I watched Trump’s speech today to the nation on Iran. It had the usual boasts about the U.S. military and its “big” and “lethal” missiles, the usual bombast, the usual lies. But this passage of his speech truly struck me as beyond the pale:
Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given 150 billion dollars, not to mention 1.8 billion dollars in cash. Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they chanted Death to America.
In fact, they chanted Death to America the day the agreement was signed. Then Iran went on a terrorist spree funded by the money from the deal and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.
That’s right: the missiles used against U.S. forces last night we’re paid for by the Obama administration. Not only that: Iran went on a “terrorist spree” funded by the “foolish” Iran nuclear treaty, spreading “hell” throughout Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. I’m sure glad Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States, and other military actors in the region never spread any “hell,” despite all those Hellfire missiles launched from American drones.
So here’s a new claim for you. If the U.S. military is losing in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, the culprit is clear: the Obama administration and by extension the Democrats, the appeasers who funded Iran and made possible all of its “terrorist” activities.
Best of all, Trump wished peace and prosperity to the Iranian people, but you heard nothing about working peacefully and in prosperous ways with the Democrats.
Clearly, Trump sees the real enemy of America: Obama and the Democrats.
According to FP: Foreign Policy, these are the top five stories in U.S. foreign policy in 2019. I’ve inserted quick comments at the end in bold:
1. U.S. and Turkey Lock Horns Over Syria.
“U.S. support to the Syrian Democratic Forces has long angered Turkey, a NATO ally which views the Kurdish-led group as a terrorist threat … But in a fateful October phone call, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his longtime threat to launch a cross-border invasion. This time Trump capitulated, moving a handful of U.S. troops so the Turks could begin the assault against the Kurds … Hundreds have been killed and roughly 200,000 people were displaced.”
Comment: Syria is not a vital U.S. interest. U.S. forces shouldn’t be there. And who are these “democratic forces” of Syria?
2. Trump Impeached Over Ukraine Scandal.
“Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating a Democratic rival this year led to the third impeachment of a U.S. president in history, thrusting Washington’s national security apparatus into the spotlight.”
Comment: The U.S. shouldn’t be meddling in Ukraine. And we shouldn’t be sending more weapons there. I sure as hell don’t want my taxpayer dollars going to weapons for Ukraine.
3. North Korea Talks Sputter and Stall.
“The historic nuclear talks between Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 offered hope that the two countries could de-escalate tensions and prevent a nuclear confrontation. Talks stalled after the Singapore Summit in June 2018. While both sides made significant verbal commitments in 2019, the year saw a gradual deterioration of bilateral relations.”
Comment: North Korea isn’t giving up its nuclear weapons. The North Koreans saw what happened to Gaddafi in Libya when he gave up his WMD. Plus nuclear weapons and missiles are a prestige project for Kim Jong-un, who’s played Trump like a fiddle.
4. Iran Strikes Back.
“Tensions between Iran and the United States skyrocketed in 2019, as the U.S. maximum pressure campaign took effect and Tehran lashed out against harsh U.S. sanctions. (Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.) … Attacks have ceased in recent weeks as Tehran launched a brutal crackdown on the worst political unrest the country has seen since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. But U.S. officials are bracing for another devastating strike in the region, this time perhaps targeting the region’s critical sources of drinking water.”
Comment: Harsh U.S. sanctions are an act of war — or at least we’d see them that way if the roles were reversed. And why is Iran always seen as the aggressor capable of launching “devastating” strikes?
5. Venezuela Crisis Simmers.
“Venezuela’s Russia-backed leader Nicolás Maduro clung to power this year despite an economic collapse, nationwide blackouts and fierce opposition from Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January with support from the West. Tensions threatened to boil over in May, when Guaidó tried and failed to ignite an uprising. The attempted coup was seen as an embarrassing failure by the United States and particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton, reportedly the architect of multiple attempts to unseat Maduro. In addition to harsh sanctions, the United States went so far as to draw up military options, but never took any action.”
Comment: Looks like Bolton takes the fall for inept U.S. meddling in Venezuela. Guess what? It’s all about the oil — and the money.
Of course, FP: Foreign Policy missed the biggest story of 2019: Consistent, extensive, and persistent lying by U.S. leaders about the course of the Afghan War, as revealed by the “Afghan Papers” published by the Washington Post.
Readers — what do you think about this list? In the holiday spirit, I see much naughtiness here, and no niceness. Santa won’t be pleased.
You won’t see this illustration in the mainstream media:
If the Iranians really wanted peace, they’d move their country.
In all seriousness, U.S. media talking heads, many of them retired military officers, are constantly talking about the aggression of others and their weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Never do these “experts” speak of U.S. aggression and the WMD we have in our possession. Indeed, the U.S. maintains an earth-busting arsenal of nuclear weapons, and we remain the only country to have used atomic bombs for real (at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945). Yet we’re the ones who have to worry about Iranian nuclear weapons that don’t yet exist (and probably never will)?
Tom Engelhardt has a great new article at TomDispatch.com on how the U.S. always sees itself as the victim, as the aggrieved party, as the one who’s being threatened. Here’s an excerpt:
So here’s the strange thing, on a planet on which, in 2017, U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 149 countries, or approximately 75% of all nations; on which the U.S. has perhaps 800 military garrisons outside its own territory; on which the U.S. Navy patrols most of its oceans and seas; on which U.S. unmanned aerial drones conduct assassination strikes across a surprising range of countries; and on which the U.S. has been fighting wars, as well as more minor conflicts, for years on end from Afghanistan to Libya, Syria to Yemen, Iraq to Niger in a century in which it chose to launch full-scale invasions of two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), is it truly reasonable never to identify the U.S. as an “aggressor” anywhere?
What you might say about the United States is that, as the self-proclaimed leading proponent of democracy and human rights (even if its president is now having a set of love affairs with autocrats and dictators), Americans consider ourselves at home just about anywhere we care to be on planet Earth. It matters little how we may be armed and what we might do. Consequently, wherever Americans are bothered, harassed, threatened, attacked, we are always the ones being provoked and aggressed upon, never provoking and aggressing. I mean, how can you be the aggressor in your own house, even if that house happens to be temporarily located in Afghanistan, Iraq, or perhaps soon enough in Iran?
The U.S. as an aggressor? Impossible! Our military installations, our weaponry, even our wars are all about keeping the peace. Right?
There was a time, almost 250 years ago, when Americans successfully fought for their independence (though quite a few “loyalists” preferred compromise with the British crown). There was a time, 75 years ago, when Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy to defeat Nazi aggression. But when you look at America’s long history of wars, precious few of them can be said to have been defensive in nature. Indeed, most were acts of aggression, e.g. the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the long bloody wars against Native Americans, the Vietnam War, and more recent, undeclared, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dare I state the obvious? Americans are generally not shy, diffident, passive people. Ask most foreigners about Americans and you’ll hear words like pushy, outspoken, loud, and, yes, aggressive. (Of course. not all Americans fit this description, but think of recent representatives like Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton or Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.) Yet, with all our aggressiveness, with all our violent tendencies, why do we continue to see others as the pushy ones, the headstrong ones, the ones who want war?
A little empathy, America? Forget about it! Come on, Iran. It’s time to move. And since the U.S. dominates this planet, I have the perfect destination for you. How about Mars?
But wait: NASA wants to launch a manned mission there! And since Mars is named after the god of war, it’s a natural for us. Red and fiery in the sky — how long until we build our first military base there?
General Joseph Votel, U.S. Centcom commander, testified to the House Armed Services Committee this week that the greatest destabilizing force in the Middle East is Iran, and that the U.S. must be prepared to use “military means” to confront and defeat the Iranian threat to the region.
No doubt Iran is a pest to U.S. designs in the Middle East. No doubt Iran has its own agenda. No doubt Iran is no friend to Israel. But the greatest destabilizing force in the Greater Middle East? That’s the USA. We’re the ones who toppled Iraq in 2003, along with the legitimate government of Iran 50 years earlier.
Iran/Persia has lived in, and sometimes dominated, the Greater Middle East for 2500 years. By comparison, the USA is a newcomer on the block. Yet it’s the Iranians who are the destabilizers, the ones operating in a nefarious “grey zone” between peace and war, at least according to U.S. generals.
Besides the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which accidentally helped Iran, the U.S. continues to sell massive amounts of weaponry to Iran’s rivals, most especially Saudi Arabia. U.S. military operations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East have both destabilized the region and created marketplaces for U.S. weaponry and opportunities for economic exploitation by multinational corporations.
I’m no fan of Iran and its leaders, but can one blame them for resisting U.S. military and economic incursions into their sphere of influence? Recall how we reacted when the Russians put missiles into Cuba. Look at all the hostile rhetoric directed today against Mexico and its allegedly unfair trade practices vis-a-vis the U.S.
Let’s not forget that for 25 years (1953-78), the Shah of Iran was an American ally. The U.S. military loved to sell him our most advanced weaponry, which at that time included F-14 Tomcat fighters and HAWK missile systems. That cozy relationship died with the Iranian Revolution (1979); ally turned to enemy as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq during the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.
Yet, despite all this history, despite all the U.S. meddling, all the weapons sales, all the invasions and sanctions, somehow it’s the Iranians who are the destabilizing force, the ones deserving of more “disruptive” U.S. military action.
As America’s designs are frustrated in the Middle East, American generals never look in the mirror to see their own faults and failings. Instead, they cast about for new countries to blame — and to attack. Iran is seemingly next on the list, a country that General Mattis, America’s Secretary of Defense, said is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”
Anyone for war with Iran? U.S. generals are ready.
