Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why the United States Must Ally with Iran

I recently read Robert Baer's "The Devil We Know," which is a late 2008 book that gives an in-depth analysis of Iran's status as a new world superpower. It completely changed my outlook on Iran and what to do in the Middle East, and I'm writing this to sort of spread the knowledge I gained from reading this book. Baer spent years in the Middle East as a CIA operative, gathering intelligence by immersing himself in their culture and lifestyle, and talking to everyone from family members of terrorists to the King of Bahrain. If anyone can relate the enigma of Middle Eastern culture and thought to Americans, it's Robert Baer.

He stresses that he is not an Iranian sympathizer, and recalls memories of seeing his colleagues blown up and beheaded by Iranian soldiers and terrorists. This is simply a very informative and sometimes frightening account of the global powerhouse Iran has become. And after reading it, I've found that it is imperative that we come to terms with Iran; if not as an ally, at least as a strategic partner. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Iran and the Middle East in general. I'll continue to read and research on Middle Eastern politics, myself.
Iran has become a dominant political and military force in recent years. Their religious fervor and relentless patience has allowed them to politically control Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan through proxies (independent actors who answer to Iran's orders) and their biggest proxy, Hezbollah, has become the most legitimate and feared military power in the Middle Eastern region, especially after defeating Israel in Lebanon two years ago. Hezbollah has also branched out to other countries in the Middle East, exercising their authority in the name of Iran. Iran has also gained control of nearly every important oil corridor in the Middle Eastern region, and is one of the world's largest producers of oil along with one of the world's largest producers of natural gas, giving it immeasurable economic clout. The Bush administration has given us nothing but misleading information since 2001, and now is the time to set the record straight on how wrong we've been about Iran. By further isolating and antagonizing Iran, we give them all the advantage they need to continue the spread of their empire right under our noses.

This will undoubtedly be the longest blog I've ever written, so I've taken the liberty of separating this into individual sections, so you can read at your leisure and pick up where you left off. I think it's important, especially now with a new administration and the Iraq war in jeopardy, for Americans to read this and know a little more about something on which we've been completely misled for decades. And if you don;t read anything else in this blog, check out the ending sections, as you'll probably see Obama enact a lot of these policies during his tenure. First, we must dispel the myths given to us by the government over the past few years.

Myth #1. Iran is a terrorist state.
The last act of terrorism Iran sponsored was in 1996, when they truck-bombed the Khobar Towers Marine Barracks. Iran knows that continued acts of terrorism take legitimacy away from the empire status they are trying to attain, as well as the hegemony in the Middle East that they strive to obtain. Iran did engage in terrorist activities in the 70's and 80's, and Imad Mughniyah, a Hezbollah commander, was one of the more well-known terrorists acting under Iran's orders several decades ago. However, Iran's Ayatollah refused to give him political power and influence after Iran started building its empire, as he was too much of a radical to be trusted. Hezbollah's preferred political warrior can be seen in Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of the organization.

Nasrallah has been compared to Saladin, the Shia Muslim warrior who drove out the Crusaders in the 12th century AD. Nasrallah led the effort to end Israel's 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2006, being the only Muslim commander able to beat Israel's seemingly unstoppable army. Along with proving himself as an effective soldier and strategist, Nasrallah has also proven himself as a diplomat, when he struck an agreement with Israel in 2004 for the release of hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. Middle Easterners regard this is as one of Hezbollah's landmark achievements, and Nasrallah is credited with the endeavor.

Iran encourages Hezbollah in its diplomacy, and condemns aimless acts of violence by exiling those who promote terrorism for political gain. In fact, most of the senseless violence and terrorism that happens in the Middle East is executed by Sunni Muslim takfiris. Takfiris are extremist Muslims who see the world as being composed of believers and non-believers. Takfiris are adamant in their stance that non-believers cannot be saved, and must be killed without mercy. In fact, one of the main reasons the United States is so unpopular with the people of the Middle East isn't because of democracy or freedom, it's because we've supported the efforts of extremist takfiris since the Reagan administration. This brings me to myth #2.

