Thursday, 12 April 2007

Political stability against extremists: the real Mid-East danger

Iran is in the news more and more. Between its capture of 15 British sailors, to the advancement of its nuclear weapons program and defiance of sanctions. Much of it — from anti-Zionist rhetoric to nuclear politics — might just be an act. Like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's Ahmadinejad is populist and very showy.

At the risk of sounding like I'm in Shakespeare's time: How will this all fadge?

I think there are many factors that cause discomfort on both sides — Iran and the United States — one issue being the Iranian president's harsh anti-Israel rhetoric, another being the allegations of meddling in Iraq (which could just be a scapegoat excuse for the Bush administration, who often create false scapegoats), along with Iran's refusal to halt its nuclear program. I think if Iran, Israel, the US, and Palestine all were more open-minded, a treaty of peace and political recognition could be in order and would help relations between all of the countries — including those between Israel and the US and the Arab and Muslim world.

Iran still needs to at least let IAEA inspectors in. But with the political situations at home for America, Iran, and even Israel and Palestine, who knows who will next be in charge and how that will shape this nuclear diplomacy we are seeing more and more of. I think the US would rather have the prospect of its own security — even if that is only a sense of security — than the prospect of peace. American foreign policy has consistently focused more on preventing aggression than promoting peace. There are still plenty in the government who think peace is best achieved by though military force.

Ahmadinejad may think his hard-line rhetoric is helping him win over supporters abroad, but it is not helping him at home. Respect is an issue all sides need to learn, for without it, real diplomacy cannot take place and real progress cannot be made. It is now in the mutual interest of both Iran and the United States to work together on Iraq. It is in the interest of the US and Israel (since they are allies) to work with Israel's neighbors; peace between Israel and the Arab world also helps lower international terrorism and Muslim extremism, as does quelling the sectarian violence in Iraq. The Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as the civil war in Iraq, have both spread Islamic fundamentalism and created new waves of hopelessness, aggression, and, thus, terrorism and irrationality to those lands in such strife and their allies and supporters.

A big issue is political stability. If the current hardline government is taken over by extremists — because the government isn't delivering what the people want (thus the radicals get public support) or some other reason — those extremists may have an industrial level nuclear program in their hands. That is not good. The same thing goes for Pakistan. In that case, the US is close to the country (Pakistan), which empowers the extremists in a way. Pakistan is already a nuclear state — imagine if Islamic terrorists got hold of nuclear weapons. However, in Iran's case there does need to be a level of dialogue. Isolation would empower extremists even more than seeing their country talk to a country they despise would.

In short: the US needs to talk with Syria to get it away from Iran; needs to talk with Iran for plenty of other reasons; and needs to talk to all in the Middle East because of the Iraq issue, along with the problem of terrorism. Syria, Pakistan, and Iran are all oppressive governments with ties to militias. However, all three view terrorism as as much of a threat as the United States does, if not more (extremists are in their own backyards).

Israel and the US alike need to stop ticking off those in the Middle East and empowering radicals, the opposite of their goals but nonetheless they are direct products of their policy. All parties need to learn from history. A closed, aggressive, hardline state cannot last long in the modern world of politics — at least it cannot when extremist movements more conservative than their own governments are brewing within and close to their borders. A regional power, but outcast, cannot continue annoying its neighbors, nor can it concede.

The world's superpower, seen as imperial and bad as ever by those in the Mid-East, cannot continue in its rogue anti-terroirsm fight when it makes the terrorist situation worse for itself and others (fire paradox again). It's perfect to choose the US as the face of evil: its big and powerful, yet faulty, as the Iraq debacle has shown, and does not position itself as benevolent or afraid to use preemptive force. It also sides with Israel through thick and thin.

America finds Iran as easy a scapegoat (for Iraq troubles) and poster-child for evil (see 'war on terror' and 'axis of evil') as Iran does for America ('death to the great Satan). That kind of politics doesn't help anyone but the extremists and the Manichaens like Bush and Ahmadinejad. Neither is doing swimingly at home either. (Keep in mind Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran. Although he is the most internationally visible, he is probably roughly third on the chain of command.) Supremacy in a region as volatile as the Middle East is a tour de force. That being said, it often requires either massive brute force or political ingenuity.

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