By Kam Zarrabi
Not until his second term in office was secured, did President Obama dare to openly redress America’s foreign policy trends in the turbulent Middle East, especially with regard to Iran. I say “openly” because the mismanagement of America’s policies in that region has been less the result of a misreading of the issues, but more due to the fact that implementing corrective measures that best suited America’s best interests would run against the powerful and influential special interest lobbies that control the Congress and help formulate the public opinion. Any attempt to openly reverse that counterproductive momentum would have cost the Administrative Branch, especially the President, dearly. The result has been over two decades of war, which should go down in history books as “Wars of Choice”, with nothing but negative results for a nation that will no longer welcome a continuation of the same.
While Mr. Obama had, realistically speaking, no better alternative in choosing the timing for his administration’s foreign policy reorientation, a meaningful follow-through to implement his vision after his term in office expires would need a new Chief Executive with similar convictions; and, as things appear now, that prospect seems somewhat in doubt.
The current jockeying by potential candidates for the 2016 presidential elections is a perfect example of how true national interests are sacrificed for the sake of personal gains. The roster of Republican Party hopefuls represents a pitiful menagerie of religious zealots, sophomoric, overambitious incompetents, and shameless seditionists. They all have to pander to a clueless, brainwashed voting public, and access the strongest sources of money to fuel their campaigns and fulfill their personal ambitions, one of which is definitely not serving the interests of their own nation. Therefore, jumping on the bandwagon of Iran-bashing, they stand to gain heavily in public opinion polls and to access the pro-Israel big money donors, not to mention the powerful lobbies working on behalf of the thriving, war-happy, military industries.
On the Democratic Party side we have one Hillary Clinton with, relatively speaking, the best credentials and the longest hands-on experience in foreign affairs. She, too, must seek, and is actually being targeted for, financial support by pro-Israel lobbying groups, and will be obliged, should she be elected, to not betray the interests of the parasite that has attached itself permanently to America’s vital organs. Sadly, any attempt to extricate this malignant tumor might, it seems, require Divine intervention!
Even though it may be contrary to the mainstream thinking, let’s just suppose that President Obama is doing his best, considering the monumental challenges in his path, to come to terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran in pursuit of what would serve America’s own best interests. The phrase “America’s own best interests” is the key point here. This implies disengaging from the decades-long kowtowing to the Zionist pro-Israel influence peddlers that have successfully convinced the American public, aided by the always obedient and the bought-and-paid-for, Congress, to believe that not only is what’s good for Israel also good for America, but often what’s good for Israel supersedes what’s good for America!
I know there are many who honestly believe that their innocent little Israel is the convenient scapegoat to be blamed whenever things go wrong in the barbaric Middle East. There are those, among them most Western self-proclaimed Orientalists such as the well-known Zionist, Bernard Lewis, who believe that the Middle East or the Islamic World in general, is where the rule of jungle prevails: dog-eat-dog, Shi’a-kill-Sunni, Sunni-kill-Shi’a, Sunni-kill-Sunni, etc., whether or not Israel ever existed. Whether that view is true or not, let us at least mentally examine what America’s foreign policies toward the Middle East might have been like if the state of Israel was never created there; or what would have happened were the Jewish state established somewhere in the plush regions near Lake Victoria, say, Uganda; or more logically, somewhere between Poland and the Ukraine, where the Ashkenazim actually came from! This scenario might make for a very interesting book.
What is Iran?
For those, actually the great majority of Americans, who cannot easily locate Iran on the map and often mistake Iran for Iraq due to the callous mispronunciation of the names in the media, a look at the Google Earth picture of the Middle East would prove eye-opening. With an area larger than the United States east of the Mississippi River, crisscrossed by a network of highways connecting the remotest regions to the major population centers, the contrast with the neighboring countries is remarkable. Iran’s location is perhaps the most strategic in that it separates the Middle East from the Eastern block of nations, where its allegiances to the West or to the East could prove quite consequential in the future decades.
Iran has some of the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world, and unlike other oil producing regional states, its economy does not depend solely on oil and gas exports. Iran enjoys some of the world’s largest mineral resources, which remain mostly underexploited awaiting future investment and development.
Iran is an Islamic Republic, something that is not likely to change anytime soon, but its brand of Islam is uniquely Shi’a, which distinguishes it from the Sunni Islamic Orthodoxy characteristic of the Arab world.
