General McMaster should realize that he is now the National Security Adviser and not a General in some distant theater of war. He should choose his words more carefully lest they boomerang.
On May 12, the former general was the star at the White House Press briefing to announce details of the upcoming and first presidential trip abroad: “President Trump is seeking [is] to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity. He will bring a message of tolerance and of hope to billions, including to millions of Americans who profess these faiths. The President will focus on what unites us. The President’s trip will begin in Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest sites in Islam. He will encourage our Arab and Muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those, from ISIS to al Qaeda to Iran to the Assad regime, who perpetuate chaos and violence that has inflicted so much suffering throughout the Muslim world and beyond.”
The underlined words follow in the footsteps of General Flynn who put “Iran on notice.” They contain idle threats, omit mention of others who have contributed to the conflict-ridden state of affairs, further fuel and perpetuate regional and global conflicts, and show little understanding of the region. Today’s Iran represents a continuous civilization that goes back to 7000 BC with the first Persian Empire at about 650 BC. It has survived more conflicts and wars than General McMaster may be even aware of with his PhD in history. The people who run Iran today are just a blip in its history as is the length of time that America has been a superpower.
While today’s rulers of Iran are autocratic and cannot claim democratic governance, religious freedom or non-interference in the affairs of others, they are angels on many of these dimensions when compared to the friends General McMaster eagerly supports in his briefing. Yes, Iran has persecuted Baha’is and to a lesser extent Jews and Christians. But in Saudi Arabia there is no freedom of religious worship whatsoever. There are churches and synagogues in Iran, but not only are these not tolerated in Saudi Arabia, but Christian and Jewish worship in the sanctity of a home is also prohibited in the kingdom. Iran’s elections may not be democratic given that the Supreme Leader essentially chooses the committee that vets candidates for all offices. But in Saudi Arabia there are no elections except for municipal councils. Al-Saud rule is absolute. Saudi Arabia is theirs as they claim. Although Iranian courts are corrupt, Saudi justice is corrupt and is in accordance with the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, the same interpretation that inspired Osama bin Laden and his 15 Saudi compatriots to their terrorist act of 9/11. Iran has not invaded another country for centuries, even before there was a Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Iraq. Yet Iran was invaded by Iraq in 1980 and Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. General McMaster should look into who later supplied Saddam Hussein with outlawed chemical weapons to kill Iranians in the thousands. I will save him the time—the United States and its European allies.
General McMaster was very careful to exclude one very important actor from his brief of the usual suspects that previous US administrations have included at the top of such lists—Russia!!! Yes, Iran and its surrogate Hezbollah should be ashamed of their support for Assad but who is Assad’s most important backer? Surely, the General knows the answer to this? Yes, Russia and Iran support Assad, but the US, Saudi Arabia and their surrogates are also parties to the conflict.
While Syria is one theater of conflict, the General forgets to mention what has been going on in Bahrain—crimes against humanity supported by Saudi troops and by UK and US arms and even recent sales of warplanes. What about the indiscriminate Saudi bombing in Yemen? What about the brutal treatment of Shia and the 2016 brutal beheading of peaceful demonstrators in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia? What about the source of all terrorists—Saudi financed Madrassas across the world that spew out hatred against Jews, Christians and Shia Muslims?
The sad truth is that America has lost its moral bearing. The General and the Trump Administration are warming up to Saudi Arabia and accepting all their excesses for one reason alone—business. The US sells weapons and other goods to its Arab friends—Saudi Arabia and the other member countries of the GCC. The Trump Empire has done and will do more business in Saudi Arabia and the other countries of the GCC but has no business in Iran. And current senior US politicians know how their predecessors have benefited from Arab largess and are mindful of when it will be their turn. America should watch the business fallout of Trump’s trip to America’s Arab friends.
The majority of Iranians may not support the undemocratic and corrupt clerical regime but they are indebted to the regime for one important thing—it protected Iran against Iraq and its Arab and Western supporters. The West led by the US did nothing at the United Nations to expel Saddam Hussein from Iran but instead supported and armed him and now lectures Iran on the dangers of outlawed weapons, regional conflicts, terrorism and interference! Threats from General McMaster do not frighten the rulers of Iran, instead they give them more reason to develop nuclear warheads and to be determined to expel America from all shores of the Persian Gulf. Iran has been where it is for millennia. The United States, a relative newcomer as a nation, has come from thousands of miles away to Iran’s neighborhood with soldiers and arms and lectures that Iran has no right to support its allies in the region and that it must behave itself. The folks who run Iran are not shaking in their boots and have just been given more incentive to never cooperate with the United States as they did in Afghanistan, to arm faster and to develop nuclear warheads.
General McMaster should cease his “showboating.” As a historian, he should study the history of the region and understand its people and their thinking. He should quietly ask America’s Arab clients to reform toward a system of representative governance and respect for human rights. He should assure Iran and America’s Arab clients of Washington’s balanced approach to all countries in the Persian Gulf with sincere interest to end conflicts and divisions and to promote reconciliation and peace.