Iran’s ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo
Iran’s ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo has called for the total eradication of nuclear weapons.
Khoshroo reiterated Iran’s call during a UN conference aimed at creating a nuclear weapons ban treaty in New York on Tuesday.
“Iran, as a victim of chemical weapons, strongly feels the danger posed by the existence of weapons of mass destruction and is determined to engage actively in international diplomatic efforts to save humanity from the menace of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Khoshroo stressed that Iran is committed to its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, which include negotiations based on effective nuclear disarmament measures.
He added that several countries continue to ignore international calls and treaties for nuclear disarmament and even continue to increase their nuclear stockpiles. “They do not have political determination to abandon doctrines of nuclear deterrence and nuclear terror,” he went on to say.
Iran’s UN ambassador noted that boycotting the talks by many countries, including the US, shows that the world’s nuclear powers are by no means committed to the eradication of nuclear arms. Britain and France were also among the some 40 countries that did not join the talks.
“We note that prohibition of nuclear weapons must be accompanied by the elimination of such weapons. There can be no doubt that without complete abolition of nuclear weapons, there will be no absolute guarantee against the danger of nuclear war and the use of such weapons,” Khoshroo added.
US President Donald Trump has skipped the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, amid reports of some differences between Washington and Tel Aviv on policy matters, a report says.
Trump dispatched US Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to speak to the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in his place, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The Trump administration, the newspaper reported, is pressing the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a so-called peace deal with Palestinians that would halt the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu is refusing to stop the settlement activity.
In addition, Netanyahu also wants to discuss with Trump ways and means of dealing with Iran, but the new US administration is still formulating its policy on the Islamic Republic, according to the report.
Netanyahu meanwhile spoke via satellite on Monday to the crowd gathered by AIPAC. He avoided any reference to the issue of illegal settlements, which Trump raised before their first meeting last month. The US president then said the rapid growth of settlements was an obstacle in reaching an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu also thanked Trump over a recent US budget request that “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded.”
‘Days of Israel bashing are over’
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In her address to AIPAC, Ambassador Haley promised that she would not allow a repeat of a resolution like the one passed by the UN Security Council in December last year when the Obama administration chose not to exercise the US veto power.
“The days of Israel bashing are over,” Haley vowed. “We have a lot of things to talk about, there are a lot of threats to peace and security, but you’re not going to take our number one democratic friend in the Middle East and beat up on them.”
“And I think what you’re seeing is, they’re all backing up a little bit. The Israel-bashing is not as loud,” she claimed.
The Security Council voted 14-0 in December to pass Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate end to Israel’s “illegal” settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories.
The unanimous vote was made possible after the US broke away from its tradition of vetoing anti-Israeli measures and allowed the resolution to pass by abstaining from the vote.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle to the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
For a variety of reasons, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Moscow on March 26-27 will attract attention in world capitals. The scheduling of the visit when there is less than eight weeks left for Iran’s presidential election on May 19 where he is hoping to secure a second term, makes a very important point. To be sure, there is much visible mix-up in the conservative camp in Iran, while the reformist-moderate forces have rallied behind Rouhani. Iranian elections are notoriously unpredictable, but Russia seems to expect continuity in Iranian policies for another 4-year period.
Most European and Middle Eastern capitals will share this perception, and, arguably, even the Donald Trump administration cannot be unaware of it. Nonetheless, a ‘bipartisan’ group in the US senate announced a new bill on Thursday that would impose tighter sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program. But then, the announcement comes just before Sunday’s start of the annual conference in Washington of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, and thereby hangs a tale.
The Trump administration’s tough talk on Iran notwithstanding, Tehran remains committed to the 2015 nuclear deal. The litmus test will be whether Washington holds up its end of the bargain as regards the lifting of nuclear–related sanctions. So far, the Trump administration has done nothing to unilaterally tear up the nuclear deal – and, Iran too has been careful not to give cause to complaint regarding failure on its part in implementing the deal.
On the other hand, the European Union has maintained support for the Iran nuclear deal. At a recent Track II held in Beirut, former Iranian diplomat and a close associate of Rouhani, Seyed Hossein Mousavian gave his prognosis on the US’ options: “They would let the deal go on, but they would try to undo practically the Iranian nuclear deal through many other sanctions under … the umbrella of terrorism, missiles, human rights and regional issues.”
The net result of such new sanctions would be to deprive Iran from the economic benefits of the nuclear deal. However, the US can only create conditions where Iran is unable to optimally reap economic benefits out of the nuclear deal, but not to ‘isolate’ Iran from the world community. This is where Rouhani’s trip to Moscow serves a big purpose for Tehran. Russia is an irreplaceable partner for Tehran today. The reports from Tehran suggest that Rouhani is carrying a substantial economic agenda for discussions in Moscow.
Having said that, for both Russia and Iran, their cooperation is of strategic importance and is hugely consequential on the ground in regional and international politics, especially on the Syrian frontlines. That is why sustained attempts by the West, GCC states and Israel to exploit any daylight in the Russian-Iranian relationship failed to make headway. Writing for the influential Fox News, Frederick Kagan at the American Enterprises Institute – neither a friend of Iran nor of Russia – in an opinion piece titled Pitting Russia against Iran in Syria? Get over it urged the Trump administration to recognise Russia-Iran cooperation as a geopolitical reality for a foreseeable future:
- American policy-makers must get past facile statements about the supposed limits of Russian and Iranian cooperation and back to the serious business of furthering our own interests in a tumultuous region. The Russo-Iranian coalition will no doubt eventually fracture, as most interest-based coalitions ultimately do. Conditions in the Middle East and the world, however, offer no prospect of such a development any time soon.
To my mind, Trump’s policies toward Iran are evolving cautiously and there could be surprises in store. The Iranians seem to understand that although Big Oil wields big clout with the Trump administration and a US-Saudi Arabian reset is in the making, the two sides have divergent concerns in many vital areas and an anti-Iran alliance as such — comprising the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia — seems far-fetched. In a fascinating op-ed last week in the establishment paper Tehran Times, Mousavian wrote:
- The fight against ISIS also cannot be won by America alone. Trump’s… challenge will be to form a new coalition to defeat and destroy ISIS. To be successful, it will need to be far more cohesive and effective than the one built by Obama. Engaging more with the actors most effectively fighting ISIS on the ground, namely Russia and Iran and their allies, will be critical in this regard.
