Global events are capricious! Like the crazy twisters. They lunge forward, turn around, suck in a catalyst, then sprint ahead at top speed. Just when the global public opinion had feared, the US and North Korea were on the brink of nuclear war, the new ‘axis of evil’ of our times, (North Korea, Iran, Venezuela) managed a dramatic twist: that, President Trump had, had a change of heart….and the real target of threat had now become the ‘Iran nuclear deal’.
Enter a brand new, major international crisis, deployed out of the blue, carrying with it, seriously inbuilt potential of war and global conflict.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, had worked. Tehran had responded with due compliance. So, said the IAEA (eight separate certifications of compliance, since the deal was struck in Vienna in 2015). So, confirmed the EU, Russia, and China. So, endorsed even Trump’s troika of military Generals-– Tillerson, McMaster, and Mattis.
Not Trump. In his mind-boggling words, no deal could be possible with a ‘sinister’, and ‘fanatical regime’….the ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism’ (Iran), which is in league with al-Qaeda’. Please check out the validity of this expression: ‘Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al-Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania.’ Not to mention that some people even believed that Iran had gone illegally nuclear, with the help of North Korea.
Donald Trump was a presidential candidate when he loudly spoke at a rally, organized by Tea Party Patriots on Capitol Hill, Washington, (on Sept. 9, 2015). The crowd had gathered only to oppose the Iran nuclear agreement.
As much as it may be immersed in the usual jargon, the plot-twist did not have much to do with ‘decertifying’-– in fact reneging -– on the JCPOA. The White House admitted this in a statement: the United States’ new Iran strategy has focused on neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants’, as well as denying the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) funding for its maligned activities.’
Enter, predictably, an avalanche of fresh sanctions. The US House Foreign Affairs Committee had prepared a new round of sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missiles program. Also, the Senate had unanimously passed a Hezbollah sanctions bill, less than two months ago. Last year, the House voted 419-3 and the Senate 98-2, to pass the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries’ Bill.
Post -JCPOA, other than Iran, the Sanctions Act also included North Korea and Russia (much to the ire of EU companies doing business with Russia). The US Treasury Dept. had already added the IRGC to its anti-terrorism sanctions list, ‘for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban.’
On to the JCPOA, Trump passed the ball, so that it was now in the court of the US Congress. De facto, reneging the deal, led to a 60-day period for Congress, to decide whether to jumpstart JCPOA-related sanctions. Trump essentially had wanted the Congress to make sure anything Tehran did, even outside the ambit of JCPOA, would trigger automatic re-slapping of sanctions. It was unclear whether Donald Trump had sufficient Congress support for such a measure.
US allies had also been ‘encouraged’ to reach for an accord that favored a pragmatic, ‘non-denial’ renegotiation. This may easily be interpreted as unilateral extorsion. It was certainly, not going to happen -– as the EU, Russia, and China had made this abundantly clear. De facto, Washington then would need to be, pulling out of the JCPOA. Or, in Trump’s words, follow the advice of the spectacularly incompetent US (now former) ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, that the deal ‘would be terminated’. Fortunately, for the President, she resigned from the coveted post, on the last day of the previous year.
A significant and crucial narrative ‘fix it or nix it” that was applied to the JCPOA – lay in the Beltway – and happens to be the exact fervent wish of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The House of Saud’s King Salman had l wasted no time in congratulating Trump over a phone call for his ‘visionary’ Iran strategy. Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, had been obviously gloating. This was most of all, about Israeli warmongering on Iran, like the movie ‘Return of the Living Dead! that still continued to spin furiously!
So much for the compromising, and ‘maligned behavior’. And now, what are the bigwigs saying now, in this context?
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini had set the record straight; ‘It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate it.’
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov diplomatically mused how the termination could be legally implemented; ‘The deal had been approved by a UN resolution.’
A few months ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that certification itself was not part of the JCPOA but was purely ‘a matter of US internal procedure.’ The only authority that had been recognized in the nuclear deal to verify the compliances, was the IAEA.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had also delivered a scathing rebuke to Trump’s strategy – with no teleprompter, essentially qualifying him as an ‘ignoramus’: inviting the President to better read history and geography, as
well as understand the ‘international ethics’ that go with this.
Once again, the Trump strategy had sidestepped the JCPOA, relentlessly plugging instead, a pile-up of allegations of Iran’s ‘maligned behavior’, the ballistic missile program (outside the scope of the JCPOA); the support for Damascus; the support for Hezbollah; and the wider role of the IRGC.
The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may not have crossed the red line – explicitly declaring the IRGC as a terrorist group; he had claimed the IRGC had ‘played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror’. We simply need to follow the money trail; the Treasury Department’s sanctions had spoken louder than rhetorical maneuvers.
Although the Pentagon had been firmly against it, fearing a severe blowback all across the Middle East, this had been a new conservative’s wet dream for nearly two decades….to have the IRGC placed as equivalent to al-Qaeda and ISIS/Daesh.
In realpolitik terms, this artifice ranks parallel to ‘proving’ that since 2003, both al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were partners together. And they still ran the risk of this, being interpreted by the IRGC as ‘a declaration of war’. All it would take perhaps would be a lethal encounter between a US vessel and IRGC navy speedboats patrolling the Persian Gulf,
for all hell to break loose in Persian (or Arabian) Gulf!
The IRGC has been an integral part of the “4+1” alliance (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) that for all practical purposes prevented Syria from becoming a ‘Takfiristan’. The IRGC had also been fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground in Iraq with key advisers and military commanders.
IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari – usually a cordial, soft-spoken man but tough as nails, with combat experience in the Iran-Iraq war – made it very clear; ‘If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards would certainly consider the American army to be like Islamic State (ISIS), and enjoying their presence, all around the world.’
Trump’s Terminator strategy most likely firebombed the moderates in Iran, starting with Rouhani and Zarif, and played right into Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s instincts. From the very beginning of the JCPOA negotiations, he had said that the Americans could not be trusted.
Rouhani’s scathing rebuke to Trump should be seen in the context of his coalition, winning three major elections in Iran since the JCPOA went into effect; parliamentary, presidential and for the Council of Experts (where most hardcore clerics lost their seats).
It’s now impossible for moderates to expect any possible ‘entente cordiale’ with Washington anytime soon. What they must deal with is Western companies and banks under further certified pressure to do business with Iran – to the detriment of Rouhani’s economic agenda.
Trump was personally advised by the controversial Henry Kissinger earlier last year-even before a meeting in the White House Situation Room with General Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford, that had centered on North Korean “aggression”.
Divide and Rule precedents, all have pointed to Kissinger’s advice. He was fully aware a frontal Washington attack against Russia or China – the strategic partnership at the heart of Eurasia integration – was a non-starter. The next best option would be to raise trouble in their borderlands – North Korea is especially well positioned for this – and would go after the weakest Eurasia link…The Islamic Republic of Iran.
And yet both Moscow and Beijing have continued to do business with Iran, which happens to be a key hub for Eurasia integration; linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); a future member of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and also linked to the North-South Transportation Corridor and India’s own incipient maritime Silk Road centered on Chahbahar airport. All this will enable Iran to continue to do solid business with the rest of Asia – especially Japan and South Korea. Iran and Qatar may eventually become natural gas providers to Europe in the next decade. And Iran will continue to be – alongside Russia and China – at the forefront of bypassing the US dollar in energy trade.
The wolves of war had shrieked, yet the Eurasia integration caravan had managed to pass. And then, there was the devastating clincher. The absolute majority of the Global South now has definitive proof; Washington simply cannot be trusted to keep its promises related to any major geopolitical deal. The possibility of a nuclear agreement – or any agreement – between Washington and Pyongyang is now less than zero.
Good luck to all concerned nations. Iran’s resilience will foster for their country, a much better future than others!
Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi