T. Belman. In the wake of posting Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy, I revisited the article below written a decade ago. In the preface to this article Gil-White made the scientific prediction “that the US will not attack Iran.”
He suggested that making a big noise about he Iranian plans to develop nukes was “to produce a diplomatic effort to strip Israel of its nuclear arsenal.”
At the time his prediction was too hard to swallow but he has been proven right.
As for his assertion that the US wanted “Islamism to spread in the Middle East”, he was also right on.
“So, if the US wanted Iran to win the Iran-Iraq war, then it wanted Iranian-style Islamism to spread in the Middle East.”
“My hypothesis is also consistent with Jared Israel’s well-documented and more general hypothesis that overall US policy in Asia has been to sponsor Islamist radicalism with the aim to destabilize US rivals in that part of the world. More specifically, the view that the US wanted Islamist radicalism to win in the Iran-Iraq war”
Because the media steers your attention always to what public officials say in their diplomatic exchanges, many people have gotten the impression, since 1979, that the Islamist Iranian ruling elite and the US ruling elite are enemies. True, the Iranian Islamists helped oust the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and the shah had indeed been a repressive right-wing US puppet installed in power by a 1953 CIA coup. It is true that Khomeini supporters in Iran denounced the brutal SAVAK,[6a] and true that, as The Washington Post says, the Ayatollah Khomeini himself “came to power denouncing the shah’s dreaded SAVAK secret service,” which the CIA had created for the shah. Moreover, the new Iranian government, after the shah left but before Khomeini took completely over, indeed “promised to abolish SAVAK.” Be that as it may, what I think matters most is that Khomeini, once in power, was not bothered in the least by the “very close ties that SAVAK, under the shah, [had] maintained with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.” In fact, Khomeini was so unbothered by this that he turned SAVAK (i.e. the CIA), wholesale, into his repressive security service. So Khomeini was an enemy of the US? On the contrary: Khomeini betrayed the Iranian revolution.
It is true, of course, that Khomeini began calling the United States ‘Great Satan’ in public and even seized hostages at the US embassy in Tehran (redeemed for an astonishing and, to the Iranian Islamists, quite convenient sum of US dollars); and it is true also that US officials reciprocated with counter-denunciations of the Iranian mullahs. The public rhetoric indeed was: ‘we are enemies.’ Moreover, Khomeini said aloud that he wasn’t interested in continuing the shah’s arms purchases from the US. But, once again, I think it matters more that the secret behaviors of the US and Iran were just the opposite: throughout the Iran-Iraq war that began immediately after Khomeini rose to power, the Reagan administration sent billions of dollars in armament, every year, to the Iranian Islamists — who paid for these weapons. This became part of the infamous ‘Iran-Contra’ scandal (also called ‘Iran-gate’) when made public.
Once exposed, Reagan administration officials stammered that they had done it all to beg the Iranians for their influence on the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, in the hopes that Hezbollah would let its handful of US hostages go. That is to say, the US ruling elite had been sending billions of dollars in military hardware, every year, for many years, to Iran, an Islamist and terrorist state that murdered its own teenagers in fanatical ‘human wave’ attacks against Iraqi artillery, because, US officials earnestly explained, they had been trying to free a few US citizens who were the hostages, in Lebanon, of a Lebanese terrorist organization.
This explanation was always a bit of a stretch, so I felt some relief when I found out that it couldn’t be true. As The New York Times has since explained, it was
“soon after taking office in 1981 [that] the Reagan Administration secretly and abruptly changed United States policy and allowed…several billion dollars’ worth of American-made arms, spare parts and ammunition to the Iranian Government… The change in policy came before the Iranian-sponsored seizure of American hostages in Lebanon began in 1982. . .” (my emphasis)
In other words, since the arms shipments began before any hostages existed in Lebanon, the arms shipments cannot logically have had anything to do with releasing hostages in Lebanon. And, therefore, saysThe New York Times, “No American rationale for permitting covert arms sales to Iran could be established.” But aren’t we lacking a bit in imagination? If the US ruling elite was not arming the Iranians to the teeth for many years in order to release a handful of hostages in Lebanon (as it claimed when caught), then how about this hypothesis: the US ruling elite wanted Iran to win the Iran-Iraq war.
