Wary Iranian UN ambassador urges
George W. to heed his own advice
Iranian ambassador to the
The International Herald
YORK — Before the United States
invaded Iraq on false pretexts nearly four
years ago, the overwhelming view of analysts and diplomats was that war would
plunge the region and the world into greater turmoil and
Echoing the views of my
colleagues from the region and beyond, I told the Security Council on
February18, 2003, that while the ramifications of the war could go beyond
anyone's calculations, "one outcome is almost certain: Extremism stands to
benefit enormously from an uncalculated adventure in
This assessment came not from
any sympathy for the former Iraqi dictator or his regime. Rather, it was based
on a sober recognition of the realities of the region and the inescapable
dynamics of occupation.
Now the U.S.
administration is, unfortunately, reaping the expected bitter fruits of its
ill-conceived adventurism, taking the region and the world with it to the brink
of further hostility.
But rather than face these
unpleasant facts, the U.S. administration is trying to sell
an escalated version of the same failed policy. It does this by trying to make
Iran its scapegoat and
fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq.
administration also appears to be trying to forge a regional coalition to
counter Iranian influence. Even if it succeeds in doing so, such a coalition
will prove practically futile, dangerous to the region as a whole and internally
destabilizing for Iraq.
By promoting such a policy,
States is fanning the flames of sectarianism
just when they most need to be quelled.
Coalitions of convenience
like the one the U.S. government now contemplates were
a hallmark of American policy in the region in the 1980s and 1990s, and their
effect then was to contribute to the creation of monsters like Saddam Hussein,
Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Short memories may be responsible for this ill-advised
return to old habits.
But who can forget that
Saddam Hussein used the very same scare tactic, invoking the "Iranian threat" to
extort money, loyalty and military hardware from the region and the world, only
to turn them later against his suppliers?
Who cannot remember that to
contain the supposed "Shiite
Crescent" after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the
extremism of the fundamentalist Salafi movement was nourished by the West — only
later to become Al Qaeda and the Taliban?
Such a short-sighted campaign
of hatred will compound regional problems, and it will have global implications,
from the subcontinent to Europe and the United States, long after the current
We need to remember that
sectarian division and hatred in Iraq and the wider region was most recently
instigated by none other than the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The shameful legacy of
Zarqawi and his collaborators should have been buried with him. To that end, all
of us in the region need to set aside short-sighted schemes and engage with the
government of Iraq in a common effort to contain
The Persian Gulf region is in dire need of a truly inclusive
arrangement for security and cooperation. Only through such regional
cooperation, with the necessary international support, can we contain the
current crisis and prevent future ones.
I wrote in these pages almost
four years ago that the removal of Saddam Hussein provided a unique opportunity
to finally realize the long sought objective of regional confidence building and
cooperation, as well as to reverse the dangerous trend of confrontation,
exclusion and rivalry.
We have lost many valuable
opportunities to effect this arrangement. The forthcoming meeting of
Iraq's neighbors, to be held
in Baghdad next
month, will be a good place to begin this difficult but necessary journey toward
The American administration
can contribute by recognizing that occupation and the threat or use of force are
not merely impermissible under international law, but indeed imprudent in purely
political calculations of national interest.
As authoritative studies have
repeatedly shown, no initiators of war in recent history have achieved the
intended results; in fact, in almost all cases, those resorting to force have
ultimately undermined their own security and stature.
When 140,000 American troops
could not bring stability to Iraq, and in fact achieved exactly
the opposite, an additional 20,000 soldiers with a dangerous new mandate can
only be expected to worsen tension and increase the possibility of unintended
escalation. Only a reversal of the logic of force and occupation can dry up the
hotbeds of insurgency.
Similarly, forging imaginary
new threats, as the U.S.
administration is now doing with Iran, may provide some temporary domestic cover
for the failure of the administration's Iraq policy, but it can hardly
resolve problems that, as widely suggested, require prudence, dialogue and a
genuine search for solutions.
We all need to learn from
past mistakes and not stubbornly insist on repeating them against all advice —
including the advice George W. Bush gave as a presidential candidate in 2000:
"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but
strong, they'll welcome us."