Surrender

Washington has deployed even more military forces against Iranand intensified its economic war against Iran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard generals have launched a rhetorical broadside against Washington, and Israel has again threatened to commit aggression against Iran.

Iran’s egregious insult of pointing out the obvious—that it can threaten the massive array of U.S.military bases that have come to surround it since the neo-con push for an Imperial America—is a starving fox poking around a grizzly’s catch. The ability of Iran to respond to attack by hitting the bases comes as no surprise and while its articulation of the threat may play well in Tehran, it is otherwise is likely only to empower the Israeli-American war party, the grizzly pretending that the fox is threatening its existence by trying to steal scraps.
The egregious nature of Washington’s behavior—ratcheting up both military and economic pressure against a Tehran that is doing nothing new—is of a totally different order. Imperial Americaunder Democrats is proving hard to distinguish from Imperial America under neo-cons: be sure you have a new war ready (Iranfor both Obama and Bush) before you end the old war you are currently fighting (Afghanistanfor Obama; Iraqfor Bush). Keep tensions at a fever pitch. Distract voters from the mess at home.
One can only wonder at the idea of distracting voters. Does a man whose bank has cheated him out of his home really not care as long as he can cheer U.S./Israeli aggression against yet another Muslim society? Not only does such a strategy on Obama’s part make the assumption that the American voter is extremely ignorant, it plays right into the hands of the Republicans and the even more dangerous expansionist faction in Israel – the greater the tensions, the easier it is to argue that “nothing less than the immediate destruction of XXX can save the world!”
The Washington Post betrayed the lack of sincerity in Washington’s position, advocating that  “Like any good pugilist, Washington should follow the heavy blow of oil sanctions with further unrelenting pressure.” The author insults the intelligence of his readers by his childish comparison of a boxing match to U.S.-Iranian relations. Perhaps the analogy is indeed apt in describing the bias of Washington decision-makers, however, for they do indeed appear to sum up the relationship in their minds as a battle to the death. For their own self-respect, as long as they refuse to offer Iran an honorable way out (security, participation in world affairs as an equal, and independence), they must insist that the relationship is a zero-sum battle until one side scores a knock-out. 
Iran, meanwhile, is trapped: Washingtonwill not offer a deal because, egged on by a sneering Netanyahu, Washington does not want a “deal;” Washingtonwants Iran to surrender. Perhaps the New York Times finds it appropriate to interpret rising U.S. military pressure as primarily designed to persuade Israel not to start a war, but the timing immediately following yet another round of talks in which Washington apparently chose again not to offer Iran a balanced, compromise deal suggests that the main message Iran should hear—and certainly the message it will hear—is a demand that it play by Washington rules. The talks recently concluded in Istanbulwere technical-level talks; following them with renewed military threats makes little sense if Washingtongenuinely wants a solution. The purpose of technical-level talks is to pave the way for a political solution, not achieve it; that is the job of senior policy-makers.
Washington’s behavior suggests a more ominous interpretation: Iranmust confirm without qualification that Israelis and will forever remain Master of the Mideast Universe. Recognition of Israel’s right to a regional nuclear monopoly backed up by its already overwhelming conventional military superiority resulting from the open arms pipeline from the U.S. and in the context of its blank check authorization to tell other countries what arms they are allowed to possess and to attack any who break its rules means that no country in the region but Israel shall be permitted independence.
But independence, for Iran, is the whole ball game. Iranhas been struggling mightily for a century to reemerge from its recent obscurity and define for itself in its own terms a path forward. Nukes are not Tehran’s goal; its goal is international respect as a player whose voice needs to be listened to. Tehranplays its nuclear card because that is the only way to get Washington’s attention. If Iranends up building the bomb, Tel Aviv and Washington will be to blame for teaching it the lesson that the big boys sneer at everyone who lacks the bomb. Iran’s immediate enemy, Saddam’s Iraq, has vanished only to be replaced by a new string of U.S.bases and an armada of U.S.ships that serve no purpose except to threaten it with nuclear annihilation. Meanwhile, Israelcontinues to swallow those pieces of Palestineit did not digest in 1949 and has now defined Iranas its main enemy. How can Tehranensure Iranian national security except by playing the nuclear card? Washingtonis not offering a rational deal–a trade of terminating its economic war against Iran in return for nuclear transparency—because nuclear transparency is not Washington’s goal. Washington’s goal is formal Iranian acceptance of permanent Number 2 status in the region and that indeed constitutes, for Iran, a surrender.

Three Stooges Diplomacy

Washington has deployed even more military forces against Iranand intensified its economic war against Iran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard generals have launched a rhetorical broadside against Washington, and Israel has again threatened to commit aggression against Iran. 

Iran’s egregious insult of pointing out the obvious—that it can threaten the massive array of U.S. military bases that have come to surround it since the neo-con push for an Imperial America—sounds like the last gasp of a very insecure country under a very real threat. The ability of Iran to respond to attack by hitting the bases comes as no surprise and while its articulation of the threat may play well in Tehran, it is otherwise is likely only to empower the Israeli-American war party.
The egregious nature of Washington’s behavior—ratcheting up both military and economic pressure against a Tehran that is doing nothing new—is of a totally different order. Imperial Americaunder Democrats is proving hard to distinguish from Imperial America under neo-cons: be sure you have a new war ready (Iranfor both Obama and Bush) before you end the old war you are currently fighting (Afghanistanfor Obama; Iraqfor Bush). Keep tensions at a fever pitch. Distract voters from the mess at home.
One can only wonder at the idea of distracting voters. Does a man whose bank has cheated him out of his home really not care as long as he can cheer U.S./Israeli aggression against yet another Muslim society? Not only does such a strategy on Washington’s part make the assumption that the American voter is extremely ignorant, it plays right into the hands of the Republicans and the even more dangerous expansionist faction in Israel – the greater the tensions, the easier it is to argue that “nothing less than the immediate destruction of XXX can save the world!”
Iran, meanwhile, is trapped: Washingtonwill not offer a deal because, egged on by a sneering Netanyahu, Washington does not want a “deal;” Washingtonwants Iran to surrender. Perhaps the New York Times finds it appropriate to interpret rising U.S. military pressure as primarily designed to persuade Israel not to start a war, but the timing immediately following yet another round of talks in which Washington apparently chose again not to offer Iran a balanced, compromise deal suggests that the main message Iran should hear—and certainly the message it will hear—is a demand that it play by Washington rules. The talks concluded this week in Istanbulwere technical-level talks; following them with renewed military threats makes little sense if Washingtongenuinely wants a solution. Washington’s behavior suggests a more ominous interpretation: Iranmust confirm without qualification that Israelis and will forever remain Nuclear Master of the Mideast Universe. Recognition of Israel’s right to a regional nuclear monopoly backed up by its already overwhelming conventional military superiority and its blank check authorization to tell other countries what arms they are allowed to possess and to attack any who break its rules means that no country in the region but Israelshall be permitted independence.
But independence, for Iran, is the whole ball game. Iranhas been struggling mightily for a century to reemerge from its recent obscurity and define for itself in its own terms a path forward. Its immediate enemy, Saddam’s Iraq, has vanished only to be replaced by a new string of U.S.bases and an armada of U.S.ships that serve no purpose except to threaten it with nuclear annihilation. Meanwhile, Israelcontinues to swallow those pieces of Palestineit did not digest in 1949, and has now defined Iranas its main enemy. Washington is not offering a rational deal–a trade of terminating its economic war against Iranin return for nuclear transparency—because nuclear transparency is not Washington’s goal. Washington’s goal is formal Iranian acceptance of permanent Number 2 status in the region and that indeed constitutes, for Iran, a surrender.
U.S. voters may be somewhat distracted, but meanwhile the Three Stooges pie-throwing contest is generating dangerous momentum. How is Obama to extract himself after the election from a situation in which he has acted as though the world were in a crisis as the result of Iran’s insistence on being held to the same standards as everyone else? Will he have the guts to tangle directly with a Netanyahu facing humiliation? Will he have the creativity to defeat Netanyahu? If Obama continues to allow tensions with Iran to build and ends up giving Iran what it quite reasonably demands (to be allowed to play by the same nuclear rules as others) only to be forced to sacrifice U.S. national interests to please Netanyahu, then the end result (whatever happens to Iran) will constitute an historic humiliation of the U.S. Some may think Americans will deserve it, but a triumphant semi-fascist and militant Israel humiliating the U.S. will make the world a very unpleasant place for everyone.

