› Iraq, Syria and the death of the modern Middle East (2) | Murtaza Hussain
[…] The unacknowledged truth behind the past decade of bloodletting in Iraq is that the country itself effectively ceased to exist after the 2003 US invasion. The northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan is today an independent country in all but name and is increasingly moving towards formal recognition of this fact - while Sunni and Shia Iraqis have come to see themselves more as distinct entities than as part of a cohesive nation. Iraqi Sunnis, a once-empowered minority, have taken up arms in recent months against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki and have staked their terms in a manner which acknowledges the irredeemable nature of a continued Iraqi state. In the words of Sunni cleric Mohammad Taha at a rally in Samarra:
“Al-Maliki has brought the country to the abyss… this leaves us with two options: Either civil war or the formation of our own autonomous region.”
There is evidence to suggest that this state of affairs was not an unintended consequence of the 2003 invasion. The American architects of the Iraq War - while couching their justifications for war in the rhetoric of liberation - had for years previously openly acknowledged and predicted that an invasion would result in the death of Iraq as a cohesive state. In a follow-up to their 1996 policy paper”A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” - a report published by leading neoconservative intellectuals, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, which advocated a radical reshaping of the Middle East using American military power - the report’s authors acknowledged the inevitability of Iraq’s demise post-invasion.
Predicting that after violently deposing the country’s government: “[Iraq]… would be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, thieves, clans, sects and key families” - the same individuals would nonetheless become the leading advocates of just such an invasion. The post-invasion decisions by the occupying authority to dissolve the army, patronise sectarian militias and death squads and destroy Iraq’s civilian infrastructure viewed in this light are far more comprehensible. The chaos which has enveloped the country since 2003 has not been an unintended consequence, but rather the one which was predicted years earlier by the war’s architects and then perfectly executed. Today the partition of Iraq is mapped out by American think-tanks seeking put a final end to that country and divide it into its contingent ethnic and religious parts. [READ]
The Sykes-Picot Agreement - which divided the Ottoman Empire after World War I and created the Middle East as we know it - is today violently breaking apart in front of the eyes of the world. The countries of Syria and Iraq; formerly unified Arab states formed after the defeat of their former Ottoman rulers, exist today only in name. In their place what appears most likely to come into existence - after the bloodshed subsides - are small, ethnically and religiously homogenous statelets: weak and easily manipulated, where their progenitors at their peaks were robustly independent powers. … Such states, divided upon sectarian lines, would be politically pliable, isolated and enfeebled, and thus utterly incapable of offering a meaningful defence against foreign interventionism in the region. Given the implications for the Middle East, where overt foreign aggression has been a consistent theme for decades, there is reason to believe that this state of affairs has been consciously engineered.
Iraq, Syria and the death of the modern Middle East | Murtaza Hussain
Actually, the question of the Iranian threat is quite interesting. It’s discussed as if that’s the major issue of the current era. And not just in the United States, Britain too. This is ‘the year of Iran,’ Iran is the major threat, the major policy issue. It does raise the question: What’s the Iranian threat? That’s never seriously discussed, but there is an authoritative answer, which isn’t reported. The authoritative answer was given by the Pentagon and intelligence in April 2010; they have an annual submission to Congress on the global security system, and of course discussed Iran. They made it very clear that the threat is not military. They said Iran has very low military spending even by the standards of the region; their strategic doctrine is completely defensive, it’s designed to deter an invasion long enough to allow diplomacy to begin to operate; they have very little capacity to deploy force abroad. They say if Iran were developing nuclear capability, which is not the same as weapons, it would be part of the deterrent strategy,which is what most strategic analysts take for granted, so there’s no military threat. Nevertheless, they say it’s the most significant threat in the world. What is it? Well, that’s interesting. They’re trying to extend their influence in neighboring countries; that’s what’s called destabilizing. So if we invade their neighbors and occupy them, that’s stabilizing. Which is a standard assumption. It basically says, ‘Look, we own the world.’ And if anybody doesn’t follow orders, they’re aggressive.
Noam Chomsky, an excerpt from How Close the World is to a Nuclear War, which will be released 30, April 2013. (via therecipe)
Noam Chomsky says, more or less, what I’ve stretched into an unorganized and sloppy tag in just a few sentences.
› Clapper: Iran Still Not Building a Nuclear Weapon; Purpose of Sanctions is to Foster Unrest | Nima Shirazi
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and reiterated the same assessment regarding Iran as was delivered in March 2013.
