Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dear President Ahmadinejad...

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a lengthy letter to the American people Wednesday, addressing "Noble Americans" and urging unity with Iran in spite of what the U.S. government says and does.The letter was released in New York on Wednesday and seems to be an attempt by the controversial Iranian president to circumvent the Bush administration to directly reach Americans. After you
read President Ahmadinejad's letter, here's your chance to send a reply, YOUR open letter to him, the president of Iran:

President Ahmadinejad,
I have read your letter to us, the American people. My interpretation is that President Bush could have written this same letter to the Iranian people. With very few exceptions, everything you complained about in the United States and its administration(s) are true to a much more extensive degree in Iran. But, if President Bush wrote such a letter to the Iranian people, would they even know it existed, let alone be allowed to read it?
— John (Angier, NC)

Dear Mahmoud,
This is great stuff! I really mean it! Have considered trying out as a contestant on "Last Comic Standing?" As long as you brutally repress freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience in your country, please allow me to laugh at your criticisms our political process.
Keep it up!
— Noel

President Ahmadinejad,
I may not be on the same side as our president on some things, like his being too weak on the Mexican border issue. But my biggest compliant is that he hasn't gotten rid of you!
— Kathy (Atlanta, TX)

Dear President Ahmadinejad,
If you truly believe we true-blooded American people can be influenced by the likes of you and your letter, it is just a fabrication of your sick mind.
— Bob (Nevada)

Dear President Ahmadinejad and the people of Iran,
It is sad that some of you are brainwashed and filled with such hatred. It is sad you will never know a life of freedom. It is sad and criminal that children are abused from birth and forced to listen to an evil being who claims to be your president. It is sad that some of you believe his lies. May your president rot for crimes against humanity and for depriving innocent people of God-given freedom.
— Carol (Avon, IN)

Well said Carol. Thank you-Kash


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Democracy carries no sense to Iran and Syria

A few days ago I warned here that Iran and Syria, due to their scorpion-like nature, cannot be counted on as partners in bringing peace and stability to Iraq and the Middle East:

Con Coughlin, UK Telegraph-The precise identity of those responsible for this week's assassination of Pierre Gemayel and his bodyguard may never be known, but few Lebanese entertain serious doubts that Hizbollah and its close ally Syria were not involved in the killing.

Ever since Syria was forced to undertake a humiliating withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon last year, following its involvement in the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, Damascus has been desperate to reassert its authority over a country it sees as a client state. Prior to the withdrawal, Syria had dominated Lebanon's political landscape – irrespective of the wishes of the Lebanese people – with varying degrees of success for two decades.

This sudden loss of influence, coupled with the championing of the newly liberated Lebanon by the Bush administration, has made the Syrians more determined than ever to restore the status quo ante. The fall-out from the Hariri affair – which could still result in the prosecution of senior members of Syrian President Bashir Assad's inner circle – has meant the Syrians have had to keep a low profile in their quest to re-establish their domination over Lebanon. So they have turned to Hizbollah, and the militia's backers in Teheran, to do the job for them, and so far the tactic has proved to be remarkably successful.

The war Hizbollah provoked – on Teheran's orders – against Israel last summer succeeded in consolidating the Shi'ite Muslim militia's standing in Lebanon as the one faction that had the will, and the resources, to take on the Israelis in defence of Lebanese sovereignty. In fact Hizbollah's standing is such that Michel Aoun, the country's former Christian president and a highly respected former army general, has opted to make an alliance with the Shia.

...All of which makes a mockery of Tony Blair's suggestion – articulated only last week during his Mansion House speech – that the West should engage in a constructive dialogue with both Syria and Iran in an attempt to resolve all the ills of the Middle East. What he singularly fails to understand is that, far from being interested in pursuing a dialogue with the West, the Syrian and Iranian regimes are engaged in an elemental battle with the West to define the future shape of the Middle East.

...This is a prospect that is viewed with alarm among the ruling classes in Iran and Syria, who depend upon the tried and tested methods of state-sanctioned brutality and repression to keep themselves in power. Far from wanting to work with the West to make the region a better place, they want to keep it as it is. Rather than seeing governments established in Baghdad and Beirut that are accountable to the people, they are prepared to resort to any means at their disposal – from road-side bombs to assassination squads – to sustain themselves in power.

Far from wanting to assist the West with its efforts to bring a breath of modernity to the politics of the Middle East, the unreconstructed autocrats of Damascus and Teheran are viscerally opposed to any attempt to make life better for the people they rule. The sooner Mr Blair grasps this simple fact, the better.

Related: Michael Young,Times of London: So how does 'engaging with Syria' look now?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What do we do with Iran?

Kash Kheirkhah

Of all the analyses I have heard, seen or read recently, "What do we do with Iran" by Former US secretary of State Henry Kissinger--the architect of the US foreign policy during the cold war-- strikes me as one of the most rational ones as he fully examines the pros and cons of what he calls the increasing fashionable term, "negotiations with Tehran":

The argument has become widespread that Iran (and Syria) should be drawn into a negotiating process, hopefully to bring about a change of their attitudes as happened, for example, in the opening to China a generation ago. This, it is said, will facilitate a retreat by the US to more strategically sustainable positions. A diplomacy that excludes adversaries is clearly a contradiction in terms. But the argument on behalf of negotiating too often focuses on the opening of talks rather than their substance. The fact of talks is assumed to represent a psychological breakthrough. The relief supplied by a change of atmosphere is bound to be temporary, however. Diplomacy — especially with an adversary — can succeed only if it brings about a balance of interests. Failing that, it runs the risks of turning into an alibi for procrastination or a palliative to ease the process of defeat without, however, eliminating the consequences of defeat.
Now let’s see if talks with Iran can bring about the balance of interests Kissinger rightly refers to. The US interests in the Middle East can be categorized into three major categories: Prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region, fighting Islamic terrorism, and defending Israel's security.

On the other side of the spectrum lie Iran's interests which include: developing nuclear weapons, spreading Islamic fundamentalism and threatening Israel by training and funding terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Could there ever be a balance of interests between these two countries considering their current political pursuits? Of course not. But why does Iran pursue goals that put it at odds with the free world led by the United States?

Before getting excited about the prospects of talks with Iran and making comparisons with the US approach toward China more than three decades ago, we should understand the nature of Iran's ruling establishment and the way it views the world as Mr Kissinger mentions.

There exist two schools of thoughts in Iran, one led by figures like Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammad Khatami--which argue that Iran needs either nuclear weapons or "security guarantees" from the United States to ensure its survival. Such "guarantees" can even lead to Iran resuming diplomatic relations with the US in the not too distant future and will make Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons unnecessary. This school of thought has now being completely marginalized by Iran's supreme leader and his revolutionary guard puppets-- including the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-- who now form the most powerful political elite in Iran.

In the view of this latter group, Iran should not only develop nuclear weapons as a deterrence against any prospective US regime change or military plans, but should also export the Islamic revolution, a cause crystallized by former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and sanctified by his die-hard followers ever since. This school of thought, who is now in charge of all major decision-making bodies in Iran, takes it upon itself to spread the causes of its revolution by help growing Shiite Islamic fundamentalism to set the stage ready for the appearance of its twelfth Imam and assist terror organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas to first derail the peace process and eventually eradicate Israel.

It is this school of thought that the US would have to sit down and talk with and it is this school of though which would turn the negotiations into a long-drawn-out process to buy time for its nuclear ambitions as it did with the Europeans. On the other hand, US disastrous post-war moves in Iraq and Israel's incompetent handling of Hezbollah this past summer followed by its wrong strategy in dealing with Hamas in Gaza--which has led to the killings of innocent Palestinians in recent days--have allowed the terrorist threats by Iran and its terror proxies to fully metastasize in the region. Now why would the Iranian leaders ever want to help pacify Iraq for the US? To help push Iran's nuclear crisis to the top of US agenda, thus creating a serious headache for themselves?

As Mr Kissinger rightly argues "so long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations. To evoke a more balanced view should be an important goal for US diplomacy. Iran may come to understand sooner or later that it is still a poor country not in a position to challenge the entire world order. But such an evolution presupposes the development of a precise and concrete strategic and negotiating programme by the US and its associates."

I would personally not be against talks with Iran if such a strategy could help stop this bloodshed in Iraq and even benefit my compatriots who are suffering under mullahs in the long run. But talks with current Iranian leaders in their present mood will not achieve those goals.

The united States instead should focus on a comprehensive strategy which will pursue diplomatic goals on different fronts in the Middle East simultaneously. Mr Kissinger again puts it best:

In such a policy, Iran must find a respected, but not dominant, place. A restarted Palestinian peace process should play a significant role in that design, which presupposes close cooperation among the US,Europe and the moderate Arab states. We must not flinch from this underlying reality. Iran needs to be encouraged to act as a nation, not a cause. It has no incentive to appear as a deus ex machina to enable America to escape its embarrassments, unless the US retains an ability to fill the vacuum or at least be a factor in filling it...A purposeful and creative diplomacy towards Iran is important for building a more promising region — but only if Iran does not, in the process, come to believe that it is able to shape the future on its own or if the potential building blocks of a new order disintegrate while America sorts out its purposes.
Update 1: NY Times-Envisioning U.S. Talks With Iran and Syria: “The main concern for Iran is that it does not want to change the current power structure in the country,” said Ahmad Zeidabadi, a political analyst in Tehran. “It will resist any change.” “The U.S. and Iran are pursuing different policies in the region,” Mr. Zeidabadi said. “They might have some common interests. But what is obvious is that Iran considers its survival in spreading a kind of radical ideological Islam in the region which the U.S. says is its enemy.”

Update 2- Kissinger on BBC Television:"I believe America has to be in some dialogue with Iran," Kissinger said."It seems to me the fundamental problem is this: does Iran conduct itself as a crusade or as a nation?"If Iran is a nation it should be possible to define a relationship in which Iran, together with all interested parties, contributes to stability in the region and plays a respected role."If Iran is a crusade that is trying to overthrow the international system as we know it, which is the way the Iranian president talks, then it will be extremely difficult to come to a negotiated solution and then down the road some sort of confrontation will occur."

