Farhang Jahanpour – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 19 Sep 2020 05:38:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 On 41st Anniversary, has Trump’s Belligerence Strengthened the Iranian Government? https://www.juancole.com/2020/02/anniversary-belligerence-strengthened.html Tue, 11 Feb 2020 05:02:27 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=189062 Oxford, UK (Special to Informed Comment) – On February 11, 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran marks the 41st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Thus, it has defied the Trump administration’s prediction of its demise for two years beyond its allotted time.

In his speech at a conference of the MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq or People’s Jihadis) in 2017, for which he received huge fees, the former National Security Advisor John Bolton said: “The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its fortieth birthday…and that is why before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran.”[1]

In 2018 President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also predicted: “Freedom is right around the corner … next year I want to have this convention in Tehran.”[2]

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his neocon allies have tried very hard to fulfill those wishes and to bring about regime change in Iran before its 40th anniversary. To this end, they have implemented a policy of “maximum pressure” and have imposed unprecedented illegal sanctions in violation of the unanimously approved U.N. National Security Council Resolution 2231 that lifted all the earlier sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA).

The nuclear deal was reached between Iran and the United States, and all other permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany (5+1). The deal was also unanimously endorsed by the European Union Commission.

After President Trump violated the nuclear deal (there is no clause in it allowing one side to withdraw unilaterally) on 18 May 2018, Iran continued to abide by it for a whole year. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is in charge of supervising the deal, in 15 separate quarterly reports – five of them since President Trump came to power – has confirmed that Iran had faithfully carried out all her obligations under the deal. As late as last week, the IAEA stated that there had been no violations of the nuclear deal.[3]

A year after US withdrawal from the deal when Iran continued to be deprived of the economic benefits to which she was entitled, the Iranian president announced that Iran would take incremental steps to reduce her obligations under the deal, unless other parties fulfilled their commitments. Although all the steps that Iran has taken so far have been in keeping with the JCPOA, under the IAEA supervision and are reversible, they have been portrayed by US officials as major violations of the deal, and they have continued to increase the sanctions on Iran.

The other signatories to the deal criticised President Trump for his violation of the deal and promised to remain faithful to it. The EU3 (the United Kingdom, France and Germany) tried very hard to keep the deal alive by devising the INSTEX mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran.[4]

However, in view of US pressure and the dominant role that the US dollar plays as an international currency, all their efforts have proved futile. US sanctions amount to a virtual siege or blockade, which is an act of war. Not only have they drastically cut Iran’s oil exports which form a large part of the government budget, they have also prevented Iranian banks and industries engaging in normal business with the rest of the world.

This is on top of the United States blocking Iranian nationals from visiting the United States, and even detaining many Iranian US residents or Green Card holders for hours of questioning at the borders before readmitting them to the United States.

Contrary to the claims of US officials, the sanctions have also blocked the sale of food and medicine to Iran, despite the fact that there is no explicit restriction against them. However, due to the difficulty of banking transactions, in practice, Iranians cannot even import much-needed medicine.

Recently, the Swiss government suggested a new package to sell some $2.3 million worth of medicines to Iran. Even if this plan is implemented it is a drop in the ocean.[5] Before, the imposition of the sanctions, Iran imported more than $3.5 billion worth of medicines a year.

If there were any doubts about President Trump’s real motivation for violating the nuclear deal with all its grave consequences, his remarks at the ceremony unveiling the so-called “Deal of the Century” made his motives absolutely clear. Trump did not violate a truly remarkable non-proliferation agreement that could have acted as a model for other similar deals because it was in any way defective or did not prevent Iran from ever manufacturing a nuclear bomb. The main aim was to help his friend Benjamin Netanyahu in his vendetta against Iran.

When the nuclear deal was being negotiated under President Obama, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress to kill the main foreign policy initiative of a sitting president, and he received dozens of standing ovations for this act of discourtesy. He did not get his way then, but as the Trump administration came to power, surrounded by strong supporters of Israel, including many Christian Zionists, Netanyahu found a unique opportunity to achieve his goal.

Standing next to Netanyahu at that ceremony, Trump said: “As everyone knows, I have done a lot for Israel: moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem; recognizing — (applause) –- recognizing the Golan Heights — (applause) — and, frankly, perhaps most importantly, getting out of the terrible Iran nuclear deal.”[6] So, it is clear what was the real reason behind violating the nuclear deal.

The US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran has had a number of other grave consequences. It has put Iran and the United States on a path to war. In May 2019, there were attacks on four ships in the Indian Ocean, and the US said that it was highly likely that Iran was behind those attacks.

When, as directed by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, British marines boarded and stopped an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar for allegedly transporting oil to Syria, Iranian revolutionary guards seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero for alleged violations near the Strait of Hormuz. Both tankers were subsequently released with their cargoes intact.

On June 19, 2019 Iran shot down an advanced US military drone, claiming that it was flying over Iranian territory, and provided the debris of the drone in its waters to prove the point. On 14 September 2019, two major Saudi oil facilities were attacked by 25 drones and cruise missiles, cutting Saudi output by half. The Houthis claimed responsibility for those attacks, but the United States again pointed the finger at Iran.

However, the most serious incidents took place in December 2019 and January 2020. After a US contractor was killed in missile attacks at a US base in Iraq, US officials blamed Kata’ib Hezbollah, which they described as “Iran-backed militia”, for the attack. In retaliation for that killing, US forces attacked three of Kata’ib bases, killing dozens and wounding dozens more. Al-Arabia has put the number of those killed at the bases at 63.[7]

Those killings gave rise to massive protests in Baghdad, including an attack on the US Embassy, which was used as an excuse to assassinate the commander of the IRGC Quds Force, General Qasem Soleimani, and the deputy leader of the Kata’ib Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and a few other Iraqi officials who were with them.

Millions of Iraqis and Iranians took part in the funerals of those two generals. In retaliation for Soleimani’s assassination, Iran fired two dozen missiles at two US bases in Iraq. At first, President Trump tweeted that all was well, and no one had been injured. However, gradually it transpired that a number of forces in the bases had suffered traumatic brain injuries. At first, the number was put at 11, then 34, 54, 64, but according to the latest Reuters report more than 100 US troops suffered brain injuries.[8]

Iraqi officials have recently stated that the initial attack on the US base that killed one contractor had been carried out by ISIS, not by Kata’ib forces.[9] So, it seems that the world was brought to the brink of a major war on the basis of either a deliberate lie or a misunderstanding.

It is clear that Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure”, involving crippling economic sanctions and even threats of war has not brought the Iranian government to its knees. On the contrary, it has forced Iran into the position it held prior to signing the JCPOA. Meanwhile, many Majles deputies have demanded that the government should withdraw from the NPT. That will be a very provocative move that will make the situation even worse than it is at present.

But perhaps the worst outcome of Trump’s policy towards Iran has been to undermine the position of the moderates and reformers in the Iranian government and strengthen and embolden the hardliners. On 21 February, Iranians go to the polls to elect a new Parliament or Majles. The current Majles is dominated by moderates with 120 Reformist deputies, 86 hardliners or Principlists, 10 associated Principlists, 66 independents, and five from religious minorities.

However, the hard-line Guardian Council has disqualified a large number of applicants for election, including 90 of the current 290-strong parliamentarians. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticised the disqualifications, saying: “We cannot simply announce that 1,700 candidates have been approved and ignore the question of how many political groups those people represent. That’s not what an election is about.”[10] He has called on the current parliament to pass legislation limiting the vetting powers of the Guardian Council.

This issue has opened up a major rift between moderates and hardliners. The West should have supported the more moderate elements who work for reconciliation with the West and more political freedoms at home. Repressive regimes can be changed either through foreign-led military force, and we have seen the consequences of such violent actions in Iraq and Libya; or through a gradual but meaningful change from within. Iranians have shown that they are in favour of peaceful change, but the current policies of the Trump administration have made this almost impossible.

The current impasse in Iran will either result in a much more hard-line government, similar to the one led by President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, or even in a military coup led by the IRGC. Either scenario will push back the possibility of democratization in Iran by many years, and might even lead to a devastating war. The neocons who have been pushing Trump to pursue these policies have not served him, the United States or Iran well.

The only alternative is for the United States to return to the nuclear deal, lift the sanctions and then try to reach a more comprehensive agreement with the Iranian government. The other alternative is war.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfmLyrQ7E24]

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ouaJ16Lyds

[3] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-iaea-iran/u-n-watchdog-sees-no-new-iranian-violations-of-nuclear-deal-idUKKBN1ZZ2SU

[4] https://www.dw.com/en/instex-europe-sets-up-transactions-channel-with-iran/a-47303580

[5] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-02-03/there-s-hope-for-humanitarian-trade-with-iran

[6] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-prime-minister-netanyahu-state-israel-joint-statements/

[7] https://www.zeitoons.com/71386

[8] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pentagon-tbi-exclusive-idUSKBN2041ZK

[9] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/07/bombshell-iraqi-officials-say-isis-not-iran-likely-behind-rocket-attack-trump-used?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/09/purge-of-reformists-in-iran-election-could-doom-nuclear-deal-say-diplomats

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The Disunited Kingdom https://www.juancole.com/2019/12/the-disunited-kingdom.html Sun, 15 Dec 2019 05:01:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=187892 The General Election in the United Kingdom on Thursday 12 December produced a major earthquake in British politics. Although opinion polls had shown either a narrow majority for the Conservative Party or a hung parliament, and the gap between the Conservative and the Labor parties had narrowed during the last few days of the campaign, the outcome came as a shock not only to the opposition parties that lost so badly, but even to the Conservative Party that could never dream such a landslide. President Trump was one of the first leaders to congratulate Boris Johnson with promises of “massive” trade deals.

A long list of Tory failures

The Conservative Party’s failures during the past ten years include: a botched EU referendum, former Prime Minister David Cameron’s immediate resignation after the referendum with no provision having been made for its aftermath, a disastrous general election called by Theresa May in 2017 to give her a mandate to rule, which turned a slim Tory majority into a hung parliament, three years of disunity inside the Conservative Party and the repeated defeats of the agreement reached by Theresa May with the EU mainly due to the uncompromising stances of the right-wing extremists in the Conservative Party who wanted to leave without an agreement.

The party had pursued a long policy of economic austerity that had produced almost unprecedented poverty among the lower classes, an NHS in crisis, and a widening gap between the super-rich and the poor. This disastrous record should have normally resulted in an overwhelming Labor victory. Yet, it seems that none of those lies and failures had an effect on the way that people voted.

A lackluster campaign

Boris Johnson, the leader of the Conservative Party, had led a lackluster campaign, had refused to take part in many interviews, and had attracted ridicule the day before the election for hiding in a fridge in order to run away from an interviewer.

He had also produced a very thin and unambitious Manifesto. Many of his campaign promises were immediately revealed to have been false. He promised to build 41 new hospitals, but then it turned out that funding would be provided for only six hospitals during the next five years and the rest of them would be built at some indeterminate date in the future. He claimed that there would be 50,000 new nurses during the next parliament, but it soon became clear that the figure included 18,500 existing nurses. Meanwhile, the National Health Service has been experiencing its biggest crisis in many years.

Johnson’s uncaring reaction to the photo of a four-year-old boy lying on coats on the floor of an overcrowded hospital caused a great deal of panic in Tory ranks. He took the reporter’s mobile and put it in his pocket. There were many similar incidents that revealed his uncaring attitude.

Labor Manifesto

On the other hand, the Labor Party membership was bigger than ever before, turning it into the largest Socialist party in Europe. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party, ran a very energetic and positive campaign, being surrounded by vast cheering crowds wherever he went. The Labor Party Manifesto was one of the most ambitious and indeed revolutionary manifestos for change in recent decades, and it seemed to be largely popular. Corbyn put forward what he called “the most transformative, radical and exciting program ever put before the British electorate”.

The Manifesto promised to bring energy, water, rail and mail delivery companies into public ownership, and that it would nationalize BT Group’s Openreach network so it could roll-out ultrafast broadband across the country for free.

Clearly, all of this came at great cost. The Confederation of British Industry claimed that the nationalization of public utilities would cost £196 billion (about $263). The Labor Manifesto also promised to abolish tuition fees for university students, to provide funds for continuing education and training, to bring the voting age down to 16 from the current 18, to spend billions more each year on the NHS, and also to provide a nationwide Social Care System to work alongside the NHS in order to cater for an aging population. In order to pay for those huge costs, the Labor Government would raise taxes on the top five percent of wealthy people, would introduce a wealth tax and would close tax loopholes. Most of those promises seemed to be very popular with the people.

Winners and losers

However, despite all this, Boris Johnson won the biggest Conservative victory since the glory days of Margaret Thatcher’s third term in 1987, and despite the seeming popularity of its Manifesto, the Labor Party suffered the worst result since the 1935 General Election.

The Lib Dem Party’s young and newly elected leader Jo Swinson, who had boasted at the start of the campaign that she would be the next British prime minister, lost her seat of East Dunbartonshire to the Scottish National Party. Far from gaining a huge majority the party lost one of its 12 seats (that of its leader).

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Union Party (DUP) that had kept Theresa May’s minority government in power in return for scrapping the so-called Backstop, which separated Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain, lost two of its 10 seats. Its deputy leader Nigel Dodds lost his seat to the Irish Nationalist Sinn Fein Party.

Clearly, the biggest winner was the Conservative Party which won 365 seats, gaining 47 new seats, while the Labor Party was the biggest loser with only 203 seats, losing 59 seats.

Reasons for Labor defeat:

Since the election, Corbyn’s critics have mentioned three main reasons for his failure: The lack of clarity in his Brexit plans, fears about national security, and Corbyn’s personal unpopularity. There is some truth in all of them.

Brexit

Johnson’s main slogan was “Get the Brexit Done”, something that appealed to the Leavers and even to millions of Remainers who had become disillusioned with three years of squabbling in parliament. The Lib Dems decided to go completely against the referendum and abolish Brexit altogether. However, the Labor Party tried to remain faithful to the views of both the 17,410,742 people who had voted to leave and 16,141,241 who had voted to remain in the EU.

Labor proposed to hold new talks in Brussels within three months and reach a better deal that would not damage trade between the EU and the United Kingdom by remaining in the Single Market, and one that would safeguard the rights of workers, and then put it to a new referendum within six months and carry out the outcome.

This proposal was too complex to sell in a few words on the doorstep. Meanwhile, the rightwing media accused Labor of more dither and delay, while Johnson claimed that he would get out of Europe by the end of January and would reach a new trade agreement by the end of next year. This of course is a great exaggeration if not a downright lie, because any complex new agreement would take more than a year to conclude. The EU-Canada agreement took more than seven years to negotiate. In fact, Labor’s proposal to remain within the Single Market would have resulted in a simpler and quicker agreement.

However, voters want clarity and simple solutions, not detailed intellectual arguments. A Labor source said: “It wasn’t that people didn’t like the policies, people thought there was too many of them.” Jon Lansman, leader of the Corbyn campaign group, Momentum, said: “The manifesto was too detailed and too long. It was a programme for 10 years, not for government.”

Security Risk

The Tory media also highlighted the alleged security risk that Corbyn would pose. Corbyn had always campaigned against Britain’s wars of aggression, such as the 2003 Iraq invasion and the 2011 attacks on Libya. He had said in the past that NATO should have been disbanded after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and that he would never use nuclear weapons. The fact that the Labor Conference had reversed those decisions and pledged that Britain would remain a member of the NATO and would keep nuclear weapons as a deterrent did not seem to sway the diehard pro-war pundits.

Corbyn’s unpopularity

Corbyn went into the campaign with the lowest net satisfaction ratings of any opposition leader since the late 1970s. This of course is not surprising. Practically the entire corporate media which controls perhaps over 90% of the entire written and broadcast media had waged a sustained campaign against Corbyn ever since he had been elected the leader of the Labor Party.

Anti-Semitism

In addition to all the previous charges levelled against Corbyn, there has been a vicious and sustained campaign, accusing him falsely of “anti-Semitism”. Of course, many prominent Jews have openly challenged those charges and have in fact shown that there is more anti-Semitism in the Conservative party, among the rightwing groups, and in society as a whole than in the Labor Party, and that incidents of anti-Semitic remarks in the Labor Party have declined since Corbyn has been the party leader, but none of those academic studies have made a difference.

There has hardly been a day when one of the bulletins of some of the main broadcasting organizations, including the BBC, has not made a reference to Corbyn’s alleged anti-Semitism. Jewish MPs and Peers have paraded over the media denouncing Corbyn, and right in the middle of the campaign, Britain’s Chief Orthodox Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, launched a savage attack on Corbyn, stating that he was “unfit for office”. He went on to say: “A new poison — sanctioned from the top — has taken root in the Labour Party,” adding that in the election “the very soul of our nation is at stake.” [https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-antisemitism-corbyn-not-fit-for-high-office-says-ephraim-mirvis-0thlclsns?fbclid=IwAR2Qv-_xt6zqvJczD8O3BnOnpXvkfeU6UxlQ7W2uAqM3mnMTX-BeMKu3Zso]

This was despite the fact that in a statement of Jewish Voice for Labour many Jewish Labor Party members wrote: “We are Jews who are entirely comfortable in the Labour Party. But we are far from comfortable seeing the terrible history of the Jewish people exploited by those intent upon scuppering the best hope in decades for ordinary and vulnerable members of our society.” [https://merip.org/2019/04/israel-and-the-antisemitism-playbook-in-great-britain-and-the-grassroots/]

In an excellent scholarly article entitled “Smoke Without Fire: The Myth of a ‘Labour Antisemitism Crisis’, forming a chapter of a book on the “Labour Antisemitism”, Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison debunked that myth writing: “This last claim—a recent invention even in the context of the ‘Labour antisemitism’ campaign—is the most tenuous, flying as it does in the face of Corbyn’s entire documented political career. From April 1977, when he helped organise the defence of Jewish-populated Wood Green from a National Front rally;[1] to the 1980s, when he headed Anti-Fascist Action and was arrested protesting apartheid in South Africa;[2] to June 2015, when he worked with antifascists to prevent a neo-Nazi march on Golders Green;[3] to his first day as Labour Party leader, when he spoke at a demonstration in support of refugees[4]—throughout his political life, Jeremy Corbyn has been a dedicated and principled anti-racist campaigner.” [https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/smoke-without-fire-the-myth-of-a-labour-antisemitism-crisis/]

Also over 200 prominent Jewish members and supporters of the Labor Party stated: “We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable. His involvement strengthens this struggle.” [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/20/jeremy-corbyn-labour-party-crucial-ally-in-fight-against-antisemitism?CMP=share_btn_tw]

However, none of these statements received a fraction of the attention in the media devoted to the statements of the chief rabbi and other detractors of Corbyn.

As Professor Neve Gordon, an Israeli law professor currently at Queen Mary University of London, wrote: “Since I moved to London two years ago, hardly a day has gone by without a new attack against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the British media. These attacks follow a familiar script: a fragment of some action, photo or errant remark from Corbyn’s past is unearthed and sensationally presented as fresh evidence of his sordid character—and this information is then mobilized to demonstrate that Labour’s leader is ‘antisemitic and pro-terrorist.’” [https://merip.org/2019/04/israel-and-the-antisemitism-playbook-in-great-britain-and-the-grassroots/]

These incidents have included photographs of Corbyn laying a wreath in a Palestinian cemetery in Tunis in 2014, falsely claiming that he had been paying homage to the terrorists who had carried out the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. The Daily Telegraph published an exclusive report showing pictures and a video of Corbyn at a 2012 conference in Doha, Qatar, where he chaired a panel discussion about the plight of Palestinian refugees.

