Iran Is Not A Victim, It Is One of The Most Influential and Strong-Minded Nations on Earth

By Andre Vltchek

Source

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When facing mortal danger, its people unite, harden themselves and get ready to face invaders, no matter how threatening they might be.

Iran is home to one of the oldest and deepest cultures in the world, and it’s precisely this culture that helps Iranian people to survive the most frightening moments.

And one such moment is sadly, right now.

US battleships are sailing right next to the Iranian territorial waters. One mistake, one false move, and war could erupt, engulfing the entire region in flames. Iran is a proud nation, and it takes its independence extremely seriously.

Right now, the country is facing one of the most unjust embargos in human history. It is being punished for nothing; or more precisely, for sticking to all the points of the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as The Iran Nuclear Deal, which it signed in 2015 with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany, and which the United States abandoned, without providing any logical explanation. While not particularly happy about the U.S. withdrawal; Germany, France and U.K. are doing all they can not to anger their senior partner, and its leaders in Washington.

Add COVID-19, and inability of the country, due to sanctions, to buy medical equipment, at least in the West, and you have the perfect scenario for a national calamity and even for imminent collapse.

Or more precisely, anywhere else this would be the case, but not in Iran!

After receiving terrible blows from the West, one after another, Iran has never fallen to its knees. It has never abandoned its internationalist and socialist course (socialist, with Iranian characteristics), and it has preserved its dignity.

What it has managed to achieve is amazing, nothing short of heroic, given the circumstances.

If you look at the latest, 2019 HDI (Human Development Index, compiled and published by the UNDP), Iran is in the High Human Development bracket, and only 3 steps from the Highest Human Development group of countries. Which is thoroughly amazing, given the above-mentioned sanctions, embargos and constant military intimidations.

Whenever I visit Iran, I am astonished by its public spaces, cultural institutions, public transportation, fountains, comfortable trains… The country is functioning well, showing incredible grace under pressure. Its television channel – PressTV – is one of the most important anti-imperialist news outlets in the world. I don’t see extreme misery, or homelessness, there. Iranians are polite, well-educated and proud. They have to deal with complex exchange rates, which I do not understand. Whenever I pay in a café or taxi, I simply extend my hand full of local currency, and I never get cheated. Things are solid and reassuring there; I feel it and really appreciate it.

Iran is an internationalist country. Not unlike Cuba or Venezuela, who are its long-term allies. Even when injured, itself, it helps others, those who need solidarity even more. This can never be forgotten, particularly in places like Latin America, or Syria.

Hezbollah, Iran’s close ally in the Middle East, is fighting the most dangerous terrorist groups in Syria; those groups that have been injected there by the West, but also by Washington’s allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But Hezbollah is also essentially the only social net for the poor in Syria’s neighbor – Lebanon. And not only for the Shi’a Muslims, but also for the disadvantaged Sunni citizens, for the Christians, and non-believers. Whoever is destitute in Lebanon, comes to Hezbollah, for assistance. I was based in Beirut for five years, and I know what I am talking about. All this, while the Lebanese elites are burning money in Paris, in Nice, in the nightclubs of Beirut, driving their lavish cars through the slums. And the more Iran and Hezbollah help the region, the more frustrated, outraged and aggressive the West gets.

Look at Palestine. When it comes to the liberation of the Palestinian people from the long and brutal Israeli occupation, the Gulf countries just talk and talk. In the end, some of them side with the West and Israel. The closest, the most determined allies of the long-suffering Palestinian people in the region, are, without doubt, Iran and Syria. That, everybody in the Middle East, knows, and it is only “a secret” to Westerners.

In Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, I witnessed long lines of Afghan people in front of the Iranian consulate. Devastated by the NATO occupation, Afghanistan is in despair, rated as a country with the shortest life expectancy in Asia, and the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) on the Asian continent. Tens of thousands of Afghan people have been traveling to Iran in search of jobs. Without Iran, Herat would most likely starve to death. And now, Iran is searching for ways, (together with China and Russia), how to help Afghanistan to find a political solution, and send the NATO forces packing.

For years, all the Socialist countries of Latin America, could always rely on Iran. Be it Bolivia, before the legitimate government of Evo Morales was overthrown, or Cuba and especially Venezuela. Iran has been building social housing, it was helping with oil technology, and with many other social essentials.

Iraq and Iran, two great nations, in the past brutally pitched against each other by Washington, are once again cooperating, working together. The Western occupation has already thoroughly ruined Iraq (as it has ruined Afghanistan), historically one of the richest countries in the region. However, more positively Iran gets involved in neighboring Iraq, the more aggressively the West behaves. It now habitually crosses all the lines of acceptable behavior. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike murdered Iran’s national hero, General Quasem Soleimani, while he was traveling right near the Baghdad International Airport.