Myth #2. Shia Islam is the religion of terrorists and extremists.
Iran, being a Shia nation, is often condemned by western leaders for supporting violence and terrorism. And through the media's coverage of the Iraqi Civil War that broke out between Sunnis and Shias, we've also seen the troop surge work as we team up with Sunni militants in Sunni neighborhoods in central Iraq to fight Shias. Shias have been second-class Muslims for centuries, ever since the Sunnis took control of Mecca, Islam's holy city, in the 13th century.

I won't go as much into detail about the intracies of Shia and Sunni Islam as Baer did, but I did learn the main difference between these two sects of Islam; Sunnis take a fundamental and literal approach to Islam, and their conservative interpretation of its writings and lack of central religious leadership often lead to senseless violence against Shia Muslims. Shia Muslims, on the other hand, have central religious leadership through the Ayatollahs, who train Imams, dictate Muslim law through a determined religious hierarchy as in Catholicism, and most importantly believe in Ijtihad, or a metaphorical interpretation of the Koran. While one of the main tenets of Islam is martyrdom, or the sacrifice of one's life for the greater good, Baer found that Shias can logically explain why they martyr themselves and why they praise their martyrs, while Sunnis closed the door in his face, and gave the standard platitudes of martyrdom serving the purpose of "defeating the nonbelievers." Shia martyrs have a set target in mind, politically or militarily, and the families of the martyrs were almost always willing to talk to Baer about the importance of their son's or their daughter's death; it was always with a goal in mind. And their martyrs were always glorified because of it.

If we want to remain a strategic player in the Middle East, it's obvious that everything we've been doing up to this point has been wrong. In an effort to stop the Russian spread to Afghanistan in the 1980's, we supplied Sunni Muslim takfiris with arms and money with little oversight. The Afghans beat the Soviets, but in the long-term, we ended up creating the Taliban, a Sunni Muslim takfiri organization that ended up controlling the politics of Afghanistan, and enforcing its rule through brutish means. Through the Bush family's support of the Royal Saud family in Saudi Arabia, we ended up supporting yet another oppressive, unpredictable Sunni regime, and Sunni takfiris from Saudi Arabia carried out the 9/11 attacks. So not only have we spurned Iran (overwhelmingly Shia nation) through these policies, we've created tremendous backlash which has caused thousands of American deaths.

The empire of Iran is being spread primarily through Islam; the Middle East has taken vast steps away from secularism and has almost completely embraced Islam as both a religion and a way of life for all of its people. More importantly, Iran's influence in Iraq (I'll talk about this in another section), Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Palestine is heavily Shia-driven. The only part of the Middle East that is Sunni-controlled is the oil-rich gulf. Combining centuries of Sunni oppression fresh in the minds of Shia Hezbollah, Shia Iran, and Iran's proxies, along with the notoriously weak militaries of the gulf nations, an Iranian takeover of the gulf would be imminent, were it not for the United States' support of Saudi Arabia. However, with our waning strength and influence in Iraq in the midst of bloody civil war, and the battle of attrition being waged on our troops and economy, Iran knows that patience is key; we can't stay in Iraq forever, and the Saud family will eventually fall. The Middle East is practically in Iran's hands as it is.

Baer puts it very simple; as Americans, who would we rather support? Radical Sunni takfiris, or the Shias; the destined masters of the Middle East?

Myth #3. Iran Could be Defeated in a War with the United States
Now, it's important to know Iran hasn't been a Muslim nation for a very long time, considering the context of Iran's history. For thousands of years, Iran's religion was Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster. He believed that there was simply a struggle between light and dark, between good and evil. Zoroaster believed that Asha, or the good and righteous forces, were constantly at war with Druj, the forces of falsehood and disorder. Iran very reluctantly converted to Islam several centuries ago, but Baer notes the fundamentals of Zoroastrianism are still very much evident through the lifestyle of the Iranian people. The people of Iran see the influences of western culture in Lebanon, Israel, and the gulf Arabs (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates) as imperial colonialism; combine that way of thinking with a history of both Zoroastrian dualism (good vs. evil) and the Muslim belief of martyrdom, you have a nation full of people willing to die for what they believe is right. This means Iran can potentially be much more dangerous than we could imagine. Iran has a definitive military stranglehold on the Middle East.

The most fascinating part of Iran's power is how secretive it is. While the United States has a trading embargo with Iran, and while US intelligence keeps close tabs on the arms Iran buys, Iran has easy ways to get around these barriers and get state of the art arms technology from Russia and China through its proxies. Hezbollah is basically another arm of Iran, and Hezbollah's nature of operation is so secretive in itself that a majority of its commanders are still unknown to US intelligence. Hezbollah can very easily set up one-time companies with Iranian funding made in a false name and solely for one particular transaction. In buying current state of the art electronics, missile systems, tanks, and explosives from China and Russia instead of from western sources, Iran can get fantastic prices on arms that would normally cost up to 400% more from the United States or Britain. Because of recent purchases made through such means, Iran now has anti-air missile capability, meaning that potentially Israeli bombers would be shot down long before reaching their targets.

Iran learned from its mistakes after barely scraping out of the Iran/Iraq war in the eighties. Iraq's army under Saddam's regime was the #2 army in terms of active membership and equipment behind Israel, and in conventional military situations, it was almost unbeatable. Ayatollah Khomenei, Iran's Supreme Leader in the 1980's, sustained heavy losses to his military when engaging Iraqi forces head-on. However, Iran's success with guerilla warfare through truck bombings, car bombings, and martyrs with suicide vests more than made up for its losses on the battlefield. Iran recaptured several key cities that Iraq had encroached upon through guerilla means, and eventually forced Iraq to draw up terms for a ceasefire; Saddam's tanks were blown up easily with a truck bomb or an IED, and Iraq's troops were confused and lost in city skirmishes, where guerilla warriors thrive and succeed. This was a landmark victory for Iran, as they had defeated one of the most feared armies in the Middle East through unconventional guerilla tactics.

Presently, Iran has adapted from its former losses, and its military has become more and more familiar with guerilla tactics; in trucks loaded with explosives, with only on or two aboard, Iranian military forces can travel alongside civilians, undetectable by Israeli and United States intelligence. Hezbollah, Iran's chief proxy, forced Israel from Lebanon in 2006 through these same guerilla means. The United States outspends the nine nations behind us in military spending combined. Iran and Hezbollah aren't even in the top ten, and they defeated Israel. A military struggle with Iran would be just as fruitless as our campaign in Iraq has been. We could shell Iran's cities, destory their means of conventional warfare, and decimate their army as easily as we destroyed Iraq's. However, the Iranians would fight ceaselessly through guerilla means, which we are incapable of stopping. To top that off, we'd have Hezbollah on our hands, and suddenly be in a sticky mess as hundreds of troops would be sent home each week in coffins.

We could nuke Iran until there's no buildings left, but Iran would win a war with the United States through attrition; they're willing to martyr themselves and rig trucks with explosives and IEDs. On the other hand, the American people wouldn't stand for heavy military losses and economic deficits. Military options with Iran would be futile and costly. Even if we were to go to war with Iran, all the Iranian government would have to do is close the straight of Hormuz; one of the world's busiest oil corridors. Should that happen, we'd be brought to our knees as oil costs would rise to $200 a barrel in a day.

Baer makes the point that because of new guerilla warfare tactics, military strategy has completely changed globally since the onset of the Iraq War (2003). Guerilla warfare has beaten the United States in Iraq time and again, and the United States is still convinced it can win the Iraq conflict through conventional means. In completely decimating Iraq's army, we've further impeded our ability to train a competent Iraqi security force, and simultaneously aided Iran's conquest for empire in Iraq and elsewhere, as Saddam's army was virtually the only force capable of keeping Iran in check.

