Tuesday 22 May 2018

Why Trump's new crusade against Iran will fail

Trump's New Campaign Against Iran Will Not Achieve Its Aims

21 may, 2018

The Trump administration made it perfectly clear today that it wants regime change in Iran by whatever means it has.

In a well promoted speech at the Heritage Foundation Secretary of State Pompeo laid outtwelve demands towards Iran. He threatened the "strongest sanctions in history" if those demands were not fulfilled.

But the demands do not make sense. They only demonstrate the incompetence of the Trump administration. The means the Trump administration laid out to achieve its aims are not realistic and, even if they were implementable, insufficient to achieve the desired results.

Iran is asked to stop all uranium enrichment. Stopping enrichment is a no-go for Iran. The program has wide support in Iranian politics as it is seen as an attribute its sovereignty.

Pompeo demands that Iran closes its heavy water reactor. Iran can not close its heavy water reactor. It does not have one. The one it was building in Arak was disabled under the nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Concrete was poured into its core under supervision of IAEA inspectors. How can the Secretary of State of the United States make such a fact-free demand in a prepared speech?

Another demand is that Iran ends its support for the Palestinian resistance. This is also a no-go for Iran as long as the Zionist occupation of Palestine continues. There is a demand that Iran does not develop "nuclear capable" missiles. Iran had already committed to that under the JCPOA Trump killed. Another demand is that Iran pulls back all troops from Syria,and ends all interference in Iraq, Yemen,  Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Together these demands ask for a wholesale change of Iran's national character and policies. It is apparently supposed to become Lichtenstein.

The Trump administration has no way to achieve that goal.

With painstaking work the Obama administration managed to get much of the world to agree to sanctions on Iran. It was possible because the other countries trusted Obama's assurances that he would keep his side of the deal and seriously negotiate. International unity and trust was necessary to achieve the nuclear agreement.

Now Trump wants much more but he has no united international front behind him. No one trusts his word. The Europeans are enraged that Trump s threatens them with secondary sanctions if they stick to the agreement they signed and continue to deal with Iran. While they may eventually fold and to some extend stop dealing with Iran, they will also try to circumvent those unilateral U.S. sanctions.

Neither China nor Russia nor India will stop doing business with Iran. For them the unilateral U.S. sanctions are opening new markets. The French oil company Total announced that it will stop the development of Iran's South Pars gas field to avoid secondary U.S. sanctions on its other interests. China said "thank you" and took over the work. Russia will likewise jump in where it can. Its agricultural industry will deliver whatever food stuff Iran wants and needs. It will continue to sell weapons to Iran. China, India and others will continue to buy Iranian oil.

The Trump administration will cause some economic pain. It will also make the U.S. and Europe weaker and Russia and China stronger. The threat of secondary sanctions will eventually lead to the creation of a sanction-secure parallel global economy. The SWIFT banking information exchange which routes international payments between banks can be replaced by country to country systems that do not depend an sanctionable institutions. The U.S. dollar as a universal exchange medium can be avoided by using other currencies or barter. The nonsensical use of economic and financial sanction will end up destroying the U.S. ability to use them as a tool of foreign policy.

The Pompeo speech will unite the people in Iran. The moderate neoliberals around the current president Rouhani will join the nationalist hardliners in their resistance. The demands go way beyond what any Iranian government could concede. An Iran in which the will of its people counts will never agree to them.

The only way the Trump administration could possibly reach its aims is by regime change. But regime change has already been tried in the current Iran and it failed. 

The "green revolution" was strongly supported by Obama. But it was easily derailed and failed. Various assassination campaigns within Iran did not change its policies. Iran's size and geography make a direct military campaign like in Libya impossible. Iran can retaliate against any strike by hitting U.S. interests in the Gulf.

The U.S. can and likely will continue to attack Iranian forces and interests in Syria and elsewhere. Its military will hassle Iran in the Gulf. The CIA will try to fuel internal Iranian unrest.  Mounting sanctions will damage the Iranian economy. But none of this can change Iran's national spirit as expressed in its foreign policy.

A year or two from now the Trump administration will find that its sanction campaign failed. There will be a push for a direct military attack on Iran. But plans for such an attack were also made under George W. Bush. Back then the Pentagon advised that such a war would cause it very serious losses and was still likely to fail. I therefore doubt that it will ever happen.

What else then is there that the Trump administration can do when its announced Plan A has failed?

Pompeo, Putin or No One? Iran’s Difficult Choice
Adam Garrie

26 November, 2014

Days after Russian special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev confirmed that it is Moscow’s intention to see the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria, including those legally present like Iranian troops and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo give a list of demands to Iran which would need to be fulfilled in order for the US to stop what was promised to be the “strongest sanctions in history” against any country.

