US, Iran, and the Middle East
Open Discussions in association with Gulf Cultural Club
US, Iran, and the Middle East
*Professor Alexandar Azadagen
(Professor, Senior Geopolitical Analyst, Senior Editor)
** Dr Marcus Papadopoulos
(Historian, Analyst, Editor and Author)
*** Paul Ingram
(Nuclear Disarmament Expert)
2nd February 2021
The US elections may lead to a possible change in Washington’s foreign policy and attitude towards multilateralism. Many expectations have been pinned on President Joe Biden as he seeks to disengage with Donald Trump’s disastrous policies. Iran and the Middle East are among the areas where Mr. Biden may adopt different policies. As Iran marks the 42nd anniversary of its Revolution, what will happen to the tense relations with the United States?
Can Iran’s domestic and regional policies be accommodated by Washington? What will the US do with Trump’s approach to Israel’s occupation of Palestine? And how will it deal with its undemocratic friends in the Middle East?
Alexander Azadgan: It is interesting this presentation is taking place at this moment. In the Iranian calendar, ten days before the revolution is called daher faj – the last ten days literally. The Iranian revolution was a pivotal moment not just in the Muslim world but also in the broader Arab world and from a geo-political perspective in the entire world.
Let us not forget that Samuel Huttington and his Clash of Civilisations book whose thesis, unfortunately, has taken over many foreign policy circles both here and in the United States as well as in Europe. The biggest threat he identified to the world order was the threat from revolutionary Islam. My colleagues and I do not acknowledge Washington and Brussel’s classification in this struggle as Shia via Muslim. We completely disagree with these assertions.
Joe Biden was really tampering with that when he was a senator during George W Bush’s time. Joe Biden in my opinion is a continuation in a different way of Trump’s policies. Here is a man in whose entire cabinet the main positions are all held by Zionists. This is unprecedented in our history. We believe this struggle in the Muslim world when it comes to the Iranian revolution is not between Shia and Sunni. We believe this is the struggle between Islam and this backward minded savage like the bloodthirsty misinterpretation of Islam that started around 300 years ago in the Arabian Peninsula called Wahabism.
Enough light has been shed on this. People like Mohammed bin Salman and other bloodthirsty people like him have clearly demonstrated vile techniques. The case of Jamal Kashogi comes to mind. President Trump whitewashed the whole thing. He is on record as saying that what really matters is the millions of dollars of weapons that we sell to Saudi Arabia.
Even the CIA pinpointed Mohammed Bin Salman as the chief murderer in the case of this Saudi dissident journalist. All these things are interconnected. We had Lindsay Graham one of the senior senators here in the United States. He was questioning this very creepy character who was going to be Biden’s next Secretary of State – Anthony Blinken. The first question they ask these people is how do they feel about Israel? Number two do you believe Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism? This is absolutely outrageous in a post 9/11 world to pick on Iran and call them the greatest state sponsor of terrorism. He agreed wholeheartedly with these two despicable questions posed by Lindsay Graham a character of living infamy in American history when it comes to senate politics.
The greatest social terrorist, sad to say, is the government of my own country, the party of war in Washington regardless of whether it is the Republican or Democratic Party. This mentality in Washington is the greatest sponsor of terrorism and this translates into their proxy states in the region like Saudi Arabia and of course the Zionist regime. And now the UAE.
The real nature of the Iranian revolution if it is alive it is under tremendous pressure. The Iranian people are tired after 43 years. Many people not all. Not the millennials. They are tired of carrying the mantle for the whole world against Zionists. Followed second by Qatar. Qatar is interesting. They always follow both sides of the fence. They support the Palestinians as the Iranians do.
But the very nature of the Iranian revolution was purely anti-Zionist. It was a revolution against the West. It was a revolution against imperialism but the Iranians later called it global arrogance. The second nature of the Iranian revolution was very much messianic in the context of Shia Islam’s understanding of end-times events that we are experiencing. We are living in the end times. They believe in the revolution and the establishment of the vilayet al faqih, the guardian of the jurisprudence of Muslim scholars. This would hasten the coming of Mahdi into the world.
