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The Race for Iran

IRAN’S STRATEGIC STAKE IN AFGHANISTAN: HILLARY MANN LEVERETT IN FOREIGN POLICY

The Afpak Channel at www.ForeignPolicy.com has a weekly feature, “Afpak Behind the Lines”, which highlights interviews with experts on various aspects of the Afghanistan-Pakistan challenge.  This week’s interviewee was none other than Hillary Mann Leverett, who addressed the topic of “Iran in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.  The full interview may be found here.  We offer highlights of Hillary’s answers to the Foreign Policy.com questions below.    

On Iran’s core interests in Afghanistan:  “Iran has a strategic stake in Afghanistan that has not changed in the last nine years.  Tehran’s overriding interest is to prevent Afghanistan (with its long and lawless border with Iran) from being used as a platform from which to attack or undermine the Islamic Republic or to weaken Iran’s standing as a regional power. 

To prevent Afghanistan from being used as an anti-Iranian platform, the Islamic Republic has worked, over many years, to form relationships with Afghan players who could keep Iran’s Afghan enemies (principally the Taliban but also other anti-Shiite and anti-Persian groups) and their external supporters (principally Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two of Iran’s most important regional antagonists) in check.  To this end, Iran has worked to strengthen and unite Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara and other Dari/Persian-speaking communities (which together comprise about 45 percent of the population) as a counterweight to anti-Iranian, pro-Saudi, and pro-Pakistani elements among Afghan Pashtuns (roughly 42 percent of the population).  The Hazara and other Dari/Persian-speaking communities were, of course, the core of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban during the 1990s, and were supported by India and Russia as well as Iran.”

On allegations of Iranian support for the Taliban:  “Iran knows from bitter experience that the Hazara and the other Dari/Persian-speaking communities provide, at best, inadequate protection for Iranian interests in Afghanistan, because they cannot govern the country in a way that keeps it relatively stable and minimizes Pakistani and Saudi influence.  So, alongside its alliances with the Hazara and the other Dari/Persian-speaking groups, Iran has also cultivated ties to some Pashtun elements in Afghanistan and supported the country’s Pashtun President, Hamid Karzai.

As part of its cultivation of ties to Pashtun elements, Iran has almost certainly reached out to some Taliban factions.  But I would wager a substantial sum that America’s ‘ally’ Pakistan is providing vastly more support to the Afghan Taliban than anything the Islamic Republic might be doing.  And Tehran remains strongly opposed to the Taliban’s resurgence as a major force in Afghan politics, for two reasons.  First, the Taliban have traditionally persecuted Iran’s Afghan allies—especially the Shia Hazara—and have even murdered Iranian diplomats.  Second, Tehran sees the Taliban as a pawn for the expansion of Pakistani and Saudi influence in Afghanistan…

In the political and security vacuum that is today’s Afghanistan, Karzai’s effort to engage the Taliban is generating deep unease among Iran’s allies in Afghanistan’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities.  Already, the leadership of these non-Pashtun communities—who also dominate the upper echelons of the Afghan military—are organizing to resist, by force, any serious attempt at power-sharing between Karzai’s government and the Taliban.  If the Taliban’s political influence across Afghanistan continues to grow—particularly in an environment conditioned by what Tehran sees as America’s strategic and tactical incompetence—Iran will support its Afghan allies as they ‘push back’ against a resurgent Taliban.”   

[Note from Flynt Leverett:  The Washington Post’s Colum Lynch reported this week on his “Turtle Bay” blog at www.ForeignPolicy.com that the Obama Administration’s “Afpak” special envoy Richard Holbrooke is in New York this week “to help Afghanistan negotiate the removal of select Taliban members from a U.N. anti-terror blacklist, according to senior U.N.-based officials”.]    

On the complementarity of Iranian and U.S. goals in Afghanistan“As Tehran pursues this strategy of multiple alliances within Afghanistan, it must also assess the evolving role of the United States there and the implications of the U.S. posture toward Iran for Iran’s Afghanistan policy.  If the United States and NATO could convince Iran that they want an independent and stable Afghanistan that would be friendly to Iran, then U.S./NATO and Iranian strategies and tactics could complement each other very constructively.  (This was very much the case in the months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, when I was one of a small number of U.S. officials engaged in ongoing discussions with Iranian counterparts about how to deal with Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, and U.S. and Iranian policies regarding these issues were rather closely coordinated.)

But, if Tehran perceives Washington as hostile to its interests—which, unfortunately, is currently the case, given the Obama administration’s drive to impose sanctions and continued use of covert operations to undermine the Islamic Republic—then Iranian policymakers will regard the United States, along with America’s Pakistani and Saudi allies, as part of the complex of anti-Iranian external players that Iran needs to balance against in Afghanistan.  In this context, Iran has a strong interest in preventing U.S. troops in Afghanistan from being used to attack Iran directly, used as covert operatives to undermine the Iranian government, or used to strengthen Iran’s regional rivals.”

On Iran’s reaction to a drawdown in U.S. military forces in Afghanistan:  “In contrast to the United States, which seems at least to be looking for a viable exit strategy from Afghanistan, there is no exit strategy for Iran.  Iran publicly calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, partly because U.S. forces there could be used against Iran.  But Tehran also calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because Iranian policymakers believe that the extended U.S. presence there is seen by much of the population as an occupation and that it is this occupation which is fueling an increasingly fierce cycle of violence and instability.  From Tehran’s perspective, this cycle of violence and instability empowers Iran’s Afghan adversaries, principally the Taliban, and their external backers, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both of which are regional rivals to the Islamic Republic. 

From an Iranian standpoint, the most constructive American strategy would have been for the United States to begin a gradual but steady withdrawal of troops a few years ago when that could have helped shape a political settlement based on power sharing among all of Afghanistan’s major constituencies.  From an Iranian perspective, such a settlement could have included the Pashtun, though, at least at the time, not necessarily the Taliban, and would have given Iran’s Afghan allies—who, at the time, were also America’s allies—the upper hand.  Today, Iran is concerned that, as America belatedly positions itself to begin withdrawing forces from Afghanistan next year, the Obama administration still has no coherent strategy regarding President Karzai’s drive for a political deal—a deal which, because of mistakes made by Washington, must now include the Taliban and its chief external backers, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia…

Iran is concerned that the United States’ interest in fostering sufficient stability in Afghanistan for long enough to allow U.S. troops to begin leaving next year will lead Washington to drop the “red lines” it has imposed on Taliban participation in a political process.  Iran is concerned that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will be able to use the Taliban’s unchecked involvement in a power-sharing arrangement as a proxy to expand their influence in Afghanistan at Tehran’s expense and to threaten the Islamic Republic.

Under these circumstances, Iran will intensify its support for key players among the Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek groups, just as it did during the civil war that broke out after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and after the Taliban took power in Kabul in 1996.  These dynamics raise the risks of renewed civil war in Afghanistan—a civil war that would simultaneously be a proxy war among Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, the country’s most powerful external players.  These were precisely the conditions under which al-Qaeda found sanctuary and thrived in Afghanistan during the 1990s.” 

On Iran and post-conflict stabilization in Afghanistan:  “Post-conflict stabilization in Afghanistan requires recognizing and working with the integral connections between Afghanistan’s internal balance of power and the broader balance of power among major states in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.  And that means cooperation with Iran is essential to stabilizing Afghanistan and, by extension, Pakistan.

Following 9/11, Iran worked with the United States on the short-term project of overthrowing the Taliban—but with the long-term goal of prompting Washington to reconsider its hostile posture toward the Islamic Republic.  In effect, the Iranians hoped that cooperation with the United States would facilitate a U.S.-Iranian “grand bargain”—but this approach did not work, largely because of American resistance to a broader opening to Iran.  

Under current circumstances, Iran would need to be persuaded to cooperate once again with the United States in Afghanistan—persuaded, in particular, that power-sharing could be done in a manner that addressed Tehran’s longstanding concerns about the Taliban, the regional balance of power, and U.S. intentions toward the Islamic Republic.  This cannot be done while Washington is pursuing sanctions against Iran—however feckless they may be—and offering progressively less veiled support for regime change in Tehran.  Today, cooperation with Iran on post-conflict stabilization in Afghanistan has to be embedded in a broader strategic understanding between the United States and the Islamic Republic…  

[I]n other words, a U.S.-Iranian grand bargain has become essential to avoiding something close to strategic failure in Afghanistan.  The Islamic Republic will, as I described, continue supporting its longstanding Afghan allies in resisting a Taliban onslaught backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  But, in the absence of a broader strategic understanding, those efforts will be seen, in Washington, and elsewhere, as undermining whatever political arrangements the Karzai government has reached with the Taliban.  And that will fuel a regional proxy conflict with Afghanistan as the main battlefield, and with the United States drawn increasingly into supporting Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  That is a position the United States has been in before.  We should not want to go there again.”   

