First off, pbs.org is the best,the fact that the united states first back iran and iraq has to be a issue for both countries. We do not set a clear policy in the middle east and we are paying the price for it now.
Thank you, Frontline, for another extraordinarily informative and thoughtful hour. Nobody - and I mean nobody - comes close to the serious, in-depth reporting that Frontline does, and it really came through this week.
In contrast to some of the other comments posted here, I did not find the program to be anti-Iran, pro-war, or pro-Bush Administration in any way. I saw a balanced, well-informed film about Iranian-US relations over the past 30 years.
It was actually surprising, in a good way, that Frontline was able to get the access it did to those that it interviewed with Iran. The fact that the former, reformist Vice President was able to lament where things have gone within Iranian leadership was a highlight of the hour. He helped put a face and a voice to reforms that have appeared dead since the rise of the current president. On the other hand, it's terrible to suggest it, but after last week's Frontline and this week's, it certainly appears that Frontline producers have an easier time getting foreign leaders and critical players in front of the camera than it is our own.
My own feeling is that we need to work harder on diplomacy and simply wait things out, while at the same time not allowing Iran to gain 'the bomb.' The majority of the population of Iran is under 35 years old and most do not harbor the 'death to America' stance of the revolution. The best course we can take it to make these young Iranians see we are not an enemy... and then wait. Wait for them to make their own revolution, as the old guard of old hardliners pass away.
If we've learned anything in Iraq, it should be that democratic revolution must come from within. It is a lesson the Bush Administration has hopefully understood (though I doubt it).
The program "Showdown with Iran" was informative & very well done. I was especially impressed with the comment by Mr. Hossein Shariatmadari, in which he stated that many Iranians consider Al Qaeda to be an American creation - that it was created by the United States. And indeed it was created by the United States, principally by the CIA. It was formed, financed, armed & trained in Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Army by the US taxpayers. This organization was then known as the `mujaheedin'.Just as in French Indochina the United States Government, through the OSS, financed, armed, and trained a little known communist militia known as the Viet Minh to fight against the occupying Japanese Army in 1944 - 45. The Viet Minh maintained their core leadership after World War II; they documented & practiced their training, and then they used those assets against the French colonial forces after 1946. Eventually they came to be called the Viet Cong in 1961.America is its own worst enemy. An arrogant & cynical government is constantly duping a historically ignorant population. As long as this trend continues, America will find itself enmeshed in costly & protracted wars.
As with so many FRONTLINEs that chronicle the doings of the Bush-Cheney administration, I found this depressing viewing. It was yet another a record of what hubris and stupidity in high places can do to a superpower.
I did not, as other discussants, find the show pro-war or anti-Iranian. Quite the opposite, in fact. It merely showed how the reformers in Iran were not once, but twice humiliated by a unilateralist USA and thus lost face and power inside Iran. The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, naturally gave the hardliners (led by Ahmedinijad) a chance. Thus we have arrived a the current juncture,where the threat of an armed confrontation carrying appalling consequences for the region and the world is hanging over us. Nice one, the White House! Chalk up another diplomatic coup!
FRONTLINE showed how the Iranians had twice held out the olive branch, once after 9/11 and again following the invasion of Iraq. The first time they stood back and did not interfere when we invaded Afghanistan -- which borders Iran. Imagine a large Iranian army landing in Mexico or Canada. Would we stand back and do nothing? Well they did. Not only that, they ordered their allies in the Afghan Northern Alliance to work with US forces.
Their reward for this passive and active assistance to the USA? They get branded members of the "axis of evil" in the 2002 State of the Union - another example of how scoring cheap political points trumps the national interest in the Bush-Cheney White House (compare the Valerie Plame affair).
The second Iranian overture was the biggest: a grand bargain that put everything on the table: "nucular" arms, Iranian support for Hezbollah, relations with Israel, helping the USA in post-Saddam Iraq, etc etc. All of it. On the table for discussion. The reaction? No reaction. The reformers are, again, humiliated and Khamenei went with the hardliners, who've been arguing that the US only listended to tough talk and making nice gets you nowhere. The experience of the reformers seemed to prove them right.
