World bows to Iran’s hegemony

The problem with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress March 3 was not the risk of offending Washington, but rather Washington’s receding relevance. President Barack Obama is not the only leader who wants to acknowledge what is already a fact in the ground, namely that “Iran has become the preeminent strategic player in West Asia to the increasing disadvantage of the US and its regional allies,” as a former Indian ambassador to Oman wrote this week.

For differing reasons, the powers of the world have elected to legitimize Iran’s dominant position, hoping to delay but not deter its eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons. Except for Israel and the Sunni Arab states, the world has no desire to confront Iran. Short of an American military strike, which is unthinkable for this administration, there may be little that Washington can do to influence the course of events. Its influence has fallen catastrophically in consequence of a chain of policy blunders.

The best that Prime Minister Netanyahu can hope for is that the US Congress will in some way disrupt the Administration’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran by provoking the Iranians. That is what the White House fears, and that explains its rage over Netanyahu’s appearance.

Tehran may overplay its hand, but I do not think it will. The Persians are not the Palestinians, who discovered that they were a people only a generation ago and never miss an opportunity to miss and opportunity; they are ancient and crafty, and know an opportunity when it presents itself.

Most of the world wants a deal, because the alternative would be war. For 10 years I have argued that war is inevitable whatever the diplomats do, and that the question is not if, but how and when. President Obama is not British prime minister Neville Chamberlain selling out to Hitler at Munich in 1938: rather, he is Lord Halifax, that is, Halifax if he had been prime minister in 1938. Unlike the unfortunate Chamberlain, who hoped to buy time for Britain to build warplanes, Halifax liked Hitler, as Obama and his camarilla admire Iran.

China is Chamberlain, hoping to placate Iran in order to buy time. China’s dependence on Middle East oil will increase during the next decade no matter what else China might do, and a war in the Persian Gulf would ruin it.

Until early 2014, China believed that the United States would guarantee the security of the Persian Gulf. After the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), it concluded that the United States no longer cared, or perhaps intended to destabilize the region for nefarious reasons. But China does not have means to replace America’s presence in the Persian Gulf. Like Chamberlain at Munich, it seeks delay.

That, as the old joke goes, is the demo version. On the ground, the US has tacitly accepted the guiding role of Iranian commanders in Iraq’s military operations against ISIS. It is courting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who just overthrow a Saudi-backed regime in Yemen. It looks the other way while its heavy arms shipments to the Lebanese army are diverted to Hezbollah.

At almost every point at which Iran has tried to assert hegemony over its neighbors, Washington has acquiesced. “In the end, peace can be achieved only by hegemony or by balance of power,” wrote Henry Kissinger. The major powers hope for peace through Iranian hegemony, although they differ in their estimate of how long this will last.

Russia has taken Iran’s side explicitly, for several reasons.

First, Russia has stated bluntly that it would help Iran in retaliation for Western policy in Ukraine, as I wrote in this space January 28. Second, Russia’s own Muslim problem is Sunni rather than Shi’ite. It has reason to fear the influence of ISIS among its own Muslims. If Iran fights ISIS, it serves Russian interests. Russia, to be sure, does not like the idea of a nuclear power on its southern border, but its priorities place it squarely in Iran’s camp.

Full article: World bows to Iran’s hegemony (Asia Times)

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