Iran & Afghanistan: America Needs to Cut Some Deals

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When I recently met Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s former President, one of the first things he said was no one more than Iran applauded the fall of Saddam Hussein and the routing of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He ticked through a long list of strategic priorities and concerns that he suggested were overwhelmingly similar to the U.S. position. Leaving Iran’s nuclear ambitions aside for the time being, Khatami is right.
What Mitt Romney and many who are recklessly demonizing Khatami have totally wrong is that there has been significant collaboration between Iran and the U.S. for years — including in Bosnia and Kosovo, but most recently in Afghanistan. In fact, before President Bush’s famous “axis of evil” speech, most in the administration were appreciative of Iran’s assistance inside Afghanistan, with which Iran has had a close working relationship with the Afghan military. The United States could not have successfully pacified Afghanistan without Iranian help behind the scenes.
Today, Afghanistan is coming undone as the Taliban are back big time. My colleague Peter Bergen has a very important and disturbing piece on this, “The Taliban: Regrouped and Rearmed” in today’s Washington Post.


While Bergen reports that the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, Lt. General Karl Eikenberry, remains optimistic, to me it looks like the trends are very bad. The line that “at the end of every road, the Taliban starts” is an indictment of the failure to rebuild infrastructure and offer people outside Kabul the benefits of a better, modern life.
Eikenberry is an impressive scholar-soldier whom I first met years ago when he was handling China issues in the Office of International Security Affairs in the Pentagon. He should read Bergen’s article today, because the general tone of the piece and his depictions of the enemy sound very much like an increasingly encircled elite just before things went bad in China in 1947 and then again some decades later in Saigon.
But it seems to me that Iran and the United States need to find some activities on the periphery of their direct concerns with each other to re-establish any kind of trust, of which there is absolutely none right now. One of these confidence building arenas could be Afghanistan.
We need to keep Afghanistan from capsizing, and it’s not in Iran’s strategic interests for the Taliban to return. Perhaps we need to informally seek the assistance of Iran in getting the Afghan problem under control and use that as a precursor for other things.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

34 comments on “Iran & Afghanistan: America Needs to Cut Some Deals

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  2. Mark Green says:

    Indeed, it’s America’s unconditional love for one group of Semites over another that has lead us into a series of needless (and morally-bankrupt) wars. Even America’s “War on Terrorism” may eventually be understood as little more than a manufactured pretext to advance bankrupt policies. After all, “terrorism” too is a fuzzy and politicized term. It describes merely a tactic, not an ideology. But the political grievances behind many acts of terror are real. Mideast terrorists hate us for what we do, not for who we are. And what we do is sustain Israeli militarism and expansionism virtually without condition. If this wasn’t true, these terrorists could easily turn their sights on other “Western” targets. But don’t hold your breath. You will never see Al Queda attacking the likes of Japan, Switzerland or Austria, since these Western nations don’t advance meddlesome and hegemonic foreign policies.
    In fact, it’s American taxpayers and Americans in uniform who are the unwitting fools in this whole scenario. America is a captive bride, the victim of an arranged marriage which, at its core, is actually loveless. The Israeli affection for the United States is born of political necessity. And their distrust of the American people is unmistakable. This is why we Americans, the “great friends of Israel”, are subjected to continuous Holocaust propaganda as well as other kosher narratives day in and day out. America’s once modest pride and sense of fairness has given way to collective hubris, guilt and arrogance. Gentleness, fair play and humility do mesh well with war.

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  3. MP says:

    “I go by the original definition of zionism as put forth by the founding leaders of the zionist movement. Or at least my understanding of it, which was a nationalist-secular movement that regarded Jews as a distinct race who should have their own nation.”
    If you replace “race” with “people” (Jews are not a race.) I can agree with this definition. Understood this way…what, pray tell, is wrong with Zionism?

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  4. MP says:

    I thought as much…
    You see, even assuming what you quote is true–that a lot of Jews were in the bureaucracy, you could also have said a lot of Russians of the Jewish faith, or a lot of Jewish people who were also Jews (just like there were a lot of officials who were also Ukranian or Belarussians)were officials. But John Rood’s point is his hatred of Jews. So, in this case, his anti-Zionism, or his criticism of Israel, dovetails “nicely” with his hatred of Jews. That may not mean a lot to you, POA or Carroll, but I think it makes a big difference. And it’s one reason many Jews are on guard about criticisms of Zionism–because it often gets its juice from an underlying hatred of Jews.

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  5. MP says:

    “In the censorship deparment…”
    So John, who are you quoting here?

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  6. Pissed Off American says:

    Posted by Douglas Reed……
    Whats your point? How does the opinion laden representation of history you just gave us tie into AIPAC bribing our elected officials, or Israel dumping cluster bombs all over Lebanon?
    See, heres the deal; in order for me to express my huge problem with Israel’s policies towards the Muslims, or their meddling in the affairs of my home government, I do not need to consider, or even mention, the word “jew”. The predominate religion practiced in the country that is the object of my disdain is irrelevant.
    Kids are dying while picking up cluster bombs. Farmer’s fields are being razed so they cannot feed their families. Blockades are preventing kids from getting health care or educations. American officials are being bribed into placing the interests of a foriegn power above our own.
    I do not need to consider religion when citing the above facts, nor is it religion that fuels my anger about the above stated facts. The term “jew” means nothing to me. I do not have a solid idea even what the term represents. I do not need to, nor do I even really have a desire to.
    Your essay bores me, and I see it as completely irrelevant.

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  7. Douglas Reed says:

    “The censorship department, and that means the whole machine for controlling the game and muzzling the foreign press, was entirely staffed by Jews, and this was a thing that puzzled me more than anything else in Moscow. There seemed not to be a single non-Jewish official in the whole outfit. . . I was told that the proportion of Jews in the government was small, but in this one department that I got to know intimately they seemed to have a monopoly, and I asked myself, where were the Russians? The answer seemed to be that they were in the drab, silent crowds which I had seen but which must not be heard of”.
    I soon learned from older hands that “the proportion of Jews in the government” was in effect not small but that they retained a large measure of control, if they were not predominantly in control. I was unable to meet any Russians in Moscow, this was the other side of the same unique experience. I had never before beheld a ruling caste so completely segregated from the slave-mass.
    At the time of this visit to Moscow I had no cause to look for a predominance of Jews; the thing forced itself on my notice. I had hardly begun to think about “the Jewish question” in 1935. The impression I have recorded above was the first one of a trained observer who had never before seen Moscow or Russia. I find it confirmed by an equally experienced man who lived there for twelve years, from 1922 to 1934. Mr. William Henry Chamberlain’s book remains today authoritative about that period. He wrote, “Considerable number of Jews have made careers in the Soviet bureaucracy. Of perhaps a dozen officials whom I knew in the Press Department or the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs I recall only one who was not a Jew. Indeed, the predominance of Jews in this Commissariat at the time of my stay in Russia was almost ludicrous; the Russians
    419
    were mainly represented by the grizzled doorkeeper and the unkempt old women who carried around tea. One also found many Jews in the Gay-Pay-Oo”, (Secret Police) “in the Communist International and in departments connected with trade and finance”

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  8. Douglas Reed says:

    In 1920 official Bo1shevik statements showed that 545 members of the chief ruling bodies included 447 Jews. In 1933 the American Jewish journal Opinion stated that Jews occupied almost all important ambassadorial posts and that in White Russia 61 percent of all officials were Jews; it also stated that the Jewish percentage of the population (then given as 158,400,000) was “less than 2 percent”. If this was true it meant that Russia at that time contained less than 3,000,000 Jews. In 1933 the Jewish Chronicle stated that one-third of the Jews in Russia had become officials. If this was the case, they plainly formed the new governing class.

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  9. Carroll says:

    “Gentile governments,” suggests that governments, like America’s, or those in Western Europe, are gentile in character and should be controlled by Gentiles–that is, by non-Jews.
    As if America were esssentially gentile in character and Jews had no place here. Gentile and Jew are “opposites” — not Gentile and Zionist. In this case, “zionist” is simply a code word for Jew”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well, that thought is really opening a can of worms.
    The jewish, gentile or arab/muslin character dominance of respective nations does seem to be what the fuss is all about doesn’t it?
    Should gentiles dominate the character of America?
    Should Jews dominate the character of Israel?
    Should Arab/Muslims dominate the character of Arabia?
    But I don’t know about the term zionist. It seems to have different definitions to different gentiles and to different jews. I go by the original definition of zionism as put forth by the founding leaders of the zionist movement. Or at least my understanding of it, which was a nationalist-secular movement that regarded Jews as a distinct race who should have their own nation. But of course,aside from race, it also depended on the religious identification of Jews to give it support.
    However I think the term zionist is used most often to refer to the zionist like Feith, Pipes, Netanyhoo and the cultist type “Greater Israel” people who would be in favor of the suggested “transfer” of populations to acheive their ideal state…you know the ones who say that there is no such thing as Palestines and are trying to convince the world that all of Arab/Islam is evil and subhuman.
    How should all this end? Should we transfer all Arabs to live in Arabia, send all Jews to live in Israel?..send all Gentiles to live in Europe and America?
    Everyone who is jockeying for control and dominance needs to beware what they ask for, they may get the pint size version of it.

