I’ve written numerous times about the danger of Iran controlling a swath of the Middle East through Iraq and Syria (and/or Lebanon) to the Mediterranean Sea. Prime Minister Netanyahu should be commended for steadfastly reminding the world, the UN, and even the US Congress, of the disastrous consequences of Iranian hegemony throughout the Middle East, especially if it attains nuclear arms. It turns out that a nuclear Iran doesn’t faze the West, or at least, it doesn’t motivate a serious response. But for nearby Israel, it’s HUGE.
What provided Iran the opportunity to embark on this strategic adventure to create an “Iranian Crescent?” According to Middle East pundit Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, and others, it was President George W. Bush’s declaration of war (Operation Iraqi Freedom – 2003) that set the stage for the Iranian ayatollahs to gain influence, and even control, of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. That certainly wasn’t Bush’s intention, but it is the unintended consequence.
The 2003 war involved a huge international coalition under American leadership to overthrow the tyrant Saddam, give freedom to the Iraqis, and equally important, to destroy Saddam’s purported stockpile of nuclear weapons. These aims could today describe the reasoning for an attack against North Korea.
However, North Korea’s dictator truly has nuclear weapons and missiles to deploy them, while Saddam Hussein never had them, or shipped them out of the country before the conflict began. But war with North Korea is unlikely, since South Korea isn’t worried about being nuked, but is very worried about being targeted by North Korean artillery if the US attacks its bellicose neighbor.
The long Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) began one year after the ascension of the ayatollahs to power in Iran. It ended with Iran’s defeat, with both countries suffering hundreds of thousands of casualties, civilian and military. Before that war, Iraq and Iran kept each other in check, with neither able to gain the upper hand or to devote too much attention to pursuing power beyond their borders. After the war, Iran was in a somewhat helpless position, while Saddam Hussein was riding high, so much so that he miscalculated and invaded Kuwait, which elicited the first American response against him in 1991.
But the situation vastly improved for Iran when the US, leading a coalition of equally myopic nations, deposed Iran’s worst enemy, Saddam Hussein, leaving Iraq ripe for the picking. The situation in Syria, while not resulting in the demise of its dictator, Bashar Assad, is nearly an open field for Iran, which has deployed Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy army, along with Iran’s Republican Guard and others to gain political power and territory in Syria. Lebanon, because of Hezbollah’s military control, has put Iran in virtual control there too.
Today, Iran is threatened by Israel, although Iran’s ancient foe, (Sunni Muslim) Turkey, and superpower-on-the-rise Russia both block Iran’s chances for total domination of the area. The (Sunni) Gulf Arabs also oppose (Shiite non-Arab) Iran. The world’s 30 million Kurds, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, are another complicating factor. The Iraqi Kurds are poised to proclaim their independence (5-6 million strong) and perhaps in Syria (2-3 million) too.
Hypocritically, the West demands that the Kurds give up their dreams of an independent Kurdistan and continue to fit themselves into the borders that Britain and France devised for the region exactly 100 years ago. As of this writing, the Iraqi Kurds seem likely to soon have a referendum regarding their independence.
Israel, recognizing the value of Kurdish independence, is the only nation so far to encourage the Kurds in their quest for a country of their own. If the Kurds do emulate the Jews and defy the powers that be by declaring their independence, the two countries will be a strong countervailing force to the Iranians, who are handily outmaneuvering the West, especially around the conference table.
The US appears to have given up the ghost as far as the Middle East is concerned. Ceding its position to the Russians on President Obama’s watch, it is merely a bystander at present. This is not a bad position to be in, considering the nature of the Middle Eastern quagmire, as long as it stands strongly behind its Israeli “aircraft carrier” (the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms was the first to identify it as such), which is the only country in the region representing Western values. The current administration has been friendlier to Israel than its predecessor but has yet to apply real pressure on Iran or to declare Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, which would be a strong shock to Israel’s enemies, fortifying Israel’s position.
On Netanyahu’s recent trip to Latin America, he spoke strongly against Iran, telling CNN, “War is coming because of a soft position on Iran, and a stronger position on Iran would avert war.” When addressing the United Nations General Assembly (9/19), Prime Minister Netanyahu will again try to animate the lethargic West to stop Iran from gaining the same power that Kim Jong-un currently wields. However, the US, Iran’s self-proclaimed worst enemy, is somewhat relaxed over Iran’s warmongering. European nations have much more reason to be concerned about Iran’s bellicose behavior, but their (some say suicidal) reluctance to fight for themselves offers little hope for military action or even a return to strong sanctions.
We wish Netanyahu Godspeed in his efforts to expose Iran’s hostile jihadist agenda, but success is unlikely. Confronting Iran may turn out to be Israel’s problem to solve, perhaps joined by some of its Arab neighbors.