Jahanpour: Iran, Turkey and Israel: New Global Realities

Farhang Jahanpour writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment :

Iran, Turkey and Israel: New Global Realities

Ten years ago this month (11 July 2000), in a last-minute attempt to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, President Bill Clinton invited the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to talks at Camp David, trying to broker a deal between them. After exhaustive talks, the summit ended on July 25 without an agreement being reached. Many participants in the negotiations, including Yossi Beilin, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Gilead Sher on the Israeli side; Ghassan Khatib and Ahmen Qurei on the Palestinian side; and Dennis Ross and Aaron David Miller and of course President Bill Clinton on the American side have written their accounts of the talks.1

If we set aside the spin and stick to the facts, the main issues of contention were and still are the status of millions of Palestinian refugees, the Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, the final borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state, and the status of Jerusalem. On the issue of Palestinian refugees, the Israelis were adamant that the refugees could not go back to their old homes or to anywhere else in Israel, but to a future Palestinian state if they wished. On the issue of the settlements, it was agreed that most of the large, established settlements would remain on Palestinian territory but the small outposts would be dismantled. On the issue of borders, it was agreed that both sides would regard the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, as a permanent border with minor adjustments to allow for the large Israeli settlements. However, the deal broke down over the issue of Jerusalem as the result of Israel’s insistence that it was the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel”.

If agreement had been reached at that summit, the history of the past ten years would have been completely different from what it has been. The Israelis and Palestinians would have experienced a decade of peace and security. We would not be talking about the presumed danger of an Iranian nuclear programme, or the estrangement between Turkey and Israel, and we probably would not have witnessed the terrible events of 9/11or the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the world is going through very difficult times at present. The global economic recession, which according to the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman could yet go through a double dip recession or even a depression,2 the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, and the scourge of international terrorism have produced a situation more dangerous than at any time since the Second World War. All these events are fuelling extremism on both sides. On the one hand, the Israelis are talking of the existential threat that they face from a future Iranian nuclear bomb, and on the other hand we hear talk of a Zionist conspiracy and a Jewish-Christian crusade against the Muslims.

Now that we are talking about anniversaries and landmarks, let us look at some of the following events. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops in Afghanistan passed 1,000 and for the British troops 300; on June 3rd US troops had been in Afghanistan for 104 months, more than eight and a half years, surpassing Vietnam as the longest war in American history. Meanwhile, after nearly nine years of war, the situation is getting worse, not better. In the past year Britain has lost almost as many soldiers than in any year since the invasion of Afghanistan, and civilian casualties are also mounting. In June the Congressional appropriation for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeded one trillion dollars. This of course does not include the cost of taking care of war veterans. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes have estimated that the long-term costs of the war in Iraq – taking into account the costs of taking care of wounded soldiers and rebuilding the military – will ultimately cost three trillion dollars.3

In June we also had the hundredth anniversary of the start of production at the first Iranian oil well in Masjid-e Soleiman, one of the largest oilfields in the world.4 The discovery of oil in Iran at the beginning of the last century changed the geopolitical map of the Middle East. Now, oil has developed into a six trillion-dollar industry. The production, distribution, refining, and retailing of petroleum, taken as a whole, represents the world’s largest industry in terms of dollar value. It has become the most strategic commodity responsible for many wars and conflicts all over the world.

On top of all these conflicts, the tension between Iran and Israel and by extension between Iran and the West is perhaps the most urgent and the most dangerous issue facing the international community. Meanwhile, relations between Israel and Turkey have also soured. Given earlier strong and friendly relations between Iran, Turkey and Israel, it is important to look back and see how we have come to the present situation. My aim is to look back at the events of the past few decades and also look to the future to see whether there is any prospect of peace in the region in ten years’ time, or whether the region and the West will be engaged in a much greater conflict.

As the result of the Islamic Revolution in 1978-79 Iran witnessed the massive and unprecedented transformation of the most stable and the most pro-Western country into a virulently anti-American and anti-Israeli state. Massive demonstrations in the streets of Tehran and other cities led to the collapse of the 36-year reign of Mohammad Reza Shah and the 58-year reign of the two Pahlavis. Shortly before the Islamic revolution, relations between Iran and the United States were at their peak. When President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger flew directly from the Moscow summit to Tehran in May 1972, it was a flattering sign of US support for the shah and the evidence of his importance to the Americans. During that visit, the two countries signed a protocol for a 45-billion-dollar trade deal (which was a huge sum in those days).

Iran became one of America’s biggest arms customers, which included the purchase of the ultra modern F16 fighter jets and AWACS spy planes, even before NATO countries possessed those advanced weapons. The Shah also signed deals for the installation of 23 nuclear reactors producing 23,000 megawatts of electricity with a number of countries, including France, Germany and the United States. America had made the Shah the gendarme of the region and was providing him with every type of military equipment to turn him into a regional super-power.

At that time, America’s foreign policy in the Middle East had four pillars, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Israel had a very small population and very few resources, Saudi Arabia had plenty of oil but again a small population and was therefore weak from a military point of view. Turkey’s population was equal to Iran’s, but it did not possess Iran’s vast oil and gas deposits. The shah’s strong pro-American sentiments and 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometres) of common borders with the former Soviet Union had made Iran the most important strategic asset to America. Therefore, as a part of the Nixon Doctrine to create regional powers to create stability in their regions, Iran assumed the role of American gendarme in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. America also turned towards Iran to counter growing Soviet influence in Iraq.

The Shah had the means to make Iran a great power and, combined with rapidly rising oil prices, his dream of making Iran into one of the five leading military and industrial powers seemed possible.5 A fact that is not generally acknowledged by most scholars is that we now know that Nixon and Kissinger had engineered the rise in oil prices between 1969-72 in order to strengthen the relative power of the oil companies most of which were owned by the United States, and to transfer money from Europe, Japan and the rest of the world to oil-producing countries, which provided lucrative markets for US weapons.6 All that the US wanted was a secure flow of oil to the West. The British too were not opposed to increasing oil prices, as they also benefited from increasing arms sales to Iran and Saudi Arabia, and from Iran’s assistance in suppressing the Marxist rebellion in Oman.7

Between 1972-77, Iran bought weapons worth $16.2 billion from the United States, while Iran’s defence budget increased 680 per cent. On paper, Iran’s army was stronger than the British army, and its Air Force was allegedly the fourth largest and the third most sophisticated air force in the world. The British withdrawal from the East of Suez that was completed by November 1967 had encouraged America to look for a local power to fill the gap that had been left behind by Britain’s withdrawal. The Shah fitted the bill very well. Iran was also a member of CENTO, which brought Iran, Turkey and Pakistan together as another military alliance akin to NATO encircling the Soviet Union.

However, the Islamic revolution changed all that and since then we have had very tense relations between Iran and the West. The United States imposed sanctions on Iran after Iranian students took American diplomats hostage at the US Embassy in November 1979, and also encouraged and supported Saddam Husayn’s invasion of Iran on 22 September 1980. More recently, the West has used Iran’s nuclear programme as an excuse to mobilise the international community against it.

On 9 June 2010, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1929 imposing another tranche of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, followed by unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions by the United States and the EU. In the same month that the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the resolution to impose sanctions on Iran for exercising her right to enrich uranium, in a letter to President Obama, 329 out of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 87 out of 100 senators referred to Israel’s attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters, killing nine and injuring scores of others, as an act of “self-defense” which they “strongly support.”

Meanwhile, China and Russia got what they wanted before voting for the resolution, by taking the Bushehr nuclear reactor and investment in Iran’s oil industry out of the sanctions regime. Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela, 118 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, 56 member-states of the Organization of Islamic Conference and 22 nations of the Arab League have criticised the resolution. China objects to US sanctions against Iran. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference: “China supports the U.N. sanctions. China believes that countries should have correct implementation of the sanctions instead of expanding the sanctions.”8 China also warned other nations against taking unilateral actions against Iran’s nuclear programme outside UN sanctions, and denounced the United States for making such moves.9 Russia adopted a similar stance and Russia’s permanent envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, warned against slapping additional punitive measures on Iran, which go beyond UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic.10

On July 9th India rejected American sanctions on third parties. Indian Foreign Minister Nirupama Rao said: “We are justifiably concerned about the extra-territorial nature of certain unilateral sanctions recently imposed by individual countries”. Rao continued: “Iran is a country extremely important to India from the perspective of energy security” and an entrance door to the main markets of Central Asia.11 The D8 (Developing 8) gathering in Nigeria in early July brought together a diverse collection of countries, including a number which are significant players in their own regions – Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.12 In their communiqué, they strongly endorsed Iran’s nuclear programme. Therefore, the sanctions are opposed by a large majority of the international community.