Update 3: Washington Post- Embittered insiders turn against Bush-Heading into the final chapter of his presidency, fresh from the sting of a midterm election defeat, Bush finds himself with fewer and fewer friends. Some of the strongest supporters of the war have grown disenchanted, former insiders are registering public dissent and Republicans on Capitol Hill blame him for losing Congress.

Update 4: Newsweek- Talking with the enemy: Iran is now raising that price—dramatically. Tehran knows that George W. Bush faces new political pressure from an incoming Democratic Congress to withdraw from Iraq sooner rather than later. Tehran also hears, through the media, that the forthcoming report by the Iraq Study Group (co-chaired by Baker and Lee Hamilton) is expected to recommend fuller engagement with Iran and Syria

Update 5: The Economist (Via Irvaj)- Reaching Out to Iran and Syria: Before those sorts of talks, however, America needs a clear idea about what it is actually willing to trade. Let Iran go nuclear in return for some help on the margin in Iraq? Hand Lebanon back to Mr Assad in order to split Syria from Iran? Surely not. It is good to talk, but expecting too much from Iran and Syria would be a mistake. The place to resolve America's problems in Iraq is still, unfortunately, Iraq itself.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Talks with Iran and Syria will get US nowhere

Kash Kheirkhah

Mounting public and international pressure to find a way out of Iraq has made many US political experts see holding direct talks with Iran and Syria as the "magic bullet" to fix the situation in Iraq. That is nothing but deceiving the American public.

Talks with Iran and Syria under the current circumstances will yield no result for the US for some very simple reasons:

1) Iran and Syria both know that by helping stabilize Iraq, they would put the US back in the position of strength, thus hurting their own chances of survival.

2) Coming from a position of strength, both Iran and Syria are going to make outrageous demands for any probable cooperation with the US. Syrian leadership, implicated in the bombing that killed Lebanese Prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005 and facing UN prosecution, will sure demand that the US intervene to stop the UN plan for an international tribunal for the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. As for the Iranian leaders, they will repeat their demands for security guarantees which will--in their simplistic view--ensure their survival.

3) Talks with Iran about Iraq can not be held and expected to be fruitful while Iran is forging full steam ahead with its suspicious nuclear program, human rights violations, torture and killings of its dissidents and funding Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists. But these are the areas Iranian leadership wants the United States to stay out of if it expects any cooperation from Iran. Even a school by knows that these are the things no US administration--Republican or Democrat-- is going to acquiesce to.

Talks with Iran and Syria at this juncture will be a strategic defeat for the US and its allies in their war against terror since no amount of dialogue can lead to these two regimes changing their scorpion-like nature. What’s more, such talks would reward these two regimes with the ultimate prize for their killing campaign in Iraq in the past three years and set a disastrous precedent for other rogue states in the world to follow.

Iran and Syria have now been emboldened by the US missteps in Iraq. If the United States really wants to achieve anything out of talks with them, it should first find a way to improve the situation in Iraq so that it will rob both Iranian and Syrian leaderships of their present trump cards, otherwise any talks will not only be doomed even before they start, but will be a win for these two rogue regimes and their ideology of terror and that's the last thing the free world needs.


Monday, November 13, 2006

America, the land that I love

Kash Kheirkhah

A lifelong dream of mine finally came true last week when--for the first time--I set foot on the American soil and visited Washington D.C.

Many folks here in Canada--given my profound excitement in the days leading up to my trip to America--had warned me to lower my expectations, saying the US had changed after 9/11 and that I could very well be put off by what I was about to see.

But that was never to be.

America was everything I had in mind and then some. From the phenomenal hospitality of my unique, unimaginably gracious American host and friend (along with another wonderful friend of mine who are both two of the dearest people I have in my life), to the friendly, welcoming attitude of ordinary Americans in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., who despite knowing I was an Iranian, never even frowned upon my presence in the U.S., I got to experience first hand why America stands out in the world as the land immigrants from across the globe find peace and prosperity in.

I managed to spend some wonderful moments in the US, from visiting George Washington's mansion in Mount Vernon to the Ford's Theater in downtown D.C., to the old town of Alexandria in Virgina. But there is one particular place I was really proud to have been able to visit: A polling station in Accokeek, Maryland on the elections day last Tuesday, where I got to see first hand "democracy at work." Having never voted in my life, I was delighted to have a chance to see how Americans--at least the ones I saw that day-- strongly believed in making their voices heard through their votes. Not only that, but I also got a sticker which said "I voted" and I still have it on my jacket!!!

I loved what I saw in America and this very first impression I got from the land of the brave, home of the free and its warm, welcoming people is the one I'll never forget. I hope to see more of this unique country in the years ahead and who knows, maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to live in the land that I love.

God bless you America and I look forward to seeing you again. Thank you for a wonderful week.