Not only will the “strongest sanctions” threat scare a European Union that is already privately fearful of falling foul of US CAATSA sanctions for trying to preserve the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal), but moreover, Pompeo’s threat makes it clear that in order for Iran to cultivate realistic (key word) trading partners, Tehran will need to do all that it can to remain on exceptionally good terms with the eastern superpowers China and Russia.
Pompeo’s demands were summarised in the Tweet below from journalist Joyce Karam:
Demands from #Iran , Pompeo:
•Close heavy water reactors
•Allow IAEA inspectors everywhere
•End ballistic missile
•Release US citizens
•End support to Hezbollah, Hamas, IJ, Houthis, Taliban
•Iran must withdraw from Syria
•Iran must support Iraq Gov, disarm Shia militias
Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) May 21, 2018
The list includes some rather absurd demands including ending support for the Taliban. Now only does Iran not support the Taliban, but throughout the late 1990s, Iran backed the so-called Northern Alliance of Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban. In 1998 when Afghanistan’s then Taliban regime executed Iranian diplomats, there was even talk of a war between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban. So much was Afghanistan’s hatred for the Taliban that many in Iran privately supported the US war on Taliban ruled Afghanistan in 2001.
In respect of supporting Yemen’s Houthis, this US demand is almost equally absurd as the one regarding Afghanistan. Iran’s support for the Houthis is limited to diplomatic support. Because of the Saudi blockade of Yemen it would be impossible for Iran to supply the Houthis even if they wanted to. How the US can seriously claim that Iran can supply Houthi forces surrounded by hostile armed forces on both land and sea and be believed by anyone is a discredit to the collective intelligence of most journalists.
As for Iran shutting down its IR-40 heavy water reactor, the core of the rector was removed in 2016 and filled with concrete and when it comes to allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the country, this is was already agreed to in the JCPOA and thus far Iran has been totally compliant.
As for Iran’s ballistic missile programme, this was not even mentioned in the JCPOA and nor was the release of US citizen prisoners. These are just further examples of the US moving the goal posts long after the rules of the game had been mutually agreed.
Therefore when all is said and done, the only demand that the US is making which Iran could foreseeable execute is the withdrawal of troops from Syria and this is where things get interesting.
With both Russia and the US calling on Iran to vacate Syria but with very different tones and with very different long term intentions, Iran must at least temporarily abandon its more idealistic and far-reaching for Syria and the wider Arab world and must instead ask itself a fundamental, difficult but due to circumstance, a necessary question: Does Iran want to exit Syria like hero’s under Vladimir Putin’s terms or does Iran want to face humiliation and extreme military aggression (in Syria) from the United States and/or “Israel”? 
There is of course a third option which would be to remain in Syria against the wishes of both Washington and Moscow, so long as the Syrian government agrees, but this runs the risk of a full-scale “war on Iran” fought between the US and “Israel” on one side and Iran on the other. While Iran’s Syrian comrades would likely join Iran in the short term, the reality is that a war on Iran fought on Syria soil would first and foremost victimise the Syrian people who unlike the Iranian people or “Israelis” are still suffering from a seven wars war led by the Takfiri proxies of the west “Israel” and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. At some point if such a war were to become majorly destructive, even by the standards of what Syria has had to endure, Syrians themselves might question why they did not take Russia’s compromise agreement. According the this agreement, in exchange for a dignified Iran/Hezbollah withdrawal, Russia would force “Israel” to keep up its end of the bargain and stop attacking Syria.
Because of this, while Iran is likely not going to accept America’s absurd post-JCPOA demands, its only realistic options are to remain in Syria against Russia’s advice and publicly declared wishes or else work with Russia on a shift from a military engagement in Syria to a political process which would allow Iran to preserve its dignity, revel in its much deserved victory over Takfiri terrorism and play a constructive part of the peace process alongside Russia and Turkey in the Astana format that the US has no say in, cannot stop and has no realistic alternative to.
As I wrote prior to Pompeo’s remarks:
” For Iran itself, long-term “boots on the ground” involvement in the Arab world (with the possible exception of Iraq) will ultimately be an economic drain rather than an economic boost. Realistically, Iran’s most important trading partners, especially in a would-be post-JCPOA world are China, Russia, Turkey, parts of the Caucasus, parts of central Asia, Venezuela and perhaps most importantly, Pakistan.
If Iran follows Russia’s cues and opts for a phased withdrawal, it will allow Iran to focus on geographic regions where it stands to gain economically, all the while aiding Syria politically through the Astana format. All he while, Iran would be gaining more credibility among Sunni Arabs on the all important issue of Palestine by physically dispelling the myth of a “Shi’a/Iranian conspiracy”.
For some Iranians used to looking more towards the Arab world than to south, central and east Asia, this may be a bitter pill to swallow, but when the choice is between a possibly deadly war with “Israel” and opening up new economic horizons to the east, the choice ought to be a clear one for any Iranian economic patriot”.
Now the choice is all the more clear in light of Pompeo’s verbal provocation. Either Iran can work with the only large powers who have the ability to ignore America’s economic threats and preserve the domestic economy in a post-JCPOA world, while participating the Syrian peace process as a victor or otherwise, Iran can risk economic turmoil and a new war with the US and “Israel” simultaneously. Whatever Iran chooses, it may have to choose soon.

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