I spent the entire month of October and the first week of November in Iran, my fourth trip to the old homeland in less than three years. I had published a commentary about my first trip after some 32 years of absence from Iran, titled Iran, Back in Context, in an attempt to expose some of the realities behind the hype and propaganda that saturate the Western media regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran...
Part II: Where Are We Headed
I do not own the proverbial Crystal Ball, do not receive revelations and don't make wild guesses. Instead, I try to base my analyses on a set of premises that do not violate commonsense and are not distorted by personal prejudices, preferences and emotions. This is as difficult to do as it is for others to accept it as such. For what it's worth, here we go.
In the introduction to this article, I finished the beginning paragraphs by, Or so we are all supposed to believe! And I ended that section by stating the question asked of me during my visit to Iran: Are things going to get better for us?
Are we to believe that the true concern over Iran's nuclear program is the suspicion by the world's great powers that Iran is truly after accessing nuclear weapons? And are we to further believe that, should Iran not be stopped, its acquisition of nuclear weapons would pose a danger to the region and the world, starting from Israel and leading to Europe and possibly the United States? But, if the foregoing points are false pretenses, as I have maintained all along, what are the real factors behind the decades-long impasse between the Islamic Republic of Iran and its main antagonists, the United States and Israel?
To address these issues, I begin by stating certain presuppositions that are to me natural, commonsensical and undeniable:
1- People, tribes and nations will pursue their perceived interests, even if such pursuit denies other peoples of their interests and rights. Cooperation or coexistence with others only occurs when its benefits surpass those of conflict and competition.
2- In competing for supremacy and dominance, all sides to the struggle view their respective goal or cause as noble and morally justified.
3- Leaders and governments must and do engage in mass deception and hypocrisy in order to A/at best, pursue their peoples' best interests when such pursuit might violate those peoples' self-righteous image and moral/ethical standards (the Golden Rule); or B/at worst, secure and ensure their own selfish grip to power and the wealth of the nations they rule over.
It would be foolish to believe that promoting peace and stretching the hand of friendship toward old antagonists have something to do with altruism, philanthropy or unselfish magnanimity. Conflicts of interest in the global arena are not like sporting events where the referee stops the fight to prevent further damage when one combatant is clearly incapable of defending himself or putting up a good fight. In a boxing or wrestling match, the defeated is allowed, even encouraged, to recover, retrain and become better prepared as a combatant for the next event. Not so in global conflicts.
Why didn't the United States or Israel simply attack Iran during the past ten or fifteen years while "all options, including military ones" remained on the table and the threats of military action were regularly made, some, according to "reliable" sources, with definite dates for initiating such attacks? Did the United States hold back from attacking, and actually pressured its pretend loyal friend and ally, Israel, to refrain from its moral right to "defend its life" in order to prevent death and devastation of the Iranian nation?
On the other side, was it God Almighty - Allah - who stopped the "Great Satan" and its disciple, the "Zionist Entity", from bombing the Iranian nation into the Stone Age? Was it the homemade inverted bathtubs, the Iranian speedboats or threats of opening the gates of Hell that scared the hostile superpower away? Come on, man!!
All the bellicose chest-thumping and flag waving aside, attacking Iran by the United States or Israel was never seriously in the playbook to start with, or there were plenty of pretexts or concocted excuses to rationalize and justify such an attack. I hold this argument to this very day. I have long maintained that, while the mere threats of war based on fictitious, fabricated and hyped existential dangers in the region accomplish the intended objectives, engaging in actual military actions would prove to nobody's interests and, on the contrary, would have catastrophic consequences all the way around. So, what are, or have been, those intended objectives?
Let us examine the main players in the Middle East arena, their concerns and interests and how they figure in that jigsaw puzzle:
A- The United States of America
America's forceful intrusion into the greater Middle East was marked by the campaign in 1991 dubbed Desert Storm to "liberate" Kuwait and push Saddam Hussein's forces out of the oil-rich emirate. Kuwait's, as well as Iraq's and also Iran's oil and gas resources were deemed too important to be left to chance or to the whims of the likes of Saddam or the Iranian "mullahs."
Military bases were already being established in and around the region to ensure America's control over the flow of oil and to maintain political "stability", meaning compliance, in the Middle East. America's military presence, especially in the kingdom of the Saud clan in Arabia, was also to support and protect the kingdom from what the openly unpopular regime thought of as an existential threat, a Shi'a rebellion modeled after the Iranian uprising. America's military presence in Islam's holiest land, plus the anti-Islamic colors of the political rhetoric from the West, were perhaps the strongest motivating factors for Al Qa'eda's terror attack on the American soil in September 11, 2001.
