Monday, June 11, 2007

Are we driving our adversaries into each others arms?

The 9/11 attacks put the U.S. and Iran in the unusual position of being on the same side against multiple adversaries, the Taliban, al Qaeda and Sunni dominated Iraq. Because of this common interest, Iran was an American asset in the days after the fall of the Taliban.
Opinions differ wildly over how much help the Iranians actually were on the ground. But what is beyond doubt is how critical they were to stabilizing the country after the fall of Kabul.
This could've been an opportunity to end the decades long hostility between the two countries, but the hawks in both nations have a vested interest in keeping the conflict alive.

Instead of diplomacy, we've had years of sabre rattling, starting with the declaration of the "Axis of Evil", in which Iran and North Korea were apparently included simply for dramatic effect:
Tehran backed up the political support with financial muscle: at a donor's conference in Tokyo, Iran pledged $500 million (at the time, more than double the Americans') to help rebuild Afghanistan. In a pattern that would become familiar, however, a chill quickly followed the warming in relations. Barely a week after the Tokyo meeting, Iran was included with Iraq and North Korea in the "Axis of Evil." Michael Gerson, now a NEWSWEEK contributor, headed the White House speechwriting shop at the time. He says Iran and North Korea were inserted into Bush's controversial State of the Union address in order to avoid focusing solely on Iraq.
Given a president who thinks that open dialogue is a sign of weakness, and sends his vice president to strut on an aircraft carrier and talk about regime change, it's got to occur to the Mullah's that if Iraq ever emerges from chaos, they'll have 150,000 hostile forces on their border with nothing to keep them occupied.

So while John McCain sings "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran", Rudy Giuliani speculates about dropping tactical nuclear weapons and Joe Lieberman openly advocates "limited air strikes", we start to hear that Iran may hope to keep Iraq destabilized.

And now we see claims that Iran may be aiding it's old nemesis the Taliban:
Experts say a strengthened Taliban would benefit Tehran in a number of ways. Peter Tomsen, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says a weakened Afghan state lessens the likelihood it can become a U.S. ally against Iran. By maintaining a certain level of instability, he says, “it keeps us tied down. After all, we have airbases in Afghanistan where we could mount attacks on Iran.” Some analysts call it “managed chaos,” a strategy they say is similar to the one Iran employs in Iraq. Abetting the Taliban also boosts Iran’s leverage at a time when it is under pressure to end its uranium-enrichment program. “It’s saying, ‘If you push us on the nuclear issue, we can make life hell for you not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan,’” says Amin Tarzi, an Afghan expert at Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty.
Now that the diplomats have been sidelined, and we have a leadership which talks publicly about opening a third front in a war that's already a fiasco, would anyone be surprised that Iran finds it in it's interests to keep the "Great Satan" distracted?

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