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September 6, 2007

Syria and Iran: The Threats That Aren't


by Michael Scheuer

In reference to coercive British rule, Tom Paine once told Americans that there is something absurd about the idea that the entire continent of North America should be forever ruled by the little island of Great Britain. Paine, as always in his work, was trying to make Americans think for themselves and, in this case, to see that their own geographic size, rising wealth, and potential power made it ridiculous for them to forever acquiesce to rule from London.

Paine's lesson is apt today in regard to both Syria and Iran. Since I was a young man – now a fading memory – I have heard U.S. politicians warn of the threat presented to America by Syria. There is, of course, something superficially plausible about this. We know that Syria is another of the Muslim world's family-run dictatorships – most of the others are U.S. allies – and that the Assad boys are murderous autocrats and thugs. Likewise, our Israeli friends and their Israel-first American supporters have long harped on the idea – and thereby have misled Americans – that Syria is a military threat to the United States.

But look at the map. Syria is a tiny country, dirt poor except for weapons, and ruled by a dentist. It also is being slowly undermined by the Islamists who the Assads have foolishly tried to co-opt. It is an insignificant dot on the map that poses no threat whatsoever to the United States. If Damascus allows Islamist fighters into Iraq to attack coalition forces, America should take steps to end that situation. But as much as we talk about the issue, we do nothing about it, probably because the inflow from Syria is not as large as the inflow from our great and good ally Saudi Arabia. Besides, allowing the inflow from Syria to continue gives Senator Lieberman – the current poster boy of America's Israel-firsters – the ability to beat the war drum against the supposedly mighty Syrians. Surely, if Senator Lieberman truly believes the Syrians are a threat to America, the people of Connecticut have sent – hopefully unwittingly – someone akin to the agent of a foreign power to the U.S. Senate. Syria might be a threat to Israel, but the idea that it is a threat to the United States, that the armored Syrian horde may sweep across the Bronx, occupy Manhattan, and lasciviously ogle New Jersey, should be met with the most appropriate response possible – convulsive and derisive laughter.

And then there is Iran. How does one explain the U.S. governing elite's fear of Iran? Here we have a country that admittedly is led by one of the world's more histrionic politicians, but one that also is ringed by U.S. military bases and surrounded by an overwhelmingly more numerous Sunni world that hates Shi'ites far more than it hates Westerners. Iran‘s Islamic regime, moreover, is helplessly watching the final stages of the march of its energy resources toward oblivion, and preparing for the impoverishment and resulting internal political instability that event will usher in.

So where in this portrait is the threat to the United States? While Iran is a threat to Israel, there is surely no threat to America in Iran's less-than-impressive military forces, nuclear development program, or unattractive public diplomacy. No, the threat to the United States comes from two sources. First, the relentless "Iran is the new Nazi Germany" propaganda pushed by Israel and the American citizen Israel-firsters, and, second, the multi-decade failure of the U.S. Congress to seriously address the national-security issues of energy, borders, and immigration.

As in the case of Syria – although for fewer years because Iran's previous tyrant was on America's side until the Mullahs seized power in 1979 – most American adults have grown up with the idea that Iran is a dire threat to U.S. national security. Sparked mainly by memories of the U.S. embassy hostages held for 400-plus days while President Carter diddled, Americans have been ripe for the delusions induced by the periodic visits of Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians, and their well-staged rants that equate the creaky, mostly foreign-purchased, and slightly more than tin-pot military machine of the Ayatollahs with Hitler's Wehrmacht, the product of an extremely modern industrial economy, a united populace ready for revenge against its conquerors, and the Germans' apparently genetic talent and taste for war. To say that Netanyahu, other Israeli politicians, and their American Israel-first supporters are being disingenuous in pushing the Iranian threat would be incorrect. They are consistently and blatantly lying.

No, the threat to the United States from Iran is not military, it is rather from America‘s most dangerous home-grown terrorists – the U.S. Congress. Iran threatens America economically because it has the capability to disrupt oil production in Saudi Arabia's Eastern province. Such an Iranian effort would be a casus belli for the United States only because the U.S. Congress has done nothing more substantial than advance Daylight Savings Time by three weeks since the Saudi-led embargoes of the 1970s. Thirty-five years of the Congress' utter failure to address energy security as a top priority national interest has made Iran a threat to America that it otherwise could not be.

Likewise, the terrorist threat from Iran – which is genuine – must be labeled by the U.S. Congress. Neither Iran's government or its Revolutionary Guard Corps, or their Lebanese semi-surrogate Hezbollah are going to launch a terrorist first strike in the United States. All of these entities are rational actors and they know a first-strike from their side would earn them a catastrophic response. But the rub comes for America from the fact that each of the just-mentioned entities have a terrorism infrastructure established in North America – in the United States, Canada, and Mexico – that could and would be used in response to a U.S. or Israeli first strike on Iran. And that response would be effective inside America because – thanks to the Congress' knowing failure to control borders and immigration – no level of U.S. law enforcement has anything near a complete handle on the size, intentions, capabilities, and targets of our potential Iranian attackers.

So perhaps its time for Americans to reread Mr. Paine, begin thinking for themselves, and recognize the expensive and potentially war-causing absurdities that have been foisted on them regarding the "threat" from Syria and Iran by their bipartisan governing elite and its deserving-to-be-indicted co-conspirators, Israel's government and its American Israel-first acolytes. If viewed with a realistic eye rather than one clouded by propaganda, the claims that two decaying blotches on the map named Syria and Iran constitute severe national-security threats to the United States would earn the dismissive scorn they so richly merit.

 

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Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.

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