That event opened the door for the United States to unleash its enormous military might against Iraq and Afghanistan to punish a band of renegade militants without a country, hiding somewhere in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Even though, in hindsight, the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan proved ill advised and disastrous, not just for the hapless populations of those nations, but also for America itself, the events quite curiously followed a pattern envisaged by two groups with prophetic foresight. One had clearly outlined its mission in the paper prepared for the then Israeli PM, Mr. Netanyahu, in 1997, dubbed, A Clean Break; Securing the Realm; and the other soon afterwards by the think tank in Washington, the Project for the New American Century. The readers could plug-in these names into their internet search engines to learn more about their mission statements.
So, not only was the United States fully engaged militarily in the region, with ground bases established throughout, and naval forces in the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, Indian Ocean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the domino chips were also put into motion to fall through Lebanon, Syria and ultimately Iran. Many attempts were made, but the dominos failed to drop according to plans, the main factor responsible for that failure was, perhaps, Iran.
What we have today as a factor more significant than ever is a looming realization and an increasing public awareness in the United States that America's presence and deep involvements in the Middle East and even in North Africa have not been geared to secure and maintain America's best strategic global interests. That, in spite of all the hype and propaganda saturating the mainstream media that any retreat or loosening of the noose around the necks of the so-called dangerous and rogue regimes, such as Iran and Syria, would create and invite bolder and more ominous threats to our peace and security. That line isn't cutting it anymore.
So, what took so long for the Administration to come to terms with and admit the realities that the policies of the United States toward the Middle East in general, and the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular, have been counterproductive? It is not simply that we prefer dialogue and diplomacy to confrontation and war. America would not have hesitated to launch an attack on Iran if such action were deemed necessary to bring about the truly desired, not just perceived or politically motivated propaganda, objectives. The United States has never needed permissions or approvals from the global community to launch aggressions against targets near or far.
Barack Obama was not the first President to recognize that there was something wrong with America's Middle East policies, which are too often tilting heavily in favor of Israeli and against America's own best interests. This knowledge is not new, and it actually dates back to the end of the Second World War and the creation of Israel as a member of the United Nations. But, up until now, actually beginning in Obama's second term in office, open expressions of a political rift between the United States and Israel were not allowed to enter the public discourse.
The inordinate presence and influence of pro-Zionist lobbies and interests in America's vital centers of power is a separate discussion, which has been the focus of attention by an increasing number of sources outside the mainstream media, among which I could mention some of the most active worth referencing here , here and here .
What are America's goals and interests at this junction? It is safe to say that America's public opinion has been shifting away from blindly supporting what has been sold as War on Terror, or wars of liberation to promote freedom and democracy in the unruly parts of the world. The public doesn't believe that anymore. Even those who are naively, but genuinely, concerned about the safety and security of the homeland, and do view America's engagement in the Middle East as an honorable effort to rescue those nations from a barbaric regression to the Dark Ages, now believe that costs of such effort to the nation is far outweighing its rewards. It's time to get out; no more wars!
Adjusting to the dangerously evolving Syrian civil war, at the same time that new efforts to normalize relations with Iran toward resolving the so-called "nuclear" issues were taking place, all point to a sea change in the international arena. But there are those perennial obstacles in the way to achieving a more realistic, functional and productive course for America's foreign policy toward the Middle East, and in particular toward Iran. What the United States wants is to clear out of the troubled Middle East, not in a cut-and-run manner, but in a face-saving graceful way, without incurring further damage or sacrificing its genuine strategic interests. What are the obstacles to achieving this goal?
1- The military/industrial complex and all its tentacles:
The full breadth and depth of the economic impacts of America's military related industries is beyond the scope of this writing. As the world's greatest producer and exporter of military related hardware, the export and sale of such equipment, along with its peripheral training and support services provided through lucrative contracts with the end users, provide enormous annual incomes that lubricate and feed America's industries. It's no secret that arms are sold to both sides of conflicts; and in the absence of requests for arms, enough agitation is created in respective regions to make the demands more urgent. When tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars are needed by the Administration to fund certain projects, the oil-wealthy Persian Gulf states are coerced to purchase mostly outdated or obsolete arms they do not need or even know how to deploy! America's military bases at home, and cities such as San Diego as a naval base, thrive on military revenues and expenditures. It is logical, therefore, to assume that turmoil, instability and threats of terrorism, etc., in areas of the world where the United States does have strategic interests necessitate the military preparedness at home, and significant presence in these troubled areas of the world. So, why not create such circumstances and fan the fire, so to speak? Why promote peace and global stability when chaos, uncertainty and war prove more profitable?
