway.

For me Hamas with its refusal to make and voice even one concrete term for peace sums up the whole hand in the sand approach. It is not the status quo that is the problem it is the fear of what could happen by changing the status quo. It does not surprise that many of these groups find support in extreme left circles in the western world.

The situations and events may differ however the overiding fear has always been the same.

C Parsons: "Indeed, John Pilger in one of his self-opinion pieces specifically castigated the western "propaganda" for suggesting that the Iraqis were not united and fighting like lions to defend their homeland ..."

Of course because people such as John Pilger need this dream even more than Iraqis need it. Forget Iraq, that is another minor issue in the larger context of these people's minds. Their ultimate dream is to have a united non-Jewish Arab state. One that could act as a bulwark (with oil) against the evil capitalist west. In fact, all the things communism failed to do therefore filling the void.

If not this dream they would settle for a rabble in this region with nations such as Russia and China hopefully moving in to fill the void. That is why the constant shout for the US to be out of the region is one never ending chorus.

What next?

Angela Ryan: "But who are the "resistance" who target population centres and markets filled with Iraqis and no invaders? One would be very naive to assume they are Iraqis."

Oh, puh-lease. Now we have to pretend the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands of "resistance" militia thugs attacking Iraqi civilians - and fighting it out between themselves - are "really" under-cover Coalition agents conducting 'black flag' operations.

What next?

Seeing as the turmoil in Iraq is itself supposed to be the evidence of the Coalition's "failure", why would Coalition agents disguised as "Sunni militants" be running around blowing up other Coalition agents disguised at "Shiite militants"?

Note, too, according to that theory the Iraqis are again assumed to be too stupid to know the difference.

Racist contempt again for the Iraqi people.

I rest my case. The capacity for the psuedo-intellectual Left for self delusion is almost limitless.

We went through all this before - not long after Comrade Number One Pol Pot's glorious victory over the West in 1976.

Oh, how we cheered then, too.

Why we have no choice but to support the Iraqi resistance

Craig Rowley: "Jay’s question appears to rest on an assumption about the Sunni-Shi’a divide. The assumption is that religious difference overrides any prospect of political alliance."

I am reminded that it was an absolute article of faith on the Left, and one might say a devout hope, that the Sunni and Shia would "unite" in order to defend their "homeland" against the "invader" once Saddam was overthrown.

Indeed, John Pilger in one of his self-opinion pieces specifically castigated the western "propaganda" for suggesting that the Iraqis were not united and fighting like lions to defend their homeland:

"Since 11 September 2001, "our' propaganda and its unspoken racism has required an imperial distortion of intellect and morality. The Iraqis are not fighting like lions, in defence of their homeland. They are "cowardly' and subhuman because they use hit-and-run tactics against a hugely powerful invader – as if they have any choice."

Against a hugely powerful invader?

Mostly the "resistance" murders Iraqi civilians, particularly preying on children and women.

John and his ilk, of course, have never resiled from their open support for the "resistance" (Sunni fascist and Islamist militias) who are more focussed on killing other Iraqis as they struggle to overthrow the popularly elected government of Iraq.

Here's why John "has no choice" but to support the "resistance"....

"The Iraqi Red Crescent said yesterday it had halted its operations in Baghdad after the mass kidnapping of more than two dozen staff at its biggest office...."

Beneath the arrogant conceits of people like Pilger there is an abiding loathing of the Iraqi people.

They cannot stomach the fact the Iraqis turned out in their millions to vote, and that they failed to conform to the Left's own romantic revolutionary agenda.

But don't worry. They've still to get around to explaining away the events underway in Gaza. That should be hilarious.

Again, what nationality are the terrorists?Simple,who benefits?

C Parsons: "Against a hugely powerful invader?"

 'Fraid so, yes the US/UK military are hugely powerful and yes both have been targeted by IED and mortars. Have a look at the recent injury stats. Over thirty thousand service men apparently have been wounded so far and they ain't nice wounds. I listened to an NPR report about this and it was very sad hearing about the severe burns and amputations these boys suffer. Then I had a think about the Iraqis who don't have the latest high tech hospital facilties for the same wounds and feel even greater pity, most of them being civlians and many children, dying a lingering painful death. This is according to the Iraqi doctor who visited Australia a few months ago with grim news.

