Tarek R. Dika – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 03 Mar 2020 02:48:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.6 The Corporate Democrats’ Biden Obsession https://www.juancole.com/2020/03/corporate-democrats-obsession.html Tue, 03 Mar 2020 05:02:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=189455 Notre Dame, IN (Special to Informed Comment) – The Establishment wing of the Democratic Party is so worried about the possibility of a Sanders victory on Super Tuesday that they would rather have Biden win the primary and lose the general election than have Sanders win both. And it is clear that Sanders is a far more electable candidate than Biden will ever be. Not long ago everybody regarded Biden’s campaign as dead in the water. A single big victory in South Carolina appears to have fueled establishment fantasies that the former Vice President can win the nomination and beat Trump.

The war on the Sanders’ campaign is clear evidence that the Establishment wing of the Democratic Party would rather retain the party ideology that got Trump elected in the first place than actually listen to what much of the Democratic voting base overwhelmingly supports: a major overhaul of an economic system in which the rich control the levers of power and everybody else is left to fend for the crumbs.

The Democratic Party is playing with fire. They are betting that Sanders supporters hate Trump so much that they’ll vote for any Democrat come November. That stance may be a major miscalculation. Will Sanders supporters cheering for deep structural change really just vote for any Democrat – even if Bernie tells them to? If Sanders wins a plurality of delegates and is denied the nomination in Milwaukee by the party leadership, it is hard to see how Sanders supporters would not regard it as a slap in the face. If their burning resentment keeps many from the polls, the DNC will have effectively ensured the reelection of Donald Trump.

Joe Biden’s campaign has been an unmitigated disaster. Everybody knows that he does not have the coalition needed to win in the general election. He barely has the coalition needed to win in the Democratic primary. Last-ditch efforts by the so-called “moderates” to shore up his campaign are a sign of desperation, not strength. Instead of throwing their support behind a candidate whose coalition has already produced serious results and that has real staying power, they have decided to support a candidate whose inability to win when he is not endorsed by major party leaders is the clearest indication that he does not excite the base.

Elisabeth Warren has proven that she really has no political instincts and would rather derail the possibility of a progressive victory than face the music and suspend her campaign. The New York Times reports that her decision to remain in the campaign has delighted leaders in the Democratic Party, who will no doubt throw her under the bus once she has served her purpose. She should suspend her campaign and shore up the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The failure of the progressive wing to form a united front against Third Way Democrats presents no less of a threat to their success than the unification of the moderate wing behind Biden.

All of this means that the Democratic Party is too confused to defeat Donald Trump. Even if Sanders wins the nomination, the leadership will only show lukewarm support. In the end, the success of Donald Trump has proven that American political parties care far more about their own survival than they do about the general welfare of the American public. Right now, the Establishment wing of the Democratic Party believes that it is facing an existential threat, not from Trump, but from Sanders – not from the right, but from the left. Trump can’t destroy the Democratic Party, even if he costs them another election. Sanders, on the other hand, can permanently transform the Democratic Party for decades to come. And that scares them more than anything else.

This is still the party of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. This is still the party that only managed to defeat George H.W. Bush in the early 90s by becoming Eisenhower Republicans and accommodating highly centralized corporate power at the expense of everyone else. This is still the party that believes in technocratic management over justice, in fake calls for “unity” when a war is being waged in this country every day against working and poor people. Above all, they believe in authoritarian-style backroom deals where super-delegates decide who gets to run for president when democracy does not work in their favor.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Sky News Australia: “‘Stop Sanders Coalition’ forms as Buttigieg and Klobuchar withdraw from Democratic race”

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The Coming American Assault on Iran, Part II https://www.juancole.com/2019/05/coming-american-assault-iran.html Tue, 21 May 2019 04:08:10 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=184146 (Informed Comment) – One year ago, I wrote an article on the Trump administration’s plan for an attack on Iran. My evidence was based on Bolton’s and Pompeo’s known commitment to regime-change in Iran as well as the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA. The Trump administration’s strategy, I argued, would be to back Iran into a corner by making their decision to remain in the nuclear deal costlier – politically and economically – than pulling out of it. By unilaterally imposing harsh sanctions on Iran and punishing any country that does business with Iran, the Iranians would eventually decide to pull out of the deal. The Americans would then attack. The Europeans would protest, but do nothing.

All of this is now becoming a reality. The Iranians have partially withdrawn from the nuclear deal, and will begin enriching uranium at slightly higher levels than before. The Americans have punished anybody who does business with Iran. The White house has reviewed military plans against Iran, built up American military forces in the region, and evacuated all non-essential employees from Iraq. The Europeans are skeptical of American claims that an Iranian attack is imminent. In the event of an attack, their protests will grow louder, but will fall on deaf ears in Washington.

There is no mystery about why the Trump administration is so single-mindedly focused on Iran: the Iranians do not play by American rules, and it has been longstanding American policy that regimes like Iran should be overthrown and replaced. What is special about the current situation is the confluence of foreign-policy hawks like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who have long advocated regime change in Iran, and the sense in Israel and Saudi Arabia that the Trump administration is the only American administration in recent history likely and willing to attack Iran. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, but the window is very narrow. All of the players are eager to seize it before it’s too late and another American administration restores the terms of the JCPOA, dashing Israeli and Saudi hopes for direct military action.

Ever since the Trump administration came to power, the Saudis and the Israelis have been pushing for a war against Iran. The Saudis are going bonkers over their losses in Syria and Yemen. Despite all his American tax-payer supported butchery in Yemen, Muhammad bin Salman has failed to secure a solid win in that theatre. Asad continues to reign over what remains of a tragically destroyed nation. Hezbollah remains strong in Lebanon, perhaps even stronger than before. Iraq remains friendlier to Iran than Saudi Arabia. Every Saudi loss, it seems, is another Iranian victory. But the Saudis cannot defeat the Iranians on their own; they need the Americans to do it for them. Pompeo and Bolton are only too willing to oblige.

