IRAN AS CHALLENGER TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Hoover Institution’s The Caravan in December 2017 published an article on Western grand strategy to stop Iran’s strategic offensive in the Middle East. Excerpts below:

The United States, weary from its Cold War exertions, envisioned a “peace dividend,” and elected a domestic-agenda-first president. America would bask in its “unipolar” moment while handling foreign affairs on a case-by-case “just get through the news cycle” mode of operation. The U.S. would begin to ease its burden of leading the world in defense of the established international system.

But in fact, a new world order was taking shape.

…the power centers of three continents were emerging by design and self-defined historical “inevitability” into political-ideological structures intended to transcend the modern international state order and to recreate neo-imperialistic spheres of influence. Russia toyed with the idea of democracy, soon was gripped by kleptocracy, and then in the twenty-first century under a neo-tsarist, neo-commissar ruler would begin a pattern of probing Western European weaknesses while envisioning itself as a transnational “Eurasian” realm. The People’s Republic of China finally bade farewell to Chairman Mao even while the Party would continue to make use of his cultic adoration. China would amass wealth and power from responsible participation the global economy until near the end of the new century’s first decade, it would reveal itself both as seeking an “harmonious” world order even as it assertively began to deconstruct aspects of that order which failed to display “Chinese characteristics.”

The third power center of what may …be imagined as the new century’s dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors’ League) is the Islamic Republic of Iran. By a deft mixture of diplomatic stratagems, support for terrorist agents, military and paramilitary deployment of a variety of militias, and a “foreign legion” in the form of Shia Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as well as a brilliantly-executed nuclear “deal” with the United States, Iran has turned itself in a strikingly short time into the suzerain of the northern swath of the Middle East from western Afghanistan, through Iran itself, Shia Iraq, the satellite Assad regime in Syria, and most of Lebanon to the Mediterranean beaches. Iran is consolidating this after winning the major war for Syria with the decisive intervention of the Russian army and air force (providing Moscow with air, land, and naval bases in the process) while becoming recognized as a “threshold” nuclear weapons power that is reshaping the regional balance of power to its advantage.

This new Iran was launched in 1979 by the Islamist Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini which overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi and riveted American emotions by storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and taking diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days. As shocking as this was to Washington, the symbolic power message it carried has still not been fully grasped.

—-

The admirable and underappreciated foreign affairs intellectual Adda B. Bozeman, professor emerita of Sarah Lawrence College at that time, stepped up to give context to the Iranian upheaval. The revolution, she wrote, should be seen “as a victory for the general cause of Islam and as a defeat not so much for the Pahlavi dynasty as for the Iranian nation-state.”1 The key to understanding would be the ancient “Persian World-State.” The Sassanian Empire of Persia had been conquered by Islamized Arabs in 630 AD, but then would be followed by “Iran’s conquest of Islam” as Arabs came to recognize and adopt Persian statecraft and administrative practices; these would provide a governing structure for the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates as well as those of the Mongols and Turks. Historically, Bozeman said, this Iranization of the Middle East eventually would prove more powerful than later Westernization.

Against this, US policy has ranged from contradictory to incoherent: from President Obama’s “Deal” which the region has taken to mean “The U.S. looks with favor on the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran to paramount power in the Middle East” to President Trump’s refusal to certify the “deal” while nonetheless keeping to its provisions while threatening to block Iran’s ambitions and expansive neo-imperial actions in unexplained ways.

Taken together, all this makes “Rolling Back Iran” the most perplexing, task in American strategy today…

1 Bozeman, “Iran: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Tradition of Persian Statecraft,” in Orbis, Summer, 1979, pp. 387-402.

Comment: The Hoover article is an important contribution to the view that the main challengers today to the United States and thus the Western world are China, Russia and Iran. Professor Bozeman’s analysis is still one of the best on the ancient Persian statecraft’s role in the imperial aspiration of the present Iranian republic. It has inherited the deception and lies used by the ancient Persian empire against classical Greece. The Orbis journal article of 1979 is not the only work by Bozeman that should be studied by American strategists. She deserves to be studied in Europe as well. She was of Latvian origin.

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