Archive for The Middle East

Iranian ‘plots’ and American hubris

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by loonwatch

An insightful piece by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverret on the repercussions of the so called “Iranian plot.”

Iranian ‘plots’ and American hubris

Editor’s note: Flynt Leverett teaches international affairs at Penn State and is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Hillary Mann Leverett teaches U.S. foreign policy at American University and is CEO of a political risk consultancy. Together, they write The Race for Iran. They both held senior positions on Middle East policy at the State Department and National Security Council.

(CNN) — Calls by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary Hillary Clinton to “unite the world in the isolation of and dealing with the Iranians,” in response to an alleged Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Washington, reflect a hubristic misapprehension of reality.

The Obama Administration mistakenly believes it can exploit the accusations for strategic advantage. In fact, they are likely to play to Iran’s advantage, not America’s.

The U.S. foreign policy community profoundly misunderstands the Islamic Republic’s national security strategy. The Islamic Republic seeks to defend itself not primarily by conventional military power, in which it is deficient, but by forging ties to proxy allies around the region-actors with the ability to affect on-the-ground outcomes in key regional settings who are inclined to cooperate with Tehran.

In some cases, these actors are discrete political movements, often with paramilitary capabilities, for example, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia political parties-cum-militias in Iraq.

In other situations, Tehran sees public opinion as its chief ally. By contrasting some regimes’ cooperation with the United States and Israel with its own posture of “resistance” to American and Israeli ambitions to regional hegemony, Tehran cultivates “soft power” across the Middle East.

Iran conceives its strategy, especially in a period of relative decline in America’s standing, as one that constrains unfriendly regimes in the short term and undermines them in the longer term. Over the last decade, it has helped the Islamic Republic reap significant political and strategic gains in important theaters across the Middle East-Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories.

With the advent of the Arab awakening at the end of last year, Iranian decision-makers are confident that some Arab states’ shift toward governments more reflective of their peoples’ attitudes and concerns-and, hence, more inclined to pursue more independent foreign policies vis-à-vis the United States and Israel-will work to Iran’s advantage.

Iranian policymakers correctly calculated that virtually any successor to Saddam Hussein ‘s regime in Iraq would be a net positive for Iranian interests. Now, they calculate that a successor to the Mubarak regime in Egypt is bound to be less enthusiastic about strategic cooperation with the United States and Israel and more receptive to Iran’s message of resistance.

Iran’s strategy toward Saudi Arabia runs very much along these lines. Tehran’s approach is to highlight Saudi collusion with Washington and (at least indirectly) with Israel on important regional issues, thereby attracting support from ordinary Saudis-not just Saudi Shia but also Sunnis who dislike their government’s pro-American stance.

In the short term, Iran seeks to constrain the Saudi government from cooperating in military strikes or other coercive actions against it by making this an unpopular prospect for much of the Saudi population.

In the longer term, Iran is working to transform the regional balance of power from one in which the United States, the Saudis, and other American allies dominate to one in which American, Israeli, and Saudi influence is marginalized by the diplomatic realignment of Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, post-Saddam Iraq, and now Egypt.

The Saudi leadership tries to push back by portraying Iran as an “alien”, Shia/Persian element in its environment. At times, this helps the Kingdom hold the line against the Islamic Republic’s soft power offensive. But the long-term trend is toward rising Iranian influence. In this context, the notion of an Iranian government plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States simply has no logic.

History also suggests we treat the Obama Administration’s claims of Iranian government complicity with deep skepticism.

For eight years, during 1980-1988, the fledgling Islamic Republic had to defend itself against a war of aggression launched by Saddam Hussein — a war of aggression financed primarily by Saudi Arabia. Nearly 300,000 Iranians were killed in that war. But, during the entire conflict, the Iranian government never targeted a single Saudi anywhere in the world.

This is not because the Islamic Republic loves the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is because Iran’s national security strategy ultimately depends on appealing to the Saudi public not to support attacks against Iran, by harnessing popular anger over Israeli actions and U.S. overreach in the war on terror.

Killing a Saudi Ambassador would have exactly the opposite effect. Whatever Mansour Ababsiar and his cousin may have talked about, it is wholly implausible that the Iranian leadership decided that this was a smart thing to do.

The Obama Administration’s calls for more concerted action against Iran will ultimately backfire-because they will be seen in most of the Muslim world (outside Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab monarchies closely linked to Saudi Arabia) as the United States yet again leveling dubious life-and-death charges as the pretext to contain or even eliminate another Muslim power.

President Obama, his advisers, and all Americans need to ask themselves if this is really the time to bring the United States even closer to another Middle East war fought in blind defiance of the region’s strategic realities.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by loonwatch

A good piece from Kari Ansari.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Dear President Barack Obama,

Along with many American Muslims, my family and I listened to your speech today on the Middle East and North Africa. While I appreciate your encouraging statements to the people of the Muslim world — particularly to those who are currently fighting for dignity and civil rights in their own lands — I also couldn’t help feeling that many Americans are not setting the example of which you spoke when it comes to our own Muslim citizens.

Currently, 20 states have introduced anti-Muslim legislation, with more pending. Some of our country’s lawmakers and politicians have made very bigoted inflammatory comments about Muslims and Islam. Very recently, Tennessee, under extreme pressure, rewrote a bill that would have made it a crime punishable by 15 years in prison for Muslims to worship together in groups of two or more. Organized groups are staging hate rallies against Muslims building houses of worship around the country. Local municipalities are playing the zoning game by zoning Islamic schools and mosques out of the community. Mosque playgrounds are being torched. Muslim family homesproperty, and mosques are being vandalized. Children are being bullied and harassed because they are Muslim. Shockingly, last week the Editor of the Gainesville Times in Florida published a letter that called for the expulsion of all Muslims from America. Recently, several Muslim clerics, and also a young Muslim woman were pulled off airplanes for no other reason other than they were dressed in recognizable Muslim attire. This is all being seen through the modern technology’s “window into the wider world” that you mentioned in your speech, but like all windows, you can also look from the world outside and see what’s happening inside.

What does it say to the world when our President speaks about rights for people in the Muslim world that “include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion” when our own people are being hindered from building mosques, and schools, and our right to worship freely is even being threatened?

Mr. President, Muslims in America know that you do not stand with this kind of bigotry and hatred. During your announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden you said,

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.

We appreciated this statement, however, judging by the uptick in anti-Muslim incidents since the death of bin Laden, the words weren’t enough to resonate with those in America who feel threatened by their Muslim neighbors.

Mr. President, Muslims need your leadership, your strong voice, and your support in this regard. You are a friend to the world’s Muslims, especially those fighting for their freedom, but Muslims need your friendship here on our own soil. Anti-Islam bigotry is getting worse in America — not better.

In our home, we love and respect you as our President; will you show us the same love and respect as a patriotic American family by speaking out strongly against this growing trend of anti-Muslim bigotry?

Follow Kari Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KariAnsari