September 28, 2010
The Sin of Independence Why Doesn't the US Talk to Iran?
By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH and KARLA HANSEN
The unrelenting diplomatic and geopolitical standoff between Iran and
the United States is often blamed on the Iranian government for its
"confrontational" foreign policies, or its
"unwillingness" to enter into a dialogue with the United States.
Little known, however, is the fact that during the past decade or so,
Iran has offered a number of times to negotiate with the United States
without ever getting a positive response from the U.S.
The best known of such efforts at dialogue, which came to be known as
Iran's "grand bargain" proposal, was made in May 2003. The
two-page proposal for a broad Iran-U.S. understanding, covering all
issues of mutual concern, was transmitted to the U.S. State Department
through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran. Not only did the State
Department not respond to Iran's negotiating offer but, as reporter
Gareth Porter points out
<http://www.antiwar.com/orig/porter.php?articleid=8778> , it indeed
"rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer."
Since then Iran has made a number of other efforts at negotiation, the
latest of which was made by President Ahmadinejad ahead of his recent
(2010) trip to the United States to attend the annual meeting of the UN
General Assembly. Regrettably, once again the United States ignored
President Ahmadinejad's overture of meeting with President Obama
during his UN visit.
The question is why? Why have successive U.S. administrations been
reluctant to enter into a conflict-resolution dialogue with Iran, which
could clearly be in the national interests of the United States?
The answer, in a nutshell, is that U.S. foreign policy, especially in
the Middle East, is driven not so much by broad national interests as
they are by narrow but powerful special interestsinterests that
seem to prefer war and militarism to peace and international
understanding. These are the nefarious interests that are vested in
military industries and related "security" businesses,
notoriously known as the military-industrial complex. These
beneficiaries of war dividends would not be able to justify their
lion's share of our tax dollars without "external enemies"
or "threats to our national interests."
Embezzlement of the lion's share of the national treasury was not a
difficult act to perform during the Cold War era because the pretext for
continued increases in military spendingthe "communist
threat"seemed to conveniently lie at hand. Justification of
increased military spending in the postCold War period, however,
has prompted the military-security interests to be more creative in
inventing (or manufacturing, if necessary) "new sources of danger to
Thus, when the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent
discussions of "peace dividends" in the United States threatened the
interests of the military-industrial conglomerates, their
representatives invented "new threats to U.S. interests" and
successfully substituted them for the "threat of communism" of the Cold
War era. These "new, post-Cold War sources of threat" are said to
stem from the so-called "rogue states," "global terrorism" and
"Islamic fundamentalism." Demonization of Iran and/or President
Ahmadinejad can be better understood in this context.
Now, it may be argued that if it is true that beneficiaries of
war-dividends need external enemies in order to justify their unfair
share of national treasury, why Iran? Why of all places is Iran targeted
as such an enemy? Isn't there something wrong with the Iranian
government and/or President Ahmadinejad's policies in challenging
the world's superpower knowing that this would be a case of David
challenging Goliath, that it would cause diplomatic pressure, military
threats and economic sanctions on Iran?
These are indeed the kind of questions that the "Greens" and
other critics of Ahmadinejad's government ask, rhetorical questions
that tend to blame Iran for the brutal economic sanctions and military
threats against that countryin effect, blaming the victim for the
crimes of the perpetrator. Labeling President Ahmadinejad's policies
as "rash," "adventurous" and "confrontational,"
Mir Hossein Mousavi and other leaders of the "greens" frequently
blame those polices for external military and economic pressures on
Iran. Accordingly, they seek "understanding" and
"accommodation" with the United States and its allies,
presumably including Israel, in order to achieve political and economic
stability. While, prima facie, this sounds like a reasonable argument,
it suffers from a number of shortcomings.
To begin with, it is a disingenuous and obfuscationist argument.
Military threats and economic sanctions against Iran did not start with
Ahmadinejad's presidency; they have been imposed on Iran for more
than thirty years, essentially as punishment for its 1979 revolution
that ended the imperial U.S. influence over its economic, political and
military affairs. It is true that the criminal sanctions have been
steadily escalated, significantly intensified in recent months. But that
is not because Ahmadinejad occasionally lashes out at
imperialist/Zionist policies in the region; it is rather because Iran
has refused to give in to the imperialistic dictates of the U.S. and its
Second, it is naïve to think that U.S. imperialism would be swayed by
gentle or polite language to lift economic sanctions or remove military
threats against Iran. During his two terms in office (8 years), the
former president of Iran Muhammad Khatami frequently spoke of
"dialogue of civilizations," counterposing it to the U.S.
Neoconservatives' "clash of civilization," effectively
begging the Unites States for dialogue and diplomatic rapprochement
between Iran and the United States. His pleas of dialogue and
friendship, however, fell on deaf ears. Why?
Because U.S. policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter)
is based on an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands
or expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its
leaders use. These include Iran's giving up its lawful and
legitimate right to civilian nuclear technology, opening up its public
domain and/or state-owned industries to debt-leveraging and
privatization schemes of the predatory finance capital of the West, as
well as its compliance with the U.S.-Israeli geopolitical designs in the
Middle East. It is not unreasonable to argue that once Iran allowed U.S.
input, or meddling, into such issue of national sovereignty, it would
find itself on a slippery slope the bottom of which would be giving up
its independence: the U.S. would not be satisfied until Iran becomes
another "ally" in the Middle East, more or less like Jordan,
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the like.
