For All You Iran-Is-Winning Types, The Sad Truth

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You get two variants of this logic: 1) if the US leaves Iraq, Iran wins automatically (or it’s won already because the Shiite majority actually rules); and 2) even more than al-Qaeda, Iran is the real beneficiary of the Arab Spring.

Both judgments are wrong in the way that America’s capacity for frantic self-doubt and self-blame are routinely wrong.

The surge in Iraq worked, and we won the cause celebre battle declared there by al-Qaeda itself. Once that happened and Iraq settled down just enough for genuine economic recovery to begin, the regional battle for influence came down to two key next-door neighbors: Turkey and Iran.

Ask yourself: who’s got the better economy?

So here’s the low-down from the NYT on this struggle, published 8 Oct.:

A standard narrative has it that the Iraq war opened up a chessboard for the United States and Iran to tussle for power. One of the enduring outcomes has been an emboldened Iran that is politically close to Iraq’s leaders, many of whom escaped to Iran during Saddam Hussein’s government, and that is a large trading partner.

Yet the story is more nuanced, particularly in the Shiite-dominated south that became politically empowered after the American invasion upended Sunni rule. It has been other countries — most powerfully Turkey, but also China, Lebanon and Kuwait — that have cemented influence through economic ties.

By comparison, shoddy Iranian goods and the predatory business practices of its companies have deeply alienated the Iraqi people – even in the Shiite south:

“Before 2003, 90 percent of Najaf people liked Iranians,” said the governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, who has lived in Chicago and Michigan and holds American citizenship. “Now, 90 percent hate them. Iran likes to take, not give” . . .

Bottom line: the region’s best economic networkers are “winning” Iraq – not US companies nor Iran.  Oh, and globalization’s premier economic networker, China, is “winning” too, as if that would be any surprise.

Next onto the Arab Spring.  Great piece in the CSM yesterday. Title and subtitle say it all:

Turkey’s rising clout leaves Iran fuming on sidelines of Arab Spring: The fast-emerging split between Turkey and Iran has revived a centuries-old rivalry between the Ottomans and the Persians.

Stated even more baldly in the text:

So far, analysts say, Turkey appears the winner in pushing for secular, democratic outcomes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and especially Syria – even if more by default than by design. And Iran, offering little more than nondemocratic Islamic rule and anti-Western vitriol, at this point appears the loser.

So there it is, folks:  Iran 0-2 and Turkey 2-0.  Actually, the CSM piece led off with Turkey hosting a big regional conference on economic development in Afghanistan, so some analysts would even give Turkey a slight edge there.

Again, the bottom line: whether it’s the US waging regime-toppling exercises or the Arab Spring doing the same from below, the long-term winners will be those integrating agents who’ve best mastered globalization’s dynamics, and that ain’t Iran.