But who are the "resistance" who target population centres and markets filled with Iraqis and no invaders? One would be very naive to assume they are Iraqis. One doesn't piss in one's own pond, nor attack one's support group. More likley it is persons like this

Yep, foreigners caught red handed with bombs and disguised as Al Sadr men. Nice false flag attempt, but how many have not been caught. And what of the reports of feet taped to accelerators and jobs of delivery turning out to be really delivering bombs unknown. These are the "resistance" that you are talking of, the people trying to foment civil war and anarchy. Who they are, who authorised it ?

I suspect multiple based groups, and trials for such murderous traitors are where all should be targeting their fervour, even stooges pretending to care about Iraqis crying their crocodile tears while sneering at the usual propaganda target.  There are serious international crimes going on and the perpetrators are getting cover from such banal shilling.

I suspect these groups will be Gates' first target.  The US will not leave Iraq by choice with all those new bases and oil. Controlling the terror means identifying the real enemy, and some is within. To make them disappear as happened during previous dark ops times. I wouldn't hold my breath for their trials. It's too damaging, as the history in Vietnam and South/Central America have told us.  Look out any other nations who continue the action. Expect some DoD purges. Internal changes of direction are a bit like a semitrailer turning in a glass shop. Wonder how far it will get. Dangerous times. And still the Iraqis will have worse times ahead.

Kagan and his neocon mates want full scale US military assaults, yea sure, that will bring the peace. More Fallujah war crimes in other towns. Typical of his Mob. Wipe out the Sunnis, hit Al Sadr,  empower the Kurds and start pumping their oil. They do need Iran neutered first. No surprise they are calling for such: "the only thing worse than military action against Iran is a nuclear armed Iran". Says it all. 

Add to that the Saudis threatening to go in to "help their brother Sunnis" (no doubt on behalf of their brother Sunnis' oil and perhaps their own UK business partner/military backers and force Wahhabism upon them, a form of Islam widely despised by most other groups, bit like Exclusive Brethren here but with billion behind them).  With the spin of defence to cover an attack against the rising Iran influence in the region, another proxy war in the making.  Nice for those caught in the middle. This is why the rhetoric of "Civil war" is being spun and probably why foreign agents like Saudi/Jordan contractors are likely involved.  Now the puppet Hashemite Royal idea has been shelved by the US , the "civil war" action plan goes on. Explains the ruthless targeting of Iraqi people, both Sunni and Shiite and British agents involved. But really who knows? And history will record some sanitised version.

My hope is the new Bush regime will engage all Iraqis in power sharing and eliminate all terrorists, whether covert detachments or not. Such murderous deeds are beyond our understanding as humanity. The approach to Al Sadr will indicate who is making the policy, the Neocons or the American firsters.

Hard to think of a more backstabbing attack than the neocon attack against Israel recently for not attacking Syria, despite the Neocons "giving them time" and making it all sweet in the US and openly despising them for "losing " against Hezbollah.  Oh Yeah?  Sound rather like war crimes to me by conspirators in the Whitehouse nether regions. I reckon Worms interview gives enough away to indite them, but don't hold your breath waiting for open justice. No talk of what would be left of Israel had it done that, of course. Nor the American fleet looking down the barrels of the Sunburn anti ship missiles of Iran (as are a bunch of ours). One good development is warmongering Bolton's arse getting kicked out of where he never deserved to be. Likud loses another stooge.

Have a read of this interview it is mind blowing, the more I think about what is disclosed here.

Remember these are the people who brought PNAC and Israel the Clean Break papers. Most of the latter has been put into action. One wonders if this is the most sinister conspiracy of all. And idiots playing propaganda games allow the real criminals their protection. It is better to enquire, analyse think and report all that is occuring, not just the selective items that paint a simple spin picture.

Pilger is one of the most experienced foreign observers our nation has produced. He may not always be right, who is? But his thoughts and observations are worth careful consideration by those with open minds interested in seeking truth and justice for the victims of international terrorism by the military empowered.

Clean Break

The "Clean Break" plan was presented to Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu in 1996 by a group of US Neocons. It proposed that Israel take several policy direction changes, including removing Saddam Hussein from power. The Clean Break proposal also became the basis for the PNAC White Paper ("Rebuilding America's Defenses") issued in 2000. Netanyahu, hawkish as he was (and is), ignored the Neocons' advice and shelved the "Clean Break" plan. 

