For some time now, members of the Bush administration, from the President and Vice-President to the Secretaries of State and Defense, to the head of the CIA have been saying that Iran is arming the Iraqi insurgents, specifically with "shape-charge IEDs." For those of you who don't know, these are improvised explosive devices fashioned with a conical copper disc which are able to penetrate the armor on American military vehicles, as well as the body armor our servicemen wear. I have seen firsthand the damage these can do, and they are absolutely devastating.
Iran's actions have been characterized by our current administration, Presidential candidates, and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as both state-sponsorship of terrorism and an aggressive act against the United States, bordering on an informal declaration of war. Many Americans' initial reaction is to agree that Iran is a threat which must be neutralized. But is there something else to consider here? Are we seeing the whole picture?
Remember that in 1979, Islamic fundamentalists--including a young Usama bin Laden--started gathering in Afghanistan. This group called itself the "mujahideen," (literally strugglers, though "those who wage jihad" may be more accurate) and were gathered together to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It was the American CIA, working with the Pakistani ISI, who recruited, trained, armed and financed the mujahideen, which would eventually become al Qaeda (in fact, UBL refers to his group as "mujahideen" in his latest video). Seeing that the USSR was making a push toward the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, the CIA used the mujahideen as a proxy to enforce our doctrine of "containment" of the Soviet Union. This action was regarded as necessary and proper in defending our broadly-defined national security interests.
Once again, Iran is castigated and called a state sponsor of terrorism for using proxies and guerrilla tactics against the United States. Yet, when the United States used proxies and guerrilla tactics against the Soviet Union, we were acting in a strategic, defensive capacity. Only blatant intellectual dishonesty could possibly allow such a contradiction. If we are to be honest, then either both the United States and Iran are "state sponsors of terrorism," or we are both acting for our national security interest. Remember, too, that Iraq is Iran's neighbor. It could be argued that we were defending our regional allies by helping Afghanistan resist the Soviets, but there is no real sense in which the United States was acting in national self-defense when we created the mujahideen. Iran, on the other hand, actually has a US presence on it's western border.
Rather than talking to the Iranians and trying to allay their fears that they are our next target in the Global War on Terror, or even condemning their human rights abuses and encouraging democratic change in Iran, we are parking battleships off the Iranian coast, planning three-day strikes against Iranian infrastructure, and even threatening to unleash the incomparable evil of a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran.
This sort of behavior endangers our troops in Iraq, as the Iranians are given more reason to keep us bogged down there, so we are unable to invade them. We are effectively silencing internal voices of dissent as the Iranian people fall under the all-too-familiar spell of unity in the face of a common enemy. Finally, it damages our standing in the eyes of the world, including our friends and allies; no country would countenance a preemptive nuclear strike, and we have to wonder how China, Russia, Europe and the rest of the Middle East will react if they think that the United States is seeking strategic control over the oil fields of Iraq and Iran.