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

May 31, 2019

Remember the good old days? John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif named winners of the Chatham House Prize 2016 for the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal)

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

Part One

With such an ideological approach, asking Trump to go back to the deal will be a “no-no” for the Administration as long as Trump remains in office. It’s not going to happen. As I just explained, stepping away from the deal wasn’t because there wasn’t some inherent deficiency within the deal that had been agreed upon. (John) Kerry said it; European leaders said it. They called it a “win-win” for everyone involved.

No, it’s because Obama signed it and Trump has to dismantle and deconstruct it.

With such an approach, what chance is there that the United States, or Trump is going to return to the deal? It would take a miracle for that to happen and I don’t believe that is the case in the light of what Trump himself as indicated as the reason for tearing up the deal

– Ibrahim Kazerooni –

3.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I have a question for you Rob. If what we have talked about turns out to be correct, that our spin suggests that behind this sabre rattling against Iran has more of an economic motivation, racketeering to lead to the edge of war, I have recently read a number of articles which reminded me of the situation and parallel with Iraq in 2002-3. Do you see any parallels between the two?

Rob Prince: Jim and I were discussing this just before the program, and yes, looking at the military build up, the scenarios for war, the way the media is acting there is an eery resemblance between what is transpiring now in the Persian Gulf and the period just prior to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

To what are we referring?

First, the military build up starts with the vilification of the targeted government, in 2003, the Iraqi government on half truths and outright lies. And so it is today. Much is made of its human rights records suggesting that the military invasion is necessary to protect lives, while in fact, it was political and economic factors – gaining control of Iraq’s energy industry – which were driving events.

What listeners would do well to remember is that there is no nation that is perfect and that it has been easy to cherry pick – certainly in the case of Saddam and Iraq – there were many valid criticisms to make, but these human rights problems are used, not to improve the situation but as a pretext for intervention.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As they did in Libya

Rob Prince: As they do pretty much anywhere where Washington intervenes. It always starts with a fabricated pretext, claiming to be the holy warriors for democracy and Capitalism. The root causes are not about selling weapons or controlling oil, oh no!

Jim Nelson: It’s also the pretext for administering sanctions.

Rob Prince: Yes, the use of sanctions. And the purpose of the sanctions is several fold in both cases (Iraq 2003, Iran 2019). Its meant to weaken a government’s ability to resist political pressure, to create social chaos internally as the sanctions dig in. But mostly it is to so weaken the country that it cannot withstand military intervention.

In the case of Iraq sanctions did weaken the country and left it vulnerable to attack. I would argue that Iran today, despite all the suffering it has experienced as a result of sanctions, is a much stronger country, for all its problems, and it does have many, than Iraq was. But then Iraq had experienced thirteen years of non-stop bombing of its infrastructure, which combined with the sanctions, left it much more vulnerable.

The comparison of the impact of sanctions is one part of the comparison.

The second element is that in both cases, a pliant media contributed to creating support for military intervention, taking its cues from Washington. In the build up to the 2003 Iraq invasion – I still remember – I didn’t get it – the degree to which the media could be so subservient to the Bush Administration. Remember how the NY Times printing front page articles claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden. No proof whatsoever, the shameful (non) reporting of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon at the time, being spoon-fed lies from the mouth of Vice President, Dick Cheney.

Looking today, there are many parallels.

The manner in which the mainstream press talks about talks about the situation in Iran one would be led to believe that it is Iran that is the aggressive factor in the Middle East. It’s not the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia – it’s Iran. In fact, looking at this recent announcement that the United States will be sending an additional 7,500 troops to bolster the 70,000 already in the country, it is explained as a way of “stopping Iranian aggression.” This claim is made without any evidence – as we saw repeatedly in 2002-3. Now the Administration is claiming, without any evidence, that it is Iran that bombed three oil tankers in the Gulf several days ago.

The media today is following the same pattern of 2002-3 of swallowing the mainstream narrative coming out of Washington, doing so uncritically, preparing the public, rationalizing intervention.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, this is the text of the NY Times on May 13.

“At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 100,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on a nuclear weapon.”

Rob Prince: Once again the onus, again is placed at Iran’s feet. Alternative explanations for the U.S. military build up the region are not discussed. The cruelty, the goal of the sanctions is not discussed. Critical analysis of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, not discussed. The incredible brutal policies of the Saudis, in Yemen, at home, – the medieval nature of the regime, – the recent beheadings – not discussed.

Once again, the analysis of what is happening in the region, and U.S. responsibility for much of the tension, is omitted.

There is another comparison with 2002-3 that deserves attention. Jim, you referred to it earlier. The image that the media is trying to project is that there is some kind of major tension between Donald Trump and his two closest foreign policy advisers, National Security Adviser, John Bolton and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Trump is portrayed as more of a dove. It is suggested that he doesn’t really want to go to war, but is being pushed into the confrontation by Bolton and Pompeo (and behind them Netanyahu and Bin Salman), that Trump just wants to use this crisis to sell weapons, or whatever. Bolton and Pompeo are “the bad guys” pushing the war option.

Think about what happened prior to the war in Iraq.

There was Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney and Rumsfeld were playing more or less the same role in 2002 as Bolton and Pompeo play today.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: If you remember, I referred to Cheney and Rumsfeld as the Laurel and Hardy of the Bush Administration, and now we have something similar in the Trump Administration.

Rob Prince: Yes, that is apt.

But what is the illusion here? The illusion is that there is some kind of deep split in policy between these two “factions” if you like. Jim put it rather poetically earlier, that he thought this split to be bogus.

And I agree with him.

This is more of a good cop, bad cop sort of a situation. What we have to understand is that there is an overall administration ideological policy towards overthrowing the government of Iran. The differences between Trump and his advisers are simply slightly different aspects of it.