For years now, Iran has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, China, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba; the nations which are openly and bravely deterring the aggression and brutality of Western imperialism.

It seems that no matter what the West tries to do, Iran cannot be broken. Despite the embargos and sanctions, it demonstrates that it is capable of producing and shooting satellites into space, or of producing its own medical equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nation creates its great scientific and technological achievements, Iranian filmmakers keep producing their cinematic masterpieces. What a nation!

Unfortunately, all this is hidden from the eyes and ears of the public, both in the West, and in the client states. There, Iran is portrayed as a “threat”.

Look at this irony. On April 30, 2020, Reuters released a report about the German move to ban Hezbollah:

“Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by Hezbollah on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities” especially in Syria.

On a trip to Berlin last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Germany would follow Britain in banning Hezbollah. Britain introduced legislation in February of last year that classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

When the West says “Terrorist activities, especially in Syria”, what it really means is “fighting the terrorism injected by the West and its allies, into Syria”. Everything is twisted, perverted and turned upside-down by the propaganda outlets operating out of the United States, Europe, Israel and the Gulf.

“Terrorist activities” outside Syria, also means supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence, as well as at least moral support for Syria, in its attempts to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an occupation which has never been recognized, even by the United Nations. It also means helping Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Latin American countries, which are brutalized (or should we say ‘terrorized’), relentlessly, by Washington and its allies.

This is precisely the logic and lexicon which was used by German propagandists during WWII, to describe resistance forces in its colonies. Freedom fighters and partisans were labeled as terrorists, in France, Yugoslavia, Ukraine.

Even the otherwise mainstream newspaper – The Independent – published on May 1, 2020 a report critical of the bizarre US scheming against Iran:

“The United States is pushing ahead with a scheme to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran that is due to be lifted in October as part of the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago.

To force the extension, Washington will attempt to lobby the Security Council to continue the arms embargo, which bars weapons sales to or from Iran.

But it also is making what legal experts and diplomats describe as a convoluted argument that it is still part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action it left, and hence able to use one of its provisions to “snapback” the embargo.”

This weird political somersault has been, according to The Independent, criticized even by one of Washington’s allies, the French President Emmanuel Macron:

“China and Russia have already vowed to use any means to block the US plan. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been working behind the scenes to sabotage the Trump scheme because of what it sees as an attempt by the White House to destroy international legal norms, said a well-placed European diplomat.”

France, the UK, Germany and other EU countries are not necessarily happy with Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran, but their outrage is far from being moral indignation. Iran is big and it is far from being poor. European companies are losing billions of euros in trade, because of the sanctions. For instance, in the recent past, two Iranian airlines were ready to purchase large numbers of brand-new Airbus aircraft, in order to compete with Qatar Airways and the Emirates. Such plans collapsed, because of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the almost immediate imposition of new, senseless but brutal sanctions against Teheran. Now even Mahan Air, a civilian airline, is facing sanctions, allegedly because of its flights to Venezuela, and to several Middle Eastern destinations.

Now, many are perhaps wondering, what triggered, in the West, such hate towards Iran?

There is a well-hidden (again, in the West) secret regarding Iran: “It is a Socialist country. Socialist with Iranian characteristics.”

In his latest and by all means ground-breaking book about Iran (“Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism”), which our publishing house Badak Merah will be publishing later in May 2020, an Iranian author and the PressTV Paris chief correspondent, Ramin Mazaheri, passionately defends the Iranian socialist concept:

“I think that if open-minded leftists would simply become aware of the facts and… modern socialist interpretations of Iran’s policies – many of which I’m sure are being presented in English for the first time – I’m sure that they would not be waiting breathlessly for the collapse of the Middle East’s greatest bulwark against imperialism and capitalism.

It is urgent that Western leftists understand that the reversal of Iran’s popular, democratic revolution would have incredibly negative ramifications for the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, and thus the global anti-imperialist movement, and it certainly would be the cruelest loss for Islamic Socialism, which is taken quite seriously in the Muslim world even if atheistic Trotskyism cannot even discuss the concept without resorting to insults.

And, of course, a counter-revolution in Iran would be a major blow for global democracy, as there is no doubt that the Iranian People support their revolution, constitution and unique system in a democratic majority.”

Like Russia and China in Euro Asia and in Asia, like Venezuela, Cuba and before the coup, Bolivia, Iran is spreading hope and revolutionary optimism in its entire part of the world. And it is an extremely wounded part of the world, where hope is absent, but desperately needed.

Spreading hope – that is never forgiven by the Western empire, which, like some gigantic and sadistic prison warden, constantly demands submission, while spreading depression and fear.

In the entirety of modern history, Iran has never invaded, never attacked anyone. Iran is a peaceful nation. But at the same time, it is a powerful, brave and proud country.

