UI – Part 362 – Iran Gaining Strength in the Middle East
If you include Iran (Persia) in the Middle East, except for Egypt, it is the largest Country. It has spread its territorial desires and authority into Iraq, and Syria and is attempting to gain the upper hand in Yemen. Organizations like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza support the Iranian regime. Their loyalty lies with and is tied to the financial and military support they receive. With the Obama Administration’s nuclear agreement and the billions of dollars filling Iran’s treasury it is assumed monetary benefits would flow to those factions already close to the Khomeini and the objectives of Iran. What are those objectives?
- Keeping Assad in power in Syria is a goal for the Shiite Administration of Iran. The concern here is the growing grip on the Middle East by a government that now has economic might and has been emboldened by their ability to negotiate successfully with the United States (Obama). With sanctions lifted and by many opinion makers getting the better of the deal Iran was able exercise more muscle. They are circling their wagons around the other dominant power, the Saudi’s, and emerging as the lead in becoming the dominant force in the area. The Persians are reasserting their Sassanid empire over the region. However that empire was pre-Islam. Iran has been criticized as a sponsor of terrorism. As yet there is nothing to suggest that will change. Trump by reminding the nuke deal and imposing new sanctions has crimped the path to some extent.
- Having money and patience enables a nuclear Iran if not today, in 10 years. They can now proceed with their aims, with fewer resources. The Iranian population continues to be denied basic goods and services made possible with Obama’s largeses, for the sake of the theocrat Khomeini and his single minded clerics. Even though Iran had agreed to cut back, stall, even stop its uranium enrichment they continued, in theory, to develop, even manufacture nuclear weapons, using the resources and willingness of other nations. They are no longer constrained. They can financially support laboratories on their soil and others to further their nuclear ambitions. North Korea comes to mind.
- Iran has no intention of softening its regard for foreigners they feel want to change their policies towards Christians who proselytize, visitors they believe are spies, journalists they feel have a dual purpose, to include providing support for dissidents and spying for other nations, and members of what was the Green Movement and any who would attempt to organize a revolt against the administration and their oppressive treatment of the residents of Iran.
- Iran wants to become the strongest and mightiest country in the region, from the Maghreb to Afghanistan, Syria to Yemen.
- Iran desires to remain an imperialistic Shiite Islamic State with further political Islamic intensions to spread their authority. Committing atrocities in the name of Allah has never been a problem for Iran. That will continue in a effort to achieve its political as well as Islamic goals, never losing its grip over the people of Iran.
- Becoming a stronger economy, not just by exporting oil, but engaging in new industries, to show the world it can compete and be a presence on the world scene makes sense for Iran, yet its theocratic goals do not contribute to infusing the needed capital into its society to do so.
Map of Middle East
History and Presidents
Obama made a mistake? He is not the first president to do so in Iran.
Jimmy Carter enabled the return of the Khomeini and the 1979 Iran Revolution which altered the direction of Iran and its landscape ever since. Iran before and after WWII considered America a trustworthy nation. The people emulated the west in style, dress, education, worldliness, and the opportunity to grow economically. So too Afghanistan. A people oriented towards the West and becoming modern and civilized were overwhelmed by the changes that took place shortly after the revolt, as promises made by Khomeini were but a ruse to take on the mantle of fundamentalist Shiite Islam for Allah. It was not a people’s movement after all was said and done. Under Eisenhower the stage was set as the Prime Minister Mossadeq was overthrown in 1954 in favor of the Shah. The overthrow favored Great Britain’s attempt to restore its control over the oil resources of the Country. Mossadeq nationalized the oil fields in an effort to have a better financial arrangement for his people. We assisted the UK. The Shah was not the man we expected. This coup was a setback for democracy in Iran. Both Carter and Eisenhower had concerns for Arab-Israel relations.
