I was in a meeting in Washington DC not so long ago. I bumped into an Iranian professional. Over the course of several days we talked on and off, and in the process, I found out that his wife was stuck in Canada and could not come to the U.S. to join him because of Visa restrictions (enacted by the Trump administration). For a while I thought this was an isolated situation, but then I interviewed an Iranian residing in the U.S. for a job and in the process again, I found out he was in a similar situation (although his wife was in another country – Canada … waiting). Then today, I read a report on the Reuters news feed about how a library in Stanstead, Quebec (Canada) that has become a meeting point for many Iranian families split because of the visa restrictions. Are these isolated data points? No, I don’t think so. Bottom-line, the Trump administration is punishing ordinary Iranians – here and abroad! Why?
This administration, by the way, is not only heartless to Iranians, but I also read about a Guatemalan immigrant that is suing the U.S. government of the death of her toddler who died in custody with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol service – who had decided to divide her family and separate parents from children. The lawsuit filed claims $60 Million in damages.
I don’t get it! I just don’t get it! If you wanted to undermine the U.S. and eliminate all support for U.S. policies, screwing ordinary people like this is a good way to do it. U.S. needs popular, on the streets support to advance its interests and policies – domestically and globally. This does matter. Days of the dictators are gone. U.S. will NOT be able to advance its policies through ‘strongmen’ like Saddam!!
The Trump administration has claimed that they need these restrictions on Iranians to protect the United States. I can’t fathom this statement. The bad guys can get passports from anywhere and come in under many different nationalities – they don’t need an Iranian passport to travel. They can also travel with Diplomatic passports – and therefore the U.S. has no option but to let them in.
Don’t believe me? Well guess what? All these Russian oligarchs that are banned in the U.S. travel with their private jets in and out of the U.S. with diplomatic passports. The bad guys do as they please and there really is nothing to stop them! They use false names, false passports … I mean, even the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was traveling under a fake name, with a diplomatic passport from a Caribbean island.
Then there is the issue of sanctions on trade with Iran. This is so destructive to the U.S. it’s crazy. It has simply led to Iranian businesses working with China (and other states like India) to import whatever they need. This in turn has meant that new competitors keep emerging outside the West, for products that Iran (and other sanctioned states) would otherwise buy from the U.S. or, as we witnessed for so many years, Western products simply get transshipped via Turkey or Dubai to Iran with a markup. Sanctions are a pain in the ass, but never a real impediment. In turn, Iran too has become somewhat more self-sufficient – by for example producing almost 90% of all its pharmaceutical needs domestically! Even now copying U.S. designed fighter jets and jet engines!
But for sure, there are some products that are heavily controlled like for example commercial Aircraft or Cancer related drugs just can’t get into Iran. But of all products, these items are the most consequential to ordinary people in Iran. Banning supply of these items has led to real life consequences i.e. deaths, crashes of aging planes. Again, the Mullahs and the bad guys can just get passports from Azerbaijan or Caribbean islands – fly to Dubai and then connect to anywhere in the world, but ordinary Iranians can’t!
Its ordinary people that are being affected. Its ordinary Iranians that are suffering.
But why? Its all so strange and ironic.
All Iranians now know that the Shah was toppled, and Khomeini flew to Tehran in an Air France jumbo jet paid for by the West. Khomeini was Carter’s bitch – until he found out Carter changed his mind and was going to topple him.
We also know of the Iran-Contra saga where Reagan’s team was secretly dealing arms with the regime in Tehran for over a decade. In practical, very simple terms, ALL the outcomes of U.S. adventures in the region have not turned out the way the U.S. wanted them to. I mean, the U.S. spent trillions of dollars to essentially handed Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan etc. over to Iran’s Mullahs. Packets of dollars were being handed in cash, by Iran, to America’s hand-picked Afghan President – Karzai! Iran has handed over virtually all its sovereignty in the Caspian Sea to Western puppet states like Azerbaijan etc. for Western Oil companies to exploit all that oil and gas under the sea; and has handed more than half of the Pars gas fields in the Persian Gulf to another puppet state Qatar and its Western oil and gas companies! Then they put sanctions on Iran, but hand 8 waivers, and even provide India with a waiver so it can use Chah Bahar to transship goods to Afghanistan!
And then what? They ban Iranians from traveling to the U.S.? And both Trump and his buddies Pompeo, Graham etc. call Iranian liars, cheats … even go as far as to say, it would be terrible if they had Iranian genes? I mean who are they fooling?
