Monday, March 10, 2008

"The Folly of an Attack on Iran"

Last week I attended an event here in Washington, DC, organized by the group Just Foreign Policy focusing on the need for direct, unconditional negotiations with Iran. The speakers included Representative Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), former NY Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer (and author of the excellent book Overthrow), and William Nitze, a former State Department official under Presidents Reagan and Bush (the first).

I filed a piece on the event and the broader issue of U.S.-Iranian relations for Inter Press Service, which you can find here.

An excerpt:
The overthrow of Mossadeq, followed by the successive support of six different U.S. presidents for the repressive dictatorship of the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, directly led to the Islamic revolution that brought the current Iranian government to power, argued Kinzer. Further, that revolution in part led the United States to provide military support for Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran in the 1980s -- a conflict that cost upwards of one million lives.

"The great lesson that I draw from this is that when you violently intervene in the political development of another country, you can never predict what the long-term consequences will be. And most likely, although the consequences will be terrible and tragic for the target country, they will be even worse for the country that launched the intervention," said Kinzer.

"The same thing will be true if we fail to learn this lesson and launch an attack on Iran now," he added.

Other speakers suggested that though the NIE seems to have diminished the chances of an attack on Iran in the next 10 months, efforts still need to be made to push the issue of rapprochement with Iran onto the agenda of the next U.S. president.

"Neither Senator [Hillary] Clinton nor Senator [Barack] Obama has seen fit to openly discuss this issue" of dialogue with Iran, said William Nitze, a former State Department official under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "And I think part of that has to do, frankly, with what they perceive -- not correctly, in my view -- as the interests of Israel and its supporters in the United States."

Though Democrats have criticised President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, many have echoed the administration's hawkish rhetoric when it comes to Iran. One recent Democratic-sponsored resolution which passed overwhelmingly called for the United Nations to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "inciting genocide" because of his anti-Israel rhetoric.

And last year, after further tightening economic sanctions against Iran, Democrats in Congress removed a provision in an Iraq war spending bill that would have forbidden an attack on Iran without congressional approval. The measure was removed after intense lobbying from groups such as the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, an influential lobbying group that is seen as supporting policies in line with Israel's right-wing Likud Party.

"It would be a disaster for Israel if the United States took military action against Iran, because it would fundamentally weaken the United States and it would fundamentally weaken Israel's position in the Middle East," argued Nitze. "But nobody in the political horizon, including on the Democratic side of the aisle, has been willing to say this."

UPDATE: has also picked up my piece, which you can access here.

UPDATE II: I see that has also picked up the article, so go ahead and read it for the third time here.

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