Sometimes a simple pairing of quotes speaks volumes. Case in point – Presidential comments about Iran by Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and America’s George Bush.
Yesterday, Karazai appeared on CNN’s Late Edition. Karzai bluntly conceded that “the security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated.” Karzai also affirmed as “exactly true” US General David Rodriguez’ assessment there has been a 50-60% increase in foreign fighters comings into Afghanistan from Pakistan over the past year.
By contrast, Karzai contradicted recent US (and media) contentions that Iran has likewise been a growing source of trouble in Afghanistan:
BLITZER: “The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, William Wood, suggested in June that Iran is playing a significant role in the security situation in Afghanistan as well. “There is no question,” he said, that weaponry of Iranian types has been entering Afghanistan for some time in amounts that make it hard to imagine that the Iranian government is not aware that this is happening.” Is Iran directly involved in the security situation — the deteriorating
security situation in Afghanistan?
KARZAI: We have had reports of the kind you just mentioned. We are looking into these reports. Iran has been a supporter of Afghanistan, in the peace process that we have and the fight against terror, and the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan. Iran has been a participant in the — both processes. They then have contributed steadily to Afghanistan. We have had very, very good, very, very close relations, thanks in part also to an understanding of the United States in this regard, and an environment of understanding between the two, the Iranian government and the United States government, in Afghanistan. We will continue to have good relations with Iran. We will continue to resolve issues, if there are any, to arise.
BLITZER: Well, is Iran a problem or a solution as far as you are concerned? Are they helping you or hurting?
KARZAI: Well, so far Iran has been a helper and a solution.”
Nothing new in that, really, as Karzai (and former key Bush Administration officials like Flynt Leverett) have long been more positive about Iran’s disposition towards Afghanistan since 9/11. Yet Karzai’s reiteration of a positive view of Iran flatly presents a problem for the Bush Administration as it rolls out the Iran-on-the-march bogey to justify massive new arms sales to the Saudis.
Consider then Bush’s intense response today to a question about Karzai’s comments:
Q “President Karzai said yesterday that he believed Iran was playing a helpful role in Afghanistan. Was he able to convince you in your meetings that that was the case, or do you still have concerns about Iran’s role?…
PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that they’re a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force. After all, this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon. This is a government that is in defiance of international accord, a government that seems to be willing to thumb its nose at the international community and, at the same time, a government that denies its people a rightful place in the world and denies its people the ability to realize their full potential.
So I believe that it’s in the interests of all of us that we have an Iran that tries to stabilize, not destabilize; an Iran that gives up its weapons ambitions. And therefore, we’re working to that end. The President knows best about what’s taking place in his country, and of course, I’m willing to listen. But from my perspective, the burden of proof is on the Iranian government to show us that they’re a positive force.”
In other words, for the Bush Administration, the Iranians must prove a negative, that they’re not up to “no good” in Afghanistan – never mind what an otherwise close American ally like Karzai has to say on the matter.
While he was at it, Bush threw in a bone for the “regime change” crowd:
“And I must tell you that this current leadership… is a big disappointment to the people of Iran. The people of Iran could be doing a lot better than they are today. “
Another clarion call from the black kettle to the pot…. Such rhetorical bombast helped Iran’s President Ahmadinejad get elected in the first place. But no matter.
Not seriously interested in inconvenient evidence to the contrary, President Bush retreats to the all-too-familiar neocon script on Iran:
“But because of the actions of this government, this country is isolated. And we will continue to work to isolate it, because they’re not a force for good, as far as we can see. They’re a destabilizing influence wherever they are.”