Flynt Leverett

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100 Responses to “IRAN’S STRATEGIC STAKE IN AFGHANISTAN: HILLARY MANN LEVERETT IN FOREIGN POLICY”

  1. U.S.-Iran Engagement Through Afghanistan
    By James P. Hughes and Mir H. Sadat
    (Middle East Policy, Spring 2010)

    Full text available at: http://afpakpolicy.com/US_IRAN_AFG.pdf

    “Although U.S. President Barack Obama has made diplomatic engagement with Iran a foreign-policy priority, at least 30 years of conflict have complicated U.S.-Iran relations. The United States is viewed by the Iranian government as a hostile interventionist state attempting to topple the Iranian republic, indicated by the U.S. role in the 1953 coup d’état of the legal Iranian government, vehement rejection of the Islamic Revolution, disregard for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War, the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane, imposing economic sanctions, freezing of Iranian financial assets, resistance to Iranian nuclear progress for clean energy, and threats to invade or attack Iran.4 Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, its obstruction of the Middle East peace process, its involvement in the Beirut attacks of the 1980s and the 1996 Khobar Towers (Saudi Arabia) bombing of an American troop residence, and providing lethal aid to violent non-state actors in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan are viewed by the United States as obstacles to rapprochement.”

  2. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    Maybe I should say the Israeli tail wags the American dog, thanks to the hundreds of Aipac stooges in the US Congress.

  3. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    I am keenly aware a large number of Jordanians loathe Israel, and of course they have excellent reasons for loathing Israel. And I did not mean to suggest Jordan would be so foolish as to have foreign policy determined by elections. Of course not! And keep in mind, in the US there is no option for those who think the US Congress is the tail wagged by the Israeli dog. Aipac intimidation and cooption is comprehensive.

  4. Arnold Evans says:

    James, I really often wonder if you’re being serious when you talk about Jordan.

    Jordanian elections are not for positions with influence over Jordanian foreign policy. As you well know. Why would you have written that?

    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=689705&ct=7607423

    On the fifteenth anniversary of peace between Israel and Jordan, a new poll commissioned by The Israel Project (TIP) shows intense Jordanian hostility toward the Jewish state. The poll, face-to-face interviews of 250 Jordanians, was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) as part of a larger study for TIP that included interviews with 250 Gazans, 250 people in the West Bank and 500 Egyptians.

    The poll found that the Jordanian public, comprised largely of Palestinians, is opposed to accepting and engaging Israel. Not a single respondent gives Israel a favorable rating, a level of rejection that GQRR has never seen toward anyone or any entity in its 29-year history as a firm. In Jordan, Israel gets 99 percent very cool ratings (ratings between 0-25 on a scale that ranges from 0 to 100).

    Even 15 years after peace was made between Israel and Jordan, Jordanians have not reconciled themselves to the existence or permanence of Israel as a Jewish state. Less than a quarter of respondents in Jordan think Israel has the right to exist, and three-quarters think Israel is “not necessarily here to stay as a permanent Jewish state.” It is not surprising, therefore, to find that most Jordanians also oppose the country’s diplomatic relations with Israel.

  5. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    Jordan has elections, and apparently they are conducted fairly. Nonetheless, do you think Jordanian foreign policy is at odds with public opinion in Jordan, and if so, in what way?

    It is of course true that the Government of India was controlled by the UK, prior to independence of India, Pakistan and Burmah. However, the Indian government sometimes took positions that the UK did not favor, in its policy for example toward the Ottoman provinces taken from Turkey at the end of the First World War.

  6. Arnold Evans says:

    The people of Jordan have no leverage over the Jordanian government, any more than the people of the princely states of Britain’s Raj in India had over those locally administered colonial governments.

    That is not the case for Iran.

  7. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    Are you saying that Jordanian foreign policy follows the wishes of the people of Jordan more closely, than that of Iran? Or the opposite? I think most Iranians support Iranian assistance to Hamas and Hezbollah, while most Jordanians agree with their King that Israel needs to end the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

  8. Arnold Evans says:

    James:

    Shouldn’t the foreign policy of Iran be directed toward advancing the interests of the people of Iran?

    If you and the people of Iran disagree on the interests of the people of Iran or how best to advance those interests, it is very important that the people of Iran’s perception of their interests overrules yours. For the most part, that is the case in Iran. For the most part, that is not the case in Jordan.

  9. Persian Gulf says:

    I am so sorry for the inappropriate language. I got really frustrated by Liz’s comment and its logic specially for an insider. we say in Farsi:یه لحظه احساس کردم گوشهام داره دراز میشه و دارم صداهای عجیب در می آرم با خوندن کامنت ایشون

  10. fyi says:

    Fiorangela:

    You are not a Polyanna (poly = many + yanna (Sanskrit) = path ?)

    The Islamic Republic, in my opinion, is the best government that Iranians have had.

    It is also the last best hope of the Muslim states – both Shia and Sunni – to find a path out of the obscurantism of Islamic Tradition and their Confrontation with Modernity.

    But, at the same time, that government is poorly governing large sectors of the Iranian society. Eleven million vote caset last year for Mr. Mousavi, was an indicative of the depth of popular discontent. At least 1/3 of the country is quite fed-up with the Islamic Disaster.

    One has to watch to see how Mr. Ahmadinejad is going to govern but he clearly has gone against the Doctors of Religion by submitting 3 female ministers (in the face of their opposition) with one approved by Majlis. Furthermore, last month he washed his hands off the morality police and stated unequivocally that his government has nothing to do with it (which is true).

    But for hundreds of millions of Muslims – all over the world – that morality police is Islam. Those strictures are True Islam etc. Just like for an Orthodox Jew, not touching his wife during certain time of the month is an article of his religion.

  11. fyi says:

    Fiorangela:

    In the paper titled: “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish
    Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry” by Gil Atzmon,Li Hao,Itsik Pe’er, Christopher Velez, Alexander Pearlman,Pier Francesco Palamara, Bernice Morrow,2 Eitan Friedman, Carole Oddoux, Edward Burns,1and Harry Ostrer3 published in the American Journal of Human Genetics 86, 1–10, June 11, 2010 we get to the conclusion that “These findings demonstrated that the most distant and differentiated of the Jewish populations were Iranian Jews
    followed by Iraqi Jews…”

    Yet it it is the Jews of European ancestory (30 to 40 % admixture with European populations) that are agitating the most for war with Iran.

  12. fyi says:

    Liz:

    I agree with you about the implied veracity of the Iranian elections.

    However, the dress code itself is not the issue – it is the arbitrariness of the officaldom that is.

    Last year, during Ramadan, the Tehran Chief of Police stated that the polic will “confront” those who break their fast in public. Breaking one’s fast was never a “crime” under Sharia not is it a crime now under Iranian legal codes. Yet, this man, created Law out of thin air and from this there is no recourse. You cannot go and complain – to whom?

    Likewise, in Isphahan, since lyrical singing by women has been banned in Iran, peoploe go under the bridges and sing those songs together.

    The harassment of young people, both men and women, is wide-spread. The Islamic Disater is quite real. Even in Qom, young women are being harrased – and these are very conservative women.

    Iranians used to be a very polite people with decorum. Wonder what happened to this “Persian Gulf” fellow.

  13. Persian Gulf says:

    Liz:

    American polls of Iran are worthless for me. so, I don’t want to talk about them.

    “…and that would include laws, dress codes, etc”. who said that? did I talk about the election at all? this is what some in IR want to take advantage of. we are back to the story of monkey and donkey. I suspect your husband would be one of those guys as you said in the past that you married a Muslim guy, if that guy is Iranian by the chance. I am not even sure you live in Iran right now.

    I have to remind you that I am an Iranian myself. well connected to the Iranian society, my extended family lives there, as well many friends. we are not isolated people in the society in both lower income and also middle class. I am frequent traveler to Iran. grow up during the era of Islamic Republic entirely. so, I don’t really need a non-Iranian like you to explain what is going there. basically, S*** the **** up (sorry!).

    Fiorangela:

    I appreciate your thought, but I don’t think that we are dealing a zero-sum game internally. I have discussed this issue with pirouz_2 few days ago. if that was the case, there won’t have left any chance for a meaningful criticism. and actually, some in the IR are using the same tactic to silence criticism of any sort in the country.

  14. Nasser says:

    “Honestly Nasser, your idea that foreign policy should be removed from popular accountability (in countries in the Middle East or in countries that are of key concern to Israel) is disgusting to me.”

    I never suggested such a thing. I only said that sometimes what is in the national interest might not be popular. Now what I find DISGUSTING is your insistence that Iran should go about Crusading against a nuclear armed country that it has no territorial disputes with and possibly get bombed in the process simply to satisfy your “anti-colonial” sentiments. But I say innocent Iranians need not die by having their country used as a battering ram to gratify some whiny American pansy boy who couldn’t change his own country’s policies towards Israel. Since you have “have no interest in us coming to agreement or understanding each other or anything like that,” I’ll stop.

  15. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    Shouldn’t the foreign policy of Iran be directed toward advancing the interests of the people of Iran?

  16. Arnold Evans says:

    Do you think it makes sense for Egypt to have a confrontational attitude towards Israel without a Soviet patron? (Im not suggesting they blockade Gaza)

    Blockading Gaza is what it means to not have a confrontational attitude towards Israel. At least from the Tel-Aviv point of view. A democratic Egypt would strike a balance of what is practically possible and what matches its people’s ideas of justice regarding Israel that would be dramatically different from what the Mubarak dictatorship – which is accountable to the US congress but not to the people of Egypt strikes.

    That balance should be struck by the people of Egypt, not the people of Israel or the United States on Israel’s behalf.

    Do you think it is wise for Ahmedinejad to do what is popular and kick out Russian aviation workers and create more “martyrs” from further plane crashes?

    People have a right to make their own mistakes, which is the only way they can learn from them. If a politician makes a mistake that results in plane crashes, then the people of Iran can and should take that mistake into account in determining who decides and implements policy in the future.

