[Marxism] Victim of a foggy crystal ball?

Louis Proyect 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 
Middle East.

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 
increasingly unstable.

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 
Afghanistan.

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 
Tehran.

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 
regional cooperation.”

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 
Shiite government.

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 
their way.

“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 
wrong there.”

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 
offer?






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