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Friday, August 04, 2006

realism about iran

At a seminar in Toronto around the start of the war, historian Bernard Lewis, who was instrumental in advising Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials on the Iraq invasion, said: "The Iranian regime won't last very long after an overthrow of the regime in Iraq, and many other regimes in the region will feel threatened." – WSJ, Ancient Rift: Rising Academic Sees Sectarian Split Inflaming Mideast --- Vali Nasr Says 'Shiite Revival' Is Met by Sunni Backlash; Resurgent Iran Leads Way --- Can Mullahs be Moderated? By Peter Waldman

LI advises our readers to check out the Wall Street Journal story on Vali Nasr, a Teheran born academic who advocates pretty much what LI has been advocating – getting real about Iran. That is, recognizing Iran, establishing relations with the nation, “managing” its entrance into Middle Eastern affairs rather than wishing it would go away, or targeting it.

“Mr. Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., calls this a historic "Shiite revival" and has gone further than most in identifying it as a central force in Mideast politics. He also frames a possible U.S. response: Engage Iran, especially over the issue of reducing violence in Iraq, and try to manage Tehran's rise as a regional power rather than isolating it.

"The issues are more than academic for the 46-year-old professor. He was raised in Tehran and hails from a prominent intellectual and literary family in Iran that traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad. His father was once president of Iran's top science university and chief of staff for the shah's wife.

"In 1979, after the Iranian revolution, the Nasrs "started from zero" in the U.S., says Mr. Nasr. He received a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing his thesis on the political dimensions of radical Islam, while his father, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, became a renowned professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University.”

The WSJ editorial board is in the death grip of the neo-con pod people – but the newspaper survives by exploiting a much bigger niche in the general business community, which could care less about the cancerous Weltanschauung of Cheney. When the business community turned against the Vietnam war, the political establishment began its long, bloody disengagement from Vietnam.

I’ve been wondering when Iraq would tip. As the Bush policy seems to call for endless and ever more pointless wars, creating a New Middle East of universal hatred for America, the business community, sated by the tax cuts that poured money into the upper wealth brackets, is beginning to come out of its stupor and object.

“For the U.S., the Sunni-Shiite divide is fraught with challenges --and opportunities. By creating in Iraq the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam (Iran is mostly ethnic Persian), the U.S. ignited aspirations among some 150 million Shiites in the region, Mr. Nasr says. Many live under Sunni rule, such as in Saudi Arabia, where they have long been persecuted. Yet U.S. foreign policy still operates under the "old paradigm" of Sunni dominance, he contends.

"Take the current crisis in Lebanon. The U.S. has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. But now the Sunni axis is failing, says Mr. Nasr, because these nations are incapable of containing a resurgent Iran and its radical clients on the front lines against Israel -- Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

"To adapt, the U.S. must "recalibrate" its diplomacy and re-establish contacts with Iran, he says. That would require disavowing any interest in "regime change" in Tehran -- an unrealistic aim anyway, Mr. Nasr argues -- but would offer the best hope of moderating Iran's growing influence.

"The Iranian genie isn't going back in the bottle," he says. "If we deny these changes have happened -- that Cairo, Amman and Riyadh have lost control of the region -- and we continue to exclude Iran, we'd better be prepared to spend a lot of money on troops in the region for a long time," Mr. Nasr says.”

You can tell that Nasr’s argument is being taken seriously when it is dressed in ‘opportunity’ talk, which is that nexus where bad taste metamorphizes into a war crime. However, given the slim pickings in D.C., where the moronic inferno has been whirling for five years without stint, I am going to overlook the gastliness of the vocabulary and find Nasr’s prominence a good sign. He's actually running a line that Hoagland, one of the WAPO superhawks and Chalabi's spokesperson in America, ran in 2003. It is a sign of how bad things are that this is now a progressive view.

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