As journalist Robert Dreyfuss recently remarked, "The hawks, neoconservatives, and Israeli hardliners are squealing" over the fact that we’re going to have high-level talks with Iran. Neocon poster-child Bill Kristol calls the arrangement "Obama’s message of weakness." It’s actually a show of strength on Obama’s part; this marks the first time he’s stood up to the American warmongery. Kristol and crew never saw a war they didn’t like though, so they’ll continue to accuse Obama of "appeasing" Iran.
The notion that talking to Iran constitutes appeasement is among the looniest assertions in the neocon bin. The analogy, of course, is Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in the late 1930s, and as with so much of the war mafia’s thinking, it’s an inapt comparison. Hitler had the best army in the world at the time. Today, America spends as much or more on defense as the rest of the world combined, and Iran’s defense budget is less than one percent of America’s. We don’t appease when we offer to talk to nations weaker than we are; we display enlightened exercise of power, which in the pre-Glen Beck era was considered a virtue.
Despite what the Kristol mob would have you believe, neither U.S. intelligence nor the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found any evidence that Iran presently has an active nuclear weapons program. Reports to the contrary generally come from sources in the Israeli government who lie like other people blink and who, like Kristol, have entirely too much influence on U.S. foreign policy. Rumors in both the mainstream and right-wing press that Iran already knows how to make a nuclear weapon and is just waiting for go-ahead from Grand Ayatollah Kahmeni to slap one together also originated in Israel and they’re bunk. Accusations that Iran is not cooperating with the IAEA are specious as well.
As I’ve said many times, the Iranians would be foolish to acquire a nuclear weapon. It would be tantamount to painting a bull’s eye on their backs. The Israelis (and we) would have a perfect excuse to blow their entire nuclear industry to smithereens. And as I’ve also said many times, with peak oil either here or just around the corner, it’s the energy, not a weapon, that makes Iran’s nuclear program worth having.
Iran’s army can’t operate more than a few miles beyond its borders, its navy can’t do much outside the Persian Gulf and its air force doesn’t have enough spare parts to launch more than a few aircraft at a time.
The Bush administration never proved a single one of its countless accusations that Iran was arming Shi’ite militias in Iraq. The person single-handedly responsible for arming both sides of the civil war was "Teflon General" David Petraeus.
And oh, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said that "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Militarily, Iran isn’t a threat to anyone, and certainly not to Israel, which is too far away from it. Iran’s naval forces might embarrass us in the Gulf if we strike them preemptively for no good reason, but there’s an easy way to avoid that: we don’t strike them preemptively for no good reason.
The only thing Iran threatens is the big western oil companies’ control of how the world makes its energy transition when the wells run dry. An Iran that can lead the Muslim nations to a new economic paradigm is the scariest thing Dick Cheney’s buddies at Exxon/Mobil and Shell and BP can imagine. The best way to keep energy transition under control is to woo Iran away from Russia and China and make the good old U.S. of A. its new biggest, bestest energy buddy.
A cozy relationship between the U.S. and Iran, however, was not in the best interests of Cheney’s buddies in Israel and the American neoconservative cabal. That’s why Cheney and his minions like John Bolton practiced "make them an offer they can’t accept" diplomacy with Iran. Insisting that Iran stop refining uranium for use in nuclear power plants as a precondition to talks ensured talks would not take place. The Iranians would be insane to agree to such an arrangement.
The Iranians’ "inalienable right" to develop nuclear technology is guaranteed by their participation in the UN nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Asking them to waive that right in order to negotiate was like telling a poker player he has to hand over his only chip before he can sit at the table. Telling them they can have a nuclear energy industry without refining their own uranium is like telling them they can have an oil industry as long as they use our oil.
Up to now, the Obama administration has stupidly clung to the "zero option" demand. Our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has turned out to be every bit the neoconservative handmaiden that Condi Rice was, poured salt on the sore by threatening to extend our "defense umbrella" to protect our friends in the region if Iran didn’t agree to our outrageous pre-conditions. Now it appears that someone in our foreign policy structure has managed to inject a dose of sanity into our foreign policy.
Unfortunately, we’ll need to keep our talks with Iran at a whisper level lest the tea-party right threatens to string up them Persian appeasers.
The talks can only be meaningful if the zero option issue goes the way of bellbottom jeans. The Iranians will never agree to it, and as we have discussed, they never should. The real goal of these talks should be to convince the Iranians that they should allow complete transparency of their nuclear energy program. That would involve allowing the IAEA and us gynecological access to their nuclear program and, indeed, their entire country.
That level of intimacy will come at a price. Part of that price will be technical support, an offer to become Iran’s nuclear energy sponsor. That’s actually a good deal for us, as it allows us to elbow strike Russia and China out of the action and brings business to American industries.
The other part of the tab will be a hard bill to fill. If Iran turns slut puppy for us, it will justifiably want security guarantees. We’ll need to extend our defense umbrella not over the rest of the Middle East, but over Iran, and that means chaining Israel to a fire hydrant.
That’s guaranteed to make the hawks, neoconservatives and Israeli hardliners squeal even louder, but tough. It’s high time we stopped letting the piggies drive our foreign policy.