Sunni, Shi'a, Muslim, Mostazafin

Jay White had asked me: Why would [the Iranian President] wish to help a group that is majority Sunni [the Palestinians] whilst attempting to help [Iraqi Shi’a] groups fighting the very same sect of religion in another nation?

I provided a brief answer to that soon after he asked, and as his question touched on a topic I wanted to explore further I said I’d come back to broader discussion of the Sunni-Shia divide when I had time.

Jay’s question appears to rest on an assumption about the Sunni-Shi’a divide. The assumption is that religious difference overrides any prospect of political alliance. To me it begs another question: To what extent is the Sunni-Shi’a conflict a theological (and thus probably irreconcilable) one versus a political one (which can be put aside when it serves the political interests of both sects)?

To get to an answer to this question let’s first go back to the root of the divide between Sunni and Shi’a, and then later start to look at what may be behind the Iranian [Shi’a] regime putting aside the fact that most Palestinians are Sunni.

The original split between Shiism and what later become known as Sunni Islam goes back to the first century of Islam. We need to recognise that at first there was very little religiously that separated the two groups. It was a purely political separation. Shiism arose as a distinct movement within Islam primarily as a political movement.

More than 1,300 years ago, there was a conflict that occurred over succession to the prophet Mohammed. It was the First Islamic civil war; the first fitna.

This conflict divided the Muslim world along economic, tribal, and cultural lines. The Shi’a, or the Shi’at Ali, which means the partisans of Ali, were just that, partisans of a particular movement that believed that the succession to the Prophet Mohammed should rest within the prophet’s immediate family.

Now it has been said that Middle East politics in the past 25 years has really been about Shi’a-Sunni conflict.  I’d say that Middle East politics has been, to a large extent, about Shi’a-Sunni tension for all the years since that original political separation. The Sunnis of Arabia have represented a wealthy and elite aristocracy, considering themselves the followers of the “orthodoxy”. Whilst in contrast, the followers of Ali, the Shiites, historically framed themselves, and have been treated by others, as the “opposition” in Islam and the opponents of dynastic privilege and power. Shiism came to represent, essentially, the “protest movement” of the “oppressed” within the Islamic world. They were not simply the underdogs as we might put it. They defined themselves as martyrs.

And for much of the time Shiism was quietistic in the way it ‘protested’. The ‘strategy’ of the Shi’a was to sit back, let the government do its thing and wait for salvation (with loads of lamentation of the type vividly described by Elias Canetti in Crowds and Power). 

But things changed in more recent times. The change has its roots in the path leading up to the Iranian revolution. Ruhollah Khomeini would transform the passive lamentation of Shi’a into active protest. He would lead the mostazafin [oppressed] against their mostakberin [oppressors].

The seed of the change was planted way back in 1716 CE, when Ayatollah Molla Mohammad Mahdee Naraqi in Iran advocated ‘limited’ velayat-e-faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists). But in 1963, Khomeini revised this concept of velayat-e-faqih. He expanded it.

And it is informative to canvass what motivated Khomeini to design what some now call the Mullocracy. One factor influencing Khomeini’s thoughts and actions leading into the revolution was the January 1963 announcement by the Shah of Iran of a program of reform called the White Revolution. The Shah’s American-inspired reform program upset the power structures in Iran. Shi'ite clergy were angered at the reforms.  Much of the traditional power of Shi’ite clergy in the realms of education and family law was undermined by the reform program, as was their previously strong influence in rural areas. 

Khomeini started openly denouncing the Shah and his rhetoric strengthened over the first half of ’63.  In June that year Khomeini made a fiery speech in which he directly attacked the Shah and was arrested by the Shah’s men.  The arrest brought popular disgust with the Shah's regime to a climax, and a major uprising shook the throne.   In Qum, Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Isfahan, Kashan, and other cities, unarmed demonstrators confronted the Shah's US trained and equipped army. That army, with a command to shoot to kill, slaughtered thousands over three days of violence.

It was this event that established Khomeini as the leader of the “oppressed” in a fight against the Shah and, more importantly, against the foreign backers of the Shah’s regime.  Khomeini didn’t need to work hard at building hatred of the American mostakberin meddling in Iranian affairs. The people who had a decade earlier lost their first democratically elected government to a CIA supported coup just needed their loathing of the “imperialist power of the United States” stoked. And Khomeini led from exile in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  He readied the Iranian people for their revolution and then after the overthrow of the Shah, he set out to ready more of mostazafin for the fight to overcome the mostakberin.

