TO nobody’s surprise, the West continues to discover there’s little sanity amid the patchwork of barbaric, conjoined conflicts raging throughout the Middle East and telling the good guys from the bad is nigh on impossible.
At the root is a centuries-old schism between Islam two mainstreams, the Sunni and Shiite, a brooding volcano once capped by a succession of secular thugs – principally the Shah of Iran, Saddam in Iraq, Assad in Syria, Mubarak in Egypt and psychotic Gaddafi in Libya.
The Shah’s overthrow in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini’s ultras was the fuse that’s ignited today’s mayhem, since it signalled Shia Iran’s ambition to be the regional bullyboy, setting it on collision course with Saudi Arabia, champion of the Sunni cause.
Filthy rich, nepotistic and corrupt, for years the Saudis have been exporting their brand of hardline, Wahhabi Islam, while its Royals flew West to indulge in a few playful ‘distractions’. But, with a relatively miniscule population, the Kingdom, as Saudi is known, has had to fend off predators by buying Western protection with its only weapon – oil.
Inevitably, in this domain of feudal vendettas, sideshow clashes erupted – Saddam’s power-grab at Kuwait was a prime example, except the West let him off the hook on the proviso his bloodlust was confined to slaughtering his own folk.
Years earlier, remember, the Butcher of Baghdad was urged and armed by the West to ensnare Iran in a war of attrition that wasted a million lives, before it hit the brick wall of stalemate.
In the world’s worst neighbourhood only the intractable Israel-Palestinian conflict provides a source of unity among the vengeful ‘frenemies’ and the Palestinians continue to be shamelessly exploited by their Arab brethren to this day.
Because, however gold-plated its historical and legal validity, even a tiny Jewish state can’t be countenanced, since it is a beacon of democracy and can-do creativity in a wilderness of ignorance, anchored in 7th Century inertia.
And however sneakily superb the Palestinians’ porkie-peddling PR machine is at painting them as eternal victims, until they stop provocations and get their heads round the benefits of the peace dividend, an independent Palestine never deserves to materialise.
Meanwhile, for all its barbarity, even the so-called Islamic State is a sideshow, creating fear out of all proportion to its size.
So, if you imagine this motley bunch of monsters is a long-term threat to world order, you ain’t seen nothing yet if the Iranians get a nuclear weapon.
And this is where I owe Tehran’s turbaned tyrants an apology.
Previously, I’ve dubbed the Iranian leadership ‘fanatical, mad mullahs’, but now I realise that’s a slight misrepresentation.
Certainly they’re fanatical zealots, religious and militaristic, as evidence by their fulsome support of the Assad dynasty’s butchery in Syria’s civil war and funding Hezbollah’s terror grip of Lebanon.
However, allusions to them being daft are…well, daft – because they’re crazy like a fox.
In fact, far from being absconders from La-La Land, they are adroit truth – and probably spoon – benders, masters of skulduggery, who, if caught with a smoking gun over a corpse while nobody else is within miles, would swear on a stack of Korans some bloke on a pushbike did it, then scarpered.
Iran makes no secret of its lust to go nuclear…using the fissile material only for ‘peaceful purposes’, you understand. So perish the thought their top-secret development facilities, some buried hundreds of metres underground, are getting tooled up with evermore spinning centrifuges to make an A-bomb.
Which is why a body called the P5+1 – that’s the toothless US, the gutless EU, the supine UK, the blustering French, along with every dictator’s good buddies, Russia and China – has been trying to sweet talk Tehran into reversing its ban on unwelcome callers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who’ve been denied access to Iranian nuclear plants since 2005.
Drowning in oily black gold, Iran needs nuclear power like Donald Trump needs to borrow a dime for a cup of Starbuck’s coffee.
In a scam to lift biting, economic sanctions, last December Iran’s Artful Dodgers conned the P5+1 with the vacuous vow of solemnly agreeing to put the brake on its dreams of a nuclear Armageddon.
The deal, agreed in Geneva and labelled the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), gave the mullahs six months to comply with UN Resolution 1929, which demanded Iran comes clean about its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and allows IAEA watchdogs back in.
Maybe something got lost in translations, because Tehran’s take on the pow-wow was they weren’t for letting anyone nosey around their nuclear hidey-holes, but they’d accept the five plonkers+one’s kind offer to boost petroleum exports.
Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei, declared, ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran’s stances are the direct opposite to this [proposal to reduce operating centrifuges] and Iran will by no means accept what the Americans want to impose on this country.’
As I wrote at the time of the Geneva talks, ‘After a decade of deceit, deception and time-wasting, the world’s premier purvey of terror has won the most decisive war of words with the West since Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain, back in 1938, his intentions towards Czechoslovakia were entirely honourable and pigs could fly.’
Ten months on, Iran is still playing hide and seek with the UN’s watchdogs and racing towards the nuclear threshold, despite glitches, like an mysterious explosion last week, which killed two scientists at a military base in Parchin, where the IAEA is convinced nuclear weaponry is being made.
Talks continue to stutter on, but a month ago the nuclear watchdog issued a blistering report, condemning Iran for ‘stonewalling’, failing to meet four of five obligations demanded by the UN Security Council and destroying evidence in a way that ‘likely further undermined the IAEA’s ability to conduct effective verification.’
Meanwhile, Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister, Mansour Moazzami, boasts, ‘Our volume of crude oil and gas exports has doubled.’
So no guessing who’s got the penny and the bun – and why all other rumpuses in the Middle East are sideshows in comparison to the threat of an atomic Armageddon, courtesy of the not-so-mental mullahs of Tehran.