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Diplomacy as a Real Option


Newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new face of evil, US officials and media want us to believe.

The dialectics that yielded such a conclusion have been offered in abundance within thousands of news broadcasts, commentaries and official pronouncements. The fiery Iranian president’s decision to remove UN inspectors’ seals from his countries nuclear research facilities amounts to a declaration of war; or so it has been widely accepted.

Iran’s research in the field of uranium enrichment may or may not lead to anything conclusive, may or may not alter its course of focusing on peaceful objectives, may or may not be used to produce a nuclear bomb, may or may not threaten Western interests with its apocalyptic, hypothetical, and of course, non-existent threat. Nonetheless, the Iranian peril is presented to be very real and very immediate.

It’s bewildering how some countries, such as Iran, have managed to achieve such a menacing reputation to the extent that the mere interest in nuclear enrichment research could put the United States, the United Nations, Germany, France and the Britain on high alert, as if a Tehran-dispatched nuclear bomb is about to be detonated.

The Iranian government is by no definition a model of democracy or human rights, in a region that in its entirety fails to present such a model. However, aside from occasional and emotionally charged pronouncements, Iran’s behavior since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 provides little evidence that could explain the US-led panic over the country’s nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic invaded no one and is not exactly known to be the Middle East’s foremost violator of international law. Currently, it is the Bush administration that has a blatant record of breaching the sovereignty of independent nations, through invasions and the like, including that of its own allies, through the newly discovered secret prison network maintained throughout Europe. Moreover, it is Israel that has the infamous reputation of recklessly dashing through the borders of its neighbors (all four of them to be exact), ordering bombing raids and assassinations across the region. However, few in Washington and even fewer in the mainstream media seem at all bothered by the fact that Israel’s nuclear program, clearly not built for peaceful purposes, is ready to charge with the press of a button.

But even such an obvious fact can be completely dismissed in one short sentence, in the hand of a masterfully dishonest journalist. This is an example from the January 13 issue of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. In its editorial entitled, Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, the paper stated: “Israel is widely understood to have some nuclear weapons, but no one has ever feared it would use them for anything but as a deterrent to invasion.” Of course, by “no one” the newspaper is referring to the United States alone; whitewashing at its best.

In fact, many pundits and political analysts are casually and practically discussing as a possible option to the Iran “nuclear threat” an Israeli aerial bombing campaign of Iranian nuclear research sites, a joint American-Israeli campaign or an Israeli-style American campaign (styled after the Israeli air attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981). If any of these models are ever rejected or questioned, it’s purely on practical and political grounds, such as the “(immense) political fall-out in the Arab world,” as suggested by the Scotsman newspaper on January 15.

But a possible Israeli role in “eliminating” the imaginary Iranian threat is more than media disseminated rumors, but has in fact been verified on various occasions, including in the New York Times January 13 report, stating that Meir Dagan, the chief of the Israeli Mossad and Aharon Zeev-Farkasj, until early January the head of Israel’s military intelligence and “Israeli policy makers all agree that a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities cannot be ruled out.” Similar conclusions have been conveyed through other well-regarded media, including the London Sunday Times and Germany’s Der Spiegel. The Times reported that Israeli armed forces are being readied for a possible March 2006 attack.

It’s disheartening, to say the least, that despite of the Iraq calamity – the greatest military blunder since the Vietnam war and arguably World War II – the Bush Administration is as imprudent as it was on the eve of its invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Tens of thousands of wasted innocent lives, a wrecked economy and a squandered country’s reputation later, there are still those willing to do it all over again, as speedily, as recklessly, as if the shortest way out of one quagmire is nose-diving into another.

Of course, Israel wouldn’t mind doing it all over again, as long as Americans are willing to flip the bill, endure the dismal military consequences and withstand, alone, the political fallout. For the United States, however, all options seem costly. Doing nothing to contain the Iranian “menace” means the official end of the neo-conservatives’ perpetual war doctrine and a stark example of the limits of US military power. Attempting to curb Iran using the already worn-out US army and without the backing of the majority of Americans is strategic and military folly. Even economic strangulation using the Iraq model is bound to backfire; the oil market is already too fractious to bear such a risk, thanks to the Iraq war and grievous US Middle East foreign policy.

Strangely, among the thousands of media analysis, few, if any, have suggested that the Bush Administration might consider common sense and unconditionally seek a diplomatic solution to its problems with Iran. The Iranians have clearly stated their willingness to negotiate a way out of the crisis, while Russia is eager to mediate whatever outcome yielded by these diplomatic efforts. It’s time for the United States government to alter its ways in managing problems if it indeed wishes for the Iraq tragedy not to steep any further. It’s time to give peace and diplomacy a chance.

-Ramzy Baroud is an Arab-American journalist who teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology. His latest book is “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (Forthcoming. Pluto Press: London). He is the Editor-in-Chief of PalestineChronicle.com.

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