Monday, 18 May 2020

United States and Iran entered uncharted Territory

The latest round started with 
Trump's violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), 
otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.

As revolutions go, two things the Iranian Revolution of 1979 has in common with its French counterpart two hundred years before, is its reign of terror.  The second is the attempt to spread their ideologies to neighbouring states. The years 1792 in response to revolutionary fervour, Paris experienced absolute mayhem, which saw thousands executed and imprisoned. Tehran fared no better executed Royalists and those suspected of collaborating with the old regime. The French declared war on almost all of Europe in an attempt to spread their ideas of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite across its borders. Similarly, the Iranian Mullas are in proxy wars to impose Pan-Islamism and geopolitical instability in the region. 

The Revolution in Iran also sparked a religious Shia awakening that saw Ruhollah Khomeini come to power imposing on the nation Velayat-e faqih for a road map.  A deep-thinking philosopher and a cleric, who aspired to lay claim to Shiaism very soul.  In the process, he made Islamic fundamentalism a political force, which was to change Muslim Politics around the world. The Revolution also declared itself on the side of justice and equality harbouring some faint shades of Marxism.  Its message to reform the social structure, help the deprived and to reduce the widened economic divide under the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that the Revolution toppled.  

The Iranian Ayatollahs rule did not correspond to Plato's idealist vision of Philosopher Kings: possessing a love of wisdom, to drive Republics towards utopia.  Instead, their teaching had religious fundamentalism in its veins. Without doubt, in the forty years since the Revolution Iran, had produced generations of scientists and technocrats capable of developing nuclear programs and sophisticated weapons systems and succeeded in a continuous increase in regional influence. This has come at a cost to its people and the region as a whole. Almost unlimited drive for internal suppression accompanying the support of aggressive fundamentalism, which embodied the regime's concept of Pan-Islamism. 

The regime inclination to use violence to spread their ideology hardly differentiates Iran from that of a rogue state.  From the Revolution early days, it encouraged students to storm the American Embassy in Tehran, held its US citizens hostage.  There was the London embassy siege, the Fatwa to murder Salman Rushdie.  Iran was also suspected in the bombing of French, and American Embassy compounds in Beirut in 1982 and 1983 respectively, which saw scores of American, French and Lebanese nationals killed.  So far, forty years on, the Revolution, Iranian people still struggle to find their identity, freedom and economic wellbeing.  A tortuous root in a jungle of violence, strict and monolithic emblems of a theocratic regime none more so contrived than the wearing of the Hijab.  The elaborate revolutionary visions not endorsed by intelligence and accountability but fuelled by continuous effort to destabilise the region.  

Then came a light of reason and hope.  One after effect the embassy sieges had, was the American administration had imposed economic sanctions against the Iranian administration.  For a time it crippled the economy.  Resilience to suffering learnt from the Iraq/Iran war had its limits, it eventually came to negotiate.  Nevertheless, during this lull, Iran had managed to embark on a nuclear programme that worked in its favour; a bargaining chip to ease the sanctions, the US Government's go-to foreign policy tool.  Eventually, in 2015 Iran and six world powers signed a nuclear deal named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  A deal that placed strict limits on Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief and the release of $100 Billion of Iranian money held with American Banks.  The deal did not include any mention of Iran's subversive activities carried on regardless.  And the deal did not produce prosperity, as Mr Rouhani had promised Iranians, and Iran continued to test missiles and meddle abroad. 

The Trump administration, in its early days, cooked up a deal with Saudi Arabia, President Trump went on to describe the JCPOA "was the worst deal ever negotiated".  The US administration contempt for alliances, in true fashion, announced it was withdrawing from it.  New added sanctions were imposed only this time more stringent.  The sanctions, this time, were illegitimately imposed after breaking an international agreement when Iran was still complying with the deal.  The European signatories laboured with it trying to keep it on life support.  But, in keeping with Iran customary aggressive approach, President Ruhani issued an ultimatum to the European powers, almost chocked the agreement to death.  His country would no longer comply with parts of the deal and later threatened to walk away from it.  Well, so much for Hope, Light and Reason, since then US and Iran relations took a nosedive.

The United States is protecting American interest against Iran using Israel as a tool.  

Round table discussions were replaced by sabre-rattling, bluff and counter bluff, persistent threats met with counter threats.  All of this fell into the lap of Israel, already on the warpath, and had scorned at the Obama administration to go ahead with the JCPOA deal.  Israel and the US were now on the same platform hand in glove setting the agenda for the entire Middle East. Sunni, Saudi Arabia joined in this heated verbal fray in an outward show of solidarity against Shia Iran, but ominous signs were on the horizon building up for a confrontation.  On the one hand Saudi v Iran on matters of theological orthodoxies, America v Iran for greater influence on the region and Israel willing to attack Iran, drawing on their old and tired existential arguments.  Taken together, creates an epicentre for conflict, and an ideal scenario to fuel an arms race.  Iran now looks poised to resume its slow but steady march towards the bomb and relentless drive en route to empire building.  That is if the sanctions don't push it over the edge beforehand.

