19 February 2019   Leave a comment

Michael Axworthy has written a very informative essay on the Islamic Republic of Iran fpr the New Statesman. It is a good place to begin if one wishes to find out how Iran went from one of the most important allies of the US in the 1970s to a harsh enemy after the revolution of 1979. Axworthy explains the longevity of the Islamic Republic despite the overt hostility of the US for almost 40 years:

“The other – which non-Iranians often miss or misunderstand entirely – is the success of the Islamic Republic in finally achieving national independence and self–determination after decades and centuries of humiliation and subordination by foreigners. Iranians are proud people and for many of them this achievement, which they connect directly to the revolution and the country’s endurance of the long war with Iraq is beyond price. It means many ordinary Iranians remain loyal to the Islamic Republic, at least in some way, when they might otherwise not be; and makes them determined to support it in resisting external pressure – notably, now, the exaggerated hostility of the Trump administration and renewed sanctions. It underpins and validates the determination of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, along with the Revolutionary Guards and other parts of the state apparatus, to defend and maintain the Islamic Republic.”

One should never underestimate the importance of national autonomy in world politics. The ability of regimes such as Iran and Cuba to stand up to the major powers is an important part of the legitimacy of those regimes–their failures notwithstanding–to their citizens. This dynamic may play out once again if the US pushes the Maduro regime in Venezuela too hard.

The US House Oversight and Reform Committee has issued a report that indicates that the Trump Administration has endeavored to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. The effort came despite serious reservations in the National Security Council about the possibility that the technology could be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons. The report identifies
Derek Harvey, the former Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs at the National Security Council, as the person most directly involved with the plans. According to Business Insider:

“The whistleblowers went on to say that the career staff for Derek Harvey, the former Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs at the National Security Council, warned him that any nuclear technology transferred to Saudi Arabia would need to reach a “123 Agreement,” or a requirement in the US’s Atomic Energy Act that would demand the Saudis agree to nine nuclear nonproliferation clauses.

“Basically, the US could legally transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis agreed to keep the material safe, let inspectors check on it, and never use it to make a nuclear weapon.

“Harvey’s staff reportedly warned him he couldn’t get around this law, but ‘Mr. Harvey reportedly ignored these warnings and insisted that the decision to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia had already been made.’

“‘Both career and political staff inside the White House reportedly agreed that Mr. Harvey’s directive could violate the law. One senior political official stated that the proposal was ‘not a business plan,’ but rather ‘a scheme for these generals to make some money,” the report continued.”

We should keep in mind that the Trump Administration has made the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons a central feature of its Middle East policies. There is probably nothing that would stimulate Iran to build nuclear weapons more assiduously than the specter of Saudi Arabian nuclear capabilities. Additionally, we should remember that Saudi Arabian citizens were behind the terror attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. And that Saudi Arabia is ruled by a Prince that ordered the murder of a journalist in cold blood. Finally, the idea that US solicitude toward Saudi Arabia may be fueled by the personal business interests of members of the Trump Administration.

Posted February 19, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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