Sunday, May 21, 2006

Who's Really Afraid of Iran?

Anton Efendi is one of the sharpest blades in the drawer. When he says something is important I pay attention.

He points to a piece in the Weekly Standard that deserves to be read closely. The writer, Lee Smith, looks at Iran's posturing through the lens of Sunni/Shiia internecine tension. He doesn't use that characterization clearly but his argument is in that direction.

...The fact that a Persian, Shiite state is doing the dirty work of mainstream Sunni Arabism is hugely discomforting to Arab regimes. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was only the most recent Sunni Arab ruler to vent his grief in sectarian terms, when he told an Arab TV audience last month, "Most of the Shias are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in."
The contest for hegemony in the region is not between Iran and the U.S. It is between and among a Muslim population many of whom see faith (and by extension, culture) as more important than geopolitical constructs.
U.S. MIDDLE EAST policy is undergoing an identity crisis. The giddy days of roll-back seem like a distant memory now, as a president who staked his historical legacy on Arab democracy grants Gamal Mubarak an audience at the White House while his father's government is beating and arresting protesters in the streets of Cairo. Is regional transformation rolling up its tent? Have all the sticks turned into carrots? And why is Washington so thrilled at reestablishing full diplomatic relations with Libya? If it is to illustrate what benefits are in store for another prominent power in the region should it abandon its own nuclear program, then maybe there should also be a counterexample of what happens to dangerously intransigent Middle Eastern regimes. Because Iran is looking increasingly unimpressed by the posture of the Bush White House. [Link and emphasis added.]

These are serious question framing the debate. Anton Efendi's comments and links add another dimension to the discussion. I cannot reduce the content of these links to a snip or two. Besides, blog readers seem to be looking more for soundbites than substance. The reader will have to dig and learn on his own.

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