These incidents do not show any anti-Jewish action or sentiment by him or members of the Labor Party, but he is demonized due to occasionally speaking about the Palestinians and criticizing some of the policies of the rightwing Israeli government under Netanyahu. As Professor Gordon points out: “And, finally, what are the political objectives of such vicious and relentless attacks? There are two apparent reasons. First, Corbyn has a clear economic agenda and is not one to abandon his beliefs in the face of power…. Second, if Corbyn’s bid in the next elections is successful he will be the first prime minister in British history, and indeed in the history of Western governments, that is pro-Palestinian.” [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/20/jeremy-corbyn-labour-party-crucial-ally-in-fight-against-antisemitism?CMP=share_btn_tw]

These attacks on Corbyn set a dangerous precedent both in the United States and in Britain, warning all those aspiring to office that any criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinians will spell the end of their political career.

To conclude, the rather vague Labor Party position on Brexit and these vicious attacks by the establishment media against Corbyn were the two most important factors behind the defeat of the Labor Party and the ascendance of the Conservatives

Threats to the union

However, the situation is not as rosy for the country as the Conservative victory indicates. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which is demanding independence from the United Kingdom and wants to remain in the EU practically swept the board in Scotland with 48 seats, gaining 13. The Conservatives have only six seats, having lost seven; and Labor has only one, having lost 6 seats in Scotland.

There is a similar picture in Northern Ireland. For the first time in history the Nationalist parties in Northern Ireland won more votes than the Unionist DUP that wants union with Britain. It is important to bear in mind that both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to stay in the EU in the 2016 EU Referendum. While in England 53.4% voted to leave versus 46.6% to remain, in Scotland 62.0% versus 38.0% voted to remain, and in Northern Ireland 55.8% versus 44.2% voted to remain in the EU.

There have always been strong nationalist sentiments in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Although in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum 55.30% versus 44.70% of the Scots voted to remain as a part of the United Kingdom, recent opinion polls have shown that now there is a majority in favor of independence in view of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, something that is confirmed by the results of the latest election, which in Scotland was turned into a referendum on whether to remain as part of the United Kingdom or apply for continued EU membership.

These developments do not bode well for the continued unity of the United Kingdom. There have already been demands in Northern Ireland for a referendum to decide whether it should maintain its union with the United Kingdom or join the South, thus remaining in the EU. Opinion polls show a majority in favor of remaining in the EU.

The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said that Boris Johnson has “no right” to stand in the way of another Scottish independence referendum. She has argued that the election result “renews, reinforces and strengthens” the mandate for a new referendum. In a speech in Edinburgh on Friday, she told Mr. Johnson: “You, as the leader of a defeated party in Scotland, have no right to stand in the way. The people of Scotland have spoken. It is time now to decide our own future.” She has already requested that SNP should be granted the legal power to hold another referendum vote.

So, although the Conservatives can take great satisfaction in the result of the election that has given them a big majority to rule for the next five years, this election may mark the start of the disintegration of the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland may eventually break away from Britain and join the EU, especially if Johnson concludes a hard Brexit that would curtail the unimpeded trade between those two parts of Britain with the EU. However, in his victory speech, Johnson adopted a conciliatory tone and spoke of a “one-nation Conservatism”. For the sake of Britain, let’s hope that he can deliver on those promises.

—-

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Boris Johnson says voters in north can trust him | ITV News

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Forty Years Later, US and Iran still Haunted by Embassy Hostage Crisis https://www.juancole.com/2019/11/haunted-embassy-hostage.html Mon, 04 Nov 2019 05:03:30 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=187201 (Informed Comment) – The 4th November 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis that has dominated and poisoned Iran-US relations ever since. The event refers to the seizure of a number of US diplomats and other employees in the United States Embassy in Tehran by the so-called “Muslim Students Following the Imam’s [Khomeini’s] Line”, a few months after the victory of the Islamic revolution.

A number of female and black hostages were released on Khomeini’s orders, and Richard Queen who was suffering from multiple sclerosis was released on 11 July 1980. The remaining 52 hostages were kept in captivity for 444 days until they were freed on 21 January 1981.

Embed from Getty Images
(Original Caption) Tehran, Iran. This photo taken on the first day of occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran shows American hostages being paraded by their militant Iranian captors. The picture was obtained by UPI after the FBI showed no interest. It was brought into the U.S. by an Iranian.

More than any other event in the history of the relationship between the United States and Iran, that event has affected the US perception of Iran and like an albatross has cast its deadly weight on their bilateral relations.

Initially, the hostages were kept in the US Embassy compound and were treated reasonably well, although nothing could have justified that illegal act that went against all diplomatic norms and even against the clear instructions of Islam, which the hostage-takers professed that they were upholding.

However, on 24 April 1980, President Carter ordered a surprise military expedition to rescue the hostages. According to that plan, a C-130 transport plane and eight helicopters landed at a deserted airfield near Tabas in North East of Iran, which the American military had used under the Shah. The helicopters were then supposed to land at a disused caravanserai near Tehran. They were then going to attack the embassy compound at dawn, kill the guards and rescue the hostages and fly them back to the airfield to be flown out of the country by the C-130 transport plane.

That ill-fated mission was aborted as the result of three of the eight helicopters experiencing failure during the landing in the desert due to a sandstorm. Another helicopter, meanwhile, collided with the C-130 transport plane, killing eight U.S. servicemen.

President Carter took personal responsibility for the failure of the mission and called on the BBC, the Voice of America and other Western media to broadcast frequent announcements in their Persian programmes, letting everyone know that the mission had been aborted, in order to notify those who were in charge of making preparations at the caravanserai and in Tehran so that they would not go ahead with their plans.

It was lucky that the ill-conceived mission was aborted, because had it gone ahead it would have resulted in a bloodbath and probably the death of all the hostages. Iran was still in the grip of revolutionary zeal, and many of the students who were guarding the compound were armed and highly motivated. They would have retaliated to any attack, resulting in a major military confrontation between the Iranian forces and a few dozen US troops.

After the failed attempt to rescue the hostages, they were scattered to different parts of the country and were treated worse than before, because the hostage-takers were afraid that similar attempts would be made to free them by force.

Myths Concerning the Iranian Revolution

There have been many myths about the hostage crisis. A frequent charge is that President Carter “lost Iran” due to his weakness and not taking military action. Taking military action thousands of miles away against a country in the throes of a massive revolution would have been absolutely foolhardy and would have handed Iran to America’s main Cold War rival, the Soviet Union.

In fact, a number of US officials, including the National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and President Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Adviser Stuart Eizenstat and others, recommended military action, but cooler heads prevailed. The Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and especially the US Ambassador in Iran William Sullivan who knew the situation in Iran well, as well as practically all US allies, strongly advised against it.

The other myth is that President Carter turned his back on the Shah and allowed Khomeini to take over. This myth is particularly strong among many Iranian royalists who do not want to admit that the Shah was toppled due to his own mistakes, and would like to blame foreigners for his downfall.

This myth is also completely false, as right to the end President Carter backed the Shah and tried to keep him in power, but there was no way that the Shah could have suppressed the revolution at such a late stage. There were many mistakes made earlier on during his reign, especially the 1953 coup led by the CIA and the British MI6 against the democratically-elected and popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, that led to the revolution.

So, if anyone has to be held responsible for “losing Iran” it should be those who planned and carried out the 1953 coup, setting Iranian democracy back by decades. In fact, President Carter sacrificed his presidency in order to bring about a peaceful resolution to the hostage crisis and to make sure that all the hostages returned to their homes safe and sound, as they did.

The Release of the Hostages

However, as a final act of spite, Khomeini refused to free the hostages before President Carter had stepped down, and eventually they were released on 20 January 1981, minutes after President Reagan was sworn in as the 40th US president.

There have been persistent rumours about a deal being struck between the Iranian government and the members of President Reagan’s election team not to release the hostages until after the election or the end of President Carter’s term. Those around President Reagan have denied those rumours but the Iranian president at that time Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr has insisted that members of the Reagan team contacted Iranian officials making that demand.

The Main Reasons behind the Hostage Taking

Although the wounds of that event have not yet healed, most people are not aware of the real reasons behind that terrible event and the cost that Iran has paid and continues to pay for it.

Throughout 1978-79, there was a massive nationwide uprising against Mohammad Reza Shah’s autocratic rule. Three groups led the opposition to the Shah. The first group consisted of moderate secular reformists who simply wanted the Shah to abide by the Iranian Constitution and reign and not rule. From a couple of years before the revolution, they formed various groups functioning within the existing political constraints. They published a number of open letters calling for change, for free elections, for allowing the Iranian Parliament (the National Constituent Assembly or the Majles) to function as a check on the government, especially on the Shah’s unlimited powers.

The second group was led by various leftists and communist groups, such as the traditional pro-Moscow Tudeh Party, and some hardcore armed groups such as the Feda’iyan Khalq (the Devotees of the Masses) and the Islamic-Marxist Mojahedin-e Khalq (the Holy Warriors of the Masses, or MEK), and a number of smaller and less extreme groups.

Two of the radical groups, the Feda’iyan Khalq and MEK, had engaged in armed clashes against the Shah’s security forces and US military advisors who were in charge of training Iranian forces on the most advanced military equipment that the Shah had purchased. Towards the end of the Shah’s rule, Iran counted for half of all US arms sales. These groups acted as the foot-soldiers of the revolution and were mainly responsible for bringing Khomeini to power.

