[Marxism] Victim of a foggy crystal ball?
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 6 19:37:06 MST 2014
In a revelatory piece in the New Yorker in 2007, Seymour Hersh described
how this “redirection” has moved “the United States closer to an open
confrontation with Iran, and, in parts of the region, propelled it into
a widening sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims”. Iran,
strengthened by the outcome of the US invasion of Iraq, was demonised as
a greater threat than the Sunni radicals. Its allies, Hezbollah and
Syria, were targeted for clandestine operations. Hersh says “a
by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni
extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile
to America and sympathetic to al-Qa’ida.”
Patrick Cockburn, January 14, 2013
NY Times January 6, 2014
U.S. and Iran Face Common Enemies in Mideast Strife
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
TEHRAN — Even as the United States and Iran pursue negotiations on
Tehran’s nuclear program, they find themselves on the same side of a
range of regional issues surrounding an insurgency raging across the
While the two governments quietly continue to pursue their often
conflicting interests, they are being drawn together by their mutual
opposition to an international movement of young Sunni fighters, who
with their pickup trucks and Kalashnikovs are raising the black flag of
Al Qaeda along sectarian fault lines in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq,
Afghanistan and Yemen.
The United States, reluctant to intervene in bloody, inconclusive
conflicts, is seeing its regional influence decline, while Iraq, which
cost the Americans $1 trillion and more than 4,000 lives, is growing
At the same time, Shiite-dominated Iran, the magnetic pole for the
Shiite minority in the region, has its own reasons to be nervous, with
the ragtag army of Sunni militants threatening Syria and Iraq, both
important allies, and the United States drawing down its troops in
On Monday, Iran offered to join the United States in sending military
aid to the Shiite government in Baghdad, which is embroiled in
street-to-street fighting with radical Sunni militants in Anbar
Province, a Sunni stronghold. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry
said he could envision an Iranian role in the coming peace conference on
Syria, even though the meeting is supposed to plan for a Syria after the
resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, an important Iranian ally.
To some, the Iranian moves reflect the clever pragmatism of Iran’s new
president, Hassan Rouhani, and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad
Zarif, aimed at building their country into a regional power. To others
critical of the potential rapprochement, the moves are window dressing
aimed at lulling the West into complacency while Tehran pursues nuclear
weapons and supports its own jihadis throughout the region.
Yet, even Iranians outside the reformist camp see the shared interests
as undeniable. “It is clear we are increasingly reaching common ground
with the Americans,” said one of them, Aziz Shahmohammadi, a former
adviser to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. “No country should
have an eternal enemy, neither we nor the United States.”
With Iran as an island of stability in a region plagued by violent
protests, sectarian clashes and suicide bombers, there are not that many
options left for Washington, experts here say.
“We face the same enemy, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said
Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a prominent Iranian reformist journalist who
closely follows the Arab world. He recalled how Iranian intelligence
operatives gave reliable information to American Special Forces troops
battling Iran’s enemy, the Afghan Taliban, in 2001.
While the Obama administration acknowledges that Iran has the potential
to be an influential player on regional issues from Afghanistan to
Syria, senior officials have said they are keeping their focus tightly
on the nuclear negotiations. Cooperation on any other issues, they said,
hinged largely on coming to terms on Iran’s nuclear program.
The administration has concluded that Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif have
been empowered to negotiate on the nuclear program, but officials said
it remained unclear whether their policy-making authority extended to
regional issues like Syria. There, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps holds vast influence through its Quds Force, and it is supplying
weapons to Hezbollah in an effort to prop up President Assad’s government.
The thaw in relations extends back almost a year, with the two countries
making overtures long thought impossible, deeply angering Washington’s
closest regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
As early as last spring, a series of secret talks in Oman and Geneva
laid the groundwork for re-establishing relations, cut 34 years ago
after Iranian students took American diplomats hostage in revolutionary
In September came the agreement — credited to President Vladimir V.
Putin of Russia but fully backed and partly engineered by Iran — to
remove Syria’s chemical weapons. Not long afterward, President Obama and
Mr. Rouhani held a historic phone conversation, and in late November the
United States and other world powers struck a temporary nuclear
agreement with Iran, the first in 10 years.
Iran has been presenting itself as the voice of reason, pointing at the
extremely graphic videos of beheadings and other executions produced by
some of the insurgent groups in Syria, while President Rouhani wished a
happy new year to all Christians on his Twitter account.
“Now extremists are once again threatening our security, and as in 2001,
both countries will cooperate with each other in Iraq, and potentially
elsewhere too,” Mr. Shamsolvaezin said. “This is the beginning of
The thaw presents dangers to Presidents Obama and Rouhani, who will
remain vulnerable to criticism from conservatives in both countries. Mr.
Kerry’s invitation on Sunday for Iran to join “on the sidelines” of the
Geneva conference was angrily rejected by Iranian hard-liners.
“The Americans are confessing Iran stands for peace and stability in
this region,” said Hamid Reza Tarraghi, a hard-line political analyst,
with views close to those of Iran’s leaders. “But when they invite us
for a conference on Syria we are ‘allowed’ to be present on the
‘sidelines.’ This is insulting.”
Even Foreign Minister Zarif rebuffed Mr. Kerry, saying that “everybody
must be unified in order to fight the terrorists,” the official Islamic
Republic News Agency reported.
But Tehran’s full participation in the conference would seem to present
even deeper problems, in that the talks are aimed at planning for a
Syria after Iran’s longtime ally, President Assad, has stepped down.
Critics of United States policy say that the Obama administration is
strengthening Iran at the expense of traditional allies, particularly
Saudi Arabia and Israel. They say that Iran has not cut back on its
support of its regional allies, like Hezbollah, the militant Shiite
group in Lebanon, and Mr. Assad, and is deeply involved with Iraq’s
Moreover, they say, a final nuclear agreement with Iran, should it be
reached, would relieve Iran of crippling economic sanctions, reviving
its economy and giving it more resources to spread its influence in the
region, while depriving the West of diplomatic leverage to restrain Iran.
Analysts in Iran say that Tehran is pursuing a clever strategy, using
the United States to undermine its greatest regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
“Cooperating skillfully with Russia, Iran has managed to change the game
both in Iraq and in Syria,” said Hooshang Tale, a Tehran-based
nationalist activist and a member of Parliament before the 1979 Islamic
Revolution. “If we play our cards well, we will end up outsmarting both
the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.”
He and others note that Iran has managed to keep Mr. Assad in power and
wields considerable influence over its neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rightly or wrongly, they view their regional enemy Saudi Arabia as being
on the verge of collapse, saying in Friday Prayer speeches and in
televised debates that the kingdom is ruled by old men who have lost
“We are worried for Saudi Arabia, which seems weak and potentially
unstable,” said Mr. Shahmohammadi, the former adviser, who heads an
institute that promotes dialogue between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. “Even
we, as their competitor, see all the horrible consequences if things go
On Tehran’s streets, where people tend to see much of the region as
distant lands filled with mayhem and unrest, many Iranians welcome every
step that brings Iran and the United States closer together.
“The U.S. stands for progress, for work, a future, new cars and a better
life,” said Mohammad Reza Barfi, an auto mechanic. “I’d rather have
peace with the U.S. than with any regional country. What do they have to
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