Myth #4. Iran's Politics are too Radical for Middle Eastern Dominance
Baer recalled one meeting with the King of Bahrain in a London hotel. Bahrain is very worried about Iran's power; after being freed from the British protectorate, Bahrain has only been independent for 37 years. They have a population of slightly more than 1 million (comparable to Louisville, Kentucky) a net worth of about $24.3 billion (USD) and an exclusively ceremonial military. Added to that, Bahrain was once a part of the Persian Empire before the British, and Iran wants it back. Iran, with its military of approximately 545,000 and the combined clout of its proxies could take Bahrain in a day.

As mentioned earlier, Iran has gained political influence in Shia countries with the aid of Hezbollah. However, Iran's new status as a powerhouse in Middle Eastern politics isn't due to just the power of its army or its proxies, but through its image of the prime enemy of the Sunni takfiris and western colonialism. I'll explain.

Imad Mughniyah, one of Hezbollah's most notable fighters, was recruited into Hezbollah by a man named Sheikh Hossein in a small apartment in Lebanon. Mughniyah was born into a poor family of olive farmers, and grew up in Beirut. While Mughniyah suffered in poverty, he saw western influence in Lebanon's capital; the wealthy, clad in western dresses and tuxedos, climbing out of limousines, hitting the nightclub scenes, living a decadent western lifestyle. This was after political leaders failed to live up to empty promises of eradicating western culture and making Lebanon into a Shia Islam state. Sickened by the west's pervasion of his culture, he was a prime target for Hezbollah, as he saw the group as the only resistance movement dedicated to the cause of anti-colonialism. Mughniyah, the poor son of a farmer, was given a purpose in life as a soldier in a movement dedicated to an anti-western cause. He became notorious in his murderous acts of terrorism against Israeli and American targets.

Mughniyah's case is so much like many of the other Hezbollah recruits, which is why they are such a rapidly-growing party in the Middle East. If you were a poor, frustrated baker's son or a street vendor in a country which has long been in the shadow of the Sunnis and the American-backed Israelis, is it so hard to fathom joining a resistance movement dedicated to fighting that oppression? Shia Muslims are so persuaded by Hezbollah to join their cause and fight the Americans/Israelis. This is why Iran controls most of the Shia Middle Eastern countries in every way but name. And this is how Hezbollah has become the #1 most feared army and political party of the Middle East. Iraq is a case much like Lebanon's.

Baer is well aware of how America has directly contributed to the wide sectarian divide in Iraq by removing both a central authoritative figure and by dismantling Iraq's army. The majority of Iraq's population lives in the southern part of the country, which is heavily Shia. The Sunnis have controlled Baghdad and central Iraq, although their influence has been waning since Saddam's death. The kurds in the north have been wanting their own state, Kurdistan, and for it to be internationally recognized. This is where Iran comes in.

Southern Iraq is already very friendly with Iran and thus susceptible to its political influence. Central Iraq is only still Sunni because of American occupation and aid; we've been aiding the Sunnis since the 1980's, and not surprisingly, are aiding them in their sectarian war with the Shias. As soon as we pull out, Sunni Islam in Iraq will be no more if Iran has any say in the matter. This leaves Kurdistan.

While the Kurds have been rejected by Turkey, and attempted to keep a neutral stance in the Sunni/Shia war elsewhere in Iraq, Iranian proxies have been playing politics with Kurd leaders, and winning them over to their side with their message of a movement against what they see as western colonialism and the influences of a decadent culture from the west and from the gulf Arab nations. Baer recalls several meetings with Kurd religious and political figures, all who had good things to say of Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran. The final blow was when he stepped out of a vehicle as he was on his way back from Kurdistan to get pictures of the landscape. He was approached by an armed guard who told him pictures weren't allowed, due to Iranian orders. Baer found this as the missing piece of the puzzle; Iran promises Kurdistan military protection and aid, and the Kurds, in return, trust Iran and answer to authorities in Tehran. Thus, Iran has political influence in both southern and northern Iraq. Without American forces fighting with the Sunnis in the central region, Iraq basically belongs to Iran. This is only the beginning of how Iran wins over allies to their cause.

