Op-Ed

Ending the Mis-Adventure in Iraq

By: Maryam Zar
12/19/11

The Us Military is wrapping up its military involvement in Iraq, complete with a ceremony at Baghdad International Airport last week to mark the solemn occasion, nine years after the start of a frivolous war. With a military band playing pipes, Defense secretary Leon Panetta was on-hand to assure troops that their sacrifice “had not been in vain”. He pledged that the war, though wrought with pain and horror for both sides, has given way to a new era of opportunity for a free Iraq.

The US convoy out of Iraq

But a look at Iraq beyond the American controlled airport, and its attendant Green Zone, shows a crippled country, beholden to regional and global powers, with little opportunity and none of the trappings of freedom.

As the US military departs Iraqi soil today, it leaves a nation in tatters. The Iraqi populace is no better off today than it was in 2003, with a henchman at its helm. To be sure, Saddam was a brutal dictator that represented the interests of the few, but Maliki is no more the even-handed leader of a dispassionate Shiite majority. The problem with ruling Iraq is not so much in the personality of the leader, as it is in the make-up of its populace and the traditions that dictate their fault-lines.

Trash piles up on a Baghdad street corner

Today, as the US departs leaving a new order, Iraqi’s suffer through a few hours of electricity at best during the day, with unrelenting violence that still permeates Iraqi life. Crumbling roads and buildings, accompanied by an ever failing infrastructure presided over by ineffective government appointees loyal to various factions in a relentless fight over influence, have made Iraq a haven for extremism. Corruption abounds at the cost of ordinary Iraqi’s who have endured the aftermath of the American invasion with horror, which quickly replaced the initial hope they were bracing for.  Today Iraqis contend with water shortages, food shortages, medical shortages, gas shortages, telephone service shortages – and an unending shortage of opportunity. The economy is in ruin, while trash piles up on the streets with no pick-up in sight and no one in charge to make a difference in people’s lives.

Iraq’s governing body is ineffectual and since having been elected, has met for less than a few hours in aggregate to tend to the work of the people. The task of governing Iraq has dwindled to a tribal power play with brokers making back-room deals to suit the new elite, rather than to set Iraq on the promised road to freedom and opportunity. The goal of establishing a Democracy in Iraq, as the war was billed, has given way to the end-game of leaving before the new rancorous parliament yanks diplomatic immunity for bad deeds on the part of US Personnel, and begins embarrassing our troops to the detriment of the carefully crafted account of a war labeled “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Hence the rush to encase the colors, give a peppy speech sighting lofty ideals, and gunning the engines of the unremitting convoy out of Iraq.

All told, $800 Billion and more than 4000 US deaths later, coupled with the service of more than 1.5 million American troops and more than a quarter of a million Iraqi lives lost, along with the wholesale destruction of a nation with an estimated rebuilding cost of $30 Billion, it is hard to argue that we leave Iraq a better place than the way we found it. Widows and orphans litter Iraqi streets from the cities to rural towns where hopelessness and a grim struggle for survival promise to be the cornerstone of life in post-US Iraq.  Only history will dare tell us the truth about the Iraq we leave behind.

Iran's quest for nuclear technology

But while we encase the flag in Baghdad, we are drumming a dull beat to another war – this time, in a battle ground just next door to the one we are leaving.  Albert Einstein once famously observed that “one cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”.  Today, just as the Bush administration did in the run-up to the Iraq war where on the one hand they were touting the necessity of diplomacy while on the other unmistakably preparing for war – both strategically and logistically; the Obama administration is insisting that diplomatic pressure is the key to the battle against Iran’s nuclear quest, while unmistakably allowing the sparks of war to be stoked.

Have we learned nothing from the reckless losses borne of our mis-adventure in Iraq?

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Two Years After We Tried

By: Maryam Zar
6/11/11

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the elections that dashed the hopes of an entire nation that they could live free, with a voice that may be counted in an election, held lawfully with a choice of candidates. However flawed that election was, from the restrictive vetting of the candidates who were given permission to be on the ballot – to the freedom of the various campaigns to realistically criticize the status quo that has rendered Iran an economic wasteland and an international pariah, it was at least an election with choices. But when the votes were counted before they were cast, the people’s disappointment was palpable, though still peaceful.


Where was her vote?

A few days later, after he had decidedly stolen the election, the President Elect Ahmadinejad, stood on his bully pulpit and denounced the naysayers and protesters as “dust and dirt”. That was the final straw that enraged the electorate, which till then remained civil in its discourse. The millions of Iranians, young and old, who had campaigned and taken to the streets with the daring hope for a better future devoid of rancid Mullah theocracy were told they were dust and dirt. From that point on anyone protesting the results of the election would be responsible for creating instability and would be charged with sedition, announced the self proclaimed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in a separate speech. Hence began the process of filling Iran’s jails with the nation’s innocents, who would suffer for years to come under unspeakable brutality at the hands of the IRI.


a civilized discourse, just asking for rights

Today the fiber-optic lines that circle this globe are replete with tales of torment and horror from behind Iran’s prison walls.  While activists abroad bank their hopes on international bodies and responsible governments to step-up the pressure on Iran and force a change in their behavior towards their people, countless individuals from all walks of life continue to be rounded-up in the most haphazard ways, and carted to jails where un-inspired men with little education and no conscience wait to inflict pain on them. Why, you ask? They do it to break the population down, to kill their spirit, to make them think no ideology is worth this kind of pain or humiliation. In his book Then They Came for Me, journalist and IRI detainment survivor Maziar Bahari recounts a conversation he had with his sister who had spent years in prison. She tells him “nothing is worth what I went through” (p.144). That is the objective: for everyone languishing in squalid conditions in an Iranian jail, writhing in pain from their latest brutal ‘interrogation’, to have that very same thought. It is to instill fear in their soul, so they don’t go out and tell about it, or expect to change it. It is the ultimate definition of torture. It is the kind of destruction that is designed to be inflicted not just on the body but on the soul and the spirit. It is intended to render the mind incapable of inspiration or instigation of any sort, so that the released detainee becomes a law abiding automaton, no matter how absurd the law. This is the only way the regime of the Islamic Republic, with all its professed divine direction and legitimacy, can find to stay in power.


“Dust and Dirt”

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a video this week (see video). In it, a young woman of 22 recounts her random arrest and her harrowing detainment. She speaks of the first few hours when she couldn’t relieve herself or quench her thirst, without having been charged or even spoken to. She describes having her head shaved in a manner that would purposefully cut her skin, and being searched by men who groped her at will. Protest resulted in a heavy handed slap. She goes on to tell of repeated rapes to the point where she nursed an infection for months, a full pack cigarettes burned on her body and men urinating on her after taking their gratuitous liberties with her, while blind-folded all the while. They would purify their sin with a brief prayer each time they brutalized her.

While the civilized world stands by and witnesses the Islamic Republic of Hell have its way with Iran, this woman sat before a rolling camera and tearfully asked for “help”. “Please stop them”, she plead repeatedly, as though she expected that civilized people in the emancipated West would soon come in and rid Iran of the wrath of its regime. “How did you do it for others?” she asked, “do the same for us”.  Is it unrealistic that we march into Iran and sweep it clean?  Sure. But is it reasonable to expect responsible governments to stand firm against this regime and make it clear that without better domestic treatment of its people, not just its protesters, and without some detectable, definable, observable change in their actions, the world will step in and rid them of their power? Yes, I naively think so.

The regime in Iran today has little popular support, no solid infrastructure, fleeting international alliances and even fewer resources that could help them ride out a storm. Their only resource is fear, and the fact that they can perpetuate it gratuitously on their people.

At the same time, the IRI is vain. The persona that represent the IRI are concerned with their image. They want to be big players. They want to be respected and they like to be liked. Ahmadinejad believes there is a halo above his head when he speaks at the UN and he perceives the audience as being riveted to him when he addresses the international body. Khamenei thinks he is “Supreme”. These are not people who take kindly to being shunted aside, not admitted onto the global stage, or dismissed as non-savants with no legitimacy. They like being discussed on the global stage and legitimized as a regional player. Take those perks away and you will have men like mice scrimmaging about for a new strategy. The global community should choke them, not with sanctions but with a mix of searing criticism and debilitating apathy.

The pressure that the void of a global spotlight combined with a decisive frown will create within the apparatus of the regime will fracture them, and show the world where the fissures are that can be exploited to make the regime come crumbling down.