However, despite widespread criticism of the sanctions, the possibility of Western powers stopping Iranian shipping in international waters might lead to a military confrontation. Some preparations for a confrontation have included the advance of warships, aircraft carriers and US nuclear submarines, along with Israeli military ships, towards Iran’s coasts.13 Meanwhile, in an important report on the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, the Oxford Research Group warns about the consequences of such an attack.14

In view of the possibility of a confrontation between Iran and the West, it is important to look at Iran’s strategic position. Iran is a country that straddles the entire northern shores of the Persian Gulf with 2,440 kilometres (1,520 miles) of coastline, with as much as 65-70 per cent of proven oil reserves. In the North Iran has over 740 kilometres (460 miles) of coastline on the Caspian Sea, another important region for oil and gas reserves. Iran has the second largest oil deposits outside Saudi Arabia and second largest gas deposits outside Russia.

Even on economic grounds, despite or perhaps because of, relentless pressures of sanctions, sabotage and psychological warfare, Iran has weathered these pressures much better than expected. In its May 2010 report on Iran, the IMF points out that while unemployment and inflation still remain high, they have stabilised and, in fact, begun declining. The report notes that, for example, “In the past two years . . . inflation stood at 25.4 and 10.3 [percent] respectively: however in 2010 this rate will fall to 8.5 percent for the first time.” The report further predicts that Iran’s foreign exchange reserves “will increase $5 billion and reach 88.5 in 2010.”15 This healthy accumulation of foreign exchange reserves stands in sharp contrast to the depleted reserves and huge debts of many countries around the world.

According to Ismael Hossein-zadeh, a political economist, Iran has been quite successful in extending transportation, communication and electrification networks to the countryside; providing free education and healthcare services for the needy; and reducing poverty and inequality despite some serious economic problems especially during the past few years.16 Hossein-zadeh asserts:

“Iran has also made considerable progress in scientific research and technological know-how… For example, Iran is now self-sufficient in producing many of its industrial products such as home and electric appliances (television sets, washers and dryers, refrigerators, washing machines, and the like), textiles, leather products, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products and processed food and beverage products (including refined sugar and vegetable oil). The country has also made considerable progress in manufacturing steel, copper products, paper, rubber products, telecommunications equipment, cement, and industrial machinery. Iran has the largest operational stock of industrial robots in West Asia…Most remarkable of Iran’s industrial progress, however, can be seen in the manufacture of various types of its armaments needs. Iran’s defense industry has taken great strides in the past 25 years, and now manufactures many types of arms and equipment. Since 1992, Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, radar systems, military vessels, submarines, and a fighter plane. . . . As of 2006, Iran had exported weapons to 57 countries, including NATO members”17

Turkey:

Turkey is the heir to the 800-year old Ottoman Empire, which up to the 18th century was the strongest power in Europe. Ottoman forces had conquered many parts of Eastern Europe and North Africa, including Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Rumania, Bulgaria and of course Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and most of Iraq. Turkey is also a member of NATO, which traditionally has had very close links with the United States. Apart from the United States, Turkey has the second largest army within NATO. In recent years, Turkey has had a most remarkable economic regeneration. It has also managed to restrict the power of the military to interfere in politics.

Turkey was Israel’s closest ally in the Middle East, and to some it was even more important for Israel than the United States because it was regional, and allowed Israel to use its air space for exercises. But since the invasion of Gaza relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated to the point that now Turkey is regarded as the leader of the anti-Israeli front in the Middle East. Since being rebuffed by the EU, Turkey has turned to the East and is now trying to form a common economic union with Iran, Syria and Iraq. If it can revive ECO, it will be able to form a union of some 350 million people with great economic and energy resources.

Since the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla in May, Turkey has banned Israeli military flights from its airspace, has recalled its ambassador to Israel and scrapped several joint military exercises. Israel’s Ynet news website reported that other military flights had also been quietly cancelled. “Turkey is continuing to downgrade its relations with Israel,” an unnamed Israeli official told Ynet.18

The Obama Administration has tried hard to heal the rift and arranged a meeting between Israeli and Turkish officials in Geneva, but after that meeting the Turkish foreign minister insisted that unless Israel apologises, pays compensation to the families of the victims and allows an international investigation of the incident, Turkey would take further steps, without specifying the nature of those steps.

Israel:

Since its creation in 1948, Israel has had the closest relations with the United States and due to a feeling of guilt about the Holocaust many European countries have also provided a great deal of support to the Jewish state. It too has a vibrant economy and is the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons. However, recently Israel’s image as an invincible military power, which was established following the 1967 war, has been greatly tarnished. The invasion of Lebanon that started on 12 July 2006, and continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006, was aimed at destroying Hizbullah in the same way that Ariel Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 managed to get rid of the PLO, which in turn gave rise to the emergence of Hizbullah.

