As the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration descend into a murderous domestic farce played out on Capitol Hill – a sure sign of the rudderless degeneracy of US imperialism – there is still time to plunge America into a new foreign war on Trump’s watch – something that the outgoing president has so far avoided, in contradistinction to a long string of his predecessors stretching back over four decades. But any such military adventure that takes as its enemy Iran will prove a disaster for the aggressor.
Depending on whom you believe, either President Trump is seeking to bequeath the incoming president Joe Biden the unwelcome legacy of a new war, or zionism is trying to bounce the US into war with Iran, or the deep state is simply pressing on with its own warmongering agenda without regard to which politician warms the presidential seat. Either way, peace is not about to break out anytime soon, and the near-civil war situation at home is so far beyond control that the smallest spark could ignite a conflagration abroad as well.
Not for nothing has Iran’s spokesman at the United Nations warned that the US is “appearing to set traps and provocations to provide an excuse to initiate armed conflict”. (Iran, China ready for war ‘at any second’, RT, 5 January 2021)
Latest provocation in the Gulf
One such clear provocation is the ballyhoo whipped up around the necessary detention by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of a south Korean tanker, the Hankuk Chemi, in the Persian Gulf on suspicion of repeatedly violating maritime environmental laws through water pollution. Tehran urged Seoul to deal with the problem “rationally and responsibly” – wise advice that fell upon deaf ears, or upon ears tuned exclusively to instructions issued by Washington or Tel Aviv. (Iran urges south Korea to behave ‘rationally’ over seized tanker, Press TV, 6 January 2021)
This relatively minor incident, which IRGC authorities explained was a technical matter under investigation, has been blown out of all proportion, with Seoul dispatching troops into the Persian Gulf and deploying a destroyer, ROKS Choi Young, near to the strait of Hormuz.
Meanwhile the USS Nimitz, which only three days earlier was said to be heading home, was instead sent back to the Persian Gulf in search of more trouble, with acting defence secretary Chris Miller braying that “no one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America”. (USS Nimitz remains in Persian Gulf ‘due to Iran threats against Trump’, Pentagon announces days after sending warship home, RT, 4 January 2021)
Stung by false claims that Iran was taking the south Korean tanker hostage, an Iranian government spokesman pointed out that the real hostage takers were to be found in Seoul, given that US sanctions against Iran have trapped over $7bn of Iranian funds in south Korea. “If someone is a hostage taker, it’s the south Korean government that’s taken hostage over seven billion dollars of our money under hollow pretexts,” he said.
Revamping the nuclear deal?
These sanctions were ramped up following Trump’s unseemly exit in 2018 from JCPOA, the nuclear deal signed up to by former president Barack Obama in 2015. The EU lacked the guts to challenge this economic war against the Iranian people, fearful lest they fell victim to ‘third party’ sanctions themselves.
But now that the bull has been removed from the china shop and Mr Biden hopes to pick up some pieces of Washington’s shattered reputation (such as it was), he is now eager to revive some of Obama’s diplomatic legacy – in particular, the nuclear deal.
Back in September last year, Biden pledged he would “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy”, neglecting to acknowledge that it was the US which had deviated from that path in the first place, not Iran. Posing as the voice of reconciliation, he nobly swore: “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.”
Given the fact that it was Washington which unilaterally tore up the agreement, it is a bit rich to be setting preconditions for Washington’s return to compliance. (Biden wants to rejoin Iran nuclear deal, but It won’t be easy by Steven Erlanger, New York Times, 17 November 2021)
President Rouhani chose his words carefully in responding to Biden’s apparent change of heart, welcoming this as an opportunity for Washington “to compensate for its previous mistakes and return to the path of adherence to international commitments”. In particular, Tehran wants to be paid back the billions of dollars robbed from the country through sanctions.
The New York Times cites Iranian diplomats reporting on “Tehran’s insistence that the United States return to the Iran deal unconditionally before any talks resume … Iran is not interested in a temporary freeze and will not stop enriching uranium or reduce its large stockpile in the meantime … Iran would return to full compliance with the deal when the United States does.” (New York Times, op cit)
The bridges Trump burned are not so easily patched up by Biden, many of whose fellow Democrats continue to back the vicious economic war against Iran. Those sanctions, whilst the cause of immense suffering for the Iranian people, have failed to prevent Iran from giving fraternal support to anti-imperialist forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran has emerged stronger from the ordeal, whilst Washington has wound up an international laughing stock.
The European Union grumbled about Trump’s repudiation of the JCPOA, but lacked the courage to challenge it in practice. Yet now that the mood music coming from the Biden camp is mellowing, the EU cannot wait to give a lecture to Iran on the dangers of non-compliance (with an agreement that was trashed by the US).
What is now concentrating European minds is Tehran’s announcement that it intends to resume 20 percent uranium enrichment at its nuclear facility in Fordow. (Under the defunct agreement, the ceiling was set at 3.67 percent.) The EU suddenly remembered its commitment to the sanctity of international treaties, with a spokesman warning that the hike in enrichment would be a “considerable departure from Iran’s nuclear commitments” with “serious nuclear non-proliferation implications”. The US state department (still under Trump) accused Tehran of “nuclear extortion”. (Iran’s uranium enrichment will have ‘serious implications’, Al Jazeera, 4 January 2021)
The only extortion here is that practised by the US itself, hoping to impose regime change on Iran by falsely presenting the country’s peaceful nuclear research as having for its goal the construction of a bomb. Whether the US chooses to pursue its regime-change dreams via a return to the softly, softly methods of Obama or continues on the openly aggressive path blazed by Trump, the end result will be the same, and that will not go well for US imperialism.