WASHINGTON (Analysis) — The United States has had Iran in its crosshairs for decades and current media coverage indicates that US-Iranian relations are only getting worse. In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with a brutal U.S.- and U.K.-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. As is typically the case with covert CIA operations, the U.S. had other concerns when it made the decision to lead a coup against Iran’s democratically elected government and opted for a dictatorship instead. As explained by The Guardian:
“Britain, and in particular Sir Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, regarded Mosaddeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after the Iranian leader nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. But the U.K. needed U.S. support. The Eisenhower administration in Washington was easily persuaded.”
The Shah’s subsequent reign and stranglehold over Iran sowed the seeds of anti-Western discontent. The Iranian people overthrew the Shah in the historic 1979 revolution, and have almost completely rejected Western influence ever since. Shortly afterward, the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in Iraq to take out Iran in a nonsensically brutal conflict that lasted close to a decade, nearly killing off an entire generation. Further, the U.S. knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Iranian people and enabled him to do so — all the while secretly selling arms to the Iranians in order to maximize the death toll.
As political analyst Noam Chomsky famously stated:
“Not a day has passed in which the U.S. has not been torturing Iranians. That’s 60 years, right now.”
But what was Iran’s grave crime, for which the U.S. saw fit to punish Iran for the last half a century at least? According to Chomsky:
“Why the assault against Iran? We’re back to the Mafia principle. In 1979, Iranians carried out an illegitimate act: They overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path, not following U.S. orders…So, Iran has to be punished for that.”
Iran’s greatest crime was wanting to reject American and British companies from intruding on its own soil and resources, and take a nationalist course not unlike many of the countries under the thumb of the American empire that wanted to head in an independent direction. This, one would have to admit, would be the essence of democracy — a country deciding the way forward for its people without extrinsic interference. We would do well to bear this in mind the next time the U.S. alleges it wants to export democracy to the Middle East, having actively and pointedly killed it in 1953.
Furthermore, given that the U.S. supports a number of despotic regimes — including its support for Saddam Hussein prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (which was given a controversial green light by the U.S. to begin with) — the U.S. is left to its own creative devices to manufacture allegations against Iran to justify its transformation into a pariah state on the world stage. Sanctions, saber-rattling, and crying wolf over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program have been the go-to mantra for years.
As stated by Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the propaganda against Iran and its alleged nuclear program can be easily unpacked when one considers the reality of the situation:
“What is unfolding (in Iran) is the outright legitimization of war in the name of an illusive notion of global security. America’s mini-nukes, with an explosive capacity of up to six times a Hiroshima bomb, are upheld as a ‘humanitarian’ bomb, whereas Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons are branded as an indisputable threat to global security,”
Chomsky explains this paradigm from the Iranians’ point of view, stating:
“Israel, India and Pakistan all developed nuclear weapons with U.S. assistance. India and Israel continue to maintain — have a substantial U.S. support for their nuclear weapons programs and other programs, such as the occupation of part of Syria in violation of Security Council orders.
And Iran is constantly threatened. The United States and Israel, two major nuclear powers—I mean, one a superpower, the other a regional superpower—are constantly threatening Iran with attack, threatening Iran with attack every day. Again, that’s a violation of the U.N. Charter, which bans the threat or use of force, but the U.S. is self-immunized from international law, and its clients inherit that right.
So Iran is under constant threat. It’s surrounded by hostile nuclear states. It — and maybe [it] is developing a deterrent capacity. We don’t know. [The] New York Times knows, but intelligence doesn’t. That’s the pretext.” [emphasis added]
“Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”
This type of assessment hardly resonates with the allegations against Iran. If Iran is capable of fanning the fuels of a sectarian conflict from Syria to Yemen, developing a rampant nuclear weapons program, and constantly threatening Iran’s rivals in the region, it has been able to do so on a very limited budget and with very limited resources. Not to mention that Iran would also have had to outmaneuver the U.S.-enforced crippling sanctions that have lasted decades against Iran, all the while simultaneously taking over the entire region.
In other words, Iran’s capabilities and its military spending just don’t harmonize with America’s numerous allegations against the Islamic Republic.
Pursuing Iran through indirect means
We have often witnessed a one-sided media coverage of the Iranian government, which has constantly demonized Iran as an aggressive player in the region, hell-bent on destroying America’s stalwart ally, Israel. However — given that the U.S. failed to convincingly substantiate similar accusations against Iraq but invaded the country anyway in 2003, plunging the region into a humanitarian catastrophe — Washington’s credibility on the world stage has been questioned and its ability to develop international support for a strike on Iran has demonstrably failed from George W. Bush right through the Obama administration.
The U.S. cannot realistically launch a direct strike on Iran without a decent pretext, given that Iran has some significant allies in Russia and China. Instead, it has launched a number of covert strategies with the aim of containing Iranian influence and weakening Iran’s direct allies.
According to an email published by WikiLeaks from the archives of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. sought to intervene in Syria as a means of containing Iranian influence. The email states:
“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. … For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly.
An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.”
US war in Syria was about destabilizing Iran and it failed
Whether Washington is openly keen to admit it or not, the U.S. has lost the war in Syria. There is very little the United States can do inside Syria unless it is prepared to directly take on Syria and Russia’s air defenses and to wipe out Russian military personnel on the ground, paving the way for what can only be described as World War III.
