Year XLVIII, 2006, Number 1, Page 27

 

 

The Crises of the Middle East and the Responsibilities of Europe
 
SANTE GRANELLI
 
 
Ever since the United States and its allies launched their “war on terrorism” with the invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001, followed by that of Iraq in March 2003, the world has witnessed the rapid unfolding of a series of events in the different chessboards of the so-called greater Middle East (i.e., the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa). These events have raised the awareness, both of European public opinion and of the leading media channels, of the vicious cycle that has been created and of the serious risks that the world as a whole (but Europe in particular) will run unless a solution can, reasonably soon, be found to the problems that have so long gripped this region, and which the North American initiative has only aggravated. Whereas these events have thrown into sharp relief the precarious nature of the resulting imbalances, possible solutions — to say nothing of the instruments through which such solutions might be implemented — appear hard to envisage.
Restricting ourselves to the problems most in the public eye, it is possible to make a series of observations: one, there is no indication that terrorism linked to Islamic fundamentalism and to al-Qaeda has been drained of its power to wreak havoc; two, there seems to be no honourable way for the Americans and their allies to withdraw from Iraq (where, on the contrary, civil war now appears to be underway, and even to be bringing about the dissolution of the state); three, the pacification of Afghanistan is far from complete. In the same way, relations between Israel and the Palestinians continue to be “antagonistic”, and have been worsened by the recent electoral success of Hamas, the formation of the Haniyeh government, and the consequent hardening of the position of the Israeli government; finally, there appears to be no real prospect of an agreement with the Iranian government over its nuclear dossier, nor does it seem that the Iranians can be persuaded to abandon their nuclear programme without recourse to military action, a view already put about in certain political and military circles in the United States[1] and also, although less openly, in Israel. In the meantime, the price of crude has topped the 70-dollars-a-barrel mark and many analysts contend that, in the event of a further worsening of the general political situation in the Middle East, it might soon reach and even exceed the 100-dollars-abarrel threshold, which, until just a few years ago, was quite inconceivable. And it is easy to imagine what effect this would have on the situation of many countries (particularly in Europe) whose economies are still largely dependent on non-renewable energy sources.
It is widely accepted that this worsening of the situation should be blamed on the decision of the United States, emboldened, following the collapse of the Soviet empire, by its position as the world’s only superpower, to act unilaterally in defence of its own national interests, concerning itself little with the international legitimacy of its actions, and actively pushed in this direction by a number of hardliner commentators who had already been drawing parallels between the United States and the ancient Roman Empire.[2] This line of thinking, already present in American political debate prior to the dramatic events of September 2001, was strengthened following the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, which provided the new administration, also on the basis of the earlier war in Kosovo,[3] with the opportunity to act, showing total disregard for the views and even the hostility of many of its allies.
The unquestionable responsibilities of the United States should not lead us to ignore those, equally serious, of Europe. In January 2003, writing in Il Corriere della Sera, former Italian ambassador to the United States, Sergio Romano, highlighted inconsistencies between America’s attitude to North Korea, on the one hand, and Iraq, on the other, ending his analysis with the comment that what the Middle East lacks is the presence of a “power… capable of imposing, on the United States, respect for its interests and advice”. The fact that such a power does exist in the Far East (in the shape of China) explains the Americans’ caution in its dealings with regard to North Korea. Romano ended thus: “Europe is that power that is lacking. As long as they are divided, the countries of Europe can, at the very most, like the French president and the German chancellor, wage a decorous legal battle, based on the role of the United Nations and on the need for a second resolution. But they are not in a position to tell America straight out that the balances of the Middle East are, in the final analysis, European balances and that no one has the right to upset them without taking the needs of the Europeans into consideration.”[4]
If, then, we are faced with potentially explosive crisis situations, not only in the Middle East and in Central Asia, but also in other parts of the world,[5] this cannot be attributed solely to unbridled American unilateralism. Equally to blame is Europe which, because of its division (its failure to exist as a “power”), is equipped neither to safeguard its own interests, nor to push actively and efficiently for peaceful solutions, in a way that would help to “relieve the United States of a considerable share of its burden of global responsibility”.[6]
However, it is not enough simply to underline Europe’s impotence in relation to these crises, to recall its historical responsibilities, or to point out the limits of America’s imperialistic policy. The problems of the Middle East are indeed complex and the definition of just and lasting solutions to them (as well as the identification of the political instruments through which such solutions might be implemented) demands an in-depth and insightful analysis of the events that can shed light on their origins. In particular, if we look beyond the worsening of the Iraqi conflict and the question of terrorism linked to Islamic fundamentalism (which should be regarded more as an effect than as a cause), it seems quite clear that two emergencies, in particular, threaten the future of the area, and thus the future of Europe and of the world as a whole: the Iranian nuclear crisis and the increasingly difficult relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. These are the two situations — far more intertwined than people usually realise — on which attention must be focused.
 
The Policy of Iran after the Election of Ahmadinejad.
 
Much bewilderment, compounded by a certain degree of concern, greeted, in June 2005, the news of the unexpected victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Mayor of Tehran, in the ballot for the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Winning 62 per cent of the votes cast, Ahmadinejad, whose support came mainly from the under-privileged classes that throng the poorest quarters in the southern part of Tehran, defeated pragmatic cleric and former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom many, both at home and abroad, had seen as the inevitable successor to the reformist Khatami, and as a leader destined to continue his predecessor’s policy of cautious openness, perhaps even attempting to engage directly in a dialogue with the United States.
However, people with a more in-depth understanding of Iran’s complexities had suggested that Ahmadinejad had little chance of modifying substantially the policy followed by all the governments of the Islamic Republic since the Khomeinist revolution of 1979. In its August 2005 issue, the Middle East Monitor summarised the terms of the question: “In the most likely nuclear scenario, talks with the EU will go on much as before, as Ahmadinejad has promised, with Iran continuing to insist its nuclear activity is peaceful, and the US remaining sceptical of the diplomatic process”, before going on to say that the prospect of a change in Iranian policy as a result of the election of Ahmadinejad “has been somewhat exaggerated”.[7] This appraisal (hardly a negative one), originating from the business world, was confirmed by the decision of the UK’s leading insurance companies to continue considering Iran, even after the election of the new president, as a country at lower risk than other Middle Eastern states, Saudi Arabia in particular.
Subsequent declarations by the new president began to cast a shadow of doubt over these assessments of the situation. Many began to credit the hypothesis that Iran was about to harden its attitude over the nuclear question and, more generally, over the role that the country intended to play on the regional chessboard and in relation to the bloody conflicts devastating the Middle East as a whole (Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, etc). Ahmadinejad’s declaration, at the annual pro-Palestinian demonstration held at the end of October 2005, that Israel should be “wiped off the map” caused an uproar. In truth, Ahmadinejad was only reiterating, albeit more forcefully than his predecessors, a stance that, attributed to the leader of the 1979 revolt against the Shah, dates back to the very beginning of the Khomeinist revolution, and has been adopted by every Iranian leader since then, particularly in the context of the country’s frequent pro-Palestinian demonstrations.[8]
Even more worrying seem to be the declarations issued and the initiatives undertaken with regard to the nuclear question, such as the appointment of the conservative Ali Laridjanias chief nuclear negotiator, the sweeping changes made in the country’s diplomatic circles (the replacement of many individuals close to the former president), and, more generally, Iran’s refusal to yield to the West’s requests to suspend its uranium enrichment programme along with its threat, issued a number of times, to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
It is useful, in this regard, to recall the official position of the Iranian government on its nuclear dossier and to try to analyse, also in consideration of the country’s geopolitical position and recent history, its motivations. The Iranian position was clearly stated by the country’s president at the General Assembly of the United Nations early last October. Ahmadinejad began by proposing that the UN should set up a special committee and entrust it with compiling a fact-finding report that should include an analysis of “how the material, technology and equipment needed for the production of nuclear weapons has been transferred to the Zionist regime (i.e., Israel, in normal Iranian parlance) in contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and come up with practical plans to make the Middle East free from nuclear arms”.[9] Having complained about the discriminatory attitude of the major powers, which prevents free access to nuclear energy even for civil purposes, Ahmadinejad stressed the need for each country to enjoy full sovereignty over its own nuclear plants. He argued that keeping these plants permanently dependent, for supplies of technologies, fissile materials, etc., on arrogant “bullying states” is tantamount to rendering the states themselves entirely dependent, in every respect, on external powers. “No popular and responsible government does not (sic!) regard such work as a service to its nation. The story of oil-rich countries under foreign domination is an experience which no independent country is ready to repeat.”[10]
Still in New York, but outside the proceedings of the Assembly of the United Nations, Ahmadinejad and his collaborators let it be understood that, should the European countries and the United States’ other allies continue to turn a deaf ear to Iran’s requests in relation to its nuclear dossier, then Tehran could respond with an oil embargo, a threat already issued openly, in Vienna, by Iran’s new nuclear negotiator, Ali Laridjani, in response to the hypothesis that the “European troika” (the UK, France and Germany) might — as requested by the United States — have the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approve a resolution to bring the Iranian nuclear question to the attention of the UN Security Council. As Laurent Zecchini wrote in Le Monde on September 22nd, 2005: “Finally, and this may prove to be the most effective sword of Damocles in the context of the talks currently initiated by the Europeans, Iran has announced that its sales of oil and other trade agreements will be decided on the basis of the support that the various countries will or will not lend to Iran in its disputes with the IAEA”.[11]
 
A Few Historical Precedents.
 
Ahmadinejad’s declarations to the United Nations and his reference to the experiences, in the recent past, of many oil producing countries, provide a basis on which to analyse the current position of the Iranian government, setting it in the context of the country’s recent history. As American historian Karl E. Meyer writes in his book The Dust of Empire: “Twice in the past century, the British hand-picked, and twice deposed, Iran’s shahinshah, the king of kings. In 1907 the British and Russians formally carved Iran into spheres of influence: Russia’s zone included Tehran, while the British got the southern oil fields just coming into production. Because of Iran’s oil and its geography, British and Russian forces occupied this ostensibly neutral nation during both world wars. For nearly half a century, Britain decided how much Iran would be paid for its oil.”[12] Two facts in particular, linked to the oil question, should be underlined here: first, in May 1908, a private British company, having obtained the first oil concession, opened the first well in the South East of the country; and second, at the start of 1911, the British government decided that the Royal Navy should start using oil instead of coal and, in the same period, acquired control (with 51 per cent of the shares) of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which held the oil concessions.[13]
The allied victory over the Central Empires of Europe, the Russian Revolution, and the end of the Ottoman Empire altered profoundly the power situation in the Middle East and in central Asia, basically leaving Great Britain as the only global power. But as subsequent events were to demonstrate, Britain’s was a “weak power”, unable to sustain the costs and responsibilities associated with an imperial role. Particularly difficult to sustain were the costs of maintaining efficient military defences on the various fronts, including many parts of the former Ottoman Empire, for some of which the British sought Arab allies (for example the Hashemita dynasty in Iraq and in Jordan) to which to entrust the responsibilities of government.[14] In February 1921, General Reza Khan led his troops into the capital of Iran, ordered the arrests of several important liberal and nationalist politicians, and set in motion the process that was to culminate, four years later, in the deposition of the last Shah of the Turkish Qajar dynasty. Reza Khan took the Shah’s place and guaranteed Britain her continued control of the country’s oil.
But the situation in Europe, which was in constant turmoil, soon altered the balance of power. In 1941, Great Britain and Russia restored their alliance, and the Shah, also on account of his ill-concealed sympathy for the Nazi regime, was made to stand down and forced into exile; he was succeeded by his son, the young Mohammad Reza, and Iran became a vital rear route for the transfer of allied aid to the Soviet Union. When, at the end of the war, the new US president Henry Truman ordered the British and Russian occupying forces to leave Iran, this seemed to signal, at last, the start of a new phase in which efforts could be made to democratise and rebuild the country. Iran had a precious source of income: oil. But the profits to be had were, as already explained, in the hands of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and thus of the British government. The tensions that boiled up at this time led to the formation of a national front and, within it, the re-formation of an old alliance (dating back to the times of the anti-British Tobacco Revolt of 1891) of clerics, Westernised intellectuals and traders (bazarii).[15]
In the winter of 1949, the leader of the front, Mohammad Mossadeq, called to lead the government by a reluctant Shah, entered into long and exhaustive negotiations with the British, with the aim of improving the harsh terms of the oil concessions.[16] He requested and obtained the mediatory intervention of the Americans. However, at the decisive moment, the US administration, which had initially sympathised with the Iranian position, decided to side with the British (the Korean War had already begun, as had the Cold War regime, and the overriding priority of the US government, with regard to its foreign policy, was now the containment of Soviet expansionism). Mossadeq was left with no choice but to fight his corner, which he did by nationalising the oil concessions. Great Britain responded by shutting down the oil fields, imposing a naval embargo, and threatening invasion. The complex evolution of the crisis culminated in the coup d’état, favoured (or it would probably be more accurate to say “promoted”) by the British and the Americans, that led, in August 1953,[17] to the removal and arrest of Mossadeq and the restoration of semi-dictatorial powers to the young Shah, who was to remain in power for a further 26 years, until the Khomeinist revolution of February 1979.
 
