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2 Iran feels the chill in US cold war
tactics By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Washington has dispatched its frontroom
team, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, to the Middle East,
ostensibly to give the peace process a big push.
In reality, they are acting as shrewd arms
merchants, while at the same time talking of the
struggle for people for freedom against
oppression. Someone please order Joseph Heller's
Catch 22 as mandatory flight reading for
Indeed, echoes of Heller's nerdy
bombardier, Captain John
Yossarian, who alerted the
world to the insanity of modern capitalistic
warfare more than anyone else, can be heard
aplenty, eclipsing the trailblazers of
Washington's new manifest destiny who are
"spreading Jeffersonian democracy" to the dark
But don't expect Rice to push
for women's suffrage in Saudi Arabia and other US
client states when her plane lands in the oil
region. Her obligatory "we will push for reform"
is for domestic consumption. Not so with the rest
of her rationale for the huge arms sales to the
Saudis and a generous aid package to the other
Arab "moderate", Egypt, which recently shied away
from normalizing ties with Iran precisely out of
fear of losing Washington's assistance. It all
boils down to one word: Iran.
a doubt that Iran constitutes the single most
important single-country strategic challenge to
the United States and to the kind of the Middle
East that we want to see," Rice has been quoted as
saying in the Washington Post, whose reporter,
Robin Wright, has not minced any words in
describing the situation as a "cold war".
So just as the US armed to the teeth its
authoritarian, at times bloodthirsty, allies in
the name of anti-communism, the same logic now
operates in the name of containing Iran.
Harking back to the "dual containment"
doctrine of the Bill Clinton administration, which
in turn was an extension of the so-called "Carter
doctrine" of Jimmy Carter that set aside the
previous Richard Nixon doctrine of relying on
local hegemons to enforce stability, Washington's
new cold-war ideology is not entirely new and
reflects a consistent US foreign policy rooted in
its oil-based hegemony.
The kind of Middle
East that Rice likes to see may have a new
nomenclature, ie, "the Greater Middle East", but
at bottom it is the same old Middle East, dubbed
as "subordinate" or a "subsystem" by pundits
during the half-century of the US-Soviet Union
There have been several attempts
to break out of the "subordinate" system. Gemal
Abdul Nasser's pan-Arabism, leading to a temporary
merger with Syria, was one such heroic frustrated
by the preemptory Six-Day War launched by Israel
in 1967. Others were Iran's Islamic Revolution in
1979 and the current Iran-Syria alliance, which is
still in the formative stage and it is too early
to draw more than a tentative conclusion about it.
The floodgates opened by the Iranian
revolution were choked by the Western-backed Iraqi
invasion of Iran in 1980 and the growing
"encirclement" of Iran by the US power that has
evolved through several stages. One was the influx
of US troops in 1990-91 because of the Kuwait
crisis with Iraq and the other, still unfolding,
the post-September 11, 2001, developments
culminating in the invasion of two of Iran's
neighbors - Iraq and Afghanistan. And this is not
to mention US base-building in other neighbors in
the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.
The Iranian "jailbreak" has had mixed
results to date. While the US "rollback" strategy,
either to resurrect the compliant ancien
regime or to "tame" radical Islamists in Iran,
has not succeeded, the "containment" strategy has
not been altogether a failure.
continues, at times along blurred and confusing
lines, cross-cutting solidarities and alliances
bewitching the simple, bifurcated logic of the old
Cold War. This in turn raises serious questions
about the viability of the terminology "cold war"
to describe this "altered" state of affairs in
today's Middle East.
As a clue to the
latter; Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not
only not opposed the US arms sales to Saudi
Arabia, a departure from past Israeli reactions,
he has welcomed it in the name of a "united front"
with the US and moderate Arabs against the threat
of Islamic radicalism led by Iran.
moderate, or reliable, are those moderate Arabs,
when the United States' own ambassador to the
United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, complains in an
article in the New York Times about the
destructive role they are playing in Iraq? Again,
the murmur of Yossarian can be heard: "The enemy
is anybody who is going to get you killed, no
matter which side he's on." Just ask the American
soldiers in Iraq, who are hunted down by Saudi
suicide bombers revered by Saudi muftis
(scholars) as "heroes of Islam".
Wahhabi patronage of the Saudis' meddling in Iraq
has not only not been stopped by Washington,
worse, it has now found a convenient justification
under the rubric of a grand new "cold war". Who
knows, with the threat perception so manipulated,