Can’t someone just shut him up? I know I’m not the only person who is sick of Dick Cheney’s blustering belligerence. Hell, by now you would think that even some of his allies in the GWOT are tired of his Darth Vader-like presence issuing threats to nations and groups opposed to his posse’s designs for world domination. Threats, mind you, that when they have come to fruition have cost him nothing in terms of power, money, or blood. Threats, mind you, that have cost many others plenty of all three. I suppose we can consider ourselves lucky that when Dick Cheney stood on the deck of that aircraft carrier and issued his latest threat to Iran over Middle Eastern dominance he spared us the pilot costume worn by his boss a couple years back on another aircraft carrier. Somehow, I think he probably knew such a getup might make him look even more ridiculous than he already does.
Despite the theater of the ridiculous Mr. Cheney does so well, his statements are very serious. They are also the closest to the truth Washington will ever speak, especially when it comes to the question of oil. If one reads Mr. Cheney’s statement, they will see that he makes it very clear that the reason Washington opposes Iranian dominance in the region it exists is because Washington wants access to the oil there and believes it must have dominance in the region in order to maintain hat access. “We’ll keep the sea lanes open,” said Cheney. Of course, no nation has suggested that they plan to shut the sea lanes down, but ol’ Dick was just being a good guy and giving his assurances.
As many mainstream US papers have noted, there are mixed messages in the words coming from Washington to Iran. On the one hand, there is Cheney issuing what are in essence threats of war. Meanwhile, other members of the administration are making what could almost be called overtures to Tehran in regards to its tole in Iraq and its nuclear energy ambitions. Nothing is clear these days when it regards Washington’s plans for Iran, that much is certain. If we look at the history involved in relation to the current situation, perhaps we can find some clues to the confusion, if not a clear answer.
Back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running his successful campaign for the US presidency and US hostages were sitting in the Embassy in Tehran, some members of his team negotiated an agreement with the elements of the Iranian government that were apparently responsible for the hostages. These elements included the mullahs around Ayatollah Khomeini. The agreement was this: the hostages would be released on Inauguration Day 1991in exchange for the shipment of US armaments and supplies via Israel. Consequently, all efforts by the sitting Carter administration to negotiate freedom for the hostages were rebuffed by the mullahs, who had the primary leverage in the Iranian government at the time. According to the Iranian president at the time Bani Sadr, these negotiations had been going fairly well when Khomeini instructed him to stop them. Bani Sadr’s reasoning for the order was related to the power struggles than occurring in the revolutionary regime. These power struggles pitted the populist Bani Sadr and his party’s allies against the mullahs and their allies. included amongst the latter were Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and other powerful representatives of the merchant class–men who still wield a large amount of power in Iran and who have been working since the Shah’s overthrow in 1979 to privatize virtually every state service and industry. Other aspects of this struggle for power were the disappearances, imprisonment, assaults, and executions of the mullahs’ opponents throughout Iran.
Anyhow, back to arms-for-hostages deal. It was but one of many and was but a small part of the much greater Iran-Contra scandal. However, the important bits of this escapade is the presence of a number of individuals previously or currently employed by the Bush administration and its departments. A short list includes Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte, Otto Reich, John Poindexter, and, most importantly, George Allen (Head of the Department of Homeland Security), and Robert Gates. Now, only some of these men are involved in policy that involves Iran, but one has to wonder what their work in relation to he Iran Contra affair plays in the Bush administration’s approach to Iran. Indeed, Gates co-authored a report in 2004 for the Council on Foreign Relations that encouraged a combination of incentives and punitive measures. The report did not call for a settlement of all of the issues between the two countries, stating that such a “grand bargain” is not in Washington’s interest. About the only thing that can be ascertained is that there seems to be a disagreement within the administration as to whether or not Iran’s current government can help resolve Washington’s situation in Iran. If there is any reason why those in the Bush White House intent on changing the regime in Tehran have not succeeded in getting their way, it is because the war on Iraq has failed so miserably in its stated goals. This fact has given the advocates of realpolitik in the Empire’s drive for hegemony a chance to push their strategy–a strategy that relies on more than war.
Not that any of this really matters. After all, the Democrats are almost completely on board when it comes to preventing Iran from dominating its region of the world. To prove their commitment, they recently struck language that would have required the White House to get permission via a Congressional vote before it attacked Iran. Furthermore, their counterpart to the Project for a New American Century–the Center for American Progress, agrees in its policy statement that there should be no “grand bargain” with Tehran. Instead, both elements of Washington’s policy elite prefer the current instability. Why? Probably because such a scenario allows Washington to change its mind at any time and attack. Not that a “grand bargain” would necessarily prevent US forces from attacking anyhow, yet it would at least acknowledge that the government there officially exists. That is something that Washington has refused to do, from Carter to Bush the Younger. Apparently, it’s current status as part of the “axis of evil” is preferable to one that would require Washington’s acceptance of its defeat in 1979. Instead, the world is subject to the constant threat of a greater war and the instability such war would certainly bring.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com