From Oil to Nuclear.
 
Whereas the world’s energy situation (as regards natural sources of energy and, in particular, of oil) at the time of Mossadeq’s fall from power, and right through to the mid-1970s, was characterised by overabundance (the so-called oil glut) and consequently by practically unlimited supply and very low prices, today the situation is entirely different. After the Middle Eastern conflicts and the crises of the 1970s, which led, among other things, to the establishment of OPEC, we have now definitively entered the age of the oil shortage. The question of the availability of natural sources of energy (oil, gas, etc.) now has a significance far greater than that of the (partially transitory) crises of the past and casts a very different and far more worrying light on the threats of embargos issued by the oil producing countries (Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia, etc.). In the meantime, the burgeoning industrial growth of the fast-developing powers (China and India, in particular) has led to constant and growing tension on the energy raw materials market.[18]
Moreover, the increase in demand is no longer met by a comparable increase in supply. Experts and scientists have long been analysing this situation, pointing out that oil is not an infinite substance and that “at some point… all the oil being discovered around the world will no longer replace the oil that has been produced, (…) and global production will peak. Oil companies and oil states will find it harder and harder to maintain current production levels, much less keep up with rising consumption. Demand will again outstrip supply, and prices will rise. Worse, although the term ‘peak’ suggests a neat curve with production rising slowly to the halfway point, then tapering off gradually to zero, in the real world, the landing will not be soft… the edge of the plateau looks a lot like a cliff.”[19]
Other experts go further, suggesting that the peak has already been reached (in 2005) or is about to be reached. According to geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes: “We are facing an unprecedented problem. World oil production has stopped growing; declines in production are about to begin. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the geological supply of an essential resource will not meet the demand.”[20] This paper is not the place to examine in depth the technical details of Deffeyes’ analysis, which refers to the equations developed in 1969 by another American geologist, M. King Hubbert,[21] or to ask ourselves who is closer to the truth: the pessimists à la Deffeyes, who maintain that the supply demand ratio has already reached its peak and that the decline has already begun, or the optimists (whom Deffeyes defines “cornucopians”) who believe that the peak is still a long way off given that the world still has (in a number of areas, such as the Arctic regions) large reserves that have yet to be properly identified, but are known to exist, and whose exploitation will be rendered economically advantageous by the hike in oil prices. But whatever the timing of the peak and of the plunge that will follow it, even the most optimistic observers agree that the geological supplies of energy (oil, gas, coal, bituminous schists, etc.) are not endless and that, sooner or later, they are bound to run out.[22] This is a widely acknowledged situation, even though the importance of the problem has, until now, been underrated, particularly in Europe and, up until President Bush’s recent State of the Union Address, in the United States, too.[23]
Whereas, on the one hand, this scenario renders Iran’s embargo threats particularly worrying in the short term (the next 5-10 years), especially for the European countries that, in the main, do not have energy sources of their own, on the other, it offers an unarguably rational justification, in the medium-long term, for the declared intention of Iran — but also of many other countries, regardless of whether or not they are signatories of the NPT — to equip themselves with the technical and scientific capabilities to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and thus to render themselves, to an extent, independent of the availability of natural, non-renewable sources of energy. This line of thinking has, in recent years, generated a great deal of interest within Iran, sometimes linked with arguments of an environmental nature, such as the view that — in the words of James Lovelock, quoted by the Tehran Times (May 26th, 2005) — “We must stop gaining energy from fossil fuels… and we must do it in the next decade”. “Burning gas instead of coal also sounds good since it cuts carbon dioxide emissions in half, but in practice it may be the most dangerous source of all, because natural gas is 23 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2… There is no sensible alternative to nuclear energy”.[24] These ideas have been reiterated in a number of popular petitions circulated in the universities of Tehran, which are notoriously lukewarm towards the theocratic regime, and they are shared by the overwhelming majority of Iranians, regardless of their political sympathies.
Iran’s decision to invest in the development of nuclear energy is not a recent choice, but dates back to a decision of the last Shah. As Kenneth M. Pollack recalls “Iran was a charter member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970 because the Shah had been eager to build a network of nuclear power plants and the United States would sell them only to countries that had signed the treaty”.[25] This work, begun by the Shah’s regime, continued after the Khomeinist revolution, even though initially it was not particularly productive. When the reformist leader Khatami came to power, however, the inept leaders of the project (who owed their positions more to their revolutionary credentials than to their technical expertise) were replaced by genuine experts and efficient managers who injected fresh momentum into the endeavour.
In August 2002 the world learned, through the National Council of Resistance (opponents of the regime outside Iran), of the existence of two sites (Natanz and Arak) that were producing fissile material that could be used, among other things, to build nuclear bombs. The ensuing inspection of the Natanz site by IAEA officials (in February 2003), which Iran, as a signatory of the NPT was obliged to allow, confirmed that this activity was indeed being carried out, and disclosed other worrying information. “It found 160 centrifuges assembled into a pilot program. In another building, a thousand additional centrifuges were being assembled at a facility intended to have 50,000 of them. (That would have been enough to produce fissile material for roughly twenty-five to fifty nuclear weapons per year). The centrifuges at Natanz were identical to those used by the Pakistanis and, in 2004, A.Q. Khan would admit to having provided extensive support to Iran.”[26]
It was these developments that prompted the negotiations between Iran and the Board of the IAEA, as well as the parallel ones between Iran and the European troika. In these discussions, Iran’s official position has always been to insist — and it is not easy to contradict this affirmation — that its nuclear programme is purely for civil purposes (and thus “peaceful”) and that it has no intention of producing weapons of mass destruction. And yet it is clear, as many authors have pointed out, that the Iranian government (the current one led by Ahmadinejad, just like all the other post-Khomeinist governments) has always taken into careful account, as well, the military option, which is technically possible, given the way the project has been developed and also the precedents set by other states that most certainly have nuclear weapons.
Remarking on the start of negotiations with the Europeans, Pollack writes: “Of course, Tehran had no intention of stopping its nuclear program and said so endlessly in public. Indeed, in the fall of 2003, it seemed more determined than ever to acquire nuclear weapons as the only sure way to prevent the United States from invading Iran the same way it had Afghanistan and Iraq.”[27] These assessments are not dissimilar to those formulated more recently by Mme Azadeh Kian-Thiébaut (La République islamique d’Iran) who writes: “At the same time the Iranian government and its nuclear negotiators were striving to reassure the IAEA, Europe and the United States of its peaceful intentions, the conservative daily newspaper, Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is linked to the Leader, demanded, in an editorial dated November 8th, 2004, the development of nuclear weapons, defining this a ‘natural right’ of the Iranian people. Nevertheless this declaration clashes with the position of the Leader Khamanei who, several days earlier, had publicly, and on religious grounds, stated his opposition to the development, storage and use of nuclear weapons.”[28]
These positions, apparently ambivalent and contradictory, can better be understood if one considers that Iran is, to all intents and purposes, surrounded by north American troops. As Kian-Thiébaut points out, “Since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, in particular, the American armed forces have become Iran’s most important neighbours, given that the country is surrounded by them, to the West (Iraq, Turkey), to the South (the Persian Gulf, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia), to the East (Afghanistan, Pakistan), and also to the North (Azerbaidjan)”.[29] If we also consider that the only nuclear powers in this region are Israel and Pakistan, both allies of the US, and that the Jewish state in particular has, on a number of occasions, let it be known that it is prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites (as it did those of Iraq in 1981), one can see that the Iranian regime has legitimate cause for concern and can understand its intention to accept nothing that will prevent it from developing its own nuclear programme, even for military purposes.
All this serves to shed some light on the complex web of dramatic problems that grip this region. These problems concern both access to natural energy sources (oil and gas), with the West (the United States and Europe) intent on retaining its privileged position, even in the face of the growing demands of the developing Asian powers, and also the need, felt very strongly on the Iranian side, to have adequate means of defence, even if this means changing, in its own favour, the geo-political balance of the region’s states, some of which (America’s allies, Israel and Pakistan) have the atomic bomb. Unless these issues can be tackled and resolved around the negotiating table and through political initiatives that take into account the legitimate interests of all the parties concerned, they could trigger a series of alarming crises that would affect Europe, primarily, but that could also lead to a widespread catastrophe of unthinkable proportions.
 