However, despite inflicting heavy casualties on the Lebanese and destroying a large part of Southern Lebanon, by common consent the 2006 war was a failure. Even the Winograd Commission set up by Israel to inquire into the war, criticised the operation.19 Not only did it not destroy Hizbullah, on the contrary, it strengthened it and made it more popular in the Arab world. It also inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli soldiers. The conflict killed at least 1,500 Lebanese, mostly civilians, severely damaged civil infrastructure, and displaced approximately one million Lebanese.20 Israel also fired 4.6 million submunitions or cluster bombs into dozens of towns and villages in southern Lebanon in 962 separate strikes, the vast majority within the final days of the war.21

Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza killing 1447 Palestinians, again mainly women and children, and the use of phosphorus bombs on civilian populations have been condemned by the international community. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, has accused Israel of war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity.22

The forging of European and Canadian passports for the assassination of a HAMAS official in Dubai, and more recently the attack on the aid flotilla in international waters has further isolated Israel both in the Middle East and beyond. Even American military commanders have complained that Israeli actions put US troops in greater danger. As General Petraeus’s Central Command articulated in a detailed “Posture Statement’’ earlier this year, “The (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict forments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel,’’ adding that, “Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”23

However, it seems that American political support for Israel is undiminished. Following last week’s meeting between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, The Obama-Netanyahu statement said: “The president told the prime minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs.”24 This statement sounds ominous and has again given rise to the conjecture that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Another military adventure in the Middle East would be most unfortunate and would have dire consequences for the Middle East, including Israel, and it would further involve the West in another long-term conflict. It is time that Israel realised that the use of military force is not the cure for all of her problems. In fact, Israel’s problems are mainly domestic and involve its relations with the Palestinians and with her neighbours, rather than having anything to do with foreign threats.

The former Israeli foreign minister, Shlomo ben-Ami, in an article in Haaretz correctly remarked:

“Israel’s approach to the conflict with its neighbors has too frequently been characterized by mental fixation: It has generally veered away from diplomatic paths in favor of fighting them and ‘explaining’ to the world how dangerous these enemies are to it, as well as to Israel.

The question today is not when Iran will have nuclear power, but how to integrate it into a policy of regional stability before it obtains such power. Iran is not driven by an obsession to destroy Israel, but by its determination to preserve its regime and establish itself as a strategic regional power, vis-a-vis both Israel and the Sunni Arab states. The Sunnis are Iran’s natural foe, not Israel. The answer to the Iranian threat is a policy of détente, which would change the Iranian elite’s pattern of conduct.”25

As regards Iran’s nuclear program, the question is how one can defuse a possible threat of Iran acquiring nuclear bombs, rather than denying Iran her right to enrich uranium. On Monday 17th May 2010 the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil in ceremonies held in Tehran announced a major breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West. In a joint declaration, they reported that Iran had agreed to send 1240 kg of her low-enriched uranium (up to 3.5 percent density) to Turkey for safe keeping under IAEA supervision as part of a swap for nuclear fuel for a research reactor in Tehran. Last October, Iran had reached a similar deal with the West to send a similar amount of her enriched uranium to Russia to be further enriched to 20 percent and then to be sent to France to be turned into fuel rods for use in the nuclear research reactor which is used for the production of medical isotopes.

According to the IAEA, at that time Iran had a stock of 1,700 kg of enriched uranium. At the moment, Iran is believed to have 2,200 kg of enriched uranium. Consequently, by sending 1240 kg to Turkey, Iran is disposing of more than half of her total stock of enriched uranium. In October, the deal was hailed as a major breakthrough. Many Western officials claimed that by taking the biggest part of Iran’s stock out of the country, she would be unable to manufacture even a single bomb, as it is believed that she needs at least 1,000 kg of enriched uranium (that should be further enriched to 90 percent) to manufacture a single bomb. This is despite Tehran’s strenuous insistence that her aim is to enrich uranium for energy and not for military purposes, but Israel and the West accuse Iran of having other motives in mind.

In fact, the speed with which in October President Mahmud Ahmadinejad agreed to send the biggest part of Iran’s enriched uranium abroad seems to indicate that Iran does not have a hidden agenda. The plan failed mainly due to disagreement among Iran’s divided leadership. Even the leaders of the Green Movement said that if Ahmadinezhad went ahead with the plan he would have wasted the achievements of many Iranian scientists who had succeeded in enriching uranium despite foreign sanctions and constant threats, without receiving fuel.

Some in Iran pointed out that it would not be wise to trust the word of Russia and France that had repeatedly cheated Iran on nuclear issues. Russia had delayed endlessly the completion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr that was due to be completed in 1998, and France had refused to grant Iran rights to the Eurodif enrichment facility, partially owned by Iran since the days of the shah. The critics argued that Western countries would take Iran’s enriched uranium out of the country but they would use Security Council resolutions as an excuse not to return higher enriched uranium and fuel rods to Iran.

