Sunday, December 08, 2013

The road through Tehran

Some sober and succinct yet terrific analysis of what the Iran deal means in broader American foreign policy terms from Prof. Andrew Bacevich. Worth a read:

Back in 1979, the “loss” of Iran provided much of the impetus for launching America’s War for the Greater Middle East. The shah’s overthrow had cost the United States an unsavory henchman, his place taken by radicals apparently consumed with hatred for the Great Satan.
At the time, the magnitude of the policy failure staggered Washington. It was as bad as — maybe worse than — the “loss” of China 30 years before. Of course, what had made that earlier failure so difficult to take was the presumption that China had been ours to lose in the first place. Discard that presumption, and doing business with Red China just might become a possibility. Cue Richard Nixon, a realist if there ever was one.  
By accepting China’s loss, he turned it to America’s advantage, at least in the short run.
So too with Iran today. The passage of time, along with more than a few miscalculations by Iran’s leadership, has tempered the Islamic republic’s ambitions. One imagines Nixon, in whatever precincts of the great beyond he inhabits, itching to offer advice: Accept the “loss” of Iran, which will never return to America’s orbit anyway, and turn it to U.S. advantage.
In their heyday, neoconservatives boasted that while anyone could go to Baghdad, real men hankered to go to Tehran. But as a venue for displaying American power, Baghdad proved a bust. In Tehran lies the possibility of finding a way out of perpetual war. Although by no means guaranteed, the basis for a deal exists: We accept the Islamic republic, they accept the regional status quo. They get survival, we get a chance to repair self-inflicted wounds. It’s the same bargain that Nixon offered Mao: Keep your revolution at home, and we’ll make our peace with it. Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program provide the medium for achieving this larger end.
Any such deal would surely annoy Saudi Arabia and Israel, each for its own reasons committed to casting Iran as an existential threat. Obama just might choose to let them fret.
Although Americans have not yet fully digested the news, the United States no longer must defer to the Saudis. North American reserves of oil and natural gas are vastly greater than they appeared to be just a few years ago. As the prospect of something approximating energy independence beckons, the terms of the U.S.-Saudi alliance — they pump, we protect — are ripe for revision. Not so long ago, it seemed really, really important to keep the Saudi royal family happy. Far less so today.
Much the same applies to Israel. Easily the strongest power in its neighborhood and the only one possessing a nuclear arsenal, the Jewish state privileges its own security over all other considerations. It has every right to do so. What doesn’t follow is that Washington should underwrite or turn a blind eye to Israeli actions that run counter to U.S. interests, as is surely the case with continued colonization of the occupied territories. Just as Israel disregards U.S. objections to its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the United States should refuse to allow Israeli objections to determine its policy toward Iran.
The exit from America’s misadventures in the region is through the door marked “Tehran.” Calling off the War for the Greater Middle East won’t mean that the political, social and economic problems roiling that part of the world will suddenly go away. They just won’t be problems that Uncle Sam is expected to solve. In this way, a presidency that began with optimism and hope but has proved such a letdown may yet achieve something notable.

No comments: