Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Iranian Problem

In one of my very first substantial posts, back in January 2005, I contended that as long as the Iranian regime was in power, our mission in Iraq would be a failure.
Now we find that the Iranian-back [sic] al Zarqawi is fighting against "the principle of democracy", not the Americans. In other words, even were the UN to have been involved from the very beginning in the Iraq invasion, this campaign of terror would still be happening.

So, here we have my controversial opinion: in order for democracy to succeed in Iraq, Iran - as it currently stands - must be destroyed. There are already reports that the Americans are scouting out targets in Iran, and everyone is saying, "Haven't they learnt from their lesson in Iraq?". My contention is, though, that the Iraq experiment cannot succeed whilst Iran remains a power in the region, and whilst it continues to fund the bombings in Iraq.

I later expanded this theory, and developed my ideas as to why we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, in July 2005 (by which time, further evidence of Iranian interference in the region had been exposed).
Firstly, Iran was militarily far superior to Iraq, whose army had been decimated, discredited and demoralised by the first Gulf War and ten years of sanctions. If this were the only stumbling block, I don't believe that the US would have held back.

The second reason was far more problematic: Iran was, and is, a fundamentalist Islamist state run, in all but name, by a collective of radical Mullahs who farm out parts of its economy to themselves; much as the alien family runs the town in Diana Wynne Jones' Archer's Goon. Although there have been elections, of both government and president, in Iran recently, this is no more than window-dressing. The power has never, actually, shifted away from the clerics who have controlled the country since the revolution.

By contrast, Saddam Hussein was embattled and shackled, forced to resort to corrupting UN officials to get money through the Oil For Food scam. Furthermore, ideologically he was isolated. As a Sunni , an essentially secular form of Islam, Saddam was isolated ideologically as well as economically. This was, and is, not the case with Iran.

If the US had decided to invade Iran, the other radical Islamic nations would have been compelled to support her. Allah must not be mocked, and it would be unthinkable that the Muslim government of Iran be toppled. It might even give ideas to the increasingly restless populations of the other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia (where unemployment is running at roughly 18%). Immediately after the Afghan War, when the US was casting about for its next target, Saudi investors suddenly started withdrawing huge numbers of investments (especially university endowments; one of the reasons that the academic world in the US, in any case socialist in tendency, is so hostile to Bush); it was a warning. Even if the other Arab nations did not actively join in militarily, they would at least have to support Iran financially and politically. They could not have done otherwise. The Taliban could be allowed because they were too radical and may even have become a threat to the other Muslim nations (which is why they were never supported financially); Saddam was too moderate, and not considered a proper Muslim anyway.

Thus, the US came up with the "War On Terror" rhetoric: it was a bluff. They desperately hoped that Iran, having seen the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, would believe that the US would invade her if she didn't stop funding terrorism. It was always a feeble gamble, and Iran has wrong-footed the US again.

You'll have to forgive me: I was younger and more ignorant then, especially about the differences between various strains of Islamic belief; however, I do not believe that these two posts were entirely off the mark.

But why bring it up again now? Well, because Matt Sinclair has written a very good entry, detailing the more up to date problems that we have with that particularly nasty theocracy and what we might do to counter the problem.
Losing what control we have over Iran's future behaviour should be of concern to all, even if you are unwilling to reflect that concern to the degree of considering military action. It's worth thinking about the hard choices we should be facing.

It is a thoughtful and considered post, and I highly recommend that you read the whole thing.

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