There is still one power player in the Middle East besides Iran and Israel, and that's Saudi Arabia. The Bush family has been a longtime friend of the Royal Saud family for decades, mostly due to oil trade. Baer has traveled Saudi Arabia, and talks about how overwhelmingly decadent and westernized the nation has become. There are vast desert palaces spanning hundreds of acres; lush hotels with gold-plated rooms, shopping malls that span miles and miles, multi-story airliners, the list goes on. Oddly enough, the United States is the #2 fattest country in the world with a 33% obesity rate, beaten only by Saudi Arabia with a 35% obesity rate. Saudi Arabia is also a haven for Sunni takfiri militants, and is also a friend of the decadent United States, to boot. Through its growing Shia population and low standards of living, a majority of the Middle Eastern people justify their hatred of Saudi Arabia using the above factors.

And while the Saudis don't like to admit it, they are grossly mismatched in both troops and equipment should a war begin between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In spite of Saudi Arabia's anti-western rhetoric and Sunni extremism against Americans, Saddam Hussein's threat to Kuwait in 1990 provoked Saudi Arabia to run in terror to the United States for border security. They weren't satisfied with their own safety until the US fortified their borders with troops of our own. If Iran decides to go to war with Saudi Arabia, it would be through proxies and guerilla warfare, along with relentless martyrdom. Not only would the Saudi army be helpless, the United States would likely be forced to sit by idly, as we're smarting from almost $2.4 trillion spent in Iraq. This is aside from all of the military and economic losses we've sustained in Afghanistan. If Iran or Hezbollah threatened Saudi Arabia, the Saudis would fall quickly and easily.

Myth #5. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wants to Destroy Israel with a Nuclear Weapon
While they'd like to become a nuclear power simply to be competitive, destroying Israel with a nuke is not in the political interests of Iran. If one takes a logical approach to it, launching a nuke at Israel would render Iran's decades of accomplishments useless, political and military. Not to mention Israel is more than capable of launching a completely destructive retaliatory attack if they knew Iran would launch a nuke at them. Thus, Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran, just as Iran has nothing to fear from a nuclear Israel. Iran isn't really concerned with Israel in its quest for empire in the Middle East. Iran is perfectly capable of bringing down the gulf Arab nations one by one, and by uniting the Middle Eastern people through Shia Islam. Israel would simply wane in power and influence as Iran made its conquest. Without a United States alliance, Israel would crack under the pressure.

And besides, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a powerless figurehead. The power has always been with the Supreme Ayatollahs; first through Khomeini's revolution in 1979, and then through Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's leadership after Khomeini died in 1989. As President, Ahmadinejad must submit to the will of the Ayatollahs. Despite his radical stances on Israel and his outrageous statements against the west, Ahmadinejad is powerless to act in his own. Khamenei is much more cautious in his leadership, and knows how futile a campaign against Israel would be. Khamenei knows full well the power Iran holds through its own influences on Shia nations and the power Iran has in Hezbollah. Iran has nothing to gain either through nuclear weapons or through Israel's destruction.

How to Reconcile with Iran
If you've made it this far, you've read how Iran has slowly become a political, military, economic, and religious hegemon in the Middle East. You've also read about how we've grossly underestimated all of Iran's power and clout. Now you're probably wondering what in the world we can do in the face of such a potential threat. Baer offered three possible solutions to the Iran issue, followed by 9 points of reconciliation once we meet with Iran's leadership for unconditional talks.

1. Contain Iran
This would involve us staying in Iraq indefinitely. Iraq and Afghanistan are a few strings from totally falling apart, and right now, the United States is those last few strings. To gain back the land NATO has lost to the Taliban, we'd need to deploy an additional 200,000 troops to Afghanistan, meaning we would be matching the peak of Soviet occupation. To restore order in the countries where we're currently at war, we'd need another half-million troops on Iran's borders. For this war to be sustained, we'd need to reinstate the draft and be prepared to spend several trillion more dollars to keep troop levels up. Alternatively, we could have a similar bombing campaign like we did with Iraq from 1991 to 2003. However, in an interview with the New York Times, Defense Secretary Gates said this would likely "strengthen Ahmadinejad and solidify the Iranian people's support for their regime." As Baer notes, this would start a new thirty-year war, or possibly a hundred-year war. And as mentioned earlier, the USA doesn't have the military or economic means to keep this up for ten years, so this solution is out.

