Blogs: Paul Pillar

Fear of a Decrease in Fear of Iran

Paul Pillar

Besides dealing with straw men, Doran and Boot here exhibit another habit of the banner-wavers—which comes up a lot in discussion of the nuclear issue—which is to assume that Iran will do the worst, most destructive thing it is capable of doing regardless of whether doing so would be in Iran's own interests. What advantage could Tehran possibly see in propping up an increasingly beleaguered and unpopular Nouri al-Maliki with rampaging Revolutionary Guards? What Iranian interest would that serve?

This gets to one of the things that Doran and Boot do not address, which is what fundamental Iranian interests are in Iraq, including everything those interests involve in terms of stability and material costs to Iran. Even if Iran had so much influence with Maliki that he could be said to be in Tehran's pocket, what would Iran do with such influence? Here is displayed another habit of the banner-wavers, which is just to assume that any Iranian influence is bad, without stopping to examine the Iranian interests being served and whether they are consistent with, in conflict with, or irrelevant to U.S. interests.

The other major thing that Doran and Boot do not do is to mention what militant U.S. policies have had to do with Iranian behavior they don't like. In the course of loosely slinging as much mud on the Iranians as they can, they state that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps “has been responsible for attacks against U.S. targets stretching back more than 30 years.” They do not offer any specifics. The only ones that come to mind involve a U.S. military intervention in Lebanon, U.S. support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, a U.S. troop presence in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the eight-year-long U.S. military occupation in Iraq.

Doran and Boot write that instead of having anything to do with the Iranians, we should develop a coalition of those “traditional allies” to prosecute a conflict on the “vast battlefield” that embraces Iraq and Syria. This sounds just like the talk of a coalition of “moderates” we heard during the George W. Bush administration. As then, the talk is apparently oblivious to ethnic, sectarian, and geographic realities. Doran and Boot suggest that clever covert work against “Iranian networks” would be enough to “pull the Iraqi government out of Iran's orbit.”

This sort of thinking represents not only a missed opportunity to make U.S. diplomacy more effective but also a recipe for further inflaming that vast battlefield.

Pages

Focusing on Little Bad Guys and Missing Big Pictures

Paul Pillar

Besides dealing with straw men, Doran and Boot here exhibit another habit of the banner-wavers—which comes up a lot in discussion of the nuclear issue—which is to assume that Iran will do the worst, most destructive thing it is capable of doing regardless of whether doing so would be in Iran's own interests. What advantage could Tehran possibly see in propping up an increasingly beleaguered and unpopular Nouri al-Maliki with rampaging Revolutionary Guards? What Iranian interest would that serve?

This gets to one of the things that Doran and Boot do not address, which is what fundamental Iranian interests are in Iraq, including everything those interests involve in terms of stability and material costs to Iran. Even if Iran had so much influence with Maliki that he could be said to be in Tehran's pocket, what would Iran do with such influence? Here is displayed another habit of the banner-wavers, which is just to assume that any Iranian influence is bad, without stopping to examine the Iranian interests being served and whether they are consistent with, in conflict with, or irrelevant to U.S. interests.

The other major thing that Doran and Boot do not do is to mention what militant U.S. policies have had to do with Iranian behavior they don't like. In the course of loosely slinging as much mud on the Iranians as they can, they state that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps “has been responsible for attacks against U.S. targets stretching back more than 30 years.” They do not offer any specifics. The only ones that come to mind involve a U.S. military intervention in Lebanon, U.S. support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, a U.S. troop presence in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the eight-year-long U.S. military occupation in Iraq.

Doran and Boot write that instead of having anything to do with the Iranians, we should develop a coalition of those “traditional allies” to prosecute a conflict on the “vast battlefield” that embraces Iraq and Syria. This sounds just like the talk of a coalition of “moderates” we heard during the George W. Bush administration. As then, the talk is apparently oblivious to ethnic, sectarian, and geographic realities. Doran and Boot suggest that clever covert work against “Iranian networks” would be enough to “pull the Iraqi government out of Iran's orbit.”

This sort of thinking represents not only a missed opportunity to make U.S. diplomacy more effective but also a recipe for further inflaming that vast battlefield.

Pages

Pages