Faster, Please!

The Shape of the Middle East to Come

First, I’d like to say a few words in sympathy with Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki.  Not that I’m an admirer, mind you.  But I have been warning about this moment — the moment when we are leaving, and those Iraqis in charge of things in their country have to cope with nasty neighbors on their own — ever since we first mistakenly invaded Iraq while leaving the terror masters in Iran unchallenged.

As the Times’ report makes clear, most “common” Iraqis hate Iran (oddly, the Times account does not discuss the fundamental differences between the two countries’ versions of Shi’ism, which are very deep), but the government has been much more accommodating.  And how could it be otherwise?  Poor Maliki knows first hand (he was a member of an Iranian-sponsored terror group back in the old days) how dangerous the Tehran regime can be, and he doesn’t want to be blown up.  Nor do Kurds like the Barzini and Talabani clans.  Who will protect them from the Quds force?  Or, for that matter, from Iran’s Sadr Army?  And so, when Tehran calls Baghdad and says “support Assad!” they do it.  They try to do as little as possible, but they do it.  As most any Iraqi government would.  Or get blown up.

That’s what happens when we walk away from a job half done.  If we wanted a truly independent Iraq, we needed to go after Iran.  But Bush/Cheney weren’t up to that — apparently, they could only think in military terms, and their secretaries of state and defense weren’t about to tell them otherwise — and Obama/Biden are running away.   There is a better way — supporting the Iranian people against their oppressors — but there isn’t a “leader” in the Western world who cares to support revolution in Iran.

Western leaders may not wish to see it, but the Tehran regime knows that the Iranian people, from the periphery to the cracking core of the mullahcracy, are preparing to fight on:

…an official at the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence is saying the authorities fear…chaos in the country and even armed violence in the coming months, amid reports of the weakening regime and the illness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The official said that intelligence centers in the areas of Kurdistan, Baluchistan and west Azerbaijan (are) wary of “popular revolutions” in addition to chaos and protests in Tehran and a number of major cities.

Notice the line about the “illness of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” please.  He’s not a well man.  He’s been in and out of the hospital many times in the past few years, and despite his remarkable recuperative powers (and the finest doctors his Russian and Chinese friends can provide), some of the internal conflicts that are rending the Islamic Republic have less to do with political or ideological differences than with a brutal struggle for power after Khamenei’s passing.  I’ve called it the War of the Persian Succession.

The short-term future of the Iranian regime will most likely be determined by the outcome of the Syrian slaughter.  The opposition, or at least some of its components, seem to be getting their hands on weapons.  It remains to be seen if they know what to do with them, and whether they can accelerate the rate of defections from the Army, especially at higher levels.  But the arrival of weapons has driven the Syrians to deliver a very Iranian-style warning to the West (no doubt suspected of being the source of the rebels’ arms):

Syria’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun in a video posted on YouTube, said suicide bombers were present in the United States, France and Britain and ready to strike if Western powers launch a military strike on his country.

“I say this to all of Europe, and I say this to America: We will prepare suicide bombers, who are already in your country, to strike you if you strike Syria or Lebanon. After today, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the initiator is the aggressor.”

It’s the usual bluster, based on the oft-repeated but manifestly false assumption that their embrace of death will trump our effeminate love of life.  We showed the foolishness of that bit of reassuring doctrine when we defeated their death lovers in Iraq and are doing the same in Afghanistan.  Yes, they undoubtedly have terror cells in the West, but so did the Soviets.  When their doom arrived, the GRU’s teams of saboteurs and assassins did not act against us, and I do not think that the Iranian/Syrian sleepers will embrace martyrdom as their leaders are being dragged into the streets.

Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post has written a very pessimistic piece about the future of the “Arab Spring,” in which he predicts that, a year hence, the Syrians may well wish that we had sent an Army to remove Bashar Assad, as we did next door to Saddam Hussein.  Diehl has come to the conclusion that simply sending crowds into the streets does not a revolution make, and that it may well be necessary to use military force to create a viable alternative to the stereotypical Middle Eastern tyranny.

No doubt there are times and places when the use of military power is necessary, but, as I have often argued, if we get to that point in the case of Iran, it will show the failure of Western policy.  At the moment, we have only sanctions in our quiver, we have yet to declare that “Khamenei must go,” and we have not told Ahmadinejad to go to hell.  If we had supported a successful revolution in Iran, we would almost certainly not be facing armed conflict in Syria today, and we would have a strong voice in the future of Egypt, instead of standing by and pretending to lead with our shrinking rear.

But there is no reason to believe that Obama or any of the others will test the possibility of bringing down the Iranian regime with non-violent methods.  Meanwhile, men like Maliki await developments, defending themselves as best they can, hoping that somehow the Iranian and Syrian people do for themselves what a succession of American presidents declined to do.

One will get you ten that they’ll still be waiting and hoping in January, 2012, when the new American president is sworn in.  And even then, they will have their doubts.  To date, I haven’t heard a Republican candidate call for regime change in Tehran.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)