2- The Zionist lobbies and Israel's angle: Just following the money!
To gain the sympathy and support of the nation, the elements of influence and indoctrination have managed to successfully penetrate and establish themselves at all the critical centers of power in the public domain: total dominations of the news and entertainment media, financial institutions, legal and medical fields, the scientific and educational domains, etc. This is not a criticism; it is a tribute to the tenacity and intellectual prowess of a small minority that just over a century ago ranked, like other small immigrant groups, among the disadvantaged and persecuted in their adopted country.
A population that numbers less than two percent of the total US population, occupies a huge majority in the most sensitive and consequential areas of influence and control over the direction and destiny of the nation. In a liberal democracy structured around free enterprise capitalism, money reigns supreme; and money generates more money.
Control over the news, information and entertainment media meant direct control over the public mindset, which before the advent of the internet, remained a captive audience at the mercy of the media manipulators. The significance of this point is in the fact that Jewish communities in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and elsewhere do have an understandable umbilical connection to what they identify as a homeland away from Diaspora, Israel. Politically motivated and driven Judaism, translated into Zionism, has capitalized on these sentiments in order to mobilize some of the strongest political lobbies in Washington, the most visible and vocal among them has been, AIPAC, which has direct influence on the United States Congress in matters that relate to US policies in the Middle East.
No candidate for any political office would have a fighting chance without financial support in the form of campaign money, and without the media support to launch his or her campaign. Money and media support overpower true qualifications and overrule honest patriotism. It is no surprise that the principle qualification for a candidate for any Congressional seat, whether the House or the Senate, is how pro-Israel he or she could demonstrate to be, concurrent with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to express their devotion! This wouldn't be too objectionable were it not for the obvious fact that Israel is a foreign country, and that the interests of Israel and those of the United States are not always the same: This "passionate attachment", as George Washington warned the nation against, has been costing the United States of America dearly. There is much more that needs to be said about all that; but on with the topic at hand.
3- The evangelical holy crusaders:
The anti-Islamic and pro-Israel neoconservatives aren't all Jewish or ardent supporters of Zionism. Even though the Zionist lobby, AIPAC, has encouraged and embraced some of most vocal and aggressive evangelical churches , such radical groups have no sympathy for the Jewish nation beyond their sacrificial utility on the way to realizing the warped Biblical prophecy of Armageddon! To these Christian zealots, Islam, the Islamic cultures, and particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran as the foremost defiant state, represent a spreading plague that must be stopped to save Christendom. The power and political influence of these groups, with memberships now numbering in the millions, cannot be discounted as inconsequential.
B- Israel's objectives, concerns and interests:
Israel's objective could be summarized in one short phrase: its survival as a Jewish state. And, the future seems increasingly more uncertain. This small transplant has been fighting rejection ever since its establishment, and has survived, grown and prospered mainly through financial, military and diplomatic support by its chief benefactor, the United States, plus economic support by other European countries, mainly Germany. But Israel's "growth" has come at a tragic cost to the indigenous Palestinian populations who have undergone increasing marginalization and disenfranchisement by the Israeli regimes that enjoy the shelter and protection of the might of the United States.
Global concerns about the future of the Palestinian populations, an equitable peace process leading to the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state, the return of the lands stolen by the Israeli regimes to its original owners, etc., have increased the international criticism and even the condemnation of Israel's policies to new heights.
Israel, in short, needs and depends on America's unequivocal protection and support for its very survival. And, as has been the case in the past, the Israeli regimes would resort to any and all means to ensure that support. Zionist enterprises have managed to create a mindset within the American public that Israel and the United States share in broader values and that their alliance should remain unbreakable. Portrayed as a small vanguard of Western civilized values in a turbulent, hostile region, Israel, therefore, deserves the full support of the United States. Furthermore, through the carefully timed repetitions of the details of horrors of Holocaust in the media, punctuated by the erection of new monuments to commemorate that massacre, those memories are kept alive in order to ensure that the American public will never forget the debt the world owes to the Jewish people.
Even though that time-tested methodology is now showing signs of wearing thin, of far greater impact is the Zionist lobby's influence over the American Congress, especially over the various committees and subcommittees that deal with foreign affairs in any form or shape: samples here and here .
Some facts to keep in mind when addressing Israel's concerns and agendas:
1- Israel needs the unwavering support of the United States, and will not be able to survive on its own without that support.
2- Israel cannot and will not relinquish its territorial gains or compromise its plans for population growth in any negotiations with the Palestinians.