During the later stages of the uprising, these groups were joined by disaffected and radical clerics, although traditional members of the clergy, such as the highest-ranking Shi’a cleric of the time, Ayatollah Ali Shari’atmadari, did not take part in the uprising.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had been exiled from Iran by the Shah in 1964 for openly opposing his policies, especially the Shah’s decision to grant judicial immunity to thousands of US military personnel who were serving in Iran, led the religious opposition from his place of exile in the Holy City of Najaf in Iraq and for the last few months before the revolution, from Paris, after he was expelled from Iraq on the Shah’s request.

After the revolution, these three groups started fighting for their share of the booty. Initially, a moderate reformist, the leader of the Iran Freedom Movement Mehdi Bazargan was chosen to form a transitional government. He selected a cabinet mainly drawn from the moderate opposition, including many US-educated ministers. However, his powers were curtailed by Khomeini and the hard-line clerics, and in his own words he became like a knife without a blade.

Bazargan’s foreign minister, Ebrahim Yazdi, who had lived in the United States for many years and also had a US Green Card, was accused of being a secret CIA agent and resigned with Bazargan. Bazargan’s deputy prime minister, Abbas Amir-Entezam, was accused of spying for the United States and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died last year while still under house arrest. The real reason for his dismissal was his open opposition to a theocratic government, led by the clerics.

Another US-educated activist Sadeq Qotbzadeh who was a close aide and interpreter of Ayatollah Khomeini when he was in Paris and who also acted as a foreign minister during the hostage crisis was charged with planning to assassinate Ayatollah Khomeini and was executed. Earlier in his life, he had been a supporter of Mosaddeq’s National Front and had also taken part in many anti-Shah demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the challenge from the leftist forces was more severe and more violent. MEK had started waging a savage campaign both against Khomeini and the clerics, and against the moderate opposition whom they accused of being pro-American or even secret US agents whose aim was to subvert the revolution. When Mas’ud Rajavi, the leader of the MEK was prevented by Khomeini in running for president due to his alleged atheism, the MEK started a reign of terror against the leading members of the clerical establishment.

As the result of an attack against the premises of the Islamic Republic Party when a number of leading government officials were meeting, they killed over 70 top officials, including the most powerful man next to Khomeini, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, and a large number of ministers and Majles deputies. On 30 August 1980, they detonated a bomb at the presidential palace killing President Ali Raja’i and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar.

Meanwhile, Khomeini waged a major campaign against the MEK, killing hundreds of their members and eventually forcing the MEK leadership to flee Iran. During the Iran-Iraq war they joined Saddam Hussein’s army and attacked Iran during the last phase of the war, as the result of which Ayatollah Khomeini ordered a few thousand of their imprisoned members to be executed if they did not repent.

US Hostages as Pawns in the Internal Battle

Although by the time of the hostage crisis the worst atrocities between these groups had not yet taken place, nevertheless, the rivalry and hostility between those three groups was already quite clear. The hostage crisis had a number of aims, one of which was to challenge the US’s presence in Iran, but the main reason for the hostage crisis was to neutralise the democratic and the communist opposition to the regime and to consolidate the position of the clerics as the main sources of power in Iran. The hostages were cynically used as pawns in that deadly game.

Prior to the November attack on the US Embassy in Tehran, some members of the radical Marxist group the Feda’iyan Khalq had attacked the Embassy on 14 February 1979 and had taken a US marine, Kenneth Kraus, hostage. Prime Minister Bazargan immediately sent his Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi to talk to the hostage takers. His mission succeeded and the militants left the embassy within three hours, and they also released Kraus six days later.

However, anti-US and anti-imperialist agitation continued and the leftist groups accused the government of colluding with the United States. Radical religious groups tried to neutralize the leftist accusations by carrying out a similar mission against a foreign embassy. According to Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the five original planners of the US embassy attack, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad (then an engineering student and later two-term president of Iran) urged the group to attack the Soviet Embassy instead of the American Embassy. His view was that the Soviets were supporting the most dangerous enemies of the Islamic Revolution, i.e. the violent communist groups. He argued that the monarchist and nationalist groups who were allegedly supported by the United States were much less dangerous than the leftist forces. When the rest of the group rejected Ahmadinezhad’s proposal, he withdrew from the entire enterprise.

In order to counter the left’s “anti-imperialist” slogans, some radical Muslim students decided to launch an attack of their own on the US Embassy in order to show that they were as revolutionary as the Marxists. So, a group of them got together and consulted a young cleric, Mohammad Mousavi-Kho’iniha, about what they intended to do. He warned them against it, because he said that the government was bound to attack and dislodge them as it had done in the case of the earlier attack by the Feda’iyan Khalq.

However, he also told them that if the takeover of the Embassy proved successful by attracting mass support, Khomeini would not oppose it. So, the hostage crisis was in reality the symbol of a struggle between the leftist and religious forces to gain control of the revolution.

Mousavi-Kho’iniha got in touch with Ahmad Khomeini, Ayatollah Khomeini’s son and the director of his office, to ask if Khomeini would approve of an attack by Muslims students on the U.S. Embassy. Apparently, Khomeini did not respond for a few days, and Mousavi-Kho’iniha took his silence as the sign of his acquiescence, but of course Khomeini did not respond so that he would not be directly implicated in the affair and to have the option of denying having given his permission for it.

Consequently, on 4th November 1979, a group of radical Muslim students attacked the Embassy in the early hours of the morning, following the Shah’s admission to the United States for medical treatment. Some of the young radicals were genuinely afraid that the Shah’s admission to the United States would lead to a repetition of the 1953 coup and his restoration to power.

One of the ringleaders of the attack, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, said later that initially they had intended to occupy the embassy for a few hours to object to some US policies. He said: “Announcing our objections from within the occupied compound would carry our message to the world in a much more firm and effective way.”

However, the takeover of the embassy proved more popular than they could have imagined, with large groups of leftist and radical Islamic students, including MEK members, gathering and demonstrating in front of the Embassy, demanding the return of the Shah.

After two days of silence, seeing the level of public support for the takeover of the embassy, Khomeini finally put his full support behind the students, and called their action “the second revolution”. He added that the first revolution had been against the Shah, while the second revolution was against imperialism. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Bazargan and the entire cabinet resigned when they failed to kick the students out of the Embassy.

Consequently, with the occupation of the US Embassy, Khomeini had achieved the ousting of the nationalist government, and leftist groups were also sidelined and silenced. With that illegal act, Khomeini consolidated his power at the expense of national interests. The future president, Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr, has stated: “During this time, I called all the ambassadors from the European and North American countries and told them that the occupation of the embassy was in fact a strike against the Iranian government; it was we who were being held hostage. I asked them to help us end it.”

The occupation of the American embassy was a brilliant tactical move as far as the religious militants were concerned. It served Khomeini’s domestic purposes well, as he managed to crush the leftist forces one after another. It consolidated the power of the mullahs and silenced their opponents. The liberal elements were intimidated by highly selective and even fraudulent leaks from the embassy files about their alleged links with the “Great Satan”; while the leftist forces were jubilant about that audacious “anti-imperialist” move, which humiliated America and put an end to the possibility of the return of the monarchists or other right‑wing elements to power.

A Costly Enterprise

Although the hostage crisis served Khomeini’s short-term interests, it proved a very costly mistake as far as Iran’s foreign policy was concerned. The image of American diplomats held hostage, blindfolded and humiliated, has been ingrained in the minds of all Americans.

Iran paid and continues to pay a very heavy price for that illegal and outrageous act. In addition to blocking billions of dollars of Iranian assets abroad, the United States adopted a very hostile stance towards the Islamic Republic. Probably without the hostage crisis, Saddam Hussein would not have dared attack Iran, would not have received the backing of the West, and Iran would not have been left so isolated that she only managed to defend herself at enormous cost.

That mistake resulted in Iran’s international isolation, devastated the country as the result of the war, and inflicted hundreds of billions worth of damage on the country.

However, 40 years after those tragic events, the time has come for both countries to lay to rest the ghost of the past and start a new chapter in their relations. Iran has moved a long way away from those revolutionary days. Under President Hassan Rouhani Iran extended the hand of friendship to the West and after long negotiations with the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany they reached a landmark nuclear deal. According to 15 quarterly reports by the IAEA, Iran had meticulously carried out all her obligations under the deal, but President Trump violated the deal and the Security Council Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from it.

The continuation of this hostility does not benefit either country and is leading to a very tense and dangerous situation in the Persian Gulf. The only sane course of action is to allow bygones to be bygones and to start a new chapter of friendship and cooperation.

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Britain’s Trump: The Further Failure of Right Wing Populism https://www.juancole.com/2019/09/britains-further-populism.html Sun, 08 Sep 2019 04:03:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=186203 (Informed Comment) – After only six weeks in office, Johnson’s grand plan to leave the European Union with or without a deal by 31 October has collapsed like a pack of cards and, instead, he may have the shortest term as prime minister in British history. So, unlike the United States, the cause of right wing populism seems to have floundered in the United Kingdom, in the same way that it did in Italy and France.

On 23 July 2019, the blond, rumbustious, free-wheeling Brexiteer Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, known to all as Boris, was elected Britain’s 55th Prime Minister (77th if one counts the terms that different prime ministers served). On the same day, speaking to high school students in Washington, President Trump said: “We have a really good man who’s going to be the prime minister of the UK now, Boris Johnson. Good man. He’s tough, and he’s smart. They call him Britain’s Trump and people are saying that’s a good thing. They like me over there, and that’s what they wanted. That’s what they need. He’ll get it done. Boris is good, he’s going to do a good job….”

