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Iran’s Winning Ways – OpEd


The Iranians, heirs to the ancient civilization of Persia which stretches back into the mists of time, have inherited both its ruthless and its subtle and devious ways of achieving its purposes. Persia was once the superpower of the ancient world, and Iran’s current repressive Islamist rulers seek again the hegemony the nation once enjoyed. Undeterred by apparent reversals of fortune, they are relentless in their pursuit of their objectives – jihad against western values in general, and the US and Israel in particular; jihad against Sunni states and peoples whom they regard as apostates against the true faith of Islam, namely the Shia tradition of which they claim to be the standard-bearers; and jihad against any of their own citizens who challenge or flout the repressive Islamist way of life they have established in their country.

In their single-minded determination to achieve their aims, the current Iranian regime continuously initiates, facilitates or supports, regardless of the death and destruction caused, a succession of terrorist activities. This ruthless and amoral single-mindedness brings results, at least in the short term. Time and again Iran seems to triumph in the face of adversity, and bounce back from reversals of fortune.

Just consider its position in world politics in mid-2016. Uniquely, Iran has succeeded in running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Not only is Iran courted and deferred to by the United States and much of the West who are dedicated to removing Syria’s President Bashar Assad from power, but it is an active battlefield ally of Russia fighting to support Assad’s bid to regain power. Moreover, it is benefitting from a highly advantageous trade deal with Russia which guarantees it delivery of the long-range S-300 missile system – the most advanced in the world.

As far as the US in concerned, Iran’s current “favored nation” status, unreciprocated though it is, is the result of nifty Iranian footwork in the diplomatic area.

The evidence is now pretty overwhelming that President Barack Obama came to the presidency in 2009 with a pre-determined strategic plan for the Middle East, based on ideas contained in the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a congressional commission co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

At the time the major jihadist enemy of the West was al-Qaeda. The report advanced the clever-clever notion that if the US made allies of Iran and the Assad regime in Syria – the heartland of Shia Islam – America could step back, and those states could be relied on to combat the Sunni-led threat to the world, al-Qaeda. The Study Group’s conclusions lined up very well with Obama’s declared intention of reducing America’s direct involvement in the Middle East.

Obama began his presidency with a great weight of guilt on his shoulders. He renounced the concept of America as the world’s champion of democracy and freedom, prepared to fight if necessary to maintain its values. Early on he asserted that any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail; that “problems must be dealt with through partnership”. His new doctrine emphasized diplomacy to promote its aims, and downplayed military might; it aimed at adopting a more humble attitude in state-to-state relations, and playing a more restrained role on the international stage.

It is certain that none of this escaped Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. He undoubtedly perceived the golden opportunity this new approach provided for Iran to advance its own interests.

The good times started in June 2013, with the election as President of the candidate blessed by Khamenei – the self-styled “moderate”, Sayyed Hassan Rouhani. Also blessed, without a doubt, was the deliberate change of tactics from the confrontational stance of ex-President Ahmadinejad, during previous attempts by the UN to induce Iran to control its nuclear program. Henceforth all was to be charm and sweet reason – and indeed, immediately after his election, Rouhani immediately agreed to start substantive talks with world leaders about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

World leaders swallowed the bait. A succession of negotiations followed, but with Iran convinced that the Obama administration had discounted any sort of military confrontation aimed at preventing Iran achieving its goal – a deal allowing it to produce nuclear weapons in the fullness of time. That was precisely the eventual outcome, while in return for simply talking, Iran was rewarded with the progressive lifting of financial sanctions.

The authors of the Iraq Study Group report were either ignorant of some of the realities that rendered their conclusions basically flawed, or deliberately chose to ignore them. They set aside the fundamental philosophy underlying the Iranian Islamic Republic – to oppose, and eventually destroy, Western political and cultural values, and to achieve political and religious dominance in the Middle East.

For the past eight years the Obama administration has ignored Iran’s clearly signalled political priorities, and has failed to respond adequately to its continued terrorist activities and its support for terrorism. Instead, it has engineered a deal which has enormously enhanced Iran’s clout and alienated, or at least disillusioned, its erstwhile allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt, all of whom have good reason to regard Iran as their prime antagonist.  Washington may well have initiated a nuclear arms race in the region, for it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia, for instance, would stand idly by while Iran turned itself into a nuclear power.

Has Obama’s placatory approach resulted in any softening of Iran’s visceral hatred of the “Great Satan”?  Not one jot. “The slogans ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to America’,“ proclaimed Ayatollah Khamenei just after the nuclear deal was announced, “have resounded throughout the country…. Even after this deal, our policy towards the arrogant US will not change.”

For the moment Iran seems to hold a winning hand, but the recent concatenation of circumstances which have favored it are unlikely to last indefinitely. It faces formidable political and religious foes in the Sunni world led by Saudi Arabia, as well as jihadist opponents such as Islamic State (IS). Much of the Western world seems to have woken to the dangers posed to its way of life by IS, but seems unaware that Iran is as implacable an enemy. One can only hope that realisation does not dawn too late.

