War wasn’t the most important thing, it was the only thing

April 30, 2007

For Bushco, the only option which is always off the table is peace.

(1) George Tenet’s tell-all book is not the first, but the fourth reliable inside source saying that George W. was hell-bent on invading Iraq from the moment he set foot in the Oval Office. Actually, from some while before that. Juan Cole assembled the references for us yesterday. We’ve heard the same from Paul O’Neill, from Michigan journalist Osama Siblani, and from Mickey Herskowitz, Dubya’s original pick to ghostwrite his campaign biography.

Equally telling is the dog that hasn’t barked. There has never been a single circumstantial account from any insider of any discussion that ever took place in the Badministration of alternative ways to deal with Iraq. Which is to say: his endless lies on the question notwithstanding, Bush’s War never had anything to do with 9/11. The “liberal” media may be expected to obscure the fact, but with Tenet’s testimony it has now become a matter of public record.

(2) As we knew from the PNAC (Project for a New American Century) documents, and from the neocon dictum that “Anyone can go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran,” Syria and Iran were intended to be the immediate follow-on projects to the smashing success of Rumsfeld’s picnic in Mesopotamia. Negotiations, concessions from the mullahs, moderations of the regime – in short, peace in any form – were not to be tolerated. In his NYT column Sunday, Kristoff spelled out the details of the massive Iranian peace initiative in 2003 which was rejected out of hand by warmongers certain that they would be disposing of the Islamic state (and presumably of a few insignificant tens of thousands of its civilians) soon enough.

Encouraged, Iran transmitted its “grand bargain” proposals to the U.S. One version was apparently a paraphrase by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran; that was published this year in The Washington Post. But Iran also sent its own master text of the proposal to the State Department and, through an intermediary, to the White House. I’ve also posted that document, which Iran regards as the definitive one.
In the master document, Iran talks about ensuring “full transparency” and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. Iran offers “active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization.” Iran also contemplates an end to “any material support to Palestinian opposition groups” while pressuring Hamas “to stop violent actions against civilians within” Israel (though not the occupied territories). Iran would support the transition of Hezbollah to be a “mere political organization within Lebanon” and endorse the Saudi initiative calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran also demanded a lot, including “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in the “axis of evil.” Many crucial issues, including verification of Iran’s nuclear program, needed to be hammered out. It’s not clear to me that a grand bargain was reachable, but it was definitely worth pursuing — and still is today.

Instead, Bush administration hard-liners aborted the process. Another round of talks had been scheduled for Geneva, and Ambassador Zarif showed up — but not the U.S. side. That undermined Iranian moderates.


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