Saturday, July 28, 2007

Talking At Iran

One of the things I've learned over the years is that how a problem is framed pretty much decides what the proposed solution will look like. That's why I wasn't too surprised by the unanimous Senate vote (97-0) last week on Iran. Sen. Lieberman (I-Connecticut) used this language in drafting his proposal: "The murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States." (The quote is taken from here, more about which in a moment.)

Now who is going to vote against a bill with that kind of language?

At the time the vote was reported in the media, I admit I was a little stunned. My first thought was, of course, that members of Congress hadn't learned one damned thing since they authorized the use of force in Iraq. My second thought had to do with the timing, which I found to be a little odd. Why in July? Is this the start of intensive propaganda for a September War?

Well, as to the second part, maybe yes-maybe no. What was coming up, however, was the second round of the US-Iran talks in Bagdhad, and such a vote surely sent a message to Iran, coming as it did just a few days before the start of the talks. The tone that resolution set was picked up and carried forward by the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, at the opening of the talks. From the United Arab Emirates Emirates Tribune:

Speaking at a news conference after meeting his Iranian counterpart, only the second direct encounter in almost three decades, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad Ryan Crocker accused Iran of stepping up its support for militia groups in Iraq. "What we have been seeing on the ground over the last couple of months represents an escalation, not a de-escalation," he alleged.

While that asssessment may be true (or may not be), that Iran might be supporting the Shi'a militias certainly makes sense. The Shi'a are in the majority in Iraq, and the Shi'ite government of Iran has to be relieved that the Sunni power that ran the deadly Iran-Iraq war for so long has ended . Just as important, however, is the fact that, like the rest of the Middle East, Iran does not want nor does it need an unstable Iraq. To reach that end, Iran is reaching out to all the Shi'ite factions.

Just as important is the fact that Iran has shown (at least to this point)unwavering support of the US-backed regime of President Nuri al-Maliki:

Moreover, the Bush administration narrative ignores the fact that Iran's primary ties in Iraq have always been with those groups who support the U.S.-backed, Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, including the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Da'wa Party and their paramilitary arm, the Badr Corps, rather than with anti-government militias. This proves that Iran's fundamental interest is to see the Iraqi government succeed in the war-torn country, according to Professor Mohsen Milani of Florida International University, a specialist on Iran's national-security policies.

That means that the US and Iran share a common goal in Iraq, and surely Ambassador Crocker and the White House know this. Then what's the problem? Well, a few come to mind. The first is that we have a history of bad feelings over thirty years to overcome. The second is that right now, the current US administration wants the bad news from Iraq to cease without addressing the root of the bad news. The White House has no intention of leaving Iraq and a stable Iraqi government with the ability to quell sectarian violence leaves us with no excuse for staying.

Third, the current administration knows that a second Shi'ite nation in the Middle East makes the Sunni government of Saudi Arabia very uncomfortable, which may threaten our source of oil. That issue is being addressed by the reports today of a rather sizeable arms deal with the Saudis.

Fourth, and probably more important than any of the other reasons, the remaining neocons, including the Vice President, have a hard-on for a war against Iran. That means that the whole concept of a meaningful discussion with Iran on Iraq has been doomed from the start. Like the dog-and-pony-show trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees are supposed to represent justice, these talks with Iran are supposed to represent an attempt at actual diplomacy. In the meantime, hundreds of US soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians will die.

We don't have seventeen months to waste on this kind of posturing.

But, then, what do I know. I'm just an old broad who isn't even an orthodontist.

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Anonymous Nora said...

Okay, this is basic geopolitics, nothing advanced, but let's have at it.

Iran is a Shi'ite country. Al-Maliki's government is Shi'ite. Iraq is on the border of Iran. Iran has an interest in propping up the Shi'ite government of Iraq because they share common interests as well as a common border.

We are supposedly interested in propping up the (Shi'ite) government of Iraq, because the "democratic" government is supposedly one of the things we started the war in Iraq to accomplish.

Both Iran and the U.S. have an interest in supporting this government.

Exactly why are we on opposite sides with respect to Iraq when any dunderhead (well, almost any dunderhead) could see that we both want the same thing?

5:40 AM  

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