The Other “Knot”: the Palestinian Question.
 
If, from the point of view of the Western world, guaranteeing access to the sources of energy located in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc.), is, in the short-to medium-term,[30] among the most vital of the complex concerns surrounding this area, it is also true to say that another question — that of the 50-year conflict between the Palestinians, still without legitimate statehood, and the state of Israel — is no less crucial and every bit as disturbing.
It should be recalled, in this regard, that Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s recent declaration of the need to “wipe the state of Israel off the map” (which caused such outrage in Europe and in the Western world generally) reflects a view shared by much of the Islamic world, particularly in the countries bordering on Palestine that see, on their own doorsteps, the tragedy of the Palestinian people. Just before the end of 2005, in the context of the Egyptian elections, which, for the first time, saw the participation of the Muslim Brothers’ movement (the latter recording a resounding success which was not reflected in numerical terms only on account of the movement’s having agreed to President Mubarak’s request to restrict its candidates to a third of the electoral wards), Mahdi Akef, its spiritual leader, declared to the daily newspaper Ashar al Awsat: “Our position is clear, we do not recognise Israel. We regard Israel as a band of Zionists planted in our homeland by America, by the East and by the West. We say that Israel has no right to exist here among us, that Israel has to go.”[31] The fact that similar declarations made by the Iranian leadership were given a much higher profile in the Western press is explained by the fact that Iran is the only “important” country in the region in which the government (and not just public opinion, as is the case in many of America’s allies, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia) has officially come out against Israel, openly supporting the Palestinian claims.[32]
The intention here is not to offer an absolute and definitive assessment of the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the current balance of power in the Middle East, of which the state of Israel is certainly a part, and a reality that we cannot refuse to acknowledge. At the same time, there can be no ignoring the need, now accepted by much of the Western world, to create an independent Palestinian state with clearly defined borders. As long ago as the summer of 1980, shortly after the collapse of the Camp David agreements, the European Federalist Movement presented the European Parliament with a petition in which it identified “in the creation of a Palestinian state the decisive factor that will allow the forces for progress and peace in the Middle East to prevail over the forces of conservatism”.[33] With regard to the Palestinian situation, too, it is worth recalling a few historical precedents that might help us to comprehend the present situation. As with many of the “difficult” situations that characterise the Middle East (Iranian oil and the Iranian nuclear programme, the war in Iraq, civil wars in the Lebanon, etc.), it was the decisions taken by Great Britain and her allies at the end of the First World War that gave rise to what we call the “Palestinian question”. As Rashid Khalidi recalls, in his book Resurrecting Empire: “with the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, Britain threw the weight of the greatest power of the age… behind the creation of a Jewish state in what was then an overwhelmingly Arab country”.[34] In truth, a close reading of the Balfour Declaration reveals that the British government, while declaring its support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, at the same time insisted that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.[35]
But as in Iran and in other trouble spots in the world, after the Second World War, the mantle of imperial power passed from Great Britain to the United States. With regard to Palestine, the Americans simply accepted that the creation of the state of Israel represented the inevitable evolution of the fundamental choices made twenty-five years earlier by the British. It was President Truman who, overriding the views “of most of his foreign policy advisors on the Palestine issue”, accepted a United Nations plan “for the partition of Palestine which was exceedingly favourable to the Zionists”[36] — and which certainly contrasted with the final part of the Balfour Declaration — and recognised the new Jewish state immediately after the declaration of its independence in May 1948. A throwaway remark, in this case almost a joke, will often reveal far more about what underlies certain situations than long, in-depth explanations do. According to an American source, cited by Khalidi, President Truman, in order to explain his support for the Zionist position, in spite of the objections of his collaborators, remarked: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents”.[37] Perhaps it would not be inappropriate or wide of the mark to suggest that this brief consideration, expressed by President Truman, constitutes the basis on which the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel was (and still is) founded.
For a long time, the position of the Palestinians and of their political leaders coincided with the views today expressed by Ahamadinejad and by Mahdi Akef (which are, as already pointed out, by no means minority views among Muslims in the Middle East): in short, they rejected the state of Israel’s right to exist. Now, this position, which had been overcome during Arafat’ s leadership through the “de facto” recognition of the state of Israel in the declaration of independence proclaimed by the Palestinian National Council in 1988 and the formal recognition of Israel that was part of the Oslo agreements in 1993, has emerged once again, albeit only through somewhat ambiguous declarations made by the new Palestinian government, based on the Hamas majority that emerged from last January’s elections. At the start of April, in an open letter published in the European press, the new leader of the government, Ismail Haniyeh, reiterated the position of the Palestinians, who still find themselves denied fundamental rights by Israel, before going on to say that “We, of Hamas, want peace and we want to put an end to the bloodshed… The message of Hamas and of the Palestinian Authority to the world is this: do not talk to us any more of ‘Israel’s right to exist’ or of an end to the resistance until you have obtained, from the Israelis, an undertaking to withdraw from our land and to recognise our rights.”[38]