They have a very strong thesis. They have very strong convictions. That is why after 42 years this revolution is still there. You are literally looking a year after the revolution one of the most horrific wars of the 20th century took place. I don’t like to call it the Iran-Iraq war. I do not like to call it the Iraqi-imposed war. The correct term for that war is the Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime imposed war. Iran and Iraq are allies now. It is incredible how things turn around.
A year after that they unleashed their wrath. Twenty-seven countries around the world financed and provided military armaments in order to suppress Iran. Many sectors of the Arab world were absolutely petrified of Iran’s revolution. They thought it was going to take over. You talk about the Arab spring which was really nothing but Arab chaos. You go back. The Iranian revolution literally was the first spring. It was not Arab, it was 100 percent Iranian.
But this movement was there since 1953 when the United States got rid of the democratically elected prime minister Mosedeq. It was ruled for decades. And the Shah of Iran became more westernised. He became a Western puppet. Religion itself in Iran was threatened. There is a deviant sect in Islam called Bahaism. It is a free masonic creation and during the time of the Shah these powers held key powers in the Iranian power structure.
So the Iranian revolution was also against freemasonry believe it or not. In Iran this manifested itself primarily through Zionist Judaism. And then these calls of Bahaism. They were also working from that element. That is why I think that Iran for the past 42 years has been deemed as the great danger to the new world order. A year after its victory it was put into a situation where it went through horrific times with the Saddam imposed war. For eight years it was a trench warfare WW1 kind of situation. It continues. Today’s version of the Saddam Hussein imposed war is manifesting itself in terms of Israel trying to create a tremendous wedge between two Muslim countries Saudi Arabia and Iran and trying to create an Iraq 2.0 conflict. Let us not forget at the height of the Saddam Hussein imposed war you had Israelis selling the Iranians the same weapons as the other 27 countries were selling to Iraq at four times the value. This is the old Rothschild policy of selling weapons to both sides to make sure they finish themselves off.
And when it comes to politics – and internal US politics – that manifests itself in terms of the Zionists supporting both Democrats and Republicans – so either way they win. This is what we are dealing with – the deviation, the evil.
Having said that, it is very important to say that the Iranian revolution did not have the sophistication that is has today. Naturally, revolutions evolve as time goes by. The capture of the US embassy even though they were clearly spies was in my mind and emotive and an impulsive act and they fell right into the hands of their enemies.
You have to understand that the Iranian revolution was a consortium of many anti-Shah movements. You had the MJKO terrorists the expats now who participated in that. You had downright communists who participated. You had all sorts of groups who were so anti the monarchy in Iran that they felt that they all needed to come together. And the Iranian clergy came out victorious from all these different groups. The MKO the Mujahideen Al Khalq are probably the most viable anti-Iranian opposition groups. They sided with Saddam Hussein during the Baathist imposed war during those eight years. They are loathed by Iranians. But they are viable in terms of being the operational arm of Mossad. They were instrumental in the savage murder of the Iranian nuclear physicist.
They had a hand in the revolution but as time went on the clergy eliminated their rivals and enemies and the guardian of jurisprudence took over everything. If you really want to understand what is going on in Iran you need to be at the very minimum fluent in Persian and in Arabic. There are a lot of Iran experts but they do not really have the understanding, the academic capability, or the journalistic capability to follow what is really going on among the youth – the millennials following Iran’s social media on a daily or hourly basis. They need to be fluent in Persian in order to pontificate on these issues from a journalistic and academic perspective.
I mention that because if you follow the Iranian social media, the youth – the revolution is in danger. The economic opportunities are not there for them. They are socially, politically, and economically alienated. This is mostly due to the horrific, draconian sections against Iran and also the horrific corruption in Iran.
Luckily the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Raisi endorsed by the supreme leader is literally cleaning the house of hundreds of embezzlers and horrific people who were taking advantage of the Iranian people. At a time like this, you have to be fair and balanced. The plight of Iran is not just an external issue. It is very much an internal issue. Their banking sector is an absolute disaster. It is one of the few things that keeps me awake at night waiting for the bubble to burst. It is a tremendously inefficient and unpatriotic system exporting thousands of jobs to China. China is not just a clear and present danger to us in the United States. It is a clear and present danger to many countries in the world whose capitalists are exporting jobs to China. As a result of this, a great portion of the Iranian youth who happen to be liberal is very unsettled. That is why the commemoration of the revolution is crucial these days because 24 – 25 million people who voted for this neoliberal Hassan Rohani a lot of them are re-examining their points of view – mostly political but also social and economic.