Undeclared War Undermines U.S. Democracy

Escalating “executive war”—war by the Imperial Presidency without Congressional authorization or oversight—against Iran and Pakistan is alienating foreign friends, radicalizing foreign adversaries, undermining U.S. democracy, and setting American society up for blowback.

What under Bush-Cheney neocons was touted as a war against anti-U.S. terrorists has now become a war against Muslim political activists who may not have any intent of attacking the U.S. and may not even be fighting against their own governments. They may simply be innocent bystanders who fit profiles used to excuse murder, in the case of drone attacks that kill unidentified individuals, or industrial disaster, in the case of cyberwar sabotage. And that cyberwar sabotage, whose computer code weapons have already gone viral and spread out of control around the world, could strike anywhere, including back in the U.S. Cyber chickens are flying home to roost. The Obama wars take distinct forms depending on the country – economic and technological against Iran (supplementing a highly public economic war and a terrorist campaign murdering nuclear scientists that may in the future be tied definitively to the White House), drone bombing against Pakistan—but appear to fit a consistent pattern of violating Constitutional requirements that Congress approve war and provide oversight.
As Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the leading Congressional advocate of a tempered and rational foreign policy, warned in his recent letter to President Obama demanding an accounting for his unauthorized use of drones:

The fact that they are conducted with complete impunity and with no accountability threatens to set a dangerous precedent that could unravel the very laws and international standards the U.S. helped to create.  Even the most ardent supporter of the current President should consider the precedent created by granting the President the power to circumvent the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [Kucinich Leads Congress in Demanding Accountasb ility and Transparency for Drone Strikes,” Kucinich. House.Gov 5/31/12.] 

Kucinich also warned in his letterthat targeting “ terrorist suspects whose identity does not need to be known goes further than what Congress authorized when it passed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the attacks of September 11th (9/11). As you know, the AUMF only authorized the use of force against those responsible for the attacks of 9/11 and those who harbored them, not against individuals whose identity is unknown, but that merely fit a certain profile of suspected terrorist activity.
Both the drone attacks and the cyberwar have been cloaked in a relatively transparent security blanket that has long since ceased fooling anyone but that continues to obstruct the due process of law in the U.S. that rests on the ability of the system of government to hold powerful officials accountable for their actions. Obama Administration leaked formed the basis of a recent New York Times piece by David Sanger detailing the Obama Administration’s complicity in the cyberwar attack on Iran. Thus does Obama continue one of the worst abuses of the neo-con era – the attempts by the White House to position itself above the law.
The Christian Science Monitor bluntly spelled out one of the blowback routes of this new global threat:

the possibility that such attacks could provide a digital copy of the cyberweapon to rogue nations or that hacktivists could reverse-engineer the weapon for use against the power grid or other key US infrastructure.

Officially revealing the U.S. policy of attacking foreigners in their home countries with drones, White House Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, as quoted in Washington Post 4/30/12, stated:

…let me say it as simply as I can. Yes, in full accordance with the law — and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives — the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones.

The anti-Iranian cyberwar remained mired in controversy, with both the Obama Administration and Israel’s Mossad seemingly competing for credit, oblivious to the strong possibility that both will be condemned by history for opening wide this new Pandora’s Box. Washington may not have invented cyberwar, but it certainly is making few efforts to delay the arrival of a new, nasty world in which low-cost, highly dangerous cyberwar will ravage global societies.
Obama’s private wars violate two of the most fundamental principles of democracy. First, although now utterly obvious as the result of White House statements, they were when determined and implementing totally defiant of the need for transparency in government, being implemented without Congressional authorization and behind the backs of the American people. Second, in their lack of Congressional oversight, they violate the equally critical democratic requirement of rule of law by establishing a precedent of arbitrary and unauthorized Presidential action. Once the President acquires the “right” in practice, if not in law, to make private war, what power is denied him? To argue that the President cannot personally authorize war except when it is fought via the Internet or drones makes a mockery of democracy.

