Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a Tehran conference Saturday that whoever controls the Middle East controls the world, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
In a speech during a conference marking 30 years to the Islamic Revolution, Ahamdinejad reportedly implied that Iran is the top power in the Middle East. “Now the question is who has the last say in the Middle East? Well, of course, the answer is clear to every one,” Ahamdinejad said.
Before WWII, the answer was ‘Britain’. And from 1945 until Barack Obama, the answer has been ‘the US’. But in his Cairo speech, Obama more or less announced that the US, like Britain before it, was withdrawing from the region. And his inability or lack of will to resist Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons guarantees that Ahmadinejad will soon have the answer he desires.
OK, you can blame the bungled US reaction to 9/11, which included an unnecessary and hugely expensive war and a remarkably stupid followup to a military victory if you want to pin it on the Bush Administration, but shouldn’t Obama have at least made an effort to turn things around before slinking away?
It’s not such a long story. The US cultivated — indeed, armed and supported — Saddam Hussein as a counter to Iran. To a certain extent this served the interest of the Saudi regime, which, with its effective lobby and the help of supportive oil interests, has had an inordinate influence on US policy since the 1930’s. When Saddam got too big for his britches, invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, Bush I slapped him down — but not hard enough to remove him.
With the Bush II Administration, everything changed. Bush II crushed Saddam’s military and replaced his regime with… nothing. Iran stepped in, and when US troops leave, there is no doubt that ‘independent’ Iraq will become an Iranian satellite.
Lebanon is also losing its last vestige of independence, as Iran’s proxy Hizballah consolidates its hold on that unfortunate nation. Here the fault is shared with Israel, which was given a green light in 2006 by the US and Saudi Arabia to crush Hizballah but failed to do so.
Syria has thrown in its lot with Iran, in a mutually advantageous deal to supply Hizballah, threaten Israel and exploit Lebanon.Turkey under Erdoğan has been moving closer to Iran and Syria and distancing itself from Israel.
This leaves the conservative Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt in a precarious position, facing Islamist subversion from within (encouraged by Iran) as well as the direct threat from Iranian nukes. The Mubarak regime is particularly unstable, with no clear successor waiting in the wings.
Israel is a remaining island of pro-Western power in the region, but it will soon be fighting Hizballah and Syria in the north and Hamas in the south — all Iranian proxies of course (yes, I am convinced that war is not far away).
Is it likely that Obama will reverse direction, support Israel in its struggle with Iran’s proxies, and do whatever is needed to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? So far there’s no reason to think so. The administration’s policy until now has been to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians and to keep missing deadlines for applying sanctions to Iran.
The Iranian opposition might be a ray of hope, but even if it succeeds in overthrowing the regime — a long shot, given the repressive tactics that are being employed against it — there’s no reason to assume that it will not pursue at least some of the geopolitical goals of the present regime.
Today it can be said that we are right at one of those times that future historians will write about as important turning points: the American withdrawal from the Middle East.
No wonder Ahmadinejad is confident about the answer to his question.