As for the Oslo agreements, which the new Palestinian government seems to be throwing into question, Pollack recalls that they came about as a result of the commitment of the American administration led by the newly-elected president, Bill Clinton. Many in Clinton’s staff “believed ardently that the Arab-Israeli dispute was the single greatest source of instability in the region, and their predecessors in the Bush administration had created an opportunity they were determined to take advantage of”.[39] In the Clinton programme, “the peace process would include the Palestinians, Syria (and its Lebanese vassal) and Jordan. But this meant that Israel’s other security concerns — those beyond the immediate confrontation states — had to be addressed. In other words, the administration had to do something about Iraq and Iran.”[40] There was, in fact, substantial continuity between the initiatives of the Bush administration and the negotiations managed by the Clinton presidency, which led to the Oslo agreements. Both were carried out according to “ground rules” dictated by the Americans, on the basis of which “nothing of any importance… had yet even been negotiated, let alone agreed upon”.[41] This led to the formal recognition, by the Palestinian Authority, of the state of Israel. However, Israel, for its part, would only recognise the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians, without going so far as to acknowledge “the right of the Palestinian people to state-hood, self-determination, or sovereignty, or that they had rights to borders, or where those borders were”.[42]
The outcome of the Oslo agreements, accepted by PLO leaders apparently more concerned with consolidating their organisation’s power than with pursuing objectives crucial to the future of the Palestinians, was that whereas Israel obtained full recognition from the governments of the Arab states (shrewdly drawn into the negotiations by the Americans), “the Palestinians were forgotten by their supporters in the Arab world and elsewhere, who mistakenly thought that they had finally achieved their national objectives”.[43] In the light of this, it should come as little surprise that, at the first opportunity (the January 2006 elections), the Palestinians rewarded, with a large majority, the party of Hamas, which had opposed the Oslo agreements.
If most of the governments of the Arab states approved these agreements, the Iranian government certainly did not. As mentioned earlier, one of the fundamental reasons underlying the initiative of the new American administration was the need to reassure Israel over its security even in the face ofthe two “rogue states” (Iraq and Iran) that had not been invited to the negotiating table. Iran, in particular, was already the area’s only “regional power” whose government, despite maintaining good relations with Arafat and the PLO, openly supported the Palestinians’ more radical demands upheld by Islamic Jihad and by Hamas. Obviously, as a result of this position, the Iranians were hostile to the American endeavour that culminated in the Oslo agreements and, in more general terms, continued their efforts “to drive the United States out of the Gulf, expand their influence throughout the region, and derail the peace process”.[44]
In this framework it was immediately clear that the process launched by the Clinton administration was bound to fail. These were, in fact, biased negotiations, in which the apparently “honest broker” (the US government) was, in reality, on the side of one of the parties and in which the states participating had been selected, excluding the only regional power, Iran, whose government effectively reflected the pro-Palestinian feelings of its people and of the Middle East’s Islamic population generally. Displaying considerable realism, the Israeli prime minister, Sharon, and his successor Olmert, recognised this and opted for unilateral withdrawal, first from Gaza, and subsequently also from other colonies on the West Bank. But even this initiative, while apparently increasing Israel’s security, particularly with the construction of the Wall, does not take account of the crucial issues at the root of this fifty-year conflict, such as the foundation of an independent Palestinian state, the return of the Palestinian refugees, the fate of Jerusalem, etc., and thus still leaves the way clear for further exacerbations of the crisis.
So what is to be done? To trust in the healing power of time is hardly an answer. In truth, in order to confront the real issues, it will take new negotiations that, as Clinton’s team suggested, tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a new angle, recognising the Palestinians’ right to a sovereign state, but at the same time meeting the Israelis’ legitimate requests with regard to their security. But, to be successful, such negotiations must meet two conditions: one, they must not exclude important regional actors, Iran first and foremost; two, they must tackle, together, all the problems of the region. Indeed, the mere fact of including Iran would make it possible to take into consideration, as “added variables” in the same equation, the question of Iran’s nuclear programme, that of fairer rules governing access to the region’s gas and oil, and, last but not least, the question of how to find a way out of the Iraqi crisis.[45]
In the same way, the concerns of the United States, too, must be taken into due consideration. Referring to the Iranian nuclear question, Pollack argues that it is possible that the United States may have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran, and while, on the one hand, he suggests the positioning of US ballistic missiles in the area and the signing of a formal treaty of alliance with Israel, on the other, he is quick to stress the need for more receptiveness in the matter of economic aid and of multilateral initiatives, concluding that the United States is “an extraordinarily powerful nation, but not an omnipotent one” and that “there are problems that the United States simply cannot handle by themselves”.[46]
 
Grand Bargain: the Role and the Responsibilities of Europe.
 