Kennedy had his hands full with Cuba and the Russians. Cold war tensions continued. He was committed to Israel, ending an arms embargo. His focus was more on Egypt than Iran. (61-63)
Lyndon Johnson… (63-69) endured the 6 day war (June 1967) between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
Presidential policies towards the middle east have assumed they knew more than regional experts. Depending on where they preferred to focus the conflict between Arab-Israel favored Arab or Israel, or turned to other matters in other regions of the world. Recommendations, however to settle conflict were for America’s own reasons, on America’s timetable, and thus failed. Sale of arms was often a solution, but a weak one. Washington kept ignoring the disputes between Arab nations themselves, thus resulting in unexpected conflicts and turmoil.
Nixon was absent from the Middle East, focusing on the dilemma in Vietnam. He recognized the conflict mainly with Israel’s presence and the results of the June war. He was aware of the situation, but did little during his tenure. He noted in a speech to the General Assembly the dangers that existed. (69-74) He did face the Soviet Union, and suffered through the 1973 oil embargo. That halted the US export of oil to protect our resources at home. SOS Kissinger was the foreign policy wonk for Nixon. He opened doors in China and Pakistan, as well as Russia. He aided in the resolve of matters regarding Vietnam (Paris Peace Accord) for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize. During Kissinger’s reign the Yom Kippur War took place, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel (1973). It was over in 20 days, but Israel had taken new territories in Syria and the Sinai. All the while, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, quietly grew in strength.
Anti-communism was the focus of foreign relations from Truman through Nixon for US Presidents, some favoring in the Middle East the Arabs and others Israel as to relationships between the Arab world and Israel. Iran was left alone.
Gerald Ford continued the Nixon policies to the extent he could as he served out Nixon’s term after his resignation. (74-77) Relations with Egypt improved.
The Carter Administration (78-81) helped to build a better relationship between the US and Egypt (Camp David Accord). Negotiating the return of the Sinai to Egypt was part of the accord along with increased aid to Israel and Egypt. Carter also woke up Iran to America’s role in the 1954 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister. Until then it was Great Britain they hated. The Islamic Republic was born after the Iranian Revolution during his tenure. Providing a safe haven for the Shah made the Iranians realize the Shah was more a puppet of the USA than the UK. That realized, Carter then suffered the taking of 63 hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. 444 days later they were released when Reagan took office. Shiite power was on the rise.
Reagan faced numerous obstacles in the Middle East. A spill over effect of the Carter decisions engendering ill-feelings towards America. There was the Israel-Lebanon war. American servicemen were killed in bombing attacks in Beirut. Hezbollah entered the picture, with Iranian support. US troops withdrew from the area. Some were taken captive. There was the Iraq-Iran war. The USA favored Iraq, gave support to Hussein, and established sanctions on Iran. Weapons for hostages, although denied as part of the Iran-Contra affair, did not bode well. Shooting down an Iranian Airbus with 290 passengers didn’t help relations either, whether or not it was an accident. Iran was seen as aiding terrorist groups (later identified as Al Qaeda and the Taliban) with funds and protection when in Iran – in exchange it is believed for no attacks on Iranian soil. They also continued to use Hezbollah and Hamas to attack American outposts. Reagan supported Hussein hoping he could destabilize Iran.
Bush 41 had to deal with Iraq invading Kuwait. Concern over Iraq developing nuclear weapons grew. The invasion was stopped, but Hussein was not. He proceeded by an internal attack killing Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north.
A total embargo on dealings with Iran by American companies was imposed by Bill Clinton in 1995. Assets were frozen. Trade was halted and not just for American companies. Iran’s oil production and export was severely impacted. Clinton did mediate peace between Israel and Jordan. A meeting with Arafat at Camp David discussing the Israel-Palestinian relationships failed to achieve success and a second intifada ensued (the first was in 1987). Terror attacks against US military began happening too often. In 1993 a bomb exploded in a van in the car-underground of the World Trade Center.
