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United States cold war position with Iran – 2018

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The intention, by the Trump administration to reimpose sanctions on Iran, is the outcome of two inter-related factors: an attempt to strengthen a Cold War position in the Middle East and to bring developments in neighbouring Syria to a head.

The moves are unlikely to be successful for the US.

Both factors are the product of far-right foreign policy and Pentagon planning taken in a context of a rapidly changing balance of forces in the region which have seriously affected traditional US hegemonic positions.

Immediately prior to the US mid-term presidential elections the Trump administration issued a media statement about reimposing sanctions upon Iran. It formed part of the same package of psychological operations used in initial presidential election campaigns where hostility was channelled toward Muslims, in the US and elsewhere. (1)

The US sanctions included targeting the oil, banking and transportation sectors of the Iranian economy. (2) The moves formed part of a systematic a strengthening of a Cold War diplomatic position toward Tehran. (3) The moves were also timed to gain the maximum publicity from Cold War hawks lurking within the corridors of power and their flunkies in far-right political groupings across the US. The timing of the announcement was also important as coming just within the length of time of one working life of faceless wonders lurking in Washington and the Pentagon and those who they have mentored, and longer-term goals of toppling the ruling Iranian administration of President Hassan Rouhani and installing a government compliant with 'US interests.

Iran has long been a cause for serious concern within US decision-making circles; the country has central importance for most Islamic Shia and their followers. The Iranian Revolution of 1979, toppled what the US considered as an important regional hub to control Muslims. Religious considerations were also used by US military planners to enhance their position in the region. After the US installed the Shah, as ruling leader of Iran in 1953, foreign policy planning included the Northern Tier Alliance composed of Iran together with Turkey and Pakistan, aimed at controlling the Arab world. (4)  

The US also used Iran for strategic purposes in the northern Indian Ocean with sensitive shipping-lanes; the Abu-Musa military facilities in Iran were linked to Kagnew in Ethiopia, Silvermine in South Africa and Subic Bay in the Philippines, converging upon Diego Garcia and subsequently, Pine Gap in Australia. (5) It came as no surprise, therefore, to discover the role of Australia with supplying US spy-ships to Iran for use in the Indian Ocean. The US, however, sought to distance themselves from covert operations they conducted in the name of foreign policy; Australia was conveniently placed, the far side of the world. The transactions for the sales of the ship/s was conducted through the Nugan Hand Bank, Sydney, and front-organisations including Task Force 157 which was linked to US naval intelligence. (6)

The role of the Nugan Hand Bank, as a financial conduit, was also used in late 1978, 'to move vast sums of money from Iran just before the revolution', which took place in 1979. (7)

Iran was also used by the US for covert operations into neighbouring areas of the former Soviet Union with cross-border spy-flights from five ground, intelligence-gathering stations. It was noted, for example, that, 'the Shah remained the lynch-pin of America's anti-Soviet efforts in the Middle East'. (8) There were also secret alliances between Iran with Israel, to strengthen the US regional position. (9) In fact, the US used Iran to enable Israel and Apartheid South Africa, which was subject to strict sanctions, to access Iranian oil. (10)

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a clear blow to US regional military planning; the Pentagon would still clearly like a return to what they regard as the status quo of the previous period. Since 1979, therefore, a Cold War position has been maintained; the Pentagon have military planning to destroy the Iranian Islamic Republic and re-install a complaint administration with links to the Asian countries of the former Soviet Union together with access into the Russian Federation.

There are two other important factors to consider with the diplomatic line taken by the Trump administration.

The re-imposition of sanctions is primarily concerned with economic-warfare, planned to target the Iranian economy. One planned outcome, for the Pentagon, would appear to include the lowering of living standards of ordinary working people to create the conditions for opposition to President Hassan Rouhani. The US initiative was clarified in a diplomatic statement from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who commented the plan was to see the Iranian, 'economy crumble'. (11)

The US initiative, however, is set to create frictions with the European Union.

With the relaxing of sanctions in 2015, a number of western companies invested in Iran. A brief media release released on their behalf noted the EU together with Britain, France and Germany, 'would seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran'. (12) Planning had already been undertaken to open new banking and financial facilities, 'to facilitate payments for Iranian oil'. (13)  

Secondly, Iran, as a centre of Shia Islam, has some considerable bargaining power with Muslims and countries where they have been identified with their allies, including Syria, the Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. (14) A well-placed source, former State Department official Jeffrey Feltman, who served as a Middle East specialist with previous presidential administrations, has recently noted, 'Iran is gaining ground in the region'. (15) This development has caused the US serious concern: they have a well-known preoccupation with energy resources and supply-lines when dealing with 'US interests'. They have a well-known foreign policy obsession which has acknowledged most oil deposits, together with major gas reserves, are largely in Shia areas. Washington fears, 'a loose alliance controlling most of the world's oil independent of the US'. (16) Iran has, therefore, been targeted by the US as an adversary while Saudi Arabia, as a centre of Sunni Islam, has been developed as an important regional hub for 'US interests'.      

