Talking to Iran

Talking to Iran

To tell the truth, hypocrisy is an undeniable aspect of liberal politics, as politics cannot be solely based on moral principles. At the same time, moral principles cannot altogether be disregarded - after all, human beings are neither totally moral beings, nor they can live without some sort of morality.

“Humanitarian interventionism” has always been a mixture of moral principles and politics of interest, if not pure political interest disguised as principles. The revival of humanitarian or liberal interventionism at the end of the 20th century gained legitimacy on the grounds of the supposed “moral responsibility” of Western powers responding to the Balkan tragedies in Bosnia and Kosovo. Nevertheless, it lost credibility soon after the failures of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the case of Libya provides the most recent example of this failed legitimacy. It should be stressed that it is not only the failure of the moral grounds of interventionism, but also the unintended political consequences of previous cases that hindered the possibility of a new Western intervention in Syria. Under the circumstances, the strategy of proxy war took its place, but this has turned out to be even more risky. In the end, the U.S. needed to engage in some sort of intervention, and this seems to be on the way. Nonetheless, it is declared to be in a very limited scope and apparently is going to be useless in many respects. Now almost everybody agrees that it will not end the conflict, or the ongoing massacres and chaos. In addition, it will not help to save the principle of moral responsibility.

Under the circumstances, the only way is to enforce “politics of a peaceful solution,” not only in the name of a new moral principle, but also for the sake of political realities. One of the major reasons behind the failure to end the conflict is the persistent exclusion of Iran from the conflict resolution plans, despite the fact that Iran is a decisive actor in the Syrian conflict. At the beginning of the crisis, the Western camp also failed to consider the Russian factor, despite the fact that the era of Russian weakness - as in the case of the Kosovo intervention - has long been over. Now, the best way to make a reasonable move in the Syrian conflict is to accept some sort of compromise and cooperation with Iran.

In fact, the Western world should revise its relations with Iran not only as a step to overcome the Syrian crisis, but also - and most importantly - to revise its Middle Eastern politics, which seem to be giving nothing but turmoil and trouble for all parties involved.

The current crisis in the Middle East has its roots in the conflict with Iran. The holy alliance between the U.S./the West and Sunni monarchies/Islamic movements against the Soviet Union and socialism did not come to a halt at the end of the Cold War. The same alliance system was directed against Iran even before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The crisis with Iran (and with its regional allies) started with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and turned into the focus of regional conflict after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The power struggle was between the anti-Western forces and the pro-Western forces (and Western interests behind them) in the Middle East.

In the most recent episode, the Western world supported the idea and politics of rising moderate democratic Islamic forces, in the struggle against radical Islam on the one hand and Iranian power on the other. Nevertheless, the drama of “Muslim democracy” came to a bitter end when “Spring” turned to fall and the protagonists (the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey) played bad performances. The Syrian failure cannot be considered without reference to the general regional drama. That is why there is a need for revision in Middle Eastern politics for all actors, with the exclusion of Iran now perhaps seeming more pointless than before.

I think the “politics of peace” can be a new moral foundation in terms of legitimacy and principles, rather than the delegitimized politics of intervention. Engagement with Iran could prove more effective than struggling against it.