Talking Amidst Anarchy

By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (for Safe Democracy)

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam applauds recent Iranian-American dialogue as a positive step, but notes that there are still many barriers stunting the growth of relations between the two countries. He adds that in order to continue progress, the people of both countries should criticize and check the State, and take peace into their own hands.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, is the author of The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A cultural genealogy (2006) and Iran in World Politics: the Question of the Islamic Republic (2007, forthcoming). Currently at the University of Oxford, he will transfer to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London from the next academic term onwards.

VIEWED IN ISOLATION, MAY 28TH, 2007 WAS A HISTORIC DAY for Iranian-American inter-state relations. For the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, the two countries negotiated officially face-to-face. True there were previous engagements, clandestine, for instance during the early stages of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) culminating into the much publicised Iran-Contra-affair; and official, exemplified by Iran’s implicit support of the US invasion of Taliban Afghanistan and the nation-building process thereafter. But none of these previous interactions were immediate.

Yet despite the talks in Baghdad and their positive impact on US-Iranian relations, I found it difficult to be overtly optimistic. There are serious obstacles impeding the progress of relations between the two countries. US officials would cite Iran’s nuclear energy programme, support for Hezbollah, HAMAS, Iraqi resistance movements, and flourishing relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and other emerging neo-left polities in Latin America.

Iran, on the other side would point to the US sanctions policy against the country, the intrusions into Iranian territory by terrorist parties with links to the CIA, and the US military presence in the wider Persian Gulf area.

Having said that, the talks in Baghdad had one very immediate positive consequence. They demonstrated to both sides that dialogue is possible, that there are no a-historically ciphered barriers that keep the two governments apart. That can be considered a positive step if only as a means to subdue the fascist fringes of Iranian and US American politics. Indeed, the neoconservative disciples of war both in Iran and the United States immediately organised their opposition to diplomatic engagement, to dialogue, to interaction, to the prospects of peace. In Iran, the intelligence ministry once again acted unconstitutionally when it detained Iranian-American activists without giving them proper access to legal representation. In the US, pundits such as Norman Podhoretz continued to hope and pray that Bush will bomb Iran. We would probably be unable to get at all the underground facilities, Podhoretz concedes. But a bombing campaign would without question set back its nuclear program for years to come, and might even lead to the overthrow of the mullahs.

In the face of statements like these and their resonance with Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration, Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was forced to warn us against the new crazies who say, let’s go and bomb Iran. In the face of these organised forces against human security and world peace, international diplomacy and inter-cultural dialogue are the only viable options to prevent yet another abomination in West Asia. The state is certainly not the best vehicle to achieve this goal and it is this conviction that makes me feel rather more pessimistic about the prospects of reconciliation between the governments of Iran and the United States.

But do we have to wait for them to follow our reason, to catch up with our rationality, to satisfy our common goal to establish a sustainable world order? It seems to me that the real task for Americans, Iranians, Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc. is to continue to criticise the workings of the state and their apologists, which appear to be independent and disinterested; to criticise and supervise them in such a way that the destructive forces which have always been unleashed through them will be unmasked. Do we need Ban-Ki Moon or George W. Bush to do this? I don’t and I hope you don’t either.

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