At the UN General Assembly this past week Iran was once again portrayed by the usual suspects as some sort of Islamofacist boogeyman living under our beds, and the nuclear deal as the road to Armageddon. The rest of the world preferring to view their foreign policies through the lens of self – interest rather than special interest, does not view Iran as a major threat and sees the nuclear deal as a road to peace. The false portrayal of Iran and any attempt at peacemaking with it, is a staple of American political life. We Americans have been reeducated to believe that Iran is a danger. Consequently, downplaying the threat likely comes as a sincere shock to a great many of us.
But let us examine the facts. Iran has never carried out attacks against civilians in America or Europe; nor has it trained or funded groups that have attacked civilians in America or Europe. What Iran has done is carried out attacks against political and military targets to affect outcomes in its regional sphere of influence. The vast majority of these attacks have been in the Middle East, but that is no different than what Russia has long done to us and from what we have often done to them. No country wants faraway powers redesigning their backyards – and as long as one does not do that, there is no threat.
There is of course, the question of Israel. Israel is a significant Middle Eastern power itself and close ally of the United States. Putting aside the special interest reasons that many politicians unquestioningly support Israel, many Americans genuinely want to guarantee the safety of the Jewish state. There is nothing dishonorable in this, but that does not mean we have to guarantee every Israeli policy or ambition.
Undoubtedly, Israel sees Iran as a danger, but that threat did not appear out of thin air. Like most Muslims around the world and indeed many non-Muslims, Iran views the treatment of the Palestinian people as a great injustice. Subsequently, Iran uses militancy to defend them, which drives reciprocal animosity between Israel and Iran. The only way that Israel will ever find peace in its neighborhood is by finding a dignified solution for the Palestinian people. Until then, it is one thing for America to defend Israel proper, but it is entirely another to defend threats to land they have illegally settled. And that is what the Iranian threat to Israel is about. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his neoconservative colleagues long ago outlined the threat that countries like Iraq, Syria and Iran posed to Israeli settlement in occupied territory and they intended to do something about it: use American power to destroy any military counter to the Israeli takeover of Palestinian land. This is not a valid reason for America to treat Iran as a major threat. And yes, I do understand that there was once a crazy Iranian who threatened to wipe out Israel, but everyone has to deal with a crazy leader that threatens to wipe out a country every once in a while. This does not negate a nation’s ability to be a rational state actor, which Iran is.
There is one other country that is whispering into American ears about the threat Iran poses. That country is Saudi Arabia, a nation that has its financial, ideological and material fingerprints on almost every group that has attacked and killed Western civilians. 9/11, the London bus bombings, ISIS and on and on, Saudi support underpins the perpetrators. Yet, they are close allies with America, which is hard to justify given their behavior. Iran’s government may not be a particularly nice one, but it is far less threatening than Saudi Arabia’s. Just ask the victims of terror around the world in the last fifteen years.
Increasingly, Americans are beginning to see the Iran threat for what it is: a false cry that will once again lead us to a real conflict with real consequences. We have seen this movie before. It was called Iraq and it was produced and directed by the same people who are trying to make Iran. That alone should be enough to tell us that something is wrong.
That is why the United States should remain committed to the Iran Nuclear Deal. While not perfect, it allows America and the world to keep open lines of communication with Iran and to build toward peace instead of marching to war. As Winston Churchill once said, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” To leave the deal would increase the chance that we find ourselves once again mired in another regime changing war that costs hundreds of thousands of lives, threatens our economy, isolates us, and ultimately only produces more terror than it stops. This is the real threat, not the country of Iran. History is meant to be learned so that we do not repeat past mistakes. Let us not fall for the same lies, by the same liars, that led us into Iraq.