Our new friends

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Our new friends Copyright 2001 Scripps Howard News Service

Scripps Howard News Service

(November 5, 2001 5:24 p.m. EST) - If your newspaper comes equipped with seat belts, fasten them.

It was neck-snapping enough that we are now getting the use of military bases in the former Soviet Union to attack Iraq, but consider Iran.

Since the overthrow of the shah in 1979, Iran's fundamentalist leaders have shrilly denounced the United States as the "Great Satan" and the source of all the world's evils.

Ostensibly celebrating a soccer victory, huge crowds - numerous enough to keep Iranian security forces at bay - recently took to the streets chanting, "We love you, America!" Young women took off their head scarves and danced, both illegal in Iran.

On Nov. 4, 1979, Islamic fundamentalists overran the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage. The anniversary is supposed to be a big deal in Iran, a veritable festival of anti-Americanism. This year, there were the rote "Death to America" chants and the obligatory flag-burnings, but the listless crowd of military draftees and students given the day off for the purposes largely ignored the speakers. But over at Tehran University, students were agitating for better relations with the United States. One student said he was tired of Iran being lumped with such pariah governments as Iraq, Libya and the Taliban.

Iran's ruling clerics find themselves in a tacit alliance with the United States against Islamic radicals even more radical than themselves, the Taliban, whom Iran's rulers loathe. Iran has agreed to help rescue U.S. pilots and troops downed in Afghanistan. The Iranians may not exactly be our new best friends but they are now far from enemies.

Remember Somalia? Eight years ago, they couldn't wait for us to leave after 18 American soldiers - and, it is often forgotten, hundreds of Somalis - were killed in street fighting. Somalia wants us back.

Abdiqassim Salad Hassan is president of Somalia's nominal national government, whose authority doesn't extend much beyond the city limits. After eight years of anarchy, violence and destitution, he says Somalis are ready for the United States to return and bring aid and stability. As bad as things were with the United States there, they are worse with the United States gone.

Abdiqassim has solidly allied his government, such as it is, with the United States in its war against the Taliban in hopes that once the U.S. wins that war it will not forget which side Somalia was on.

If there is such a thing as geopolitical whiplash, this is it - the United States, Iran and Somalia standing shoulder-to-shoulder.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 05, 2001


Send ex-president Clinton to rule the Somalia countryside.

-- Rick V (rickv@mc.net), November 06, 2001.

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