Real Men Go To Tehran

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Occupation Views: 4824
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"Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran." 
(Senior Bush Official, May 2003)

The United States and Israel have been itching to go to Tehran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. That Revolution was a strategic setback for both powers. It overthrew the Iranian monarchy, a great friend of the US and Israel, and brought to power the Shi'ite Mullahs, who saw themselves as the legitimate heirs of the Prophet's legacy, and, therefore, the true defenders of Islam.

As a result, the Iranian Revolution was certain to clash with both the US and Israel, as well as their client states in the Arab world. Israel was unacceptable because it was an alien intrusion that had displaced a Muslim people: it was a foreign implant in the Islamic heartland. But the US was the greater antagonist. On its own account, through Israel, and on the behalf of Israel, it sought to keep the Middle East firmly bound in the chains of American hegemony. 

The US-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East had won a great victory in 1978. At Camp David, the leading Arab country, Egypt, chose to surrender its leadership of the Arab world, and signed a separate 'peace' with Israel. This freed Israel to pursue its plans to annex the West Bank and Gaza, and to project unchecked power over the entire region. The Arab world could now be squeezed between Israel in the West and Iran to the East, the twin pillars of US hegemony over the region's peoples and resources. 

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 ended this partnership. At that point, real men in Washington would have loved to take back Tehran from the Mullahs but for the inconvenience of Soviet opposition. But great powers are rarely stymied by any single development however adverse. It took little encouragement from Washington to get Iraq to mount an unprovoked invasion of Iran. In the twenti-eth century, few Arab leaders have seen the difference between entrapment and opportunity.

The war between Iran and Iraq served the United States and Israel quite well. It blunted the energies of Iran, diverting it from any serious attempts to export the revolution, or challenging American influence in the region. The Israeli gains were more substantial. With Egypt neutered at Camp David, and Iraq and Iran locked in a bloody war, Israel was free during the 1980s to do what it pleased. It expanded its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak, expelled the Palestinian fighters from Lebanon, and established a long-term occupation over much of Southern Lebanon. Israel was closer to its goal of commanding unchallenged power over the Middle East.

The end of the Cold War in 1990 offered a bigger opening to the United States and Israel. Freed from the Soviet check on their ambitions, and with Iran devastated by the war, the United States began working on plans to establish a military control over the region, in the style of earlier colonial empires. This happened quickly when, with American assurance of non-intervention in intra-Arab conflicts, Iraq invaded Kuwaiti in August 1990.

The US response was massive and swift. In January 1990, after assembling 600,000 allied troops in Saudi Arabia - about half of them American - it pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, and mounted massive air strikes against Iraq itself, destroying much of its industry, power-generating capacity and infrastructure. The US had now established a massive military beachhead in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. It established permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia, continued its economic sanctions against Iraq, created a Kurdish autonomous zone in the north of Iraq, and, together with Britain, continued to bomb Iraq on a nearly daily basis for the next thirteen years.

With the US beachhead in place, where did the real men in the US and Israel want to go next? There was no secrecy about their plans. At a minimum, the Neoconservatives in the US and their Likud allies in Israel wanted 'regime change' in Iraq, Syria and Iran. This would be delivered by covert action, air strikes, or invasion - whatever it took - to be mounted by the US military. Israel would stay out of these wars, ready to reap the benefits of their aftermath. 

The Likud plans were more ambitious. They wanted to redraw the map of the Middle East, using ethnic, sectarian, and religious differences to carve up the existing states in the region into weak micro-states that could be easily bullied by Israel. This was the Kivunim plan first made public in 1982. It would give Israel a thousand years of dominance over the Middle East.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were the 'catalyzing event' that put these plans into motion. The US wasted no time in seizing the moment. Instantly, President George Bush declared a global war against terrorism. The first target of this war was Afghanistan, but this was only a sideshow. On January 29, 2002, the President announced his initial targets for regime change: the 'axis of evil' that included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. 

The plan was to invade and consolidate control over Iraq as a base for operations against Iran, Syria and perhaps Saudi Arabia. This sequencing was based on two assumptions: that the invasion of Iraq would be a cake-walk and American troops would be greeted as liberators. The US invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003 and Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003. It was indeed a cake-walk, and it appeared to television audiences that American troops were also being greeted as liberators. Understandably, the mood in Washington and Tel Aviv was triumphant. The US is unstoppable: it was time for real men now to go to Tehran.

