There have been exchanges of emails between Senator Kerry's staff and Iran's news media. An important element of this exchange involved a statement by Kerry that if elected as President, relations between the United States and Iran would be restored. This position has also been confirmed by numerous other news media reports.
Senator Biden is considered to be the principal architect of this new policy towards Iran – our state's Senator no less (who is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee). Apparently Senator Biden has had meetings with senior representatives of Iran's theocracy as well as key policy advisors to Senator Kerry.
Such a rapprochement with Iran, is ill advised. Once again, Senator Biden has succumbed to emulating the Brits (who have extensive diplomatic relations with Iran). Here are a few reasons why such a policy would be wrong for the United States:
1) U.S. policy must be based on long-term results. In the long-run Iran will become a democracy. Iranians have long memories – any rapprochement today will be seen by virtually ALL Iranians as a positive and prized recognition for this brutal and oppressive regime; and reaffirm widely held views among Iranians that the U.S. government has maintained secret relations with Iran for a long-time. And, in the long-run (i.e. when Iranians gain their freedoms) future representative Iranian governments will not be pro-American.
Do not be fooled – there is no democracy or goodness within Iran's current theocratic regime. Hundreds of newspapers have been closed down, there are literally thousands of political prisoners. There are serious human rights violations and serious democratic abuses. The mullahs have no real popular support. The United States can not be a party to oppression. Now is the wrong time to kiss and make-up – especially after Iran's sham elections.
2) It is not an argument to say we're falling behind the Europeans on this. First of all this argument has never held weight on relations with North Korea or Cuba. Secondly, the Brits are widely hated in the Middle East and are seen as the principal architects of all the misery in the region. Everything in the region, including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, puppet Sheikdom's in the Persian Gulf, etc. originate from short-sighted British policies. And, today after failure, the Brits are trying to cleverly leverage and use US's vast resources to achieve their own strategic goals.
Consider for example, 8,200 British troops in Iraq versus 120,000 US troops in Iraq – with British troops sitting squarely on about half of Iraq's oil reserves in the south near Basra. The Brits have in effect leveraged US assets and are hiding behind American coat tails – having pushed the US to the fore in the Middle East. America is now hated at center-stage (not them).
Remember George Washington and our own Revolutionary war to liberate America from British tyranny. Our history and our principles are substantially different to Britain's. We stand for liberty and democracy, with valuable founding statements such as “all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights …life, liberty…” – yes, ALL MEN, not just Americans. This is enshrined in the creation of the United States!
The Brits on the other hand do not care about liberty or happiness anywhere (except on their small island). Do not be fooled, a British push for engaging Iran with the US will serve British interests not ours. I believe that standing on the side of liberty will in the long run bring larger dividends to America.
3) The Democratic party MUST also differentiate itself from the Republican party, that contrary to Bush's rhetoric, has been quietly reinforcing other regional oppressors for access to oil – such as the recently re-established dictatorship of Azerbaijan (with a leader who was anointed an honorary Texan by George Bush); or indeed continual support for the Saudi Royal dictatorship, and virtually every Arab dictator, not to mention close support of former communist cronies and today's “presidents for life” in Uzbekestan or Tajikestan! The Democratic Party must in actions and in rhetoric be a supporter of real democracy.
The Republican Party's strategy of supporting oppressors – is a short-term play, and in effect plays into all the wrong images of America abroad. And above all, it's simply bad business for our companies to invest in those regions – especially on new, long pay-back projects (like pipelines, or oil field projects) – signing contracts with governments that have no legitimacy or long-term binding authority. In this day and age – no force is large enough to arrest the call of liberty anywhere indefinitely. These regimes will fall and oil companies will end up empty handed. We're better off fixing the political environment first – then investing. And we can do it – their populations will help us!
As a senior member of the Senate Foreign relations committee and a close colleague of Senator Kerry, Senator Biden would do better to support immediate and significant change in Iran – and bring about a more democratic and secular government there. The mullahs must go… and go now! Rapprochement comes later.
Such a change will not come by getting close to the regime or pushing for slow evolutionary change. The Iranian regime has been playing good cop/bad cop with the West for over 26 years – and their real colors have been revealed with the recent sham election, secret nuclear programs, human rights abuses, and general oppression. They are clearly much worse and more sophisticated than Saddam Hussein ever was.
I believe it is in everyone's interests to bring about immediate change. Such a change can be brought about easily by supporting a global embargo of Iranian oil, and freezing all Iranian assets overseas. Such an embargo would give Iranians the confidence to topple Iran's government – without engaging American troops or spending $160 billion!
Remember that there is a renewed need to increase oil imports to the US and there is substantial growth in demand for oil in the Far East. Central Asia's vast, untapped hydrocarbon reserves will play a very significant role in the world's energy supply for decades to come. Demand for oil will begin to outstrip supply within a few years.
Iran sits squarely in the middle of that region. Even if a large pipeline is placed through Afghanistan – pumping (at most) one million barrels a day (out of the 6 Million barrels a day that Central Asia can produce); or if the Caspian Sea is exploited from its Northern shores; or Iraqi oil comes-on full force – without Iranian cooperation there will be serious inefficiencies and shortcomings in bringing oil to market. The scenario's even bleaker without Iran on Natural Gas – where elaborate regional trades might be needed into a combined pipeline system. Basically, every play in the region supports Iran's transformation.
With Iran transformed, the region will then become an engine driving global economic growth – especially as new refineries, oilrigs, and chemical plants are ordered, built and operated. The resulting prosperity would then result in new hospitals, roadways, airports …you name it. And it will all be good for the United States – if it is admired.
We should not suffer as the British did, after granting independence to their former colonies, to find that they were so hated that orders started flowing to Japan, Germany, the United States, and NOT Britain. Britain's decline in exports was so severe, that without North-Sea oil, Britain would be a third world nation today.
The United States must in the long run maintain and expand its global presence through decency, fair play with real respect and compassion for the people of these nations. With Iran especially, the United States does have a debt of decency. Consider Eisenhower's CIA backed coup to eliminate democracy in Iran (1952); Or Carter's active assistance in the demise of the Shah and promotion of Islamic militants (1979). Or even Reagan's back room deals with the same Islamic militants to swing them against Carter and delay the release of the hostages to win the 1980 presidential elections. And the subsequent arm sales to both sides extending the Iran-Iraq war resulting in 1 Million deaths and injured.
Iran's mullahs have grown very rich and remain symbols of success for other Islamic militants. The United States can not support, assist or recognize Iran's theocracy – in this age of terrorism by Islamic militants. All Islamic clerics from Morocco to Malaysia are dreaming of an age when they too can become rich like Iran's clerics, and are planning their own versions of Iran's Islamic revolution through Al-Qaeda.
Any other foreign policy will not be sustainable – and in the long-term result in economic decline for the United States and a serious loss of American prestige globally (that by the way has already been compromised by the international image of a very cavalier, sometimes arrogant, Texan cowboy “President Bush”).
Like it's citizens, America's foreign policy must be caring and compassionate – not opportunistic and shortsighted. Senator Biden could be giving better advice to Kerry.