Monday, October 3, 2022

Vassallo, Scruggs Debate: The Vision of Normalizing Relations with Iran and Cuba

Steve Vassallo: Any future meaningful relationship must be a win win scenario for both sides.

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

According to the BBC News, the previous sixty years of relations with Iran have been described as “tricky” starting with the 1953 overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq. This description is mild in retrospect to what has actually transpired during those six decades. The recent deal with Iran to hopefully influence/deter their development of nuclear weapons is one of the most short sighted agreements in world history! And conveying $150 billion to the leading state sponsor of terrorism worldwide makes one wonder what our State Department is thinking.

The recent events of the past week with the capture of American sailors by the Iranian military clearly indicates the lack of respect and total disregard that Iran has for the United States. Normalizing relations with this rogue state will further weaken the US position in the Middle East and place doubt in the minds of our allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. And with Iraq’s future in total jeopardy, placating the Iranians will only threaten that situation moreso from creating stability in the region. Iran must be held accountable for its human rights’ violations on the international stage and until such time it can conduct its affairs in a responsible and moral manner, nothing should be pursued in attempting to normalize relations.

In the 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush categorized Iran along with Iraq and North Korea as an “Axis of Evil.” Because of the US military, Iraq has dropped out of that triad, however, fourteen years later, not much has changed regarding the conduct of the other two.

Cuba previously has also been labeled as a rogue state. One definition of this is to commit four transgressions: (a) pursue weapons of mass destruction; (b) support terrorism; (c) severely abuse its own citizens; and (d) stridently criticize the US.

Because the Cuban economy is and has been a Trainwreck ever since Castro and his communist thugs seized power some 57 years ago, they have been limited in their external mischief.

For the US to consider normalizing relations with the island dictatorship, there must be clear evidence on the part of the Cuban government that positive change is in the air. Any future meaningful relationship must be a win win scenario for both sides. The days of the one sided agreements as just witnessed with the Iranians hopefully will come to a permanent end beginning with a Republican administration in 2017.

Dickie Scruggs: Trade and diplomacy with Cuba and Iran are the best tools for influencing their behavior.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

It is in America’s interest to normalize trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba and Iran, even if their governments engage in domestic and foreign policies antithetical to democratic ideals. Isolated regimes, as North Korea has demonstrated, become ever more paranoid and repressive. It is far better to use trade and diplomacy to bring closed societies into the family of nations.

For Cuba and Iran, our efforts at regime change through military intervention, isolation, sanction and boycott over the past half century have either failed or resulted in fiasco (like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the embarrassing Iranian Hostage Rescue). And yet, the Castro brothers still run Cuba; the Ayatollahs still run Iran. If anything, these regimes gained popularity because of heavy-handed American hegemony.

As Albert Einstein is famously quoted: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.”

The “rogue nation” argument advanced by Steve fails because his definition of a “rogue nation” can be applied to many of our allies and trading partners. Steve’s first criterion—“the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction”—applies to both Israel (an ally), and China (our second largest trading partner).

The second requirement Steve proffers is, “supports terrorism”. This neatly fits Vietnam, whose Viet Cong wrote the book on terror bombings and political assassination. The bodies of 58,000 young Americans of my generation were barely cold in their graves before our embassy opened in Hanoi and American companies began exporting our textile jobs to Vietnamese sweat shops. Nevertheless, we have been more successful in influencing that government through trade than we were with nearly 600,000 troops in their country.

Saudi Arabia is considered a strong ally, and yet it is run by a Wahhabi panjandrum that pays off terrorists as a matter of national policy (according to the conservative Cato Institute and many observers of the Middle East). Even Israel—purportedly our strongest regional ally—committed terror bombings against the British just before we gave it recognition.

Steve’s third “rogue state” requirement is a regime that “severely abuses its own citizens”. That fits all of the countries I’ve just mentioned. China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia (who just publicly beheaded a Shiite cleric—because he was a Shiite cleric) are among the most dystopian regimes in the world. And, yes, even Israel abuses its own Arab citizens, as is frequently noted by Human Rights Watch and other reputable observers. America itself imprisons more of it’s own people than any country in the world.

Steve’s final “rogue state” justification for ostracizing Cuba and Iran is that they “stridently criticize the United States.” Yet again, these criteria clearly fit China and Vietnam, against whom we fought two undeclared wars within my living memory. And our “ally” Saudi Arabia officially sponsors madrasahs where anti-American extremism is taught to Saudi children. And who can argue that Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t “stridently criticize the United States”–ironically over a nuclear accord with Iran designed to protect Israel!

Let us not forget our own well-documented roles in bringing about the present regimes in Cuba and Iran—propping up the corrupt Batista gang against Castro’s popular revolution—and fostering a coup in Iran that deposed a democratically-elected Prime Minister and foisted the hated Shah upon the Iranian people in 1953.

Commerce and diplomacy have–time and again–proven to be more effective influences on a nation’s behavior than military intervention and isolation. America has the most powerful economy in the world. I say that we let it go to work in Cuba and Iran.

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at

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