Already during his state visit to Britain in early June, in an inappropriate intervention in Britain’s domestic politics, Trump had made it clear that he favored Boris Johnson as prime minister. Meanwhile, he had denounced the then Prime Minister Theresa May who had arranged his state visit as “foolish” in her handling of Brexit. In a tweet, Trump wrote: “I told @theresa may how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster!”

Although many people in Britain too regard Johnson as a British Trump, there are some marked differences as well as similarities between them.

Like Trump, Johnson was born in New York to wealthy English parents, when his father was studying economics at Columbia University. Boris held dual British and US nationality.

Johnson’s paternal great-grandfather was a Muslim, Circassian-Turkish journalist Ali Kemal, and his mother is the granddaughter of Elias Avery Lowe who was a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States. Johnson has described himself as a “one-man melting pot”, with Muslim, Jewish and Christian grandparents. He abandoned his mother’s Catholicism and became an Anglican.

Johnson went to the exclusive and expensive Eton College and then to Balliol College, Oxford, to study classics. He is in the habit of dropping some Latin or Greek sentences in his speeches. In 1986, he was elected President of the prestigious Oxford Union, something that improved his oratorical qualities. Johnson had a privileged childhood, and his earliest recorded ambition was to be “world king”, but for the time being he has to content himself with being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

After graduation, Johnson spent a number of years as a journalist, including as a columnist for the Times and the Daily Telegraph and finally as editor of The Spectator that is often seen a step on the ladder to high office in the Conservative Party. In 1989 Johnson was appointed to the Daily Telegraph’s Brussel’s bureau to report on the European Commission. During his five years in that post, he developed a very strong dislike for the EU venture and his well-written but very critical articles played a major role in discrediting the Commission to British readers.

He witnessed the changes that took place in the European Union after the end of the Cold War. He wrote: “It was a wonderful time to be there. The Berlin War fell and the French and Germans had to decide how they were going to respond to this event, and what was Europe going to become, and there was this fantastic pressure to create a single polity, to create an answer to the historic German problem, and this produced the most fantastic strains in the Conservative Party, so everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power.”

After his stint at journalism, he entered politics and in 2001 he won the safe Conservative seat in Henley on Thames. He was re-elected with a much bigger majority in 2005, but in 2007 he resigned his seat to run as the mayor of London. He defeated the widely popular leftist incumbent Ken Livingstone and served as mayor for eight years, organizing the London Olympics.

In 2014 he sought selection as the Conservative candidate and won Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the 2015 general election. When Prime Minister David Cameron announced the referendum on the EU membership, Cameron led the Brexit campaign against Cameron’s policies.

In response to a comment by President Barack Obama that Britain should remain in the EU, in an article in The Sun Johnson wrote that Obama’s views might have been shaped by an “ancestral dislike” of Britain owing to his “Part-Kenyan” background.

While serving as British foreign secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet, Johnson resigned his post due to the agreement that May had reached with the EU for an orderly departure and again led the campaign for a hard Brexit. As the result of the resignation of a number of her key ministers, May was forced to resign and Johnson was elected Prime Minister by two-thirds of the votes of the members of the Conservative Party.

Unlike Trump’s administration, Johnson’s cabinet is multi-ethnic, and three of four great offices of the state are now held by children of immigrants. Dominic Raab, foreign secretary and deputy prime minister, is the son of a Jewish father who came to Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1938. Unlike most of the hard right in the Conservative Party, Raab began his career working as an international lawyer and even spent a stint at the human rights organization Liberty. He spent a summer in 1998 working at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Sajid Javid, the chancellor of exchequer, is the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants. His father worked as a bus driver, and his mother who grew up in a small village in Pakistan did not speak English. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, was born to Gujarati parents who emigrated to UK from Uganda in the 1960s.

Johnson’s cabinet shares a very strong pro-Israeli stance with the Trump administration. After Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, Johnson said that it represented a “moment of opportunity” for peace. In June 2018, Johnson accused the UNHRC of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Other members of his cabinet also share his pro-Israeli proclivities. Despite his short association with Palestinians, Dominic Raab has been a steadfast supporter of the state of Israel. In a number of articles, he condemned UN recognition of a Palestinian state. In a 2010 blog post, he defended the Israeli forces’ attack on the Mavi Marmara ship attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, an incident in which 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed.

With regard to Saudi Arabia, Raab urged the UK not to allow the gruesome murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October last year to undermine the UK’s relationship with Riyadh. He told the BBC: “We are not throwing our hands in the air and terminating the relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just because of the huge number of British jobs that depend on it but also because if you exert influence over your partners you need to be able to talk to them.”

The new Home Secretary Priti Patel is also a staunch supporter of Israel. She was forced out of Theresa May’s cabinet in 2017 for holding many unofficial meetings with Israeli government officials while on a “private holiday”, without telling the Foreign Office. She was accompanied by Lord Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel.

As International Development’s secretary, she was critical of the UK’s decision to invest the Department’s funds to support the Palestinian territories. In October 2016, Patel ordered a review of the funding procedure, freezing approximately a third of Britain’s aid to the Palestinians during the review. During her visit to Israel, she had recommended that the Department for International Development should give money to field hospitals run by the Israeli army in the Golan Heights.

Sajid Javid too has not hidden his admiration for Israel. In a meeting of the Conservative Friends of Israel, he proclaimed: “I am a proud, British-born Muslim, and I love my country more than any other place on earth,” but he added that if he had to live anywhere in the Middle East it would be Israel.

He has also taken a heavy hand against Israel’s enemies. In February 2019, he added the political wing of Hezbollah to the UK’s terror list, along with its already outlawed military wing, a policy close to the hearts of the members of the Trump administration.

Gavin Williamson, the new education secretary, served as defense secretary in May’s cabinet. However, in an unprecedented move, he was sacked by May after allegedly “compelling evidence” came to light that he had leaked details of a National Security Council meeting to the press regarding Huawei. He has been one of the most overtly hawkish ministers in recent history. In 2018 he described the UK as having become “too timid” following its wars in the Middle East, and praised “properly considered” military intervention. In view of his earlier dismissal, his appointment as education secretary in Johnson’s cabinet has raised many eyebrows.

After his election by fewer than 100,000 members of the Conservative Party, Johnson formed the most right-wing government in recent British history. One of the conditions of the appointments of his new ministers was that they had to pledge their adherence to Brexit. Having formed a loyal and cohesive cabinet, Johnson got to work to achieve his aim of implementing Brexit. In his first speech in front of the steps of 10 Downing Street he pledged that he would get Britain out of the EU “deal or no deal, do or die” by 31 October.

In order to achieve this aim in the face of a parliament that had repeatedly rejected a no-deal Brexit, Johnson decided to prorogue (a fancy term for close or suspend) the parliament for five weeks shortly after it came back from the summer recess, in order to give little time for the opposition parties to oppose his plans. He decreed that the parliament would meet for a few days before it closed down again for five weeks for party conferences and for the start of a new session of the parliament.

In order to justify the parliament’s suspension, he said that the Queens Speech announcing the programs of the new government that is normally held in November would be brought forward to 14 October. Normally, the parliament debates the new government’s programs for a few days, and then there would be very little time to debate Brexit and pass legislation, in effect forcing the country to leave the EU with no deal by the 31st October deadline.

His unusual and undemocratic suspension of parliament for five weeks united all the opposition parties. When they returned to the parliament on 3 September, opposition parties put forward a motion to take control of parliament in order to pass legislation preventing the government from leaving the EU with no deal. As the prime minister started to deliver his first speech in parliament one of the Conservative MPs moved from the government benches and joined the Liberal Democrats, depriving the government of the single majority that it enjoyed. Thus, all of a sudden, Johnson found that he was at the head of a minority government.

The motion to take control of parliament passed with a majority of 27 votes, and the subsequent motion to force the government to ask for an extension from the EU so that the government could not crash out with no deal on 31 October passed with a majority of 29 votes. Being annoyed by the defection of 21 Conservative MPs to the opposition and voting for the bill, Johnson took the whip away from them, in practice expelling 21 prominent MPs from the Conservative Party, thus further reducing his support in parliament.

The MPs who were sacked included Father of the House, a former Treasury Secretary Kenneth Clarke who has served as an MP since 1970, Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson and a former defense minister who has been an MP since 1983, and many other prominent MPs. It is remarkable that the very popular leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Ruth Davidson who saved the party from extinction resigned in disgust. Three former prime ministers have come out strongly against Johnson, including former Conservative Prime Minister John Major who has taken Johnson to court for closing parliament. Maybe the most damaging of all was the resignation of his brother Jo Johnson, who had been appointed Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, who said that he would also stand down as an MP.

The bill approved by parliament requiring Johnson to get an extension to Bresixt was sent to the House of Lords to be debated. The government was hoping that Conservative peers would filibuster the debate and the bill would not be approved before the prorogation. Opposition MPs took their duvets to the House of Lords, saying that they would not leave until the bill was passed. Eventually, Conservative peers gave in and approved the bill, which should be sent to the Queen to be signed into law on Monday 9th September.

Boris Johnson has said that this would theoretically bind his hands and that he would not obey it. He said he would rather die in a ditch than ask for an extension. If he refuses to obey the law, he will plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. A former Attorney General has said that if he disobeys the law he will be taken to court and sent to jail.

Johnson has said that next week he will call for new elections, but according to the fixed-term parliament that was made into law by David Cameron he needs a two-third majority to have early elections, which is impossible for him to achieve. He has said that he would introduce a one-line bill trying to undo the fixed-term legislation, which would require a simple majority, but opposition parties have said that they will not vote for it until a no-deal Brexit is a thing of the past and until he has asked for an extension beyond 31 October.

So, for the time being, Britain’s Trump does not seem to have achieved his aim and has indeed faced the worst week imaginable. If he sticks to his word to refuse to ask for an extension he will have to resign, which will make his premiership the shortest in history.

However, new elections have to be held sooner or later and Johnson is trying to portray himself as being on the side of the people against parliament. With the split in the Conservative Party and a rising Brexit Party that will take some of the Conservative votes, it is unlikely that Johnson will succeed. British politics has to go through a number of other unexpected stages before we know the final outcome.

———

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Channel 4 News: “Could MPs take the PM to court to force Brexit delay?”

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After Trump’s Breach, Iran said it Would Withdraw from Some of the Nuclear Deal: It Hasn’t https://www.juancole.com/2019/06/trumps-withdraw-nuclear.html Fri, 28 Jun 2019 04:06:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=184974 (Informed Comment) – In early May, on the anniversary of US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran announced that in view of US violations of the nuclear agreement and crippling sanctions that have been imposed on Iran preventing her from exporting the bulk of her oil, if European powers who were also signatories to the deal fail to activate their so called “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges” (INSTEX), providing Iran with some economic relief, by 27 June 2019 Iran would exceed some of the limits imposed on her by the deal.

Right on cue, the Economist published a lead article on 27 June entitled “How to Contain Iran”. It started with the assertion “It [Iran] is poised to breach the nuclear deal it signed with America and other powers in 2015”. On the same day, the New York Times published an editorial titled: “Iran Says It Will Pass a Uranium Cap. Is It a Threat? What Happens Next?” It called Iran’s decision “a potentially combustible new phase in the country’s confrontation with Washington.”

Various other leading publications have condemned Iran’s “breach” of the nuclear deal. The pusillanimous leaders of the three European countries that were part of the nuclear negotiations with Iran – the United Kingdom, France and Germany – have also criticised Iran for the “ultimatum” that it had allegedly issued, and called on her not to breach the terms of the deal.

In order to see whether Iran has breached her part of the deal or whether it has been the United States and the EU that have seriously breached the deal, it is necessary to briefly review the history of the nuclear deal or, to give it its full title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

After many decades of hostility between Iran and the West and after two years of intense negotiations, Iran and the leading global powers reached a landmark nuclear deal on 2 April 2015. It is important to stress that the JCPOA was not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States, but was an international agreement reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany.

Furthermore, it was officially endorsed by the European Union (the EU) and embodied in a document published by the EU’s European External Action Service, titled “Joint Statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif”. At the same time, the document was published by the U.S. Department of State titled “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program”. Above all, the agreement was given the force of international law by the Security Council Resolution 2231 that lifted all the sanctions on Iran.

At the time of the agreement, Iran had installed 19,000 centrifuges in two enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordo, and had a stockpile of 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium of 3.67% purity. Iran also had a heavy water reactor in Arak for producing plutonium.

Iran was also producing a small amount of uranium enriched to 19.5% in order to provide fuel for a small reactor in Tehran that produced radio isotopes for medical use. The reactor that had been built by the United States under the former Mohammad Reza Shah required uranium enriched to 19.5% as its fuel. Iran had been forced to produce the required fuel as the United States had refused to sell Iran the fuel and had also prevented other countries from doing so.

In keeping with the JCPOA, Iran halted its production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, mothballed 80 percent of its uranium enrichment program and agreed to reduce her 10,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium to only 300 kilograms for 15 years. Iran also removed the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak and filled the channels with cement, rendering it inoperable. Iran also dismantled over 13,000 centrifuges, leaving the country with 6,104 primitive first-generation IR-1 machines, of which 5,104 are enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, and 1,044 machines at the Fordow site that will remain inoperative for 10 years.

Meanwhile, all of this was carried out under the strict supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will also continue to closely monitor Iran’s future nuclear activities. So far, in 15 quarterly reports, the IAEA has certified that Iran has carried out all its obligations under the JCPOA.

Furthermore, Iran agreed to adhere to the Additional Protocol, which means unannounced inspections by IAEA inspectors of any nuclear site at the time of their choosing. So contrary to the false propaganda that the JCPOA has limited Iran’s dash to a bomb by a number of years, by accepting the Additional Protocol Iran has agreed to permanently give up any desire for nuclear weapons.

Prior to signing the JCPOA, it was alleged that Iran was three months away from producing enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear bomb if she wanted to follow that route (the so-called breakout period). This was despite the fact that Iran’s Clerical Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying that possession, storage or use of nuclear weapons is haram, or forbidden according to Islamic teachings.

However, as the result of the JCPOA, Iran is more than a year away from amassing enough uranium for making a single bomb, and she has to withdraw both from the Additional Protocol and the NPT in order to accumulate enough high-level enriched uranium. Therefore, the whole world would have plenty of time to know about it. Since 16 January 2016, the JCPOA Implementation Day, Iran has carried out its obligations under it.

Prior to the signing of the agreement, the Israelis alleged that Iran had carried out some research for military purposes, the so-called PMD or Possible Military Dimension. As a part of the inspections of all Iranian sites, including the military site in Parchin, the Director-General of the IAEA Yukiya Amano visited Parchin at the head of a group of inspectors, and after testing soil samples they certified that there had been no nuclear weapons activities at the site and there had been no diversion from the peaceful use of nuclear technology. It is important to stress all this in order to keep the recent Iranian decision in perspective.

As the negotiations were reaching their final stages, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to address the joint session of Congress and speak against a key policy of a sitting president. Netanyahu made a number of baseless allegations, and received 19 standing ovations, but the agreement between Iran and the international community continued.

Although Netanyahu failed to prevent the deal under President Obama, his supporters in Congress and in numerous pro-Israeli think tanks continued their campaign against the deal. During his election campaign, presidential candidate Donald Trump who received his biggest campaign donation from the fanatically pro-Israeli casino owner Sheldon Adelson, and other billionaire donors Paul Singer and Bernard Marcus, picked up Netanyahu’s slogans against the deal and called it “the worst deal in history”.

After achieving power, President Trump continued his anti-JCPOA campaign. Finally, on 8th May 2018 he ditched the deal, re-imposed sanctions and has been forcing other countries to cease any dealings with Iran too. As a result, not only has Iran lost some $130 billion in oil revenue, but its inflation has soared, Iranian currency has tanked, unemployment has increased, the economy has gone into recession and the sanctions are affecting the lives of millions of ordinary people. Even the importation of food and medicine, which are technically exempt from the sanctions, has been made impossible due to banking restrictions imposed on Iran.

This is despite the fact that as a signatory to the JCPOA, the United States had pledged to implement it in “good faith”. Section (viii) of the Preamble and General Provisions of JCPOA document reads: “The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation. The E3/EU+3 will refrain from imposing discriminatory regulatory and procedural requirements in lieu of the sanctions and restrictive measures covered by this JCPOA”.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is required to cap its stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years, and is required to sell any excess amount. However, not only has the United States imposed illegal, extraterritorial sanctions on Iran, in contravention of the JCPOA it has even prevented other countries buying the small amount of enriched uranium that Iran produces. Therefore, on the first anniversary of U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran announced that as it is not possible to export the small amount of excess uranium that it produces, by 27 June the amount produced would exceed the 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride that it is allowed to keep under the JCPOA.

On 17 June 2019, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said: “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit.” It is important to bear in mind that this is still low-enriched uranium to 3.67 percent.

By doing this, Iran wants to indicate that in view of the fact that the United States has violated the JCPOA for over a year, it also will violate some of its requirements. As it happens, the amount allowed has not yet been breached, but in any case we are still a long way away from enriching uranium to 19.5 percent which is still regarded as low-enriched uranium (20 percent and above is regarded as medium level) and further away from over 95 percent enrichment that is required for making a single bomb.

This by itself does not mean a major violation of the JCPOA, but is merely a symbolic gesture by which Iran wishes to put pressure on the EU to activate its transaction channel, the so called “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges” (INSTEX) that will allow companies to continue trading with Iran to a limited amount despite U.S. sanctions. That project has been talked about for over a year and still it has not been set up. Therefore, Iran wishes to pressurise Britain, France and Germany to get on with it.

Regardless of the fact that Iran’s decision to exceed the small amount of low-level enriched uranium does not pose any threat to the substance of the JCPOA, nevertheless, it is important to stress that the situation cannot continue as it is at the moment. If the EU wishes to prevent the breakdown of the JCPOA as it says it does, it should take some serious steps to ensure that Iran derives some economic benefits from it to which she is entitled. Iran’s decision should not make it harder for the Europeans to stay on board, but should spur them on to take some concrete steps.

In view of the current threats of war in the Persian Gulf, and U.S. demands of an effective surrender by the Islamic Republic of its nuclear programme, its regional policy, its relations with other regional states, and in fact its political and economic autonomy, it is incumbent upon other countries, especially the signatories to step up their efforts to save the deal. They should make it clear to President Trump that his threat of war on Iran, his genocidal comments such as “the official end of Iran” or “the obliteration of Iran” and his most recent statement that he does not need an exit strategy are not acceptable. They should realise that a war with Iran will not remain limited to Iran, but most probably will result in a conflagration in the entire Middle East.