Ultimately, what is needed is to work towards global negotiations (or a “grand bargain”, to use Pollack’s highly effective expression) that place on the agenda all, not just some, of the complex Middle Eastern dossiers and deal not only with the questions of the region’s security and the related nuclear problems, but also with important programmes of economic aid for the rebuilding of countries devastated by war or by bad government, drawing in all the parties concerned. But for negotiations of this kind to be started and to offer a real chance of leading to an effective global agreement, there clearly have to be “honest brokers” who are genuinely determined to press for fair and impartial solutions (erga omnes) and who, at the same time, wield real power (political, economic and military) which they can bring to bear at the negotiating table, in accordance with the rules, which also in this instance cannot be disregarded, of realpolitik and of the raison d’état.[47]
But who might these “honest brokers” be? Or rather, who can stand alongside the United States (whose role it is, for historical and political reasons, to look after the interests of the Israelis), taking upon itself the role of “representatives” of the legitimate interests of the other peoples of the Middle East? The obvious answer is that it falls to Europe to play this role,[48] and this is not just because, as Sergio Romano pointed out just before the invasion of Iraq, it is clearly and very much in Europe’s interests to find a peaceful solution to the problems of the Middle East, which lies on its doorstep. It is also a question of Europe’s offering, as an “equal partner”, not as a mere “satellite”, genuine help to the United States, a nation to which it continues to be linked by a real coincidence of interests and by shared historical and cultural roots and values.
But where is Europe? This summary reconstruction of the current situation in the Middle East (ranging from the risk of civil war in Iraq, to Iran’s nuclear programme, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) shows that Europe is, once again, the “great absentee”. In truth, Europe has, so far, vacillated between a position of almost total indifference to one of substantial acquiescence to the American leadership. In the case of Iran and the nuclear dispute, several European states have taken it upon themselves to seek to establish some sort of dialogue with Iran’s leaders in an attempt to persuade them to renounce those parts of their nuclear programme that present the greatest risk of being exploited for military purposes (enrichment of uranium, etc.) but — finding themselves caught between America’s demands for a more rigid approach and Iran’s threats of an oil embargo — their attempts have failed. In fact, the Iranians were quick to grasp the real significance of these European initiatives. Commenting on an initial draft resolution drawn up by the European troika for the Board of the IAEA in late 2004, the Iran News (November 28th, 2004), wrote: “Clearly, the E3 are catering to US pressure”; and then “Europe should either give up its feeble attempt at independent diplomacy toward Iran and set aside its pretensions, or it should prove in action that it is not an appendage to the US global diplomacy… Sadly, despite half-hearted efforts, presently Europe seems too weak and indecisive to be able to withstand the enormous weight of America bearing on their Iran diplomacy.”[49]
Equally vacuous and inconsistent has been the European Union’s contribution to the activity of the so-called Quartet that was set up to guarantee and oversee the creation of the “roadmap”, i.e., the peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was proposed by the current American administration, but has, in fact, been superseded by the unilateral initiative undertaken by the Israeli leaders. Here, again, the Europeans have done nothing more than agree to the bulk of the American proposals, at most being prepared to assume some of the costs or to offer modest and irrelevant pseudo-military assistance.
At the start of 2002, commenting on a particularly difficult phase in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians (the second Intifada was at its height and the US was embarking on the initiatives that would lead to the Oslo agreements), The Federalist wrote: “In order to open up the way towards a solution to this problem, a new actor is needed on the world stage: an actor able to wield considerable political influence and equipped with vast financial resources, an actor that might act in concert with the United States, but that is independent of it, an actor with the capacity to offer… the guarantee of impartiality that the United States is unable to provide. Europe is the only actor that might conceivably have the requisites to play this new role. But it would have to be a Europe that, through political unification, is equipped to live up to its enormous potential — a potential attributable to its advanced level of economic and technological development, the size of its population and its high level of interdependence with the Middle Eastern region.”[50]
Four years on, not only does this Europe still not exist, but Europe’s politicians also seem to be totally unaware of the fact that, unless they can tackle the problem of creating a true European political unit (a European State), then their destiny is to remain helpless in the face of the dramatic challenges presented by the Middle East. All they do is continue to waste time tinkering with the idea that it is enough to re-launch, maybe in 2009, a constitutional “Treaty”, a project whose most innovative element would be the appointment of a European foreign minister, forgetting the words of Giscard d’Estaing, again at the start of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: “The events of the Iraqi crisis have not really disturbed the Convention’s work… In foreign policy, we ought to be able to undertake a common diplomatic action, but unfortunately this is not the case.”[51]
It will most certainly take more than this kind of almost fatalistic attitude to save Europe (and the world) from the consequences of a possible degeneration of the political situation in the “greater Middle East”. And how much time is left to Europe to make a vital contribution to reversing this dangerous trend? Not much, that is for sure. It is not just a question of oil, of the “Hubbert’s peak”, and of the security of energy supplies in the short- to medium-term. What will happen in the next few years (if not the next few months) in the event of Iraq’s dissolution, a realisation of the threat of military intervention in Iran, a new and even more dramatic Intifada in Palestine, and a rise to government of Islamic fundamentalists in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Algeria?
Yet, against this, it would not take long to found a European state a European federation. What is needed is the will to do it, the same will that allowed Chancellor Kohl to decide quickly, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, to renounce the sovereignty of the German mark and embark on the creation of the single European currency.


