Friday, March 04, 2011

Zalmay Khalilzad and the American way of lying about Iran and the Middle East

Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and US foreign poilcy strategist has laid out his suggestions for US confrontation with Iran:
With respect to Iran, the Obama administration has an opportunity to recover from its failure to support the Green Movement in 2009. As a first step, it should embrace Iranian democrats and work with them to determine what kinds of outside support would be helpful and would not inadvertently undermine their efforts. Attacks by the regime against peaceful protestors should be met with targeted sanctions and a push to have the Security Council refer Iranian leaders to the International Criminal Court.

Second, the United States should exploit Iran’s vulnerability to internal unrest. It should find ways to encourage labor unrest by, for example, facilitating quiet support by U.S. organized labor to Iranian unions. In the 1979 revolution, strikes by workers in the oil sector were one of the precipitants of the fall of the Shah. We should also engage officers in military and security services and encourage those who have organizational or personal differences with the core ruling clique around Khamenei to dissent or split with the regime.

Third, the United States and its friends and allies should work key pressure points, particularly Iran’s overwhelming dependence on oil revenues to fund its budget. We should induce Saudi Arabia and other friendly oil-producing states to raise production and drive international prices downward for an extended period, thereby exacerbating Iran’s already difficult budgetary situation. Developed countries should redouble export controls and financial sanctions to prevent Iran from modernizing its oil infrastructure.

Fourth, the United States should step up surrogate broadcasting that underscores the corruption, hypocrisy, and brutality of the Iranian regime. We should help ensure access by opposition forces to the Internet and social media. Where possible, we should forge connections between Iranian groups and civil society in the West, particularly youth organizations and intellectual activists.

Though these approaches cannot produce quick results against a strong and determined regime, they can put leaders on the defensive, stress their systems internally, and impose costs by increasing the demands on internal security organizations. This can immediately undercut efforts by Iran to exploit the wider crisis in the Middle East and over time tip the scales in favor of democratic change.
One noteworthy topic here is Khalilzad's redefinition of "democratic". Mousavi received fewer votes than his opponent in an election, whatever you want to call his movement, it cannot be called democratic.

Beyond that, every policy the US opposes from Iran is popular. Iran's voters do not want Iran to relinquish its nuclear program, do not want it to stop funding anti-Zionist groups and do not consider Israel a legitimate state.

Then there are the wedge issues, the issues the US hopes will divide Iran's society so that from a state of disorder or chaos possibly an Iranian regime will arise that either does not or cannot take stances that the US opposes against Israel. On these issues also, Iran's treatment of Mousavi's protesters, the existence of moral police and the role of religious authorities in government, Iran's policies have the support of a majority of the Iranian people according the each of the several polls that have been released over the past several years.

There is a distinctive American way to lie - which is to silently redefine terms away from their usual meaning. Bill Clinton said about Monica Lewinsky, an intern working for him, "I did not have sex with that woman." He had, without telling his audience, redefined "sex" so that it did not include the acts he engaged with Lewinsky.

It is the type of lie a culture of lawyers produces. Khalilzad has redefined the term "democracy" to mean something other than a government accountable to the people governed. It is not clear what he's talking about, but he expects and is working so that his audience will believe he is saying something he knows he is not saying.

US officials, including Barack Obama, often redefine "nuclear weapon", "moderate", "dictator" and other terms when discussing the Middle East in ways that deliberately deceive their audiences.

Beyond his lying use of the concept "democracy", Khalilzad spells out how the US should pressure Iran's society and economy in hopes of both limiting Iran's ability to influence its region and eventually to force Iran to capitulate to US demands.

This US hostility against Iran looks to remain part of the background in US/Iran relations for the foreseeable future. Iran has to a large degree adjusted to this level of hostility and carries on executing its policies, that are according to polls without exception supported by most Iranian people, assuming that US hostility will be present.


Iman said...

"Mousavi received fewer votes than his opponent in an election, whatever you want to call his movement, it cannot be called democratic"

whatever you think of mousavi's expired presidential bid, the iranian govt is not democratic. there is ample space for mousavi and others to advocate for democratization and freedom

Arnold Evans said...

1) The Iranian government, by any reasonable standard, is as democratic as any other.

Any policy that gains consensus support in Iranian society can be enacted through a process that runs through elected officials.

I've never seen a counter-example, a policy that most Iranian people oppose but that is still law.

2) Mousavi as the loser of the most recent election, has not been advocating democratization, defining democratization as I do as the ability of a government to, through representative means, enact policies that reflect the values, perceptions and sensibilities of the people governed.

3) As far as freedom, there is a balance between community standards and personal permission in every society. There is also a balance between national security and personal permission. Iran in both cases sets the balance, as far as I can tell from polls, in a way consistent with the preferences of the Iranian people.

I have not gotten a good sense of exactly what Mousavi advocates. Maybe you can point me to a good source.

So far it does not seem to me that he advocates either democratization or freedom.

Klaus WeiƟ said...

Khalilzad is a co-author of the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992.

"Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia. There are three additional aspects to this objective: First the United States must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. Second, in the non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. Finally, we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."