This concept of heroic flexibility that the Iranian leader was talking about is becoming fruitful. This term that they concocted deep within Iranian think tanks was not just about showing flexibility during the nuclear negotiations. It was to show good faith to the entire global community that Iran was willing to open up its nuclear programme minus the military part of it.
Israel is not a member of the NPT and there are no inspections of its nuclear facilities. They did show that flexibility. The most important aspect of the flexibility was for the Iranian people to realise that by voting for this guy his policies were contrary to the national interest. The conservatives in Iran have won the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iranian youth slowly but surely.
So this is what we are observing in Iran and this trend is going to continue until next year. They are talking about abolishing the office of the presidency, quite possibly going back to the parliamentary system so you will not be stuck with a liberal like Hassan Rohani or anybody else for two terms which is eight years and going into a prime ministerial system and you are forecasting that Iran’s next president or prime minister will be somebody coming from the armed forces, particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Dr Marcus Papadopoulos; Thank you to Open Discussions and the Gulf Cultural Club for having organised tonight’s timely discussion and thank you too for having me invited to participate in this.
Before I commence with my speech, I would like to convey my heartfelt wishes to the Iranian people on the 42nd anniversary of the great Iranian revolution of 1979 – the most important revolution in world affairs since the glorious Cuban one of 1959.
First and foremost, the Iranian revolution threw off the yoke of American and British tyranny and subjugation in Iran, and returned the country to the Iranian people. Accordingly, ancient Iranian honour, which spans thousands of years, stemming back to the Persian empires of Cyrus the Great, Xeres the Great, and Darius the Great was restored and has been upheld ever since by the Iranian revolution.0
Secondly as a result of the Iranian revolution, Iran today is a crucial bulwark against terrorism, with the Iranian state having first prevented the Taliban’s tentacles from expanding into the Middle East, from Afghanistan, and then with the Iranian state having played the cardinal role in the defeat and destruction of ISIS in Iraq and having served a majorly important role in the defeat and destruction of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria.
There are numerous other benefits which the Iranian people and others have come to enjoy as a consequence of the Iranian revolution, such as the Lebanese people whose country, on its southern border, is heroically defended by Hezbollah from Israeli aggression, But there is one benefit springing from the Iranian revolution which is particularly significant for all of mankind: at a time when moral degeneracy and depravity has attained through the support of Western politicians and journalists, either legitimacy or legality in Western societies in which for instance the rights and safety of children and women are under threat from a diabolical agenda carried out under the cover of liberalism and ‘progressiveness’ and protected by political correctness, Iran stands out as a beacon of hope and inspiration to people in the world of all ethnicities, cultures and religions, because the Iranian state vigorously and relentlessly defends Iranian society from the dark advances of that so-called progressive agenda which has replaced morality and religion in the West with debauchery.
The Iranian revolution has preserved in Iranian society, religion, patriotism, family values, the rights and safety of women and children, and morality. The Iranian revolution will never ever countenance the emergence of sexual perversion in Iranian society, with the Iranian state demonstrating to the rest of the world that love of God, country and people is the antidote for the preservation of morality and humanity.
I am encouraged by how increasing numbers of ordinary Britons and Americans, especially those who have young children, are expressing words of praise for Iranian politicians and journalists, who unlike their British and American counterparts will not tolerate any discussion of legitimising yet alone legalising depravity in Iran . Time and time again I as a British person, have had fellow Britons express the following sentiment to me: “If British politicians and journalists were like their Iranian opposites then the British national identity would never have been eroded and replaced with a soulless identity comprised of celebrity culture, reality television, drugs and pornography, coupled with depraved values attached to this.
In summing up Iranian society, suffice to say that Iran constitutes a safe space for religious, cultural and moral people as well as a safe space for women and children whose rights and safety are firmly enshrined in Iranian law, as established by the Iranian revolution.
