Iran, so far away... (Part 1)

The current events involving Iran and Allied strategy in the Middle East have drawn my attention to the little-known history outside of these events. Iran has become the crux point of the future of American hegemony in world politics, and the direction that this crux could lead will spell out the future of the United States and also determine the epoch of what "post-cold war politics" will really be about. This is literally history in the making, and therefore I think it is important to tie some information together that is being completely missed by the media, otherwise these facts may go unnoticed until far in the future when the ability to take a political stance is gone, and a historical stance is all that is left.

Although the structure of my narrative may change as I tell it, I'm going to divide this topic into two parts, for the purposes of making my blogging easier, and perhaps also easing the reading and following of the threads (and hyperlinks) that I will weave. The first part will be a (very loose) background on some relevant parts of "near east" politics in the last decade and a half; the second will look more closely on the United States conduct toward Iran in the context of that history. Hopefully by depicting a closer, local picture in the context of the larger strategic picture, the fragments of truth that are available might fit a narrative of understanding.

A caveat: the mere digging into the unreported (or at least, unfocused) aspects of the United States' foreign policy almost automatically takes the appearance of what is popularly known as "conspiracy theory". If a conspiracy is a hidden plan, and a theory is a guess at the meaning of evidence that would lead to a theorization of the goals of such a plan, then obviously, speculating on secret military and diplomacy policies would qualify under the description. However, where such theorization differs from the popularly held notion of "conspiracy theory" is how far one must jump between points of evidence in order to connect the dots. In this day and age, there is so much information that the relevance of information becomes decreased to a infinite minimum by the sheer weight of the totality. For any one person to be a "witness" to the complete picture is highly doubtful. Thus bureaucracy obscures itself amid itself. But what we can do is catalog the facts that we do find noted by others, and beginning to observe trends and waves of events that can be linked together into a theory. This I what I will seek to do. I do not intend to show that there is someone "behind" what I will describe, or point blame. I think it is a given fact that a government will seek to act in interests that are meant to remain secret from the general population. But by looking at events, we can see the general direction of what is being attempted, and this is what we call history. I'm not going to say we have an ethical duty to compile history- but we do compile history, all the time, and at different levels. This is what is going to go on here.

Part 1: East and West

In 1996 there was the formation of a group known as the Shanghai Five, made up of the states China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In 2001 these states and Uzbekistan formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The claimed effect of the founding (from the SCO website) was that "It initiated new global vision with regards to security, containing principles of mutual trust, disarmament, cooperation and security, enriched new type of interstate relations started by Russia and China, with partnership, not union as a basic; provided model of regional cooperation with such distinctive features as joint initiative, priority on security, mutually beneficial interaction of big and small states. This new world vision has raised human society above cold war ideology and made an invaluable contribution to creation of a new model of international relations."
While the claimed principles sound very nice, some conservative theorists have looked upon this organization as a way to counter the influence of the West in southern Asia, an as an alternative to organizations like NATO or the EU. (Belarus was not considered for membership on the basis that it is a European and not an Asian country.) The resolution calling for American forces to be removed from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and the planned SCO joint military exercises are other factors that contribute to the military weight of the organization as an inter-national organization to consolidate Asian forces apart from Western forces.
Although there are no current announced plans to add additional member states to the SCO, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Iran have all applied to be members after being granted observer status in 2005. India, also an observer state, has not applied, and this could be India hasn't decided if this is the bloc for it to join. (The SCO opposed the enlargement of the UN Security Council permanent membership, while Japan, Brazil, Germany and India were for it. Perhaps China and Russia wanted to consolidate their power in that organization, while simultaneously forming a non-Western bloc under their own influence.)
It is not clear whether these observer states will be invited to join, but the fact that they express interest in joining belies precisely that; they are interested in this organization that has arisen as a counter to Western hegemony.

This is a general tide, or current, in international relations. Another current that has of late been whipped into a maelstrom is that of Islam in Asia. While this has been heavily reported, especially since the 2001 terrorist attacks in America, the reporting has often taken the stance of "Islam and the West" while ignoring the currents within Islamic countries that are often more political than their are polemical. Since the invasion of Iraq by the United States "Sunni" and "Shia" have entered the media vocabulary, but still the history of these relations among various countries and most importantly, the various political groups that actually constitute politics has been ignored in favor of general, ideologically understandable divisions. The fact is that different organizations from different countries with different iterations of ideological belief have been at odds and/or evens for years, creating a political climate that cannot be understood dualistically, despite the desire of the media to create an easy story. If only the weather was as simple as warm or cold weather, perhaps meteorologists could always predict the conditions.

I won't describe all the relevant conflicts in detail, but I will link to the wikipedia articles about them. They provide good synopses of the relevant parties involved, and also this list is an illustration of the size of the issue here. There is more than enough history involved to fill a semester-long class, and most media sources try to tell their stories in a few hundred words.

Middle Eastern Conflicts

The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Involving all the countries of the Arab League, Israel, and numerous factions all of these countries and groups

Jordan-Syria tensions: Involving tensions between monarchist and socialist governments, pro-Western pro-Arab tensions, support and opposition to the PLO and its factions, the Muslim Brotherhood and its branches

The PLO Internal Conflicts: Fatah, As-Sa'iqa, and some ten other factions and their various periods of unity and division

Lebanon: from the Civil War to the ongoing issues with the recognized government and Hezbollah

Iraqi-Kuwaiti Wars: Involving long-standing border disputes, post-colonialism issues, nationalisms, and oil resource disputes

UN disputes with Iran and Iraq: sovereignty and international politics over nuclear and weapons proliferation issues

The Iran-Iraq War: Involving long-standing border disputes, religious nationalisms, racial nationalisms, oil resource disputes, and Western interference

While all of these issues and events are interrelated, I want to focus on the Iran-Iraq War as a prelude to what is occurring now along that border, although now the United States and Allies in a much more obviously involved position. Part 2 will begin with that analysis, and show how Iran figures into that local history, the larger global scene of Asia and Europe, and the currently unfolding events. In the mean time, do your homework! No one is going to learn about history for you, jerk! Not even me!

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