Netanyahu has been begging for a war on Iran for years, but it is not the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons he fears. Israel has more nuclear weapons than any other country in the region. Iran has no nuclear weapons. Netanyahu wants to destroy Israel’s adversary in South Lebanon, an adversary its military has repeatedly tried, and failed, to defeat: Hezbollah, a staunch Iranian ally and de facto sovereign of Lebanon. Like the Saudis, the Israelis need the Americans to defeat the Iranians for them. With Iran out of the way, Hezbollah will be so weakened that it will not survive Israel’s next war on Lebanon.

What American officials want is stability, not democracy, and by “stability” I mean the continuation and, when possible, expansion of Saudi, Israeli, and Egyptian power in the Middle East. Iran is no friend of democracy or democratic uprisings within its own borders, but it is not opposed to such uprisings elsewhere, so long as they weaken their adversaries’ grip on the region. Democracy in the Middle East is a threat to American, Israeli, and Saudi power even when the Iranians are not involved. But every American ally lost is a potential Iranian ally gained. That is a threat the Americans, Israelis, and Saudis simply cannot accept.

Tarek R. Dika is a professor at the University of Notre Dame.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Trump threatens Iran’s ‘end’ if it seeks fight with the US | Al Jazeera English

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The Coming American Assault on Iran https://www.juancole.com/2018/05/coming-american-assault.html Fri, 11 May 2018 07:23:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=175275 The new American strategy on Iran is to dismantle the nuclear deal and lay the groundwork for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s most recent Secretary of State, recently visited Saudi Arabia and Israel, and in both countries he focused almost exclusively on Iran. As yesterday’s early morning bombing of Iranian targets in Syria has shown, the Israelis are becoming increasingly concerned that a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria will harm their security.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently expressed dismay when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to rule out a long-term Iranian presence in the Golan Heights. John Kerry recently revealed that the Israelis frequently appealed to the Obama administration to attack Iranian nuclear sites. He also revealed that all American allies in the Middle East have repeatedly implored the United States to take military action against Iran.

The Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) was specifically focused on freezing Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium over the next 25 years. In 2014, Pompeo, then Republican senator of Kansas, went on record as stating that “it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.” These are not the words of a man who has much patience for diplomacy.

North Korea is different: it already has nuclear weapons and the ability to strike American targets. Pompeo speaks softly with the North Koreans, but with Iran, which has no nuclear capacities (and according to Pompeo himself, was not seeking them prior to the nuclear deal), he carries a stick. John Bolton, whose support for the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003 is well documented, has long advocated a military strike against Iran, and he has a very cozy relationship with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an Iranian dissident organization dedicated to regime change in Iran.

No doubt, the Trump administration does not expect the Iranians to accept any renegotiation of the nuclear deal. This is already clear from the absurd requirements they expect the Iranians to accept in any future deal. They want Iran to refrain from pursuing its geopolitical objectives in the region while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel freely pursue their own policy of further destroying the Palestinians, supporting radical Islamists in Syria against Asad, and creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world in Yemen.

For their part, the Iranians already see the nuclear deal as a huge compromise: Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the treaty clearly states that signatories are not under any legal obligation to refrain from enriching uranium, so long as it is used for civilian, not military purposes. The fact that the Iranians even accepted this deal is already a major concession to Western powers, and the only reason they accepted the deal was to escape years of crippling economic sanctions. The idea that they would now return to the table after years of grueling negotiations is highly unlikely.

The Trump administration no doubt knows this, and must already have discussed how to react to the possibility of Iran’s decision to pull out of the deal. The Trump administration will do all it can to freeze Iran’s economy and sanction any European firm that does business with Iran, effectively re-imposing the sanctions the Iranians hoped to escape by signing the nuclear deal: “Even once all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran have been lifted, Iran will remain one of the most sanctioned countries on earth.”

This de facto blockade will embolden hardliners in Iran who saw in the nuclear deal little more than capitulation to the fickle and ever-changing demands of the West. The Iranians will themselves abandon the deal if the cost of remaining in it becomes higher than the cost of pulling out. They may decide to reinstate their enrichment program. The Trump administration is betting that this will occur, and that it will cause European powers to unite behind an American military strike against Iran. All of the pieces will be in place.

No sooner did Pompeo end his brief visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel than did Netanyahu go live on Israeli television and, standing behind a screen that read “Iran Lied” in big black letters, claim that he has special evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear program. Political theatre: the Washington Post reports that most of the evidence presented dates back to 2015, before the nuclear deal was even signed, and that “intelligence experts and diplomats said he did not seem to have presented a ‘smoking gun’ showing that Iran had violated the agreement, although he may have helped make a case on behalf of hawks in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration who want to scrap it.” He appears to have succeeded.

The meaning of Trump’s alleged “isolationism” is finally becoming clear: what he really opposes are large-scale ground invasions (which he perceives as a drain on American military resources), not air campaigns against foreign adversaries. He hired Pompeo and Bolton partly in order to pursue a more aggressive strategy against Iran. They know what they are doing.

An American strike against Iran raises the specter of a wider regional war. Unlike their mute response to Israel’s recent strike against Iranian targets in Syria, the Russians will likely see any attack on Iran as an attack on one of their key assets in the region. Those opposed to military action against Iran urgently need to start speaking up now if they hope to inform the American public on the disastrous consequences any attack against Iran is likely to have, for the region and for the Iranian people themselves.

Cover Photo: US President Donald Trump has announced his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, but his administration wants inspections of Tehran’s nuclear sites to continue, officials say.

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