In that long ago yesteryear of 1979, before blogging, tweeting, twerking, hacking, posting, ghosting, doxing, and all the other Internet-enabled compulsions of the present day, a gang of inflamed young men, said to be students, invaded the US embassy compound in Teheran and took fifty-two American embassy personnel hostage — crossing an age-old line of geopolitical conduct that kicked off the epic conflict between global Islam and a USA-led West, still on-going as you read.
I followed the Iran Hostage Crisis avidly… the gibbering mullahs, the blindfolded captives, the rotating cast of double-taking prime ministers who lectured Jimmy Carter on the Nightly News, the rescue attempt fiasco that killed eight American soldiers out in the Persian desert. Oddly, what I remember most after all these years was the fact that the hostages ran out of dental floss and had to swap around between them the same recycled last strand for weeks on end — a ticket to periodontal hell, if ever there was one.
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And then, as if by magic, Iran released the hostages on Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day and our splendiferous “morning in America” commenced. What really began that day, of course, was the asset-stripping of this land and its people, leading to the political disorders of the moment. Forty years later it’s hard to say which nation is a bigger pain-in-the-ass on the world stage, Iran or the USA. But the net effect of all that mutual antagonism is a vast region from North Africa to Central Asia of failed states, ruined cities, and dead bodies.
I’m rather skeptical that President Trump will manage to get a new-and-improved “deal” with Iran after tearing up the old one put together by Mr. Obama, which may have not been of much value anyway. I don’t believe that anything in it would have really deterred Iranian technicians from developing a serviceable nuclear weapon. It’s just not that hard to do anymore, given the number of physicists trained all over the world since 1945.
Until recently, the Obama agreement gave the appearance of some cover in the long-running feud, an impression, at least, that the two sides could talk to each other, which has now been erased. What’s changed is a recognition that the agreement did nothing to stop Iran’s intervention in three of the current hot-spots of the region: Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, where various contingents of Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, Houthis, and even Iranian military regulars have carried the Shia battle flag in the ancient struggle to displace their Sunni adversaries, sponsored by Iran’s arch-enemy, Saudi Arabia — leaving wreckage everywhere. And, of course, let’s remember the Sunni factions include the savage ISIS and al-Qaeda gangs.
Which points to the elephant in the room with the 900-pound gorilla on its back: the fact that underlying all this terrible destructive action in that part of the world is a religious disagreement. (While, of course, underlying even that is a long emergency of human population overshoot and a desperate struggle for dwindling resources of all kinds.) It has surely been the dream of that aggressive American faction known as the Neocons, to up-end the entrenched mullahs who run Iran. The theory, I think, is that religious maniacs are always and everywhere more dangerous than secular maniacs and, if we could only get rid of these apocalyptic whack-jobs, a country like Iran might be made a “normal” nation again. The Neocons also assume that a majority of Iran’s younger generations are good-and-goddam sick of the ruling mullahs, and eager for their own regime change. And so now the Trumpsters, apparently, are determined to squeeze Iran until something over there gives.
Is it too obvious to say that our previous efforts at re-engineering the various governments of the region have all ended in failed states? “Normality” may just be a mirage in the desert these days. What happened in the Islamic oil states was an historic anomaly, short-lived and catastrophic. What we’re witnessing is the slow-motion collapse of civilization at the margins. A corner of the world that was once emptier and quieter is on its way to being empty and quiet again, but not without a tragic convulsion of violence on the journey there. What’s happening on the margins these days will shortly move toward the center.
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