To a great extent, Russia and Iran are sailing in the same boat. Entrenched groups in the US oppose tooth and nail any improvement in the US’s relations with Russia and Iran. However, Russia and Iran will not take no for an answer from Trump administration in the fight against the ISIS in Syria. Both are grandmasters in reconciling contradictions. Both would hope that cooperation over Syria would help them leverage their respective relationship with the US. Mousavian’s opinion piece titled Trump’s ISIS challenge is here.
The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has strongly criticized a recent decision by a court in Luxembourg to seize $1.6 billion of the Islamic Republic’s assets, saying the verdict did not amount to the enforcement of a related ruling by a US court.
In a statement on Sunday, the CBI announced that it would use all means at its disposal to protest and appeal the decision by the Luxembourg court, adding that legal efforts would continue until the rights of the Iranian nation are restored.
“The recent decision by the court in Luxembourg does not mean the recognition and enforcement of the US court verdict and the aforementioned seizure [of assets] only is a preliminary measure, which can be countered through various means,” it said.
“There are numerous means available under Luxembourg laws to counter it, such as protesting and appealing the verdict at higher courts, and the Central Bank [of Iran], with the cooperation of the Iranian Presidency’s Center for International Legal Affairs, will make the utmost use of the above means,” the statement added.
“Measures by the United States of America in line with issuing so-called terrorism rulings against the Iranian government are in various respects violations of international law and conventions.”
According to the statement, the procedure adopted by the US against Iran is in contravention of the immunity of governments under international law and a violation of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights signed between Iran and the US in 1955.
Furthermore, the CBI said, the execution in other countries of the ruling in absentia lacks any justification and basis in international law.
“The Islamic Republic has cataloged in detail the reasons for the illegality of this measure by the government of the United States of America in a petition registered at the International Court of Justice,” added the statement.
It added that several years ago, in response to the intensification of US sanctions against Iran, the CBI launched a campaign to “curtail the share of the US dollar in its income basket and this measure was implemented gradually but continuously. This policy is also followed closely today.”
A Luxembourg court on Wednesday denied a request by Tehran to retrieve $1.6 billion of Iranian assets claimed by the US as compensation for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The New York Times released a report on March 6 about a confidential ruling by a Luxembourg court to freeze $1.6 of CBI assets in a financial institution in the European country.
According to informed sources, the Luxembourg court ordered the freezing of the CBI assets after a group of terror attack victims, who had won a default judgment against Iran in the US, filed a lawsuit at the European court to try to enforce it, the report said.
In 2011, the group had persuaded a federal judge in New York, George B. Daniels, to find that Iran had provided assistance to al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks, an allegation vehemently dismissed by the Islamic Republic. In 2012, the judge ordered Iran to pay the victims two billion dollars in compensatory damages and five billion dollars in punitive damages.
That judgment stagnated for years, as there was no obvious financial source to collect it. However, after the nuclear sanctions against Iran were lifted, following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which was signed last year, the group referred the case to the Luxembourg court as it came to light that the Clearstream system in Luxembourg, which facilitates international exchanges of securities, was holding $1.6 billion in CBI assets.
In a similar case in April, the US Supreme Court issued an order authorizing the transfer of around two billion dollars of frozen Iranian assets to the families of the victims of a 1983 bombing in Beirut, which targeted a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and other attacks blamed on Iran. The assets belong to the CBI, which have been blocked under US sanctions.
Iran has denied any role in the attacks and strongly criticized the move by the US.
WASHINGTON – The United States has imposed sanctions against eight Russian companies in connection with the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), US State Department representative told Sputnik on Saturday.
“Penalties are being applied to eight Russian entities as a result of a regular, periodic review of specific activities as required by the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” the representative said.
The representative also stressed that these sanctions “are separate from the broader economic sanctions that have been in place since 2014” in connection with the Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The United States imposed sanctions on 150th Aircraft Repair Plant, Aviaexport, Bazalt, Kolomna Design Bureau of Machine-Building (KBM), Rosoboronexport (ROE), Ulyanovsk Higher Aviation Academy of Civil Aviation (UVAUGA), Ural Training Center for Civil Aviation (UUTsCA), Zhukovskiy and Gagarin Academy (Z&G Academy).
The Iranian part of the gas pipeline is complete but Pakistan has run into repeated delays for the 780-km section to be built on its side of the border
A Pakistani delegation will be visiting Iran next month to revive talks on a planned gas pipeline which has been set back for years because of US and Saudi opposition, an Iranian news agency says.
Iran’s gas delivery should have started in December 2014 but Pakistan has failed to complete its section of the pipeline under the contract signed back in 2010.
According to Fars news agency, Pakistani officials have officially announced their readiness lately to resume the negotiations and decided to send a delegation to Tehran in the middle of the Persian month of Farvardin which began on March 21 or in early Ordibehesht.
“Although Pakistani officials are subject to the policies of Saudi Arabia and America, the government under pressure from the Pakistani people and businessmen is willing to provide for conditions so that the Iranian natural gas reaches Pakistan,” the source said.
According to the unnamed source, the Pakistani negotiating team has been given complete freedom to negotiate the volume, time and mode of gas imports from Iran and reach a final conclusion.
“Pricing is up for the later stage and if we reach an initial conclusion, we will also get to that phase,” the source added.
The energy crisis in Pakistan which suffers about 12 hours of power cuts a day has worsened in recent years amid 4,000 megawatts of electricity shortfall. The nation of 190 million people can only supply about two-thirds of its gas needs.
Contractually, Pakistan has to pay steep fines to Iran for failing to build and operate its section of the pipeline. Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh has said that Tehran decided not to take the matter to international arbitration because Islamabad did not have any money to either pay the penalty or build the pipeline.
Pakistan has however pushed ahead with talks to receive gas from Turkmenistan through a pipeline which is exponentially longer and costlier than the Iran route and has to cross volatile terrain in Afghanistan.
Qatar is currently one of the main suppliers of liquefied natural gas to Pakistan after the two sides signed a 15-year agreement in February 2016 for shipment of 3.75 million tonnes of LNG a year.
In their last negotiations with Iran, the Pakistanis reportedly said they preferred LNG to natural gas.
However, Iranian energy experts have dismissed the proposal as another delaying tactic given that the first Iranian LNG production is years off, while the Pakistanis have started talks to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan.
For years, Islamabad has been under US and Saudi pressure to opt out of the Iran project even though this would entail going the extra mile of more than 700 km across the violence-wracked Afghanistan to get gas from Turkmenistan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to play up the ‘Iranian threat’ are gaining steam. Last week, officials claimed that Iran was looking to build a naval base in Syria. A week earlier, Netanyahu went to Moscow to say that Iran was a threat to the region. Mideast politics expert Hassan Hanizadeh says Netanyahu’s theories are absurd.