Iranian foreign policy has maintained close diplomatic relations with neighbouring Syria for many years; the Allowite grouping around President Assad is strongly linked to Shi'ite Islam. During the recent US-backed attempts to topple the administration of President Assad, Iran has provided important support with their Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Iranian foreign policy has also been generous with its support for allies: total Iranian budgets for allies in Syria, Yemen and Iraq amount to US$16 billion. In the Lebanon, Iranian support for Hezbollah has amounted to about $700 million. (17) It is, therefore, no surprise the US sanctions have targeted the Iranian economy in an attempt to restrict their international influence.  

The outcome of the US position to reimpose sanctions on Iran is, nevertheless, likely to backfire, pushing Iran closer toward their already established alliance with the Russian Federation and Turkey. Present US foreign policy is also set to change with the Trump administration likely to only serve one term, after the recent mid-term election results. The old order, of US hegemony across the Middle East, is already crumbling and disappearing into history; it is unlikely to return.

Far from being a military plan based on victory, the recent US initiative toward Iran would appear an act of total desperation. It is perhaps, however, not surprising taking the nature of the Trump administration into account following an official US military report about the Syria issue in which it was acknowledged the 2015 Russian Federation military support for President Assad altered the balance of forces not only in Syria but across the wider region, including Iran. The legacy, is, at present, unfolding: denial is a strange mental condition, affecting the whole Trump administration.

The US, in reality, lost the war in Syria, their Sunni Islam jihadist 'intelligence assets' backed by US military advisers and huge amounts of Saudi Arabian financial support proved ineffectual. (18)

The US is now faced with consequences of its own making in the Middle East; their response is worthy of scrutiny.

And, as for the cheap electioneering ploy by Trump of facilitating reactionary positions toward Muslims in the US and elsewhere, that also failed his mid-term elections. But then, cheats and those with flawed characters never prosper.

We need an independent foreign policy to distance Australia from this US-led pantomime and farce immediately!

1.     White consciousness: a new identity politics rising on the right,
        The Australian, 2 November 2018.

2.     Trump digs in for a long, cold war with Iran, as sanctions are back,
        The Australian, 6 November 2018, and,
        Iran on notice for 'outlaw policies',
        The Australian, 7 November 2018.

3.     Ibid.

4.     The Rise and Fall of the Shah 1941-79,
        Amin Saikal, (London, 1980), pp. 55-58.

5.     South Africa and Iran, - US Strategy,
        Le Monde Diplomatique, December – 1976, pp. 22-23.

6.     The Nugan Hand Swindle, The Book of Leaks, (NSW, 1987), pp. 196-220, see also,
        Pentagon to abolish secret spy unit,
        The Washington Post, 18 May 1977, and,
        Website: The CIA and the Nugan Hand Bank, John Simkin, 27 December 2005, and,
        Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party,
        Russ Bellant, (Boston, 1988), page 512, which has provided the names of two high-ranking US
        'intelligence operatives' serving with the Nugan Hand Bank and other related front
        organisations, and,
        The Sydney Connection, Nugan Hand, Murray Riley and the Murder of Donald Mackay,
        John Jiggens, (Queensland, 2004), pp. 59-73, has provided further confirmation of the above
        together with information about drug cultivation/trafficking for illicit fund-raising for
        out-sourced covert operations concerning 'US interests' and arms trafficking.

7.     Nugan Hand Swindle, ibid., page 211.

8.     Websites: Project Dark Gene and Project Ibex, and,
        US Foreign Policy and the Iranian revolution,
        Christian Emery, (London, 2013), page 2.
 
9.     Project Ibex, ibid.

10.   Iran, A People's History of the CIA, Issue 43, December 2000, page 15.

11.   Australian, op.cit., 7 November 2018.

12.   Ibid.

13.   Ibid.

14.   Australian, op.cit., 6 November 2018.

15.   Ibid.

16.   The Cold War between Washington and Tehran,
        Interventions, Noam Chomsky, (Australia, 2007), pp. 207-08

17.   Australian, op.cit., 6 November 2018.

18.   Syria Conflict, news.com.au, 3 April 2018, reviewing a report,
        US Army Military Review, which has recently been removed from official US Defence
         Department website/s.

 

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