Jim Buell photographs protests outside Iran

Today the Persian Diaspora boasts some of the most accomplished and resourceful people on earth. They are largely educated, informed and increasingly engaged in civic society, wherever they are, specifically in the US. They represent intellectual, monetary and numeric power in many places around the world, with several several interest groups and grass roots organizations gaining access and exerting influence in government. Their voice is increasingly heard in prominent publications that help shape not only public opinion, but foreign policy. Yet they need help. They need their voice amplified with the help of everyone who counts themselves among the community of Iranians (Persians) who oppose the rancid theocracy that runs Iran.

Stand up, get vocal and make your voice heard.

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A TALE OF TWO SPEECHES;
By: Maryam Zar
5/30/11

If there ever was a polite political smack-down, this was it.

On Tuesday May 24, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the joint session of the US Congress, for the 2nd time in his political career. More than 400 lawmakers, representing every American constituency across all 50 states, were present for the address.

On Wednesday May 25, Mr. Obama addressed the British Parliament in a historic appearance at Westminster Hall, the first by a US President.

Netanyahu addressing US Congress

Mr. Netanyahu’s speech focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it invariably does – and for good reason. The peace talks have stalled yet again on the heels of an Israeli refusal to continue a moratorium on settlement building, US Envoy George Mitchell has resigned in unmistakable ineffectiveness, and Hamas and Fatah have penned a “unity” that has the Israeli’s reeling while still blind-sighted by the Arab upheavals that have so far eliminated at least one of Israel’s most reliable partners in the Middle East. On top of that, on May 19, Mr. Obama addressed the nation just a few days prior to Mr. Netanyahu’s scheduled trip to Washington DC, and boldly advised Israel to revert to 1967 borders in order to realistically engage in the peace process.  Netanyahu’s was a clearly strategized and carefully worded rebuttal to Mr. Obama’s earlier speech. Mr. Netanyahu spoke for nearly 40 minutes, during which he received over 30 standing ovations from US lawmakers on both sides of the Isle, and cemented his long-standing alliance with Vice President Biden at least twice at the podium, with delicate nods to the Veep.

Across the Atlantic, Mr. Obama by contrast, stepped away from brick and mortar politics, and in true Obama style, hit the high notes of humanity, leadership and history. He proclaimed that young people from all over the world still dream to come to America and the UK to count themselves as one among the free people of the world. Mr. Obama, lest we forget, is burdened by the Nobel Peace prize he was awarded last year at a time when most observers said he had not yet proven his peace-maker credentials, although his overtures were honorable.  As the end of his first term as US President nears with no guarantee of a second term, Obama must be looking at the legacy of his first term, weighted with the additional pressure of having won the Nobel, which raised expectations he would usher in an era of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Today, Arab Israeli peace looks as elusive as ever, with the roadmap in tatters and negotiations stalled. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has stepped down from his post, outwardly demonstrating that the peace process was stalled, and some have voiced doubt that the US can be a credible neutral broker for peace. The Palestinians, having finally accepted the reality that the US will side with Israel on the tough issues, have resorted to the UN and a collection of nations for recognition of their aspirations for statehood. There, they are faced with unyielding US vetoes.

Obama at Westminster Hall

Harkening back to his days on the campaign trail, when Mr. Obama moved millions to declare his candidacy a movement not just an election, President Obama moved the house of commons in a lofty speech that cast the US and UK as global leaders, bound by the common bond of freedom, fueled by the strength of ideas (not to mention militaries) and motivated by nothing less than the desire for world peace. Even the skeptics were holding their heads a little higher once he was done with his oration. If only solving problems were as easy as delivering speeches.

Back in the US, Netanyahu had painted a picture of the perfect peace – at least from his perch – in front of a US Congress that spent more time on their feet clapping mindlessly, than sitting in their chairs thinking critically. Israel, Netanyahu said, would consider compromised borders but would not revert to the “indefensible” lines of 1967. It would talk about ceding land, but not consider the partition of Jerusalem. He recognized that Palestinian refugees may want to return to their ‘homeland’ but couldn’t accommodate them by providing for it in any peace deal. Israel, he said, was willing, indeed eager, to negotiate final status issues but wouldn’t give an inch on them and didn’t think a Fattah that has forged a ‘unity agreement’ with Hamas was a real partner for peace. It was a brilliant speech that had everyone in the room nodding in agreement, while Netanyahu was skillfully slamming the door on any meaningful give-take with which to craft a peace with his frustrated neighbors.

But as unrealistic as his vision for peace was, his assessment of Middle East realities rang far truer. Out of 300 million Arabs in the Middle East, he noted that only the roughly one million who live in Israel proper enjoy the freedoms the other 299 million are protesting for in the blood soaked streets of their own countries. The reality of the Middle East is that although the Israeli’s are the powerful thug on the block who doesn’t always play fair, the neighbors are in such rancorous disarray that the thug looks reasonable. Many may want to see a more even handed foreign policy on the part of the United States when it comes to Israel and the Arabs, but the fact is that Israel has taken the support of the US and turned it into schools, industries, research facilities, roads, buildings, bridges, and infrastructure along with a spirited parliament that is elected largely without strings.  Israel has implemented, at least for its Jewish citizens, a host of essential pillars associated with civic freedoms, which the Arabs have not. It cannot be denied that even the Arabs who have enjoyed American financial and military support, have not turned that support into structural seeds for a healthy, open and vibrant society. More commonly, they have squandered the cash into their own troughs or lined the pockets of their cronies, consolidated military aid into mighty armies loyal to the leadership versus the people, and continued to perpetuate fear to suffocate their societies instead of allowing the blossoming of ideas. It is hard to look across the landscape of the Middle East and ask America to turn its allegiance toward some tyrannical monarchy, versus the prospering democracy that is, however flawed, the state of Israel.

While across the Middle East daring citizens of stifling dictatorships continue to take to streets of their cities, in the face of brutality, so they can gain through the price of blood, a choice for future generations, the nations of the free world look on and ponder how to position themselves in this metamorphosis. In DC, Prime Minister Netanyahu painted Israel as the ideal society worthy of American support in the face of an Arab transition. In the company of US lawmakers who are beholden to interest groups which are often bankrolled by steadfast supporters of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu got the affirmation he was looking for.

In London, President Obama sought to take the high ground where America won’t be sullied by the bloody battles of Arab democracy. Surrounded by like minded Brits with a sense of “noblesse oblige” (to famously quote the queen), Mr. Obama declared the two nations as the leaders in the realm of freedom and such. He noted their shared “values and beliefs”, and alluded to the image of the young Arab fighting for freedoms that we in the West effortlessly enjoy. He invoked the ideal that all people have unalienable rights that cannot be taken away from them, and cemented his place as the defender of that ideal. He was, unmistakably, pivoting away from the nuts and bolts speech Mr. Netanyahu was delivering in Obama’s territory (quite literally at a podium and in a manner usually reserved for the President’s State of the Union), and staking a claim to a higher ground founded on humanity and the preservation of civilization as we know it.

The two men both failed to mention how many lives they are responsible for destroying through the wars they fight or support around the world, for ideals far less lofty than freedom and humanity. In the name of territory or energy supremacy, far too many people have lost lives or borne witness to destruction beyond comprehension for those of us who live without the habitual sight of armored tanks on our streets, helicopters overhead, flares in the night sky and the sound of explosions or sirens abound.

The reality is that Mr. Netanyahu is no more the peace-loving leader of the peace-process wronged by an unwilling partner bent on terror, than Mr. Obama is the uncontested occupant of the moral high ground. Attaining democracy in the Middle East is no easier than arriving at Middle East peace. The fractures are deep, the goals are divergent and the parties are unyielding in their demands. But sympathetic audiences are easy to win over, and both men were preaching to the proverbial choir this week.

While Netanyahu continues to deride Tehran’s ambitions for nuclear power, to the tune of a standing ovation in the Senate, he has never acknowledged Israel’s covert project to attain the same technology many years ago.  At the same time, Iran is expected to be completely transparent and submit to open inspections of the kind reserved for the rogue few. While it is an accepted truth that Israel is a nuclear power, Israel has never admitted as much, and has made a policy out of saying one thing, and doing another. The peace process is no different.

Israel has learned through the years that if it talks the good talk, no one will notice that it walks the bad walk. Just as in his speech Mr. Netanyahu talked of peace but slammed the door on compromising to attain it, so has Mr. Obama turned a blind eye to the sacrifices of people demonstrating for dignity and democracy on many streets, including Tehran’s.  While the demonstrators in Iran risk life and limb for a more secular Iran, in stark contrast to their Arab brethren who statistically want more Islam in their politics, President Obama has failed to articulate an unmistakably supportive position for the Iranian opposition to sink its teeth into.

