A Grave View of US-Iran Relations

In some countries, mine included, today is remembered as “Veterans’ Day” or “Armistice Day.” Juan Cole sensibly wrote earlier today that “The most patriotic way to honor future veterans of foreign wars is not to create any unnecessarily.”
Fellow “Wahoo” and good friend Barin Kayaoglu, writing in the Turkish Weekly, goes a step deeper in considering the state of US-Iran nuclear negotiations.
Barin neatly anticipates the standard arguments from partisans on both sides, accusations of intransigence vs. bullying, terrorism vs. imperialism, then arguments over what to do, of all the reasons to be hard-headed, to fight the “necessary war.”
Barin trumps such verbal combat by considering the stakes from a very different vantage point, that of the grave. He takes us to the two sprawling national cemeteries of America and Iran, Arlington and Behesht-e Zahra. I’ve been to both; somber places where the two nations, where families, mourn their losses, the lives cut short. Barin concludes:

“The graves of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters at these places are somber reminders of the real price of war.
So before Iranian and American policy-makers make up their mind about the next step, it would be humane for them to spend some time at Behesht-e Zahra and Arlington. Nothing can bring back the dead. But there is no good reason to start another Middle East war that would create new ones.”

Well said Barin. Amen.

22 thoughts on “A Grave View of US-Iran Relations

  1. Titus

    And beyond the cheap imagery how does mister Harrop suggest that Iranian relations should be mended? Does it involve us abandoning capitalism, maybe becoming an islamic republic, or somehow adopting their subhuman values?
    Graves are somber and so are Iranian jails for three US backpackers. Does the poster have no voice for them and the suffering they and their families are going through at the hands of the clerics?

  2. Howard

    Actually, I would generalize that last paragraph. I’m just kind of pulling these ideas out of a hat. I haven’t given them a lot of deep thought at this point. Suggestions are welcome.
    Whenever a commander in chief (be s/he president or prime minister or whatever) takes office in a country or region, s/he should visit the country’s primary military cemetery and, after spending time among the fallen and talking to some grieving families, s/he must make a Promise to the Families (or let’s make this more personal – say, a Promise to the Mothers) that:
    * S/he will only go to war as an absolute last resort, after first moving heaven and earth, for an extended period, to resolve a conflict through diplomatic means and non-violent means.
    * S/he will never go to war for the sake of special interests or for economic gain.
    * S/he will never go to war for the sake of vanity, revenge or hatred.
    * S/he will never go to war for the sake of a difference of religion or ideology.
    * S/he will never go to war for personal or political gain.
    * S/he will never go to war to silence the voices of non-violent opponents.
    * S/he will never go to war with a state that is not attacking another state (state sponsorship of active terrorist groups, or refusal to prevent them from operating from within the state’s territory, voids this provision).
    S/he should openly state that while s/he honors the martyrs and war dead, their deaths are not “glorious,” but rather *tragic*, and that s/he will do everything possible to ensure peace and avoid war.
    And then the people should hold their leaders to account.
    I believe that there are situations when a country must send its young people to fight. But most of the world’s conflicts have been unnecessary, and the countless people who died in those wars are a rebuke to all of us.
    “Nothing can bring back the dead.”