Nearly three years after the Iraqi invasion, the real men are still stuck in Baghdad. Yes, there has been a great deal of talk about attacking Iran: plans in place for air strikes on Iran's revolutionary guards, on its nuclear installations and other WMD sites, and even talk of a ground invasion. There have been re-ports of spy flights over Iran and operations by special forces inside Iran. Israel too has been goading the US to strike, and if the US shrinks from this duty, threatening to go solo. 

What has been holding back the real men in Washington and Tel Aviv? One reason of course is that the cake walk very quickly turned into a quagmire. The apparent Iraqi welcome was replaced by a growing and hardy insurgency, which has exacted a high toll on US plans for Iraq even though it was led mostly by Sunni Arabs. As a result, close to 150,000 US troops remain tied down in Iraq, with little prospect that they can be freed soon for action against Iran. Most Shi'ites aren't resisting the American occupation, but they are ready to take power in Iraq, and want the Americans to leave. 

While the US cannot mount a full-scale invasion of Iran without a draft, it does possesses the capability - despite the Iraqi quagmire - to launch air and missile strikes at Iranian targets, using nuclear weapons to destroy underground weapon sites. On the other hand, despite its saber rattling, most analysts agree that Israel does not possess this capability on its own. Unlike Iraq, Iran has dispersed its nuclear assets to dozens of sites, some unknown. Then, why hasn't the US mounted air attacks against Iran yet? Or will it any time soon?

More and more, as the Americans have taken a more sober reckoning of Iran's political and military capabilities, they realize that Iran is not Iraq. When Osirak was attacked by Israel in June 1981, Iraq did nothing: it could do nothing. One thing is nearly certain: Iran will respond to any attack on its nuclear sites. Iran's nuclear program has the broadest public support: as a result, the Iranian Revolution would suffer a serious loss of prestige if it did nothing to punish the attacks. The question is: what can Iran do in retaliation?

Both the CIA and DIA have conducted war games to determine the consequences of an American air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. According to Newsweek (September 27, 2004), "No one liked the outcome." According to an Air Force source, "The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating." In December 2004, The Atlantic Monthly reported similar results for its own war game on this question. The architect of these games, Sam Gardner, concluded, "You have no military solution for the issues of Iran."

What is the damage Iran can inflict? Since preparations for any US strike could not be kept secret, Iran may choose to preempt such a strike. According to the participants in the Atlantic Monthly war game, Iran could attack American troops across the border in Iraq. In responding to these attacks, the US troops would become even more vulnerable to the Iraqi insurgency. One participant expressed the view that Iran "may decide that a bloody defeat for the United States, even if it means chaos in Iraq, is something they actually prefer." Iran could also join hands with al-Qaida to mount attacks on civilian targets within the US. If Iranian losses mount, Iran may launch missiles against Israel or decide to block the flow of oil from the Gulf, options not considered in the Atlantic Monthly war game.

What are the realistic options available to the US? It could drag Iran to the UN Security Council and, if Russia and China climb on board, pass a motion for limited economic sanctions. Most likely, the US will not be asking for an Iraq-style oil embargo. Not only would this roil the markets for oil, Iran will respond by ending inspections, and accelerate its uranium enrichment. If Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear program, then it will, perhaps sooner rather than later, have its bomb. Once that happens, one Israeli official in the Newsweek report said, "Look at ways to make sure it's not the mullahs who have their finger on the trigger." But the US and Israel have been pursuing that option since 1979.

It would appear that US-Israeli power over the Middle East, which had been growing since World War II, may have finally run into an obstacle. And that obstacle is Iran, a country the CIA had returned to a despotic monarch in 1953. Paradoxically, this has happened when American dominance over the region appears to be at its peak; when its troops occupy a key Arab country; when it has Iran sandwiched between US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; and when it has trapped Iran inside a ring of US military bases running from Qatar, through Tur-key and Tajikistan, to Pakistan. 

Could it be that al-Qaida's gambit is beginning to pay off? It had hoped that the attacks of September 11 would provoke the US into invading the Islamic heartland. That the US did, but the mass upheaval al-Qaida had expected in the Arab streets did not materialize. Instead, it is Iran that has been the chief beneficiary of the US invasion. As a result, it is Iran that now possesses the leverage to oppose US-Israeli aims in the region. Al-Qaida had not planned on a Shi'ite country leading the Islamic world.

