A Message to Trump: Russia Is Iran’s Ally, Not Ours
With rumors of Donald Trump’s desire for a “reset” with Russia, I am writing to warn the incoming administration against making the same mistake that Obama did about Vladimir Putin, and Putin’s relationship with the Iranian ayatollahs.
As I predicted in a now-fulfilled prophecy, an aggressive and decidedly expansionist Russia is currently on the offensive. A reset with Putin — otherwise known as appeasement — would break the back of Europe and leave the fate of the Middle East to Russia, neither aim the Soviet Union could achieve even at the height of its power during the Cold War.
Geopolitically speaking, Europe lies at Russia’s doorstep. While the notion of an all-out invasion of Europe by Russia is still far-fetched, an American reset with Putin would lead to the growing of the Russian shadow over Europe, because pro-Putin political currents (that are flowing already) are likely to thrive in that kind of climate.
Granted, the European Union has had its shortcomings and failures — and they are not few — but Europe as a whole is part of the greater Western world and shares more or less the same values that we cherish here in the United States. North America and Europe constitute a historical continuity of values: cultural, social, political and economic. A Russification of Europe would tip that balance and tumble the world into chaos.
On the other hand, it’s also impossible to have a reset with Russia while going on the offense against radical Islam. As a matter of fact, Putin, along with the Iranian mullahs, has been shrewdly nurturing Islamist terrorism in order to advance his expansionist agenda. Whenever Putin and the mullahs need breathing space or a breakthrough, all of a sudden ISIS appears out of nowhere.
Just note the timing of major ISIS appearances or attacks around the world, and you’ll grasp the truth of the matter. ISIS first emerged in Syria and Iraq when the Assad’s regime was about to fall; its emergence divided the international community on what to tackle first: Assad or ISIS? Since then, the Syrian revolution and why it started in the first place seem all but forgotten. Only ISIS — and not Assad — is the monster according to the Russian and Iranian propaganda machines and their mouthpieces in the West.
A couple of years later, when the European Union, headed by France and Germany, was seeking to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia as a punitive measure for its intervention in Ukraine, a chain of terrorist attacks occurred across Europe — for which the-by-then-dormant ISIS claimed responsibility. Consequently, having obtained the blessing of Europe, Putin was able to embark upon his conquest of Syria seemingly to crush ISIS and its Islamist terrorism. Yet more than a year into the Russian intervention in Syria, ISIS is quite alive and kicking — while Putin is busy exterminating the rebels along with the rest of the civilian population in Aleppo.
The same holds true for Iraq — of course with a more obvious Iranian twist. Whenever the central government of Iraq is about to make a move towards the United States and away from the Iranian regime, a couple of bombs are set off around the country, usually killing Iraqis on a massive scale. ISIS then immediately claims responsibility, implying that only the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias can maintain peace in Iraq, and that any move towards the United States on the part of Iraq is likely to be curtailed and severely punished by the Iranian regime.
As such, Russia is using Islamists pretty much the same way that the former USSR used the Third-Worldist Communist or anti-American guerillas to harass the West and score points. These Islamists are highly charged ideologically, have no regard for human life, and are ready to explode themselves for their (and by extension for Putin’s) cause whenever triggered. The ploy is that Putin, while actually supporting these murderers, puts up the appearance of fighting them. The former KGB mastermind has revived and perfected that old Soviet stratagem.
To outflank this pretender without directly coming to blows with him, the United States needs to touch base in Tehran exactly as it did with the Baghdad Pact of 1955. While Iran seems to be solidly behind the new Iron Curtain, the regime of the mullahs is much more fragile than it looks: it has lost all its legitimacy and credibility among the populace because its economy is in shambles and tyranny and corruption have engulfed the country. The Islamic Republic is indeed the very definition of the “failed state.”
Time has come for the West in general, and America in particular, to make a choice. Will it once again look — in vain — for that chimerical creature, the “moderate Islamist? Or will it eventually put aside that incessantly unsuccessful approach and back the genuinely pro-Western elements in Iranian society?
As it happens, there is a longstanding pro-Western sociopolitical tradition among Iranians that has never been given due attention by the West. And that is ironic, because that Iranian tradition is the only natural ally of the West in one of the most treacherous spots on Earth. It was the outward manifestation of this tradition that we saw in the 2009 protests, which could have toppled the nefarious regime of the ayatollahs and established a Western-style democracy in its place — if only Obama had lifted only a finger in its support. Now that choice is before us once again.
There is a famous saying by the Iranian Islamists that “the road to Quds (Jerusalem) passes through Karbala,” meaning that Karbala must be conquered before Jerusalem. Karbala is in Iraq, and is the holiest city of the Shiite Muslims where Imam Hossein, the third and probably dearest Imam of the Shiites, has a holy shrine. The conquest of Karbala was made possible for the Islamists when the United States toppled the wrong regime in the region. Now, true to that very maxim, I’d say that the road to Moscow passes through Tehran.
A version of this article was originally published by Jerusalem Online.