An Iranian Distraction from U.S. Woes

Iran denies accusations of the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil.

The United States will "continue to apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior," U.S. President Barack Obama said recently of an alleged Iranian plot on Washington's Saudi ambassador. These charges, Iran points out, threaten the political stability of the Middle East, which is a region undergoing a massive democratic revolution.

So far the uprisings have transcended the sectarian divisions on which the allegations are based. And the United States has welcomed the revolutions for the democratic norms they strive to achieve. The United States, after all, stands as an international talisman for the freedoms and rights transcending sectarian divisions, divisions that have bedevilled the Middle East politically for centuries.

Why, then, has the American president been amplifying claims that foment discord between Iran and Saudi Arabia? And why would Iran undertake such a diplomatically disastrous assignation in the 21st century anyway? There could be underlying issues at stake here for greater democracy in the Middle East.

Strategic relations or systemic accord

Firstly, America's mega status in the international state system often places a benchmark for democracy beyond the regional breadth that the revolutionary spirit sweeping across the Middle East embodies. These uprisings suggest a context other than the political paradigm of strategic bilateral relations and global capitalism that underpins the U.S. political system.

In two respects the Arab Spring pertains to a geopolitical framework. On the one hand, these movements represent distinctive regional issues such as overcoming Middle Eastern dictatorships. But more generally, the revolutionary spirit embodies a reaction to the amorphous forces of global capitalism, the excesses of which are now bearing down worldwide, manifested in rampant state levels of debt. Dealing with the issues underlying the Arab Spring points to the regulative framework of systemic state authority to form progressive stability in the war-torn states of the region. Regional authority is also the means to streamline excessive capitalism, in accordance with other regional bodies.

Neither the United States nor the European Union, after all, has been able to resolve their economic problems single-handedly. "No solution is viable if it doesn't have the support of all the European institutions," French President Nicholas Sarkozy said of the debt crises infecting the Eurozone. Given that capitalism is a global phenomenon, and uprisings are now occurring in the United States itself, is any solution realistic without the coordinated regulation of the entire state system? "We have created a world that is non-computable because it is too complex," said the Swiss economic expert Fredmund Malik. Is he not right? In an interconnected society of multinational corporations, streamlining regulative accord on resources, trade and finance between regions is proving vital not just for any one state's political stability, but the sustainable economic equilibrium of the world.

In strategic respects, this could go against the grain of standard U.S. authority, especially in the Middle East.


Notwithstanding the Arab Spring, the region's key division—the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—is clear on the shortcomings of how democracy is applied internationally by the United States. Consolidating a state solution to that conflict continually eludes U.S. political powers along with the United Nations. Why? As a unilateral mega power, how can the United States engender the systemic strength of regional accord? Rather than foster political cohesion between Israel and the Arab League, for instance, the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel seems to have imposed a barrier as inherently sectarian in nature as that of Iran and Saudi Arabia, drawing upon the demarcation of ancient Zionism rather than progressing into broader geopolitical relations between all races of the Middle East.

"We cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, whilst insisting the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state. With sectarian, racial and religious differences driving the dynamic of territorial conflict, as they have done for centuries, the need for a political framework transcending religion seems obvious. However, neither the United States nor the United Nations has been able to apply it. How can the United States resolve the issue of returning Palestinian refugees, the demographics of which portend further Israeli settlements? These demographics have become a regional concern, with far more relevance to sustainable resource management in the Middle East than the Zionist lobby of New York.

Meanwhile Iran has not only been advancing systemic relations in the Middle East via regional bodies such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but is finally recognizing Israel's right to exist. "Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support," Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on the Israeli/Palestinian two-state initiative. Iranian recognition for regional accord is implicit: "We think that [statehood] is the right of the Palestinian people; however, we fully expect other states to do so as well."

So again, why rock the boat? Where is the general democratic logic behind the U.S. allegations against Iran?

U.S. domestic politics

Right or wrong, there's a clear assumption here that the issue can take the heat off a president struggling in domestic polls, hamstrung by the consequences of overwhelming capitalism and unilateral strategic power. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, suggests the West is again pushing "Iranophobia" with these allegations, to detract from the failing U.S. economy.

Defining a common enemy to manifest political power is probably the oldest political tool in the book all round, including for Iran, but does it ever work in the long term? "The economic problems of the U.S. are very serious, and by accusing Iran it's not going to solve any problem," President Ahmadinejad said on that score. Nor for that matter is Iranian nuclear technology going to resolve Iranian economic woes.

From Israel and Iran to the Arab Spring and the debt crises sweeping the globe, the geopolitical framework of authority could be the surest way of building a more secure future in respect of our common global realities.

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