04 November 2006

Scott Ritter Visit to Iran

Here's a great article, by the esteemed former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, that tells of his recent visit to Iran. Ritter discusses the political and social climates, and the political system of Iraq's Eastern neighbor. Basically, the Western Media are doing a great job of befuddling a sophisticated situation regarding the position of Iran in Middle Eastern political and geo-political affairs.

Ritter concludes that the USA has come no where near to exhausting diplomatic avenues in the conflict over Iran's alleged WMD projects. There is much more to be done, with a nation that is much more open to dialogue than the Western Media portrays. In short, it's time to start a dialogue and abandon the chest beating drum thumping rhetoric of war. If you are concerned or interested in what is going on with Iran, well then, this article is a must read.
Here's are some excerpts and a link:
The Case for Engagement
by Scott Ritter

My trip convinced me that support for US intervention [in Iran] does not exist to any significant degree but rather resides solely in the minds of those in the West who have had their impressions of Iran shaped by pro-Shah expatriates who have been absent from the country for more than a quarter-century.
In our haste to lash out at those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, we forget that Iran not only condemned the attacks, as did its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, but that it nearly fought a war against Afghanistan's Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies in the late 1990s. There is no greater potential ally in the struggle against Sunni extremism than Shiite Iran, a point made over and over by everyone I talked to, especially those affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard. As one veteran told me, "Iraq is our neighbor, and of course we have a vested interest in its stability. We fought an eight-year war with Iraq, so we understand the realities of that country. We are very glad the United States got rid of Saddam. But now what America is doing only makes the region more insecure. We could help America in Iraq if only they would let us."
For all its oil wealth, Iran has an energy crisis. With its economy focused on the cash business of oil export, little attention has been paid to the needs of the domestic consumer. Iran is woefully lacking in domestic refining capacity, so much so that it spends billions every year importing gasoline at world market prices, which it then discounts so that the Iranian consumer pays only some 40 cents a gallon. This makes no economic sense, but Iran's oil is already fully leveraged in the export market. With reserves shrinking and new discoveries waning, Iran faces a serious energy crisis in the coming decades unless alternative sources are developed.
Some 180 miles south of Tehran lies the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. Tucked away on the side of the road, surrounded by a makeshift berm and numerous antiaircraft artillery emplacements, the facility has the outward appearance of something dark and ominous. But the secrets concerning what lies within are well-known to the world as a result of inspections carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. What the inspectors say is crystal clear: There is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, the enrichment program is plagued with technical problems that prevent any rapid progress. There is no imminent nuclear weapons threat from Iran, which hasn't mastered the technologies and methodologies of enrichment needed to sustain a nuclear energy program, let alone a nuclear weapons effort.

The Bush Administration speaks of the need to move quickly on the issue of Iran's nuclear ambition and to roll back the forces of terror represented by the Islamic Republic. The repeated and explicit demand of the Administration is for regime change, as evidenced in the March 2006 "National Security Strategy of the United States," where Iran is named repeatedly as the number-one threat to the United States. The alleged Iranian threat espoused by Bush is based on fear, and arises from a combination of ignorance and ideological inflexibility. The path that the United States is currently embarked on regarding Iran is a path that will lead to war. (Indeed, there are numerous unconfirmed reports that the United States has already begun covert military operations inside Iran, including overflights by pilotless drones and recruitment and training of MEK, Kurdish and Azeri guerrillas.) Such a course of action would make even the historic blunder of the Iraq invasion pale by comparison. When we talk of war, we must never forget that we are talking about the lives of the men and women who serve us in the armed forces. We have a duty and responsibility to insure that all options short of war are exhausted before any decision to enter into conflict is made. On the issue of Iran, the United States hasn't even come close to exhausting the available options.

The solution to this problem is clear. The most logical course would be to put Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a flight to Tehran, where she could negotiate directly with the principal players on the Iranian side, including Supreme Leader Khamenei. If Administration officials actually engaged with the Iranians, they would have an eye-opening experience. Of course, Rice would need to come with a revamped US policy, one that rejects regime change, provides security guarantees for Iran as it is currently governed and would be willing to recognize Iran's legitimate right to enrich uranium under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (although under stringent UN inspections, and perhaps limited to the operation of a single 164-centrifuge cascade).

Rice would undoubtedly be surprised at the degree of moderation (and pro-American sentiment) that exists in Iran today. She might also be shocked to find out that the Iranians are more than ready to sit down with the United States and work out a program for stability in Iraq, as well as a reduction of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. In addition to significantly reducing the risk of a disastrous conflict, such a visit would do more to encourage moderation and peace in the region than any amount of saber-rattling could ever hope to accomplish. And it would do more to help America prevail in the so-called Global War on Terror than any war plan the Pentagon could assemble. In the end, that is what defines good policy--something sadly lacking in Washington today.
Here's a link to the original: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061120/ritter

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