Cartoon by Mohammad Tahani, Iranian daily Ghanoon
This Emperor does have clothes, lots of it, closetsful, but seems to be lacking in some more important attributes. He has done it again; this time he has put Iran "on notice", no less!
Is Mr. Trump a savvy diplomat, a good politician, or is he simply a good businessman, a deal maker? The answer to the first two questions is an absolute NO. About being a good deal maker/businessman, well, having a lot of money is not a convincing criterion; that is if honesty and fair play are to be regarded as prerequisites. The Sultan of Brunei could buy out Mr. Trump with his pocket change; and so could several international traders of "substances". We don't need to go there.
All of that would be OK if the now President Trump could finally come to term with the fact that, beyond his own expectation and much to the surprise of millions, including me, he has become the Chief Executive of the richest and the most powerful empire on earth. This is a big job, Donald; world affairs do not take place in some virtual reality computer game, and you are not the MC of some television show; get real - that is if you can!
I, like many anxious observers, hope that the President is not delusional enough to really fall for the image he so transparently tries to portray publicly, especially when his show of arrogance actually betrays his deep-seated lack of self-confidence. His intolerance and vindictive response to any criticism or anything that challenges his egocentric narcissism is certainly not what is expected of the holder of such a high office. But he got elected because about one-half of the voting population identified with whatever he was portraying; so, what people like me say about the entire scheme of things does sound like sour grapes to his fans; so be it.
I, as did many others, were hoping that once the reality of having won the elections sets in, he would acknowledge his own lack of expertise in dealing with world affairs, and other areas for that matter, and would choose experts and people of substance to advise him on vital issues. However, handicapped by his lack of political experience, opportunistic influence peddlers, special interest groups and sycophants have been taking advantage of his character flaws and vulnerabilities to push their own respective agendas.
Thus, a shadow government seems to have been gelling around him behind his official administrative team and Cabinet picks, who are the puppet masters that have gained the President's trust as personal advisors and confidants.
Among the Executive Orders that the President has signed thus far, the travel ban against the citizens of seven Middle Eastern and African Moslem-majority states has been the most controversial. Why did he do it?
The supporters of that decision give Mr. Trump credit for living up to his anti-Islam rhetoric during his campaign for the presidency, and hail him as a man of his words. Well, many observers, including me, were thinking that the then candidate Trump was just shooting off his mouth without any thought of the ramifications of his statements. After all, his campaign strategy was to appeal to the fears and anxieties of mostly the more conservative and typically less educated, xenophobic blue-collar masses; and it worked. Well, he was just shooting off his mouth, but his handlers have now convinced him to reiterate those unmeasured lines more seriously as the policy of the new administration, even if with minor adjustments.
The principle reason for this Executive Order was supposedly to safeguard America's security against potential terrorism by the travelers and immigrants from the states that breed anti-American sentiments and are terrorist havens; which just happen to be Moslem-majority states of Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and, of course, Iran.
There are great problems with this claim: 1- There is no record of any act of terrorism on the US soil committed by a citizen of any of these seven countries. 2- None of the states whose citizens have been responsible for terrorism on the American soil or even in Western Europe are included in that list. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for example, are directly arming and funding the so-called Islamic Sate terrorists (Da-esh, Al-Qa-eda, etc.), groups that are also inspiring home-grown lone-wolf terrorists here and in the heart of Europe. The group that carried out the 9/11 attack against America consisted solely of Saudi and Egyptian citizens. So, why are the Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf Emirates, Egypt or even Pakistan and Afghanistan not included in the list? As I write these lines, the news broke out that an Egyptian who obtained a visa in Dubai to travel to Europe was the person who attacked some soldiers in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris yesterday.
This proves that this Executive Order had nothing to do with homeland security concerns, but was a purely political ploy, which was likely prompted by the "shadow" cabal that is trying to steer the new administration in a certain direction. On the surface it appears as though the President is living up to his hyper-patriotic campaign promise of getting tough against Islamic terrorism. In actual fact, the travel ban against principally Islamic countries is a sure way to radicalize and encourage lone wolf elements within the United States to find even more excuses to cause problems right here at home.
However, as it is turning out, the principle objective, perhaps unbeknownst to Mr. Trump, I believe, was to bring Iran into the fold for further treatment!
One of candidate Trump's first boisterous gestures after promising to make "America great again" was to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran. What he did not know then, and is just beginning to find out now, is that the nuclear accord was negotiated between Iran and five other world powers beside the United States, and not the US alone for him to renege on! However, the Iran issue, whether he understood it or not, had been, and continues to be, of great concern for the new Commander-in-Chief's shadow handlers.
There are multitudes of issues regarding internal policies, as well as dealing with America's foreign relations and involvements, which are the subject of disagreement and debate between the Republicans and the Democrats. However, and quite interestingly, there is no disagreement among or between the two Parties when it comes to dealing with Iran. Therefore, whatever the new administration decides to do to further threaten and pressure Iran will be welcomed by the Congress, as well as the mainstream American propaganda media, and by extension, the majority of American citizens. The portrayal of Iran as a regional troublemaker, the biggest state sponsor of international terrorism and a destabilizing force in that part of the world, has been so successful that any change in that attitude here would either require Divine intervention or a total capitulation by the Iranian regime and the collapse of the Islamic Republic. I do not believe in Divine intervention; and I don't see any likelihood of the Iranian regime throwing in the towel and joining the list of client states of the Arab world anytime soon.
If Mr. Trump does not understand how world affairs are conducted, no doubt his advisors, especially those behind the scene around him, do. They know that imposing more economic sanctions against Iran has no more effect than pouring some salt on old wounds. All it would do is aggravate the situation and prolong what the United States considers to be Iran's belligerence and the so-called provocative behavior.
So, what might be the advantages in fanning the flames of mistrust between the two countries? Was Iran's ballistic missile test a bona fide reason to ring the alarm bells on both sides of the isle in the Congress? This test, the most recent one of several carried out in the past couple of years, was in no way a violation of the UNSC's resolution against the development of missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons. Iran's ballistic missiles are short-range and not intercontinental or ICBMs capable of reaching too far beyond Iran's borders. They are purely defensive, conventional weapons that Iran needs to safeguard its security against military threats. Furthermore, under the nuclear accord signed by the P5+1 world powers and Iran, and with constant monitoring by the IAEA, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program to worry about. So, what was the big deal that prompted President Trump to put Iran on notice?
To answer that question, let us look at who profits from the portrayal of Iran as a source of threat to the region and the world:
Israel: As long as the Jewish state can point to Iran as the biggest existential threat to its very existence, its interests are covered on two fronts: First; the pro-Zionist dominated US Congress beholden to the powerful Israel lobbies will not hesitate to provide financial and diplomatic support with the blessing of the mainstream media. Second, supposedly being under the constant threat by Iran, Israel's violations of UN resolutions, as well as America's demands, to halt the illegal expansion of Jewish settlements in the illegally occupied territories; its international aggressions and acts of terrorism, as well as its violations of the rights of the Palestinians, go unnoticed; and any condemnation by the international community, or economic divestment by American businesses, face the wrath of American government and the local authorities in the United States.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab state of the Persian Gulf area: A Shi'ite expansion spreading from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, meaning Iran's regional political and sociological influence in the Middle East, would certainly be of great concern to the despotic Sunni Arab regimes. The one Gulf Arab regime with any population to speak of, the Saudi Kingdom, is teetering at the verge of economic meltdown due to the drop in oil prices, its only source of export revenue. The Shi'ite populations that man the oil fields are another source of potential trouble for the ruling Sunni regime. In the south, the Houthis, a powerful Shi'a tribe in the neighboring Yemen, are at war with the Saud clan. Without American military help, the Houthis and other influential Shi'a groups in the Saudi Kingdom, the Saud clan would face dire circumstances. The Saud regime, along with the oil rich Qataris, have been supporting the Wahhabi extremist terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria to establish a Sunni caliphate to counter Iran's domination of the states north of the Persian Gulf between Iran and the Mediterranean.
Other major beneficiary of the policy of demonizing Iran: To defend against a threatening, belligerent Iran, the Gulf Arab states are coerced into purchasing tens upon tens of billions of dollars' worth of arms from the United States and Western European arms suppliers; an extremely lucrative deal.
So, what are Iran's options?
Let's look at some alternatives:
Options 1 and 2 are meant as a joke.
Option 3, looking to Russia for support against the might of the United States, will prove futile. Russia is worried about its own declining economy and future. Forget about Mr. Trump's innuendos toward Mr. Putin; he is simply having fun playing another one of his games, while the cunning minds behind him are plotting to declaw the Russian bear. Trump might remove some of the less effective sanctions against Russia but, at the same time, increase the military strength of NATO and keep on encroaching upon Russia's frontiers more aggressively. This would force Russia to beef up its own military strength along its Western borders, sapping its financial resources, especially if the price of oil plunges further through America's manipulation of the global market.
Russia under severe pressure might look to China for an alliance of convenience. But China, like everyone else, will be watching for its own advantage in the global chess game. As America's biggest trade counterpart, accommodating America's interests, in exchange for American acceptance of the Chinese strategic regional and global agendas, China would not opt for a strategic alliance with economically strapped Russia. What Mr. Putin would likely decide to do in order to improve its economic conditions is to reach an understanding with the United States whereby America's real interests would be best served. The main area where Russia's cooperation would be welcomed is Syria, where America's entanglement has been costly, counterproductive and very unpopular at home. As a result, Syria might fragment into some kind of federation, like the former Yugoslavia, and Iran would be forced out of the region, much to the delight of both Israel and the Arab states.
Option 4 is a long-term dream that is not likely to come about soon enough to shift the current balance of power.
Option 5 is, in my opinion, the only thing Iran can and should do. Playing the role of the regional pariah may not be so distasteful if Iran continues to diligently beef up its defensive capabilities to discourage any aggression by its regional antagonists while, at the same time, opening new trade channels with countries that find it safe to defy economic and trade sanctions imposed by the United States. Let us not forget that even short to medium range conventionally armed missiles legally manufactured in Iran have a long enough range to reach any potential aggressor in the region, and that includes Israel.
Option 6 opens up a very intriguing scenario for serious consideration. I don't think this option should be disregarded out of hand! Pointing to this possibility as a real option for Iran might actually work as a deterrent to further threats of any military action against the Islamic Republic. I don't believe anyone would benefit from opening the gates of hell and entering another counterproductive war.
Finally, America's own national interests are not served by
its military involvements or even long-term presence in the Middle East region.
America's support for despotic Arab regimes are also unnecessary and have proven
counter to America's best interests. If the power and influence of the
pro-Israel Zionist lobbies make it impossible for the United States to break
this umbilical cord, dropping the alliances with the likes of the Saud regime
are long overdue. A fresh look at the current list of friends and foes and a
readjustment of American alliances would be much more fruitful than the
continuation of the status quo by default.
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.
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