There’s an old adage: You get more flies with honey than a fly squatter. And it’s true. So if you want to get ‘something’ try being nice first!
And so following the advice in this adage, the U.S. government (as instructed by its elite, behind the scenes operators) invested in the rise of Barack Obama. He was handed a simple goal, clean up 30 years of stupidity in foreign policy (starting with Jimmy Carter in 1979). His team was tasked with being nice to draw Iran back into the U.S. fold. Even his name “Obama”; or in Persian U ba Ma (pronounced loosely) translates to “Him with Us” was supposed to help restore friendship between nations. And to boot, at roughly the same time, a new ‘reform’ minded administration came to power in Iran (under President Rouhani) that was supposed to set the stage for improvement in relations.
But, negotiations dragged on. And, Iran’s ally (Syria) was at the same time systematically undermined by the U.S. (and its allies) with indirect U.S. sponsorship of nuts likeISIS. And while Iran’s heavy water nuclear reactors have gone, (along with a stockpile of enriched Uranium), mistrust remains. The nations are no closer.
Part of the mistrust, for sure, is driven by long-time U.S. allies: Saudi Arabia and Israel pushing for a war with Iran and a complete cut in U.S. relations with Iran. And another part of the mistrust, comes from ongoing public rhetoric on both sides – with more extreme factions inside both countries stirring hatred and resentment.
Meanwhile, fundamental strategic interests between the two countries always suggest that a much closer bond would be optimal. Whilethe atmosphere for good relations remains poisoned, given a clean slate, the two nations ‘should’ be much closer than they are today.
I liken the U.S. and Iran to two young, impetuous lovers, like Romeo and Juliet. They really love each other and have real fundamental chemistry; but the whole world around them wants their relationship to come to an end. And maybe in the end, they just end up killing each other because of it all.
And what are the fundamentals:
(1) Iran has a huge border with Russia that has been steadily undermined over centuries. Quite simply, Iran has always wanted a strong ally to ward off Russian (and European) imperialism (that by the way, never seems to stop). Countries like Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan etc. (all the stans) were part of Iran for several thousand years but were cut off from Iran by the Russians. And Russia continues to seek access to warm water ports for its year-round shipping needs. Russia will always be a threat to Iran. This threat has to be ‘balanced’. And, only the U.S. can provide such a strategic balance. (The Brits, and Europeans (more generally) have been secretly in bed with the Russians for a long-time).
(2) Iran’s domestic politics (and its territorial) integrity have been steadily undermined by the Brits (and Europeans); with democracy in Iran undermined 3 times in the past 100 years. Afghanistan (once part of Iran) was pulled from Iran by essentially British manipulation. And the Brits have never stopped their anti-Iranian campaigns within the U.S. – they have nudged the U.S. to sponsor coups, and wars that have undermined Iran. Iranians know very well that for example without Churchill lying to Eisenhower, the U.S. would never have participated in the 1952 coup to topple Iran’s democratic government. The Brits have been tightly linked with the Mullahs in Iran and would be thrilled to see Iran’s long-term demise.But surely, the U.S. with their revolutionary war history against the Brits surely understand and appreciate Iran’s position vis-à-vis Britain. And note, British and U.S. interests in the Middle East are NOT the same.
(3) From an economic perspective, Iranians are more interested in doing business with the United States than with Russia or China. The U.S. presents a very large market for exports, and vibrant innovative companies that can more effectively enable Iran to move forward both economically and technologically. Large U.S. companies like Boeing and GE can help Iran develop its infrastructure, more effectively than say Russia’s or Chinese Aircraft manufacturers!
(4) The U.S. also harbors literally millions of Iranian refugees that have been welcomed and found opportunity there. There are more Iranian immigrants in the U.S. than any other country. Despite sanctions and the passage of time, most of this community has maintained some connectivity with Iran. There are for example, dozens of Iranian satellite TV stations based in the U.S. beaming Persian language programing in the U.S. and also to Iran. Iranians in the U.S. are well poised to assist in the development of a deep strategic relationship between the countries.
