Iran, due to its geopolitical position, has always been considered a jewel in the crown of the colonial powers. Attempts to conquer it through proxy started with Operation Ajax in August of 1953 at the behest of the British and were ultimately carried out by the CIA and not abandoned even with the ousting of America’s man, the Shah. Although the Islamic Revolution reclaimed Iran’s sovereignty in 1979, America was not ready to abandon its plans of domination over Iran, and by extension, the Persian Gulf.
The Persian Gulf has been the lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy. “To all intents and purposes,” a former senior Defense Department official observed, “‘Gulf waters’ now extend from the Straits of Malacca to the South Atlantic.” Nevertheless, bases nearer the [Persian] Gulf had a special importance, and Pentagon planners urged “as substantial a land presence in them as can be managed.” (Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability”, Boulder: Westview, 1984).
Having failed in numerous attempts, including the Nojeh coup during the nascent stages of Iran’s newly formed revolutionary government, war, sanctions, terrorism, and a failed color revolution, the United States needed other alternatives to reach its goal. Unlike the illegal war against Iraq, war with Iran was not a feasible option. The United States was aware of its inability to wage a successful war against Iran without serious damage to itself and its allies.
When George W. Bush took office, he commissioned a war exercise to gauge the feasibility of an attack against Iran. The 2002 Millennium Challenge was a major war game exercise conducted by the United States Armed Forces in mid-2002. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost $250 million, proved that the U.S. could not defeat Iran. The U.S. even restarted the war games, changing rules to ensure an American victory, in reality, cheating itself. This led to accusations that the war game had turned from an honest, open, playtest of U.S. war-fighting capabilities into a controlled and scripted exercise intended to end in a U.S. victory to promote a false narrative of U.S. invincibility.
For this reason, the United States continued its attempts at undermining Iran’s sovereignty by means of sanctions, terror, and creating divisions among Iranians. The JCPOA would be its master plan.
A simple observation of Iran clearly suggests simple ideological divisions among the Iranian people (pro-West, anti-West, minorities, religious, secular) which have all been amply exploited by the United States and its allies. None of the exploits delivered the prize the U.S. was seeking and so it was that it was decided to exploit the one factor which united Iranians of all persuasions. Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
In a November 25, 2004 interview with National Public Radio, Ray Takyeh (of the Council on Foreign Relations and husband to Iran expert Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute) stated that, according to polls, 75-80 percent of Iranians rallied behind the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of its nuclear program, including the full fuel cycle. In other words, the overwhelming uniting factor among Iranians was the nuclear program. A U.S.IA poll conducted in 2007 found that 64 percent of those questioned said that U.S. legislation repealing regime change in Iran would not be incentive enough to give up the nuclear program and full fuel-cycle. The next phase in America’s plan was to cause disunity on an issue that united Iranians of all stripes by negotiating away the nuclear program.
The first round of nuclear negotiations in 2003-2005, dubbed the Paris Agreement, between Iran and the EU, proved to be futile and as one European diplomat put it: “We gave them a beautiful box of chocolate that was, however, empty.” As the West’s fortune would have it, the same Iranian officials who participated in the 2003-2005 negotiations, would later negotiate the JCPOA.
Around the time of the end of the first round of negotiations, another Brookings Fellow, Flynt Leverett, senior advisor to the National Security Center, published a book “Inheriting Syria, Bashar’s Trial by Fire.” In it, Leverett argued that instead of conflict, George W. Bush should seek to cooperate with Syria as Assad was popular, but instead seek to weaken Assad’s position among his people by targeting the Golan Heights by inducing him to give them up so that he would lose popularity among Syrians. The JCPOA was designed, in part, along the same line of thinking. What more, Leverett’s wife Hillary had a prominent role in ‘selling’ the Iran Deal.
Secret negotiations between the Americans and ‘reform-minded’ Iranians never ceased, bypassing both Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the President at the time – Mahmood Ahmadinejad. In a 2012 meeting at the University of Southern California, present members of the Iran Project team had no reservations about suggesting that it was more beneficial to engage Iran than to attack it. They went as far as stating in the Q&A session to this writer that “they had been engaged with the “Green” (the opposition movement in the failed 2009 color revolution) for years, but Ahmadinejad won,” referring to Iran’s 2009 presidential elections. But Ahmadinejad would soon leave office and be replaced by Rouhani – a more amenable player.
Why negotiate with America’s archnemesis?
Fully appreciating the challenge of attacking Iran, in 2004, the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), presented its policy paper “The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action” authored by Michael Eisenstadt. It was opined that the ideal situation was, and continues to be, to have a compliant ‘regime’ in Tehran. Eisenstadt was of the opinion that unlike the Osiraq nuclear power plant which was bombed and destroyed, Israel and the U.S. would not be able to bomb Iran’s Bushehr reactor with the same ease. In particular, Eisenstadt claimed that Israel may have benefited from French aid in destroying Osiraq. French intelligence reportedly placed a homing beacon at Osiraq to help Israeli pilots locate the facility or target a critical underground structure there.
In this light, it was recommended that the principal goal of U.S. action should be to delay Iran’s nuclear program long enough to allow for the possible emergence of new leadership in Tehran. Failing that, war would have been facilitated.
It was thought the Paris Agreement talks would fail, (much as the JCPOA was designed to fail) and as such, the following were among the suggestions made:
• harassment or murder of key Iranian scientists or technicians;
• introduction of fatal design flaws into critical reactor, centrifuge, or weapons components during their production, to ensure catastrophic failure during use;
• disruption or interdiction of key technology or material transfers through sabotage or covert military actions on land, in the air, or at sea;
• sabotage of critical facilities by U.S. intelligence assets, including third country nationals or Iranian agents with access to key facilities;
• introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of facilities;
• damage or destruction of critical facilities through sabotage or direct action by U.S. special forces.
As with the murder and terror of Iranian nuclear scientists as well as the infection of nuclear reactors with the Stuxnet virus, the JCPOA enabled personnel on the ground in Iran to carry out extensive sabotage as has been observed in recent days and weeks. Rouhani’s visa-free travel opened the flood gates to spies and saboteurs – dual citizens who easily traveled with passports other than American, British, and Australian. Iran even managed to cancel the accreditation of an IAEA inspector who triggered an alarm at one of its nuclear facilities. But it would seem, Iran has not been able to stop other intruders and terrorists – not yet.
Why else negotiate with Iran?
According to studies, as of 2008, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor had 82 tons of enriched uranium (U235) loaded into it, according to Israeli and Chinese reports. This amount was significantly higher both before and during negotiations. History has not witnessed the bombing of a nuclear power plant with an operational nuclear enrichment facility. Deliberate bombing of such facilities would breach containment and allow radioactive elements to be released. The death toll would be horrifying. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated 3 million deaths would result within three weeks of the bombing of nuclear enrichment facilities near Esfahan, and the contamination would cover Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the way to India.
The JCPOA significantly reduced the amount of enriched uranium, reducing potential casualties in the event that a strike is carried out.
The Deal buys time. Iran’s strength has long been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz. Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35 percent of the world’s seaborne oil exports, go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy. Enter Nigeria (West Africa) and Yemen.
In 1998, Clinton’s national security agenda made it clear that unhampered access to Nigerian oil and other vital resources was a key U.S. policy. In the early 2000s, Chatham House determined that African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed the release of a strategy paper prodding the U.S. to move toward African oil. The push for Africa’s oil was on Dick Cheney’s desk on May 31, 2000. In 2002, the Israeli based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies suggested an American push towards African oil. In the same year, Boko Haram was ‘founded.’
In 2007, AFRICOM helped consolidate this push into the region. In 2011, a publication titled: “Globalizing West African Oil: U.S. ‘energy security’ and the global economy” outlined ‘U.S. positioning itself to use military force to ensure African oil continued to flow to the United States.’ This was but one strategy to supply oil in addition to, or as an alternate, to the passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.
The JCPOA as a starting point
It is now abundantly clear that the Iran Deal was simply JCPOA 1.0. Other deals were to follow and disarm Iran even further, to stop Iran’s defensive missile program, and to stop Iran from helping its allies in the region. This would have been relatively easy to achieve had Hillary Clinton been elected – as had been the hope.
The plan was to allow trade and neoliberal policies which the Rouhani administration readily embraced, a sharp increase in imports (harming domestic production and self-reliance) while building hope – or as Maloney called it ‘crisis of expectation’.
It was thought that with a semblance of ‘normalcy’ in international relations and free of sanctions, Iranians would want to continue abandoning their sovereignty, their defenses, and rally around pro-western politicians at the expense of the core ideology of the Islamic Revolution, the conservatives and the IRGC. In other words, regime change. Several meetings took place that spoke to this policy.
