When Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president of the United States of America in January 1981, Iran and its recent Islamic Revolution was an obsession for the US and all in it. Almost 30 years later, little has changed in that regard. Although much has been made in some circles of the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president in place of George W. Bush, and of his eye-catching reversals of some of Bush’s most unpopular policies, the fundamentals of American foreign policy are unlikely to change.
The US has always demonized foreign powers as threatening bogeymen to justify its global hegemony, from the Soviet Union to Saddam Hussein, to Iran in the last years of the Bush regime; and with many Americans tired of foreign adventures and expecting Obama to focus on domestic issues, Washington will need to focus attention on a new enemy sooner rather than later. Although Obama’s tone in inaugural address was conciliatory, in line with his desire to come across as the anti-Bush in every possible way, his reference to the need to counterIran’s nuclear program was a clear sign of where his foreign policy team are looking. The Bush regime chose Iran’s nuclear energy program as the pretext for its war-mongering againstIran, which came close to military action until the US intelligence community publicly contradicted the regime late in 2007, in order to ensure that the neocons could not take the US into another unwinnable war. Obama will not want a war that the US cannot afford, but needs an enemy nonetheless; and it appears that the nuclear pretext will be wheeled out again.
Such political considerations apart, the underlying reasons for US enmity to Iran are not difficult to see. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 overthrew a major US ally in the Muslim world, and the Islamic State’s survival for three decades has conclusively proved that it is possible for a Muslim country both to try to guide its own development in lines with Islamic principles in the modern world, and to survive outside US hegemony and overlordship. Although there have been many different factors in the US’s convoluted policies in the Middle East region in recent decades, not least oil geo-politics and zionist influence, the desire to counter the influence of the Islamic state has clearly been one of them. Through the 1980s, the US supported Iraq in its war on Iran, and the establishment of a massive US military presence in the Persian Gulf after the first Gulf War was explicitly targeted as much at Iran as it was at Saddam Hussein. The rise of sectarian salafi movements in the Muslim world has been partly the result of anti-Shi‘i propaganda promoted by the US and its allies to counter Iran, and the desire for platforms from which to attack Iran in future was among the reasons for the US’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the Islamic State celebrates its 30th anniversary, there are some suggesting that the election of Barack Obama represents an opportunity for improved relations with the US. This is to profoundly misunderstand the reasons for the US’s enmity, and risks laying Iran open to American political maneuverings. There can be no doubt that Obama will prove as dangerous a foe as Bush was before him, not least because of the influence of zionists in his team, and all in Iran must remain on guard. Fortunately, Iran’s successful countering of the neocons’ machinations suggest that they are well equipped to resist whatever Obama comes up with.
And once again, Iran will need the support of Muslims elsewhere in the world, who have sometimes been too easily diverted from supporting the Islamic State. Iran’s long record of support for Hamas, in contrast to virtually every other Muslim state, and particularly in the context of the recent Israeli attack on Ghazzah, should remind us all of its credentials and its importance to all Islamic movements. Spurious sectarian issues and the propaganda of Iran’s enemies should not persuade any Muslim to question the centrality of Iran to the Islamic resistance movements struggling against the power of the West and its allies and agents in the Muslim world.
What Iran’s Islamic movement achieved in 1979 is what other Islamic movements the world over are trying to achieve in their own countries. If Iran falls, the task facing movements elsewhere will become much more difficult even than it is now. This is something we cannot afford to allow to happen.
Iqbal Siddiqui publishes a personal blog, A Sceptical Islamist.