The United States and its turbo-capitalist regime understand brutal force, only. They do not comprehend, do not appreciate cultural nuances, let alone depth. Pity! There is so much to learn from Iran and its culture.

Iran will not attack anyone, that is clear as is proven by history. But if physically confronted, it will defend itself, and its people. It will fight, well and bravely.

The West should know: if it triggers a war with Iran, the entire Middle East will be consumed by terrible fire.

Where Is Joe Biden?

by Lawrence Davidson 

May 2, 2020 

Part I—The Where Is Biden Question

Do you remember that classic puzzle bookWhere’s Waldo? It was first marketed in 1987 and placed Waldo, a tiny, oddly dressed, twenty-something figure amidst hundreds of other ordinary folks. The challenge was to find him in the crowd. Today the Waldo puzzle is still out there but, because in the latest version he is wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, he is not so hard to find. 

The Where’s Waldo? puzzle has recently lent its iconic title to a different question: “Where’s Joe Biden?” Because Biden is the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, this question denotes more than a puzzle game. Some argue that, despite the present contagious environment, Joe Biden should be a lot more visible than at present. Why so?

Well, it might be true that our present Republican president, the all too easy to find Donald Trump, is in the process of self-destructing. But given the often fickle state of mind of the American voter, the Democrats would be ill advised to just rely on the Republicans to defeat themselves. 

Part II—So Just Where is Joe Biden?

Thanks to an in-depth article in the New York Times (NYT), we do in fact know where Joe is. He is presently hunkered down at his home in Wilmington, Delaware—involuntarily cloistered in the basement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, according to the NYT, Biden is not just twiddling his thumbs. 

Joe Biden is in an information-gathering mode. He has daily briefings via conference calls with chief aids and other advisers. The daily topics are invariably the state of the national economy; the state of the national health; and electoral strategy “seeking to map out the fall campaign and a potential administration.” Occupying only an occasional subject of discussion is the category of foreign policy. 

In the process, Biden seems to be presenting the picture of a sober elder statesman to be contrasted with the present erratic occupant of the White House. Whether the cloistered elder statesman image will cut it in an agitated age of pandemic, economic collapse, and global warming is something that is worrying a lot of Democrats. 

There can, of course, be no campaigning although Biden has experimented with virtual town halls and round tables). Unlike Trump, Biden hasn’t got a bully pulpit. Nor has he figured out how to replicate what can be called the Governor Cuomo phenomenon of drawing almost daily media attention to himself by the sheer public mastery of his circumstances. So, the Democratic leadership, never the most imaginative of pacesetters, seems to be content with casting a low-key virtual image.

There is another factor that keeps Biden secluded. The last thing the party leaders want is for the 77-year-old Biden to get sick (“rare outside visitors don masks and gloves as a safety measure”). A Corvid-crippled Joe would probably bring a Bernie Sanders candidacy back to center stage.

Part III—A Man for Our Time?

It appears that behind the scenes, Joe Biden is not optimistic about the nation’s near future, even if he wins the November election. “Before Mr. Biden entered his state of near-quarantine, he was telling associates that he feared the onset of a national catastrophe” in the form of  “another Great Depression.” This contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s prediction that the economy will soon “come roaring back.” If the precipitous movement towards reopening the economy under Trump’s leadership backfires and triggers a national reinfection, Biden’s concern will prove much closer to the truth. Under such circumstances, he may very well win the presidency even if he never leaves his basement. 

And then what? Can Joe Biden be a man for our time? Can he be the leader who saves us all in this crises-ridden hour? Considering Biden’s political record, one has a hard time imagining this. 

There is a recently published (January 2020) book entitled Joe Biden, Yesterday’s Man. Written by Branko Marcetic, an investigative reporter and staff writer for Jacobin magazine, the book lays out Biden’s political biography. It argues that Biden’s political sensibility is that of a 1970s suburbanite. He sees his base as being a white middle class that has, in truth, shrunk and turned to the right. That process has, on occasion, led him to turn to the right (he has a record of sharp reversals on positions when subjected to heavy pressure). He has no problem taking corporate money (he told donors that with a Biden presidency “nothing fundamental will change for them”), and is the friend of many powerful lobbies. Biden is a politician whose lifelong self-image is that of a great conciliator—someone who believes he can work with all groups. In the 1970s, he cut political deals with segregationists in Congress so as to “get things done.” As Marcetic shows, what Biden got done at that time was putting a stop to busing as a method of desegregation. Biden seems to think he can now work with the Trump Republicans as well. Finally, as we will see below, he embraces most of the nation’s immoral foreign policy.

