2 excerpts: … Robert Fisk, the great chronicler of the Middle East at The Independent, recently wrote that it occurred to him that the final score in this unique round of the Iraq war between the US and the “forces of evil” is a “draw”.
Yet one cannot be sure. Is that the final score? There may be “extra time” ahead, and if a conclusive win still eludes, a “penalty shootout” may ensue. The trouble is, no one knows the rules of the game anymore.
To be sure, the Iranian leadership has closed ranks – as it always does whenever the revolutionary heritage comes under US siege. Even for reasons of intellectual dilettantism, it becomes difficult to drive a sheet of paper between the various noisy factions and cliques and sub-cliques that usually inhabit the labyrinthine corridors of power in Tehran.
Iran senses that the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing limited sanctions over its nuclear program contains many “menacing” points, testifying to the fact that the “enemies of the Islamic Republic have plans against the country”, to quote former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani …
… Supreme Leader Khamenei told the visiting Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in Tehran on December 10 that through “resistance and perseverance”, Palestinians would certainly regain control of all their occupied land, and that Hamas could count on Iran’s “full support”.
Despite such posturing and rhetoric, however, Iran is hoping that the Bush administration doesn’t yet have a clear strategy on Iraq, and Washington is still weighing options. Tehran knows also that Washington is left with no political card to play other than resorting to pressure tactics against Iran at the present juncture.
The point is, at a time when Iran has begun openly opposing Anglo-US strategy, it is arguably an admission of defeat for Washington to open direct talks with Tehran. Beyond the pressure tactic at the political-diplomatic level, the feasibility of a military option against Iran also remains an open issue. Equally, it is also necessary for Washington to prevent Iran from becoming an influential country in the region.
Surely, Iran must remain on guard that the current debate in the US about the consequences of defeat in Iraq is still premised on the unilateral use of US power. That, in turn, forces Tehran to reason every possible outcome of each action and counteraction. Tehran cannot have the freedom to suspend its fixated self at will.
T S Eliot’s words come to mind while reflecting on the tortuous course that US-Iran relations are destined to take in the year ahead. “Footfalls echo in the memory down the passage which we did not take towards the door we never opened into the rose garden …”
M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings including ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001). (Read the whole long article on Asia Times).