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08/04/16

THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS How Might the Outcome Affect US/Iran Relations

By Kambiz Zarrabi


Caricatures of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Photo: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

What is the most important step a candidate for any office, including that of the presidency of the United States, must take to reach that goal? The answer is simple: try your best to get elected by attracting the greater number of voters to his or her camp.

As elementary as that answer appears at first glance, the means of achieving that objective are anything but simple, straight forward or even honest and acceptable for the average voter.

To start with, the candidate for the highest office in the land must raise somewhere around one-billion, that is one-thousand-million, dollars to cover his or her campaign costs. Most of that money comes from mega donors, i.e. the for-profit corporations and special interest lobbies and individuals. And, quite obviously, you simply don’t fork out millions of dollars from the kindness of your heart or for philanthropic reasons without expecting something back.

So, the candidates must use those moneys to promote themselves through the national media by promising and selling to the public what they know the voters like to hear. And, once elected, the winner is expected to live up to the promises to promote policy directions that had attracted those major donors, or else! “Or else” means that, if those expectations are not met, the new president will be handicapped to deal with a Congress that owes its own body to the same special interest groups and lobbies, and settle for a one-term occupation of the White House, or even less!!

The mainstream media, the principle means the candidates have to present themselves to the public, might seem to side with one or the other candidate on many mostly internal grounds; but when it comes to the issues summarized below, there is no diversion of opinions. The mainstream media are also for-profit corporations with their special interests and agendas. Most, if not all, are owned or managed by powerful pro-Israel Zionists, whose principle agenda when it comes to any issue dealing with the Middle East is to support and protect Israel’s interests above and beyond all else, no matter what: just looking at the roster of hosts, their guests and those opinion-molders and pundits appearing on the major networks should convince even the most skeptic! And that fact does affect how the candidates address foreign policy issues during their campaigns.

So, what do the voters prefer to hear? When it comes to policy issues that the public might be concerned about, particularly matters of foreign affairs, terrorism and homeland security, the American people are already well-primed to uphold certain “facts” as essentially undisputable; these include the following:

  1. America needs to have even a stronger military than it already has.
  2. Our biggest terror threats are from radical Islamists and Islamic ideology, regardless of what we choose to call it.
  3. Russia is a clear and present danger, not only to America, but also to our European allies; and Vladimir Putin is a reckless power hungry thug.
  4. Israel is America’s only true supporter and ally in the Middle East and must be supported and protected at any cost to us or to the region!
  5. Iran is an evil rogue regime that cannot be trusted, and must be carefully monitored and seriously dealt with when it steps out of line.

Here, it really matters not at all whether any of these assertions is correct or false; what matters is that the majority of Americans believe them to be true.

Now, with that background, just imagine if, for example, Hillary Clinton were to criticize Israel and put its leaders on notice to cut off America’s taxpayer-funded aid to that country if it continues to defy the United Nations’, as well as America’s own mandates regarding the illegal expansion of its settlements in the occupied territories. Or, Imagine if Donald Trump were to declare that America already possesses enough nuclear bombs to obliterate the Planet Earth six times over, and that there is no need to waste the nation’s resources to beef up the bloated military budget that saps the resources which should be allocated to the much needed improvements to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

And, just imagine a candidate suggesting that the United States has given Mr. Putin little choice but to allocate more resources to beefing up its defenses against NATO’s expansion; or that the ballistic missile shields erected in Eastern Europe is actually a breach of anti-missile-shield agreement signed with Russia, and not to defend against potential Iranian missile attacks against Europe - a stupid joke not even deserving a laughter!

All that brings us to some interesting questions: Is it even possible for high profile politicians, especially those who are running for the highest office in the land, to honestly say what they believe if truthfulness doesn’t get them elected? Is there something wrong with being a hypocrite, proclaiming or promising something that you know is wrong but necessary to get elected, and take a different course once elected? And, isn’t it the ultimate irony when professional hypocrites criticize hypocrisy?!

Now let’s take a look at Clinton versus Trump political campaign warfare reflecting the above mentioned five points. But before we begin, let us keep in mind that, in our democracy, a college professor’s vote counts as much as that of an illiterate trailer trash! [In the ancient Greece, the Athenian democracy, which is being quite wrongly upheld as the model for the Western liberal democracies, gave only the thin upper crust of society, the wealthy aristocrats, property and slave owners, the right to vote! That, of course, had its advantages in a small city state over a millennium ago, and is actually the model used today in many “pretend” democratic states in the world where not all votes are counted, or count as equal.]

One issue that has most recently created an uproar and concern among both political camps is the allegation, whether true or not, that Russians have hacked into the Democratic Party emails in order to damage the Democrats’ campaign in favor of the Republicans and Donald Trump, implying that Mr. Putin would like Trump to be the next US President. What a bunch of crap that is!?

If Vladimir Putin is a master political chess player, which he is, he would obviously know that his own image and that of Russia as portrayed by the media here are anything but favorable. Putin is portrayed as a thug and an adversary of the United States, and the voting public has bought into that portrayal. So, if Mr. Putin actually does favor Donald Trump, isn’t that a good reason not to vote for the republicans? In other words, if your enemy favors someone, wouldn’t it be a betrayal of what you stand for if you also favor that same person? So, isn’t this a master stroke by Russia to appear as though Mr. Putin favors Donald Trump, in order to create a more favorable situation for Hillary Clinton?

[By the way, there are those who, for whatever rationale or ideological reasons, like to see the demise of what they regard as the evil American Empire, and the rise of some alternative such as the BRICS group of nations, in order to bring a measure of balance in the global dynamics. They support Trump because they see how a reckless, inexperienced buffoon could bring that dream to fruition.]

It seems to this writer that the Russian leadership actually favors a Clinton presidency, and for good reasons. The top Iranian leadership, those on the know, also favor a Clinton presidency, even though, for very understandable reasons, we see severe criticism by Iran’s highest ranking officials of President Obama’s Administration for failing to live up to the negotiated and agreed upon nuclear accord and the JCPOA process.

Just as it is the official position of politicians in both camps to regard Iran as an untrustworthy rogue regime, so is the United States regarded as an unreliable and untrustworthy superpower, as Iran’s Supreme Leader has publicly proclaimed.

But behind the rhetoric lies the reality. The Republican leadership in the US Congress, as well as the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, intend to tear up the nuclear accord reached between the P5+1 and Iran, which according to Trump, was a “disaster” of a deal for the United States. Reneging on the nuclear agreement would mean the reinstatement of the draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran and a continuation of mutual animosities that have served neither side’s best interests. Such policy would, of course, sit quite well with the special regional interests of Israel, which has always used regional instability and tensions as the prime excuse to extort the United States for more money and other strategic advantages; and the Saudis and their partners who see Iran and its influence in the Middle East as a threat to their monarchies or sheikdoms.

The Democrats, including President Obama, his Secretary of State, John Kerry, and now the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, have been very careful in wording their statements about Iran. As mentioned above, no politician or candidate could dare sound conciliatory toward Iran; that’s a given. But in addressing the relation with the Islamic Republic of Iran, although deliberately sounding tough and even aggressive, the bragging point is always that the United States succeeded in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As I have brought this subject into focus several times in my previous articles, while this may be regarded as a true statement, it is most certainly not the whole truth. Even though it sounds like a victory for the United States (and for Israel) against the Islamic Republic, it is masking the fact that Iran never intended to arm itself with nuclear weapons in the first place and, therefore, signing that agreement was simply for paving the way toward eliminating the economic and trade sanctions that were already faltering, as well as to create a potential for a rapprochement between Iran and the United States.

The Iranian leaders knew all along that the so-called nuclear crisis was a fabricated allegation created to serve other purposes not all of which well thought out and conducive for America’s best strategic interests in the region. It was high time to rethink the whole thing.

It was not just good luck or a miracle that hostile rhetoric, muscle flexing by the United States and defiant mud-slinging by Iran, did not reach a flashpoint and open warfare between the two countries. Behind the scenes, both sides had demonstrated the interest that it was time to find some way toward an opening, while tough words continued to muddy the surface waters.

The negotiations to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program would not lead to the development of atomic weapons, in exchange for lifting of the sanctions against Iran imposed by the United States, was obviously the best approach; the sanctions’ regime was reaching its end as a useful tool, and Iran’s nuclear program was aimed at peaceful energy production all along.

But the main obstacle to achieving that goal by the Obama administration remains in place and the pressure continues unrelenting. We must not forget that the United States Congress, especially those powerful committees that deal in any shape or form with America’s policies toward the outside world, particularly in the Middle East, are packed with handpicked members who are in one way or another beholden to influential special interest lobbies and sources of money, all with their own specific agendas.

