To Iran, Like Nixon to China?

What am I doing here?

What am I doing here?

Late in our show What John Murtha Wrought, Chris asked the question “What would your ideal President do now in Iraq?” Anatol Lieven, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, suggested that Bush, like Nixon to China, approach Iran.

Iran, intransigently nuclear-bound and newly lippy about Israel, is not going to go away, and it does not seem, so far, to have been put off by our democracy-building project in Iraq. Some are suggesting (see our show Steven Vincent, Basra and Iran) that the war in Iraq has allowed Iran to do precisely what it always wanted to do: make real its natural inclinations toward the Iraqi Shiite majority.

But that majority is the anchor of our own policy in Iraq. So is the friend of our friend our friend? Even if that friend-of-a-friend is a member of the axis of evil? Then, on November 29, Juan Cole noted some ideological drift:

US ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad is going to start direct talks with the Iranians. Say what? Wasn’t Scott Ritter saying only last winter that a Bush military attack on Iran was in the offing? What has changed?

Juan Cole, Khalilzad to talk to Iranians Monday, Informed Comment

Iran is oil-rich and ancient, and its power and influence in the Middle East aren’t going to evaporate just because we dislike them. Are the realists winning? Are we about to start talking to Iran? Is this a good idea?

Gary Sick

Served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan.Principal White House aide on Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.Author, All Fall Down: America’s Fateful Encounter with Iran and October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan.

Reza Aslan

Scholar of religion.Author, No god but God.Born in Tehran; now lives in California.

Ali Banuazizi

Professor of psychology and codirector of the Program in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Boston College, where he also teaches a course on the history of modern Iran.

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42 thoughts on “To Iran, Like Nixon to China?

  1. I’m grappling with how to boil down the Juan Cole article into a question for discourse. Here goes:

    Can any of these guests discuss the relationship between the current Tehran power structure and the members of the Dawa Party and SCIRI that now hold positions of power in Iraq? Are there tangible tenticles between Tehran and Iraq beyond religious philosophy?

    For example, from the Juan Cole article: “It is alleged that the Supreme Council continues to receive substantial help from Iran, and that the clerics in Tehran still pay the salaries of some of the Badr Corps fighters. The likelihood is that the Iranians give at least a little money and support to a wide range of Shiite politicians in Iraq, including some secularists, so that whoever comes out on top is beholden to them.”

  2. Two corollary questions my above posted question:

    Do tangible tenticles between Tehran and Iraq’s party in power imply the rise of an Iranian style theocracy in Iraq, or simply a friendly, allied relationship? Allied diplomatically, economically, militarily, etc.

    What is the impact on the Sunni dominated countries in the region?

  3. How ’bout if the ideal president was less of a semi-divine incarnation of Vishnu on the physical plane and just left ALL nations the !@#$%&! alone, just for a few weeks? He could always go back to building the thousand-military base, zillion-soldier corporate protection racket if We the People couldn’t stomach the peace, and peace dividend… What about “entangling alliances with none”, “not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy”, and all of those other great ideas the Founders had, which have foundered for so long? GIVE DIEGO GARCIA BACK TO… (Mr and Mrs. Garcia?)!!

  4. I’ve always wondered. Did we (our government) turn Iran into the Boogeyman? Iran seems to have a very stable well funtioning semi-democratic Theocracy. They were certainly no friend to the Taliban and never have really liked Al Queda. So why do we hate them so much? Yes they took a lot of americans hostage. But that was a long time ago and they were very pissed off. Who wouldn’t be, after suffering under the Shah? It would seem our isolation of them has driven them into a corner where there only recourse is to build militarily and to support our enemies and the enemies of Israel. What has the US gained with there policies towards Iran?

  5. One thing about ol’ “Tricky/5 o’clock-shadow/flopsweat” Dick Nixon, though: he used them chopsticks, and didn’t barf on his host like W’s daddy did in Japan… He never shoulda been prez–just a diplomat. What a Jekyll/Hyde creepyopath Nixon was, but brilliant compared to W, and the Warligarchy’s next president, Hillary Antoinette “flag-burning amendment” (YUP!:–clinton-flag-1205dec05,0,7266507,print.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork) Rodham-still-kinda-Clinton.

  6. I find the outcome of the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy increasing Tehran’s power in the region to be loaded with irony. North Korea should be so lucky.

  7. It will be, on a practical level, impossible to decide what to do about Iran without considering Israel. As long as it is the avowed goal of Iran to destroy Israel, it will be quite difficult for any American President to step down from hostility toward Iran.

    OTOH, negotiations to achieve a more moderate stance on both sides, Israel/U.S. vs. Iran are definately called for. Like it or not, Iran is going to be a nuclear power. But Israel is now. We’ll not be able to bully Iran away from being a responsible, cooperative member of the international community. Plus, movement towards cooperation and mutuality will inevitably encourage moderating, democratic forces in Iran to modernize Iranian society. And, as Juan Cole has so eloquently pointed out, Iraq (at least southern Iraq) is a defacto Iranian Shiite state now. Anyone have any idea how much oil Iran will control when Iraq’s reserves are included with their own? I would suspect it’s getting much closer to Saudi Arabia’s production. Everyone and their dog (read: China, Russia, India, France) will be protective of Iran’s well-being due to oil reserves.

    Can Bush do any of this? Absolutely not. Unlike Nixon, Bush has so thoroughly (pardon my french) shit in the international nest that he’s radioactive. If Bush had just been “tough” in his policies, maybe he could accomplish negotiations. But Bush has been fanatical and incompetent. No belligerent is going to deal with him at this point due to his loss of domestic and international standing in addition to his abuses. Bush may be the earliest lame duck ever. He’s always been lame.

    Can the next President? Maybe. But boy, what a challenge after the screw-ups of the last 3 years.

  8. Dear CheeseChowMain: I’m sure the benefit to Iran of our tinkering in Iraq has no irony in it: I think the neocon warmongers at the Project For A New American Century have deliberately provoked most of the seeming disaster according to a long awaited thought-out plan of destabilization in the region designed to benefit an oligarchy I prefer to call The Warligarchy.

  9. >

    Leave it to the Jew hating Juan Cole to take the side of Iran the country that wants to nuke Israel.

  10. A little yellow bird: I don’t necessarily embrace your conclusions, but I’m certainly willing to entertain it as a strategic objective by the folks your referring to.

    Regardless, I find this situation fraught with irony with respect to the public proclamations made by our current executive branch (i.e. Iran is one of three spokes in the Axis-of-Evil). Perhaps, the destabilization approach is the current course of action in play.

    There is a monumental disconnect between the rhetoric and the outcome/results; it is a bit staggering to a reasonable mind on the outside looking in.

  11. >

    This is like saying” the Nazis killed a lot of people, but this was a long time ago.

    I’d bet most posters here are leftist which makes me glad the Republicans are in charge.

    What a bunch of wishy washy appeasers chanting “peace in our time.”

    My god save me from such peacenicks and do gooders. They are worse than the murderous President of Iran.

  12. LeeJudt, you’re welcome here, but “Jew-hating” is over the line. I’d hate to watch this thread disintegrate because you can’t behave yourself.

  13. Here is a short bio of the Iranian President:

    The OSU played a central role in the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Members of the OSU central council, who included Ahmadinejad as well as Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, Mohsen (Mahmoud) Mirdamadi, Mohsen Kadivar, Mohsen Aghajari, and Abbas Abdi, were regularly received by Khomeini himself.

    According to other OSU officials, when the idea of storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran was raised in the OSU central committee by Mirdamadi and Abdi, Ahmadinejad suggested storming the Soviet embassy at the same time. A decade later, most OSU leaders re-grouped around Khatami but Ahmadinejad remained loyal to the ultra-conservatives.

    During the crackdown on universities in 1980, which Khomeini called the “Islamic Cultural Revolution�, Ahmadinejad and the OSU played a critical role in purging dissident lecturers and students many of whom were arrested and later executed. Universities remained closed for three years and Ahmadinejad joined the Revolutionary Guards.

    In the early 1980s, Ahmadinejad worked in the “Internal Security� department of the IRGC and earned notoriety as a ruthless interrogator and torturer. According to the state-run website Baztab, allies of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami have revealed that Ahmadinejad worked for some time as an executioner in the notorious Evin Prison, where thousands of political prisoners were executed in the bloody purges of the 1980s.

    In 1986, Ahmadinejad became a senior officer in the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards and was stationed in Ramazan Garrison near Kermanshah in western Iran. Ramazan Garrison was the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards’ “extra-territorial operations�, a euphemism for terrorist attacks beyond Iran’s borders.

