Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tehran Punches Back

By Michael Howard
It was a matter of time before the leadership of Iran retaliated against Uncle Sam’s mobster tactics. The nuclear agreement was working as advertised: even if it wanted to—which it clearly doesn’t, hence the agreement—Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapons system. Tehran was in full compliance with the terms of the deal, allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unrestricted access to all its nuclear facilities. This was repeatedly confirmed by the United Nations.
In March 2018, two months before the Trump regime announced that it would unilaterally ax the international agreement, the IAEA reiterated that, despite Israeli propaganda, Iran had not violated any of its obligations. “The IAEA now has the world’s most robust verification regime in place in Iran. We have had access to all the locations that we needed to visit,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano declared. “IAEA inspectors now spend 3,000 calendar days per year on the ground in Iran. We have installed some 2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment. We have carried out more than 60 complementary accesses and visited more than 190 buildings since JCPOA Implementation Day.”
The IAEA was gathering “hundreds of thousands of [satellite] images” and more than “one million pieces of open source information each month,” making for the strongest ever verification capability. “As of today,” Amano asserted, “I can state that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments.”
This was good news to everyone concerned about nuclear proliferation and the possibility of nuclear war—and a source of vexation for the neocons in Washington. A successful nuclear agreement meant a rapprochement between Iran and the rest of the world. It meant that Iran could no longer be branded a rogue state, but would instead by regarded as—brace yourself—a normal country with whom other countries could trade and cooperate on global security issues. For Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States under Trump (the real Axis of Evil), this represented an unbearable shift in international relations. Iran’s pariah status is essential to the prevailing power arrangement in the Middle East, whereby US corporations manage the development and distribution of resources, Israel encroaches further into Palestinian territory (and bombs whoever its wants) and Saudi Arabia exercises outsize control over oil markets.
Any threat to said arrangement—e.g. peaceful negotiations—is to be crushed. The JCPOA constituted such a threat. Thus we were treated to an amplification of the standard Israeli rhetoric, complete with power point presentations by Netanyahu about Iran’s “atomic archive.” We saw Saudi Arabia, Israel’s new best friend, attempt a few zany geopolitical maneuvers, namely the abduction of Lebanon’s prime minister and the diplomatic and economic attack on Qatar, both designed to isolate Iran. From Washington we got the usual platitudes (or should I say “tropes”?) about Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing actions and blah, blah, blah. Plus this little tweet from the POTUS, addressed to the president of Iran (emphasis not mine): “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Demented words of violence and death, indeed.
Now Trump has designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. “We will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior,” yelped the leader of the country that sanctions, bombs and invades without any regard for international law. No matter how often I see it, the hypocrisy never fails to astound.
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter explains in The American Conservative: “Given the fact Washington is currently engaged in a global ‘war’ on terrorism, this designation—which places the IRGC on the same footing as ISIS and al-Qaeda—means that the U.S. is in effect at war with Iran.”
Recall that the Authorization for Use of Military Force, signed into law on 18 September 2001, permits the president of the United States “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Iran is routinely accused by the US government of being, or having been, in league with al-Qaeda, despite the notion’s patent absurdity. Iran and al-Qaeda—along with every other Wahhabi militant group—are natural enemies, hence Iran’s support for Damascus and Hezbollah in their fight against ISIS (formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq) and al-Qaeda’s various Syrian franchises. Hezbollah, of course, is a deemed a terrorist organization because it successfully expelled IDF troops from Southern Lebanon, which they had illegally occupied for two decades. Iran supports Hezbollah; ergo, it “sponsors terrorism.”
In stamping the “terrorist” label onto the IRGC, the Trump regime is setting the stage for military aggression against Iran—or “the mother of all wars,” as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put it, prompting Trump’s VERY ANGRY TWEET. The mother of all wars may be an exaggeration, but there’s no doubt that a military conflict between the two countries would leave tons of Iranians and Americans dead, and would most likely bankrupt the empire for good.
In the meantime, Washington is doing its level best to bankrupt Iran. Going forward, we’re told, there will be no more waivers for countries that continue to import Iranian oil. We’re gonna sanction ‘em all. (Prepare for higher gas prices.) In response, Rouhani has announced that Iran is prepared to resume enriching uranium above the 3.67 percent stipulated by the JCPOA, unless the other signatories can guarantee Iranian exports in the wake of extended US sanctions. “If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one,” he stated, adding that “these actions are in line with the JCPOA.”
The latter assertion is true. Like all sane agreements, the JCPOA goes two ways: Iran scales back enrichment and subjects itself to the most invasive and comprehensive inspections regime to date, and the West abolishes nuclear-related sanctions. It is predicated on the assumption that each party negotiated in good faith. Iran has continued, by choice, to fulfill its commitments in spite of American bad faith. If Europe yields to US threats, as they are wont to do, that will be the end of the JCPOA, and Iran will react accordingly. Washington would like nothing more: Iranian “violations” are grist for the empire’s propaganda mill. They’ll give a pretext for more sanctions and, quite possibly, depending on how certifiable Trump and his apparatchiks are, the use of force. The prospect is terrible. But Iran’s only alternative is to abandon its integrity and submit to American gangsterism—and that, from the Iranian vantage point, is a far worse prospect.

This article originally appeared on American Herald Tribune.

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