Last Friday I had the pleasure of watching an amazing debate on Morning Joe. I watch all of that show nearly every day. It is massively educational, and fascinating to listen to the discussions led by Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. Mika is essentially progressive/liberal and Joe is essentially progressive/conservative. Notably, Joe was a member of the House of Representatives (Republican from Florida who served from 1995 to 2001) and Mika’s father Zbigniew, was Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter. These are bright, interesting people, and, although I kind of get tired of many of a regular cast of characters on their show, they have a wonderfully wide selection of guests.
Last Friday, they had on Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, a council comprised of many of the most powerful and politically connected in America. Also amongst their guests was Mohammed Larijani, the Secretary General of the Iranian High Council on Human Rights. Most of us might think of Larijani’s position as essentially oxymoronic, however I actually believe that not only is he serious, but also that, sadly, since Iran has been substantially criticized in this country, is viewed by our leadership as part and parcel of a nation of leaders who are pariahs in human culture. Before I go any further I want to make clear that I am not Iranian, that I do not wish them to be a nuclear power, and that I find their theocratic leadership to be somewhat of a sad political farce. That having been said, I will now go on to defend both Larijani and Iran’s right to exist amongst nations and be respected as any other nation. If we start from that point, we can engage is serious conversation and sort out facts from lies.
The conversation on Morning Joe last Friday, November 18, centered on Iran’s nuclear program. Larijani claimed that Iran was not attempting to fabricate nuclear weapons, and that their entire program was about electricity production. This month, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report indicating a reasonable probability that Iran is working on developing nuclear weaponry. There is no absolute proof, only information on their atomic project which points toward the probability. It is not an established fact, and, I would argue, based upon our Saddam WMD error, that we should not jump the gun on this one. We should certainly press for answers, so we could actually know, rather than make an intelligent guess. So, my view, at this moment is that we would be loathe engaging in any serious saber rattling, but rather should be restrained. In this vein, I believe that two of our major allies, who have much closer ties to Iran, could prove amazingly useful in making a more certain determination, that is both Russian and China. Each has a very close relationship as a trading partner. Each has different views on sanctions sponsored by us against Iran through the UN. Their views, incidentally, are more than a little supportable, but that’s another discussion.
Also, during the conversation, much to the consternation of the other conversation’s participants made the statement that the United States is a sponsor of terrorism. I truly think that this is not just an amazing statement, but is thoroughly and completely supportable, and this is where we American’s like to ignore history in favor of myth. At this point, I would point the reader to Iranian history, with specific reference to the late Shah, and our role, through CIA intervention, in restoring him to power in 1953. The Shah was a brutal dynast. He was our friend. We sponsored his power, and he vastly abused the Iranian populace. Needless to say, in 1979, in a revolution essentially sponsored by Iran’s Shi’a clerisy, the Shah was deposed and exiled (to the United States), and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the leadership of the theocratic Islamic government. This historical summary hopefully explains, at least in part, not only the Iranian leadership’s antipathy toward the US, but also just how an Iranian could see the US as a sponsor of terror (they see the Shah as visiting terror on the populace). I would argue that not just in this matter, but glaringly in our putting Saddam Hussein (even worse than the Shah as a brutal dictator) in office, but also by our arming of the Mujahedeen during the ouster of the USSR from Afghanistan, and subsequent abandonment under the infamous Charley Wilson’s War also did the terrorism sponsorship trick. After all, by backing the Mujahedeen (and Taliban) and then abandoning them, we had a direct hand in the rationale for the existence of Al Qaida, which would never have existed had it not been for this episode.
There is much more history to know, but it is important to understand how Mohammad Larijani could make such statements. To the casual, ignorant, observer, this seems absurd. To the educated it makes perfect sense.
Back to the nukes. I am not concerned about Iran gaining nuclear weapons, any more than I am concerned with the existence of these demonic destructive human constructs. I am in favor of complete disarmament, however that is purely impossible. Once they became part of reality and were a part of the world’s weaponry, getting them to go away entirely is a pipe dream. We had a chance for a brief moment during the Khrushchev-Reagan disarmament conference in Reykjavik, Iceland in October of 1986, the Soviets offered full disarmament. In order to get this, President Reagan had to agree to scrap his Star Wars antimissile defense program. Reagan would not agree, end of story (from the memoirs of George Shultz). The most essential reason for my attitude is that there is a substantial proliferation of these weapons, with nine nations presently openly possessing atomic weaponry (US, Russia, China, England, France, India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan). It would seem obvious, even to the casual observer that there are two nations whom we should be most concerned with, namely Pakistan, a nominal ally, and North Korea, a sworn enemy. I find it inconceivable that we should be more concerned with Iranian nukes than those two countries. It is important to remember that, although Iran probably possesses the strongest military in the Middle East next to Israel, it makes no sense for that nation to be interested in producing its own nukes, since, if it ever considered using one, the other nine countries would make that country into a very large smoking hole. But, even if they do, I certainly don’t consider them to be any greater threat to us and our allies than North Korea. The country which really scares me is Pakistan, where there are direct ties between elements of the Taliban and the Pakistani military and intelligence. Now, that is scary, for everyone.
Lastly, to watch and hear this wonderful “debate” on Morning Joe, go to: