I don’t know what Cheney was trying to do, but there are no indications in Wright’s article that Cheney is prepared to do anything much about “Saudi Concerns” regarding Iraq.
Saudi Concerns about Iraq
Wright characterizes Saudi concerns:
The oil-rich kingdom, which has taken an increasingly tough position on Iraq, believes Maliki has proven a weak leader during his first year in power and is too tied to Iran and pro-Iranian Shiite parties to bring about real reconciliation with Iraq’s Sunni minority, Arab sources said…
The king has balked at recent U.S. overtures to do more to help Iraq politically, beyond pledges of debt relief and financial aid, and has explored support for alternative leadership, including former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, U.S. and Arab officials said.
The Saudis have been increasingly concerned about reports that Maliki’s government favors Shiite officials in government ministries and Shiite commanders in the Iraqi military — at the expense of qualified Sunnis whose inclusion would help foster reconciliation, Arab officials said…
The U.S. Central Command chief, Adm. William J. Fallon, and the State Department’s Iraq coordinator, David M. Satterfield, were both rebuffed in appeals to the king during trips to Riyadh last month. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Fallon said the king told him “several times” during their April 1 discussion that U.S. policies “had not been correct in his view.”
“He also told me that he had severe misgivings about the Maliki government and the reasons for that,” Fallon added. “He felt, in his words, that there was a ‘significant linkage to Iran.’ He was concerned about Iranian influence on the Maliki government and he also made several references to his unhappiness, uneasiness with Maliki and the background from which he came.”
[An Associated Press article on Cheney’s meeting with Abdullah reports that the king asked after George Bush Sr, as if to drive home the point that the alliance between the House of Saud and the House of Bush was secured by the senior Bush when he allowed Saddam to crush the Shiite rebellion in Iraq after Operation Desert Storm.]
Cheney: Assuaging Saudi Concerns?
Wright reports on Cheney’s planned effort to “ease” Saudi concerns:
Assuaging Saudi concerns is the primary reason for the vice president’s trip — and even a key reason he went to Baghdad this week, U.S. and Arab officials say. During his stop in Riyadh on Saturday, Cheney wants to be able to tell the Sunni world’s most powerful monarch that the Bush administration is leaning hard on the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to implement long-delayed political steps to help end the Sunni insurgency, U.S. officials said….
But the real point here, as Wright reports, is that Cheney continues to resist, so far, the real Saudi demand: bring back Iyad Allawi (a secular “Shiite,” but an ex-Baathist sometimes referred to as Saddam without a Mustache) and to restore Sunni political supremacy in Iraq:
In a message that U.S. officials said will be underscored by Cheney, Fallon said he urged the king to show some support for the Iraqi leadership even if he does not like Maliki, because it is “unrealistic” to expect a change in the Baghdad government.
“We’re not going to be the puppeteers here,” Fallon told the Senate committee…
The vice president will make the case that Maliki was elected and that Allawi, or any other leader, would not be more effective with the current situation in Iraq, U.S. officials said…
U.S. officials are already skeptical that the visit will produce a significant breakthrough, beyond underscoring common interests in regional stability.
Fallon is quite clear: the US is committed to the Shiite Option in Iraq. There will be no rollback of the 2005 elections. The US will not back Sunni puppets (these words may haunt Fallon if the US does ever resort to authoritarian rule under Allawi).
This only confirms my sense that Cheney has signed on to the initial Right Zionist plan to use Shiite majority rule in Iraq to challenge Sunni supremacy in the Gulf.
Cheney on Iran
If Cheney wanted to ease Saudi concerns about Iraq, he knows what to do: install Allawi as Iraq’s “benign autocrat.”
But Cheney didn’t go to Saudi Arabia to ease concerns about Iraq. If anything, he went to try to provoke Saudi concerns about Iran (and, perhaps, to ease concerns that Maliki represented a “significant linkage to Iran”).
The Saudis were always destined to oppose “Act I” of the Right Zionist plan for “dual rollback” in Iraq and Iran. But Cheney appears to still be hoping to enlist Saudi support for “Act II” of the dual rollback plan which targets the Iranian regime.
Indeed, Robin Wright’s article from May 12, 2007 makes the point: “In Gulf, Cheney Pointedly Warns Iran.”
“Throughout the region our country has interests to protect and commitments to honor,” Cheney told Navy staff aboard the USS John C. Stennis. “With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We’ll keep the sea lanes open. We’ll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We’ll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We’ll continue bringing relief to those who suffer and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom.”
That last line seemed new to me. Cheney has been talking about Iran in terms of “strategic threats” for a long time. But is that last line a reference to domestic Iranian politics and the prospect of regime change from within? Let it sink in… “bringing relief to those who suffer and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom.” Who are “those who suffer”? Who are the “enemies of freedom”? In a paragraph about Iran?