It is possible that the US, choosing to ignore the colossal risks, may yet launch air attacks against Iran. President Bush could be pushed into this by pres-sure from messianic Christians, by Neoconservatives, by Israelis, or by the illusion that he needs to do something bold and desperate to save his presidency. By refusing to wilt under US-Israeli threats, it appears that the Iranians too may be following al-Qaida's logic. We cannot tell if this is what motivates Iran. But that is where matters will go if the US decides to attack or invade Iran. 

No one have yet remarked on some eerie parallels between the US determination to deepen its intervention in the Islamic world and Napoleons' relentless pursuit of the Russian forces, retreating, drawing them into the trap of the Russian winter. It would appear that the United States too is irretrievably committed to pursuing its Islamic foe to the finish, to keep moving forward even if this risks getting caught in a harsh Islamic winter. On the other hand, the Neoconservatives, the messianic Christians, and the Israelis are convinced that with their searing firepower, the US and Israel will succeed and plant a hundred pli-ant democracies in the Middle East. We will have to wait and see if these real men ever get to add Tehran to their next travel itinerary - or they have to give up the comforts of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

M. Shahid Alam teaches economics at a university in Boston. Some of his pre-vious essays are available in a book, Is There An Islamic Problem (IBT Books, 2004). He may be reached at [email protected]. M. Shahid Alam

Is There An Islamic Problem
by M. Shahid Alam

Is There An Islamic Problem - Essays on Islamicate Societies, the US & Israel.

The author has aptly dedicated his work to the victims of Empire, who die and are maimed by the thousands every day of the year including September Eleven. 

Price: $15


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Occupation
Views: 4824

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Older Comments:
MELEKAH FROM USA said:
To Kaveh
In Iran?
Peace to you, brother, first of all, this article is not promoting anyone to hate someone and promote the differences between Sunni and Shi'a: what it is stating is that the US (Bush) forces are capitalizing on the rift between the two followings and are making the gap wider. I believe you to be American by your terminology and use of the language. Insha'Allah, there will be no more senseless bloodshed and Iran will be left alone!
2006-02-18

MELEKAH FROM USA said:
Well written and informative, I fear what the Bush followers will try to do next! Seems he is breaking all the rules of his own government.
2006-02-18

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
It seems many countries are increasingly 'selling dollars' to fund long-term contracts for Iranian and Saudi oil. Partly to safeguard their own prosperity, I suppose, and partly to keep America in check. Many of them already have nuclear weapons, and few of them have enough unresolved human rights issues to get most Americans excited about supporting a war against them. But it doesn't seem as if Americans had previously been 'popularly encouraged' to care that much about such issues, at least not before such countries began blatantly confounding America's efforts to ensure plentiful supplies of relatively low cost foreign oil for itself. But perhaps there is someone readily available, who knows far more about economics than I do, especially concerning predominately Muslim regions of the world, who has already written a book on the subject.

Also the third quagmire in a war typically seems to be the last. Unless perhaps attacking Iran would be expected to result in just one somewhat elongated quagmire as opposed to three (or four or five) separate quagmires. Which is just the sort of reasoning I'm personally inclined to doubt.
2006-01-27

BRUCE FROM US said:
This article and the bulk of the replies perpetuate the hate and paranoia that does nothing but inflame the issues. If you have an issue with American policies, state it without guessing what is supposed to be our real intent. You have enough legitimate grievances with the US without poisoning your articles and replies with speculation and venom. It would be interesting to speculate how long your equally opinionated, equally venomous, and in my opinion, equally wrong counterparts (the religious right) would last as professors in Iran.
2006-01-23

SYED HUSAIN FROM BANGLADESH said:
One thing is for sure, that the TOD or 'Triangle Of Devils' (US, Israel & Britain) & their allies will strike Iran & Syria, no matter whether the outcome goes in favor of the TOD or not. It is a matter of time, before they strike. At some point it was believed (before the invasion of Iraq) that India also may have allowed Israel to use its bases for war games so that Israel can strike Iran's nuclear facilities at the right moment.

Because the muslim leaders accross the muslim countries are one of the best, finest & magnificient hypocrites of the modern era, the TOD & their allies will be successful, in further occupying, weakening, desecrating muslim holy lands & plundering the wealth of the entire muslim world.