Jim Nelson: Just to return to past shows, both Bolton and Pompeo have given speeches to the Mujahideen al Khalq. They were inflammatory speeches.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Jim, if you remember John Bolton even pontificated that the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian Revolution would not happen and that instead they will be celebrating in Teheran, this to a group of murderous, bloodthirsty terrorists. Yes, with the help of the United States, these people are going to go to Iran and take power.

This is nothing new.

Rob Prince: There is one more point to make on the comparison between today and 2002-3 before addressing the options of where do we go from here and that is, in the case of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, who was pushing Washington for that invasion in the region? Israel and Saudi Arabia. These are the same countries that are pushing Trump to attack Iran today. The popular saying comes to mind “Israel will fight the war against Iran down to the last American.”

OK, so the parallels are there. The suggestion is that different American governments have not learned from their own history. These administrations have not learned much if anything.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I still remember vividly what we went through during the early part of the build up for the Iraq War. I remember at Iliff School of Theology, theologians from various Christian and Jewish background clamoring over each other to support Bush’s strategy to go to war with Iraq.(1) They were all falling in line with the mainstream narrative being put forth by the media at that time alleging that within 45 minutes that Iraq would explode a nuclear bomb against New York or somewhere else in the USA.

As far as some other people, I wonder why it is that ordinary people have not learned anything from these past mistakes. This is why newspapers like the New York Times that can essentially parrot the Trump Administration’s allegations against Iran. Between May 4 and up until May 27, on three or four occasions, it repeat the same allegations. When these are called into question, the Times apologizes, but print the apology in some obscure corner of the paper, only to reprint the same thing once again the day after or a few days later.

Why is it that we really have not learned anything from past mistakes?

4.

Rob Prince: Agreed. The question we need to address in the time remaining is where do we go from here? What are some ideas to get out of this mess?

What we want to discuss is an article, an attempt, no matter how much out of the realm of reality it might appear at this moment to reverse the momentum towards a military confrontation, towards war, to reduce tensions and redirect the current U.S.-Iranian confrontation back on a diplomatic path.

If Trump Really Wants To Work With Iran, Here’s What He Can Do

This is the title of an article by Dr. Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian-American Council. The op ed appeared yesterday or the day before on-line. In this article he suggests five steps to prepare for changing course, avoiding war, re-establishing diplomatic channels between the Trump Administration and Iran.
I’m going to list all five and then ask Ibrahim to comment upon them.

They are:

First – Fire National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Secondly – Respect and re-engage in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran Nuclear Deal)

Third – Drop the pre-conditions for negotiation

Fourth – Show respect for the adversary, Iran. Respect can go a long way

Fifth – Stop listening to the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Saudi Arabia

Ibrahim, is there a glimmer of hope that momentum towards war can be reversed? How do you assess Dr. Parsi’s recommendations for a change of course? It seems to me at least that he’s trying to give us some concrete ideas as to how get out of the hold that the United States has put itself in.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Well to begin with I want to commend him for advocating for diplomacy rather than war. That goes without saying. However I have a number of reservations with regards to the points he proposes.

Number One – If Trump wants to avoid war and engage in diplomacy he must fire Bolton and Pompeo. American policy is a systemic policy. It does not depend on an individual. Remember, Rob, just prior to Obama’s election, a meeting took place at a local Denver church. Vincent Harding, and others spoke. They were hopeful that Barack Obama would change U.S. foreign policy, improve it, render it less confrontational.

At the time, we argued that it’s not the person, it’s a systemic policy. I still am convinced that an ideological approach to Iran is inherent within the American political system. Yes, at different times, you have the embodiment within the system of different individuals, as you talked about earlier citing Cheney and Rumsfeld during the Bush Administration. They have become the public face of that inherent policy.

From my point of view to argue that firing Bolton and Pompeo would help correct or purify the system, … it’s far fetched. Not only is it not going to happen, but even if they were to be removed, the system could not self-correct because the bias against Iran is inherent within the system to deal with Iran not on facts, but on an ideological basis.

So that is Number One.

Rob Prince: I agree with you by the way. Such an approach would resonate among a sector of the American political class and public who look upon these two as particularly toxic in terms of the current situation but in the end I question whether it changes very much whereas the other suggestions are more concrete and doable.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As far as respecting the deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), I believe, after reading his article, he clearly states that the problem with Trump is he wants to get rid of everything that Obama achieved.

With such an ideological approach, asking Trump to go back to the deal will be a “no-no” for the Administration as long as Trump remains in office. It’s not going to happen. As I just explained, stepping away from the deal wasn’t because there wasn’t some inherent deficiency within the deal that had been agreed upon. (John) Kerry said it; European leaders said it. They called it a “win-win” for everyone involved.

No, it’s because Obama signed it and Trump has to dismantle and deconstruct it.

With such an approach, what chance is there that the United States, or Trump is going to return to the deal? It would take a miracle for that to happen and I don’t believe that is the case in the light of what Trump himself as indicated as the reason for tearing up the deal.

End Part Two.

____________________

1. The same was the case at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies where R. Prince taught

 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Francis S. Cheever permalink
    May 31, 2019 9:04 pm

    The salient point is that all of Trump’s policies are undoing whatever Obama did–and then putting his name on a replacement, like he did with NAFTA. DJT says he’d talk to the Iranians. but they won’t talk to him. Not that that would lead anywhere any way.

Trackbacks

  1. Transcript: Iran 2019 – All The Makings of Iraq 2003? Similarities and Differences – May 28, 2019 – Part One. | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog
  2. Transcript: Iran 2019 – All The Makings of Iraq 2003? Similarities and Differences – May 28, 2019 – Part Three | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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