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Two-headed hydra

What’s the motivation behind Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s drive to build a nuclear weapon in the face of mounting opposition? Why did he make his irrational comments proclaiming that the Holocaust was a myth. And why is he systematically baiting the Israelis by threatening to wipe them from the face of the earth?The grand strategy of the United States as incepted by George W. Bush is the democratization of the Middle East. But Ahmadinejad may also have a grand strategy, one that is generating new political currents within the greater region. Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), an on-line publication. recently proffered an interesting hypothesis on this matter, which if accurate, is truly dismaying: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to recapture Iran’s primacy in the minds of Muslims as the rightful defender of Islam and the most zealous adversary of the United States, and has embarked upon a collision course with the West to achieve his goals.Let’s start at the beginning. Revolutionary Islamism began in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the shah of Iran and became the standard-bearer for radical Islamists. Further, it was Iran, through its creation Hezbollah, that pioneered suicide bombings and championed the principle of revolutionary Islamism.But just as the United States allied itself with communist dictator Josef Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany, so too Iran had to make a few deals along the way in its ongoing struggle with Iraq (before Saddam’s overthrow) as evinced by the fact that during the Iran-Contra affair, Israel was the middle man in sending U.S. weapons to Iran to defend against Saddam’s armies. Iran also made deals with several Sunni factions (their long-standing enemies). More recently, Iran secretly supported the United States in our operations in the Shiite regions of Afghanistan to offset al Qaeda. As a consequence, these types of double-dealings have caused Iran to lose its revolutionary status in the Islamic world. In the meantime, the Sunni Wahhabi movement al Qaeda has outflanked Iran by its relentless hostility to the United States and Israel. We view the world through the lens of The New York Times, CNN and FOX News, but these news outlets frequently overlook one of the more significant social currents at work in the region, such as the internal Islamic struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims throughout the region.Iran’s past cooperation with the West has in effect has eroded its strident fundamentalist standing, a position now assumed by al Qaeda. As a result, Ahmadinejad may feel compelled to reduce al Qaeda’s influence or concede that the Sunni Wahabbists have taken the banner from Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution. And what better way to reclaim Iran’s place as the leader of the Islamic revolution than by “reasserting its anti-Zionist credentials by threatening Israel’s existence and denying the Holocaust?” So as a practical matter, it’s academic if Ahmadinejad actually believes his own rhetoric about the Holocaust, because his comments re-establish him at the extreme among Islamic fundamentalists. Besides, sometimes in the game of geopolitical positioning, it can be beneficial if those you want to influence think you’re a little crazy (see Kim Il Jung.) To that end, Ahmadinejad may purposely be cultivating an aura of unpredictability as a tactic to implement his strategy.While an over-simplification, many of today’s problems in the greater Middle East are outgrowths of the Cold War when the U.S. and the Soviet Union played one Muslim state against the other. That said, it’s also a fact that numerous Sunni and Shiite factions within those states played the U.S and the Soviets off each other as well. Sixty years of shifting political sands, political exploitation and bad decisions have left the Arab street mistrustful and confused. Unfortunately, the gamesmanship continues, only now the stakes are even higher. Ahmadinejad wants to be perceived as the Islamic world’s counter-balance to the West and hopes that his strategy to acquire a nuclear weapon will dwarf in geopolitical significance what al Qaeda did on 9/11. All of this brings the world to a point where it must acknowledge two realities: 1) Iran is engaged in radical, intra-Islamic posturing in order to win back its extreme position as the true defender of Islam, of which building a nuclear weapon is its number-one priority; and 2) only the U.S. or Israel can prevent them from obtaining a bomb.In his analysis of the situation, the founder of Stratfor, Dr. George Friedman, also postulated that Iran might welcome a “survivable attack” by Israel or the United States to “burnish its credentials as the true martyr and fighter for Islam.”If the above assessments are correct, it means the world faces not one, but two extreme Islamic factions vying to determine which can be more inimical in its opposition to Israel and the United States.Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net Vail, Colorado


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