Here we are again. A US – Iranian standoff which looks set to cause untold damage to a region already wrecked by instability, war and sectarian divisions – most of which is due to America’s previous mismanagement of the Middle East.
Trump’s train wreck of a speech at the UN can only be described as a ghastly performance by an inexperienced crockpot of a leader now at the helm of the most powerful nation in western world. Trump’s debut at the UN saw him issuing bully-boy threats, childish and immature taunts, all in front of an audience of world diplomats who responded to Trump’s baboonery with huge gasps of alarm, lengthy silences and awkward feeble applause.
“The U.S. has great strength and patience but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Mr. Trump bellowed at the UNGA.
A US president, arguably the most powerful man in the world, has just pledged to completely destroy North Korea, a country of 26 million people but Trump did not stop there. In a presentment to the international body, Mr. Trump said the Iran nuclear deal provides a “cover for the potential construction of a nuclear program” in the region, an outcome that the U.S. would not tolerate.
He continued to say “We cannot let a murderer’s regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” It was a signal from the president that he is seriously considering either pulling out of or renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
I could go into depth about how totally absurd the USA’s policy of “rip up” the Iran-deal is when practically everyone (including the UN) has been adamant that Iran has complied with the deal or how damaging Trump’s policy is to Middle Eastern peace and stability but this argument has been made so much that another article by myself would be, rather, irrelevant. My objective here is to challenge the common narrative that Iran is a “rogue regime” which can not and should not be negotiated with, traded with or even acknowledged – unless you are threatening to attack Iran, of course.
A lot has happened in and around Iran in modern history. The country is famous for the 1979 Islamic revolution which saw a rebellious population overthrow a powerful western-backed dictator (the Shah) to establish a new theocratic republic led by the Shi’ite holy man Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. Since then the relations between Iran and the western world have been, well, unfavourable to say the least. The regional hostage crisis, military escalation, diplomatic isolation, sanctions, espionage, proxy warfare and an eight-year war between US-backed Iraq and Iran has filled the gap between then and now creating a deep resentment between the two countries and its leaders. Many of the Iranian leaders fought during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s which saw Saddam’s Iraq fire western-made chemical weapons at Iran in a war which saw over a million people dead. This type of history lesson about Iran is not told to us when our politicians ask why do Iranians scream “Death To America”?
The Iran of 1979, and indeed the Iran of the 1980’s, is not the same as the Iran we have today. What we have now is a country which is well organised, intelligent, pragmatic and with a foreign policy that makes a lot of sense in a geopolitically vital part of the world.
Iran is clearly one of the most stable and safe countries in the region, despite the fact that it borders Iraq, Pakistan & Afghanistan all of whom are breading grounds for radical Salafi terrorists. Iran is also a country with free elections, women involved in politics, a growing science sector and high turnouts of university graduates (most of whom are women), vast amounts of natural resources such as gas & oil, endless domestic produce such as cloth, Persian rugs, foods and saffron, a fast rising hot spot for tourism and a time locked economy with desperate need for foreign investment and foreign talent – Iran is a ripe and juicy pomegranate waiting to be cracked open and indulged upon. Now, before you start getting too excited, I certainly recognise the fact that Iran is by no means a perfect society and is marred by social, economic and political problems, but my ambition is to highlight that Iran, despite its many flaws, is by far more progressive, more forward-thinking and generally more sensible than most of its neighbours who we already call our friends in the region.
Saudi Arabia, for example, is a country which has been linked to funding global terrorism, has no free elections, women are banned from driving and anyone who wishes to express their faith which is not a Salafi interpretation of Islam risks the whip or a death penalty. Yet, Saudi is a country which Theresa May once called our “deep partners” and continues to receive endless political support, complemented by arms sales, by both the US & UK. May’s reasoning? Saudi Arabia protects us here in the West by helping us in our war against Islamist terrorism. Yet, it has been proven, time and time again, that Saudi Arabia (A Wahhabi/Salafi Islamist state) has supported radical Wahhabi/Salafi groups in the Middle East such as Al-Qaeda and possibly even ISIS as seen in Yemen, Iraq & Syria. Iran, on the other hand, has been directly fighting these safe radical Salafi groups in Iraq and Syria. Regardless of what you may think about Iran, the fact is they have played a monumental role in defeating ISIS and helping to save Iraq and a secular Syria from falling into the hands of ISIS or similar groups but Iran is the country we consider our greatest enemy.
Another claim which is most popular with the American’s and Israeli’s is the idea that Iran backs its own terrorist groups in the region. The Lebanese Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthis are popular examples to prove this point. Iran has made no secret of its support for the Hezbollah in Lebanon, among other groups in Iraq & Syria and these same groups, do threaten Israel on a regular basis – as does Iran. A difficult situation to deal with as past violence, wars, assassinations and invasions all resonate in the minds of the Israelis, Arabs and Iranians; the two sides may never see eye to eye but what I can say is that the US, who should be taking its natural role as a world superpower as a mediator of disputes to de-escalate tensions, has instead decided to indulge right-wing Israeli propaganda while simultaneous ignoring reality when it comes to the obvious achievements of the Obama brokered Iran deal.
