Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ralph Peters on the complexities of handling the Sunni-Shia divide:

And now, in the worst American tradition, we're in danger of grabbing at short-term gains at an exorbitant strategic price: Defaulting to our old habit of backing hard-line regimes, we've dropped all pressure on the Saudis and Egyptians to reform their political systems.

Want to recruit more terrorists for another 9/11? Give Sunni Arab regimes a renewed blank check to shut down all opposition.

True, Shia terrorists have attacked us in the Middle East. But the Sunni terrorists attack us globally - and on our own soil. Shia extremists think regionally, while Sunni fanatics have universal ambitions.

Yes, Iran is the immediate strategic problem - but it's a far more complex matter than the kiss-the-Saudis'-sandals crowd accepts. A violent rogue with a nuclear-weapons program, Iran backs terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Yet Iran also happens to be America's natural ally in the region.

We're in a race against time. The Iranian people have tried religious rule - now they're sick and tired of it. They want to move on. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's allies lost the last round of elections and the mullahs are getting nervous about his excesses. Iranians want change, but don't know how to get it - and we can't impose it.

Could the Khomeinist regime fall before apocalyptic ayatollahs get the bomb? There's no more pressing strategic question.

If we find it necessary to attack Iran's nuclear program, it's going to be a long and messy process. A thorough effort would kill a lot of Iranians - alienating even the most liberal-minded members of a highly nationalistic population.

Stopping the bad Iranians would cost us the good Iranians. There's no good solution.

The tragedy here is that Iran is farther along in its political development than our Arab "friends." The states to which we're inclined to turn may still have Sunni versions of the Khomeini revolution ahead of them.

Fundamentalist, anti-American regimes could hatch in exactly the baskets where we're tempted to park our strategic eggs.

The idea of avoiding being on good terms with Saudi Arabia in order not to make anti-Saudi radicals hate us strikes me as a dubious one. But we should talk to Teheran, or at least be ready to do so immediately when Ahmadinejad falls-- or if we can find some way to talk around him. Jim Webb was right about one thing, at least.


  • I'm glad it seems to be obvious to folks outside the intelligence community that the Iranians remain to be won and lost to the West. Yes we must oppose nuclear ambitions and be careful of Iranian dreams of regional hegemony, but also we must realize that it's a) the closest thing to a functional democracy with any real power or broad legitimacy in the region and b) populated by a nationalist but not especially anti-Western demographic spectrum.

    By Blogger Nato, at 8:50 AM  

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