How about a contrary perspective on the Middle East, courtesy of my old globe? It dates from the early 1920s, just after World War I but before Russia became the Soviet Union. Taking a close look at the Middle East (a geographic term that I use loosely), you’ll notice more than a few differences from today’s maps and globes:
Iraq and Syria don’t exist. Neither does Israel. Today’s Iran is yesterday’s Persia, of course.
Instead of Iraq and Syria, we have Mesopotamia, a name that resonates history, part of the Fertile Crescent that encompassed the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well as the Nile in Egypt. Six thousand years ago, the cradle of human civilization, and now more often the scene of devastation caused mainly by endless war.
Ah, Kurdistan! The Kurds today in northern Iraq and southern Turkey would love to have their own homeland. Naturally, the Arabs and Turks, along with the Persians, feel differently.
Look closely and you’ll see “Br. Mand.” and “Fr. Mand.” With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (roughly a larger version of modern-day Turkey) at the end of World War I, the British gained a mandate over Palestine and Mesopotamia and the French gained one over territory that would become Lebanon and Syria. The British made conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs over who would control Palestine while scheming to protect their own control over the Suez Canal. A large portion of Palestine, of course, was given to Jews after the Holocaust of World War II, marking the creation of Israel and setting off several Arab-Israeli Wars(1948-73) and the ongoing low-level war between Israel and the Palestinians, most bitterly over the status of the “Occupied Territories”: land captured by the Israelis during these wars, i.e. the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip (both not labeled on my outdated globe).
Improvisation marked the creation of states such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Borders encapsulated diverse peoples with differing goals. Western powers like Britain and France cared little for tribal allegiances or Sunni/Shia sensitivities or political leanings, favoring autocratic rulers who could keep the diverse peoples who lived there in line.
Historically powerful peoples with long memories border the Middle East. The Turks and the Persians (Iranians), of course, with Russians hovering in the near distance. They all remain players with conflicting goals in the latest civil war in Syria and the struggle against ISIS/ISIL.
Three of the world’s “great” religions originated from a relatively tiny area of our globe: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Talk about a fertile crescent! Sadly, close proximity and shared roots did not foster tolerance: quite the reverse.
Remember when Saudi Arabia was just Arabia? Ah, those were the good old days, Lawrence.
Nobody talks much about Jordan, an oasis of relative calm in the area (not shown on my old globe). Lucky Jordan.
The presence of Armenia in Turkey on my old globe raises all kinds of historical ghosts, to include the Armenian genocide of World War I. Today, Turkey continues to deny that the word “genocide” is appropriate to the mass death of Armenians during World War I.
My fellow Americans, one statement: The idea that America “must lead” in this area of the world speaks to our hubris and ignorance. We are obviously not seen as impartial. Our “leadership” is mainly expressed by violent military action.
But we just can’t help ourselves. The idea of “global reach, global power” is too intoxicating. We see the globe as ours to spin. Ours to control.
Perhaps old globes can teach us the transitory nature of power. After all, those British and French mandates are gone. European powers, however grudgingly, learned to retrench. (Of course, the British and French, together with the Germans, are now bombing and blasting old mandates in the name of combating terrorism.)
I wonder how a globe made in 2115 will depict this area of the world. Will it look like today’s globe, or more like my globe from c.1920, or something entirely different? Will it show a new regional empire or more fragmentation? An empire based on Islam or a shattered and blasted infertile crescent ravaged by war and an inhospitable climate driven by global warming?
Any optimism that the Iran nuclear deal might slow the momentum of weapons sales to the Middle East has already been strangled in the cradle. Consider the following news item, courtesy of FP: Foreign Policy:
While U.S. Defense Department officials make promises to partner with Middle East allies nervous about the Iranian missile threat in their backyard, U.S. defense contractors are rushing in to ink multiple billion dollar deals to fill the gap. On Wednesday, the State Department announced a pending $5.4 billion deal with Saudi Arabia for a 600 new PAC-3 Patriot missile interceptors, which will bring the Saudi missiles up to date with the latest version of the Patriot.
The massive deal follows an April agreement with Riyadh for $2 billion worth of Patriots, and another $1.5 billion sale, announced this month, for Patriot interceptors in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will produce the missiles.
That’s $9 billion in Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) sales, a coup indeed for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
At least the Patriot SAM is largely defensive in nature. One former Obama official has gone a quantum leap further in advocating that the U.S. supply B-52 bombers to Israel armed with special bunker-busting bombs. Here’s the gist of the story, courtesy of Defense News:
A former top adviser to US President Barack Obama is calling on Washington to provide bunker-busting B-52 bombers to Israel as a means of bolstering Israeli deterrence and the credibility of its so-called military option should Iran opt out of commitments codified in Tuesday’s deal with world powers.
