ماذا لو نجحت واشنطن بخنق إيران وإضعافها؟

يونيو 13, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– تؤكد حال اللاحرب واللاتفاهم التي تسود ويرجّح أن تسود العلاقات الأميركية الإيرانية أن واشنطن لا تملك خريطة طريق لما بعد الانسحاب من التفاهم النووي سوى الرهان على الفوز ببلوغ مرحلة تختنق فيها إيران اقتصادياً وتضعف داخلياً، فتضطر لوقف برنامجها النووي وبرنامجها الصاروخي وتوقف دعم حركات المقاومة، لحاجتها للإنفاق بالأولوية على حاجات المجتمع الإيراني، وينشأ ميزان قوى جديد سيكون الأفضل معه لطهران القبول بالتفاوض من موقع مختلف للوصول إلى تفاهمات جديدة، بشأن دورها الإقليمي وبرنامجها النووي وقدرتها الصاروخية، وهي الشروط الأميركية للتفاوض.

– كثيرة هي مراكز الدراسات الأميركية والأوروبية التي تجزم بأن الطريق مسدود أمام الرهان الأميركي، حيث تعيش إيران الاكتفاء الذاتي الزراعي والصناعي في كل المواد الاستهلاكية الأساسية لمواطنيها، بمواد أولية محلية ويد عاملة محلية، ولذلك لا يشكل النفط أكثر من 20 من الناتج المحلي الإيراني. وتقول التقارير الدولية إن إيران التي تملك حدوداً برية بآلاف الكليومترات مع سبع دول وحدوداً مائية مع أكثر من عشر دول تربطها بأغلبها علاقات تجارية تبادلية لا تحتاج المرور بالأقنية المصرفية التي تتحكم بها واشنطن، هي دولة عصية على الحصار، وقد بقيت تتاجر بنفطها في الثمانينيات خلال الحرب مع العراق عندما كان الحصار عليها عسكرياً وليس مالياً فقط.

– تقارير أخرى تتناول المدى الزمني اللازم لنضوج اللحظة الحرجة في كل من الخطتين الأميركية والإيرانية، فتصل إلى استنتاج أن خطة إيران التي يشكل الانسحاب من الاتفاق النووي أحد مفرداتها، وما يعنيه من العودة إلى التخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم وتخزين الكميات المخصبة يعني بلوغ إيران لحظة امتلاك ما يكفي لإنتاج قنبلة نووية في غضون مدة تتراوح بين ثلاثة شهور وستة شهور، وهي مهلة تبدأ بالسريان من مطلع تموز مع نهاية مهلة الستين يوماً التي أعلنتها إيران مطلع أيار الماضي. وبالتوازي فإن إيران أعدّت نفسها لتحمل العقوبات لما بعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية خريف العام المقبل، بينما خطة واشنطن لخنق إيران لا تطمح ببلوغ نتائجها قبل سنوات، تكون معها اللحظة الحرجة التي مثيلتها امتلاك إيران ما يكفي لإنتاج اول قنبلة نووية قد فات عليها الكثير ولحق بها الكثير من لحظات حرجة أخرى لا تستطيع واشنطن الوقوف مكتوفة الأيدي أمامها، بينما هي لا تملك جواباً على ما يجب فعله ولا ما تستطيع فعله. وما يجري على الجبهة السعودية اليمنية، مثال على المسار التصاعديّ الذي تسلكه أوضاع الخليج في ظل الوجود الأميركي الذي وعدت واشنطن بأنه مخصّص لجعل إيران تدفع ثمن أي استهداف لحلفائها من أي من حلفاء طهران.

– بعض التقارير الأخرى طرحت السؤال، ماذا لو نجحت واشنطن بخنق طهران وإضعافها، لتصل إلى استنتاج مفاده أن بلوغ إيران وحلفائها نصف الطريق الذي يشكل الاختناق نهايته، لن يكون في صالح واشنطن وحلفائها، فالذي سيحدث هو معاكس للتوقعات الأميركية الافتراضية، وأولى النتائج ستكون ضعف قبضة إيران وحلفائها في سورية والعراق بوجه تنظيم داعش الذي يملك من الخلايا النائمة ما يكفي لإعادة امتلاك بنية تحتية وقاعدة ارتكاز للتوسع في الجغرافيا الصحراوية بين سورية والعراق، واستئناف الهجمات في الدول الغربية. والنتيجة الثانية ستكون أن الاحتكاكات ستتصاعد بين زوارق الحرس الثوري والسفن الأميركية ومثلها سيتصاعد الوضع بين السعودية واليمن وبين المقاومة في لبنان وغزة مع «إسرائيل»، وستصل السخونة حد الغليان حيث سيكون على واشنطن أن تختار بين التقدم خطوة إلى الأمام نحو الحرب أو التراجع.

