So Condi, how's that "moderate" Arab, anti-Iran alliance shaping up?
If you know a little more than that, but still not a lot, you might be able to identify which regimes are Shia and which are Sunni.
Those people with that little amount of knowledge are probably the ones who'll tell you that the "moderate" Sunni Arab regimes ("moderate" means close to Washington) are asking the US to help them defend themselves against Iran. That, we’re told, is the scenario in the Middle East at the moment.
Here’s an example.
Early last week the normally understated, soft-spoken US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made some uncharacteristically bellicose statements about Iran. Iran, he said, should remember that "imperial Germany, imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, the Soviet Union - all made this fatal miscalculation [of misunderestimating the US]. All paid the price. All are on the ash heap of history".
Recall that it was Gates that apparently led the efforts to push through the publication of the recent National Intelligence Estimate which said that Iran had no nuclear weapons programme after all, thus undercutting the warmongering of Vice-President Cheney and his allies. Plainly this public debacle made the US look weak; afraid of the consequences of a war with Iran (which Gates and more intelligent imperialists certainly are). This will never do. Gates’ fiery outburst was probably his way of overcompensating for any perception of weakness that might result from his leading the US retreat.
Gary Samore of the US Council on Foreign Relations has his own interpretation. For him, Gates' rhetoric was intended to reassure Washington's "moderate" Sunni allies. "The Gulf states are insecure and resentful but they are in a very weak position" Samore explained. "Gates had to reassure them that the US was not giving up on Iran after the NIE."
This is very much of a piece with the standard political correctness. The US is not seeking to dominate a continent on the other side of the planet from Washington for reasons as grubby as its own power and strategic advantage. No, Washington’s actions are defensive. It is defending its allies, defending its “national interests” or whatever. Well trained intellectuals, journalists and commentators have internalised this script to the extent that the merest idea of US power being aggressive – of the intrinsically aggressive nature of imposing our will on others – is, literally, unthinkable.
So if the “moderates” want us to defend them from the extremists, if in the backward Muslim world the Sunnis and Shia are gripped by an implacable, interminable blood feud which only the good offices of the civilised West can possibly control, how do the likes of Samore and others explain this photo?
Hang on. Doesn’t “regional stability” involve lining up with Washington to isolate Iran? How does developing relations fit in to that? How isolated is Iran going to feel when it develops relations with a regional block that wields twice the investment clout of China?
And what’s this? The BBC now reports that "Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will this week become the first sitting president of the Islamic republic to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, his office said."