CNN anchor Farid Zakaria's trip to Tehran, his soft interview with Ahmadinejad, his friendly article about the Iranian regime and his advice to US administration to seek coexistence with the Mullahs have shocked many in the Iranian American community.
But Zakaria has just mimicked other pro-engagement pundits who had travelled to Tehran, painted a rosy picture of the social and economic life in Iran, discovered that the regime has popular support, the nuclear program is supported by the majority of Iranians, the sanctions are futile, the people blame the hardship of sanctions on the US and finally, someone in the regime is ready to reach a deal with the US.
While in Tehran, Zakaria discovered that Ahmadinejad is a pragmatist and moderate politician whom US should consider as a genuine interlocutor:
"Within the context of Iranian politics, Ahmadinejad is the pragmatist. He has been trying to clip the wings of the clergy. His chief of staff has openly mused about having better relations with Israel. And over the years Ahmadinejad has made several moves on the nuclear front that, while imperfect, are serious opening bids for a negotiation."
Zakaria affirms that the Iranians view Ahmadinejad as a moderate:
"The talk of the people I met with - the political charter - was of the rift between President Ahmadinjad and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameni. Now what is hard for most westerners to understand is that in this debate, in Iran, Ahmadinejad is the moderate. He has been trying to clip the wings of the clergy; he has advocated loosening up some of the restrictions on women, allowing them to attend football games, for example; he speaks of Iran's pres-Islamic past with pride - something that is anathema to the clergy."
Zakaria's week long show ended with a déjà- vu advice to US administration to abandon pressure against the regime and seek coexistence with the Mullahs:
"What is our goal? Is it to overthrow the Iranian regime? Is it to make it cry uncle and give up its nuclear program?... Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold."
Although Zakaria's week long media blitz seems futile and outrageous, it should be interpreted as a campaign by special interest groups that try to influence US policy with Iran and prevent harsher sanctions against the Mullahs.
Tehran's terrorist plot, its efforts to highjack the Arab spring, its dangerous drive to acquire nuclear weapon and its predictable push to dominate Iraq after US will oblige the US administration to adopt a harsh and firm position toward Tehran. Eventually, the sanction of Iranian Central Bank and oil seems the next step to pressure Tehran.
This prospect frightens the pro-appeasement circles in Washington and on top of them the big oil corporations. Zakaria's show was simply about business.