February 22nd, 2010 10:54 EST
An Iran with Nukes is a Threat to Arabs and Turks as well as Israel
American foreign policy for more than 60 years has seen Israel as the hub of our concern in the Middle East and other nations in the region as incidental, in spite of their oil wealth and strategic importance. So it`s hardly any wonder that Iran`s nuclear ambitions are seen through a lens ground in Israel.
Iran, of course, heightens this perception with its anti-Semitic screeds. And therein lies the mortal illness of our policy. There is hardly a people on the Middle Eastern stage with whom Iran does not have old scores to settle, most conspicuously the Arabs and not least the Turks. And when it comes to the Turks we must think of Central Asia`s Turkic people, not just Turkish nationals.
Civilizations as old as Iran`s have long memories. In the 7th Century the Arabs overran Iran, then called Persia, and imposed not only their new religion, Islam, but also their culture, including a new alphabet. Shi`ite Islam didn`t arise in Iran but it soon became a powerful way to resist Arabization.
The wounds incurred in this clash remain open and are exacerbated by the fact that the Iranians are an Indo-European people, unlike the Semitic Arabs. Their language, Farsi, although permeated with Arab nouns, is Indo-European.
Our insistence on seeing events in the Middle East through our commitment to Israel is viewed in the Middle East as tragically shortsighted. Both the Arabs and the Turks have overrun Iran in their turn, and Iran would like nothing better than to regain its pre-Islamic primacy in the region.
Almost nothing is as slogan-ready as the fundamentalists among us would have us believe. Religious dogma provides many clues to history, but for getting from one place to another it`s like using a flat-earth map to circumnavigate.
It would be a step in the right direction to treat the Arabs as full partners in the effort to achieve a Middle East equilibrium. Irsael is not their only concern, nor should it be ours. And it is certainly not Iran`s only concern. Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq. We then toppled Iraq`s ruler, Sadam Hussein, and proceeded to enfranchise the country`s Shi`ite majority. Now our general in Iraq, Raymond T. Odierno, says pro-Iranian politicians in Baghdad are doing Iran`s bidding. It is difficult to exaggerate what a duh moment this is for Iraq`s Sunni neighbors.
If something seems counterintuitive here, it`s perhaps because our foreign policy in the Middle East has so long come from the pulpit rather than history. If we looked at Israel in strategic terms it would be a piece of the puzzle. But because we look at Israel in religious terms it defines the puzzle.
Even from a religio-historical perspective this is faulty. Islam is also one of the Abrahamic religions, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The singularity of its iconoclasm often distinguishes it from Judaism and Christianity, but attempts to exile it from the Judeo-Christian tradition only distort history and make conciliation more difficult.
Arab rulers never gave Britain naval bases in the Persian Gulf. They give the United States those bases not because of Israel but because they call it the Arab Gulf and fear Iranian hegemony.
Iran`s threat to Israel is only one of the issues in play. Iran regards itself as having a kind of manifest destiny in the Middle East, much as we supposed for ourselves in North America. It was toppled by Alexander`s Macedonians, by Arabs and Seljuk Turks and then by the British. The West that inherited Alexander`s Hellenic world did so because of the Arabs, not in spite of them. It`s no wonder, then, that they would resent our seeing Israel as a bastion of that Hellenic world, a kind of light in the dark, when it was they who handed us the light.
If history keeps falling victim to sound-byte thinking we are likely to continue making disastrous mistakes in the Middle East. There isn`t a single nation or ethnic group in the Middle East that does not have a vital stake in what happens next in Iran. Each of them wears a different pair of glasses, and we must try them all on when making policy.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York
, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.