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Thinking Outside The Box

By Kam Zarrabi

The financial backers of ISIS
(cartoon by Hadi Rahmati, Etemaad daily)

The much anticipated televised address by President Obama was delivered on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack. He was more somber and much less animated in his short and well-rehearsed delivery; not too many annoying, drawn out “and....” conjunctions that he has a habit of using ad-nauseam to lead from one phrase to another.

But did he say anything that was truly new or unexpected? His speech was supposed to clarify his strategy in dealing with the threats of terrorism presented by the gathering storm in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Iraq and Syria, under the banner of the Islamic State.

President Obama’s strategy in dealing with ISIS/ISIL or the so-called Islamic State was, as he said, structured over certain unequivocal foundations, that a/ America stands for the principles of freedom, justice and dignity, and b/ “If you threaten America, you’ll find no safe haven.” In other words, America will track down and bring to justice anyone who hurts Americans or threatens American interests or those of its allies.

He emphasized that no American combat troops will be deployed as boots on the ground in the theater of this new Middle East battleground to face the Islamic State terrorists. Instead, the United States will provide aerial support, as well as engage in arming and training region’s own militaries that include the Iraqi army, the Kurdish troops and the so-called Free Syrian Army. He also expects American allies in Europe plus any others among the coalition of the regional countries, especially Turkey and the Arab states, to support America’s mission in fighting the Islamic State. He stated that the campaign has already begun in Iraq, and will be extended into Syria in order to target the head of the snake. In parting, President Obama managed to mention the Ukraine issue by stabbing at Russia to reemphasize America’s resolve to uphold its valued principles.

According to even some of his best known detractors, such as Newt Gingrich, Obama’s short speech was among his very best, very patriotic and well delivered!

But did he actually say anything of substance? Sounding patriotic and touting American values and principles is what all politicians are expected to do; words that go in one ear and out the other of the listeners who have heard such nice, self-redeeming words many times before.

No boots on the ground? OK, let’s pretend those officially about 1,500 American “advisors” (actually many, many more) in Iraq and even Syria are wearing slippers.

What would happen if more Americans are captured and executed by the terrorists, or if the currently safe American compounds are hit by terrorist missiles, etc.; what then; still no boots on the ground?

Aerial support by manned and unmanned aircraft? OK, what happens when large numbers of non-combatant civilians are wiped out as collateral casualties, fueling greater surges in ISIS recruitments?

Additional arms and moneys for the Free Syrian Army to help us fight against the other “bad” terrorist groups? OK, first of all, there is not much left of the FSA group; most have already joined in with ISIS to protect themselves against rival bands of “bad” terrorists and the Syrian army. And, in order to create or rejuvenate a viable “friendly” or “good” terrorist group that would oppose the Islamic State, as well as Assad’s own Syrian army, huge amounts of time and money must be spent somewhere in the recruiting and training grounds of Saudi Arabia or Jordan, our “friendly” compliant allies in the region.

Obama expects Turkey, with the longest and most porous border with Syria, to help. OK, Turkey will simply not be able to do that! Why not? Well, Turkey has its own Islamic (Sunni) problems at home, a huge portion of the population that feels disenfranchised by the pro-West, military dominated central government. Turkey does not dare to, nor could it, control the traffic to or from the war torn areas of Syria. The last thing the Turkish regime would want is to encourage an indigenous rise of a satellite Islamic State in its own territory by siding with the United States.

What about Mr. Obama’s expectations from our “friendly” Arab allies, the Persian Gulf kings and sheiks who have long been thriving under our protection in exchange for their compliance to our demands? OK, although these kings and sheiks are indebted to us for their wealth and their very lives, their own angry populations, the same Sunni populations that are angry at the United States for empowering their despotic dictators, do sympathize with any anti-West, particularly anti-American, movement in the region.

