Neocon Forum Devoted to Fine-tuning Anti-Iran Rhetoric
by RASHA ELASS in Washington, D.C.
10 Dec 2010 12:38
[ comment ] There was plenty of muscle flexing and colorful rhetoric at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD) forum on Iran Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.
Though lively at times, the forum's lack of new ideas on how to engage Iran, punctured periodically with absurd logic and Islam bashing, only underscored the complexity of Western-Iranian relations and the nuclear proliferation threat.
The FDD is a conservative organization founded after the attacks of September 11, with a focus on "fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism."
The central issues at the forum today revolved around how to deal with Iran's nuclear threat and, as some speakers described it, Iran's growing propensity to strut as a regional superpower.
There were other issues too, like what one speaker called Iran's conspiratorial ambitions that go well beyond the Middle East and its plan to become a global player.
Though his presentation was laced with bigotry, this speaker offered a lighthearted view. He is the former Israeli ambassador to Iran, and served in Tehran for seven years before the Iranian Revolution.
"Some think Ahmadinajad is a clown," said Uri Lubrani (pictured). "He is not. He is a clever, sophisticated son of a bitch."
Not only is Iran a lot more ambitious and dangerous than anyone knows, he contended, it also constantly tries to fool the world. This is no difficult feat for the Islamic Republic, he added, because Islam gives its followers carte blanche to lie.
"'When a man speaks to his wife, let him soothe her' -- so you can lie. This comes from the Hadith," he said.
And in case you are fooled by Ahmadinejad's call to annihilate Israel, and you think Israel is Iran's main focus, think again.
"Israel is almost insignificant" to Iran, said Lubrani.
According to him, Iran is out to get the West in its entirety -- culture, security, and all.
"They say it and you should know it. They're spending millions and millions outside [in Africa and Latin America], and they consider themselves a mini superpower. Watch it and make sure you understand and follow what they're doing," he said.
On to more immediate threats, like, When might Iran develop nukes? And what is the best way to deter it from doing so?
The general consensus was that sanctions against Iran have not been effective. Panelists quoted media reports about billions of dollars in contracts entered into by international companies, including U.S. affiliates, currently doing business in Iran's energy sector. (Forum organizers offered a free and colorful brochure naming the companies that currently have dealings with Iran, and calling to investigate them.) Russia and China, both inclined to view the Islamic Republic as a thorn in the sides of Israel and the West rather than as a global threat, are particularly unbashful about doing business with Iran.
Since the international community and American companies alike are undermining the sanctions, the most productive approach toward Iran would involve escalated rhetoric with "real" threats, some panelists concluded.
"The Iranian government will not give up under pressure. They will give up under a lot of pressure," declared Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to roaring laughter.
The logic goes something similar to how parents discipline their children. Deterrence works only when the threat is real. But with all the talk in the West about the "catastrophic consequences" of any military action that might be taken against Iran, deterrence is not working. Iran already knows there is a lack of political will to launch an attack, and therefore does not take the West seriously at all.
But there is a clever way to get around this, said one panelist. From this point forward, Western powers should be muted about their lack of resolve to attack Iran.
"It is a mistake to go around publicly stating skepticism that the West would attack Iran," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at FDD.
"Let's not say that in public."
Rasha Elass is Chief Editor of Damascus Diaries.
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