It was in view of such opposition and such misgivings that the Iranian government decided to demand that the swap should take place on Iranian territory or on an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf. They stated that they would put a tonne of Iran’s enriched uranium under the supervision of the IAEA and when they received the fuel rods the IAEA could transfer the stored uranium to the county that had provided the fuel. Another Iranian proposal was that instead of sending the bulk of her enriched uranium abroad it could be done in batches. As she received fuel rods in return for one batch of its enriched uranium, she would send another batch abroad. However, the United States and other Western countries dismissed these Iranian counter-proposals out of hand, saying that they did not meet their initial demands that the greater part of Iranian enriched uranium should be taken out of Iranian territory immediately.

Now, by agreeing to carry out the swap on Turkish soil the Western demand that Iran should give up the larger part of her enriched uranium would be satisfied and Iran’s fear of Western bad faith in not returning the fuel rods to Iran would also be allayed. One would have expected the West, and particularly the United States, to take Iran’s agreement to their proposal as a positive sign and to push to resolve the dispute by peaceful means. If the West was not fully satisfied with the deal, it could have regarded the deal as a positive first step, but asked for further clarification or for the transfer of a larger quantity of Iran’s enriched uranium to Turkey. Both Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei have strongly supported the deal mediated by Turkey and Brazil.26

However, with indecent haste, a day after that important agreement, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that a new package of sanctions against Iran had been approved by the major powers and would be sent to the UN Security Council later in the day. The text of the resolution that was approved calls for many new sanctions on Iran’s banking, military imports and exports, missile technology, inspection of Iranian ships and many things besides.27 She added: “I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”28

By acting in such a belligerent manner, the United States gives the impression to many Iranians and many other people throughout the world that she is more interested in using Iran’s nuclear programme as an excuse to prepare for a military operation against Iran, rather than in resolving the situation through peaceful means. The summary dismissal of the agreement also insults two of America’s most important allies in Latin America and the Middle East, where America claims to have special national interests. In fact, with their bold initiative, Turkey and Brazil, two important members of what we contemptuously used to call the Third World, have shown that it is possible for medium-sized countries to get engaged in resolving international conflicts without the involvement or permission of the sole remaining super-power.

After the Second World War, the victorious powers dominated the Security Council. The five permanent members with veto power were the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Taiwan. China was not admitted until 1971. The original G6 – the six richest global powers – was composed of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. In 1976, Canada joined the group (G7). Russia was added in 1997 (G8). Therefore, up to the start of the present millennium, only Japan was the only non-Western country in the G8. Only on September 25, 2009 at their Pittsburgh summit did the group decide to admit five developing countries, referred to as the Outreach Five (O5) or the Plus Five: Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. Recently they have arranged meetings by the finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 economies: 19 countries plus the European single currency (G20).

The economic development of a number of Asian, African, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries has changed the political and economic map of the world and has put an end to the total dominance of the West. It is important to look at the relative strength of a number of countries and their future prospects. Here are the lists outlining the economic strength of a number of countries (source: CIA World Factbook, 2009):
Table One: List of countries by GDP (billions of US dollars)

1 USA 14,430
2 Japan 5,108

3 China 4,814
4 Germany 3,273
5 France 2,666

6 UK 2,198

7 Italy 2,090
8 Brazil 1,499
9 Spain 1,466

10 Canada 1,335

11 Russia 1,232

12 India 1,095

Table Two: GDP according to purchasing power (PPP)
Country Population GDP

1- USA 309m 14,510

2- China 1,340 8,789

3- Japan 127 4,137

4- India 1,211 3,560

5- Germany 82 2,811

6- UK 62 2,149

7- Russia 142 2,116

8- France 65 2,110

9- Brazil 193 2,025

10- Italy 60 1,760

15- Iran 75 876

16- Turkey 73 863

49- Israel 7 205

Table Three: List of states according to population

1- China 1,340m 8,789

2- India 1,211 3,560

3- USA 309 14,510

4- Indonesia 231 969

5- Brazil 193 2,025

6- Pakistan 169 449

7- Bangladesh 162 242

8- Nigeria 154 357

9- Russia 142 2,116

10- Japan 127 4,137

17- Iran 75 876

18- Turkey 73 863

It seems that as we move forward in the present century the weight of economic strength is moving towards the countries with larger populations and with more dynamic economies. If we look at the list of the countries according to their predicted GDP in less than 40 years from now, we see the emergence of new economic powers in the world. Of course, this will also have a major bearing on the military strength of various countries, because it is unlikely that one country will remain the sole superpower in the world, when it is facing relative economic decline. This list is only a projection and it is very difficult to predict the future. However, it provides an indication of the way things are moving, and it shows that the situation in the world in a few decades will be quite different from what it is now.