    Every decision by Ahmadenejad does not have to be wise. Not every decision of Obama or Bush or Sharon or Olmert or Netanyahu is wise. Every decision made by Iran’s leadership should be made according to the sensibilities of the people of Iran and mistakes should be punishable by the people of Iran. This is mostly the case for Iran, and not at all the case for the countries that you think have better foreign policies than Iran.

    ****

    Honestly Nasser, your idea that foreign policy should be removed from popular accountability (in countries in the Middle East or in countries that are of key concern to Israel) is disgusting to me. A lot of Americans agree with you, and more Americans do not understand the region enough to see how your idea is a necessary premise of US Middle East policy. But I do not agree and in fact am nauseated by the idea that anyone would actually defend that idea in itself.

    I answered your questions because you answered mine, but I feel like I’ve read enough. I have no interest in us coming to agreement or understanding each other or anything like that.

  17. Liz says:

    Persian Gulf,

    According to polls taken by Americans both before and after the elections, the vast majority of Iranians (rural and urban) are more or less satisfied with the Islamic Republic and that would include laws, dress codes, etc. There is no reason to assume that most Iranians prefer western values or dress codes or even standards of freedom of speech (especially in CNN and for British diplomats based in Beirut!).

  18. Nasser says:

    Dear Arnold Evans, I would please like for you to answer a couple of my questions.

    Do you think it makes sense for Egypt to have a confrontational attitude towards Israel without a Soviet patron? (Im not suggesting they blockade Gaza)

    Do you think it is wise for Ahmedinejad to do what is popular and kick out Russian aviation workers and create more “martyrs” from further plane crashes?

  19. Arnold Evans says:

    So Nasser will be this board’s real life advocate of colonialism. I didn’t think people like this actually existed.

    I consider Iran lucky that this viewpoint is a minority, an essentially inconsequential one at that.

  20. Fiorangela says:

    Nasser: you wrote: “It might not be popular, but Iran would be better off if it acted in a more humble manner and reevaluated their attitude toward America but particularly towards Israel.”

    Stephen Kinzer spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California recently (listen here ). At the very end, in answer to the last question, Kinzer spoke with some passion about the common interests and shared history that have bound Turkey, Israel, and Iran over millenia. (He mentioned somewhat more delicately that those three non-Arab states were also united in their disdain for Arabs.) Kinzer imagined — or maybe I just imagined that Kinzer imagined — that a cooperative relationship among Iran, Israel, and Turkey could lead to a dynamic era for the entire Middle East; a new Golden Age (my image).

    Regarding your statement, Nasser: states in such a relationship must consider the strengths and weaknesses of each the other; in my opinion, the last think Israel needs is to be puffed up by the “humble” attitude of another state; and based on Shireen Hunter’s comments, the last thing Iran needs is to humble itself. Rather, Iran needs to learn how to walk and talk with confidence that does not have sharp edges but is professional and humanistic: Davutoglu seems to be able to find the right voice.

    It’s my understanding that Iran does not have a professional ruling class: as I understand it, Iran’s leaders come from the madrassas and/or the military. When I was in Iran, we spent almost two hours talking with mullahs and students at a madrassa in Shiraz. We learned that the curriculum is rigorous: in addition to theological subjects, students are expected to master at least one other language, to study political science, economics, foreign cultures and histories; they are expected to spend part of their student career studying in another country; I assume these are Iran’s future leaders. (We were also told that Shiraz is among the more liberal cities, while Mashad is most strict.) Iranians do not seem to excel in self-promotion, or PR skills, a self-professed specialty of Israelis. Perhaps Israel could help Iran “spank its brand.”

    If Israel and Turkey could manage it, perhaps they could help Israel to stop believing its PR and also to stop feeling so inferior that they have to be braggarts and bullies — I am convinced that bullies are fundamentally insecure people, woefully unsure of themselves; if Iran and Turkey could teach Israel that it’s alright to be just like everybody else, maybe Israel would not walk around with a chip on its shoulder, eager to fight.

    Can you imagine what a dynamic world that would be: Iran, Israel, and Turkey, mutually assured cooperation?

  21. Nasser says:

    “Regarding the adverse effect on the Iranian economy, due to foreign policy choices, the best figures I have seen is that perhaps 20% is sacrificed (result of sanctions, etc.).”

    As I understand it, Iran wouldn’t need to import gasoline or natural gas (and thus increase their self sufficiency that they seem to value so much) if only they removed the subsidies and allowed prices to rise. I don’t understand why a totalitarian regime values popular opinion so much!

  22. Nasser says:

    “An obvious question, to me, is whether Iran should support the Saudi peace plan openly. Part of the false narrative continuously sold in America, is that Iran “opposes” the two-state solution.”

    Yes, Iran should formally back the Saudi peace plan. And James, it is not a false narrative. As Shirin Hunter pointed out, Iran has never backed a two state solution. Iran might have said that they are willing to accept anything agreed to by the Palestinians but they never promoted a two state solution themselves.

  23. James Canning says:

    Rehmat,

    Didn’t the Nazis liquidate about 5 million people who were not Jews? You are quite right: no “holocaust” museums for them. Not part of the narrative.

  24. James Canning says:

    Nasser,

    You make a number of excellent points. I cringed when Ahmadinejad made disparaging remarks about the Russians. Russia and China are two countries whose advice Iran should heed carefully.

    Regarding the adverse effect on the Iranian economy, due to foreign policy choices, the best figures I have seen is that perhaps 20% is sacrificed (result of sanctions, etc.).

  25. Nasser says:

    Dear Arnold Evans,

    To answer your question I would begin by saying that I think all those countries you have listed are better at conducting their foreign policy than Iran. I think the chief reason for that is because they do not allow vital national security matters to be subject to popular opinion. I am not going to defend the Mubarrak regime or its blockade of Gaza but do you think it makes sense for Egypt to have a confrontational attitude towards Israel without a Soviet patron?

    I don’t think vital national security matters should be subject to popular opinion. It should be based on stone cold calculations on what is best for the state and then doing it. Too often what is popular is bad for the state. For Iran, I think the empowerment of the lower classes and the resulting populism is the single worst thing that happened to the country. The middle class in Egypt realizes this and that is why they have decided to back Mubarrak against the Muslim Brotherhood that represents the lower classes.

    I think Iran would be best served by having a clear separation between domestic politics and its foreign policies. Ironically, Iran actually seeks to do this by making foreign policy decisions based on the judgment of the Supreme National Security Council but still too often foreign policy decisions are subject to popular opinion with disastrous consequences. For example, it might make for good domestic politics for Ahmedinejad to ridicule Russia but I would argue that that is a terrible idea that isolates Iran even further.

    I would say Iran and its people would be better off if the government enacted some necessary but unpopular measures both domestically and in its foreign policy conduct. It might be unpopular to cut subsidies or to no longer have a liter of gasoline cheaper than a liter of water but Iran would be better off if it would do away with those policies. Similarly, when it comes to foreign policy the government should be willing to do what is unpopular. Iranians are notoriously haughty with a really inflated sense of their self worth and so the public don’t really know how to behave on the international scene (it’s really quite embarrassing). If you subject your decisions to those popular opinions when conducting foreign policy you are going to get bad results. It might not be popular, but Iran would be better off if it acted in a more humble manner and reevaluated their attitude toward America but particularly towards Israel.

  26. Fiorangela says:

    Persian Gulf, I think there’s another dynamic behind the publication in an AMERICAN newspaper of an article that ridicules Iran by presenting Iran as backward, constraining personal freedoms, etc. In my opinion, it’s a mistake to allow oneself to be distracted with whether the haircuts are modern or Islamic (whatever that means) and more with the underlying intent of the article.

    I would suggest that responses to articles such as this completely ignore the content of the article — mention it in an opening sentence then breeze right past it and focus on some positive aspect of Iranian culture and society, some positive step that Iran has taken. I’m particularly interested in the Dialog of Civilizations that Khatami planned in 1998, and that convened at the UN in October 2001 (unfortunate timing).

    I realize, or suspect, anyway, that Iranians might bristle at the thought of giving credit for good things to a government that they loathe. Hillary Clinton loves when that happens, it gives her a toehold from which to hector the Iranian people. She does not intend to make the Iranian government better for your benefit, so why give her any advantage? On the other hand, if you work very hard to find good things that are done by a government that you otherwise hate, you can reinforce in the government the direction YOU, Iran, want your government to go.
    Perhaps I’m a pollyanna: I believe the Iranian government makes incremental changes and moderations in its behavior in response to the demands of the people (I don’t see that happening in US). Tell the Iranian government what you want by praising what they do that is positive, while simultaneously telling US media to kindly take their caricatures of Iran and stow it.

    for what it’s worth.

  27. Rehmat says:

    Ha’aretz: “Ahmadinejad denies Holocaust”, AGAIN really!!

    While meeting a group of Islamic scholars in Nigeria, Dr. Ahmadinejad repeated his previous statement that why sholars and historians are forbidden to question the Zionist holocaust narrative of “Six Million Died”? He also pointed out that he never denied the mass-killing of Jews in Europe by the Nazis (among whom there were 150,000 German Jews), but then Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and Christians, whose mass-murders are not recognized as holocaust – and no ‘holocaust museum’ has been built in their memories.

