November 4, 2012

The New Nixon To China: Will Obama Go To Iran?

Will these two men ever meet?

Hillary Mann Leverett, a former National Security Council official, spoke at the Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington on October 26. The title of the talk is called, "U.S. And Arab Strategies Toward Iran." Here is an excerpt from her remarks:
"I have two important points to make. One is that what the United States desires or what is necessary is different. It is necessary for the United States to have a strategic realignment with the Islamic Republic of Iran, like it was necessary to do so with China. And how it affects our allies in the Middle East is critically important to look at the parallels.

If you look at the parallels with China, and you take Japan and Taiwan for example. Japan's economic and political development experienced its biggest success after the United States went to China, after Nixon and Kissinger went to Beijing. Japan benefited enormously, as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs would benefit enormously from a more productive, less tense, less militaristic environment in the region.
Then if you take Israel and you compare it even to Taiwan. That issue was bracketed between the two countries, between China and the United States. It was bracketed. You could similarly have something between the United States and Iran over Israel and the Palestinian issue, that is, bracket it.

But I must come back to this other issue. This is in our strategic interest, to come to terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, just like China. Keep in mind, when Mao was in charge, when Nixon went to see Mao, he had just presided over the killing of over 3 million Chinese. The Chinese didn't just have a nuclear energy program, they had tested nuclear weapons.

The issue here is what is in the U.S. national interest, not whether we think Iranian government officials are good or bad. But even there, this is another critical challenge for the United States. As Middle Eastern populations become more empowered, have more of a say in each of their countries, they are not going to support a secular, democratic, U.S. model for their governance. They're not going to do it. They're not going to accept or lobby for a complete copy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But they are going to try to fight just as hard as Iranians are today to have a governing system that is theirs, that they can evolve and change over time, that integrates both Islamic principles and Republican politics.

Republican politics does not just mean our ideal or our myth of one man one vote, that means a system where people have competitive politics, there is real participation, and there is a real say. It's not perfect in the Islamic Republic of Iran but it's theirs, and it's up to them to evolve it. That's the challenge for the United States, not just in Iran, it's going to be our challenge in Egypt, and all over in the Middle East. We need to come to terms with it." [1:27:00 - the video].