As it stands now, Biden’s ambition does not go any further than a naive desire to take the nation back to the time before Trump—“make it [America] like it used to be”. Two things can be said about this ambition. First, unfortunately, historical times cannot simply be reversed. Second, to limit your goal in this fashion means you fail to realize that “like it used to be” perforce embodies the problems that led to the “time of Trump” in the first place. Thus, Biden’s present thinking can only provide superficial and ultimately unsatisfactory answers to challenges facing both the U.S. and the world beyond. 

Part IV—Then there is Foreign Policy

Biden and his present advisers “largely embrace the core principles that have driven U.S. foreign policy for decades,” namely, the U.S. must lead the world, spread pseudo democracy, be loyal to its allies, etc. Here Biden is most often “yesterday’s man.”

Israel: Biden has been a loyal friend of Israel even during the tensions that arose when he was vice president under Obama. He has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 30 years and considers him a good friend. As vice president, Biden once told Uzi Arad, one of Netanyahu’s advisers, “Just remember that I am your best fucking friend here.” 

If this holds true, what can one really expect from Biden the president? It would come as a surprise if Biden reversed Trump’s over-the-top embrace of the Zionist state. He has already said that, as president, he would not move the U.S. embassy out of Jerusalem. Even in the face of astronomical U.S. debt, Biden probably will still insist on giving billions of dollars to a Zionist state that, on multiple counts, stands in stark violation of international law.

Venezuela: It would appear that Biden would have little trouble following up on the Trump administration’s promotion of a rightist coup in Venezuela. For all intents and purposes he has backed Trump’s aggression in this arena and, of course, done so in the name of democracy.  

Iran: Biden says he continues to support the 2015 nuclear deal Obama helped negotiate with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, he does so from the stereotypical American view that Iran continues to be “a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.” As president, he claims that he will rejoin the agreement. This would certainly be a positive move, but don’t be surprised if the Iranians are a bit suspicious of Biden—after all, they too know his political biography.  

Part V—Conclusion

A conciliatory, mediocre leader, who has shown little ability to resist the will of lobbies and donors, might find greatness when forced to face novel challenges. But that does not happen very often, and from all we do know about Joe Biden, the odds are against him blossoming in this fashion. 

If elected, Biden will face three immediate challenges: (1) a nation struggling to overcome plague, (2) an economy in deep recession, and (3) a world climatically self-destructing (Biden’s record on climate change is “sketchy). According to the NYT, Joe Biden,secluded in his basement, is trying to prepare himself to meet these challenges. However—and here is the key factor—he is doing so as the machine politician he has always been—and that one-dimensionality will certainly help define the results. Trump might well be dethroned, but there will be no new and better world emerging under Joe Biden. When all is said and done, perhaps things will become less bad.

A Teleological Response to the Crash of the Price of West Texas Intermediate Oil as a Consequence of the Corona Virus

A Teleological Response to the Crash of the Price of West Texas Intermediate Oil as a Consequence of the Corona Virus

April 24, 2020

By Blake Archer Williams for The Saker Blog

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“God damn America, not God bless America!”

“If we can’t sell our oil,” the Iranians said, “you won’t be able to sell your oil [either]!” This turned out to be more of a prayer than a threat that was actually implemented.

The same prayer could be extrapolated for the economy: “If you want to destroy the economy of an entire nation with your barbaric ‘Maximum Pressure’ policy, then may your economy be destroyed instead!” And also with respect to safe air travel: “If you won’t let your Europoodles sell us their Airbus airplanes because they contain American avionics components; and if you won’t let Boeing sell us any of their airplanes once the JCPOA paved the way for such a deal, then may your airplanes be grounded, and may Boeing go bankrupt! And may global air travel be reduced down by more than 80%.”

As Obama’s erstwhile preacher Jeremiah Wright memorably said, “God damn America, not God bless America!” Amen, brother! This is the prayer of all of the people of Iran, the people of Syria, of Yemen, of Iraq, of Libya, of Bolivia, of Venezuela, of Cuba, of the Axis of Resistance, and of all of the peoples whose countries have been ruined or are victims in some way of the American imperium.

Télos

One of the major differences between the theistic worldview of Moslems and Christians on one hand, and that of the modern mindset and of pre-modern atheists revolves around the issue of whether there is such a thing as a ‘Final Cause’, which is the fourth of the four Aristotelian causes (material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause). Final or télosic cause is the ultimate purpose of the existence of a given object; it is its telos, or the end-term or ultimate purpose of a process that is goal-driven and goal-directed. In the theistic worldview, everything exists for an ultimate purpose, which is to play its part, however small, in the arrival at the eschaton, or at the Final Event in God’s Plan, which is the Day of Judgment: the day everyone will be judged for their deeds on Earth, and the day upon which the eternal fate of their souls shall be determined. Everything is drawn (as opposed to driven) towards God, who is in control of the whole process, which control includes allowing a certain volitional latitude to the sons and daughters of Adam for testing purposes. It is this observation of man’s volitional acts by God and His ultimate judgment of them that gives them meaning.