Following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier this month, Netanyahu told reporters that conveying to Putin the threat posed by Iran was one of main goals of his visit.
“I clarified to President Putin our vehement opposition to the establishment of Iran and its tentacles in Syria,” Netanyahu said. “We see Iran is trying to build up a military force, with military infrastructure, in order to establish a base in Syria, including attempts by Iran to set up a sea port,” he added.
Netanyahu noted that Iran’s presence in Syria was contrary to Israel’s interests, and suggested that it actually “doesn’t match the long-term interests of anyone except Iran.”Iranian officials soon refuted the prime minister’s claims, and similar claims made by US media over the weekend about Iran’s supposed plans to establish a naval base in Syria’s Latakia. Officials stressed that the Iranian presence in Syria was limited to military advisers, and added that these are in the country at the request of Syria’s legitimate government. Iran has no plans to create any military bases in Syria, they said.
Asked to comment on Netanyahu’s diplomatic offensive, and why he picked Russia to complain to about Tehran’s alleged ambitions, Middle East expert Hassan Hanizadeh, the former editor-in-chief of the Mehr News Agency, explained that the move was little more than an attempt to drive a wedge into the Russian-Iranian strategic partnership.
Speaking to Sputnik Persian, Hanizadeh said that there was good reason for Netanyahu to be concerned about Russian-Iranian ties.
“The relationship between Moscow and Tehran can be assessed as strategic. The two countries have a unified position on a number of issues, particularly as far as the Middle East and Syria are concerned. Israel, in turn, is trying to drive a wedge into these relations, to destroy them,” the observer said.
Hanizadeh suggested that this was played out during Netanyahu’s trip to Russia, where the prime minister tried to set the Russian president against Iran. “Netanyahu attempted to show, using these deceitful tricks, that Iran was looking to expand its territories, or its sphere of influence, by establishing a naval base in Syria, which in turn would be a direct threat to Israel.”
Furthermore, the analyst pointed out that even though the naval base rumors were false, Iran, like any other country, has the right to establish whatever kinds of relations it wants to with friendly nations.
“Any country, on the basis of international law, has the right to establish and independently develop diplomatic relations with other states,” Hanizadeh stressed. “Israel has dozens of [secret] air and sea bases in different parts of the world, yet no one is indignant over this fact. Even if Iran did want to build a base in Syria, at the request of or in agreement with the government of this country, this would be legal. Nevertheless, for some reason [even rumors of such bases] immediately cause alarm and anger from the Israeli leadership.”
In reality, Hanizadeh reiterated, Tehran does not have any plans to create permanent bases in Syria. “There is no such goal. But Iran reserves its right to cooperate with friendly countries.” And that includes military cooperation, pending that it is approved by the partner country’s internationally recognized government.
Ultimately, Hanizadeh stressed that Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu “have no right to talk about or judge relations between other countries – or to make any claims toward a power like Russia. Russia is a sovereign state, and has the right to make decisions independently, to build relationships on the basis of its national interests with whomever and however it wants. Israel has no right to interfere in this process.”
Therefore, the analyst suggested that as far as Moscow was concerned, “the statements by Benjamin Netanyahu [about the ‘Iranian threat’] will be ignored, and a wise leader like Vladimir Putin simply won’t pay them any heed.”
The selection of Lt. General H. R. McMaster as Trump’s new National Security Advisor to replace Michael Flynn appears to be the coup de grâce to Trump’s efforts to achieve rapprochement with Russia. McMaster has received profuse praise from all types of mainstream figures: conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans. McMaster’s expressed hostile view of Russia is the fundamental reason for this celebration since Michael Flynn was noted, and condemned for, his Russia-friendly attitude and connections. McMaster has stated that Russia’s goal is “to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.” McMaster sees Russia as being among a number of enemies that threaten the U.S. He maintains: “Geopolitics has returned, as hostile, revisionist powers—Russia, China, North Korea and Iran—annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies.” McMaster describes this conflict in Manichean terms. “We are engaged today, as General George C. Marshall’s generation [World War II and the Cold War] was engaged, against enemies who pose a great threat to all civilized peoples.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is likewise widely praised in the mainstream, also considers Russia to be an enemy that needs to be staunchly opposed. Although Rex Tillerson was considered to be friendly toward Russia in his capacity as Exxon Mobil CEO, he has expressed more critical views of Russia since he was selected for the position of Secretary of State. Moreover, he has been largely absent from any role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
But what about Iran? Trump, during his presidential campaign, depicted that nation as a major threat to the United States and insisted that the nuclear agreement with Iran was “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Flynn held an even more hostile view toward Iran, which he presented in his recent book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, that was co-authored by the notorious neocon Iranophobe par excellence Michael Ledeen. It would seem, however, that Flynn’s departure will not make the administration’s stance toward Iran more favorable.
Mattis has been ultra-hawkish on Iran. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 22, 2016, Mattis said that Iran was “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” contending that Iran’s hegemonic goals had not changed since the Islamic regime came to power in 1979.
Mattis maintains that Iran is using the turmoil of the Islamic State to achieve its goals: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief. Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates. And I would just point out one question for you to consider: What is the one country in the Middle East that has not been attacked by ISIS? One, and it’s Iran. Now, there’s got – that is more than just happenstance, I’m sure.” In short, Mattis cryptically implies that Iran is even cooperating with ISIS. Since ISIS kills Shiites and Iran is playing a major role in fighting ISIS, this conspiracy theory would seem to be something out of Alice and Wonderland, though this was also held by Flynn and Ledeen, but they are regarded as rather flaky.
Mattis continued that “as the commander in CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command, August 2010 to March 2013] with countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, every morning I woke up and the first three questions I had . . . had to do with Iran and Iran and Iran. . . . Their consistent behavior since 1979 through today shows no sign of changing. . . . They’ve increased the flow of arms . . . into Saudi Arabia, explosives into Bahrain, and arms into Yemen. In fact, in the last three months— February, March and April — the French Navy, the Australian Navy, and the U.S. Navy have all seized arms shipments each month . . . . [but] the idea that we’re catching all the arms shipments, that’s a flight of fantasy.”
