Is US Firepower Needed in the Middle East?

Push as Diplomacy

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In a recent interview, TRNN executive producer Sharmini Peries engaged in some editorializing with her guest, Jamal Abdi, the policy director at the National Iranian American Council, that was, frankly, very surprising. Peries said: “Now, the US is badly needed in the [Middle East] region. It needs its firepower.” It seems that she was alluding to the Gulf Cooperation Council because she followed up with the question: “How is the GCC going to assert its power in the region without the United States?” ((See “Gulf Monarchs Protest US Diplomacy with Iran,” TRNN, 15 May 2015. ))

In the minds of GCC elitists, it is likeliest that a military power backing is required to pursue certain regional aspirations.

However, the sentence that – “the US is badly needed in the [Middle East] region. It needs its firepower.” – is highly contentious. As adduced by the historical record, what is required by the region is that the US remove its military presence and remove its aggressive and highly partisan foreign policy. The murderous assaults on Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria; the displacement of millions of Arabs forced to become refugees; the violation of international law; ((See “Iraq war illegal, says Annan,” BBC, 16 September, 2004.)) the genocides of Iraqis ((See Abdul Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani, Genocide in Iraq: The Case against the UN Security Council and Member States (Clarity Press, 2013). Review.)) and Palestinians; ((Kim Petersen, “Bleaching the Atrocities of Genocide,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2007.)) and the thwarting of any democratic tendencies in the region in favor of dictators compliant to US elitist interests all point to removing the US hegemon from the region.

This applies especially in the case of the GCC: thoroughly undemocratic states wracked by abuse of minorities; and even majorities — as in the case of Bahrain where Shia are oppressed by the Sunni monarchs; sexism; and classism. Do such states embody any American values besides use of military power?

Abdi, to his credit responded circumspectly: “Well, I guess that remains to be seen.”

However, Abdi’s analysis on other points was questionable. For instance, he asserted to the proposition that “there are more games in town other than the US”: “But you know, I think this is is somewhat laughable. The idea that they’re going to jettison the United States and link up with the French or somebody else. It’s just, it’s not, it’s not realistic.”

Abdi provides no rationale for this “analysis.” He rejects GCC independent foreign policy as “a temper tantrum.” No rationale was supplied, nor was any demanded by the interviewer.

He continues, “And hopefully this is actually an opportunity to push our allies towards actually addressing the real issues in the region.” [italics added] The first “real issue” Abdi identifies is: “The lack of diplomacy.” It may very well have been an unfortunate slip of the tongue, but to push anyone is hardly diplomatic; consequently his argument appears to be in contradiction. Nevertheless, he repeats himself later in the interview when talking of a “push towards some sort of dialog.” [italics added]

Abdi is illuminating on Shia-Sunni friction:

And I think that this is emblematic of what we have seen over the past decade and a half in the region, in which Iran is being given credit for any disparate Shia or Shia-linked group that has its own grievances, and which Iran has maybe nominally supported but is not actually the chief backer or the make-or-break supporter. And so I think in Iran they’re sitting back and watching these real tactical errors by the Saudis, and I think they’re fine with it.

However, Abdi is skeptical of Saudi intentions toward diplomacy with Iran: “So I think there’s a serious level of paranoia and concern with Iran. The fact that Iran is in many respects leading the fight against ISIS inside of Iraq.”

He provides a concise summation of the current tensions between the GCC and Iran.

And so you know, there wouldn’t be an ISIS if it wasn’t a response to the perception that Iran was expanding its influence inside of Iraq. Which wasn’t just perception, it was accurate. But–and so the Saudis attempted to counter that, and they fueled the, helped to fuel the insurgency. And then the Iranians counteract that with their support of Shia militias.

And you just get this, this cycle. This endless cycle of violence that has really completely destabilized the region, has empowered these stateless actors. Has created the circumstances where a group like ISIS can now hold territory and become such a significant threat. And what needs to happen is we need to figure out a way, how to cut this cycle. And that’s why this nuclear deal is so important. Because it is finally breaking the cycle in which the United States and Iran can engage, and it can hopefully begin to break this cycle in which all we see is negative-sum military escalation.

This analysis should be regarded with utmost skepticism. Placing the blame on Iran for the rise of ISIS belies all evidence that precedes the rise of ISIS. To start, why is there an Iranian influence in Iraq? Did not the illegal US aggression of Iraq topple the Sunni-dominated Ba’ath government in Iraq? Did the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government not lead to elections whereby the Shia majority could garner a plurality of seats in government? Also, is it strange that the Shia of Iraq would find common cause with the Shia of Iran, especially given that they are surrounded by Sunni who often exhibit ill will toward Shia?

And why does Abdi elide the role of the US, France, Israel, and other western states in fomenting the rise of ISIS and funding these mercenaries? ((See “ISIS funded by the U.S & ISRAEL,” RT and “‘I.S.I.S. Could Stand For… Israeli Secret Intelligence Service’,” RT.))

Furthermore, what does he mean by “negative-sum military escalation,” and how dedicated to diplomacy is Abdi? Earlier in the interview he remarked that “the United States need[ing] to offer these [GCC] countries arms and security guarantees and potentially a qualitative military edge, just because the United States is securing a nuclear deal to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon” was “completely backwards.” Abdi is right in this regard.

Abdi’s push to diplomacy does not rely on the threat of a military strike.

  • Updated 21 May to more accurately reflect Abdi’s position.
  • Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.