One might be tempted to object that this hypothesis is a bit too obvious, but in science this is not a valid objection.
For the sake of argument, what would this mean, geopolitically? To get a handle on that, we need to understand what was perceived to be at stake in the Iran-Iraq war. As The New Yorker’s Milton Viorst explained:
“At stake was whether the secular Baathism of Saddam [Hussein] or the radical Shiism of [the Ayatollah] Khomeini would prevail in Iraq, and perhaps in the Middle East.”
So, if the US wanted Iran to win the Iran-Iraq war, then it wanted Iranian-style Islamism to spread in the Middle East. But would this make any sense? Well, it would certainly be consistent with other major foreign policy behaviors of the United States. For example, this is:
1) consistent with the Gulf War, which the US provoked to destroy Iraq after US strategists fretted out loud that, since Iran had lost the Iran-Iraq war (despite all the US help), it was imperative tostrengthen Iran and contain Iraq; and
2) consistent with the current US invasion of Iraq, which — everybody seems agreed — will turn Iraq into a de facto province of Iran once the American troops leave.
My hypothesis is also consistent with Jared Israel’s well-documented and more general hypothesis that overall US policy in Asia has been to sponsor Islamist radicalism with the aim to destabilize US rivals in that part of the world. More specifically, the view that the US wanted Islamist radicalism to win in the Iran-Iraq war is:
1) consistent with the US creation — with the help of Pakistani and Saudi Arabian Islamists — of the Islamist/terrorist force of the mujahedin (or mujahideen) in Afghanistan, to attack the Soviet Union;
2) consistent with US Pentagon-Iranian cooperation to import thousands of these same mujahedin to Bosnia to fight alongside Alija Izetbegovic against the Bosnian Serbs;
3) consistent with the fact that Alija Izetbegovic was an Islamist and terrorist, and a big fan of the Ayatollah Khomeini, creator of the Iranian Islamo-terrorist regime[19a]; and
4) consistent with the tight alliance over the years between the US and Saudi Arabia, a major sponsor of Islamist terror everywhere in Asia, and also the country that the US has armed more than any other in the world.
My hypothesis is consistent with much else besides, and you may consult HIR’s in-depth investigation into the relationship between the US and Iran here: http://www.hirhome.com/iraniraq/iraq-general-intro.htm
And yet despite all this evidence, which is publicly available, The New York Times ‘concludes’ that, since the absurd ‘arms for hostages’ explanation was false, we just cannot imagine why the US ruling elite would arm the Iranians… This can be topped, however. Just the other day, the British daily The Guardian explained the supposed Iranian-US enmity as follows: “Iran will never forgive the US for backing Iraq in the bloody eight-year Iran-Iraq war.” So the fact that the US in fact backed Iran in that war (followed up by the US destruction of Iraq, an additional courtesy to Iran) is simply denied — just like that. You are supposed to treat US public statements — (the US did say in public that it preferred an Iraqi victory) — as the real data, paying zero attention to the actual behaviors of US policymakers.
The Guardian also says, about the ongoing invasion of Iraq, that
“Iran is the true winner of that war. They only had to sit tight and smile as the West delivered on a golden plate all the influence Iran had always sought in the Middle East. The US and its allies will soon be gone from Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving Iranian-backed Shias dominant in both countries, their influence well spread across Syria, a chunk of Saudi Arabia and other countries for decades to come. Historic Iranian ambitions have been fulfilled without firing a shot while the US is reduced to fist-shaking. How foolish was that?”
But why is this presented as “foolish”?
What we have to explain is why every major policy initiative of the US in the Middle East, year after year, turns out to benefit Iran. The Guardiansays: incompetence. But will incompetence produce the exact same result, year after numbing year? Perhaps it can. But the obvioushypothesis, when an actor engages over and over again in behaviors that achieve always the same result, is that the actor desires this result: the US ruling elite wants to strengthen Iran. This hypothesis, however, will not be put on the table. Not even to be considered. Not even to be dismissed with derision.
In this way, the most obvious hypothesis becomes unthinkable.