Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Democratic Primary & Iran

One of the problems that democrats face in winning the competition in the marketplace of ideas is that we allow the republicans to frame debates. There is no better example of this than the current discussions about Senator Clinton’s rather odd statement about a US response to Iran if it initiated a nuclear attack against Israel. Much of the on-going discussions, even on progressive internet forums, suggests that there has been a republican operation that is something akin to a lobotomy, which severed the capacity for rational thought.

Let’s take a brief look at the situation, with a focus on why Senator Clinton said that which she did.

For those with a serious interest in understanding Iran, a good place to start is with conservative Kenneth Pollack’s 2005 book, "The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America." Keep in mind that Pollack, the author of the earlier book "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." Even he recognized that the dynamics between the USA and Iran was significantly different than the situation with Iraq.

Pollack points out that one must understand Iran’s history in order to appreciate their belief that their country is at risk of foreign intervention. The Iranians are very aware of their history, including events after WW1, when world powers were intent upon accessing their natural resources. There was a time when the Iranian people looked to the United States as an ally who could help advocate for them. It is firmly in their people’s memories what eventually took place, when the CIA masterminded a coup that replaced a popular prime minister with the Shah of Iran.

Even 28 years ago, at a time when the public believed that tensions between the US and Iran were the greatest, it turns out that there may have been an agreement regarding the release of the hostages which influenced the outcome of the 1980 election; and there was definitely a series of illegal weapons deals which were part of the Iran-Contra Scandals. Many of the criminals from this Reagan-Bush1 adventure found comfortable jobs in the Bush-Cheney administration.

In the wake of the first Gulf War, Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz and aide Scooter Libby authored a position paper for Dick Cheney, which became the foundation for PNAC. The paper outlined plans for a global US military presence that would "deter potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." In his book "Imperial Hubris," Michael Scheuer addressed the neoconservative agenda of re-drawing the map of the Middle East (pages 14-15).

This plan included the concept of invading Iraq – a project that was framed for public consumption with claims that Iraq posed a serious and immediate threat to national security.
The war of occupation in Iraq has had an unintended consequence. It has helped make Iran a larger regional power, with substantial control over a resource that is important to the world. And it isn’t Niger’s yellow cake.

During the period leading up to the Bush-Cheney invasion in Iraq, counterespionage agents for our government were tracking people suspected of participating in a large, well-organized spy ring. Three have since been charged: Larry Franklin, and Iranian expert working for Douglas Feith; and Keith Weissman and Steven Rosen of AIPAC. They were found to be sharing highly classified military secrets regarding Iran with intelligence officers from another Middle Eastern nation.

What’s more, the FBI files showed that during the Bill Clinton administration, Rosen and Weissman had lunched with Kenneth Pollack – then serving as a Persian Gulf specialist on Clinton’s National Security Council – before sharing information with others that is suspected of coming straight from Pollack. In fact, Pollack has been subpoenaed by the defense attorneys to testify about more of the connections between the Clinton administration and the AIPAC intelligence unit.

Small world.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is experiencing trouble in two areas. One is in votes, the other is in finances. When some democrats begin to lose support in these two areas, they may look elsewhere. Let us consider the example of Senator Joseph Lieberman, a former democrat. When it became apparent that the democrats in his party were rejecting Joe because of his support for the Bush-Cheney war of occupation in Iraq, he shifted to the right.

Lieberman now inhabits an area that has overlapping interests in both the republican and democratic parties. It is a group that began when there was a split in the civil rights movement, at the time that Martin Luther King, Jr., merged it with the anti-war movement. The split came after the Six Day War, as documented in Taylor Branch’sbook "At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68" (see Chapter 35: Splinters).

It’s not that Senator Clinton is a neoconservative. But she is signaling to the closely related group known as the neo-liberals. The neo-liberals are liberal on social issues, conservative on foreign policy, and share in the agenda to re-draw the map of the Middle East. It is not necessarily an agenda restricted to war – and we err in letting the debate be framed in such a manner – but rather, who will be involved in the behind-the-scenes trading, and includes the control of the single most important resource that countries such as Iraq and Iran possess.

When Senator Clinton speaks of bombing Iran, it is important to put it into the proper context. She is certainly aware of the recent NIE that showed agreement among all US intelligence agencies regarding Iran’s nuclear program. She also knows that Iran has no reason to want to attack Israel with nuclear weapons – such talk is used by leaders from different nations for the exclusive purpose of scaring citizens. Clinton’s statement is nothing more, and nothing less, than a signal to the neo-liberal community that "she’s their girl."

This is the type of thing that makes progressive and liberal democrats agree with Barack Obama’s saying that we need the type of leadership that doesn’t get us involved in wars in places like Iraq and Iran. Any and every American president is going to support Israel. The truth is that Israel is not safer because of the Bush-Cheney policies, which have destabilized the Middle East. Quite the opposite: they have strengthened the radical Islamic elements that actually do pose risks to those who advocate for peace in the Middle East.


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