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Special Reports Last Updated: Mar 26th, 2008 - 23:42:25

Averting war with Iran: A matter of trust
By John Stanton
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 27, 2008, 00:18

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With approximately 10 months remaining of US President George W. Bush's second and final term of office, a nervous world wonders whether Bush will authorize a military strike on Iran to neutralize what he believes to be a nuclear weapons program camouflaged behind the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In a March 19, interview on Radio Farda (Radio Tomorrow), Bush extended New Year's wishes to the Iranian people and took the opportunity to remind the Iranian people that their government will be prohibited from developing nuclear weapons. Prohibition may take the form of US conventional and/or tactical nuclear air strikes on Iran.

�And the Iranian people have got to understand that the United States is going to be firm in our desire to prevent the nation from developing a nuclear weapon, but reasonable in our desire to see to it that you have civilian nuclear power without enabling the government to enrich [uranium]. And the problem is that they [government] have not told the truth in the past, and therefore it's very difficult for the United States and the rest of the world -- or much of the rest of the world -- to trust the Iranian government when it comes to telling the truth.�

On March 21, a report by the Islamic Republic Iranian News Agency (IRNA) noted that the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, signaled that Iran would continue its nuclear program undeterred. "Bullying powers have done everything in their power, from imposing economic sanctions to waging war and launching psywar, to paralyze the Islamic Republic. However, the nation has continued to tread the path of scientific and social progress . . ."

Volatile environment

Echoing those sentiments, on March 22, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated the same. � . . . Iran is entitled to peaceful nuclear technology and will not back-down its stances even one iota . . . Many of the enemies broadcast satellite programs to avoid extensive public turnout in the elections but to no avail. Under present circumstances, strong presence of people in the elections made the counter more authoritative.� Mottaki's comments not only referred to Iran's nuclear development efforts but recent elections there that saw Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support among conservatives decline primarily due to inflationary pressures on the Iranian economy. The US dismissed the Iranian electoral process as �cooked.�

With the notoriously conservative national leadership in Iran and the US unable or unwilling to find a common ground to establish trust, an incendiary political and cultural environment has been created providing ample opportunity for opponents of Iran to instigate for a war between the two countries and Iran's brand of theocracy. Opportunists abound in this environment: Iranian exiles hoping to return to Iran and rule once again, neo-conservatives in and out of government who long for an American empire, and Israeli government officials and pro-Israel interest groups who are attempting to convince US policymakers and the public that Iran's possession of nuclear weaponry is a threat to the world. In such a volatile environment, sage advice comes at a premium. For example, Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at Hebrew University in Israel, believes that the US, Israel and the world can live with a nuclear armed Iran.

On March 17, US Vice President Dick Cheney began a whirlwind, 10-day peace mission to visit leaders of the Middle East/Persian Gulf states. Coincidently, the vice president's trip began six days after the resignation of CENTCOM UCC head Admiral William Fallon, a vocal critic of pro-Iran war elements in the Bush Administration. Cheney has been a longtime advocate of destabilizing and corrupting the Islamic theocratic model of government that Iran employs. Iran's nuclear program has provided Cheney and his supporters with a pretext for US military action. "I've been pretty consistent over time about Iran. I don't think I've ratcheted up the rhetoric. I felt strongly for a long time, and a lot of us have, that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."

According to China View, on March 23, Cheney visited with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. �During a meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Tel Aviv, Barak stressed that Iran's nuclear program posed a threat to the stability of the region and the entire world . . . Cheney said his country would do everything it could to deal with the alleged Iranian nuclear threat to Israel . . ."

During the same visit, Cheney met with Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli ambassador to the US and leader of Israel's Likud party. According to Ynet News, Netanyahu claimed, "I spoke to him [Cheney] about the need to remove the Iranian threat before (the Islamic republic) arms itself with a nuclear bomb. There are additional Iranian issues which must be prevented, including the need to prevent Iran from building its main bases in the region, from Gaza to Lebanon, and particularly in Jerusalem . . ."

Crazy Eddie diplomacy

Reza Pahlavi, exiled Iranian son of the former Shah of Iran, believes that �Iran�s clerical regime�s continued support for terrorism and confrontational behaviour, both regionally and beyond, its lack of transparency on issues such as its nuclear program, its continued repression of its citizenry, and a host of other issues, has rightfully led the world to the conclusion that, as such, this regime cannot be trusted.� Pahlavi opposes US military action against Iran but believes that a majority of the Iranian people want a secular government. It is difficult to trust the sincerity of Pahlavi's antiwar message. The Iranian government survives still and the throne Pahlavi seeks is becoming ever more distant. Further, both Pahlavi and Bush appear to believe that the Iranian government cannot be trusted. If they can't be trusted, the question is, why negotiate at all?

Amir Taheri, an Iranian journalist and expert from Benador Associates -- whose work appears frequently on David Horowitz's FrontPage magazine and elsewhere -- has opined that US and European diplomats who attempt a carrot and stick approach with Iran are Crazy Eddies. There is no point dealing with the theocratic regime there. The implication is that it must be eliminated.

A few years back there was a character on American television advertising known as Crazy Eddie. Shouting at the top of his voice, he would offer something, usually a gadget of doubtful utility, for sale at a ridiculously low price . . . Reading statements made by the ambassadors of the major Western powers at the United Nations the other day, one could not help remembering Crazy Eddie. The diplomats were speaking after a Security Council session that approved a new resolution, imposing further sanctions on Iran. The British ambassador spoke of the numerous advantages that Iran could reap by complying with Security Council resolutions aimed at ending the crisis over Tehran's nuclear programme.. His French colleague was even more generous. All that the mullahs had to do was stop enriching uranium to be rewarded with "access to the latest technology.

However, the US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad came closest to the Crazy Eddie image. The package of incentives includes active international support to build state of the art light water power reactors and access to reliable nuclear fuel, he promised. Iran would also receive spare parts for its ageing US-made jetliners, credit facilities through the World Bank, membership of the World Trade Oganisation, and a lifting of the ban on Iranian exports. However, as Crazy Eddie used to say, that was not all. We call on Iran to engage in constructive negotiations over the future of the nuclear programme, the ambassador wrote [in the Wall Street Journal]. Such negotiations, if successful, would have profound benefits for Iran and the Iranian people. The message from the US to the people of Iran is that America respects your great country. We want Iran to be a full partner in the international community.

Only Crazy Eddie would think that Ahmadinejad . . . could be bribed with spare parts for Boeing's or state of the art power stations. "

In a July 28, 2005 press release titled �Opposing Statements of Iranian Jews on Meeting Ahmadinejad,� Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee (IJPAC), declared that there would be no talks for peace with the Iranian government. �Please be advised that it is the policy of IJPAC not to meet or negotiate with terrorists, murderers and hostage-takers who have the blood of the Iranian, Jewish and American people on their hands.� Dayanim is a staunch supporter of policies advocated by Michael Leeden and refers to Los Angles, IJPAC's home, as Tehrangeles.

Dayanim's blunt message lurks in the recent statements made by Bush, Cheney, Netanyahu and Barak. And it echoes around the globe as proponents of harsh economic sanctions and US military action mock diplomatic efforts ensuring that trust will not be an obstacle to war.

John Stanton is a Virginia-based writer specializing in national security and political matters. His latest book is "Talking Politics with God & the Devil in Washington, DC." Reach him at

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