Coming Thaw with Tehran?
January 5 2004
Can the Great Satan find common ground with a charter member of the Axis
of Evil, the Iran of the ayatollahs?
Stranger things have happened in our own lifetimes.
In 1972, Nixon, who built a career on anti-communism, was walking on the
Great Wall of China, the honored guest of a Maoist regime responsible
for the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Korea.
In 1985, Reagan, a Cold Warrior who branded the Soviet Union an evil
empire whose leaders reserved to themselves a right to "lie, cheat and
steal," was charming Gorbachev in Geneva. In 1987, the two signed the
greatest arms-reduction treaty since the Washington Naval Conference of
1921-22. A year later, they would walk arm-in-arm through Red Square, to
congratulations and cheers.
Several events suggest the real possibility of a thaw between Teheran
and Washington. Iran's cooperation in the Afghan war. The U.S. overthrow
of Iran's hated enemy Saddam. Deputy Secretary of State Dick Armitage's
testimony to Congress that we do not seek "regime change" in Iran. Colin
Powell's statement that Iran's recent acts are "encouraging" and we are
"open to the possibility of dialogue."
Finally, Iran has agreed to inspection of its nuclear programs – a
critical concession. For after Gadhafi agreed to abolish weapons of mass
destruction, President Bush declared that Libya can leave the penalty
box of sanctions and rejoin the international community.
Then there is Iran's public welcome of U.S. aid for victims of the Bam
earthquake. Looking closer, we appear to have interests in common. We
both oppose a return of the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to al-Qaida and
also executed Iranians. We both are alarmed by attempts by Muslim
fanatics to assassinate Pakistani President Musharraf.
Should those fanatics succeed and assume power, they would support a
Taliban return and control dozens of atomic weapons. Iran would be in
greater peril than she is today, surrounded by U.S. power in Turkey,
Iraq, the Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Nevertheless, there are grievances between us.
Iran remains bitter at U.S. Cold War domination and support for the
Shah. Teheran believes that the downing of an Iranian airliner by the
USS Vincennes, in which 300 lost their lives, was no accident. Iranians
claim America is freezing billions of dollars in assets that belong to
The United States, too, has a score to settle for the holding of 52
Americans hostage. And we have a right to justice in the Khobar Towers
bombing in which Iranian intelligence is believed to have been
complicit, and in which 19 Americans lost their lives.
Yet, Reagan did not let Moscow's downing of a Korean airliner in 1983,
where scores of Americans, including Rep. Larry McDonald, perished
prevent his meeting Gorbachev. And George W. Bush did not let the
massacre of the passengers and crew of Pan Am 103 prevent him from
reaching a secret accommodation with Gadhafi.
Nor did Nixon let China's appalling mistreatment of our POWs in Korea
prevent him from taking a step he considered vital to U.S. security, by
splitting China off from a rising Soviet Union.
The state is a cold monster, said DeGaulle. We may deplore it, but we
have ourselves behaved that way at times. When we believe we have been
savagely and unjustly attacked, our answer has been Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. When the need arises, we have not hesitated to bed down with
dictators and monarchs – from Louis XVI to Napoleon to the Shah to
Pinochet – and even embrace totalitarian-terrorist regimes like
The question for 2004 is this: Will George Bush seek to reach an
accommodation with Iran along the lines of his deal with Libya, which
protects U.S. vital interests but suspends his crusade for "regime
Or will he heed the neoconservatives' non-negotiable demand that we
overthrow all Arab and Islamic regimes that do not democratize, disarm
and terminate support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Arafat?
In Iran, fanatic mullahs will fight any rapprochement – as will Ariel
Sharon in Israel and his fifth columnists in the United States.
In the Dec. 31 New York Times is a full-page ad by "The American
Committee for the Preservation of the Land and People of Israel." The ad
puts Iran's reformist Prime Minister Khatami in the same bag as Osama,
Saddam, Kim Jong Il and Arafat, and calls on Bush to finish the job and
remove all "these tyrants from our midst."
According to British journalist David Rennie, a new book by Richard
Perle, "An End to Evil," demands "regime change in Syria and Iran, and a
Cuba-style military blockade of North Korea backed by planning for a
pre-emptive strike on its nuclear sites."
The battle for Bush's soul – between the friends of Powell and the
friends of Perle – continues into the New Year.
© 2003 Creators
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