Our Gift to Iran

by | Sep 6, 2005

The most important effect of America‘s attack on Iraq has been the removal of Iran‘s strongest regional opponent, and an increase in the regional power of Iran. As I wrote in Capitalism Magazine in June of 2004: “[President Bush] threw down a secular dictator in Iraq and established the constitutional language by which the country […]

The most important effect of America‘s attack on Iraq has been the removal of Iran‘s strongest regional opponent, and an increase in the regional power of Iran. As I wrote in Capitalism Magazine in June of 2004: “[President Bush] threw down a secular dictator in Iraq and established the constitutional language by which the country can become a fundamentalist state . . . a greater fundamentalist state, armed with nuclear bombs, would be a gift from George Bush.”

By removing Saddam Hussein, we did for the Iranians in three weeks what they could not do themselves in twenty years: destroy the enemy that was stopping the westward expansion of the Islamic revolution. This is our gift to the Iranian regime. The Iranians are using our gift to their advantage. Consider:

Iran recently hosted the Syrian president, and promised an alliance with Syria. This would surround Iraq with Baathist Syria on one side, and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the other. We cannot expect Iraq to confront Iran and Syria if we do not. Nor can we expect Iran to passively accept a secular regime between them and Mecca.

The animosity between the Taliban and Iran is for the moment a thing of the past. Bin Laden is probably in Iran–where Al-Sistani spent years in exile, and where clerics such as Al-Sadr are recruiting Shiite fighters for southern Iraqi security forces.

India and Iran have announced a new oil pipeline project. On Sep. 3 Indian Minister of External Affairs Singh said that foreign interference in the pipeline would not be tolerated. Iran will grow in strategic importance as the economic ties between Iran and India deepen–and as Iran becomes a nuclear power.

On Sep. 1, Iran‘s head of National Security and Foreign Policy, visiting Algiers, announced an upcoming meeting between the Iranian President and Algerian President Bouteflika. He again affirmed Iran‘s intent to increase ties with all Muslim countries, and to uphold the rights of all such nations to nuclear power. The people of Algeria are 99% Sunni Muslim, and an agreement between the two nations will further cement ties with non-Arabic Sunnis on the other side of Mecca, and increase Iran’s influence in the area.

Connections between Iran and Iraq are mushrooming at all levels. The Tehran and Baghdad Chambers of Commerce have signed a “Memo of Understanding.” Iraqi schools are beginning to teach that the Iraq / Iran war was aggression by Saddam’s Iraq–and that Iran is not an enemy. Shiite soldiers are infiltrating Iraqi security forces en masse. These fighters see their primary loyalty as to men such as Al-Sistani and Al-Sadr–and they will obey when those clerics give orders.

That Iraq has established the foundations of a theocracy is beyond doubt. The centerpiece of the Iranian revolution is the subordination of man’s law to God’s law. This requires some religious authority to judge the validity of the laws. In Iran, this is a Council of Guardians, akin to the Guardians of Plato’s book, “The Republic,” which Khomeini read while in exile in Paris. This Iranian model is Iraq‘s future, if the trend of Iranian infiltration is not stopped.

Most of all, Iran and Russia continue their billion-dollar nuclear deals. The American attitude to this has been woefully inconsistent. When President Bush visited Europe last spring, he stood next to Western European leaders and said that they agreed, “Iran must not have a nuclear weapon.” When he stood next to the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he said “Iran SHOULD not have a nuclear weapon.” The language is important; President Bush will not confront Russia over this issue.

Iranian motivations to increase their strength are not limited to regime supporters; many who oppose the regime also favor a Persian bomb. The regime is leveraging this to its advantage. To reverse this, the US must recognize that the aim of Operation Iraqi Freedom–to sacrifice Americans to bring freedom to others–was wrong. There was one, and only one, reason to go into Iraq: to protect our rear in the march to Tehran, and to end any hope of a global Islamic revolution with overwhelming force. For those who might think that the Iranian regime would not fall as easily as did Saddam, remember that in eight years of war and over a million dead, Iran could not beat Iraq.

The rise of Iran would constitute the worst kind of defeat for America. America‘s survival depends far less on our military deployments in any particular country than on our will to act against our real enemies. Iraq provides a clear demonstration that fighting a war badly in a secondary theatre is worse than not fighting at all. It has furthered the precedent, which began in Korea, that one can fight the Americans and win, if one takes it slowly. This knowledge is a gift that transcends the capabilities of regimes and armies.

John David Lewis (website) is a Visiting Professor of Political Science, Duke University. He has been a Senior Research Scholar in History and Classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, and an Anthem Fellow.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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