– واشنطن عالقة في نصف البئر الذي ذهبت إليه مختارة، لسبب واحد، لأنها وضعت مصالح «إسرائيل» والحصول على ضمانات لأمنها، فوق المصالح الأميركية، والوساطات التي تجري ما كانت لتتم لو كانت أميركا مرتاحة ومطمئنة إلى أوضاعها، وها هم الوسطاء الكبار يأتون بالمصادفة، بعد لقاءات تجمعهم بكبار المسؤولين الأميركيين.

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ماذا سيفعل الأميركيون لضمان أسواق النفط؟

يونيو 14, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– ليس من إثبات قانوني على مسؤولية إيران عن أي من الحوادث التي تصيب سوق النفط وتتسبب بالمزيد من التدهور في استقراره والمزيد من الصعود في أسعاره، لكن الأكيد أن ما تشهده منطقة الخليج من حوادث تستهدف سوق النفط يتمّ على خلفية النظر إلى مشهد التوتر الناتج عن الاستهداف الأميركي لقدرة إيران على تصدير نفطها من جهة، والرد الإيراني القائم على معادلة، إذا لم نستطع تصدير نفطنا فإن غيرنا لن يستطيع ذلك أيضاً، والعالم كله ينظر للتصعيد القائم الآن وفقاً لمعادلة أبعد من كيف تثبت واشنطن قوتها، أو كيف تردّ واشنطن على ما تتهم إيران به، فالسؤال الكبير دولياً هو مَن يضمن عودة الاستقرار إلى سوق النفط وإلى أسعاره؟

– إذا سلكت واشنطن طريق الاستهداف العسكري المباشر أو غير المباشر، الضيّق والمحدود أو الأوسع، فإن ذلك سيعني تصاعد الوضع أكثر واستدراج ردود على الردود من نوعها، مباشرة أو غير مباشرة، محدودة أو واسعة النطاق، لكن الأكيد هو أن سوق النفط ستبلغ المزيد من الاضطراب والأسعار ستبلغ المزيد من السقوف العالية، وإذا سلكت واشنطن طريق التجاهل واكتفت بالتحذير والسعي لردود دبلوماسيّة، فإن ذلك يقول إن الخط البياني للأحداث التي استهدفت سوق النفط سيتصاعد وبات هو الحاكم المسيطر على معادلات هذا السوق، وعنوانها، إن لم تستطع إيران تصدير نفطها فإن غيرها لن يستطيع.

– بالتوازي تتبقى ثلاثة أسابيع أمام نهاية مهلة الستين يوماً التي ستبادر إيران بنهايتها إلى التخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم والتخزين لليورانيوم المخصب، وصولاً لامتلاك ما قالت واشنطن ودول الغرب إنه نقطة الخطر، اي امتلاك إيران ما يكفي لإنتاج أول قنبلة نووية، رغم قرارها بعدم فعل ذلك. والسؤال الموازي ماذا ستفعل واشنطن عندها، أو ماذا ستفعل واشنطن قبلها لمنع بلوغ تلك اللحظة، وبمعزل عن المسؤوليات القانونية التي لا تفيد في مثل هذه الحالات تواجه واشنطن أخطر اختبار لمشهد قوتها على الساحة الدولية حيث تبدو كل الخيارات صعبة، ويبدو الزمن الذي تحتاجه واشنطن لاختبار فعالية إجراءاتها الاقتصادية التصعيدية بوجه إيران أكبر بكثير من الزمن الذي وضعت فيه طهران واشنطن أمام اللحظات الحرجة لضمان استقرار سوق النفط ومواجهة مستقبل ملفها النووي.

– الطريق السالك الوحيد أمام واشنطن لتفادي الأسوأ هو استغلال الوقت المتبقي قبل دخول مهلة الستين يوماً حيّز التنفيذ في الشق النووي، والذهاب إلى قمة العشرين في نهاية الشهر الحالي بخريطة طريق، لتأجيل متبادل أميركي وإيراني للحزمة الأخيرة من الخطوات التصعيديّة لستة شهور تمنح خلالها الوساطات الفرص المناسبة للوصول إلى مبادرات سياسية بديلة. وهذا يعني تراجع واشنطن عن كل ما صدر عنها من عقوبات منذ نهاية شهر نيسان الماضي عندما قامت بإلغاء الاستثناءات الممنوحة على شراء النفط والغاز من إيران لثماني دول، وما تلاها من عقوبات على المعادن والبتروكيماويات الإيرانية، مقابل تراجع إيران عن مهلة الستين يوماً، وتوصل الدول المعنية لضمانات للتعاون في منع أي استهداف لأسواق النفط، وسيتلقف الروس والصينيّون والأوروبيّون واليابانيّون هذه المبادرة وتتجاوب معها إيران، التي كان مدخل خيارها التصعيدي التصعيد الأميركي الجديد.