Without doubt, the U.S. is Iran’s ‘most natural’ ally. These are fundamental realities no one can change.
But, the U.S. has always played its cards badly. Endless wars sponsored by the U.S. in Iran’s neighborhood have created a highly defensive and suspicious posture within Iran ruling elite. Iran has effectively been managed by its military establishment since the early 80’s when the U.S. (and its allies) sponsored Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran. Over 80 percent of Iran’s economy is effectively in the hand of the IRGC (Islamic Republic Guards). The religious establishment that was brought to power in Iran (with covert U.S. assistance, I might add) now has full control, but remains paranoid and fears U.S. sponsored regime change. Despite the fundamentals, there appears to be no breakthrough feasible under these conditions. And the rhetoric on the street – on both sides – is bad.
Meanwhile, as a measure of self-preservation, the regime in Iran has steadily increased its engagement with America’s regional competitors – i.e. Russia and China. Iran and Russia are cooperating in dealing with the Syrian crisis in a historically unparalleled way. China is building a major transportation system across central Asia through Iran. And America’s defacto departure from Afghanistan and Iraq has given Iran a pretext to effectively move in as the principal regional power to fill the vacuum left behind by U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. is not popular in the places it has invaded, and Iran can’t seem to be aligned with the U.S. as it takes over regional leadership and rebuilds in these war-torn regions (where the U.S. has clearly failed to improve people’s lives with its invasions).To make matters even worse, many in the region see the U.S. (and its allies’) hand in the rise of groups like ISIS, or expanded poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Judged purely by results or outcomes, the U.S.’s involvement in the region has not been ‘value added’!
Despite spending literally trillions of dollars (3, 4 or 5 trillion, [who really knows]), the U.S. has nothing of substance to show for its regional escapades to American citizens too. The U.S. has effectively ‘retreated’ and ‘lost out’.
But, a rapprochement with Iran could have enabled the U.S. to use its defeat of Iran’s enemies as a pretext for introducing Iran as a new regional ‘rebuilder’ and thus claim some credit for the creation of a new, better region. Seen as a new arm of U.S. foreign policy, Iran could have been America’s agent for ‘adding value’ to the region. Iran and Iranians could take over management and help stabilize war torn areas – in the name of the U.S.; and even cooperatively with the U.S.. Iran could have served as an investment hub for American companies to engage in the rebuilding processes.
But such an outcome is now thought to be a ‘strategic wet dream’. It just can’t happen under the circumstances. Niceness with Iran has delivered nothing. Even removal of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, isn’t much of a strategic coup for the U.S.– given that Iran has access to North Korea’s arsenal and its own highly advanced missile delivery systems.
From a strategic point of view, the U.S. is effectively out of the game, and doesn’t have an easy path back in. The U.S. is out in the cold (economically) too. In the long-run, given Iran’s regional influence and geography this might be a very significant strategic setback for the U.S.
Meanwhile, sensing a major opportunity, the Europeans are positioning to re-start serious trading with Iran. They’ve jumped in, along with the Russians and Chinese. A new strategic triad between Iran, Russia and China is forming and this would have very serious strategic consequences for the U.S.
So how would a new President in the Whitehouse confront this reality? What can be done?
Well, the situation is very digital. It’s very black or white. Either the U.S. finds a way to more effectively deal with the regime in Tehran or plans an outright war. (Regime change doesn’t appear to be an option any more).
With Obama leaving office, the days of niceness may be coming to an end. Contrary to any election year rhetoric, both Hillary and Trump are hawks. There isn’t a single decision to go to war that Hillary Clinton did not support. And well, Donald is Donald! He will fight hard and hit hard – without shame, or limits. We all know that.
So it’s very clear that the days of ‘nice’ will be over and a new as*hole in the Whitehouse is probably going to abandon niceness. A new administration could simply decide to take on the regime in Iran to force its way back into the region. Surely, the U.S. will NOT sit back and accept such a serious strategic defeat.
