Thursday, September 25, 2008

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

In a video released earlier this month, Al Qaeda's Number 2 (who has been alive for some time, unlike Al Qaeda's Number 3, who is constantly dying) totally dissed Iran for "occupying Iraq" and recognizing the "puppet regimes" of the "Western Crusaders" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you're someone who stays somewhat abreast of Middle Eastern culture & news then this is probably no big surprise to you. However, I think this would probably be quite surprising to many Americans, who see "the terrorists" as some sort of monolithic bloc.

The point here, which is probably obvious to Patterson School students, is that not all groups and states in the Middle East are the same, and that not all groups and states who are antagonistic toward the US are the same. The most obvious case in point is the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Another more recent example would be Iran's early support for the US led invasion of Afghanistan to depose the virulently anti-Shi'ite Taliban government.

While these distinctions between groups may seem elementary to IR graduate students, it doesn't seem to be so clear to foreign-policy-guru presidential candidates:

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back".
-Washington Post (March 2008)

In another instance, McCain referred to Al Qaeda as a "sect of Shi'ites".

Admittedly, McCain isn't the worst of the '08 presidential contenders in this regard. That honor goes to Mittens Romney (no, not this one), who frequently conflated groups as disparate as Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.


Researcher said...

Actually, I think Duncan Hunter might have been worse. He said that the Koran required Muslims to kill Americans...never mind that the US didn't exist back then.

rhymenoceros said...

Plus Saudi Arabia's fear of Iran. Good post - even being aware of this stuff, I catch myself thinking of terrorists as one big group sometimes.