Saturday, November 11, 2006

Iran and U.S. Democrats

Iran and U.S. Democrats

Ali Asghar Kazemi
November 11, 2006

Those who believe that democrats’ control of the U.S. Congress in recent mid-term elections will change American political environment in favor of the Islamic government in Iran are either naïve or have no grasp of history. To the contrary, there is enough evidence to support the contention that from now on a necessary cohabitation and bi-partisan approach of democrats with the White House will make things much more difficult for conservative hard-liners in Tehran.

Are we to believe that democrats will push the U.S. president at this critical juncture to withdraw forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, or to open wide arms for friendly dialogue with those who humiliated Americans for 444 days during a democrat president? Are democrats really ready to close the eyes to a radical regime which is presumably on the path to acquire nuclear weapons and threaten to annihilate Israel, support fundamentalist Moslem movements around the world, and has a poor human rights record?

The fact is that on the above critical issues democrats are more rigid and unyielding than the republicans. If they had some kind of quarrels with their rivals on policy and strategy during the past years, that was merely a customary rule of the game in normal political process. Now that they have the majority in both lower and upper Houses and are in quest of conquering the White House in the next presidential elections, then logically they will be better off to cooperate with the incumbent republican president to put things straight before they take over the whole political power.

* * *

Generally speaking, “conservatism” is basically power oriented and in favor of existing institutions and more or less religious and value-laden. While liberalism continues to dominate American intellectual environment, the September 11th events, which plunged American society into insecurity, paved the way for a tacit coalition between liberals and conservatives to justify their hard-line strategy at home and in the world. In this respect, democrats have no substantive difference with republicans. It is sometimes argued the “new conservatives” are in some regard less conservative than they claim to be. Since, their views and behavior are in fact closer to a more sophisticated version of business liberalism than to a true old-time conservatism. Nonetheless, the overall American perception of homeland security and world order is now shaped in a way that no matter who is in power he will pursue more or less the same line of strategy. Therefore, in the present circumstances, we shall continue to witness drift in basic American liberal values to conservatism, backed by military forces.

Therefore, there is no reason to think that for example U.S. foreign policy or defense strategy will suddenly change the course or substance overnight. To be sure, the change at the top of Department of Defense seems to be merely a symbolic gesture which in all eventualities would not have a decisive impact on U.S. strategy in the Middle East or American policy vis-à-vis Iran. Pessimists are even fearful of the probability that if there is to be any change in this respect it would go on the opposite direction; i.e. it may harden U.S. posture against a nuclear Iran.

Democrats have shown in the past that they are very strict on matters such as human rights, Israel’s security, Palestinian problem and WMD proliferations. On the issue of terrorism they are as much preoccupied as the republicans. They may even venture more risky and malicious plots such as “regime change” if they perceive that this will promote their cause. The previous regime in Iran has been toppled during the democrats.

* * *

We should recognize that the problem of Iran-US entanglement goes well beyond the conventional bilateral relations. This is to say that in all assessment we shall take into account the issues pertaining to US most close ally in the region, Israel. In fact, the American foreign policy in the Middle East is intimately tied to Israel and everything that goes with it. To put it in a more sophisticated strategic context, Israel and its continued existence in the Middle East is an important dependent variable in US strategic schemes, disregard of who and which party is in power in Washington.

Despite the unpleasant situation that the Americans are now experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would not seem strange that during the cohabitation period a coalition of U.S. democrats and conservatives might give a free hand to the incumbent president to settle the Iranian issue by force. Therefore, it is safe to suggest that Iranians leaders should watch carefully their future course of actions and avoid any provocation that might push further the democrats towards the republican hard-line policies. They should also be cautious not to fall in a dangerous trap on the naïve belief that U.S. democrats will endorse the Islamic regime and will give it “carte blanche” on the nuclear issue. /

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Fate of a Dictator

The Fate of a Dictator

Ali Asghar Kazemi
November 5, 2006

Dictator, despot, tyrant, oppressor…! What else you want to call Saddam Hussein, the “butcher of Baghdad” on whose orders thousand of innocent people were killed during his long reign of terror? What is the difference of how we call a dictator whose fate has been decided today by a domestic tribunal in Baghdad? He was convicted for his crimes against humanity, but surely he is also guilty of war crimes, genocide, aggression, violence for which he should be tried in due time.

Such is the destiny of a brutal dictator who still considers himself the president and leader of Iraq and who was pitifully turning his head around the court-room for approval of his nationalistic slogans while the chief justice was reading the verdict.

Death penalty by hanging, such is the final decision of the court only for the atrocities of the dictator in Al-Dujail incident. The basic charges for which Saddam’s horrendous acts has been prosecuted were in the category of “Crime against Humanity.” This means that according to the international criminal law heads of states and high officials are susceptible to prosecution for their misdeeds in their own countries.

We don’t want to dig into the legal or procedural aspects of the case in which Saddam Hussein and his collaborate were tried in a slow and nerve consuming court. Our aim is only to portray briefly the psychology of a despot who up to the last minute did not want to believe his fateful destiny and tried once again to deceive Iraqi people and his nation by chanting patriotic slogans; “long live the people!” “death to traitors and occupiers!” “God is great!”… In his left hand he kept the Holy Koran and pointing his right hand finger to the Judge, he accused him as being the puppet of foreigners. So what? The truth of the matter is that somebody gave a hand to the Iraqi people to bring the dictator to justice.

But, will the justice be really served by merely hanging the dictator before public eyes in Baghdad; if this ever happens in the present circumstances? There are numerous other crimes committed by Saddam not only against his own people but also against Iranians and Kuwaitis. Those who have felt and experienced Saddam’s atrocities during the eight-year war against Iran will have no pity for him. Although personally I am against capital punishment, if some day Saddam is executed, the everlasting wishes of Iranians will also be fulfilled.

