Michael Totten interviews Lee Smith, who has spent time looking at Syria in his new book:
The Syria policy is likely part of the Iran policy to negotiate with people we probably can’t do business with in order to withdraw from the region. There are few if any scenarios in which a nuclear-armed Iran is a good outcome.
‘When people worry that Sunni Islamists want to create a caliphate in the Middle East they seem to forget that we already have a clerical regime in Iran. What they’re afraid might happen has already happened. And the concern coming out of Tehran isn’t sharia, but the fact that a nuclear weapons program in the hands of an expansionist regime gives them a dangerous say in the flow of energy resources through the Persian Gulf. They don’t have to actually use a bomb to destabilize the region and raise the price of energy around the world. That’s the danger—that Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf will affect how Americans, and our trading partners, live.’
To help understand a different point of view, I recommend this interesting piece by Najat Fawzy Alsaeid:
‘If one were to ask an Arab what has happened to the Arab countries, and why the terrorism and extremism we see today did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s, the answer would probably point to the frustrations and struggles of dual identities: Arab nationalism and Islamism.’
Our foreign policy will have its hands full these coming decades, whether we want to or not. She goes on:
‘Moreover, books by Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), Sayyid Qutb and others, which reject pluralism and promote extremism, should be studied in context, alongside works by Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Ali Abderraziq, and other, more modern and open-minded commentators. The Shias in Sunni-majority countries should also be given more equal opportunities and should have the right to study moderate Shia scholars such as the Iraqis Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-80) and Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei (1899-1982), who favor separation of clerical and state authority.’
The old faultlines are wide open, and American interests are still in retreat, often times without much more of a strategy than that.
Related On This Site: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’
Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient: “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”. It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire