I am not sure if you have been keeping up with the news, but Bibi Netenyahoo has made 6 trips to see Putin this past year, Saudi Royals have been visiting with Putin on a regular basis… the latest announcement was of the King himself … the 81-year-old, Salman Bin Abdulaziz al Saud’s impeding visit to see Putin.
We are told, by people in Putin’s entourage that Bibi was banging on tables decrying Iranian presence in Syria, and urging Putin to dump Iran and join in as a partner with Israel and Saudi Arabia in massive energy projects and the ‘carve up’ of Iran.
The Saudi’s for sure are on record with pushing the U.S. to cut off the snake’s head i.e. Iran (wiki leaks transcripts of conversations with U.S. Secretary of State)! As of yesterday, it was reported that in mediation discussions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Trump underscored that unity “among the United States’ Arab partners is essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran”.
You must wonder what specifically requires that a decrepit, handicapped, 81-year-old king who can’t even go to the bathroom by himself, go to Moscow for a private meeting with Putin?
Now, let’s be clear the regime in Tehran are no saints. Neither by the way are Putin, Trump, Netanyahoo or King Salman! I am NOT supporting any one or any cause, in writing this blog. In fact, I am on the record as an opponent of theocracy – everywhere – especially Iran.
But, I think a military solution, to carve up Iran is idiotic and will not provide the outcomes that people are seeking. Let’s remember this is the same gang that pushed the U.S. to invade Iraq, and create ISIS! And they are now peddling this ‘fear’ narrative on Iran. These morally inept, ethically bankrupt leaders like Netanyahoo, Salman …and now Trump, are pushing an agenda that could lead to one of humanities greatest bloodbaths – ever!
It’s not enough that 1 Million Iranians and Iraqis died in the Iran-Iraq war sponsored by the Saudis, and U.S., or that 1 Million Iraqis died in the toppling of Saddam Hussein, or that 500,000 Syrians have died via the rise of ISIS … not to mention millions of refugees and displaced souls created in the process or the massive number of deaths in Afghanistan … which were ALL supported by these ‘same’ scum bags, BUT … a direct attack on Iran will likely lead to massive regional war …with casualty levels on the same order as the second world war. Hard power in the region has achieved nothing for the U.S. or the region.
Iran is no puppy! It’s a big dog. With allies, proxies, and experience fighting wars against well-armed and resourced enemies! Won’t be easy! Won’t be a walk over.
The ONLY thing to fear, is fear of Iran, itself. This fear will lead to a bloody war, on an unimaginable scale. Is this what we want? Is this the best way to defeat the Mullahs?
In the U.S., Trump has been drumming up Iranophobia at an alarming rate. His prostitute-in-chief, Nikki Haley, from Hell, has been blatantly lying at the U.N., making headlines! You really must wonder ‘what’s in it for her’? Is this a power trip? Is she angling for T-Rex’s job? (Fear mongering for a ‘job’?)
No, I am not advocating for these regimes or the continuation of tyranny ..NO… not in Iran, or North Korea, or indeed in Saudi Arabia or Israel. Tyranny is tyranny. My issue is we keep forgetting there are many other tools in the ‘war’ tool kit – apart from ‘hard-war’! This fear mongering is exactly the wrong way to defeat these regimes; and it could lead to massive bloodshed. If there is one consistent lesson about ‘Hard War’ is that it impacts both sides. Vietnam changed America, Iraq changed America …
Soft power is smart power. We have choices.
My simple point is that if we embrace Iran and the regime in Iran, we can change everything. The time for war has long gone. I was a proponent of it many years ago. We can now be smarter, shrewder, better than where we were 25 years ago.
So, what are these new tools … now, in the information age? Here are some soft power recommendations:
First, one major reason why hard-war is a losing proposition for the U.S., is that we have pushed Iranians into the arms of the regime. Iranians may hate the regime, but they will not be humiliated, nor accept any threats to Iran’s sovereignty. This is a lesson surely Americans can learn when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. Yes, ordinary Iranians backed the regime! And turned the tide of war. Let’s never forget that in those days, Saddam Hussein was NOT sanctioned. He was well armed. And everyone was supporting him! And Saddam Hussein had a million-man army! He had planes and missiles. Iran did not.
We need to immediately stop publicly humiliating Iran and Iranians – directly or indirectly. We are doing the same thing in North Korea! Talk of fire and fury, might make Donald Trump project a strong image, but this same talk is replayed in North Korea in way that makes him look like a bully, sound vicious, and brutal. With Iran, the story Iranians are hearing is a story of a ban on Muslims by a President that was elected via a democratic process i.e. he reflects American sentiment, and Iranians have become the enemy! We had a senator (Graham) call Iranians liars. I could go on and on! This is polarizing, and doesn’t for a second provide sympathy and compassion for ordinary Iranians. In fact, it also drums up hatred against Iranian-Americans in America, which in turn leads to ‘stories of abuse’ at work, or at Town Halls being shared with Iranian relatives! This pissing match needs to stop. The very first soft power tool, available in America’s tool kit, is actually-called ‘NOTHING’! The West needs to do NOTHING i.e. stop antagonizing and polarizing the relationship. Stop treating ordinary Iranians as the enemy! Just stop it.