Israeli Subversion of U.S. National Security?

Is Israel not just a national security burden but an adversary intentionally causing the U.S. harm? So a careful reading of the Stuxnet evidence suggests.



A debate has been blazing through the dry tinder of American denial and political correctness for a couple years now, even at the highest levels of government, about the degree to which Israel may be harming U.S. national security. The usual argument concerns whether or not having Israel as an ally harms U.S. national security because of the baggage associated with supporting Israel’s policy of security through strength, over-the-top hostility toward Iran, and blatant repression/ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. That is bad enough, but it gets worse.


A far more serious argument concerns the degree to which the Israeli government may intentionally cause harm to U.S. national security. Israel’s attack on the U.S.S. Liberty and associated murder of 34 Americans comes to mind as an old example. Washington should have learned then that Israel was a country not to be trusted with powerful weapons. But of course Washington did not learn anything of the kind and evidently even went so far as to cooperate with Israel to jointly plan covert cyberwar against Iran – the very state that has over the past decade been, upon occasion, cooperating with the U.S. against Sunni extremists! And we wonder why some Iranians seem to feel they should have the option of acquiring powerful weapons of their own.


Now, it appears that Israel may have deliberated sabotaged the highly sensitive and dangerous (both politically and technically, given the ultimate harm Stuxnet might do to any of the world’s nuclear reactors) U.S. cyberattack on Iran. According to David Sanger of the NYTimes [6/1/12], who broke the scandal wide open:

the N.S.A. and a secret Israeli unit respected by American intelligence officials for its cyberskills set to work developing the enormously complex computer worm that would become the attacker from within.



As reported by Philip Weiss [ Mondoweiss 6/12/12], it may well be that Israel:

coded StuxNet to escape, without telling the Americans, so as to undermine American attempts to occupy them with cyberwar to prevent hot war. That is, the implication of Sanger’s article (which he now seems to be trying to retract) is that the Israelis deliberately exposed our cyberwar attack so as to make it more likely they could start a war with Iran…

A myth haunts the American political scene – that Israel and the U.S. share values. As with all good myths, this one has a basis in fact: in the early days, many Israelis greatly resembled American pioneers trying to build civilization and find peace in a new land. But the regional nuclear superpower that Israel has become through the shortsighted support of the American taxpayer is no longer a pioneering society, and the values its current ruling clique espouses are less democratic and more expansionist than those of many of America’s foremost adversaries. 


The Stuxnet attack has greatly harmed U.S. national security both by handing Iran all the justification it could ever need for developing weapons of mass destruction to defend itself and by establishing the precedent that the so-called leader of the free world (I apologize to readers too young to recall the meaning of this old phrase) thinks cyberwar is not just consistent with international law and decent human behavior but also an activity that the President should be permitted to engage in without the express approval of Congress. (“It ain’t unconstitutional because it ain’t war as long as we use virtual means, even if the resulting industrial destruction or even potentially nuclear catastrophe is very real indeed.”) 


Sanger noted that Iran has now:

announced that it had begun its own military cyberunit, and Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, said that the Iranian military was prepared “to fight our enemies” in “cyberspace and Internet warfare.” 

The U.S. will surely come to rue the day it encouraged its adversaries to engage in cyberwar, a field in which–unlike conventional armaments–the U.S. has no natural advantage and, given its old and poorly organized infrastructure, many natural disadvantages.


And now it appears that Israel may have intentionally contributed to making this harm to U.S. national security even worse…in order to trap the U.S. in not  just a cyber war (and economic war) but also a traditional military war with Iran. Israel, then, stands accused of doing exactly what bin Laden apparently tried, with such success, to do by attacking the World Trade Center – suck the U.S. into a foreign war.


