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Iranian Ambition, the Great Chessgame

Netanyahu’s tone was measured and direct, fitting the prestige of the chamber he was addressing. “That deal would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons — it would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them,” he told Congress last Tuesday. It was classic Netanyahu in many ways – bold, dire, and ultimately a load of cowpuckey.

Netanyahu can’t claim to know what is happening in the “P5+1” talks to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and if he does know he can’t prove it publicly. These talks have been going on for nine years now and have always hinged on one sticking point – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Any other result would have made the talks much easier and they would have been over by now. But these are important talks for reasons even larger than weapons of mass destruction.

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran.  He is not a reliable bogeyman, but can we go as far as to make peace with him?

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran. He is not a reliable bogeyman, but can we go as far as to make peace with him?

Iran was brought to the table to discuss its nuclear ambitions by one very nasty reality – the regime of sanctions against it are by far the most crippling ever imposed against a nation. They include a complete cutoff from the world’s bank messaging system, SWIFT, which makes any transfer in or out of Iran extremely difficult. Even North Korea has access to this system and not not been as hermetically sealed to the outside world.

To be fair, it has been alleged that the Obama administration effectively relaxed sanctions by not pursuing leaks that allowed some money to flow in and out of Iran as long as they remained at the table, but this is hardly a “lifting” of the sanctions.

These sanctions are backed by a long litany of UN resolutions and the complete confidence of the US that one thing can never happen – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. No matter how desperate the situation becomes in Iran the seal around it has never been called into question by anyone. No matter how much the talks have dragged on Iran has always been monetarily, diplomatically, culturally, and politically isolated.

That is, actually, a lot of the problem. Iran is a rogue state that is not a part of the great family of nations in any way at all.

Hamas' core military is very small, but well armed.

Hamas’ core military is very small, but well armed.

The status as a pariah includes their unilateral support of Hamas, which is the only entity currently actually shooting at Israel from time to time. They also support Hezbullah and other groups that are great forces for instability, destruction, and tremendous pain in the region. Everyone in the world needs an Iran which is a normal, peaceful nation that looks after its own and does not create chaos.

That has to be the ultimate goal of talking to Iran and bringing them back into the fold.

There is a potential great benefit for Iran and everyone in this process, too. Their great reserves of oil and gas would provide them with a lot of revenue to revive their crippled economy – and provide an alternative to Russian oil and gas for Europe, which desperately needs one. It would restore a balance to a region that has shown signs of flaring up into a war between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, a conflict that would only destroy the Moslem world and create a refugee problem much bigger than the horror that is Syria today.

The ultimate pragmatist, or just a jerk?

The ultimate pragmatist, or just a jerk?

Long ago, the US had “The Nixon Doctrine” which held Saudi Arabia and Iran as the “Twin Pillars” of the region. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the west has relied far too heavily on the Saudis for anyone’s comfort. Today, they may well be deliberately destroying US oil production and its associated jobs here in order to once again corner the oil market. One pillar apparently is not enough to support the region, especially when it is a medieval kingdom with its own modernity-defying roguish tendencies.

Can the negotiations work to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, lift the sanctions, and ultimately create an Iran that is a force for stability and peace? It seems like a lot to ask, and frankly Netanyahu is right to be skeptical. But it is worth trying – given the resolute solidarity that nuclear weapons are not an option first.

Will the talks work ahead of the deadline on 31 March? We don’t know just where they are, but there are reasons for hope. While Netanyahu’s speech did not produce the epic failure that Barataria predicted when it was announced, they may have affected the talks themselves and screwed up the one thing that Netanyahu was adamant about. The parties at the talks are apparently more resolute than ever to make something happen.

As long as the arms catching aren't nuclear arms ... maybe?

As long as the arms catching aren’t nuclear arms … maybe?

