Writing of America’s relationship with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s Iran, Efraim Karsh recounts that, “So entrenched had the idea of this Iranian-American symbiosis become that successive US administrations came to view Iranian interests as indistinguishable from their own.” It would seem that Thomas Friedman is still infected with this illusion. In his recent New York Times article, Look Before Leaping, a title falsely implying he is not suggesting a “leap of faith,” Mr. Friedman propounds that, “America’s interest lie not with either the Saudis or the Iranian ideologues winning, but rather with balancing the two against each other until they get exhausted enough to stop prosecuting their ancient Shiite-Sunni, Persian-Arab feud.” I perceive the prediction “until they get exhausted” used in the same sentence as “their ancient Shiite-Sunni, Persian-Arab feud” to be utterly oxymoronic. For the same reason the State of Israel can promise political compromises to the so-called Palestinians “when they decide to recognize Israel as a Jewish state” simply because they can count on the fact that traditional Islamic hatred of all things Jewish will never allow the Arab Muslim to live in peace within or alongside a country of Jews. “Wisdom is also a defense.”
If this feud (more accurately defined as Shiites versus Sunnis) between the Saudis and the Iranians is by now ancient, I cannot foresee either side becoming exhausted in the near future. I see a pattern of Islamic intransigence here. GlobalSecurity.org reports that during the Iran-Iraq war, “…more than one and a half million war and war-related casualties — perhaps as many as a million people died, many more were wounded, and millions were made refugees. Iran acknowledged that nearly 300,000 people died in the war…Iran’s losses may have included more than 1 million people killed or maimed.” Iran’s dictatorship is remembered by many, regarding that war, for its 1983 “human wave offensives” along the 40 kilometer stretch near Al Amarah where, in one day alone, 6000 Iranian soldiers were killed in action. I wonder how long Mr. Friedman believes it would take this regime, now so close to becoming nuclear-armed, and given its history of vending the lives of its soldiers and its citizens as mere holy fodder in time of war, to become “exhausted” with “prosecuting” that “ancient Shiite-Sunni, Persian-Arab feud”?
Friedman promises that, “Patching up the United States-Iran relationship could enable America to better manage and balance the Sunni Arab Taliban in Afghanistan and counterbalance the Sunni jihadists, like those in the Islamic State, or ISIS…” What “United States-Iran relationship” is Mr. Friedman referring to? Last time I looked, there was no “United States-Iran” relationship.” Scott Peterson of Christian Science Monitor remarked in 2010, regarding celebrations in Iran of the anniversary of the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran that, “Anti-US students chanted ‘death to America’ and predicted the fall of the ‘great Satan,’ the nation still officially most vilified by the Islamic Republic, during the annually staged event. Anti-Americanism has remained a pillar of the Islamic revolution…” John Limbert, a former American hostage during the takeover and described in Peterson’s article as the “State Department’s top official at that time on Iran, confessed that, ““Past efforts to move the relationship to something more productive…have foundered on misunderstandings, mistrust, and the assumption that anything the other side agrees to must be bad for us.”
In the last paragraph of his dreamy ideation, Mr. Friedman challenges his readers: “So before you make up your mind on the Iran deal, ask how it affects Israel, the country most threatened by Iran. But also ask how it fits into a wider United States strategy aimed at quelling tensions in the Middle East with the least involvement necessary…” Well, first of all, a lot of pundits on Middle Eastern politics, especially pro-Arab pundits, would posit that American involvement anywhere in the world where Muslims and Islamic statehood are concerned is cause for more harm than good. A lot of pundits of the pro-American side (of which I am one) would posit that American (or Canadian or British) involvement—in any measure—with peoples so inculcated with Islamic taught anti-American and anti-Western hatred inevitably becomes a waste of our time and the lives of our sons and daughters. What is the Christian proverb? “Don’t throw you pearls before the swine.” Or as Jesse Klein succinctly put it in the National Post recently, “At some point, we have to come to the realization that it’s not worth spilling our blood and wasting our treasure to intervene in a civil war in which both sides want to kill us.”
As for the State of Israel and the threat of Iran’s nuclear posturing, “how it affects Israel,” easy for Mr. Friedman, living, virtually, light years away from such a severe existence as that endured every day by Israeli Jews, to bet the lives of 6 million of them in selling the puerile fantasy to his readers that this Iranian regime will suddenly renounce a millennia-old hatred of the Jews and its imperial ambitions for a new-found love affair with America, the Great Satan. I’ll sooner have angels flying out of my ass.
Following Mr. Friedman’s career as a journalist in the last few years, after reading critiques of his work with much broader range than my own, I am constantly reminded of Nicholas Murray Butler’s famous quote, which reads, “An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.” It seems Mr. Friedman is become more a salesman and less and less an expert on the Muslim Middle East. But then again, untruths and fantasy are today common fare for the Western journalist. They dream at the expense of the democratic freedoms of others, for the sake of our enemies, regardless of the consequences for our friends, in this case the State of Israel and the Jewish people. It’s Western journalism, and of late such insouciant and imprudent dreams go with the territory.