Table Four: Predicted GDP in 2050 (billions of US dollars)

1- China 70,710

2- India 38,668

3- USA 38,514

4- Brazil 11,366

5- Mexico 9,340

6- Russia 8,580

7- Indonesia 7,010

8- Japan 6,677

9- UK 5,133

10- Germany 5,024

13- Iran 3,943

14- Turkey 3,663

It is interesting to note that by 2050 none of the European members of the original G6 or G7 or G8 will be among the top eight leading economies.

Recently, I watched an episode of Upstairs Downstairs, a drama set in the Edwardian period at the turn of the last century prior to the First World War. It portrays a society organised around well-defined social norms between the lord and the lady of the house living upstairs and the butler, the cook and the servants living downstairs catering for their needs. Any violation of social norms was taboo, so much so that when the son of the family invited his father’s secretary to lunch there was a major crisis in the household, not only between him and his parents but among the servants downstairs who believed that age-old social norms must be preserved. The butler Mr. Angus Hudson resigned, but was then persuaded to change his mind due to the impending voyage of the lady of the house on the Titanic, which resulted in her death, and the whole tragic saga ended in the horrors of the First World War.

The question that one should ask is whether a hundred years later, the global system of Upstairs Downstairs is going to continue, or whether we are going to usher in a new age of global equality and justice before we have experienced the scourge of another World War. The time for speaking about “Great Powers” and “lesser races” has passed, and the sooner we admit this and move on the better.

With its political, economic and military clout and also as the result of its idealism, dynamism and democratic ideals, the United States is best positioned to usher in a new age of global equality, while she is still in the driving seat. The question is whether she will choose to apply the American dream of democracy, freedom and equality to the whole world, or whether she will choose to follow the doomed path of former empires, all of which experienced decline and fall.

References:

1 Yossi Beilin,
The Path to Geneva: The Quest for a Permanent Solution,1996-2004

(Aug 2004); Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab
Tragedy
(Nov 2006) and M. C. Bassiouni and Shlomo Ben Ami, A
Guide to Documents on the Arab-Palestinian/Israeli Conflict: 1897-2008

(International and Comparative Criminal Law Series) (May 2009); Gilead
Sher, The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations, 1999-2001: Within
Reach
(Israeli History, Politics and Society, Dec 2005); Ghassan
Khatib, Palestinian Politics and the Middle East Peace Process
(Durham Modern Middle East and Islamic World Series, Dec 2009); Ahmed
Qurei, From Oslo to Jerusalem: The Palestinian Story of the Secret
Negotiations
(May 2006); Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace: The
Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace

(Jun 2005); Aaron David Miller, The Much Too Promised Land: America's
Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace

(Jun 2009); Bill Clinton, My Life
(Jun 2005). Also see Jimmy Carter We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land
(Feb 2010).

2
See Paul Krugman, "21st century depression", The Guardian,
28 June 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/28/21st-century-depression-greece-deficit

and Steve Matthews", "Krugman
Sees 30-40% Chance of U.S. Recession in 2010", Bloomberg, January
4, 2010,
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aluoqvsvAwO8.

3
See Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War:
The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

(W. W. Norton & Company; First edition, February 17, 2008). Also
see: "The three trillion dollar war: The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan
conflicts have grown to staggering proportions", The Sunday Times,
February 23, 2008,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3419840.ece

4
See "The Centenary of the First Oil Well in the Middle East",
GEOExPro,
http://www.geoexpro.com/history/iran/

5
James A Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian
Relations
(London, Yale University Press, 1988), 192

6

Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic quest for Oil, Power and Money
(New York, Simon and Shuster, 1992), 581-86; J.B. Kelly, Arabia,
the Gulf and the West
(London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980), 346-50;
Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle
East since 1945
(London, the University of North Carolina Press,
2002), 65-69. For an alternative view see Richard C. Thornton, The
Nixon Years: The Reshaping of American Policy
(St Paul: Paragon
House, 2001), 69-88.

