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

June 3, 2019

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

Continued from Part Two

If you listen to the comments by (Iranian Foreign Minister) Javad Zarif, or whether it’s conservative or middle ground politicians in Iran they all seemed to have converged to a single point: under the present pressure (from Washington) and the present condition, no conversation, no negotiation with anyone will take place.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

There is a need to de-escalate. There are so many ways that it could be done. For example, at this point in time, rather than sending more troops to the region, withdraw those 7,500 troops Washington announced it would send. Withdraw the additional air craft carrier group just send to the region and the battle ships that go along with it.

Make concrete steps – beyond the empty comments that Trump “doesn’t want war.”

Rob Prince

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I agree, for the reasons stated how unlikely it is that Trump is going to re-engage in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That said, I think it an important demand to raise. It was the withdrawal from that agreement which shifted what appeared to be the beginning of a rapproachment, a process of diplomacy. That process was thrown in the waste basket and began this march towards war.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob let me express a different opinion.

If Trump stepping back with the deal, if it did not coincide with the European countries having the backbone to stand up to Trump it would have gotten us to the point where we are now. The problem is that once the Europeans stepped away from the agreement, instead of the Europeans standing up and saying that this (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is an internationally recognized – by the United Nations Security Council – agreement, we have to respect it and we are going to do everything possible to keep it in tact…what happened?

Fearing some kind of reaction from the United States, the European firms and banks and other interests began to withdraw, weakening the European government’s position. So it was two issues together; it wasn’t just Trump stepping back from the agreement. Putin was quoted as saying last week that Russia is not a fire brigade coming to put out the fire every time there is a crisis. Europeans have to share the blame for not standing up to America.

So we really have to put the blame on both of them: Trump’s ideological approach to negate the deal that Obama had negotiated on the one hand and the European lukewarm wishy-washy approach on the other.

Rob Prince: Yes all that is true enough. Still, Ibrahim, at some point, in order to improve the atmosphere, to begin turning the situation around – and here Trita Parsi does deal with this – there has to be some kind of de-escalation on the part of the United States.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, I was going to get this. The third and forth points he (Trita Parsi) raises are extremely useful: Drop all preconditions and respect the adversary.

The United States has to understand that after forty years of imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, that Iran is a reality in the region. Washington has to recognize and respect that.

Yes, and all the pre-conditions barring the way to negotiations have to be dropped. No pre-conditions. If the Trump Administration wants to make a deal with Iran, they have to sit down with them.

If you listen to the comments by (Iranian Foreign Minister) Javad Zarif, or whether it’s conservative or middle ground politicians in Iran they all seemed to have converged to a single point: under the present pressure (from Washington) and the present condition, no conversation, no negotiation with anyone will take place.

As to the final suggestion, stop listening to the Israelis and Saudis, – it’s one of the old debates – that is agreeable to a degree. Rob, you just mentioned how the Israelis are prepared to go war against Iran until the last American soldier. But Israel has always done that. They want to get the United States involved in the region. The war in Syria is because of that. The war in Iraq was because of that, because the Israelis wanted to weaken or eliminate some kind of strategic adversary within the Middle East.

What is happening now?

We have a region in crisis, at the brink of war. Anything can happen at any moment. Again when you constantly see the narrative that is being used by the Trump Administration and the influence of the lobbies, I wonder, if on a practical basis any of these three above cited conditions (cited by Parsi) would be implemented or put into practice in order to move towards de-escalation, stepping back from the brink.

The Iranians have made it clear that they are prepared to respond (to an opening) if they see concrete steps taken by the U.S. but they are not prepared to respond to anything short of that.

Rob Prince: I want to repeat what I said earlier: just the fact that Trita Parsi is putting out, suggesting ideas as to how to move from military confrontation to diplomacy – he deserved a great deal of credit. These are the kinds of discussions that we should be having. I am very grateful for that.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes I said so in the beginning. I said that I must commend him for opting out of the war strategy. By the way he has written a number of books about diplomacy with Iran so this is not new for him. He has to be commended for it.

Rob Prince: Not only that, Ibrahim. It also shows some courage in a moment when there is not a lot of that coming from commentators in the United States.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: All that is needed is one false flag operation – be it engineered by the Israelis, Saudis or other Persian Gulf emirates for the whole thing to explode.

Rob Prince: There is a need to de-escalate. There are so many ways that it could be done. For example, at this point in time, rather than sending more troops to the region, withdraw those 7,500 troops Washington announced it would send. Withdraw the additional air craft carrier group just send to the region and the battle ships that go along with it.

Make concrete steps – beyond the empty comments that Trump “doesn’t want war.”

Ultimately what Washington is going to have to do is reconsider the sanctions against Iran because basically it’s economic and military pressure being exerted against Teheran.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s a noose around the Iranian neck.

Particularly when you consider the nearly twenty or so American bases encircling Iran, whether in Iraq, north in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan or in the Gulf states. The situation is extremely tense and volatile.

Rob Prince: Again, agreed. And here we come to the role that public opinion here in the United States can play – and of course has not played at least substantially until now.

We are beginning to hear some calls, from what we could call “the usual suspects” – peace movements “No War With Iran.” Hopefully those calls will grow and that some of the ideas that Trita Parsi is putting forth are looked at seriously, particularly again – the heart of the matter – however Washington wants to put it – de-escalating militarily and economically (lifting the sanctions).
Jim Nelson: Looking at the mainstream media, they are focusing mostly on the possible impeachment of Trump, 24-7 beating the drum. If there is any discussion on the current military build up against Iran, it’s usually ex-generals that are brought forth as experts. Same kind of media coverage we saw prior to the Iraq invasion.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Jim, if you look at this objectively, think of this: Four hundred Congress members from both chambers, roughly 75% of all U.S. lawmakers have signed an open letter calling on President Trump to escalate the war in Syria in the name of “countering Iran, Russia and the Lebanese movement, Hezbollah.”

These so-called lawmakers have to be answerable to their own constituencies. The only way that pressure can be put on them is for people to call them, day in, day out challenging them. On what basis are they supporting the sending of more and more troops to the Middle East

In Iraq there is currently a huge uproar among ordinary people against the American presence in the country. A couple of missiles were recently fired very close to the American Embassy in Baghdad. Now it would only take one of these missiles to start the region-wide explosion.

The American consulate in Basra was shut down because the American embassy knows what might happen there. Now the embassy might be in danger, as well as the consulate in northern Iraq. American troops will be endanger. Washington is now sending more and more troops to protect those troops already there on the ground, rather than change the policy. This is the fundamental problem that we have.

Jim Nelson: This plays out in the media as well that such a foreign policy is acceptable. I’m think of the vote to legalize the war on terrorism, back in 2001. Barbara Lee was the sole member of either changer to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
There might be other members of Congress this time who would oppose going to war.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Senator Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard and a few others did not sign on to the Syria military escalation resolution but the fact that 400 members of Congress approved of such a resolution this clearly states the degree to which the United States has not learned from its past mistakes and that more needs to be done.

In a meeting that took place here (in Detroit) with a number of religious scholars, I reminded them of what happened during my time in Denver, Colorado. Among other places, the peaceful Iliff School of Theology organized a workshop where all the religious scholars that came together from
Left to Right, Jewish and non-Jewish – they all insisted that we have to go to war with Iraq. Today we really have a responsibility, whether religious scholars, political scholars, whatever, that everyone needs to be reminded, that opposing war is a civil duty.

As an American citizen I have all the right to oppose the war.

Jim Nelson: In our remaining nine minutes…how would Israel or Saudi Arabia benefit if war broke out in the region?

Rob Prince: Where both Israel and Saudi Arabia are coming from – if you strip it down to its essence is very, very simple: They see their relationship with Iran as a zero sum game. If Iran’s influence is growing in the region, theirs is receding. They are losing regional hegemony, their ability to dictate policy throughout the region is in relative decline. That’s their main problem with Iran.

Take for example Israel’s situation at present. At the same time that Israel is tightening its noose around the Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank but Israel’s ability to dictate policy in both Lebanon and Syria has been seriously reduced. It cannot do that anymore with the impunity with which it did so in the past. The balance of forces has shifted there.

Although we need to be a little cautious over how it is put, but to a certain degree, its hands are tied.
They can not bomb Syria with impunity anymore. The notion that Israel can strike militarily in Lebanon as they did in 1982 or 2006 in the currently existing asymmetrical warfare, the scales have shifted.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, by the way, the same thing happened even in the latest conflict with Gaza. As soon as Gaza’s missiles hit close to Tel Aviv, the Israelis realized that the situation has changed. Both Israeli retired military personnel and politicians admitted that the (balance of power situation) in Gaza has dramatically changed.

Rob Prince: And then let’s remember why the Saudis were so supportive of the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq. Even weakened by thirteen years of sanctions, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was still one of the only Arab countries that could challenge Saudi dictates.

When it comes down to it, the tensions and instability in the Middle East are not about religion – it has always been a convenient sideshow quite frankly, it’s about geo-politics – that is what it’s about.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: in a world where “winner takes all.”

Rob Prince: And that is how Washington looks at the situation. What is the main beef has, really, against Iran? The United States supports a theocracy – actually more than one – in the Middle East.
But the Saudis theocracy, with all that it entails, Wahhabism and its influence not just in the region but globally – the fact that Iran is an Islamic republic – quite frankly, this is not the issue.

The issue is that Iran pursues an independent regional policy that frankly doesn’t have to be in conflict with the United States, but Washington simply does not accept a major regional power that has an independent political approach.

Jim Nelson: And to continue, this just seems more consequential than the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, much bigger – and the repercussions of a regional war, certainly for Israel and Saudi Arabia seem to be something approaching catastrophic.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Jim, you just pointed out something important. Iraq was already extremely weak after thirteen years of sanctions and economic embargo. And yet after seven years of military intervention, the United States was forced to admit that they had lost the war in Iraq and they had to prepare a plan to withdraw, to get out.

The situation with Iran is quite different.

Washington is going to go to war with Iran, the most nationalistic country in the region that has survived forty years of economic embargo and has always indicated that it intends to pursue an independent regional political line – no West, no East – as they call it.

So attacking Iran is a totally different situation from going to war against Iraq. Frankly it’s really madness to think of going to war with Iran. The Iranians have time on their hands. General Solimani said in a speech he gave a couple of days ago, repeating what he earlier said, that the United States can start a war with Iran anytime they want but we (the Iranians) will finish it the way we want.

Rob Prince: Yes, a discouraging moment and the points that Ibrahim raises about moving from a war footing to diplomacy are indeed real. I’m not arguing with his analysis of the difficulties in changing course. At the same time, one has to put forth positive alternatives, plans, initiatives to turn the situation around, to move in the opposite direction, in the direction of diplomacy and peace.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As a point of engagement and conversation, yes….

Jim Nelson: In the remaining moments we have, is there any kind of initiative that would lead to light at the end of the tunnel at this point.

Rob Prince: A change in direction, a more sober assessment of situation in the region than we are now getting. A change in direction that reduces the military component and begins to more seriously explore diplomatic solutions. A freezing of U.S. militarization of the region. No more troops, no more naval build up. Militarization of the region and diplomacy at the same time cannot co-exist. With such an approach, change is not going to happen.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: And then you give diplomacy a chance by finding ways of communicating with Iran and I’m sure that the Iranians will respond.

The end.

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