Iran-US Relations Revisited

Aftab; Political, Social, Economic & Cultural (Monthly)
September 2001, No. 6

By: Jappe Yousofi
Pages: 30 - 37

Summary: Jappe Yousofi, in charge of Arizona based Dtente Foundation, in the course of an article entitled, "The First Step" has tried to evaluate Iran-US relations from a historical and political angle. After a cultural and sociological analysis of political behaviors of Iranians, he suggests approaches for reopening diplomatic relations between the two countries. This constitutes a new look at the question of relations between Iran and the US. (This article was written before Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on US centers).

Text: During the last two decades, relations between Iran and the US have been quite hostile, and talking about this subject has been like touching forbidden tree and would involve high costs for the two sides. The relations are now in a situation in which if the parties decide to draw minimum benefit from the opportunity and revise the files methodically, they will prepare grounds for positive mobility in mutual relations.

In order to review the record of relations between Tehran and Washington, one must necessarily deal with "what" side or the nature of the subject, the reason "why" the time is ripe for dtente and "how" the relations between the two sides can be mended.

What is the nature of relations between Iran and America?

Following the victory of the Islamic revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini's intelligence prevented repetition of historical mistakes of Iranian statesmen since the World War II countering the approaches adopted by world powers with respect to problems of Iran.

The gross strategic error of Iranian statesmen during the last five decades was inaccuracy of their political confrontation in foreign relations.

Reza Shah's idea in the Second World War who imagined that he could create areas of maneuver for himself among the allied powers by getting close to Germany was as mistaken as his successor's expectation during the 50s from the West to support him in the course of the 1979 crisis.

In 1953 and in the midst of the crisis generated between Iran and the UK over oil, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh argued that by getting close to Washington he could take advantage of the conflicts of interests between London and Moscow. Final compromise and accord of big world powers in the crises affecting Iran during the last five decades, their leaving Iran alone and even turning their backs to the governments of Iran are all pieces of evidence of strategic and political weaknesses of Iranian statesmen

. Neither Reza Shah's adoption of a neutral policy in the Second World War, nor Dr. Mosaddegh's negative balance policy nor Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's full compliance and agreement with the West, could, in practice, saved Iran in the political predicament or could help them to contain the crisis. Ayatollah Khomeini was the only person who cleverly learned this lesson from contemporary history of Iran, that is for solution of problems of Iran, one should rely on national support of the people of one's own country, before relying on the support of foreign powers.

Simultaneous negation of both superpowers in the bipolar system prevailing in the cold war was Ayat Khomeini's clever policy for management of his revolution. It gave him enough time to prevent repetition of a White House sponsored coup d'etat similar to that of 1953, under the excuse of countering Communism.

Ayat Khomeini's policy process in the Iranian public opinion amounted to reinforcement of self-confidence of Iranian society as compared with Washington's despising policies during Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule. The American share from this development was that anti American atmosphere in Iran became epidemic.

The type of confrontation of Ayat. Khomeini against the US, turned the conflicts between Tehran and Washington, in the subconscious ego of Islamic revolution supporters, into confrontation between right and wrong.

The most legendary allegory of this confrontation is manifested in the history of Shi'ism and in the 6th century movement of Hussein ben Ali, the historical hero of Shi'as, in his fight against Yazid ben Moavieh (despite lack of inclination of the Prophet's descendant to take part in an unwanted war against the army of Sham), with the difference that in the unequal fight of Karbala desert the household of the Prophet of Islam had only two options, either to surrender or to fight whereas the revolution of Iran in its confrontation with the US has opened a third way.

In the Shia culture, Hussein ben Ali is the symbol of an oppressed person and at the same time legitimacy. In this culture the descendants of the Prophet by tragic martyrdom of themselves and his family by the army of evil have been turned into symbols of combat of downtrodden people against hegemonic systems and arrogance in the entire history.

The pivotal point of Hussein ben Ali's movement was the philosophy of neither compromise nor war; this point has always subdued and overshadowed the behavior of Iranian statesmen in contemporary history.

Imposition of war on Iran by the allied powers during Reza Shah's reign in the Second world War and also avoidance of military confrontation with Britain in the Movement of Nationalization of the Oil Industry during Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh's rule can both be said to have originated from the principle of neither compromise nor war and adherence of Iranians to Shia historical strategy.

During Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's reign, the government of Tehran, being inspired by the same Shia culture, tried to break the tradition and this time to converge fully with the West and raise the coefficient of survival of the government of Iran. But it was defeated by the religious movement.

It is interesting that in the Islamic revolution of Iran, Ayat Khomeini, adhering to the policy of neither compromise nor war, tried to counter American hegemony and domination. In return, Washington succeeded in imposing an unwanted war on Iran, and to impose a bitter compromise on Iran after lapse of 8 years, which was termed by Ayat. Khomeini as "drinking a bowl of poison."

Today Ayat. Khomeini and the Islamic revolution, unlike the former leaders of Iran, have built their political bases with popular support. This very fact has, notwithstanding imposition of war and compromise on Iran, enabled Iranian statesmen to preserve their legitimacy and revolution after two decades and to force Washington to accept the reality and need for negotiation, through president Khatami's popular thesis and logic of `dialogue among civilizations.' This dialogue, within itself, materializes the policy of neither war nor compromise.

Considering itself to be continuation of Husseini movement in the history of Shias of Iran, the Islamic revolution, relying on the wealth and strength of its logic, has been able to preserve its identity for 23 years, to appear at the side of Omayyades like global Zionism and to subdue the White House by means of the kind Iranian culture.

It is the same wealth and strength of the Iranian revolution that enables Tehran to argue and reason strongly with Washington at any negotiation table.

It is clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot compete and confront with the US in two fields, namely in economic and military matters, yet on the basis of the policy of "neither compromise nor war", the Islamic revolution has prepared a new chapter of confrontation, through the thesis of dialogue among civilizations.

Why is the time favorable for dtente?

As a result of defeat of the Democrats in last year's presidential elections in America and the heavy support accorded to Al Gore, the candidate of the above party, by the Zionist lobby, the relations between the victorious party and the new political team ruling over the White House, on the one hand, and Zionists on the other, have got strained to such an extent that it was unprecedented in the period of relations between the US and Zionists.

Lack of mutual agreement and understanding between Ariel Sharon and George Bush, in their recent negotiations concerning the Middle East peace, showed the wide rift existing between the Republicans of the White House and Israel.

It is interesting to note that the group of 8 Western industrialized countries, in their recent meeting in Genoa in Italy, demanded participation of other countries as observers in the peace process, which was incidentally endorsed by the US. Administration contrary to Tel Aviv's expectations

It must be borne in mind that George Bush had announced earlier that he would review his Middle East policy as a whole, and not only Israel, and that in drawing up these policies, he would consult with the regional and Middle East states and would take their viewpoints into account.

It is a good opportunity for IRI to take advantage of the rift that has occurred in relations between Tel Aviv and Washington for the sake of its own national interests.

During the last 22 years, Israel has always tried to conceal its political blunders in the region, to present a wrong face of the IRI and to portray it as a rough and violent government, and thereby to widen the distance between Tehran and Washington and to obstruct improvement of relations between the two states.

Under these circumstances, the new ruling circle of the White House is also inclined to focus on its common interests with Iran and to rid itself from the Zionists' excessive demands of the US's political and economic structure and to chastise Zionists by improving relations between Iran and the US.

On the other hand, developments that have taken place during the last decade at global and regional levels have increased the role and importance of Iran to the highest political and economic levels seen during the last 50 years.

The above matter puts this opportunity at the disposal of Iranian authorities to wisely play their historical role along the direction of safeguarding national interests of Iran; such as :

- The need for oil global market for non OPEC sources due to control of oil price by OPEC because of its artificial reduction of production along with shortage of energy and hydrocarbon derivatives in the world market, particularly in the US market. This has resulted in increasing importance of Iran because transfer of the existing oil in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan through Iranian territory to Persian Gulf is economical and in increasing the power of political maneuver of Iran because of its place in OPEC and Central Asia.

- The US' urgent need for political stability in Azerbaijan in order to guarantee transfer of oil of this country to the market. As a result of the special and mutually agreed place of Iran between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the White House is convinced that it should improve its relations with Tehran in order to benefit from the special place of Iran as the anchor of stability in the region.

