It must have been embarrassing for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the day she was to announce a Security Council consensus for sanctions against Iran as punishment for its nuclear ambitions, the principal consensus partner, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, had approved a deal for swapping Iranian low-enriched uranium for Turkish fuel rods for use in a medical reactor.
Even though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the US Secretary of State that Moscow was still committed to the understanding in principle on the Security Council draft, the agreement with Iran negotiated with the help of Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula, has opened up a new situation.
Indian Foreign Minister was present at the Teheran meet. Moreover, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh participated in the BRIC summit in Brazil where the idea created a buzz on the margins, there is no evidence of the Indian media being even interested in the issue. Not one question was asked at the Prime Minister’s press conference last week. More is the pity because India should have taken the lead on the idea to help repair the damage done during the vote against Iran at Vienna during the still lingering nuclear debate. Also, all Indian development initiatives in Afghanistan will remain incomplete without Iran being directly involved. The road projects in Afghanistan can’t be functional without the Iranian ports in the Gulf.
In the midst of colossal stupidities, one of the cleverest steps George W. Bush had taken while embarking on his massive retaliation on Afghanistan was to appoint Darri-Persian speaking Zalmay Khalilzad at ambassador to Kabul. Among his key jobs was to keep the Iranians on board.
Nothing in politics is ever altruistic. Khalilzad succeeded in keeping Iranians quiet was because the Iranians had even more interest that the Americans to see the demise of both, Al Qaeda and Taleban. For the Iranians, this Salafi, anti shia Islam would remain a thorn in their side unless the two were eliminated. They were ousted from Kabul. Hamid Karzai in his pragmatism has been continuously in touch with the Iranians. President Ahmedinijad visited Kabul in April, much to the chagrin of both, Pakistan as well as Washington.
Now that conversations are on with various levels of the Taleban as part of the so called American strategy to withdraw, one purpose the Salafi Taleban in Afghanistan will serve is to keep needling the Shia regime to the north.
What the authors of this ill-thought-through scheme forget is that the most populous state in the Gulf, Iran, may have many more cards up its sleeve to upset such scenarios in Afghanistan as are being dreamed up.
Part of the ever shifting US policies in the region was to transfer Zalmay Khalilzad to the Green Zone in Iraq for the good works he had done in Afghanistan by mobilizing Iranian help. Since Iraq has a large border with Iran, Khalilzad’s charm offensive with Iran would come in handy once more.
It nearly did. Khalilzad set up secret meetings with the highest rung of the Iranian leadership. At this point the all powerful neo cons around Bush proceeded to tie his hands behind his back.
He could speak to the Iranians, they said, but “only on the nuclear issue”. A broad based engagement, for which Khalilzad had diligently prepared papers, was to be turfed out of the window. To expect the Iranians to turn up for a dialogue so circumscribed betrays total misreading of Iranian self esteem. Khalilzad gave up the effort.
The quest for a preferred Iranian leader on whom to confer the legitimacy of dialogue is as old as the Iranian revolution in the 1979. Remember, Ayatullah Khomeini was brought in with great fanfare from his abode on the outskirts of Paris. With equal ceremony was the Shah of Iran seen off from Teheran airport.
Reference to the background would be useful to gauge what role the CIA had designed for Khomeini.
Remember, mid 70s will be remembered for the US ouster from Vietnam. Also, for the coming to power of Communists in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua. Strengthening of Euro communism in Italy, France, Spain. The Allende massacre had just taken place in Chile.
The CIA diagnosis was: the existence of seemingly insignificant communist movements had been ignored by the West only to its peril.
Indeed, even the coming of the Communists to power in Afghanistan is generally not known. At the time it took the Americans by surprise. I know because I was the first journalist informed about the coming to power of the Khalq and Parcham in Kabul! (That’s another story)
Actually, there was no communist gameplan to takeover in Kabul. Since the incipient communist movements in Africa and Central America had recoiled on American interests, the CIA was determined to remove all Communists interest, nascent or active, from the vicinity of power, say, in Kabul.
Therefore, the Shah’s Savak was encouraged to eliminate the Left from around President Mohammad Daud.
As happens with many CIA plans, this one too was leaked by an accidental, unintentional murder of a Parcham trade union leader, Mir Akbar Khaibar. This came across as a warning to the left. Immediately, the Air Force and the artillery (all under communist control) peremptorily swung into action, murdered Daud and took over. They declared Khalk’s Noor Mohammad Taraki as Prime Minister, a press conference this reporter attended.
In Iran, the idea was to use the Mullahs to eliminate communist groups like Mujahideen-e-Khalq and Tudeh. But the CIA had not taken into account the stubborn durability of the clergy, grappling with which has become the toughest task the US is currently undertaking.
And uncertainties on Af-Pak make the Clergy that much more entrenched, nuclear issue or no nuclear issue. How on earth can the US deal with Iran except by talking while contiguous territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan are on boil?
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