On February 19, 1978, on the 40th day of mourning for the “martyrs” who had died in the first protests that eventually mushroomed into Iran’s Islamic revolution, Khomeini, declared, “As for America, a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights, it imposed this Shah upon us, a worthy successor to his father. During the period he has ruled, this creature has transformed Iran into an official colony of America.”

Jay White may not know it, but Khomeini indicated that he believed in Muslim unity and solidarity, on occasions he called for unity between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. In fact, in speeches Khomeini blamed the exacerbation of the Shiite and Sunni schism on imperialism. And he could be seen as having taken some cues from the revolutionary ideas of Egypt’s [Sunni] Muslim Brotherhood. He was familiar with the texts of the Muslim Brothers and he agreed with the Brothers’ conception of what had to be considered “evil”. The oppression by “Western aggressors” of all the mostazafin, of all Muslims whether they be Shi’a or Sunni, was most definitely considered “evil”.

Could it be that Iranian [Shi’a] help directed toward the [predominantly Sunni] Palestinians stems from a genuine sense of shared identity as mostazafin?

Regional approach

Will Howard, thanks for your response to my question about the related problems of the region.  As you know, I believe that understanding the linkages between problems in the region, and then dealing with the intertwined problems in a way that reflects that understanding, would actually achieve more than trying to operate as if they're all disconnected / unrelated problems.

This idea you’ve put forward against a regional approach, the idea that acknowledgement of how the problems are tied together somehow increases your vulnerability, isn’t convincing to me (at least not on the explanation you’ve provided to date). 

The suggestion that “suddenly extremist groups are given an opportunity to sabotage progress on either front”, is based on an assumption that extremists are blind to existing linkages and the existing opportunities to sabotage progress toward peace. 

It’s a wrong assumption IMO. There is no “suddenly” moment.

The opportunities already exist because the linkages already exist.  Iran, for example, already uses linkages and takes advantage of the opportunities presented by the situations in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and the Israeli occupied West Bank, doesn’t it?

Could you please outline how resolution of each conflict separately through processes that have absolutely no regard for the regional dynamics would work?

And then please explain how the second point you made, the point about how the Palestinian cause is used by many in Arab capitals (as well as in Tehran) constitutes an argument against recognising and dealing with the real linkages between problems in the region. 

That point is a repeat of the “wrapped in the Palestinian flag” line you used the other day, isn’t it?

And if Israel and the Palestinians work together to achieve a just peace, is it not the case that those in the Arab capitals and Tehran are left with nothing to make use of?

Don’t they lose any leverage they’ve gained by exploiting the existing problem? Don’t they lose that “licensed grievance” mechanism when the problem is solved? Don’t they lose the ‘distracting’ issue when there is no issue?

Aren’t they left looking ridiculous and redundant if they remain “wrapped in the Palestinian flag” when the Palestinians and Israelis get to live like normal civil and neighbourly peoples? 

Finally, I cannot see how your third point constitutes an argument against acknowledging (and therefore incorporating into the strategic approach) the interconnected problems of the region. Your third point indicates that we do indeed need to focus on and solve the I-P conflict ASAP. I agree with that completely. Solve the I-P and the solutions to other problems in the region may gain some momentum.

Do you think the achievement of peace between Israelis and Palestinians would have no flow on effects in the region?

How can racism be won?

Roslyn Ross The racism race is won on my side.

Won? What is won and who is your "side"?

1. I still find your writings to carry a large undertone of racism.

2. You claim and obviously think they do not.

3. I have no idea what other people think. And neither do you. And I honestly do not care. It is up to them to make their own minds up.

I have not changed my mind and nothing you have written since has given me reason too.

Telling does not an argument make

Mike:  What is telling to you is not to others and telling does not an argument make. We have not debated on a Darfur thread so what does Darfur have to do with it?

If you had read what I wrote, or comprehended it, neither of which seems likely, you would know that I have mentioned a variety of injustices and discussed on other threads, the same sorts of principles as those I apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, those who see with less jaundiced eyes know the reality and can judge for themselves what is telling.

I stand by what I said. You cannot demonstrate any remotely racist statement made by me and that is 'telling' not just to me but to everyone.

By the way, your level of distortion is demonstrated by talking about this being an issue of :

simply concern over some Arabs who lost out in 1948 and 1967 .