– تبريد التصعيد سيفتح الطريق للبحث عن سقوف منخفضة لتسويات واقعية في سورية واليمن بعيداً عن المطالب الأميركية الوهمية والخيالية. ويفتح طريق تجميد النزاع حول الملف النووي الذي لا يزعج إيران خروج واشنطن منه ولا يريح واشنطن عودتها إليه، ويصعب على الطرفين التنازل في بنوده، وإلا فإن الرعونة الأميركية التي كانت وراء الخطوات الأخيرة في التصعيد تحتاج لخريطة طريق نحو الحرب والفوز بها، وادعاء واشنطن بامتلاكها كذبة ستفضحها كل محاولة للعب بالنار في منطقة تقف على برميل بارود، ربما تكون كلفة الحروب فيه أعلى بكثير من كلفة التسويات، مع فارق أن بين خاسر وخاسر سيختلف الوضع كثيراً. فهناك مَن سيخسر مكانته العالمية كحال أميركا ووجوده كحال «إسرائيل» ونظام حكمه كحال أنظمة الخليج، فوق الخسائر البشرية والمادية المؤلمة التي سيتساوى فيها مع إيران وحلفائها.

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How was the strategic balance achieved? كيف تحقق التوازن الاستراتيجي؟

 How was the strategic balance achieved?

مايو 23, 2019

Written by Nasser Kandil,

Since the Israeli failure in the south of Lebanon in 2000, Washington had to be aware that in order to continue its imperial project in Asia after the control on Europe in the war of Yugoslavia, the expansion of the European Union, the colored revolutions, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the fall of Berlin Wall, it has to be present directly and to confront Iran as an indispensable condition for such project. Just for that, the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, the war of Lebanon 2000, the wars of Gaza 2008-2014, the war on Syria 2011-2019, and the war on Yemen 2015 – 2019 were indirect forms of such confrontation. The nuclear understanding and the withdrawal from it was a translation of this confrontation during the policies of containment and siege. On the other hand, Iran had to be aware that the avoidance of that confrontation is no longer possible, on the contrary, it has to wage it with strategic intelligence taking into consideration the necessary time and the capacities in order to take the lead in this confrontation; this is the meaning of the strategic balance.

The Iranian nuclear program was as much as a scientific, economic, and strategic option of the Iranian independence it was one of Iran’s tools to achieve the strategic balance through possessing the full nuclear capability which enables it in case of provocation to produce nuclear weapons. Before the year 2000, the nuclear program was neither active nor present. But what is called by Washington as the Iranian influence, in other words, the support of Iran of the resistance movements in the region was as much as an expression of Iran’s adoption of the resistance option, it was an expression of its desire to achieve this strategic balance. Before the year 2000, the supportive position of Iran of the resistance movements was not as it is now.

Iran dealt with all the American wars in the language of containment, then through the indirect confrontation especially in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. It succeeded in turning the siege on it into an opportunity to exhaust the American imperial project and to frustrate it. It made use of time to develop its nuclear program and to turn it into a platform of engagement and negotiation as it made use of the development of the resistance forces to be present in the full war in the region. When America took the decision of the major battle and chose Syria as its arena, Iran was confident of its readiness for this direct confrontation, it was present directly contrary to what it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, it refused the proposals of sharing which it had accepted before. It is known for both Washington and Tehran that the nuclear program and the resistance forces are two different expressions of engagement and not its main reasons, therefore, the American withdrawal of one of them makes the confrontation closer not farer as the American discourse says.

Today the scene is based on equations, in which the American seeking to stifle the nuclear program economically is converging with the Iranian seeking to make it closer to a military program, and in which the American seeking to mobilize military forces is converging with Iranian missile arsenal that has been developed since 2000, and where Saudi Arabia and UAE are converging with Ansar Allah to determine who has the upper hand in the Gulf, and in which Israel converges with Hezbollah and the resistance forces in Palestine to determine who has the upper hand in the East. Iran has control on oil prices; it invests the growing forces of Syria and Iraq as a surplus power versus the regressing forces; (Kurds and ISIS) on which Washington betted to divide the two countries and to overwhelm them.

