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Iran and U.S. Plans for a War on Iraq

War or Peace?

Seyyed Mustafa Tajzadeh, Ryoodad (online, reformist), Tehran, Iran

Council of Experts, Iran
Members of Iran's Council of Experts consider the country's position on a U.S. strike against Iraq, Sept. 8, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s stance is “no negotiations” with the United States because of a total distrust in the goals and functions of the U.S. government. Even setting the American flag on fire is officially approved. Obviously, lawful gatherings and slogans are permitted in democratic countries, and in all democratic countries almost the same slogans can be heard. But there is a difference between the opinions expressed in popular demonstrations and a country’s official position. Iran’s official position is “no negotiations,” and yet…. No rulers of other independent, revolutionary countries—some of which Bush even named as part of the “axis of evil”—talk this way. While severely criticizing the policies and conduct of the U.S. government, they never totally reject dialogue with the United States and they never officially sanction burning the American flag. The American warmongers are taking advantage of the criminal acts of Sept. 11 to polarize the world into two halves and solve all their problems by military actions and war.

They have been trying to gag and frighten all those opposed to America’s expansionist policies. Yet the leaders of independent countries are acting more carefully in dealing with America. For instance, Fidel Castro, despite 40 years of mutual animosity with the United States, shook hands with [Former U.S. President Bill] Clinton in a meeting of United Nations heads of state. After the Bush administration recently released propaganda aimed at painting Cuba as terrorist state, Castro hosted former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and took advantage of the visit to disprove the propaganda and nullify Bush’s threats. Interestingly, the United States and Cuba have a diplomatic relationship with each other [The United States does not maintain direct relations with Cuba, but maintains informal ties through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which operates under Swiss legal protection—WPR]. Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and many other countries also have diplomatic relations with the United States. Iraq is also willing to have negotiations with the United States and clearly states this. Almost all these governments, despite keeping diplomatic relations with the United States, are not ready to accept American military interference in another country to change its regime, even when those countries are ruled by dictators.

Last month a delegation from Iraq’s Supreme Council, an Iraqi Shiite opposition group based in Iran and supported by Iranian government, went to the White House and held meetings with the American vice president and secretary of defense about how to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime…. The leader of the Supreme Council, Ayatollah Hakim, mentioned that it has had negotiations with the U.S. authorities for the past 10 years. He admitted that the reason for dispatching the delegation to Washington was that the council’s leaders felt that this time, the American government is serious about toppling Hussein.

Knowledgeable sources talk about the failures of Iran’s foreign policy, but usually they do not pay attention to the underlying cause of these failures, which I think is our adherence to a double standard. I’m not going to talk about Afghanistan and why, despite Iran’s cooperation after the overthrow of Taliban, Iran was still called one of the three members in the “axis of evil!” I would, however, like to mention certain realities about Iraq. We still have time to take these into account, and adopt a correct response. The fact is, we cannot be more anti-American than most countries yet at the same time cooperate with American warmongers in interfering in the internal affairs of a neighboring Muslim country and expect to reap the fruits of this cooperation from all sides!

Let me be more frank: We cannot call American military interference in the internal affairs of another country illegal and harshly condemn it and then say nothing about the offer of “unlimited cooperation” the Iraqi Supreme Council has extended to the American militarists in their effort to topple the Iraqi regime. Such a double standard, apart from being unethical, will not benefit our country. On the contrary, it will lead to greater animosity between Iran and Iraq. It will also lead people at home and abroad to question our own intentions in Iraq, with potentially dire strategic consequences in the future.

If we continually adopt the most radical stance possible in our rhetoric, but then do the exact opposite, our policies will seem unreliable and unpredictable in the eyes of governments around the world…. Because of this doubletalk, we cannot exert enough influence on the world’s peace activists who criticize America’s bellicose policies. In other words, although the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official policy is in favor of an “alliance for peace” and against “any kind of terrorism,” our contradictory actions weaken this logical and ethical policy… and, in some cases, even help the case of the American warmongers. One of the propaganda tricks used by American warmongers is to show the duality in our foreign policy in order to prove that there are two governments in Iran and that only one of them acts within the framework of international law.

Many of our citizens ask why, if America’s ruling body is so criminal that Iranian diplomats and members of Parliament are not even allowed to talk with the American pro-peace activists, are two Iraqi Shiite clerics supported by Tehran able to go to the White House to consult with the most militant of the American officials about how to topple the Iraqi regime? If that action is not approved by the Islamic Republic of Iran then why it is not officially condemned?

If it’s not the negotiations, but the topic of those negotiations with the United States that is the problem, then why should our government not be like all independent governments—such as China, Cuba, Syria, or Yemen—and negotiate with the American authorities on equal footing? Maybe the American government would not want to negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Iran equitably. In that case, were we to explain what happened to the world, the American government would pay the price, not us….

The line between having principles and outright Machiavellism lies is found in the governments’ actions and not its words. The most Machiavellian policy is to act in the exact opposite way our rhetoric suggests we should act. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which claims its policies are based on national interests and observing moral values, should behave in such a wise and innovative way that we would always be able to defend our positions and principles on a global level. For instance, we should support peace and oppose war against Iraq before, after, and during the U.S. strike. Such a policy would have a worthwhile outcome.

Iran is criticizing some governments that—fearing the absolute hegemony of the United States over the Persian Gulf—now oppose a U.S. attack against Iraq, but will provide logistical support when push comes to shove because they want a share of the spoils. This policy is unethical, even though it can serve a nation’s interests.

If we think Islamic Iran’s national interests would be served by the United States’ ousting the Iraqi regime… we should by all means encourage the U.S. government to start its attack as soon as possible and count on our cooperation. This way, we could have some say in the formation of the future government and the region’s new political balance. But if we decide that war will only benefit the United States, that it would harm the people of Iraq, Iran, and the whole region—which I think it would—we should try with all our might to mobilize world opinion to prevent American military interference.

I believe that most governments and nations know that we do not ignore the crimes that have happened in Iraq. Nor do we defend the dictatorship in that country. But we are certain that American warmongers do not want to establish a true democracy or defend human rights.

If it were so, the American government would have pressured all the world’s dictatorships equally and supported all democratic regimes. They are only thinking about cementing their hegemony over the world. We should unambiguously declare that:
  1. The Iraqi people are the ones who must choose and determine their own destiny.
  2. The U.S. government has no right to interfere with the internal affairs of another country, and to use the “war on terrorism” as an excuse. This is especially true in that, considering the current climate, their adventurism might mean more than a regime change, but a change in the region’s political map and Iraq’s complete disintegration.
  3. We should form an “alliance for peace” and take any excuses away from the warmongers.
I believe that Iran’s independence, territorial integrity, security, and national interests all depend on an honest effort to follow [President Khatami’s] proposal for “dialogue among civilizations” and the realization of “alliance for peace.” To refute the equation of Islam with terrorism and to thwart the U.S. hawks’ adventurism, we must create a united front with all the pro-peace activists in the world, including those in the United States, and take practical steps toward the realization of peace…. We should coordinate our policies with the other Islamic and European countries, as well as with Russia, China, India, Japan, and those Americans who are ready to recognize our national sovereignty, in order to prevent another destructive war in this volatile region.

Adopting and propagating pro-peace policies, besides being the most humane form of diplomacy, will also benefit our national interests and prevent and render illegitimate the expansionist policies of the United States….

We should not equate pro-peace policies with being passive or think that it would mean forgetting our ideals. In fact, we can only criticize the United States’ militaristic and expansionist policies in good faith if we adopt a genuinely peaceful position and make a sincere effort to save the world from war… a war which would have no clear results except that the poor and disenfranchised would pay for the warmongers’ actions.

Now that the Middle East and the whole world is on the verge of major changes, we must take pro-peace discourse seriously and use it as the guide for our future actions. Humanity is waiting for an omni-dimensional effort to prevent warmongering, insecurity, violence, hatred, terror, and war. Therefore we should neither be warmongers nor pusillanimous. We should actively pursue peace and take serious action against war.

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