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What makes this man tick? … Arrogance and some history.



Le Figaro, France

Why One Need Not

Despair Over Iran …


"The Persians will need to overcome their tendency for arrogance, a character trait that once saw King Xerxes whip the waters of the Dardanelles as punishment for the storm that had destroyed his navy."


By Alexandre Adler



Translated By Mike Goeden


September 22, 2007


France - Le Figaro - Original Article (French)

If Bernard Kouchner was right not to talk to the French like children or people nostalgic for the France of former Prime Minister Edouard Daladier  - who's career culminated in the 1938 Munich Agreement [in other words, Kouchner was right not to appease Iran, as was done with the Nazis ] - perhaps he should also have pointed out that this isn't Ancient Troy and there's little reason to fear any new Persian Wars .


No doubt the Iranians tend to get carried away. A great people with a culture thousands of years old, the Persians have had difficulty over the past century understanding how they could have fallen so low, and as a result, are often filled with enthusiasm for seizing on shortcuts for a return to power. This is unlike the wise followers of Kemalism in Turkey, who were quite careful not to provoke Stalin or Churchill [Kemalism is the secularist philosophy of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ].


Instead, the former Shah, Reza Pahlavi, decided to side with Nazi Germany, which could hardly have offered him help. His arrogance cost him his throne and weakened the monarchy until 1953. As for President Mosaddeq [ousted in a U.S.-sponsored coup ], isn't it obvious that by agreeing to discuss modest compensation for British shareholders, he would have split the Anglo-Saxon front and most likely benefited from the goodwill of the Americans, who only reluctantly followed Churchill's hard line?


[Editor's Note: In 1953, it was Britain under Winston Churchill who pushed the United States into toppling Iran's democratically elected President, Mohammad Mosaddeq. The Brits were angry that Mosaddeq had nationalized the Iranian assets of British Petroleum, and they wanted to see a return of the Shah to reverse that decision. Washington obliged ].


Finally, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the last shah, also got carried away when in 1973 with the help of his Venezuelan allies, he succeeded in transforming a small, whimsical [oil] strike by the humiliated Saudi Arabians into a true hostage taking – only this time with economic hostages - thus disrupting the entire Western economy. [The 1973 Arab Oil crisis ]. No one in Paris, London or Washington had forgotten this theft of the century - pompously called the "first oil crisis" - during which Islamic fundamentalist demonstrations began to undermine the Shah's regime. Most Westerners at the time held the opinion that Iran would benefit from a lesson in domestic democracy.


And now we have the mullahs demonstrating their usual arrogance, concluding too quickly that American difficulties in the Middle East are so great as to prevent them from taking armed action to prevent Iranians from becoming a nuclear power.


This attitude is all the more ridiculous as it rests on an almost-exact analysis. But, just as the devil is in the details, this "almost" makes all the difference. In 1952, Mosaddeq was right to think that the West, including Great Britain, would eventually accept the nationalization of Iranian oil, just as America under Roosevelt had resigned itself to the nationalization of Mexican oil in 1936 . But he failed to remember that Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas had provided Washington the prospect of a solid alliance based on shared anti-fascist values, in particular the defense of the Spanish Republic [the Spanish Civil War ].


Mosaddeq, who could have played the democracy card of Nehru's non-aligned movement , proved so determined that the need to inflict political damage on him exceeded the stakes over oil. Even from Stalin's point of view, nascent Iranian nationalism had to be prevented from becoming, in its turn, a cause for concern.


It's true that today, the Western world is willing to tolerate important exceptions to the principle of nonproliferation. The Bush Administration has thus closed its eyes to India's nuclear program to secure the political-strategic favors of New Delhi. And with this intention it became necessary for the U.S. to close its eyes to Pakistan's nuclear program - once Musharraf had somewhat restrained his nuclear ambitions. "Why," certain Iranian leaders ask in good faith, "wouldn't the West tolerate a limited Iranian nuclear program that everyone knows would offer a balance to the Saudi Arabian-Pakistani nuclear program, rather than represent any real threat to the existence of Israel?"


The answer to this question is simple. To arrive at a compromise, Teheran must find the words and gestures to reassure its negotiating partners. Without a doubt, the provocative steps taken by Ahmadinejad have been aimed at preventing any such compromise, so as to allow for a harder line from the regime. This is the primary goal of its most fundamentalist wing.


But now the situation is in flux. Everyone understands that at the end of the Bush presidency, the United States will start to withdraw from Iraq, even if the civil war hasn't been contained. And here in a trick of history, America's relative impotence is transformed into a strength: No Iranian government can choose to abandon the Shiites in Iraq to their fate. That means that the Americans must remain on the spot for a while longer.


To arrive at a minimal agreement, Teheran needs to make a number of major concessions, after which a long and complex bargaining process could begin during which nonproliferation would be formally reaffirmed and Iran's right to a nuclear arsenal would be established in a not-necessarily remote future. Still, in order to do that, the Persians will need to overcome their tendency for arrogance, a character trait that once saw the Achaemenid King, Xerxes , whip the waters of the Dardanelles as punishment for the storm that had destroyed his navy.



Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives for a speech and to answer questions at Columbia University in New York, Sept. 24.

—C-SPAN VIDEO: Iranian President Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University, 01:21:20, Sept. 24WindowsVideo