The exact same statements - verbatim - were included in Clapper’s unclassified report, including the assessment that “Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
Of course, as Clapper notes, Iran’s ability to potentially manufacture the components is inherent to its advanced nuclear infrastructure and is not an indication of an active nuclear weapons program, which all U.S. intelligence agencies agree Iran does not have.
During questioning from Senators following his prepared remarks, Clapper admitted - as a number of recent independent reports have shown - that the increasingly harsh sanctions levied upon Iran have had no effect on the decision-making process of the Iranian leadership, yet has produced considerable damage to the Iranian economy and resulted in increased “inflation, unemployment, [and the] unavailability of commodities” for the Iranian people.
This, he said, is entirely the point. Responding to Maine Senator Angus King, who asked about the impact sanctions have on the Iranian government, Clapper explained that the intent of sanctions is to spark dissent and unrest in the Iranian population, effectively stating that Obama administration’s continued collective punishment of the Iranian people is a deliberate (and embarrassingly futile) tactic employed to the foment regime change.
“What they do worry about though is sufficient restiveness in the street that would actually jeopardize the regime. I think they are concerned about that,” Clapper said of the Iranian leadership. It is no wonder, then, why Clapper refers in his own official report to the economic warfare waged against Iran as “regime threatening sanctions.”
Not mentioned in the session, of course, are the decades of repeated affirmations by senior Iranian officials that Iran rejects nuclear weapons on strategic, moral and religious grounds. Within the past six weeks, this position has been reiterated by Iran’s envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, President Ahmadinejad, and Ayatollah Khamenei himself.
Just two days ago, for instance, during a three-day diplomatic visit to Africa, Ahmadinejad declared, “The era of the atomic bomb is over. Atomic bombs are no longer useful and have no effect on political equations. Atomic bombs belong to the last century, and anyone who thinks he can rule the world by atomic bombs is a political fool,” according to a report by Iran’s state-run PressTV. He also pushed back the constant conflation in Western discourse of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. “Nuclear energy is one thing and an atomic bomb is another. This useful energy must belong to all nations,” he stated.
Furthermore, reports that Iran has continued converting its stockpiled 19.75% enriched uranium into fuel plates for its cancer-treating medical research reactor gained absolutely no traction within the Committee or Clapper’s comments. For Congress, Iran is a threat simply by virtue of having independent political considerations, inalienable national rights and refusing to accept American hegemony over its own security interests. [++]
From the Washington Post, 4/14/2013, “Niger rapidly emerges as a key U.S. partner in anti-terrorism fight in Africa”:
The Pentagon is deepening its military involvement across Africa as it confronts an expanding array of “terrorist movements” and guerrilla groups. In doing so [and following a long, historical tradition], the U.S. government has become dependent on several countries with checkered democratic records. That in turn has lessened Washington’s leverage to push those countries to practice free elections and the rule of law.
In Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, President Ismail Omar Guelleh has ruled unchallenged over his tiny country since 1999 by marginalizing political opponents and confining journalists. Still, the U.S. government has embraced Guelleh as a friend because he has allowed the Pentagon to build a major counter-terrorism base on his territory.
In Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni has served as president for 27 years, U.S. officials have objected to the persecution of gay men and lesbians and other human-rights abuses. But Washington has kept up a generous flow of foreign aid. It also pays Uganda to send troops to war-torn Somalia and lead a regional hunt for Joseph Kony, the brutal leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
In Kenya, U.S. diplomats warned there would be unspecified “consequences” if the country elected a fugitive from the International Criminal Court as its new president. Kenyans did anyway, and the Obama administration has hesitated to downgrade relations because it needs help on counter-terrorism.
Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.
“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”
The official said the administration of former President George W. Bush took the same approach in Africa. Many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy, but that has not happened, the official added.
“There’s pretty much been no change at all,” the official said. “In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.”