- Reduced importance and stand of Turkey in the US's regional policy due to the latter's economic recession resulting in suspension of its economic projects in Central Asia.

- The fact that both the US and Iran are opposed to regimes ruling over Iraq and Afghanistan which induce them to get closer in order to guarantee security in the region. Furthermore, improvement of relations between the US and Iran will block mischief of small countries such as Azerbaijan and the UAE, which rely on the support of the US. - Decreasing importance of Pakistan in the US's regional policies due to the support given to Taleban by Islamabad and the latter's access to nuclear weapons. This has convinced the White House that it can pressure Pakistan and better secure its own interests through improved relations with Iran and using the latter's political and intellectual influence.

- Improved relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have made it possible for the White House to rely on Tehran-Riyadh axis and thereby to guarantee oil and military security and to bring about an economic jump using the pivotal role of the two countries among the Persian Gulf states.

- The fact that the US is inclined to take its forces from the region, following lifting of its economic, political and security anxieties about Iran, because of the back breaking political and financial costs of deployment and maintenance of military forces in the Persian Gulf.

- The fact that commercial Mafia of Iran inflicts damages on economic interests of Iran and Washington. With due regard to Ayat. Khamenei's decision and the cooperation of the heads of the three powers to counter commercial Mafia in Iran, and the likelihood of flight of capitals from Iran if judicial action is taken against commercial Mafia, and taking account of the fact that commercial Mafia has a destructive role in improvement of relations between Iran and the US, this is the most suitable opportunity for Iran to improve its relations with the US and to silence American protests raised against Iran's entry into the World Trade Organization and to force the commercial Mafia of Iran to healthy commercial competition. In this way Iran's capital will be preserved, the destructive power of commercial Mafia will be reduced, and also the need for the Judiciary Power to counter problems originating from economic structure will be obviated. It is worth mentioning that for the public opinion of Iran, the continued strained relations between the two countries is the clear indication and proof of the power of commercial Mafia in the structure of Iranian government.

All the above factors point to the fact that the Middle East and Central Asia regions are in the weakest and the most brittle political state from American point of view.

Simultaneous existence of brittle political states in the region along with IRI's powerful and pioneering role have put the statesmen of Tehran in a sensitive and historical position, and if they play their role timely and properly, Iran will be converted into the key factor for solving the regional problems.

But in practice two essential factors hinder changes in Iran-US relations. The two factors are that American statesmen do not know Iran, and reciprocally Iranian politicians do not know the US. The political elite of either side consider the structure of the other side in its totality. Iranian politicians do not distinguish at all between the Congress, the Senate and the White House. In the final analysis all the above institutions are thought to have originated from the same arrogant source intent to hatch a plot and topple the government in Tehran. This attitude has caused Iranian politicians to overlook and lose the suitable opportunities created in the mechanism of US diplomacy which may secure the interests of Iran.

In the political structure of Iran, the public opinion utters the final word and if Iran can convince the American public opinion that Iran's stands are correct and legitimate, this matter will make the American politicians, who are concerned with the public opinion in order to win their votes, to change their course of action in favor of Iran. However, in practice, Iranian statesmen have shown very little aptitude to play this easy and accessible game. Furthermore, in the US political structure, any group or organization who can lobby better for its own political and economic interests in the Congress, Senate and the White House, will natural gain more benefits and advantages.

Iran's absence in this area and its failure to organize the Iranian community residing in the US into a lobby (which is opposite to Ayat Khomeini's popular thesis) have always enabled the powerful Zionist lobby to take advantage of Iran's absence and to win innumerable concessions from Americans against Iran. However, in the same way that Iranian political experts are not aware of American political structure, American politician are plagued with the same kind of ignorance. The most pronounced weakness of Washington's diplomacy is its lack of recognition of IRI since 80s, and they do not have the slightest information about political factions and faces ruling over Iran and interactions between the internal factions. They obtain the major part of their information from Iranian groups and individuals residing abroad some of whom are opposed to the IRI and who cannot be expected to supply correct and realistic information about Iran. As a result of this unhealthy feeding some of the approaches taken, and policies adopted by, the White House with respect to Iran are devoid of rudiments of realism.

Iranian statesmen have an erroneous and uniform picture of the political structure of the US, likewise Americans suffer from the same weakness of information about political factions of Iran. The White House has recognized two reformist and conservative factions and takes up stands accordingly, but these factions are not structurally homogeneous. As a clearest example, one can cite the cases of Larijani and Mohtashemi. Mohammad Javad Larijani is a bold advocate of improvement of relations with Washington and does not mince his words in this regard, whereas his political base is conservative, which is apparently the vehement opponent of improvement of relations with America. But Hojj Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, who is an eminent reformist personality, is opposed to, and has always negated, improvement of relations with Washington, despite the fact that the majority of reformists are in favor of dtente with America. So this lack of structural homogeneity should logically impress on the minds of Americans that in their dealings with Iran they should pay little attention to layers of political organizations and should regard the leadership as their official interlocutors. The most suitable way for filling the information vacuum between Iran and the US in order to enable each side to get a clear picture from the other is for each side to have an access to reliable information about the political and social structure of the other side. In this connection the Iranian lobby in the US can contribute greatly to fill the information vacuum.

But in practice as there is no Iranian lobby, acceptable to the IRI, in the US, Iran does not have this advantage.

Therefore, the IRI government, relying on the economic, scientific and technological capabilities of the Iranian community residing in the US, can establish sincere relations with them, convert the community into a legitimate lobby, and provide a strong and reliable connecting bridge for itself in the US territory.

During the last 22 years, IRI statesmen, being inattentive to the large assets it possesses through presence of a large number of its citizens in the US territory, has not made any efforts to take advantage of these assets to influence the policies adopted by the White House with respect to Iran. It is utter tactfulness for a government to deprive itself of such a possibility. Now that a new and converging leap has taken place among Iranians residing at home and abroad, a good opportunity has been provided for Iranian statesmen to make use of its existing human capital in the American territory.

How can dtente be established in relations between Iran and US?

If a national understanding is reached in Iran to effect dtente with America and enter operational stage, Iranian statesmen will be required to observe certain points.

First they must rely on the nation of Iran, as Ayat. Khomeini did, and also rely on dialogue among civilizations, civil society, Iran for all Iranians, and on national reconciliation, as is put forward by President Khatami, then to take action to establish an Iranian lobby in the US composed of all Iranians, irrespective of religion and political affinities and then, considering the superiority of their logic, to welcome dialogue with the US.

Furthermore, the wisdom of the body of Iranian government should revise and abandon its paranoid outlook with respect to the US and considering all of them to be CIA agents intent to hatch plots to overthrow the IRI.

Although this paranoid outlook has had a logical basis in the mentality of Iranians since the coup d'etat of Aug. 1953, its pessimistic generalization to all American diplomatic behavior would entail unnecessary conservatism in dealings with the White House.

Apart from the fact that avoidance of "insider and outsider" attitude toward the Iranian nation will enable the IRI to vaccinate itself against mischievous acts of the US administration, the IRI will be in a position to welcome visits of American parliamentary delegation to visit Iran to get a realistic picture about Iran. On the other hand, it is often observed that IRI's strategic encounter with the US is generally based on the idea of mutual respect, whereas this concept has a different meaning in the US.

That is why the American public opinion not only does not consider interference of its government into the affairs and developments of other countries to be something wrong and hegemony, but on account of the fact that the society is bound to defend liberal and democratic principles, it regards the intrusion of American administration as the latter's respect for, and adherence to, the cultural foundations prevailing in the US. Whether or not this attitude of liberal democracy is a debatable point, the IRI, instead of lecturing mutual respect to Washington, would do better to refer this debate to academic circles and instead of expecting mutual respect from America to base its strategy on the public opinion of American citizens, and to incorporate the idea of reciprocity in its agenda.

On the basis of this policy, good and bad points of both sides will be taken into account and mutual expectations will be put at the same level.

Under these conditions, the US Administration will be as concerned with weapons of mass destruction in Iran as the IRI with weapons of mass destruction in the US.

Relying on the policy of reciprocity, the IRI can give priorities to its claims from Washington with non interference enjoying top priority, but this time relying on the logic of reciprocity policy which is a familiar norm for the American public opinion.

