Creating Common Interests With Iran

Conducting rational (thoughtful, calculating) foreign policy toward Iran would open doors to a fundamentally new Mideast, a prospect extremists everywhere view with alarm.
The U.S. mainstream media is a very easy target to criticize, and from Solzhenitsyn at Harvard to my posts, a deluge of criticism has been aimed at it for its superficiality and pro-Washington, pro-Zionist bias. But credit where credit is due: today the New York Times got it right on an issue of fundamental significance to everyone: Iranian nukes. This, you need to read if you care about peace on earth and milk without radioactivity:
New York Times

The Opinion Pages

Iran Without Nukes

Published: June 13, 2011
Cohen makes too many good points to summarize, but for those with only a casual interest in thermonuclear war or U.S. national security, Cohens terse history of Israels propaganda campaign to push the U.S. into disaster should be glanced at:
one might recall a forecast of a bomb by 1999 (Shimon Peres) or 2004 (Ehud Barak), or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus talk of a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs, or my friend Jeffrey Goldbergs allusion in The Atlantic last year to a consensus that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July. That would be next month.
The U.S. has paid a high price for allowing itself to be distracted from the business of taking care of its national interest by the self-serving rhetoric of Israeli right-wing expansionists. As Cohen says, in his bottom line:
The nuclear bogeyman obsession has been a distraction from the need to try to tease out a relationship with Tehran, see Iran as it is. Only the most flimsy efforts have been made, insufficient to test the waters.
Teasing out a relationship is a nice phrase for figuring out where U.S. and Iranian national interests and regime goals happen to overlap. Many areas exist, amid all the obvious disagreements, and the areas of agreement are of course amenable to expansion by skilled execution of rational foreign policy. Indeed, it is areas where common interests could be created that offer the real payoff. A few examples include:
  • joint action to combat illegal narcotics, which flow from Central Asia and imperil Iranian society as much as Western ones;
  • working out an arrangement on Iraq, where the U.S. star is fading, rather than just leaving it to a looming Iranian-Saudi knock-down, drag-out battle that will inflame extremists on both sides and leave only al Quaida a winner;
  • promoting a stabilizing regional hydrocarbon concord with U.S. participation, since it will emerge through Iranian-Turkish cooperation in any case;
  • finally clarifying U.S. willingness to see a peaceful Iran take its logical place as a regional power paid by the two-sided coin that offers to judge Iran by the same standards others are judged and in return grants Iran the same degree of national security.
 The amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19).
(U.S. Navy photo, by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class
Jason R. Zalasky/Released) 100226-N-1082Z-016
The last point is key. Imagine a Mideast in which U.S. military power were employed to guarantee the inviolability of all borders, in which the U.S. 5th Fleet was empowered to destroy any air force offensive action over the Persian Gulf, in which any regional state that did not conform to U.N./IAEA requirements on nuclear transparency was punished, in which all regional states were consulted about the status of U.S. military bases in the region, in which no regional state was allowed to occupy territory outside its legally recognized borders,  in which no regional state was allowed to sail nuclear-capable submarines along the coastlines of other states.
That would really take the wind out of the sails of extremists everywhere. No wonder those extremists are desperate to inflame tensions.

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