    “The West made a claim – about the Holocaust – and urges all the people in the world to accept it or otherwise go to prison. The West allows everybody to question prophets and even God but not to pose a simple question and open the black box of a historic event,” asked Dr. Ahmadinejad.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/ahmadinejad-questions-zionist-holocaust-narrative/

  28. James Canning says:

    Castellio,

    Thanks for the link (which goes through to The Jerusalem Post’s July 11th article: “US will attack Iran if it must” and photo of Senators Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Linsey Graham. Three “Israel-firsters” who truly are serious threats to the national security of the US itself.

  29. James Canning says:

    Arnold,

    Good questions for Nasser. An obvious question, to me, is whether Iran should support the Saudi peace plan openly. Part of the false narrative continuously sold in America, is that Iran “opposes” the two-state solution.

  30. James Canning says:

    Humanist,

    Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University in Washington, is an idiot. The surest way to guarantee further decline of the US, is to attack Iran. And what utter stupidity, to argue that Iran will be the dominant power in the Middle East, displacing the US, unless the US attacks Iran! Due to its position, and natural and human resources, Iran virtually by definition is the leading power in the Middle East, apart from Turkey. (I exclude Israel from the calculation, despite its paramount military offensive strike capabilities –thanks to the stupidity of the US taxpayers.)

  31. James Canning says:

    Castellio,

    Was Obama grovelling this past week? Or was he trying to make it easier for Netanyahu to make compromises?

  32. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    I agree with you, that political and military power trump justice, and that Iran could still be attacked no matter how enlightened its political system happens to be (or not be). That said, the false narrative that the warmongers need to sell to the American public is that Israel is a democracy “threatened” by a totalitarian power that also hates the US and its people. The narrative on its face is ludicrous, to those paying any attention to the facts of the matter. But we know most Americans are grossly ignorant, with short attention spans.

  33. Arnold Evans says:

    Nasser,

    I have two questions about your argument:

    1) Do you think Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE have foreign policies that Iran should emulate?

    2) Do you think there is a consensus in Iran that the country should behave more like Egypt, in other words, most Iranians want Iran to follow Egypt’s foreign policy but implementing that consensus is thwarted by Iran’s rulers?

  34. Humanist says:

    Read this to get educated more on the mind-set of some who dream of repeating the scenario of Iraq on Iran http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=78528

  35. Persian Gulf says:

    Iranian@Iran:

    I am not sure what Iranian culture in terms of heir cut means especially with this rather reactionary approach. but in any case, if the purpose is only that, it’s fine to me. are you sure the intention stops there?

    I know the Iranian political system even has a certain norm of dress code. i.e heir cut. for example, it’s crystal clear that somebody like me would be rejected outright in that system, I mean in being able to advance in the power structure, from the very beginning just because of my heir style, even though mine is a very normal one. If I send my application with the pics, the first thing probably the guardian council would say is to correct your FOCOL first!

    if men’s heir style is just for promoting Iranian culture, I wonder why that can’t be applied for women as well? I mean, Chador, Manto, Scarf…can be promoted as preferred Islamic dresses, which is even appreciated and actually absolute majority of my own family members want this even though I don’t like that (it’s liberty after all), and not a mandatory one (especially in a hot country like Iran). I hope, you know the degree of dissatisfaction, especially among the youth, for using this mandatory dress code in the Iranian society. and I am just talking about rural areas.

  36. Castellio: Thanks for reminding me about Pat Lang’s Web site. Haven’t been over there in a while.

  37. Fiorangela: Yes, I spotted that article on how Ireland was blocking the EU data transfer. The EU must be insane to send any sort of data to Israel, where a great deal of computer hacking technology is developed. As we noted earlier, Israel is one of the leading “spy technology” countries in the world, and ANY dealings with Israel is just an open invitation to have your secrets siphoned off by the Mossad. The EU intelligence services must be complete idiots not to have advised the EU leaders that such a thing would be a disaster.

  38. Rehmat: I didn’t say that any weapons supplied by Iran into Afghanistan, if any, were supplied to “terrorist groups”.

    Also, keep in mind that the weapons supplied by the US during the war against the Russians are no doubt still floating around in Afghanistan and it would be no surprise that they turn up in the hands of almost anybody.

    Also, as I said, the Pakistani ISI has been supplied with weapons from the US, and no doubt would turn around and sell or give them to the Taliban in some cases.

    Are you suggesting that the CIA and Israel are supplying the “Al Qaeda” factions (whoever they are), or the Taliban? In other words, the US is supplying the weapons being used against the US? Or am I missing something in your statement? It doesn’t make any sense.

    Also, we KNOW Jundallah is supported by the CIA. And they have nothing to do with what I was talking about, which is who is supplying the Taliban with weapons.

    Do try to read what I write before responding.

  39. Iranian@Iran says:

    Nasser,

    It would be good if you looked at Iranian newspapers and websites every now and then. The piece on haircuts is funny, but largely because it caricatures Iran (as someone put it earlier) and does not reflect the story as it is. There is no law banning other haircuts and this is merely an attempt to promote Iranian culture (whether it is an effective approach or not is another story). Similar attempts are being made in architecture too.

    Regarding wealthin Iran, I must say that Iran is more wealthy than most other countries, despite the fact that it actually has less natural endowments than these countries. The most important being WATER.

    Also, those barbaric countries that threaten Iran with nuclear weapons should be ashamed, not Iran.

  40. Pirouz says:

    Obviously you’re a thin-skinned individual when it comes to things like that. As an American witnessing the horrors of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, as well as Abu Ghraib and Guantanimo, if I were as thin-skinned as yourself, I’d be in real trouble, emotionally. But I’m not. So shortcomings like these, while I recognize them and look for improvement, they do not turn me anti-America, or anti-Iran for that matter.

    Anyway, this is off-topic. The topic at hand is US policy and Afghanistan, and how it could be improved by having better relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. I agree with the position put forward by the Leveretts. Do you have an opinion on this, Nasser? Or are you completely taken in with irrelevant thoughts of sedition and subversion?

  41. Nasser says:

    “Hey Nasser, do Botswana or Mauritius have an indigenous aerospace program that has sent a satellite into earth orbit? Has South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore? No. But the Islamic Republic of Iran does. And that’s no laughing matter, as you try to put it.”

    No, but those countries not having been blessed with as much natural endowments as Iran has still somehow managed to secure a higher per capita income for their people!

    They also don’t have government officials who turn their country into a laughingstock by saying stuff like this: washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/21/AR2010042102998.html. Or micromanage their citizens lives like this: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100707/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_modest_haircuts. Oh, and very importantly their actions haven’t caused their people to be threatened with nuclear strikes.

  42. Pirouz says:

    So the 3rd time was the charm. Best wishes to them on being no. 10. (Iran was no. 9)

  43. Castellio says:

    Pirouz, re: South Korea

    Bae Hyun-jung
    The Korea Herald
    Publication Date : 28-06-2010

    South Korea’s first geostationary satellite was successfully put on its planned initial orbit after its launch from Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guinea, said officials Sunday.

    The satellite is expected to completely spread out its solar panels and rise into its final orbital altitude of 36,000km, according to the ministry and Korea Aerospace Research.

    It will then stay in an orbit above the equator at 128.2 degrees east longitude to offer 24-hour surveillance over the Korean Peninsula, said officials.

    Once that happens, the KARI will conduct a series of tests on the satellite’s functions before it starts its official weather observation services in December.

    The 2,460-kilogram Cheollian is the world’s first geostationary ocean monitoring satellite designed to measure weather and environment changes.

    Upon its successful launch, Korea joined the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India and Russia to operate an independent weather satellite. It also became the tenth to build its own communication satellite, said officials.

  44. Pirouz says:

    Hey Nasser, do Botswana or Mauritius have an indigenous aerospace program that has sent a satellite into earth orbit? Has South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore? No. But the Islamic Republic of Iran does. And that’s no laughing matter, as you try to put it. That’s a source of Persian Pride.

    Maybe, just maybe you’re allowing personal preferences to color your perspective on the workings and merits of Iran. You should work on that.

  45. Nasser says:

    “Liberal Democracy; i.e. Rule of Law + Representative Government obtains only in 25 countries in the World. All of them are Western (or Western derived) nominally Christian polities…I suggest you find a different and more wrokable model for Iran.”

    What about the East Asian countries? What about India? How about an African country like Botswana or Mauritius? Representative government + rule of law + economic liberalization did wonders for Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Turkey having strengthened the role of her democratic bodies and enacted economic liberalization is enjoying renewed prosperity and economic growth. Even the Gulf countries like Kuwait and Bahrain are strengthening their Parliamentary roles and are better off for it. They might be western inspired but by no are any of these countries western or fully Christian. There is nothing exclusively western about having representative government or seeking to curb unlimited power of the executive via rule of law. So why reinvent the wheel and come up with a different model?

    Iran despite being endowed with so much resources is so horribly misgoverned that it is being left way behind these other countries that have chosen good governance and have embraced globalization and the international order. With a totalitarian government it is the laughing stock of the world (North Korea minus the nukes) and the cause for much fright and paranoia for her neighbors. I would contend that Iran can draw inspiration from these countries and would do well to get rid of the religious fanatics and embrace a representative and accountable government.

  46. Castellio says:

    This from Colonel Pat Lang (retired): “Considering the amount of Obama Administration groveling this week, this looks like war to me. It seems like a matter of timing. In the “crunch” there will be no choice but to virtually destroy Iran.”