This is the most important concession that Tehran can initially get from the White House. As far as regional policies are concerned, since the US always alleges that the IRI does not go along and does not agree with the peace process between Arabs and Israel and uses it as an excuse for its confrontation with the IRI, so Iran can take the initiative in its hands and put forward the idea of American model of peace process in the Middle East together with a federalized government in occupied Palestine (similar to the structure of American federal government). This government will be based on federal law, which is more structural and financial in character, and the state law, which is generally based on ideological and cultural aspects of citizens of each region.

With such a definition, citizens of each region in occupied Palestine will follow their own rules, while the question of returning of all Arabs to the occupied Palestine is stressed in that plan.

In such a government, all Palestinian citizens, whether Muslims, Jews and Christians, will enjoy equal rights and ground will be prepared for theoretical curing of the cancerous tumor of Zionists in the region by the most acceptable and legal means. Moreover, Muslims will obtain majority of population and more say in the government in a short space of time if the proposal becomes operational.

It is clear that the plan for a federal government in occupied Palestine can respond to claims of Jews for a Jewish government in the region where Jews are settled, and consequently Islamic or Christian governments will be established in the regions concerned.

Thus a federal government established in occupied Palestine, relying on votes of majority of citizens, whether Muslims or Jews or Christians, will resemble the structure of the US government, which is what is apparently sought by the Zionists in the US.

This peace plan will impress on the international public opinion that Iranians are not enemies of the Jews but are enemies of racist and arrogant ideas of the Zionists.

The peaceful and historical coexistence of Iranian Jews and adherents to other faiths in Iran is the most eloquent proof for purity and sincerity of Iranians

It is expected that Zionist agents will oppose such a plan, but their stand vis a vis this proposal will secure Iran's interests in international arena.

If Israel opposes this democratic proposal, which is taken from the US governmental model (its greatest historical protector) it will have to pay a heavy price in international public opinion. Notwithstanding extensive propaganda launched by them (Zionists) against Iran for years, in which they alleged that Iran has followed an undemocratic and violent policy in the peace process of the Middle East, now they find themselves in the box of the defendants and have to bear all the pressures which used to be exerted on Iran. Acceptance of the proposed plan by Tel Aviv will imply structural extermination of the apartheid and racist government established in Israel in an indirect, democratic, humanitarian and legal manner.

Adoption of such a stand by Iran will certainly be more dangerous than the stand based on extermination of Israel, and at the same time will be more ponderable and acceptable for the American public opinion. Furthermore, the following objectives can be achieved by the above method:

1- Elimination of distances and artificial obstacles for cooperation between Iranians residing in the US with the center.

It should be mentioned that economic sanctions imposed against Iran have led to separation between Iranians residing in the US and their homeland. The Zionist lobby, in order to maintain its technological and economic superiority in the Middle East, has aggravated and perpetuated the distance.

2- Erroneous and artificial invocation by the Zionists on Iran's violence.

By presenting a rough and unconventional face of Iran in the region, Israel has been trying to conceal its terrorist and inhuman acts, to justify its illegitimate presence and thereby receive financial and military aids from the US.

3- Creation of a suitable and favorable climate for maneuver of American diplomats in the American Congress and Senate wishing to improve relations with Iran, through the above proposal.

4- Denial of Israel of illogical excuses through presenting a government structure similar to that of the US for solving the peace problem in the Middle East, bearing in mind that such a structure is strongly favored by American citizens and supporters of Zionists.

5- The importance of the ill fated and unjust present peace process in the Middle East will diminish due to acceptability and logical nature of the proposed federal government in occupied Palestine, which is based on the norms accepted by Western democratic societies.

The Zionist movement is like an exclusive and law abhorring club, which is monopolized by misguided persons distorting divine Jewish teachings. The expenses of this club are paid through trampling on domestic and international laws with the support of American Israelophiles, without any worries of being questioned.

The public opinion of uninformed American citizens is controlled through monopolistic domination of Zionists on the mass media of this country, and this matter has disgraced the American people in the eyes of Muslim countries.

An important point that should be borne in mind by IRI statesmen is that in the international field the authorities of a country are the only persons who must secure the interests of their country, and we cannot expect others to do so.

Although a wide gap has been created between Iran and the US in recent years, to reach any destination the first step must be taken.

The question is what Iran's first step would be.

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