Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Reverend Johnnie Moore
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rev. Johnnie Moore is president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and founder of the KAIROS Company.
The ignoble withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan – a withdrawal commanded before vulnerable American civilians and military assets were safely evacuated – only served to benefit Iran’s apocalyptic vision for the Middle East, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to frame the decision differently.
Whatever Washington says about Afghanistan, Americans need to recognize this withdrawal was never about numbers. It was about a creeping change of heart, and it augurs potential disengagement from America’s loyal friends and allies and an eroding resolve to defend endangered minorities from threats of oblivion.
Before we get to the potential losers, we want to be crystal clear: If the Biden administration continues this course, there will be only one big winner – Iran’s megalomaniac Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose innate hatred for the United States is only matched by his genocidal loathing for Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Only one nation in the world has been the target of more terrorist missiles than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: the State of Israel. In the case of Israel, the treatment is courtesy of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it comes from the Houthis in Yemen.
Whatever the source of the deadly trajectories, the missiles flung toward Saudi Arabia and Israel are virtually identical. That’s because they come from the same source: Iran. They also serve the same purpose: Kill innocent people to destabilize the Middle East in order to advance a Khamenei-led Iranian apocalyptic death cult. Khamenei’s vision – whatever his numerous suave puppets and apologists profess – involves the total destruction of the State of Israel and the total subjugation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Now, the Biden presidency is seeking to tread down a disastrous path that will empower Khamenei in pursuing his vision. Indeed, President Joe Biden’s Iran envoy Robert Malley may have discovered that the administration can leverage America’s exhaustion with wars in the Middle East, and in Afghanistan, to grant Iran the ultimate prize without most Americans even noticing: a near-total American withdrawal from the Middle East.
This is why the Biden administration announced on July 27 its intention to also withdraw from Iraq altogether (another dream of Tehran), and why their “come hell or high water” approach to withdrawing from Afghanistan, whatever the human or reputational cost, continued undeterred. Could the US contingent in Syria be far behind?
It’s a new version of an old idea often floated by former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He advocated for a so-called “new security framework” in the Middle East which – as a prerequisite – involved the expulsion of the Americans.
“We need a strong region, not a strong man in the region. We have to recognize, all of us in the [Arabian] Gulf region, need to join Iran in recognizing that nobody can be the hegemon of the region. All of us need to work together in a strong region,” Zarif said in 2018.
With a heavy dose of Persian chutzpah, Zarif lauded with a straight face the virtues of “territorial integrity” and called for “no interference in the internal affairs of others” and “respect for national boundaries.”
All one needed to do was to start with “confidence-building measures.”
The confidence-building measures imagined by Zarif look a lot like what we’re seeing in the Middle East today as America disengages while Iran plays host to a regime whose new government is the most extreme since the onset of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolution.
No one seems to notice or care but one party in the Gulf isn’t buying it: the actual Iranian people. Iranians have had it with less food on the table, less water to drink, more misery, and more repression. This is why Iran’s summer was marked by more protests and more brutal crackdowns by the regime’s revolutionary guards. While the rest of the Gulf is planning for a brighter 21st century, the Iranian people are stuck with a regime fueled by the hatreds of the 12th century.
Rather than expending so much energy trying to change the Iranian government’s trajectory, it’s time for the Biden administration to read the region and amplify the voices of those in the line of Tehran’s fire, beginning with the Iranian people and continuing with those whose cities face Iranian rocket fire and the threat of nuclear blackmail.
Instead of pushing its Arab allies into normalizing their relations with Iran, the Biden administration ought to be building upon the peace-through-strength successes of the Abraham Accords. That’s what the American people supported and that’s what our allies in the Middle East desperately need. The nations of the Gulf, along with Egypt, Israel and other nations near Iran, don’t have the luxury of waiting for the results of the 2022 midterm US elections, let alone the 2024 presidential elections. They will instead have to forge their own collective path to defend themselves from more “confidence-building” demands from Tehran.
And if Washington is unwilling to do so then it may be time for the Arab countries to just move forward in the right direction without the Americans. They shouldn’t care too much about it either because Washington won’t be able to resist taking credit for their successes during midterm elections in 2022 and presidential elections in 2024.
In the meantime, it behooves American citizens – Democrats and Republicans – to demand action from their elected representatives in Congress. They must declare in a clear bipartisan voice: There will be no deals with Iran that endanger our allies. It’s time to show the pollsters and pundits at least that the American people are paying attention and do care about the fate of the Middle East.
If there is an actual, attainable deal with Iran that really reduces terrorism, violence, and nuclear threats, share those details with the American people, but from where we sit all we see are American diplomats promising Tehran everything they’ve demanded and more for the privilege of a useless piece of paper and the privilege of being serially lied to.
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