Al Qaeda affiliates struck at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon yesterday, apparently in revenge for Iran's continuing support of Assad in the Syrian crisis. And most observers now point to a wider struggle between Shia's and Sunni's throughout the Middle East.
Little wonder that western observers suggest that any deal reached with Iran to contain, or potentially eliminate their nuclear weapons potential by the U.S. and it allies will have to satisfy, (because it clearly with not "please") very diverse actors: the Saudi's And Qatari's are financing Sunni rebels in Syria, including sadly the Al Qaeda clones, whereas Iran is blatantly supporting with men and material and funds the Shia-leaning Assad regime. Israel, whose existence is publicly and aggressively threatened by Iran and her creeping hegemonic ambitions to become a major player in the region, no matter the cost.
So will all western nations and leaders have to make a clear choice between support for Sunni's or Shia's, when that conflict is so arcane and so irrelevant, in and of itself a matter ultimately between two warring factions within a single faith.
How, for example, are leaders in the Islamic community to bring this conflict to heel? And what will the outcome be if those leaders fail in their attempt, or abandon any attempt to reconcile these two factions, in a conflict that has the potential to re-define the Middle East in ways not either contemplated or perhaps foreseen by diplomatic strategists in the west.
And what of Middle East oil, given that both the Saudi's and the Iranians are " blessed" with considerable supply, competing, when Iran is less subjected to western sanctions, to the world market and its own vagaries for revenue to support their economies.
Canada, sadly, has closed her embassy in Teheran, just at the moment when a presence in Iran would enable our diplomats to secure valuable information about the more intricate and nuances details of the ayatollah's real designs, notwithstanding the public utterances of the newly elected president of Iran. It is that kind of "binary" diplomacy, hardly worthy of the word, that the world, especially the major powers must avoid, if we are to continue to talk and work with and potentially resolve major disputes like the Iranian nuclear ambitions.
The western media is filled with expressions of Israel's continuing threat to strike Iran, whether or not that country abandons or continues to escalate her nuclear weapons program. So, in effect, there is at least one "gun" pointed at Geneva, opposed, it would seem, to any and all attempts to reach an accord with Iran, and Netanyahu is now able to point to "alliance" and "support" from some of his Middle East, Islamic neighbours, who also have contempt for Iran and her galloping ambitions for increased influence in the region.
One the surface, western leaders are dealing with a common human gordion knot: how to discern whether or not to trust those sitting on the opposite side of any negotiating table. Reagan's phrase, when dealing with the then Soviets on nuclear weapons was "trust and verify"....but that, in itself, is a hedged bet, as are all bets in the diplomatic arena apparently.
And hedged bets, including the NSA's continued spying on the friendly leaders of allied countries, do no inspire confidence among ordinary people attempting to strike a path in their daily lives that keeps them safe between and among competing and conflicting interior and external agendas and ambitions.
In a binary "archetype", in which too many people rely on "one of two choices," where reality suggests a need for a much more complex and nuanced multiple choices dependent on multiple players with very different and competing agendas...and the media continues to perform a surgical reduction on those ambiguities, as if all leaders, in order to be represented, have to face such black and white choices....
What happened to all the multiple shades of grey in the diplomatic world, and in its public reporting.
We are an extremely complex and entangled set of actors on a very fragile planetary stage, whose resources are finite while the potential for exponential growth in population and the concomitant conflicts that follow increase every day...and if we attempt to reduce our options to a binary choice, we will inevitably choose inappropriately.
We have to begin to teach our students both the dangers and the potentials hidden in every situation, and not begin by deciding that we have one of two choices....it may be that life does not work that way, that we are not, on a daily basis, reduced to A or B, although those who espouse a calculus based on one of two choices, clearly dominate our intellectual climate and culture.
In the study of literature, we are constantly exposing and exploring multiple motivations, and agendas, some of them overt and even more of them hidden and requiring detective-like surveillance.
Are we already living in an Orwellian world where vigilance and secrecy dominate and wash all real evidence of integrity and authenticity into the already polluted seas? Or can we see through the masks of our enemies, in order to discern ambitions that could potentially unite powers heretofore confirmed and historic enemies?