Who re­ally cares if Iran dom­i­nates the Mid­dle East?

Dayton Daily News - - IDEAS & VOICES - By Rachel Mars­den

With Bashar As­sad still in power in Syria, sup­ported by Rus­sia, Syr­ian ally Iran is about to dom­i­nate the Mid­dle East, and there’s noth­ing that can be done about it. But is this re­ally such a bad thing?

Maybe it is if you’ve put all your eggs in other Mid­dle Eastern bas­kets to the to­tal ex­clu­sion of Iran, while your ri­vals long ago es­tab­lished a solid foot­ing there. In that case, you’ve just lost a mighty ex­pen­sive “long game” bet, and it won’t be easy to eject the en­trenched com­pe­ti­tion from that mar­ket in or­der to gain a foothold.

So what to do? Com­mon sense would dic­tate that you con­tinue to do what other U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions have done: keep try­ing to con­vince the pub­lic that it’s not about global oil dom­i­nance or big busi­ness at all, and that it’s re­ally about pol­i­tics and hu­man rights.

The gullible will con­tinue to be­lieve it. Just like they’ll con­tinue to be­lieve that Iran’s top al­lies, Syria and Rus­sia, are threats to hu­man­ity, de­spite the fact that both coun­tries just teamed up with Iran to wipe out an ac­tual threat to hu­man­ity: the Is­lamic State.

Do you ever won­der why Iran is al­ways the West’s whip­ping boy when there are so many more egre­gious cases? Not only are other rogue states left alone by Western na­tions, they’re of­ten sup­ported in their trans­gres­sions.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the United Arab Emi­rates, a coun­try known for em­ploy­ing ex­pats from un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries in mod­ern-day slave la­bor to build a mas­sive play­ground for rich Arab oli­garchs on a foun­da­tion of desert sand. Hol­ly­wood leg­end Robert De Niro was in the UAE on Sun­day to speak at the World Govern­ment Sum­mit, where he lamented the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stance on cli­mate change. I hate to break it to De Niro, but Dubai was plagued with sand and heat long be­fore the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

While stand­ing in a mecca built by slav­ery, De Niro also crit­i­cized Trump’s Amer­ica for a lack of so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

“We don’t like to say we are a ‘back­ward’ coun­try, so let’s just say we’re suf­fer­ing from a case of tem­po­rary in­san­ity,” De Niro said.

The ac­tor was ap­par­ently obliv­i­ous to the fact that he was ut­ter­ing these words in a coun­try where women must re­ceive per­mis­sion from a “male guardian” to marry. Mean­while, the end­less saga of Iran’s hi­jab law for women is cov­ered on a near­weekly ba­sis in Western me­dia.

The dou­ble stan­dard for Iran vis-a-vis other Mid­dle Eastern na­tions more pli­able to Western in­ter­ests is glar­ing.

Iran is only con­sid­ered a “threat” be­cause it re­fuses to sell out its na­tional in­ter­ests to those who show up at its doorstep de­mand­ing it do so. In other words, Iran has ex­actly the kind of pro­tec­tion­ist ap­proach that many Amer­i­cans de­mand of their own govern­ment. Imag­ine if the shoe were on the other foot and Iran led a coali­tion to gang up on the United States with sanc­tions and ac­cu­sa­tions of be­ing a global men­ace, all be­cause Ira­nian lead­er­ship didn’t agree with the way Amer­ica ran it­self. As an Amer­i­can, you’d tell them where to shove it, right? Well, it’s easy to see why Iran has been telling off the U.S. for decades.

If you’re younger than 50, you’ve been bom­barded with anti-Ira­nian mes­sag­ing for pretty much your en­tire life: how Iran spon­sors ter­ror­ism, how Iran is a nu­clear threat, how Iran is a re­gional hege­mon. It all seems plau­si­ble un­til you ven­ture be­yond the one-sided mes­sag­ing and seek the point of view from the other side.

And yes, there is an­other side. Ira­nian of­fi­cials with whom I’ve spo­ken over the years are just as para­noid about out­side in­ter­fer­ence in their do­mes­tic af­fairs and threats to their na­tional se­cu­rity as U.S. of­fi­cials are. The dif­fer­ence is that Ira­ni­ans can point to a CIA-backed coup d’etat in 1953 as proof of Western med­dling. As the old adage goes, just be­cause you’re para­noid doesn’t mean that you don’t have en­e­mies.

So let’s cut out the non­sense when it comes to Iran. It’s a coun­try just like so many oth­ers. “Whin­ing to win” is a strat­egy for losers. Rachel Mars­den is a colum­nist, po­lit­i­cal strate­gist and for­mer Fox News host based in Paris.

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