After many months, the debate in America still rages among experts, analysts and researchers concerning Iran and its policies in the region, as well as the nature of U.S.-Iranian relations and what they should be. The debate has enjoyed more attention after the latest developments, in which the U.S. and Iran have begun negotiating in a major way. Of course, as expected, many and various extremist views and attitudes have surfaced on the political and intellectual scene when discussing the positions of the United States and Iran.
The analysis drew my attention to an important U.S. analyst and professor who published his case a few days ago and deserves recognition. The analysis written by Bernard Haykel, a professor specializing in Middle East affairs at Princeton University, was entitled “Iran Is the Problem, Not the Solution.”
The professor provides valuable examination of this specific question: from the standpoint of American interests, should people in the region cooperate with the United States or with Iran? He asks the question in the beginning of his analysis of whether the United States should, at the present time, cooperate with Iran in the war against “Sunni jihadis.”
From the very beginning of his report, he expresses his view unequivocally, stating that such an alliance with Iran would be a grave mistake and a disaster for the United States and the region. He adds that this alliance will lead to the alienation of the Sunnis in the region as a whole and will reinforce the popular opinion that the United States is seeking to strengthen the Shiites, who are a minority in the Arab world, against the Sunni majority.
After that, the American professor explains his point of view in detail.
He claims that Iran promotes the allegation that Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Arab states in the Gulf are the real problem. They are the ones who support “terrorism” and therefore, Iran is the natural ally of the United States.
The writer refutes the Iranian position in various ways. He claims that Iran itself supported the “Sunni jihadis” when it was in its interests. Iran’s rule has cultivated the sectarian divide for many years. He adds that Iran has attempted to impose its hegemony in the region after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, by supporting the chauvinist Shiites in Iraq and in Syria.
The American professor explains that Iran began to implement this policy in Iraq with Nouri al-Maliki, a client of Tehran, who led the country in a blind, sectarian and brutal dictatorship, in which he marginalized and persecuted others for years. He adds that Iran has supported the Assad regime in Damascus for years, by providing financial, ideological and military support. Iran recruited Shiite militias such as Hezbollah to fight for Assad’s survival while killing and torturing the Syrian population.
The author goes on to say that because of Iran’s actions, Iraq and Syria have to pay Sunnis to support the jihadis, knowing the majority of the time that they are a threat to their countries. The professor warns the U.S. that Iran wants America to help it secure gains in Iraq, Iran, Syria and the whole region. The author maintains that America should never give Iran what it wants.
He claims that America must be aware that the uprising in Syria and Iraq is not just about jihadis, but the Sunni public’s revolt against marginalization and persecution. The writer warns on this basis that any U.S.-Iranian cooperation to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Iraq will serve the jihadis and give credibility to the jihadi view that “crusaders” and “Zoroastrian Persians” conspire to destroy Islam. He also alerts America that Iran and Syria will not be reluctant to support the jihadis themselves in order to serve their interests, as they did in past years when they wanted to fight U.S. troops in Iraq.
The American professor ends his analysis by saying that securing oil supplies is in America’s national interest, but securing Iranian regional hegemony and supporting Shiite agents in the region is not. He claims that any American alliance with Iran will be seen as a cold war against the Sunnis and will plunge the region back into the colonial era of the past, while the external forces strengthen the minority at the expense of the interests and rights of the majority. He considers this a recipe for disaster that will have no end.
The vision offered by the U.S. professor on the nature of the Iranian threat in the regions holds catastrophic consequences for any U.S.-Iranian alliance. He is not alone. There are many analysts and politicians in America who do not embrace this vision. The problem is that these views are not reflected or heeded by the U.S. administration.