Washington’s failure in its support for opposition groups to topple the Syrian government has even been confirmed by the UN: “For the opposition, the message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case. So now it’s time to win the peace,” UN Special Envoy for Syria and UN peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters, as quoted by Reuters in September this year.
Right now, the U.S. and its client state, Israel, essentially have two main options. Israel can continue to strike Iranian-linked groups and facilities close to its border with Syria – and face the Russian military in the process. Or, as, Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katza recently told Saudi Arabian media, Israel could additionally strike Iran’s so-called military presence in Lebanon.
The U.S. demonization of Iran
In the meantime, the U.S. needs to do its utmost to garner international support for a war with Iran. The alleged nuclear threat held by Iran has almost completely been taken off the table, in light of the fact that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) formed in 2015 has largely worked to quell any international fears about Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons. The Trump administration is singlehandedly attempting to derail the deal, against the better judgment of even Trump’s most anti-Iranian advisors.
Enter Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the UN. Haley’s grandiose performance in front of the UN on December 15 should send shivers down the spines of those of us who remember Colin Powell’s equally disturbing performance in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
According to Haley, the U.S. has “concrete evidence” of Iran’s weapons proliferation, citing missiles that she alleges are Iranian-made and subsequently transferred to Yemen to be used against Saudi Arabia.
Just a few days later, Haley came out with another attack on Iran, this time in reference to a UN report on Iran’s compliance with Resolution 2231. «This is the Secretary-General’s fourth report on the Iranian regime’s lack of full compliance with Resolution 2231,» Haley said, referring to the UN resolution that codified the nuclear deal. «And it is the most damning report yet. This report makes the case that Iran is illegally transferring weapons.»
Never mind that Saudi Arabia is the only country using its missiles to great effect to commit countless war crimes against the people of Yemen. The fact remains that evidence regarding Iranian involvement in the Yemen conflict is still not established, even to this day. As explained by Common Dream’s Reza Marashi:
“Haley cited a UN report in her claim regarding Iranian missile transfers to the Houthis. Of course, the UN has reached no such conclusion. Instead, a panel of experts concluded that fired missile fragments show components from an Iranian company, but they have ‘no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier.’
Asked about Haley’s claim that Iran is the culprit, Sweden’s ambassador to the UN said, ‘The info I have is less clear.’ Analysts from the U.S. Department of Defense speaking to reporters at Haley’s speech openly acknowledged that they do not know the missiles’ origin.
Perhaps most surreal is the very same UN report cited by Haley also says the missile included a component that was manufactured by an American company. Did she disingenuously omit that inconvenient bit from her remarks, or fail to read the entire UN report? The world may never know.”
In January of this year, a panel of UN experts stated that:
“The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture.” [emphasis added]
What those UN experts did find, however, was mounting evidence of Saudi Arabian war crimes in Yemen. To paint Iran as the aggressor in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia continues to openly decimate Yemen’s civilian population, is astounding to say the least. In our recent history, there is only one recorded instance of Iran firing a missile into any other country — that being Syria, in response to an ISIS-inspired attack that occurred on Iranian soil. Iran’s strike on Syria was done in accordance with its various defense agreements with the Syrian government; meaning it is unlikely that Iran violated anyone’s sovereignty in carrying out such a strike (unlike the U.S., which has no such justification to bomb Syrian territory).
Demonization in tandem with the mainstream media
In 2015, in one of my more curious moments, I analyzed a number of Guardian articles that claimed, without question, that the Houthi rebels leading an insurrection in Yemen were “Iran-backed.” Most of the time, the claim that the Houthi rebels were Iranian-backed was presented without any evidence, though The Guardian occasionally provided a hyperlink for the source.
By further researching into these hyperlinked articles, I found The Guardian was failing to provide evidence that Iran was backing rebels in Yemen – at all. It was merely hyperlinking to other articles that made the same claim, without any direct evidence. In one of the examples, the hyperlinked article was another Guardian article that detailed that a “source” had revealed that fighters trained in one of the Gulf States (which was not specified; certainly it did not specify Iran) — who numbered no more than 10 altogether — had arrived in Yemen. If there was proof of Iranian involvement, why was it so hard to hyperlink a source?
This continues to be the case up until today. Now that we know that the mainstream media has been attempting to demonize Iran as the sole aggressor in Yemen — and had close to zero evidence in support of this attempt since the war in Yemen began — we shouldn’t expect too much by way of evidence in the years to come. In fact, the available evidence shows that there is only one entity illegally invading Yemen, as we speak, and attempting to partition the country on its own conditions — that being the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yet the media has barely paid any attention to this unlawful development, all the while raving incessantly about Iran’s non-existent acts of war in the wider Middle East.
Even if it can be established that Iran is directly transferring weapons to Yemen (weapons that somehow get through Saudi Arabia’s ruthlessly cruel blockade, which refuses to allow even the most basic food and medical supplies to Yemen’s starving population), it still doesn’t make sense to demonize Iran and give a free pass to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen back into the Stone Age; or to the United States for knowingly supporting al-Qaeda in Syria.
One should note that Haley’s anti-Iran rhetoric comes at a time when it has been revealed that ISIS was openly taking advantage of U.S. weapons transfers in Syria.
Who is arming whom, exactly?
Top Photo: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speak in front recovered segments of an Iranian rocket during a press briefing at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. Haley says «undeniable» evidence proves Iran is violating international law by funneling missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Haley unveiled recently declassified evidence including segments of missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. CLIFF OWEN/AP PHOTO