As The Slog predicted recently, backing the Syrian rebels and cuddling up to Sunni radicals has left Iran isolated. Now we must all wonder whether Statesmanship can triumph over politics.
Hillary Clinton “accused” the Iranians last night of arming and training special militias to help relieve Bashar Assad’s beleaguered forces. I don’t doubt that it’s true, but then the Pentagon has also been actively backing the Syrian opposition forces…the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim Brotherhood members.
Right on cue, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz had Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ‘considering bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities before U.S. elections on Nov. 6’. This neatly gives the US permission to do that first, while reminding the Black Dude that Benjamin is not kidding about the timescale.
Nicely in tandem, the Sunni-dominated upcoming Islamic summit confirmed that it will expel Syria. And slotting neatly into its chosen role as victimised little guy, Tehran said that Syria “is part of a vital regional alliance that Iran will not allow to be broken”.
Six months ago, I doubted that the US would attempt anything quite as dumb as directly effecting ‘regime change’ in Iran. But now I’m reminded that the American governmental class remembers every insult, and learns no behavioural lessons as a result. Washington has never forgiven the Iranians for the 1970s hostage crisis, has taken consistent umbrage at Ahmadinnajhad’s deluded UN rants, and has always believed that the Iranians are building a bomb.
I’m sort of in the middle on this one. I think the Iranians would like to build a bomb and then vapourise Israel…but I don’t think they’re anywhere near achieving their objective. I can appreciate how threatened Tel Aviv feels – and how pissed off they are with Ahmadinnejhad arming those who lob missiles onto Israeli citizens. But I think Netanyahu is over-egging the pudding in order to get action now…rather than next year, when Obama is bound to be more domestically focused.
A bigger consideration than any of that, however, is this blase American idea of ‘regime change’ in Iran. You may change the regime in Tehran, but you won’t change the mindset: Mahmood Ahmadinnejhad is a symptom of a shared religious, anti-Semitic, anti-American fanaticism. Sure, there are those who oppose the President’s nasty habit of stuffing ballot boxes to his advantage, but they hate the heretics, the West, the Yanks and the Jews just as much.
Take a look at the size of Iran on a map. It is one big mother of a country. US dollar power is destroying the Iranian economy bit by bit. Diplomacy has already isolated the Tehran regime in the region. And Assad will go in the end, whether Iran intervenes or not. A statesman would, at this point, offer talks about Thorium reactors (or something) to the Iranians, while telling Prime Minister Netanyahu to calm down.
But the Israeli leader has rightly judged that Barack Obama is not a statesman: rather, he’s just another suit who thinks he’s a lot more clever than he really is – and mulling the idea of pulling an electoral rabbit out of the hat.