While we’re busy pulling out our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq we must look carefully at this thing called “influence.”

Now there is no argument (at least from me) that military presence is the only, or even the best, form of influence in the Middle East. Actually, when it comes to Afghanistan, I think the entire program was a decided waste of money and resources. Iran is going to have its “Blame Terrorism on Israel and the U.S. Conference” whether we have a presence in Iraq and Afghanistan or not, but the “wooing” of Karzai, Talabani, and Zardari by Iran is just evidence that “no entangling alliances” is not an option for a viable U.S. foreign policy.  From the WSJ article:

Iran is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran’s efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out troops.

The Afghan and Pakistani presidents, visiting Tehran, discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “many issues…that might come up after the NATO military force goes out of Afghanistan,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview here Sunday.

Iran's terrorism conference
EPA from WSJ--Iran's Foreign Minister, center, was flanked by presidents of Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan on Saturday

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Saturday.

“The three presidents were very forthcoming in carrying out the cooperation and contacts so as to make sure things will go as smoothly as it could,” he said.

That was a jab at Washington, which is increasingly in competition with Tehran for influence in the region, particularly as popular rebellions have surged across the Middle East and North Africa since January.

The overtures by U.S. nemesis Iran come amid tensions between Washington and three governments that have each received billions of dollars in U.S. aid. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, before traveling to Tehran, welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. would withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over 15 months.

Now I hold no illusions that there is a whole lot we can do to keep Iran from wanting to have relationships in the region, but it says alot about the Obama administration’s “influence” (or lack thereof) when he not only cannot talk any of our Muslim allies (like Mongolia, Oman, or Indonesia), or the U.N. from sending emissaries to the conference, but the U.N. Secretary General gives it a ringing endorsement, and three of our top six recipients (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan) of foreign aid sent not only an emissary but their Presidents.

(Now I’ll admit, this is better, apparently, than the Bush Administration did when Iran hosted a conference on the Holocaust, back in 2006.  We couldn’t keep a certain American “emissary” away.)

If the influence of not only U.S. military power, but that of NATO as well (our Defense Secretary has spelled doom for that alliance) was to wane substantially, it is not beyond the realm of imagination that “trilateral alliances” could fill that NATO void.  And what does “finding the root causes of terrorism” really mean?:

For the most part, the conference followed a pattern many U.S. and European officials anticipated. Iranian, Cuban and Palestinian representatives—mixing with North Korean, Zimbabwean and Myanmar diplomats—branded Israel the world’s largest terrorism threat.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, addressed the conference and said the definition of terrorism is abused internationally. “We should prevent the use of terrorism for political reasons,” he said.

On the grounds of the conference hall, the Iranian hosts assembled displays documenting what they alleged were Israeli and American-backed plots against the Islamic Republic.

So, now that they’ve found the root cause, what, pray tell will be the long-term solution?  Hmmm?

Iran Hosts Terrorism Conference
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