Bush 43 had to deal with the worst terrorist attack in US history, 911. He turned towards the Middle East and the roots of the evil that generated this tragic event. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran were in the crosshairs. The War on Terror found its way into Iraq and the destruction of suspected weapons (deadly gas canisters as used against the Kurds) of mass destruction. A more democratic Middle East became the idea with the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Activities by Hamas and Hezbollah in Israel had an impact on the efforts being made in the Middle East. Iraq faced a civil war. Under George W. Bush Iran was exonerated from any involvement with 911. Iran even aided in the capture of some Al Qaeda operatives. However including Iran in his ‘Axis of Evil’ did not help possible improving relations. Overtures to address Iran’s nuclear program at the time were dismissed. A missed opportunity? Covert activities were ongoing to overthrow the religious authorities. Iran supported Iraq and supplied weapons during the insurgency by America – Iraq War. This upset America and increased tensions.
When Obama took office (2008) he immediately promised, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” His policies were an attempt to soften relations, not just with Iran, but other Middle Eastern countries. Obama saw the Middle East as a mistake and decided whatever progress was made was speculative at best and withdrawing American troops, stopping the bloodshed and loss of life, was a more worthy goal. Democracy in the middle east was no longer his concern. He wanted to leave them to their own devices. At the same time he sought to stop Iran’s nuclear programs, believing they were the greatest threat to the area. Negotiations began immediately, more successful when John Kerry was SOS than Hillary Clinton. Removing all troops from Iraq left a vacuum with Shiites in charge. Internal conflicts arose as well as the emergence of a new enemy, the Islamic State (ISIS). With greater freedom to advance its forces in Syria ISIS grew, fighting Assad as well as Syrian rebels. This all lead to a civil war that has cost hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and sparked one of the greatest refuge migrations since WWII. Obama made the decision not to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan fearing a second civil war and collapse of a nation into the arms of the Taliban.
Iran became the major beneficiary as Obama’s agenda. His want for his legacy was a nuclear agreement with Iran that has many skeptics. Some feel it was an ‘at all costs’ negotiation whereupon sanctions were lifted, billions of dollars released and nuclear enrichment activities were halted for 10-15 years. During his term in office Iran’s presence and influence in the Middle East has increased dramatically, especially in Iraq and Syria, as their military has continued to fight for control by Shiite factions that favor Iran.
Now Saudi Arabia is upset and resisting Iran’s increased regional might. The battle for dominance in the Middle East between Sunni and Shiite, Saudi Arabia and Iran is on the verge of a major conflict. Saudi is the home of Islam with the major shrines in Mecca and Medina. Iran has become the sanctuary for the blood succession of Muhammad (Shiites) while the rest of the Muslim world seeks its leadership from the scholars most knowledgeable in the laws and practices of the ideology of Islam (Sunni). Have we enabled Iran to explode onto the scene as the dominant party to make the Middle East and Persia united under a sole hegemony?
Part of understanding Islam is understanding the conflicts that arise, the history of the area and the thinking of America from the pulpit of power. It has not been a successful 70 years as the Middle East has become more of a battle field for Islamists of the most strident nature. The fundamentalists have equipped their armies, not all with the same ideals but the same god, Allah, with the swords of Muhammad. They are fighting among themselves in a civil war that is not contained with the boundaries of a sovereign state. It is the territory of Allah they embrace and want to grow. Europe and America are targets as well, but first establishing a Caliphate in the heart of the Middle East is the objective. Finding where the heart lies is part of the trial by fire. Islam has tried to invade Europe for centuries. Now the task has been made easier. Establishing footholds today will be foundational to growing Islam in new lands tomorrow. The Atlantic Ocean is a wide-body that is harder to cross, but know this, the political Islamists will find a way. Their success in the EU has been a learning experience that should enable them, unless there is resistance from those diametrically opposed to the ideology of Islam, to establish pockets within the United States. Take Dearborn for instance where the Adhan is now played daily.
And now Trump is in the White House. He is less cordial to the Islamists than his predecessor. How he will define the role of the United States in the Middle East is evolving.
Grace and Peace