Folks on the extreme left and extreme right share at least one trait in common; they can only hold and process a single black and white belief on any given subject. When anyone tries to inject a shade of gray or one of those nasty “nuances” into one of their certainties, they react with suspicion and anger.
Of course we see this most when the issue of Iraq comes up. Those on the far right believe that “if we don't fight them there, we will have to fight them here, in our own streets.” That's complete and utter nonsense, of course, but believe me, they believe it.
I got a taste of lefty anger last week when I had the audacity to suggest that Iran may be doing to the US in Iraq exactly what the US did to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Specifically by making sure Iraqi insurgents have the gear they need to blow up our armor vehicles and shoot down our helicopters.
Yep. I said that, and oh my! The emails poured in. How dare I!.
How dare I what?
Well, how dare I provide aid and comfort to the war-mongering Bushies! “That's just what they want us to believe,” the lefties whined. They want us to believe the Iranians are supplying Iraqi insurgents, to justify attacking Iran. And I fell right into that right-wing trap.
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Ah, no, not right -- and not left either. Both sides are missing the point. One side sees black, the other sees white. I see gray.
Let's dissect the matter:
Question: Does the Bush administration want to attack Iran?
Answer: Does a bear crap in the woods? Sure they do. Fueled by Neocons and Israeli interests in Congress (can you spell Lieberman?) they'd love to bomb the crap out of Iran. Just as they believed attacking Iraq would yield longterm benefits for the region, they now believe that knee-capping Iran now would end Iran's regional ambitions.
Question: Well, are they right?
Answer: No. Attacking Iran would not only not yield any benefits but would simply kick open another Pandora's box of very ugly realities. And then we'll be talking about how to “get out of Iran,” too. Because, you see, the Iranians live there. And they will still live there long after the dust kicked up by westerners settles. Iran's place in the Middle East of the future can only be decided by themselves and their neighbors. Anyone who believes the West can force such an outcome clearly has no grasp whatsoever of the history of that region, the religion & culture that underpins everything, or the people that live there.
Question: Are the Iranians supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents?
Answer: Duh! Lefties need to understand that, just because Bush says it, does not automatically mean it's not true. Even a broken clock is right twice each day.
Imagine it this way. What if you woke up one morning and discovered that Iran had bombed, invaded and occupied Mexico. Iranian troops were stationed along the US Mexican border and the President of Iran was making threats against the US. Do you think, just maybe, the CIA would be slipping guns-n-stuff to anti-Iranian Mexican insurgents? Of course they would. So, of course the Iranians are. The sooner the US can be convinced to leave Iraq the better for Iran. And the fastest way to do that is for Iran to play the same role in Iraq that the US played in forcing the Soviets to quit their occupation of Afghanistan. And that's precisely what the Iranians are doing.
Question: So, does that mean the US should attack Iran?
Answer: Of course not. Attacking Iran would be no more justified than if the Soviets had attacked the US for providing helicopter killing Stinger missiles to Afghan insurgents.
Question: So what is the right response to Iran's behavior?
Answer: That question brings me back to the first question and answer – that only Iran's neighbors can affect Iran's behavior. We saw the first indications of just how that would work last week. It may have appeared to those wearing political blinders to have been an unrelated matter. But in fact it was arguably the most important thing that happened in the region this month – or, for that matter, any month lately.It happened, not in poor beleaguered Iraq, or Mulah-run Iran, but in filthy-rich Saudi Arabia.
Last week the Saudis, not exactly known for making bold diplomatic moves, suddenly reached down into Palestine, grabbed waring Fatah and Hamas leaders by the scurfs of their necks and dragged them to Mecca for a sit-down.
The Saudis have had a good thing going for nearly century, selling their oil to the West. But they realized that the growing tide of instability around them – some of which they had financed -- is getting out of hand. Sunni and Shia are increasingly facing off in what many believe may be the beginning of a regional civil war,. And kind of regional instability would directly threaten the Saudis sweet (crude) deal.