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Neville Teller

Neville Teller

Neville Teller’s latest book is “The Chaos in the Middle East, 2014-2016” (2016), and writes the blog "A Mid-East Journal". He is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. Born in London and educated at Owen's School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he is a past chairman of the Society of Authors' Broadcasting Committee, and of the Contributors' Committee of the Audiobook Publishing Association. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

2 thoughts on “Iran’s Winning Ways – OpEd

  • Avatar
    June 22, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Mr. Teller’s wrong-headed analysis carries some deliberate factual omissions beginning with the fact that the Iraq Study Group’s report came out in late 2006 with an emphasis on the appalling mess the GW Bush Adm. created out of its disastrous and entirely unnecessary effort, engineered by Paul Wolfowitz, a dual-citizenship neo-Con, to “roll the dice” in the Middle East. The thrust of the 2006 report was to ensure Western oil companies control of Iraq’s oil fields, which was the real reason for the 2003 invasion. In fact, to read Teller’s analysis one would think oil had nothing to do with US policy when the opposite is true: oil has EVERYTHING TO DO WITH US POLICY. The US invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was going to sell oil on the int. markets in defiance of our long-term arrangement with Saudi Arabia for all oil to be paid for in petrodollars.
    Obama may have some fantasy of his own about his legacy, but whatever it is, it continues to be undercut at every turn by the neo-Cons (all with US/Israeli dual citizenship) and the end game, whatever happens to the unhappy people of the area, is control of oil and natural gas. US long-running hostility to Iran has not disappeared, whatever Mr. Teller may think, and the Sunni-Shia mutual hatred may not be controllable by anything the US does or does not do. The current assault on Syria, the destruction of Libya as a functioning entity, are all neo-Con objectives aimed at serving Israel’s interests, no matter how ambivalent Obama himself may be about Netanyahu. The CIA fomented the “civil unrest” against al-Assad in Syria, but the real reason was al-Assad’s refusal to allow the Sunni states (Qatar, S. Arabia, the Gulf monarchies) to run their Pan-Arab pipeline from Qatar (home of world’s biggest nat. gas field) through Syrian territory to customers in the E.U. Instead, al-Assad signed a deal with Shia Iraq, Iran, and Russia for a Shia pipeline to the E.U. aimed specifically at cutting Russia’s Gazprom out of the E.U. market. This is also the reason neo-Con Asst. Sec. of State Victoria Nuland (married to the infamous neo-Con Kagan clan that runs highly right-wing think tanks allied to the M/I Complex) used the CIA and Blackwater mercenaries and local neo-Nazis to overthrow the legitimate govt. in Kiev and install the two US puppets, Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko. Again, the neo-Con target is to encircle Russia with NATO states and do what it is doing right now–running highly provocative NATO military exercises right on the borders of Russia. This is the plan laid out by Z. Brzezinski in his book “The Grand Chessboard” to eliminate Russia, take control of the Eurasian land mass (to control the Caspian Sea energy riches) as the US pushes through to “contain” China as the neo-Cons (who are former Cold War hardliners) believe they “contained” the USSR during the first Cold War. So, the picture is much bigger than Teller wants to admit, and making the “deal” with Iran may not be that large a factor except that it has surely irritated S. Arabia and Israel, in whose interests the neo-Cons are running US foreign policy. The danger here is that the neo-Con plan is antagonizing a nuclear-armed Russia, which is far from being the prostrate state it was under Boris Yeltsin. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to WWIII and the end of the world. And the last thing George F. Kennan (author of the 1947 Containment Policy, which he lived to regret [see the Kennan Diaries]), said before he died in 1991 was “The US has to respect Russia’s security needs” a sentiment even that old sinner Henry Kissinger agrees with, but which the neo-Cons absolutely ignore. The overriding problem with the mass media’s reportage is that it lies and distorts all these facts, as Mr. Teller also does. The situation is extraordinarily dangerous and it will not be made less dangerous by whoever wins the 2016 election because the neo-Cons will still be running policy in D.C. Time for citizens to check our the few US scholars who know/tell the truth: Profs Stephen Cohen and John Mearsheimer, Andrew Bacevich, Paul Craig Roberts, and the people at the Ron Paul Institute. If you want your children to survive, wake up.

  • Avatar
    June 22, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Sorry, I made an error above. It’s the Sunni states’ Pan-Arab pipeline that was intended to cut Russia’s Gazprom out of the E.U. markets, so that al-Assad’s offense for the neo-Cons in D.C. was to make a deal for the Shia pipeline organized by Iraq,Iran, and Russia. The EU as a political entity has gone along with the sanctions the neo-Cons in D.C. have organized against Russia, but Chancellor Merkel, who knows what’s going on, did go to Washington and insisted to Obama that she had to be given a free hand to organize the Minsk II agreement to try to end the assault on the Eastern Provinces that CIA Dir. Brennan himself went to Kiev to start in April 2014. If the US agreed to call off Poroshenko and the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, those Minsk II agreements could be honored any time. I should also point out that ISIS/ISIL is almost entirely a creation of the CIA with fighters, money, and weapons being pumped into it by all the Sunni monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, and by Turkey, which has the separate aim of preventing an independent Kurdistan, but which is currently selling ISIL oil to Israel. Israel also has its eye on a major oil strike by Genie, a US New Jersey based company with neo-Cons on its board, in the Golan Heights. So Israel will be thrilled to see Syria divided up, which will make the Middle East safe for Greater Israel.


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