What else could be done in order to deter those dictators who are still committing the same crimes around the world? Could these atrocities be prevented at least during the last decade of Saddam’s rule i.e. after American invasion to crash Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait in January 1991? Should the punishment be considered merely as revenge against a person or few people who ordered or committed the acts?

Is this an appropriate sentence that satisfies world public conscience for crime against humanity? What should be done in order to prevent similar events to occur in other places? Are international regimes, norms and rules sufficiently appropriate to tackle effectively with this curse?

We shall discuss the matter in our future comments. /

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Nuclear Syndrome

The Nuclear Syndrome

Ali Asghar Kazemi
November2, 2006


The North Korean nuclear test on October 9, 2006 can be considered an ominous sign. It is an alarming syndrome of WMD proliferation that, if not properly contained and managed, could turn into an endemic danger for world stability and security. To what extent are international organizations and prevailing legal and political constraints able to respond quickly and unequivocally to this deceitful and fear-provoking act? What are the likely ramifications of this undertaking for the world, and in particular for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf?....Continued..

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gunboat Diplomacy

Gunboat Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf

Ali Asghar Kazemi
November 1, 2006

With the multi-nations naval exercise currently going on in the Persian Gulf, a new era of “Gunboat Diplomacy” is being experienced in shaping world politics. In the past centuries, during the colonial period, coercive diplomacy was a conventional way of pressuring governments to sign a treaty, to give a concession, to back down an action or to correct an undesired behavior. The result was often satisfactory for great powers since international relations were based on balance of forces and power and weaker states had no choice but to obey what was dictated to them by the dominant powers. To what extent the paradigm is still valid in current international affaire?

Coercive Diplomacy and Game Strategy

With the end of the cold war and collapse of the Soviet Empire, new revolutionary ideologies emerged amidst religious fundamentalism in total discord with the prevailing norms of modern Western societies and status quo. The challenge was not taken seriously up until the September 11th events that changed the whole fabrics of strategic thinking and perception not only in the United States but also throughout the world. In fact, the post 9/11 era is considered as the new age of confrontation which, due to its malicious disguised nature and spread can not be equated with the cold war period.

In conventional terms, diplomacy has nothing to do with war and hostility. But, in strategic games, when players do not conform to rationality for the purpose of optimizing their mutual gains, the solution to a crisis becomes very difficult. Rational behavior in game theory requires that the two sides to a virtual contest or conflict be conscious to each other’s objectives and their relative losses and gains. This is why we usually speak of “optimization” and not necessarily “maximization” of gains and objectives which mean that if you want to avoid confrontation you should be conscious of your adversary’s interests. The value related to each strategy is determined by rational choice in a network of trade-off.

When we are in a stalemate situation, one side my use coercive strategy vis-à-vis its rival in order to change its perception of the pay-off and pressure it to rethink its options in fulfilling its objective. This could lead to a gain-gain strategy that requires mutual understanding and cooperation. Otherwise, the situation may end up to confrontation and catastrophe. Now let’s see what is happening in Iran-US relations at this critical juncture.

US Contingency Plan against Iran

Upon Islamic government refusal of incentive package and UN Security Council resolution to halt its nuclear enrichment activities, a number of coercive measures were planned by the United States in order to pressure Iran in its strategic options. Among those we can refer to deliberate leakage of Pentagon contingency plans to strike Iran’s strategic targets including various nuclear sites scattered around the country. Presumably, the US is updating contingency plans for a non-nuclear strike to cripple Iran's nuclear program if international diplomacy fails. These plans consist of the following military operations:

• A five-day bombing campaign against 400 key targets in Iran, including 24 nuclear-related sites, 14 military airfields and radar installations, and Revolutionary Guard headquarters.

• Pinpoint strikes using B2 bombers flying directly from bases in Missouri, Guam in the Pacific and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
At least 75 targets in underground complexes would be attacked with waves of bunker-buster bombs;

• The alternative to an all-out campaign is a demonstration strike against one or two high-profile targets such as the Natanz uranium enrichment facility or the hexafluoride gas plant at Isfahan;

• Iranian radar networks and air defense bases would be struck by submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and then kept out of action by carrier aircraft flying from warships in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf;

• Contingency plans have also been drawn up to cope with the inevitable backlash against the Basra garrison in neighboring Iraq.

Strategists are understood to have presented two options for pinpoint strikes using B2 bombers flying directly from the above mentioned bases in and outside the US continent. British Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucester also has facilities for B2s but this has been ruled out because of the UK's opposition to military action against Tehran.

This whole frightening scheme seems not to intimidate Islamic regime’s decision makers to back down in their intransigence. Since, just upon the completion of US naval exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman (along with UK, France, Italy, Australia, Bahrain and Qatar), the Revolutionary Guard commander announced that a week-long naval exercise will be carried in the Persian Gulf beginning November 2, 2006. As in their previous exercise in this region, the Revolutionary Guard main strategy to counter American threat is to conduct an exercise of asymmetric war or guerilla war at sea in order to deter US planned offensive.

Thus, apparently neither the UN Security Council Resolution nor the dialogue conducted by 5+1 powers or the coercive gunboat diplomacy seems to soften Iran’s rigid stance with respect to the nuclear activities. While North Korea appears to have relented to the international pressure and has already decided to resume the six-party talks, Iran still seems firm in its position. Whether the Islamic government has received any assurance from Russia and China or it would finally give up in case of real threat to its core values and survival, the matter remains to be seen in the coming weeks./