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Parsi - Treacherous Alliance (2007) - Synopsis

Parsi - Treacherous Alliance (2007) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007). Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on November 26, 2007.
Synopsis of Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007). Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on November 26, 2007.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Jun 07, 2009
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Digging Deeper XXXIX @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA) November
26, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
Trita Parsi,
Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and theU.S.
(New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007).
“This is a book about foreign policy . . .not . . . internal developments” (xii). “Based on130 in-depth interviews I’ve conducted withIranian, Israeli, and American officials andanalysts,” including thirty key figures (xii). Allaccounts have been “cross-checked”; “[n]oargument in the book is dependent on one or twoquotes alone” (xiii). “The Iranian perspective, inparticular, has largely been unknown to Westernaudiences . . . A key reason why the analysis of this book differs greatly from the conventionalwisdom regarding the U.S.-Israel-Iran triangle isbecause it is based on the perspectives andaccounts of high-level decisions-maker from
allthree countries
” (xiv; emphasis in original).
Primary debt to FrancisFukuyama, Parsi’s advisor at Johns Hopkins (xvii).Charles “Doran’s power cycle theory constitutesthe book’s analytical bedrock” (xvii [cf. Andrew W.Mellon Professor of International RelationsCharles Doran, “Power Cycle Theory of SystemsStructure and Stability: Commonalities andComplementarities,” ch. 4 in
Handbook of War Studies
, ed. by Manus I. Midlarsky, which noteson p. 86 that “The United States has been anascendant power in the international systemsince the middle of the nineteenth century and amember of the central system since the firstdecade of the twentieth century, and empiricalevidence suggests that it is at or just past theapex of its power cycle”; Doran first developedhis “power cycle” theory in
The Politics of  Assimilation: Hegemony and Its Aftermath
(1971). His basic idea is that the “power cycle”itself is a major cause of war; he has extended itto the area of political risk analysis, and advisedmany businesses and governments]). “[F]oreverindebted to Ruhi Ramazani, the dean of Iranianforeign policy studies” (xvii). Help on ms. fromChris Rogers of Yale and Nikki Keddie [of UCLA].
Ch. 1: Introduction: An Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorilla.
(I.e. the Israeli-Iranian rivalry.)Portraying what is a “fundamentally strategicconflict” between Iran and Israel as an ideologicalclash has been part of Israel’sstrategy―democracy vs. totalitarianism (1-3).Iran had its own reasons for desiring anideological frame; the ideology is effect ratherthan cause, as is also the case for Israel (3-4). Inreality, Israelis and Iranians have much incommon and have ancient ties (4-9), as well asmany differences, exemplified by the differencebetween
(insincere politeness) and
(gall): “Getting a nuanced answer froman Israeli can be as tricky as getting a straightanswer from an Iranian (11; 10-13). The July2006 Israel-Lebanon war was widely viewed aswarm-up for clash between Iran & Israel/U.S. (13-15).
Ch. 2: An Alliance of Necessity: The SecretFriendship of the Shah.
Despite official non-relations between the two states, “By the late1950s, an Israeli-Iranian entente had takenshape,” based on common threats (22; 19-28).
Ch. 3: Rise of Israel, Rise of Iran.
Israel’smilitary victories raised concerns in Iran, whichmoved closer to Egypt (29-34). U.S.-Sovietdétente and Vietnam (U.S. “Twin Pillars” policy)led to opportunities for Iran 34-38).
Ch. 4: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy.
Historically, Iran has been a regional hegemonicpower (39-40). In a position of strength, itattempted the “Arab option,” which led it todistance itself from Israel (41-44). In the YomKippur War, Iran helped both sides (44-48).
Ch. 5: Sealing Demise in the Moment of Triumph.
After the Yom Kippur War, Israelcultivated Iran despite Iran’s criticism of its questfor land; Israel believed it still needed Iraniansupport against the Arab world; Uri Lubraniheaded mission to Tehran (49-52). Israelpersuaded Iran to help back Iraqi Kurds & so didthe U.S., but in March 1975, without consultingIsrael or Iran, Iran signed Algiers Accord with Iraqand abandoned the Iraqi Kurds (52-58). The Shahwas making a bid to win Arab support for Iranianregional hegemony, but it proved to be “a majorstrategic mistake” because it facilitated Iraq’s bidfor power (58-60).
Ch. 6: Megalomania.
Though widespread inIran, “for most Iranians, anti-Israel sentiments didnot reflect a deeper anti-Semitism” (63; 61-64).Iran voted for U.N. Gen’l Assembly Res. 3379(Zionism = racism) in Nov. 1975 (64-65). In mid-1970s, the Shah’s autocratic tendenciesincreased; Israeli officials considered him amegalomaniac (65-67).
Ch. 7: The Rise of Begin and the IsraeliRight.
The right’s victory in Israel in 1977 wasbad news for Iran(68-74). But Likud hoped toreach accommodation with Iran, and fear of Iraqled to Project Flower (1977-1979), in which Israelsecretly helped Iran to develop a missile with arange of 200 miles that “included American-madeinertial navigation equipment and a guidance
system that Tel Aviv was forbidden to makeavailable to other countries”; the U.S. was kept inthe dark (75; 74-78).
Ch. 8: Enter the Sign of God.
