Cheney, you want to talk domination?
Did no one detect a hint of irony in the declaration over the weekend by Vice President, Dick Cheney that one of the major U.S. missions in the Gulf was to prevent the Middle East from being dominated by a nuclear armed Iran?
Granted Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon is a major concern, but if any nuclear power is dominating the Middle East these days it is not Iran.
It is not Iran who illegally invaded Iraq, has 150,000 plus troops in that country, and talks of withdrawal at the same time as it is building four sprawling military bases that are anything but temporary. It is not Iran that is attempting to shape a new petroleum law in Iraq that will allow its oil companies privileged access to one of the largest deposits of petroleum in the world. It is not Iran that has thousands more troops and special forces in Afghanistan attempting to smash the Taliban—while at the same time provoking a rising tide of revulsion by killing scores of civilians with their massive firepower.
It is not Iran that helped plan and carry out Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia earlier this year—overthrowing a militant Islamist regime on the charge that it was linked with Al Qaeda—a charge regime strongly denied—and created what the United Nations is now calling the most disastrous refugee crisis in the world today.
Nor does Iran have two massive aircraft carrier battle groups patrolling the Gulf—from the deck of one on Saturday Dick Cheney made a saber rattling speech against the government in Teheran—at the same time as the CIA spends tens of millions of dollars a year funding what one could only call “terrorist attacks” against the government of Iran—while other U.S. officials are maintain they want to open negotiations with Iran on its activities in Iraq.
(In an excellent article in April’s Foreign Affairs Ray Takeyh points out that such contradictory U.S. policy have hamstrung relations with Iran for years. )
Nor is it Iran who is offering to double the size of the Saudi Air Force with Iranian built jets. That was the offer made by Dick Cheney on Sunday. Those jets would operate out of the massive bases that the United States also constructed during the 1980’s in Saudi Arabia. Which makes one wonder whatever happened to those billions of dollars worth of now antiquated jets that the U.S. furnished to the Shah of Iran back when he was America’s designated policeman in the region.
It is not Iran that pours billions of dollars of aid each year to the corrupt and despotic Mubarak regime in Egypt—a government that was—like the Saudis and Kuwaitis– supposed to be part of the now very moribund U.S. push for democracy in the Middle East.
Nor is it Iran, but the U.S., who turned its back last summer long enough to allow Israel to lunch devastating raids into Lebanon, causing thousands of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in destruction to that country’s infrastructure in a failed attempt to root out Hezbollah.
Sure, Iranian leaders support Hezbollah. Sure they would like their country to become a nuclear state—like Israel, Pakistan and India, and the U.S.—whose military is currently “modernizing” its vast nuclear arsenal.
And certainly Iran would like to be a regional power. And why shouldn’t they? The United States has a certain taste for power itself—now spending more on arms than the rest of the world combined.
The way to deal with Iran is not with carrier strike forces, but with talk, serious negotiations with their leaders across the board on all the issues—as the Iranians themselves offered in 2003. That offer was rejected by the Bush White House, and there are different people in power in Teheran today. But the challenge remains. Attempting to resolve it with rockets and carrier task forces would be a disaster.
It’s time to sit down and start talking with the current leaders of Iran—not half heartedly, as seems to be the present attitude, but with the understanding that the regime in Teheran is not going to be overthrown, and that Iran does have a legitimate interest in affecting what goes on in the turbulent region around it
Barry Lando, a former 60 Minutes producer, is the author of “Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.” He also blogs at Barrylando.com.