While claiming that the critics of the Iran Deal are “overstretching the specter of Iran’s imperialism,” Paul Pillar more than underplays the reality of it even as it unfolds under our watchful eyes in places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.
Noting Iran’s unrelenting attempt to integrate itself in the global capitalist system hardly argues against its imperialist intentions. Power projection is usually employed as means for “negotiating” a better deal for integration, a greater share of the pie if you will. For an expert on international affairs not to see this corollary or to interpret it in the way Mr. Pillar is doing is clear indication of how ideological visors trump rational thinking.
Invoking the imperialist overtures of the Saudis in Bahrain and noting absence of serious Iranian dabbling there fails to see the cause and effect involved in this case. Iran didn’t have time to dabble in Bahrain because the Saudis moved all too swiftly to preclude this possibility. While the legitimacy of such a move is as easily questionable as that of Iran’s moves in Iraq and Syria, the issue of legitimacy is immaterial for the purpose of this discussion. After all, Mr. Pillar is examining developments from a purely geopolitical perspective, and not from an international law perspective. The point here is to simply point out the flaws in his geopolitical reasoning.
Iranian dabbling in Bahrain has always been a redline for Saudi Arabia, one in which regard even an indecisive and ailing monarch could not waiver for long. The reason for that should be obvious: Bahrain is a mere bridge away from the oil-rich provinces in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, one should be mindful of the belligerent and defiant declarations of Iran’s leaders in this regard. For if one is tempted to dismiss this rhetoric as mere saber-rattling, the actions that usually follow, actions that displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands dead in Syria and Iraq over the last few years, come as a big bold exclamation mark denoting the seriousness of the intentions involved.