Monday, August 22, 2005

A (naïve) case for (modicum of) Irano-Israeli rapprochement

I am still puzzled by the curious silence which shrouds Mr. Katsav's recent personal peace appeal to Iran. I think we might have a real opportunity here to win some much needed time and breathing space to set our houses in order. I know this is a thorny issue. But I am going to make a case for having the Europeans find a way of linking the future of Iranian nuclear aspirations to some degree of direct engagement between Iran and Israel.

The relations between these two nations have ancient roots. I know the affairs have been a tad more complicated in recent past, with revisionists on both sides hard at work projecting the present animosities backward in time in order to provide even more justification for the ongoing campaigns of hate and venom.

Yet, the fact remains that some ancient nations are tied at the proverbial umbilical cord. There have been positive interactions and mutual influences over countless centuries as attested to by what little scholarly work exists that map out the history. Much work remains to be done, of course, given the vast quantities of material available still that has remained unexplored by the broader academic community.

As an aside, I have noted once before what a magnificent tradition of Judeo-Persian literature exists which is simply astounding and that you should get familiar with it if you are not already. And in one recent work (I have yet to examine) we get a glimpse into the life of our Jewish compatriots over the years. Some pictures here.

I know full well that all must not have been easy. But really, whose life has? Where there are shared memories, there are nursed grievances. The Iranian plateau is an enchanting landscape, and yet, all the many different ethnic groups inhabiting it have suffered more than their fair share of wars, misery, oppression and massacres. Their full litanies of anguish are always poignant and deserve to be acknowledged. Life, however, must go on and should be lived forward.

Besides, there is that matter of the investment made of our ancestors' tax money-- the Persian funds used to rebuild the Temple. The interest alone accrued on that loan should be enough to finance many more nuclear power plants like the one being built in Bushehr that our old friends have been threatening to destroy.

[My earlier reading of the contours of stand off and my personal opposition to Iran's harnessing of nuclear energy.]

I think the Europeans are in a position to play a decisively constructive role here, as are the Americans. Boldness is not always best measured by the yardstick of one, two many flattened cities. Occasionally, all that is required is working from a different angle with those matters subject to most intense disputes.

Let's start first with some of the easier difficulties.

If the assassins of the reigning imbecility from the heartland of evil are reluctant-- despite common grounds, most notably their intense loathing for Liberalism-- to negotiate with the bullies of the Great Satan, there is no reason why they shouldn't be pressured into opening a dialogue with the emissaries of the Zionist Entity. Perhaps, even Mr. Blair of the Elderly Dragon can get involved, I suppose. That is one of his passions, isn't it?

After all, what could some of the more obvious objections be?

That the Israelis are oppressing fellow Muslims, the Palestinians? Well, the Russians, of course, have been butchering the Chechens by their thousands for years leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees and they still get lucrative contracts all over the place.

Or is it that the Lebanese Shi'ias might be offended? Just last year, I heard their famed leader, the always odious Sheikh Nasrallah speak in glowing terms about the Israelis since he thought them caring enough to want to have the corpses of their fallen back.

It always annoys me no end when enemies only choose to acknowledge mutual humanity in death. And what of the Palestinians, we may wonder?

They too, of course, negotiate with the Israelis all the time. And after the recent disengagement from Gaza, perhaps the PA and Mr. Abbas could be prevailed upon to ask the Iranian authorities--very publicly and loudly—to only express their concern in form of assistance rendered as funds—under some international supervision of course—to help build homes, farms, factories, hospitals, greenhouses or schools.(NO INPUT ON CURRICULUM)

After all, a few bombs or rifles would not really alter the existing disequilibrium of power in any meaningful way and the Palestinians appear able to get all the rocks they require from the unpaved roads or demolished houses whereas hope of better life and concrete tangible changes in the right direction might make it a lot easier for all parties involved.

What would the Israeli objections be?

That Iran is involved in activities that harm Israeli citizens? The Israeli regime is always prepared to negotiate to save lives. Why not open direct negotiations to avoid even more harm?

Or could it be that Israel does not deal with a regime which grants ethnic minorities like those Khuzestani Arabs the right to vote while treating them like second class citizens?

Or perhaps the more cogent objection could be that the ever so gentle sensibilities of the Likudniks are too offended by the Iranian regime's practice of gender apartheid?

Again, you will recall the rather cordial relations with the regime of South Africa at the height of Apartheid's obscenities with millions of dollars in trade even as multitude of Jewish activists were at the forefront of the global battles to put an end to the injustices in SA.

And here of course we have additionally both regimes' love affair with China while this latter continues to occupy Tibet. There has been an interesting history of Sino-Israeli relations which has been taking some intriguing turns of late and Iran's relation with China, as always, has been no secret to anyone.

And while we are at it, none of the rest of us-- even the most sanctimonious and self righteous (yours truly at the forefront) --have been making much noise about…oh, let's pick something in random, the sum of 206,970 workplace accidents resulting in the astonishing number of 30,597 deaths last year alone in China.

Almost 6000 miners among them vanishing in those underground death camps. When you seriously reflect on those numbers, it actually far exceeds the casualties both sides have suffered as a result of the last 5 years of that heart wrenching, tragic although progressively more tedious, perpetual little war in the contested promised land which continues to consume global life with partisans incessantly pulling our emotional strings.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that there are almost 200 different countries on our planet with close to 6 billion inhabitants in total. And they all have problems requiring urgent attention.

Ultimately though, it might be argued that Ahmadi Nejad is way too disagreeable to have a dialogue with. True enough. But let's recall that Mr. Sharon himself has been no angel. Perhaps the two of them can accomplish together what many better natured souls always fall short trying. What is there to lose, really?

I think the Iranian authorities are acutely aware of Israeli intentions and their capabilities. And Israelis must fully know--and still should acknowledge and more realistically reassess-- the extent of the fundamental changes in the Iranian psyche in the last 26 years.

Even on our best days, I must admit, we Iranians were a belligerent lot. Though I think some of the observers of the Iranian scene have been slow to dot the i's when it comes to recognizing what havoc the post revolutionary civil strife and the Iran-Iraq war has wreaked.

Simply recall the extent to which Americans, at the height of prosperity and comfort, have been affected by those few spores of anthrax and the resulting changes in the average American's expectations from their representatives in government due in part to the continuous fear of further non-conventional terror assault.

Now, try to imagine a society that has lost hundreds of thousands with close to 90,000 victims of poison gas still suffering acutely. And that number excludes the tens of thousands who have already perished since the initial assaults.

That is CHEMICAL WARFARE, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are talking about here in case you are reluctant to hear me. Brought about in part, curtsy of the European and American involvement in Mr. Hussein's chemical warfare against Iranians on top of the memories of all the Scud missiles raining down their heads.

I think it is a horrendous miscalculation to underestimate the ferocity of Iranian regime's response to any Israeli attack on their pride and joy. And neither the country nor the region will recover from the fallouts of the breakout of more open hostilities between Iran and Israel for a long, long time to come.

I think it will serve the long term interests of those with hopes of a more sane future for the region to do what it takes to support a gradual de-escalation. That might give us more time to settle the score internally.

Again, the key, I think, might lie in some European attempt to tie any further progress on negotiating the future of Iranian nuclear aspiration to some formal—however limited—Iranian ties or at least direct dialogues with Israel.

1 comment:

Tim Caffery said...

Interesting read under the current circumstances. Powerful points and observations.