Pretty much any effort to divide the Middle East into good guys and bad guys, democrats and tyrants, friends and foes to America will fail due to excessive complexity, shifting sands of interests and a great deal of b.s.-ing the public.
The neocon element of the Washington establishment, led most publicly by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, always have a top candidate of a bad guy they’d like to overthrow, usually by bombing or invading that guy’s nation, unless it can be handled by a secret CIA coup. To my eyes, the track record of this approach, in terms of achieving the promised results, looks pretty bad.
We’re at a (probably not “the”) key moment in the U.S.-led effort to prevent, by peaceful, negotiated means, Iran from getting too close to developing nuclear weapons capability. It’s not going great and it may fail or drag on or, perhaps, something in between that buys more time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons have long since concluded that there is no deal worth doing that can done. Many of them are less clear on what the alternative is to a deal, but it’s not that hard to figure out. Bomb. Invade. Overthrow or, as they prefer to euphemize it, “regime change.”
They don’t much talk about the fact that such a policy would fracture unity of the world’s biggest powers who have been working together on the deal. The end of that unity would also likely weaken the economic sanctions regime that is the main pressure keeping Iran at the bargaining table.
If they would be more clear about what their alternatives really are, they would have a much harder time finding a receptive audience in broader America.
Writing for the Monday New York Times, long-time foreign policy columnist Roger Cohen delivered a smart, sober analysis, which amounted to fairly strong endorsement of President Obama’s current approach. The four-word lede is this: “Do the Iran deal.”
His one-paragraph put-down of the neocon approach goes like this:
“American or Israeli bombs on Persia (or both) would have all sorts of ghastly consequences, but the fundamental argument against such folly is that they would cause no more than a hiccup in Iran’s nuclear program before spurring it to renewed and unmonitored intensity. This would be war without purpose, or war on false pretenses. We’ve seen enough of that.”
Cohen (and, one assumes, Obama) hope that buying 10 years or so will keep open the possibility of a deep change in Iran’s attitude and conduct. Here’s the section of his piece:
“Iran is a hopeful and youthful society. Nurture the hope. Don’t imprison it. A deal lasting 10 years would condemn Iran and America to a working relationship over that period. I use the word ‘condemn’ advisedly. It would not be pretty. In fact it would be ugly. There would be plenty of disagreements.
“But jaw-jaw is better than war-war. Much can be achieved with nations that have fundamental ideological differences with the United States; look at the history of Chinese-American relations since they resumed in the 1970’s. During the next decade the Islamic Republic is likely to go through a leadership change. Its society is aspirational and Westward-looking. ‘Death to America’ has become a tired refrain. What these elements will produce in terms of change is unpredictable, but the chance of positive developments is enhanced by contact and diminished by punitive estrangement of Tehran.
“Would it be preferable that Iran not have the nuclear capacity it has acquired? Sure. Can there be absolute guarantees a deal would be honored? No. But diplomacy deals with the real world. The toughest, most important diplomacy is conducted with enemies. Opponents of an accord have offered no serious alternatives.”
I’ll stop quoting him, but you have his argument now, and more importantly, his tone, which is calm, hopeful and mature in that it doesn’t endorse the kind of “magic bullet” properties that the regime-changers do. (Did I mention that the U.S. already “regime changed” Iran, overthrowing the only really democratic government it ever had?)
Another much more radical, lefty analysis – not just about the Iran stuff but about the overall nature of the Mideast problem and U.S. policy there – was published Tuesday by Robert Parry for his site, Consortium News. It notes that the Mideast is hopelessly complex but also notes that there are forces and voices in the U.S. mainstream discussion that do not want us to know or understand key facts.
One of those key facts, Parry believes, is that:
“Israel is now allied with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Persian Gulf states, which are, in turn, supporting Sunni militants in Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, this Israel-Saudi bloc sustains Al-Qaeda and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Islamic State.
“The U.S. news media is loath to note these strange Israeli bedfellows, but there’s a twisted logic to the Israeli-Saudi connection. Both Israel and the Saudi bloc have identified Shiite-ruled Iran as their chief regional adversary and thus are supporting proxy wars against perceived Iranian allies in Syria and now Yemen. The Syrian government and the Houthi rebels in Yemen are led by adherents to offshoots of Shiite Islam, so they are the ‘enemy.’”
If true, there is certainly some strange bedfellowism here. Israel (despite the obvious problems of the subject Palestinian population) is as close as you get to a real democracy in the Mideast. Saudi Arabia is the opposite. They hold no meaningful elections and they flog bloggers there. Women cannot legally drive. And Saudi Arabia has historically been the leader of the Arab rejectionist bloc, meaning they rejected Israel’s right to exist, although in recent yeafrs they have played a more constructive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
But this must be said. Friendship and alliance with both Israel and Saudi Arabia have been the key building blocs of U.S. Mideast policy for decades.
Parry essentially argues that through that three-way strategic relationship, the United States is part of a club that currently sides with elements of Al Qaida and the Islamic State group.
Read the full Parry argument yourself. It’s titled “Deciphering the Mideast Chaos.”