January 31, 2007

Not-So-Strange Bedfellow - New York Times

Not-So-Strange Bedfellow - New York Times

Friedman makes a strong case for active secular diplomacy with Iran and his points are worthy of consideration, but he chooses to ignore the underlying cause of tension that is at the root of this mess (Of course he knows it, but chooses to leave it out of this column.). That is the Iranian religious fanatics are Shia and the Sunnis, in addition to running Saudi Arabia, are the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world, but a minority in Iraq and in Iran.

So, the Iranian Mullahs have no love for and deeply fear Sunni dominance because they have been kicked around by them for centuries. That is why they are so active in supporting the Iraqi Shia, particularly since they fought a nasty war with Saddam's Sunnis not too many years ago.

If Iran were run by secularist Persians rather than crazy Mullahs, Friedman's option is attractive. Perhaps it's true that the younger Iranians are likely to respond favorably to a U.S. approach, but one cannot expect a 'quiet revolution.'

If the secular Iranians were to rise up and threaten the Shia Mullah fanatics, would the U.S. support the uprising? If so how? Militarily? By doing what, invading Iran? Lobbing a few cruise missiles and drones in? Doubtful.

Remember that our response after the first Iraq war when the Shia rose up against Saddam was to do nothing to help them and they were brutally repressed with thousands killed. We have to remember that the border between Iran and Iraq means little compared to the wall between Shia and Sunni. The only common uniting factor between Shia and Sunni is hatred of Israel.

What I think we should do is covertly offer as much support to Iranian friends inside Iran as we can, meanwhile pressuring the crazy Mullahs in any way we can short of military action.

Americans generally don't understand the deep hostility between the Muslim religious factions nor do they want to, as long as the oil flows to produce our cheap gas.

The way to put the most pressure on the Middle East lunatics is to drive the price of oil to $20/barrel (Fat chance! Dream on, Dave!) for a couple of years and watch the Iranians and Chavez in Venezuela squirm. Of course, The Saudis would not be happy, but do we care very much? Only if they stop pumping.
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