It is ironic that Green leaders such as Mousavi, Rafsanjani and Khatami
blame Ahmadinejad for the hostile imperialist policies toward Iran. For,
as mentioned above, U.S. imperialism showed its most venomous hostility
toward Iran during the presidency of Khatami while he was vigorously
pursuing a path of friendship with the United States. While Khatami was
promoting his "dialogue of civilizations" and taking
conciliatory steps to befriend the U.S., including cooperation in the
overthrow of the Taliban regime in the neighboring Afghanistan, the U.S.
labeled Iran as a member of the "axis of evil." This outrageous
demonization was then used as a propaganda tool to intensify economic
sanctions and justify calls for "regime change" in Iran.
In the face of President Khatami's conciliatory gestures toward the
United States, many Iranians were so outraged by its unfair and
provocative attitude toward Iran that they began to question the wisdom
of Khatami's policy of trying to appease U.S. imperialism. It is now
widely believed that the frustration of many Iranians with Khatami's
(one-sided) policy of dialogue with the United States played a major
role in the defeat of his reformist allies in both the 2003
parliamentary elections and the 2005 presidential election. By the same
token, it also played a major role in the rise of Ahmadinejad to
Iran's presidency, as he forcefully criticized the reformists'
attitude toward U.S. imperialism as naïve, arguing that negotiation
with the United States must be based on mutual respect, not at the
expense of Iran's sovereignty. (For a detailed discussion of these
and related issues please see "Reflecting on Iran's Presidential
In its drive to provoke, destabilize and (ultimately) change the Iranian
government to its liking, U.S. imperialism finds a steadfast ally in the
Zionist regime of Israel. There is an unspoken, de facto alliance
between the U.S. military-industrial complex and militant Zionist
forcesan alliance that might be called the
military-industrial-security-Zionist alliance. More than anything else,
the alliance is based on a convergence of interests on militarism and
war in the Middle East, especially against Iran; as Iran is the only
country in the region that systematically and unflinchingly exposes both
the imperialist schemes of Western powers and expansionist designs of
Just as the powerful beneficiaries of war dividends view international
peace and stability inimical to their business interests, so too the
hard-line Zionist proponents of "greater Israel" perceive peace
between Israel and its Arab neighbors perilous to their goal of gaining
control over the Promised Land. The reason for this fear of peace is
that, according to a number of the United Nations' resolutions,
peace would mean Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders, that is,
withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of
"greater Israel" are unwilling to withdraw from these
territories, they are therefore fearful of peace and genuine dialogue
with their Arab neighborshence, their continued disregard for UN
resolutions and their systematic efforts at sabotaging peace
So, the answer to the question "why is Iran targeted?" boils
down to this: because Iran has broken the mold, so to speak, the pattern
of imperialist domination in the Middle East (and beyond). Iran's
only "sin" (from the viewpoint of imperialist powers) is that it
tries to be an independent, sovereign nation. All other alleged
"offenses" such as pursuit of nuclear weapons or support for
terrorism have proven by now to be harebrained excuses that are designed
to punish Iran for trying to exercise its national rights as a sovereign
Under the influence of the hawkish Neoconservative pressure groups
(representing the interests of the military-industrial-Zionist forces)
the U.S. has cornered itself into a position that is afraid of talking
to Iran because if it does, all of its long-standing accusations against
that country would be automatically exposed as lies and baseless
allegations. It is in the nature of lying that forces the liar to
continuously tell more lies in order to cover the previous lies; more or
less similar to the situation of a bike rider who needs to keep pedaling
ahead in order to keep from falling down. Furthermore, the powerful
military-industrial-security-Zionist interests need Iran as an enemy in
order to justify continued increases in military spending and continued
occupation of Palestinian land.
It is worth noting here that while the powerful special interests that
are vested in the military-security capital benefit from (and therefore
tend to advocate) war and military adventures in the Middle East, the
broader, but less-cohesive, interests that are vested in civilian, or
non-military, capital tend to incur losses in global markets as a result
of such military adventures. Evidence shows
that foreign policy-induced losses of the U.S. market share in global
markets are huge. Militaristic American foreign policy is viewed by
international consumers as a significant negative. Representatives of
the broad-based civilian industries are aware of the negative economic
consequences of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy. And
that's why leading non-military business/trade associations such as
The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and U.S.A*Engage
<http://www.usaengage.org/> (a coalition of nearly 800 small and large
businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek
alternatives to the proliferation of aggressive U.S. foreign policy
actions) have expressed disappointment at the recently expanded U.S.
sanctions against Iran on the grounds that such sanctions would
significantly undermine U.S. national interests.
Sadly, however, U.S. foreign policy decisions, especially in the Middle
East, seem to be driven not so much by broad national interests as they
are by narrow (but powerful) special interests, not so much by
"peace dividends" as they are by "war dividends." These
powerful special interests, represented largely by the
military-security-AIPAC forces, tend to perceive international peace and
stability, especially in the Middle East, as detrimental to their
nefarious interests. Instead, they seem to prefer an atmosphere of war
and militarism in order to justify their lion's share of our
national treasury, or their occupation of Palestinian land. This
explains, perhaps more than anything else, the unjust demonization of
Iran and the relentless preparations for an all-out war on that country.
If this argument sounds like a conspiracy theory, it is not because it
is false; rather, it is because the U.S.-Zionist policies in the Middle
East are so evil that they defy tender logic, civilized comprehension,
or decent human intuition.
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism
f=ed_oe_p/105-1298000-8724441> (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches
economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
Karla Hansen, director-producer of Silent Screams
<http://www.silentscreams.info/home.php> , is a social worker and peace
activist from Des Moines, Iowa.