FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Time to Make Up With Iran

Over recent years many Iranians in the big cities confided quietly to the opinion pollsters that they feel an empathy with the West. It was not reciprocated. Frankly, most people in the West have no in-depth opinion about Iran. If they think about it for more than a couple of minutes they go along with their government’s line.

A majority of Western and Arab leaders supported the American position as taken by successive presidents: Iran was probably trying to make a bomb. (To its credit US intelligence never concurred with its presidents, and privately some Western leaders would acknowledge this.)

Then came the Obama-initiated nuclear deal with Iran negotiating with the Americans, the Europeans, Russians and Chinese. It was one of President Barack Obama’s most singular achievements. At the end, Obama was gracious enough to phone President Vladimir Putin to thank him for Russian support.

The Iranian public were truly happy about the deal. But President Donald Trump has all but sabotaged their benign feelings. His private war against the Obama deal has become red hot. He appears determined to scrap it and thus return to years of bitter antagonism, besides giving succour to Iran’s nuclear weapons’ lobby. Now he has extended his wrath to Iran’s non-nuclear rocket program, even though they would be useless against Western targets.

Trump knows no Iranian history. When the Iranian revolution happened in 1979, the Shah was overthrown and the fundamentalist Islamic Shi’a regime of Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, one of the first things the new regime did was to close down the Shah’s nuclear weapons’ research program. (Ironically, it had had technical help from the US.) It was only after Iraq attacked Iran that the program was resuscitated.

Underneath the Iranian skin of anyone over 40 lies the memory of the Iran-Iraq war.

Whatever warm feelings the Iranian man and woman in the street might have for the West today can easily be undercut by any suggestion that the US and UK, in particular, might be reverting to those confrontational days when they covertly aided with sophisticated weapons President Saddam Hussein’s eight-year war with Iran. (It lasted from 1980 until 1988.)

The Reagan Administration escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf to Iraq. It also initiated an arms embargo against Iran.

It was a terrible war, more akin to the trench warfare of World War 1 than any other, with opposing troops bogged down for years on end, fighting over a few hundred metres of ground. Iraq used chemical weapons on a large scale. The death toll was horrendous – estimates range from 170,000 to 750,000.

For its part, Iran refused to use chemical weapons in retaliation.

Its present-day Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made a point of reminding us of this, explaining that using such a weapon of mass destruction would have gone against Islamic teaching. At the same time, he has long pointed out that this is the key reason for Iran not building nuclear weapons.

It is this war that has determined the larger part if not most of Iran’s foreign policy. “What Gulf Arab officials term ‘Iran meddling in Arab affairs’ is to Iran an essential part of an ‘aggressive defence’ of its national security”, write professors Ariane Tabatabai of Georgetown University and Annie Samuel of the University Tennessee in a recent article in Harvard’s quarterly, “International Security”.

The authors concede that in certain areas Iran’s policies – in the Syrian war, for example – are disruptive, if not destructive. But they argue that Iran’s activities have as their primary aim not destabilization but Iran’s survival.

The history of the Iran-Iraq war determines the mindset of Iranian leaders today. It makes them feel that Iran will always have to go it alone, or at least maintain the ability to do so. Iran fears an Israeli attack. The Israeli government during the last tense months of the nuclear negotiations made it clear that it was considering one.

Iran also wants to be sure that in post-Saddam Iraq the majority Shi’a population will always be in the ascendant. Saddam was not religious but he always made sure that the minority Sunnis had the upper hand.

Despite all, in the fight against ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria and the Taliban in Afghanistan Iran has been de facto on the side of the Western coalition. Is this a sideshow signifying nothing? Is this an anomaly?

Could it be a sign of Iranian flexibility that could be pursued positively by the US and its allies?

Trump and those Western leaders who are preoccupied with Iranian foreign and military policy need a big rethink about where to go next with Iran.

If the West wants peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan Iran is too important to be alienated.

Copyright: Jonathan Power.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 26, 2019
Paul Street
“Hereby Ordered”: On Trump, Capital, Fascism, and China in a World on Fire
Marshall Auerback
Trump Never Had a Grand Strategy for China: They Were Just Tariff Tantrums
Jacques R. Pauwels
The Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 23, 1939: Myth and Reality
Robert Fisk
The Fourth Afghan War is About to Escalate
David Macaray
The Death of Political Satire
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Flying the Flag
Binoy Kampmark
Imperial Sentiments: Donald Trump, Greenland and Colonial Real Estate
Medha Kale
‘Everything has Turned Upside Down’ in Sangole
Jim Furnish
Trump Administration Proposal to Roll Back Logging Rules is Reckless
Robert Koehler
Participatory Evolution
Mel Gurtov
Trump and the Climate Crisis–a Crime Against Humanity
Jerome Irwin
Oil Pipelines and a Climate Crisis Warning from the Haida
David Stansfield
The Chosen One
Taylor Cabatu
Plan B
Elliot Sperber
The Amazon or Amazon
Weekend Edition
August 23, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Notes on Inauthenticity in a Creeping Fascist Nuthouse
Andrew Levine
Recession Now, Please
Rob Urie
Mr. Trump Goes to Kensington
Jeffrey St. Clair
Deep Time and the Green River, Floating
Robert Hunziker
Earth 4C Hotter
Kenneth Good
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba: The Winds of Reaction in Africa
Pete Dolack
The Realism and Unrealism of the Green New Deals
David Rosen
The White-Nationalist Great Fear
Kenn Orphan
The War on Indigenous People is a War on the Biosphere Itself
L. Michael Hager
What Netanyahu’s Travel Ban Has Revealed
Ramzy Baroud
Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in Israel, But at What Price?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Is Environmental Protection Possible?
Josue De Luna Navarro
What It’s Like to Grow Up Hunted
Ralph Nader
They Don’t Make Republicans Like the Great Paul Findley Anymore!
Gary Olson
Whither the Resistance to our Capitalist Overlords?
Dean Baker
On Those Downward Jobs Revisions
Rev. William Alberts
Beware of the Gun-Lover-in-Chief
Helder F. do Vale
Brazil: From Global Leader to U.S. Lapdog
Laura Finley
Educators Actually Do “Work” in the Summer
Jim Goodman
Farmers Need a Bill of Rights
Tom Clifford
What China’s Leadership is Really Worried About: Rising Debt
Daphne Wysham
Saving the Planet Means Fighting Bipartisan Corruption
Tierra Curry
Amazon Fires Put the Planet at Risk
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Decentralize Power and Revive Regional Political Institutions
John W. Whitehead
American Apocalypse
George Wuerthner
How Agriculture and Ranching Subvert the Re-Wilding of America
Daniel Murphy
Capital in the 21st Century
Jessicah Pierre
400 Years After Slavery’s Start, No More Band-Aids
Kim C. Domenico
Finding the Comrades: Maintaining Precarious Sanity In Insane Times
Gary Leupp
“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail