The message is clear. It has already been delivered to Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, and many other countries around the world: overthrow your reform-minded, independent, communitarian government; become a satellite to the global corporate free-market system, or we will pound you to death and subject you to a severe level of economic embargo and poverty.
Few days prior to leaving her post in late January, 2013, Hillary Clinton made a damning admission: she publicly confessed that the US-led sanctions against Iran are politically motivated and constitute a “soft-war” against the nearly 80 million people of Iran in order to achieve regime change. She stated that the reason for maintaining such an inhumane sanction is: “So we hope that the Iranian people will make known their concerns… so my message to Iranians is: do something about this.”
Shortly thereafter, on the 4th of February 2013, U.S Vice President Joe Biden chimed in that the US was ready to hold direct negotiations with Iran but added the caveat, “We have also made clear that Iran’s leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation,” acknowledging as did Hillary that the US sanctions are intended to target and harm the Iranian people. We should credit both of them for their forthrightness.
In late August 2013, as the possibility of an announced U.S. air strike against Syria appeared imminent, a torrent of articles, commentaries and op-eds appeared linking U.S. policy towards Syria with Syria’s regional ally, Iran. One of them, written in the Independent by British journalist Robert Fisk (August 30, 2013) noted that “the real target of the West’s intended attack on Syria is ultimately Iran, but since political realities, the balance of power does not permit an attack on Iran at present, Syria will have to do.”
In the article Fisk argued that the use of chemical weapon is nothing but a red hearing to divert attention of the unwary, which includes most of the Western experts, from the real target. Otherwise as Fisk acknowledged:
“… that when Iraq – then America’s ally – used gas against the Kurds of Hallabjah in 1988,[i] we did not assault Baghdad. Indeed, that attack would have to wait until 2003, when Saddam no longer had any gas or any of the other weapons we nightmared over. And I also happen to remember that the CIA put it about in 1988 that Iran was responsible for the Hallabjah gassings, a palpable lie that focused on America’s enemy whom Saddam was then fighting on our behalf.”
This poses a critical question: why the deep loathing towards the Islamic Republic in the US and the rest of its allies (regional and global)? To answer this question we need to shed light on two issues:
1- The current nature of Interstate Relations and its structure.
A cursory glance at the formal relations between states in our contemporary world clearly indicates that despite the pundits attempt to maintain otherwise, the real state of relations between states does not rest upon any international relations theory. What dictates the present international relations in the aftermath of the Cold War is the presence or absence of military power pure and simple. This state of affair has fashioned three types of functionally different states:
States that command (a state with the greatest military power that intends to dictate to the rest of the world) this has been corroborated by a number of statements from different US officials, from Madeline Albright to Condoleezza Rice, from Bush to Obama. The latter is advised by an incompetent and untrustworthy National Security adviser, Susan Rice, and the pack of neoconservatives who urged the administration to attack Syria without authorization from anyone – not from the UN, not from NATO, not from Congress; a little uncomfortable to unleash the U.S. military machine without British support, Obama tried to strengthen his domestic support by going to Congress and making his case for war. Just remember the successive National Security Documents that have urged various administrations to use its military power to crush any country that steps out of line.
States that obey (this includes the majority of interstate community, including the Third World and advanced but militarily weak industrialized states);
Rebel states (a small number of Third World states that choose not to be part of the system of the great powers by challenging the right of such powers to dominate.) For the commanding state(s), opting out of the current system is considered to be a cardinal sin and a major threat to the status quo, and must be dealt with quickly before it infects others.
2- The Nature of Islamic Revolution in Iran
The success of the Iranian Revolution to overthrow the Shah’s regime – and then survive the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 – has been, since its outset in 1979, a de facto challenge to the dominant approach to interstate relations. As Fred Halliday has stated:
“Revolutions by their nature have aspired to the internal transformation of societies, but equally they have sought to alter relations between states and nations. They have done this not only by provoking conflicts between them and by seeking to promote change in other states, but also by aiming to alter the norms, the very ways, in which states and peoples have interacted. In ideological and programmatic terms, a revolution aims to transform a society within: it has equally to be international, or it is nothing.” (Halliday, F. Revolution and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power)
The Islamic Revolution in Iran resulted in two unexpected consequences for the great powers:
a) – The mere fact that it took place and internally terminated the rule of the shah, one of most reliable servant of the US in the Middle East and southern border of the then U.S.S.R.
No wonder Charles Kurzman calls it the “unthinkable and deviant revolution.”
“I still see the Iranian Revolution as a “deviant” case, as it imposed the 1st Islamic republic in recent times and remains the only instance of mass Islamic revolt……According to the social scientific explanations of revolutions, it should not have happened when it did, or at all.” [ii]
b) – Globally it heralded a different approach to the global political rules that served the Western powers to the detriment of others.