› Deep Sanctions on Iran are Repeating the Deadly Mistakes of Iraq | Coralie Pison Hindawi
… By the Fall 2003, Iran declared having adopted a policy of full disclosure and, following an agreement with France, Germany and the UK, decided to suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities, as well as to sign the Additional Protocol and start applying it in advance of its ratification. These measures were portrayed by all parties involved as designed to restore confidence, pending the resolution of the outstanding issues related to Iran’s past activities. In the following months, the IAEA acknowledged good progress in its understanding of the Iranian program. By mid 2004, the list of unexplained questions had shortened and there seemed to be two main issues outstanding that the IAEA wanted to clarify: the origin of high and low-enriched uranium contamination found in some nuclear facilities, as well as Iran’s efforts to import, manufacture and use P1 and P2 centrifuges. Reading the IAEA reports at the time, the resolution of these issues was presented as ‘of key importance to the Agency’s ability to provide the international community with the required assurances about Iran’s nuclear activities’. This gave the impression that the resolution of these issues would lead to the closure of the file.
Interestingly, though, and we are gradually approaching the core of the problem, what triggered the IAEA Board of Governors to loose patience in September 2005, declare that Iran was in ‘non-compliance’ with its safeguard agreement (while it was clear by mid-2003 that Iran had breached the agreement, but had worked since with the IAEA to make up for that) and refer the matter to the UN Security Council – thereby letting Iran fall into the Chapter VII trap – was not a new disclosure about concealed actions, but the fact that Iran had restarted its enrichment and reprocessing activities.
There is an irony here, and it is one that had also appeared in the Iraqi case a decade before: it is the fact that, in spite of the cooperation displayed by the Iranians from late 2003 until 2005, the pressure on that state was not decreased, but progressively increased. The fact that several times, increased cooperation actually led to harsher resolutions or, for the post-2005 period, further sanctions. The fact that almost each time one file has been closed by the IAEA, new issues have been raised, based upon new intelligence made available by third states to the agency. While it has now become a cliché, it is difficult not to think of the Iraqi case, in which a very coercive disarmament process went on for twelve years, growing increasingly confrontational and ultimately providing the best justification for the invasion of the country, whereas nobody can now refute that the vast majority of the Iraqi WMD and programs had been destroyed or dismantled at the latest by the mid-1990s.
This major paradox in the case of Iraq can neither be explained by the so-called failure of US intelligence, nor by the various motives of the Bush administration to launch an unnecessary war (since the crisis related to the Iraqi WMDs started and unfolded long before G. W. Bush became president). The thing is simply that the Iraqi disarmament file was never closed in spite of the fact that there were no weapons left because such coercive, Chapter VII-based, WMD arms control processes have the potential never to be closed.
Looking at the Iranian nuclear crisis today, the issue has really very little to do with how high the cost inflicted by the sanctions on Iran must be to force the regime to cooperate, and what the red lines are for both Iran and the ‘West’. Arguably, talks as the recent ones in Kazakhstan, offers of limited relief on sanctions, should the Iranians agree on one move or another, don’t have the potential to solve things either. The file is now on the Security Council’s desk, acting under Chapter VII, and the rationale for the Council’s involvement is the need to regain trust in the peaceful intentions of Iran’s nuclear activities. However, even in the unlikely event that the Iranians would agree to ‘cooperate fully’ with the IAEA and to refrain from pursuing some of the nuclear activities they have been involved in, it is impossible to define clearly what level of cooperation will be considered enough to end the process, what new requirements or questions may be raised, month after month, possibly year after year. There are reasons to fear, borrowing the words of former IAEA Director and Nobel Peace prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, that ‘… nothing would satisfy, short of Iran coming to the table completely undressed’. I have no doubt the Iranians involved in the process understand well that they are now in the same position as their late Iraqi foe, and that the possibility exists that under its current leadership, Iran may never be considered to have ‘fully complied’ with the Council’s demand.
Once again: “Charlie says again: ‘You can have everything you say you want!’ As on the other occasions, Sam yells: ‘THIS MEANS WAR!!’ Everyone knows Sam means it. And Sam gets ready to murder Charlie and his entire family.”:
Obama and the U.S. Government repeatedly insist that punishing sanctions against Iran are intended to avoid war, that they are meant as an alternative to war. The purpose, we are told, is to compel Iran to cease its attempts to develop nuclear weapons — attempts which Iran denies it has ever made or is making now, and for which no evidence exists — so that Iran may rejoin “the world community.” This is exactly what the U.S. Government said about the sanctions against Iraq. It was a lie then and it’s a lie now. What the U.S. says it wants is not what it actually wants.