Also see: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/reports/SHAFR2004/Petersen.pdf

7

Frank Blenchley, Britain and the Middle East: An Economic History
1945-87
(London, Lester Crook Academic Publishing, 1989) 205

8
See "China objects to US sanctions against Iran", Antiwar
Newswire, July 06, 2010,
http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/07/06/china-objects-to-us-sanctions-against-iran/

9
See " China, US clash over Iran sanctions", Agence France
Presse, July 7, 2010,
http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/International/China%2C-US-clash-over-Iran-sanctions-8997.html

10
See "Russia warns against slapping more sanctions on Iran",
Voice of Russia, Jun 29, 2010,
http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/06/29/11004495.html

11
See "India Rejects US Sanctions on Iran", Global Research,
Canada), July 9, 2010,
http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/10521

12

See "Iran bolsters friendships abroad" by Jonathan Marcu,
BBC News, July 8, 2010,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10560628

13
See "US War On Iran Would Be A Serious Mistake", by Prensa
Latina (source: Global Research, Canada) Friday, July 9, 2010,
http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/10520

14

See Paul Rogers, "Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects",
July 2010,
http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers/military_action_against_iran_impact_and_effects

15
See "Iran’s Economy Flourishing Apace: IMF Report", The
Journal of Turkish Weekly, 2 June 2010,
http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/102746/iran%25C3%25ADs-economy-flourishing-apace-imf-report.html

16
See Ismael Hossein-zadeh "Iran's Presidential Election One Year
Later – Why the Greens Failed", Payvand Iran News, 06/15/10,
http://www.payvand.com/news/10/jun/1130.html

17
Ismael Hossein-zadeh, "Reflections on Iran's Presidential Election,"
Middle East Online, August 21, 2009.

18
See "Turkey bans Israeli military flight from its airspace as freeze
deepens", The Guardian, 28 June 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/28/turkey-bans-israeli-military-flight-airspace-gaza-flotilla

19
See "Winograd Commission Final Report", January 30, 2008,
http://www.cfr.org/publication/15385/winograd_commission_final_report.html

20
See "Middle East crisis: Facts and figures", BBC News, 31
August 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5257128.stm

21
See "Israel's Statements on the Use of Cluster Munitions and the
Findings of Investigations", Human Rights Watch, February 16, 2008,
http://www.hrw.org/en/node/62428/section/10

22
See United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm

23
See "A jihad’s inspiration" by Philip Smucker, Boston Globe,
July 11, 2010

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/07/11/a_jihads_inspiration/

24
See Roger Cohen, "The Israel-Turkey Imbroglio", New York Times,
July 8, 2010,
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/opinion/09iht-edcohen.html?_r=1

25
Shlomo Ben-Ami, “The Basis for Iran’s Belligerence”, Haaretz
(16 September 2006),
http://mfp.hostwindsor.com/nph-index.cgi/010110A/687474703a2f2f7777772e6861617265747a2e636f6d2f686173656e2f7370616765732f3735393733312e68746d6c.

26
See Jonathan Power, "Iran's nuclear deal with Turkey and Brazil
worth another look", TFF, June 16, 2010,
http://www.transnational.org/Columns_Power/2010/24.Iran-Turk-Braz.html

27
See: Iran Resolution Elements:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/UNSCR_Iran_18_May_2010_to_UNSC.pdf

28
See Gary Sick, "Giving the finger to Iran (and Turkey and…),
Gary's Choice, May 18, 2010,
http://garysick.tumblr.com/

——–
* Dr Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan, Iran, and a former Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at Harvard. He is Associate Fellow at the Faculty of Oriental Studies and tutor in Middle Eastern Studies at the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford

11 Responses

  1. Excellent article. I must say some of the refferences about Iran`s today economical situations are Iran`s goverment,and the one of the most important claims about today gov is fabrication of pseudofacts.Sanctions have deep devastating impacts on Irans economy.
    About the concept of equal rights between countries, if you ask me: If two country one with a democratic elected and democratic perseved goverment and other with tyranic dictatorship have equal right in the international comunity?
    As an Iranian who lives 30 years under theological tyrany I must say , NO ! They have not and should not have equal rights.

  2. Thank you for posting this outstanding analysis. When more than 75% of the House vote together with 87 Senators to applaud the flotilla attack, which happened to kill an American citizen, it’s clear that Washington’s in thrall to its ally.

    By forcing taxpayers to fund apartheid overseas, Washington emboldens white Americans to practice discrimination at home, as they do in Arizona and want to do elsewhere. The outlook that engenders belief in tribalism, blood and soil has found congenial ground among white Americans who prefer awaiting their rapture to strengthening education in the sciences.