The most prominent, one could argue, was President Obama. Obama was not about peace. The biggest threat to an empire is peace. Obama had chosen feigned diplomacy as his weapon, but before picking up the mantle of diplomacy, he had proposed terrorism – sanctioned terrorism.
Obama, while a junior senator, introduced S. 1430 in 2007 and had “crippling sanctions” in mind for the Iranian people. As president, his executive orders assured this.
Addressing AIPAC as a candidate, he said,
Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States it will be clear to the people of Iran and to the world that the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation and that will strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work with Europe, Japan, and the Gulf States to find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard whose Kuds forces have rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.”
It is no wonder then that he would later be dubbed America’s “first Jewish president.”
Not to be left unmentioned was the darling of the theatrics of this deal – Federica Mogherini. So enamored were some of the Iranian parliamentarians with her that to the embarrassment of Iran, the internet was abuzz with these MPs taking pictures with her. Perhaps they looked at her and not her years as a German Marshall Fund Fellow.
The German Marshall Fund (GMF) sounds harmless enough, but perhaps Russia may not view it that way. And Iran shouldn’t either. The GMF pushed for bringing Ukraine into NATO’s fold. Furthermore, it gives funding to American Abroad Media (AMA). AMA boasts of some of the most dangerous anti-Iran neoconservatives who have shaped America’s policies, including Dennis Ross, James Woolsey, Martin Indyk (responsible for the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act later to become ISA and still in place after the JCPOA), and Tom Pickering, one of the main proponents of the Iran Deal and member of the Iran Project. Supporters of the AMA are not limited to the GMF, others include the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the NED.
One of the most active proponents of the JCPOA was none other than NED recipient, Trita Parsi. Parsi was personally thanked for his role in pushing the JCPOA through. Job well done for a three-time recipient of NED funds. No wonder the Soros–Koch foundation’s Quincy Institute selected him as their Executive Vice President.
And last but not least, Hillary Mann Leverett (wife of aforementioned Flynn Leverett) who persuaded her audiences that the JCPOA was akin to “Nixon going to China.” While some in Iran naively believed this to be the case and even defended her, they failed to realize that when Nixon went to China, it was to bring China on board against Russia. And Israel was not a player. It was not an opening to befriend Iran any more than Nixon’s trip had altruist motivations.
The role of Russia and China
The Russians and the Chinese were so eager to embrace a long-awaited peace after all the calamity caused by the United States that they fully embraced this deal, even though doing so was detrimental to their interests.
America’s animosity and never-ending schemes encouraged cooperation between Russia, China, and Iran. Although the lifting of sanctions post-JCPOA would have facilitated trade and enhanced diplomacy between Iran and the West at a cost to China and Russia, they stood steadfast by the deal. Peace was more valuable, but far more importantly, the two powerful nations allowed the United States to be the arbitrator of an international treaty – the NPT.
During the Shah’s reign, President Ford had signed onto a National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM 292, 1975) allowing and encouraging Iran to not only enrich uranium but sell it to neighboring countries to profit America. The United States then decided that since the Islamic Republic of Iran did not serve the interests of the United States, the United States would determine how the NPT should apply to Iran.
But their efforts at peace and the West’s efforts at regime change all came to naught. What is important to bear in mind is that America’s efforts at war, sabotage, and terrorism have not ended. Imposing unilateral sanctions – terrorism against the Iranian people, has not ceased. Although the Iranian people and their elected representative in the new Iranian parliament are far more aware of and have an aversion to America’s ploys and the Iran Deal, China and Russia must do their part not only as guarantors of peace, but also to maintain their integrity in a world where both aspire to live in multilateralism. The world already has a superpower without morals and integrity; it does not need other great powers that act similarly.
Iran has fended off another assault on its sovereignty. However, saboteurs and terrorists are soliciting war with their recent string of terrorism in Iran. As the fifth anniversary of this trap approaches, the world needs to understand and step up in order to defend peace, international law, and social justice. The future of all depends on it.
And to American compatriots: Make sure Trump understands that war will not get him reelected.
Feature photo | Rescue workers search for survivors at the scene of a mysterious explosion at the Sina At’har Health Center in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran on June 30, 2020. Amir Kholousi | ISNA
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing U.S. foreign policy.