Now turning to the subject in hand tonight.
A most peculiar phenomenon occurs in the world each and every time a new American president assumes office, in which a discussion is held about whether American foreign policy will change, implicitly for the better, under the new incumbent. Such a discussion is both tiresome and nonsensical for it demonstrates a complete ignorance of the actual structure of the American government.
Despite what the United States Constitution states, an American president does not, in practice, wield tremendous powers. In fact, ultimate power in America, including foreign policymaking rests with the American establishment, which is comprised of, amongst others, dynastic oligarchies, such as the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Rockefellers, the military-industrial complex, the Central Intelligence Agency, the banking system, corporations, pharmaceutical giants, the mainstream media and lobby groups.
When a new US president enters the oval office, the aforementioned groups surround him and instruct him as to how the political and economic system in America is to be preserved and how the American empire is to be advanced. It matters not if the president is a democratic or republican for the democratic and republican parties only exist to maintain the façade that America is a democracy: in essence, these parties are part of the American establishment and work in unison, behind the scenes to secure the American political and economic structure at home – which accrues great riches for them – and to secure and expand American global hegemony.
It is for those reasons that American foreign policy – whose overriding tenant is the expansion of America’s mastery of the international scene, through political or economic or cultural or military means remains the same under each and every American president. Methods can differ but the aims remain the same.
So for instance, Barack Obama, who, we were told rather idiotically, by American and British liberals would usher in a peaceful and ethical American foreign policy, turned out to be one of the most violent and murderous of American presidents in recent times; someone whose drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan brought about the deaths of thousands of civilians there, including women and children; someone whose intervention in Libya, in aid of Al-Qaeda there, resulted in the country becoming a failed state and one home to terrorism and also human slave markets, comprised of Sub-Saharan Africans in its capital Tripoli; someone who gave America’s consent to Saudi Arabia to prosecute a monstrously horrible war against the people of Yemen, who happen to be the poorest people in the Middle East; and someone who gave his approval to American special services to engineer and carry out a coup involving the use of neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine against the country’s democratically-elected president, resulting in a civil war in the east of Ukraine claiming the lives of thousands of civilians there, again including women and children.
It follows, therefore, that American foreign policy under the new US president, Joe Biden, will not change, despite the dull-witted arguments to the contrary, as put forward by liberals in the Western world (I must make something abundantly clear: I said on television and in speeches leading up to and at the very outset of Donald Trump’s presidency, that American foreign policy would not change under him, too – and my stance was vindicated.)
So, America will remain the same old America under Biden, an actuality which will be especially the case concerning countries in geo-strategic parts of the world which pursue independent ; political, economic, and foreign policies and which Washington seeks to subvert so as to turn them into American vassal states, such as Iran.
Before I address how the Biden presidency will approach Iran, it is necessary to examine Biden’s position on the country when he served as Obama’s Vice-President. He helped to dramatically increase American support to the MEK terrorist organisation, which has been targeting and spilling the blood of Iranian innocents for decades with the overall desired aim of this hideous organization being to overthrow the Iranian authorities and return Iran to how it had been during the years of the Shah; namely a client state of both America and Britain. The surge in support which MEK received from Washington when Biden was Vice-President included the Obama administration establishing training camps for MEK in Albania, a recently acquired colony of America.
Preceding the Obama administration’s increase in support to the MEK can be found another dangerous anti-Iranian move by Obama and Biden, at the behest of Messrs Obama and Biden, Capitol Hill approved the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 which augmented existing American sanctions on Iran. Now Biden and Obama both fully aware of how tightening sanctions on Iran would intensify the suffering of ordinary Iranians for Washington’s sanctions, in part, severely restrict the importation of medicines to the country, including those to treat cancer and medical equipment such as dialysis machines,
Furthermore claims by Biden and Obama in 2013 that the US had eased sanctions on exporting medical goods to Iran proved to be disgustingly spurious. The very simple truth is that Biden and Obama were both guilty of having committed crimes against humanity in their deliberate targeting or ordinary Iranian people including women and children.
