Iran Breakthrough a Triumph For Pragmatists and a Defeat For the Warmongers (Cole @ Truthdig)

My esssay, “Iran Breakthrough a Triumph For Pragmatists and a Defeat For the Warmongers” is out in Truthdig today.


“By 2011, the U.S. Congress and the Department of the Treasury had imposed what amounted to a financial blockade on Iran. The U.S. strong-armed other countries not to buy Iranian petroleum, cutting exports by a million barrels a day. It severed Iranian banks from the international banking system, making it difficult for Iran to get paid for its oil by countries like India or South Korea. The financial sanctions caused the Iranian rial to collapse against the hard currencies, inflicting real pain on the Iranian middle classes. European concerns, such as the French automaker Renault, had to pull out of their Iran partnerships, suffering large losses. Blockades are acts of war and often lead to war, and the U.S.-led financial blockade on Iran was a standing provocation that, if maintained, could easily eventually lead to hostilities (which would suit hawks on both sides).

Many Iranian politicians were contemptuous of Ahmadinejad’s buffoonish pronouncements and populist exuberance, and blamed him for the sanctions regime. He was limited to two terms, however, and this past summer he was succeeded by Rouhani, a cleric who had conducted nuclear negotiations with Europe in the early 2000s. Rouhani had been a hard-liner but moved somewhat to the left over the years, seeking slightly more personal freedoms and wanting to break out of Iran’s pariah status.

Rouhani and his team are convinced that their original plan for nuclear latency and nuclear power can succeed and sanctions can be lifted, if only Europe and the Obama administration can be assured that Iran really does not want a nuclear warhead and is not an aggressive power in the region. They are confident, in short, that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric and lack of transparency were the problems, not the program. Rouhani thus moved aggressively on coming to power to reach out to Obama and the UNSC. In the end, the negotiations succeeded not because Iran was crushed by sanctions and suddenly was willing to change policy. Rather, unlike the prickly Ahmadinejad, Rouhani understood that the sanctions regime was unpopular in Europe and could be undermined by simply being completely transparent about Iran’s real intentions, which were never to construct a weapon.”

Read “the whole thing here


Related video:

AFP reports, “‘Important day’ as UN confirms Iran nuclear freeze: EU”

13 Responses

  1. “if only Europe and the Obama administration can be assured that Iran really does not want a nuclear warhead and is not an aggressive power in the region”

    Iran may or may not want a nuclear warhead. But no one can credibly deny they are not an aggressive power in the region.

        • aggressive wars in the Middle East

          1956 against Egypt
          1967 against Egypt, Jordan and Syria
          1980 against Iran
          1982 against Lebanon
          1990 against Kuwait
          2003 against Iraq

          Iran did not fund any of these to my knowledge. In some instances it did help locals fight back against foreign military aggression and long-term territorial Occupation.

        • Mr. Stein,

          Let’s make this easier by approaching it directly.

          It is a fact that Iranian-supported Hezbollah confronts Israel, the aggressor, illegal occupier and would be permanent colonial master of West Bank Palestine, which in turn is part of the homeland of the Palestinians, not the Zionist European Jews of Israel.

          The vast bulk of Israelis are Ashkenazi with no biological or historical connection to Palestine or for that matter to what is today known as Israel. Their connections to Israel/Palestine are based on religion and conquest. In other words they are not based on law or fact.

          Despite a colonial paper trail going back to 1917, Israel exists today primarily because of the Holocaust of the 1940s, one of many immense tragedies associated with World War II.

          The difficulty with that is the transparent injustice of paying-off the debt of Europeans with the coin of an Asian people’s homeland when the latter were not involved in those crimes at all. It is this profound injustice compounded by the great Zionist crimes against humanity represented by the Nakba of 1948 and its sequel of 1967 which fuel the present day hostility to Israel throughout the region if not globally.

          The most bizarre aspect of it is, perhaps, that the Zionists’ claim to what today is called israel shares all of the defects inherent in the occupation of the West Bank and the other scraps of Palestinian land appropriated by Israel in 1967. It was accomplished through multiple crimes against humanity.

          It appears that the rest of the world including the entire Arab region is prepared to pardon those crimes and to confirm Israel’s post-Nakba and pre-1967 title to 80% of the country if only it it will disgorge the last 20% so a resolution is possible.

          And what does the Israeli leadership do, firm as it is in its grip on the United States? It demands more and more and more while the region boils in a nuclear arms race and insurrectionist violence and its only ally turns in the wind with no way to protect its own interests.

          I urge you, sir, to listen to reason.

    • “But no one can credibly deny they are not an aggressive power in the region.” Double negative suggests you agree that they are non-agressors

    • Iran has some unpleasant friends, but they are not a military aggressor.

      The danger posed by Iranian nuclear capability is the threat of nuclear proliferation throughout the region and beyond, not nuclear aggression by the Iranian government.

      Tehran politicians may like to play the loose cannon rhetorically when it suits them, but the government has always operated as a rational actor in world affairs, and nuclear aggression would be suicidal for them.

  2. One could say that by backing Assad they are backing a war of aggression against the people of Syria. Such a charge would not be unreasonable. But it would also not be unreasonable to say that it is one of the many other factions that are waging the war of aggression in Syria. Each rebel faction may claim that it is waging a war of liberation but the only ones that I would trust are those that look to Thomas Paine and Fidel Castro for inspiration & I bet that there are none like that.

  3. The question we’re left with, after years of commentary comparing the likely effects of the Iranian sanctions to the history of sanctions on Cuba, is why they had such different consequences. The sanctions on Cuba have accomplished nothing; in fact, they’re strengthened the position of hardliners within the Cuban government, and given the government a ready-made boogeyman on which to blame their troubles. Many were predicting that sanctions on Iran would be similarly counter-productive.

    Instead, the Iranian political system responded by bringing to power President Rouhani, one of the pro-diplomacy reformers whose success was supposed to be impossible under the sanctions regime. Why the difference?

    The best place to look for the answer is in the difference between the Cuban and Iranian political systems. Cuba is a top-down dictatorship, with all power emanating from one central political leadership. Iran is, if not exactly a democracy, at least a pluralistic system in which different factions, though circumscribed, have to compete for power, and do so in the field of electoral politics.

    When the economy is bad, the voters Throw The Bums Out when given a chance. Ahmedinejad’s faction governed over a time to economic pain, and the political system gave the voters an option.

  4. I read the full essay on Truthdig, thank you Juan, very informative and readable overview & history.

    One thing that caught my eye: “… by the late 1960s Israel had the bomb. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan even allegedly wanted to use it in the 1973 war against Egypt.”

    Seymour Hersh (The Sampson Option) made the point that Israel did use the bomb at the outset of that war, as nuclear blackmail against the United States. Henry Kissinger was SOS, prevailed upon to act against his better judgement of US interests in the region. Is that also your understanding?

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