klein on the ‘persian connection’
Journalist – and new-journo dramatist – Joe Klein speculates about how the influence and agenda of Iran plays into the current conflagration:
So let’s speculate that there’s a difference of opinion between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei about how to proceed on nuclear negotiations with the West. Let’s say Ahmadinejad doesn’t want to negotiate. Let’s say he wants to send a message to the West, to the Israelis and also to Khamenei: I’m not a powerless figurehead like my predecessor, Mohammed Khatami. My friends in the Revolutionary Guards give me veto power over any deal. It would not be difficult for Ahmadinejad to send the message, via the Guards, to both Hizballah and the military wing of Hamas, which is based in Damascus and funded in part by Iran: Let’s rile up the Israelis and start a crisis. Let’s change the subject from the Iranian nuclear negotiations. At the very least, let’s lay down an opening marker in the negotiations: If you mess with Iran, we have a multitude of ways to mess with you. Just a theory, of course. “We really don’t have any real idea about what goes on inside that government,” a senior U.S. diplomat told me recently. But it’s not implausible, either. “My sense was that Khamenei didn’t want to start trouble anywhere else in the world because it might hurt the nuclear negotiations,” says Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, author of a recent book about Iran. “But I don’t think Hizballah would have crossed the border into Israel without approval from a much higher—Iranian—authority, either.” …
Furthermore, it was the Bush Administration—not the Israelis, not the Palestinian Authority—that insisted the Palestinian elections go forward last January, with disastrous consequences. “The only people who want those elections are Condi Rice and Hamas,” a prominent member of Israel’s Kadima party told me just before Hamas won the election. A more careful and collegial U.S. Middle East policy might have forced the simultaneous disarming of Hizballah as Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005. This is not to say that the Bush Administration caused last week’s explosion, or even that meticulous diplomacy might have prevented it. But it couldn’t have hurt. Instead, the U.S. and Iran may have become unwitting co-conspirators, pouring gas onto a petroleum fire—a dreadful twist that only a Persian could love.