Finally when the Trump administration assassinated General Qassem Soleimani in January of 2020 Biden’s only concern about the brutal slaying of a man who masterminded the defeat of ISSI in Iraq and who played an invaluable role in defeating ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria was the potential knock on effects that this action might have on America interests in the Middle East.
Biden said, and I quote: “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserved to be brought to justice.” Biden’s sentence “be brought to justice” was parlance for “Soleimani deserved to be killed.” Thus, another example of Biden’s loathing of the Iranian state. Incidentally, Biden’s veiled words in support of the murder of General Soleimani was an example of the traditional diplomatic language of both American and British officialdom for publicly expressing their support for acts of violence and murder in the international arena.
In conclusion, Biden’s antipathy to Iran, as evidenced during his time as Obama’s Vice-President, is clear for all to see and is indisputable. Thus he has entered the White House with the same prejudices towards the Iranian state that his predecessors possessed. His clouded judgment about Iran and Iranians will be apparent for the world to see during his tenure in office.
Turning to the Iran nuclear agreement, it is folly to interpret the decision of the Obama administration to sign America up to this landmark accord as evidence of Messrs Obama and Biden’s conciliatory approach to Iran. Rather it was an attempt by Obama and Biden to safeguard American interests in the Middle East by averting either war between Israel and Iran or a war between America and Iran.
That explanation can be made all the more persuasive by taking into consideration that, at the time of the signing of the Iran nuclear agreement, in 2015 America was heavily involved in waging a proxy war in Syria as well as supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen. Accordingly, not even a superpower would have wanted to be drawn into a full-blown conventional war with a strong opponent – Iran – when, simultaneously, it was overseeing military campaigns in two countries in the vicinity – Syria and Yemen.
Nevertheless, the fact that Obama and Biden made the US a party to the Iran agreement, irrespective of their motivation, is to be commended just as Trump’s peace talks with North Korea are to be commended.
Biden as president will, like his predecessors since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, abide by the American establishment’s objective to continue with attempts to weaken Iran and explore new ways of trying to undermine the Iranian authorities in the hope that such actions could one day pay dividends with the destruction of the Iranian revolution and the installment of a pro-Western puppet government in Tehran.
Now, Biden has spoken about America returning to the Iran Agreement, following Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018. Biden’s proclamations is audacious, given that Tehran has said that Biden must, first of all, rescind sanctions which Trump placed on Iran in order for America to come back to the agreement, while Biden insists that Iran must cease in raising uranium enrichment above the levels of volume and purity as set out in the agreement, something which, it must be said the Iranians have every right to do following Trump’s withdrawal – this provision is laid out in the text of the agreement covering a scenario in which one of the other parties chooses to no longer be a signatory to the accord.
I am of the opinion that there are conflicting groups within the American establishment concerning the Iran agreement. Whilst the American establishment is unified and resolute in its determination to destroy the Iranian revolution, there are some elements in it who believe that the last 10 years have witnessed a tremendous amount of American resources being directed into the Middle East – Libya, Syria, and Yemen – and that now is not the appropriate time to enter into a military conflict with Iran; they argue that, instead, America needs time to recuperate so that the country would be in a much better position upon which to directly set about overthrowing the Iranian authorities hence, the argument goes, Washington should rejoin the Iran Agreement, essentially to buy time for Washing to prepare for a showdown with Tehran.
However the opposing elements within the American establishment believe that now is actually the right time to confront Iran before the country becomes more powerful – politically, economically, and militarily – hence America must not return to the Iran deal; this faction is also alarmingly conscious of how Iran will, over time, benefit exceedingly from its newfound strategic partnership with Russia. Whichever faction within the American establishment prevails will determine which course of action Biden adopts with regard to the Iran accord.
Turning to how America’s relations with its allies in the Middle East will fare under Biden, it is most certainly the case that differing opinions amongst the groups which comprise the American establishment over the Iran agreement may cause some tension between the US and Israel and the US and Saudi Arabia (Israel and Saudi States are two of Washington’s most important of allies in the international arena). Naturally, Tel Aviv and Riyadh are vociferously opposed to America rejoining the Iran Agreement and instead favour America embarking on a military campaign to destroy the Iran revolution and thereby topple the Iranian government.