Perhaps all this is inaccurate, but the American people will never know unless we shine the piercing light of transparency on this scandal. If the Netanyahu regime is innocent, then let it make its case for all the world to hear…in the courtroom where it belongs. It is not the identity of the leakers that should be investigated but the truth of what the Obama and Netanyahu regimes have been doing. Even more important, American national security clearly requires a public debate about the pros and cons of associating with Israel, the nature of the harm that association may do to U.S. national security, and the degree to which extreme right-wing Israeli factions may intentionally be causing harm to the U.S.

Do No Harm

Iraq is the same dictatorial disaster it was under Saddam…plus endless non-government terror. Palestinian repression is a deep stain on the integrity of America. Somalia and Afghanistan are, by comparison with their circumstances two generations ago, destroyed societies. Saudi Arabia is on a domestic knife-edge. Iran, victim of an undeclared war by the U.S., is being terrorized, marginalized, and radicalized. Ironically, Israel, “victim” of a flood of thoughtless U.S. military aid and blind support for whatever ambitious politician happens to get elected, is also being terrorized, marginalized, and radicalized. The record of U.S. intervention in the Muslim world is one of incomprehension, immorality, arrogance, and self-defeating short-sightedness. But despair not! We have new opportunities in Yemen and Syria.

As for that new opportunity, Syria, it is surely clear that there are bad guys in Syria and it is obvious that those bad guys are backed by powerful organizations. It is only logical to assume that there are also many decent people being mistreated. Obama’s pathetic philosophy notwithstanding, a Muslim does not deserve to be killed just because that Muslim happens to be an adult male. What is not clear is whether or not any “good” organizations exist and merit support.

Given the record of U.S. influence over Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, etc., it is also clear that the likelihood of Washington decision-makers correctly identifying an organization in Syria that might merit diplomatic, economic, or military support is very small.

It is no doubt useful to point out the evil being done by various Syrian politicians, though one must be careful to point out such evil regardless of which side is doing it (and few reports have such balance). But at this point, would it not be more valuable to lay out any argument that may exist to justify making a commitment to support those we think might possibly deserve our help? And if no such candidate can be identified, then the proper course of action lies elsewhere.

“Do no harm” should be the default course of action, especially for elephants. The burden of proof lies on those Westerners who presume to have the wisdom to interfere in Muslim societies and make things better.

Israeli Apartheid in the Spotlight

The struggle against discrimination continues, just changing venue as time passes.

Desmond Tutu has equated Israeli discrimination against Palestinians to apartheid:

A quarter-century ago I barnstormed around the United States encouraging Americans, particularly students, to press for divestment from South Africa. Today, regrettably, the time has come for similar action to force an end to Israel‘s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territory and refusal to extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens who suffer from some 35 discriminatory laws.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church in the U.S. denounced the Israeli occupation of Palestineand called on “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” [The New York Times 5/2/12.]
The anti-discrimination struggle has to be fought over and over. A century after the U.S. Civil War, the struggle was still raging in the U.S. Tutu’s own struggle in South Africawas long and slow, as well. Now the focus is turning to Israel.

Nuclear Hysteria

Trust but verify. To verify your “friends,” listen to them. You may be surprised.



We Americans like to put countries in neat categories, simplify issues, take a stand, and get on with life. Those are very dangerous habits in our messy little world. A perfect example of the American tendency to oversimplify is “Israel.” Almost all Americans seem to assume that the term “Israel” means something. Do all Israelis have identical opinions, attitudes, and intentions? OK, obviously not. So…do all socially conscious Israelis? Again, five minutes’ reading of any Israeli newspaper makes it clear they do not. So…how about all national security officers in the current Israeli administration?


Pick the most critical national security issue of the day and listen to the public remarks in the last week about Iran of key members of the regime in Tel Aviv:

Prime Minister Netanyahu: To fear telling the truth, which is that there are those today who also seek to destroy millions of Jews, is to disrespect the Holocaust and insult its victims. The Prime Minister of Israel is not only allowed to conjure the memory of a third of our people when speaking of existential threats, it is his duty. [Haaretz 4/25/12.]


IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gantz:We are a temperate state. The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so. Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria….Clearly, the more the Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year, but not necessarily ‘go, no-go.’ The problem doesn’t necessarily stop on December 31, 2012. We’re in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We’re closer to the end of the discussions than the middle….[WM: Iran] is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile. [Haaretz 4/25/12.]

Those not sufficiently impressed with the level of hysteria in the above Netanyahu quote should read the whole speech; Netanyahu’s grossly overblown historical allusions that implicitly accuse all who dissent from his viewpoint of being either idiots or traitors are explained in the Israeli media.


Hysterical people with their fingers on nuclear buttons are not friends; they are enemies…and very dangerous ones.


_____________
An  Israeli review of the Israeli military-intelligence revolt against Netanyahu.

Winning Coalition for the U.S.-Iranian Nuclear Dispute

As Tehran, Washington, and Tel Aviv maneuver, the world is trying to figure out what the three sides really want, but there are no “three sides.” The conflict pits zero-sum militarists against positive-sum moderates.

All three sides are constantly in flux internally and in relation to each other, so even if the world knew all the secrets of each, where they are headed would still be unknowable for they do not know themselves. Yet logic can carry us rather far once we abandon the hopelessly simplistic image of “good” and “bad” regimes.
Starting with Tehran, it seems fairly safe to assume that at least three distinct perspectives are well represented within the factionalized and bitterly competitive ruling elite: 1) nuclear arms are “haram;” 2) nuclear arms per se may be risky but nuclear ambiguity is a great bargaining chip; 3) neither national security nor the realization of national goals is possible in a nuclear world without nuclear arms (i.e., this third faction may in turn be composed of a faction that feels the bomb is the only way to defend Iran and another faction that is committed to the high risk road of international adventure). It is illogical to assume that a fundamentalist religious regime claiming its right to rule is derived from God would repeatedly and publicly insist that nuclear arms are evil if it were committed to building them, so it is only logical to assume that some measure of genuine regime antipathy for owning nuclear arms truly exists. To the degree that nuclear ambiguity serves as a catalyst for persuading adversaries to negotiate in good faith, i.e., to offer something Tehran really wants, the Tehran faction that consider nuclear arms haramand the faction that is open to a pragmatic, positive-sum bargain will be thrown together, and Iranian media are replete with indications that the latter faction should not be discounted.

Hossein Mousavian–former Iranian nuclear negotiator with ties to Ali Larijani, a background of cooperating with the U.S. as an Iranian official, and now living in the U.S.–published a well-balanced and moderate op-ed in the Boston Globe that is rumored to present the position Jalili was advocating in Istanbul. Mousavian’s recommendations for Washington were surprisingly low-cost:

the United States should credibly demonstrate that the ultimate goal is “engagement’’ and not regime change. The P5+1 should offer a package that includes three major elements: 1) recognition of Iran’s inalienable rights for enrichment; 2) removal of the sanctions; and 3) normalization of Iran’s nuclear file. 



Although a neutral observer of the U.S.-Iran conflict might well imagine that Washington would at a minimum need to recognize Iran and address its legitimate national security concerns, Mousavian evidently considers neither of these concessions essential to making progress on the initial nuclear phase of the bilateral discord. For any Washington officials who may wish to avoid war, that is good news: tough U.S. moves toward peace can be postponed for later…presumably after the election.


The degree to which Mousavian represents the views of major Tehran power-holders of course remains unclear, but he has presented a low-cost set of U.S. moves that could put U.S.-Iranian discourse on a more professional foundation and his background suggests it is logical to assume his views will resonate with at least some portions of the Iranian national security establishment.
It should, in brief, be obvious to serious national security decision-makers in Washingtonthat it is in the national security interest of the U.S.to grease the wheels for an Iranian factional realignment by presenting compromise offers that promote cooperation rather than making hardline demands that equate to an Iranian surrender.