› Empire of Deceit
If you took all the uncomfortable truths omitted from mainstream media over the past half century, compiled and indexed them, and added a dash of withering sarcasm, you might end up with a book a lot like, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy [Zed Books, 2013] the latest offering from serial dissident William Blum. Like his better-known peers Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal, Blum is a perennial gadfly on the imperial hide, puncturing falsehood and punctuating hypocrisy with an implacable zeal. On the back cover of Blum’s book Rogue State—and repeated in the current volume—is the following paragraph, probably the finest he has or may put to paper:
If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publically and very sincerely –to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money. One year’s military budget of $330 billion is equal to more than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.
This paragraph was famously quoted by Osama Bin Laden in one of his grainy video homilies to the world in 2006. A minor media storm followed, hovering over Blum like a drone over a Waziristan hamlet. Once the furor subsided, however, Blum’s connection to OBL contaminated his reputation as a public figure. In the half dozen years since, Blum has received scant few speaking invitations from universities after enjoying a steady diet of engagements in the years prior. One can just envision the blandly decorous university administrator, seated in his mahogany office, dismissing out of hand a proposed invite to Blum, admonishing naïve student advocates to use a bit more discretion in their choice of speakers. But it was their loss.
Blum’s latest offering confirms that his exile from the college circuit has done nothing to dim his fury. The new book is a compilation of essays and articles dating from the middle of the Bush years through 2011, and covering a vast range of foreign policy issues. Blum writes with disarming informality, a writer with little time for the artful turns of the poet or novelist. His mission feels too urgent for anything but blank candor. In contrast to a more measured analyst like Chomsky, Blum holds nothing back. He launches salvo after salvo at the edifice of imperial falsification, a veritable babel of cloaked belligerence. Yet his indignation is leavened by healthy doses of humor, including a late chapter that envisions a global police state of comical extremes.
Blum’s central objective, it seems, is to expose the American mythology of good intentions. He states in the introduction, writing about the American public, “No matter how many times they’re lied to, they still often underestimate the government’s capacity for deceit, clinging to the belief that their leaders somehow mean well. As long as people believe that their elected leaders are well intentioned, the leaders can, and do, get away with murder. Literally.” [continue]
› Almost without exception, the rush of ten-year reflections ignored that the war happened mostly for Iraqis | MERIP
[…] The Iraq war is poised to disappear … from American popular consciousness, once the present flurry of retrospectives has blown over. President Barack Obama took the lid off the memory hole with his injunction to “look forward, not backward.” No official from the administration of George W. Bush has paid the smallest price — not for dispatching US soldiers to their deaths for nothing, not for squandering billions of taxpayer dollars, not for terrifying the public into supporting the war with ghost stories about mushroom clouds and unmanned aerial vehicles spraying anthrax. And not for dealing a shattering blow to Iraq itself — the untold hundreds of thousands killed, the millions uprooted from their homes, the thousands tortured by the US or its Iraqi vassals, the enshrinement of sectarian logic in the institutions of the Iraqi state. Almost without exception, the rush of ten-year reflections ignored that the war happened mostly for Iraqis and that millions of them live with its traumas still. The war’s violence persists, and war-driven sectarianism afflicts not only Iraq but also the greater Middle East. Most of the displaced are unable to return. And then there is the haunting environmental damage: The US military dropped an unknown number of depleted uranium and other toxic munitions upon Falluja and elsewhere, leading to cancer clusters and an epidemic of birth defects. For Iraqis, the war is hardly over. Yet, these facts notwithstanding, Bush administration officials receive invitations to speak at prestigious institutions, where they have the gall to assert that the invasion was “worth it” or that only time will tell.
With such rot at the top, it is no wonder that history is being forgotten or rewritten further down the ranks. On March 18, Bill Bigelow, a long-time high-school teacher from Oregon now with Rethinking Schools, wrote an editorial in which he quoted from the Iraq war chapter in Modern World History, a widely adopted textbook published by Holt McDougal. The textbook offers a bowdlerized reading of the war’s origins and what Bigelow calls a “bloodless” account of the “major combat.” Of the Coalition Provisional Authority era, the 14 months in 2003-2004 when L. Paul Bremer directly misruled Iraq, the text says, “Despite the coalition victory, much work remained in Iraq. With the help of US officials, Iraqis began rebuilding their nation.” But the final indignity to history comes at the end, in what the textbook authors call a “critical writing” exercise for the students: “Imagine you are a speechwriter for President Bush. Write the introductory paragraph of a speech to coalition forces after their victory in Iraq.” When a politician’s tribute to the troops is conceived as a model for “critical writing,” the real lessons of the Iraq war are in danger of utter evaporation.
