Originally Published 2005-06-27 09:56:09 Published on Jun 27, 2005
Making his first public speech since being elected President, Mahmoud Ahmadinezad said in Mashhad on July 21 that he would not allow a violation of Iran's legal rights on peaceful use of nuclear technology. He reaffirmed that Iran would never pursue weapons of mass destruction.
Iran and the U.S.
Making his first public speech since being elected President, Mahmoud Ahmadinezad said in Mashhad on July 21 that he would not allow a violation of Iran's legal rights on peaceful use of nuclear technology. He reaffirmed that Iran would never pursue weapons of mass destruction. 

The same day American journalist Michael Klare wrote in The Nation that "Bush has given the Defence Department approval to develop scenarios" for an attack "if Teheran proceeds with uranium-enrichment activities viewed in Washington as precursors to the manufacture of nuclear munitions." Mr. Klare said the President was giving the same kind of signals that he gave in the summer of 2002 in relation to Iraq, signals that we now know - thanks to the `eyes-only' British memorandum of July 2002 that Tony Blair was compelled to make public during the election campaign - reflected decisions already made. 

Also on July 21, Charles Krauthammer reiterated the neo-conservative doctrine in the Wall Street Journal: "We should do every thing in our power, both overtly and covertly, to encourage a democratic revolution in Iran, a deeply hostile and dangerous state, even while trying carefully to manage democratic evolution in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan." 

Yet another news of relevance to Iran was reported on July 21. An influential reformist intellectual, Saeed Hajjarian, said Western pressure would not help democracy in Iran: "To threaten Iran, nearly every day, America is looking for any excuse - the nuclear issue, terrorism, human rights, the Middle East peace process." 

A recent development pertaining to Iran has been the visit to Teheran of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, seeking to undo some of the damage caused to bilateral relations in the three decades of Saddam Hussein ascendancy. Reporting on the visit was euphoric; much was made of the Shia factor and no mention made of the core issue of the borders, the Algiers Agreement of 1975, and war reparations. After the visit, Brookings Institution expert Kenneth Pollack noted: "Iran will have a major influence in Iraq. We need to recognise that and accept it." 

One last factor in the Iran calculus of the United States is the American military capacity at this stage. Credible expert witnesses participating in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on July 18 were of the view that counter-insurgency tactics pursued so far have failed, that the peak of the Iraqi insurgency will be reached in the January-September 2006 period, that the U.S. Army and Marines "are starting to come apart," that the U.S. National Guard is in "the stage of meltdown." In their view no more forces can be made available for Iraq. 

As for the new Iraqi forces, only 5 of the 101 Iraqi battalions trained so far are able to operate on their own and will take another year to reach combat readiness. It is this that accounts for the insurgent tactics of targeting recruitment centres and new recruits. 

How then will the dismantlement of Iran be pursued? War games since 2003 have visualised a six-directional land air and sea assault. This may not be feasible given the existing troop commitments. An air strike-only option, by the U.S. alone or in the company of Israel, may be satisfactory in egotistical terms but its adverse political and economic implication would be incalculable in local, regional and global terms. 

Political options appear to be non-existent given the majority obtained by the President-elect. 

Contradictions, it is evident, abound. America wants to pursue its national interest. Democracy promotion is to be undertaken in some places by revolution, in others by evolution, in still others through the newly finalised U.S-India Global Democracy Initiative reflective of the strategic partnership based on "common principles and shared national interests." Would the imperatives of the partnership be necessarily synonymous with those of India's national interest? What compulsions would dictate decisions in marginal cases? 

Without India wanting to make it so, an impression is gaining ground that our American commitments seem to insist on intruding on India-Iran relations. The determinant in India's case is neither Shia nor Muslim; the Shia segment of India's Muslim population does not exceed 5 to 7 per cent and hard foreign policy decisions, in any case, are not made on such considerations. The imperative is strategic, economic, regional and cultural. 

The U.S-Iran relationship is one of estranged lovers; they would seek reconciliation on their own terms. What others can do is to advise and caution friends about the implications of their actions; India should do so before the region gets engulfed in consequences of folly. 

The writer is a former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, and former Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University. He is presently Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Source: The Hindu, Chennai, July 27, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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