CAIRO -- Egypt is the Arab world's largest Sunni Muslim country, but as a writer once quipped, it has a Shiite heart and a Sunni mind. In its eclectic popular culture, Sunnis enjoy a sweet dish with raisins and nuts to mark Ashura, the most sacred Shiite Muslim holiday. Raucous festivals bring Cairenes into the street to celebrate the birthdays of Shiite saints, a practice disparaged by austere Sunnis. The city's Islamic quarter tangles like a vine around a shrine to Imam Hussein, Shiite Islam's most revered figure. The growing Sunni-Shiite divide is roiling an Arab world as unsettled as at any time in a generation. (More)
So, after years of looking the other way and paying protection money to radical, anti-Israel groups, the Saudis decided it was time had come to send the dogs of war to obedience school.
First of all, the Saudis have far more reasons to fear Iran than the US does. And it would not be the first time in recent history that Iran and Syria made trouble in Palestine that resulted in regional misery. Finally, Hamas gets its money and arms from Iran, and it has been Hamas fanning the flames of a Palestinian civil war.
I have no idea what the Saudis actually told the two warring factions, but I bet it went something like this:
The Saudis to Hamas leaders: “You guys have had it pretty easy. Iran sends you what you need when you need it. Meanwhile the West has embargoed the Palestinian government since Hamas won elections. That cut off western aid to Fatah, making them easy pickings for your Iranian-armed Hamas fighters. We Saudis can, if we must, provide Fatah with all the money and arms it needs. Is that what you want? A full out civil war with a well-equipped and financed Fatah? Because that's what you're going to get unless you knock it off.”
The Saudis to Fatah leaders: “How was that?”
Fatah to the Saudis: “Perfect.”
Hamas to the Saudis: “You Saudi Sunni swine! Allah will eat your children, kill your crops, dry up your oil and render your wives and camels barren."
Saudis to Hamas: “Whatever. Take it or leave it.”
The photo-op that followed the Saudis sit-down showed Fatah and Hamas leaders kissing. The next move will be Iran's. Do they keep egging Hamas on to undermine any form of secular, moderate Palestinian government? Or do the Iranians back off? That ball is not in Iran's court. The Saudis have more oil and more money than Iran. And the Saudis have warehouses full of modern US-military gear. Should the Saudis decide to back Fatah they could turn it into a formidable force. (And this time the Israelis would approve – maybe even help.)
JERUSALEM -- Leaders of the rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement to form a coalition government Thursday in an effort to end months of factional fighting and lift international sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led administration....The agreement, which followed talks hosted by Saudi Arabia in the holy city of Mecca, was signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, and Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of Hamas. (More)
What's really important to learn from that event is this: It was the Saudis, not the American fleet, that changed the equation for Iran -- and in ways the Bush administration could only dream of.
It's a valuable lesson, for everyone involved. The west's only strategic interest in the region is oil. But those who actually live in the Middle East have much broader and far more personal interests at stake. For the peoples of the Middle East it boils down to a stark choice: peaceful co-existence, growing trade and growing economies, or life on-end in a Mad Max world.
Only once the West, particularly the US, butts out will that choice come into high relief. The Saudis clearly get it – at least those Saudis who benefit most from regional stability. (Eventually ordinary Saudis will get it too, and that won't be good news for the corrupt phony “princes,” now running that sandpit of a country. Of course, when that day arrives, the US will not like that particular display of “democracy ” in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it will be a matter for locals to decide, not Exxon.)
So, let's review.
- Is Iran sending military assistance and anti-aircraft missiles to Iraqi insurgents? Almost certainly.
- Is the Bush administration lying to us again? Almost certainly.
- Does that mean Iran is not sending military assistance to Iraqi Insurgents? No.
- Does that mean we should attack Iran? No.
No longer able to blame the Great Satan they will have to “get” what the Saudis got. The choice facing Muslims in the Middle East is between life in dark ages, or peace, cooperation and progress.
Take it or leave it.
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