Monday, February 20, 2017
CHANDIGARH: National narratives are matters of time-invested truths, partial-truths and untruths.
Period between 2010 and 2013, saw the lightening emergence of the brutal Salafi jihadist and Sunni supremacist, ISIS - which rebelled against the Shia-ruled governments of Iraq and Syria, whilst, integrating splinter remnants of co-sectarian, Al Qaida and Al Nusra.
The period also witnessed the re-emergence of other Wahabi-inspired VEO’s (Violent Extremist Organisations) like the Taliban in the Af-Pak region, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the continuing mayhem in Libya which saw the killing of the American Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.
The implosive tendencies in the Middle East morphed into a clear sectarian divide, with the Wahabi/Salafist VEO’s in the forefront of regime-change and anti-West agenda, preaching extreme revivalism. As swathes of land got swallowed by these terror organisations, the only military opposition came from the rag-tag forces of Syria and Iraq, alongwith Iran supported Shia militias.
Surprisingly, the man then-heading the CENTCOM (US theatre command that handles Middle East, Af-Pak, North Africa and Central Asia), General James Mattis, noted rather incredibly, that the three gravest threats to the US then were, “Iran, Iran, Iran”.
Amidst clear pointers to the contrary, General James Mattis’s Iran-fixation caused the Marine culture-hero to be removed from the hot-job in CENTCOM by Obama, before his tenure end. Today James Mattis is back as the US Secretary of Defense, and is invoking the familiar American line of Iran to be the, “world’s biggest sponsor of world terrorism”.
As the only Marine to head CENTCOM, the Pattonesque James Mattis has an institutionalized and traumatized memory that afflicts all Marines - the 1983 Beirut suicide attack by the Iran-trained bomber that accounted for 241 Americans, including 220 Marines.
Despite the essential change in the terror landscape, nationalities and established progenitors, e.g. ISIS, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (all Saudi-Wahhabi offshoots of petro-dollar funded nurseries), this Iran-fixation has retained American imagination and defied ground realities for the last 15 years, for a deserved counter-narrative.
Former US President Barack Obama made the first tentative steps towards the much needed rapprochement with Iran by signing the ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA) or the ‘Iran Deal’, along with the P+1.
The resultant thaw and the unfreezing of Iranian assets, expectedly riled the Gulf Arab nations led by the US-ally, Saudi Arabia, who were in the midst of a sectarian proxy war with the Iranians in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and even Southern Saudi Arabia (hosting a Shia enclave).
The consequences of the invaluable Iranian participation in the crucial anti-ISIS operations saw the unprecedented reverses for the ISIS from Aleppo in Syria to Mosul in Iraq, though the mainstream media coverage, especially in Aleppo, was concertedly against the Syrian-Iranian operations.
Clearly, the Arab-Turkish lobby (Sunni nations) were not very comfortable to see the emergence of Iran and its proxies in the anti-ISIS success, and the brazen hold-out of the Saudi-forces by the Shia Houthis in Yemen, further angered the Arabs.
On the rebound, they formulated the Saudi-led, 39 nation (all Sunni ruled) force called the ‘Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism’ (IMAFT), to fight ‘terror’. Providentially for this alliance, the surprise election of Republican Donald Trump is poised to rearrange the Middle Eastern pieces to their original positions of anti-Iran posture.
The latest US executive order on immigration ban is a pointer to the reneging of track and policies. The seven ‘countries of concern’ include all the three Shia-ruled nations (irrespective of their contribution and sacrifices in the anti-ISIS operations) i.e. Iran, Iraq and Syria.
The other four countries include the politically irrelevant and virtually lawless Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Sudan. Not surprisingly, the countries which contributed to the principal 9/11 fiasco i.e. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon and Egypt, find an honourable omission. None of these seven countries have a trail to the recent terror attacks in the US from Boston Marathon, Charleston Church, Chattanooga shootings, San Bernardino, Orlando nightclub to the most recent, Fort Lauderdale.
America’s incomplete perspective on Iran starts from the 1979 ‘Islamic Revolution’ that toppled the pro-US monarchy in a popular uprising, that later resulted in a 444 days of siege of the American embassy in Tehran. The essential shortcoming in this American narrative and oversimplification is that it completely obliterates the prior context of the Iranian conviction of the CIA hand in the 1953 coup that overthrew the folk hero leader, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq (he was voted with 90% votes).
Mosaddeq had opposed the extremely unfair sovereign deal that gave Iran only 16% of oil profits (even these payments were pending) and had taken the issue to the International court in Hague – expectedly he won the suit against the British and went on to espouse many more progressive changes for Iran. Meanwhile, the West restively watched the vassal-status of Iran slipping away and the CIA launched the infamous ‘Operation Ajax’ to remove Mosaddeq in a coup.
Declassified documents from the US National Security Archives have since confirmed the dirty involvement, but in the US, the history of Iran revolves around the partial-truth of the US Embassy hostage drama and the Beirut attack.
Expectedly, to magnify, protect and perpetuate the theocracy in Tehran, the Ayatollah’s swung sharply and ranted rabidly against the West and Israel, in defiant posturing. That the US had allied with Saddam Hussein (a fact that is played down) in the bloody Iran-Iraq war, besides funding the Mujahidin’s in Afghanistan in propagating their cold-war agenda, it was all kosher for the US. Later it would dump the Afghan mujahidin, Saddam Hussein, overlook the dangerous Saudi funding of Wahabism in madrassas across the globe and continue playing the Iran bogey.
Israel too joined in the Iran-bashing along with the Arabs, as in the 80’s and 90’s the Arab nations were no longer a threat – the Iran supported Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine were the only ones to offer resistance, while the Saudi’s, Egyptians and Jordanians had bought their peace.
Today, Arabs and Israeli’s converge on Iran and Donald Trump with his dual instincts of upsetting the previous regimes policy applecart and owing to his ostensible mercantile investments in the Arab-Jewish world, has re-raised the ante against Iran.
The US, like Iran or any other country in the Middle East has blood on its hands – peace necessitates overcoming and overlooking the ghosts of the past, like Iran did in the case of the US.
However, the new US regime is bent upon invoking some truths, partial-truths and complete untruths to shortchange Iran, and the recent progress made in the anti-ISIS drive, as a whole.
(Lt General Bhopinder Singh (Retd) is former Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands & Puducherry)