  3. Joe McCain

    There is a lot of worry popping up in the media just now — ‘Can Israel
    Survive?’ Don’t worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians,
    the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don’t realize — the Jews are never
    going quietly again. Never. And if the world doesn’t come to understand
    that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It’s as simple as that.
    Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of
    people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II,
    but for thousands of years. They have truly been ‘The Chosen People’ in a
    terrible and tragic sense.
    The Bible story of Egypt ‘s enslavement of the Jews is not just a story, it
    is history, if festooned with theological legend and heroic epics. In 70
    A.D. the Romans, which had for a long time tolerated the Jews — even
    admired them as ‘superior’ to other vassals — tired of their truculent
    demands for independence and decided on an early ‘Solution’ to the Jewish
    problem. Jerusalem was sacked and reduced to near rubble, Jewish resistance
    was pursued and crushed by the implacable Roman War Machine — see ‘ Masada’. And thus began The Diaspora, the dispersal of Jews throughout the rest of the world.
    Their homeland destroyed, their culture crushed, they looked desperately for
    the few niches in a hostile world where they could be safe. That safety was
    fragile, and often subject to the whims of moody hos ts. The words ‘pogrom’,
    ‘ghetto’, and ‘anti-Semitism’ come from this treatment of the first
    mono-theistic people. Throughout Europe , changing times meant sometimes
    tolerance, sometimes even warmth for the Jews, but eventually it meant
    hostility, then malevolence. There is not a country in Europe or Western
    Asia that at one time or another has not decided to lash out against the
    children of Moses, sometimes by whim, sometimes by manipulation.
    Winston Churchill calls Edward I one of England ‘s very greatest kings. It
    was under his rule in the late 1200’s that Wales and Cornwall were hammered
    into the British crown, and Scotland and Ireland were invaded and occupied.
    He was also the first European monarch to set up a really effective
    administrative bureaucracy, surveyed and censused his kingdom, established
    laws and political divisions. But he also embraced the Jews.
    Actually Edward didn’t embrace Jews so much as he embraced their money. For
    the English Jews had acquired wealth — understandable, because this people
    that could not own land or office, could not join most of the trades and
    professions, soon found out that money was a very good thing to accumulate.
    Much harder to take away than land or a store, was a hidden sock of gold and
    silver coins. Ever resourceful, Edward found a way — he borrowed money from
    the Jews to finance imperial ambitions in Europe, especially France . The
    loans were almost certainly not made gladly, but how do you refuse your
    King? Especially when he is ‘Edward the Hammer’. Then, rather than pay back
    the debt, Edward simply expelled the Jews. Edward was especially inventive
    — he did this twice. After a time, he invited the Jews back to their
    English homeland, borrowed more money, then expelled them again.
    Most people do not know that Spain was one of the early entrants into The
    Renaissance. People from all over the world came to Spain in the late
    medieval period. All were welcome — Arabs, Jews, other Europeans. The
    University of Salamanca was one of the great centers of learning in the
    world — scholars of all nations, all fields came to Salamanca to share
    their knowledge and their ideas. But in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, having
    driven the last of Moors from the Spanish Shield, were persuaded by the
    righteous fundamentalists of the time to announce ‘The Act of Purification’.
    A series of steps were taken in which all Jews and Arabs and other
    non-Christians were expelled from the country, or would face the tools and
    the torches of The Inquisition. From this ‘cleansing’ come the Sephardic
    Jews — as opposed to the Ashkenazis of Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe ,
    the sporadic violence and brutality against Jews are common knowledge.
    ‘Fiddler’ without the music and the folksy humor. At times of fury, no
    accommodation by the Jew was good enough, no profile low enough, no village
    poor enough or distant enough.
    From these come the near-steady flow of Jews to the United States . And
    despite the disdain of the Jews by most ‘American’ Americans, they came to
    grab the American Dream with both hands, and contributed everything from new
    ideas of enterprise in retail and entertainment to becoming some of our
    finest physicians and lawyers. The modern United States , in spite of itself,
    IS The United States in part because of its Jewish blood.
    Then the Nazi Holocaust — the corralling, sorting, orderly eradication of
    millions of the people of Moses. Not something that other realms in other
    times didn’t try to do, by the way, the Germans were just more organized and
    had better murder technology.
    I stood in the center of Dachau for an entire day, about 15 years ago,
    trying to comprehend how this could have happened. I had gone there on a
    side trip from Munich , vaguely curious about this Dachau . I soon became
    engulfed in the enormity of what had occurred there nestled in this middle
    and working class neighborhood.
    How could human beings do this to other human beings, hear their cries,
    their pleas, their terror, their pain, and continue without apparently even
    wincing? I no longer wonder. At some times, some places, ANY sect of the
    human race is capable of horrors against their fellow man, whether a member
    of the Waffen SS, a Serbian sniper, a Turkish policeman in 1920’s Armenia , a
    Mississippi Klansman. Because even in the United States not all was a Rose
    Garden. For a long time Jews had quotas in our universities and graduate
    schools. Only so many Jews could be in a medical or law school at one time.
    Jews were disparaged widely. I remember as a kid Jewish jokes
    told without a wince – ‘Why do Jews have such big noses?’
    Well, now the Jews have a homeland again. A place that is theirs. And that’s
    the point. It doesn’t matter how many times the United States and European
    powers try to rein in Israel , if it comes down to survival of its nation,
    its people, they will fight like no lioness has ever fought to save her
    cubs. They will fight with a ferocity, a determination, and a skill, that
    will astound us.
    And many will die, mostly their attackers, I believe. If there were a
    macabre historical betting parlor, my money would be on the Israelis to be
    standing at the end. As we killed the kamikazes and the Wehrmacht soldaten
    of World War II, so will the Israelis kill their suicidal attackers, until
    there are not enough to torment them.
    The irony goes unnoticed — while we are hammering away to punish those who
    brought the horrors of last September here, we restrain the Israelis from
    the same retaliation. Not the same thing, of course — We are We, They are
    They. While we mourn and seethe at September 11th, we don’t notice that
    Israel has a September 11th sometimes every day.
    We may not notice, but it doesn’t make any difference. And it doesn’t make
    any difference whether you are pro-Israeli or you think Israel is the bully
    of the Middle East . If it comes to where a new holocaust looms — with or
    without the concurrence of the United States and Europe — Israel will lash
    out without pause or restraint at those who would try to annihilate their
    country.
    The Jews will not go quietly again.

  4. Pirouz

    Scott, you’ve been to Behesht-e Zahra? That’s impressive. I’m surprised by so many of us Iranian-Americans who don’t even bother to go there when they visit Iran.
    I’m actually half-American. On my American mother’s side of the family, a great many of us have been US combat soldiers, sailors and marines. Our family has served in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and now my little nephew serves in the USMC. There are three Purple Hearts in the family, one of them posthumous.
    That said, I’ve a perspective from both the US military and Iranian military. I can tell you that from the Iranian side, there is no “bully” instinct for foreign war. Rather, there is the patriotic zeal of defending the “meehan”.
    On the American side, I’m afraid to say that offensive war seems to be sold as a way of life, where national interest knows no boundary. Even so, I do not in any way diminish the US military contributions of my family, of which there are many. I’d just like to see the immediate and foreseeable need for more of such to be reduced substantially. Nil would be even better.

  5. Clement Fong

    I can tell you that from the Iranian side, there is no “bully” instinct for foreign war. Rather, there is the patriotic zeal of defending the “meehan”….does the meehan include the Iranian provinces of Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Venezuela?

  6. Shirin

    I’d just like to see the immediate and foreseeable need [for military ‘contributions’]…
    What need? When was the last time the U.S. military was used to actually defend the country? When was the last time the U.S. military was used for anything but aggression?

  7. Salah

    .does the meehan include the Iranian provinces of Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Venezuela?
    Add three Island , Bahrain, lastly Iranian Foreign Minister threat Saudis for their operation against terrorist rabbles, just like Iran targeting their terrorists inside Iran?
    Where Iranian foreign minister from Iran fiddling, killing inside Iraq?
    Just Bold hypocrisy and convenient lies.

