Thursday, September 13, 2012

Post #337 - Sowing Seeds of War

Introduced 9/12/12 as a House resolution (#137) by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the following language:

"Expressing the sense of Congress that the Azeri people, currently divided between Azerbaijan and Iran, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country if they so choose."

Self-determination is concept that is hard to object to in the abstract. Of course, our government, during the 1860's acted forcefully to deny self-determination to residents of our southern states, and self-determination for Native Americans is a status that has still not been fully achieved -- to say nothing of the residents of the city where Congress meets.

Congressman Rohrabacher, 65, representing California's 46th congressional district, serves on the Committee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Before his election to Congress, Rohrabacher was an assistant and speechwriter to President Reagan, playing a significant role in the development of the Reagan Doctrine, which supported the use of overt and covert aid to anti-communist movements around the globe, as a way to contain the Soviet Union's influence in various countries. (This led to such efforts as the Iran-Contra affair, support for the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, and Joseph Savimba's UNITA in Angola.)

Southern California is one of the areas in the United States where Azerbaijanis (either from the former Soviet Union and Iran, or from the diaspora elsewhere) have settled. Since 2004, there has been a congressional caucus on Azerbaijani interests, which is clearly having some influence.

The province within Iran known as East Azerbaijan has a mixed population of Azeris (a Turkic-speaking people of mixed Caucasian, Iranian and Turkic origin, who comprise about 15-20 percent of Iran's population overall), as well Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Talysh, Jews, Georgians and Persians). The principal city is Tabriz and the city of Ardebil is a Caspian seaport. (West Azerbaijan is majority Kurdish.) The people of (the former Soviet republic of) Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan have been separated for more than two hundred years. The Azeris in Iran are about 50% greater in number than those of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Like most Persians, they are predominantly Shi'e Muslim.

The question is why this member, without a co-sponsor as yet, has introduced a resolution weighing in on the status of one particular minority in Iran. Can we expect other such measures related to Iranian Arabs, Kurds, or tribal peoples? Is the resolution designed simply to create more problems for -- or to further alienate -- the Islamic Republic of Iran? Rohrabacher has been quoted as saying, "Iran has played on ethnic and religious groups to advance its interests in Lebanon and Iraq. The United States should look for opportunities to do the same...”

The National Iranian-American Council has called the idea behind the resolution "radical," and has said, "playing on ethnic tensions is a recipe for the worst kinds of violence, and that’s exactly what he’d like to see happen in Iran. In fact, Rohrabacher has admitted that he supports the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq over peaceful opposition groups because of the Mujahedin’s willingness to use violence."

If the Obama administration is emphasizing its concern about nuclear weapons programs and eschewing any intent to foment regime change from outside, are such resolutions really helpful to the ongoing negotiations our diplomats are conducting? We saw what division along ethnic lines did to Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion.

Shouldn't the Congressman tend to what directly impacts Long Beach or Rancho Palos Verdes, rather then seeking to decide the fortunes of groups on the other side of the world? It strikes me that tossing gasoline on the flames may not be the best way to bring a fire under control.

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