And so we get the desperately worrying final frame, where the former reformist Vice Prime Minister comments that now Iran is in the hands of people who think they're doing God's work (just like Washington, I'd add). As he said, this is indeed a very worrying situation.
2500 years ago the Athenian historian Thucydides charted the imperial mindset of his democratic city-state at the apogee of its power. Locked in a vast war with its rivals in Sparta, Athens scored a major victory early in the war. The Spartans made peace overtures. The Athenians, flying high and flush with the arrogance of success, rudely rebuffed the overtures, confident of their strength and their bright Athenian future.
They lost the war.
State College, PA
I didn't think the program was informative enough. It was biased against Iran & Iranians. Iranians must stay behind their leaders; I do not want to see checkpoints in Iranian streets monitored by so called allied troops. I think anybody or any country would seek to defend themselves when the enemy is in their backyard. I go to Iran every year, and I see improvements in people's lives, you have to give it time, we will get there. One message to all Iranians: Be proud of your country, and don't sell youself!!
Your program Showdown with Iran was one of the most blatant pieces of pro-war propaganda I have ever witnessed. According to your documentary, Iran is a country where the major pastime is chanting "death to America" and burning American flags. In Frontline's twisted view of the world, Richard Armitage and Ex-Mossad Agents opinions are taken as facts. A world where journalism is considered asking questions that start with "The Bush administration says..." The Frontline website for Showdown with Iran claims Iran "is on the rise as one of Americans greatest threats." This is a ridiculous statement and closely parallels what was said of Iraq before the run-up to the current disaster. You don't give one shred of proof to back up this statement. How can a country halfway around the world, who hasn't invaded another country in 100 years and doesn't have to capability to wage a war outside their region possibly be one of the greatest threats to America? But yet, there it is on your website as if it is a fact. Lower on the web page you state "the fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon looming in the background". Again, journalism consists of presenting facts and there is absolutely no proof that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Just because Dick Cheney says it doesn't make it true. How quickly you forget the same false statements made of Iraq. I have always considered Frontline one of the best sources of sound journalism in America. With Showdown with Iran you have shown you are no longer a source of Independent journalism but just another mouthpiece for the war-mongering Bush administration, leading us into another disastrous war.Michael Koch
Thank you for presenting an informative and enlightening program about the escalating conflict with Iran. I was very pleased to see that you mentioned how Iranian society has a substantial youthful population that has some pro-Western views. As a young American who is against both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I feel that I share a similar kinship with younger Iranians who are displeased with Ahmadinejad's inflammatory statements. Just last week, President Bush used the bombastic rhetoric of World War Three that harkens back to the days before the Iraq war in which his administration repeatedly used the inciting imagery of a "mushroom cloud over one of America's cities" to make its case for brute force.The real issue here is that if a conflict is started with Iran, it will be the Iranian people and ultimately the American people who will pay for such a misguided blunder, not the pigheaded leaders who refuse to sit at a table and work out their grievances.I am tired of my tax dollars funding the quagmire in Iraq; I will be damned if I will let this administration use them for their own "messianic" vision in Iran!
The terrorist attacks in US and the multiple wars that have followed them have not only changed the face of the Middle East, but has also made recognizing the proper Iran policy more difficult.
Misguided US policy towards Iran dates back to the 1950's when the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadeq was toppled by a CIA backed coup d'etat. There are strong arguments made to the effect that had Mossadeq was left in power there would never had been an Islamic Revolution in Iran. We are too late to act differently.
Now it seems that when it comes to Iranians, options are either bombing them or sitting at negotiation tables with the brutal dictators ruling them. If you ask the people of Iran, they would choose democracy over anything else. And if you ask people in US, they would rather enable people of Iran to achieve democracy on their own, rather than sending their men and women to another war.
One clear way of enabling people of Iran to achieve democracy is by ensuring that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are officially listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
The fact the the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is not on the FTO list and the Iranian Mojahedin (MEK) are, is the most clear evidence of yet another misguided policy. There will be consequences for this mistake as well. This time, we are not yet too late to act differently.