The question is what should we the ordinary muslims who try so hard to follow the straight path, should do at that point. How long should we helplessly & quietly continue to watch the George W Bushes, the Arial Sharons, the Tony Blairs (next secretary general of the UN ?) commit genocide on us. And among the muslims how long we should tolerate the betrayals of the Ahmed Chalabbies, the Musharaffs, the Hosni Mubarraks (just to name a few) ?

However, at some point, no matter how strong the TOD is right at this point, they WILL fall belly up ishaallah. They are waging a war on Almighty Allah (swt) and His religion, Islam based on fiction (christianity, judaism & other myths). Victory for muslims will come inshallah, but on a silver plate. We have to pay a price for it. George Bushes, Ariel Sharons & Tony Blairs of the world may have some plans to destroy the muslims, but Allah (swt) is best of planners.
2006-01-23

ABDUL FROM UAE said:
Somehow it feels like the end of time is very near. Things are shaping up for some major confortations. I mean bloody wars. The Prophet (saw) has foretold about big wars between muslims and non-muslims before the end of times. Now more than ever before you have leaders who are commited deeply to religious belief that can trigger a major escaltion that can drag the entire world into disastorous wars: Bush, Sharon (or his successor), and Ahmedinag. My personal opinion, it is going to happen.

One of the signs of Qiyamah that the Prophet (saw) gave us to look for: ".... the barefooted Arabs will be competing in building high lofty buildings." Just look at what is being build in Dubai!!!
2006-01-22

AHMED ASGHER FROM BAHRAIN said:
Omar. God bless you for your thinking. We need Muslims who think, talk and act like you. For those three things combined becomes the Creation that Allah intended us to be. Now if we extend this to mankind, then we can become one big brotherhood of man. And that is the ultimate goal of any true teaching from The One Creator.
2006-01-22

FAROOQ FROM AUSTRALIA said:
Best article on US Vs Iran issue.
2006-01-22

SAHAR KHAN FROM CANADA said:
Asslam o alaikum,

I fully agree with brother Omer, that it is time we should be united, forget our differences and start respecting fellow muslims. Even if we disagree with each other in beliefs etc., let's still be patient, respectful and loving to each other. We should set an example by demonstrating utmost respect and compassion with each other even if we have differences among ourselves. May Allah give us knowledge and strength to implement these qualties in our lives so we practise what our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has taught us (Ameen).
2006-01-21

CHRISTOPHER NASTOU FROM GREECE said:
America's long term plan along with israel is to control and dominate the entire middle-east and then destroy all middle-eastern nations. In process of that, they are also determined to rob mid-eastern nation's God-given wealth, get hold or control of that wealth. America is the real threat to the world , certainly not Iran .
2006-01-21

MA FROM OZ said:
An excellent article with great insight.
2006-01-21

KAVEH FROM IRAN said:
Mr. Omar Prouet,
In order to reply to your post, I need to ask you something first :-
Who other than you in this forum has mentioned the terms shia and sunni so far ??? Nobody in this forum said nothing about shia or sunni yet except YOU. I have never even mentioned the term shia or sunni. Please tell me how in the whole world you came up with this stupid idea that I look at my beloved muslims in terms of shia or sunni !!! ??? This is really soooo annoying. Did you even read my posts ? Why are you trying to bullshit about what I said ? If you are not lying about what I said, then please tell me how or why do you think from my two posts in this forum that I look at my brother muslims in terms of shia or sunni and I despise or hate em for being shia or sunni !!!!!!!!!!! ??????????????????????????????
2006-01-21

OMAR PROUET FROM PARIS, FRANCE said:
Kaveh, your statements are precisely what the enemies of Islam and Muslims would love and encourage. Irrespective of your belief, Shia or Sunni, we Muslims are united by our belief in One God and one prophet and one book. When I look at a fellow Muslim I do not think in terms of whether he is Shia or Sunni. He is my brother in Islam and that is all I need to know. If he has a problem with my religious affiliations, then that is his problem but not mine. I do not and would not hate him for being a Sunni or a Shia. He is a Muslim, he is my brother. Someone has to put the brakes on this age-old hatred that has divided us and spilled so much of our precious blood. Lets start with you and me Kaveh. To me you are my brother, whatever your religious logic is. If you dislike me, I will not hate or despise you for it. Remember the Prophet Mohammed's (peace be upon him) last sermon, "henceforth every Muslim is brother to the other". So lets keep the pact. Lets honour the memory of our good prophet and hold on tightly, together to the rope of Islam, as brothers, as one body, as one blood, as one nation, irrespective of our colour, language or our ancient politics. Now more than any other time the concept of ISLAMIC UNITY simply could not be overemphasized.
2006-01-20

