UI – Part 606 – Islam/Muslim Perception of America (2 of 3)
ME Developments with USA Involvement
In this blog we cover the time since WWII and Truman’s Presidency. For a brief history of times prior visit https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-history-of-u.s.-foreign-policy-in-the-middle-east.
Eisenhower to Revolution (1953-1979) – A turning point in the Middle East came in 1953 in Iran when their Prime Minister (Mosaddegh) and Parliamentary system was disrupted in a covert operation to return Iran to the control of the Pahlavi monarchy. The Shah, a feckless self-indulgent autocrat, was at the head of Iran until the return of the Khomeini in January 1979. We had a positive, at times precarious, relationship with the Shah and Iran. But America’s focus was elsewhere, not on the Middle East. It was Korea and Vietnam. “America’s military had by and large steered clear of the region, leaving it in the hands of diplomats and spooks” (by Bacevich, America’s War in ME, pg. 303/9123, eBook).
Carter and Iran – In 1979 Jimmy Carter, President at the time, facilitated the creation of a Shia theocracy. Soon thereafter the Iranians became aware of a role America played in the 1953 coup and in support of the Shah. Other events transpired, to include the US Embassy takeover and 444 days of Americans in prison (released the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated).
Upset by the Shah’s actions with respect to oil supplies and the crisis of oil in the United States at the time, also the Shah’s increased use of his personal secret police, the SAVAK, and lastly the demonstrations that appeared to call for the Shah to step aside, Carter, was blinded, never properly understanding Islam, and wanted the Shah gone. Just two years prior he had nothing but praise for the Shah (12/31/1977 dinner in Iran). He referred to the Shah’s ‘great leadership’ and the ‘island of stability’ (Iran ) in ‘one of the more troubled areas of the world.’ He ignored, or was ignorant, of the turmoil in the area at that time. There was a geopolitical context, with warnings, that Carter simply missed.
After the Revolution Carter took the Shah into the USA for medical care (October of that year). That awakened Iranians to their troubles with the Shah, even though his government was secular, and America’s apparent historical interference in the affairs of the country. The actions, stirred in part by the Ayatollah, raised the profile of the new clerical governance.
Carter should have recognized the Shah was losing power as the revolutionaries stirred resistance and garnered support, unwittingly, from the media. If not support, sympathy. Their propaganda was effective. Could Carter have taken action earlier to enhance American-Iranian relations and convince the Shah to have a secular leader, even restore a Prime Minister as leader, to replace him. That could have begun after the December 1977 dinner in fact. Carter never sensed the Shah was failing and the need for intervention, as well as a rational transition. It was inaction on Carter’s part that also made the US Embassy vulnerable to attack. It was attacked just days after (November 1, 1979) the Shah came to America.
Russia and Afghanistan – Russia invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. Carter was still President. Our role was confused, wanting the Russias to have their Vietnam, while at the same time enabling the creation of the Taliban. Students (Talib) migrated from Afghanistan South to the Pashtun area between Afghanistan and Pakistan to continue religious schooling. Madrassas were established by Saudi Arabia, the curriculum Wahhabism. Tribal/Clan members, mujahadin, also went south where Islam prevailed as the Russians wanted governance of a secular fashion for the Afghans. Focused on the defeat of the Russians the USA aided the Saudi’s and provided military equipment, weapons, and trained the Talib and mujahidin to resist the Russians. We never considered we’d be opening the gates of hell that the Taliban, once the Russians left and they assumed control, applying Islamic Laws, would be unleashed on the Afghans. Victory, sort of, and we withdrew (1989).
What had been a progressive, modernizing, educated (women and children) nation, was stopped in its tracks. After this conflict the Taliban, now armed and trained, returned, a civil war erupted and by 1996 the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan. Sharia Law was imposed. For money the Taliban grew Poppies and sold heroin, they stopped girls from their schooling after the age of 8, they brought back Islamic dress, and imposed the oppressive ‘submission’ concepts of their ideology. Embedded with the Talib and mujahadin, who were forming a Resistance against Russia, were Osama Bin Laden and associates. Their focus grander, not on Afghanistan, but America.
There was no strategic value for Afghanistan for Bush 41. The country had little in valuable resources. We did not realize by not understanding Islam “the incubator of terrorism” Afghanistan would become (1262/9123, ‘America’s War for ME’). That is what happened when Obama withdrew from Iraq (2010), and now there is concern for Trump withdrawing troops from Kurdish areas in Iraq.
Lebanon – Even during the Afghanistan conflict, we had the PLO, Yasser Arafat, and his displaced Palestinians, and other Jihadists (Hezbollah), attacking our Marines in Lebanon. Reagan was President then. If our role was an attempt at ‘peacekeeping,’ what we never understood, and still do not, is that there has never been peace in the Middle East, especially not since the advent of Muhammad, his death and the development and aggressive exploitation of the regions by the Caliphs and their army of rabid jihadists. Bombings (in Kuwait too), and kidnappings of Americans became all too frequent. Jetliners (Pan Am 103) were attacked, even cruise ships (Achille Lauro). Libya was a thorn.