I have consistently stated, and you have consistently ignored, that this for me is an issue of principles of human rights, rule of law, international justice and democracy. And, as I have consistently shown, I apply those same principles to other situations.

This issue is about rights and wrongs and justice and injustice and human rights and the abuse of human rights and morality and immorality and rule of law and abuse of law.

This issue is also about hypocrisy. You and others make much of the fact that Israel was founded because of a UN resolution (without debating the morality or legality of that) and yet consistently ignore the fact that Israel has since the time of that resolution completely flouted the UN and its resolutions,

a. by colonising during the initial dispossession more of Palestine than was given in the original mandated partition,

b. by maintaining a brutal occupation against countless UN resolutions to withdraw and

c. for continuing to colonise under that occupation against yet more UN resolutions.

Why should anyone give any credence at all to that first UN resolution when Israel itself clearly gives no recognition at all to any possible power that the UN might have by ignoring the 'rights' issued in the original mandate and resolutions since?

You cannot have it both ways. If that original UN mandate is legal in any way at all then it means Israel's only legality is on the originally mandated borders and anything taken beyond that is illegal, including the confiscated lands at the time the State of Israel was founded.  

As things stand, Israel by ignoring UN resolutions makes it clear that Israel considers the UN to have no legal power which I would have thought could be clearly argued to mean that the original mandate has no legal power.

In this instance Israel is hoist on its own petard methinks.

Roslyn, when racism stares one in the face, no argument needed

I wasn't making an argument, Roslyn, just an observation that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has followed your endless and obsessive Israel- and Jew-bashing postings.

You tell me I cannot have it both ways. Well, neither can you. You either accept the international legal authority of the UN, or you do not. If you do accept it, then you must accept the UN-established state of Israel.

Racism race is won on my side

Jay:  "Given past history it pushes the bounds of credibility that if you really could post a demonstrably racist statement made by me you would not do it. Given the resort to insult and abuse at times of course if you coulda you woulda. But you cannot. My case rests."

All accusations of racism are based on distorted perception on the part of you and others. Your inability to post anything approximating evidence blows your accusations out of the water.

Which is why you have begun to qualify the racist claims:

You said: "I think your 'principles' are contradictory and ever changing, except when they show one particular group in an adverse light. This happens 100% of the time and in my view sails very close to, if not out and out, racism."

But this does not an argument make and I think it is time for you to drop  the racist slur completely.

Posting criticism, justifiable, defendable, substantiated criticism of a nation, Israel in this instance, is not racism. It doesn't even come close to racism.

The racism race is won on my side.

Roslyn claims racist victory

Roslyn, many of us see your seemingly obsessive attempts to discredit and slander Israel, using ever-changing arguments, double-standards and tactics, as reflecting something deeper than simply concern over some Arabs who lost out in 1948 and 1967 in their efforts to destroy a U.N.-sanctioned democracy. You have expressed little to none of this passion over far worse situations around the world, such as Darfur. That to me is telling.

Related problems of the region

Will, I also think we should do what we can to help to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict only on terms acceptable to the moderate majority of Palestinians and Israelis, not on the terms insisted on by the Iranian hardliners (or any other hardliners for that matter).

Which brings me to something else, another question to help me clarify your view, that I'd like to ask you today.

First, some context.

A few days ago you wrote: "I've made it clear in many of my posts and in my "Repeal of Israel" essay that I think far too much weight is given the Israel-Palestine conflict in dealing with other conflicts concerning the Arab world, and the larger Muslim world. So I won't repeat those points here."

I went back to "Repeal of Israel", read it again, read every single post you'd made on the thread and all I could find on this issue was a single sentence statement of your view:

"It's a disservice to the Palestinians to make every problem in the world related to their just cause and legitimate gripe."

And that was all.

And I do agree with your position on that, given the way you framed it. 

Obviously, to relate "every problem in the world" to the Palestinian cause is more than just a disservice to them, it's ridiculous.

But what of the problems in the region, the problems that are related because they effect relationships between peoples and governments in the region? 

What I see is that there is a relationship between the Israel-Palestinian conflict and other conflicts in the region. I guess I share something of the view expressed recently by Tony Blair. Do you see it differently, and more importantly, if you do - why?

Re: Related problems of the region

Craig Rowley, I've been meaning to get back to you on this question, because I see it as an important and legitimate one.

I had made comments along the lines of "don't link everything to the Israel-Palestine conflict" in threads other than the "Repeal of Israel" thread. I noted in the preface to that essay that it included ideas I'd expressed in other threads, but wanted to distill into more coherent (hopefully) form in one essay.

But, in any case, you note "there is a relationship between the Israel-Palestinian conflict and other conflicts in the region."

I don't deny that many problems in the Mideast are intertwined with the Palestine-Israel conflict, but I don't think we should try to solve them in a way that intertwines them. In this sense I do take a different view from that of PM Blair. A few reasons:

1) Tying the problems together only increases the vulnerability of progress to extremist actions in any of the arenas. For example, if we say that solving the I-P conflict is part and parcel of solving the mess in Iraq, suddenly extremist groups (on either side) are given an opportunity to sabotage progress on either front. Do we really want Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Kach given a "seat" at the negotiating table in Iraq?

2) The Palestinian issue is used in many Arab capitals, as well as in Tehran, as an all-embracing "motherhood" issue which no one in the the Arab/Muslim will argue against. In my own view the support for the Palestinian cause among their Arab brethren is mainly expedience and lip-service. Note the "uses" of the Palestinian issue:

a) It's used as a "licensed grievance" in societies where freedom of expression is severely limited (e.g Iran and Saudi Arabia). You can speak as freely as you want in Saudi Arabia, as long as it's to denounce Israel.

b) It's used to focus peoples' attention away from problems which have nothing to do with Israel. For example the fact that economic, social, and educational development in Arab countries lags far behind Europe and East Asian economic powers like South Korea and Taiwan cannot be blamed on Israel. The Arab regimes have failed to solve these problems despite their huge oil riches (see the UN Arab Development Report). Why is it that, aside from oil revenue, the 22 nations of the Arab League only have a combined GDP near that of Spain? Why do women's right in these countries lag so far behind? Seriously - how's that Israel's fault?

c) The Palestinian issue is one in which Mideast  demagogues from Nasser to Saddam to bin Laden to Ahmedinejad have "wrapped" themselves to inoculate themselves from opposition with the Arab/Muslim world. (Remember when Saddam fired missiles at Israel in Gulf War I?)  I don't believe we should give legitimacy to this type of exploitation.

Recall that the 9/11 attacks were being planned while Pres. Bill Clinton was offering the Palestinians the best deal they'd ever been offered, as getting as close as anyone ever had to closing a deal on settling the Israel-Palestine conflict. For groups like al-Qaeda, though of course they hate Israel, it was down the list of their stated grievances in 2001. (Mainly they resented the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia). Osama bin Laden only really started talking up the Palestinian issue after Sept. 2001.

3) Finally, I acknowledge that for many Muslims worldwide, the Palestinian issue is a sincerely felt grievance, and a legitimate one. But similarly, for most Jews, the attempts to demonise and delegitimise Israel are a source of deep offense. So for the sake of both groups, and of course Israelis and Palestinians themselves, let's get to a final-status settlement ASAP. We all know roughly what it's going to look like: something close to Taba or the Geneva Accord. It will just take the political will necessary to get there.

Why the Left supports the Iraqi "insurgency"

Geoff Pahoff: "Any situation that Tehran or Damascus can portray as a "retreat" by Israel or the US will result in a hardening of attitudes and claims of victory."

That's an excellent point.

For example, the recent "Lebanese" (i.e. Hezbollah) "victory" (i.e. building rubble) in southern Beirut being a case in point.

It merely encouraged the Ba'ath Socialist regime in Damascus to recommence its racist campaign of targeted assassinations in Lebanon - and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hasn't stopped crowing about his role in the "victory" over Global Zionism since.

Also, attempts to link the Arab-Israeli conflict to the "insurgency" in Iraq specifically and to "therefore" call on Damascus and Tehran to mediate in the sectarian violence in Iraq is;

a) tantamount to an admission that the "insurgency" has no legitimacy based on actual conditions endemic to Iraq itself but is rather a "symptom" of the Arab Israeli conflict,

b) an admission that the "insurgency" is more a creature of Damascus and Tehran and less to do with the legitimate aspirations of Iraqis generally (let alone Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as individual communities)

c) acknowledges the "right" of Damascus and Tehran to "be consulted about" (i.e "intervene in") broader Middle East power politics generally.

Point "b" being a strange thing for those who have been supporting the "Iraqi resistance" these last three years to admit.

But good to see, finally.

What next?

Have Syria and Iran decide the fate of the Kurds on the grounds that they're parties to the conflict in Iraq? And part of the bigger picture of Middle East politics?

Hell, why not give Syria a "legitimate" role in settling the political tensions between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon?

I mean, they're already active in killing Lebanese Christians, Druze, dissident politicians, cabinet ministers, journalists, etc.

May as well talk with them about what ti is they actually want.

Fer cryin' out loud.

I'm already reproached daily for "attacking" those who openly supported the Iraqi "resistance" merely by reminding them of it.

Once some Syrian-backed renascent Iraqi Ba'ath Party recommences large scale ethnic cleansing, even John Pilger will deny he supported the "resistance".

He'll be editorialising about how James Baker "backed" Syria and Iran.

Mark my words.

 

Bushehr and Iran


Craig: "I see [resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict] removing the opportunity for the Iranian regime to keep wrapping themselves in the Palestinian flag."

I agree with you here; that would take a lot of the oxygen, if not the fuel,  out of the Iranian anti-Israel fire. But I still think we should do what we can to resolve the conflict on terms acceptable to the parties in the conflict, not Tehran's. [For the same reason, I think the Iraq Study Group's linkage of the Israel-Palestine conflict to the conflict in Iraq is a huge mistake.]

An AP report from 2004, reporting on an Iranian threat to destroy the Israel nuclear reactor at Dimona, noted " Israel has not threatened to attack the Bushehr reactor, but it has said it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb."

Earlier this week, the New York Times' Elaine Sciolino, reporting
on the visit of French Presidential candidate Segolene Royal to the Mideast, noted Royal's hard-line stance against Iran's acquisition of civilian nuclear power. Sciolino pointed out that Royal's stance, "which she first expressed in a debate during the primary campaign, is even more rigid than that of the Bush administration, which accepts the completion of Iran’s first nuclear reactor by Russia. Even Israel does not call for a halt to the plant, in Bushehr, a southern port."

Rowley and the great "myth"

Craig Rowley, why don't we solve the problem in Tibet for all the use it will be in dealing with Iran?

Still waiting for your overview of the Sunni/ Shia divide Craig. Seems that we have here what one might call a conundrum.

Here is your answer Roslyn

Roslyn Ross"You said: 'And yes, like him, I think that if it is not out and out racism then it goes as close as one can get.'  Would you like to back that claim by posting a comment I have made which you can demonstrate is clearly racist?  Not criticism mind you, but demonstrably racist."

I could and if I thought it of any use I would. I happen to think it is not so I will not be attempting to “demonstrate” nor “prove” anything to you. I have clearly stated my opinion and it is up to others to take it or leave it.

BTW my “emotions” on Israel are not getting the better of me. I have no ties to the nation at all. I have visited the nation for a total of two days, and that was many moons ago. And the only Israeli lobby I have ever come across was the one in the hotel.

I think your “principles” are contradictory and ever changing, except when they show one particular group in an adverse light. This happens 100% of the time and in my view sails very close to, if not out and out, racism.

Newsflash! Iran Sex Scandal!

Newsflash! Bleeding heart liberal nice guy President under attack from ignorant rightwing troglodytes for ogling girl with no veil. "I did not have eye contact with that woman" claims the beseiged President. Western lefties rush to his aid! Then rush back again.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who flaunts his ideological fervour, has been accused of undermining Iran's Islamic revolution after television footage appeared to show him watching a female song and dance show.

...

Religious fundamentalists, usually Mr Ahmadinejad's keenest supporters, are asking why he attended a ceremony that violated his own government's strict interpretation of Shia Islam

...

Jalal Yahyazadeh, a rightwing MP, said: "We have heard from some sources that Ahmadinejad was in the stadium at the time. Those who created the conditions for his presence should be investigated as quickly as possible."

Re: Newsflash!

Geoff, too funny! It just proves that truth is more hilarious than fiction.

Notice how the MP spins it that the President was just a passive presence at the show, swept along by currents of [probably Western Zionist] decadence and depravity. Someone else is to blame:

"Those who created the conditions for his presence should be investigated as quickly as possible."

Next we'll be hearing the Solid-Gold Dancers were Mossad agents.

The Tehran All-Star Female Song & Dance Revue was undoubtedly just another example of the misogynistic objectification of women so typical of the psychic fear of female eroticism which so pervades our male-dominated, phallocentric societies.

