The US-Iran Syndrome: Leverage or Squander?
Western leaders tend to sacrifice long-term, complex national security strategic goals on the altar of short-term, easily-grasped tactical gain — a strategy resulting from the realities of the democratic political system, including the relatively short political life expectancy of leaders and legislators; the centrality of public opinion; the reservations about conducting wars overseas; the high-sensitivity to war casualties.
For example, in 2003, the US focused on the clear and present threat posed by Saddam Hussein, but downplayed the larger context, including the dangers of the ayatollahs of Iran and other forms of Islamic terrorism. So, the US military toppled the repressive, terroristic, imperialistic Sunni-Ba’ath regime of Hussein, and transferred the helm to Iraq’s Shiites, who account for 50% of Iraq’s population (compared to 30% Sunni and 20% Kurdish). However, empowering Iraq’s Shiites frustrated and threatened the senior Iraqi Sunni military, tribal and political personnel, driving them to the folds of Sunni Islamic terror organizations, such as ISIS, the Islamic Army in Iraq, Al Qaeda Iraq and the Mujahidin Army of Iraq. Moreover, the devastation of Iraq, a country that served historically as a geo-strategic counterbalance to Iran, dramatically upgraded the regional and global power-projection of the ayatollahs, paving the road to their domination of Iraq. This has provided a tailwind to Tehran’s predominance in Syria and, increasingly, in Lebanon, thus intensifying regional volatility and posing a lethal threat to all pro-US Arab Sunni regimes. The spoils of a just US military victory in Iraq were snatched by an arch-enemy, the ayatollahs.
In 2017, the US has intensified its war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, bringing it to the verge of defeat. However, a defeat of the Sunni ISIS triggers ripple effects, such as bolstering the fortunes of two Tehran satellite regimes: the Alawites in Damascus and the Shiites in Baghdad. Therefore, the failure to leverage the defeat of ISIS as a stepping stone toward the toppling of the Ayatollahs, the chief enemy, would upgrade the regional and global destructive power of “Death-to-America” Tehran, whose machete is at the throat of all pro-US Arab regimes.
The grand design of the Ayatollahs is to coalesce territorial continuity from Iran in the Persian Gulf, through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon (and its 30-40% Shiite component) on the Mediterranean, proceeding to topple the pro-US Sunni regimes in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, gaining control over the paramount, strategic straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb, much of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, the Muslim world and then the world at large.
Since their rise to power in 1979, the ayatollahs’ agenda has been independent of and focused drastically beyond the Palestinian issue, but for one cardinal issue: they are aware that a Palestinian state in the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria would dramatically erode the power of Israel (“the Little Satan”), which would deny the US (“the Great Satan”) and its Arab allies a most effective beachhead in the Middle East. The Palestinian issue is immaterial to the Ayatollahs’ grand design, which is based on a 1,400 year old Islamic ethos. Saudi appreciation of Israel’s assistance in removing the ayatollahs’ machete from their throat is also not relevant to Tehran’s plan.
Contrary to Western foreign policy establishments, which profess negotiation, compromise with and substantial concessions to the ayatollahs, the latter’s school curriculum highlights the megalomaniacal, supremacist, apocalyptic, terroristic, anti-US nature of the ayatollahs (who pose a clear and present threat to the US homeland and national security).
On May 24, 2017, Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, told the graduates of Imam Hossein Military Academy: “The Greater Jihad as steadfastness and defiance of the Arrogance Front [led by the USA]…must top the agenda of the Islamic Revolution….” The ayatollahs consider the July 2015 nuclear agreement a reaffirmation of Western vacillation. It’s a tenuous, tactical agreement with “the modern-day-crusader, arrogant, Great Satan,” to be abrogated as befits agreements concluded with “infidels,” in accordance with the Quran and Muhammad’s legacy. Currently, the ayatollahs employ the North Korean venue to obtain nuclear mega-capability, in order to remove the US mega-obstacle to the mega-goal of dominating the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and the world.
The ayatollahs on the one hand, and compromise, moderation, stability and peaceful coexistence on the other, constitute a classic oxymoron. Hence, a regime change in Teheran is a prerequisite for reducing regional and global turbulence.
Moreover, while the opposition to the ayatollahs is gaining ground, their ruthless regime (and the passivity of the West during the 2009 attempted uprising) precludes a peaceful transition of power.
Will the US leverage or squander the current offensive against ISIS, using the tactical gain in order to score a strategic victory against the ayatollahs? Will the US preempt or react to the ayatollahs’ access to nuclear capability? Will the US resurrect its independence of unilateral military action, highlighting its own national and homeland security considerations? Or will the US sacrifice this on the altar of multilateralism, which yields the lowest common denominator of geostrategic effectiveness? Will the US and Israel follow a reality-based policy in removing the ayatollahs threat, or will they be duped and stalled by a false linkage between the ayatollahs and the Palestinian issue?