By far the single most significant thing that distinguishes Iran is the fact that it has successfully managed to retain its integrity and independence in the face of the historically most severe economic and diplomatic pressures by the Western hegemonic powers. Thirty-five-years of threats of war and regime-change, and imposition of economic sanctions, have all but strengthened the resolve of the nation to opt for self-reliance and to show increasing resilience under duress.
The critics of the Islamic Republic often attribute this resiliency and the acceptance of the “Economy of Resistance”, as it is called in Iran, to the dictatorial oppression imposed by the regime upon a generally dissatisfied population. It was, in fact, this same assessment that had encouraged some internal dissident groups, aided by opportunistic external parties to hijack the Reformist movement a few years ago in a futile attempt to bring about a regime-change along Western models in the Islamic Republic.
There is no question that the economic and social pressures have resulted in a general sense of dissatisfaction among the public at large. This is also true of other countries where economic hardships have resulted in a lowering of the standards of living, from Europe to the Americas. But to think that a general dissatisfaction with the status quo is a harbinger of an imminent social uprising is to ignore many other options that have far fewer unacceptable or even disastrous consequences.
No doubt the continued economic pressures on Iran by the United States, principally operating as a tool in the hands of international Zionism, was aimed at bringing the Islamic Republic to its knees, resulting in the collapse of a defiant regime and the creation of yet another compliant puppet in the region that would be accepting of Israel’s regional agendas. It has not, and will not, work!
Another misperception or, at the very least, exaggeration by the critics of the Islamic Republic is that the deliberate perpetuation of animosities toward the United States and the expressed hatred of Israel and its chief supporter by Iran’s hardliners are aimed at strengthening their own power and control over the nation’s economic and social life. Although all that is at least partially true for a minority of official positions within the Iranian politics, it could hardly apply to the ruling hierarchy.
The Iranian leadership is fully aware of the benefits to Iran of an opening to the West. And, if convincing the US Congress and bringing about a change in the poisoned anti-Iran public opinion here would be an uphill battle for Mr. Obama or his successor, convincing the Iranians to welcome a rapprochement with the United States will require much less effort. Ayatollah Khameneh’i and President Rouhani and even the Iranian negotiating team headed by Foreign Minister, Zarif, engaged in talks over Iran’s nuclear programs with the P5+1 group, have shown surprising flexibility to facilitate the resolution of this clearly contrived issue.
The Iranian leadership is also aware that the nuclear issue has been a phony pretext and therefore risks nothing in showing flexibility and resilience even in the face of Iranian hard-liners’ rather vocal objections.
Iran in American eyes.
Relying on the mainstream American media, a clueless public has been shepherded to regard Iran as a rogue state that intends to gain access to nuclear weapons in order to destroy its arch enemy, the innocent, peace-loving, little Israel, and to threaten Europe and America, rule over the oil-rich Middle East and begin blackmailing the civilized West. Although a slight majority in America favors negotiations over an outright war with Iran, they do so in order, so they believe, to postpone Iran’s acquisition of the nuclear weapons long enough to give time to bring about a desired change in the rogue and irresponsible clerical regime. At the same time, this same blindfolded public seems to have no problem with the only true rogue regional state, the trigger-happy Israel, with its large arsenal of ready-to-launch nuclear weapons and a history of repeated transgressions against other regional states.
If aggression is interpreted as the initiation of hostilities or war, Israel should be regarded as the rogue state in the region, not Iran with no history of such transgressions. It is an undeniable historical truth that those who had ever initiated wars did so to gain territory, wealth or other strategic or material advantages, but often in the guise of preemption, self-defense, mandates from god or gods, or various other noble or humanitarian reasons.
If support for extraterritorial groups labeled as terrorist organizations makes Iran a state supporter of international terrorism, perhaps we should ask who is labeling whom as terrorist, on whose behalf, and for what ulterior agenda. And if humanitarian concerns and human rights issues are the true concerns by the international community, why is not Israel with its history of inhumane or even genocidal policies toward the captive Palestinians, or our so-called friendly, moderate ally, the Saud regime, being targeted for criticism? Finally, what on earth constitutes the international community? Do the United States and its few allies of convenience constitute the entire “international community?” Of course such questions are rhetorical at best.
Looking at the mess in the Middle East.