In view of the impending dangers, I believe that it would be wiser for Iran to observe all the requirements of the JCPOA and not to exceed the limits set in it, so that it does not give the Trump administration an excuse to increase pressure on Iran. However, the real responsibility for the breakdown of the agreement and for a possible disastrous war in the region lies entirely with Trump.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

TRT World: “US, EU fail to protect Iran nuclear deal – analyst”

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How Two-Faced Trump has targeted Iran for Sanctions & War while Tweeting “Negotiations” https://www.juancole.com/2019/06/targeted-sanctions-negotiations.html Tue, 04 Jun 2019 04:07:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=184452 (Informed Comment) – On May 24, 2018, the Department of Defense organised a Briefing on Iran with the participation of Katie Wheelbarger, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, Director of the Joint Staff. The Briefing was aimed at providing some information about the despatch of U.S. forces and capabilities to the Persian Gulf, allegedly to deter Iranian threats. According to Ms Wheelbarger, “These capabilities are intended to enhance our defenses, harden our positions and provide additional ISR coverage to see the threat, to be able to illuminate the threat more clearly.” (https://dod.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1857948/department-of-defense-briefing-on-iran/)

However, the Briefing was striking for its unsubstantial, flimsy, unrealistic and fabricated nature. As an effort to prepare the public for possible use of military force against Iran it was even more laboured, less convincing and much weaker than the infamous performance of former Secretary of State Colin Power in front of the Security Council to justify the invasion of Iraq. Let us look at the sequence of events and the alleged threats that Iran poses.

1- After many years of hard and detailed negotiations at expert levels with all the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany (p5+1 or E3/EU+3), on 14 July 2015 Iran and great powers finally reached a landmark nuclear agreement, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The agreement has strictly blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear power.

In order to reach Implementation Day on 16 January 2016, Iran had to accept drastic cuts in its nuclear programme, which it did meticulously and ahead of the deadline. According to the JCPOA, Iran halted its production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, removed the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak and filled the channels with cement, rendering it inoperable. Iran dismantled over 13,000 centrifuges, leaving the country with 6,104 primitive first-generation IR-1 machines, of which 5,104 are enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, and 1,044 machines at the Fordow site that will remain inoperative.

Meanwhile, all of this was carried out under strict IAEA supervision, which will also continue to closely monitor Iran’s future nuclear activities. Iran agreed to adhere to the Additional Protocol, which means unannounced inspections by IAEA inspectors of any nuclear site at the time of their choosing.

Prior to the completion of the nuclear deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is in charge of ensuring non-proliferation, in a report, stressed that Iran’s nuclear programme had been peaceful and there had been no deviation towards military uses. All the propaganda about PMD or a possible military dimension had been found to be false.

2- The nuclear agreement was not an agreement just between Iran and the United States, but with six world powers, was also endorsed by the European Union and by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.

Section (viii) under the Preamble and General Provisions of JCPOA document reads: “The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation. The E3/EU+3 will refrain from imposing discriminatory regulatory and procedural requirements in lieu of the sanctions and restrictive measures covered by this JCPOA”. So far, in 14 separate reports the IAEA has stressed that Iran has been meticulously adhering to all the provisions of the agreement.

3- However, on 8 May 2018, President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, despite the advice of all US allies abroad and a large number of experts and politicians at home. Furthermore, he imposed extraterritorial sanctions on Iran that go well beyond what has ever been inflicted on any other country in peacetime, especially a country that had been fighting alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria against ISIS and affiliated terrorist groups.

Those comprehensive sanctions have not only drastically reduced Iran’s oil exports, a major part of the Iranian government’s revenue, but have also cut off Iran from international banking and trade. As a result, Iran has found it difficult to even import the necessary medicine and foodstuffs, which are allegedly exempt from the sanctions. As the result of these measures, the value of Iran’s foreign currency has collapsed, many people are grappling with economic problems, and the Iranian economy has gone into recession after a couple of years of relatively high growth. These measures are nothing short of a total blockade, which is an act of war.

In a State Department Briefing on Iran on 2 April 2019, Brian Hook who has been appointed as United States Special Representative for Iran prided himself on the extent of harm that U.S. sanctions have inflicted on the Iranian economy. He pointed out that SWIFT had disconnected the Central Bank of Iran from its system. Joint teams from “the departments of State and Treasury have now visited more than 50 countries around the world to brief on our new policy and warn of the dangers and reputational risks of doing business with Iran.” (https://americanrhetoric.com/speeches/brianhookiranbriefing04-02-19.htm)

He boasted: “Our oil sanctions have taken approximately 1.5 million barrels of Iranian oil exports off the market since May of 2018. This has denied the regime access to well over $10 billion in revenue…. More than 100 major corporations withdrew from business in Iran. Companies like Total and Siemens have exited the Iranian market, taking with them billions of dollars in investment…. The rial has lost two-thirds of its value, the IMF predicts Iran’s economy will contract by as much as 3.6 percent in 2019, and inflation hit a record 40 percent in November, with inflation for goods at 60 percent.”

He does not seem to realise that the global situation will not always remain the same, and when the world moves towards the implementation of the rule of law, which is certain to happen if we do not wish to revert to the law of the jungle, his list of illegal U.S. measures imposed on Iran provides the best document for the Iranian government’s claim for the payment of billions of dollars of reparation to Iran.

4- On 21 May 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set out a set of 12 illegal, tough and arrogant demands from Iran, which read like a declaration of war and went well beyond the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA. If Iran had agreed to implement those conditions, it would have been nothing short of complete capitulation and surrender of a country that has been totally defeated in war. It is hard to find a precedent for the sheer audacity and arrogance of those demands even during the heyday of European colonialism.

The United States has a large number of bases, thousands of troops and many military assets in the Middle East surrounding Iran, and yet Pompeo speaks about Iran’s aggressive and destabilising behaviour, and calls on Iran to behave like a normal country!

5- In an unprecedented move in the history of international relations, on 8 April 2019 the U.S. government designated Iran’s 150,000-strong Revolutionary Guards, a major part of Iranian state’s armed forces, as a foreign terrorist organisation. It is interesting to note that when Ms Wheelbarger was asked about Iran’s reciprocal action in designating CENTCOM as a foreign terrorist organisation, she said: “I think the — the Iranian designation of CENTCOM has no meaning in international law or norms”, as though the US’s original action is fully compliant with international law or norms.

6- On 5 May 2019, in an unusual move, the National Security Advisor John Bolton, and not the President or the Acting Secretary of Defense, announced that USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force would be sent to the Persian Gulf, “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings…” (https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/bolton-warns-iran-carrier-strike-group-bombers-way-middle-east)

Israeli officials said that they understood that “intelligence, gathered by the Mossad intelligence agency, was part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.” Bolton did not elaborate on the troubling indications, but some officials said: “Over the weekend, Iranian-backed terrorists in Gaza launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.” During the following days a number of other events such as attacks on Saudi pipelines and pumping facilities and a rocket attack in the vicinity of the green zone in Baghdad were attributed to Iran without providing any evidence for Iran’s involvement.

7- Not only would any direct action by Iran be responded to with force, but Iran would be held responsible for even any action taken by various groups from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Houthis in Yemen or various Shi’a groups in Iraq or Syria. The Secretary of State Pompeo spread the net very wide, saying that if attacks came from “some third-party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hizbullah, we will hold the … Iranian leadership directly accountable for that”. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/06/us-deploys-aircraft-carrier-and-bombers-after-troubling-indications-from-iran)

In this case, if any group loosely connected with Iran is accused of having carried out a hostile action or if a regional state wishes to start a war with a red flag operation, it would be very easy to involve Iran in a devastating war against U.S. forces.

8- President Trump’s pronouncements on Iran have gyrated at a giddying pace. On Sunday 19 May, after a golf game at his club outside Washington D.C. the President tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” It is not clear what brought on that genocidal outburst, but fortunately his recent remarks have been much more conciliatory.

On a visit to Japan over the Memorial Day weekend, President Trump said the U.S. is“not looking for regime change” in Iran. In a press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the president said: “I am not looking to hurt Iran at all. I am looking to have Iran say no nuclear weapons. We have enough problems in this world right now with nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapons for Iran, and I think we can make a deal. I think Iran again, Iran has tremendous economic potential.” (https://www.juancole.com/2019/05/really-iranian-nuclear.html)

The Japanese prime minister is planning a trip to Tehran next month and he plans to mediate between Iran and the United States.

Let’s hope that these conciliatory words will not be followed by another tweet vowing the elimination of Iran, or by more pronouncements by Ambassador Bolton or Secretary of State Pompeo or officials at the Pentagon about the despatch of more aircraft carrier groups to the Persian Gulf. In the same way that Iran’s intractable nuclear program was resolved through negotiations, other points of contention can also be resolved through dialog, rather than resorting to force.

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

ABC News: “Iranian civilians feel the economic pressure as the US enforces sanctions”

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Why Pompeo’s Iran speech was So Outrageous https://www.juancole.com/2018/05/pompeos-speech-outrageous.html Wed, 23 May 2018 04:14:11 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=175700 Oxford (The Transnational) – Speaking at the Heritage Foundation…, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo practically declared war on Iran. His unprecedented threats against Iran went even beyond what President Trump had said in the past.

Commenting on the speech (full transcript here), JStreet wrote: “With their decision to violate the historic JCPOA arms control agreement, the president and his ‘war cabinet’ have created a strategic disaster of their own making and undone the major accomplishments of the previous administration. They have made the US, Israel and the world less safe.”

Short history of Iran’s nuclear activities: 1957 to the JCPOA

After 12 years of intensive talks, initially between Britain, France and Germany (the EU-3), and finally between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Iran and the leading world powers reached a landmark agreement. The nuclear deal (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was the result of the efforts of the greatest experts in nuclear non-proliferation, including experts from the IAEA and departments of energy and intelligence service of all those countries.

Iran’s nuclear programme had started in 1957 with the help of the United States as a part of the Atoms for Peace program, when a “proposed agreement for cooperation in research in the peaceful uses of atomic energy” was announced.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mohammad Reza Shah’s government started an ambitious nuclear program. It established the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre in 1967, with a US-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor, which was fueled by highly enriched uranium.

Iran was one of the first countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. The NPT allows all member states to engage in peaceful nuclear activity, including full range of processing, so long as they refrain from manufacturing nuclear weapons.

