By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
"The enemy of my enemy is my potential ally" underlies the 2014 Western policy toward Iran, the enemy of ISIS. It underlay US policy toward Iraq's Saddam Hussein – the enemy of Iran - until Saddam's occupation of Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
The 1990 reckless policy toward Iraq triggered a conventional conflict, a $1.25 trillion cost to the US taxpayer, 4,500 US military fatalities, a surge of anti-US Islamic terrorism and a dramatic destabilization of the Persian Gulf. The 2014 mischaracterization of Iran could produce a nuclear conflict, a mega-trillion dollar cost to the US taxpayer, an unprecedented level of fatalities, a tidal wave of global anti-US Islamic terrorism and tectonic eruptions of insanity throughout the globe.
During 1989-1990, upon the conclusion of the Iraq-Iran war, the US Administration portrayed Iraq's Saddam Hussein - the enemy of America's enemy, Iran – as a potential ally, enhancing Baghdad's strategic capabilities through an intelligence-sharing agreement, supplies of sensitive dual-use systems and the extension of $5bn loan guarantees. Instead of constraining Saddam's regional maneuverability and inherent, violent, megalomaniac expansionism, the US Administration chose to ignore Saddam's core, imperialistic, rogue, radical, anti-US ideology, which triggered the Iraq-Iran war.
The larger, historical, ideological, complex context was overtaken by a narrowly and simplistically-designed policy-de-jour.
The recklessness of "the enemy of my enemy is my potential ally" was underlined by an intense US-Iraq diplomatic traffic. For example, Saddam's meeting with Ambassador April Glaspie on July 25, 1990, which convinced Saddam that he could invade Kuwait with impunity. Thus, an erroneous US policy led to Iraq's plunder of Kuwait, and consequently to the First Gulf War (1991), the devastatingly costly Second Gulf War (2003-2010) and possibly the Third Gulf War (2014-).
The victory of wishful-thinking over reality, also, undelay Israel's 1993 policy toward the PLO - the enemy of Hamas – which was gullibly expected to align itself with Israel's war on Palestinian terrorism, in return for the unprecedented Israeli territorial concessions of the Oslo process. Instead, since 1993, Israel has been a victim of an unprecedented wave of PLO/Hamas anti-Israel terrorism, reinforced by daily hate-education and incitement in Mahmoud Abbas' schools, mosques and media, as well as a surge of terrorism from 2000-2003, the 2006 Hamas takeover of Gaza and the 2008/9, 2012 and 2014 wars against Palestinian terrorism in Gaza.
The assumption that "the enemy of my enemy is potentially my friend" underestimates the following endemic, unique features of Iran's Ayatollahs and Mullahs: the compulsive, core, Islamic/Shite, supremacist, megalomaniac, anti-infidel, anti-US ideology; the perception of the US as the "Great Satan" and the chief obstacle to an imperial Islamic Iran; the intimate military ties with America's enemies and adversaries; the sponsorship of global anti-US Jihadist terrorism, including in Iraq and Afghanistan; a thirty year track record of non-compliance and deceit in their negotiation with the West; President Rouhani's key role in misleading the West; the clear and present danger posed by a nuclear Iran to the survival of Saudi Arabia and other pro-US oil-producing Arab regimes and to global and homeland security, national security and economy; the impact of Iran's occupation of Iraq's Shite section upon the stability of the Gulf; the egregious violations of human-rights by Iran's minority, tyrannical, ruthless regime which sent 500,000 children to clear minefields during the Iraq-Iran War; and the ineffectiveness of sanctions, and any diplomatic option, when applied to rogue regimes, bent on domination, and the rejection of peaceful-coexistence.
"The enemy of my enemy is my potential ally" worldview has been nurtured by the same foreign policy establishments that have systematically misread the Middle East: misjudging the rise of ISIS; overestimating the US Arab allies' will to fight and the capabilities of Iraq's military; underestimating the developments in Syria; welcoming the "Arab Tsunami" as an "Arab Spring" transitioning toward democracy; crowning the Palestinian issue as the core cause of the Middle East turbulence and the crown jewel of Arab policy-making; encouraging the toppling of pro-US Mubarak and the rise of the anti-US Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood terror organization; turning a cold shoulder toward Egypt's President General Sisi; jumpstarting the 2006 Hamas takeover of Gaza; legitimizing Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas in 1988 and embracing them as a messengers of peace in 1993; underestimating Palestinian/Iranian hate-education as the most effective manufacturing line of terrorism and the most authentic reflection of the respective leadership; courting Saddam Hussein in 1990; punishing Israel for destroying Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, which spared the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991; the abandonment of the pro-US Shah of Iran, and welcoming the rise of anti-US Khomeini; initial opposition to Prime Minister Begin's 1977 direct peace negotiations with Egypt; etc.
The deficient threat assessment of a nuclear Iran has crowned Teheran's Ayatollahs and Mullahs as the top beneficiaries of the confrontation with ISIS, rewarding them with their most precious resource: the additional timerequired to obtain nuclear capabilities.
Reality-checks and common sense document that the US does not have a potential ally in the battle between Iran and ISIS. Both are sworn enemies (amenable to tactical, provisional negotiations and truces) bent on Islamic supremacy, terrorism and "Death to America." Therefore, the nature of the Ayatollahs and Mullahs on the one hand, and the assumption that they are potential allies of the US on the other hand, constitutes a self-destruct oxymoron, which could entail a devastating nuclear cost.