Ayatollahs Ascending

March 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , )

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush White House set out to accomplish one thing: to prevent another 9/11.ayatollahs-ascending2

For the Neocon Administration that would imply purging the world of all extremist Muslim terrorist organisations and leaving behind a new crop of democratic liberal regimes in order to rid the backward Islamic world of the intolerant culture which had brewed Al-Qaeda.

If there was an area of the world which matched these criteria, that would be Iran – an extremist regime, staunchly anti-American, with a long record of aiding and abetting terrorist organisations. Iraq was however more vulnerable and already tainted in the Americans’ psyche, hence ripe for regime change and “democracy building”.

Ironical or not, by eradicating the Baathist regime in Iraq and the Taliban Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, America removed two of Iran’s antagonists in the region. Iraq, the Arab-counterweight-republican-alternative-Sunni-secular-example is now gone and so is Taliban Afghanistan, Iran’s former inconvenient Sunni neighbour and obstacle to Asia.

Both Baathist Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan had been – just to the event of the Freedom Campaigns – propped by the Green-White Entente of Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Deobandi Pakistan, incidentally Iran’s regional rivals.

Additionally, the Coalition of the Willing spiked oil prices by intervening in Iraq, which allowed Iran to enjoy record profits and inject more capital in its foreign assets like Hezbollah and even acquire new ones like Hamas.

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What is even more regrettable, the involvement of Pakistan in the War on Terror, has debilitated an already incoherent and fragile state.

Containing Iran’s growing influence in the Mediterranean and countering the Shia Crescent – its entente with Syria and affiliate organisations – is now the Aqaba Concert, a loose understanding between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis. Nevertheless, with Pakistan involved in its domestic difficulties – with the Baluch separatists, Pashtun fundamentalists in Waziristan and Swat, jihadist groups targeting India – only the US are now left restraining Iran to the east.

American influence waning and Iran’s rising, it is therefore not surprising to see an already fanatical regime not remotely interested in negotiating with the West.

Many hopes lie on a possible desertion by Syria of the Shia Crescent. To engage Syria is not erroneous but it is to Moscow that the West needs to turn next.

The current quid pro quo at work in central Europe between the Obama and Medvedev governments is especially relevant in the light of these events. Russia has no interest in seeing Iran rise to regional supremacy. Tehran is after all a rival of Russia’s in the Middle East, and nuclear state status would only contribute to its independence from Russia and the erosion of Russian regional influence.

Now that the US is in the process of disengaging from Iraq and the Coalition of the Willing is all but disbanded, the need to counter-balance the liberal democracies is no longer felt. The US and Russia have integrated their efforts in central Asia and Afghanistan and Russia has also been approaching Turkey and Syria which may lead to a gradual gap between Moscow and Tehran – FGEC notwithstanding.

Were Russia and America to cooperate and Iran’s emergence could be minimised.

If on the other hand, Washington and Brussels remain fixated on petty issues such as human rights in Russia, the Ossetian War or the inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, not only will nothing change in Russia but things may actually go from bad to worse in the Middle East.

Fortunately, as we have witnessed of late, with EU initiatives to Belarus and strong neutrality in the latest natural gas row between Moscow and Kiev, there is yet hope for the triumph of pragmatism.

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