DAVE MUSTAINE FROM U.S said:
Nasir,
My grand-father , who passed away 8 years ago, had worked for CIA. Let me tell you this -
what is happening to mid-east has nothing to do with democratizing mid-east. US government just want american people to believe its all about democracy for that region. Unfortunately, most americans are ignorant about mid-east and what goes on between neo-conservatives, CIA , political left and right etc... .. and how evengelical christians effect on US foriegn policy. As a result, average americans think its all about democracy for mideast ! Since the end of cold war, america is focused on mid-east.
I am not gonna discuss here what america been cooking for mid-east all along. But I can tell ya this - they have singled out 3 nations exclusively - Iraq, Iran , Syria. They believe that of all nations in mid-east , these three have potentials (than any other) to become obsticle to what u.s and israel trying to achieve in mid-east. United states will always try their best not to let any of these 3 nations
become strong and prosperous ever.

2006-01-20

KAVEH FROM IRAN said:
Nasir,
U.S and its allies do not think they help middle-east acquire democracy becuz this is not their goal or true intention. They know well that they just bullshit ordinary people on democracy for mid-east. US and its allies were never interested to democratise mid-east in the first place and its not any different now. They have their long planned hidden agenda to destroy mid-eastern nations for Israel and U.S . So, they lie and decieve people about democracy for mid-east hiding their evil agenda. Many westerners actually buy that this whole thing is about democracy for mid-east !!! LOL .
2006-01-20

HAMZEH FROM SYRIA said:
Yes , america and israel is after middle-eastern nations. Their goal is to rob our God-given wealth and to destroy us. Unfortunately, most arab governments today are yes-men of america the enemy of mid-east. Middle-eastern people must be united , no choice but we muslims of middle-east must love each-other and unite as bothers . Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks all should love eachother and unite as one muslim brotherhood , help eachother and feel for eachother and should have a strong desire to fight the enemies of us (mid-eastern nations) together. We should be proud of our mid-eastern heritage and culture rather than leaving islam and mid-eastern culture trying to follow everything western. This really lack in mid-eastern muslim people today. Most mid-eastern people I know leave Islam and everything middle-eastern in order to become duplicate of western people. Only Syrians and some Iranians I know love both middle-eastern societies and
Islam more than anything. Without Islam and the brotherhood of Islam , we can never defeat zionists and mushrikins.
2006-01-20

NASIR FROM US said:
Real Men Go to Tehran, US and its allies think they help rest of the Middle East acquire democracy. They should help Israeli and Palestine gain their independence. If US thinks it can reshape Iran, think gain. Iran does have Saddma Hussaini. Iran has twice weeped US in the corner. Refused to any business with the West.

2006-01-20

KAVEH FROM IRAN said:
About the nation Iran and its current regime ... ... Affliction is the mole on the butt of this regime. I think this regime is far from Islamic , sure , there are people in this regime who are strong true muslims but many others are liers and fake muslims, this regime is not Islamic as a whole, far from it. As for the Iranian nation, Iran today is not Iran yesterday... this was a great muslim nation long time ago - one of the best in mid-east. But now it is not muslim I think. Most iranians today are non-believers and some are extremely anti-Islam and anti-Arabs. Of course, some Iranians are strong imandar muslims, I believe those iranians and some syrians are number 1 muslims in the world and the best muslim people on the planet with highest iman and nobelity. However , I think this nation now is not muslim as a whole.
2006-01-20

KHALIFA FROM IEARTH said:
The author has aptly dedicated his work to the victims of the DEAD Empire(israel;WB colonies)

2006-01-20

ADAM IBRAHIM MUHAMMAD FROM NIGERIA said:
An important and revealing article.

Never underestimate what a lunatic can do. With all the forseeable catastrophes further acts of war on Islam may cause these thugs could still go ahead with their weird plans. ...Summum Buqmun fahum la ya'qilun.

2006-01-20