In return, the five recognized nuclear states (the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France) promised to move towards the elimination of their nuclear weapons in “good faith”. Not only have they not fulfilled this requirement, on the contrary, they have continued to develop more and more deadly and sophisticated nuclear weapons, and they have also been joined by India, Pakistan, Israel and recently by North Korea.

In 1974, with US backing, the Shah approved plans to construct up to 23 nuclear power stations, producing 23,000 megawatts of electricity. US and European companies competed against each other to help build those reactors.

In 1975, the Erlangen/Frankfurt firm signed a contract worth up to $6 billion to build the first nuclear power station in Bushehr. President Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Iran the chance to buy and operate US built power stations, including a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel.

After the Islamic Revolution, all those programmes were suspended, including the Bushehr power station that was nearly complete.

The start of the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war further delayed the resumption of the nuclear program. Eventually, in 1981 during the presidency of the late Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Iranian officials decided that the country’s nuclear development should continue.

They turned to the Western countries that had promised to build reactors in Iran to resume their work, but all of them refused to cooperate.

In 1983, IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in various aspects of reactor fuel fabrication, chemical engineering and design aspects of pilot plants for uranium conversion, corrosion of nuclear materials, LWR fuel fabrication, and pilot plant development for production of nuclear grade UO2. However, contrary to NPT regulations, the United States directly intervened to discourage IAEA assistance to Iran.

Finally, Iran turned to China, but under US pressure China too dropped her nuclear commerce with Iran.

However, Iran was successful to persuade Russia to complete the Bushehr reactor, which was completed after long delay and at great cost to Iran. Faced with this situation, Iran decided to conduct her own work on nuclear enrichment, in which she succeeded.

The United States imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran and forced other countries to follow suit. Iran was taken to the Security Council, which also imposed crippling sanctions that cut Iran’s oil exports by half and cost Iran billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Iran continued with her nuclear programme and increased the number of her centrifuges, despite threats of war, crippling sanctions, cyber sabotage, the assassination of her nuclear scientists by Israeli agents, etc.

It was only after President Barack Obama agreed that as a member of the NPT Iran was entitled to a peaceful nuclear programme that intense negotiations started, resulting in the JCPOA.

While establishing her right to engage in nuclear activity, Iran accepted the harshest conditions as confidence-building measures. The agreement reduced Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent and restricted the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent.

Given that an enrichment level of more than 90 percent is needed to build a nuclear bomb, the deal makes it impossible for Iran’s uranium to be weaponized.

Under the deal, Iran also reduced the number of its centrifuges from 20,000 to a little over 5,000, far below the number that would be needed for manufacturing a single bomb, even if she wanted to do so. Iran closed the Arak reactor, which was capable of producing plutonium, and agreed to severe restrictions on research and development activities in other facilities.

In short, the agreement made it virtually impossible for Iran to build a single bomb.

Some of Pompeo’s intolerable conditions

1) Pompeo demands that: “First, Iran must declare to the IAEA full account of prior military dimension of its nuclear programme, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity”.

This is something that was pursued under PMU or Possible Military Use during the talks. The IAEA studied all those allegations, including taking soil samples from Parchin military base where the Israelis had claimed that nuclear activity had been conducted. The IAEA decided that there had been “no diversion” of nuclear material for military use.

Iran has agreed to abandon work on nuclear weapons in perpetuity, and all the talk about so-called “sunset clauses” is baseless. In addition to being a member of the NPT, Iran has also joined the “Additional Protocol”, which requires continuous, unannounced inspections of all her nuclear sites, and she has also given an undertaking never to produce nuclear weapons.

The prohibitions do not stop at the end of the “sunset clauses”, but will continue in perpetuity.

The IAEA that is the only legal body in charge of monitoring the deal has, on eleven separate occasions, certified that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the deal.

2) “Second, Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.”

Demanding that Iran should stop enrichment goes against NPT rules. As for “never pursuing plutonium reprocessing”, this is precisely what Iran has agreed to do under the JCPOA, and has destroyed her heavy water reactor.

3) “Third, Iran must also provide to the IAEA full unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.”

This is again another provision of the JCPOA, which the IAEA has used on many occasions.

4) “Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt the launching or development of nuclear-capable missiles.”

This is yet another misleading and illegal demand. Like any other country, Iran has the right to defend herself (UN Chater Art 51) and as she is unable to acquire advanced military equipment that the United States has readily sold to all Iranian neighbours, Iran’s missiles are her only means of deterring a military aggression.

Iran does not have intercontinental ballistic missiles as she has limited the range of her missiles to 2,000 kilometres. They are not designed to carry nuclear weapons, and in any case Iran does not have nuclear warheads.

5) Pompeo accused Iran of spreading terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc.

Iran has been fighting against ISIS and other terrorists in Iraq and Syria at the invitation of the governments of those countries. It is up to the Syrian government to ask Iran to withdraw her forces from that country, not for a US Secretary of State to dictate to other countries what they should and should not do.

All experts agree that the mantra of “Iran-backed Houthis” is exaggerated propaganda, as Iran’s contacts with the Houthis and influence over them is minimal.

It is Saudi Arabia and members of her coalition who, with American support, have been bombing Yemen, killing and wounding tens of thousands of innocent people and creating the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe there.

What this is really about: Obsession with revenge and regime change

President Trump and his three senior officials, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, seem to be preparing the ground for a disastrous war with Iran.

Their hostility towards Iran does not seem to have anything to do with Iran’s nuclear programme, but has everything to do with an obsession for regime change.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mike Pompeo boasted that “one of the first things the President did is to go build a coalition of [Persian] Gulf states and Israel to help find a platform which could uniformly push back against Iranian expansionism.”(1)

When he was still a member of Congress in 2016, Pompeo called for action to “change Iranian behaviour, and, ultimately, Iranian regime.” (2)

In the past, he has called for strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.(3)

Some of his hostility towards Iran seems to have been based on his hatred of Islam. In 2015, Pompeo, then a Congressman, attacked Barack Obama, who, according to him, took the side of the “Islamic East” in its conflict with the “Christian West”. “Every time there has been a conflict between the Christian West and the Islamic East, the data points all point to a single direction,” he said.

Some of his hostility towards Iran seems to have been based on his hatred of Islam. In 2015, Pompeo, then a Congressman, attacked Barack Obama, who, according to him, took the side of the “Islamic East” in its conflict with the “Christian West”. “Every time there has been a conflict between the Christian West and the Islamic East, the data points all point to a single direction,” he said. (4)

John Bolton is another strong advocate of regime change in Iran.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on 15 January 2018, entitled “Beyond the Iran Nuclear Deal: US policy should be to end the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary”, Bolton condemned the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran as a “massive strategic blunder.”

However, he went on to say that American policy, “should be ending Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution before its fortieth anniversary.”

He continued: “Recognizing a new Iranian regime in 2019 would reverse the shame of once seeing our diplomats held hostage for four hundred and forty-four days. The former hostages can cut the ribbon to open the new U.S. Embassy in Tehran.” (5)

The former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, who is now a member of Trump’s legal team has also been a fervent advocate of regime change in Iran.

Speaking at a conference of the terrorist, cultish group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation, in Washington on 5 May 2018, Rudy Giuliani openly said that Washington’s policy was regime change in Iran, and he even promised that next year they would celebrate the event in Tehran. (6)

This obsession with the past and a deliberate decision to bring about a regime change in Iran will have incalculable costs.

Let’s not forget that prior to Iraq war, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the authors of that war, predicted that it would be a “cake walk”, that it “would pay for itself”, and that “US forces would be welcomed with roses”.

Fifteen years after that disastrous war, American forces are still operating in that country, and the war which has cost trillions of dollars to US taxpayers has killed and wounded millions of innocent Iraqi people, shattered that country and has given rise to a number of vicious terrorist movements.

It should be clear to everyone who is familiar with the Middle East that a war against Iran will not be like Iraq, it will be much worse. It will kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, will set the Middle East on fire and will do a great damage to Israel and other US allies that she seemingly wishes to support.

During his confirmation hearing at the US Senate, Mike Pompeo was asked if Russia was a unique country. He replied: “This [US] is a unique, exceptional country. Russia is unique, but not exceptional.” (7)

This kind of aggressive, bullying, threatening, demanding and illegal language has not been heard from a responsible government official since before the Second World War.

The concept of Americans being unique and exceptional and almost chosen by God, and referring to other nations as inferior, in the way that President Trump referred to the Latinos as animals, is not far removed from the concept of a superior race and Der Untermensch, or subhuman people.

If we wish to avoid the horrors of the Second World, we must put an end to this kind of arrogant mentality.

It is time for the Europeans, for all the peace-loving Americans and for millions of concerned people across the world who will be paying the cost of this misadventure to stop this madness before it is too late.

Notes

1. Aspen Security Forum, The View from Langley, July 20, 2017.

2. “Rep. Mike Pompeo: One year later, Obama’s Iran nuclear deal puts us at increased risk”, Fox News Opinion, July 14, 2016.

3. Raphael Ahren, “With anti-Iran, pro-Israel stances, Pompeo may become Jerusalem’s new darling”, The Times of Israel, 14 March 2018.

4. Peter Beinart, “Mike Pompeo at State Would Enable Trump’s Worst Instincts”, The Atlantic, Nov 30, 2017.

5. “Beyond the Iran Nuclear Deal: US policy should be to end the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary”, Wall Street Journal, Jan 15, 2018.

6. “Rudy Giuliani speaks at Iran Freedom Convention”, CBSN, May 5, 2018.

7. USA: ‘US exceptional, Russia is not’ – Trump’s Sec of State pick Pompeo on YouTube here.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Transnational

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