This is not about Iran

Great leaders see opportunities in challenges, rising to occasion whenever they have a chance to make history. Petty politicians refuse to see beyond their nose even as real opportunities pass them by. I always thought — and still believe—US President Barack Obama belongs to the first category. If he Is where he Is today despite incredible odds that faced him, I believe, it’s because of his vision and natural leadership skills.

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

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Published: Wed 26 May 2010, 9:18 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:43 AM

After years of war and confrontation under his predecessor, he has repeatedly reached out to Muslim world including Iran, offering a fresh start.

This is why I can’t make sense of this administration’s response to the Iran nuclear deal brokered by Turkey, Brazil and India. It’s not just absurdly hostile but totally dumb, defying all logic and common sense.

But then whoever said the US foreign policy was ever inspired by ephemeral things like logic and reason. If it had been, the US forces wouldn’t be occupying Iraq and Afghanistan today even as the country blows up billions of taxpayer’s dollars on a daily basis.

The US has been stuck in the two Muslim countries for so long that by now even our old friend Bush and his pals may find it hard to recall why they started these wars in the first place and why a million innocent people had to die. What for?

But if you thought the disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq would have cooled the hot heads on the Capitol Hill and satiated the neocon-Zionist lust for innocent blood, you’d better think again. Incredibly, as if the total devastation of the two war ravaged countries and loss of over a million Iraqi and Afghan lives was not enough, not to mention the toll of nearly 5,000 US soldiers in Iraq, the US Right is once again pitching for fight with yet another Muslim country, this time with Iran. More incredibly, the same mad rush to the hell that was seen in the run up to the Iraq invasion is being re-enacted all over again against Iran.

Israel’s powerful friends in the US political-military establishment and on both sides of the political divide are out with the knives for Iran of course with the powerful US media. And when it comes to ‘hit Iran’ rhetoric, even highbrow biggies like the Washington Post and the New York Times are increasingly sounding like Israeli government’s mouthpieces, perpetually prattling about the clear and present danger that Iran’s nonexistent “nuclear weapons” pose to world peace, just as Iraq’s yet to be found WMD not long ago did.

As though acting on the cue, leading lights of the administration Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates have ratcheted up the hysterics warning the Ayatollahs on a daily basis.

Haven’t we been here before? And why is Obama, if he really means what he says about a new way forward, allowing the same forces that are responsible for most of America’s current woes including its dangerous conflict with the Muslim world to dictate his agenda once again? Has this president drawn no lessons from his predecessor’s mistakes and recent history?

If the US and its other Western allies had been really concerned about the Middle East peace, they would have heartily embraced the Iran nuclear deal and thanked Turkey and Brazil for persuading Teheran to cooperate with the world community. I know Iran’s Ahmadinejad cannot help himself whenever there’s a chance to prove his histrionic skills. Bringing Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey and President Lula da Silva of Brazil, not to mention India’s S M Krishna, together in Teheran for the rare photo opportunity was a masterstroke by Iranians, who like all ancient cultures set great store by grand ceremonies and small gestures making profound statements.

The diplomatic coup stunned the Americans, taking the wind out of their sails like whoosh! The Iranians timed the move well, unleashing it to check the US push for fresh sanctions against Iran. Some red-faced US pundits have tried to paint the new uranium swap deal as a panicked Iran’s reaction to the imminent punitive measures against Iran.

But if the West once again thinks the threat of force or new sanctions has softened Iran, it’s grievously mistaken. It certainly didn’t work with Iraq; it’s not going to work with Iran. Especially not with Iran. You’d think the Yanks would have realised it by now after their long and tumultuous relationship with Iran. The Iranians are a very proud nation, who take immense pride in their rich past and culture. The talk of use of force and sanctions by nations with a long history of aggression and occupation only rankles them further.

By casually rejecting Iran’s reasonable offer to send its uranium abroad (to Turkey) in return for fuel rods from France a year later for use in medical research, the West is only reinforcing the suspicion in much of the Muslim world that it is once again looking for an excuse to annihilate yet another Muslim country. Else, what excuse does Washington have to spurn the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil? Especially when it is little different from what the Obama administration had offered to Iran last year in Geneva during the EU-Iran talks?

In fact, as Ahmed Davutoglu, the architect of Turkey’s new foreign policy, revealed to IHT’s Roger Cohen, Erdogan had stepped in to defuse the West-Iran showdown only after he was encouraged by Washington to do so.

Besides, the Iran deal has been widely welcomed by the world community including by Gulf Arab states. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan even sent a congratulatory message to the Iranian leadership. In opinion polls by some European television networks, 60 per cent of respondents supported the arrangement. These small gestures betray a growing unease over the Iran-West confrontation. The world has grown weary of the kind of cynical, divisive politics big powers have been playing in the Middle East.

The Turkey-Brazil initiative not just shows the way forward to the rest of the world — wonder why Arab states didn’t think of it? — but suggests the shape of things to come. The US may have snubbed Turkey and Brazil for taking the plunge, upsetting the Western game plan but people around the world have sat up and are taking note of the new movers and shakers on the world stage.

The times, they are a-changing. After centuries of Western dominance of the world, the balance of power is shifting with the emergence of new players like China, India, Turkey and Brazil. The West would ignore these winds of change at its cost.

President Obama has an opportunity to make history. Or allow himself like his predecessors to be waylaid by the forces that have bankrupted his country and put it on a collision course with the world. For this is not about Iran or its nuclear obsession. This is about justice, dignity, freedom and equality. Why are there two sets of rules — one for the Palestinians and one for Israelis? Why do some have the right to steal, occupy, and plunder someone else’s land as they please and others cannot even protest?

There will be total peace in the Middle East the day a US president treats Palestinians and Israelis equally.

The global arms race will end the day America opts to see no difference between Israel’s nukes and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Can we ever see that day, Mr President? I have a feeling if the Audacity of Hope does not work in your time, it will never ever do so.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times. Write to him at aijaz@khaleejtimes.com



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