To The Daily Sun:
As the Earth's power elite (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) seeks accord with Iran, naysayers come out of the woodwork. Opposition arguments seem legitimate at first listen, but they lack context. Since 9/11, events, ineptitude and arrogance have conspired to undermine American influence and respectability throughout the Middle East.
Two of our traditional allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are the most vocal. Both say Iran is ambitious, untrustworthy and dangerous. Probably true, but they fail to mention they are gambling on (and promoting) American obsolescence in the region while undermining American goals that do not advance their agenda; i.e., America as tool not partner.
Israel routinely flouts American aspirations. Pundits and pols attribute the acrimony to Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama's personal dislike for one another. However, it is more than individual animosity when America seeks to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israel announces new settlements.
The Saudis ridicule American uncertainty and vacillation in Egypt, Iran and Syria (publicly and personally mocking the president in the latter). They rejected a prestigious seat on the United Nations Security Council telling the world their unprecedented decision was more a message to America than a slap at the U.N. Saudi Intelligence Chief Bandar bin Sultan, recently told multiple news sources, the kingdom is reviewing its relationships with America and looking at alternatives.
At home, the naysayers want more machismo: more sanctions, more threats, perhaps a few more strategic bombings in a few more countries. Yet, firmness in lieu of caution, belligerence over diplomacy has brought America the look of a buffoon and to the brink of irrelevance.
Keeping the boot to Iran's neck may not be as easy tomorrow as it was yesterday. It was never in the best interests of China, India, Japan or Russia. They rejected wholesale sanction busting because they detested and feared the fanaticism of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a much different person.
We hear the phase "war weary" so often we might suspect it replaced "have a good day" in pundit land. Perhaps, it is not exhaustion as much as failure that exasperates Americans. Everywhere we look, disaster is the norm.
— Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai, corrupt and volatile, may yet choose to side with the Taliban. (He certainly threatens to do so often enough.)
— Egypt: The military, in charge since the July coup, routinely waves its middle finger at America and thwarts democratic ideals (often with great fanfare).
— Iraq:Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has aligned his government with Iran.
— Syria:When America tried to initiate cease-fire negotiations, it was the rebels (our guys!) who refused to participate.
— Turkey: An Islamist (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) now leads the nation that was once the model for secular democracy in Islam. A member of NATO, Turkey recently stunned its western allies by rejecting NATO-compatible missile defenses for Chinese arms.
— Yemen: It has no government at all. Armed gangs — mostly anti American — rule the land. (The same is pretty much true for Libya and Somalia.)
So, what does détente with Iran offer? Perhaps we avoid another war where we create more enemies and new terrorists, where we undermine our principles and emulate the great villains of history, where we lie to ourselves, confuse kill-target success with goal achievement and set the stage for another war with a country to be determined.
Rapprochement with Iran offers more than war avoidance, however. It offers opportunities to douse some of the flames we ignited in the Middle East and resolve insidious issues that threaten regional war and global side choosing.
Columnist Tom Friedman (The New York Times, Nov. 13) captured much of the potential in two sentences: "Let's start with the fact that Iran has sizable influence over several of the United States' most critical national security concerns, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, terrorism, energy security and nuclear proliferation. Whereas tension with Iran has served to exacerbate these issues, détente with Tehran could help ameliorate them."
For those who cannot imagine America and Iran working together, Friedman went on to point out "Iran played a vital role in helping us to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and can help us get out without the Taliban completely taking over again."