Like every other major move in the Middle East, Washington's latest raft of economic sanctions against Iran are doomed to fail. Not because the policy instrument itself doesn't actually work, but because our government is making the same mistakes of the past.
Now get back inside your Delorean and set the clock for the fall of 2002, back when the United States was preparing to wage war against Iraq. Those of us who were awake then knew exactly what kind of disaster was unfolding, and we mobilized accordingly, in the millions and onto the streets, sending a clear message to our respective governments that the public would not suffer fools and neocon criminals gladly. While that protest didn't deter the historic disaster of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the meager consolation prize was that we were clearly right, while the US and UK governments and the entire lap dog mainstream press were all wrong. No, in that tragic scenario the only payoff is a lesson learnt for future generations, that maybe, never again would we allow our spineless bureaucrats and corporate raiders to take the western world to war based on patent lies and false pretenses. Granted, it wasn't long until Obama broke covenant with Libya, and with a series of devastating proxy ventures in Syria and Yemen.
So here we are again, and for some reason some of us (maybe it's our good-natured naïveté), still can't believe that the current US Administration is preparing the nation to repeat one of the worst mistakes the country has ever made.
After 18 months in office, what's become clear is that President Trump has no independent knowledge or perspective on Iran: all he has is what his neoconservative advisors like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and others tell him, or war experts on FOX News are shrieking, but more likely what the Israeli and Saudi Arabian governments are telling his people. In the case of the Israeli lobby, those bullet points are likely hand-delivered to the White House. I would hasten to point out that all of the aforementioned parties have left nothing but a string of failures and foreign policy debacles in their wake, and so it's only right that any intelligent person should ask of what benefit does their advice bring to the people of the United States (if this were a season of The Apprentice, the entire cast of charlatans would've been fired already, so why carry all that dead weight Donald)?
If only it ended there. Rather unfortunately for Americans and Iranians, the Trump foreign policy bench goes much deeper than curmudgeons like Bolton and Giuliani; it includes legions of defense industry-funded think tank experts and deep state career civil servants too, all of whom cling to a near religious belief than economic sanctions will somehow net positive results, even though throughout their entire history they can only claim to be successful approximately 33 percent of the time. If you count the last 10 years, that number might drop down to below 10 percent at best. In other words, as a tool of foreign policy, US sanctions are an abject failure. Still, Washington's perennial orthodoxy adheres to its liturgical belief-set that sanctions are; A) a kinder, gentler alternative to military action; B) a good, safe way to pressure the target regime to step down; and C) likely to coerce the target nation (in case Iran) to change their "offending behaviour."
In reality, each of these widely-held assumptions is false. Firstly, punitive sanctions are hugely damaging to a developing economy and society, and will not affect the “regime” as much as they will deprive the people of their general welfare. In the case of Iraq, sanctions arguably killed more people and caused more long-term system damage than the actual fighting.
On the second point, harsh preemptive US measures will only reinforce what the ruling government in Tehran has been saying for decades: that the current regime in Washington is unreasonable, irrational and is being manipulated politically by Israeli and Saudi Arabia - all of which is beyond argument. For Tehran, simply pointing out what is really happening only enhances its credibility, and reinforces its geopolitical raison d'etat.
Third, sanctions and other military threats will not coerce Iran to “give up” its nuclear weapons program for the simple reason that Iran does not have, nor is it pursuing a nuclear weapons program - a fact that no amount of Kabuki Powerpoint presentations or CD-Rom art installations by Benjamin Netanyahu can change.
If that's not enough to convince you, then at least acknowledge what else history shows: that more often than not, economic sanctions are effectively a prelude to war.
Regardless of all that, Washington's chorus of national security magpies are still whistling the usual tunes: "Iran is hiding its secret WMD nukes," and "Iran is the world's number one state sponsor of terror...", and so on.
Again, we have to remind them that no, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, which is what the multilateral P5+1 JCPOA Agreement was designed to ensure, before the Trump Administration detonated it.
The second talking point - that Iran is the world's leading backer of international terrorism - is beyond a joke. Unlike the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, Iran has actually been fighting both al Qaeda and ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and in doing do has sustained heavy losses. Truth be known, the number one state sponsors of terror are the countries clamouring for war against Iran. If that doesn't make sense to you, then let me spell it out then:
United States - for at least the last 6 years, the US has ploughed billions of its taxpayer funds into supporting “rebel” terrorist factions in Syria, as well as illegally flooding the region with illicit weapons which have helped to sustain the terrorist onslaught in both Syria and Iraq. Part of this US operation was chronicled by one independent journalist here, and more recently by veteran journalist Robert Fisk, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Saudi Arabia - this monarchy is widely regarded as the number one sponsor of radical Wahabi and extremist conclaves globally, including ISIS. This is not to mention Saudi's illegal war of aggression and terror waged against its neighbor Yemen since 2015, backed in full by the US and UK militaries and governments.
Israel - since the beginning of the Syrian war, this US ally has been working hand-in-hand providing triage for Jabat al-Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), as well as providing material support for terrorists in Syria, and repeatedly providing air cover for ISIS terrorists in Syria. This is not to mention the campaign of terror unleashed by the state of Israel against the native Palestinian Arab population in Gaza recently.
Remember, it is these three countries who are waving the finger of condemnation and calling for economic and military war to be waged against Iran. Why? To deflect from their own litany of international crimes in the region.
By pursuing a vindictive policy against a country that poses no national security threat to itself, the US will only further erode its status as an international world leader. Both policies of statecraft, economic sanctions and military intervention, are proven failures and therefore should be relegated as preferred tools of foreign policy.
How this is still rocket science to the mainstream press still beggars belief, but then again, history shows that the western mainstream media are the primary facilitators of global military adventurism.
Remember: nothing good can come from a policy based on outright lies. Let's not rob Blair and Bush of the one good lesson they bequeathed to us.
What else is wrong with Washington’s ramshackle containment policy with Iran? Go to RT International to hear the rest of the case.
Henningsen is is an American writer and global affairs analyst and a visiting Fellow with the Ron Paul Institute.
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