3- Feigning its readiness to sit at negotiating table with the Palestinians to appease global concerns, Israel will never accept the existence of a truly independent and viable Palestinian state. Instead, it will continue to blame the Palestinians for a lack of progress in that regard.
4- Israel is not ready or even willing to take on the Islamic Republic of Iran in a military confrontation. Israel is too little and vulnerable to total devastation, regardless of its nuclear arsenal.
5- Israel is not truly worried or concerned about Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities, as even if that capability existed, Israel knows that Iran would never initiate any attack on its neighbors or Israel, which would spell doom for the Islamic Republic.
Israel's relentless anti-Iran rhetoric is, therefore, simply a two-pronged campaign: One is to scare a war weary American public that this friend and ally who is facing an existential threat by a monstrous enemy, Iran, might have to eliminate that imminent threat by a preemptive military strike, which quite unfortunately, would drag America into yet another prolonged and costly engagement in that region. And, two, to demand the always compliant and ready Congress to rise in defense of this beleaguered friend to grant it all, and even much more than, what is necessary to keep it safe and content.
Thus, with the American public's support and the US Congress' cooperation, Israel will extort all the support it needs from the Administration. What the American public does not realize is that Israel doesn't truly want a war with Iran, and even an attack, however unlikely, by the United States on Iranian targets would not bode well for the Israelis, since any retaliatory action would incur huge damage to the little state. Israel wants assurances that any rapprochement between the United States and Iran would not jeopardize Israel's favored treatment by its chief benefactor.
For any opening between the West and Iran to have a chance to succeed, Israel must be fully pacified that it will remain immune to international condemnations no matter what is does against the international norms or UN mandates, or even the American Administration's preferences. Israel will continue receiving increasing financial support and diplomatic immunity, as well as ironclad security guarantees from the United States. The Palestinian aspirations shall be ignored, and settlement activities will continue.
A very close friend who is not overly fine-tuned in international affairs asked me what the consequences would be if someday, some brave American President would tell the likes of Netanyahu to go to hell! The best response I could come up with was to compare the situation with a tumor that has metastasized into the vital organs of the body, the removal of which might prove fatal to the host, until such time that better medications become available!
C- The Saudis:
Strange bedfellows? Not at all! Unlike the Israelis, the Saud clan does have excellent reasons to fear Iran. No, the Arab monarchy is not in danger of a military attack or invasion by the Islamic Republic, with or without any nuclear weapons. And, the altercations or rivalries have nothing to do with theological differences between the Sunni and Shi'a branches of Islam. Religiosity is not a Saudi clan hallmark, anyway. These rulers over Islam's holiest sites appear as pious as necessary in public; anything but in private!
The regime owes its longevity to its long-time pact with the United States that guarantees its survival as long as the regime and its hydrocarbon reserves do not fall out of the American fold. This cooperation has served both parties quite well. The Saud clan, perhaps the wealthiest on the planet, has been fuelling the wheels of American and other Western countries' economies with its enormous oil money, while at home, there is not even an accurate census figure as to Arabia's own population; just some approximate figure somewhere around 16 million, with somewhere around 10 million foreign and otherwise illegal residents in the country! The experienced oil field workers are among the Shi'a immigrants, and the nearby oil-rich Bahrain Island, a Saudi dependency, connected by a bridge to the Arabian Peninsula, hosts a majority Shi'a population currently engaged in a serious uprising against the regime.
American and, yes, Israeli land and naval bases (Israeli atomic submarines donated by Germany) are stationed in and around both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to guard against whatever threats might erupt unexpectedly. Always ready to fork out money as requested (ordered) to finance military missions under the label of War on Terror, the Saudis have been backing any operation, including those carried out by known terrorist groups, in promoting radical Islamic movements (Wahabism) and against anything that would support Iran and its Shi'a oriented Islam. Their undeniable involvements in the Syrian civil war has been so pervasive and blatant, that suspicions prevail that the gas attack against the civilian centers near Damascus was carried out by the Saudi backed militants, and not by the Assad regime.
The Saudis fear the expansion of Iranian power and domination in the region as a threat to their very existence as a ruling monarchy. Outside of the Sheikdom of Qatar, other Persian Gulf emirates could live with a more powerful Iran, as they could continue to prosper as a trading hub and business partner with Iran. So, it should not be surprising that behind the thin facade of Arab/Israeli conflict there is a long history of cooperation that serves the interests of both Israel and certain Arab regimes, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and as we can see, Egypt. Both camps depend on American support for their survival, and the Arab group fears the Iranian model as a potential element of destabilization and uprising against their clearly unpopular regimes.