The atomistic materialistic atheistic view, on the other hand, holds that there is no God and there is no control. Rather than a centripetal motion being drawn to a singularity at the center of the process (as in a vortex), the forces of the universe are mechanical and centrifugal, driving everything outwards towards nowhere in particular and with no particular meaning or purpose. (I talked about this recently on a radio show hosted by Kevin Barrett. Those interested in learning more about the political system in Iran can listen to the show here, where I discuss the thesis of my 2017 book, Creedal Foundations of Walīyic Islam – How Shī’a Theology, Prophetology and Imamology give rise to the theory of Velayat-e Faqih).

And so if we were to subject the phenomenon of the Covid-19 virus to an analysis that includes such a dichotomy, while the materialist and atheistic perspective maintains that the occurrence of the virus, or at least its dispersion, is random and non-purposive, the theistic perspective might see the interference of the Hand of Providence in the big picture view of the phenomenon. Perhaps it is an answer to the prayers of the hundreds of millions of people who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of “Christian” war pigs like Pompeo, and the “Jewish” war pig who heads the US Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, may they both be damned to Hell. Amen. Ditto the meathead Trump, of course.

This picture has been making the rounds on WhattsApp here in sunny Tehran.

The caption reads “An Artistic Impression of [the Meathead] Trump

More not Less Religious

Of course, there are conditions that prevent prayers from being answered. Perhaps if the authorities in Iran were a little more religious, their prayers would have been answered sooner. Perhaps if the Leader of the Revolution had used the facilities afforded by mass communication technology and had the tens of millions of people who poured out into the streets of the cities of Iran to bid farewell to their beloved Major General Qāsem Soleymānī to supplicate in unison for the ending of the American siege of the Shī’a Citadel, their prayers would have been answered sooner. The experiment in mass prayers has been carried out in Christian nations through the power of radio at least on one occasion that I know of, and that was conducted by George Noory, the host of the Coast to Coast radio show.

Much of the problems of modern man stem from his financial over-reach and his living beyond his actual means. And Iran is no exception (though of course the phenomenon is less pronounced in developing countries). Perhaps if the political order of Iran had eliminated the practice of their banks lending money with the policy that has come to be known as ‘fractional reserve’ banking where banks lend out more money than they actually have, their prayers would have been answered sooner. “By what right,” God will put the question to you, O bankers and Statesmen of modern governmental institutions, “did you lend money that you did not have? By what right did you create money out of thin air and create value and worth by fiat?? By what right did you de-couple the value of your national currency from real value, so that you could print money at will, making a mockery of the earnings of your citizens?” So the Islamic Revolution still has a long struggle ahead of it…

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Whether or not this virus is an answer to people’s prayers remains to be seen, especially with the effect it is going to have on the US economy, which has already seen a staggering 22 million people filing for unemployment benefits in the last month. Robert Redfield, an American virologist and the current Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the virus will be with us until the winter at any event, and that the effects of its second wave will be much worse because it will be compounded by the usual influenza epidemic which will be taking its toll, especially on the elderly, at the same time, as it does every year, taking the capacity of the health care system to breaking point. Time will tell. But either way, what is clear is that the United States needs to clean up its act and “start behaving like a normal nation” to quote the war pig Pompeo.

Abdul Mahdi Says US Pressuring Iraq to Cut Ties with Iran

 March 9, 2020

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister said the US is pressurizing Baghdad to sever relations with Tehran, but Iraqis will never allow their country to become a staging ground for clashes between other countries.

“By withdrawing from the JCPOA and putting pressures on Iran and Iraq, the US further complicated the regional situation, and is now mounting pressure on us and urges the severance of ties between Iraq and Iran,” said Adil Abdul Mahdi in a meeting with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in Baghdad.

Abdul Mahdi has remained in office as the caretaker prime minister of Iraq since his resignation in November.

Abdul Mahdi further underlined that the Iraqi people and government will never allow the Arab country to be a venue for the settlement of conflicts or clashes between other countries.

Praising the Iranian government and nation for their genuine support for Iraq in the difficult years of the war against terrorism, he expressed gratitude to Tehran for offering assistance in the battle with a novel coronavirus epidemic.

“The geopolitical logic dictates that we employ the potential of our neighbors to fulfill our national interests and security,” AbdulMahdi stated.

For his part, Shamkhani highlighted the leading role of Iraq in restoring stability and calm to the region, and voiced Iran’s support for the immediate formation of a popular government in the Arab country.

