US-Iran tensions have led some to speculate that a weakened Iran could mean good news for those who want Iran out of Syria but the fact is that every stakeholder is a counter-revolutionary force.
Just because the enemies of the Iranian regime are themselves entirely unscrupulous doesn’t mean that the Iranian regime is somehow righteous.
To conjure Orwell’s famous statement on the veracity of events being unaffected by the source in which such events are reported: just because it’s the Trump administration making claims about Iranian acts of sabotage in the Gulf, doesn’t mean that Iran must instantly be innocent.
This is precisely the false dichotomy too often imposed upon the increasing tension between Iran and the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
But we must look to transcend these two camps that are poles of counterrevolution. It’s impossible for anyone who has witnessed what has engulfed Syria over the past eight years and come to the conclusion that Iran is simply a harmless actor and that all accusations targeted against it are part of a plot for ‘western regime change’.
This is precisely the image and narrative fostered by Iran and its apologists when it came to the reality of its intervention in Syria. Though Russia’s resources are greater, Iran’s intervention in Syria has been of a much larger scale, with it mobilising tens of thousands of its troops and its proxy militias, undertaking a veritable occupation of Syria.
Without Iran’s invasion and occupation, Assad would at this stage be a mere memory, and hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved, while millions of cleansed Syrians would remain in their country.
Iran maintains its military bases in Syria, functioning independently of Assad, and it has engaged in acts of sectarian cleansing and gerrymandering.
Like a criminal who would burn down your house and then offer to build it for you again for a hefty fee, Iran stands to gain hugely from the ‘rebuilding’ of Syria, with Assad granting his Iranian masters lucrative contracts in several economic spheres.
Far from Iran being the eternal victim, its actions in Syria have been very much the machinations of a regime that seeks to preserve and expand its regional interests ruthlessly. That is is why many Syrians perceived Obama’s nuclear deal as something Iran won through its intervention in Syria – as if this phase of ‘normalisation’ was a reward.
Aggression against Iran over the nuclear issue by imperialist actors like the US would not benefit the struggle for justice in Syria or anywhere else in the region.
Combined with his focus on the Islamic State (Daesh), it’s clear that Obama was happy to let Iran run riot in Syria as long as it acceded to restrict its capabilities to enrich uranium to a ‘weapons grade’ level.
At the time, to Syrians whose country was being destroyed directly by and courtesy of Iran, it felt like the ultimate slap in the face. As if their lives and the fates of an entire nation were mere bargaining chips.
But this is where nuance, that thorn in the side of blissful simplicity, must come into play. For a while it might have been the case that Obama, who cared nothing about genocide in Syria, was willing to use Syria as a mere negotiating asset with Iran, the reality is that the leading players who agitate against Iran were not doing so for some righteous reasons involving its war against Syrians.
Sure, they might conjure Iran’s actions in Syria, but the hostility towards Iran is more about the global influences of the narrow and counterrevolutionary interests of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel.
That is not to say foreign forces are somehow directing the US, and if not for the nefarious Saudis, Emiratis and Israelis, it would be a bastion of reason and justice. Indeed, the US has its interests independent of but related to the interests of its regional allies.
But the mixture of US imperialist hubris and the regional interests of its Gulf and Israeli allies is precisely what lies behind Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Saudi Arabia on Monday talking about the necessity of building an ‘anti-Iran alliance’.
Though sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the tail is wagging the dog in the lobby-infested halls of Congress, the US only maintains close relations with such regional powers due to its will to maintain itself as the premier global hegemon.
It’s why when Trump, with his 'America First' nationalism, came to power he rescinded US participation in the Iran deal instantly creating the conditions for an escalation with Iran that threaten to spiral into war.
The same can be said for each of the different actors involved here. Thus, when Israel’s regional cooperation minister Tzachi Henegbi told a conference in New York that "we [Israel] will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria," he isn’t saying this because Israel suddenly cares about the fate of Syrians living under Iranian occupation – Tzachi went on to say "we will destroy weapons capabilities that threaten our national security."
It’s why Saudi Arabia has been willing to abandon Syrians to annihilation and cleansing at the hands of Assad, Iran and Russia, while it now seeks to coax the US into weakening its regional competitor Iran.
Saudi Arabia has waged its own counterrevolutionary war against Yemen, ironically one that has boosted the relationship between the Houthis and Iran, as well as enforcing a blockade on Qatar due to its tendency to support democracy in the region.
War breaking out between Iran and the US and its allies would be catastrophic – not for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or US President Donald Trump. All of these actors have more in common with each other than they do with people they rule over.
Iran is a diverse society that cannot be reduced to its government. We have seen in the past year the willingness of Iranians to stand up for their rights. We’ve seen that Iranians don’t endorse the ruthless regional hegemony that the regime has pursued in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
It’s for this reason that any progressive-minded person must recognise that while the Iranian regime is a domestic and regional evil, its current enemies are not any better.
This ‘crisis’ is not about any struggle for justice by any of the involved parties, but rather the exploitative actions of state actors who each represent a world and regional system defined by injustice.
Given how counterrevolution has prospered in the Arab spring, it would be a fitting death knell of the progressivism that fed the 'Arab Spring' if the future of the region was war between two poles of such counterrevolution.
A war with Iran, which is still unlikely but not unthinkable, would exacerbate and inflame such injustice in dangerous new ways.
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