The region and the world are moving from the strategic balance to the ability of taking the initiative strategically with a Russian reposition which observed the variables and grasped the historic moment carefully, and with a Chinese progress in the world economy. Therefore, those who do not want to see the strategic decline of the American imperial project have a problem.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

كيف تحقق التوازن الاستراتيجي؟

مايو 16, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– منذ الفشل الإسرائيلي في جنوب لبنان عام 2000 كان على واشنطن أن تحضر مباشرة الى المنطقة، وان تدرك ان توفير فرص استمرار مشروعها الإمبراطوري في التقدم نحو آسيا، بعد حسم السيطرة على اوروبا في حرب اليوغوسلافيا وتوسع الاتحاد الاوروبي والثورات الملونة، مستثمراً لحظة انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي وسقوط جدار برلين، يستدعي حضورها المباشر وإدراك أن المواجهة بينها وبين إيران صارت شرطاً لتقدم هذا المشروع. وهكذا كانت حروب العراق وافغانستان ولاحقاً حرب لبنان 2006 وحروب غزة 2008 و2014 والحرب على سورية 2011 – 2019 وحرب اليمن 2015-2019 أشكالاً غير مباشرة لهذه المواجهة. وكان التفاهم النووي والانسحاب منه ترجمة لهذه المواجهة في سياسات الاحتواء او الحصار، وبالمقابل كان على إيران أن تتصرف على قاعدة أن تفادي المواجهة لم يعد ممكناً، لكن المطلوب خوضها بذكاء استراتيجي يتيح الوقت اللازم والمقدرات اللازمة لبلوغ اللحظة التي يصبح فيها السير نحو هذه المواجهة فوق قدرة أميركا. وهذا هو معنى التوازن الاستراتيجي.

– للتذكير فقط، فان الملف النووي الإيراني كان بقدر ما خياراً علمياً واقتصادياً استراتيجياً للاستقلال الإيراني، واحدة محورية من أدوات إيران لبلوغ التوازن الاستراتيجي، بامتلاك القدرة النووية الكاملة التي تخولها القول بأنها قادرة إذا تعرّضت للاستفزاز ان تذهب لإنتاج سلاح نووي، وقبل العام 2000 لم يكن البرنامج النووي الإيراني مفعّلاً أو حاضراً. وللتذكير فقط أن ما تسمّيه واشنطن بالنفوذ الإيراني، والمقصود دعم إيران لحركات المقاومة في المنطقة من لبنان الى فلسطين والعراق واليمن، كان بقدر ما هو تعبير عن تبني إيران خيار المقاومة، تعبيراً عن سعيها لتحقيق هذا التوازن الاستراتيجي، وقبل العام 2000 كان موقف إيران الداعم لحركات المقاومة دون ما أصبح عليه بكثير بعده.

– تعاملت إيران مع كل الحروب الأميركية بلغة الاحتواء، ومن ثم المواجهة غير المباشرة، كما فعلت خصوصاً في حربي العراق وأفغانستان، ونجحت في تحويل تحدٍّ يهدف الى اطباق الحصار عليها، فرصة لاستنزاف المشروع الامبراطوري الاميركي وافشاله، واستثمرت الزمن على تطوير سريع لبرنامجها النووي لتحويله منصة اشتباك وتفاوض، وعلى تنمية فعالة لقوى المقاومة لجعلها أجنحة المعركة الشاملة على مستوى المنطقة. وعندما بلغت اميركا لحظة نضج قرار المعركة الكبرى واختارت سورية مسرحاً لها، كانت إيران قد بلغت مرحلة الثقة بجهوزيتها لهذه المواجهة المباشرة، ففاجأت بالحضور المباشر خلافاً لما فعلته في العراق وافغانستان، ورفضت فيها عروض التقاسم والتساكن التي ارتضتها فيهما، وبات معلوماً لكل من واشنطن وطهران، أن الملف النووي وقوى المقاومة، تعبيران مختلفان عن الاشتباك وليسا أبداً سببه الرئيسي. فالتخلّص الاميركي من أي منهما كعامل قوة لإيران أو النجاح بإضعاف مكانته يجعل المواجهة أقرب، وليس أبعد، كما يقول الخطاب الأميركي.

– المشهد اليوم يقوم على معادلات، يتقابل فيها، السعي الأميركي لخنق البرنامج النووي اقتصادياً بالتلويح الإيراني بجعله اقرب للحظة القدرة على التحول لبرنامج عسكري، ويتقابل فيها السعي الأميركي لحشد القوى العسكرية مع ترسانة صاروخية إيرانية تم تطويرها منذ العام 2000، فصارت الأقوى في العالم، وتتقابل فيها السعودية والإمارات مع أنصار الله في تحديد لمن اليد العليا في الخليج، وتتقابل فيها «إسرائيل» مع حزب الله وحركات المقاومة في فلسطين، لتحديد لمن اليد العليا في منطقة المشرق، وتمسك إيران بزناد أسعار النفط، وتستثمر على تنامي قوة سورية والعراق كفائض قوة، تتراجع أمامه القوى التي راهنت عليها واشنطن في جغرافية البلدين لتقسيمها أو إرباكها، من الرهان الكردي الى داعش.

– المنطقة والعالم ينتقلان من التوازن الاستراتيجي الى القدرة على المبادرة الاستراتيجية مع تموضع روسي قرأ المتغيرات جيداً، والتقط اللحظة التاريخيّة بعناية، وتقدّم صيني يدق أبواب اقتصادات العالم بسرعة وقوة، والذين لا يريدون رؤية الأفول الاستراتيجي للمشروع الإمبراطوري الأميركي يعبّرون عن مشكلتهم في الرؤية ليس الا.

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Iran Quadruples Production of 3.67% Enriched Uranium

By Staff, Agencies 

Iran announced on Monday that it has quadrupled the low level uranium enrichment.

Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran [AEOI] Behrouz Kamalvandi quoted the director of Natanz uranium enrichment facility, stating that the decision was made by the country’s Supreme National Security Council [SNSC].

“Iran has increased production of 3.67 enriched uranium by fourfold from today,” he announced.

Kamalvandi at the same time noted that the issue “does not mean an increase in enrichment level or a boost in the number of centrifuge machines or a change in the type of centrifuges”.

He said Iran has quadrupled the rate of the 3.67 enriched uranium only by utilizing the existing production capacity.

The spokesman also noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Organization [IAEA] about the development.

He further stated that the country can easily achieve 190 thousand of SWUs capacity, adding that the move was a message to other parties to the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

So, they had better carry out the necessary measures already asked by Iran [SNSC] as soon as possible, he added.

“We will reach the cap of 300 kilograms within few weeks. Our technical requirements and orders by senior officials will determine our next measures.”

He said Iran stops selling any enriched uranium above the 300-kg limit in exchange for yellow cake and also stops selling its heavy water above the limit of 130 tons.

The president also announced that the JCPOA parties will have 60 days to come to the negotiating table and fulfill Iran’s main interests under the nuclear deal, especially regarding oil sales and banking interaction.

If Iran does not achieve the desired results after 60 days, it will take two more measures and stop observing the limit on uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent purity, he added.

Anti-Trump Former CIA Chief Brennan Invited to Discuss Iran

May 19, 2019

Former CIA director John Brennan is due to brief House Democrats on the situation in Iran next Tuesday, the Associated Press quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The private caucus meeting will also be attended by Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official who was the top negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The sources said that the gathering “offers counter-programming” to the Trump administration’s closed-door Capitol Hill briefing for lawmakers, which is also slated for Tuesday.

Brennan’s briefing comes amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran. The Islamic Republic earlier this month announced suspension of its participation in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in response to tough sanctions imposed by the US.

The US imposed more anti-Iranian sanctions and sent the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier’s strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers and a battery of Patriot missiles to the Middle East.

Related News

Source: Sputnik

Iran Squeezed Between Imperial Psychos and European Cowards

By Pepe Escobar – with permission and cross posted with Consortium News

What Putin and Pompeo did not talk about

The Trump administration unilaterally cheated on the 2015 multinational, UN-endorsed JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. It has imposed an illegal, worldwide financial and energy blockade on all forms of trade with Iran — from oil and gas to exports of iron, steel, aluminum and copper. For all practical purposes, and in any geopolitical scenario, this is a declaration of war.

Successive U.S. governments have ripped international law to shreds; ditching the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is only the latest instance. It doesn’t matter that Tehran has fulfilled all its commitments to the deal — according to UN inspectors. Once the leadership in Tehran concluded that the U.S. sanctions tsunami is fiercer than ever, it decided to begin partially withdrawing from the deal.

President Hassan Rouhani was adamant: Iran has not left the JCPOA — yet. Tehran’s measures are legal under the framework of articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA — and European officials were informed in advance. But it’s clear the EU3 (Germany, France, Britain), who have always insisted on their vocal support for the JCPOA, must work seriously to alleviate the U.S.-provoked economic disaster to Iran if Tehran has any incentive to continue to abide by the agreement.

Protests in front of former U.S. embassy in Tehran after U.S. decision to withdraw from JCPOA, May 8, 2018. (Hossein Mersadi via Wikimedia Commons)

Russia and China — the pillars of Eurasia integration, to which Iran adheres — support Tehran’s position. This was discussed extensively in Moscow by Sergey Lavrov and Iran’s Javad Zarif, perhaps the world’s top two foreign ministers.

At the same time, it’s politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.

The comfortable assumption in Berlin, Paris and London was that Tehran could not afford to leave the JCPOA even if it was not receiving any of the economic rewards promised in 2015. Yet now the EU3 are facing the hour of truth.

It’s hard to expect anything meaningful coming from an enfeebled Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Berlin already targeted by Washington’s trade ire; a Brexit-paralyzed Britain; and a massively unpopular President Emmanuel Macron in France already threatening to impose his own sanctions if Tehran does not agree to limit its ballistic missile program. Tehran will never allow inspections over its thriving missile industry – and this was never part of the JCPOA to begin with.

As it stands, the EU3 are not buying Iranian oil. They are meekly abiding by the U.S. banking and oil/gas sanctions — which are now extended to manufacturing sectors — and doing nothing to protect Iran from its nasty effects. The implementation of INSTEX, the SWIFT alternative for trade with Iran, is languishing. Besides expressing lame “regrets” about the U.S. sanctions, the EU3 are de facto playing the game on the side of U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates; and by extension against Russia, China and Iran.

Rise of the Imperial Psychos

As Tehran de facto kicked the ball to the European court, both EU3 options are dire. To meaningfully defend the JCPOA will invite a ballistic reaction from the Trump administration. To behave like poodles — the most probable course of action — means emboldening even more the psychopaths doubling as imperial functionaries bent on a hot war against Iran at all costs; Koch brothers Big Oil asset and enraptured evangelist, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and paid Mujahideen-e Khalq asset and notorious intel manipulator, National Security Advisor John Bolton.

The Pompeo-Bolton gangster maneuver is hardly Bismarck’s Realpolitik. It consists of relentlessly pushing Tehran to make a mistake, any mistake, in terms of “violating” its obligations under the JCPOA, so that this may be sold to gullible American public opinion as the proverbial “threat” to the “rules-based order” doubling as a casus belli.

There’s one thing the no-holds-barred U.S. economic war against Iran has managed to achieve: internal unity in the Islamic Republic. Team Rouhani’s initial aim for the JCPOA was to open up to Western trade (trade with Asia was always on) and somewhat curtail the power of the IRGC, or Revolutionary Guards, which control vast sectors of the Iranian economy.

Washington’s economic war proved instead the IRGC was right all along, echoing the finely-tuned geopolitical sentiment of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who always emphasized the Americans cannot be trusted, ever.

And as much as Washington has branded the IRGC a “terrorist organization,” Tehran replied in kind, branding CENTCOM the same.

Independent Persian Gulf oil traders dismiss the notion that the kleptocrat House of Saud — de facto run by Jared “of Arabia” Kushner’s Whatsapp pal Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the Saudi  crown prince – holds up to 2.5 million barrels of oil a day in spare capacity capable of replacing Iran’s 2 million barrels of exports (out of 3.45 million of total daily production). The House of Saud seems more interested in hiking oil prices for Asian customers.

London protests at Saudi bombing of Yemen. March 2018. (Alisdare Hickson via Flickr)

Faulty Blockade

Washington’s energy trade blockade of Iran is bound to fail.

China will continue to buy its 650,000 barrels a day – and may even buy more. Multiple Chinese companies trade technology and industrial services for Iranian oil.

Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey — all bordering Iran — will continue to buy Iranian high-quality light crude by every method of payment (including gold) and transportation available, formal or informal. Baghdad’s trade relationship with Tehran will continue to thrive.

As economic suffocation won’t suffice, Plan B is — what else — the threat of a hot war.

It’s by now established that the info, in fact rumors, about alleged Iranian maneuvers to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf was relayed to Bolton by the Mossad, at the White House, with Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat personally briefing Bolton.

Everyone is aware of the corollary: a “reposition of assets” (in Pentagonese) — from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group deployment to four B-52 bombers landing in Al Udeid Air base in Qatar, all part of a “warning” to Iran.

A pre-war roaring crescendo now engulfs the Lebanese front as well as the Iranian front.

Reasons for Psychotic Rage

Iran’s GDP is similar to Thailand’s, and its military budget is similar to Singapore’s. Bullying Iran is a geopolitical and geo-economic absurdity. Iran may be an emerging Global South actor — it could easily be a member of the G20 — but can never be construed as a “threat” to the U.S.

Yet Iran provokes psychopathic imperial functionaries to a paroxysm of rage for three serious reasons. Neocons never mind that trying to destroy Iraq cost over $6 trillion — and it was a major war crime, a political disaster, and an economic abyss all rolled into one. Trying to destroy Iran will cost untold trillions more.

The most glaring reason for the irrational hatred is the fact the Islamic Republic is one of the very few nations on the planet consistently defying the hegemon — for four decades now.