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2010/07/the-senators-from-tel-aviv.html#comments

  47. fyi says:

    Fiorangela:

    You wrote: “If Iran can “stay classy” and refrain from being baited by the West, AND develop its own, strong and fair form of representative government, bit by bit, small state by small state, the justness of Iran’s cause will be recognized.”

    The world is not run on basis of Justice, rather Power.

    Iran could have the most Just polictical order and yet she could be attacked.

  48. Fiorangela says:

    James Canning: some different perspectives on that Haaretz article here

    “US will now have agents in Israel’s Third Temple.”

    Prof. Ian Lustic says that the very act of discussing Israel’s nuclear technology is so verboten that a Jew who does so is subject to punishment as harsh as is normally meted out only to Arabs. Lustic notes that Avner Cohen “broke the code” www dot gwu dot edu/~nsarchiv/israel/ and was forced to leave Israel and remain in the US, as a result.

    but by making a nuclear pact w/ Israel, US will be able to place Americans inside the Third Temple.

  49. James Canning says:

    Further evidence of astonishing ignorance and stupidity of the American public can be found today on truth-out.org (Anthony DiMaggio, “Threatening World Order: US and Israel Quietly Announce Plans to Reconstitute Their Nuclear Stockpiles”.

    DiMaggio reports that a CNN poll in late 2009 showed that 88% of Americans think Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

  50. James Canning says:

    Dan Cooper,

    The 57 Muslim countries that have agreed to accept Israel, provided it recognizes its borders (“pre-1967″), accept that it is simply not possible to achieve the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel clearly is sleep-walking toward national suicide, by refusing to get serious about ending the occupation of the West Bank, but this result would be many decades away – - if the Israelis allowed it to happen. More likely, yet another insane war in the Middle East would be generated by fanatical supporters of Israel (and their supporters and stooges in the US).

  51. James Canning says:

    Rehmat,

    The independence of numerous Asian and African colonies, of Britain and France, was inevitable – - largely due to the emergence of an educated middle class. The so-called American “empire” is an illusion, and merely reflects the gross ignorance (and stupidity) of the American middle classes. Hundreds of billions of dollars, that could make their lives better (mass transit, for example), are instead squandering on idiotic effort to “protect” Israel (meaning, to enable Israelis to continue insane effort to keep large portions of the West Bank).

  52. Fiorangela says:

    actions have consequences

    Irish Block EU Plan to Allow Data Transfer to Israel

    “THE GOVERNMENT has moved to block a European Commission initiative to allow the transfer to Israel and storage there of sensitive personal data on European citizens.

    The intervention by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern reflects “profound concern” over transfers being made following the use of eight fake Irish passports by the alleged Israeli assassins of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.”

    what possible relationship does this have to a discussion of Iran?
    1. EU was apparently willing to overlook Israeli bad behavior when it was entrusted with personal information about citizens of other nations.
    2. Ireland is not.
    3. Perhaps in small ways, global awareness is becoming more equality-minded; Turkey and Brazil have played a role in that regard.
    4. If Iran can “stay classy” and refrain from being baited by the West, AND develop its own, strong and fair form of representative government, bit by bit, small state by small state, the justness of Iran’s cause will be recognized.

  53. Persian Gulf says:

    not related:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjTEbmEp_QI&feature=player_embedded

    یاد داستانهای دوران علی حضرت همایونی افتادم!‌

  54. fyi says:

    AFSANEH and Others:

    Liberal Democracy; i.e. Rule of Law + Representative Government obtains only in 25 countries in the World. All of them are Western (or Western derived) nominally Christian polities.

    I suggest you find a different and more wrokable model for Iran.

  55. Persian Gulf says:

    Priouz_2 (AFSANEH):

    I fully get what you say. however, I still think it’s workable for the case of Iran too. we just need to look around a bit. we don’t necessarily need to be ideologically bonded here and stand for nothing. we can be part of the club and get out of the hell. it’s the “IRON FIST” face of the “DEMOCRATIC” Iran that I have, for sometime, wished for!. it is also my primary passion for Iran’s foreign policy (somebody even said the result of Iranians’ inferiority-superiority complex!)….I am afraid of going too far over here so to discredit myself altogether!
    .
    .
    I am eagerly waiting to see the mushroom cloud coming from Iran’s desert! so as to start and turn the page of the history for Iran.

  56. Rehmat says:

    The political aware people are watching the US empire on its death bed as they saw the British and Russian empires going through the same natural process. There are four new emerging powers – the Islamic Iran, Turkey, Brazil and Venezuela along with three old colonial powers, Russia, China and India – which are competing to replace the corrupt and demoralized US empire.

    The first four are bonded by their national economic interests. Secularist Turkey is attracted to Islamic Iran for its energy needs. Turkey’s trade with Islamic Iran is increasing each year (US$10 billion in 2009). Ankara also sees Iran as a potential supplier of gas and oil to Europe with trasit pipelines through Turkey.

    Similarly, both Venezuela and Brazil which want to free themselves from the political and economic stranglehold of US-Israel axis of evil. They all want to have more say in their respective regions and at the international forums which have been at the mercy of the dictorial control of the five UN Security Council members, eversince its creation.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/iran-turkey-the-new-global-powers/

  57. Fiorangela says:

    Persian Gulf wrote: “the design of the houses can be the same in the west and Iran,”

    I suspect PG was writing metaphorically, but ….

    Americans and especially environmentally concerned Americans could learn a lot about green building by studying ancient Iranian systems for water supply, cooling, and shelter from harsh conditions. I have to replace the air conditioning system in my house but I’ve been delaying the project; just can’t make myself pull the trigger, sign the contract, install the standard puron/condenser/SEER/unit and be done with it. Too MacDonald’s.

    I’m holding out because I think it would be much ‘cooler’ to have a wind tower built onto the house and cool the building using mother nature harnessed by man’s ingenuity. Unfortunately, the Yellow Pages does not list that many engineers who design and build Iranian wind towers; nobody in my community advertises, “Badgir: Custom built; 3000 years experience. US tax credit available!” But that should be an option. And if I have my way, some day, it will.

  58. pirouz_2 says:

    @Persian Gulf:

    Here is a VERY “tiny” part of the cost of the “success” (!!) of your liberal democracy in the west:

    http://www.presstv.ir/classic/detail.aspx?id=134117&sectionid=3510203

    “In a newly available Oval Office tape, Kissinger is heard ridiculing the “incompetent” CIA attempts to carry out an assassination in Chile, in a clear reference to the assassination of Chilean General Rene Schneider The Washington Post reported on Friday.

    At the time, in 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were running a campaign to overthrow the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende.

    One of the key figures standing against the US-backed plots to overturn Allende was the Chilean army commander-in-chief, Rene Schneider.

    In the recording, Kissinger talks about the general, and makes clear references to the three assassination attempts. “

  59. AFSANEH says:

    By the way the previous message was from Pirouz_2.

  60. AFSANEH says:

    @Persian Gulf:

    We are finally getting to the root of our difference!
    No “liberal democracy” is not workable! If it has been “functioning” in a VERY limited number of states, it is not because it is workable or “flexible”! Far from it! It has “survived” in the west at the cost of the likes of “operation Ajax”, “Operation Condor” and so on and so forth. It has “survived” in the “West” at the cost of over a million dead in Indonesia, at the cost of starvation in Africa, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead in mass graves in Korea, at the cost of over a million (if I am not mistaken) in Vietnam, and I have not even included the dead of the two world wars!!
    Let me put it to you in different words: If you change the laws in Iran, if you scrap the constitution of IR and make a word by word translation of the US constitution to Persian and take that as our new constitution, you will STILL GET THE SAME SYSTEM DE FACTO! IT IS NOT ABOUT THE STRUCTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN IRAN AND US, IT IS ABOUT A HUMANGOUS GAP OF INCOME BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES, IT IS ABOUT “IMPERIALISM”!!
    The only way for the “liberal democracy” to work in Iran or any other 3rd world country, the way it has in the West, is that we start robbing the globe the way US has.
    Let me quote something from Mahatma Gahndi for you: “If it has taken the British with their tiny population robbing half of the globe to develop, how much will it take for India with its hundreds of millions of population to rob and develop??”

    And again we disagree: THERE IS A THIRD WAY! THERE ALWAYS IS! But the first step to find it, is to start LOOKING for it! Something that some of the Latin American countries have already begun to do.

  61. Dan Cooper says:

    Two State Hypocrisy

    Historical Palestine (or Israel within the borders it now controls including pre-1967 Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights) is one country with one water system, one electrical grid, one powerful military to defend and define its external borders, one monetary system, one telephone system, and one postal system.

    It is already one state, although half the population has lesser rights or none at all.

    The current argument for creating two states is simply another attempt to carve out a Jewish state, called Israel, where Jews have by law superior rights to non-Jews. It involves ethnic cleansing, segregation, and racism; it is definitely not a formula for lasting peace.

    American support of a racist, apartheid state is contrary to what we Americans profess to believe. Yet we overwhelmingly endorse the idea of a Jewish state and ignore the basic human rights of half the population that is not “chosen.”

    Americans claim to endorse equal rights of citizenship everywhere in the world, except Israel. We do so both out of conviction and out of fear of being smeared with the anti-Semitic tar brush. We are loath to even discuss Jewish power that compels us to deny self determination and equal rights for Palestinians.

