My neighbor came over and gave me an article from the periodical Foreign Affairs. He wanted my opinion on the article “Iran Among the Ruins” by Vali Nasr. I thought that was very nice because I do not get many requests for my opinion about anything these days.
Now Vali Nasr is a big name among Iranian analysts and also as an expert on Middle Eastern Shi’a. I bought his book The Shi’a Revival and found it to be very informative. I refer to it quite often. He usually writes well with a minimum of the usual think tank jargon.
After reading the article I told my neighbor that I would not dispute most of the points he made but the conclusion was vanilla pablum, a “nothing burger” in modern parlance…… Something about “building” on the “nuclear agreement” and a bunch more diplomacy…a path followed by the foreign policy amateurs in the Obama administration. It translated into trading Iranian promises to slow down their nuclear program in exchange for the U.S. giving them carte blanche to do almost anything they wished in the Middle East, not to mention flying in a plane load of cash. On Iranian promises one should read the “The Adventures of Haji Baba of Ispahan,” recommended to me by Iraqis as the best analysis of the Iranian national personality ever written. Of course it has been branded as stereotyping, out of date, etc. by the usual politically correct suspects, but among Arabs anyway, it seems to carry a lot of weight. It coincides with quite of bit of cultural assessments I have read over the years. No doubt about it, the Persians are the best rug merchants in the world.
Overall the article written by Dr. Nasr represents the “Big Name Syndrome,” the affliction of many periodicals, mostly leftish of course, that publish articles by the movers and shakers in the field even though they have nothing much to say. If for instance, someone like me wrote this kind of conventional boilerplate platitudes, the periodical would be castigated for hiring high school students to write their articles.
There is another aspect to it of course. Some would say he is overly sympathetic to the Iranian ruling regime. Not being close to the Washington DC flagpole myself, I really can’t say that is true, but when he writes that the irredentist, aggressive, Iranian moves and adventures all over the Middle East are simply part of a ‘forward defense,” it does give me pause. After all that phrase closely follows the “experts” declaring the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was also just a defensive measure to ensure the safety of the “soft underbelly” of Russia.
One does not need to be reading Top Secret SCI material to know that the Iranians are well represented and connected in Washington. They have lots of money and there are many muddle-headed academics and journalists, who are more than happy to carry the water for them…free of charge.