On March 5th, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US National Security advisor under President Carter testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee elaborating on the U.S. policy toward a nuclear Iran. In his testimony, Brzezinski told the Senate committee that the prospect of a nuclear Iran is not that frightening.
“Brzezinski began by stressing actions that US shouldn't take, to avoid prejudicing the negotiations, arguing against ratcheting up sanctions, threatening the use of force, speaking of regime change and setting deadlines for the negotiations, unless the aim was for the talks to break down and for America to be able to blame that breakdown on Iranian intransigence.”
“We should be very careful not to become susceptible to interested parties" and their policies on Iran, he warned.
He also took issue with Israel's contention that a nuclear-armed Iran would be an "existential threat," and argued that deterrence in the form of extending America's nuclear umbrella to friends in the Middle East should allay Jerusalem's concerns.
The US, Brzezinski maintained, faced more of an existential threat from the Soviet arsenal when he was in the White House, in the 1970s, than Israel did now, and deterrence proved effective in that case” (AP and Jerusalem Post)1
Considering Brzezinski’s influence in Washington and the impact of his views on Obama’s administration, his remarks merit thorough examination. His past views and judgments on Iran have always had three characteristics: Passing of time have proved them wrong; they profited the Iranian Mullahs; And finally, once his judgments were translated into policy, generations of people in the region have had to pay a heavy price to repair the damage.
His March testimony could be a signal that once again at a crucial turning point for the US policy toward Iran, Brzezinski have largely contributed to a false judgment about the Iranian regime with catastrophic consequences. His new position is the continuation of the wrong step taken 30 years ago.
In late 1970s, the Shah of Iran was facing a popular revolt and at the same time, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. These two events marked the beginning of Brzezinski’s print on the region. Obsessed by the “Soviet threat” he became the architect of US policy to support the Islamic fundamentalism and the support of the Iranian Mullahs.
“On December 26, 1979, immediately following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Brzezinski sent a memo to President Jimmy Carter urging an increase in US support for the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels. Providing that support, Brzezinski argued, would require Pakistan’s assistance. And gaining Islamabad’s cooperation, Brzezinski wrote, “will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and, alas, a decision that our security policy toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.” The policy of assisting the Islamic holy warriors in Afghanistan while turning a blind eye to Pakistani nuclear proliferation would have profound repercussions, allowing Islamabad to develop nuclear technology that would later be sold to rogue regimes and state sponsors of terror, while simultaneously fostering an Islamic fundamentalist movement that would eventually give rise to al Qaeda and the Taliban.”2
Regarding the Iranian revolution, Brzezinski’s strategy and its impact was along the same line. Ibrahim Yazdi who was Khomeini’s confidant and his foreign minister could not be clearer about US policy to support the Iranian Mullahs:3
“Brzezinski believed that the only force which could bar the communists in Iran was the clergy. They could fill the vacuum of power after the Shah’s departure and prevent the communists take over. The US believed that the Iranian nationalists and liberals were weak and could be overthrown by communists. This led to US support of Khomeini.”
For the past thirty years, a group of foreign policy experts, on top of them Brzezinski have downplayed the Mullahs’ threat and argued that the US and international community have no reason to adopt harsh policies toward Iran. According to them, a pragmatist leader will eventually emerge in Tehran who will accommodate international norms and resolve all concerns.
This illusionary search for pragmatic leaders reached its summit in 2004 when Brzezinski came forward and once again negatively influenced US policy toward Iran. In July 2004, the Council on Foreign Relations released its Task Force Report on Iran. This report co-signed by Brzezinski and Robert Gates, was released at a time, when many Iranian analysts correctly qualified as a turning point in the life of the Islamic Republic: The start of a new era, dominated by the radical factions related to the Revolutionary Guards. Ahmadinejad’s presidency a year later was a clear illustration of this new situation.
Not only the CFR report did not mention anything about this element, it surprisingly discovered an “ascending pragmatic faction” in Iran:4
“Iran is experiencing a gradual process of internal change that will slowly but surely produce a government more responsive toward its citizens’ wishes and more responsible in its approach to the international community.” (page13)
“ …. the pragmatists who appear to be ascendant in Tehran ...” (page19)
“…. Some conservatives appear to favor a ‘China model’ of reform that maintains political orthodoxy while encouraging market reforms and tolerating expanding civil liberties.” (page 15)
Who else could elaborate on this flagrant misreading of Iranian politics better than Robert Gates? He recently expressed his regret in a speech in Washington:5
“I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years. (Laughter.) … Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed… And of course, in the 2004 or (200)5 study that I co-chaired with Brzezinski for the Council on Foreign Relations with respect to U.S.policy on Iran, given the fact that President Khatami was in power, sounded more moderate -- at least was not making some of the outrageous statements that Ahmadinejad does -- we said, "It's worth reaching out to them."
Now, once again the Iranian regime is at a turning point and is quickly reaching the nuclear threshold. Once again Brzezinski is in the forefront to downplay this threat and demand more generosity toward the Iranian Mullahs. The joyful reaction of Iranian regime’s newspaper to his testimony from one part and his record of misjudgment about Iran with catastrophic consequences from the other part is simply an awakening call for both Iranian and American people.
Hassan Daoleslam is an independent Iran Analyst and writer. He is well published in Farsi and English and has appeared as an expert guest in the Voice of America-TV as well as other Persian media. His website is at http://english.iranianlobby.com/
Kayvan Kaboli is a member of "Progressive American-Iranian Committee" (PAIC). He has been a political activist for 30 years with particular interest in environmental and peace issues. http://www.iranian-americans.com/
1- Jerusalem Post, March 6, 2009 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1236269357602&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
2- America and Islamic bomb at: http://www.islamicbomb.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=39 )
3- Nameh magazine, tehran 3oth edition June 2004
4- Iran: Time for a New Approach. Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Gates, Co-Chairs, Suzanne Maloney, Project Director, http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Iran_TF.pdf. )
Speech by Robert Gates, September 29, 2008 http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4295