So here is an alternative question and a suggested answer: Is Alan Greenspan right? Was it “essential” for the preservation of US superpower status to invade Iraq in 2003? No. Though sanctions were weakening, and the international consensus behind them crumbling, the Iraqi military was dilapidated and posed no threat to the oil patch outside Iraqi borders. Iraqi oil could have been brought back to market by other means. The immediate cause of the war was a nasty historical accident: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 gave free rein to the neo-conservatives and their masters to enact their distinct vision for perpetuating US hegemony, a project for which the ouster of Saddam Hussein was to be a test run. But the Iraq war was indeed “largely about oil,” in that oil created the conditions of the war’s possibility. Understanding the relationship between oil and war is crucial for all who seek to prevent a repeat of the 2003 invasion, which, much more than a blunder, was and remains a huge and heinous crime. [must read]
› Visions: America after Hegemony | Cole Harrison
The organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has been to ensure that every nation in the world stays within a security structure managed and controlled by Washington. Nations, regardless of their ideological orientation, that refuse to follow U.S. wishes find themselves demonized and pressured to conform, while nations whose states are not centralized enough to control their territory are called “failed states” and are subjected to often counterproductive “nation building.”
In colloquial terms, Washington seeks to act as the world’s policeman. Defenders of U.S. hegemony often darkly warn of the disorder that might result if the United States did not shoulder this difficult task. They offer the 9/11 attacks as the ultimate darkness to spring from an unpoliced world, limiting the national security debate between Democrats and Republicans to what MIT scholar Barry Posen calls “the modalities of hegemony.”
But when it comes to any meaningful discussion of whether the United States has any business running the rest of the world, the silence is deafening. Congress and the mainstream media almost never discuss why the United States should maintain a global force structure, why it needs to station an estimated 1,000 bases in over 100 countries, why it requires exorbitantly expensive weapons systems, or why it has a “vital interest” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or in the region surrounding China. These questions are never asked because of the ruling elite’s consensus on the need for hegemony.
It is true that most Americans still fear terrorism and, more generally. foreign threats to their security. Opinion makers have cultivated these fears in every possible way since 9/11, with terrorism replacing Communism as a bogey-man justifying the policy of hegemony, or what Stephen Walt calls “deep engagement.”
Yet polls also consistently show that majorities of Americans support cutting the military budget instead of Social Security, Medicare, or other essential programs. That tells us that while people think the military might keep them safe, they are absolutely sure that Social Security does.
In other words, support for the hegemonic foreign policy is soft. But to crack the hegemonic consensus, the peace movement must offer an alternative to hegemony that offers real security to the American people — a new democratic foreign policy that does a better job than hegemony of providing human security. [continue]
Iran, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. And Iran is being closely monitored. However, the U.S. still pushes for more, and Iran still faces crushing sanctions and constant threat of war. When the whole world, though, asks Israel to have her nuclear weapons program monitored and to be brought within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the U.S. votes no. For the Iranians, this American U.N. vote must be the most glaring example of hypocrisy of all.
Ted Snider, The New Generation of Hypocrisy on Iran
see also (highly recommended): Seeming Madness: The Suffocating Unreality that Kills
› Iran Will Submit Written Promise Never to Seek Nuclear Weapons
I thought that’s what this was about. Then again, like any bully, the US is all about humiliation.
› State Dept Reiterates Sanctions Threat Against Pakistan Over Iran Pipeline
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has reiterated US threats to impose economic sanctions on Pakistan if it dares to follow through on the oft-delayed plans to build a gas pipeline to neighboring Iran.
“If this project actually goes forward, that the Iran Sanctions Act would be triggered,” Nuland noted, insisting that they have been “straight up with the Pakistanis” about that fact.
Nuland has regularly presented Pakistanis with a choice between sanctions and US help in overcoming its energy crisis, which is choking the nation’s economy and is the prime mover behind the pipeline. The US pledges never seem to materialize, however, though they have caused several delays to the pipeline.
In the end, Pakistan may find itself in a position to call the administration’s bluff on sanctions, as the US almost certainly will not risk tit-for-tat sanctions that could close the Pakistani supply route into occupied Afghanistan. The final decision may hinge on the results of Pakistan’s upcoming election, however, and whether forces calling for economy independence through trade and industry can top the factions hoping for US handouts to finally materialize.