Factionalism is of course not limited to Iran. Tel Aviv is firmly under the control of the “Greater Israel” faction that is committed both to maximizing Israeli power and permanently subjugating the Palestinian people. But even this faction is fundamentally split between those represented by risk-seeking Netanyahu who seem eager to fight to the last American to shove Iran back into client status and those, represented by recently retired and risk-averse Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who worry about provoking a disaster for Israel. Neither moderate nor liberal factions appear to play any significant role in the current Israeli power structure, but many representatives of such views speak out bluntly and regularly in the Israeli media, cautioning about not only a self-provoked disaster for Israel but the immorality of Israel’s repression of Palestinians and the harm that the Israeli garrison state is doing to Israeli democracy. These out-of-power thinkers represent a potentially revolutionary force for Israel’s future that was far more influential traditionally in Israeli politics than it is today.
The extraordinarily bitter and irresponsible factionalism in Washington separates two sides of the old superpower coin: the neo-con, zero-sum militarist faction vs. the empire-light conservative Democrats. But progressive, moderate perspectives remain among Washington officials, even if marginalized, and the argument that Washington could, by skillful diplomacy, elicit more cooperation from a factionalized Iran can be turned around: a less awkward, short-sighted, and egregiously uncooperative Tehran could also elicit a more balanced, more positive-sum attitude on Washington’s part. The more Tehran removes ambiguity from its nuclear policy, the easier it will be for those forces in Washingtontrying to prevent war to prevail. To put it differently, the more Tehranhardliners hide what they are doing in Fordo, the more Iranian representatives at nuclear talks make speeches that lack detailed substantive compromise offers, the more they empower American neo-cons and Israeli “Greater Israel” advocates.
The current situation, then, is three sets of internally competitive factions, one in each country. As illustrated in “The Current U.S.-Iranian-Israeli Political Impass,” this unfortunate reality prevents resolution of the nuclear dispute by confusing common interest in national security with domestic political infighting, separating and weakening the forces in each country that could, if interacting, find a solution. This situation greatly empowers extremists because they do not need close coordination: it only takes one actor to start a war.
The road to a positive-sum solution that could potentially end the nuclear dispute with mutual acceptance of the independence and national security of all lies in the joint realization of those in each regime favoring cooperation that cooperation needs to begin at the factional rather than national level. Once coordination between the cooperative factions of the U.S. and Iran begins, the tone of the debate changes from “how can we defeat the enemy” to “how can we solve the problem.” Redefining the terms of debate is critical to finding a real solution. Once that happens, it becomes vastly easier to persuade members of the flexible faction to joint in, thus building momentum to marginalize extremists.

Two recent indications of apparent Iranian interest in cooperation are Larijani’s offer of eventual “permanent human monitors” and Jalili’s weekend reference to Khamenei’s fatwah as an opening to “disarmament.” While perhaps indicative of an Iranian interest in compromise, these rhetorical initiatives fall far short of the type of major substantive concession that Iran, with its huge nuclear infrastructure, could afford to make. Without harming its stance of nuclear ambiguity, Tehran could, for example, open the Fordo underground refinement facility or the Arak heavy water plant to full public inspection or announce temporary termination of construction and/or operation pending the removal of sanctions. Closing one while keeping the other open would demonstrate flexibility while making the statement that Iran has multiple options in the face of continued Western intransigence while weakening protests from Netanyahu that Obama’s willingness to negotiate was only giving Iran more time. A temporary concession made on the requirement of a Western response within a specified time would empower U.S. advocates of compromise now fatally weakened by Iranian refusal to go beyond rhetorical steps that can easily and not unreasonably be dismissed by Western cynics.

In sum, the simplest picture of what is happening that everyone needs to keep in their heads is not “Iran, the U.S., and Israel,” but three sets of factions vying for influence. To prevent war and resolve the nuclear dispute, the Tehran, Washington, and Tel Aviv factions willing to define a deal centered on the concepts of mutual security and a willingness to do business together must figure out a way to coordinate and shift the debate from zero-sum barbarism to positive-sum rationality.