The program "Showdown with Iran" is the most informative about Iran yet. America is not the only country with serious concerns over the nightmare of Iran possessing a Nuclear weapon capabilities, all Arabian nations are terrified of the possibilities of Iran attaining nuclear capabilities. While Israel has the capacity to turn Iran to a stone age, but has been extermely patient, even with Iran's leader sebre-ratteling.I am the leftiest of the lefts anyone can get, I am as rigid anti-war as they can come. However, the current path Iran is following is so dangerous that I would agree with one more concerted effort to knock some sence into Iran's leaders head and if that does not work, then rain on them what we have; even if that means using nuclear tactical armament. The reason we invested in our defence high-tech gadgets are to help us win such dangerous rougue nations. Iran and it's 70 million people should take a look at America's history. With the technological might we have, the US has the ability to open multiple front defensive wars simultaneously and win them all with in a reasonably short period of time. Recent past history on fascism should give them a clue, as to how US has the ability to decimate the axis even as big of an empire as Japan and Germany.
Confronting Iran head on indicates still a lack of understanding about the region. An alternative solution is supporting various ethnic groups against the majority persians. Turkish Azerbaijan, Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Turkamanestan and Arab Khuzestan are all up for grabs. The Iranian government just does not have the skills or resources to fight on multiple fronts against its own population. In other words give Iran a taste of its own medicine and reduce it to its logical size.
Larijan, Mazandaran, Iran
The program was excellent, but there were some interesting omissions. The show let Richard Armitage leave the impression that the Iranians were not cooperative because they refusted to turn over some high value Al Qaeda lieutenants, including both Saif al-Adel, al Qaeda's chief of operations, and Saad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's son in exchange for members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian exile terrorist organization previously supported by Saddam Hussein and based in Iraq. This is covered in James Risen's book, "State of War" on pg. 216. Armitage failed to provide this full story. He just seemed to want to protray the Iranians as pro-al Qaeda. Frontline should have made sure this false impression was not left to stand for viewers. Risen points out neocons, primarily in Defense, wanted to use MEK forces to overthrow Iran which they already had in their heads even in 2003. So the neocons were prepared to give up the opportunity to hold captive and interrogate very important al Qaeda leaders who certain must have had vital intelligence that may well have served to protect the US. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were especially instrumental in stopping the deal which the State department badly wanted to make for an exchange. What higher interests were Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz wanting to serve by preventing the valuable acquisition of top al Qaeda lieutenants - a key question Frontline should have posed. The full facts on this incident which Frontline must have known were that Iran wanted to exchange
Santa Maria, ca
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Here's producer Greg Barker's response to this viewer's letter re the MEK issue:
"From the outset of my research for this film, I was intrigued by reports that the Bush administration had rejected an Iranian offer of a quid-pro-quo trade of MEK officials for al Qaeda operatives held in Tehran. However, based on in-depth discussions with numerous officials in the US & Iran who would have had knowledge of such a proposal, I came to conclude that such a straight-forward deal was never on the table.
Certainly Iran raised the MEK issue in discussions it had with US officials prior to the Iraq invasion, and former US officials involved in the direct talks stated that the Administration initially assured Iran that MEK forces in Iraq would be treated as part of Saddam's armed forces - and in fact, during the war, MEK units were bombed by coalition aircraft before their 3000+ troops surrendered en masse. [They were then disarmed and interrogated by the FBI and other US agencies, and were given "protected persons" status under the Geneva Convention, which made it legally all-but-impossible to forcibly turn them over to Iran -- although some lower-level MEK soldiers were later repatriated to Iran, with the support of the US State Department, under an amnesty program supervised by the International Committee for the Red Cross].
The so-called "grand bargain" proposal, sent by Iran in early May 2003 in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq invasion, does cite the MEK/MKO forces in Iraq and the al Qaeda operates in Iran as outstanding issues, and can be read to imply a kind of trade - but only in the most general terms, and only in the context of a broader resolution of other issues between the two countries. Also, at the time the legal status of the MEK in Iraq was still being determined, and the US was still consolidating MEK forces into a single base -- on a purely practical level, it was too early for the US to actually implement a "trade" even if it wanted to do so. Of course, as we reported in the film, the Bush administration did not respond to the "grand bargain" proposal.
About two weeks later, there were suspected al Qaeda bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca, killing over 70 people -- and an intelligence intercept picked up a call to a cellphone in Iran saying that "the job was done." After that, the Bush Administration cut off all direct talks with Iran."