There are at least two ways of thinking about whether that line has any significance: reaction among those who yearn for regime change in Iran and those who fear it most.
Thus far, Cheney’s “freedom” line on Iran has elicited no discernable excited from the Right Zionists most enthusiastic about regime change. That tends to make me think I may be reading too much into the line. We’ll see… (keep me posted if you spot anything).
Within Iran, however, there seems to be heightened concern that the US is, indeed, supporting some kind of populist “velvet revolution” in Iran. The Financial Times explains:
Iranians with close ties to Washington said the Bush administration’s decision to allocate special funding to support pro-democracy activities in Iran – while keeping the identities of recipients secret – had been a mistake that has led to a witch-hunt.
Indeed, the Iranians appear to have nabbed a major Iranian-American “witch,” Haleh Esfandiari.
The Associate Press explains the case:
[T]he hard-line Iranian newspaper Kayhan accused Haleh Esfandiari of spying for the U.S. and Israel and for attempting to launch a democratic revolution in the country….
“She has been one of the main elements of Mossad in driving a velvet revolution strategy in Iran, the paper wrote. She formed two networks, including Iranian activists, in the U.S and Dubai for toppling down [the Islamic government]”.
Esfandiari’s husband, Shaul Bakhash, denied the newspaper’s allegations.
“It is a false and hollow accusation that Haleh Esfandiari is one of the ‘principle instruments’ of Israel, or a Mossad spy service, in advancing the strategy of a ‘velvet revolution’ in Iran. It is a lie that Haleh Esfandiari had ‘undercover assignments’ or that she was one of the ‘media spies’ in Iran. She had no part in setting up a ‘communications network’ between Dubai and America,” Bakhash said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
It would be rather remarkable if Shaul Bakhash or Esfandiari constituted the “principle instruments” of those advancing the strategy of a “velvet revolution” in Iran. More likely, the Iranians are simply rounding up the “usual suspects.”
Omid Memarian over at “Iranian Prospect” has some details from Iranian press reports:
Reja News, a super conservative website which has been active over the past few days in attacks against Hossein Moussavian, a senior Iranian diplomat recently arrested in Tehran, published a report in which Haleh Esfandiari was named the Zionists’ agent in Iran…
The report then describes Dr. Esfandiari’s activities in Ayandegan Newspaper, saying: “She is an effective member of the pre-Revolution Zionist Lobby in the Pahlavi court, who along with her husband founded the Zionist Ayandegan Newspaper in Tehran. The interesting point is that Haleh Esfandiari remained in Iran for a time after the Revolution, but with the ban on Ayandegan Newspaper, she fled Iran in August of 1979 for Israel.”
Reja News which withholds its source continues: “It is said that she was the architect of AIPAC’s conference two years ago, which met under the slogan of ‘Now Is The Time to Stop Iran,’ suggesting a review of all avenues to confront Iran’s nuclear programs. This conference’s motto, ‘Iran, the Point of Understanding Between US and Israel,’ tried to review ways for coordinating Israel and US efforts to apply pressure on Islamic Republic of Iran. George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Cinton, John Bolton, Ihud Ulmert and Amir Perez were some of the speakers in this conference. It is said that the decision of war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah was reached in this conference.”
Esfandiari did participate in an AIPAC policy conference back in 2004 where she joined Philo Dibble on a panel entitled, “Revolution From Within: Can the Iranian People Reclaim the Republic?” Maybe somebody who was there could say how Esfandiari (and Dibble) answered the question.
As for Shaul Bakhash, I have previously noted that as a member of a Council on Foreign Relations Taskforce on Iran (co-chaired by Robert Gates and Zbigniew Brzezinski), Bakhash formally dissented from the main conclusions of a Council on Foreign Relations Taskforce Report , “Iran: Time for a New Approach.” Bakhash appeared to be speaking, like Cheney, about bringing relief to those who suffer and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom.
I wish to stress that support for dialogue and diplomatic and economic relations between Iran and the United States does not imply acquiescence in the violation by the Iranian government of the civil rights and liberties of its own citizens. Some Iranians understandably fear that relations with the United States will reinforce the status quo and therefore regime durability in Iran. In fact, any study of Iranian history over the last century and more suggests that interaction with the outside world greatly accelerates, rather than hinders, the pace of internal political change. I believe enmeshing Iran with the international community, expanding trade, and improving economic opportunity and the conditions for the growth of the middle class will strengthen, not weaken, the democratic forces in Iran.
Are the Iranians right to be nervous about a “velvet revolution”?
I’ll believe that the US has adopted a policy of populist regime change when I see the accompanying Right Zionist jubilation.
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