Dick Cheney was on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, offering his serious and sobering take on serious and sobering events. Asked about Iran’s role in Iraq, Cheney responded that “Iran has been a bad actor in many respects”:
The Iranians have got a choice between whether or not they want to see a successful, stable Iraq, democratically governed next door to them, or whether they want to continue to try to promote strife and instability, and support acts of terror, and in the process of doing that, permanently damage their relationship with Iraq, their next door neighbor.
As Brian Katulis and I write in an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun, Bush and Cheney’s characterization of Iran’s relationship with the government of Iraq is extremely misleading. Iran maintains ties to all of the major Shia actors in Iraq. There’s little evidence that Iran is in danger of “permanently damaging” its relationship with its neighbor, or maybe Cheney didn’t see any of the pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public welcome there, which came only a few days before Cheney himself was once again smuggled in and out like a box of contraband cigars.
Hewitt and Cheney’s conversation starts to get really loopy, though, when Hewitt undertakes to question Cheney about elements of Shia eschatology, and, even more amazing, Cheney undertakes to answer him.
HEWITT: Do you, Mr. Vice President, do you have a personal sense of whether or not the Iranian leadership is actually motivated by this end times, bring back the 12th Imam sort of theology that we’ve read so much about?
CHENEY: Well, I’ve read about it, too. I don’t know that that motivates all of the leadership. The one guy who talks about it repeatedly is Ahmadinejad…I mean, if I look at what his beliefs supposedly are, the allegation that the return of the 12th Imam is something to be much desired, and that the best contribution that a man can make is to die a martyr facilitating that return, and all that goes with it, I always think of Bernard Lewis, who has said that mutual assured destruction during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviets meant peace and stability and deterrence. But mutual assured destruction in the hands of Ahmadinejad may just be an incentive. It’s a worrisome proposition.
Another worrisome proposition is that Cheney is still quoting scholar Bernard Lewis, whose learned foreign policy advice to the Vice President was that “one of the things you’ve got to do with Arabs is hit them between the eyes with a big stick. They respect power.” Lewis advocated the Iraq invasion in the delusion that we could quickly, and with a minimum of fuss, install a modernizing Ataturk-like secular strongman there, (how’d that work out?) and is also the originator of the “clash of civilizations” thesis that has done so much to confirm Osama bin Laden’s propaganda about the West. Shukran, Professor Lewis!
Dan Froomkin has more, noting that Lewis “hinted in an Aug. 8, 2006, Wall Street Journal op-ed that Ahmadinejad might be planning a nuclear attack on Israel just two weeks later, on the date in the Islamic calendar when the Prophet Muhammad made his mystical journey to Jerusalem…Needless to say, the day went by without incident.”