America’s Risky Myopia on Iran

Failed businesses like failed foreign policies can’t or won’t see around the next corner where unexpected challenges lie. Often the myopia results from a focus on the next quarter or the next election, a shortsightedness that now risks sending the U.S. off to a new war, with Iran, writes Danny Schechter.

By Danny Schechter

The TV series “House of Lies” is about business but it could as easily be about government and foreign policy.

In a recent episode, one of the management consultants pitches a company about the need to launch a new product.  She recounts the story of the Polaroid Company, known as the Apple of its day, widely admired for the cool design of its instant cameras.

When I lived in Cambridge Massachusetts, Polaroid was one of the town’s biggest employers, an economic powerhouse. But it failed to see new competitive products on the horizon. It only saw the future as its past. It went bankrupt last decade.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei responding to Western threats on Feb. 3, 2012

That seems to be the case of our own bankrupt foreign policy that operates with a limited playbook of negative “options” build around threats, warnings, covert actions and military adventures. The gap between what we say and what we do has become a chasm. U.S. foreign policy has become a paper tiger, in words first coined by Chairman Mao.

Here’s President Obama counseling Israel, a nuclear power, not to attack Iran which it fears could become one.  No one mentions that nuclear deterrence has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy since we became the first and only nation to drop a nuclear bomb on civilians.

In some ways, the mad policy of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) kept the nuclear peace since the 1940s. To date the U.S. has opposed tougher UN rules to stop nuclear proliferation when it involves our allies or us. Now, to keep the peace and stop a war on Iran, President Obama says we should practice “diplomacy.”

Will it be diplomacy like Nixon used on “Red” China that led to a reversal of decades of isolation and included mutual recognition and booming trade? (Without China, our economy would be in a deeper depression than it is today.) Nope, not that kind of diplomacy.

Obama has gone back further to the failed policy of embargo and isolation that was supposed to bring the Cuban Revolution to its knees in the 1960s.  Now, six decades later, Cuba has reformed but not changed its system while we still refuse to officially recognize its existence.

Our country, born in revolution, still won’t recognize Iran’s Revolution of 33 years ago either, Instead, in the name of diplomacy, the White House has released an executive order imposing tough new sanctions on Tehran.

When I asked Iran’s President Ahmadinejad during a very recent trip there if he would talk to Washington, he told me that Washington wouldn’t talk to him or his government. So much for diplomacy!

Does anyone remember how covert diplomacy with Iran in 1980 delayed the release of the hostages, a maneuver that helped conservative hero Ronald Reagan win election?

Instead, of any diplomacy, the United States is sending more Naval armadas to surround Iran while it is suspected that Israel has been assassinating its scientists and sabotaging its nuclear program with sophisticated viruses (and bombs). Everyday new bombing threats are being heard, shades of John McCain singing “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Hahaha!

To my surprise, most of the Iranians I spoke to at a recent conference that I attended in Tehran seemed not as alarmed as I thought they would be. Most, naively perhaps, believe that the U.S. or Israel would not dare attack Iran because it is too strong and will retaliate.

That is certainly the rhetoric we are hearing from the country’s Supreme Ruler Khomeini. His response to sanctions seems to be “bring them on,” arguing they will only force Iran into becoming stronger militarily and more self-reliant economically. He has responded to our threats with some of his own, taking tough about supporting resistance to Israel and countering U.S. initiatives. His hard line is becoming harder in response to ours.

However, the New York Times reports growing anxiety among Iran’s middle classes. Already there have been reports of new military maneuvers by Iran and U.S. troops being dispatched to islands off the coat of Yemen, near Iran. Under Republican and Israeli criticisms, Obama feels he has to appear even tougher.  “Appear” is the operative word.

Remember that saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But where are we going?

Rather than relax tensions, U.S. style diplomacy is raising them to higher levels accompanied by escalating media propaganda built on calculated leaks by “intelligence experts” warning of imminent Iranian attacks on the U.S. The less the evidence, the more psy-ops rumors become news.

