Dubai: Home Base For Cold War

March 15th, 2006 - by admin

Ira Chernus / – 2006-03-15 07:57:56

(March 13, 2006) — Surely the Bush administration wants to help Dubai for lots of reasons. “Follow the money” is always a useful rule in such cases. But there is another piece of the puzzle that may prove more important in the long run.

According to the Washington Post, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns recently said that the State Department will “add staff in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, as well as other embassies in the vicinity of Iran, all assigned to watch Tehran. He called the new Dubai outpost the ’21st century equivalent’ of the Riga station in Latvia that monitored the Soviet Union in the 1930s when the United States had no embassy in Moscow.”

The Riga station was far more than a listening post, as Burns knows very well. It was where George Kennan and a group of US diplomats laid the seeds of the ideology that would drive the US cold war effort for four decades.

In a March 3 briefing, spokesman Adam Ereli announced that “the State Department will be establishing a department of Iranian affairs. We have also created a number of new positions in the field — for Foreign Service officers to work on Iran-related issues.”

These new officers will be trained Farsi-speakers placed in strategic capitals. Such as? You guessed it: “Dubai will be the site of some,” Ereli said.

“The logic of putting people out in the field,” Ereli continued, is “to use the language, to develop the on-the-ground expertise so that 10, 15, 20 years from now, we’ve got — just like we have Arab experts … we used to have Soviet experts — we’ve got a cadre of Iran experts.”

To explain how it would work, Ereli chose (at random?) an analogy: “We’ve got programs in Russia, we’ve got money we spend with Russia, we’ve got exchanges with Russia, so you need people to run those programs, interact with NGOs and others. We’re going to be doing the same thing with Iran.”

None of this is supposed to be secret. Burns and Ereli tell reporters only what they — and their boss, Condoleeza Ric— want the world to hear. Now they want the world to hear that the US is gearing up for a new cold war, with the Iranian theocrats playing the role of the commies and Russkies.

Indeed, BBC reporter Paul Reynolds claims that Rice herself is leading the charge for a new cold war against Iran. “How long Washington might wait over Iran is not at all clear,” Reynolds comments. “After all, it took 50 years for the Soviet Union to fall.”

This could all be just a big bluff, another set of maneuvers in the war of words aimed at stopping any Iranian efforts toward nuclear weapons. But it seems more likely that it works the other way around. As with Iraq, the supposed drive to head off Iran’s nukes is just an excuse for the real goal, which is, according to the Post’s sources, “regime change”:

“The internal administration debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter. Although administration officials do not use the term ‘regime change’ in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy.”

When Vice-President Dick Cheney spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the New York Times reported, he “used blunt language that seemed to hint of military action or possibly the overthrow of the government in Tehran, though he mentioned neither option explicitly.” Again, no secrets. As with Iraq, the administration is telling the world clearly, well in advance, what it plans to do.

But the plan for regime change in Iran is not just a future fantasy. It’s already underway. As the Times article noted, Cheney has “promoted a drive to bring Iranian scholars and students to America, blanket the country with radio and television broadcasts and support Iranian political dissidents. That $85 million State Department program is being overseen by Elizabeth Cheney, a principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who is also the vice president’s daughter.”

And where is much of the money being spent? You guessed it again: Dubai.

According to the Asia Times, unnamed American-based groups, with unknown sources of funding, are bringing Iranian “dissidents” to Dubai for training in the arts of regime change. The trainers are largely drawn from the ranks of Otpor, the Serbian movement that overthrew the late Slobodan Milosovec. But an Iranian who attended one of these training sessions also referred to “Americans who appeared to supervise the course and whose affiliation remained unclear throughout.”

Though the White House was surely unhappy about the political beating it took over the Dubai ports deal, it may have seen a silver lining in the cloud. With the media obsessed about those “terrifying A-rabs” running our ports, no one is paying much attention to these truly terrifying plans for a new cold war.

Karl Rove admits very plainly that the Republicans need a “national security threat” to keep control of Congress this year. No doubt he and other GOP strategists see the ’08 presidential election the same way.

Iraq is useless as an issue for them. Al Qaeda and the generic “war on terrorism” are proving pretty thin stuff, too. But Iran is an enemy that’s got it all: big country, strategically located, nuclear technology, ruled by strict conservative Muslims. Neoconservatives could not ask for a better target to aim America’s fears and frustrations at for years to come.

There is an emerging wisdom that the neocons are losing influence in the administration while Rice gains it. Her plan for endless cold war against Iran is supposedly the “soft” alternative to the hard-line neocon call for all-out war. But Rice’s new strategy is rather hard to distinguish from the old line. After all, it was Rumsfeld and Cheney who said, back in the fall of 2001, that the war on terror would look more like the cold war than World War II.

And it was Rice, at the same time, who said publicly that she expected “a period akin to 1945 to 1947, when American leadership…[created] a new balance of power that favored freedom.” From 1945 to 1947, the ideas hatched by Kennan and his friends in Riga were coming to dominate US foreign policy.

They were pushed hardest by the emerging architect of that policy, Dean Acheson, who eventually became one of the most influential Secretaries of State in US history. Now Rice wants Dubai to become the new Riga. And she, presumably, will be the new Dean Acheson.

But Condi might want to recall that the old cold war, which began in Riga, led straight to a place called Vietnam. And old Dean Acheson was among the “wise men” who ended up telling Lyndon Johnson that he needed to withdraw his forces from Vietnam, because the US couldn’t win. The road that Rice is starting to build in Dubai is likely to lead to just as much disaster, or worse.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of
American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea and later this year will publish Monster to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin

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