All that said, however, even if America should once again become party to the agreement, the mighty US relationship with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, while Israel and Saudi Arabia’s survival rests upon America, further to that Biden will not reverse the decision taken by Trump, on moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem, nor will Biden revoke Washington’s decision, also under Trump, to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Let us not forget that Biden identifies himself as a Zionist. As regards Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabist Kingdom is, in tandem with its unofficial ally Israel, crucial to American control of oil. In the Middle East hence no US president would ever be allowed by the American establishment to seriously damage its ties with Saudi Arabia.
A Biden presidency, seeking to capitalise on the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain, which Biden so enthusiastically rejoiced over, will strive to enlist further Arab countries in establishing relations with the Jewish state as this will serve to increase Israel’s standing in the region; after all Israel is the main conduit for American power in the Middle East. I suspect that Saudi Arabia, which has long had an unofficial strategic partnership with Israel, will be called upon by Biden to adopt measures which will make these informal relations formal.
So in concluding what Iran can expect from a Biden presidency is what Iran has been subjected to by the US ever since the great Iranian revolution of 42 years ago: namely a continuation of attempts by Washington to destroy the Iranian revolution through economic warfare, through direct military attacks on Iran by the by the US under Biden cannot be excluded, especially in light of how the Democratic Party has surpassed the Republican Party in its appetite for wars of intervention.
Alas, Iran a sovereign and independent country, which has never attacked anyone and which is indispensable in the Russian-led campaign in the world to tackle the scourge of Western-sponsored Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorism, will continue to have its national security menaced by America which has a traditionally insatiable lust for power, wealth, domination and war.
Nonetheless, the ancient and indomitable Iranian people have withstood American aggression against their country for 42 years now and have not yielded an inch to Washington. Biden will not succeed in his wicked endeavours to bend the unbendable will of the Iranian people. Thus, Biden will join the ranks of Reagan, Bush senior, Clinton, Bush junior, Obama, and Trump in having had their malignant tentacles firmly blocked by the iron resolve of the Iranian people to preserve at any price, Iran’s independence, love of God, culture, and dignity. I salute the Iranian people on the anniversary of their mighty revolution. Thank you for listening.
Paul Ingram: It is an honour to be here. My expertise largely lies in the nuclear weapons field and that is where I will be focusing most of my comments. I have a very different perspective to the two previous speakers. My interest in Iran blossomed in the early 2000’s when the nuclear issue started to become centre stage and the presidency shifted to Ahmedinejad who used the nuclear issue almost as a stick to poke in the eye of the global powers and highlight the hypocrisy at the root of world politics. In this respect, I strongly agree with what has been said that Iran has played a very important and useful role in exposing that hypocrisy. I am much more uncomfortable than the other two speakers in a number of other dimensions of Iranian society but will not go into this because it is not necessary and it is not my expertise.
When looking at the Iranian relationship with the United States and the United Kingdom people often chose their own particular reference point in history. Americans like to think that there was no particular history prior to the revolution and they point to the hostage crisis and other dimensions of the revolution to whip up a very strong anti-Iranian feeling within the United States and in Europe.
But of course, if you talk to people in Iran their memory goes back not only to the overthrow of Mossadeq and a deeply democratic government in 1953 and the installation of a dictator by the Western powers but to the turn of the century when Iran was at the forefront of the global experiment in democracy and the constitutional parliamentary arrangements. And again that was not supported by the West not least because Iran was very useful to the West because of its resources. Very few people in Britain realise that the result of the Second World War was heavily dependent upon oil from Iran and that is why Churchill was so unwilling to countenance democratic moves within Iran to nationalise the industry.
Iran has indeed been the object of imperialism for many decades – well over 100 years. That shows. It permeates throughout all of the relationships that we have been discussing and in many respects explains the British and American obsession with squashing democracy and justice within the region.
Let me focus on the nuclear crisis. It goes back to before the revolution in the 1970s when the Shah started the nuclear programme. It was explicitly civil but there was a deliberate ambiguity behind the programme and having interviewed the head of the Iranian nuclear programme at the time I think it is quite clear to me that the Shah saw this as an opportunity for developing the option. And as any Londoner knows, options are very valuable. If you have the option to develop nuclear weapons it can help your hand.