[1] Seymour M. Hersh “The Iran Plans”, in The New Yorker, 17 April, 2006. Particularly worrying are Hersh’s remarks regarding the possible use, by the United States, of tactical nuclear weapons in order to penetrate the bunkers where Iran’s nuclear sites are supposed to be located: “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites”. (see p. 3 of the text on the interne!). President Bush has dismissed these affirmations as “wild speculation”. However, at the same time, the White House spokesman said that the president was not ruling out any option (Le Monde, 12 April, 2006).
[2] Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, NYC, Henry Holt and Co. 2004. See, in particular, p. 67-68, where Johnson quotes Charles Krauthammer, a Washington Post columnist who, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001, celebrated the success of the bombing of Afghanistan in an article entitled “Victory Changes Everything”. “The elementary truth — he wrote — that seems to elude the experts again and again — Gulf war, Afghan war, next war — is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the region (Central Asia) is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it to deter, defeat, or destroy the other regimes in the area that are host to radical Islamic terrorism.” But even six months before the president declared “war on terrorism”, Krauthammer asserted “America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to re-shape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.”
[3] Robert Kagan, American Power and the Crisis of Legitimacy, NYC, Random House, 2004. Kagan states that the most interesting example is that of Kosovo, given that, on that occasion, it was the Europeans themselves who, together with the United States, went to war without obtaining legitimisation from the UN Security Council. This notwithstanding, most Europeans, at the time of the conflict and subsequently, maintained that the war in Kosovo was legitimate. They were convinced that it was the moral responsibility of the EU, above all, to prevent new genocide in Europe.
[4] Sergio Romano, Corriere della Sera, Milan, 16 January, 2003 (editorial).
[5] In truth it is well known that the Middle East and Central Asia are not the only areas threatening the future of the world. Islamic fundamentalism exists, and is active, in large countries in Eastern Asia (Indonesia) and central Africa (Nigeria), as well as in North Africa. See, for example, the interview given to Le Monde (4 April, 2(06) by Ali Benhadj, co-founder of the Algerian “Front Islamique du Salut” (FIS), who, on his return to Algeria, reiterated his objective to transform Algeria into a theocratic state, declaring his readiness to fight for an Islamic Algerian state, governed according to the Book (the Koran) and the teachings of the Prophet (the Sunna).
[6] “How Europe can help the United States, in The Federalist, XLI (1999), editorial, p. 145 onwards.
[7] Middle East Monitor, London, Issue 8, August 2005, pp. 10, 11.
[8] These affirmations by Ahmadinejad should really be read as “propagandistic” and as directed above all at the domestic front in an attempt to reaffirm a sort of Khomenist legitimacy, aimed at strengthening the power of the new president vis-à-vis the “business clan” led by Rafsanjani and defeated by a wide margin in last July’s elections. It is not easy, in the Western world, to appreciate fully the dimensions of the conflict that has been going on for some time (basically, since straight after Ahmadinejad’s election) amongst the various Khomenist fundamentalist groups, and that has still not been fully resolved. As pointed out by Mouna Naim (Le Monde, 26 August 2005), Ahmadinejad, immediately after his election suffered his first major setback in the Iranian Parliament, which rejected four of his twenty-one nominees for ministerial posts (including his candidate for the key Oil Ministry, which controls 80 per cent of the country’s revenue). As a result, Ahmadinejad, following two unsuccessful attempts to win approval for his own allies, found himself forced, in December 2005, five months after his election, to accept a compromise. (See also “Ally of Iran’s Leader Drops Effort to Win Oil Ministry”, in the International Herald Tribune, 10 November, 2005 and “Iranian Lawmakers Rebuff President”, in the International Herald Tribune, 24 November, 2005).
[9] IRNA, bulletin, 4 October, 2005: “President Ahmadinejad Offers Proposal on Iran’s Nuclear Programs”.
[10] IRNA, ibidem.
[11] Laurent Zecchini, “Nucléaire: l’Iran brandit l’arme du pétrole pour éviter des sanctions,” in Le Monde, 22 September 2005.
[12] Karl E. Meyer, The Dust of Empire, NYC, The Century Foundation 2003, p. 54. Meyer also recalls that the expression the “great game” was coined by British imperial statesman, George Nathaniel Curzon, who in 1892, in a book devoted to Persia and Central Asia, wrote: “Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia… to many these names breathe only a sense of utter remoteness or a memory of strange vicissitudes and moribund romance. To me, I confess, they are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for dominion of the world.” Meyer adds that “Curzon did not need reminding that the word ‘checkmate’ derives from the Persian ‘shah’, which means king, and ‘mat’, which means helpless or defeated” (Meyer, op. cit., p. 54). For a more detailed analysis of the history of Iran and its relationships with the great powers, see also Kenneth M. Pollack The Persian Puzzle. The Conflict between Iran and America, NYC, Random House, 2004.
[13] Meyer, op. cit., p. 64, describes how, “on 17 June, 1914, Churchill put before the House of Commons a bold matching proposal: for £ 2.2 million, the British government could acquire 51 per cent of the shares and two seats on the board of D’Arcy’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company. This could ensure the Royal Navy rock-bottom prices for its petroleum, which proved the case (the exact prices were kept secret for decades).” According to Johnson, op. cit. (p. 220), up to the time of the coup of 1953, “The Anglo-Persian Oil Company… had provided the British treasury with 24 million pounds sterling in taxes and 92 million pounds in foreign exchange.”
[14] For more on the decision of the allied forces, and of Great Britain in particular, to “rearrange” the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, giving rise to the Hashemiti kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan, the British Mandate for Palestine and the French Mandate for Syria, see, in particular: David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, NYC, Henry Holt, 1989; Christopher Catherwood, Churchill’s Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq, NYC, Carroll and Graf Publishers 2004; John Keay, Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East, London, John Murray, 2003.
[15] For more on the “Tobacco Revolt”, which took place in Shiraz in 1891 (and was the first revolt against the British in Iran), on its motivations and on the first alliance formed between bazarii (traders), clerics and Westernised intellectuals, see Pollack, op. cit., pp. 17 onwards.
[16] Pollack, op. cit., pp. 53 onwards.
[17] It must be remarked that the coup d’état, certainly made possible by the direct involvement of the CIA working through the American Embassy in Tehran and by the corrupting activity of the British, who exploited their connections with the military and with the Court (see Pollack, op. cit., pp. 66 onwards), was also facilitated enormously by the weakening of Mossadeq’s nationalist government which, because of the British bloc, was deprived of its modest oil income.
[18] Elena Pomelli (editor), in the piece “Il fattore Cina condizionerà l’energia” published in Corriere della Sera, 5 December 2005, comments that effect of the boom that China is currently experiencing, coupled with that being recorded by neighbouring India, will be to push up global demand for energy by 1.6 per cent a year, a much higher rate than that recorded in previous years, meaning that energy demand in 2030 could be 50 per cent greater than it is today.
[19] Paul Roberts, The End of Oil, NYC, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005, p. 46.
[20] Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Beyond Oil, NYC, Hill and Wang, 2005, Preface, p. XI.