2. Provoke a Massive Sunni-Shia Civil War
To best make this work, we would arm Sunni takfiris in Lebanon as Reagan did in Afghanistan in the 1980's, so Hezbollah and Iran would have to interrupt their imperial conquests to fight a Sunni insurrection. This would also hurt Iran's colonial credentials as they would be forced to help Hezbollah. Hezbollah would also be forced to give up its resistance movement against Israel. However, the last time we tried something like this, it caused more damage than it helped cease. By arming takfiris in the 1980's, we helped create the Taliban, a regime we are now fighting to contain. We also helped arm Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, as 9/11 was carried out with leftover US arms from the Soviet era and growth of a takfiri movement we helped start. This situation would be no different, and would cause a whole new series of problems. So this solution is out.

3. Settle with Iran
It would be somewhat of a bitter defeat to acknowledge that Iran has indeed become a global superpower and to meet with them as equals, but at last the question could be answered; would Iran be a better ally to the United States than the Sunnis, whom we've blindly trusted for so long?

With both of the other options out for obvious reasons, this last solution is the only feasible one. It would be a great political shift; Baer compares it to the British walking away from their empire after World War II. However, as difficult as it sounds, I think Barack Obama is smart enough and humble enough to acknowledge defeat in Iraq, and to ask the Iranians for help. Iraq is already halfway partitioned into sects; we could work with Iran in dividing Iraq into four parts- Shia South, Sunni Kurdistan, Sunni Anbar Province, and Shia Baghdad. We could allow the Iranians to control the Shia parts of Iraq they already control through proxies. This would elt Iran control the Shia holy cities of Basra, Najaf, and Karbala, making them more watchful as it is. Along with being more efficient and less violent, this would take some of the burden off of our shoulders and allow us to withdraw our troops in a timely fashion and phase in peacekeeping forces.

Baer proposes that there is no alternative. How much more taxpayer money will we forfeit to keep the vastly corrupt gulf Arabs in power, or to keep the gold-plated hotels in Dubai open? The mess in Iraq is now so convoluted that we don't even know who we're fighting anymore, much less why we're fighting. If congress' estimate of $2.4 trillion a decade in Iraq is correct, why not instead invest that money in alternative energy, and let Iran deal with the Middle East's problems? Military options are out, obviously. Sanctions also don't work; after 30 years of sanctioning, Iran can still get anything it wants from Russia and China. Out of all the Middle Eastern nation we can depend upon, Iran is the only one that is capable of delivering. The Sunni gulf Arabs are all teetering on the edge; Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the decadent United Arab Emirates, Qatar's small population, Algeria's war-torn government? Iran is the only capable state in the gulf presently.

All evidence clearly points to Iran and Hezbollah as the two rational Middle Eastern actors, if we ignore their words and look at their actions. Iran is the only ally we can afford to have, as opposed to Sunni takfiris that we can;t even find, let alone talk to. Iran has proven that it is willing to be diplomatic and meet to discuss political demands. Iran was very reasonable in these talks, and none of their demands included that we stop being allies with Israel or convert to Islam. Baer proposes a series of quid pro quos that must be met for an Iranian/American settlement.

Guarantee Internal Security to Iran
This would entail the expulsion of Iranian opposition groups in Iraq, and a stop to Americans calling for regime change in Iran. We would also stop contact with Iranian resistance groups like the Baluch and the Iranian Kurds. A stable Iran means a rational Iran. In return, Iran would stop sending arms to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Joint Patrols in the Persian Gulf
Baer proposes we establish a Tehran/Washington hotline so any potential confrontation with Iranian ships in the gulf can be avoided. A crucial first step to acknowledging Iran's role in gulf security would be to establish military communications between Iran and the USA. In return, Iran would stop challenging ships we send into the gulf.

