Tibor Nagy: The Unholy Trinity – and their plan to bring down America

”The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an ancient proverb which has special meaning today as Iran, Russia, and China work ever closer together to knock the US off its pedestal as the world’s pre-eminent nation. Their reasons are twofold - each of these countries has its own unique grievance with the US or the West, and individual ambitions which are being thwarted simply by America’s existence. While they would gladly strike the US directly, America’s military might and global alliances still limit their hostile acts to more indirect means. But indirect doesn’t mean ineffective, as their collective actions – Iran creating Mideast havoc, Russia trying to dismember Ukraine, and China undermining America’s interests around the world – show the extent and impact of their malevolence. They are trying to collectively bring us down by dismantling the very structures on which our wealth and power rest. So, what do they each want, and why are they so hostile to America? Let’s take them in order of increasing threats.

Iran has viscerally hated the US since its 1978 Revolution overthrew the pro-US Shah and brought in a theocracy based on conservative Shia Islam. Iran – and its precursor Persia - has historically sought to dominate its region but has been blocked by a succession of powers: the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France, Russia, and more recently by Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the US. Iran also considers Israel a blood enemy to be wiped of the map. Its goal is to force the US out of the region, making Iran the preeminent Mideast power and leaving Israel and our Arab friends exposed to an existential threat. But Iran can’t attack the US or Israel directly, so, as we’ve seen in Gaza with Hamas and Lebanon with Hezbollah, it uses a collection of extremist militias as proxies to do its dirty work. These 12 or so militant groups total about 200,000 fighters and are extremely well armed, trained and financed – thanks to Iran’s full wallet from oil revenues. Iran is also providing Russia with drones in the Ukraine War and has the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia should not be Iran’s natural ally given their history of five wars which lost Iran significant territory and influence. But their common animosity toward the US and our championing human rights, democracy, and a rules-based world order has resulted in an ever-strengthening friendship. As long as Putin rules Russia – and that may be for a long time – he will exploit every opportunity to harm America and our interests. Whether by social media manipulation, hacking our vital computer systems, sending mercenaries to Africa, exploiting our democracy’s weaknesses, holding innocent Americans as hostages, or launching wars against weaker nations – he will doggedly pursue the goal of weakening America and showing the rest of the world that we cannot be a trusted ally. Putin has never and will never accept that the Soviet Union lost the Cold War, and as long as he rules Russia, he will try and rebuild the Soviet’s lost global presence and dominate the vast region he considers Russia’s natural zone of influence. At minimum this means the Baltics and Balkans, and maybe much of Central Europe.

While Putin’s Russia is the only nation which can currently match America’s nuclear arsenal, our greatest global threat is China. While China’s President Xi does blame the West and Japan for China’s 1839-1945 “Century of Humiliation” his aim to bring America down is not over historical grievances. His ambition is global dominance – for China to replace America as the world’s top nation, and to remake the entire global system, which the US put in place after World War II, into a “Made in China” alternative. Xi’s more immediate goal is to swallow Taiwan – the bothersome democratic island nation claimed by China. He considers this conquest essential for keeping the Communist Party in power indefinitely. China taking Taiwan with America unable to stop it would also discredit the US, greatly reduce our global influence, and our allies would scramble to find alternatives to Pax Americana. China would then be free to force its will on the rest of Asia. Unfortunately for us, China is skillfully implementing its long-range plan to surpass the US militarily, economically, and diplomatically, and is wielding its “soft power” to win over more and more of the global audience. China is now the top trading partner of 128 countries, with the US far, far behind. China and Russia also have a self-declared “partnership with no limits.”

It’s bad enough that Iran, Russia and China are using every means singly and jointly to weaken us and undermine our position in the world. But we are helping them by not appreciating the full scope of the threats they pose. And the ones we do see, we are treating in isolation instead of as part of a systematic threat. Yes, it’s Iraqi militias who fire missiles at our troops, but the puppet strings are pulled in Tehran. And our attacking only the militias is like spraying the roaches only in the kitchen and ignoring where they come from.

Sadly, in the face of this three-on-one confrontation, we’re like a wrestler in a tag-team match with one arm tied behind our backs and hesitant to tag our partners to help with the fight. For example, the Ukrainian army has shown it is willing and very able to stop Putin’s aggression with their own blood; but they need the means which only we can supply. And China, Iran, and all our allies are watching to see if America still has the wherewithal to stand up to Russia for our own interests - and they will make their own calculations based on what we do.

The current state of the world brings two great Ronald Reagan quotes to mind: “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid,” and, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Ambassador Tibor Nagy was most recently Assistant Secretary of State for Africa after serving as Texas Tech’s Vice Provost for International Affairs and a 30-year career as a US Diplomat. Follow him on Twitter @TiborPNagyJr

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Tibor Nagy on the Unholy Trinity and their plan to bring down America