For decades now the US and Israel have waged regime change across the Middle East and North Africa. In the chaos that ensued Iran underwent a transformation that naturally expanded its influence. Now, upset with the consequences of their actions, the US and Israel have a new plan: take the global economy hostage in order to force Iran to abandon that influence. As usual, Russia is doing its best to manage the West’s insanity while maintaining course for a more sane future.
On May 1, 2018, hours after Netanyahu issued his bizarre ‘Iran lied’ powerpoint presentation, and a week before Trump ditched the Iran deal, Netanyahu and Putin had a phone conversation. During this chat Putin stressed the deal’s importance for international stability, reiterating that it must be “strictly observed by all parties.” Not one who’s prone to taking ‘international stability’ into account, Netanyahu had other ideas.
A week later, Trump announced that the US was backing out of the Iran deal, which effectively meant increasing instead of decreasing its economic stranglehold on the country. Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Pompeo stated that these will be the “strongest sanctions in history,” and that the US will “apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”. It is now clear why Merkel and Macron were so desperate to talk Trump out of this decision.
Prior to the (re)imposition of sanctions, the EU was Iran’s top trading partner. After Obama eased sanctions, European companies were chomping at the bit to renew business, and did so in earnest. From 2013 to 2017, the EU’s trade with Iran grew dramatically, with imports growing 89.7 percent, and exports nearly 20 percent, with last year’s trade volume reaching $23.5 billion.
Now several major companies – namely Peugeot, Boeing, Airbus, and Shell – are at risk of losing either billions in deals or, if they maintain business ties, the loss of a lifeblood of American credit and the imposition of onerous fines. EU officials are talking tough, but it seems their hands are tied both by the constitutional charter of the EU (which stipulates that they must follow NATO’s lead in foreign policy) and the practical effects of being cut off from American finance.
But that’s just Europe. As The Hill reports:
China’s trade with Iran was worth more than $37 billion in 2017 – it exported $18.59 billion worth of goods, a growth of 13 percent year-on-year. China accounted for about 21 percent of Iran’s exports; the United Arab Emirates, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); Iraq, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); South Korea, 9.5 percent (worth over $3.4 billion); and India, 6 percent from January to October 2017.
There is the possibility that certain companies may apply for ‘waivers’ that allow them to continue trade with Iran. However Trump remains mum about whether or not he’ll authorize them, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, has stated that any licenses allowing Airbus or Boeing to sell to Iran will be revoked. To put it bluntly, the US and Israel have planted a bomb in the global economy and, though they intend it to take out Iran, there are many, many bystanders who stand to suffer significantly.
But if this is ‘Art of the Deal’ thinking, then what is it that they want? Trump might want higher oil prices for American oil companies and a better position for US companies dealing with Iran. The pressure on foreign businesses will no doubt provide leverage in other negotiations. But it was Pompeo who spelled out the heart of the maneuver: regime change. In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo laid out the Deep State’s demands, stating that, “We are open to new steps with not only our allies and partners, but with Iran as well, but only if Iran is willing to make major changes.”
Here are their suggested changes:
- Iran must declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.
- Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.
- Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
- Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
- Iran must release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of our partners and allies, each of them detained on spurious charges.
- Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.
- Iran must also end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.
- Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.
- Iran, too, must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and cease harboring senior al-Qaida leaders.
- Iran, too, must end the IRG Quds Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.
- Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors – many of whom are U.S. allies. This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also includes threats to international shipping and destructive – and destructive cyberattacks.
His list might sound, to the informed reader, like a series of Israeli hallucinations. But what it really boils down to is the complete and unequivocal curtailing of Iran’s influence in the region. How, then, to proceed?
Well on May 18th, Putin and Assad had a ‘surprise meeting’ to discuss a draw-down of foreign troops on Syrian soil. In discussing this, they each shared a significantly different view of the situation. In matters of geopolitical importance, one expects that words are chosen very carefully. With that in mind, the informative difference between Assad’s and Putin’s version of ‘drawing down foreign troops’ was revealed when Assad spoke of the removal of all ‘illegal foreign forces’ while Putin explicitly states that ‘all foreign forces’ need to evacuate the country – presumably including Iran:
“We affirm that with the achievement of the big victories and the remarkable successes by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism and with the activation of the political process, it is necessary for all foreign forces to withdraw from the Syrian Arab Republic territories.”
Iran responded in an unexpectedly hostile manner to Russia’s statement:
“No one can force Iran to do anything, Iran is an independent country that determines its own policies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters at a daily press conference Monday.
“The presence of Iran is at the invitation of the Syrian government to fight against terrorism and defend the territorial integrity of Syria, and will last as long as the Syrian government wants Iran to help it,” he added. “Those who have entered the country without the consent of the Syrian government must leave Syria.”
As was pointed out on Behind the Headlines recently, Russia does not want an expansionist Iran. Russia’s intentions have been made clear in word and in deed: they want to shore up Syrian and Iranian defenses in order to re-establish a balance of power in the region. As far as a nuclear-powered Israel goes, Putin made it abundantly clear that any use of nuclear weapons on a Russian ally would be met with an instantaneous response from Russia.
Naturally Iran is loathe to cede any strategic gains she has made to those who daily call for her annihilation. Instead she’s staking her strategy on continued economic relations with Europe in order to offset the effects of the sanctions. The European Commission has set in motion the legal and financial processes necessary to protect companies working in Iran, increasing overall economic partnership, and making it easier for the European Investment Bank to finance those projects.
We see in these developments, again, the ‘immovable object’ at loggerheads with the ‘unstoppable force’. The first round of US sanctions take effect in August, when the US will sanction Iran’s automotive sector, its metallurgical and steel industries, any significant transactions of Iranian rials, any US dollar banknotes purchased by Iran, and any facilitation of Iranian sovereign debt.
In November the US will up the ante and sanction all of Iran’s port operations, its petroleum transactions, energy sector, any insurance plans, any foreign financial transactions or messaging services with Iran’s Central Bank.
Is the US as powerful as ever? Can it actually enforce an economic siege of Iran? Who will get what they want: Trump’s ‘shiny, new Iran deal’; or the Deep State’s regime change?
On the way to answering those questions, some rather interesting events are likely in store.
Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and Truth Perspective co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.