The second reason is that Iran, just like Venezuela — and this is a combined war front — have committed the supreme anathema; trading on energy bypassing the petrodollar, the foundation stone of U.S. hegemony.

The third (invisible) reason is that to attack Iran is to disable emerging Eurasia integration, just like using NSA spying to ultimately put Brazil in the bag was an attack on Latin American integration.

The non-stop hysteria over whether President Donald Trump is being maneuvered into war on Iran by his pet psychopaths – well, he actually directed Iran to “Call me” — eludes the Big Picture. As shown before, a possible shut down of the Strait of Hormuz, whatever the reasons, would be like a major meteor impact on the global economy. And that would inevitably translate as no Trump reelection in 2020.

The Strait of Hormuz would never need to be blocked if all the oil Iran is able to export is bought by China, other Asian clients and even Russia — which could relabel it. But Tehran wouldn’t blink on blocking Hormuz if faced with total economic strangulation.

According to a dissident U.S. intel expert, “the United States is at a clear disadvantage in that if the Strait of Hormuz is shut the U.S. collapses. But if the U.S. can divert Russia from defending Iran, then Iran can be attacked and Russia will have accomplished nothing, as the neocons do not want detente with Russia and China. Trump does want detente but the Deep State does not intend to permit it.”

Assuming this scenario is correct, the usual suspects in the United States government are trying to divert Putin from the Strait of Hormuz question while keeping Trump weakened, as the neocons proceed 24/7 on the business of strangling Iran. It’s hard to see Putin falling for this not exactly elaborate trap.

Not Bluffing

So what happens next? Professor Mohammad Marandi at the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran offers quite a sobering perspective: “After 60 days Iran will push things even further. I don’t think the Iranians are bluffing. They will also be pushing back at the Saudis and the Emiratis by different means.”

Marandi, ominously, sees “further escalation” ahead:

“Iranians have been preparing for war with the Unites States ever since the Iraq invasion in 2003. After what they’ve seen in Libya, in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, they know that the Americans and Europeans are utterly brutal. The whole shore of the Persian Gulf on the Iranian side and the Gulf of Oman is full of tunnels and underground high-tech missiles. The Persian Gulf is full of ships equipped with highly developed sea-to-sea missiles. If there is real war, all the oil and gas facilities in the region will be destroyed, all the tankers will be destroyed.”

And if that show comes to pass, Marandi regards the Strait of Hormuz as the “sideshow”:

“The Americans will be driven out of Iraq. Iraq exports 4 million barrels of oil a day; that would probably come to an end, through strikes and other means. It would be catastrophic for the Americans. It would be catastrophic for the world – and for Iran as well. But the Americans would simply not win.”

So as Marandi explains it — and Iranian public opinion now largely agrees — the Islamic Republic has leverage because they know “the Americans can’t afford to go to war. Crazies like Pompeo and Bolton may want it, but many in the establishment don’t.”

Tehran may have developed a modified MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) framework as leverage, mostly to push Trump ally MbS to cool down. “Assuming,” adds Marandi, “the madmen don’t get the upper hand, and if they do, then it’s war. But for the time being, I thinks that’s highly unlikely.”

Guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits Strait of Hormuz, May 2012. (U.S. Navy/Alex R. Forster)

All Options on the Table?

In Cold War 2.0 terms, from Central Asia to the Eastern Mediterranean and from the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea, Tehran is able to count on quite a set of formal and informal alliances. That not only centers on the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran-Herat axis, but also includes Turkey and Qatar. And most important of all, the top actors on the Eurasian integration chessboard: the Russia and China in strategic partnership.

When Zarif met Lavrov last week in Moscow, they discussed virtually everything: Syria (they negotiate together in the Astana, now Nur-Sultan process), the Caspian, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (of which Iran will become a member), the JCPOA and Venezuela.

The Trump administration was dragged kicking and screaming to meet Kim Jong-Un at the same table because of the DPRK’s intercontinental ballistic missile tests. And then Kim ordered extra missile tests because, in his own words, as quoted by KCNA, “genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force capable of defending its sovereignty.”

Global South Watching

The overwhelming majority of Global South nations are watching the U.S. neocon offensive to ultimately strangle “the Iranian people”, aware more than ever that Iran may be bullied to extinction because it does not posses a nuclear deterrent. The IRGC has reached the same conclusion.

That would mean the death of the JCPOA – and the Return of the Living Dead of “all options on the table.”

But then, there’ll be twists and turns in the Art of the (Demented) Deal. So what if, and it’s a major “if”, Donald Trump is being held hostage by his pet psychopaths?