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  10. Pissed Off American says:

    MP……
    I will, knowing your expressed sentiments about anti-semitism, defer to my humility and say I don’t know WTF you are talking about any more than I knew what the other fella was talking about. Does your explanation justify your opinion the other guy is anti-semitic??? I don’t have a clue. But I do know that I will stick to my guns about agreeing with the portion of the guy’s post that I stated I agree with.
    And I might add that I don’t need to be “anti-semitic” to tell you that the Israelis have my government by the balls. They are far too involved in the direction this country is headed in regards to foreign policy, and I am sick of them bribing our elected officials. And that is BEFORE I factor in what a batch of genocidal butchers seem to be determing Israeli policy towards Lebanon. As far as I am concerned, ANY HUMAN, of ANY RACE OR RELIGION, should swing from a gallows for what was done in Lebanon.

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  11. MP says:

    “The Zionists have gained political control over Gentile governments and the Jewish masses alike, so that what the individual remonstrant says is of little weight. The Zionists have restored the Levitical Law, in its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations, in full force. Their actions towards others in the past have been and in the future will be guided by that, and not by what “the attitude of modern Judaism” was in 1916.”
    To cut through all the code here…the use of “pharisaic” and “talmudic” impugns the Jewish religion. The Pharisees are a long ago and now no longer Jewish group most often brought into discussions like these because, presumably, they condoned the killing of Jesus. The Talmud, of course, is the body of Jewish Law still alive and well. Religious Jews certainly lead their lives according to it just as much as Christians try to follow The Sermon on the Mount. To give it a sinister cast is like giving The Sermon on the Mount a sinister cast and is, in fact, anti-Jewish.
    “Gentile governments,” suggests that governments, like America’s, or those in Western Europe, are gentile in character and should be controlled by Gentiles–that is, by non-Jews. As if America were esssentially gentile in character and Jews had no place here. Gentile and Jew are “opposites” — not Gentile and Zionist. In this case, “zionist” is simply a code word for Jew.
    “Jewish masses” is thrown in to throw you off.
    To boil it down to simplest form, this post is saying that Jews control the world for ancient and nefarious purposes–which they most certainly do not.

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  12. benjoya says:

    not to say those are the only 2 options. it’s just that some people (or shall i say “there are those who”) use “zionist” and “expansionist” interchangeably, and they oughta stop it imho.

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  13. benjoya says:

    just to clarify, if i believe in a pre-1967 israel and, oh, let’s say an international jerusalem, am i a zionist, or a zionist-controlled zombie-jew?

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  14. Carroll says:

    The Zionists have gained political control over Gentile governments and the Jewish masses alike, so that what the individual remonstrant says is of little weight. The Zionists have restored the Levitical Law, in its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations, in full force. Their actions towards others in the past have been and in the future will be guided by that, and not by what “the attitude of modern Judaism” was in 1916.
    Posted by Douglas Reed at September 11, 2006 04:37 AM
    What do you say, POA? Carroll? Anti-semitic or just tough-minded progressivism informed by deep understanding of world events?
    Posted by MP at September 11, 2006 08:15 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I am with POA…I don’t know enough about Levitical Law or its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations to parse what he is saying.
    But his statement that..”the Jewish masses alike”
    seems to say the “zionist” sect is influencing Jews at large. I am not sure that is any more anti-semitic than saying that the “Islamic radicals” are influencing the Muslim masses.
    Just looking at comments here and there I would say that part is valid ..Jews on the street are being influenced by the more militant zionist and Muslims on the street are being influenced by the more radical Islamist.
    Maybe he should have included a reference to the militant Muslim sect also. But since the zionist influence in the US goverment is what has been most under discussion here in the US, I can give him a question mark unless he strays from the political to personal by saying all jews are naturally like whatever he is talking about in his references.

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  15. Pissed Off American says:

    “What do you say, POA? Carroll? Anti-semitic or just tough-minded progressivism informed by deep understanding of world events?”
    Posted by MP
    To be honest…..
    “The Zionists have restored the Levitical Law, in its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations, in full force. Their actions towards others in the past have been and in the future will be guided by that, and not by what “the attitude of modern Judaism” was in 1916.”
    …is WAAAAAAY above my head. How can I judge for myself if the guy is being “anti-semitic” if I don’t even know WTF he is talking about????
    But hey, I gotta at least agree with the following….
    “The Zionists have gained political control over Gentile governments and the Jewish masses alike”
    MP, anti-semitic or just tough-minded progressivism informed by deep understanding of world events?

    Reply

  16. MP says:

    Actually, ANYONE can answer the question…

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  17. MP says:

    The Zionists have gained political control over Gentile governments and the Jewish masses alike, so that what the individual remonstrant says is of little weight. The Zionists have restored the Levitical Law, in its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations, in full force. Their actions towards others in the past have been and in the future will be guided by that, and not by what “the attitude of modern Judaism” was in 1916.
    Posted by Douglas Reed at September 11, 2006 04:37 AM
    What do you say, POA? Carroll? Anti-semitic or just tough-minded progressivism informed by deep understanding of world events?

    Reply

  18. bob h says:

    Today, Afghanistan is coming undone as the Taliban are back big time
    Doesn’t Rumsfeld’s decision to draw down American forces in Afghanistan look pretty bad? Doesn’t it look like more evidence of an administration’s incompetence, and one more reason to get rid of Rumsfeld?

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  19. Douglas Reed says:

    The Zionists have gained political control over Gentile governments and the Jewish masses alike, so that what the individual remonstrant says is of little weight. The Zionists have restored the Levitical Law, in its Pharisaic and Talmudic interpretations, in full force. Their actions towards others in the past have been and in the future will be guided by that, and not by what “the attitude of modern Judaism” was in 1916.

    Reply

  20. elementary teacher says:

    Prayer on the Anniversary of 9-11
    Psalm 91:1 & 9:11
    He who dwells in the secret place of the
    Most High
    Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty …
    For He shall give his angels charge over you,
    To keep you in all your ways …

    Reply

  21. TokyoTom says:

    Steve:
    I don’t think this point is lost on you, but one of the important factors that I think we have to keep in mind in analyzing the Administration are its incentives NOT to find long-range cures, but to allow conflicts to fester so that Republicans can continue to to insist that they and they alone are prepared to defend America (and that critics are soft).
    This also ties into the mutual dynamics of conflict that also support the mullahs in Iran, the self-fulfilling perceptions of the other as enemy, and the financial benefits that ruling elites can continue to accrue by running a large war machine (even as the costs to society as a whole outweigh the gains).
    Reghards,
    TT

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  22. brewmn says:

    Sorry to go off-topic Steve, but when are we going to see the results of your requests for quotes to rebut Peter Fever’s argument that the Bush adminstration never accused its critics of being unpatriotic?

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  23. Pissed Off American says:

    The “war on terror” – and by terrorists – has directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on earth 9/11
    http://tinyurl.com/s7s8k

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  24. Pissed Off American says:

    Careful observers will note that the United States did not successfully pacify Afghanistan.
    Posted by Pete
    “Careful”? Hell man, a “casual” observer could hardly fail to miss that fact.

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  25. Pete says:

    Careful observers will note that the United States did not successfully pacify Afghanistan.

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  26. Pissed Off American says:

    Event Date: Sep. 11, 2006
    Event Name: 9/11 Families: New Probe
    Event Type: News Conference
    Time: 11:00 AM
    Sponsored by: DTT Documentaries, LLC
    Event Location: Zenger Room
    Details: On 5th Anniversary of the Attacks, Victims’ Relatives to Challenge Credibility of 9/11 Report — Say Case Merits New Investigation
    Producers of 9/11: PRESS FOR TRUTH to Reveal Details of National Campaign
    9/11 families and speakers TBA will join producers of a recently-released feature-length documentary “9/11: Press for Truth” at a press conference at 11AM on September 11th at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.. Participants will highlight a growing body of evidence calling into question the credibility of the 9/11 Report and will demand a new investigation by a new Congress into the attacks of September 11th. Participants will also briefly comment on the speeches of Commissioners Kean and Hamilton following their remarks at the luncheon at directly following the event.
    Producers of 9/11 Press for Truth released theatrically, on DVD and broadcast on international television over the anniversary will discuss response to the film following screenings in NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, Oakland, and over 20 other cities nationally over the 9/11 memorial weekend. Paul Thompson, author of The Terror Timeline (Harper-Collins), 9/11 family members and special guests will be in attendance to make brief statements and answer questions from the press. C-SPAN and other media outlets are invited to participate.
    Press only (due to limited size of room). Advance confirmation strongly encouraged.
    To confirm please contact:
    Kyle F. Hence
    401-935-7715
    kylehence@earthlink.net
    MORE DETAILS AND FULL PRESS RELEASE forthcoming.
    [Also of NOTE — NYC (Sept. 7th 6PM ) & DC Premieres (Sept. 10th/11th 6:30PM): Producers, Paul Thompson and family members will also be available to the press immediately preceding the World Premiere in NYC on September 7th at an informal Press availability beginning promptly at 6PM at The Two Boots Pioneer Theater located on East 3rd Street, NYC (Just east of Avenue A) and again in D and in Washington, DC at the Landmark’s E Street Cinema at 6:30PM, Sept. 10-11.]

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  27. gq says:

    I would like to hear what the “enlightened Republican moderates” are doing in this area. I hear much of this said creature, but want to see what they are actually doing beyond giving nice speeches: actual legislative steps or engagement with the Administration. Frankly, coming to tears while they vote for something they supposedly think is bad does not cut it for me.

    Reply

  28. Donna Z says:

    General Clark will be offering an alternative to Bush’s 9/11 assumptions. For anyone in the area:
    9/11/06 – General Clark will speak at Bethany College in remembrance of September 11th Start: Sep 11 2006 – 6:00pm description:
    BETHANY, W.Va. – Retired General Wesley K. Clark will be visiting the Bethany campus on Monday, September 11, 2006. His speech will take place at 6 p.m. EDT in Commencement Hall. Located in Old Main, Commencement Hall has served as host to numerous other prominent world figures including four U.S. Presidents.
    The Bethany College Student Activities Council (SAC), Student Programming Board (SPB) and Student Government Association (SGA) are sponsoring his visit as a remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
    General Clark will speak on the successes and failures of the United States in recent international conflicts, the world terror scope, and U.S. security in the new millennium
    ^^^^
    I wish CSpan would cover this event if only to break into the raging calls for “fear” and more “fear.”
    Iran is not a monolithic government. They have a huge population of people under 25 who want jobs. Therefore, they certainly have concerns beyond the nuclear. Finding out what those concerns might be is the responsibility of the bush administration. This demonization may look tough for domestic political fodder, but it is not the product of a great nation.

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  29. Carroll says:

    We’ve outsourced much of our economy, and we are headed straight toward outsouring our diplomatic relations as well.
    Posted by John at September 10, 2006 01:06 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>
    I have nothing intelligent to say except we should outsource 90% of our elected politicans.
    They think they were elcted to represent the universe, not America.
    Go to Thomas.gov or Gov trac and see how many bills and how much legistation you can find that actually deals with domestic welfare interest of American ..or American foreign interest for that matter.
    Yes it is time consuming to do but it tells the true story….and once you reaize what has been going on for decades in congress you will lose all faith in our now corrupted system.

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  30. John says:

    Opportunities for negotiating with Iran have been plentiful. They have also been perfunctorily discarded by this administration. Why would the Bushies suddenly have an epiphany and use the collapse of Afghanistan as a place to start confidence-building with Iran? After all, they continue to ignore shared interests in stablizing Iraq and slowing Al Sadr’s rise.
    As long as the Bushies continue to stonewall, the only alternative is to hand negotiations over to a neutral third party, such as Javier Solana, who must demand significant concessions from the US as well as the Iranians, if there is to be any hope for a positive resolution. Over time, however, the European position will be undermined by their complicity in the collapse of Afghanistan, particularly if they shun Iranian help.
    We’ve outsourced much of our economy, and we are headed straight toward outsouring our diplomatic relations as well.

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  31. Pissed Off American says:

    “Leaving Iran’s nuclear ambitions aside for the time being, Khatami is right.”
    What ambitions would those be, Steve? Can you cite credible evidence they are seeking anything other than nuclear energy? I too think they would like to have nukes, but apparently there is no evidence of a viable weapons program. Can you cite evidence to the contrary?
    “The United States could not have successfully pacified Afghanistan without Iranian help behind the scenes”
    When did we “successfully pacify” Afghanistan, Steve? Or is yours a separate reality?
    “Today, Afghanistan is coming undone as the Taliban are back big time.”
    Well, hey, maybe they’ll stop the flow of poppy paste. You ever had a friend or a family member die of heroin addiction, Steve? It ain’t pretty. I lost a nephew, 23 years old, my sister’s only child.
    What intrigues me about the Afghanistan thing is that Bush still holds it up as a model of success in his ongoing sit-com, “The Global War on Terrorism”. Everyone knows its a complete clusterfuck, that our puppet has been holed up in Kabul with his strings tied in knots…yet there’s Bush, every other week telling us what a roaring success we’ve had in Afghanistan. When is someone going to look that lying sack of shit right in the face during prime time TV and tell him to go screw himself, that we are sick of the bullshit? Obviously Congress ain’t going to do it, but someone sure needs to.