As an Iranian/American, it was very painful for me to watch how easily the U.S. officials (except Leverett) dismissed opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with Iranians.
Cutting through years of suspicion and mistrust is not easy. The question we should ask is, "How can we break through this hardened mistrust between our two nations?" rather than "Are you convinced by the U.S. case against Iran?"
What serves our interests - and the Iranians' - is mending our broken relationships without causing more pain in an already shattered world.
Your broad coverage and impressive presentation of this issue is in line with the usual caliber of quality one expects from Frontline.
I feel, perhaps due to the introductory/background nature of this presentation, that much of the geopolitical context, which has come to light in the recent months, was regrettably omitted. For instance, only some of the regional dynamics at work between Israel and Iran are depicted. One cursory look at the Israeli Press in recent months will offer a good indication of the urgency and threat with which the Iranian Regime and its elevated rhetoric are viewed from Israel. In my opinion, this was not pronounced with due emphasis in your presentation.
Additionally, Israel's September 6th strike at a Syrian Site, allegedly a Nuclear one, was omitted altogether. This is a significant escalation of tensions in the area. Although war and/or a Sustained Surgical Air Strikes by the United States is discussed in your presentation, no mention of the more likely strike by the Israeli Air Force was made at all. Given the context of the confrontation and the recent discourse and dialogue in Israel, there is a great possibility that if there is any attack on Iran because of its nuclear ambitions, that that attack will most likely originate from Israel, not the United States. This is perhaps the most crucial element that I was looking for in the Presentation that did not appear.
Another critical point is the extensive battle for the hearts and minds of the many Iranian-Azari's. The United States and its allies have supported a policy of Fragmentation in the region by turning a blind eye to the dissemination of propaganda by the Republic of Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev and others have endorsed the view that all Iranians of Azeri decent should fight for their independence and join the Republic of Azerbaijan. This is in effect another means by which the United States and its allies are putting the "full court press" on the hardline Iranian Regime. The United States Grand Strategy, as seen by the mullahs in Tehran, is to shatter Iran and the middle east into regions which will gladly submit to the will of the hungry US oil companies.
Fortunately, you offer this forum to include the many grave and frighteningly nuanced details which have been sacrificed from your presentation due to programming concerns such as feature length etc. I am glad you have taken an objective stand on this issue and continue to look at your presentations with a favorable impression. Your work makes a difference in the world, especially on this explosive issue. I am encouraged by your towering stand for objectivity and professionalism in Journalism.
New York, NY, NY
Thank you for providing the informative program that let's all viewer's make up their own judgments based on the information presented.
The mind set that the middle east and west are developing only remind me historically of the crusades to some degree and that lasted for how many centeries? Again, human nature regardless of the technology rules the day when pride, religous fevor and hegemany our the pathway that closed minded self motivated leaders on all sides take.
Regrettably, our leadership has made catastrophic mistakes and decisions that will affect the region for who knows how many decades? How can the US really deal with Iran in a politacal & diplomatic arena who's goal at the end of the day is to make the world muslim? What happened to muslim toleration that Mohammand speaks about in the Koran? What would the world do if it saw American citizens & it's military leadership lining the streets chanting death to Iran and its leadership?
Militarily we could destroy their infastructure in a night, but as stated in the program, how will that affect the dominos down the line?
I think historically, we are living in the worlds most dangerous time in human society and I hope we have an anomaly of American leaders who believe in the values that our forefathers left us. Let's hope that the US and all the regional players will have the will to have mutual respect,an open mind, humility and common sense to create solutions for these very important issues presented in this program. Thank you for an opportunity to speak my mind!
Newport Beach, Ca.
Excellent program, good look at many of the possible scenarios,
I think it is in american interests to pursue diplomacy instead of saber rattling nonsense. First off, the number of iranians under the age of 40 are a significant percentage of the population and this demographic would rather live in a free-market capitalistic society than live under the ayatollahs. This new generation would readily adopt this model of free market capitalism. Issues like a western education, freedom to travel the world, freedom to live the way each individual chooses to are a major appeal to this younger generation.
So as a first solution to this impasse, allow all iranians access to the university education system of the US, this would be one way to get the ball rolling for regime change.