Secondly, we should recognize that Iran is winning the “soft power war”! Yes, since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iran has relied heavily on its unique Shia character as the basis of its soft power to galvanize support from pockets of Shia populations in a Sunni-dominated Middle East and Central Asia. This policy has been deliberate and strategic, with clear ideological underpinnings. While it has had its successes – including Iran’s manifest clout today in Lebanon and Syria, or in Iraq after Saddam Hussein – its net effect is, by definition, limited in scope (and geography), constraining Tehran’s ability to generate long-term strategic dividends. But also consider Iran’s regional links that surpass Islam. President Rouhani’s carefully worded Nowruz message in March of this year is an example of such soft power in action. In a letter addressed to the heads of state of nine neighboring countries celebrating an ancient (Iranian) new year tradition, he stated: “Nowruz is a festival of moderation and the most ancient dynamic tradition in our common history.” He went on to encourage “the countries of the Nowruz Zone to establish better and further relations with each other, in addition to friendship and reconciliation and create modern conditions for peaceful coexistence based on the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 and the lifting of sanctions.”
While the U.S. has basically vacated the region leaving behind a trail of blood and huge mess! Whose allies, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Israel are widely accused of backing ISIS!
As people who go to drug rehab wisely state, the first step in dealing with a problem is to simply admit you have a problem! If the U.S. wants to win the ‘war’ – it must admit its massive failures and that it is far behind on the soft power game! This is a necessary step.
And, while I am at it, I should point out that Iran can amplify its soft power considerably. My point is, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Given Iran’s rich literary and artistic tradition, it stands to reason that the country’s filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers, poets, craftsmen, artists and athletes should be better known and celebrated in the world than they are today. There are many dimensions of soft power that Iran can employ, to massive effect. From Shiite Militias in Lebanon, to Persian Poetry festivals in Tajikestan … Iran has influence.
The third recommendation, is to understand that other ‘rivals’, like China, have recognized how critical soft power is, and are investing heavily in creating linkages across Asia and Europe; that the U.S. will have a very difficult time matching or establishing. Most notably, China is investing in OBOR (the one belt, one ring) system of transportation corridors across Central Asia (including Iran) all the way to Europe. This will help increase trade and integrate ‘rival’ nations, resulting in their economic (and political) dominance of 2/3rds of the world and the Eastern Hemisphere (where future economic growth is projected). In other words, the U.S. not only needs to admit it has a soft power rivalry with Iran, but also with China. This is a crucial admission. It’s a problem that in some ways is more critical than the issue with Iran alone. BUT, significantly, an alliance with Iran could be leveraged to provide a counterweight to China. Iran, itself, could be the basis of a massive hub and spoke system that can rival OBOR. As an ally, Iran, could be critically and strategically vital. And, winning Iranian hearts and minds, is surely the right way to establish an alliance. In effect, there has to be recognition, that the U.S. needs Iran more than Iran needs the U.S. – because of China!
So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003. The U.S. is on a slippery slope, and engaging Iran via soft power is probably the fastest, cheapest route to ‘Making America Great Again’.
The fourth recommendation is to build direct one-on-one relationships with Iranians. Talk of travel bans, and further sanctions are counter-productive. Tourism, educational exchanges, cultural exchanges, sporting events, positive news… both ways. Iranian satellite media (which is watched liberally viewed in Iran, beamed out of the U.S.) needs to feed positive news about the U.S. too. And it’s become very difficult … when Iranians see Donald Trump on the stump.
The fifth recommendation, is for the U.S. to open an embassy in Tehran and promote one-on-one engagement with Tehran.
The sixth recommendation is to simply accept that while no one is comfortable with past humiliations, we can manage our response to them in the future. There are many open wounds, and if we dwell on them many significant opportunities will be missed. A big part of soft power – is the power of apology and compassion. There is power in simply moving on!
The seventh recommendation is to simply remove Israel and Saudi Arabia from the Iran soft power calculus. America’s relationship with Iran is America’s relationship with Iran! It does not belong in Riyadh or Tel Aviv. It must be a direct relationship without other people involved. There are shared interests. There is common ground. If the U.S. can manage a direct relationship with Qatar, despite Saudi Arabia’s angst; then U.S. can manage a direct relationship with Iran. Iran is NOT a rival but a great potential strategic ally. Soft power with Iran, could be leveraged into soft power in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of central Asia. Iran can stabilize Afghanistan. And so on. So, keep the Saudis out of it. And just manage your relationship with Iran directly.
The eighth recommendation is to quickly mobilize American business to invest in Iran. McDonalds … GE… etc. Not only is there huge business opportunity, but this could very well be the strongest (soft power) card, the U.S. could play. Economic engagement will win hearts and minds.
I could go on and on – and bore you with dozens of recommendations. But, you get the point, right? Fear mongering with Iran will not work, and may lead to a confrontation no one will appreciate. It will be a historic disaster. Engagement is the best strategy to influence Iran, Iranians and win a valuable friend in the region. An important region – if only because of China.
Iran must morph. Its morphing can only get accelerated via soft power tools from the U.S. Open warfare will not work. Mark my words. Hard power will achieve nothing. We need smart power! (Try saying that to the lowest IQ President the U.S. has ever had. Trump is ignorant, and not well read. He’s very dangerous!!)