It has been quite a week. First, on Sunday, Syrian Major General Salim Idriss, 'moderate' commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fled Syria and went to Qatar after the Islamic Front seized his headquarters and weapons depots in northern Syria.
Then, on Tuesday, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammed Jafari, bluntly criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's government, complaining that Iran has been influenced by the West. "The 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," Iran's Far's news agency quoted Jafari as saying.
"The main threat to the revolution is in the political arena and the Guards cannot remain silent in the face of that," Jafari continued. 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 in Geneva and called on the IRGC to stay out of politics.
Congressional hardliners quite likely will dismiss Jafari's outspoken criticism of President Rouhani's government as the Iranians playing 'good cop, bad cop.' It seems unlikely, however, that this was the case. Jafari has reason to be concerned about the IRGC losing the influence, power and wealth it gained during former hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's eight years in office. His reference to 'Western influence' was a clear dig at Rouhani's having earned two degrees in Scotland and his minister of foreign affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarik, having earned degrees in the United States.
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 spectacle made our presidential debates look tame and boring by comparison.
That hardliners in the IRGC 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 unforgivable stupidity and a crime against the American people were hardliners 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.
The fact is, we need Iran and share common interests. Now that Syrian General Idriss has fled Syria, it is difficult to imagine the FSA 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 FSA fighters will now join the Islamists.
Bashar Assad is now our best bet to keep Al Qaeda 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 Qaeda in Syria as we did with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Not only do we need Iran's involvement in Syria, but we need a strong Iran to help Assad reclaim the country from the many Al Qaeda affiliated groups that have taken root there while we were indirectly and maybe even directly helping them do so through our support to the FSA. This will serve Israel's 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 Iran's outstretched hand after accepting its help. We were so obsessed with getting revenge for Iran's occupation of our embassy in 1979 that we forgot what we did to the Iranian people in 1953 with our overthrow of Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister 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's soldiers and cities. It is time we put 1979 behind us and look to the future and our future security needs. We can't afford another major war in the Middle East, which will happen if the House and Senate pass new sanctions at this time.
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. (The thoughts outlined above represent his personal views and not the views of his former employer.) Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org