There are even reports of Iran is unleashing Al Qaeda terrorists even though Tehran has jailed many and is ideologically at odds with the Saudi-oriented Wahabi brand of Islam favored by the late Sheikh bin Laden.

The Wall Street Journal ran a full-page story Monday on “U.S. Fears Iran’s Links to Al Qaeda.” That was the headline. In the body of the story, unnamed US officials were quoted downplaying the link and dismissing the idea. One said: “There is not significant information to suggest a working relationship between Iran and al Qaeda.” (Excuse me but hasn’t Obama also been implying that by killing bin Laden, al Qaeda has been contained as a threat?)

The Journal also quotes Hilary Mann Leverett, a National Security aide in the Clinton and Bush Administrations. She says bluntly, “I think (there) is a war-fevered hysteria going on now. A lot of this stuff is really flimsy and is really questionable.”

Questionable or not, deceptive claims are making headlines and feeding more hysteria that could lead to the very military actions that Obama is saying he doesn’t support.

The late Richard Nixon used to approach diplomacy by drawing three columns on a piece of paper. One said, “What We Want,” the second, “What They Want,” and the third, “What can we agree on?” Obama seems to have only one column on his agenda: “How can I get reelected,” a goal he says humbly he feels he “deserves.”

Right now, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are pandering to the Right and the Israeli Lobby while pretending to cut military spending. As the objective situation becomes more dangerous, all this game playing aimed at perception management goes on.

We are talking here about more than a conflict with a country we have had a conflict with for decades but the danger of a third world war. China and Russia are not exactly on board the U.S. escalation train. Iran’s neighbors don’t need new tensions in the region because they have plenty of their own.

Is our past once more destined to become our future?

Filmmaker Danny Schechter is just back from a visit to Iran. Access to his News Dissector blog seems to be blocked so he will be posting on Comments to [email protected].

8 comments for “America’s Risky Myopia on Iran

  1. flat 5
    February 14, 2012 at 08:21

    On Monday, Israeli embassy workers in the capital cities of India and Georgia were targeted in terrorist attacks that Israeli officials believe were planned and carried out by Iran and its client, the militant group Hezbollah. The bomb in Tbilisi was defused, but the bomb in New Delhi, planted in an embassy worker’s car, exploded and injured at least two.

    The Iranian Threat to New York City

    As the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear program heats up, New York City—with its large Jewish population—becomes an increasingly attractive target.
    Iran’s next target could well be on American soil. In Senate testimony last month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated that Iranian officials “are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
    As evidence, Mr. Clapper cited an alleged plot foiled last October in which a naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, hired a member of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The plan involved blowing up a Washington, D.C., restaurant—potentially killing hundreds of Americans in the process.
    Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community—whether wittingly or not—as facilitators. Most notable are the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina, which killed 29 and 85 people, respectively. The New York City Police Department, where I work as director of Intelligence Analysis, sent a team to Argentina to study the modus operandi of those attacks and to meet with Argentine security officials who worked the investigations. Coupled with open source information, this is what the NYPD learned:
    Iranian agents were sent to Argentina years before the attacks, where they integrated into society and became Argentine nationals. Mohsen Rabbani is believed to have been in charge of coordinating the 1994 attack and is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement. He first came to Argentina in 1983, where he subsequently became the main imam at At-Tauhid, an Iranian-funded mosque in Buenos Aires.
    After traveling to Iran in August 1993 to participate in a meeting that allegedly gave the planned attack the green light, Mr. Rabbani returned to Argentina as a cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy, conveniently providing him diplomatic immunity. Then, Hezbollah agents from abroad received logistical support from members of the local Lebanese-Shiite community and the Iranian Embassy to carry out the attack.
    The Argentine attacks were by no means isolated incidents. Hezbollah has been tied to failed attacks in 2009 against Israeli and Jewish interests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey. Last month, Thai officials arrested a suspected Hezbollah militant for possibly planning attacks there or perhaps facilitating the movement of weapons through Bangkok.
    The NYPD must assume that New York City could be targeted by Iran or Hezbollah. On Feb. 3, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that Iran “had its own tools” to respond to sanctions and threats of military action against it. Indeed, as the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear program continues to heat up, New York City—especially with its large Jewish population—becomes an increasingly attractive target.
    This is neither an idle nor a new threat. As one example of Iranian agents acting in New York, in 2004 two security guards attached to the Iranian mission to the United Nations were sent home by the State Department after being caught conducting surveillance of city subways and landmarks. Iran’s U.N. mission allows officials from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to live and operate in New York with official diplomatic cover.
    Iran also has a presence in New York via the Alavi Foundation, a nonprofit ostensibly devoted to charity works and promoting Islamic culture. In December 2009, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, described Alavi as having “effectively been a front for the government of Iran.” A contemporaneous complaint filed by Mr. Bharara’s office led to the seizure of Alavi’s assets—including the Islamic Institute of New York, the largest Shiite mosque in the city and the location most closely affiliated with Iran’s U.N. mission. The NYPD Intelligence Division also played a role during the initial stages of the Alavi investigation.
    Hezbollah and its supporters have a presence in New York and the surrounding area as well. In 2008, two Staten Island men pleaded guilty to providing material support to Hezbollah. Just down the road in Philadelphia, 26 people—including a former Brooklyn resident—were indicted in federal court in 2009 for conspiring to provide material support to the terrorist group.
    Lebanese-linked businesses in the tri-state area and elsewhere have been implicated in a massive money-laundering scheme benefiting Hezbollah. This scheme was revealed in a civil suit filed against several Lebanese financial institutions last December by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, at least 18 other Hezbollah-related cases have been brought in federal courts across the United States since 2000.
    Given the alleged plot against a foreign diplomat in Washington, Iran’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric and its long history of sponsoring terror attacks abroad, the NYPD must remain vigilant in attempting to detect and disrupt any attack by Iran or its proxies. Anything less would be abdicating our duty to protect New York City and its residents.
    Mr. Silber is director of intelligence analysis for the New York City Police Department

  2. elmerfudzie
    February 13, 2012 at 17:27

    I disagree with this writers hypotheses that MAD kept the great powers in military balance. It was more on the level of MAT (Mutually Assured Terror). By that I mean poking holes in each others economies with tactics such as spreading narcotics traffic, counterfeit currency or introducing agricultural pests. Surely, narcotics worked magnificently against the former Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan and our troops in Nam. I’m not trying to oversimplify MATs because our intel agencies and big banks often balance their budgets with drug pushing. And too, I have no evidence that the Medfly (for example) was brought into the US as a deliberate eco-terror devise but it’s certainly worth musing about- just as enemy use of suit case nukes is. Secondly, there’s a strong disagreement here that commerce with China was a great step forward. The initial diplomacy breakthrough was, but not the rest of the story. By that I mean Nixon was a megalomaniac and control freak who dispatched a scoundrel like old man Rockefeller to China. Where he, Rockefeller promptly pulled out his Rolodex of laissez faire capitalists to exploit a destitute and communist country. This accomplished a few things that mustn’t be obscured from view. First, the “means of production” began to uncontrollably leave the US economy. Consequently, you can say Rockefeller gutted the middle class in America, destroyed unionized labor thus transferring what would have been a burgeoning crop of children in the first world over to the third world. In response, the baby boomers of the first world took to the pill instead of children. I’m sure our country would have fared very well without the utterly deregulated marketing strategies of those laissez faire Rockefeller capitalists and their uncontrolled exploitation of both first and third world labor. I can only hope we’ll have a better plan for integration with the Cuban economy (no hope in Iran’s case). Lastly, let’s look back at how painful this “horse trading” was. The Viet Nam vets were asking themselves, why is Nixon strengthening a political system we fought to destroy at the expense of our blood and treasure? Yes indeed it was Treasure too because every war since, including Nam is being financed on a credit card rather than war bonds and war taxes. The laissez faire types don’t give a hoot!! They’re off and running to buy Islands off Greece.

  3. fauxxbatt
    February 10, 2012 at 10:42

    strange how a country with only an acronymn for a name, born of also a revolution as a few are (an unexsclusive club, he he,oo) is so concerned of its kin, rather than its franken states’ half bastard childs, du ya kno of whom i blatantly gossip, to its face

  4. Otto Schiff
    February 9, 2012 at 22:35

    War is not the answer.
    An attempt should be made to start talking, preferably under the auspices
    of the United Nations. That is what the UN is for.
    Saber rattling has never worked.

  5. flat 5
    February 9, 2012 at 17:36

    Iran: Genocide of Jews is a Moral Obligation
    Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed a new doctrine explaining why it would be ‘legally and morally justified’ to commit genocide and wipe Israel off the map.
    The article was written by Khameini’s close adviser Alireza Forghani and endorsed by the Supreme Leader whose writings played a critical role in its drafting.
    The article has since appeared on numerous Iranian government and military websites.
    “Israel is a cancerous tumor in the Middle East,” the article in the ultraconservative Farsi-language Alef news site said. “Israel is a satanic media outlet with bombers. Every Muslim is required to arm themselves against Israel.”
    “I have already noted the usurper state of Israel poses a grave threat to Islam and Muslim countries. Islam and Muslim states must not lose this opportunity to remove the corruption from out midst. All of our problems are because of Israel – Israel of America.”
    “The first step should be the absolute destruction of Israel. To this end, Iran could make use of long-range missiles. The distance between us is only 2,600 KM. It can be done in minutes.”
    The crux of the piece says Iran would be justified in launching a pre-emptive strike against Israel because of the threat the Jewish state’s leaders are posing against its own nuclear facilities.
    However, during a lengthy discussion of the ‘jurisprudence of Jihad,’ the article makes it clear that an Israeli strike ‘isn’t required’ and would ultimately serve as a pretext for genocide.
    Instead, he says ‘defensive Jihad’ justifies annihilating Israel and targeting its civilian population because Israel has “spilled Muslim blood” and “oppresses” its Muslim neighbors.
    “With regard to the fake state of Israel in Palestine, which is included in the first Qibla of Muslims, we must defend the sacred blood of Muslims in Islamic Palestine using any means necessary,” it goes on to explain.
    “If the enemy should invade Muslim lands and spill Muslim blood, it is obligatory upon the Muslim masses to use every means possible to defend the lives and property of their brothers. It does not require a judge’s permission.
    “But regardless of the Israeli aggression against Palestine and the Muslims, it is clear the heads of this fake regime seek to dominate other Islamic lands on its borders and to develop hegemony over the region,” it reads.

    The article makes it clear Iran sees no place in the Middle East for the Jews.

    “Political subdivisions of states and political boundaries between units are not relevant and what is important is to divide the nations and territories based on beliefs and religions groups, blood and blood. Muslim blood must be separate from Infidel blood,” it says, citing Khameini’s writings.
    The document then cites statistics saying 5.7 million of Israel’s 7.5 million citizens are Jewish – as a justification for attack. It then proceeds to break down Israel by region and demographic concentrations in order that the most Jews possible would be killed.
    It specifically states that Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa ,contain more than 60 per cent of the Jewish population, which could be hit by Shahab 3 ballistic missiles to “easily kill everyone.”
    The publication of the doctrine comes after Khamenei announced that Iran would support any nation or group that attacks the ‘cancerous tumor’ of Israel.
    Since its publications several Iranian officials have called for a strike on Israel “within the year.”
    Source: IsraelNationalNews

    • charles sereno
      February 10, 2012 at 00:07

      I think I detest this bluster as you do and fear what it may incite even more. Consider, however, what a religious leader far wiser than the Ayatollah once said — Let Him Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone. Few believe it, but violence is not a moral obligation. Those of us who have been victims know that best.

  6. charles sereno
    February 8, 2012 at 13:55

    “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

    Where? One answer — into hibernation. The Neo-con “hawks” (more aptly, “bears”) are now stirring as spring approaches.

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