    In Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad became involved in the clerical regime’s terrorist operations abroad and led many “extra-territorial operations of the IRGC�. With the formation of the elite Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad became one of its senior commanders. He was the mastermind of a series of assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou, who was shot dead by senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards in a Vienna flat in July 1989. Ahmadinejad was a key planner of the attack, according to sources in the Revolutionary Guards.

    Ahmadinejad served for four years as the governor of the towns of Maku and Khoy in northwestern Iran. In 1993, he was appointed by Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ali Larijani, a fellow officer of the Revolutionary Guards, as his cultural adviser. Months later, he was appointed as the governor of the newly-created Ardebil Province.

    In 1997, the newly-installed Khatami administration removed Ahmadinejad from his post and he returned to Elm-o Sanaat University to teach, but his principal activity was to organize Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical gang of violent Islamic vigilantes.

    Since becoming mayor of Tehran in April 2003, Ahmadinejad has been using his position to build up a strong network of radical Islamic fundamentalists organised as “Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami� (literally, Developers of an Islamic Iran). Working in close conjunction with the Revolutionary Guard’s, Abadgaran was able to win the municipal elections in 2003 and the parliamentary election in 2004. They owed their victories as much to low turnouts and general disillusionment with the “moderate� faction of the regime as to their well-oiled political and military machinery.

    Abadgaran bills itself as a group of young neo-Islamic fundamentalists who want to revive the ideals and policies of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. It was one of several ultra-conservative groups that were setup on the orders of Ayatollah Khamenei in order to defeat outgoing President Mohammad Khatami’s faction after the parliamentary elections in February 2000.

    Ahmadinejad’s record is typical of the men chosen by Khamenei’s entourage to put a new face on the clerical elite’s ultra-conservative identity. But beyond the shallow façade, few doubt that the Islamic Republic under its new President will move with greater speed and determination along the path of radical policies that include more human rights abuses, continuing sponsorship of terrorism, and the drive to obtain nuclear weapons.>>

  14. LeeJudt: Iran wants to destroy Israel largely due to its US-backed murder of Palestinians. By the way, I’m a Jew, culturally anyway…

  15. BTW, I consider myself having an exceptionally insightful day if I can simply operate a manual can-opener effectively. I do not consider my observations, questions and comments to have any weight beyond cursory whimsy. This wouldn’t make me an appeaser, just simply willing to admit with regard to world political theatre, I am very much out-of-my-depth.

  16. CheeseChowMain: The disconnect between the rhetoric and outcome you have observed is also intentional: “The first casualty ot war is the truth.” (-I forget who…). Deception is primary strategy of war.

  17. LeeJudt: Do you find the notion of “peace in our time” such anathema? I don’t know you, but so far you’ve reminded me of people who seem to savor conflict as a raison d’etre. Peace in our time is more necessary, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, than ever in history. Not to mention a darned nice thing– not as exciting as war to some; but as Arthur C. Clarke said in “Childhood’s End”, approximately: “A well-stocked mind can never be bored.” Peace

  18. Comparing GW Bush to Richard Nixon is laughable.

    Nixon’s intellect, three sheets to the wind smashes the whole GW Bush administration into dust.

    Nixon, as much as most of us disliked him, had somethings that GW Bush will never have.

    One – Intellect

    Two – Vision

    Three – A Conscience

  19. To A little yellow bird: “Deception is primary strategy of war.”

    It may be. Deception is an observable tactic employed in nature. Predator-Prey scenarios and mating rituals are two of many areas where deception is employed to high success. Poker games as well.

    I would say deception is definitely a plausible weapon used in an effective arsenal.

  20. bloggeddown: Tricky had W beat in the noggin, alright, but so does your Schnauzer. If he had a conscience, he sure kept it out back in storage most of the time we knew him.

  21. A little yellow bird Says:


    You are a “Jew” when you want to attack the Jewish State.

    You are also ignorant.

    There is no “US backed murder of Palestinians>”

    There are murderous Pelestinian attacks on Jewish civilians backed by Iran and other Muslim organizations.

    These attacks have been ongoing since the 1920’s and are part of the war the Muslim Arabs have been carrying on against Jews. The origin of this war antedates US backing of Israel by over half a century.

    During the 30’s the Mufti of Jerusalem and other muslims in the region made common cause with Nazi Germany to help them in the genocide against the Jews.

    Get your facts straight. You seem blissfully ignorant of history.

    The US had nothing to do with any of this.

  22. LeeJudt: It’s a one-way street, hunh? That worldview is textbook persecution-complex and paranoia. Nearly all of that science was developed by Viennese and other Jews.

  23. A little yellow bird Says:


    The only peace you will get from the Islamicists is the peace of the grave or the peace that comes with conversion to Islam.

    get your facts straight.

    Ask Chamberlain about what “Peace in our times,” means.

    Are you so ignorant of history, or do you hate the US to the point of willing to let the Islamicists defeat us?

  24. LeeJudt: BTW, I am awaiting delivery of a book by Lenni Brenner, “51 Documents”, where he exposes the history of Zionist COLLABORATION with the Nazis. The power-mad and corrupt throughout human history have crossed all ethnic lines and committed every atrocity, over and over. “Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong… They’re singing songs, and they’re carrying signs; mostly saying, ‘Hooray for our side!'” (-Buffalo Springfield.) And I’m doing that in order to be more aware of history. Thank you for your concern. I’m sure you have memorized all of the history you’ve been indoctrinated with.

  25. A little yellow bird .. nice handle

    Let me recommend that you not engage further with ‘lee_judt’

    It will accomplish nothing.

    Let him rant and rave.

  26. LeeJudt, behave. If you want to call someone a “paranoid Jew hater,” find yourself another forum.

  27. bloggeddown: I be down wit’ dat… s/he also misunderstands in his/her frothing that I am calling him a paranoid Jew-hater… in a coma, s/he would mutter “Jew-hater” over and over straight from the brainstem. DAYENU!

  28. It’s no all about the US:

    “India with us on Iran, says US

    Aziz Haniffa in Washington, D.C. | December 07, 2005 | 02:45 IST

    The Bush Administration seems to believe that India is now unambiguously in its corner and part of the coalition to isolate Iran on the issue of that country’s development of nuclear weapons capability and support for international terrorism.

    Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns?– the Administration’s point man to push through the US-India civilian nuclear agreement through Congress in order to help India meet its acute energy needs and wean it from dependence on Iranian oil and gas?– said the US had been assured by India that for all the speculation and reports of major energy agreements with Tehran, no such deal had been consummated.

    Talks on India-Iran pipeline next year: Aiyar?

    During the question and answer session that followed his major speech on ‘US Policy Toward Iran,’ at his alma mater, the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, he said, ‘The Indians have assured us that there is no plan on the table that is ready for a decision by the Iranian and Indian governments ? that any plans, any discussions have been hypothetical and are years away.’

    ‘We would hope that these relationships would not be consummated,’ he added. ‘We would hope that as long as Iran is run by the type of government that runs it today, major governments in the world would not provide it long-term support through energy ties and we would hope that countries will look for energy resources elsewhere.’

    Burns conceded that it’s a tough decision and “complicated because obviously Iran is a major exporter of both oil and gas, but we wouldn’t want to see new contracts made.” But he also told a questioner ‘You draw the right conclusion in terms of Iran’s foreign and strategic policy of its use of energy as a device to gain approval from other countries.”

    He acknowledged that ‘these are sovereign decisions made by other governments,’ and that governments ‘have to make their own decisions they want to make. But we have a point of view and we have registered that point of view.’

    ‘In the case of India,’ Burns reiterated, ‘its hypothetical’ that India was on the verge of signing on to long-term energy agreements with Iran. ‘There is no deal on the table that would represent a decision today,’ he emphasized.

    Iran knows how to make nuke warheads: EU?

    Even as he slammed Tehran for its development of a nuclear weapons capability, support for international terrorism, and gross violations of human rights, Burns acknowledged that over the past several years, Iran had used access to its energy resources to build stronger ties with major US allies like India and even competitors like China.

    Burns noted that ‘in the case of India, a lot of people have asked whether or not the United States will support or seek to dissuade India in engaging in a long-term energy relationship with Iran.’

    Earlier, Burns spoke of the aggressive diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to return to the negotiating table at the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear program and stop the enrichment of uranium, and noted, ‘What’s interesting about the diplomacy is that it’s not just the European Union making this request?– it’s now increasingly Russia, and you saw the statement by the government of India in September.’

    ‘India must realise danger of nuclear Iran’?

    At that time, New Delhi had at the board of governors meeting at the IAEA voted with the US and the EU finding Iran in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.

    He said, ‘In coordination with our allies and our friends around the world, the US seeks to isolate Iran. It seeks to promote a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions?to expose and oppose Iran’s support of terrorism. And to advance the cause of democracy and human rights within Iran.’