Iran-Iraq War – In the 80’s the Iran-Iraq War erupted and continued for almost a decade. Note in 1979 the Ayatollah assumed the reins in Iran, and Saddam Hussein took over in Iraq. We sided with Iraq, but surreptitiously, for reasons hard to explain, allowed the sale of arms to Iran to create funding for the Contras in Nicaragua. Ronald Reagan was playing both sides, while at the same time dismissing a proper understanding of Islam. He had many reasons, release of hostages, better relations with Iran’s ‘moderates’ (restoration to pre-Revolution), and funding for the Contras. Iraq became wise to the fact we were double dealing. Saddam took revenge on U.S. ships in the gulf (Tanker War).
Less important today (thank Trump) but more important then was the Middle East regions oil resources. That kept our attention.
A major intelligence breach exposed CIA operatives in Iran and any activity for intelligence gathering on their soil came to an end, and remains the case today.
The Vincennes then afloat in the Persian gulf shot down a passenger plane (Iran Air Flight 655). It was tragic. It brought an abrupt end to the Iran-Iraq conflict, yet was a major mistake and embarrassment for us. Were we learning anything by our various involvement(s) in Middle East, to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, actions?
Iraq – Kuwait – We cross the bridge into the Bush 41 (GHWB) era. Saddam Hussein was bold enough to seek control of Kuwait. We, after some political maneuvering, entered the fray. Iran was driven back, Hussein lived, and our presence, with bases, in the Middle East became permanent. Iran hated America and called for Death to America and our ally, Israel, the big and Little Satans.
Eliminating Gaddafi and Saddam were considerations, yet what might happen once they were eliminated was never fully considered by our Administrations.
Bombs, Not Troops – Clinton – Clinton avoided direct conflict but did little to aide the Middle East. His troubles were in Somalia and Kosovo. Also the Balkans, when the Serbs attacked the Muslim Bosnians. He was more prone to bombing than having feet on the ground, which from a military standpoint is useless. To keep Saddam in check Clinton approved many bombs on Iraq, sending much of the infrastructure into dirt piles. Certainly from a public relations position all it did was create hatred towards America from people suffering the all too frequent bombardments.
You should know that OBL attempted to assassinate Clinton when in the Philippines (1996), never publicized. Little was said about this event, even though Al Qaeda was then known by our government. Al Qaeda was also responsible for the 1993 attempt on the WTC. Clinton was President at that time; he never visited the scene. OBL was active in Dhahran (Klobar Towers) (1996). He also attacked US troops in Yemen (1992), Saudi Arabia (1995), embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), then too the USS Cole (2000). OBL declared war on US, Clinton responded in kind, but never acted.
911 – Bush (GWB) 43 followed. Inaugurated in 2001 (1/20), it took but 8 months for him to be faced with the crisis of 911. Many errors in judgment followed after that in dealing with the perpetrations of the World Trade Towers demise, and other hijacked plane attacks intended for the White House and Pentagon. Al Qaeda became known.
Al Qaeda arose during the Soviet-Afghanistan war, training along side the Taliban in the Pashtun area, educated by the Saudi and equipped militarily by the USA. This occurred under the less than watchful eye of Carter, the Reagan.
Militarily we entered Afghanistan but never pursued OBL to his cave sanctuaries. Our military was ready. Our politicians were in debate. Then Saddam was seen as the architect of terror and needed to be taught a lesson, a potential for WMDs in his land, a 2nd justification for troops sent to that theater of conflict. Progress was made.
Obama’s time in office. – Militarily we were succeeding and Islam was not. A battle in Fallujah would have enabled us to eliminate the worst of the worst. Our military was ready. Our politicians were in debate. Time passed. The opportunity lost. Troops were withdrawn. By the end of 2010 Obama exits Iraq. We lost gains and intelligence on the ground. But what Obama allowed was a regrouping of terrorists from the remnants of those having already battled US troops and each other. From AQI, and released prisoners, to include Al Baghdadi, ISIS was born.
We never fully understood the thinking of the Islamists, the jihadists, and thus facilitated this caldron of hate-fueled jihadism to boil up and spread. Syria became a target. Assad wanted to maintain control He used chemical gas and crossed a line drawn by Obama. Obama was not very good at his proclamations or keeping promises made. We did not retaliate.
Obama also engineered the nuclear deal with the nation of Iran, noted for its constant terrorist activities and support for terrorism. Its hatred for Israel made funds readily available for Hizbollah and Hamas, an elite Qods force and a well trained Republican Guard and military. Funds Obama supplied, many see as illicit funds, were used not for the residents of Iran. Instead the theocratic clerics used the money to increase their military and their terrorism.
Iran, its hate-fueled jihadism, is terror’s greatest advocate and financial supporter. They have been since the Revolution (during Carter’s term). When infidels are in their (Iran) sights, killing is permitted and encouraged, collateral damage matters little. We cannot ever believe their lies, even when they seek peace. It is only a deception, as was the nuke deal, to buy time and increase their strength and might.
…to be continued. Some closing thoughts on the topic of perception by Islamists of the USA in the final of this 3 part series.
Grace and Peace