Are they fooling the Saudi’s – by scaring them with Iran’s mullahs so they keep buying arms …? Is that what they are doing? Pretending to be Iran’s enemies, by banning Iranians from traveling to the U.S. – and meanwhile reap all the benefits of fooling the Saudi’s and Iran’s public? Is all this a game? Do they win points with their white supremacist voters by attacking Iran and Iranians? (Does that help them electorally in the U.S.??) Really??
Or could it be that the Mullahs too are playing ordinary Iranians? Is marg bar amrika a façade?
Whatever their games, here’s the fundamental problem, and its serious: Like the Palestinians, this nonsense is leading to a whole generation of Iranians who are being brought up (in Iran and as immigrants in the West), with deep resentment – maybe abject hatred – for the governments in the West. All this animosity may have short-term political and financial benefits to the Trump’s administration i.e., they can sell arms, and grab some votes, but in the long-run, I think this will have devastating consequences. Trump is so short-sighted its ridiculous. He is willing to say and do whatever he needs to – to simply get through the day. Damn tomorrow! That is his whole approach. And he (and his type) in Washington, are systematically destroying ‘the future’ for generations of Americans.
We cannot have it both ways. Either this is all a game, or there is real hostility between the regimes. And if this hostility is real, then surely, all this will lead to war! Right?
Is there a force large enough to take on the Mullahs? I don’t think so!
The Mullahs in Iran are NOT Saddam Hussein, and Iran surely is much larger than Granada! Even with all the shock and awe in the world, I don’t think, toppling the Mullahs is easy. The Mullahs are much too shrewd and too capable. They have been under nominal ‘siege’ for so long, that I don’t really think a direct confrontation will Topple them. All this hostility is futile. They command over one million-men in militias across 4 or maybe 5 countries or maybe even 6 or 7 depending on how you count them! I mean its at least 500,000 Basijis in Tehran alone. Add to that the Militias they have set up in Iraq, in Syria and Lebanon. Then add to that Afghan mercenaries’ fighting for Iran residing across their whole sphere of influence, but also in Afghanistan. There are Shiite ‘groups’ in Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia (to name a few). Not to be forgotten are the Houthis in Yemen. Iran could shut down transportation in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea in a heartbeat. They have precision missiles – given to them by North Korea. They have their own secret stash of nuclear warheads that they smuggled in from Ukraine (after the fall of the Soviet Union).
Then they have two parallel militaries – the IRGC and regular defense forces (with both commanding an Air Force, a Navy and Army) in parallel with each other. Oh, and by the way, they are doing all this with a total budget that is less than the price of a single U.S. Aircraft carrier i.e. for under $13 Billion! With all the money that was handed to Saddam Hussein by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE … and the West, and Saddam’s million-man army and huge air force advantage – he could not dislodge Iranian forces! Even after 8 years. Then there is Russia and China ‘nominally’ backing the regime in Tehran! And when we look at how the U.S. walked out of Iraq and Afghanistan with its tail in its hands, can the U.S. or Israel or Saudi Arabia or ALL combined truly imagine a direct confrontation with the Mullahs? Really? The Saudi’s with all their latest, most high-tech armaments from the U.S. can’t even dislodge a bunch of Bedouin villagers in Yemen – let alone take on an organized, experienced multi-dimensional Iranian force.
And there is ONE other dimension to all this. Every time Iran is attacked, the people of Iran end up immediately supporting the regime in power – regardless of who is in power. Iranians are very nationalistic. All this animosity and hatred ONLY reinforces the regime in Iran. Saddam Hussein’s attack on Iran, cemented the Mullahs in power – it did not undermine them or weaken their grip on Iran. It was the most idiotic move imaginable. (I am sure someone like MBS in Saudi Arabia must have had something to do with the decision – only an idiot like MBS would precipitate something like it – so brutal and idiotic at the same time).
Anyway, its ordinary people being affected – not the bad guys, not the regime. And Trump (and the West) are not really gaining any more friends or influence in Iran or the region. The same, by the way, could be said of Yemen. And the same could be said about the debacle in Syria (Assad remains in power, while there have been 5 million refugees, and over 500,000 people killed). Nothing positive has been or is being achieved.
It’s all idiotic. And why? I don’t get it. For arm sales to Saudi Arabia or UAE? To appease Israel? (Are the Israeli this stupid? Do they want a generation of people across the middle east to despise them and their allies?) What if the Shiites in Eastern Saudi Arabia revolt and get hold of all these expensive arms the Saudis are buying? Might they turn on Israel with them? There are huge risks in continuing this policy. Nothing good can come out of all this! Its high risk. It’s not smart. I don’t get it.