    Reply

  32. Jay C says:

    As usual, Steve, a cogent analysis, and, in concept, I think you are 100% right. But trying to deal with Iran on any sort of realistic level outside of the mindless rote demonization which seem to be the Bush Adminstration’s preferred course is going to run into a couple of serious, and apparently intractable problems.
    First, and foremost, is the fact that the Iranian leadership’s way of “dealing” with America is basically also that of mindless rote demonization (you know, that “Great Satan” thing) – and it has proved a surefire winner for maintaining the Iranian mullahcracy in power for 25+ years, whatever the opinions of the Iranian public at large (which count, apparently, for a great deal less that do ours’).
    One would, of course, like to see the Adminstration (either one, actually) move past the bogeyman-of-the-month approach to US-Iranian affairs (and you are right, imho, about Afghanistan I think the country is a disaster waiting to happen). But when the governing regimes in both countries have invested SO much in a formal posture of institutionalized emnity – moving on to a moreproductive relationship will take a great deal of political and diplomatic wisdom AND courage: qualities glaringly lacking in both Bush’s and Ahmadinejad’s governments.

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  33. sdemetri says:

    I agree that whatever confidence building agreements with Iran we can muster are needed to avoid a potentially catastrophic encounter and should be attempted. Threatening Iran with nuclear weapons may be all bluster and chest thumping, but it is supremely dangerous to promise such aggression…you may find yourself inclined to deliver on the promise. Some elements of our leadership may think they can get away with it.
    Bush in May 2004 authorized the deployment of nuclear weapons. Was that routine, or not? The National Security Strategy of 2006 says, “Safe, credible, and reliable nuclear forces…” play a critical role in deterence but also in, “if necessary, responding with overwhelming force.”
    I am not at all clear how Iran could help with Afghanistan as the problems in Afghanistan seem to come very much from Pakistan, and the fact that Pakistan is our “ally,” generating confusion with the common Afghani.
    Sarah Chayes’ article in the March/April 2006 Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on the Taliban has a slightly different take on things in Afghanistan from Bergen’s. Embedded with US forces gives one a certain perspective. Living there for five years another.
    She writes: “The steadily worsening situation in southern Afghanistan is not the work of some ineffable Al Qaeda nebula. It is the result of the real depredations of the corrupt and predatory government officials whom the United States ushered into power in 2001, supposedly to help fight Al Qaeda, and has assiduously maintained in power since, along with an “insurgency” manufactured whole cloth across the border in Pakistan–a U.S. ally. The evidence of this connection is abundant: Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan.
    But beleaguered Afghans have a hard time getting U.S. political and military officials to focus on these two factors, which feed on each other. U.S. personnel cling to the fictions that Afghans are responsible for the local officials who rule over them–despite the overwhelming moral and material support the United States has provided these officials–and that the Pakistani government is cooperating in the war on terror. And so the Afghan villagers, frightened, vulnerable, and disillusioned, are obliged to come to terms with the “fairies who come at night.”
    This state of affairs is so bewildering that Kandaharis have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban. They reason that America, with its power and riches, could bring an end to the “insurgency” in a month, if it so chose. They figure that America remains a close and munificent ally of Pakistan, the country that is sponsoring the “insurgency,” and so the continuing violence must be a deliberate element of U.S. policy. The point is not whether there is any factual basis for this notion, it’s that everyone here believes it. In other words, in a stunning irony, much of this city, the Taliban’s former stronghold, is disgusted with the Americans not because of their Western culture, but because of their apparent complicity with Islamist extremists.”
    I think it is disingenuous in the extreme to require Iran to give up as a precondition to talks a chief point talks would be about, nuclear enrichment. I welcomed Khatami’s thoughts on this. Approaching Iran to discuss and confront the growing instablity in the entire region may help defuse sectarian violence in Iraq, instability in Pakistan, the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, even Israel/Palestine. But Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton, or Bush offering such concessions might come through clenched teeth after being tied to a board and held under water for awhile, but I am not hopeful of this.

    Reply

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