Saudi devil or Iranian superpower: US options in Mideast
Two books authored by Robert Baer, an American author and a former CIA case officer, who was primarily assigned to the Middle East, are amazingly revealing.
Baer is currently TIME.com’s intelligence columnist and has contributed to Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He is a frequent commentator writing on issues related to international relations, espionage and US foreign policy.
His books, “Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude” and “The Devil We Know: Dealing With the New Iranian Superpower” are brilliant pieces of fair analysis of US foreign policy.
Both the books delve into the US foreign policy blunders in dealing with Saudi Arabia and Iran and offer some solutions to the US problems in the Middle Eastern.
In “Sleeping With the Devil” which was published in 2004, the former CIA officer highlights the troubled relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. He also reveals how Washington policies undermined CIA’s efforts to fight global terrorism.
Turning his attention to Saudi Arabia, Baer explains how US government’s cynical relationship with its Middle Eastern ally and US dependence on Saudi oil have rendered Washington economically vulnerable and in its fight against terrorism ineffective. For decades, the United States and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a ‘harmony of interests’.
The US counted on the Saudis for cheap oil, political stability in the Middle East and lucrative market, while somehow guaranteeing the flow of petrodollars to the coffers of the kingdom.
With money and oil flowing freely between Washington and Riyadh, the United States has felt secure in its relationship with the Saudis and the ruling Al Saud dynasty.
But the core of its friendship with Saudi Arabia was dramatically shocked when it became clear that fifteen out of the nineteen September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. In “Sleeping With the Devil”, Baer documents with chilling clarity how US addiction to cheap oil and Saudi petrodollars caused American officials to turn a blind eye to the Al Saud’s abysmal human rights record and its financial support for fundamentalist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban that have been directly linked to international acts of terror, including those against the United States.
“The money and arms that we send to Saudi Arabia are, in effect, being used to cut our own throat,” Baer writes.
In “The Devil We Know”, published in 2008, the former CIA officer criticizes Bush era policy of treating Iran as a country that must be weakened, punished and even its political system overthrown.
Baer suggests the US should respect, recognize and deal with Iran “as the increasingly powerful nation that it is”.
The former CIA officer, who is fluent in Arabic and says has rusty Persian, depicts Iran as a disciplined and strategic state driven by global goals.
“At the bottom of Iran’s soul is a newfound taste for empire,” he states.
Baer calls Iran “the only stable, enduring state in the (Persian) Gulf” and “a rational actor with fixed reasonable demands”.
He also calls on the US to sit down together at the negotiating table, treat Iran as the power it has become and see what it has to offer.
He maintains: the United States should also guarantee Iran’s international security, conduct joint patrols in the Persian Gulf, establish direct military-to-military communications there, ease sanctions and give Iran “a defined security role in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
“The sooner we understand the Iranian paradox—who they are, what they want, how they want to both humble us and work with us—the sooner we’ll understand how to come to terms with the new Iranian superpower,” writes Baer.
Many of Baer’s ideas sound reasonable and came true only this year. Today, Saudi Arabia threatens to reappraise its entire foreign policy after a November nuclear deal was clinched between Iran and P5+1.
Also, the US has started direct talks with Iran as a powerful state in the Middle East.
Indeed, Iran is the most powerful and stable country in the Persian Gulf and Middle East. Hence, the United States should and cannot ignore it.
Today, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration is ready for a meaningful cooperation with all countries as part of its opening to the world.
Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state and national security advisor, has said: there was “no reason for the United States to resist a strong Iran”.
Kissinger argues the old regional balance of power with inclusion of Iran in the permutation of forces should be restored.