Deep down the Iranians want to defend their sovereignty and defend their legitimate interests in the region, as does Israel & the US. So with that in mind, is a regime change policy towards Iran really the only way to deal with the situation? Would the Iranians have ever been willing to negotiate on their nuclear energy program if they were a truly evil regime? If they genuinely want “death to America” why have they not launched their rockets? The answers can easily be found if one actually chooses to listen to what the Iranians have to say, or in other words talk to Iran!
In 2015 following the success of the Iran deal under Rouhani & Obama’s leadership, Iran’s FM Zarif said “Thirty-some years of coercion against Iran produced nothing for the West, and now two years of diplomacy and respect produced an important deal. So I think this should send a message to those in the US and the West who believe that they can achieve everything through force and coercion that’s not really the answer. The world has changed. Diplomacy is now the answer — respect is the answer — and through respect, they’ve tested everything. Let them test respect for a while and see how it can produce results.”
Now if we compare this to what Iran’s president Rouhani is saying now in 2017 in response to Trump’s hostile remarks at the UN. “We will increase our military power as a deterrent [..] We will strengthen our missile capabilities [..] We will not seek permission from anyone to defend our country.” He added, “All countries in the world supported the nuclear deal in the United Nations General Assembly this year, except the United States and the Zionist regime (Israel).”
Rouhani, who was considered a moderate when elected in 2013 and again in 2017 on a reformist agenda, has been turned defensive, anti-American and militarily focused by Trump’s new intensely hawkish administration. What Trump has done with his embarrassing display at the UN is prove to the Iranian’s & North Korean’s that regardless of what you do to satisfy American demands your country will still be sanctioned, attacked and possibly ‘destroyed’ – something which the right-wing in Iranian politics had always warned about the untrustworthy American imperialists; Trump has proved the conservatives in Iran to be right, completely discrediting the reformist movement’s arguments that negotiating with America is for the greater good of the survival of the nation.
The Iranians have been willing to come to the negotiating table at numerous times since 1979 to resolve major issues. Huge achievements were made during Obama’s term in office simply because he was willing to talk to the Iranians, a fact which has best been seen on display when several US naval personnel were held in Iran after a US naval vessel drifted into Iranian owned waters in the Persian Gulf in 2016, the situation was dealt with quickly and (most importantly) peacefully. Right now we see Iran building a progressive partnership with Russia & Turkey paving the way for a peace process in Syria and combining efforts with Iraq, Syria & Lebanon to defeat ISIS more effectively.
Massive problems still remain and Iran is a country which is in major need of political reforms and economic improvements but the facts of history prove that Iran is capable of such reforms. Iran has evolved tremendously over the past three decades. Iran has also become a vital spearhead of a genuine war against global Salafi terrorism, something our “deep partners” in the Gulf have not achieved. Much has to be addressed before the West and Iran can truly consider each other trustworthy partners but what we must seek at this stage is to challenge the right-winged anti-Iranian propaganda that has gripped out media and political class. Trump’s dangerous childish arguments need to be met with a rival narrative that encourages dialogue with a modern pragmatic Iran to facilitate a road to understanding, material respect, peace and stability. We already have one Nuclear crisis with North Korea to worry about, do we really want to start a new one with Iran, again?
*(U.S. President Donald Trump makes his way to the General Assembly stage to make his remarks during the general debate. Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe / flickr)
Will Worley () Iran President Rouhani says country will increase missile capabilities after ‘ignorant’ Trump speech, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-president-hassan-rouhani-missile-capabilities-donald-trump-un-general-assembly-a7960466.html (Accessed: Friday 22 September 2017 07:45).
BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF () Iran’s Proposal for a ‘Grand Bargain’, Available at:https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/04/28/irans-proposal-for-a-grand-bargain/?mcubz=0 (Accessed: APRIL 28, 2007 8:44 PM).
Ali Hashem () Zarif after deal: ‘The world has changed’, Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/07/mohammad-javad-zarif-interview-post-deal-balconey.html (Accessed: July 15, 2015).
Amir Vahdat (| Updated 9:41 a.m. ET Sept. 23, 2017) Iran shows test of new ballistic missile, defying Trump, Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/09/23/iran-ballistic-missile-military-parade/696079001/ (Accessed: Associated Press Published 5:46 a.m. ET Sept. 23, 2017).
By Fred Barbash, Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff () Iran releases captured U.S. Navy crew members, Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/13/iran-sends-mixed-message-on-quick-release-of-u-s-navy-crews/?utm_term=.f4d98f1eff43 (Accessed: January 13, 2016).
The New Arab () Leaked documents ‘reveal Saudi and Emirati crown princes’ support for al-Qaeda and IS in Yemen’, Available at: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/News/2017/7/11/Leaked-documents-reveal-Saudi-support-for-al-Qaeda-in-Yemen (Accessed: 11 July 2017).
Julian Borger () Iran is adhering to nuclear deal limits, UN says, despite Donald Trump claim, Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/31/iran-nuclear-deal-trump-un (Accessed: Washington Friday 1 September 2017 09.53 BST).