We should bear in mind that major funding for terror groups promoting the Sunni uprising in Syria and Iraq against secularism or rival Iranian Shi’ism was by the Sunni Caliphates of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two competing Wahhabi rivals. We should also realize that these Wahhabi kingdoms have long been quite worried about the spread of Iranian influence in the region as an existential threat. Their fear is not that Iran, even a potentially a nuclear capable Iran, would threaten them militarily. It is the Iranian “model”, a successful popular uprising by the marginalized masses against a West-oriented, anti-traditional, dictatorship, which is a realistic cause for concern by these Arab rulers. So, the Saudi and Qatari regimes do like to see some Sunni power manage to confront and oppose the spread of Iranian Shi’a influence in the region. But, at the same time, the rise of this current menace, the Islamic State, which was the direct consequence of their financial support for any and all group opposing the secular Syrian regime and the Shi’as, is now a potential threat to these benefactors as well.

What about our European partners and allies? OK, for various reasons of their won not a single European or NATO member is willing to participate in our aerial combat mission against the Iraqi or Syrian targets. Some are sending token arms supplies and advisors to the region, but nothing to assist the United States in its military campaign against the Islamic State.

Is there a way out of this mess? Yes; but let’s first look at the causes of the “mess” we are in:

  1. The seemingly unstoppable momentum that is carrying America’s foreign policy in an increasingly counterproductive direction.
  2. The status quo, the quagmire the United States has dug itself into, getting out of which will require fresh, courageous, and some daringly countercurrent and politically even risky thinking.

The momentum does seem unstoppable, like a runaway semi down a steep grade. The main weight behind this momentum is the conventional wisdom or public opinion that has been so well-indoctrinated by the combined efforts of a/ the Zionist dominated mass media, b/ the neoconservative masterminds and think tanks that feed the Administration with a diet of distorted imageries, and c/ the military-industrial complex that thrives on threats, some real but mostly fictitious, against the Homeland and America’s vital interests overseas.

These elements have created an atmosphere that makes any shift in America’s foreign policies to a more realistic or fruitful approach extremely difficult. The President and his Secretaries of State and Defense face constant pressure from the Congress on one side and the media-manipulated and basically brainwashed public opinion on the other. When it comes to foreign affairs, the Congress is no more than a bought-and-paid-for legislative body that has remained under the thumb of money and influence peddlers - an unfortunate byproduct of our brand of capitalism. And if you follow the money trail, we all know where it ends!

Now, about the American public opinion and its immense weight in bearing on the decision making process at the highest levels of the Administration. Opinions are based on information: garbage in, garbage out! The same mainstream media that carry out the opinion polls and announce the results back to the public, are the very same mainstream media that have informed, actually misinformed, the public in the first place. Those centers of money, power and influence that own the mainstream media, also own the public opinion.

With that background, let us revisit the current crisis in the Middle East; and, let us make it short and concise.

The Islamic State, as the proponents of the imaginary future Caliphate want to call it, is not any real threat to the United States or to America’s genuine interests in the region. It does pose a real and present danger to its immediate neighborhood, mostly to Iran, the Shi’ite majority-dominated Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and finally to the, again, Shi’ite-dominated Lebanon. The Kurdish regions in northern parts of Iraq are targeted by the group simply for strategic advantage, that of oil revenues coming in from the sale of that oil to, of all places, our ally and NATO member, Turkey.

So, who are the worst enemies of these Islamic State radicals? And, more significantly, whose are the boots on the ground risking their lives to counter the ISIS offensives? The Islamic State is already recruiting members of its former rivals, and even the so-called Free Syrian Army.

There will be no armies from any Arab state or from our European allies to join the Iraqi forces on the ground, and sending American armed forced into another serious combat mission in Iraq is not in the books. So, what’s left?

Here is when thinking outside the proverbial box comes to play.

Iran, yes the Shi’ite Iran was, as Osama Bin Laden had said, a worse enemy than the House of Saud or even Israel. The Islamic State proponents want nothing more than blocking the tide of Shi’ite influence, starting first in Iraq. Iraq is some 80% Shi’ite, and hence the Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi armed forces and its chain of command. Iran has been supportive of the Baghdad regime, and continues this support under the new Iraqi Prime Minister who is also a Shi’ite Moslem.