There is hard evidence that a Western-Arab-Hebrew axis is doing its utmost to obstruct stability in Iraq, Shamkhani said, adding that Takfiri terrorists were the West’s proxies that only sought Iraq’s disintegration.

The Iranian official also lauded the Iraqi Parliament for ratifying a bill on the expulsion of American military forces, saying the Iraqi army and popular forces have proved their ability to ensure security without reliance on foreign forces.

Related News

Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President: Askari

February 26, 2020 – 12:29

TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that “The Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President.”

“Open up a small channel with Iran in case it is needed given the unpredictability of U.S. foreign policy,” Hossein Askari, who served as special advisor to Saudi finance minister, tells the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Lebanese newspaper Al-Banna disclosed that Saudi Arabia had expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran after the Aramco oil facility incident, but it was ultimately the Americans who prevented Riyadh from fulfilling its demand. How effective do you think America is in affecting such decisions in Riyadh? 

A: Historically, Saudi Arabia would never think about negotiating with Iran before two conditions were met. The King was convinced that Iran was not bent on overthrowing the Al-Sauds, a paranoia that has poisoned rapprochement between the two countries. And second, America’s concurrence about a dialogue with Iran as the Kingdom is totally dependent on the United States for its self-defense. After the Iran Nuclear deal in 2015 (JCPOA), the Al-Sauds had second thoughts about relying on American support. Could they continue to depend on the United States? But when Trump became president and after his trip to Saudi Arabia, the Al-Sauds became emboldened. They felt they could do anything in the region because Trump had their back. But after the Aramco incident, when Trump did not retaliate against Iran for its alleged role, the Al-Sauds became weak in their needs. They had second thoughts. They were willing to hedge their bets. I don’t know, but I think the U.S. did not want any dialogue that would weaken its hands in dealing with Iran in the future. 

Q: In your opinion, what groups within Saudi Arabia are in favor of dialogue with Iran, and what groups oppose this? In general, the question is whether internal disputes within Saudi Arabia itself determine whether or not to negotiate with Iran. 

A: I think the issue is within the Al-Saud tribe. They don’t listen to other voices in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi public wants peace, less military expenditures and less foreign adventures in places such as Yemen or Syria. The Al-Sauds have to be convinced that Iran has no designs on their rule and will not work with anyone or any group in Saudi Arabia to change the ruling structure in Saudi Arabia. Until then, something that is impossible to predict as relations and events can change, it will rely on the United States the best it can and even secretly secure Israeli support.

Q: Saudi Arabia has aligned with Washington in pursuit of U.S. maximum pressure campaign toward Iran. But after the Aramco attack and the lack of serious U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, Riyadh found that its problems with Iran had to be resolved bilaterally. Do you agree with this assessment? 

A: Yes, bilaterally but with full U.S. backing to reach a global security arrangement for the entire Middle East region.

Q: In your opinion, which foreign countries oppose the normalization of Iran- Saudi relations and benefit more from the current situation? 

A: The countries that benefit are clear. First, the United States. Because of the conflict, it sells arms to Saudi Arabia and has preferred access to Saudi Arabia for selling everything else, goods and services, that the country imports. U.S. financial institutions are major beneficiaries of managing Saudi assets. But also don’t forget the benefits to lobbyists and consultants of turmoil in the Persian Gulf. The second country that benefits is Israel. I believe it has found a secret channel to Saudi Arabia, affording Israel a useful wedge to use against Iran and extract indirect Arab support in its suppression of Palestinian rights. Russia and China are afforded a role to exploit opportunities for influence in the region.

Q: Some media reported that the Americans had informed the Riyadh authorities that the Iranian system was in dire straits after the demonstrations in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran began and there was no need to negotiate. If this is true, why is Saudi Arabia fully defining its foreign policy towards Iran, despite the lack of American support for the Aramco attack? 

A: U.S. hawks, such as Bolton and the Israeli lobby, are all the time touting the imminent collapse of the government in Iran if just a little more pressure is brought to bear. Always, a little bit more. I don’t see any collapse of Iranian cooperation in Iraq or Lebanon. The one thing that has gotten worse for Iran is its economy. And even this seems to have stabilized. Still for the longer run, the migration of talent from Iran to Europe, North America and Australia spells further trouble ahead. But even if I am wrong and the Iranian system is in dire straits, the Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President. A Bernie sanders would scare the Al-Sauds to no end. They want to slowly hedge their bets. Open up a small channel with Iran in case it is needed given the unpredictability of U.S. foreign policy.

محور المقاومة :ربح بالنقاط في العراق ولبنان… والضربة القاضية بالنووي !

ناصر قنديل

خاض الأميركيون حربهم على محور المقاومة في ثلاث ساحات رئيسية، هي إيران ولبنان والعراق، بينما أصيب مشروعهم بالعجز عن الإقلاع في ثلاث أخرى هي سورية وفلسطين واليمن، حيث المسارات ترسمها قوى وحكومات محور المقاومة، وحيث الحلفاء الذين تعتمد عليهم واشنطن مصابون بالارتباك والعجز. فكيان الاحتلال أقوى حلفاء واشنطن غارق في متاهة سياسية انتخابية وحكومية وعجز عسكري متكرّر عن الإمساك بزمام المبادرة في فلسطين بوجه المقاومة، وفي اليمن المبادرة بيد أنصار الله، والأمن السعودي والإماراتي تحت رحمة ضرباتهم، وآخرها في مأرب زلزل حضورهم بالخسائر البشرية المؤلمة، بصورة أعادت مشهد ضربات مجمع آرامكو، بينما في سورية كل شيء في السياسة والميدان محور تحولات متسارعة لصالح مشروع الدولة السورية، من التموضع التركي إلى الحراك الكردي، وكل منهما يسابق الآخر نحو الدولة السورية، إلى معارك إدلب، ومسار اللجنة الدستورية، والعلاقة الروسية السورية وآفاقها، ورغم الوضع الاقتصادي الصعب تتحرّك الدولة السورية بقوة نحو معالجات وشراكات تتيح توسيع مجالات الحركة أمامها وتعزيز قدرات شعبها على الصمود.

الضغوط على الساحات الإيرانية والعراقية واللبنانية التي بدأتها واشنطن من بوابة الحصار المالي الخانق والرهان على الاحتجاجات والقدرة على توظيفها، بالتعاون مع حلفاء محليين، يتلقون تعليماتها أو يشتغلون لحساب مصالح خاصة تتقاطع مع الأهداف الأميركية، توّجت باغتيال القائدين قاسم سليماني وأبومهدي المهندس، لينفتح مسار المواجهة الأشد والأقسى بسقوف مرتفعة، وجاء السقوط الأول للرهان الأميركي في العراق بنهوض شارع واسع يتضامن مع قوى المقاومة ويطغى على الاحتجاج الحراكي الذي راهنت واشطن على تجييره، وشكل التحوّل الأبرز في جعل الساحة العراقية مفتوحة على خيار تعزيز مكانة قوى المقاومة، بربط ثنائية مشروع إخراج الأميركيين من العراق ورئاسة الحكومة الجديدة، على قاعدة التحالف مع السيد مقتدى الصدر، وهو تحالف يقترب من ترجمة هذه الثنائية، مع اقتراب تسمية رئيس حكومة بالتفاهم مع السيد الصدر وامتداده الحراكي الوازن، واقتراب موعد المليونية المناهضة للوجود الأميركي التي دعا إليها السيد الصدر وأيّدتها قوى المقاومة، ولا يستطيع أحد تجاهل حجم الرهان الأميركي على تحييد السيد الصدر من المواجهة، بل على كسبه في مواجهة عنوانها إخراج إيران لا أميركا من العراق.

في لبنان وبعدما راهن المشروع الأميركي على محاصرة قوى المقاومة بثنائية الحراك واستقالة الرئيس الحريري، نجحت عملية تسمية رئيس مكلف بتشكيل الحكومة يتمتع بمواصفات الصلابة والثبات ويمثل خلفية غير طائفية، وصاحب سيرة لم يستطع خصومه تظهير ثغرة يُعتدّ بها على صعيد تعامله مع المال العام خلال توليه وزارة بأهمية وزارة التربية. وبعد الرهان على تناقضات المصالح والأحجام والتوازنات داخل فريق المقاومة والحلفاء في تعزيز المصاعب بوجه تشكيل الحكومة، والضغوط المذهبية لدفع الرئيس المكلف للتراجع والاعتذار، تقترب الغالبية النيابية من الفوز بتشكيلة حكومية يطغى عليها التكنوقراط، ويصعب النيل من السيرة الذاتية لوزرائها رغم كثرة الكلام عن أنهم من المستشارين، لأن موقع التكنوقراط الطبيعي في حكومات سياسية هو أن يكونوا مستشارين، ويصيروا وزراء عندما تكون الحكومة من التكنوقراط. ومع إعلان الحكومة الجديدة سيتمّ طي صفحة وفتح صفحة في الحياة السياسية والتعامل مع الأزمات، وسيكون لفتح ملفات الفساد دور كافٍ في تحقيق توازن ردع لحماية الحكومة لأن المتفق عليه أن هذا الملف لن يسيَّس ولن يُترك مغلقاً وأن كل المتورطين ستتم مساءلتهم قضائياً بعد رفع الحصانات بموجب قانون.

التعامل الخليجي مع الساحتين العراقية واللبنانية لن يتّسم بالتصعيد بعد تشكيل الحكومة. فالحكومات الخليجية تخشى الانفتاح المالي القطري ومن ورائه السياسي التركي، ضمن التنسيق مع موسكو وطهران، والمواقف في عواصم الخليج تتحدّث عن عدم تكرار تجربة العزلة التي دفعت ثمنها غالياً في سورية بسبب العناد والرهانات الخاسرة، والمواقف الأوروبيّة لا توحي بما يُشاع عن نيات تصعيد بوجه الحكومة الجديدة مالياً، بل إن المؤشرات معاكسة، خصوصاً أن أوروبا والخليج تتّجهان لمحاولة فهم حدود الخطوة الإيرانية التي يتم التحضير لها على المستوى النووي، بعد الإعلان عن نية الخروج من معاهدة وكالة الطاقة الذرية للحدّ من الانتشار النووي، وليس إلغاء الاتفاق النووي فقط، وما لم يتم استدراك عاجل ومدروس أوروبياً وخليجياً بغطاء ضمني من واشنطن، فإن الكثيرين في عواصم أوروبا والخليج يتحدّثون عن كارثة مقبلة لا يمكن ردها حتى لو لم تذهب إيران نحو التراجع عن قرارها بعدم إنتاج سلاح نووي، لأنه يكفي بلوغ إيران عتبة امتلاك القنبلة الأولى تقنياً، كي تكون قد امتلكتها، وتلك ستكون الضربة القاضية التي تنقل إيران إلى مكان مختلف، على الأوروبيين والخليجيين أن يطرحوا على أنفسهم كيفية التعامل معها فيما الأميركي الغارق في الانتخابات وحساباتها، قد يفاجئهم بقرار انسحاب مموّه تحت عنوان هو إعلان النصر على الإرهاب ونهاية الحرب على داعش.

US Reportedly Tells European Allies to Pressure Iran or Face 25% Auto Tariffs

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00:56 16.01.2020

Under the Trump administration, the United States has widely expanded its economic leverage to renegotiate international agreements which it considers inequitable to US economic or strategic interests.

The Trump administration quietly threatened last week to impose tariffs on key European nations, just before they officially accused Iran of breaching the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

According to EU officials familiar with the talks, the United States threatened to impose a 25-percent tariff on European automobiles from Germany, France and Britain, if they refused to condemn Tehran’s actions and trigger a trade dispute mechanism within the deal.

Days after the alleged ultimatum, the 3 countries formally accused Iran of violating the agreement, triggering a fallback option which could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran, thus destroying the residual accords of the Obama-era nuclear deal.

“We’ve been very clear that the JCPOA was a horrible deal”, an unidentified senior US official within the Trump administration said, when asked about the tariff threat, cited by the WaPo.

The unnamed official acknowledged, however, that the Europeans were already moving towards triggering the dispute resolution before the US threat was issued.

“The consensus among the Europeans about the need to hold Tehran accountable took form weeks ago and was driven by Iran’s escalatory behavior and violations of the nuclear deal,” the official said, according to WaPo.

It is unclear whether the so-called EU 3 issued the criticism against Iran due to the US threat or whether interests just happened to align in this circumstance, as both blocs maintain an interest in triggering the mechanism.

The United States views the mechanism as a means of reimposing full sanctions on Iran within 65 days, while EU powers see it as a necessary way to ultimately restore the deal, reduce tensions, and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Abbas Araghchi (Center R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria.

© AFP 2019 / ALEX HALADAAbbas Araghchi (Center R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary General of the European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria.

A New Transatlantic Relationship

Trump has previously used tariffs against the EU to win favourable trade concessions, but has yet to use them to influence foreign policy.

The policy is, however, indicative of the way the Trump administration views geopolitics, seeing the world through an ‘America First’ lens and willing to use economic leverage to reorganise the global geopolitical balance.

Opposing the Iranian nuclear deal has been the position held by the US since Trump’s election in 2016, characterizing the Iran nuclear deal as “unfair” to the United States.

The Europeans, however, have maintained their dedication to the deal, with EU leaders repeatedly saying, in line with international nuclear inspectors, that Iran has consistently been found to be in compliance with the landmark peace deal.

“The tariff threat is a mafia-like tactic, and it’s not how relations between allies typically work” said Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

A Deal Scrapped 

Due to the recent heating up of tensions between the US and Iran beginning with the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA and the assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on 3 Janurary, Iran has begun to enrich uranium beyond the limits set by the deal.

The JCPOA was signed and ratified in 2015 by the US, Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the EU.

The purpose of the deal is to allow – but limit – Iran’s uranium enrichment program, to be used only for peaceful nuclear power and other research purposes, seeing Tehran agreeing to scrap its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, and reduce its number of gas centrifuges by around two-thirds.

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