    Burns said this vote by India had really ‘surprised the Iranians, when India voted to find Iran in violation of its IAEA obligations. And you’ve seen a lot of other countries around the world?– an increasingly united group of countries calling for Iran to pull back in its nuclear ambitions.”

    Revealed: What Iran did for India and why it hurts?

    Burns said that ‘when we talk to countries diplomatically?– behind closed doors?– in my experiences over eight months, not a single country has contested the allegation that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability or that it is promoting terrorism and harboring terrorists.’

    He said if anyone thought that Washington’s allegation that Iran is providing a safe haven for international terrorists?– including those who belong to al Qaeda?– ‘is somehow a specious claim, you might imagine that a country that has been close to Iran in the past, a country that’s a member of the non-aligned movement might speak up on Iran’s behalf. We haven’t seen that.”

    Burns recalled that the only country ‘that voted with Iran in September at the IAEA was Venezuela.’

    He noted that no support was forthcoming from “China or Russia or India or Brazil on these charges — the deep concern over support for terrorism, over its nuclear weapons research program?– and that’s consequential.”

    Burns said Russia, India, and China, had assured the US that ‘they don’t want to see Iran develop a nuclear weapons capability. That’s what all the governments with which we consistently deal with are saying.’

    ‘Awkward for India. We are friends of Iran & US’?

    Thus, he said, Iran should take cognizance of the fact that ‘there is an international coalition with a very strong united message,’ including the likes of Russia, India and China, ‘on this nuclear issue.’

    ‘There was a time when the United States and a few other countries were a lonely voice. That’s no longer the case,’ Burns said.

    Burns predicted that with regard to a decision at the IAEA to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council if it does not acquiesce to return to the negotiating table and cease its enrichment of uranium, ‘the politics and diplomacy of that will unfold, I think, over the next 30 to 40 days.'”

  29. “LeeJudt, behave. If you want to call someone a “paranoid Jew hater,â€? find yourself another forum.”

    Brendan, your friend called me “paranoid” first.

    btw: you are showing your colors by threatening me.

  30. LeeJudt: I wish you well. Shalom. Go with God. Salaam. as my Muslim friends would say, who miss the fredoms that have disappeared in their adoptive country in the sixteen years they’ve lived here and paid taxes, involuntarily, to a foreign aid program that murders their co-religionists. Peace, bro or sis…

  31. A little yellow bird Says:

    “LeeJudt: BTW, I am awaiting delivery of a book by Lenni Brenner, “51 Documentsâ€?, where he exposes the history of Zionist COLLABORATION with the Nazis.”

    Oh sure, the “Zionist” were the real perpetrators of the Holocaust.

    You are really and insane self hater.

  32. A little yellow bird Says:

    “LeeJudt: I wish you well. Shalom. Go with God. Salaam. as my Muslim friends would say, who miss the fredoms that have disappeared in their adoptive country in the sixteen years they’ve lived here and paid taxes, involuntarily, to a foreign aid program that murders their co-religionists. Peace, bro or sis…”

    You are a joke.

  33. LeeJudt: And you are a predictable, doctrinaire, skipping broken record. “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” -Paul Simon. If I keep responding to you, will you promise to deliver every cliche about Jews ever uttered? I’m done with you and your willfull semi-deafness. Peace.

  34. A little yellow bird Says:

    Every thing you said thus far can be found on any Islamic or Nazi web site and without the hypocrisy that drips out of your mouth.

    Go talk to David Duke he is your rela soul mate.

  35. It would be appreciated if some of the people on the radio would mention Islamo fascist ideology as a driving force in Iranian policy.

    After all it’s no accident that women in that country live in fear of the Mulahcrocy.

  36. Btw; The guests on the show don’t express the views of the Iranian government which is a lot more hostile towards non Iranians.

    Besides, the Iranian do want to dominate the Arab gulf states which is one reason why these countries also don’t won’t to see a nuclear Iran.

    It’s not all about the US and Israel.

  37. I’m shutting down this thread, and I’m not particularly inclined to be nice about it. We run a forum here, LeeJudt. I don’t care what your political inclinations are; we have plenty of commenters from all points of the spectrum. You alone are aggressively rude. You have chased everyone else away and driven this thread beyond all hope of a constructive debate.

    In case I haven’t made it clear enough, LeeJudt, I gave you two warnings, and now it’s your fault I’m closing this thread. Good night, everyone.

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