Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Iran’s problems extend to the Gulf States and include occupation and destabilization operations, among other practices, and the same applies to Lebanon, Yemen and other states. This confirms that Iran’s problem is not with Saudi Arabia or Egypt only, as Damascus is trying to convince us, rather; it is with all the countries in the Arab world.

Iran is not a superpower but it has a specific goal and it relies upon some groups that believe that their sectarian affiliation to Iran grants them power and stature – with the knowledge that vast majority of Shia, on all different levels, are aware of and always warn about the threat posed by the incumbent regime in Tehran.

Iran’s real problem lies in its desire to expand in the Arab world and to resume its exportation of its Islamic revolution. Many of us overlook the fact that Iran’s fundamental problem since [Ayatollah Ruholla] Khomeini’s revolution was exporting it, in addition to its interference in internal Arab affairs – and this is what [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s regime and its supporters are seeking to implement today.

The question here is "Why? And what has changed?" But the answer is clear: The Iranian regime found an advantageous opportunity in the fall of Saddam Hussein to fill in the void that was created in the region and to extend its influence in Iraq, and the same applies to Afghanistan

Washington presented Tehran with a priceless service when it removed its archenemies; Saddam in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The conflict is not Iranian-American as some would like to imagine; Iran believes that this is its historical opportunity to extend its influence in Iraq and Afghanistan and expand in the region whilst exploiting the vacuum and the shock that perplexed the Arabs the day Baghdad fell.

Iran wanted to resume what it had started in terms of exporting the revolution following Khomeini’s rise to power, but which was disrupted for a number of reasons, including the eight-year war with Iraq. This was followed by the rationality that was displayed by Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami during their presidential terms in Iran.

The godfather of rapprochement at the time was King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who was crown prince then. During that time, Washington wanted Saudi’s testimony that Tehran was responsible of the al Khobar bombings [29 May 2004] but the Saudis knew that it would have meant war with Iran. Riyadh did not give Washington that validation.

During Khatami’s presidency, Egyptian-Iranian rapprochement was increasing, with some minor differences – but both were speaking openly. At the time, Khatami pledged to change the name of the street that was named after [Anwar] Sadat’s assassin [Khalid Islambouli], but the matter was delayed because of the mayor of Tehran. And do you remember who that mayor was? Ahmadinejad!

The problem with Iran is not one about dialogue, rather; it is the crisis of the Iranian desire for expansion in the Arab world. Tehran wants to seize control of the region’s states and its objectives are clear – how else can one explain the Iranian petition against Google Earth over the name of the Arabian Gulf

This is not the attitude of someone that seeks rapprochement; rather, it stems from nationalistic or religious intolerance – and what is concealed is always greater than what is revealed.

A change in Iranian attitude without war cannot come about except from within Tehran internally, or through a Saudi-Egyptian stance that can yield results on the ground – but results that are far removed from Damascus’s deception

submitted by TaRiQ


Ben Sutherland said...

The only real change in Iran/Tehran has got to come democratically. That is one of the most important distinctions between Iran and many of the most worrisome autocracies throughout the world: they have elections.

And things do not look good for Ahmadinejad, in democratic terms, expect when the Administration or Europeans strengthen his hand and embolden his position as a defender of Iranian security and sovereignty.

The more we threaten, the better hand he gets, democratically. It's really goddamn foolish on our part, actually. We let him fuck himself, he'll lose his next election, and fairies do not descend on the Iranian land and bring the liberal democratic cultural embrace we would all like, but things have a better chance of improving.

Even liberal and moderate Iranians often come to his defense when world powers insist that Iranians do not really have a right to a self-determined security/defense policy. We would, too, in the same situation. In fact, we do, regularly: hence our many, many conflicts with the U.N., world bodies, and international opinion about American foreign policy and use of military force. And, often, we are right to defend our sovereignty.

Iran has a neighbor that they fought an 8-year war with, they have a neighbor in Israel, who has been making threatening motions, lately (rightly or wrongly; I'm definitely no fan of the Iranian regime and if Palestinians decided they couldn't come to peace agreement with Israel or if Iran or Syria or Iraq decided they couldn't make peace with Little Satan, I come down with Israel every time on such issues), and they have a right, like any nation, no matter how nutball their leadership is, to a sovereign defense policy. It's foolish for us to negate even a discussion about such a matter, especially when our efforts to leverage them otherwise have clearly yielded so few real results, and have likely, in my estimation, escalated their nuclear ambitions.

Turning up the heat on Iran has, to my mind, made us less safe since 2003, when this confrontation first began - we have been failing to dissuade Tehran, now, for 5 years running; that might offer us pause about the certainty of our efforts. Noone wants Tehran or Pyongyang to be wielding nuclear weapons as deadly bargaining chips in nuclear brinksmanship. But they are effectively doing just that, at this point, given our current trajectories. Pyongyang is moderately less threatening, right now, given a combination of diplomacy and incentives that has been more effective than threatening them.

But our best model is found in our dealings with either country, I don't think. Our best model is found in those SALT agreements between Reagan and Gorbachev.

What I find so brilliant about Reagan, contrary to his naysayers, is that he actually believed that markets and democracy were a better way of life than Communism and he wasn't afraid of engaging the Soviet leader on that broader point, as well as negotiate arms agreements that turned down the heat of the Soviet-American arms race - which undermined persuading the Soviets of the failure of their system, I think, as it gave them an easy target to blame for their woes other than their own sorry ass political and economic system - even as others regarded such engagement as naive or overly optimistic.