After the revolution Ayotollah Khomeini was against any nuclear power and indeed any Western technology. It was seen as deeply unIslamic. But that view changed when he started to realise and certainly Khameini after him realised that technology was useful. Previously going back several decades there was a story of Western powers denying Iran access to technology for fear that that would give them power.
In the 1990s nuclear power was seen as a tool for modernity alongside the revolution but there were elements of both the power programme and potentially the military programme which were very secretive.
I got involved in 2003 when the nuclear programme was exposed by the CIA. I think the evidence is that weaponization studies at that time were halted and have not been engaged with since. That is possibly because there was a significant fear within Iran that they would be next after the overthrow of Iraq.
Western analysts, myself included, look at this civilian programme and the aspects of enrichment involved and believed it was not entirely logical for civilian purposes. But on the other hand, people like me were also very skeptical that the government was pursuing nuclear weapons because nuclear power generally is pursued across the world with very irrational reasons and is sometimes seen as a badge of honour and pride. In Iran’s case, I think it was a way of provoking the hypocritical world power and exposing systems that were used in imperialistic ways.
So nuclear power became a very strong symbol, particularly when President Ahmedinejad took power, and the more he focused on the nuclear power programme and attempted to control it the more it became a powerful symbol. As with these issues so often the attempt to control blew back in their faces.
I am not going to spend much time on the intervening period because it was characterised by enormous amounts of frustration by those of us attempting to mediate. I often brought experts from Iran close to the government together with their compatriots or equal people from European states and the US to negotiate informally the precursors to the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action and technically it was not difficult. But of course, the political stars were not aligned so it was often an exercise of frustration.
It did change with Obama. I have sympathy for the previous speakers saying things don’t change as much as we would like but they do change. Things change every day. There is change and there is also continuity. I think it is a mistake to be over-simplistic about these things. Things changed not as much as I would like but they did change. And there were before Rohani was elected secret conversations in Oman between representatives of the Ahmedinejad regime particularly Rahim Mashadi and others with the newly elected administration in Washington and of course those talks built up momentum and we had the nuclear agreement.
The death of the JCPOA or at least the wounding of it happened way before Trump was elected and was an example of how the Obama administration was always two faced. Facing in both directions or at least several directions at once and it would be appropriate to say every US administration faces in many directions. I think that is not simply because they are malign. I think it is because things are complicated. But they weren’t able to do or were not sufficiently willing to do was to lift the sanctions and deliver on the promises of the agreement possibly because of Congress, possibly because of forces within the government. A very complex analysis is required to conclude why but they didn’t. And that stymied and wounded the pro deal forces within Iran and Rohani was severely harmed by that politically.
When Trump came to power in Washington that all shifted and it became really transparent and clear that this was an administration looking for what they described as maximum pressure but what was actually an attempt to trigger and deepen conflict with Iran and bring them out into the open.
I think it is the case that there are many forces within the United States. It is with Israel and some other allies that do see a conflict with Iran as inevitable or in the interests of those people because then they can have the conflict out in the open. And out in open, it is more likely that the most powerful forces will prevail. And I will come back to that in a minute.
I don’t think this was about nuclear weapons at any time. It was about using this as a way on the one hand of scaring the domestic people or constituencies within the United States and its allies and in Iran, it was the symbolism of the hypocrisy.
The Abraham Accords at the end of the Trump administration was simply a natural progression of this. The Americans were seeking a way of cementing an anti-Iranian alliance across the region. The Arab states were interested in extracting American concessions most notably extraordinary arms sales which are now being reversed by the new administration. Another example of something that may be significantly different or subtly different depending on one’s perspective but different nevertheless. From Israel’s perspective, they are looking for normalisation and leadership within the region which the Abraham Accord delivered in significant order.
If I were to conclude with some thoughts about where we go from here first from the point of view of the West for a better world and the new Biden administration and finally from the perspective of Iran in its challenge to the West.