Mattis advocated a militant U.S. policy in the Middle East, which would consist of amplifying what it already has been doing. For instance, he stated that “in the region we work with our partners in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council],” which is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It should be noted that all these countries are autocracies of one degree or another and some—such as Bahrain–face serious internal opposition. Thus, working with these countries means helping to prop up the existing regimes, which the U.S. has already been doing to some extent. Also, it might mean that the U.S. would be more involved in the Sunni-Shiite war which has little to do with American interests. This would entail the continuation and expansion of U.S. military support for the Saudis’ bombing and naval embargo of Yemen, which is causing a major humanitarian catastrophe with a significant proportion of the population facing starvation. And, private groups within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, if not those governments themselves, have been the principal backers of radical jihadis—including, at times, ISIS—who have served as those countries proxies in the war against the Shiites. Objective observers would almost certainly discern that it is the Sunni-controlled members of the GCC who have been far more involved in destabilizing the Middle East than has Shiite Iran. Nonetheless, with his focus on Iran, Mattis also advocates a “very robust” U.S. naval presence in the region, cooperation with allies in a missile defense, and an increase in funding for intelligence on Iran, which would also involve closer cooperation with the spy agencies of America’s regional allies.
It was Mattis’ obsession with Iran as head of CENTCOM that ultimately caused President Obama to force his retirement in 2013. However, while Trump, during the campaign, said that his “[n]umber one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Mattis has taken a moderate view toward the nuclear accord. Although critical, he maintains that the U.S. should continue to honor the agreement while emphasizing that it is strictly an arms control deal, which does not imply rapprochement with Iran. He compares it to the arms control agreements the U.S. made with the Soviet Union during the Cold War where the U.S. would continue to treat it as an enemy.
As alluded to earlier, McMaster also sees Iran as a significant American enemy, though he does not appear to be so monomaniacally hostile toward it as does Mattis. McMaster contends that Iran “has been fighting a proxy war against us since 1979.” In his view, Iran is “applying the Hezbollah model broadly to the region, a model in which they have weak governments in power that are reliant on Iran for support, while they create militias and other groups outside of that government’s control that can be turned against that government if that government takes action against Iranian interests. You see this, I think, to a certain extent in Iraq.” He holds that if “we pull the curtain back on it,” we would see “Iranian subversion and the use of pressure on the [Iraqi] government to ensure that that government remains wholly sympathetic to Iranian interests. And this is an effort, I think, to retard many of the reforms that would try to build back into the Iraqi government and security forces a multi-sectarian population that would have improved legitimacy, and that would lead eventually to the consolidation of security gains as we continue the campaign against ISIL.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump talked about jettisoning America’s broad global strategy that has militarily entangled the country in wars and alliances that do not serve its own vital interests. Instead, he said he would pursue an American First strategy that would focus on what benefitted the U.S., but he did not show how taking a harder stance toward Iran could possibly fall into this new paradigm. It seems incongruous.
It should seem obvious that the reason Iran is opposed to the United States has much to do with the fact that the United States has acted as its enemy. Moreover, as will be pointed out shortly, throughout the 20th century, Iran has been victimized by the great powers. In the United States, it is often maintained that Israel deserves special treatment because of the past victimization of Jews. For example, this has been used to justify the very creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. U.S. foreign policy experts should, at the very least, recognize that Iran’s recent history of victimization would shape its view of international affairs. It is especially odd that purported military scholars such as Mattis and McMaster do not evince this knowledge. “Know your enemy” is a maxim derived from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a famous work on military strategy that the two generals would be expected to have read. And maybe they do know about Iran’s past but realize that expressing knowledge of inconvenient history that militates against the current mainstream narrative can prevent one from having a successful career, something they wish to maintain despite their mainstream media reputations for “speaking truth to power,” reputations they would be apt to forfeit if they pushed the envelope too far.
Let us now look briefly at the history of Iran. As in other Third World countries, Iranians, who have a proud heritage extending back to the ancient world, do not want to be dominated by outside powers, and this feeling is quite intense because during the 20th century, their country had been treated as a pawn by the great powers. It had been controlled by Britain and Russia from the latter part of the 19th century through World War I, and because of wartime deprivations caused by those two occupying powers, lost a large percentage of its population. According to historian Mohammed Gholi Majd: “World War One was unquestionably the greatest calamity in the history of Persia, far surpassing anything that happened before. It was in WWI that Persia suffered its worst tragedy in its entire history, losing some 40% of its population to famine and disease, a calamity that was entirely due to the occupation of Persia by the Russian and British armies, and about which little is known. Persia was the greatest victim of WWI: no country had suffered so much in absolute and relative terms. . . [T]here are indications that 10 million Persians were lost to starvation and disease. Persia was the victim of one of the largest genocide [sic] of the twentieth century.”
Similarly, Iran was occupied by Britain and the Soviet Union during World War II. And the U.S. played a significant role in the coup that overthrew the legally-established Mossadegh government (Mossadegh was appointed not elected as is often claimed) in Iran in 1953 and essentially made Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi the autocratic ruler of Iran. Even assuming the most benign American motivation—that American policymakers were motivated by the fear of a pro-Soviet Communist takeover rather than by the ambition to acquire oil—would not make Iranians feel better about their country being used as a pawn by an outside power once again. Furthermore, the U.S. influence over Iranian politics during the rule of the Shah was so palpable that most people considered him an American puppet. Given Iran’s historical experience, it is quite natural that Iran fears the American empire and would like a reduction of its influence in the Middle East, just as the young United States wanted to keep the European powers away from the Americas, a view which was embodied in the Monroe Doctrine.
America’s backing of the Shah’s rule certainly contributed to the anti-American revolutionary rhetoric put forth by the Islamic regime after the 1979 revolution. This revolutionary stance especially resonated with the region’s Shiite minority and thus engendered fear among the Sunni ruling elites.
Fear of an internal Shiite revolt in Iraq—one Middle East country where the Shiites were in the majority—along with the desire to take advantage of the revolutionary chaos in Iran to grasp some of its territory motivated Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to launch an attack on Iran on September 22, 1980. After initial success, Iraq was soon put on the defensive. Fearing that Iran might defeat Iraq, the United States, although officially neutral, was providing substantial support to Iraq by the mid-1980s, which included military intelligence and war materiel. And the United States deployed in the Persian Gulf its largest naval force since the Vietnam War, the purpose of which was purportedly to protect oil tankers, but which engaged in serious attacks on Iran’s navy.
Significantly, the U.S. also played a role in Iraq’s use of illegal chemical weapons. U.S. satellite intelligence facilitated Iraqi gas attacks against Iranian troop concentrations. Moreover, Washington allowed Iraq to purchase poisonous chemicals, and even strains of anthrax and bubonic plague from American companies, which were subsequently identified as key components of the Iraqi biological warfare program by a 1994 investigation conducted by the Senate Banking Committee. The United States also prevented or weakened UN resolutions condemning Iraq for using chemical weapons. It should be stressed that although Iran has rhetorically advocated the overthrow of other regimes and provided some military aid to groups that take such positions, its greatest military involvement (other than the defensive war with Iraq) has been to counter offensive moves by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms. Thus, Iran has become militarily involved in Iraq to help the Iraqi government defend itself from the ISIS military juggernaut, which, at least initially, had been bankrolled by wealthy private sources in, and very probably the governments of, Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf sheikdoms, especially Qatar. If the Iranians had not become extensively involved in the defense of Iraq, it is quite conceivable that Baghdad would have fallen to ISIS.
Iranian aid to the secular Assad regime in Syria also should be classified as defensive. For three decades, Syria has been Iran’s most valuable ally in the Middle East. Although many in the West portrayed the revolt against Assad’s Baathist dictatorship as a fight for democracy, from early on radical Sunni Jihadists—who seek the establishment of an Islamic caliphate based on sharia law–have proven to be the most effective fighters. And Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar and other oil-rich Gulf sheikdoms, have been supporting these anti-democratic rebels from the outset.
The removal of the Assad regime would be a serious blow to Iran’s security. Assad’s Syria has provided a conduit for arms from Iran to Hezbollah. With Iranian arms, Hezbollah plays a critical role in Iran’s strategy to deter, and if necessary, retaliate against an Israeli attack on it. Obviously, Israel would prefer that Iran not have this capability.
Currently, in Yemen, Iran is providing some support for the Houthis, who champion the Zaidi Shiites against the Sunni forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. To avoid any false interpretations here, it should be pointed out that Zaidi Shiism is quite different from that of the Iranian variety. Zaidis make up one-third of the population of Yemen and had lived under their own rulers in mountainous North Yemen for almost 1,000 years until 1962. Since that time they have engaged in several rebellions to regain autonomy. It should be added that the Houthi rebels also have been supported by units of the Yemeni army that remained loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was removed from power during the Arab Spring. That President Hadi, the recognized head of Yemen, is some type of democratic, or even the legitimately-elected, head of state, is highly questionable, however. As Dan Murphy wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, “Saudi and the US insist that only Hadi is the legitimate ruler of Yemen, that legitimacy drawn from a 2012 single-candidate referendum that gave him 99.6 percent support.”
Houthi victories in what was essentially a civil war brought a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni states to engage in bombing attacks on the Houthis, claiming that they were Iranian proxies whose victory would expand Iranian power in a strategic region of the Middle East. The U.S. has been actively supporting the Saudi war coalition against Yemen, being engaged in such activities as refueling Saudi warplanes and working with them in selecting targets in a bombing campaign that has so far killed thousands of civilians. The Saudis and their allies have also maintained an air and sea blockade officially aimed at curtailing arms shipments to the Houthis, but also stopping goods vital for civilians. All of this has contributed to a humanitarian crisis.
However, it is not apparent that the Houthis are proxies of Iran or that Iran has the intention or capability of allowing them to achieve an all-out victory in Yemen. While Iran undoubtedly provides the Houthis some types of military aid, this would have to be quite limited since it has not been easy to detect. Moreover, much of the weaponry used by the Houthis has been provided by high-level military supporters of ex-President Saleh who had access to government supplies.
Also, in 2015, Iran presented a four-point plan to end the conflict that called for an immediate cease-fire, humanitarian aid, dialogue, and the formation of an inclusive national unity government. This was rejected by the Yemeni government of President Hadi and the Saudis (with whom the U.S. concurs) who essentially demanded that before any peace talks take place the Houthis must disarm and turn over to the Hadi government all the cities that they have taken. Obviously, such a de facto surrender by the Houthis would eliminate their bargaining position and thus would not [only] fail to address any of their grievances but likely lead to their suffering retribution for rebelling. In short, the Iranian effort in Yemen does not appear as an effort to achieve dominance of the country but rather an effort to restrain the expansion of Saudi power outside its borders.
As Trita Parsi and Adam Weinstein summarize their article, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination,” “Exaggerating the military or ideological power of Iran may serve the goal of pushing the United States to take military action against Iran. But a singular focus on Iran — while deliberately ignoring the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and their spread of Salafism — will neither provide stability for the Middle East nor further any of Washington’s other interests in the region.”
In sum, Iran is acting no differently than a country of its size, power, security interests, and historical experience would be expected to act. However, there is no apparent reason that Iran would be a threat to American interests, even if these interests are viewed from the traditional foreign policy establishment’s globalist perspective. Some of Iran’s key concerns harmonize with those of the United States, such as maintaining the flow of oil to the industrial world (which has been hindered by American-instigated sanctions) and combating Sunni jihadist radicals (ISIS and al-Qaida) who threaten regional stability. This convergence of interests has been recognized by leading figures in the American traditional foreign policy establishment, which was exemplified in the study, Iran: Time for a New Approach, produced by a Council of Foreign Relations-sponsored task force in 2004. The task force [which] was co-chaired by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Robert M. Gates (who would become Secretary of Defense in December 2006) advocated dialog and incremental engagement with Iran.
Also, in 2006, Congress created an independent, bipartisan commission called the Iraq Study Group, which was co-chaired by President George H. W. Bush’s close associate and former Secretary of State James A. Baker and by former Democratic Congressman Lee H. Hamilton. On Iran, the Iraq Study Group advocated rapprochement rather than destabilization and regime change, as had been sought by the neocons who had held sway in the George W. Bush administration. Iran and Syria were to be made integral partners of an international Iraq Support Group, which would work for the stabilization of that country.
Although alternatives to an anti-Iran policy have been made in the past, which would better reflect a real America First policy, Trump, unfortunately, holds an opposite position–that the U.S. needs to take a more belligerent stance–and in this he has been reinforced by Mattis and McMaster. And while the mainstream media anathematizes almost everything else Trump proposes, it sees little wrong with his Iran policy. This makes it apparent that a significant portion of the neocon agenda has become the mainstream position on U.S. Middle East policy, but this is an issue that cannot be dealt with in this already lengthy article.
 “Harbingers of Future War: Implications for the Army with Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster,” May 4, 2016, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/harbingers-future-war-implications-army-lieutenant-general-hr-mcmaster
 Jenna Lifhits, “McMaster on the Role of Education and Values in America’s Military Strategy,” Weekly Standard, February 21, 2017, http://www.weeklystandard.com/mcmaster-on-the-role-of-education-and–values-in-americasmilitary-strategy/article/2006918
 Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, “In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined,” Washington Post, February 22, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-first-month-of-trump-presidency-state-department-has-been-sidelined/2017/02/22/cc170cd2-f924-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.cac7b42072d9
 “The Middle East at an Inflection Point with Gen. Mattis,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 22, 2016, https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/event/160422_Middle_East_Inflection_Point_Gen_Mattis.pdf
 “Middle East at an Inflection Point.”
