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PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
Dubai: Home Base For Cold
War against Iran
Surely the Bush administration wants to help Dubai for lots of reasons.
“Follow the money” is always a useful rule in such cases. But there is another
piece of the puzzle that may prove more important in the long run.
According to the Washington Post, Undersecretary of
State Nicholas Burns recently said that the State Department will “add staff in
Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, as well as other embassies in the
vicinity of Iran, all assigned to watch Tehran. He called the new Dubai outpost
the ‘21st century equivalent’ of the Riga station in Latvia that monitored the
Soviet Union in the 1930s when the United States had no embassy in Moscow.”
station was far more than a listening post, as Burns knows very well. It was
where George Kennan and a group of U.S.
diplomats laid the seeds of the ideology that would drive the U.S. cold war
effort for four decades.
In a March 3 briefing, spokesman Adam Ereli announced that “the State Department will be
establishing a department of Iranian affairs. We have also created a number of
new positions in the field -- for Foreign Service officers to work on
Iran-related issues.” These new officers will be trained Farsi-speakers placed
in strategic capitals. Such as? You guessed it: “Dubai will be the site of
some,” Ereli said.
"The logic of putting people out in the field,” Ereli continued, is “to use the language, to develop the
on-the-ground expertise so that 10, 15, 20 years from now, we've got - just
like we have Arab experts ... we used to have Soviet experts - we've got a
cadre of Iran experts." To explain how it would work, Ereli
chose (at random?) an analogy: “We've got programs in Russia, we've got money we spend with Russia, we've got exchanges with Russia, so you
need people to run those programs, interact with NGOs and others. We're
going to be doing the same thing with Iran.”
None of this is supposed to be secret. Burns and Ereli tell reporters only what they—and their boss, Condoleeza Rice—want the world to hear. Now they want the
world to hear that the U.S.
is gearing up for a new cold war, with the Iranian theocrats playing the role
of the commies and Russkies. Indeed, BBC reporter Paul Reynolds claims that Rice herself
is leading the charge for a new cold war against Iran. “How long Washington
might wait over Iran
is not at all clear,” Reynolds comments. “After all, it took 50 years for
the Soviet Union to fall.”
This could all be just a big bluff, another set of
maneuvers in the war of words aimed at stopping any Iranian efforts toward
nuclear weapons. But it seems more likely that it works the other way around.
As with Iraq, the supposed drive to head off Iran’s nukes is just an excuse for
the real goal, which is, according to the Post’s sources, “regime change”: “The
internal administration debate that raged in the first term between those who
advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation
appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter.
Although administration officials do not use the term ‘regime change’ in
public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance
to the theocracy.”
When Vice-President Dick Cheney spoke to the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee, the New York Times reported, he “used blunt
language that seemed to hint of military action or possibly the overthrow of
the government in Tehran,
though he mentioned neither option explicitly.” Again, no
secrets. As with Iraq,
the administration is telling the world clearly, well in advance, what it plans
But the plan for regime change in Iran is not just a future fantasy.
It’s already underway. As the Times article noted, Cheney has “promoted a drive
to bring Iranian scholars and students to America, blanket the country with
radio and television broadcasts and support Iranian political dissidents. That
$85 million State Department program is being overseen by Elizabeth Cheney, a
principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who is
also the vice president's daughter.”
And where is much of the money being spent? You
guessed it again: Dubai.
According to the Asia Times, unnamed American-based
groups, with unknown sources of funding, are bringing Iranian “dissidents” to Dubai for training in the
arts of regime change. The trainers are largely drawn from the ranks of Otpor, the Serbian movement that overthrew the late
Slobodan Milosovec. But an Iranian who attended one
of these training sessions also referred to “Americans who appeared to
supervise the course and whose affiliation remained unclear throughout.”
Though the White House was surely unhappy about the
political beating it took over the Dubai
ports deal, it may have seen a silver lining in the cloud. With the media
obsessed about those “terrifying A-rabs” running our
ports, no one is paying much attention to these truly terrifying plans for a
new cold war. Karl Rove admits very plainly that the Republicans need a
“national security threat” to keep control of Congress this year. No doubt he
and other GOP strategists see the ’08 presidential election the same way.
is useless as an issue for them. Al Qaeda and the generic “war on terrorism”
are proving pretty thin stuff, too. But Iran is an enemy that’s got it all:
big country, strategically located, nuclear technology, ruled by strict
conservative Muslims. Neoconservatives could not ask for a better target to aim
fears and frustrations at for years to come.
There is an emerging wisdom that the neocons are losing influence in the administration while
Rice gains it. Her plan for endless cold war against Iran is supposedly the “soft”
alternative to the hard-line neocon call for all-out
war. But Rice’s new strategy is rather hard to distinguish from the old line.
After all, it was Rumsfeld and Cheney who said, back
in the fall of 2001, that the war on terror would look more like the cold war
than World War II.
And it was Rice, at the same time, who said publicly that she expected “a period
akin to 1945 to 1947, when American leadership…[created]
a new balance of power that favored freedom.” From 1945 to 1947, the ideas
hatched by Kennan and his friends in Riga were
coming to dominate U.S.
foreign policy. They were pushed hardest by the emerging architect of that
policy, Dean Acheson, who eventually became one of the most influential
Secretaries of State in U.S.
history. Now Rice wants Dubai to become the new Riga. And she,
presumably, will be the new Dean Acheson.
But Condi might want to recall that the old cold war,
which began in Riga, led straight to a place
And old Dean Acheson was among the “wise men” who
ended up telling Lyndon Johnson that he needed to withdraw his forces from Vietnam, because the U.S. couldn’t win. The road that
Rice is starting to build in Dubai
is likely to lead to just as much disaster, or worse.