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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Insider Zbig warns of Iran catastrophe

February 1, 2007 Mr. Chairman: Your hearings come at a critical juncture
in the U.S. war of choice in Iraq, and I commend you and Senator Lugar for
scheduling them. It is time for the White House to come to terms with two
central realities: 1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral
calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's
global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some
abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean
impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability. 2.
Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than
reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a
tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional
tensions. If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted
bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track
is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of
Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran
involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of
Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq
or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a
"defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely
America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted
and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially
justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being
redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent
of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context,
Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the
threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the
equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's
involvement in World War II. This simplistic and demagogic narrative
overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the
industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to
mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful
Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine.
In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al
Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are
engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the
Iraqi state; while Iran -- though gaining in regional influence -- is
itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak.

To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic
threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region
has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and
inflammatory talk about "a new strategic context" which is based on
"clarity" and which prompts "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" is
breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a
long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world.

Those in charge of U.S. diplomacy have also adopted a posture of
moralistic self-ostracism toward Iran strongly reminiscent of John Foster
Dulles's attitude of the early 1950's toward Chinese Communist leaders
(resulting among other things in the well-known episode of the refused
handshake). It took some two decades and a half before another Republican
president was finally able to undo that legacy. One should note here also
that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions
that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing
political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S.
global posture. It is obvious by now that the American national interest
calls for a significant change of direction. There is in fact a dominant
consensus in favor of a change: American public opinion now holds that the
war was a mistake; that it should not be escalated, that a regional
political process should be explored; and that an Israeli-Palestinian
accommodation is an essential element of the needed policy alteration and
should be actively pursued. It is noteworthy that profound reservations
regarding the Administration's policy have been voiced by a number of
leading Republicans. One need only invoke here the expressed views of the
much admired President Gerald Ford, former Secretary of State James Baker,
former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and several leading
Republican senators, John Warner, Chuck Hagel, and Gordon Smith among
others. The urgent need today is for a strategy that seeks to create a
political framework for a resolution of the problems posed both by the US
occupation of Iraq and by the ensuing civil and sectarian conflict. Ending
the occupation and shaping a regional security dialogue should be the
mutually reinforcing goals of such a strategy, but both goals will take
time and require a genuinely serious U.S. commitment. The quest for a
political solution for the growing chaos in Iraq should involve four
steps: 1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously
its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.
Ambiguity regarding the duration of the occupation in fact encourages
unwillingness to compromise and intensifies the on-going civil strife.
Moreover, such a public declaration is needed to allay fears in the Middle
East of a new and enduring American imperial hegemony. Right or wrong,
many view the establishment of such a hegemony as the primary reason for
the American intervention in a region only recently free of colonial
domination. That perception should be discredited from the highest U.S.
level. Perhaps the U.S. Congress could do so by a joint resolution. 2. The
United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi
leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military
disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting of such a
date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S.
should avoid military escalation. It is necessary to engage all Iraqi
leaders -- including those who do not reside within "the Green Zone" -- in
a serious discussion regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for
U.S. military disengagement because the very dialogue itself will help
identify the authentic Iraqi leaders with the self-confidence and capacity
to stand on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi
leaders who can exercise real power beyond "the Green Zone" can eventually
reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much of
the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration as
"representative of the Iraqi people," defines itself largely by its
physical location: the 4 sq. miles-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad,
protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed U.S.
military, popularly known as "the Green Zone." 3. The United States should
issue jointly with appropriate Iraqi leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi
leaders issue, an invitation to all neighbors of Iraq (and perhaps some
other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Pakistan) to
engage in a dialogue regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in
conjunction with U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually
in a conference regarding regional stability. The United States and the
Iraqi leadership need to engage Iraq's neighbors in serious discussion
regarding the region's security problems, but such discussions cannot be
undertaken while the U.S. is perceived as an occupier for an indefinite

Iran and Syria have no reason to help the United States consolidate a
permanent regional hegemony. It is ironic, however, that both Iran and
Syria have lately called for a regional dialogue, exploiting thereby the
self-defeating character of the largely passive -- and mainly sloganeering
-- U.S. diplomacy. A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or
indirectly by the U.S., could be buttressed at some point by a wider
circle of consultations involving other powers with a stake in the
region's stability, such as the EU, China, Japan, India, and Russia.
Members of this Committee might consider exploring informally with the
states mentioned their potential interest in such a wider dialogue. 4.
Concurrently, the United States should activate a credible and energetic
effort to finally reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, making it clear in
the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final accommodation
ought to involve. The United States needs to convince the region that the
U.S. is committed both to Israel's enduring security and to fairness for
the Palestinians who have waited for more than forty years now for their
own separate state. Only an external and activist intervention can promote
the long-delayed settlement for the record shows that the Israelis and the
Palestinians will never do so on their own. Without such a settlement,
both nationalist and fundamentalist passions in the region will in the
longer run doom any Arab regime which is perceived as supportive of U.S.
regional hegemony. After World War II, the United States prevailed in the
defense of democracy in Europe because it successfully pursued a long-term
political strategy of uniting its friends and dividing its enemies, of
soberly deterring aggression without initiating hostilities, all the while
also exploring the possibility of negotiated arrangements. Today,
America's global leadership is being tested in the Middle East. A
similarly wise strategy of genuinely constructive political engagement is
now urgently needed. It is also time for the Congress to assert itself.,+of+which+Iran+is+the+epicenter&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&ie=UTF-8

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