The Obama administration was not responsible for the creation of the Da’esh (ISIS) movement, the ruthless Sunni terrorists that are now rampaging through Syria and Iraq; that was masterminded by the neocons to destabilize the region to serve Israel’s long-term plans to “Secure the Realm.” But President Obama did allow the United States to openly and quite belligerently and illegally support the anti-regime factions in Syria, aiming at the ouster of the Syrian President, Assad. Why the American government felt it necessary for America’s strategic regional interests to oppose the Assad regime is worth more detailed analysis separately. Could it have been for humanitarian reasons? Hardly!
Syria has been a vital strategic partner of Iran, and an important ally of Russia; and making bold statements that “Assad must go” by the American President was as presumptuously boisterous as it proved embarrassingly futile. For Israel, on the other hand, the Assad regime has been a major concern. While Syria’s border with Israel, unlike the Lebanese border with Israel, has been kept relatively calm, Israel has been concerned with Syria’s alliance with Iran as the principle connecting link between Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, a thorn on Israel’s side.
On the one hand, Iran’s influence in the Shi’ite dominated Iraq, its alliance with the Assad regime in Syria, and its direct support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, another Shi’ite dominated state, had created a defensive barrier against potential Israeli adventurism. On the other hand, Israel’s greatest partner-in-need or, in reality, not-so-strange-bedfellow, the Saudi regime, does indeed face an increasing challenge by its own minority Shi’a population that dominates the oil-rich northern provinces, as well as the newly rising tide of the Houthy Shi’as in the neighboring Yemen to the south. Even though the Saud regime is not under a threat of military attack by Iran, the regime is rightfully concerned about an Iranian model uprising by the Shi’ites, in this case challenging the ruthless power and authority of the ruling, Salafi tribe that has monopolized the oil wealth of the country.
It is, therefore, understandable that the Saud regime and its co-Salafist, Qataris, have been funding and arming the Syrian opposition groups that have evolved into what has become the Da’esh or the Islamic State terrorist groups, in order to break the Iran/Syria ties and to counter the Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria. The United States saw no problem initially with the financial and military aid these Sunni groups were receiving from the “friendly, compliant, moderate” Arab allies, the Saudi and Qatari regimes and other Gulf Emirates.
The Islamic State or Da’esh does not pose any direct threat to the United States or America’s national security, although some rogue elements have and will attempt copycat terror operations here and there. The Da’esh leadership has as much as openly stated on several occasions that it seeks no fight with the West, and it has actually been in very good, read “cooperative”, terms with Israel!!
America’s encouragement and direct support for the anti-Assad rebellion, heavily lobbied by a fossilized “war hero”, plus a zealot evangelical crusader, Senators McCain and Graham, had absolutely nothing to do with America’s true security interests, but did have bearing on Israel’s regional agendas, as well as the longer term plans to reduce Iran’s influence in the region, leading to an eventual fragmentation of Iraq. It has long been the dream of American strategists to push for a viable Sunni separatist movement in Iraq with the aim of creating an independent Kurdistan sitting on the main Iraqi oil fields of Kirkuk and Mosul, and to isolate the pro-Iranian Shi’ite regime and its area of control adjacent to the Iranian borders.
Supporting the anti-Assad rebels, joined later by various other Sunni tribal groups from Iraq and Syria, seemed logical by the America administrations, both Republican and Democrat, and pushed mainly by the pro-Israel Zionist neocons, and the American oil companies with their focus on the northern Iraq’s huge oil fields, going as far back as the First Gulf War.
America’s dilemma in the Middle East.
Today we see half-hearted attempts by the American military to counter the Islamic State (ISIS) or Da’esh insurgencies in Syria and Iraq. I say “half-hearted” because while the terrorist groups are committing heinous acts of mass murder and threaten America’s favored Sunnis, the Kurds (with the American oil companies’ eyes on the hoped-for future Kurdistan oil reserves), they are also fighting the Assad regime and its Shi’a supporters, the Iranian Quds force and the Lebanese Hezbollah. In fact, the Iranian regime has often blamed the American military strategists for, contrary to their claims, not providing effective aerial support for the Iraqi forces (aided by Iran) in confronting the Da’esh.
That, of course, is understandable. The anti-Iran and a stronger pro-Israel momentum built up for three decades since the Islamic Revolution had simply strengthened the longer established policies toward the Middle East: colonial attitude of economic and political dominance seen as some God-given birthright, support for compliant regional dictators with no regard for democracy or human rights, and most of all, unequivocal, blind support for America’s bastard child, Israel.
