It has been said that the animosity between the governments of the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran is the result of the policies of the extremist factions wielding power in the two governments. This assessment has its roots in disregard for justice that divides the blame equally between the victims and the offenders. Such a judgment in fact favors the assailants and goes against the prey. There is ample evidence in the public arena that the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least in the last five years, has been initiating signals to show its willingness to negotiate and engage in dialogue with the United States in order to resolve the existing differences between the two countries.
But every time that Tehran has made such attempts, to the dismay of the leaders of Iran, the U.S. has decided to rebuff the friendly gestures and begin a new round of hostilities.
In the wake of the tragic events of 9/11, vast crowds turned out on the streets of many cities in Iran, as men, women and children held candlelight vigils to openly express their sorrow for the victims of the disaster. According to BBC's News correspondent, Gordon Corera, “Sixty thousand spectators respected a minute's silence at Tehran's football stadium.” Even this clear and transparent sign of empathy and spontaneous human kindness did not soften the dark heart and the attitude of a minority of conservative segments of the U.S. public and government toward the Iranian people.
The second round of opportunity for the reduction of hostilities, and maybe normalization of relations, between the two countries presented itself during the Afghanistan war when U.S. officials worked closely with their Iranian counterparts to assemble “a brand new” administration in Afghanistan. In that rendezvous, Iran was helpful in bringing the forces of the Northern Alliance aboard to work with the warlords of the southern provinces of that country.
By aiding the U.S. government to build a city-state in Kabul, Iran at the time was pursuing its own self-interest and dual objectives: assisting to replace the archaic military body politic, with whom it almost went to war in the 90's, with an artificially-built weak administration, and secondly, beginning a trend toward, hopefully, reducing the level of tension with the United States. As a tactic, if not strategy, the plan worked smoothly for a very short period of time.
Immediately after this period of tentative engagement, President George W. Bush declared Iran as part of an “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union Address. By any measure, this was an irrational statement and the nastiest course that a country could take to pay back a state who had just shown its willingness to cooperate. For the reformist and bourgeois humanist government of Mohammad Khatami, the experience was a proof that he cannot stick his hand into a den of snakes.
EXUBERANCE OF SELF-DECEPTION A year and a half later, in May 2003, two months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, another chance of rapprochement was attempted when Tehran, in the form of a letter to the White House, reached out to Washington. But the imperialists dominating the U.S. executive branch, along with greedy neo-liberal bench-holders in the U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, had an exaggerated assessment of the U.S. military status in Iraq. They all, with a few exceptions, took for granted that after smashing Iraq's state machinery and heisting its economy, it would not take much effort to get the Iraqi people to bow at the altar of the West. The U.S ruling class that was in the grip of the exuberance of self-deception, did not see the necessity of negotiation with Iran if it could dictate all the terms unconditionally.
According to the most recent documents released to the media, it appears that Iran was willing to lay almost everything on the table for negotiation, including its position with regard to the U.S.-designed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan, Iran's nuclear program, its role in stabilizing the situation in Iraq, and even entertaining the issue of discussing its relation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. In return, Iran asked only for a change in U.S. attitude and a statement by the U.S. that “Iran does not belong to the axis of evil.” What course did the U.S. choose to follow? It hid the communication, ignored the letter and continued its hostile talk.
One more time, in an 18-page letter on May 9, 2006, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to pry open the door of communication by addressing President George W. Bush with a set of questions “in the hopes that it may bring about an opportunity to redress them.” The letter is said to be the first from an Iranian president since the 1979 Revolution. But for the fourth time, President G.W. Bush preferred to ignore it. Adding insult to injury, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice dismissed the letter “as offering nothing new.”
“APPEASEMENT AND MUNICH” As the world-wide opposition to the U.S. abuses of usurped power around the globe surged to a new height in the second half of 2006, and further isolated the empire, Donald Rumsfeld, one of the headmasters of the neo-conservatives pulled out a page from the early years of WWII and warned his paid followers of the danger of “appeasement,” wishing that the Bush administration could endlessly spread its wars of domination by using up the remaining U.S. troops.
During all these efforts put forward by the Islamic Republic, the neo-conservatives managing the policy planning and the related propaganda apparatus warned the world about the 'threat' posed by Iran, citing such ahistorical words as “Chamberlin”, “appeasement”, “Munich”, and “Hitler”. What an irony! The question to be asked is: Who is appeasing whom? The ridiculous premise of the neo-cons is that Iran has acquired the scientific, industrial and human capabilities of Germany right before WWII! These gentlemen have to be reminded that Germany, with all its geo-economic fragmentation and relative backwardness in comparison with England, still had centuries of capitalist economic development on which its military might was built.
To attribute the economic and military capabilities of Germany at the dawn of the Second World War to the personal temperament and other characteristics of Adolf Hitler is an attempt to cover up the competitive and violent nature of developed capitalism and its insatiable thirst for exploitation, plunder of all the other nations' resources and wars of occupation. The fact is that both world wars in the 20th century were the result of military competition and conflicts between the imperialist powers in their quest for all kinds of markets and material resources, particularly oil. That is why it is much easier to find a “Hitler” in the imperialist countries like the United States with its gigantic military-industrial-financial complex than in the underdeveloped or developing countries.
Finally, on the eve of his arrival to the United States from attending the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Havana, Cuba, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke to Time's Scott MacLeod about his willingness to have a live debate, barring censorship, with U.S. President Bush on all important bilateral and international questions. The response by the White House, once again, was mute and null. In an open dialogue, what is George Walker Bush the most afraid of?
FACTORS IMPACTING U.S. – IRAN RELATIONS It appears that, among a few, an important factor that impacts U.S.- Iran's relations negatively is the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East and beyond. Particularly in the last decade, Iran has made a conscious effort to improve and broaden its economic, cultural, political and diplomatic relations with the countries neighboring the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, as well as with Russia, China, Syria, Sudan, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba and the Islamic states, while maintaining its relations with the Western European countries and Japan. The improved cooperation between Iran's government and many countries around the world is seen by the U.S., in general, as a long-term threat to its “national” interest.
But among all others, the U.S. is extremely disturbed by the relations between Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela; so much so, that on September 26, 2006, Senator Santorum, followed by Senators Martinez and Coleman, submitted the draft of a resolution to the Senate Committee on Foreign relations for consideration. Under the new political atmosphere in the world, feeling the heat of the world people's opposition to the status quo, this 'wanna-be' resolution tried to breathe a new life into the dead body of the Iran Freedom Support Act, originally calling for 'regime change in Iran'. It complains about the cooperation between Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Ahmadinejad of Iran. It states that these heads of state have all “participated in the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement … And in September 2000, while being interviewed by Al-Jazeera television, President Castro stated that 'we are not ready for reconciliation with the United States, and I will not reconcile with the imperialist system;” and “in August 2005, President Chavez stated that 'socialism is the only path.'” At the conclusion of the draft, the Senators ask the Committee to condemn the “actions” and express “concern relating to the national security implications of the relationships between these leaders.”
Now isn't that cute: the U.S. Congressional body is supposed to waste the American taxpayers' money discussing who hangs out with whom among world leaders! It is truly pathetic that the United States, the lone superpower of the world, armed with more than 10,000 nuclear weapons, is worried about the meetings of these leaders in NAM, which is harmless compared to NATO and the Pentagon, not to say much about U.S. secret detention facilities and torture chambers around the world!
Finally, on September 28, 2006, our 'brave' representatives, along with the infamously anti-Cuban Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, changed the title of the old resolution from Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 to Iran Freedom Support Act of 2006. In the new resolution there is no trace of such wishful and pompous ideas as “regime change” and furthermore, it explicitly states: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.” This, of course, does not mean that the U.S. would not initiate secret, illegal and subversive activities.
The only section of the resolution which might be considered as a measure with some teeth is the one with regard to export of certain products and services to Iran. The new version of the resolution states that the policy of the U.S. should be “not to bring into force an agreement for cooperation with the government of any country that is assisting the nuclear program of Iran, or transferring advanced conventional weapons or missiles to Iran … ” Is this resolution referring to the Russian work on Iran's nuclear energy plant in Bushehr? What is certain is that the resolution passed in the U.S. House of Representatives has no international validity.
The U.S. Congress for covering up its failures in suppressing the popular resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its inability to undermine the governments of Iran and Venezuela, desperately resorts to the war of passing paper resolutions.
Iran's new stature in the world body politic isn't Washington's only concern. It has already drawn naval “plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf,” writes Time's Michael Duffy on September 25, 2006. Larisa Alexandrovna, writing on rawstory.com on September 21, 2006, takes even the unimaginable step and raises the “possibility of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons” by the U.S. “targeting alleged WMD facilities in Iran.” WMD's? Doesn't this sound familiar?
IRANIAN PEOPLE STAND FIRM To make the Iranian people recover from the exhausting impact of the 8-year war with Iraq and safeguard the country from being once again a target of chemical weapons provided to Iraq by the West, including the U.S. and Germany, and used by Iraq's military against Iranian troops and the civilian population living in the Iran-Iraq border region, the Islamic government began assisting the masses of working class poor and the displaced population by providing them with subsidies and establishing a ration system. At the same time the mosques served also as a center for political education and the streets functioned as a stage for practice and a show of force, in the face of the hostile U.S. attitude materialized in the form of economic sanctions against Iran. The Farsi slogans “Marg bar Amrika!” (Death to America), and “Marg bar Esrael!” (Death to Israel) and “Marg bar Saddam!” (Death to Saddam) were the regular diet of the working mass and millions of small shopkeepers.
As a result of being continuously kept in the political arena, the majority of the Iranian people have remained politically conscious and hence they are easy to motivate and organize against any possible foreign interference and military intervention. It is clearly evident that the government, especially under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has gained a strong support of an overwhelming majority in its well-publicized resistance to the dictates of the West, a.k.a. the United Nations Security Council members majority looking to sanctions. This issue is one of the major sources of U.S. frustration in its plan for establishing its ideological, political and economic domination over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East.
In his interview with Time's Scott MacLeod, President Ahmadinejad was conciliatory on many aspects and tried hard to deliver his message of peace and non-aggression, even when the host deliberately tried to provoke him.
IRAN'S FOREIGN RELATIONS The economic, cultural and spiritual relations between the peoples of Iran and Iraq go back over millennium. There should not be any surprise that there have been close ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Shi'ite majority of Iraq's population. Iran's Islamic schools in Quom and other cities have drawn young and old Islamic scholars from Iraq to live and study inside Iran The Iranian people and the Iraqi people have made pilgrimages to each other's holy sites, in accordance with traditional Muslim practices. The relation between the two nations is so natural and dynamic that Gareth Porter recently writes in atimes.com that “The underlying reality in Iraq, which the Bush administration does not seem to grasp fully, is that the United States is now dependent on the sufferance of Iran and its Shi'ite political-military allies to continue the occupation.” Ironically enough, the Bush administration sees this natural relationship as 'Iran's meddling in Iraq' and a threat to the country's stability and U.S. troops' security.
Iran's relation with its northern and eastern neighbors has been expanding and deepening. Again, Washington was so disturbed at Iran's attendance in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting that a top official in the U.S. administration called President Vladimir Putin of Russia and issued a complaint as to the reason for the invitation of President Ahmadinejad to the Fifth Summit of the SCO in June 2006. There is no doubt that Washington is worried about Iran's future membership in that organization. The U.S. has no problem with incorporating the member countries of the former Warsaw Pact, but gets a heart attack when Iran attends the meeting of some regional independent countries.
CONCLUSION In today's America, to be among the high ranking war-mongers is considered a great success and a profitable endeavor that suits the individuals breeding greed, but lacking humanism. President Bush's administration and its countless cronies are truly the exclusive patrons and beneficiaries of the oil and arms industries, which benefit at great cost to the taxpayers and more tragically at great loss of the lives of their children, mainly poor black, Spanish and white families, some of whom have not yet received the status of citizenship. But that's not an immigration problem since Washington considers them expendable.
For a moment, take a glance at the rate of profitability of a group of arms corporations such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, L-3 Communication, CACI Industrial Corporation, an aerospace and defense company, and a group of oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP and you will discover the reasons for the continuation of U.S. hostilities towards many nations on earth. In the list of priorities of the U.S. government, these corporations enjoy a special “national security” status. The animosity of the U.S. Congress and the White House toward Presidents Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro is not personal, but rather it is based on their calculation of how profits gush out of the regional and world conflicts. This system of war-based economy must be undone by the peace forces that are deeply rooted in the American working class in alliance with a united global movement for justice and independence.
All the while that some leaders in the West, and throughout the developing nations are calling for dialogue and civilized ways of resolving differences, the behavior of the U.S. and its client state in the Middle East, Israel, has been to provoke war and destruction. On the contrary, the cooperation between 'third-world' nations is the direction for humanity to move.
About Ardeshir Ommani, an activist in the anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for over 40 years, including against the Vietnam War. Ardeshir is a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), where news of his most recent visit to Iran in March & April 2006 can be read. He helped launch the successful StopWarOnIran.org campaign. He has written a number of articles documenting the U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. He has translated many articles into Farsi, which have been published inside Iran in the progressive press. In the 1960's, he was a co-founder of the Iranian Students Association (ISA), which contributed to the struggle against the Shah of Iran, a U.S. puppet. Mr. Ommani returned to Iran in 1979, at the dawn of the revolution and participated in the revolutionary surge of that period. Since returning to the U.S. in 1980, he has been very active in the anti-war movement and in the struggle against the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq.