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.

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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.

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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. /

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