Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gates: ideology trumps all for Iran

Trying to Be Friends with Iran -Barry Rubin

In response to a casual question, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dropped a historical bombshell, an offhand remark telling more about how the Middle East works than 100 books.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years." Gates then revealed that Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, met top officials of the new Islamist regime in November 1979 to pledge U.S. friendship to the government controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Brzezinski's position was: "We will accept your revolution....We will recognize your government. We will sell you all the weapons that we had contracted to sell the shah....We can work together in the future." The Iranians demanded the U.S. turn over to them the fugitive shah, whom they would have executed. Brzezinski refused. Three days later Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Washington did everything possible to negotiate, conciliate and build confidence. We'll do almost anything you want, Carter and Brzezinski offered, just be our friend. Far from persuading Khomeini that the U.S. was a real threat, the U.S. government made itself appear a pitiful, helpless giant, convincing Tehran - as Khomeini himself put it - that America couldn't do a damn thing. So why should we expect such a tactic would work today?

How long does it take to get the message: This is an ideological revolution with huge ambitions to which America is inevitably a barrier. Appeasement, talks, apologies, confidence-building measures won't convince Tehran that America is its friend, only that it's an enemy so weak as to make aggression seem inevitably successful.

Gates noted: "Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed....The reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship."
(Jerusalem Post)


LHwrites said...

There seems to be some paraphrasing here, and I am not sure, as Gates nor the article report their sources, that this went on as it is written. While Reagan may have expected better relations with Iran becuase they released the hostages when he was elected, and other things that we will get to in a minute, he did nothing diplomatically to bridge any gap as the American people were still smarting from the hostage crisis. George W. declared them part of the "axis of evil" and has never reached out to them unti recently---very recently--because he is panicking that his Presidency has truly destroyed the modern world now that the economy is doing as well as the MidEast thanks to America 'leading the way'---much to the chagrin perhaps of John McCain. So what does Gates mean that every administration has reached out in some way since Carter? Does he really mean "what I meant to say is I haven't a clue what I am talking about?" Because that seems much more accurate. Or perhaps Gates is referring to the wonderful Reagan/H.W. Bush years when we sold Iran arms--even through Israel, because these were the '33% less dangerous than the Ayatollah Iranians' I guess,--to free American hostages in the MidEast and fund the Nicaraguan resistance. Ah, the good old days, when Republicans used to fund terrorists and use others to destabilize governments. Safer than using our own troops, but less effective. That must be where the Bush doctrine really differs. I would say Gates should stick to what he knows best, but I am not sure anyone knows what that is.

Bruce said...

The point was probably less partisan and simply: Iran has consistently rejected creative compromise and talk.

Bruce said...

The innovative "historical bombshell" was that he was present at the meeting Brzezinski had with top Iranian officials and could report what was not reported before.