Clearly, the Biden administration needs to change significantly. It needs to learn the lessons of the failure of the Obama years, the successes of the JPCOA negotiations were much smaller than many in Washington would like to think, and rejoining the JPCOA is simply the first step. They need to act faster and with greater boldness to face down many of the special interest groups within Washington especially the pro-Israeli lobby because it needs to be much more obvious that it is not in the interest of US interests in the region and certainly not in the interest of peace and security.
They need to acknowledge that their actions within the region and in particular in relation to Israel make things in Tehran far more complex when trying to create partnerships. They need to ack knowledge of the legacies of the past and the involvement of the US and Europe in actions that can only be described as imperialist and they need to be looking at the region and their involvement in the region with a lens of fairness and equity.
What that means in my particular area of nuclear weapons is to promote much more vigour sly a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the region that formally has the support of the Arab League and Iran and of course is opposed in every practical sense and so is Israel. The Americans need to put their money where their mouth is and start to engage with the rest of the international community in making this a reality.
The very easy steps are to start to participate in the processes set up by the United Nations to negotiate a WMD free zone and they need to reach out in particular to Iran to see how they would advise this objective to be pursued in the coming years.
But they need to go beyond nuclear, they need to go bigger and they need to be considering grand bargains. And this means looking at the Middle East not just as a problem region but as a region that also has its own lessons for the way it goes about running itself.
Turning to Iran some of what has been said this evening I strongly agree with but I think Iran also has lessons to be learned. I think if one engages in the direct challenge and open conflict. If you look at this from the point of view of a military strategy then engaging in open conflict on the plane you will be at best in perpetual conflict and at best you lose. You have to be far more clever in the ways you challenge. This means going beyond the narratives of victimhood and righteousness which can feel good but is often damaging to one’s own interests and strategy.
I think it is really important for Iran and Iranians to think how they can better escape this trap that they are it where they are parodied and where their righteousness can often be seen in the West as threatening and aggressive.
Looking at my area where nuclear weapons and nuclear power is concerned I think nuclear is not the answer. It is a dead-end technology. It is a technology that is more about prestige than about effective answers. Iran has a massive opportunity to invest in wind and solar and other renewable energy that the West could not possibly criticise it for. To export, create partnerships in the region and to use this technology to export the Islamic revolution not through conflict or aggression but through developing effective partnerships. That is far more likely to be successful than the strategy up to now.
*Alexander Azadgan is a multi-awarded professor of Strategic Global Management & International Political Economy. He is also a senior geopolitical analyst with Iran’s Press TV, Russia’s Radio Sputnik (English & Persian desk), China’s CCTV (CGTN America), as well as other alternative and non-mainstream media outlets. His expertise is in international relations, geo-economics, geopolitics, as well as cultural, religious, and sociological aspects and perspectives, especially those pertaining to the following regions in which he specializes in: The Middle East, East Asia, Eurasia, Europe, and North America.
** Dr Marcus Papadopoulos is a leading expert on Russia, and appears frequently on Sky News, BBC News, RT, Al Jazeera, Press TV and Al Mayadeen as an analyst on contemporary Russian affairs. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Arise, Rossiya: The Return of Russia to World Politics. Marcus also specializes in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia and is an analyst in matters relating to Syria, Iran, international relations in general and British politics. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Modern History at London Guildhall University; took a Masters degree in Modern History at Royal Holloway, University of London; and also at Royal Holloway, received a Ph.D. in 20th century Russian history. The title of his doctoral thesis is: “British Official Perceptions of the Red Army, 1934-1945.” His academic paper on Russophobia for the International Likhachov Scientific Conference, and his speech at the House of Lords on the origins of the current tension between America and Russia, received significant media coverage. Marcus is a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery of the United Kingdom, in his capacity as publisher and editor of Politics First. Outside of his work, Marcus is a karate instructor, a vegan and an animal rights activist.
***Paul Ingram is an expert on the global nuclear disarmament debate and transatlantic security, and amongst other areas has specialised on Iran’s nuclear programme and nuclear proliferation politics in the Middle East. For many years he led the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), and is now working closely with 16 states on their strategy to drive effective global nuclear disarmament. He is also a core member of the civil society Middle East Treaty Organisation (METO), working to strengthen the belief in establishing a zone across the region free of WMD and particularly nuclear weapons.