Dissecting the Iran Agreement

Rejecting the Iran agreement will cause the US further isolation
by Jim McConnell

The Iran Agreement is in America’s best interest and represents an opportunity for our country to extricate itself from a region of the world that the record makes clear we don’t begin to understand.

The Iraq War, identified in advance by one of President Reagan’s most important intelligence advisors, LTG Wiliam Odom, as the greatest strategic blunder in the nation’s history and understood by many others to be a fool’s errand at best, represents only the tip of the iceberg that is America’s catastrophe in the Middle East.

The Sunnis and the Shias, the two principle religious groups in the region, have been fighting over Muhammed’s succession since his death in 632. Throwing ourselves into an almost fourteen hundred year old religious war with no understanding of the region and oblivious to the fact that our intervention would result in a geopolitical disaster wasn’t then and isn’t now in America’s interest.

The invasion of Iraq and our efforts to turn it into a western style democracy were doomed from the start. Without Saddam’s iron fist, his Sunni minority was certain to lose control of the government. Iraq, with it’s Shia majority, was destined to become a Shia state and realize the dream of a “Shia Crescent” extending from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus. America’s plan to impose some sort of federal system which empowered all three of the groups making up Iraq – the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds was, predictably, blocked at every turn by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s most important Shia religious leader.

In reaction, Saudis and Qataris bankrolled the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Sunni force organized to take back Iraq and conquer Syria. Today, ISIS controls large portions of both Iraq and Syria. The only forces in the region capable and willing to effectively oppose them are the Shia militias, assisted by the Iranians, the Kurds and the Syrian Army. Of the three forces fighting ISIS, the US is only willing to assist the Kurds. Most Sunnis, including the Turks, are happy to let ISIS continue to operate in Iraq and Syria, as long as they’re fighting the Kurds, Iraqi and Syrian government forces. The Turks see the Kurds, with whom they have been in an ongoing conflict for decades, as a serious threat. If ISIS will fight the Kurds, the Turks will maintain a porous border to allow ISIS recruits access to the battlefield.

The US position in the region is, at best, confused. We are fighting Shias in Syria and Yemen and Sunnis in Iraq. We handed Iraq to the Shias and, in so doing, had a hand in creating ISIS, and set in motion events which have made the region far less stable and, among other things, destroyed virtually all the Christian communities in Iraq, some of which were 2,000 years old. In the final analysis, almost everything we’ve done in the region has proven counterproductive.

Failure to approve the Iran Agreement will mean we’ve once again blundered. The rest of the world will lift sanctions and resume trading with Iran. America will be further isolated and seen as siding with the Sunnis in their religious war. It’s worth noting that the World Trade Center attackers, and all the other terrorists who’ve come to the US, have been Sunnis.

The Iraq War cost 4,500 American servicemen and women their lives. 35,000 more were seriously wounded. Trillions of dollars were wasted. We exposed ourselves as a blundering giant and weakened both our defenses and our standing in the world.

None of this matters to those who seek a permanent ground presence in the Middle East. The silver lining of our failure in the region is that many of those who bought the arguments, loud, long and continuing, for US boots on the ground, have come to realize that, absent oil (which they have to sell to eat), there isn’t anything in the Middle East worth an American sprained ankle – much less the loss of our civil liberties.

The argument that Iran will develop nuclear weapons is more persuasive if we don’t approve the agreement than if we do.

From 1980 until 1988 the Iraqis (Sunnis under Saddam) fought the Iranians (Shias) in a million casualty war. We should stay out of their conflict and let them get back to killing each other. Becoming a permanent combatant in their almost fourteen hundred year old war is a fool’s errand and certain to bring us grief with no gain.

The Iran Agreement is in America’s interest and should be approved.

Jim McConnell is a retired US Army Colonel, President of the New Hampshire State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, representing Cheshire 12 (Richmond & Swanzey) and writes about foreign policy for NHTPC.

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