    It isn’t the gridlock of partisan politics that keeps Americans from taking a saner path. It’s the areas where the two major political parties agree that are undermining the nation’s prospects. They agree to let the security of an allied nation come first. They agree to let defense spending outstrip financial resources. They agree to stretch out the war against Afghanistan in order to control the trade in heroin. They agree to fight a war on drugs that’s a smokescreen for running guns to Mexico and for attacking the peasantry of Latin America. They agree to bolster the existing monetary regime based on economic theory that Keynes himself knew was a fraud favoring insiders and that Milton Friedman dressed up so that American politicians and banking interests could sell it better to the public. On such matters, the Tea Party acts as a subset of the establishment, and thus allows white Americans to luxuriate in the thought that they’re being radical while in fact they’re greasing the skids that will lead to national collapse.

    The only part of the world that has yet bleaker prospects than the USA is Europe, whose grandchildren are destined to be servants to wealthy Asians.

  3. re ‘‘President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger flew directly from the Moscow summit to Tehran in May 1972, it was a flattering sign of US support for the shah and the evidence of his importance to the Americans. During that visit, the two countries signed a protocol for a 45-billion-dollar trade deal (which was a huge sum in those days).’’

    In 2009, $ 45,000,000,000.00 from 1972 is worth:
    $ 231,000,000,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index
    $ 185,000,000,000.00 using the GDP deflator
    $ 221,000,000,000.00 using the unskilled wage
    $ 256,000,000,000.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
    $ 354,000,000,000.00 using the nominal GDP per capita
    $ 518,000,000,000.00 using the relative share of GDP

    reference: link to measuringworth.com

  4. This editorial and the essays of the host are required for comprehension of the catastrophe the neocon propaganda, insanity and ignorance is inflicting worldwide. The world must congress to protect the diversity and the antiquity of its cultures from the madness that has overtaken Washington, Tel Aviv, and right wing led european powers. The response to those must be NO! ENOUGH! STOP! to any further adventure. No other country or culture is safe while this agenda is being followed.

  5. Impressive work. One minor quibble though:

    I would hope that the integration of the European Union would have reached a level by 2050 that breaking out individual countries such as my own (Germany) doesn’t really make sense.

    Already I think the euro zone should be considered as one fully consolidated economy. After all within this zone we have essentially no borders, full economic mobility and freedom as well as the same currency.

    No offense meant, but it feels to me that US observers often seem to be a ignorant of this development and the level of economic integration that has already been achieved.

  6. Thank you for this calm and comprehensive analysis, coming at a time when, once again the possibility of US and/or Israeli strike against Iran appear to be growing. Having watched the media rhetoric against Iran expand on several previous occasions, I am not certain just how serious to take the current saber rattling, but I worry.

    That said, two comments on this piece

    1. I found the comments about the Nixon – Kissinger strategy to let the price of oil rise before the October 1973 Middle East War especially interesting (and the rationale for doing so convincing). I was aware of the `deal’ that Kissinger had fashioned with the Saudis in the aftermath of that war – higher oil prices in exchange for Saudi promises to keep the oil flowing, to promise to work to keep oil prices down and to `recycle’ oil profits to the West in the form of military sales, construction projects (in Saudi), investment in Western financial institutions and the like. I consider that `deal’ one of shrewder initiatives taken the United States in those years …and the framework of that agreement remains largely in place today. What I didn’t realize was the degree to which these policies were already in place before the 1973 War… so that was interesting
    2. While I do not particularly agree with the tone of the first reply… I was surprised to read how stable you consider Iran in the face of the sanctions. My impression from what I had read has been that it has seriously undermined the Iranian economy – most particularly its energy sector which has not been able to modernize as a result. I should like to read more about the economic consequences presented here.
    Thank you. Interesting piece.

  7. Excellent article. Unfortunately the projected future balance of economic power can easily be challenged and delayed by military power.

  8. From reports at Al Jazeera, Russia has objected to further EU sanctions on Iran.

    link to english.aljazeera.net

    Quote: Russia has blasted new unilateral EU sanctions on Iran as “unacceptable”, saying the measures undermine international efforts to rein in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.

    EU foreign ministers formally adopted new sanctions on Monday on Iran’s key energy sector, with Canada following suit, in a bid to push Tehran into talks on its nuclear programme.

    “This not only undermines our joint efforts to seek a political and diplomatic settlement around Iran’s nuclear programme, but also shows disdain for the carefully calibrated and coordinated provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Russia also “categorically rejects” any attempts to use sanctions against companies and individuals from third countries who are “conscientiously carrying out the demands of UN Security Council resolutions,” it said. Unquote

  9. The world cannot allow an attack on Iran. The blood-thirsty, warmongering Israel and the foolish, bullying Israel-pandering United States need a smack on the head and a time-out in their rooms while the grown-ups do some damage control with Iran.

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