“To have a credible military option, it’s not enough to say all options are on the table. We have to be much more blunt,” said Ambassador Dennis Ross, a longtime diplomat and former special adviser to Obama on Iran.
In an interview Thursday, Ross said he favors the transfer of an unspecified quantity of B-52 Stratofortress bombers outfitted to deliver 30,000-pound GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators as one of the means of shoring up deterrence vis a vis Iran.
Sure: Just what the Israelis need: a huge long-range strategic bomber, originally built in the 1950s to deter, and if necessary to attack, the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. Perhaps an Israeli Major Kong can ride one of those bunker-busters right into the heartland of Iran.
When I was a teenager, America’s two biggest allies in the Middle East were Israel and Iran. We considered the Shah of Iran to be a strong ally in the region, and sold him some of our most advanced weaponry, including the F-14 Tomcat fighter with its powerful radar as well as HAWK surface-to-air missiles. Students from Iran attended American colleges and universities. Heck, we even helped Iran with its fledgling nuclear power industry.
All that changed, of course, with the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Iranian hostage crisis. America became “The Great Satan,” American flags were burned, and young Americans were told we had been betrayed. We took to wearing t-shirts that read “Put a hola in the Ayatollah,” featuring a head shot of the Ayatollah Khomeini with a sniper’s cross hair superimposed on it. (I should know: I owned and wore that very t-shirt.)
That kind of estrangement, bordering on the unhinged, is what is changing for the better because of the nuclear deal with Iran, notes Peter Van Buren at TomDispatch.com. In Van Buren’s words:
Here’s what actually matters most [about the Iran nuclear deal]: at a crucial moment and without a shot being fired, the United States and Iran have come to a turning point away from an era of outright hostility. The nuclear accord binds the two nations to years of engagement and leaves the door open to a far fuller relationship.
Iran and the USA have pulled back from the brink of war. Sorry: No more off-key renditions by John McCain about bombing Iran. Billions of dollars saved, countless innocent lives spared. What’s to complain about?
As Van Buren notes, diplomacy, at least for the time being, was allowed to work. In his words:
It’s a breakthrough because through it the U.S. and Iran acknowledge shared interests for the first time, even as they recognize their ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. That’s how adversaries work together: you don’t have to make deals like the July accord with your friends. Indeed, President Obama’s description of how the deal will be implemented — based on verification, not trust — represents a precise choice of words. The reference is to President Ronald Reagan, who used the phrase “trust but verify” in 1987 when signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Russians.
The agreement was reached the old-school way, by sitting down at a table over many months and negotiating. Diplomats consulted experts. Men and women in suits, not in uniform, did most of the talking. The process, perhaps unfamiliar to a post-9/11 generation raised on the machismo of “you’re either with us or against us,” is called compromise. It’s an essential part of a skill that is increasingly unfamiliar to Americans: diplomacy. The goal is not to defeat an enemy, find quick fixes, solve every bilateral issue, or even gain the release of the four Americans held in Iran. The goal is to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution to a specific problem. Such deft statecraft demonstrates the sort of foreign policy dexterity American voters have seldom seen exercised since Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize (Cuba being the sole exception).
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. Republicans, having no other viable path to power, reflexively attack the deal even before they’ve read it. Impostors like Mike Huckabee actually suggest the deal is leading Jews to the door of the ovens, an outrageously inflammatory and irresponsible reference to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews in World War II. Such rhetoric, wildly exaggerated, conveniently obscures the real fears of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
And what are those fears? Here’s Van Buren again to explain:
No, what fundamentally worries the Israelis and the Saudis is that Iran will rejoin the community of nations as a diplomatic and trading partner of the United States, Asia, and Europe. Embarking on a diplomatic offensive in the wake of its nuclear deal, Iranian officials assured fellow Muslim countries in the region that they hoped the accord would pave the way for greater cooperation. American policy in the Persian Gulf, once reliably focused only on its own security and energy needs, may (finally) start to line up with an increasingly multifaceted Eurasian reality. A powerful Iran is indeed a threat to the status quo — hence the upset in Tel Aviv and Riyadh — just not a military one. Real power in the twenty-first century, short of total war, rests with money.
He nails it. After all, what’s the worse that can happen? Let’s say Iran cheats and starts to develop a nuclear weapon. In that case, the U.S. will have broad support in attacking Iran to eliminate that capability. Meanwhile, the thousands of nuclear warheads that the U.S. possesses, and the hundreds of nuclear bombs the Israelis possess, should serve as a sufficient deterrent against Iranian nuclear designs (assuming the Iranians ever seek to fulfill them).
After so many failed military interventions in the Middle East, after so much death and destruction, isn’t it high time the world community tried diplomacy and engagement? I’d say so. And this from a former teenager who wore a t-shirt advocating the assassination of Iran’s revolutionary leader.