Let The Dealer speak:

“We hope we don’t have to do anything with regard to the use of military force…We can make a deal, a fair deal. … We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. Not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape. They’re in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran. I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy… We have no secrets. And they can be very, very strong, financially. They have great potential.”

Then again, Ayatollah Khamenei said: the Americans cannot be trusted, ever.

White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War

By Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes – NYT

At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting War Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.

It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans. On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

There are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.

Some senior American officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.

European allies who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that they worry that tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.

More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Shanahan and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.

The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

But two of the American national security officials said Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.

Several oil tankers were reportedly attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, raising fears that shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf could become flash points. “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, asked about the episode.

Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and American officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.

In Brussels, Pompeo met with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, cosignatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. He did not speak to the media, but the European officials said they had urged restraint upon Washington, fearing accidental escalation that could lead to conflict with Iran.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary.

The Iranian government has not threatened violence recently, but last week, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would walk away from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement a year ago, but European nations have urged Iran to stick with the deal and ignore Trump’s provocations.

The high-level review of the Pentagon’s plans was presented during a meeting about broader Iran policy. It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack American forces.

As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery and more naval firepower to the gulf region.

At last week’s meeting, Shanahan gave an overview of the Pentagon’s planning, then turned to General Dunford to detail various force options, officials said. The uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.

Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Shanahan; Bolton; General Dunford; Gina Haspel, the CIA director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday in an email. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend US personnel and interests in the region.”

The reduction of forces in the Middle East in recent years has been propelled by a new focus on China, Russia and a so-called Great Powers competition. The most recent National Military Strategy — released before Bolton joined the Trump administration — concluded that while the Middle East remains important, and Iran is a threat to American allies, the United States must do more to ensure a rising China does not upend the world order.

As recently as late April, an American intelligence analysis indicated that Iran had no short-term desire to provoke a conflict…

On May 5, Bolton announced the first of new deployments to the Persian Gulf, including bombers and an aircraft carrier.

It is not clear to American intelligence officials what changed Iran’s posture. But intelligence and War Department officials said American sanctions have been working better than originally expected, proving far more crippling to the Iranian economy — especially after a clampdown on all oil exports that was announced last month.

Also in April, the State Department designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign ‘terrorist’ organization over objections from Pentagon and intelligence officials who feared reprisals from the Iranian military.

While much of the new intelligence appears to have focused on ‘Iran readying its proxy forces’, officials said they believed the most likely cause of a conflict will follow a provocative act, or outright attack, by the Revolutionary Guards’ navy. The Guards’ fleet of small boats has a history of approaching American Navy ships at high speed. Revolutionary Guards commanders have precarious control over their ill-disciplined naval forces.

Part of the updated planning appears to focus on what military action the United States might take if Iran resumes its nuclear fuel production, which has been frozen under the 2015 agreement. It would be difficult for the Trump administration to make a case that the United States was under imminent nuclear peril; Iran shipped 97 percent of its fuel out of the country in 2016, and currently does not have enough to make a bomb.

That could change if Iran resumes enriching uranium. But it would take a year or more to build up a significant quantity of material, and longer to fashion it into a weapon. That would allow, at least in theory, plenty of time for the United States to develop a response — like a further cutoff of oil revenues, covert action or military strikes.

The previous version of the Pentagon’s war plan included a classified subset code-named Nitro Zeus, a cyber operation that called for unplugging Iran’s major cities, its power grid and its military.

The idea was to use cyber weapons to paralyze Iran in the opening hours of any conflict, in hopes that it would obviate the need to drop any bombs or conduct a traditional attack. That plan required extensive presence inside Iran’s networks — called “implants” or “beacons” — that would pave the way for injecting destabilizing malware into Iranian systems.

Two officials said those plans have been constantly updated in recent years.

But even a cyberattack, without dropping bombs, carries significant risk. Iran has built up a major corps of its own, one that successfully attacked financial markets in 2012, a casino in Las Vegas and a range of military targets. American intelligence officials told Congress in January that Iranian hackers are now considered sophisticated operators who are increasingly capable of striking United States targets.

Since Bolton became national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran. The animus against Iran’s leaders dates back at least to his days as an official in the George W. Bush administration. Later, as a private citizen, Bolton called for military strikes on Iran, as well as regime change.

The newly updated plans were not the first time during the Trump administration that Bolton has sought military options to strike Iran.

This year, War Department and senior American officials said Bolton sought similar guidance from the Pentagon last year, after militants fired three mortars or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the United States Embassy in Baghdad in September.

In response to Bolton’s request, which alarmed Jim Mattis, then the war secretary, the Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic.

But Mattis and other military leaders adamantly opposed retaliation for the Baghdad attack, successfully arguing that it was insignificant.

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