But enough psychobabble. Let's get on to the music. Songs included:

"Hit Me with Your Best Shahab"

"Tell Aviv I Love Her"

"Who Let the Jews Out?"

"Many Resolutions to Double-Cross"

Vehemently Quick Response From Tehran

2) Drop the Holocaust stuff. No more cartoon contests, and no more Holocaust "conferences." Do you seriously believe anyone thinks you have a genuine academic interest in mid-20th Century European history?

Iran to host forum on Holocaust evidence

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Tue Dec 5, 8:23 PM ET

Iran, whose president has described the Holocaust as a "myth," said Tuesday they will hold a conference to discuss the evidence that the Nazis committed genocide against the Jews in World War II.

The two-day conference scheduled for next week was initiated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the systematic killing of some six million Jews, which has been extensively researched and documented, a "myth" and "exaggerated."

"The president simply asked whether an event called the Holocaust has actually taken place," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi as saying. "No rational response was ever given to Ahmadinejad's questions," he added, explaining the rationale for the conference

...

Mohammadi rejected any suggestion the conference would encourage anti-Semitism, calling discrimination against Jews a "Western phenomenon." The proof of Iran's lack of animosity toward Jews, he said, was Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community.

 

Mohammadi said the conference seeks to "provide an opportunity for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom."

It is a question that needs to be asked

Craig Rowley: "His wishes have never been conveyed to me so I can't really know why." 

Well it is a fair question don't you think? I mean his words would suggest something a lot different from his actions.

Craig Rowley: "Solving those problems could cut out of the equation whatever reason it is that Iran says it has for its involvement."

Well I do not think it will. The reason is because there is no reason for it to.

Israel has never fired a shot in anger at Iran. The real problems Iran have with Israel would not be over a group of people that do not even share their religion. In fact for the most part, they are downright hostile to the Sunni religion. All religions outside of their own for that matter.

Another question that needs to be asked

Here's another question that "needs to be asked": Does Jay White need help to overcome a reading comprehension problem?

What prompts this question is that he asks whether I think his question about the sincerity of Iranian support for the Palestinians is 'fair'.

And he asks that after I wrote yesterday: "And I see it as a question that merits further discussion, so I'll come back to share my views on it later."  He asks it after I have clearly flagged that I think it is a fair question. 

Another indicator of a possible comprehension issue is that his  rejection of the suggestion that solving the Palestinian issue makes sense seems to also be based on a complete inability to comprehend what's being suggested. 

I suggest a very simple thing: Rectifying the Palestinian problem could help in defusing Iran, so it is well worth making it part of the approach that 'our side' uses to deal with Iran.

Rectifying the Israel-Palestine issue

Craig Rowley writes: "I suggest a very simple thing: Rectifying the Palestinian problem could help in defusing Iran, so it is well worth making it part of the approach that 'our side' uses to deal with Iran."

My view on this point differs a bit from yours, Craig. I've made it clear in many of my posts and in my "Repeal of Israel" essay that I think far too much weight is given the Israel-Palestine conflict in dealing with other conflicts concerning the Arab world, and the larger Muslim world. So I won't repeat those points here.

But with respect to Iran in particular, I think this is a bad idea. For one thing, it gives implicit legitimacy to the Iranian strategy of wrapping themselves in the Palestinian flag to inoculate themselves against opposition among other Muslim nations.

More specifically Iran, as an individual country, has no valid claim against Israel. Israel does not occupy one square inch of Iranian territory. Israel has never fired a shot at Iran. Israel has never disputed Iran's legitimacy as a state, questioned its right to exist, or called for the Iranian regime to be "wiped from the pages of history." Iran is also not an Arab nation, so certainly cannot claim some grievance against Israel as part of some sort of Arab "unity." (For example, Iran, is not a member of the Arab League).

I believe it would be an injustice to the Palestinians, and to the Israelis, to use "rectifying the Palestinian problem" as a means of "defusing Iran." It communicates to Palestinians and Israelis that "we" are not rectifying their problem because it's the right or just thing to do for them, but because we're trying to "defuse" Iran.

As I have suggested, we should make it clear that if Iran seriously cares about the Palestinians, it should join the rest of the international community in seeking to resolve the conflict through the framework of the Road Map and UNSCR 1515 which endorses the Road Map.

 P.S. further to my earlier point about making clear that it's only Iran's manufacture of weapons-grade nuclear fuel that is of concern to the West: even Israel has indicated it does not oppose the completion of the Iran nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

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