By Dilip Hiro
Every now and then something lodges in your memory and seems to haunt you forever.
In my case, it was a comment Newsweek attributed to an unnamed senior British official “close to the Bush team” before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad,” he said. “Real men want to go to Tehran.”
At the time, it seemed to distill a mood of geopolitical elation sweeping Washington and its crew of neocons. They had, of course, been beating the drums for war with Iraq, but also dreaming of a Middle Eastern and then a global Pax Americana that would last generations.
Less pithy versions of such sentiments were the coin of the realm of that moment. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, for instance, reported in March of that year that, “in February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would ‘deal with’ Iran, Syria, and North Korea.”
Fourteen years later, the U.S. has yet to make its way out of its multiple Iraqi wars, is embroiled in a Syrian conflict, and as for North Korea, well, I could tweet you a thing or two about how Washington has “dealt” with that still-nuclearizing land.
And yet, it seems that, on one issue at least, those old neocon dreams may finally be coming to fruition. We may at last have a “real man” in the White House, someone truly readying himself to “go to Tehran.” At least the pressures from his political backers, his Iranophobic generals, and his CIA director are on the rise, and President Trump recently aligned himself very publicly with the Saudi royals in their anti-Iranian campaign, which seems about to kick into high gear.
If we had time machines and someone could head back to March 2003 to tell those neocons and the top officials of George W. Bush’s administration who that future “real man” might turn out to be, they would, of course, have laughed such a messenger out of the room in disbelief. And yet here we are in comb-over heaven, in a land whose foreign policy is increasingly done by tweet, in a country whose leaders evidently can’t imagine a place in the Greater Middle East that the U.S. military shouldn’t be sent into (but never out of). Meanwhile, the pressure, as Tom Dispatch regular Dilip Hiro, author most recently of The Age of Aspiration: Power, Wealth, and Conflict in Globalizing India, suggests in vivid detail, is only growing for a full-scale campaign for regime change in Iran, not to speak of a possible proxy war against that country in Syria. And honestly, tell me — to steal a line from another TomDispatch author — what could possibly go wrong? Tom
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The Saudi-American-Iranian-Russian-Qatari-Syrian Conundrum
The Middle East. Could there be a more perilous place on Earth, including North Korea? Not likely. The planet’s two leading nuclear armed powers backing battling proxies amply supplied with conventional weapons; terror groups splitting and spreading; religious-sectarian wars threatening amid a plethora of ongoing armed hostilities stretching from Syria to Iraq to Yemen. And that was before Donald Trump and his team arrived on this chaotic scene. If there is one region where a single spark might start the fire that could engulf the globe, then welcome to the Middle East.