[21] For more detailed information on the availability of oil and other natural sources of energy, see, for example: Paul Roberts, op. cit.; Kenneth S. Deffeyes, op. cit.; Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Hubbert’ s Peak. The Impending Oil Shortage, Princeton (NJ), Princeton University Press, 2003; Colin Campbell, The Coming Oil Crisis, Brentwood (Essex, UK), MultiScience Publishing Company and Petroconsultants, 1988.
[22] There is no shortage of discordant voices (“cornucopians”), particularly in the world of business and finance. See, for example, the round table discussion in the International Herald Tribune (3-4 December 2005) entitled “A World Without Easy Oil: What Now?” But even the most optimistic display some caution: for example, Adam Sieminski, chief energy economist of Deutche Bank, having pointed out that “The world has been running out of oil since the first barrel was produced…” nevertheless admits that supplies will last, at most, “for the next two, three or four decades”.
[23] In the United States there is a long-running debate on how to reduce the country’s dependence on supplies of energy raw materials (oil in particular) from abroad, and above all from the Middle East. In his State of the Union Address (31 January, 2006), President George W. Bush dealt with the question in clear terms, committing his government to a multi-year programme of research and development into renewable energy sources and alternative sources of energy that should allow the United States “to replace more than 75 per cent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” (see: “President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address”, pp. 5-6).
[24] Gwynne Dyer, “Nuclear Power: Rising from the Grave?”, in Tehran Times, 26 May, 2005.
[25] Pollack, op. cit. p. 363.
[26] Pollack, op. cit. p. 363. The scientist A.Q. Khan, referred to here, is considered the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb. There is no doubt that he is responsible for much of the diffusion of technical information and nuclear know-how not only to Iran, but also to other countries, perhaps even North Korea.
[27] Pollack, op. cit., p. 365.
[28] Azadeh Kian-Thiébaut, La République islamique d’Iran, Paris, Editions Michalon, 2005, p. 102.
[29] Kian-Thiébaut, op. cit., p. 9.
[30] It is not easy to put a precise temporal limit on the expression “short-to medium-term”. We can recall that President Bush has set 2025 (in 19 years time) as the deadline for reducing by 75 per cent US oil imports from the Middle East. For Europe, which is much more dependent than the US on foreign supplies (especially from the Middle East), it would be more prudent to think in terms of a maximum 5/10-year span.
[31] Magdi Allam, “Giocare d’azzardo con i Fratelli Musulmani,” in Il Corriere della Sera, 19 December, 2005.
[32] Iran’s pro-Palestinian stance is undoubtedly supported by the Syrian government which, not by chance, finds itself the target of new threats from the American administration. In reference to Ahrnadinejad’s visit to Damascus, La Stampa (21 January, 2006) commented that “Iran still has many allies in the Middle East and is by no means isolated. This was the message given out yesterday by Iranian premier, Ahmadinejad, during his two-day visit to the Syrian capital, Damascus: ‘We and Syria face shared threats from the United States and the international community: we must strengthen our common resistance’”. The Syrian leader, Assad, responded in the same vein, speaking in support of the right of Iran, like any country in the world, to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
[33] “Petizione al Parlamento europeo per la costruzione di uno Stato palestinese”, in Il Federalista, XXII (1980), p. 209.
[34] Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire, London, I.B. Taurus, 2004, p. 118.
[35] Fromkin, Op. cit., p. 297.
[36] Khalidi, Op. cit., p. 121.
[37] William A. Eddy, FDR Meets lbn Sa’ud, NYC, American Friends of the Middie East, 1954, p. 37.
[38] “Haniyeh: no al piano Olmert. Siamo fedeli alla nostra lotta”, in La Stampa, 4 April 2006 (copyright The Daily Telegraph).
[39] Pollack, Op. cit., p. 260.
[40] Pollack, Op. cit., p. 260. The remark that something had to be done about Iraq and Iran is a further demonstration that Clinton’s policy on the Middle East was nevertheless — like that of his predecessors — guided by the need to safeguard the interests of America’s ally, Israel.
[41] Khalidi, Op. cit., p. 137.
[42] Khalidi, Op. cit., p. 138.
[43] Khalidi, Op. cit., p. 138.
[44] Pollack, Op. cit., p. 266.
[45] Pollack (Op. cit., pp. 354 onwards) recalls how Iranian and American diplomatic delegations, albeit not particularly high profile ones, met in Geneva on several occasions to tackle the problems posed, for both countries, by the US invasion of Iraq. According to Pollack, the cautiously open and conciliatory attitude of the Iranians depended on their view that “Iran’s interests would be best served by seeing the American plan to build a stable, pluralist, and independent Iraq succeed” (p. 356). More recently (and thus under the Ahmadinejad regime) such cautious contacts have been resumed, and the Iranian press has been quick to draw attention to this. See, for example, the Tehran Times (June 20, 2005), which quoted comments made by spokesman for the Department of State, Sean McCormack, on the visit to Tehran of former Iraqi prime minister, al-Jafari: “We have always said that we encourage Iraq to have good relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran”… “we have at times commented in the past on the fact that Iran could play a more helpful role in Iraq’s development”.
[46] Pollack, op. cit., p. 423.
[47] With regard to the “value” of the raison d’état, also from a federalist perspective, which is oriented towards its overcoming, see, for example, Mario Albertini, in Il Federalista, XXIII (1981), p. 122: “When we talk of equilibrium in a political context, we allude to meanings cemented by the course of history. That is to say, both the reality and the notion of the raison d’état and the balance of power in the life of the European system which, until the First World War, was the world system. A balance that could not prevent war, but that allowed a positive evolution of the political reality in which an element of rationality could be introduced (i.e. the traditional ministers of the raison d’état advanced a chapter in the history of reason, and the balance of power that underpinned the life of the European system did indeed imply the presence of reason).” See also, Nicoletta Mosconi, “The Limits and Dilemmas of Pacifism”, in The Federalist, XLIII (2001), pp. 208 onwards.
[48] In July 1980, with regard to Europe’s interest in finding a peaceful solution to the problems of the Middle East, Mario Albertini wrote: “The starting point of this strategy must be to set the Palestinian problem on the road to a solution, following the clear failure of the Camp David agreements. The European Community must acknowledge the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and must work actively for the creation of a Palestinian state, immediately urging Israel to relinquish its settlements in the occupied territories and the PLO to respect the integrity of the state of Israel within the boundaries set prior to the Six Day War. It is not true, as the US is trying to claim, that the Palestinian problem should be considered one of secondary importance in the wake of the Afghan and Iranian crises. The tragedy of this population, destined to live in subhuman conditions in refugee camps or in exile, is so great that it cannot fail constantly to foment feelings of hatred and resentment towards those who perpetuate such abuses. One cannot imagine that the forces of reason, which certainly exist, can prevail until an end has been put to this patent violation of human rights. Europe does not have the reasons, either internally — a strong Zionist lobby — or internationally — reluctance to favour the non-alignment of these peoples — that prevent the USA from accepting the solution to the problem.” (“La via europea alla pace nel Medio Oriente”, in Il Federalista, XXII (1980), p. 174).
[49] “Can Europe Keep its Commitments to Iran?”, in Iran News, 28 November, 2004.
[50] “The Tragedy of the Middle East,” in The Federalist, XLIV (2002), p. 6, editorial.
[51] Interview with Giscard d’Estaing, in Le Monde, 13 March, 2003.

 

 

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