So while we engage in polite political dissing and counter-posturing across continents in the name of peace, let’s at least be realistic about the stakes – they are nothing short of freedom and fundamental fairness for humanity.

_____________________________________________________________________

REFORM FROM HOME

By: Maryam Shargh-Zar
2/30/11

The revolution in Egypt which forced Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years of rule, was 32 years, to the day, after the Shah left Iran.

32 years later the chant heard from young people on the streets of Tehran is “Mobarak, Ben Ali, Hala nobat-e-Ahmadi” (that would be Ahmdinejad who is sometimes also referred to in short from as AN).  Not the picture of a beloved revolution and its benevolent leaders 30+ years after the euphoria of 22 Bahman, which now has to compete with the inspiration of 25 Bahman.

Many argue that Egypt will not meet the same fate as Iran in the aftermath of its revolution – one that not unlike Iran in 1979, ousted a secular solitary leader with close ties to the US.   Both these revolutions, and indeed the one being contemplated in Iran again today, were led by frustrated young people demanding the buzz concept which transcends oceans and political systems: “change”.  Americans too went for change in the last election cycle. Many argue that two years on from the historic inauguration of Barak H. Obama, the US has had politically, more of the same.

Today Iran’s youth risk life and limb for democratic representation, fundamental fairness, and some for gender equality. Bruised and beaten, demonstrators young and old return home pained, but proud to have been on the street and committed to go again until their demands are met. Sadly, after the 1979 revolution demanding the same set of ideals, Iran got more of the same as it had before the revolution, this time clad in black drab with scruffy beards, and harsher methods with fewer scruples.

Egypt, the world is convinced, will fare better. But will they?

praying at the protests

Egypt had Tahrir, or liberation square. Iran had Azadi, or freedom square, but fundamental change doesn’t come with claiming or renaming a square. The aftermath of each revolution was supposed to be as though “the sky will open, the lights will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and … the world will be perfect” to quote Hillary Clinton as she mocked Barak Obama’s vision of the US under his presidency during the primaries of 2009. She cautioned that there are no magic wands when it comes to solving tough problems. Iran and Egypt both have big problems to solve. The systems of government are ingrained in their ways and change cannot be made by one man, or one election, or one figure-head. Fundamental change is undertaken by an entire populace that has to change its own ways from the bottom up.

At this point we all accept the truth that widespread corruption, unrewarding social and economic conditions coupled with repression and lack of political freedom have become a volatile combination that give repressive regimes everywhere reason to worry about popular uprisings. These bleak circumstances apply to young and old, male and female, many of whom have made it onto the streets with clenched fists and gone home with tired vocal chords, but live to tell about it and urge their family and friends to venture out again the next day. The trouble is, reform must start at home, and at home in most Middle Eastern countries life continues unchallenged under the autocratic rule of the patriarch. Choice for women is still scarce and the freedom that comes with the right to choose is still illusive.

Take a look at the newest Arab revolt-nation, Yemen, and you’ll see some of the most repressive cultural practices against women. More than half of Yemenese girls are married off before the age of 18. A law introduced last year to declare “child briding” illegal was brought down with Islamist protests.  There is no culture of education for women/girls, and fathers admittedly think it’s a waste of time to educate their daughters. They see them as simply a labor force, to be used while they are in possession, and to be paid for once they are married off. The logic is that once married, the girls become a labor force for the groom’s family and the patriarch should pay for the purchase. This tradition leads to the abuse of women and girls over the duration of a lifetime.

Take a look at Egypt and you will find that more than a quarter of its children live below the level of poverty (less than $1US/day) and in rural areas that number is far higher, according to the UN perhaps as high as 45%. This may explain why families feel the need to sell their daughters to servitude or send their sons to sift through mountains of garbage for useful goods, in order to be able to feed the rest of the family. Education in rural areas is a non-starter, often even for young boys, much less the girls. Basic health care and hygiene are unavailable to an estimated 5 to 6.6 million people in Egypt, while incidents of domestic abuse are high, even-though not always recorded.