    Our government supports the ghettoization of Gaza and other Palestinian enclaves; it ignores Israeli concentration camps like Ketziot; it supports the building of illegal settlements in occupied territory; it turns a blind eye to nuclear proliferation by Israel; it defends a Jewish attack on an unarmed humanitarian flotilla, and it sends our military to fight wars demanded by Israel.

    It is time for all Americans to support the de facto One State of Israel/Palestine and to demand that it treat all of its inhabitants as citizens with equal rights, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

    http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/two-state-hypocrisy-by-daniel-mcgowan.html#entry8206428

  62. Persian Gulf says:

    Pirouz_2:

    so, do you want to suggest that we are now back to the discussion of the early 20 century? I think, you dismissed the fact that “liberal democracy” is not an ideal system. it actually can’t be. but it is workable, and it has stood the test of time. for me, the dynamism of this system is admirable, not a mere coincidence here and there, even though I have some difficulties digesting the concept of progress. this is the substantial difference with the ideal system IR is advocating for. if by all signs we are witnessing the deadlock of democracy, we at the same time can expect democratization of democracy too. it is the inherent capability that is embedded in this system. that is probably what you and people in this site would like to practice.

    and I don’t think the question for Iran is to exactly follow the western model of democracy, rather to internalize and develop certain norms that are inescapable. the design of the houses can be the same in the west and Iran, but since the ingredients are different, they might not look identical and they won’t. trying to look for a third way at the time there isn’t really any, is simply waste of time. it could still be worth trying individually.

  63. Liz says:

    James Canning,

    I agree. However, if the US pushes too hard the Iranians will feel they must retatiate.

  64. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    The Mashad-Khaf-Herat rail road link which could connect Afghanistan to Europe and to Central Asia, thus breaking her millenial isolation, is a victim of Saudi Iranian antagonism.

    The Mashad-khaf leg is completed by Iran – as part of her $ 550 Million aide package to Afghanistan – while the completion of the Khaf-Herat leg awaits Saudi funds (which will never be released).

    This is the way the geopolitcal game is played; 30 years ago US pressured India not to export water buffalos to Vietnam that, the enemy de jour of US at that time.

  65. James Canning says:

    I recommend Glenn Greenwald’s comments in salon.com today, regarding the sacking of the CNN editor for having made a favorable comment about the deceased Shia leader in Lebanon: “Octavia Nasr’s firing and what The Liberal Media allows”.
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/07/08/media/index.html?source=newsletter

  66. James Canning says:

    The British ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, made some intelligent comments online about the recently deceased Shia leader, and of course Israel reacted with considerable anger! Par for the course. BBC has a story on this matter today.

  67. James Canning says:

    Liz,

    The Iranians do their best to foster economic development in Afghanistan, and they see clearly that stability is not possible unless employment opportunities are available for the people of the country.

    The US military adventure in Afghanistan seems virtually certain to fail, and the enlargement of the American profile – - as ordered by Obama – - only makes failure more likely. Especially if no sincere effort is made to engage with Iran.

    Iran should keep the moral high ground.

  68. Humanist says:

    @ FiorangelaIt

    Do you have any credible evidence Ari Ben Menashe’s claims are false?

    He has written a very interesting and extremely important book entitled ‘Profits of War’. Half of the book is about the intriguing complex sales of arms to Iran by Israel during the 8 year Iran-Iraq war.

    Ari is quoted by few Iran observers such as those who write in consortium.com.

    That book is translated to Farsi by Dr. Massoud Ansari, who is a professional psycho-analyst and skilled hypnotist. I guess Ansari must be qualified to sense dishonesty when conversing with people. Ansari had (long) dialogue / communications with Ari, as a result he believes Ari is truthful and his assertions in the book are believable (backed by evidence?)

    (The Farsi version of the book can be downloaded free from efsha.co.uk “Ketab Sara / Pool e Khoon”)

    Ari’s book and another book by Victor Ostrovsky entitled ‘By way of Deception’ are two of msny books every Iran-analyst must read (and study the contents carefully). If Ari is proved to be a charlatan then analysts must revise a critical segment of their judgements on Iranian political issues especially on the areas of rampant corruption or foreign covert ties of some eminent Iranian elites.

  69. James Canning says:

    JohnH,

    The US is not in a “mad dash to grab M.E. energy resources.” China is the largest buyer of Saudi crude. The US bought more Iraqi crude from Iraq, before the idiotic invasion, than any other country.

    The gigantic US military presence in the Middle East is there to “protect” Israel — meaning to enable Israeli to continue its insane effort to keep large portions of the West Bank permanently, even if this means perpetual war or near-war.

  70. FiorangelaIt says:

    <a href= "http://www.revolutionmuslim.com/2010/06/israeli-indicted-in-us-for-smuggling.html&quot; Israeli Indicted in US for Smuggling Arms to Somolia

    “According to the charges brought against Hanoch Miller at a Florida district court, he was arrested with an unnamed American partner for alleged involvement in the sale of hundreds of AK-47s to the government of Somaliland, a breakaway district in Somalia since 1991. Miller and his American partner allegedly organized arms shipments, which apparently included arms bought in Bosnia, and had planned to fly them from there in cargo planes to Somalia. The indictment also mentions a shipment that was sent from Panama.
    The suspect allegedly presented “end user” documents of the defense ministry of Chad. Arms shipments to that African country are not forbidden.
    The two were arrested in a sting operation of the U.S. Customs, when one of their contact persons, whose help they sought in organizing the air shipments, turned out to be an undercover Customs agent.
    Miller, 53, is an aerospace engineer who served in the Israel Air Force in a unit that designed aircraft. He left the military with the rank of major and worked for a short while in the Israel Aircraft Industries. With two partners he set up Radom Aviation Systems, a company that dealt with the upgrading of aircraft, mostly in the installation of avionics. The company functioned in line with licenses issued by the Defense Ministry, and at times served as a subcontractor for IAI.
    One of the last deals of Radom in which Miller was involved was with Chad. The company upgraded Soviet-made Mi-17 helicopters as well as Swiss-made, propeller-driven Pilatus aircraft, used for training but also as combat aircraft against rebels in the country. The deal was valued at $10 million.
    Three years ago Miller left Radom and established an independent firm in Yehud, which he said worked on electronic warfare and night vision equipment, but it now appears that he was also involved in firearms.
    Even though the indictment does not mention him by name, Joseph O’Toole, a former colonel in the U.S. Army who was arrested in the 1980s for allegedly illegally selling arms to Iran along with Israeli Ari Ben-Menashe, is mentioned in the case. In 1991, O’Toole was exonerated of suspicions against him. Ben-Menashe left Israel and now lives in Canada, having falsely claimed for years that he was a secret adviser of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. “

  71. Rehmat says:

    Richard Steven Hack ….. Sorry to burst your history bloon.

    All the weapons captured from the terrorist groups operating inside Pakistan and Afghanistan – are the ones supplied to the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It has been proven by independent sources that both Indian and Israeli forces are training the so-called ‘al-Qaeda’ rebels in bases inside occupied Afghanistan.

    Rigi, the leader of Jandallah terrorist group operating from Pak-Balochistan – who was hanged in Iran recently, had admitted in court of law that his group recives funds from CIA and Mossad.

    There is no use denying the fact that the great majority of western public has long been brainwashed by the pro-Israel mainstream media lies about the Muslim world. The great majority of western politicians have been bribed by the Jewish groups lobbying for Israel.

    Michel Collon, a Belgian journalist and author, in his book “Israel, let’s talk about it,” has slammed European media over decades of “lying” to people in order to support Israel.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/israel-how-to-fool-america/

  72. Liz says:

    If the US doesn’t rethink it’s policies, Iran may feel that it has no option but to put significantly more pressure on the US and its allies in Afghanistan (especially if it concludes that the US is more of a threat than “moderate” elements of the Taleban) and Iraq (especially as western oil companies are setting up offices in different Iraqi cities).

  73. If anybody is supplying arms to the Taliban, it would be either Saudi Arabia (more likely supplying money rather than arms) and even more likely the ISI in Pakistan.

    Really the Taliban are not that huge a military force. It’s not like they are the North Vietnamese Army, which is who the US were actually fighting in Vietnam, who in turn were supplied by Russia. The Taliban were estimated to be only perhaps 15,000 personnel in Afghanistan in 2009. Supplying 15,000 guerrillas with ammunition and RPG’s and Semtex explosive is not that big a logistical problem compared to supplying the US military. The cost of that effort evidently is easily handled by the Taliban who have access to drug smuggling, extortion, and probably donations and various other sources of financing, from both state agencies like the ISI and non-state actors who would like to see them beat the US.

    I don’t think we need to look for any particular conspiracy here as to who is supplying them. Pakistan’s intelligence services are number one on the list and always have been. Beyond that, as I’ve said, as long as the money is there, any number of sources for arms are available. And Afghanistan and Pakistan are two countries where moving large amounts of arms secretly is easy. There’s no need to look for countries like China or Russia or whoever to be directly supplying them, although it is quite possible that such countries are SELLING arms to them. As I say, if you have the money, everybody will sell arms to you – including the US.

  74. kooshy says:

    It happened in Iraq; not so farfetched that same is not happening in Afghanistan.
    “Booming trade in U.S. weapons on Iraqi black market

    One Defense Dept. contractor allegedly turned warehouse into private arms bazaar “

    ” In July, the company, American Logistics Services, which later became Lee Dynamics International, was suspended by the Army from doing future business with the government amid accusations that the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to military contracting officers. The company had won $11 million in contracts to manage five warehouses with arms and other equipment in Iraq.”

    I can imagine that all kind of smuggling happens in fog of a war, even a rouge contractor may occasionally sell arms to the enemy, but that cannot be an assured and effective way to plan for a ongoing guerilla war to fight a foreign occupier army, one would need a bigger and more assured suppliers to fight a super power for nine years it’s the same case as in the Vietnam, after all it takes 3Ms (not scotch kind) to fight a war, money, men and munitions, money and men I can imagine could be supplied easily but the munitions would be hard to slip though in large amounts continually without being noticed where it’s coming from same case as in Nam. For fact everyone knows that US supplied (a large supplier to fight a large occupying army for ten years) arms to Taliban to fight the Soviets during the Soviets occupation of Afghanistan, It was an strategic decision as per Mr. Brizinski, for first few years of US occupation of Afghanistan Americans were told that the tale ban are fighting us with left over arms from the soviet’s war era ( we heard the same during the first few years in Iraq as well), after a few years some start wondering how much left over arms were there which we could not find and destroy, so the story had to be updated and was changed to portray someone who is an accepted enemy of Americans as the arm supplier to the Taliban no matter how illogical or unlikely the case might be.

    In the case of Hezbollah I can understand that somehow Iran could manage to supply arms to enable Hezbollah to defend Lebanon, and frankly why not if US can supply Israel, Iran could and should back a legal sovereign recognized and approved political and military part of a sovereign allied country specially since Hezbollah is a shieh group and Iran should and would back and defend shiehs, to empower herself in the region. Iran supplying arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan doesn’t make sense, why should Iran empower a Saudi backed group in her eastern border against her shieh allies, so if it is not Iran as numerously said so by the Afghan government, then who is the reliable large arms supplier to the Taliban for fighting the occupying American army?

  75. To get weapons, all you need is money and some contacts. It’s that simple. The people selling you the weapons will figure out how to get them to you. And they’ll get the weapons using the standard methods of purchase, theft, smuggling, bribery, whatever.

    So that issue is completely irrelevant. Most of the US accusations of Iran supplying weapons to Iraq were proven bogus, and most of them involving Afghanistan were similarly proven bogus, or even denied by the US commanders on the ground. I’ve no doubt someone in Iran provided some weapons to someone in Afghanistan, but it’s hardly significant overall. In Iraq, everybody owns an AK and so does everyone in Afghanistan. It’s just a matter of keeping your ammo supply up. And both Pakistan and Afghanistan are KNOWN for their brilliant back street weapons manufacturers who can pop out cheap but effective weapons from scrap metal.

    See here after a one second Google:

    Pakistan’s flourishing arms bazaar
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5066860.stm

    Quote: “”There is nothing we cannot copy,” grins Haji Munawar Afridi, an arms trader at Darra Adam Khel near Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar.

    “You bring us a Stinger missile and we will make you an imitation that would be difficult to tell apart from the original.”

  76. JohnH says:

    Paul Craig Roberts’ list of questions is excellent. Why indeed would the major, second tier powers accede to US insanity?

    Of course, the nuclear cartel is intent on exploiting its monopoly position, but that would not appear to explain it.

    My guess is that there were some serious negotiations going on behind the scenes. The US may have gotten permission for hegemony over the Persian Gulf, but at what price? Taiwan? (Taiwan and Iran occupy similar roles as thorns in the side of the big power.)

    Europe may feel that it has little choice but to follow the US in its mad dash to grab ME energy resources. They only way they’ll get any Iranian energy is if the US miraculously were to succeed. If the US doesn’t, then Europe is no worse off (unless, of course, the whole Persian Gulf oil infrastructure gets destroyed in the conflagration.)

  77. Rehmat says:

    Afghanistan and Iran have both cultural and political alliance which goes back to the ninth century. There are more Persian-speaking Afghans than Pashtun-speaking. Afghans, whether Sunnis or Shias – have not forgotten how Tehran refused to allow air or road passage to American forces to invade Afghanistan.

    Iran and its neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq – all have common religious background.

    The US and NATO having their noses bloodied – are now seeking some support from the previously defeated Russian occupiers. NATO is purchasing 21 helicopters from Russia worth US$300 million.

    In Washington, Ben Obama just bent backward to please his Israeli guest, Benjamin Netanyahu.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/the-real-president-of-usa/

  78. Dan Cooper says:

    James Canning

    Absolutely.

    From the same link: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25906.htm

    “It would appear that the rest of the world and the UN Security Council have given the Americans a pass to lie without end in order to advance Washington’s goal of world hegemony. How does this benefit the Security Council and the world? What is going on here?

    After President Clinton misrepresented the conflict between Serbia and the Albanians in Kosovo and tricked NATO into military aggression against Serbia and after President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the secretary of state, the national security advisor and just about every member of the Bush regime deceived the UN and the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, thus finagling an invasion of Iraq, why did the UN Security Council fall for Obama’s deception that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?

    In 2009 all sixteen US intelligence agencies issued a unanimous report that Iran had
    abandoned its weapons program in 2003. Was the Security Council ignorant of this report?

    The International Atomic Energy Agency’s weapons inspectors on the ground in Iran have consistently reported that there is no diversion of uranium from the energy program. Was the Security Council ignorant of the IAEA reports?

    If not ignorant, why did the UN Security Council approve sanctions on Iran for adhering to its right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to have a nuclear energy program? The UN sanctions are lawless. They violate Iran’s rights as a signatory to the treaty. Is this the “steel vice” of which Hillary spoke?

    As soon as Washington got sanctions from the Security Council, the Obama regime unilaterally added more severe US sanctions. Obama is using the UN sanctions as a vehicle to which to attach his unilateral sanctions. Perhaps this is the “steel vice of oppression” of which Hillary spoke.

    Why has the UN Security Council given a green light to the Obama regime to start yet another war in the Middle East?”

  79. James Canning says:

    Dan Cooper,

    I viewed Hillary Clinton’s preposterous contention, in Poland, that Iran posed a “threat”, as just another effort on her part to deceive the American public and assist the armaments manufacturers to steal, in effect, scores of billions of dollars from the American taxpayers for a useless ABM system.

  80. James Canning says:

    The deputy foreign minister of Russia has called for expedited discussions with Iran, regarding the nuclear issue, and once again he has criticised the US for imposing, unilaterally, sanctions going beyond those adopted by the UN recently.

  81. Dan Cooper says:

    Transparent Lies

    The BBC reported on July 4 that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US ballistic missile base in Poland was not directed at Russia.

    The purpose of the base, she said, is to protect Poland from the Iranian threat.

    Why would Iran be a threat to Poland? What happens to US credibility when the Secretary of State makes such a stupid statement? Does Hillary think she is fooling the Russians? Does anyone on earth believe her? What is the point of such a transparent lie? To cover up an act of American aggression against Russia?

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25906.htm

  82. FiorangelaIt says:

    kooshy wrote to James, re theft of weapons to arm Taliban:

    “as you probably know it doesn’t sound credible since US army is in charge of the so called Afghan security forces it sounds even clumsy of US military to claim that Taliban stole 9 years worth of war ammunition and military hardware from Afghan army which US military is in charge of training and supplying, if what you say is true, then the US military is incompetent and incapable …”

    It happened in Iraq; not so far fetched that same is not happening in Afghanistan.

    Booming trade in U.S. weapons on Iraqi black market
    One Defense Dept. contractor allegedly turned warehouse into private arms bazaar

    ” In July, the company, American Logistics Services, which later became Lee Dynamics International, was suspended by the Army from doing future business with the government amid accusations that the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to military contracting officers. The company had won $11 million in contracts to manage five warehouses with arms and other equipment in Iraq.

    The company’s armory was a logistics hub for the new Iraqi police. Crates of AK-47s and Glock pistols purchased by the Pentagon were trucked to the armory by armed convoys.”

  83. Kooshy,

    I did see your post on the other thread regarding the source of Taliban weapons. I hesitate to speculate where the Taliban gets its weapons, other than to question the unsubstantiated claims that Iran is supplying them.

    The Taliban isn’t known for having a lot of sophisticated weapons. From what I’ve read, most of what it uses is readily available from hundreds of sources throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. That’s where I suspect the Taliban gets its weapons: from hundreds of sources.

  84. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    I few months ago, a video was on the net, showing events “on the ground” about 20 or 30 miles NE of Kabul, with about 100 Afghan police surrendering to about 7 Taliban – - turning over all their weapons.

    You are quite right, that the US does not want to tell the American public that arms for the Taliban are coming from China. A good deal of the financing for the Taliban, comes from the US. This, too, is a situation most Americans are not aware of.

  85. Fiorangela says:

    Hillary Leverett wrote: “But Tehran also calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because Iranian policymakers believe that the extended U.S. presence there is seen by much of the population as an occupation and that it is this occupation which is fueling an increasingly fierce cycle of violence and instability. From Tehran’s perspective, this cycle of violence and instability empowers Iran’s Afghan adversaries, principally the Taliban, and their external backers, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both of which are regional rivals to the Islamic Republic. ”

    It is worth noting that the longer US stays involved in Afghanistan, the longer resistance forces will require funding to resist US. Opium trade is a significant source of funding, and Iran’s borders are the transit point for that opium, a large amount of which makes its way into Iranian society.
    I have only anecdotal information on the intensity of the opium problem in Iran: I was told by Iranians that elementary school children use drugs and that it is not an uncommon occurrence for these youngsters to fall asleep at their desks. In the United States, we are accustomed to being concerned and appalled at the devastating toll of the lethal combination of drug use and unemployment and the lack of education that feeds both social maladies; Iran confronts those concerns as well.