Iran has also been supportive of the Iraqi Kurds who are a mix of Sunnis and Shi’ites, and was greatly instrumental in the liberation of Erbil recently.

In Syria, Iran’s ally, the Alawite Bashar Assad regime, was supported by the Iranian forces, as well as the Shi’ite Hezbollah militias from the, again, Shi’ite majority Lebanon.

In short, Iranian forces, along with the Lebanese Hezbollah, have been the principle parties fighting the Syrian opposition forces, including ISIS, as well as America’s “good” terrorist group, the Free Syrian Army.

OK, let’s see, Iran is the largest and the most powerful Islamic state in the Middle East. Next door to Iran, Iraq is a majority Shi’ite state and can count on support from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Syria, a more secular type of Shi’ite variant, but certainly not a Sunni-dominated state, has been Iran’s ally and its main conduit to support Lebanon’s Hezbollah. And then, of course, we have the Shi’ite majority Lebanon and its well-armed and battle ready Hezbollah, the same force that managed to stop Israel’s immensely superior firepower more than once in recent memory.

So, who’s got more to lose if some radical Sunni Islamic State takes root in the region? And, who’s been providing the most effective fighting force to combat the proponents of the Islamic State? The answer to both questions is Iran and its affiliates, the predominantly shi’a states in the Middle East.

Why doesn’t the United States take advantage of this enormous opportunity to engage Iran and openly welcome its cooperation in settling the troubling issues in the Middle East? What? You want to tell us that earth is not flat when, standing in the middle of the prairies in Kansas or Nebraska, we can clearly see that it is flat whichever way we look!?

It was quite telling when the Israeli intelligence chief appearing on CNN the other day cautioned an eagerly listening Wolf Blitzer that allowing Iran to try to confront ISIS would create an even bigger threat of a “mullah” radicalism taking its place!

Let’s disregard Israeli and Zionist anti-Iran propaganda for a minute and examine the advantages of having Iran, Iraq and Syria together overwhelm the threat represents principally to them and ultimately to the West.

  1. No need for American or Western boots on the ground. We must remember that it was the military interference and presence of American troops under various guises in the Arab lands that had created an anti-American reaction throughout the Middle East.
  2. Return of the Syrian refugee to their homeland and the reestablishment of a safe and secure atmosphere for religious minorities, especially the Christians, under a more tolerant Syrian regime of Assad or whoever might replace him.
  3. The establishment of a more secure border between Syria, Israel and Jordan, by removing the radical jihadist elements that are currently threatening those borders.
  4. Opening the door to a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the resolution of politically (Israeli) motivated fictitious nuclear issues that would result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran and pave the way to new trade relations that would be beneficial for both the West and Iran.
  5. One of the most promising results of this new thinking would be the potential for establishing a link through Iraq and Syria for the transport of Iranian and Iraqi oil and gas to Europe through Turkey. This would make the energy-hungry Europe less dependent on the Russian hydrocarbons. This, in addition to the new trade arrangements with the West, would make it less likely for Iran to look to the East for its economic and, consequently, political ties.
Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion.He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Context.

The strongest reason that this scenario is more than wishful thinking is the fact that Iran, contrary to the Zionist propaganda, is not motivated by some archaic religious ideology as are the Islamic State and the Wahhabi kingdoms. Iranian regime is driven by a fiercely independent, self-reliant pragmatism, and definitely not bent on forcing its Shi’a theology upon anyone.

A stable Middle East, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Mountains of Hindu Kush requires Iran’s direct help and participation. If this idea doesn’t sit well with the Israeli regime or its Zionist supporters, let them answer one question: Point to one case where America’s passionate attachment to the Zionist state has done any good for the United States. We all know what America’s Israel-centric policies in the Middle East has cost us already, and will likely cost us in the future if this parasitic umbilical cord is not cut off before it is too late.

Good bye, Israel; Hello, Iran.


... Payvand News - 09/15/14 ... --

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