After reading the book “The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower”, it became evident to me that the Iranian lobby is performing a major role within the US to influence the decision-making process regarding American-Iranian relations. Such an influence is ultimately working to the advantage of the regime in Tehran by marketing the Mullah regime in the West in general, and in the US in particular, at the expense of Arab parties harmed by its expansionist ambitions and Iranian interventions in their internal affairs, such as Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, or Iranian occupations of their soil, such as the case with the UAE and Iraq.
One of the most prominent points in the book is the portrayal of Iran as being more rational than the Arabs in its dealings with the West, especially the US, and the need to judge Iran only by its actions, and not by the statements of its officials towards America. According to the author, Iran is a Shiite state with an imperialist history and an ancient culture represented by the Persian Empire, which puts it in a better position [than the Arabs] to become a partner for the US, owing to the shared civilization traits between the two states, something that the regional Sunni states are lacking. In fact, this is a clear and blatant promotion of political sectarianism on the writer’s part, not at the level of individuals or organizations, but at the level of international relations as well.
In a striking contradiction, the author presents Iran as a devil feared by the US, owing to its military potential and its ability to mobilize suicide bombers against the West. Yet he then goes on to say that the US, by isolating Iran, is forcing it to fall into the arms of Russia and China, a situation that would jeopardize US strategies in the Gulf region and the entire Middle East.
The author talks about a round of negotiations conducted in Baghdad in March 2007 between the US and Iran – only the second round to take place between the two states since the Iranian revolution – where the Iranians put forth their demands to the Americans as follows:
First: the US must acknowledge the Iranian role in Iraq.
Second: the US must provide guarantees that it will not harm Iran’s internal front, nor will it back the Arab Sunnis.
The writer indicates that neither of these two demands seemed odd to the Americans; Iran had contributed greatly to the US occupation of Iraq, and hence its role was clearly recognized. Yet, according to the writer, the question that must be raised is: What is meant by the US acknowledging the Iranian role in Iraq? Does this mean that Iran would replace the US allied forces in Iraq after they withdraw? Or does this mean that the US would hand over Iraq to Iran?
The author answers that the Iranians simply wanted to present themselves as a responsible power in the region and one that could be relied upon, particularly following their effective contribution to the occupation of Iraq. As such, the author concludes that their demands were reasonable and realistic.
The writer then raises a significant question: can we (the Americans) trust them (the Iranians)?
He answers: It is impossible to know what is going on in the Iranian mindset. Yet, if the US is aware of the difference between what the Iranians say and what they do, then there is no concrete evidence to suggest that they would provoke Word War III. What the Americans ought to do is request a truce with the Iranians and enter into negotiations with them to resolve outstanding issues – one after another – until the tension is relieved, and then the Americans may get more from them.
The author inquires again: What do the Iranians want from the West, especially the US? What does the West have to offer them? He then goes on to say that in order to correctly answer this question, we must be aware of the Iranian leadership and how it thinks. The author says that this was what former President Hashemi Rafsanjani revealed in a meeting which [the author] attended in Tehran, where Rafsanjani declared that Iran was ready to fight any war in defense of the Wali al-Faqih regime, and that any country, organization or individual that sought to attack such a regime would be a legitimate target for Iran. What Rafsanjani meant here was quite clear: assassinations, terrorism and war.
Rafsanjani was clear when he indicated in the interview that the Mullah regime in Iran and its leadership shoulders the awesome responsibility of restoring the great Persian glory, and this emphasizes the imperialist theories of the ruling regime in Tehran. The writer goes on to say that we must not rely extensively on the moderates in the ruling regime in Tehran, such as Rafsanjani, Khatami and others, for they will not relinquish their imperialist ambitions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. The Iranian leadership, whether with regards to the radicals or moderates, is united in its goals. The difference lies only in the means of fulfilling these goals. However, if we ignore the Iranian officials’ statements and focus on their actions, we would find that Iran and its agents, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, are ready to enter into negotiations with America. The author’s message, which he sought to convey throughout his book, can hence be summarized as follows: It is in the political and strategic interest of the US to cooperate with Iran, so that it can become the future policeman of the region.
This was a brief summary of the most important points that the author highlighted in his book, all of which serve the ruling regime in Tehran and its expansionist and imperialist policies. This is just a sample of what the Iranian lobby is doing in some research centers at American universities and think tanks, in terms of influencing US policies towards Iran via theorizing its future positive role in the region, in order to protect Western interests and maintain the Gulf’s oil flow to the West.
In the next few months, will we see further influence from the Iranian lobby in K Street, Washington, whereby the US presents Syria, Lebanon and Yemen (to join Iraq) on a silver platter to the Mullah regime in Tehran, in return for Iran relinquishing its nuclear ambitions and then becoming the Gulf’s new policeman? Or will this lobby continue to lack the ability to directly influence the American administration?
* The author of the book is Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who has worked in many Middle East and Asian states such as Iran and India. I have read many of his books, but I often notice that in the majority of his work about the Middle East, he seems biased against the Arabs, and especially the Gulf States.