We hear many members of Congress and Senate, both Republican and Democrat, increasingly voicing their criticism and concern over the Administration’s policies regarding America’s campaign against the ISIS threat. While some of these critics are just playing their partisan political game, many are clearly confused as to the true objectives and the Administration’s strategic thinking that would achieve those objectives. The true objectives and the strategies that are aimed at achieving those objectives are indeed what constitute the Obama administration’s dilemma in the Middle East.
Iran and its allies in the region, the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah, are Da’esh's or Islamic State’s worst, as well as most effective, enemies. From a religious perspective, although that angle is overly hyped by the Western media, this radical Sunni movement has no sympathy for a Shi’ite scene stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. From a more realistic perspective, the Iranian influence dominating the Middle East north of the Persian Gulf would all but eliminate any hope of creating an Islamic State by the Da’esh radicals.
If the eradication of the ISIS or Da’esh movement and its allies, the Al-Qa’eda terrorist gangs is the honest intent, their natural enemies, Iran and its regional allies, would be the antidote. But there are several factors that stand in the way of allowing the regional elements to take care of the region’s own problems:
What to do?
During the decades of the Cold War, the United States had three strategic concerns in the Middle East: oil, Soviet Union, and Israel. Today the concerns may be oil and Israel, and potentially and indirectly Russia.
America’s “passionate attachment” to Israel is not something that could be easily or painlessly broken. Its umbilical cord has penetrated America’s vital organs so deeply for decades that it would take as many decades to extricate. As unfortunate as it seems, it is a disease that America has to live with.
The well-known propaganda line often used by the Zionists is that Israelis value life, while the Moslems (Palestinians and the like) value death (martyrdom). There is some truth in that. Israelis value life, their own lives, that is, and at the expense of everyone else’s! It is, therefore, logical to assume that Israel would not want to expose its soft and vulnerable underbelly to potential harm in any new military confrontation with increasingly powerful foes in the region. Israel does not want war with Iran or its allies, not because it is a peace-loving state, but because the costs of any war would be too much to bear.
What the Israeli regime really wants, as mentioned before, is financial and diplomatic support, which is certainly guaranteed by the United States and some other extortion-prone states such as Canada, Great Britain, France and, begrudgingly, Germany.
Regarding America’s current entanglement with Putin’s Russia, the problem is between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia. In other words, the principle beneficiaries in this conflict are Europe’s, and also America’s, military industries. The anti-missile defensive batteries that were planned in Eastern Europe purportedly to defend against potential Iranian missiles aimed at Europe, were in reality, as everyone knew, NATO’s maneuvering against Russia in violation of the anti-missile treaty.
Putting Russia under increasing pressure seems to have been a game played by the State Department activists under the cover of deniability. The State Department’s direct involvement or interference in the affairs of the economically bankrupt and politically fragile former Soviet Republic, Ukraine, became public by the leaked information to the media in 2014. If Russia or China had taken similar steps to bring about an anti-British regime change or coup in, for example, nearby Ireland, the British and indeed the European Union’s reaction would have been quite predictable.
Question is, what business did the US State Department have meddling in the Ukrainian affairs in the first place? Of what potential benefit to America was this idiotic move by Victoria Nuland of the State Department? But the damage was done, and our famous fossilized war hero, Senator McCain, has officially declined to accept the invitation of Kiev regime to become an advisor to the Ukrainian President: Yes, officially no, but unofficially in every way possible! But, why all this zeal to poke at the Russian Bear?
If the effort is to weaken Russia’s economy in order to counter a Russia-China-India-Brazil-South Africa, the BRICS Group, attempt to create a potential challenge to the US Dollar as the sole international trade currency, we can presume that such effort will continue.
When it comes to America’s support for the Saud Kingdom, and that includes other Persian Gulf oil-rich Arab states, it is not America’s own need for the region’s oil; America is self-sufficient in that respect, but the interests of American based giant oil companies, as well as the control over the flow and the pricing of oil that are economically and strategically important to the United States. So, control over the flow and pricing of oil and gas to the energy-starved global markets gives the United States perhaps the ultimate tool to maintain its superpower status.