 “Middle East at an Inflection Point.”
 Mark Perry, “James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran,” Politico, December 4, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/james-mattis-iran-secretary-of-defense-214500
 Carol Morello, “Iran nuclear deal could collapse under Trump,” Washington Post, November 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-nuclear-deal-could-collapse-under-trump/2016/11/09/f2d2bd02-a68c-11e6-ba59-a7d93165c6d4_story.html?utm_term=.25b38bdfd668
 “Harbingers of Future War.”
 Mohammed Gholi Majd, Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain (Lanham,MD: University Press of America, 2003), pp. 3-4.
 Stephen R. Shalom, “The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988,” Iran Chamber Society, http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/united_states_iran_iraq_war1.php; Jeremy Scahill, “The Saddam in Rumsfeld’s Closet,” Common Dreams, August 2, 2002, http://web.archive.org/web/20131021234920/http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0802-01.htm; Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid, “When Iraq Was Our Friend,” Accuracy in Media, October 15, 2002, http://www.aim.org/media-monitor/when-iraq-was-our-friend/; Michael Dobbs, “U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup,” Washington Post, December 30, 2002, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/12/30/us-had-key-role-in-iraq-buildup/133cec74-3816-4652-9bd8-7d118699d6f8/?utm_term=.e28029f4b093
 Trita Parsi and Adam Weinstein, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination,” Foreign Policy, January 25, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/25/irans-proxy-wars-are-a-figment-of-americas-imagination/
 Adam Baron, “What We Get Wrong About Yemen,” Politico Magazine, March 25, 2015, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/03/yemen-intervention-116396.html#.VTu2RSFViko; “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?,” BBC, March 26, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423
 Dan Murphy, “Reducing Yemen’s Houthis to ‘Iranian proxies’ is a mistake,” Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2015/0402/Reducing-Yemen-s-Houthis-to-Iranian-proxies-is-a-mistake-video; Laura Kasanof, “Yemen Gets New Leader as Struggle Ends Calmly,” New York Times,” February 24, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/world/middleeast/yemen-to-get-a-new-president-abed-rabu-mansour-hadi.html
 Matt Schiavenza, “Saudi Airstrikes Intensify Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis,” The Atlantic, April 22, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/saudi-airstrikes-intensify-yemens-humanitarian-crisis/391203/ ; Thalif Deen, “Blood Money? After Bombing Yemen, Saudis offer $274 mn. in Humanitarian Aid,” Informed Consent, April 23, 2015, http://www.juancole.com/2015/04/bombing-saudis-humanitarian.html
 Gareth Porter, “Houthi arms bonanza came from Saleh, not Iran,” April 23, 2015, Middle East Eye, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/houthi-arms-bonanza-came-saleh-not-iran-1224808066
 “Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?,” BBC, October 14, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423 ; “Iranian representatives discouraged Houthi rebels from taking the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last year, according to American officials familiar with intelligence around the insurgent takeover,” Huff Post Politics, April 20, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/20/iran-houthis-yemen_n_7101456.html; Dan Murphy, “Reducing Yemen’s Houthis to ‘Iranian proxies’ is a mistake,” Christian Monitor, April 2, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2015/0402/Reducing-Yemen-s-Houthis-to-Iranian-proxies-is-a-mistake-video; Steven Inskeep talks with Robin Wright, “Is There Evidence That Yemeni Rebels are Backed By Iran?,” NPR, March 27, 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/03/27/395698502/iran-saudi-proxy-war-touches-on-other-issues; Jason Ditz, “Kerry Endorses Saudi War as Long as Houthis Resist,” Antiwar.com, April 24, 2015, http://news.antiwar.com/2015/04/24/kerry-endorses-saudi-war-as-long-as-houthis-resist/
 Parsi and Weinstein, “Iranian Hegemony Is a Figment of America’s Imagination”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘working visit’ to Moscow last week had a key objective relating to the conflict in Syria — a demarche at the highest level with President Vladimir Putin over Iranian presence in that country. Before emplaning for Moscow, Netanyahu told his cabinet in public remarks,
- In the framework of a (future peace agreement) or without one, Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria – either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence – and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights. I will express to President Putin Israel’s vigorous opposition to this possibility.
In characteristic style, he cornered Putin in his very opening statement as they sat down in the Kremlin,
- One of the things that unites us (Israel and Russia) is our common fight against radical Islamic terrorism. Substantial progress has been made over the last year in fighting radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and Russia has made a great contribution to this result and this progress. Of course, we do not want to see Shia Islamic terrorism led by Iran step in to replace Sunni Islamic terrorism.
The Russian readout faithfully quoted Netanyahu but left out Putin’s brusque response. The Kremlin later chose to convey via an RT report,
- Putin noted that those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” added that “we now live in a different world” and suggested discussing the actual up-to-date problems in the region.
In short, Putin urged Netanyahu to get real instead of digging up the ancient legend of an Iranian forefather’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. (RT) The Russians are familiar with Netanyahu’s style of functioning — his swagger and capacity to dissimulate. He was obviously hoping to complicate the Russian-Iranian relationship at a time when Moscow and Tehran are working to put together a Syrian settlement. Evidently, Putin saw through the ploy. (Moscow is preparing for an official visit by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.)
Netanyahu keeps playing up the Iran bogey to divert attention away from the Palestine problem. However, importantly in the current context, Israel wants a say in the Syrian settlement. Israel’s motivations here are complex.
Israel’s preference is that the al-Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria, who are its proxies, should be allowed to retain the swathe of land straddling the occupied Golan Heights so that its annexation of the Syrian territory remains unchallenged.
Russia simply will not acquiesce with the presence of any al-Qaeda affiliate in any residual form on Syrian soil. In fact, Jordan is involved in talks with Russia, which appears to be geared to battle plans under preparation to evict the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda from the Jordan-Israel-Lebanon borderline. Israel is getting frantic that the Russian-Iranian juggernaut proposes to put its al-Qaeda surrogates shortly into the meat grinder.
The alliance with Iran becomes vital for Russia in the coming weeks and months before a complete destruction of terrorist groups on Syrian soil is achieved and the peace process reaches the home stretch. However, this does not mean that Russian-Iranian relationship is smooth as silk. There strong convergence of interests at this point, but, as Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour said on Saturday in Tehran,
- We will interact with the Russians to the extent that they cooperate with us and we will not be willing to cooperate with them when they are not willing to do so.
The two countries have their respective long-term objectives and agenda in a future Syrian settlement. Clearly, the Syria that emerges in a settlement can very well be a federated country. The US seems to be working toward a federal Syria and Russia may live with it as the realistic outcome of the brutal conflict. Thus, both US and Russia have dealings with Syrian Kurds whose top priority is the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in northern Syria bordering Turkey.
Now, it is entirely conceivable that a federal Syria may overlap the ‘spheres of influence’ of foreign powers. Without doubt, the US intends to keep the military bases it has established in the two Kurdish cantons on the eastern part of the Euphrates in the recent years. Russia too has a big presence along western regions of Syria facing the Mediterranean coast and in the Damascus region. The Russian bases in Latakia and Hmeimim in Syria are on permanent footing.
Therefore, how the emergent scenario of federal Syria would grate on the Russian-Iranian relationship remains a ‘known unknown’. After all, Iran made huge sacrifices to defeat Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria. A report last week put the casualty figures of Iranians killed in the fighting as exceeding 2000 military personnel.
Read an analysis, here, by Frederick Kagan of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute – surprisingly realistic for an American ideologue – on the complex web that makes Russian-Iranian bonding a geostrategic imperative of our times.
Photo by Always Shooting | CC BY 2.0
A well-orchestrated alliance emerged against Iran during last week’s Munich Security Conference. The stage was set by Mike Pence after he called Tehran “the leading state sponsor terrorism,” and accused the Islamic Republic of continuing to “destabilize the Middle East.” Further, to reiterate the Trump administration’s dissatisfaction with Obama’s policy toward Iran, he speculated that with “the end of nuclear-related sanctions, Iran now has additional resources to devote to these efforts.”
One after another, representatives of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and, surprisingly, Turkey added their warnings about the rise of the Iranian menace and called for a united front to combat Iranian regional and global ambitions. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the conference “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Iran is, he said, “determined to upend the order in the Middle East.” In an act more reminiscent of a scene from a theater of the absurd, the Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared “Iran had an ultimate objective of undermining Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.” He called for a multilateral dialogue with Sunni Arab states to defeat Iran and its “radical” elements in the region. This was not the first time that the Saudi and Israeli positions on the Middle East security coincided, but the similarities in the way Lieberman and al-Jubeir articulated their grievances against Iran, using the exact same language in listing Iranian transgressions was unprecedented.
Rather bewildering was the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who added his voice of discontent with Iran and joined in the same vein to call for a concerted international effort against what he termed “an Iranian sectarian policy to undermine Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.” He told a friendly audience in Munich that Turkey will not tolerate divisive religious or sectarian policies and, he continued, “we are now normalizing our relations with Israel.” Çavuşoğlu’s address was particularly baffling since it came following a complex series of negotiations and agreement that was reached earlier this month between Russia, Turkey and Iran for a cooperation to end Syrian bloody civil war.
The Trump administration and a significant number of lawmakers, Republican and Democrats, will almost certainly use the display of unity among regional powers against the Islamic Republic to justify new sanctions on Iran. But why, despite the clear evidence to the contrary, are the U.S. and its allies in the region holding Iran solely responsible for destabilizing the Middle East? There are two, one geo-political and the other pure economic, reasons for such a flagrant distortion of realities on the ground.
From the early days of the Iranian revolution in 1979, the main strategic interest of the U.S. and its corrupt Arab allies have been to fend off the Iranian ambition of exporting its revolution. At the time, it was the stated purpose of the Islamic Republic to spread the message of what they believed to be the Islam of the downtrodden abroad. Almost four decades later, surviving an eight-year war with Saddam Hussein, which he fought on behalf of the concerned Arab nations (with the exception of Syria) and their Western supporters, consolidating power by eliminating most opposition forces inside the country, and managing a beleaguered economy plagued with ongoing regimes of sanctions, the Islamic Republic has been transformed. At the end of the war with Iraq, it became evident that the mantra that the regime in Tehran now followed, as Henry Precht, the former head of the State Department’s Iran desk, once said, was not dominion abroad, but economic and political independence at home. Rather than an irrational ideological fervor, the Islamic Republic’s policies are primarily motivated by domestic stability, security, and economic growth. Iran has always been more sympathetic to the Christian Armenia than to Muslim Azerbaijan in their border disputes, more interested in closer ties with India than Pakistan, and in order to protect their trade relations with China, remained silent when the Chinese violently suppressed the grievances of their Muslims.
Domestically, Iran has also changed significantly since the brutal years of the 1980s reign of terror. There exists a vibrant and growing civil society, more than fifteen independent newspapers are published in Tehran, meaningful presidential and parliamentary elections with real participation and rivalries happen, unlike the a commonplace perception, women participate in social life despite patriarchal laws and cultures, more than 60% of university students are women. I do not intend to draw a rosy picture of Iran, the Islamic Republic is not a democratic regime, but in all cases it is certainly more democratic than all our allies in the region.
Oil is not the only rationale that defines our economic interest in the Middle East. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. arms sales in the Middle East have been rising exponentially. As a recent report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows, more than half of the total American arms export goes to the Middle East. During the last four years the sales of arms to the Middle East has doubled. Saudi Arabia’s arms import has increased 212 percent from 2012 to 2016. During the same period Qatar’s import of weapons surged 245 percent. Saudi Arabia spends 25 percent of its budget, $85 billion a year, more than that of Russia, on defense. Last year the Obama administration approved a $38 billion military aid package to Israel for the next ten years. One-third of the world’s arms deals happen in the Middle East. All this happens when Iran uses only 2.5 percent of its national budget on defense and relies mostly on domestic production of weapons rather than on a shopping spree in the global arms market.
A military industrial complex has taken American foreign policy hostage. It has colonized American foreign policy through a marketing strategy that perpetuates hostilities and generates animosity between different nations. It has promoted an arms race, particularly in the Middle East, that is draining the resources of nations around the world and is weighing heavily on the shoulders of American taxpayers. Military aid to our allies in the region is nothing but a transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to defense contractors. None of these sales and aid packages would be justifiable if it were not for the existence of an enemy such as the Islamic Republic of Iran reproduced in Pence’s caricature, an irrational, ideological nemesis that does not respond to conventional deterrence and needs to be forced into submission to our demands.
