Once an ally, always an ally?
One of the weaknesses of American diplomacy is that once we support a governing regime, we stand by that declaration, regardless of what the future may reveal. The dictator may turn out to be more sinner than saint, or the regime a bloody, repressive burden on its people, not the fledgling democracy they promised and we believed would result. We never allow ourselves the luxury of changing our minds, backing away from someone that weíve supported in the past. The diplomatic theory is that changing our minds, even if for good reason, would make the U.S. seem arbitrary and capricious, and would undermine the confidence of our allies in a firm, decisive United States.Iran is a case in point. Presidents from Eisenhower to Carter declared their unwavering support for the ruling family and the Shah of Iran, though every American diplomat knew that the ruling family was an oppressive dictatorship and the Shah the worst kind of tin horn dictator who ordered death on a daily basis. When the Shah was overthrown, dozens of U.S. diplomats and Marines spent 444 days as hostages both of the new government, and of a serious flaw in U.S. diplomatic approach.
The corollary to America’s diplomatic approach of “friends forever” is “enemies never.” Most dictatorial regimes, those we put in power over the years and those we had not, we were willing to embrace as friends if they took some small steps towards democracy for their people, or tempered from time to time their vocal hatred of America, or did things in dark alleys that we would not do but wanted done. America has always tried to be buddies with every nation, even those nations that didnít want us as friends under any circumstances. Cuba and Castro was one, Iran and the ayatollahs, another. Iran was one of the first states to make the U.S. list of states that supported terrorism and violence against civilians. Most recently, Iran’s embrace of terrorists earned it the highest (lowest) possible honor, designation as a part of a world “Axis of Evil.”But Iran has gone further, snubbing all efforts at international accountability for its nuclear program and, in a direct threat to America’s economy, taking steps to organize a new market for nations to buy and sell oil, a market not controlled by U.S. companies. To this new oil bourse, Iran pledged its enormous oil production where nations could pay not in U.S. dollars, but in euros. The dollar draws considerable strength in international currency markets since nearly three quarters of all the oil sold worldwide must be paid for in U.S. dollars. If Europe and Russia can pay and be paid in euros, the already weak dollar will decline even further, although how far is anyone’s guess.
But after months of quietly talking military action to eliminate the Iran nuclear threat, the U.S. has reversed itself and will instead actually help Iran with its supposedly non-offensive, civilian power nuclear program. That seems startling, as the Iranians have made no move to renounce terrorism, much less back away from decades of material support for terrorism. Indeed, Iran’s belligerency has reached unnerving levels as it seeks to “wipe off the map” America’s strongest ally in the region, Israel, a case study in the weakness of America’s “friends forever” policies. But why is the U.S. giving aid to one of its enemies in the war on terror? First, it should come as no surprise that the strongest support for aid and detente with Iran has come from the Vice President on behalf of Haliburton, virtually the only company to ignore U.S. law and do business, big business, in a terrorist nation like Iran. Second, to succeed, the Iranian oil bourse needs more than Iranian oil, it needs Russian oil. But by helping Iran, the U.S. has convinced Iran’s best friend, Mother Russia, not to put its oil in the bourse
And what of Israel? Won’t they launch air strikes to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat as they did in 1982 to take out a similar threat from Iraq? Their sole source for oil is Russia, and America’s nuclear reversal, by keeping Russian oil in dollar-denominated markets, will keep the Israeli economy stable. Our helping Iran with nuclear technology is not a policy reversal, it’s a pure expression of “friends forever, and enemies never.”Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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