I can’t see a culture that produces girl skateboarders and pretty girls singing into phones whilst driving (and crashing) and a well educated, secular middle class as a greater threat than the wahhabists. Of course the clerics can be strict and theres the armageddon imam thing but Iran is not like Saudi and Gulf states. No slavery/kafala system, more equality, music and entertainment, a strong scientific/research community, everything the wahabbists are not.
They’re not the ones in control, unfortunately, and state-sponsored terrorism is the long-term threat.
(I have an middle class, secular Iranian housemate. His comments on the rulers of Iran are unprintable)
Yes but the Persian culture is strong enough to produce people like I mention, as well as your housemate. As they are present in Iran and abroad the chance of a secular/non-theocracy Iran returning are better than anything the wahhabist states can produce. Any change in government in those states will only bring (and export) war, tribalism and jihad.
So you’ll defend the states, no matter how bad they are. Right. Never mind that a good bit of the mess in Syria is because of Saudi and Qatar and the Islamists they sent in the first place!
And again, my friend is not running the show in Iran. He’s in the UK, working in relatively low-level jobs.
Iran is already fighting the IS folks, according to the BBC. There have been clashes inside NW Iran apparently, as well as Iranian forces informally inside Kurdish Iraqi areas helping against the IS forces. I have to agree with playingwithknives here. I did my first stint of graduate work under an Iranian exile at Virginia, and while he definitely had no love for the ayatollahs (this was 1983 or so) I learned an awful lot about the diversity and complexity of Iranian culture and politics. At its core we’re talking about a Persian culture that has thousands of years of background and, for all its occasional ruthlessness and support of some very nasty people, has a very pragmatic outlook. They’re ultimately, as a whole, rational, in our sense of the term, though naturally their colonial/post-colonial experiences have shaped the specifics of their rationality. Both they and the Israelis derive a benefit from the us vs. them tension they’ve created, in that the existential Iranian threat boosts the right in Israel and the evil Zionist conspiracy boosts the hard-liners in Iran, but these are also countries that have had a variety of clandestine relationships when they felt it was mutually beneficial. That’s pretty much a definition of political realism right there. Contrast that with the IS types, and it’s no freakin’ contest.
Saudi and Qatar are a pain in the ass. The short-sightedness of some of the Gulf states is astonishing.
Assad is a tougher problem, because he’s such an awful bastard, and his regime is ruthless to a degree that maybe Pol Pot might admire. Of course, thanks to the colonial machinations of the Brits and the French, Syria is and has always been a fundamentally impractical country without a strongman in power, and any sort of political struggle there seems inevitably to be coupled with annihilation of the losing parties–and this would include elections, I’m afraid. Backing Assad, even tacitly, would be odious. Hitting the IS without cooperating with Assad is certainly possible, but insuring that the other opposition benefit from the hits on the IS and that Assad did not would be pretty tough.
Just like its equally screwed up Iraqi neighbor.
You have to hand it to the Brits, though. When they fucked stuff up, they did it in spades.
I think the problem here is that Obama seemingly lacks any strategy at all for any aspect of our international relations.
I mean, at this point he’s not the new guy any more. He really needs to get his shit together in this regard.
Off course we did, we were the world Super Power of the day, and all the baggage that entails (Hubris/lack of concern for those we kill etc). America is just following that same fallacy of the Super Power (might is right, screw the actual hard work when we can just destroy stuff (for profits)). It’s sad but not surprising we see the same type of old problems rise again and again, it is a ‘business’ strategy as much as anything (for the arms industry).
Anyway, after Saddam (whom we created and destroyed), after Bin laden and al-Qaeda (that we also created, and continue to destroy) we now have Isis (whom we also created (and armed!) out of the aftermath of the previous two). Ok it’s a bit more complex than that, but if you have a couple of brain cells to rub together you should start to see a pattern here.
It was probably an earlier strategy of the powerful, but i always think of the Romans and their ‘divide and conquer’ maxim, we (as in the Brits under Empire, and the USA now) just got a big hard on for the Romans, and it makes you rich and powerful in the short to medium term (before the Barbarians rise in unison against you and there goes your Empire). So yeah, that’s what is going down.
(part 2 - had to split post)
Now with our recent panic-stations talk about security against home grown Jihadists, it is nice to see a pretty switched on and actually informed person of the gravitas of Paddy Ashdown put it in perspective:
‘Paddy Ashdown slams ‘kneejerk’ Tory response to jihadi terror threat’:
Tensions between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over how to counter the terrorism threat from extremists have been exposed as Paddy Ashdown accuses Tory ministers of “kneejerk” responses and of stoking fear in the minds of the British people.
The former Liberal Democrat leader and former high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, writing in the Observer, also criticises David Cameron for ill-judged rhetoric that he says could alienate ordinary Muslims and hamper the battle to defeat jihadis.
Ashdown’s intervention comes as Cameron and the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, try this weekend to hammer out a package of anti-terrorism measures in time to announce them to the House of Commons when MPs return from their summer break on Monday.
On Friday the level of threat of a terrorist attack in the UK was raised to “severe” by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) due to fears about British jihadis returning from Iraq and Syria. This prompted Cameron to warn that the danger posed by Islamic State (Isis) extremists presented the biggest security threat of modern times, surpassing that of al-Qaida.
While not attempting to deny or play down the threat from jihadis returning to the UK, Ashdown says that the threat level in Northern Ireland has also been “severe” for the past four years, as it was in all of Britain for much of the 1980s and 1990s when the IRA posed the greatest danger.
