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Transcript: Iran 2019 – All The Makings of Iraq 2003? Similarities and Differences – May 28, 2019 – Part One.

May 30, 2019

The Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz

Iran 2019 – All The Makings of Iraq 2003? Similarities and Differences. An audio interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU, Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. May 28, 2019. Part One. 

KGNU – Interview, May 28, 2019  Transcript…

The main point is rather simple: the entire Middle East region is in great turmoil that risks some kind of an explosion from who-knows-where. There are, frankly, so many possibilities. The possibilities are not only in the Persian Gulf – Rob Prince

The complexity of what is going on in the region, the charged environment, has reached the point that it could spark so kind of a major conflict with unintended consequences – Ibrahim Kazerooni

1.

Jim Nelson: Good evening and thanks for tuning into Hemispheres on Community Radio at KGNU in Denver, Boulder and Ft. Collins. You can tune us in at www.kgnu.org or I’m your host Jim Nelson. This evening on Hemispheres, We continue the Middle East Dialogues. As always joining me in these conversations are Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince.

We might as well get started. Tonight we’re going to be talking about the threat of a U.S. attack on Iran. The Trump Administration is building towards a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran and in the past three weeks the situation has become that much more tense as if the world is on the edge of a precipice.

I was telling Rob just prior to going on the air, that it feels like we’re going back in time before the Iran Nuclear Deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with the Obama Administration and a number of other parties.

Rob, you are going to begin?

Rob Prince: You’re correct Jim, we could go back in time and in fact we could go back in time far prior to the signing of the July 20, 2015 signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We will do that some, but before that, introducing the subject, there is no question that the tensions between the United States and Iran have reached something close to a boiling point and that we’re in a very dangerous moment.

We want to start off by looking at the complexity of the situation, just touching on a few of the main points, the hot spots.

The main point is rather simple: the entire Middle East region is in great turmoil that risks some kind of an explosion from who-knows-where. There are, frankly, so many possibilities. The possibilities are not only in the Persian Gulf.

The situation has been rapidly deteriorating since Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known here in the United States as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Trump did not understand the consequences of pulling out of the agreement. For Trump, it was simply a case of undoing, destroying an agreement that the Barack Obama Administration had achieved, one of Obama’s few foreign policy achievements – and therefore it had to be eliminated.

As the tightening of the American sanctions against Iran intensify – these sanctions are literally a form of warfare – an attempt to destroy the Iranian economy. It’s meant to push the Iranian government to capitulate to U.S. demands. That is basically what the focus is. Our starting point is it won’t happen. Iran will not give in to U.S. pressures, as intense as they have become.

Iran is not going to be the first one to blink in this situation. This attempt to bring Iran to its knees, overthrowing the government – I don’t like to use the term “regime change” because een that term sanitizes, it hides what is being discussed – overthrowing the government of another country one way or another.

Overthrowing the Iranian government has become in Washington, nothing short of an obsession with the Trump Administration as well as for the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi government headed by Mohammed Ben Salman.

At this point it might take what only amounts to as some minor incident, some false flag operation for the entire region to explode. The comparison, going back in time, is not only before the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015. One could say this is a repeat of July 1914 with some of the similar kinds of forces, alliances shaping up in such a manner as explode in any direction.

Trump says he doesn’t want war, but neither is he willing to change course, get off the track leading to war to reduce tensions.

Ibrahim, how has the recent situation in the Persian Gulf deteriorated in the past two weeks. Can you give us a sense of that?

2.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes Rob.

We have been talking about the region on this program for many years by now. As you indicated, the situation is very tense and very volatile. Even taking Donald Trump at his word that he doesn’t want war, but the charged situation is such that only one small spark is needed – wherever it comes from – for the whole region to escalate, spiral out of control, in large measure because, as usual, the United States does not have any strategy to exit the crisis.

If you listen to the Western media, they simplify everything down and reduce it to “it’s Iran that is causing all the problems in the region. But the current crisis in the Middle East is a complex one. The Western media’s simplistic approach does not give that impression, but all the same, it’s very complex.

Looking at the region, one theme that emerges is that the United States has lost much influence in the region. U.S. strategy for the region has come to a kind of dead end. Its current sabre rattling is little more than what we refer to as “the wounded beast” syndrome that the United States is experiencing.

Last week (on the International Press Round Table) I pointed out that unfortunately both Iran and the United States – I have discussed this with a number of diplomats when I went to Iran a couple of months ago on a short visit – that unfortunately the U.S. administration deals with Iran on an ideological basis – that it is the “enemy-friend” construction that is in place. By default, the Iranians are the enemy. There are similar approaches among those who occupy the American desk at the Iranian foreign ministry, that they have no clue what is going on in the United States. They too deal with the situation based upon ideological reasoning.

The problem with this ideological approach is that it doesn’t leave room for diplomacy and flexibility for changes in approach that might take place.

Rob Prince: Something else to consider Ibrahim. Unlike during the Cold War where an American president or a Soviet Communist Party leader could pick up the telephone and say to one another “This is what is really going on, yes, there is our rhethoric but this is in fact what we are doing” – that there are virtually no contacts today between Teheran and Washington.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, if you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, through this red phone line diplomacy and the communication that both parties agreed to step back. Tit for tat the Soviets agreed to remove their nuclear weapons from Cuba and the Americans, in turn, removed their ballistic missiles from Turkey. And it was done.

