Playing Tehran’s game. The Islamic Republic thrives on crisis.
Those who believe Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal will damage the Islamic Republic are badly mistaken.
When Donald Trump announced on May 8 the US’s much predicted withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, it was accompanied by the usual neoconservative nonsense: not only is it a “decaying and rotten deal”, but the Islamic Republic is apparently a backer of global terrorism, including al Qa’eda, Hamas and the Taliban!
Now anyone with a basic understanding of the Middle East will know that, although Iran is an unsavoury dictatorship – especially when it comes to the repression of its own working class – far from being an ally of al Qa’eda, it is an enemy of the group created and financed by Iran’s arch-enemy, Saudi Arabia. True, there have been unconfirmed reports that one of Osama bin Laden’s wives and her children have obtained asylum in Iran, but we all know that at the start of the ‘war against terror’ Iran supported US moves against al Qa’eda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, seeing them as competitors for its own brand of political Islam.
As far as Hamas is concerned, it is on the opposite side to Iran in the civil war in Syria and, although there was talk of some reconciliation between the two earlier this year, there is little sign of rapprochement as yet. What is more, many of the Arab emirates, which have close ties with Hamas, are considered by the US to be allies – although that may be too complicated for the current resident of the White House to understand.
The other nonsense in all this was Trump’s reliance on Binyamin Netanyahu’s absurd anti-Iran stunt on April 30. Even by the abysmal standards of PowerPoint presentations, this one was excruciatingly awful. It had been billed as demonstrating clear proof that Iran had been manufacturing nuclear weapons after the 2015 nuclear deal, and was aimed at helping Trump win the argument for abandoning it. As it turned out, the Netanyahu show was a big flop, involving the recycling of old information – mainly based on documents written between 2005 and 2011. As Akiva Eldar, writing in Al-Monitor, commented, “Netanyahu is riding high on the Iranian files to divert attention from the police investigations dogging him and his wife”.1. www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/05/israel-iran-benjamin-netanyahu-yitzhak-rabin-nuke-agreement.html#ixzz5Eoy9pcjI.
Inevitably no-one except the idiot in the White House and the Saudi crown prince took the Netanyahu ‘exposé’ seriously. All the signatories to the nuclear agreement believe that Iran is in full compliance with its terms. So does the International Atomic Energy Agency. Yet Trump referred to Israeli “discoveries of continued nuclear development in Iran” during his announcement of the US withdrawal. Reactions to his speech were predictable: Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May all expressed concern about the US decision, saying they were still committed to the nuclear deal and urging the US not to obstruct its implementation. Australia, Japan, Russia and China were among those also favouring the deal’s continuation, while the United Nations general secretary, António Guterres, also expressed his commitment to it.
None of this mattered to the US president, who is only interested in what Israel and Saudi Arabia tell him (both are involved in financing various corrupt and incompetent sections of Iran’s ‘regime change from above’ opposition). And, true to form, immediately after Trump’s speech, Netanyahu hailed his “historic move” and “courageous leadership”.
Presumably the ‘left’ apologists for Zionism in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Spiked and Platypus will echo Tel Aviv’s position. If so they will be joined by supporters of ‘regime change from above’ amongst Iranian exiles – notably the royalists and the loony cult, Mojahedin-e Khalq. The case of these exile groups is interesting. They all claim to care for the plight of the Iranian people. Yet there can be no doubt that the economic situation in Iran will be adversely affected by new sanctions and those who will suffer the most will be the majority of the population, the country’s working class.
Hours before Trump’s statement the price of crude oil went up to $76 a barrel. That might sound like good news for the Islamic Republic, but its main problem is the inability to repatriate oil income, given fear of increased sanctions in the banking sector and the country’s continued difficulties in insuring oil tankers essential for export of its oil.
Thriving on crisis
Of course, it could be that Trump is actually keen to create “a mess” – a situation where the nuclear deal remains in force, but is undermined. So what is likely to happen now? For the time being it looks like Britain and the EU will keep to the deal, but the question remains: how will they circumvent the so-called “secondary sanctions” promised by Trump against non-US companies dealing with Tehran. Many economists believe that the threat of secondary sanctions will make the situation much worse.
Iran’s immediate response soon after the EU’s official statement of continuing support for the nuclear deal was predictable. President Hassan Rouhani’s address was almost triumphalist: “We are sticking to the deal. It will be with the EU and the others.” Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, asked EU leaders for guarantees regarding the future of the accord and, although he used harsh words to attack Trump, there were no direct threats to resume those parts of the country’s nuclear programme the deal had stopped.
If anyone believes that the leaders of the Islamic Republic will suffer as a result of all this, they are seriously mistaken. This is a government that thrives on crises. If there was no crisis it would create one to maintain its rule. As for the economic plight of Iran’s senior clerics in both the reformist and conservative factions, how do you think they accumulated such astronomic wealth over the last few years? Hoarding, black market, sanctions busting …
The conservative factions of the regime have been celebrating the US decision. However, if the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia believe Iran will now attack its neighbours or immediately recommence enriching military-grade uranium, they are completely wrong. This regime has not survived four decades by making hasty decisions.
As for Iran ‘bringing chaos to the region’, all one can say is that the Islamic Republic has been astutely taking advantage of US wars in the region. The fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq left Iran in a very good position. Its main enemy in the region had been overthrown and, thanks to the US, pro-Iran Shia groups took power in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Syria, with the aim of curtailing Iran’s influence in the region, also backfired. And now a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon looks like becoming another ally of the Islamic Republic. The nightmare of Iran controlling a corridor stretching from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan is virtually a reality, thanks to blunders by Saudi Arabia and Israel.
And now Iran could in the longer term consider leaving the non-proliferation treaty and developing nuclear weapons in order to consolidate its current military advantage. No wonder very few are happy with Trump’s announcement.