Iran has been a pragmatic player toward the United States and, indeed, even Israel, supposedly its stated enemy. Obviously, in the face of false allegations, insinuations and insults, turning the other cheek would be too much to expect of a proud people. Politically motivated rhetoric aside, there is no expression of antipathy toward the Western, especially American, people in Iran. Of all the countries in the Near and Middle East, and that includes Turkey, Egypt and Israel, Iran has been the safest by far for foreign tourists. Even though the Iranian security system is rightfully and wisely very sensitive to any potential meddling in Iran’s political affairs by certain visitors, no tourist has ever been unduly interrogated or imprisoned. Considering a history of infiltration and covert terrorist operations carried out inside the country, this sensitivity can be easily understood. The fact is, as I have experienced during six visits to Iran in the past four years, that the Iranian people in general have no problem with a rapprochement with the United States, as is the case with the Iranian government, as long as Iran’s self-determination and territorial integrity is respected.
When I arrived in Tehran on March 15, 2015, a week before the spring equinox, the traditional Iranian New Year, I could sense certain unusual tension in the air. The deadline for reaching an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran negotiating teams over the so-called Iranian nuclear projects was fast approaching and almost everyone I talked to was anticipating some breakthrough which was to result in an economic relief from years of struggling brought on under the international sanctions regime initiated by the United States.
A short while later, April 2, 2015, in a small mining town near Kashan in central Iran, members of a mining family were anxiously watching the BBC-Farsi satellite channel on a wide-screen TV, waiting for the live broadcast to announce whether the agreement was finally signed between the negotiating parties.
Celebrations began as soon as the news was announced that, yes, an agreement was reached, and all eyes turned toward me as a visiting political analyst to comment and elaborate on that auspicious event!
“Not so fast!” I quietly mumbled.
This premature exuberance did not last long. In Tehran and other larger metropolitan areas, some friends and relatives I had a chance to visit were curious about what they considered to be my “measured opinion” as to whether there would be war with Iran, with or in spite of any agreement between Iran and the P5+1, meaning the United States, come July 1st.
My response to this often asked question of whether the United States or Israel would attack Iran was very simple, yet met with the usual skepticism and suspicion I had come to expect from the politically more savvy groups. I was basing my remarks on the logical premise that aggressors would only opt for costly military engagements when they stand to gain something strategically or materially, and they do so regardless of international law or humanitarian concerns. I, therefore, suggested that had it been deemed advantageous to the United States, Israel or anyone else to attack Iran, they would have done so long ago rather than bark like threatening rottweilers from behind chain-link fences.
July 1st. is just around the corner, and I personally do not see a final, all inclusive agreement between the P+1 Group and Iran to be signed by that deadline. Both sides have tabled demands that seem to preclude any comprehensive agreement that both would welcome. An interim agreement is, however, more likely where, for instance, some provisions would be made to expose some non-vital military facilities in Iran to be inspected by an Iranian approved list of international inspectors; and on the other side, rather than an immediate lifting of all imposed sanctions on Iran, what would remain of the sanctions regime would not be enforced as diligently as is the case today. Since the P+1 side is fully aware that the nuclear issue has been no more than a pretext to start with, not insisting on the clearly unacceptable demand of forcing Iran to open its critical defensive installations for inspections is to be expected.
Finally, to reach a meaningful, mutually beneficial detente between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the following steps should be taken by the Obama administration, and by whoever might follow him in the White House:
The foregoing scenario should lead to a gradual withdrawal of all American forces from the current quagmire after years of unnecessary, unpopular and catastrophic, for both the region and for America, involvement.
Iran’s shared oil and gas fields with Qatar in the Persian Gulf have been talked about as one of, if not the world’s richest, and a source that could supply all of Europe’s needs and replace Russia as the main energy provider to Europe. This potential cooperation between Iran and Qatar is also significant as a symbol of possible shared interests in the region.
Iran could prove to be a powerful strategic partner to the United States, as long as its independence and regional influence are not threatened. Iran will ultimately follow whatever course is to its own advantage, economically and strategically. I continue to have great faith in Iran’s future.
[As a side note: It was this writer, who as the resident geologist/geophysicist in charge at Iran Pan American Oil Company, assigned in 1966 to Pan American’s headquarters in New York City, located the first wildcat exploratory well in the Persian Gulf that resulted in the discovery of the “Fereidoon” hydrocarbon field, now referred to as “Forouzan.”]
| 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.
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