Washington needs to transcend its old-age reliance on allies in the Middle East whose interests are increasingly becoming detrimental to peace and stability in the region. The problem in the Middle East is not about Sunni and Shi’ite rivalry, it is not even about Israeli and Palestinian existential animosity. What plagues the Middle East is the narrow-mindedness of its ruling elites, both elected and self-appointed, who have failed to represent and safeguard the interests of their own people. Since the end of WWII, Washington’s policy has been exclusively based on securing economic and geo-political interests of American energy and military industrial corporations. Time has come for the U.S. to rethink its alignment with old patriarchal powers and to look beyond its narrow economic interests in the rising arms race in the Middle East. Extending and expanding sanctions against Iran would be an irreversible step toward opening a new war front, one with broader and more catastrophic consequences around the world.
In early February, unnamed US officials told Reuters the Trump administration might designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) a terrorist organization.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. Iran categorically denies involvement in terrorism. No evidence suggests it, just baseless allegations.
Reports now indicate the proposed action stalled, US defense, state, and intelligence officials warning it could backfire, undermining Trump’s pledge to combat ISIS, along with complicating enforcement of the Iran nuclear deal.
US NATO allies are against it. The designation was supposed to be announced this month. It’s unclear if it’s suspended or cancelled altogether.
IRGC involvement is important in combating regional terrorism in Syria, Iraq and perhaps Yemen.
The administration’s proposal was part of a broader scheme to get tougher on Iran – instead of responsibly working to end 38 years of US-instigated adversarial relations.
If implemented, it would be the first move of this kind under the 1996 Foreign Terrorist Organizations law against a foreign government – meant for al-Qaeda and likeminded groups.
It would likely initiate tougher sanctions on Iran, possibly undermining the nuclear deal, sabotaging what took years to agree on.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised the IRGC’s efforts in combating terrorism, saying:
“The entire world admits that the IRGC has rendered the utmost support to (Iran’s) neighboring countries in the face of terrorism” – warning of adverse consequences if Trump orders more sanctions on Iran.
Reports indicate he intended to designate the ICRG and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization on Monday – during a visit to CENTCOM’s Tampa headquarters.
It’s believed Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states urged him to target Iran’s IRGC. It’s now on hold.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
A recently declassified CIA document prepared in 1983, and released on 20 January 2017, shows that the United States had at the time encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Syria, which would have led to a vicious conflict between the two countries, thus draining their resources.
The report, which was then prepared by CIA officer Graham Fuller, indicates that the US tried adamantly to convince Saddam to attack Syria under any pretense available, in order to get the two most powerful countries in the Arab East to destroy each other, turning their attention away from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And since Saddam was already knee-deep in a bloody war against Iran, he needed to be incentivized and encouraged by American client states in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, who offered to fund such a war in order to deal a deadly blow to the growing Syrian power in the region.
Hence, the US provided modern technology to Saddam in order to close the ring of threats around Syria, in addition to Jordan, Turkey, and Israel. The report expected that such pressures from three fronts, possibly more, would force Syria to give concessions in the struggle with Israel. And the report asserts that it was of utmost importance to convince Saddam to play along this scenario, because it would have divided the Arab line and distracted attention from the American-Israeli role in this scheme.
Therefore, the United States worked to achieve a substantial consensus among its client Arab states to support Saddam in such a move. Israeli policy at the time welcomed the idea of creating tensions along Syria’s borders with Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, because Israel saw Syria as it biggest problem and not Saddam.
Three decades earlier, a colonial alliance was formed during the Cold War, the so-called Baghdad Pact, which included Turkey, the Shah’s Iran, and British-controlled Iraq, with support from the Gulf States. The alliance was geared against Jamal Abdul Nasser, and aimed at stopping the Nationalist wave sweeping Arab countries, and to also halt Egypt’s support for liberation movements in Africa and Asia. But the 1958 revolution in Iraq ended this alliance, and this was followed by Syria and Egypt merging into the United Arab Republic, which Iraq intended to join, but this tripartite unity never materialized.
It is noteworthy that Turkey was always an enemy of Arab Nationalism, especially in Syria and Iraq, and this tendency is still there until today, because Turkey never forgave the Arabs’ for their role in the collapse of the Ottoman empire, and never accepted the loss of its Arab colonies.
Reading through history, it also shows the naivety of Saudi and Gulf rulers in dealing with their issues, and their superficial reading of events.
If we go back to Nasser’s speeches in 1962 and 1963, in which he gave ample rebuttal against Arab reactionaries, especially its inability to stand up for Palestine, because they get their weapons from the same supplier as Israel, and therefore they were forced to stand alongside Israel and host American military bases.
The Gulf States, were in a real and established alliance with Israel, which was secret at first, before it became an open alliance today.
Juxtaposing this history with recent events, one can’t help but notice a clear pattern. Today, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are once more joining the US and Israel in an alliance to prolong the six-year-old ongoing war against Syria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and the Arab Nations, in order to destroy their infrastructures, economies, armies, institutions, civilizational heritage, and cultural identity.
Under American pressure, Arab rulers either participate in secret or stand idly by during the Arab Spring War. Erdogan’s Ottoman Turkey is building a close alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, with American and Israeli support, in order to prolong the war against Syria under the pretense of isolating and weakening Iraq [Iran?].
But the real American-Israeli objective is destroying all Arabs, including those who walk the American line and finance American wars.
We can conclude that the tools used against Arabs since the 1950s remain the same. These tools are Arab States loyal to America and Israel, whether in secret or in public, and at every historical juncture, new schemes are contrived to destroy Arab civilization and drain Arab resources in order to weaken all Arabs, both resistors and collaborators. And even though the Arab reaction against the Baghdad Pact was good in theory, and led to a closer union between Syria and Egypt, the right mechanisms, however, were never put in place in order to ensure the viability and continuity of this union.
Arabs always lose time, they’ve been suffering for the past seventy years from reactionary forces’ loyalty to the Nation’s enemies, conspiring with them, hosting their military bases, and financing their wars against Arabs. Nonetheless, no opposing Arab movement that would construct an alternative to the Zionist-Turkish reactionary project has ever emerged. How many times do events have to prove that the West and Israel are implementing their schemes through operatives such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called oppositions?
Today, what is needed, is to establish a strong Arab alliance on solid foundations and modern mechanisms, which at times we have to learn from our enemies.
Today, Erdogan, Israel, and the US deplete Gulf money in order to finance the terrorist war against Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Egypt, in the same way the West and its Arab clients encouraged Saddam to continue the war against Iran, in what was then called “dual containment,” with the hope of weakening both Iraq and Iran.
The end result, however, was the destruction and later occupation of Iraq, while Iran became a nuclear [energy] power. Arabs, therefore, must stand side-by-side and prepare for a long war, the schemes of which might be revealed three decades from now, possibly more!
Dr Bouthaina Shaaban is a Political and Media Advisor to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.