By Dennis Lamb
It was quite a week. On Dec. 8, Syrian Maj. Gen. Salim Idriss, ďmoderateĒ commander of the Free Syrian Army, fled Syria and went to Qatar after the Islamic Front seized his headquarters and weapons depots in northern Syria.
Then, on Dec. 10, the commander of Iranís Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Maj. Gen. Mohammed Jafari, bluntly criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhaniís government, complaining that Iran has been influenced by the West. ďThe military, systems and procedures governing the administrative system of the country are the same as before, [but it] has been slightly modified and unfortunately infected by Western doctrine, and a fundamental change must occur,Ē Iranís Farís news agency quoted Jafari. ďThe main threat to the revolution is in the political arena and the Guards cannot remain silent in the face of that.Ē
What made this remarkable is that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had given his backing to Rouhani to negotiate a nuclear deal with the P5+1 (six world power nations) in Geneva and called on the Guard Corps to stay out of politics. And those who watched the bitter 2009 Iranian presidential election debates on TV between Ahmadinejad and his reformist candidate rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, know that Iranians can be incredibly outspoken
That hard-liners in the Guard Corps hate the accord signed in Geneva by Rouhani, Zarik and the P5+1 as much as our hard-liners in Congress do shows that it was a fair and balanced deal.
It would be a tragedy ó unforgivable stupidity and a crime against Americans ó were hard-liners in the House and Senate, out of arrogance and ignorance, to pass more sanctions at this time, knowing that such sanctions would violate the spirit and letter of the Geneva accord and thus sabotage this opening, not only to avoid war, but also to normalize relations, create business opportunities, reduce oil prices and reconstitute our old alliance.
We need Iran and share common interests. Now that Idriss has fled Syria, it is difficult to imagine the Free Syrian Army remaining intact. Even if we can coach him back, why would any soldiers follow a leader who has abandoned his men and fled the country? It seems likely that most his fighters will now join the Islamists.
Syrian President Bahar al-Assad is now our best bet to keep al-Qaida from establishing its long-sought caliphate in the Middle East from which it can attack us. Better to ally ourselves now with the Assad government and Iran so we have regional allies on the ground to fight al-Qaida in Syria as we did with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Not only do we need Iranís involvement in Syria, but we need a strong Iran to help Assad reclaim the country from the many al-Qaida affiliated groups that have taken root there while we were indirectly and maybe even directly helping them do so through our support to the Free Syrian Army. This will serve Israelís security interests as well.
In Afghanistan, we need Iran to support and strengthen the Karzai government against the Taliban so we can get out. Iran was a great help to us after 9/11 in fighting the Taliban and in helping to set up a new Afghan government. The Iranians wanted to end 30 years of hostility after 9/11 and work with us against our mutual Taliban enemies. Billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives would have been saved had we done so, but we, in effect, spat on Iranís outstretched hand after accepting its help.
We were so obsessed with getting revenge for Iranís occupation of our embassy in 1979 that we forgot what we did to the Iranian people in 1953 with our overthrow of Iranís democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. We forgot our setting up and training of the SAVAK secret police to support the shah, our siccing Saddam Hussein on Iran in 1980 and providing him with the precursors for chemical weapons to use against Iran, as well as satellite imagery to help him use such weapons against Iran.
It is time we put 1979 behind us and look to the future and our future security needs. We canít afford another major war in the Middle East, which will happen if the House and Senate pass new sanctions at this time.l Dennis Lamb from Chelsea retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its directorate of operations as a case officer and intelligence analyst. This article represents his personal views, not those of his former employer. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org