While Obama has kept direct involvement in conflicts to a minimum and pushed his agenda indirectly (by proxy), the new resident of the Whitehouse will once again push for direct war. In the past 8 years, the United States and Iran have avoided direct conflict, however, despite ongoing negotiations, they have arguably engaged in significant proxy conflict. Unfortunately, the next phase of this conflict will likely be direct confrontation.
My guess is, that direct confrontation would likely start with a combined Saudi-Israeli war with Iran, which would then draw the U.S. directly into the theater in a secondary phase. The Obama administration has avoided this prospect, but a new administration likely would proceed. Whoever resides in the Whitehouse will become Netanyahu’s (another As*hole’s) best friend.
I keep using the term “as*hole’ because, it will take a truly ruthless leader to make a decision to take on Iran directly. The casualties will be very high (in fact much higher than Iraq). It will be very costly. Oil prices will be driven to unprecedented levels. There will be very serious economic consequences. This will be no cakewalk.
Will the U.S. sit back and watch the Europeans, Russians and Chinese ‘run with the prize’? What are America’s real options here? Has the U.S. truly lost out?
My own humble opinion on all this, is that in fact American ‘defeat’ in Iraq and even its proxies in Syria has been carefully stage managed. I mean, it was planned. Growing up in Iran, I never really understood that there could ever be any sort of a Shiite linkage between Iranians and Shiites in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq! I almost like to think that the recent rise of “Shiism” in the region is an outcome that has been imposed on Iran and the region from outside the region. This rise has had one singular outcome: to provide another ‘serious enemy’ for Israel. Someone outside the region, is actually planning a direct confrontation between Israel and this (new, and highly experienced) united Shiite front. America’s loss may have been engineered by America itself.
If nothing else, ISIS has provided a pretext to (a) ethnically cleanse Iraq and Syria of all groups except Kurds and Shiites, and (b) to unite the Shiites as one consolidated, and united force. If a direct confrontation with Iran is eventually ‘ordered’to America’s regional allies, both Saudi Arabia and Israel will face a formidable opponent in the form of Iran’s united Shiite force(s). Even with an eventual U.S. involvement, I don’t see a scenario where Israeli forces will simply march into Tehran. In fact, quite surprisingly, it could be the other way around … the Shiites could march into Jerusalem.
Unwittingly, the U.S. may be setting everyone up to kill each other into a stalemate… so they can come in after the fact and reset everything the way they want it. A regional war would cause serious change in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran! But the U.S. could come in and take over the region again and push its enemies out. New regimes in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran could become new U.S. puppets!
Maybe after 9/11, there has been a major shift in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. Wahabism has been the ideological source of terrorism and open warfare as expressed by the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram… you name it. The plan, I believe, involves undermining Saudi Arabia. Yes, all this seems very deliberate. A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran maybe the only option available to confront Saudi Arabia directly, and undermine the Kingdom.
And a war between Iran and Israel could force Israel to sue for a final regional peace. It could settle everything once and for all. Since Israel does have peace with Egypt, surely it now needs a final deal on its eastern front too.
Is a direct confrontation with Iran part of the ‘real’ master plan? Has this been the plan all along? Was the denuclearization of Iran, part of the scheme to make such a war less ‘destructive’ and perhaps even force a stalemate that will force Israel to the negotiating table. Could this mean regime change in Saudi Arabia and even Iran? Could this war clear the way for a final deal that will eliminate conflicts from the region for centuries to come? Could such a war be contained and not spread elsewhere? Might Russia be drawn in, and then lead into a world war of giant proportions? Who really knows?What is the real agenda here?
Whatever the agenda is, it won’t be good. The days of niceness will be gone with Obama. A new ‘As*hole’ will be needed in the Whitehouse that will unashamedly go to war and execute on this master plan without fear of any casualties. Blood will be spilt. Only a real As*hole could execute on the final part of this plan… It won’t be pretty.