In modern-day Iran, although women comprise more than half of university enrollments, they are still only one-half of a person within the legal, judicial and intestate systems. Although in the cities they’ve made great strides in social and civic life, along the rural border areas of Afghanistan they are still sold in the same manner as cattle while across wide swaths of this nation known as the cradle of civilization, young girls are still married off as early as tradition recognizes them to be able to bear children. They are then promised from patriarch to patriarch in the form of a back-room deal, usually to the highest bidder with little assurance of health and safety, much less fair treatment. The family patriarchs are accountable to no one.

A family demanding "reform" in Egypt

Until and unless the culture of an iron fisted ruler doesn’t change in the minds and lives of people across the Middle East, every inspiring uprising will be doomed to fail under the reign of the next ruthless strong-man, no matter the disguise.

Maryam Zar is the founder of Womenfound, Inc. (www.womenfound.org) and Editor of the English section of Rahavard. Through Womenfound she advocate for women, women’s causes and their empowerment. She is also a former correspondent and newspaper editor in Iran. She is an incurable humanitarian and political junkie. She has a BS and a JD, 3 children and a conscience.
**

____________________________________________________________________

CHINA;
Using Iran to Wage a Cold War Against the U.S.

By: Khosrow B. Semnani;
Chairman and Founder of the nonprofit civil-rights group Omid for Iran.

This article was written in February 2010 by Mr. Semnani, and appeared in the Deseret News. Mr. Semnani is an Iranian patriot, a reform enthusiast as well as a business man and philanthropist. This year, Iranians are again on the streets shouting in favor of a “green movement” toward fairness, freedom and reform. With the entire region clenching fists for the same basic things, we thought we’d take a look back:

With Iranians marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic with another round of protests, it is time for China to align its Iran policy with the long-term interests of the Iranian people. Yet, sadly, as a rising superpower China is treating Iran as a bargaining chip in a great game against the United States.

China and Iran – strategically allied

In recent weeks, China’s support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has assumed a decidedly anti-American tone. Echoing Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, the People’s Daily, the chief organ of the Chinese Communist Party, attributed the mass protests against Iran’s rigged presidential elections as “an instance of naked political scheming” by the United States. Coming in the aftermath of its clash with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Google over censorship and human rights, China blamed the unrest in Iran on “online warfare launched by America via YouTube and Twitter.” In this paranoid reading, the United States had stirred up millions of Iranians by sowing “discord between the followers of conservative and reformist factions.”

China’s assertion that American media are instruments, and the Iranian people stooges, of the United States distorts reality. Such a perspective on Iran, if not corrected, can harm China’s relations with the United States and the Iranian people. While China may score political points with Iran’s fundamentalists by fueling the myth of the Great Satan, such an Iran policy is not only an affront to President Barack Obama and the American people but an insult to millions of Iranians protesting a bankrupt theocracy founded on fraud, violence, rape and murder.

Although China has officially condemned U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as interference in its internal affairs, it does not see its overt support for Ahmadinejad’s coup as interference in Iran’s domestic affairs. Yet it is China — not the United States — that is harming Iranians by arming Ahmadinejad and his Basij militia with anti-riot gear and vehicles. China is silent about violations of the Iranian people’s civil and human rights and refuses to condemn the rape and murder of political prisoners in Kahrizak prison, a crime that even Iran’s supreme leader has blamed on his own prison officials, not the United States. Further, it is China whose support for Ahmadinejad’s nuclear program at the United Nations encourages Ahmadinejad’s belligerent foreign policy, threatens the peace and security of the Middle East, and exposes millions to untold suffering caused by the threat of sanctions and war.

As Iran’s largest trading partner, China’s alliance with Ahmadinejad is not just bad politics, it is bad economics. China imports 15 percent of its oil from Iran and is responsible for more than 10 percent of Iran’s imports. Sinopec, the subsidiary of China’s state-owned Shengli Oil Co., has signed a 30-year $70 billion to $100 billion contract for 250 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas. Yet, far from securing its long-term energy needs, China is betting on Ahmadinejad to police its interests. A superpower cannot afford to act like a super predator. China cannot profit by preying on the Iranian people for oil without losing face for investing in the cheapest of political commodities: Ahmadinejad’s future.

Ahmadinejad has damaged Iran enough. China’s relations with Iran and the United States should not become a part of the wreckage. Instead of converting Iran into a battleground for a cold war against the United States, China should join the international community by declaring and demonstrating its solidarity with the Iranian people.

Instead of resisting change in Iran, China should welcome it.            **

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