The United States and the other major world powers now have, at least in principle, a nuclear deal with Iran, but like President Woodrow Wilson’s dream, the League of Nations, America may end not being a party to the agreement because of a Congress full of self-interested, partisan, ignorant and bought members. And the intense lobbying of that warmongering turd in Tel Aviv.
Details of the agreement are in short supply because of the veil of secrecy that seems to have settled over everything Washington does (get ready for the corporate give-away of the Pacific and Atlantic free trade agreements), but Iran will apparently back off from producing enriched uranium sufficient for a bomb and allow inspection of the entire nuclear supply chain. In return the sanctions will be lifted, but only gradually rather than immediately as Teheran had desired (still being discussed). One of the chief negotiators, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, was satisfied that the deal would allow the world adequate time to catch the Iranians cheating, and I am far more inclined to believe an MIT physicist than any politician.
Can Iran be trusted? Of course not, no more than any other government, including that of the US. But what else is there? Do nothing, increase the sanctions or go to war with Iran, which may happen if we do nothing, inasmuch as Israel may attack the Iranians anyway, expecting the US to help.
Enhancing the sanctions seems pointless. The current regime of sanctions is seriously hurting the Iranian economy and thus the Iranian people, but not the nuclear program. During the period the sanctions have been in effect the nuclear development has not just continued but expanded. Iran is able to earn enough money selling oil to cover the relatively minor cost of the program, and it would be very difficult to shut off the income completely. Further, many countries, including Russia and China, are anxious to do business with Iran, and holding the sanctions coalition together will become very difficult. And without these powers the effectiveness of the sanctions will evaporate.
Military action would be a costly disaster. Israel made it look easy by bombing reactors in Iraq and Syria, but Iran would be vastly different. Senator Tom Cotton, seemingly a complete idiot, claims it would be like President Clinton’s bombing of Iraqi weapons facilities in 1998 and only take several days. He is another tedious example of the morons we are electing. The Iranian installations are scattered over a country that is four times the size of Iraq, and many are deep underground. Iran has a sophisticated air defense system that would first have to be neutralized, and many of the facilities would have to be bombed multiple times. Meanwhile, the Iranians would be able to cause havoc with shipping in the Gulf, expanding the scope of the war and causing a crisis in the world energy markets. And the history of the twentieth century has demonstrated that one of the best ways to increase popular support for a regime is to bomb the country, something the Republican Party is apparently unaware of.
There is of course absolutely no discussion of what would be a legal casus belli for assaulting Iran, a sad sign of the time. Apart from seizing our embassy in 1979, Iran has not attacked the US or supported anyone who has attacked the US. On the contrary, we helped overthrow their legitimately elected government in 1953, gave serious economic and military support to Saddam Hussein’s unprovoked (and losing) 1980-1988 war against them and actually shot down one of their civilian airliners in 1988 (for which Washington refused to apologize). Who the hell is the threat here?
The US position is that Iran threatens the stability of the Middle East and our interests therein. Forgotten of course is that the US engaged in a massive and completely unjustified invasion of Iraq that has resulted in the most serious instability in the region since the First World War. Or that our Gulf allies, especially the medieval and oppressive kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have supported the international Arab terrorism that led to 9/11 and other attacks on America. Granted, the US has economic (and Israeli) interests in the Middle East, but the notion that because Iran might be a threat to those interests, we are justified in attacking her is a negation of the whole idea of the bellum iustum. In 1941 Japan felt that America was a threat to her interests in the eastern Pacific and consequently bombed Pearl Harbor. I suppose the difference is that the Japanese were bad guys for wanting to seize oil assets, while we are good guys because we want to bring peace and democracy to the world while securing our oil supplies. Well, in the thirties and forties the Japanese were bad guys, but I wonder now if we are indeed still the good guys we have traditionally been seen as. I suspect the people living under the kings and dictators we have supported do not see it that way.
The hypocrisy in all of this is staggering. As the people who actually invented nuclear weapons and who continue to upgrade thousands of warheads, who are we to tell someone else they cannot have them? That we are immensely powerful is the only reason I can come up with; “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” says Thucydides. And besides Pakistan, which is the only state in the region that possesses nuclear weapons? Why, Israel, which has not been compelled to even admit their existence. Nor have they been asked to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, while their neighbors have been constantly cajoled and even threatened by Washington. In all the discussion over Iran’s nuclear program I have yet to hear a single mainstream journalist bring up the fact of Israel’s arsenal.