But the absence of such a mediating process creates a huge problem today. The fact that the U.S. has lost its strategy in the region can be detected by the fact that the only thing that is left for it do is to escalate.

The kind of incidents that occurred a few days ago (bombing of three ships, two Saudi and one Norwegian) in the Persian Gulf, we experienced also in 2009 and 2010 with the Bush Administration calling for increasing U.S. troop presence in the Middle East. And then today, over four hundred members of Congress, over 70% of the total, over 400, called on Trump to boost military intervention, to intensify the intensify the war in Syria, in order to weaken, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

There is no other strategy.

Rob Prince: This morning I saw an article about a new American policy in Syria that has been announced. It goes along the lines you are developing here. The only thing left for Washington to do is to escalate.

What are they calling for in Syria? They are calling for regime change and doing so at a time when their ability to implement such a policy is almost non-existent. Not to get off on that tangent today because we want to focus on Iran, but it’s the same strategy. They don’t know what to do other than escalate. That’s the trap they are in; it’s almost an addiction for American policy at this point.

Jim Nelson: I just wanted to add one point. I read that John Kerry has been talking to the Iranians. So while there is no formal Trump Administration talks, is it the case that informal talks – probes – are taking place?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Jim, the Americans suddenly their deficiency or shortcoming of their approach. They (the Trump Administration) has asked a number of countries to intervene. Oman is one of them, Iraq is another, and there are a few other countries, like Japan that have been asked to help reduce the tension.

The problem is that asking other parties to intervene, when you look at the Trump Administration, and its policies – nobody really believes these intermediaries will be able to accomplish anything and deliver.

Jim Nelson: I agree. And the fact that there is no communication between the US and Iran. Yes, these intermediaries might be well-intentioned, but in the end it comes down to Pompeo, Bolton and Trump opening that dialogue.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, when you look at the core, the core is warmongering. Khamenei, in a speech a couple of days ago made it clear that he had warned Rouhani and others to be mindful that the current administration in the United States cannot be trusted. This turns out to be correct.

Rob said something earlier, mentioning the fact that the United States had withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It was because the agreement had shortcomings; yes, it might not have pleased the Israelis that testing missiles was not included in the agreement but the nuclear deal itself which was the main core of the agreement was water-tight. There was no problem with it.

By Trump stepping back and away from the agreement was simply because to undercut Obama. This was an achievement of the Obama Administration and therefore had to be dismantled. Again, we return to the ideological basis of Trump’s actions.

The crisis that we now have in the region includes the following:

∙ The Yemeni Houthis are now, whenever they please, hitting pipelines and pumping stations in Saudi Arabia. It is very likely that they were responsible for the three oil tankers damaged in the Persian Gulf – although the damage was minor. It was at the port of Al Fujaira about 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) from Hormuz.
∙ The Houthis have now sent drones to bomb airports in the United Arab Emirates and a few other places
∙ Now everyone in the region finds themselves in a tight corner. If this sabre-rattling is not terminated, and is not stopped, they are all afraid that the region could explode – whether it starts in Iraq, Oman or the Gulf States – or somewhere else that all the countries in the region will be sucked into this conflict. This is something that no country in the region wants.
∙ The wars in Yemen, in Syria are still proceeding – although in the latter case, that of Syria, the government is beginning to push militarily further and further into Idlib Province (in northwestern Syria) and finally settle this issue. Hopefully they will do that.

But the escalation policy becomes the only option that is left for United States.

I have a different spin – we have discussed it with Rob. Despite all of the vilifying or demonizing Iran, the heart of Washington’s policy is to use Iran as a genie to milk the Arab World – and particularly the Saudis and the Gulf States for arms sales, to keep on taking money from them. This is what the United States did in 1990, in the early 2000s – 2003 about Saddam (Hussein) that they (the Saudis, U.A.E.) kept buying weapons.

Just yesterday it again with the Saudis purchasing another $7 billion in U.S. weapons on top of the huge amounts they have already purchased. It reminds me of an idea that was posited many years ago in a book called War is a Racket by General Smedley Butler, positing that business benefits and profits from a continual state of warfare.

In line with this logic, I believe that the current crisis has an economic component to it which far exceeds everything the other reasons, rationales for the heightening of tensions, far more than strategic or military considerations.

I must stress that even if the United States admits publicly that they do not want war, that they don’t want regime change, still, Washington wants to keep the atmosphere charged and do so in order to milk the Saudis for more billions in arms sales. There was a cartoon that showed the Ayatollah Khomeini sitting with two small nuclear bombs in his hands on the northern side of the Persian Gulf. The Arabs on the southern side were all running to the United States with big sacks of money to buy weapons.

That literally depicts the situation.

The complexity of what is going on in the region, the charged environment has reached the point that it could spark so kind of a major conflict with unintended consequences.

To be continued.

Part Two

_____________________

brahim Kazerooni is also a regular contributor to the International Press Round Table (KGNU). He has a Phd. from a joint Iliff School of Theology – University of Denver Korbel School of International Relations in Religion and Social Change. He is an imam at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. He joins us as he does usually, by phone.

Joining me here in the Boulder, Colorado studio as he always does is Rob Prince, retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and a regular contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, Algeria Watch and Nawaat.org, an award winning Tunisian human rights website.

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