Barataria would like to present a modest proposal to jump start the talks and work towards not just eliminating the Iranian nuclear program but actively bringing Iran back into the family of nations. It’s a trust-building exercise that would cost very little to implement but go a long way towards ending the relentless war between us.

It starts with the US apologizing for our role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s democratic government, something which we only recently admitted. Once that is done and some reparations announced, Iran could apologize for the seizure of our embassy in 1979. The US would then in turn apologize for shooting down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, with the full “body price” from the Qu’ran paid to the families. Iran would then apologize for the 1983 Beruit embassy bombing with similar reparations.

There may be other events that we should all apologize for, but these stand out immediately.

A little respect goes a long way.

A little respect goes a long way.

Why go through this? Because there is no trust between Iran and the rest of the world, headed up by the US. There has to be to achieve the ultimate goal for these talks far beyond the nuclear program. There is a great benefit to everyone – especially Israel – if we can get as far as to have Iran stop supporting terrorist groups and fully rejoin the world.

Where Netanyahu is wrong is his belief that a hard line is the only way to go with Iran. There is nothing wrong with having a “Bad Cop” in Israel calling for this position, and perhaps that is all the Prime Minister is really doing at this point. But there is a lot for everyone beyond the nuclear weapons issue.

The world needs a legitimate Iran, and Iran needs to go legit. It’s that simple. Getting to that simple conclusion has proven incredibly difficult. But no matter what, it’s worth trying. We can all only hope the talks are successful – given the caveat that the top goal is an end to the Iranian nuclear program.

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35 thoughts on “Iranian Ambition, the Great Chessgame

  1. I don’t see that there is ever any risk in talking. The Republicans & Bibi are united in their mistrust of Obama but I am not worried about it at all. I would be much more concerned if there weren’t talks.

    • It all comes down to mistrust of this administration. But this is a UN Security Council operation led by us, not our show entirely. Perhaps that means even less trust in the end, but it’s the way it is. And yes, there is more risk in not talking, given the status as a rogue nation.

    • I have to reluctantly agree with you about the Mullahs – they are definitely holding the whole nation back while they dream of bigger ambitions. But Rouhani is at least a lot more practical than most, it seems. I think he is ultimately a deal maker.

      • When any of them was a deal maker?The Shah Of Iran Mohammad Behlaavi made a BIG mistake in 1978 Instead of getting rid of KHOMAINI he exiled him to Paris.The Feb.1979 would if never happened.

      • Again, they have never had a practical deal maker with any real power – the office of President isn’t really that important, it seems. Khatami seemed pretty reasonable, but no one listened to him. Will they listen to Rouhani, if he is indeed practical? A lot to ask, so we’ll have to see.
        I’m not saying this is an easy thing – if the P5+1 couldn’t make any real progress in 9 years you know it’s a bad problem. But I will say it’s worth trying. Generational change is happening in Iran and someday, maybe a long time from now but someday, it has to change.

      • Keeping optimism alive l hope some thing will happen in the future.But oppression and persecution prevent the future to happen..

      • Amen to that. I’m all in favor of breaking that cycle any way we can. In a lot of places, like Iran, we have only so much leverage – but I think we should do what we can. And that rarely means using our military to do work like that, IMHO.

  2. How can anyone trust or talk to Iran after what the Iranians did to our diplomats in 1979.For 440 days the Iranian revolutionary guards tortures and humiliated American Citizens., and every American.

    • How can they trust us after we engineered a coup against their government and shot down their plane? It goes both ways, and both sides are in a slightly-warm war with each other.
      That’s why I proposed a trust building exercise like I did. I don’t expect it to cure all problems, but it seems to be a pre-requisite for getting anything done. We have to willingly push the reset button – both of us. If they aren’t willing to do that I agree – we can’t trust them. And nothing good can come when there is no trust.

  3. Didnt Iran at least sign the NPT? The strange thing is that Israel is fine with having nuclear weapons but it is never ok for anyone else in the region to have them too. Iran is just looking for nuclear power it seems, but hopefully our politicians can work all of this out.

    • I didn’t get into it, but apparently they did sign the NPT under the Shah. That’s why they are subject to inspection. They could have refused to keep going along with it after the Revolution, and sometimes they have, but mostly they seem to respect it in some form. It seems complicated, which is why I didn’t get into it. It’s not clear what they think of the NPT today.

  4. A provoking piece.
    I applaud your Solomonesque rebuilding of trust
    BUT
    Have avowed radicals ever changed in such a civilized manner?

    • A good point, but remember that there is a LOT of money in it for them if they play by the rules. I would also wave that in front of their faces as much as possible, and if they didn’t blink wave it in front of the young people who are a bit tired of living under the mullahs.

  5. I don’t trust Obama or the other nations involved in this one bit. As you said they need the oil in Europe and we are already working with Iran against ISIS. I see everyone selling out bigtime and saying screw Israel, who may have it coming anyway but Netanyahu is right to be nervous.

  6. Israel has likely had. Ike’s for decades
    BUT
    Have they used them in the many assaults on Israel?
    Do they vow death to Arabs?
    Have they taken land by first blood or have they actually given it back?
    Are they calling us Satan?

  7. Israel is not part of the P5+1, so unless there are major security leaks, what exactly does Netanyahu fear about the negotiations? His appearance at Congress seemed to be politically motivated, but may have backfired. He did not gain the boost in support in the upcoming election. We’ll see.

  8. It is true the US had a role in Mohammed Reza Shah taking power in 1953. Some elements of Iran liked the Shah however. The US didn’t control everything the Shah did. He wasn’t a puppet.

    Certain elements of current Iranian society like to blame things on the US. They can blame us all they want but the Shah did what he was interested in.

    The 1979 revolution was a coalition between various elements allied with the fundamentalist clerics. There are liberal Iranians currently and they don’t like having theocracy. Yes they have elections but they are elections in political space controlled by the government. Khameni is the top leader and is not subject to popular election.

    • It is useful to the regime to have a bogeyman in the US, so we are blamed for nearly everything. There are many liberals there and they march in the streets, respectfully, every Friday before prayers in Tehran. Things may yet change.

  9. I am off-topic frequently and today I would like to propose that the US mandate the use of squat toilets in order to spur economic growth. All toilets should be converted. Google this one on your own. Americans should also use bidets.

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  11. That’s very wishful, intelligent and logical thinking Eric, but do you really think it’s plausible?

    I think Netanyahu knows a bit more about what’s going on behind the scenes than he’s letting on, and the reasons that led up to the talks.

    It has to be hard for Netanyahu to be cooperative when he knows his country is the primary target of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    It’s hard to imagine a regime like Iran with terroristic, tendencies to play nice with the rest of the world. Theirs is a deeply-rooted and religious ideology that can never find balance through economic and socially, moral feasibility.

    I trust, that no matter which way the deal goes or doesn’t, the outcome will not be good for the rest of the world.

    Impressive blog you have here!

    • Here is where I am coming from: Iran, as it stands now, is intolerable. Given that, what are we going to do about it? We’ve sealed them off from the rest of the world better than any other nation, but they are still about the same. Anything that can be done to potentially break the stalemate has to be tried.
      No, we shouldn’t give up the important goal of a non-nuclear Iran in negotiations. But we should be at the table trying. It’s worth it to everyone – especially Iran, and we need to make them understand that.

      • Agreed. But I’m not so sure our current administration has the capability to do that. The statements that come out of some State Department officials mouth’s is frightning, i.e. Harf. Where do they find these people? Thats what really scares me.

      • OK, that’s fair enough! We certainly screwed up Ukraine badly, and by that I mean the US and the EU. Skill and leadership are huge problems in the West right now all around.

      • Maybe the Clinton Foundation can help out? Hillary probably has us all fooled. She’s probably cutting deals herself with the Ayatollah right from her home server.

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