For the US and its Western cronies, the most threatening and destabilizing part of the revolution was the significant message that it projected: Iran was opting out of western orientated political structures and was no longer prepared to play by the old rules. The Iranian revolution sent a message that the rules of the game of the prevailing political system could in fact be challenged. For the US, as the dominant military power with the greatest interest in preserving the system and the state that is unwilling to relinquish power, this was and is the cardinal sin. The recent turn of events particularly in Egypt, Bahrain and the Saudis indicate that the US is prepared to work with any state no matter how depraved the internal system (religious or secular) as long as such states understand their functionally defined role (become subservient to US interest)
The above assessment clarifies the main reason for US’s deep rooted antipathy and disdain towards Iran more than any other domestic factor of its policies. Since the onset of the Islamic revolution in Iran; US has done everything to undermine the regime in Tehran. In a nutshell, what US wants from Iran is capitulation and what infuriates the US more and more is that despite everything that US has done since the success of the Islamic Revolution, from economic embargo, to the support for Saddam to attack Iran, to covert and overt operation to destabilize and ultimately change the regime, Iran seems to be going from strength to strength in the regional power game. So how does Iran respond to this menace called the US and its immeasurable hankering for control of the region? Broadly speaking, like other regional players, Iran has responded to the regional events in two ways:
-It attempts to use the situation created in other countries to its advantage. The occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the constant use of drones in Pakistan have created the golden opportunity for Iran to extend its political influence. While US bombs, Iran builds; US build prisons to torture innocent people, Iran builds clinics and schools; US destroys the infrastructure, Iran builds water treatment plants and provides generators for electricity etc.
-Iran builds alliances with other players in the region that like Iran do not like to remain players in the unjust prevailing political structure. In the same manner that US has its regional allies Israel, Saudis, Qatar, and all the undemocratic and authoritarian regimes of the region, Iran has its regional allies that work with Iran and receive support from it. Syrian and Lebanon’s Islamic resistance (Hizbollah) are but a few examples. Iran is fully aware that it is the ultimate target of US’s destabilization plan and hence it has drawn its proverbial redline in Syria and Lebanon. For Iran anything other than a regime change in Syria is a victory. The best outcome for Iran in Syria is for a negotiated settlement that leads to an expulsion of the international mercenaries into the regressive and authoritarian Syrian neighbors that supported the US in its attempt for bringing down the Syrian regime. It is in the light of cognizance of the US’s innate hostility towards the Islamic Republic; that the Iranian military has warned that any attack on Syria will have regional consequences.
Iranian commanders have made clear that should Syria be attacked, they are ready to take the fight to the other areas particularly to the US’s regional allies:
Iran’s reaction to a US attack on Syria will depend on the nature of the attack and the intended goals. If Obama plans to attack Syria to change the balance of power on the ground in favor of the mercenaries, then Iran would feel obliged to help the Syrian regime respond by possibly attacking the source of the attack. If Obama opts for a prolonged attack on Syria hoping that it will lead to a regime change, which is preferred by Israel and the Saudis, as Franklin Lamb has reported in his article, “Forcing Obama into a Prolonged Syrian War” then the Iranians will certainly get involve militarily and with the help of their other regional ally would make every effort to turn the Syrian issue into a regional issue that would involve others such as Israel.
In anticipation of a U.S. military air strike on Syria late last summer, Hizbollah put all their units – within and without Lebanon – on high alert. At the time, a source within the organization warned that, “in the event of a Western military strike that aims to change the balance of power in Syria, Hizbollah will fight on various fronts,” which by implication if this were to happen would have plunged Lebanon virtually and immediately into a war with Israel.” Even prior the announcement by the Obama Administration that it would abstain from attacking Syria, President al-Assad had already won. Syria and its regional allies saw the crack in the armor. One only needs to look at how ordinary Israelis reacted to Britain’s backtracking before Syria and France’s semi-cold feet to grasp the far reaching implications of such an event. Across Israel at the time, people ran to stock up on essentials — water, food and gas masks — ahead of a potential strike on their territories.
Indeed the scenario looked ridiculous at the time. What Obama did not seem to realize is that US was on its own, isolated.
As with the Ukraine today, last summer, the rest of the world did not want to sink into another quagmire of US’s making. The only entities willing to support US’s aggression on Syria were Saudi Arabia and Israel. Not much for credibility? The only support Washington mustered was from a feudal, sword-wielding, head-chopping regime and Israel. Call it what you want; “Coalition of the Willing” or “Coalition of the Killing.”
[i] This is a reference to the Iraqi gassing of Kurds that year. While the U.S. cynically blamed it on the Iranians, it was well known, as it later came out from many sources, that it was Saddam that had committed the crime and that some of the elements for the nerve gas was purchased from the United States with the full knowledge of the Reagan Administration, then in its last year in office. It is also another classic example of a `false flag’ operation – one party committing an atrocity, but blaming it on another party for political reasons.
[ii] Kurzman, C. The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004) p. vii-viii