It is no surprise that, for a good example, a freshman Senator who has been on the job for only a few short months, Tom Cotton, was endorsed as a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, with his assigned agenda of attacking Iran and opposing any opening between the United States and the Islamic Republic. This man is so recklessly transparent that it leaves little doubt as to what lobby or source of money has been behind his rise. Senator Bob Corker, the Chairman of that Committee, has obediently followed the same assignment; both now among close advisors to Donald Trump in foreign policy issues! Mr. Cotton made a statement during a Committee Hearing a few months ago that Iran’s Ghuds Force operating in Iraq had only one agenda; to kill Americans! No, he is not an idiot; he simply takes it for granted that his constituents and supporters are a bunch of idiots; and he could be right!

Interestingly, the Iranian politicians and diplomats are not reacting nearly as crudely and acrimoniously toward their American detractors in the US Congress. If the anti-Iran hardliners in the US Congress are staunchly beholden to their puppeteers for their private personal gains, the anti-American hardliners in the Iranian Parliament owe their allegiances to the Supreme Leader of the country, who does understand the intricacies of the art of politics and diplomacy. There is a significant difference to be noted here.

I have no doubt that, contrary to the disclaimers by both the Iranian and American officials, behind the scenes dialogue has been continuing between the two governments for some time, both sides keeping the potentials for a positive breakthrough alive until the grounds for at least a detente, if not an honest rapprochement, are better prepared.

It is, therefore, my belief that honest efforts have been made by the Obama White House to bridge the gap between the United States and Iran, first through the back channels and later, particularly during his second term, through open dialogue and diplomacy. He and his advisors knew that the Iranian leadership would welcome such dialogue, as Iran’s economic growth and industrial development suffocating under trade and monetary sanctions were in dire need of relief; and on the American side, it had long been clear that the continued animosity between the two countries was counterproductive to America’s own best regional interests.

In the meantime, shouts of “Down with America” and the “Great Satan” continue to echo from the state media and the pulpits throughout Iran; while the American media and the members of the Congress never hesitate to refer to Iran as the world’s biggest supporter of international terrorism and a violator of human rights. [I have addressed these allegations against Iran in my previous articles posted on various websites, especially on payvand, should readers want to search in this year’s archives.]

Reasons for my cautious optimism if Hillary Clinton is elected as the new President of the United States this November are as follows:

I predicted, and continue to believe, that the Republican Party will be unraveling altogether and will re-congeal as a new political party, because the wrecking ball of Donald Trump has done and continues to do irreparable damage to its image and very fabric. It is, therefore, extremely likely that Hillary Clinton will become the third-term Democratic Party President, following Barak Obama’s second term.

Mr. Obama is the only President who has dared to redress the US/Iran issues objectively and courageously. It would be naive to think that he was the only American President who was aware of the realities behind the veil of propaganda and misinformation that saturate the public domain. He was, nevertheless, the first to break the tradition and challenge the well-entrenched policies that he understood to be formulated by special interest groups, and not serving America’s own interests.

His success in breaking the deadlock to a US/Iran rapprochement through the loophole of resolving Iran’s nuclear program did not come easy. The Republican congressional majority threatens to torpedo his efforts by introducing new anti-Iran legislations that are clearly against the spirit of the P5+1 and the JCPOA agreements, and would leave no choice for Iran but to back out of the deal. President Obama has threatened to veto any such legislation as long as he is the President.

The only area where Hillary Clinton opposes President Obama’s policy position is regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership or Trade Deal, where she would touch up some of the clauses in the agreement to better protect the American workers’ interests. But her statements during the campaign show no indication that she would not follow through with President Obama’s position regarding the Iran agreement; she would also veto any legislation that would in any way create obstacles in the implementation of the agreements.

A President Hillary Clinton will also have to sound off in favor of a bigger military, caution us against “radical jihadists”, be supportive of a stronger NATO to discourage Russian aggressions, show strong support of Israel, and warn Iran against any nuclear weapons ambitions; that much we have to expect.

What is hoped for, however, is that after sitting at the helm in the Oval Office, even if the Republicans retain their majority position in the Congress, she would press on for the implementation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which has remained stagnant, creating great anxiety for the Iranians waiting to see the American side living up to its obligations, and great stress for the Iranian President, Rouhani, and Foreign Minister, Zarif, John Kerry’s counterpart in the negotiations.

Even though the leadership in Iran is aware of the problems, it is difficult to convince the public and the hardline politicians that not much should be expected before the new American President takes charge of the Executive Branch of the US Government in January 2017.

 

About the author:

Kambiz 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.

 

 

 

 

... Payvand News - 03/25/16 ... --



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