D- Syria, Russia and Turkey:
Syria holds a strategic position, a seaport on the northeastern Mediterranean that serves as a naval facility for Russia's only anchorage in that area, Syrian border with Israel (the Golan Heights disputed zone), Syria's direct connection and historical ties with Lebanon, and finally and most importantly, serving as a conduit for the transfer of arms and supplies from Iran to the Lebanese Hezbollah that represents the majority Shi'a population of Lebanon. It exchange, Syria has been receiving Iran's economic, military and political support.
As an old, but well-contained, adversary of Israel, the Assad regime has been involved in a delicate balancing act, which has not only helped preserve the minority Alawite Assad regime's central power and authority, but has also protected Israel against rogue Islamic militant groups in the area. We have been witnessing the rise to power of radical Islamic elements, including those directly associated with Al Qa'eda, as the result of the chaos that ensued during what has become a civil war in Syria. Russia's direct involvement in support of Assad was to help prevent not only its one Arab ally and a foothold in the Middle East, but to also prevent the spread of Islamic militancy that threatens its own troubled East-Caspian states.
Turkey has its own problems with its Kurdish populations and cannot remain neutral in the Syrian developments whose own Kurdish populations and their aspirations could spill over into Turkey. Also as a longtime ally of the United States and with an eye to possible acceptance into the European Union, Turkey had little choice but to join in with the United States in opposition to the Assad regime. In spite of all that, Turkey wants nothing more than continuing its mutually advantageous relations with its neighbor, Iran. For a good portion of its income, Turkey depends on the revenues from the trade between Europe and Central Asian countries by providing the only viable land transit route through Iran. Both Turkey and Iran also share similar concerns about their respective Kurdish separatist populations.
The Islamic Republic of Iran:
Iran is not attempting to develop nuclear weapons; period! The United States knows it, and the Israeli regime knows it, too. The security services of both countries have repeatedly confirmed that fact. The reason for Iran to not pursue the development of atomic weapons is not the religious mandate by the Supreme Leader or the fear of being caught red-handed in the act by the UN observers, etc. The main reason is that Iran does not need such an expensive weapon, which could only be used as a preventive or defensive tool, when its conventional forces are more than capable of protecting its borders. Were a potential American or Israeli preemptive attack on Iran a viable probability, Iran would have had ample reasons to gain access to nuclear devices; but as I have repeatedly argued, I don't believe that the Iranian government has ever seriously considered itself vulnerable to such attacks. What has been the main source of concern for Iran's national and territorial security include only terrorist incursions and occasional foreign based local insurgencies that would not require the use of nuclear arms to combat.
Iran, without doubt, does have the technical knowhow, the facilities and resources, to embark on the development of nuclear bombs if or when necessary, as is the case with other NPT members that are benefiting from nuclear energy production. Therefore, the best way to alleviate the hyped and fictitious fear of an Iranian breakout attempt to go after the development of nuclear bombs is to also remove the hyped and fictitious threats of regime change or preemptive military strikes against the Islamic Republic.
A fairly clear assessment of Iran's nuclear development process appears in an article in Huffington Post .
Beyond that, all the claimed data about the number of centrifuges spinning here or there and similar allegations and suspicions are just that - claims and counterclaims.
Without any doubt, behind the door negotiations between the United States and the Iranian government have been ongoing for many years; only the most recent developments have become public knowledge. Also, there should be no doubt that direct communications have existed all along between the top American and Iranian military commands to avoid false-flag, rogue and accidental mishaps that might trigger an unwanted confrontation. Now is the time to come out of the backroom and engage in serious talks to end this dangerous charade of suspicions, allegations and threats.
| Kam Zarrabi is the
author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion.He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs,
particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Context.
More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: intellectualdiscourse.com
Iran never threatened anybody and allegations of support for "international terrorism" were based on who were branded as terrorists and by whom! The culprit behind all such allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran was the one entity that stood to benefit by portraying Iran as an existential threat. And, it succeeded, by first interjecting Iran in George W. Bush's 2002 State of the Union address as part of the Axis of Evil, at a time when Iran was helping the United States fight the insurgents and establish the Karzai regime in Afghanistan. Ever since then, the Zionist lobbies have been relentless in their opposition to any rapprochement between the United States and Iran. Their agents in the Congress are tirelessly attempting to torpedo any progress in US/Iran relations to this very day. It is time to stop that .
Come on, Mister President; stand up and say it loud and clear: Enough is enough; Israel will get all it wants. Now get off my back and let us do what is right for the United States of America for a change!
Other articles by Kam Zarrabi:
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