Angelo Codevilla replies: Iran’s main worry is the Sunnis
Bhadrakumar and Goldman recognize that Iranian foreign minister Zarif’s words are pregnant with meaning. Is it possible that Iran might accept Israel’s existence? Is it possible that Iran might really “provide the international community with assurances and mechanisms for safeguarding its legitimate interests?” In taking these words seriously, both are more perceptive than the US foreign policy establishment, which lives by faith in good will and economic interest, as well as of the Neoconservatives who declaim the “devilish Mullahs” as congenital enemies with enormous power. Both Bhadrakumar and Goldman seek an explanation for why Iranian foreign policy might be amenable to a tectonic shift – wholly regardless of the nuclear issue. Bhadrakumar suggests, vaguely, that Iran is seeking to transmute “the existing parameters of the US-Iranian relationship..into a regional partnership”. Goldman, intrigued with possibilities, imagines the Iranians having looked into the abyss of demographic doom. But he does not “believe that the present Iranian regime can rid itself of its obsession with the Jew
I suggest that the Iranians, whatever obsessions they have about Americans or Jews, are looking into an abyss more immediate than demographic decline, namely: they are now engaged in a very bloody sectarian war with enemies potentially ten times their number. This may well reorder their priorities.
Goldman is correct that Iran has no geopolitical or historical reason for hostility with the Jews. On the contrary: A Persian, Cyrus the Great, ended the Babylonian captivity in 536 BC. In our time, Israel has fought wars against the Persians’ most active enemies, the Sunni Arabs. Geopolitical threats to Iran come not from faraway America but from nearby Russia as well as from Sunni states. Neither America nor Israel threatens to slaughter Shia. Others do. Since 1979, Iran has indulged in strategic fantasies. The current Sunni/Shia world war is blowing those fantasies away.
For Iran, the business at hand is to rally and consolidate vulnerable Shia elements, scattered as they are throughout the Middle East. Yes, Iran has a better trained military, greater power-projection capacity, and central location. But size matters. So does militancy. We must keep in mind – and Iran never forgets – that the Sunni side (specifically the Wahabi) started this latest round of sectarian war. In the long run, the Sunni world has the advantage, especially if it can draw on the support the West and of the West’s Israeli outpost. Iranian nuclear weapons make a lot of sense for the Shia world’s safety. Peace with America and Israel make just as much sense.
As the several Wahabi offshoots are slaughtering Shia, it makes no sense for Iran to indulge whatever harsh sentiments they might have toward Jews and Americans. They may be crazy. But I doubt they are stupid.