The IranianRevolution ended Israel-Iran relations (79-82). The Ayatollah Khomeini was an ideologicalIslamist (82-83). Iran’s relations with the PLOquickly degenerated (83-86).
Ch. 9: Ideological Shifts, GeopoliticalContinuities.
Despite their radically differentideologies, the strategic goals of the Shah andKhomeini were “remarkably similar―regionalleadership and primacy” (88; 87-89). Losing Iranwas “a disaster” for the U.S. and “a greatstrategic setback” for Israel (89-92). Geopoliticalfactors pushed Israel and Iran together
Ch. 10: Saddam Attacks!
Iraq attacked onSept. 22, 1980; Iran’s fight to survive forcedpragmatic moderation of its ideological zeal (97-100). “Out of Iran’s strategic dilemma, withideological and strategic forces pulling its foreignpolicy in different directions, emerged amultilayered strategy that continues to bewilderpolitical analysts and foreign leaders alike. . . . Onthe one hand, Iran collaborated secretly withIsrael on security matters, and, on the other, ittook its rhetorical excesses against Israel to evenhigher levels to cover up its Israel dealings” (100;“Shi’ism permits contradictions” [304 n. 14]).Iran’s anti-Israel policy was almost entirelyconfined to words (100-04). The U.S. fearedIranian victory, but Israel feared Iraqi victory, andsupplied “over $500 million worth of arms” to Iranin the 1980-1983 period, even as the AyatollahKhomeini angrily denied receiving any (107; 104-09).
Ch. 11: Scandal.
Hezbollah gave Iran afoothold in Lebanon (110-12). Israel favored Iran-Iraq war stalemate (112-13). Operation Staunch:U.S. program to prevent U.S. allies from resellingarms to Iran (113-14). The Iran-Contra scandal,originally hatched in late 1984 by the Israeliforeign ministry and arms dealers; Iran’s aim wasto reestablish relations with Washington (114-26).
Ch. 12: The Dying Gasp of the PeripheryDoctrine.
(Ben-Gurion’s “doctrine of theperiphery” held “that the improbability of achieving peace with the surrounding Arab statesforced Israel to build alliances with the non-Arabstates of the periphery―primarily Iran, Turkey,and Ethiopia―as well as with non-Arab minoritiessuch as the Kurds and the Lebanese Christians”[21].) Israeli strategists remained fixated on Iran-Israel rapprochement, a hope revived byKhomeini’s death in June 1989 (127-31). Pushedby Rafsanjani camp, Iran’s foreign policy began toshift to “looking at states rather than masses”(133 [Javad Zarif, Iran’s U.N. ambassador]; 131-35).
Ch. 13: The New World Order.
In 1990-1992,the defeat of Iraq & collapse of the Soviet Unionwere “shocks of unprecedented magnitude” tothe Middle East (139-40). U.S. pressure to keepIsrael out of Gulf War led to bad feelings in Israel;Iran, on the other hand, earned points by allowingthe U.S. to use Iranian airspace (140-42). End of USSR led Iran to focus more on U.S., now aregional power (142-44). Iran developed a long-range missile, “slowly restarted the Shah’snuclear energy program” in early 1990s (144;144-45). Iran hoped for better relations with theU.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (145-47). Meanwhile, Israel resisted U.S. efforts tosettle Israeli-Arab conflict (147-51). Failure toinvite Iran to Oct. 1991 Madrid peace conferencedisappointed Iran and strengthened Iranianrejectionists (151-56).
Ch. 14: Trading Enemies.
June 1992 sawRabin’s Labor landslide in Israel; Peres called for a“New Middle East”; his strategy, adopted abruptlyin the fall of 1992, was to “make peace with thePalestinians and depict Iran as a threat to theregion and the world,” which represented anhistoric rejection of the periphery doctrine (159;157-65). But “Iran was more prominent on theIsraeli radar not because it had become moreantagonistic toward Israel but because allprevious threats had more or less evaporated”(166; 165-70). In the spring of 1993, the U.S. wason board, endorsing “Dual Containment” (170-71).
Ch. 15: From Cold Peace to Cold War.
Iranwas surprised by the new anti-Iran campaign(172-74). Iran reacted strongly against Oslo(Sept. 1993), seen as an effort to “push Iran tothe fringes of regional politics” (175; 175-76). InOslo’s aftermath, Iran began to operationalize itsanti-Israel rhetoric “[f]or the first time” (176; 176-80). Israel’s interest in isolating Iran because“Israel itself couldn't offer Tehran anything itneeded” (181; 181-82). AIPAC demonstrated itsclout by scrapping $1b Iran concession to Conocoin April 1995 and pushing through the Iran LibyaSanctions Act (ILSA) (voted 415-0 in House) inAugust 1996 (182-89).
Ch. 16: With Likud, the Periphery DoctrineReturns.
Iran pursued its strategic interest byopposing the Israel-Palestine peace process (190-91). Rabin’s assassination in Nov. 1995intensified Israel-Iran opposition (192-93). Brief 1996 Iran-Israel thaw under Netanyahu (193-201).
Ch. 17: Khatami’s Détente.
Khatami, electedpresident of Iran with a reformist platform in May1997, reached out to U.S. (202-06). But Israel

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