Targeting Iran?

What is Karl Rove's "October surprise?" A U.S. attack on Iran?

I don't know. But given the saber-rattling hyperbole of the Bush administration and the Israeli lobby, vis-a-vis the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the National Council for Resistance in Iran, it seems like deja vu.

As with Iraq, a policy of regime-change in Iran is being camouflaged as disarmament. Maybe this time, the American public will actually listen to weapons experts like Scott Ritter, whose new book "Target Iran" is a must-read not only because it provides a detailed account of U.S.-Israeli-Iranian relations but also because Ritter has proven to be exactly right on Iraq.

He not only provides a technical insider's account of everything from the Shahib-3 missile to uranium enrichment, he also sheds much needed light on how the current U.S.-Iranian conflict was born in Israel and why it's historically dishonest to portray Iran as inherently incapable of peaceful relations with Israel and, therefore, America. Until the 1979 Islamic revolution ousted the Shah of Iran, Israel had long-standing ties with Iran because Iran was one of the first nations to recognize Israel as a new state in 1948. In fact, Iran worked closely with Israel to relocate Iranian Jews who wanted to put down roots in the new Jewish state. There are still an estimated 40,000 Jews living peacefully in Iran today.

In 1958, Israel and Iran entered into an intelligence and military exchange program that, among other things, armed and trained Kurds in northern Iraq in an effort to destabilize Iraq.

Iranian-Israeli diplomatic relations deteriorated in the 1970s when Iran provided material support for Egypt in the Yom Kippur war and voted to back a 1975 U.N. resolution that declared Zionism to be synonymous with racism.

Still, Iran and Israel entered into a multi-billion dollar weapons deal in 1977, which lasted until the Shah's downfall. Ever since, Israel and the U.S. have been on a collision course with Iran.

In fact, as Israel's most recent invasion of Lebanon made clear, U.S. and Israeli hawks have identical views on Iran, as evidenced by their portrayal of Hezbollah as an Iranian proxy and a non-state terrorist group.

Actually, Ritter argues, Hezbollah is "a legitimate expression of the people of Lebanon, primarily Shi'a, who rose up in response to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982."

"Israel's ongoing actions against Hezbollah are not only militarily inconsequential but ineffective and counterproductive, as they simply feed the very dynamic that gave birth to Hezbollah and facilitated its growth," he said.

The foreign policy cataracts on this issue, in which the goal is to isolate the Iranian government from the Iranian people, blinds policymakers to "the historical and political imperatives that link the two (namely the dictatorial rule of the American-backed Shah of Iran)."

What to do? Ritter recommends we stabilize relations by diplomatically recognizing Iran, lift the unilateral U.S. economic embargo and initiate intensive cultural and economic exchanges, "which would do more to moderate Iranian society than any program of containment and destabilization being considered by the Bush administration today."

Also, Ritter argues, Iran should be allowed to have a small but closely-monitored nuclear research program in exchange for an Iranian pledge to give up its quest to complete the fuel cycle associated with nuclear energy.

U.S.-Iranian relations based on mutual respect, nonaggression, and increased economic interaction will stabilize the Middle East. And not only will Europe, Russia, China and India reap economic benefits, "Israel will find its strategic position strengthened, not weakened, as...new markets will be created for Israel to exploit."

Ritter ends his book with a sober observation: "The ongoing actions of the United States and Israel serve not to weaken the bond between the Iranian people and the government of the mullahs but rather strengthen it."

This time around we should listen to those with a proven track record of being right.

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