Because they are the good guys, like us. These are the good guys who have been violating basic international law for decades, who are colonizing territory conquered from others, who imprison children for throwing stones and who periodically engage in military action that is little more than a slaughter of innocents. This is the shinning democracy that treats its Arab citizens in a way that would make Jim Crow proud and some of whose ministers periodically publically call for expelling them. These are the good allies who lie to us, spy on us, insult us and blatantly interfere in our politics. These are the good friends who assassinate anyone they deem threatening, who detain and even torture Palestinian-Americans and who in 1967 (while we were materially supporting them in the Six Day War) deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 American sailors and wounding another 171. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary their official policy (and ours) is still that it was an “accident.”
Now, the present government of Iran is hardly attractive, but when has Washington had any problem dealing with unattractive governments, like that of Iran’s next door neighbor to the west? As mentioned, they have plenty of reason to be annoyed with America, and when exactly have they injured us, beyond the embarrassment of having our embassy staff being held hostage? They support terrorism, but those groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, have never threatened the US and are only interested in local affairs, to wit, Israel and Lebanon. In fact, Hezbollah was born in response to Israel’s rather indiscriminate invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and Hamas was actually created by Israeli security services in order to undermine Fatah and is thoroughly radicalized by Israel’s inhumane treatment of Gaza. Yes, Israel was created in an environment where all her neighbors despised her (with some good reason), but she has only herself to blame that almost 70 years later they still do.
Not that they can do much about it beyond shooting ineffective rockets into the Light Unto the Nations. With American support Israel has by far the strongest and most dangerous military in the Middle East and possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. The constant wailing by Netanyahu (and his Congressional ass-kissing friends) about the threat to Israel’s existence rings a bit hollow. (Incidentally, ill-educated politicians and journalists, this is not what the adjective “existential” means.) Yes, Teheran is constantly talking about driving Israel into the sea, but this has become a meaningless mantra repeated by Israel’s enemies and certainly has a lot to do with the character of the Iranian regime. And suppose Iran had a deliverable nuclear weapon? While the mullahs and the supreme leader are religious whackos, they are manifestly not stupid and must understand that even attempting to toss a nuke in Israel’s direction would result in national suicide. Of course, the Saudis and their Sunni friends would be overjoyed to see Iran turned into a vast plain of glass.
Nobody wishes to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, but it has already begun: Israel has nuclear weapons. I expect a major motivation for an Iranian bomb is national pride, but it might just also be that they are also nervous. They were pushed around before and during World War Two by oil companies and the Allies and then had their government overthrown in 1953 by the US and Britain, allowing the Shah to emerge as a brutal dictator supported by the West. The US then diplomatically and materially supported Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, and in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan America now has Iran almost literally surrounded by bases. And there is the increasingly bellicose Israel, which has always had unqualified American support. The Iranian desire for nuclear weapons might actually have something to do with fear and a history of being of being bullied.
I find the Shia, which is centered in Iran, to be the more attractive part of Islam, the part that actually enjoys a rich cultural heritage from its long association with Persia. The Sunnis appear to represent little more than ancient Arab culture, which dovetails with the values of the modern world as well as the medieval Sunni kingdoms in the Gulf, which is to say, very little. Despite their retro-theocracy the Iranians, at least in the urban areas, are very secular and interested in the west, and while their hostility towards the Taliban and ISIS certainly has a large sectarian component, the fact is these are interests shared by the US. Keep in mind that the stink of Wahhabism and Al-Qaeda and terror directed towards America emerged from Saudi Arabia. If we could cooperate with the USSR under Stalin, I see no reason why we cannot cooperate with Iran.
Well, there is a reason: Israel. Clearly, Netanyahu and his paladins are not interested in defusing the Iranian situation through diplomacy, since it is a fine distraction from the mounting domestic problems in Israel, and Iranian support for Hamas is an excellent cover for the outrageous treatment of Gaza. Israel is well on its way to becoming an apartheid state, a development that hardly required Netanyahu’s blatant declaration against a two state solution to be recognized. Yet none of this will deter Congress, especially the Republicans, from supporting him, apparently because of a widespread belief in some powerful Jewish financial cabal that will doom their reelection chances should they cross the Israeli Reich. Or they are simply stupid, about which we will be reminded when the Republican Presidential Primary Circus comes to town. Incidentally, so strong is the pro-Israel grip that Webster’s now offers as a second definition of “anti-Semitism” any criticism of the state of Israel. If that is the case, then I have met two anti-Semites with numbers tattooed on their forearms.
Here is a simple proposal: Iran gives up her nuclear weapons program and Israel gives up hers. Sure.