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Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act

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The Senate just renewed the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 for another ten years. President Obama has indicated that he will not veto the bill, as the margin of 99-0 makes the resolution veto proof.  The extension of the H. R. 6297 comes at the heels of Trump’s election; he has already declared in no uncertain terms that he will repeal the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, successive U.S. administrations, Democrat and Republican, have imposed different forms of sanctions against the Iranian government. While sanctions remain constant, their justifications have changed over the years. The official rationale of this policy is the promotion of democracy, containment of Iran’s nuclear program and their regional ambitions, and checking their support for terrorist organizations in the region and around the globe. I do not want to engage whether these allegations are true or not. Rather, I want to argue here that these justifications are merely smokescreens for promotion of war and instability in the Middle East.

I do not believe that successive governments in the United States intended to foster peace and stability, but implemented “misguided” policies that resulted in war and carnage in the Middle East.  The steady rise of the significance of military-industrial complex since early 1980s and the privatization of the war machine have reconstituted American economy and redirected it toward a war-dependent regime
of production.  This form of “disaster capitalism,” as Naomi Klein puts it, is invested in perpetual war and reconstruction after the war.  This became quite evident when Senator Rand Paul raised moral objections to arming the Saudis and financing their slaughter of civilians in Yemen.  The conversation in the House quickly turned to the question of jobs in the U.S. Even the CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer asked the senator to weigh his moral considerations against jobs in the U. S.  “So for you this is a moral issue,” he told the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. “Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”

In relation to Iran, the U.S. government has repeatedly followed policies that embolden and strengthen the factions in the Iranian government that thrive on open hostility toward American and its European allies. A majority of experts of Iranian affairs have warned year after year that the imposition of a regime of sanctions against the Iranian government would result in the further suppression of civil liberties in Iran, the deepening of economic hardship on the populace, and the creation of a informal crony economy controlled by those the sanctions intend to target. Although there is convincing evidence that the sanctions indeed work against their stated objectives, the U.S. continues to pursue the same policies. Are the Americans slow learners, or the pursuit of peace and stability is not in reality the aim of these policies?

This is not the first time that the warmongers in the U.S. have tried to torpedo a multilateral agreement on the Iranian nuclear technology.  In August 2003, Iran reached an agreement with the EU3, France-Germany-Great Britain, in Paris to sign an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.  The Paris agreement required Iran to suspend voluntarily its enrichment activities and accept an intrusive regime of “snap inspections.”  Furthermore, Iran agreed to the IAEA demand to install recording cameras in all its nuclear facilities.  In return the EU3 guaranteed to recognize Iran’s inalienable right to nuclear technology under the NPT and work on technological assistance and economic incentives to assure the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear ambitions.

After three years of inspections, even of military facilities that were not included in the original agreement, the IAEA found no evidence of a military component in the Iranian nuclear program.  Indeed in January 31, 2006, the IAEA Updated Brief stated: “Iran has continued to facilitate access under its Safeguards Agreement as requested by the Agency, and has acted as if the Additional Protocol is in force, including by providing in a timely manner the requisite declarations and access locations.”  Four days later, on February 4, the IAEA board approved the referral of Iran to the UN Security Council.  The board argued that Iran has failed to show the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.  Under pressure of the US government, the IAEA board changed the main objective of the Additional Protocol from finding evidence of “any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” which it had found none, to “finding proof of its exclusive civilian use.”

These actions have devastating effects on Iranian domestic politics. When the original agreement was signed 2003 by the reformist Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, the Americans knew that the reformists’ credibility was contingent upon a successful ratification of Iran-EU3 treaty. Despite the Iranian compliance, the U.S. undermined the Khatami administration and paved the road for the electoral victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This time, the Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, heads an executive branch that promotes a policy of rapprochement. His government has invested its entire political capital in reaching a nuclear agreement with the EU, Russia, and the United States, hoping to end the cycle of regimes of sanctions in Iran.  This has been achieved despite massive opposition of those who benefitted from the sanctions, both politically as well as economically.  There are those in Iran who celebrated Trump’s election as a divine intervention in rescinding the nuclear agreement. They believe without the nuclear agreement the reformists almost certainly would lose the next presidential election in June 2017.

Does the U.S. strategic interest in the Middle East rest in having a reformist-stabilizing or a hostile-erratic government in Iran? I think it is the latter. I am no longer baffled by policies that clearly work against their stated justification.  The American Empire needs war. It needs a perpetual cycle of war and reconstruction to turn the wheel of its economy.  The warmongers of the world are celebrating. Their allies won 99-0 on U.S. soil.

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