Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iran and al-Qaeda

I thought that Christiane Amanpour's article, citing a top Iranian official as declaring that the US and Iran were "natural allies", was quite interesting. Obviously, the Powerliners, who are quite invested in America and Iran being perpetually locked in mortal combat, was significantly less favorable. For my part, I think that there are forces that both push in favor and against the US and Iran allying. On the one hand, Iran's fanatical desire to obliterate Israel is something that cuts against a partnership (I don't mean to be glib here, this is obviously a major sticking point). And the gap between the Iranian and American government's conception of what our universal values should consist (a gap that, admittedly, is larger for some than for others) is also something that will pose barriers. On the other hand, America's main opponent in the global sphere, in terms of military threat, is Sunni Jihadists, who are also a natural enemy of the Shi'ite dominated Iran. Mutual enemies can make for strange allies (consider the persistent murmering of Israel and Saudi Arabia working together to check against their mutual threat--the growing Shi'ite Crescent stretching from Iran through Syria, Lebanon and Hezbollah).

But Powerline's analysis, I thought, was rather pecuilar:
Amanpour's breathless report implies that only the belligerence of the President Bush, who unaccountably included Iran in the "Axis of Evil," frustrates a full alliance between these nations, both of whom, she says, are bitterly opposed to al Qaeda.

Many others, of course, believe that top al Qaeda leaders are now inside Iran. And it is not hard to argue that from 1979 to the present, the foreign power that has most consistently been at war with the U.S. is Iran.

Now, aside from who these "many others" are (hint--if they've got names like "curveball", run), and aside from the problem that we've yet to have been at war with Iran since 1979 (in contrast to Iraq and Serbia), this is a rather odd point. It seems unlikely that Shi'ite Iran is harboring top leaders of Sunni al-Qaeda. If they are not, then Powerline's argument kind of falls apart, obviously, and the non-presence of al-Qaeda in Iran lends credance to the idea that we should ally with them against al-Qaeda, and that the Bush administration has been foolish in not pursuing that avenue. But if Powerline is right, then we're faced with the fact that our foreign policy has done something to spook Iran so much that they're willing to support their bitter enemy in a fight against us. I don't really expect the Powerliners to have a particularly intricate grasp of the Sunni/Shi'ite split, but suffice to say a hardline Sunni group will consider Shi'ites to be heretics, and vice versa. It can only be a failure on our part that we've managed to allow what should have been an impossible alliance to manifest itself, because we insist on playing macho cowboy or whatever.

So either way, we're faced with a failure of foreign policy that can be chalked up to the Bush administration. No surprise over here, I know, but it amuses me that this flows so precisely from Powerline's own analysis of the Iranian situation.

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