I still remember the US State Department’s annual reports about states that “sponsor and support terrorism”.
Practically, most of these states, as per the expressions of the latter years of the Cold War were also known as “rogue states”; and sure enough, included in these reports were some Arab regimes that used to boast “steadfastness” and “confrontation” sometimes, and some other times “rejection” and “resistance”!
After the experience, however, we now know that the accusations of “roguishness” and “sponsoring and supporting terrorism” were flexible, selective, expedient, and may even be ignored. Some “rogue” and “terrorism-supporting” states have been punished and had their regimes toppled, while others have been rewarded several times after Washington decided to deal with them diplomatically and blackmail them so they would only “change their behavior”.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s regime was deemed guilty of using chemical weapons in Halabja in 1988, and before that date Israel was quick to abort its nascent nuclear program in 1981. Saddam was also condemned for invading a neighboring state, Kuwait, in 1990. This justified the formation of a broad coalition that liberated Kuwait militarily. Sanctions were imposed, as well as a crippling siege, that were only lifted after Iraq itself was invaded and its regime brought down in 2003.
The opposite happened to Iran. Here, since the first days of the 1979 Khomeinist revolution the revolutionaries declared their regional project. “Exporting the Revolution” was, and still is, the raison d’etre of Khomeinist Iran, and is still being promoted by unrelenting inflammatory and provocative rhetoric. Indeed, the failed role of “The policeman of the Gulf” long associated with the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, has been now dwarfed under the “Mullahs” as Iran’s sphere of influence extends westwards to the Mediterranean shores to include Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iraq.
Furthermore, even in what happened in Halabja, which is a stone’s throw from the Iranian borders, Iraqis are well aware of Iran’s tacit role there and then. In addition, while Saddam’s frequent ruthless suppression deserves condemnation, especially, when targeting liberal, secular and progressive groups; the fact is that some of his actions were taken in preemptive self-defense. Sectarian groups financed, armed, trained and controlled by the Mullahs’ regime were already active inside Iraq, and were threatening and trying to sabotage the Baath government.
Today, it is clear for all to see how Iran is behaving in Iraq, taking over its political decision making process, and controlling its military and security affairs through sectarian organizations and militias commanded by its Iraqi henchmen, who had even fought with the Iranian forces against their Iraqi brethren during the Iran-Iraq War (1980 - 1988).
Moreover, on the nuclear front, Khomeinist Iran’s nuclear ambitions have never been in doubt. Moscow, actually, was aware of Russia’s role in developing the Iranian nuclear project, and yet it neither seriously attempted to stop it, nor allowed Israel to attack its facilities as it did with Iraq’s.
The Iran-Iraq War broke out only one year after the Khomenist revolution. That year witnessed not only settling scores in a bloody manner within Iran itself, but also regional agitation aiming at “exporting the revolution”, bringing down neighborly regimes and imposing its hegemony over the Middle East. Thus, before attempting to identify who fired the first shot in that war, it would be useful to understand the overall situation then.
In 1988, the hostilities ended, as Khomeini’s declaration that he was “drinking a chalice of poison”, but in truth the war was only temporarily suspended. What happened was merely putting off “exporting the revolution” until a more opportune moment.
The project was not finished, but rather strategically benefited from two American moves:
The first move was the invasion of Iraq executed by George W. Bush’s administration in 2003, based on the vision and advise of Washington’s “Likudniks” and “Neo Cons”. This invasion brought down the Baath regime and handed Iraq on a platter to Iran. Later on, when the Iranians began to worry about the possibility that the American might stay in Iraq, Tehran’s ally in the Syrian capital Damascus, Al-Assad regime, took over the task of facilitating the entry to Iraq of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups through its agents planted inside these group, in order to attack and harass American troops and force Washington to withdraw. The plan worked. The Assad regime carried out the task immaculately, and why not, recalling it was Iran’s “trusted” ally during the Iran-Iraq War, indeed, it was the only Arab regime to openly take that position.
The second move was Barack Obama’s decision to make Iran Washington’s favorite Middle East partner at the expense of its old allies. This choice was translated by accepting the idea of a “nuclear Iran” through an agreement that only delays the military fruits of its nuclear capabilities, but, at the same time leave Iran to do what it pleases in the region. During the Obama presidency, Iran was no longer a “supporter of terrorism” after it had managed to nurture another kind of “terror”, called ISIS - an Al-Qaeda off-shoot - whose ugly atrocities would divert the attention away from Iran’s expansionist strategy.
Both, the Iranian and Syrian regimes, were rarely missing from the State Department’s “terrorism” reports, but during the Obama presidency they became the main beneficiaries from Washington’s regional policies.
Well, what about today, after Donald Trump replaced Obama? Trump’s controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin does not usher any significant or radical change. The rehabilitation of the Assad regime is an extremely dangerous sign for the future, without dwelling too much on the much trumpeted “Iran’s withdrawal from Syria”, or dealing with the now teetering Turkish ambition there.
Contrary to appearances, Washington’s “agreements” with Moscow do not give the impression that Iran’s regional strategy is being targeted, and so far only Israel’s leadership seems to be relaxed enough to carry out its sinister internal arrangements (such as the controversial Nation-State Law).
Looking at the overall scene in the Middle East, there are no practical measures taken to eliminate Iran’s hegemony, at least in Iraq and Lebanon, where it is meddling in the process of forming governments, appointing ministers and applying the labels of “patriotism” and “treason”!
Given all this, is there a chance of preventing Iran from rewriting the history of the region?
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