But if you talk with Mikhail Gorbachev, today, I highly doubt that he would cite the arms race for impetus for perestroika and glasnost. I imagine he would talk at length, though, about his historic, simple, and world-changing conversations with the American president honestly comparing and coming to terms with the advantages of freedom and democracy, on the ground, over his Communist dictatorship.

Arms protect us. But they have their limits. And coming to terms with those limits, I think, would yield better results, if we only had the balls to acknowledge them and embrace what is great about America and liberal democracy, generally.

The only real sustainable change in the kinds of attitudes we need to see change to improve Israel's security, to improve the daily lives of Iranians, and to improve the security of America and the world, must come from within Iran and expressed through elections, changes in culture, and a changing tone in Iran's international policies. Everything else is gimmick and doomed to be short-lived. Same was true in the Soviet Union and is true in still far too autocratic Russia. Realistically, we've got to come to terms with the fact that liberal democratic change occurs very, very slowly, and is only sustained internally by self-determining peoples. But change does come. Slowly. And the more patience we have to offer, I think, the better we support it.

The advantage we have in Tehran is that they have a really critical institution for that kind of change: democratic elections. Ahmadinejad looked posed to lose those elections, here, recently, as even his conservative backers and Ayatollah Khamanei have been growing disgruntled with his belligerence towards to the United States and, I'm sure, a concern about the terrible economic situation, politically as well as for the financial health of the country. Recent elections favoring hardliners are an indication of a seriously corrupt elections process, obviously, but persuading conservatives to break with Ahmadinejad and begin to create room to challenge a more belligerent and threatening leadership, both electorally and in public debates and discussions, is a really key ingredient to change of that leadership, at least - though Khamanei will still hold run the show, obviously - and to creating more space for expression of more genuinely liberal democratic values in the country.

But the more we threaten them, the more it puts those conservatives backs up and the more they rally around the current leadership.

We've got to learn this lesson, if we're going to be effective: that the politics is the more important than the amount or kind of force we use and that the politics is a function of how much parties we deal with trust us and our values, not how much they feel threatened by us.

Our failure to learn this lesson has seriously undermined America's influence in the world, right now. And neither American Presidential candidate has any kind of monopoly on restoring that trust or on undermining it, right now, I don't think.

I don't mind failure in policy, as our aggressive posture toward Iran so clearly has been, at this point. Failure's a part of life. What I mind is digging our heels when we're fucking up rather than manning up, taking responsibility for the failure, and being open to and making changes that we need to make. Easier said than done, I'm aware. And I don't want to hold anyone to a higher standard than I can hold myself to.

But it would be wise if we did, at this point, I think.

It doesn't mean we want to cuddle with Ahmadinejad. I'd love to fuckin' eat that dude's heart alive, if I thought it would do any good.

But it won't. And I've come to terms with that. Because I'm tired of Israeli security being threatened, I'm tired of Americans being killed by Iranian-backed operatives - something we won't have much choice in, as long as we stay committed to security on the ground, in Iraq, as I certainly am - and I'm tired of Iranian citizens being terrorized by this ugly, repressive regime.

My fondest wish, in fact, is that ugly, repressive forces who threaten the lives and freedom of innocents, and even the not-so-innocent, in the world could all be removed by barrel of a gun. I'd do it in 2 seconds, if I thought that was possible. I wouldn't even think twice about it.

But I know better.

So now we have to figure out how to convince Iranians to do the inside work on this problem and Barack Obama and John McCain to harness their all-too-limited minds to task of yielding constructive results knowing the limits of a more aggressive approach.

They'll figure it out sooner or later, because only a true dumbass stubbornly sticks by failures in perpetuity. I'd rather it happen sooner, but if has to happen later, then so be it, I suppose.

Took Europeans thousands of years to learn this lesson. Took the Soviet Union 70 years in a much more liberal democratic world, thanks to Americans and those Europeans. I'd love for us and the Iranians to learn it more quickly. But I'm willing to wait as long as it takes.

We'll figure it out eventually, I suppose.

But it sure would be nice if we could do it without anybody dying needlessly, in the meantime.

Nice blog, by the way. Lots of good info and links, here. And nice to find someone with a foreign policy focus and an attitude lacking in the self-righteous piety that constantly fucks up policy circles, I think.

I'll be back.

Findalis said...

This isn't a west vs Muslim problem but a Sunni vs. Shia problem. With Iran Shia, they wish to control all of Islam. The majority of Muslims are Sunni. Thus the problem. It will get only worse when Iran gets a Nuke. Israel isn't their only target. Every Sunni nation is.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Ben! I love the way you think - Your recent smack down of DR Francis Fukuyama was pretty piercing! Plus it had the added benefit of being true.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Findalis. That's exactly correct. Tariq points out that Iran doesn't so much have a gripe with Great Satan - as much as she does with all her neighbors.

Old Rebel said...

Why are you so obsessed with Iran? Consider this:

Which country in the Middle East actually possesses nuclear weapons?


Which country in the Middle East refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?


Which country in the Middle East refuses to allow international inspections of its nuclear facilities?


Which countries in the Middle East have called for the region to be a nuclear-free zone?

The Arab countries and Iran.