    American foreign policy makers would do well to attempt to include in their speculation on Iranian approaches to international concerns — or, cross-border concerns, some humanizing and familiar set of problems that Americans can understand at a popular level. Every time I hear Americans complain about the problems of illegal immigrants in the US, I think about the situation the US is deliberately inducing in Iran, where criminality and drug cartels perforate a long and ragged and dangerously patrolled border just minutes away from one of Iran’s most important holy cities (Mashad).

    It’s also a good idea to remind Americans that the rest of the world may not necessarily be Amerocentric: it’s not always all about the United States. As an Iranian friend told me, “When I wake up in the morning, I don’t think, ‘How will I destroy Israel today,’ or ‘What shall I do to show my contempt for the US today.’ I worry about whether I will keep my job, whether I can make the rent payment, if my children will get a good education.”

    America’s adventures in Afghanistan and in Iraq have impacted each of those concerns of ordinary Iranians: several million Afghanis and Iraqis have refugee status in Iran, more refugees than Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Iranian culture norms absolutely require that Iran extend hospitality to refugee neighbors, stressing Iran’s economy at the same time that US and Israeli sanctions seriously constrain the Iranian economy to the extent that inflation has halved Iranian purchasing power and unemployment sets up a vicious cycle including drug use and social fragmentation.

  86. kooshy says:

    James

    “I have read a number of reports that stated that many of the weapons used by the Taliban are obtained from the Afghan army and police, and thus are supplied by Nato, albeit indirectly.”

    James I have read that too but as you probably know it doesn’t sound credible since US army is in charge of the so called Afghan security forces it sounds even clumsy of US military to claim that Taliban stole 9 years worth of war ammunition and military hardware from Afghan army which US military is in charge of training and supplying, if what you say is true, then the US military is incompetent and incapable and should not continue to waste our tax money and US’s credibility. In my opinion Taliban get their hardware from a source that US can’t publicly acknowledge. Like in Iraq every time they encounter a public hurdle and questions are raised with the US’s lack of achievements with the Afghan operations for US’s public consumption they blame the publicly known demonized accepted enemy, Iran.

    You can’t tell the American public China is supplying Arms to our enemies and these arms are killing your sons and daughters and we are buying TV’s and borrowing money from them.

  87. James Canning says:

    Hillary said that Iran’s goal, in cooperating with the US in overthrowing the Taliban, was to seek a broader deal, but “this approach did not work, largely because of American resistance to a broader opening to Iran.” My understanding is that Israel vetoed the deal, by insisting that the US require that Iran arrange for Hamas to stop suicide attacks not only within Israel itself, but also within the occupied West Bank. Iran had offered to accept Israel within its pre-1967 borders.

  88. James Canning says:

    Pirouz_2,

    Certainly, Iran offers more “liberal democracy” than most other countries in the greater Middle East.

  89. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    I have read a number of reports that stated that many of the weapons used by the Taliban are obtained from the Afghan army and police, and thus are supplied by Nato, albeit indirectly.

  90. paul says:

    Great picture. Great article.

  91. Pirouz_2 says:

    @James Canning and FYI:
    RE: BBC story:“CNN sacks editor over Muslim cleric Twitter remark”.

    This should be a good lesson to those who keep suggesting that Iran is not a liberal democracy and keep showing Western “democracies” as a relatively superior model to follow for countries like Iran.

    As I have said this all along: THERE IS NO SUBSTANTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SYSTEMS IN THE WEST AND THE DE FACTO SYSTEM IN IRAN. BOTH ARE LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES AND NEITHER PROVIDES “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION”, NOR IS EITHER ONE THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THEIR PEOPLE!

  92. kooshy says:

    Eric you commented

    “Note that the interviewer’s two “question sentences” don’t require, or even invite, Hillary to comment on the interviewer’s assumption stated in the first sentence – that the US has “clear evidence” that Iran is involved in training and supplying weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Hillary declined to address this first-sentence assumption, presumably for one or more of the following reasons: (1) she had not been asked to do so; (2) the assumption was irrelevant to the two questions she was asked; and (3) it would have been impossible in any event to “prove the negative” of that stated assumption, and thus both pointless and risky to try.”

    It seems to me, since the interviewer knew what Hillary’s answer to the question he was going to ask would be, he inserted a predetermined assumed “fact” to nullify the answer he knew is going to get from Hillary a common interrogation tactic and since hillary knew what his tactic was she choose to ignore and continue with her message.

    Incidentally did you see the question I raised in the earlier tread “IRAN, ISRAEL, AND AIR DEFENSE: WHAT, EXACTLY, IS THE “THREAT”?” which surprisingly was before this current tread this morning. My question was reference to your argument with Iran’s arms to Hezbollah.

    “How do the rockets supplied by Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas make their way – physically – from Iran to Lebanon and Gaza?”
    “In the same line of questioning I wonder where Taliban get their ammunitions and military hardware?, Iran?. Although repeatedly claimed it is doubtful since they are entrenched foes and it wouldn’t help with Iran’s supported northern alliance, India? Doesn’t make sense, no, If Pakistan US for sure would knew Pakistan is sending arms and ammo to kill Americans. Russians same case as Pakistan, the one I suspect most is China, why the US military don’t dare to explain where Taliban get the military hardware for 9 years of war, I don’t think Taliban has any military ammunition production capability in HELL LAND (Helmand) do you,? This is one that no one ever talks about.”

  93. James Canning says:

    More pro-war propaganda from one of the most vicious neocons in the US Senate, Joe Lieberman, on salon.com today. How many times does Lieberman shuttle over to Israel each year, to encourage an insane attack on Iran?

  94. fyi says:

    James Canning:

    It is called freedom of expression.

  95. James Canning says:

    CNN has sacked its veteran Middle East reporter for expressing regret at the death of the Shia leader in Lebanon. BBC story: “CNN sacks editor over Muslim cleric Twitter remark”.

  96. James Canning says:

    Eric,

    Are you saying that the question was posed as part of a scheme of misinformation/deception of the public? We see plenty of this.

    Of course, the great majority of Americans are not even aware that Iran is hostile toward the Taliban, in the main. For that matter, most Americans are not aware Iran helped the US to overthrow the Taliban.

  97. The following three sentence comprise the first set of questions posed by the Foreign Policy interviewer to Hillary:

    “1. In late May, then-top commander General Stanley McChrystal said there is “clear evidence of Iranian activity” in training and providing weaponry to the Taliban in Afghanistan. What are Iran’s core interests in Afghanistan, and how have they evolved in the last nine years? How do those complement or work against what the U.S. and NATO are trying to achieve there?”

    Note that the interviewer’s two “question sentences” don’t require, or even invite, Hillary to comment on the interviewer’s assumption stated in the first sentence – that the US has “clear evidence” that Iran is involved in training and supplying weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Hillary declined to address this first-sentence assumption, presumably for one or more of the following reasons: (1) she had not been asked to do so; (2) the assumption was irrelevant to the two questions she was asked; and (3) it would have been impossible in any event to “prove the negative” of that stated assumption, and thus both pointless and risky to try.

    But why, one wonders, did this interviewer consider it appropriate to slip in this assumption before posing the two questions to Hillary? It seems plain to me that the interviewer intended that assumption to “color” the two questions actually posed to Hillary, which questions can thus be rephrased as follows:

    1. What are Iran’s core interests in Afghanistan, and how have they evolved in the last nine years SUCH THAT IRAN IS NOW TRAINING AND ARMING THE TALIBAN IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH ITS OBJECTIVES IN AFGHANISTAN?

    2. How do IRAN’S INTERESTS IN AFGHANISTAN, AND ITS TRAINING AND ARMING OF THE TALIBAN IN AN EFFORT TO ACCOMPLISH ITS OBJECTIVES, complement or work against what the U.S. and NATO are trying to achieve there?

  98. James Canning says:

    Surely it is essential that the US and other Nato countries cooperate with Iran, in order to facilitate the effort to achieve stability in Afghanistan. This seems obvious, yet there is virtually no discussion of it in the US news media.

  99. James Canning says:

    fyi,

    The Iranians complain, with good reason, that the enormous increase in drug smuggling into Iran, and the resulting social problems, stem from American incompetence (or, as put in Hillary’s excellent article, tactical and strategic errors).

  100. fyi says:

    Flynt Leverett:

    Much of what you have written is true as far as it goes.

    But I do not think Iranian or American strategic thinkers put that much value on Afghan stability.

    That Taliban resurgence is much more of a threat to India, Central Asian states, and China. As you have observed, Iranians have lived with Afghan disorder for decades and they could continue to do so and Americans are on their way out.

    Moreover, in the event of the Taliban victory in Kabul, the possibility exists for Iran (perhaps with the cooperation of a number of other regional states) to help usher in the “Provisional Afghan Republic” comprising the northern non-Pashtun provinces of that unfortunate country. The former Somali Republic territory, in fact, now has a functioning northern piece (that nobody wants to recognize) and a number of dysfunctional pieces. Same thing could be attempted in Afghanistan.

    For bringing US and Iran together, I think, it is best to seek another arena.