Iran’s future is looking dark

Washington considers that Iran is and always will be hostile to the U.S. and there is no indication whatever of desire to initiate discussions

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, is concerned about the crisis in the country and reports that “Extreme poverty rose threefold during the past two years. More and more Lebanese households are unable to afford basic services like food, health, electricity, water, internet, and child education.” One development, mentioned in the media on September 16, was that Iran had provided desperately-needed fuel oil to that stricken country.

There is more to the Lebanon oil-supply story than the apparently simple and seemingly generous action of Iran’s government, since as pointed out by the BBC’s Anna Foster in Syria, the operation makes a political statement because the oil came by road from Iran, via Syria and was transported by Hezbollah, the elected thug-government of Lebanon, and all three of these are subject to U.S. sanctions.

But as the BBC reports about Lebanon, “in recent months, power stations, hospitals, bakeries and other businesses have been forced to either scale back their operations or shut down completely due to the shortages”. So what are the humanitarians in Washington going to do? Will President Biden order further and fiercer economic action against a country that is supplying a product that will obviously save lives in Lebanon?

Further, there is growing international concern about the humanitarian effects of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian people. Certainly, Iran’s Supreme Leader, the unelected extremist cleric Ayatollah Khamenei declared in March 2021 that “we neutralized the effect of sanctions,” but went on to say that “for them to sanction a nation in such a way that it cannot import medicine and medical equipment is a crime, and this crime is coming from a country like America.” We can be certain that Khamenei and all other high-ups in Iran do not suffer in the slightest from lack of medicines or anything else, for that is always the way with sanctions. They are intended and usually specifically designed to hurt ordinary citizens who the sanctioneers hope will rise up and destroy the government being targeted.

The sanctions campaigns waged by the U.S. and some allies are part of what Washington calls the “rules-based international order” under which the United States is supposed to operate. Secretary of State Blinken made it clear that this is what guides the U.S. in all its international affairs when he declared that “Our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order… The alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all, and that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”

But so far as many countries and events are concerned it is apparent that Washington’s might indeed makes right and no matter what is said in support of human decency there is only going to be one winner and that is going to be the United States. There is little wonder that the loony fundamentalists in Iran are running scared, no matter how much they may bluster, and that they are going to continue their aggressive stance.

The anti-Iran campaign reached a new low in 2018 when Trump unilaterally repealed one of the most critical international agreements of recent times, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed by China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the UK and the U.S. and endorsed by Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council that is part of the “rules-based international order.” The deranged Trump, whose legacy has been one of almost unredeemed disaster, domestically and internationally, told the world (and especially the Republican Party) that “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

As only too often, Trump was wrong. The treaty was not one-sided and it did bring calm and it would have ensured peace if it had been allowed to continue. Not only was his unilateral termination of a UN-approved treaty agreed by nations who considered they had been treated with imperial contempt (along the lines of Biden’s recent disdain for major ally France), but a message was sent to the world that the word of an American President cannot be relied upon. Trump was incapable of explaining the advantages of his ill-advised abrogation, as evident from a ludicrous exchange in which a reporter asked him “Mr. President, how does this make America safer? How does this make America safer?” and Trump replied “Thank you very much. This will make America much safer. Thank you very much.”

Trump neither knew nor cared about the mechanics of the nuclear deal, and his primary focus was on destroying a diplomatic triumph achieved by his predecessor, President Obama. Next came the intention to destroy Iran as a nation because, as he alleged, “At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Israel is hardly a reliable source concerning nuclear matters and has totally ignored the “rules-based international order” by itself creating an arsenal of approximately 80 nuclear weapons. Further, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “In December 2014 the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution on nuclear proliferation risks in the Middle East that urged Israel to renounce the possession of nuclear weapons, accede to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ‘without further delay’ and place all of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency comprehensive safeguards.”

But the rules-based international order—international law and custom, in other words—does not apply to Israel which intends to continue attacking Iran but would prefer to have its dedicated U.S. ally (as Biden declared on August 27, “the U.S. will always be there for Israel”) take the final steps to destroy the country. The point that Iran was abiding by the parameters of the nuclear agreement, as made clear by fact checking pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times, was entirely irrelevant so far as Trump and Israel were concerned.

In September 2020 the future President Biden wrote that he would “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” But nothing has happened. Irrespective of the recent Iranian elections in which hardliner Ebrahim Raisi became president, it would have been simple for Biden to instantly revoke Trump’s order to leave the JCPOA and to waive associated sanctions. Subsequent negotiations would not have been easy, of course, and there is no point in trying to be optimistic about that, given the blinkered and bigoted nature of Iran’s leadership—but at least there would have been talking instead of bluster and insults.

In spite of Russia’s success in negotiating the visit to Iran on 11-12 September by the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, and consequent agreement by the Tehran government to reset monitoring devices that help measure the progress of the country’s nuclear program, there has been no movement by the Biden administration to re-establish U.S. agreement to the nuclear JCPOA.

Washington considers that Iran is and always will be hostile to the U.S. (which is a regrettably accurate conclusion) and will continue its equally confrontational policy. There is no indication whatever of desire to initiate discussions and the state of relations can be summed up by the fact that President Ebrahim Raisi will not be permitted to attend the UN General Assembly on September 21-27 because he remains under U.S. sanctions. Iran’s future is looking dark.

This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.

Brian Cloughley is a British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan.

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