Jeffrey strikes back. Except he does not dispute any of the points I made in my post, and agrees with my core mystification about why Netanyahu is so dedicated to continuing West Bank colonization when it prevents a more robust alliance between Israel and the Sunni Arab autocrats who also despise Iran. (The mystification is less mystifying if you believe that Netanyahu knows he has the US wrapped around his little figure, has no need to cede anything to anyone, believes in Greater Israel, and simply wants to occupy the West Bank indefinitely while attacking Iran). Omri Ceren, graduate student in rhetoric, echoes Jeffrey's line here, relying on Cablegate's revelation of a disastrous meeting between the Saudi king and Obama in June 2009, when the Wahhabist dictator (oh how the "pro-democracy" neocons now love him) went nuts about the need to crush Iran's power and seemed less exercized by the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But there is an obvious distinction here between the views of the Arab autocrats and the people they oppress, silence, imprison and torture. And that distinction is best illustrated by the stark contrast between their private and public statements. Of course, the Sunni monarchs don't want a "dirty, low-class Shiite" like Ahmadi wielding a nuclear weapon when they don't have one. The humiliation! Of course, they want the US and/or Israel to do their dirty work for them, and also bear the brunt of the blame and blowback. Of course they want American men and women to lose their lives in doing their bidding, rather than Saudi lives. But equally they would never say such a thing publicly, because it would reveal the gulf between their self-interested cynicism and the views and fears and prejudices of their abject subjects, to whom they feed a steady diet of anti-Israeli and anti-Western propaganda.
And here's a prediction I doubt Jeffrey would dispute: if such a war on Iran did unfold over the weeks it would take to do the job, these dictators would instantly and publicly back the anti-Israeli, anti-US and anti-Western wave that would emerge. They could not afford to do otherwise. The idea that the US should risk a tidal wave of Jihadist terror, a blow-up in Iraq, and a fatal p.r. blow in Afghanistan at the behest of the dictators and monarchs who funded Wahhabist terrorism and extremism for years is beyond absurd. It may make sense from an entirely myopic, short-term, Likudnik point of view. From any other perspective, it's madness.
Jeffrey cites Marc Lynch as Exhibit A in this misunderstanding.
Iran hawks typically make far too much of the private remarks of selected Arab regime figures, without considering whether those remarks reflect an internal consensus within their regimes or whether they will be repeated in public in a moment of political crisis (as opposed to Aspen). Arab leaders will likely continue to welcome any efforts to contain Iranian power, particularly when it takes the form of major arms deals and political support. And they will likely continue to mutter and complain about America's failure to magically solve their problems for them. But those who expect these regimes to take a leading, public role in an attack on Iran are likely to be disappointed -- especially if there is still no progress on the peace process.
Lynch here is not denying that Arab leaders privately want someone else to wage war on Iran. Au contraire, he is assuming it - but pointing out its limited relevance in judging our own approach to the region.
Let me point out again what this episode reveals about those neoconservatives who argued for war against Iraq because it would open up a democratic space to counter the dictators and oppressors of the Arab world who fomented the ideology and theology that gave us 9/11. That was their argument then, and, judging from their current position, it seems utterly insincere. Part of my own anger now is a result of being duped then. If the neocons believed for a milisecond in democracy in the Middle East as the answer to Jihadism, they would be falling over each other to construct a Palestinian state. Instead they are doing all they can to prevent one, even if it means backing every dictator and king they once said they wanted to depose. There is no principled ideological consistency here; just cynicism at a level that even now takes the breath away.
And here they are, celebrating and citing the dictator of the country that actually gave us those 19 9/11 hijackers, and urging that we take his advice, and provide cover for him, in risking World War III. I'm sorry but it would be nauseating even if their adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq had succeeded. Given the utter failure of both, it is shameless.
(Photo of the Saudi King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud by Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty.)
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.