He argues that the current threat is "one we have faced before and one we know how to deal with – effectively, without panic and without a whole new range of executive powers which could endanger our liberties.
“Indeed, when it comes to facing threats, it was surely far more difficult to cope with IRA terrorists slipping across the Irish Sea than it is to stop jihadis returning from Iraq.”
In terms that are bound to anger many Tories, he says that after the threat level was increased, senior Conservatives “from the prime minister downwards … took to every available airwave to tell us how frightened we should be and why this required a range of new powers for them to exercise”.
While he argues that Cameron appeared, initially, to be aware of the need to avoid over-hasty responses, Tory ministers had recently “indulged in a spasm of kneejerking which would have made even St Vitus feel concerned. And Labour, frightened as always when it comes to liberty and security, capitulates to the demand.”
I can’t help thinking that documentary series ‘The Power of Nightmares’ is going to be a classic study for students of geo-politics in our period, as it pretty much nails this whole anti-muslim/Islam as bogey man narrative (not saying radical Islamists are not crazy/nasty/Evil™) ‘we’ are all getting rich on (if you have shares in our arms industries or even work for them etc):
No, it’s really not. There have been some defections from other groups to IS, but they were absolutely not created and armed by the West, that’s a position taken by some of the right to go with their pro-Assad views, and they’re pushing it heavily.
And the Barbarians are the Neoliberals, so…
We ‘armed them’ to the extent they have taken weapons and vehicles from the Iraqi Army that we created post Saddam. But all this is besides the main point. ‘We’ want war, lots of war all over the place (except in our back yard), and our political decisions come from this, especially in the American system, because your Democracy/Plutocracy is founded on the funding from the arms industry/Big Oil etc.
They came about because we DIDN’T intervene in Syria, so…
Many things resulted from the US declining to enter a third war in the middle east. Perhaps that did contribute to the creation of ISIS. But even now, with a bit of hindsight, I doubt there are many in the US who really want the US to be fighting in Syria, too.
I would hope there aren’t many who want the US fighting anywhere. However, sometimes the situation may call for it.
With a second US journalist murdered by these thugs, pressure will continue to grow on this administration. Do do what, no one really knows, of course, except that pretty much everyone wants us to do something. No doubt about it, the situation is complex and dangerous, but everything in the past year or so is starting to come home to roost for Obama. Love him, hate him, or “meh” him, he’s in a pickle now. Benghazi was a side show, and hardly worth losing sleep over as a political issue, but you add that to the fictitious “red line” in Syria, not one but two Americans being murdered by Islamists, the “no strategy” gaffe, and the apparent weakness of our response to the Russians (it’s a European affair mostly but ghosts of the Cold War die hard), and you can see how everything is sort of closing in on the administration. The drone strike in Somalia might well be the beginning of a more aggressive strategy, but one problem is that these issues can’t be resolved by remote control, from a sanitary distance. IS isn’t going away because a few drones lob Hellfires at them, or ever because a few F-18s drop LGBs.
Dan_Theman has a point–whether it’s expedient, or desirable, there are times when you don’t have many options except force. Now, we could wash our hands of it and let it play out, but that’s not likely to get us anything remotely healthy for our policy or our allies. We could I guess draw some lines, but ultimately we’d have to ante up, and as it seems like there is no chance at all of IS backing down, we might as well opt for a strategy that gets straight to the inevitable endgame.
Back to Iraq? It might actually end up being the best of a bad lot of options.
And the strategy being used against the IS in Iraq seems to be working fine, but many of their allies on the ground will not want to fight in Syria.
If by working fine you mean dragging in Iran, threatening the collapse of the Iraqi government, and providing the western part of Iraq as a safe haven for IS, yeah, it’s working pretty good I guess. But I agree, without dealing with Syria you’re not going to deal with the crisis, but dealing with Syria seems a bridge too far for anyone.
NATO won’t/can’t do anything without US backing, approval, and major participation. Hence, what Washington does is crucial.
Since when did we become this skittish, IS is no threat to anyone really, they have just kicked open a lot of empty space, and if they push it, Iran will be more than happy to help Shia’s in south, and Kurds are getting weapons in bucketloads now, I can’t see them getting any traction beyond conquering a lot of sand.
As for atrocities, hey still more people dying on the roads, by LOTS.
I can’t speak for, say, the Brits, and their recent terror threat stuff, but I think there are plenty of reasons to be, as you say, skittish about IS. They’re a huge destabilizing influence. Setting up a pseudo-state in the middle of that region, where they spew out violence and instability doesn’t help anyone. Iran in Iraq? Not necessarily what anyone really wants, either. If IS isn’t pretty much crushed like a bug, eventually Iran and Turkey, if not others, are going to get dragged in more seriously than they are now, and the possibility for the whole thing spinning totally out of control starts to approach unity. At least, that seems fairly plausible to me.
As for the “more people die in road accidents than in terrorist atrocities,” um, I think you’re really missing the point. It’s never, ever been about numbers. It’s about political, cultural, and emotional impact. The same thing with our politics in the USA–whether or not Obama is actually doing the right thing or the wrong thing from a policy perspective, politically and culturally he absolutely cannot afford to look like he’s willfully sacrificing Americans to the knives of barbarians and doing nothing about it. It might not make much sense, in a purely rational world, but politics is anything but purely rational. The reason thugs execute people on video and brag about it is precisely because they understand the impact is going to be far, far greater than a much larger number of anonymous people killed in actual battle. Theoretically, ignoring them would diminish the impact of these acts, but that’s simply not politically possible.