The Iran lobby, led by the National Iranian American Council, has ratcheted up the propaganda machine to take direct aim at Saudi Arabia in the growing escalation in tensions between it and the Iranian regime.
This was highlighted in back-to-back editorials by Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi of NIAC as well as a steady parade of attack pieces by Eli Clifton and Paul Pillar on Lobelog.com, all attempting to portray the Iran regime as the picked on softie and Saudi Arabia as the menacing bully.
It’s a curious, but not unsurprising, direction for the Iran lobby since the rise in tensions with Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Arab states have brought to the forefront one unmistakable point the rest of the world cannot ignore; the Iranian regime is always at the center of the world’s most dangerous conflicts.
Be it in Syria by its support of the Assad regime, or in Yemen through its support of Houthis rebels or in Iraq through Shiite militias, the mullahs in Tehran have manipulated events to create disorder in order to gain footholds in neighboring nations to establish the Shiite version of the Warsaw Pact as a buffer from its adversaries.
But the delusional arguments being pedaled by the Iran lobby to cover for Iran’s aggressive expansions have ranged all over the map as it has tried anything to explain away the sectarian violence and bloodshed coming at the behest of the Iranian regime.
Take for example Parsi’s editorial appearing in Al Jazeera in which he attempts to portray Saudi Arabia as a “declining state” and Iran as a “rising state” by way of explaining why Saudi Arabia is resisting Iran so strenuously.
It’s the kind of argument a high school student reading Cliff Note’s versions of history might make. Parsi says that “history teaches us that it is not rising states that tend to be reckless, but declining powers.”
Most historians would disagree with Parsi and most political and military analysts would find his comment nonsensical since the defining parameters for nations to act “recklessly” often form around issues of resources, economy, wealth and even faith. The “decline” of a nation can be defined in a similarly wide variety of methods, none of which would apply to Parsi’s reasoning.
Empires and nations can decline through environmental degradation such as the Harappan Civilization in the 22nd century BC in what is now called Pakistan or the Minoans centered on the island of Crete which met its demise in 1450 BC when a volcano erupted.
They can also decline through war such as the ancient Roman Empire or the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. In all these cases, nations and empires in decline were not cited for “reckless” action as a reason for their declines. If anything, history teaches us that declining empires are often the victims of aggressive neighbors who sense weakness and an opportunity to acquire more territory, more wealth or more slaves.
Modern history has taught us that lesson especially well as in the growth of totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany or now the Iranian regime in which aggression is more often the hallmark of these nations’ leadership. Accommodation is viewed as weakness, negotiation is a tactic to hold off retaliation and military action is a tool of statecraft.
Parsi typically confuses political weakness with practical weakness. It’s a viewpoint common among dictatorships which only see the world through the lens of strength and domination. Parsi’s conceit and obsession with the strongman view of the world is illustrated when he writes:
“Their prospects of success in any confrontation will diminish the longer they wait, and second, because of the illusion that a crisis may be their last chance to change the trajectory of their regional influence and their prospects vis-à-vis rivals. When their rivals — who have the opposite relationship with time — seek to deescalate and avoid any confrontation, declining states feel they are left with no choice but to instigate a crisis.”
Parsi believes then that in the modern world the only options open for nations that feel threatened is to seek out confrontation and create crisis.
Going by that standard, the nations in the greatest decline would seem to be China, North Korea, Russia and Iran given the recent track records of confrontation in the South China Sea, Ukraine, nuclear bomb tests and – in the case of the Iranian regime – aggressive actions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. On that basis alone, Iran would seem to be the nation in steepest decline using Parsi’s logic.
Parsi neglects to also mention the near Hail Mary-like request of the mullahs in Tehran to bring in Russian intervention in Syria to save the Assad regime.
If anything, the recent actions by the Saudis and other nations to sever relations with Iran including Bahrain, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, all reflect a newfound strength and resolve from nations that have typically come to rely on U.S. power to protect them. If anything, these nations have opted to poke the Iranian beast in the eye and finally stand up to the largest supplier of terrorist groups in the world.
These nations have sought to halt the flow of arms into their nations with crackdowns on Islamic extremists receiving weapons and explosives from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and even acted militarily to in Syria and Yemen and break from the historical patterns of only supplying cash to U.S. or European allies.
The recent acts by the Iranian regime to violate UN sanctions with ballistic missile launches and threaten to walk away from the nuclear deal it agreed to last July smack more of the desperation Parsi writes about than anything Saudi Arabia has done.
Parsi largely blames these acts and the recent burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran as the result of a small “hardliner” segment at odds with the “moderate” leadership of Hassan Rouhani. It’s a common canard offered by the Iran lobby and one that fails to seriously discuss the true nature of the regime, which is as a theocracy, Iran is firmly and fully in the control of Ali Khamenei and the other mullahs. Any other interpretation is either naïve or deliberately obtuse.
It’s worth noting that the mullahs have a penchant for burning down foreign embassies having done so to the Americans in 1979, the British in 2011 and now the Saudis in 2016. One might wonder who’s next for an encore.
By Michael Tomlinson