Traverse City Record-Eagle


SPEAK SOFTLY (and carry a big stick)

NOT a big stick: Iran and America could be in harmony.

Cathy Stripe LesterNot for nothing did Theodore Roosevelt say, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Unfortunately, if you look at some of our politicians, they seem to only remember the big stick biz.

At a time when Iran’s leaders are sending messages that indicate they’re ready to negotiate on their nuclear enrichment program, Americans are reacting as if we were Cleopatra being offered a basket of figs. What about “new leader, different mindset” do we not understand?

Rouhani is not Ahmadinejad. I said once before that Rouhani got the nickname “the diplomat sheikh.” He is on good terms with Iranian Jews and he does not deny the holocaust. He is not a loose cannon. Iran recently released a number of political prisoners, some of whom had been in the clink since the election before last. And Rouhani has been ready to talk since he was the chief nuclear negotiator in 2003, when America snubbed Iran because we were feeling like the boss of the world, what with the invasion of Iraq.

Best of all, Rouhani has the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, on his side. When Khamanei said Iran should be “flexible,” that means, in Iranian between-the-lines speak, he’s ready to cooperate in talks.

There have been guarded but friendly-ish letters between Presidents Obama and Rouhani. (Unlike President Bush in 2003, the president actually answered the Iranians’ letter.) Mr. Rouhani is due to come to New York for UN talks. Everyone expects that there will be numerous meetings of medium-level Iranian and American staff, which will probably result in higher-level meetings, which will eventually bring about some sort of mutual accord.

So why is Israel now saying, “There’s no time left for negotiations?” According to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Iran will have “bomb capability” in six months. He added that Israeli leaders understand that if the world can stand by while 100,000 Syrians are killed, that means no one will help Israel if Israel loses the ability to defend themselves.

Should we panic? Not. In the first place, “bomb capability” is not a bomb. Even if Iran had the enriched uranium (they’d have to go from today’s 20% to around 90-95%, which is an awfully steep hill to climb), there is SO much more to making a bomb, and a bomb-delivery system, that Iran actually having a bomb in the near future is about as feasible as me getting my novel published by next weekend.

In the second place, Israel said almost the same thing four years ago. In that time, Iran has enriched more uranium to 20% but they have NOT enriched it any further – or got any closer to having an actual, real, assembled-and-tested b.o.m.b.

In the third place, Israel has something like 200 nukes, AND missile systems that can deliver them, AND American support which is not going to go away. The idea of them being defenseless is as believable as Iron Man being taken out by a Chihuahua.

Netanyahu added that, ”One must not be fooled by the Iranian president’s fraudulent words.” Coming from Netanyahu, who’s lied to the Palestinians, lied to the world and lied to us, that’s rich.

As if the Israeli itch to attack Iran isn’t enough by itself, they’re recruiting American congress critters to derail the negotiations. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been frothing at the mouth over Iran for years and years, and Rep. Trent Franks, who is the chair of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, have introduced a bill to authorize war with Iran. Considering that Graham used to be fond of saying that Iran is the “most dangerous challenge to the USA in the world today,” you’d think he’d welcome negotiations to reduce their nuclear capability. But AIPAC, the American-Israeli lobby, has deep pockets.

As a side point, Trent Franks is a big fan of the Mujahiddin-al-Khalq (MEK), a fanatical Islamist cult that wants us to conquer Iran for them so they can install themselves as rulers. The MEK seems to have a fair amount of money too; they’ve got a lot of congress-critters on their side.

The fact is, Israel wants to be allowed to attack Iran, and they’re frantic to prevent any real diplomacy now that it looks as if Iran might come to the negotiating table of their own accord.

Threatening war when we have the chance to talk peace is stupidly short-sighted. It derails what we actually want, which is to make America more secure by a) getting Iran’s enrichment program under control, and b) improving relations with one of the more influential countries in the Middle East. Now is when we need to speak softly, but if Israel and the Israeli lobby get their way, we’ll be left with only the big stick.

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: The Pol-e-Khaju, a 16th-century bridge in Isfahan.

  • Henry klugh

    The Israelis apparently don’t believe a word of it. Why
    should they? They have no need to “make nice” with anyone…even us! Their lobby
    in congress insures that they can do as they please because we have their back.
    It’s like an out of control twelve-year-old with a pro-football linebacker
    older brother who will always step in if the kid irritates someone and gets
    into trouble.

    • CathyStripeLester

      Good comparison, Henry.

  • Bobdisqus

    CSL, I am confused by your use of “Americans are reacting as if we were Cleopatra being offered a basket of figs”. She wants the asp in the figs, right? Perhaps you could explain more the point you are making as my tiny mind fails to grasp it. I also fail to see the relevance of the Bush 2003 invective. The Iran of 2003 was not in the same place politically as the Iran of 2013. A third thing I find odd in your blog post is the attempt to tie Republicans as the primary lapdogs of the Israel Lobby. The left and many on the right have been happy for years to brand Pat as some anti-Semite for the observation that the influence of such groups that comprise that verbal beast sometimes has interests that are not quite aligned with those of the US. It is not as if the Islamists are without influence in the halls of congress as well and even more so at State.

    All of that aside, I think there is opportunity to advance US as well as Iranian interest here and hope the sides can find a way to do so. Iran more interconnected with the world is in our interest. Persians are not Arabs and the balance and counter influence they can bring to this mixed up part of the world can be a good thing for the US and the world. A reconnection of the US born children & grandchildren of the Iranian diaspora with their parents & grandparents homeland bodes good things for both nations. I hope Obama can be the Nixon to China for this problem. As much as I oppose almost all of his policies I would not have this opportunity squandered because the credit will go to him.

    • CathyStripeLester

      Bob, you’re right. Cleopatra wanted the basket of figs with the asp in it. I goofed.

      The relevance of 2003 was that Iran previously tried to negotiate and we snubbed them by not even acknowledging their letter, let alone answer it. And Iran wasn’t THAT different — they had a moderate President, and Khamenei was willing to recognize Israel and forswear nuclear weapons.

      After that year, when they failed to get any breakthrough, Iranians went to the polls and gave the world President Ahmadinejad. And it hasn’t gotten any easier talking to Khamenei – after that snub, he trusts us less. So their present willingness to talk to us is a breakthrough which we shouldn’t mess up.

      You’re quite right that BOTH Republicans and Democrats are in the pockets of Israelis and AIPAC. However, just before I wrote this, Graham and Franks introduced the bill I mentioned, which almost seems like a deliberate attempt to force us into declaring war. By now they probably have both Dems and GOPs as co-sponsors, but those two were the ones that introduced it.

      I agree with everything in your last paragraph. I too sometimes think of Nixon in China and I hope that Obama achieves a similar breakthrough.

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