Why Trump has gone nuclear on Iran
By Pepe Escobar
- Just when world
public opinion feared the US and North Korea were on
the brink of nuclear war, the new axis of evil times
(North Korea, Iran, Venezuela) yield a dramatic plot
twist; President Trump is adamant the real threat is
the Iran nuclear deal.
Enter a brand new,
major international crisis deployed out of the blue
with inbuilt war potential.
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the
Iran nuclear deal, works, and Tehran is complying.
So says the IAEA (eight
separate certifications of compliance since the deal
was struck in Vienna in 2015).
So says the
EU, Russia and China. So says even Trump’s military
Because, in his speechwriter’s mind-boggling words,
no deal is possible with a “sinister”, “fanatical
regime”, the “leading state sponsor of terrorism”,
in cahoots with al-Qaeda (check out this pearl;
“Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who
were later involved in al-Qaeda’s bombing of the
American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania.”) Not to
mention “some people” even believe Iran is going
illegally nuclear with the help of North Korea.
That’s straight out of season 6 of Homeland.
much as it may be drenched in newspeak, the plot
twist does not have much to do with “decertifying” –
in fact reneging - the JCPOA. The White House
admitted as much in a statement;
“The United States’ new Iran strategy focuses on
neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing
influence and constraining its aggression,
particularly its support for terrorism and
militants”, as well as denying “the IRGC funding for
its malign activities”.
Enter, predictably, a new sanctions avalanche.
The House Foreign
Affairs Committee is preparing a new round of
sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. The
Senate unanimously passed a Hezbollah sanctions bill
less than two weeks ago. Earlier this year the House
voted 419-3 and the Senate 98-2 to pass
the Countering America’s Adversaries Through
Sanctions Act, post-JCPOA, also including North
Korea and Russia (much to the ire of EU companies
doing business with Russia).
Treasury Dept. has already added the IRGC to its
anti-terrorism sanctions list "for providing support
to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah
and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban."
the JCPOA, Trump passed the ball to Congress. De
facto reneging the deal leads to a 60-day period for
Congress to decide whether to restart JCPOA-related
Trump essentially wants Congress to make sure
anything Tehran does, even outside the JCPOA,
triggers automatic re-slapping of sanctions. It’s
unclear whether he has sufficient Congress support
for such a gambit.
allies will also be “encouraged” to reach what for
all practical purposes is a non-denial denial
renegotiation. This can be easily interpreted as
unilateral extorsion. It’s not gonna happen – as the
EU, Russia and China have made abundantly clear.
Washington then will be de facto pulling out of the
JCPOA. Or, in Trump’s words, following the advice of
the spectacular incompetent rabid neocon US
ambassador to the UN
Nikki Haley, the deal “will be terminated”.
Crucially, “fix it
or nix it” as applied to the JCPOA – a major
narrative in the Beltway - happens to be the exact
fervent wish of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi
Netanyahu. The House of Saud’s King Salman may have
wasted no time to congratulate Trump in a phone call
for his “visionary” Iran strategy. Emirati
ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, is
obviously gloating. But this is most of all about
Israeli warmongering on Iran,
as the same Return of the Living (Neocon) Dead are
So much “malign behavior”
Now for what the
adults are saying.
Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini set the
record straight; “It is not a bilateral agreement.
It does not belong to any single country and it is
not up to any single country to terminate it.”
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
diplomatically mused how the termination could be
legally implemented; “The deal was also approved by
a UN resolution.”
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
said certification itself is not part of the JCPOA
but a “US
only authority that has been recognized in the
nuclear deal to verify [compliance] is the IAEA.”
Hassan Rouhani delivered a scathing rebuke to Trump’s
strategy – with no teleprompter, essentially
qualifying him as an ignoramus; “I
the President to better read history and geography”,
as well as understand “international ethics”.
Once again; the
Trump strategy sidesteps the JCPOA, relentlessly
plugging instead a pile-up of allegations of Iran’s
“malign behavior”; the ballistic missile program
(outside the scope of the JCPOA); the support for
Damascus; the support for Hezbollah; and the wider
role of the IRGC.
Steven Mnuchin may have not crossed the red line –
explicitly declaring the IRGC as a terrorist group;
he claimed the IRGC has "played a central role to
Iran becoming the world's foremost state sponsor of
terror." Follow the money; the Treasury sanctions
speak louder than any rhetorical artifice.
Although the Pentagon has been firmly against it,
fearing blowback all across the Middle East,
this has been a
neocon wet dream for nearly two decades; to have the
IRGC placed as equivalent to al-Qaeda and ISIS/Daesh.
In realpolitik terms, this gambit ranks with
“proving” that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were
partners pre-2003. And still runs the risk of being
interpreted by the IRGC as a declaration of war.
All it takes is a
lethal encounter between a US vessel and
IRGC navy speedboats patrolling the Persian Gulf
(which for Trump is the “Arabian Gulf”) for all hell
to break loose.
The IRGC has been
an integral part of the “4+1” alliance (Russia,
Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) that for all
practical purposes prevented Syria from becoming a
Takfiristan. The IRGC has also been fighting ISIS/Daesh
on the ground in Iraq with key advisers and military
Mohammad Ali Jafari – usually a cordial, soft-spoken
man but tough as nails, with combat experience in
the Iran-Iraq war – has made it very clear; “If the
news is correct about the stupidity of the American
government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a
terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will
consider the American army to be like Islamic State
[ISIS] all around the world.”
Watch the caravan
Trump’s Terminator strategy will firebomb moderates
in Iran, starting with Rouhani and Zarif, and play
right into Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s
instincts; from the very beginning of the JCPOA
negotiations, he said that the Americans cannot be
Rouhani’s scathing rebuke to Trump should be seen in
the context of his coalition winning three major
elections in Iran since the JCPOA went into effect;
parliamentary, presidential and for the Council of
Experts (where most hardcore clerics lost their
It’s now impossible for moderates to expect any
possible entente cordiale with Washington anytime
soon. What they must deal with is
and banks under further certified pressure to do
business with Iran – to the detriment of Rouhani’s
Trump was personally advised by unindicted war
criminal Henry Kissinger earlier last week – even
before a meeting in the White House Situation Room
with Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen.
Joseph Dunford centered on North Korean
Divide and Rule precedents point to Kissinger’s
advice. He’s fully aware a frontal Washington attack
against Russia or China - the strategic partnership
at the heart of Eurasia integration – is a
non-starter. The next best option is to raise
trouble in their borderlands – North Korea is
especially well positioned for it – and go after the
weakest Eurasia link; Iran.
And yet both Moscow and Beijing will continue to do
business with Iran as a key hub for Eurasia
integration; linked to the Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI); a future member of the SCO; and also linked
to the North-South Transportation Corridor and
India’s own incipient maritime Silk Road centered on
Chabahar port. Iran will continue to do solid
business with the rest of Asia – especially Japan
and South Korea. Iran and Qatar may eventually
become natural gas providers to Europe in the next
decade. And Iran will continue to be – alongside
Russia and China - at the forefront of bypassing the
US dollar in energy trade.
The dogs of war bark and the Eurasia integration
And then, there’s the devastating clincher. The
absolute majority of the Global South now has
definitive proof; Washington simply cannot be
trusted to keep its promises related to any major
geopolitical deal. The possibility of a nuclear
agreement – or any agreement – between Washington
and Pyongyang is now less than zero.
Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst.