We flawed humans have always had enemies, some real, some manufactured (as Eisenhower argued) to suit our questionable motives. Diverting us from a series of less-than-successful policies, it seems that we are grooming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Enemy #2 after #1 from North Korea, not only because we choke on his name, but the indisputable fact that he may, within the next decade, build a nuclear bomb to threaten the 31,000 nuclear warheads that surround him in bunkers in peaceful farmlands, on a score of peace-seeking aircraft carriers, on 26 sleek submarines, and in aircraft fleets, all manned by the flower of our youth who have enlisted not as a bunch of religious fanatics bent on jihad - Heavens NO! - but in the noble quest of university degrees and in appreciation of the generous pay and perks.
Mahmoud claims he loves us. Why not? We do have lots of lovable people. Yes, we also have many not-so-lovable. We have, just in the US alone, over two million in jails. We have 6 million illicit drug users in the USA, 720,000 in China, 1 million in Afghanistan, and even 186,000 in Kazakhstan. Instead of curing their addictions, we persecute growers, dealers, and users of the stuff. During the last election in the USA, private prison companies donated $3.3 million to politicians who would fill their jails with addicts. We have many thousands more who prey on the elderly and naive. Then there are those of us who delight in fouling up computers with viruses, or steal identities. Can Mahmoud be a real lover for all of us - or is he just another enemy we manufacture to suit our purposes?
Actually, Mahmoud, with a PhD in transportation, is a veteran of the 1980-88 war that fought invading Iraq to a stalemate. Iraq, with 98% of its arms supplied by the USSR, France, China, Brazil, Egypt, and the USA, invaded Iran inflicting 1 million casualties, 100,000 of them by chemical weapons built in Iraq from materials and technology supplied by the US, UK, Germany, France, and China and sprayed by US-made Bell helicopters. Iran also suffered $350 billion in damages including much to its oil industry that still lingers.
Area problems can be traced back to King Enmebaragesi of Kish who thought military force was a great idea. He conquered Elam in 2650 BC. Elam got even in 2004 BC by sacking Ur. What we call Iraq was part of the Persian Empire until the Ottoman Turks intruded in 1638 and some 18 treaties ensued to delineate Iraq’s borders, the current one drawn by the British in 1920. In 1959, Abd al-Karîm Qâsim, who had seized control of Iraq, declared that the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan was rightfully part of Iraq. In 1971, when the British withdrew, Iraq took over and expelled 70,000 Iranians from 3 islands in the Persian Gulf. Iran retaliated by supporting Kurdish unrest. In 1975 Kissinger sanctioned Persia’s (Iran’s) Shah Pahlavi’s attack on Iraq over the waterway at the head of the Gulf. With the death of Nasser in Egypt and the rise of the Ba’ath Party in Iraq, Iraq coveted the role of leader of the Arab world.
With Iran weakened by the fall of the Shah and the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (whom the Shah had exiled to Iraq and whom Iraq expelled to France), Saddam Hussein believed the Sunni of Iran would welcome his invasion to free them from the Shias. Besides, his 4,500 tanks and 7,330 artillery pieces would overwhelm Iran’s 1,000 tanks and 3,000 artillery pieces, not to mention his aircraft superiority. Iran’s arms were mainly US, left over from the Shah’s reign.
Iraq did not use biological weapons even though the US had made 70 shipments of these weapons over a 3-year period to Iraq. Both sides attacked neutral oil tankers, damaging 546 and killing 430 sailors. An Iraqi aircraft attacked the USS Stark killing 37 and wounding 21. However the US was backing Iraq at this time, so down-played the incident, and in 1987 the US attacked Iranian oil platforms. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts was damaged by an Iranian mine, the US sank 2 Iranian ships, and in 1988 shot down, from inside Iranian waters, an Iranian commercial aircraft with the loss of 290 passengers and crew. Eventually the US paid compensation. Compounding the scene was the US-approved sale by Israel to Iran of $1 billion in weaponry. POWs were not exchanged until 10 years after the war.
Mahmoud has many problems. Afghan drug runners have killed 3,000 Iranian police. The oil industry, worth $50 billion a year, is deteriorating with ageing infrastructure. Nuclear energy is a safeguard for the future. Mahmoud has helped the poor, but moderates pose a threat to his apparent hard line towards the West and Israel. Although India, Pakistan, and Israel have broken their pledge not to join the non-proliferation club, we shudder at the thoughts that Iran may copy them. To impose sanctions and to threaten aerial attacks on nuclear sites will only unite all Iranians against us.
Napoleon advised: ”Never interfere with an enemy while he is in the process of destroying himself.” But, is Mahmoud an enemy? His stealing of an election and persecution of peaceful demonstrators is infuriating, but he did write us a long letter indicating how we could co-operate, but we lacked the courage and courtesy to reply, so just ignored it. He then continued the nice-guy approach by granting pleasant interviews to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes and to Charlie Rose on PBS. His show of tolerance revealed his Zoroastrian roots. Of all the conquerors in the Middle East the Persians were the most tolerant of other cultures. Persians freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, But, Mahmoud shows little tolerance towards Israel as he claims Israel shows no tolerance towards Palestinians.
Big sticks only provoke a multitude of little sticks to unite to combat them as Mussolini believed and misused.
Humans, a flawed species, but with recurring promises of greatness, need sufficient weapons of deterrence, but overdoing it, as we have, simply spurs others to follow suit and to bankrupt ourselves. Someday, soon, we must divert military expenditures to the onerous and widespread task of correcting our misbehaviour. Can we not see we are very close to losing our planet - at the moment our only home? We must accept Mahmoud’s offer of dialogue, but include all members of that volatile region of our planet!