Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bush, German Leader Discuss Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 11, 2008 - President Bush today thanked the German people for their help in Afghanistan and Iraq, following discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Meseberg, Germany. Bush thanked the German people for their efforts in Afghanistan, and he noted that the deployment is not popular in their country.

"I hope when the Afghanistan debates go forward, people here think of young girls who couldn't go to school in the past but now can, or think of mothers who bring their babies to health clinics for the first time, [or] think about farmers who now have got access to markets to help deal with food shortages," Bush said. "This is hard work -- I understand that -- to help a young democracy grow after years of tyranny. But I believe it's necessary work."

Bush also thanked Germany for contributions to Iraq. "This has obviously been a contentious issue between our countries in the past, but what shouldn't be contentious is the mutual desire to help advance freedom in the Middle East as the great alternative to the ideology of the haters and the murderers -- those who espouse violent extremism to advance their agenda," the president said.

Bush told reporters that the United States will forge a strategic agreement with Iraq.

"I strongly support the agreement, because I think it helps send a clear message to the people of Iraq that [the] security you're now seeing will continue," Bush said. "One of the lessons of Iraq is that, in order for a democracy to develop or in order for an economy to develop, there has to be a measure of
security, which is now happening. So I think we'll get the agreement done."

The president reiterated that the agreement will not involve permanent U.S. bases, nor will it bind any future administration to troop levels.

Bush said Iraqi
leaders appreciate U.S. presence in the country, and that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "understands that we're returning on success."

"As the situation merits and the situation improves, we're bringing our troops home," the president said.

Bush and Merkel also talked about the Middle East and the problem that Iran's push for nuclear weapons poses for the world.

Merkel said the
leaders discussed the "offers we put on the table to Iran, but also the fact that if Iran does not meet its commitments, then further sanctions will simply have to follow." The chancellor said Germany wants to leave room for a diplomatic solution with Iran.

Bush said he also wants a diplomatic solution with Iran, but refused to take any options off the table. The president said he wants the United States and the European Union to work closely together on Iran. The message to
leaders in Tehran, he said, is that if they verifiably suspend the uranium enrichment programs, they will end their isolation. "Obviously, we want to solve this issue peacefully, and so we'll give diplomacy a chance to work," he added.

But Iran has so far disregarded that message. "It's a bad choice for the Iranian people," the president continued. "The Iranian people deserve better than being isolated from the world."

They also deserve better than having their government regarded as "unsafe and not trustworthy," he said.

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

President Bush's comments sound very amicable, but his foreign policy is far from it. Prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran, in which the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, the United states was a strategic ally of Iran; the US and Iran shared close economic and military ties. The US also sold light-water nuclear reactors to Iran in the 1950s as part of the “Atoms for Peace” plan instituted by Eisenhower (Thomas, 2004). But obviously, that relationship changed dramatically in 1979 with the overthrow of the Shah.

Ziba Moshaver (2003:286-91) identifies three phases in Iran’s foreign policy. The first began in 1979 with the Ayatollah Khomeini and the emergence of Iran as an Islamic theocracy. This phase adhered to the slogan “Neither West nor East but only the Islamic Republic,” which was actually incorporated into the Constitution of December 1979. Khomeini sought to expand Islamic Iran without territorial bounds, to come to the aid of the world’s oppressed, and to “uproot” the three evils of Zionism, communism and capitalism. Most of all, the first phase saw the emergence of staunch anti-American views in Iran, demonstrated by riots, protests and the November 1979 hostage situation. The foreign policy of this period was dramatically different than it had been just prior to the 1979 Revolution: Iran’s close relationship with the US turned very sour, Iran began to support militant Islamic groups, and Iran’s pro-West position turned into a pro-Islamic one. The resulting sanctions and shifting alliances greatly impacted Iran both immediately in the Iran/Iraq war, and in the decades to follow.

Moshaver says that the second phase, between 1989 and 1997, marked the post-war reconstruction efforts under President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait provided an open door for Iran to “re-establish diplomatic ties with countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia among others,” as Iraq had now “replaced Iran as the immediate threat to security” in the region. The invasion also created an opportunity for Iran to improve its ties with Europe. Economically, Iran’s prospects were less than promising. President Rafsanjani introduced the First Five Year Economic Plan in 1989, attempting to stimulate economic growth. But despite all its efforts, by 1991 Iran’s economy had only reached its 1977 GDP. With population growth factored in, Iran’s per-capita income was down by 50%. Iran’s relations with the US also suffered. While the Clinton administration remained open to diplomatic engagement with Iran, the US refused to end sanctions without Iran’s agreement to end its pursuit of WMD, support of terrorism, and open opposition to Israel. The US also blocked “Iran’s access to international financial institutions, and put pressure on Europe, Russia and others to sever ties with Iran.”

According to Moshaver, the third phase began in 1997 and is associated with former president Khatami and his political and socio-economic reform efforts. Many young people and particularly young women were extremely unhappy with the political and economic situation in Iran as the presidential election in 1997 grew near. Since Rafsanjani could not run for a third term, and the Council of Guardians felt the popular pressure for change from below, one of three candidates they approved was Mohammad Khatami, a former minister of Rafsanjani’s cabinet (first term) who had resigned due to Rafsanjani’s “restrictive cultural policies.” Khatami won just under 70 percent of the popular vote in his first run for president, and an even greater majority in his second four years later. Needless to say, Iran’s relations with the EU, already improved during the Rafsanjani administration, improved substantially under Khatami.

Moshaver (2003:301) argues that this visible reform in Iran is less a result of popular democracy and EU support than it is the non-elected elite’s decision to “withdraw their control over the political, economic and socio-political arenas.” While many among the EU argue that increased engagement with Iran could only direct Iran down the path of further reform, particularly on issues such as the Israel/Palestinian conflict, WMD and support of terrorists, Moshaver reminds us that the EU-Iran relationship continues to be a replacement for the pre-revolutionary ties that Iran had with the US. This thriving reform could well be in great danger given the Bush administration’s passion for regime change and its clear targeting of Iran as a rogue state.

The European Union, Russi, China, all want to engage Iran, trade with Iran, and invest in Iran. The US unilateral position is very much alone in the world. While Fareed Zakaria agrees that there is no reason not to use sanctions and embargoes against states such as Iran, he suggests that we also need to “allow a viable way out.” That is to say, we need to negotiate and not merely mandate.

Cliff Kupchan essentially agrees. While he acknowledges that President Bush has definitely strained the relationship between Washington and Tehran, he points out that Iran “did agree to suspend enrichment for two years.” Kupchan suggests that there may be more than one way of dealing with Iran.

Joel Rosenthal suggests that Ahmadinejad is using the Bush administration’s threats to “rally nationalist sentiment” and take the Iranian people’s focus off domestic problems such as corruption and unemployment. Rosenthal suggests that it’s time the United States allows democracy to change the Iranian regime from the inside. “The United States will have to be much less confrontational” Rosenthal insists, and adds that the “United States wants regime change but may well have to accept that democracy gives people the option to change regimes, but does not mandate such a change.”

Richard Betts calls for a calm and clear-headed response to Iran. He reminds us that for all of Iran’s meddling in Iraq, it was Bush that handed Iran an entrance into Iraq. And while we faced a much bigger threat from Mao Zedong in the 1970s, who claimed that China could withstand the loss of hundreds of millions in a nuclear confrontation and still come out standing due to its large population, Betts points out that we’ve “yet to hear anything that chilling from Ahmadinejad.” Betts claims that anyone “who beats the drum for war against Iran fits the classic definition of a fanatic.”