Many are shocked by Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s message to the US President, not only because he took the initiative in corresponding with George W. Bush, but more importantly, buy the message’s content. The Arabs have construed it as evidence of Iran preparing to reach an understanding with the Americans, and that all the intellectual and strategic hostility they had shown, the trampling on the American flag, and the preparation for war, is merely a propaganda facade intended to mislead irate Arabs.
The irate Arabs only pick up the signals that suit their thinking and neglect the whole story, and they divide the world around them into those who are with the United States and those who are against it without examining the details and without understanding the flexibility of politics. The Iranians have never been as great enemies of Washington as they claim. In the past four years, they have cooperated in the field in a manner unmatched by most of the Arab states in quality and importance. When the United States invaded Afghanistan most of the Arab states refused to provide any kind of help, and friendly states such as Saudi Arabia refused to allow squadrons of invading US aircraft to pass through their airspace. Iran did not only agree to open its airspace to the US aircraft but also signed an agreement that allows US forces to land and to provide assistance if US aircraft should crash. Also during the war with Iraq, Iran made many concessions. More important than that it pledged to oblige the pro-Iran Iraqi forces to cooperate with the occupying forces, while the Iranian forces continue to be neutral in the war. The outcome is that the United States has overthrown two regimes that were hostile to Iran.
Today the two sides stand at a crossroad. Iran feels confident, now that the United States has removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein’s regime, and Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas are allied with Tehran. Tehran feels it is taking 120,000 US soldiers in Iraq hostage. Therefore, we can understand why Iran is in a hurry to enrich uranium, and President Ahmadinejad’s frank bargaining with President Bush that Iran should become the regional power and wield the influence and political domination that entails.
However, let us remember that Saddam has tried the same thing himself, when the Americans helped him to achieve victory against Iran. He declared that he has become the regional agent in the Gulf, and in accordance with that foolish perception he occupied Kuwait and refused to leave it, believing that Washington will bargain with him.
The question is: Is today’s Ahmadinejad yesterday’s Saddam? The supplementary question is: Is Bush the son the same as Bush the father?
It is difficult for me to imagine that the United States will accept to make big concessions to Iran, be it with regard to the nuclear issue or with regard to its being an influential regional power. Whatever private concessions and pledges Ahmadinejad makes to the Americans, Washington cannot trust the regime when it knows its behavior and intentions. Of course the price of refusal will not be cheap for the Americans, especially as Tehran is capable of harming Washington’s interests in the region. However, the Iranians should also remember that if there is any war they will lose all what they have built if they should enter into a big battle, just as Taliban and Saddam have lost. The United States will also lose in the region, but it is a big and distant state and is capable of making up for its losses in the region as it is doing today in Iraq. Iran will not be able to do so.