It’s all about TAPI. Welcome to pipelineistan.
› US Threatens Sanctions on Pakistan Over Gas Pipeline
The IP gas pipeline, an ambitious plan initially introduced in 1989 and which would potentially be a big step in finally solving Pakistan’s long-standing energy crisis, looks to finally get underway this month. But not if the US gets its way.
The US State Department has issued a statement today insisting that building a pipeline to Iran from which to import natural gas was in and of itself a “sanctionable” offense, which the US considers wholly unacceptable.
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the US intended to help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis, but that actually importing energy from a neighbor with a surplus was not the right way to go about it.
The US has repeatedly made such threats over the past several years, and has repeatedly promised energy aid if the plan was scrapped. That energy aid never seems to materialize however, and after stalling the plan for years, Pakistan seems set to go ahead with it.
› Time to Face the Truth about Iran (2) | Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett
[…] Even if Tehran won’t surrender to American diktats and the Islamic Republic doesn’t collapse, a critical mass of US policy elites argue that continuing the current mix of sanctions and faux diplomacy is worthwhile, because this will persuade Iranians, other Middle Easterners and Americans that the failure to reach a deal is the Iranian government’s fault. And that, it is held, will justify the ultimate “necessity” of US military strikes.
Americans should have no illusions about the consequences of an overt, US-initiated war against the Islamic Republic. Using American military power to disarm another Middle Eastern state of weapons of mass destruction it does not have, even as Washington stays quiet about Israel’s arsenal of about 200 nuclear weapons, would elevate already high levels of anti-American sentiment in the region, threatening our remaining allies there and rendering their cooperation with the United States virtually impossible. American military action against the Islamic Republic would have no international legitimacy. The larger part of the international community (120 of the UN’s 193 member states are part of the Non-Aligned Movement, which recently elected the Islamic Republic as its chair) is already on record that it would consider an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities illegal. There will be no UN Security Council authorization for such action; Washington will have no allies save Israel and (perhaps) Britain.
Starting a war with Iran over the nuclear issue would ratify the US image, in the Middle East and globally, as an outlaw superpower. This prospect is even more dangerous to America’s strategic position today than it was after the invasion of Iraq. Just a few years ago, the United States was still an unchallenged superpower. Other countries’ views did not matter much; especially in the Middle East, Washington could usually impose its requirements on compliant governments whose foreign policies were largely unreflective of their own peoples’ opinions.
Today, as more countries with increasingly mobilized publics seek greater independence, their views on regional and international issues — as well as the views of their people — matter much more. Therein lies the real challenge posed by the Islamic Republic, a challenge that Washington has yet to meet squarely: How does the United States work with an Iran — or an Egypt, for that matter — acting to promote its interests as it sees them, rather than as Washington defines them? America needs better relations with Tehran to begin improving ties with the growing number of Islamist political orders across the Middle East, which is essential to saving what’s left of the US position in the region. It also needs Tehran’s help to contain the rising tide of jihadi terrorism in the region — a phenomenon fueled by Saudi Arabia and Washington’s other ostensible Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. Iran is a critical player for shaping the future not only of Iraq and Afghanistan, but Syria as well. More than ever before, American interests require rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. Continued US hostility only courts strategic disaster. [++]
[T]he very foundation of the international order is that the United States has the right to use violence at will. … That’s what it means to own the world. It’s like the air you breathe. You can’t question it. The main founder of contemporary IR [international relations] theory, Hans Morgenthau, was really quite a decent person, one of the very few political scientists and international affairs specialists to criticize the Vietnam War on moral, not tactical, grounds. Very rare. He wrote a book called The Purpose of American Politics. You already know what’s coming. Other countries don’t have purposes. The purpose of America, on the other hand, is ‘transcendent’: to bring freedom and justice to the rest of the world. But he’s a good scholar, like Carothers. So he went through the record. He said, when you study the record, it looks as if the United States hasn’t lived up to its transcendent purpose. But then he says, to criticize our transcendent purpose ‘is to fall into the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds’ — which is a good comparison. It’s a deeply entrenched religious belief. It’s so deep that it’s going to be hard to disentangle it. And if anyone questions that, it leads to near hysteria and often to charges of anti-Americanism or ‘hating America’ — interesting concepts that don’t exist in democratic societies, only in totalitarian societies and here, where they’re just taken for granted.
Noam Chomsky, Why It’s “Legal” When the U.S. Does It