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Michael Hirsh, Hearing Impaired

From the people who brought you detente, Glasnost, and the two-state solution, we now get, Iran Has a Message, Are We Listening? Iran has a message all right, but it's not the one Hirsh thinks he's hearing.

Hirsh was invited to receive an unofficial message from Iran's government, supposedly eager to reach a modus vivendi with the United States. The "message" is thoroughly unconvincing to the critical ear, both on its own terms and in light of the regime's complete history.

Hirsh claims that "Iran has grown weary of its economic and political isolation..." But later, we are told:

Stores are well stocked, the streets are thronged with shoppers, and flower stores and luxury goods abound, indicating that people in this oil-rich economy still have plenty of disposable income. The U.N. sanctions and the quiet pressure on international banks to cut off business with Iran inflict some pain, but they are generally nuisances and not deal-breakers. And the sanctions are shot full of holes: European businesses do vibrant trade with Iranian counterparts, and Iranians have just shifted their business dealings from dollars to Euros.

Iran doesn't sound either weary or economically isolated.

The Iranians ostensibly want to make this about the nuclear program, but then bring up the rest of their catspaws in the region:

My conversations with hard-liners and reformers inside Tehran also suggested something deeper: that under the right circumstances, Iran may still be willing to stop short of building a bomb. "Iran would like to have the technology, and that is enough for deterrence," says S.M.H. Adeli, Iran's moderate, urbane former ambassador to London.

... even as the administration continues to accuse Iran of delivering sophisticated makeshift bombs to Iraqi militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government "is of strategic importance to us," Rezai said. "We want this government to stay in power. Rival Sunni countries oppose Maliki. We haven't." It also stands to reason that in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the new "Hamastan" in Gaza -- all places where Tehran wields enormous influence -- an Iran that is encouraged to play a broader regional security role could become more cooperative.

Hirsh's "delivering sophisticated makeshift bombs" barely scratches the surface of Iran's involvement in Iraq. Hezbollah now appears to be taking part in the attacks directly. Iran trained the groups that ambushed and killed 5 US soldiers in January. In the south, Iranian-trained and supported death squads have been preparing the ground for the eventual British withdrawal. When Mookie Al-Sadr fled Iraq in advance of the Surge, he fled to Iran.

Hirsh claims that, "...several Iranian officials hinted that Ahmadinejad crossed a red line in Iranian politics when he pushed his rhetoric beyond the official hope that Israel would one day disappear to suggest that Tehran might help that process along. A new Iranian president would rebalance that position, they indicated." Rebalance it to what? Hirsh's host may well be the man responsible for the 1994 bombing of the JCC in Buenos Aires. The men who actually carried out the bombing live under the protection of the Venzuelan government. It's good to know that Iran will retreat from Armaggeddon back to the routine murder of Jews around the world.

Yes, Iran aided the new government in Afghanistan - because the US victory was so overwhelmingly decisive that aid was the only way for Iran to stay in the game.

Only someone as blinkered as Hirsh could possibly interpret this as a peace overture. Iran believes that the United States is so hobbled by internal divisions that the administraion will seek any face-saving measure it can come up with. This "peace overture" consists entirely of forebearance on the part of Iran - for now. Iran will neither disband nor disown Hezbollah, ensuring that Tehran's domination of southern Lebanon. It will neither disband nor disown Hamas. It hopes to eat out the government of Iraq from within. It will stop just short of actually building a bomb, refraining from crossing the line while reaping all the benefits of having done so.

The real message here is, "Just give us what we want, and nobody gets hurt. For now. Until the next time." Only Hirsh is too deaf to hear it.

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