Washington’s Dangerous Fixation on Iran

    Doug Bandow

    Security, Middle East

    Members of the Iranian army pray while attending Friday prayers in Tehran April 17, 2009. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

    Perhaps the most problematic aspect of how America is haunted by Iran’s specter is that it forecloses serious domestic introspection about Washington’s Middle Eastern policies.

    United States President Donald Trump appears to worry a lot about Iran, a concern that is shared by his secretary of state and national security adviser. They were so worried about a nuclear Iran that they revoked the international agreement known as the Iran deal, which was supposed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Instead, Trump now demands Iran’s de facto surrender. However, the administration is so far is backed only by Israel and Saudi Arabia, which want America to do their dirty work.

    Why is the Trump administration so fearful of Tehran? Iran is a struggling regional power. It lags well behind its competitors in economic and military clout. Even its greatest enemy, Saudi Arabia, dismisses the Islamic Republic as being no match.

    Additionally, Iran clearly is not in America’s league. The U.S. has a vastly bigger economy, far more powerful military, the globe’s dominant culture and is allied with most of the industrialized world—at least until President Donald Trump initiated a misguided trade war against Washington’s allies.

    Nor does the Middle East matter much to America anymore. The U.S. is becoming the world’s leading energy producer, and other sources are being developed, diminishing the importance of the region’s oil. Israel has become a regional superpower and is cooperating with Saudi Arabia, eliminating their need for Washington’s protection. What little remains of the Islamic State should be left to those it threatened- virtually every other state in the region. Furthermore, Syria is a tragedy that is mostly best left to its neighbors.

    Even claims that Iran is a terrorist state aren’t true, at least in the usual sense that most Americans understand. Instead, Washington complaints are about Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, two quasi-governments which periodically battle Israel.

    Would it be better if Tehran cut off its support for them? Of course, but what Middle Eastern power doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others? The list of Middle East actors that have acted up and intervened in each other’s affairs is a long one.

    Israel routinely bombs Syria, having blown up that nation’s nuclear reactor and more recently having targeted Iranian forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian government. Israel also assassinated a Hamas operative in Dubai while maintaining the more than half a century-long occupation of Palestinian territories.

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