Ease the Trade Embargo on Iran
If this happened, the western oil companies would be allowed to do business in Iran's oil fields, meaning an economic boom for the entire global oil market. In return, Iran would put a moratorium on arms shipments to Hezbollah.

Give Iran a Defined Security Role in Iraq and Afghanistan
Iran would take on direct responsibility for Basra and the Shia south. The USA would announce timetables for withdrawal and start to negotiate for UN peacekeeping forces. Here's the best part; the USA and Iran would team up in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran has shown that it is willing to work with the United States through the efforts of the Northern Alliance, an Iranian proxy and an ally of the USA. The alliance helped the USA capture Kabul in 2001. We owe Iran at least this much, what with our failed promises of securing Iraq and after calling for Iranian regime change since the 1970's.

Combine Hezbollah and Lebanon's Military
Baer writes that Lebanon is all but ready to crack into pieces as ethnic groups continue to feud. With Iranian involvement in Lebanese law enforcement, this would get Lebanon on the right track to becoming a peaceful nation. Besides, Hezbollah would never willingly disarm otherwise.

Allow Mecca to be Shia and Sunni-controlled
As long as they don't become homes for terrorism or recruiting terrorists, the USA shouldn't have any interest in whether or not Mecca and Medina are Saudi-controlled or not. We should instead support Iran as they request equal rights for Shia Muslims in the Middle East. It doesn't serve any interest for Saudi Arabia to continue abusing Shias. This would also lead to a better-coordinated effort between the USA and Iran in eliminating dangerous Sunni takfiri groups.

Force Israel to Cooperate with UN Resolution 242
This resolution calls for Israel to withdraw its pre-June 5, 1967 boundaries on Palestine, which it has not done. In return, Iran should be expected to impose a cease-fire on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This will convince Iran that international law is impartial, and the Palestinians would be happy with this resolution as well, given the 1993 Oslo Accords. This would also ease Iran away from its aggression toward Israel.

Put All Middle Eastern Nuclear Arms Under International Supervision (Israel Included)
Again, this would help convince Iran that international law will be followed by all nations, and that international law is impartial.

Establish an International Body to Audit Oil Supplies and Set the Price for Oil
Baer proposes that it is in Iran's interest, along with other oil-producing nations, to know how much oil is left in the Earth's oil reserves. Besides, vast swings in oil prices don't serve anyone's interests. And all of our interests would be served by a regime that sets the world's oil prices.

Given the circumstances, the United States doesn't really have any other choice than to ally with Iran. However, this way is a way of dealing and reconciling, instead of surrendering. It would also do wonders for the Middle East's relationship with the United States. We can cede Iran's quest for empire without ceding any of our core national interests. Recognizing Iran as an equal and as a world superpower would be much less violent than the usual way of creating an empire. This wouldn't be a support of the Shias against the Sunnis, but rather simply supporting a Middle Eastern state that has delivered results time and again.

Baer writes a lot of people thought Mao's China would never be a key trade partner for the United States decades ago, or that we would work with China in stopping the Soviet Union. And we all remember the results of blind confrontations with Chinese Communism in Korea and Vietnam. This way of reconciling with Iran is a way of learning from our mistakes, and making the best decision possible with the least possible violence. We would counter Russia and China's growing power with an Iranian alliance. For example, if Russia threatened to shut off western Europe's natural gas, Iran would be there to make up the shortfalls in the gulf. If any gulf Arab nations dissolved into civil war such as Iraq's case went, Iran would step in and keep the peace. This solution works politically, militarily, and economically.

The next few years will be interesting. I hope Obama's foreign policy team is considering these options; with these solutions, we could make a very profitable Middle Eastern relationship for decades to come.


  1. I'm going to have to read that book before I happen.

  2. Get it, it's very enlightening.