March 24, 2008

In the Holiday Season, No Room for Warmongering

President Bush’s interview on Radio Farda should leave no doubt that Iran is still in the crosshairs. At the beginning of the end of his presidency, President Bush leaves the legacy of a ruinous war in Iraq, a destabilizing situation in Afghanistan, and an inflammatory situation with Iran that his administration cannot (or perhaps, will not) solve.

In his address to the Iranian people for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, President Bush performed a feat of rhetorical gymnastics: he extended good wishes to the Iranian people, while simultaneously banging the drum of war. Bush pronounced the United States’ respect for the great Iranian history and culture, but blamed the Iranian government for isolating the Iranian people for the last 30 years.

“We have great respect for the people, and we’ve got problems with the government,” President Bush said. “We have problems with the government because the government has been threatening, has made decisions that — and statements that really have isolated the people of Iran.”

Mr. Bush fails to recognize that bloated rhetoric will not alter the US-Iran relationship. The administration’s continued ultimatum of “zero enrichment” refutes Bush’s own claim that Iran has a right to civilian nuclear power. Bush presupposes that Iran can gain the wherewithal to develop nuclear energy without a government program, even though Iran (as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty) is within its rights to develop its own nuclear energy. Almost all countries that have nuclear energy developed it with central government programs.

Bush’s most dangerous point continues on the nuclear track. “They want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people — some in the Middle East. And that’s unacceptable to the United States and it’s unacceptable to the world,” President Bush said, though there is no evidence to suggest that Iran has made such a statement. Also, the President fails to recognize that the United States and its closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, can contain Iran with their own nuclear arsenals: A hypothetical attack by Iran would lead to apocalyptic consequences for the Iranian government.

Nowruz is a time of hope and renewal. Bonds that tie disparate communities from Baku, Dushanbe, Tehran, Toronto and Los Angeles are strengthened by reflecting on the past and holding high hopes for the future. When will the Bush administration wake up?

Even policy makers in the highest annals of power realize the significance of this celebration and the hope it can engender. The present challenges in our policy toward Iran require a new paradigm of diplomacy– one that espouses direct negotiation, not ‘cowboy diplomacy,’ as President Bush would have it. Bush’s empty rhetoric, myopic view of foreign policy, and steadfast insistence on “preventive” war have dealt the United States a great blow in prestige, leadership and even blood and treasure.

Mr. President, leave the six-gun in Crawford.

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