  8. Howard

    I have to agree with Salah on this one.
    While millions of Iranian people do not share the IRI’s agenda or methods, members of the IRGC and the IRI political establishment have ABSOLUTELY been responsible for stoking conflict in the region, from Yemen to Lebanon and the PA, in the service of ideology and special interests.
    It is also true that Iranian leaders have periodically laid claim to Bahrain, that Iran claims the Tunb islands (and periodically makes aggressive gestures, and has rejected a number of attempts to seek a settlement), that the IRI and its proxies have actively supported attempts to violently seize control of Arab governments (most recently in Gaza and Lebanon), and that the IRI’s clients include some of the bloodiest terrorist organizations operating in Iraq today.
    The IRI pursues terrorism and warfare by non-state actors as a matter of explicit state policy. Such policies are inherently destabilizing to the region.
    The reasons why the Gulf countries have historically felt the need for foreign military assistance are Iran and Iraq, and with Iraq in no shape to attack its neighbors, these countries primarily feel threatened by Iran. The Saudis don’t spend money on advanced fighter jets for fun, and Qatar doesn’t host US military bases because it likes American soldiers. These countries have very legitimate security concerns.
    All of this is not to say that Iran has no right to defend itself, or that Iran has no real concerns, or that some Sunni countries don’t abuse their native Shia. But when IRI’s Hezbollah proxies planned to commit terrorist attacks in Egypt, for example, there was no legitimate reason for doing such a thing.

  9. Shirin

    Howard, this blog is owned by someone who is extraordinarily knowledgeable about Hezballah, and I doubt very much that many people here would agree with you that Hezballah are IRI proxies, or anyone else’s proxies for that matter.

  10. Titus

    Half American Pirouz writes:
    “I’m actually half-American. On my American mother’s side of the family, a great many of us have been US combat soldiers, sailors and marines. Our family has served in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and now my little nephew serves in the USMC. There are three Purple Hearts in the family, one of them posthumous.”
    I love the great many of us when he wasn’t there. What about the father side of the family Pirouz? Maybe they wear purple underwear.
    Oh, and major Hasan was even more than half American, except for that koranic disease he contracted.

  11. epppie

    the usual bullshit.
    There is NO reason for war against Iran, apart from Israel’s desire for Greater Irsrael and the US’ desire to split the SCO.
    EVerything else is total, total hogwash.

  12. epppie

    the usual bullshit.
    There is NO reason for war against Iran, apart from Israel’s desire for Greater Irsrael and the US’ desire to split the SCO.
    EVerything else is total, total hogwash. And we all know it.

  13. Shirin

    There is NO reason for war against Iran, apart from Israel’s desire for Greater Irsrael and the US’ desire to split the SCO.
    “Everything else is total, total hogwash. And we all know it.

    Richard Silverstein has put together a conference on Iran next month in Seattle that promises to be very worthwhile. Anyone who is or can be in Seattle at that time should plan to attend and listen to what his very knowledgeable panel has to say. And whether you can attend or not, do use the donation button on his website to help defray the costs of this event.

  14. omop

    It should be more than obvious to anyone after reading Titus’s many vitriolic comments about Islam, Iranians, Arabs that he more than deserves the honor(?) of being addressed in the appropriate and equivalent term as MULLAH TITUS.

  15. Salah

    he more than deserves the honor(?) of being addressed in the appropriate and equivalent term as MULLAH TITUS.
    omop if you excuse me, the most proper name will be an honor to him is Ayatollah TITUS from The Hateful Madrassa

    the United States faces “no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” as the 2006 National Security Strategy put it, this lack of serious attention is astonishing. What does exist is sensationalistic coverage about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and about mad mullahs driven by apocalyptic delusions and a martyr complex. That picture suggests that Iran’s policy consists of a series of random hit-and-run assaults on U.S. interests and that its leaders, being irrational and undeterrable, must be eliminated by force.

    Tehran’s foreign policy has its own strategic logic. Formulated not by mad mullahs but by calculating ayatollahs, it is based on Iran’s ambitions and Tehran’s perception of what threatens them. Tehran’s top priority is the survival of the Islamic Republic as it exists now. Tehran views the United States as an existential threat and to counter it has devised a strategy that rests on both deterrence and competition in the Middle East.

