commentarymagazine.com, Jan. 3, 2014
Amidst Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic afterglow from his supposed breakthrough nuclear deal (never mind that it has yet to be implemented and Iran continues to enrich uranium well past levels and quantities needed to fuel its nuclear power plant at Bushehr), it is often useful to remember how the Islamic Republic views the region and how it sees the United States.
As such, on January 1, Fars News Agency published an essay gloating over America’s supposed downfall relative to Russia and China (both of whom it has previously praised for defending Iran at the nuclear negotiating table):
Pax Americana, the so-called American Peace, is dead. It was never much of a peace anyway. In context of the Middle East, the term itself signifies a period of US dominance that arose after the Second World War and reached its zenith in 1978. Then in 1979 came along the Iranian Revolution…
The essay continues to highlight American mistakes:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was so sure in 2006 that American domination in the broader Middle East would expand. She triumphantly declared amidst Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon that the map of the Middle East would forever change to the profit of the United States. It did not, and Israel lost the war too. US influence began eroding, while the influence of its rivals began increasing… In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s influence would increase dramatically. The March 14 Alliance, the Hariri-led Lebanese entity sponsored by the US and its allies against Hezbollah, has proven to be impotent in its task of neutralizing Hezbollah and its political allies in Lebanon’s March 8 Alliance.
And gloats over how U.S. influence has hemorrhaged as a result of President Obama’s policy of inaction in Syria, and Secretary of State Kerry’s desire for a deal—any deal not matter what its content—with Iran:
The US has not neutralized its two main adversaries in the Middle East. The objective of regime change in Damascus has failed and Washington did not unleash the might of the Pentagon on Syria. An interim nuclear deal was reached in the Swiss city of Geneva between America and Iran. The decisions by the United States not to go to war with Syria or to finally strike a deal with the Iranians are not the reasons for the unraveling of American power. American power was already on the decline. Washington struck deals involving Syria and Iran as a means of trying to maintain its influence in the broader Middle East and to actually slow the speed of its decline. Instead, America’s allies and clients are fuming and feeling scared. As a result of the declining power of the United States, Washington’s allies and clients are slowly diversifying their relationships. From Tel Aviv and Riyadh, the regional allies of the US realize that America’s imperial umbrella over them has begun to erode. They are looking for alternatives to the US patronage.
Alas, when it comes to U.S. influence and unraveling security and stability in the Middle East, there is something to the Iranian essay. But what the essay does not acknowledge is that behind every case of declining U.S. influence was a decision in Washington to compromise, force allies into concession, or to cut ill-advised deals.
Hezbollah started the 2006 war with Israel, but watching Israel do battle for a couple weeks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exerted great pressure on Israel to curtail its operations short of its operational goal to eradicate Hezbollah’s military capacity. She helped broker a deal for enhanced international presence on the border, but UNIFIL is impotent and, as Hezbollah re-armed, neither they nor Iran faced consequences. She made matters worse in 2008 when, against the backdrop of Hezbollah threatening greater violence against Lebanon’s elected government, she blessed the 2008 Doha Accords which gave Hezbollah veto power over the Lebanese government. Much of the weakness of the March 14 movement was its own internal bickering, but rather than help push it into shape, Rice effectively pushed it over the precipice.
U.S. military aid to the Syrian opposition would be counterproductive given the triumph of the radicals within the opposition, although the secular, pro-Western Kurdish entity in western Syria, the very region whose government Kerry bizarrely excludes from the diplomatic process, deserves real support. That said, the apparent Syrian government use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburbs should have resulted in an immediate and punishing military strike. That it did not only lost whatever credibility Obama had left, but is now a source of Iranian gloating. And, of course, so is the nuclear deal which the Iranians describe not as an indication of bringing peace, but rather in terms of it being a death blow to U.S. allies in the region. It seems everyone—Chinese, Russians, Iranians, and Saudis—see themselves in a Great Game for influence in the region. The United States refuses to recognize reality and so, as far as both the Iranians and U.S. regional allies are concerned, is forfeiting everything that is at stake.