To address the Republican-led drumbeat for war with Iran, Democratic Perspective turned to Middle Eastern expert, Dr. Paul Lenze of Northern Arizona University.
We started by asking Dr. Lenze about the history between Iran and the US. “The bad blood started in 1953 when the US and British tried to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh,” he replied. “Mosaddegh had nationalized the Iranian oil fields which had been under British control. Following the overthrow, we helped install Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi and provided billions in military assistance,” Lenze continued.
“In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by the Grand Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, who was proclaimed Supreme Leader,” said Lenze. “Khomeini set up the Council of Guardians, a democratically-elected Parliament and a Judiciary. The Council, comprised of clerics, can overrule the government. As a result, several factions have developed in Iran.”
“Iran sees itself as regional hegemonist,” Lenze stated. “But Persian influence has always been countered by Arabs. And the US has supported Arab dictators.”
When asked about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Lenze responded, “Iraq and Libya gave up their nuclear ambitions and were overrun. The US is now on Iran’s western border in Afghanistan and on its eastern border in Iraq.” (In addition, the US has bases in Kuwait, Turkey and in the Persian Gulf.)
“As a result, Iran feels threatened by the US and Israel,” he continued.
But there is some good news according to Lenze. “Iran has signed the non-proliferation treaty opening itself up to inspections,” he said.
As for the possibility of a multi-national attack such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lenze stated, “I don’t see the US directly out in front. The US needs to focus on diplomacy and reassure Israel. I don’t see us offensively going to war with Iran.”
We then asked what would happen if Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If Israel attacks,” Lenze said, “Iran would likely funnel money to Hezbollah and Hamas for attacks on Israel. They might also offer military assistance to the Shia in southern Iraq and Afghainstan. And they would attack US interests. If a war continued for 6 months, it might even draw China and Russia into it.”
“Military has to be the option of last resort,” he concluded.