Obama, Go to Tehran

Tense relations between US, Iran, on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, are similar to the deep rift between America and communist China, 40 years ago. After his historic visit to China, Nixon was reelected – Obama should make a similar move.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

It is difficult to believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected the fit he threw over Ban-ki Moon's decision to attend the nonaligned nations summit would persuade the UN secretary general to cancel his trip to Tehran. We can assume that Netanyahu does not expect the prohibitions and exclusions to stop Iran's nuclear program. After all, he argues that even heightened economic sanctions have not made an impression on the ayatollahs.

The main "accomplishment" of the media battle Bibi is waging against the Islamic Republic is to turn the dispute over nuclear capabilities into an unsolvable religious disagreement.

How would the imams explain to their followers Iran's public renunciation of a strategic weapon that can be found in the arsenals of India, Pakistan and North Korea, as well as Israel (according to foreign sources )? And how would the regime justify the long years of shortages in the stores and soaring gasoline prices? From the Iranian perspective, agreeing to open the Natanz facilities to International Atomic Energy Association inspectors (assuming that the gates of the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona remain shut ) constitutes Jewish humiliation of Muslim honor.

Issues of honor must be solved with honor. U.S. President Barack Obama holds the key. The tense relations between the United States and a fundamentalist Iran, on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, bears great similarity to the deep rift between America and communist China. Richard Nixon's surprise meeting with Mao Zedong 40 years ago, in an election year, changed history.

In a conversation with aides prior to his historic journey to China, the conservative president said: "Uh, no one in this world knows how great the gulf is between their philosophy and ours, their interests and ours," adding, "Uh, but also no one in this world, I think, knows better than I do, how imperative it is to see that great nations that have enormous differences, uh, where you've got the nuclear thing hanging in the balance, have got to find ways to, you know, talk, get along."

The current Republic presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn't believe in dialogue with the enemy. In his speech at the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida on Thursday he noted sarcastically that Obama, in his first television interview after his inauguration, proposed talks with Iran.

"We're still talking, and Iran's centrifuges are still spinning," Romney said in a dig, adding, "Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus."

Obama has indeed thrown Israel under the bus, but it's not the bus Romney meant: Obama is standing in front of a bus whose driver, blind to reality, is steering Israel into war, risking head-on collision with all of its neighbors and international isolation.

Obama lost the battle long ago for Netanyahu's fans in the U.S. Jewish community and among the Christian right. If the Iran issue was critical to the U.S. presidential election then Obama should have already started packing. Instead of trying to bring the Iranians to their knees, he can offer them a way up toward restoration of their self-respect. What does Obama have to lose by flying to Tehran to begin a dialogue about ending the nuclear arms race and stopping Iran's support for terror organizations and for the genocide in Syria?

Here's a suggestion for Obama's reconciliation speech in Tehran. "No single nation should pick and choose which country holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations possess nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal" (from Obama's remarks in Cairo on June 4, 2009 ).

By the way, after his historic visit to China, Nixon was reelected.



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