Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cuba Sí, Iran No

It's a tale of two countries . . . we're getting closer to one, and we're getting farther from another.

You'll be seeing this flag flying in Washington very, very soon.  This is the flag of Cuba, a country we haven't had diplomatic relations with since Fidel Castro and his followers (including his brother, current Cuban President Raul Castro) took it over.  Our efforts to get rid of communism in Cuba have led to widespread ridicule at best and indignant derision at worst from the rest of the world, which has called our Cuba policy unfair and counterproductive.  Now, President Obama and President Castro are opening embassies in each other's capitals, signalling a new sense of cooperation for a more peaceful hemisphere and an acknowledgement that the Cuban government is Communist, like it or not. Republicans, of course, fall into the latter category, and they seek to do whatever they can to derail the opening of diplomatic ties.  Which is, to say, nothing.  Perhaps the Republicans - who have a vested interest in telling other countries how to handle their own affairs - ought to just get over it.  Yes, it sucks that they're Commies.  Nothing we can do about it, any more than we can do about Communism in China.  And we seem to have no problem with China.
We do, however, have a problem with this country. 

This is the flag of Iran, another country we've had no diplomatic ties with for a long time.  We have no problem with Iran being an Islamic republic any more than we have a problem with Pakistan being an Islamic republic.  We do, however, have a problem with Iran running a nuclear program and insisting it's only for peaceful purposes, even though the Iranians don't need atomic power becasue of all that oil they have . . . unless the plan is to use atomic power as a means of being able to free up more oil to sell.  Not plausible.  And the Iranians have upped the ante by having problems with inspections of its military bases and the issue of whether ending economic sanctions also allows for the lifting of the arms embargo passed against Iran by the United Nations Security Council in 2006, preventing arms from entering or leaving the country.  The fear is that Iran would increase its influence over the Middle East by being able to send weapons to groups like Hezbollah, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted that lifting the arms sanctions would help Iran fight the Islamic State group.  That sounds like bunk to British arms expert Timothy Stafford, who says that Russia and China, alone among the countries negotiating with Iran, are only interested in lifting the sanctions so they can sell weapons to the Iranians. "In part," Stafford adds, "this is a move by Iran to split the negotiating parties and gain more leverage in the talks."
President Obama has said he will pull out if it proves to be impossible to get a deal with Iran, a country we cannot trust. Why don't we trust Iran?  That might have something to do with the fact that the last time we had diplomats there, they were taken hostage and held for fourteen months. And with the Iran hostage crisis less distant in the past than the Cuban revolution is, and given that we still have good reason to be ticked off at the Iranians (and never had any good reason to be ticked off by the Cuban revolutionaries), well, it comes down to this.  Obama won't make any friends among conservatives for his opening to Cuba, but if he pulls the plug on nuclear talks with Iran, no jury will convict him.  

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