Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Tackling the Iran-U.S. Crisis: The Need for a Paradigm Shift

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Tackling the Iran-U.S. Crisis: The Need for a Paradigm Shift

Article excerpt

Central Asia and the Persian Gulf region have been engulfed in turmoil and instability with global ramifications for the last several decades. The region has been the scene of super-power rivalry and competition as well as major-power understanding and cooperation. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan lead to one of the bloodiest Cold War confrontations, while during the same period, the Iran-Iraq war created a unique opportunity for both superpowers and most other powers to support the same side.

This region has also been the scene of the most amazing and drastic shifts in United States alliances. Before they turned against their benefactors, Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda began as major assets for--if not creations of--the United States in the war against communism and later in the campaign against Iran. (1)

The turmoil in this region has shown that major-power rivalry has not been the sole source of the region's miseries, because significant episodes of major-power cooperation did not bring about positive change. The source of trouble is not extremism either, as it has been a symptom and not the cause; not to mention the fact that today's extremists were once close allies of their current antagonists. The problem lies in the prevailing paradigm, founded on the need for an enemy--real, perceived, imaginary or artificially manufactured--as a convenient tool for governance and global interactions. The resulting double standards, short-sighted policies, political and military domination and imposition continue to nurture conflict, insecurity, arms races, dictatorship and extremism. (2)


Iran has suffered tremendously from the enemy paradigm. In this context, it became the victim of a war, launched by Saddam Hussein on 22 September 1980, which was miserably dealt with by the international community. (3) The Iranian people experienced war and destruction on the battlefields and in their homes, thanks to Saddam's doctrine of total war. Massive diplomatic, financial and military support for the aggressor from every corner of the world added insult to injury, When Saddam invaded Iran and swiftly advanced to occupy 30,000 square kilometers of Iranian territory, it took seven days for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution, presumably based on the widely held belief that the war would bring down the newly established revolutionary government within a week. (4) Even after seven days, the Security Council did not make the routine call for a cease-fire and withdrawal, nor consider Saddam's invasion of Iran a threat against international peace and security. (5) In the course of the war, the United States joined the Soviet Union and France in providing Iraq with military hardware and intelligence, and even the material for chemical and biological weapons along with German and other Western companies. (6) The Security Council was prevented for several years, and in spite of mounting evidence and UN reports, from dealing with the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iranian civilians and soldiers. (7)

Iran has also been directly affected by turmoil in the neighborhood. Iran welcomed the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. However, the turmoil, insecurity and extremism present since the aftermath of invasion and foreign occupation have had a detrimental impact on Iran's security and development. Iran had warned the Security Council about these consequences before the invasion: "We all have an idea of the unparalleled disaster that a possible war could bring about. The humanitarian crisis in Iraq and in the neighboring countries might take catastrophic dimensions. The threat of disintegration of Iraq and instability in the region is significant. The fact that extremism stands to benefit the most from a war is undeniable." (8) An increasingly bloody sectarian clash, initiated by terrorists and fanned by politicians, is now threatening the entire region. …

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