- (january 2014)
For several years (at least since 2001) i've been pointing out that the USA
should theoretically be much closer to Iran than to other countries in that
region. After all Iran's worst enemy was Saddam Hussein (who tried to invade
Iran with a lengthy and brutal war) and Iran was the only country to openly
antagonize the Taliban. Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were Sunni Muslims,
whereas Iran is Shiite. The most underrated war in the world is the world war
between Sunnis and Shiites. They have been killing each other for 1400 years
and today that war is more real than ever, from Lebanon
to Pakistan. Few people realize that there are many more terrorist attacks
against Shiites than against all Western countries combined.
Hence the USA should look at Iran not as the devil but as a resource (and in
fact it did so tacitly at the beginning of the Afghan invasion).
But one could also look at this issue the other way around: why doesn't Iran
view the USA as a resource instead of treating it (literally) like Satan?
Iran was the biggest beneficiary of the George W Bush wars: Iraq became an
ally instead of permanent threat, and the Taliban have been replaced by a
It took Iran a long time, but it could be that we are witnessing a transition
not only of power but also of mindset. The new president, Hassan Rouhani,
has started a dialogue with the USA for the first time since the Islamic
revolution of 1979 that removed the Western-leaning shah with the Islamic
regime of the ayatollahs. He is no liberal. I don't think he represents the
young people armed with smartphones who in 2009 protested against
rigged elections "won" by incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over
liberal candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi. He represents the realists, who
finally realize that Iran could be better off working with the USA than
working against the USA.
Antagonizing the USA is a strategy that has simply empowered some of Iran's
historical rivals, starting with Saudi Arabia. The more hostile Iran was,
the closer the USA moved towards Saudi Arabia. While Iran was being isolated
and suffered crippled economic sanctions, Turkey enjoyed decades of economic
growth and reached the level of an average Europe country, even passing many
of the countries that joined the European Union. While Iran,
was obsessed with destroying Israel, was supporting
Hezbollah and Hamas, two movements that control tiny bits of territories,
and enjoyed only one alliance (with Assad's Syria), Saudi Arabia became a
major political power throughout the Arab world, and the Emirates became
a financial empire stretching over multiple continents.
The realists who are coming to power with the election of president Hassan
Rouhani are finally realizing the enormous price that Iran (an ancient
empire, the cradle of monotheism) has paid. Rouhani could be playing a role
similar to the one that Deng Xiaoping played in China in the 1990s.
Deng maintained the ideological facade of the regime (the Communist Party,
the territorial demands over Hong Kong and Taiwan, even the cult of Mao) but
in practice he refocused the entire apparatus towards very pragmatic
economic development. Within two decades China had become the fastest growing
(major) economy in the world and now it is the second largest in the world,
even projected to pass the USA. What a difference realism made.
The Iranian leadership might be looking to China more than to anyone else.
Then there is Pakistan. India is not the only country to be afraid about what
could happen in Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear country, it is the place where
the Taliban were born, it is the place where the remnant of the Taliban still
hide, it is one of the countries with the highest number of terrorist attacks,
and many of those terrorist attacks target the Shiite minority.
And, repeat, it has nuclear bombs. Iran's nuclear program is widely believed
(especially by paranoid Israelis) as targeting Israel. But Iran knows very
well that Israel would wipe out Iran in a few minutes if Iran decided to
strike on Israel. Since Israel has no intention of striking Iran, why would
Iran strike Israel and cause its own destruction? On the other hand, a change
of regime in Pakistan could turn Pakistan into a real threat. Israel fears
a nuclear Iran as a bunch of radicals determined to annihilate Israel no
matter what, but a Taliban-like regime with nuclear bombs in Pakistan would be
precisely the equivalent for Iran: radicals determined to annihilate Shiites
even if it costs their own death. If Iran's nuclear program is about Pakistan
and not about Israel, Rouhani might have realized that the best way to protect
Iran from the radicals is to work with the USA to make sure those radicals
never seize power anywhere. A nuclear Iran would cause a nuclear Saudi Arabia,
and probably provoke a preemptive Israeli attack: hardly an improvement in
Rouhani's realists might have realized that a
semi-nuclear Iran that works with the USA to stabilize Afghanistan
and Pakistan could achieve a much higher degree of security.
It wasn't the hard-line communists who turned China into a world power: it was
The hard-line ayatollahs didn't turn Iran into a regional power: the realists
TM, ®, Copyright © 2014 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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