In Mid­dle East im­broglio, events move to­ward brink of war

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - Ge­orgie Anne Geyer Colum­nist

As I ob­serve the re­sults of Pres­i­dent Trump’s pulling out of the Iran nu­clear deal, my thoughts in­evitably go back to the days when it all be­gan.

For me, it was a late fall day in 1978 when I trav­eled to a vil­lage just out­side Paris to in­ter­view the glow­er­ing Ay­a­tol­lah Khome­ini, leader of the Shi­ites in Iran and the man who would start the “Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion” that con­tin­ues to tor­ment us.

When I close my eyes, I see the old ay­a­tol­lah mov­ing like a huge black moth into the small sum­mer house where I, draped pro­tec­tively in a black abaya, sat on a Per­sian carpet, wait­ing. I re­mem­ber how I dis­tinctly felt that waves of evil swirled about him.

For­mally, I asked him every pos­si­ble ques­tion about the Iran, or the Per­sia, he would lead upon his re­turn in the win­ter of 1979. And with every an­swer, bar none, he in­sisted that his Iran would be open, lib­eral and mod­ern.

But I knew his an­swers were false be­cause the Per­sians be­lieved in “dis­sim­u­la­tion” or “taqiya,” which means ly­ing to the en­emy if in dan­ger of re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion.

Yet to­day, those fal­la­cious an­swers live on in the mud­dle and im­broglio over Iran’s place in the Mid­dle East — and the new­est Amer­i­can in­ter­ven­tion in that re­gion, which could carry us even closer to the brink of yet an­other war in the re­gion.

First, we have Pres­i­dent Trump’s with­drawal from the Obama nu­clear deal with Iran, which has been, by all ac­counts, suc­cess­ful in keep­ing Tehran from de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons. So far Iran has re­acted pru­dently, but what does it all re­ally mean?

Then, cu­ri­ously enough: 1) On May 10, Is­rael struck Syria, de­stroy­ing, in of­fi­cial Is­raeli words, “nearly all of Iran’s in­fra­struc­ture” there. 2) Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin “Bibi” Ne­tanyahu spent 10 hours in Moscow on May 9 with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, in­clud­ing the honor of over­see­ing the mass demon­stra­tion mark­ing Rus­sian vic­to­ries in World War II. 3) The U.S. opened its em­bassy in Jerusalem on May 14, more closely al­ly­ing it­self with Is­rael, even as more than 60 Pales­tini­ans were killed and many more wounded, protest­ing only miles away in the mis­ery of Gaza.

Where is Pres­i­dent Trump go­ing? Both new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton and new Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo have at times railed openly about the over­throw of regimes — from the mul­lahs’ in Tehran to the hard­line Com­mu­nists’ in North Korea.

Leaves you won­der­ing where we go next, doesn’t it?

When you look at poor, de­stroyed Syria, the pic­ture be­comes even more con­fus­ing. Moscow is all over the coun­try, keep­ing the bru­tal Pres­i­dent Bashir al As­sad in power. Mean­while, we have a mere 2,000 troops there and no pol­icy or strat­egy to speak of, ex­cept this huge mud­dle of con­tra­dic­tory procla­ma­tions and ran­dom re­sponses.

Fi­nally, we have last week­end’s much-touted elec­tions in Iraq. You re­mem­ber Iraq? That was our most re­cent his­tor­i­cal at­tempt to im­pose democ­racy by mil­i­tary force.

One can only sur­mise that the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, with his in­abil­ity to grasp how one thing in­evitably leads to an­other, ac­tu­ally in­tends to risk get­ting us into a deeper war in the Mid­dle East.

Ah, I can hear you ask­ing: Just what did Khome­ini have to do with all of this?

It hap­pens that 1978, when we met near Paris, marked the be­gin­ning of all of these trou­bles. Is­lamic Shi­ite evan­ge­lism raged across the Mid­dle East for years af­ter that, threat­en­ing the more mod­er­ate and usu­ally Sunni Arab states and lead­ing to Amer­ica’s in­ter­ven­tions in 2003 and ’04, in the fraught and dis­as­trous “Arab Spring” of 2010, and now with the pos­si­bil­ity of new and far more com­pli­cated con­flicts.

Is this re­ally what Amer­i­cans want?

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