    Understanding Iran’s U.S. Policy
    Mohsen M. Milani
    July/August 2009

  16. Salah

    a French-organized multinational enrichment consortium, was in part owned by Iran.

    “The membership and apportionment of shares in Eurodif has been changeable. Presently, it is constituted by Belgium and Spain 11% each. Italy 25%, France 28% and Sofidif 25%, which is 40% owned by Iran and 60% by France.”

    “In 1975, another consortium called Coredif with the same multinational membership as Eurodif but a different distribution of shares (Eurodif 51%, France 29% and Iran 20%) was organized to assess future nuclear demand and build a second Eurodif-type plant if the study results justified it.”

  17. eurail global pass

    I don’t know why people love to beat the war drum whenever Iran is mentioned. Iran has not attacked nor threatened to attack any of it’s neighbors or the US. The myth about wiping Israel off the map ahs already been debunked and even if a leader said something like that – you don’t take thousands more of your men and women into battle!
    Just like the two existing failed wars, is it really that smart to be thinking about/planning for/speaking about another war?

  18. Salah

    Iran has not attacked nor threatened to attack any of it’s neighbors or the US.
    nor threatened to attack
    Although war is the stupid uncivilized answer to any problem. You should not warp up the call for war and its causes with Iran threatened to attack any of its neighbours, these are totally different matters
    Iran and her neighbours you need to think again with some deepness about Iran fingers, newspapers and some medium level officials. This is the way within Mullah Hierarchy for their tool interfering here and there but no official evidence to put blame on them.
    While they screaming in their recent killing incidents inside Iran and voiced loudly pulling fingers on US & UK but for 7 years they killing Iraqis, or they support Houthi rabbles in Yemen supply weapons and aide to them moreover Iranian foreign minister threaten states because defending her borders.
    Iran still occupied tree Island from Bahrain, now they warning threaten Iraq not to use his own south port in Basra on Arabian Gulf!!
    So you should be truthful when putting your statement her, unless some Persian blood in your vein.

  19. Howard

    Shirin, thank you for your response.
    Suppose that a militant group with a private army operating in one country has the following relationship with the regime of another country:
    1. It rejects the sovereign control of its own national government; sovereignty is, by definition, a monopoly on the use of force and asserts its own right to wage private wars within that territory or from that territory at will.
    2. Its military policy is that of the foreign regime rather than that of the national government, to the point where it is sometimes referred to as an “aircraft carrier” for that foreign regime.
    3. Its foreign policy is that of the foreign regime rather than that of the national government, to the point that it operates out of embassies of the foreign regime rather than those of its own national government.
    4. It does not have a single ally that is not an ally of the foreign regime, or a single enemy that is not also attacked by that regime.
    5. It regards the leader of the foreign regime as the supreme authority, even for internal disputes.
    6. It puts up billboards in its territory showing the leader of the foreign regime.
    7. It censors media under its control to prevent criticism of the foreign regime.
    8. Its funding and arms come from that foreign regime (and/or the regime’s allies).
    9. Its military leader was supplied by the foreign regime and has at least “dotted-line” reporting responsibility to the military of that regime.
    10. Its leader was trained by the foreign regime or lives in the territory of that regime.
    11. It subordinates policy decisions to the leader of the foreign regime and never argues with it in public.
    That sounds like a proxy to me.
    Thus:
    * Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy.
    * Hezbollah is NOT a Syrian proxy.
    * Jumblatt’s PSP is NOT anyone’s proxy.
    * The SSNP is a Syrian proxy. It is relatively narrow in scope, however, so some of these don’t apply.
    * The March 14 movement as a whole is NOT a proxy of the Saudis, France, the US, or anyone else.
    * The SLA, when it existed, was an Israeli proxy, though items like 3 and 6 were missing because it was very narrow in scope.
    By the way, a few matches here and there are not enough to make a group a proxy. E.g. receiving some reconstruction funding from Qatar does not, in and of itself, make HA a Qatari proxy.

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