Friday, April 25, 2008

U.S. plays Good Cop/Bad Cop with Iran

U.S. Plays Good Cop/Bad Cop with Iran

William O. Beeman
University of Minnesota

Once again we see a predictable pattern in the dance between the United States and Iran. We get news through Ambassador Thomas Pickering on NPR last Saturday Morning (April 19, 2008) that informal talks have been going on for five years between Iranian officials and retired U.S. officials, with Pickering speculating on the possibility that the U.S. might talk to Iran directly, and disagreeing with the idea that talking to Iran might constitute "rewarding" them. Then today we see in the Washington Post that Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are rattling the sabers threating military action against Iran for vague and nebulous Iranian deeds ( "U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran" April 25 ). Voilá! The United States once again issues a baseless threat. Reporter Ann Scott Tyson quotes Mullen as saying clearly that there is "no smoking gun which could prove that the highest [Iranian] leadership is involved" with the nebulous support for unidentified "special groups" that might possibly be targeting U.S. forces.

We have heard this story ad nauseum. What should now be clear is that every time there is the slightest hint of improving U.S.-Iranian relations, or anything that would resemble successful diplomacy, some U.S. official or other--lately military--trots out unspecified and unproven accusations against Iran and threatens military action against Tehran. Surely the Iranians have become inured to this good cop/bad cop game. It is ridiculous to believe that this kind of tactic would have any effect on Iranian actions or policy any longer. However, it might well still have some currency with isolated pockets of Americans in an overheated election year where Iran is everyone's favorite bogey man.