Renewed sanctions on Iran and the threat to punish anyone who trades with it have wrecked what is left of the JCPOA agreement, has effectively cut off Iran from the global economy.  The idea was "to bring Iran to its knees" but unfortunately the American administration use of blunt tools such as sanctions to cripple the economy is hurting Iran's population.  The Mullas chauffeured in BMW's, making millions on contracts and creating monopolies on goods by withdrawing subsidies on others. The unabashed corruption of the elite continuous unabated. 

The young no longer have the revolutionary zeal, which welcomed Khomeini on arrival to Iran from exile in 1979.  Instead, after forty years, they are suppressed and coerced into complying to imposed arbitrary social laws. Old dogmatic clerics set antiquated ideas on diverse, well educated young people using the revolutionary guards as their main tool to keep order.  In true Khomeini fashion, the Shia Mullas preach martyrdom and sacrifice for the cause.  In keeping with an earlier time, when during the Iran/Iraq war Khomeini sent thousands of children to the front line as waves of human shields.  While the sanctions continue to miss their targets, inflation is on the rise underscored by a depreciating Iranian Rial, which guarantees a downhill slide in the standard of living. The effects were demonstrated in the economic crisis of November 2019; triggered the greatest existential crisis in the regime's 40-year history.  Protesters took to the streets in Tehran and other major cities calling for regime change.  The government resorted to brute force, killed at least 1500 protesters and arrested thousands of others.

Setting the Agenda for Iran as well as for the entire region.
A pretence of guaranteeing regional stability.

Turning to current issues of state, a cold war is heating up, it all depends on foresing what the end game is.  It is, however, doubtful whether both the US and Israel have an end game built in its strategic security architecture for the region.  The increased tension in the Gulf bound to escalate into a major conflict. Exemplified in part by the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and its maximum pressure policy. The arms build-up thus far, by politically impotent, Saudi Arabia, increased activities by US naval forces in the Gulf waters, the downing of US drones and blowing up tankers by the Iranians and the killing of Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,  have added to the likely hood of military confrontation.  A situation is not too dissimilar to the arms race pre-1914, which eventually unleashed a war with devastating consequences. None of the actors wanted war, but all stumbled into one.  The allied two countries; Germany and Austria misinterpreted words on a diplomatic document.  So could US and Israel.  Faced with conflicting messages emanating from Trump's administration that is not too difficult; for chauvinist, President Trump, war could be only a tweet away. To borrow from philosopher Georg Hegel, "We learn from history that we do not learn from history."

New ideas coming through from the Trump administration, setting up the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), along the lines of NATO wouldn't do it.  An alliance, that excludes Shia Iran, but made up of Sunni Muslim countries, to add Israel would antagonise Iran further, can only prolong the simmering regional conflict. Rather than serving as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, it can aggravate it further. 

Iran, the United States, including Israel, is faced with two options.  To avoid a showdown, let Iran simmer under the pressure of sanctions although that would leave its population to suffer continued deprivations. Weighing up the odds in favour for the population either to rise up en masse to demand regime change.  Or, faced with such possible implosion, and on the edge of losing control, the regime would go all out with their nuclear programme crossing the strategic red line.  In the process it threatens the simmering status quo, putting Israel existential reality on alert. A risky situation; to build reactors can be quicker than sanctions begins to bite.  With such an imminent threat, the US and Israel would then react, a possible overreaction,  throwing away any chance at diplomacy.  Even though both the US and Israel have developed precision weapons, the possible loss of life and carnage, in war is inevitable. 

The other option is an attempt at dialogue.  T
ragically, this logic is no longer fashionable in this part of the world.  However, time to draw a new Middle Eastern security architecture to ameliorate the conflicting concerns.  To devise a system that can set the agenda and take into account the genuine interests of the countries of the entire region.  For the United States to drop its demand for regime change, ease the sanctions to formulate a peace accord matrix.   For Iran to relinquish its seemingly inexorable quest for nuclear armament join the world order of international relations and rejuvenate its moribund economy. An agreement for the cessation of terror activities, to terminate religious rivalries.  Adoption of an all-encompassing Arab peace initiative to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A challenging and ambitious proposal indeed, but if the geopolitical countries genuinely want peace, it can work. 

The unparalleled power of American might 
President Trump made it 
subservient to the financial clout of its Middle Eastern allies.


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