Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
Rescue teams search for victims in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaghan in East Azarbaijan August 11, 2012. Two powerful earthquakes killed 250 people and injured around 1,800 in northwest Iran, where rescue workers frantically combed the rubble of dozens of villages throughout the night and into Sunday as medical staff desperately tried to save lives. Picture taken August 11, 2012.
Absent the possibility of joining the Curiosity rover on Mars, thereâ€™s nowhere to hide from the â€œBomb Iranâ€ hysteria relentlessly emanating from Tel Aviv and its Washington outposts. Now that even includes third-rate hacks suggesting US President Barack Obama should go in person to Israel to appease the warmongering duo Bibi-Barak .
So itâ€™s time for something completely different – and totally absent from Western corporate media; sound Iranian minds rationally analyzing whatâ€™s really going on behind the drums of war – regarding Iran, Turkey, the Arab world and across Eurasia.
Letâ€™s start with ambassador Hossein Mousavian, a research scholar at Princeton Universityâ€™s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, a former spokesperson for the Iranian nuclear negotiating team from 2003 to 2005, and the author of The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir .
Writing at the Arms Control Association website , Mousavian goes straight to the point; â€œThe history of Iranâ€™s nuclear program suggests that the West is inadvertently pushing Iran toward nuclear weapons.â€
In seven key steps, he outlines how this happened – starting with Iranâ€™s â€œentrance into the nuclear fieldâ€, owed largely, by the way, to Washington; â€œIn the 1970s, the Shah had ambitious plans for expanding the nuclear program, envisioning 23 nuclear power plants by 1994, with support from the United States.â€
Mousavian stresses how, from 2003 to 2005, during the first Bush administration,
Iran submitted different proposals, which included a declaration to cap enrichment at the 5% level; export all low-enriched uranium (LEU) or fabricate it into fuel rods; commit to an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and to Code 3.1 of the subsidiary arrangements to the agreement, which would provide the maximum level of transparency; and allow the IAEA to make snap inspections of undeclared facilities. This offer was intended to address the Westâ€™s concerns regarding the nature of Iranâ€™s nuclear program by ensuring that no enriched uranium would be diverted to a nuclear weapons program. It also would have facilitated the recognition of Iranâ€™s right to enrichment under the NPT. In exchange for these Iranian commitments, the Iranian nuclear file at the IAEA would be normalized, and Iran would have broader political, economic, and security cooperation with the European Union. Furthermore, Iran was interested in securing fuel for the research reactor in Tehran and was ready to ship its enriched uranium to another country for fabrication into fuel rods.
The Bush administration refused everything. Mousavian recalls â€œa meeting I had at the time with French Ambassador to Iran Francois Nicoullaud, he told me, â€œFor the US, the enrichment in Iran is a red line which the European Union cannot cross.â€
So â€œthe West was not interested in solving the nuclear issue. Rather, the West wanted to compel Iran to forgo its enrichment program completely.â€ This could only lead Tehran to â€œchange its nuclear diplomacy and accelerate its enrichment program, as it sought self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel.â€
â€˜Zero stockpileâ€™, anyone?
Fast forward to February 2010. Tehran proposed, â€œkeeping its enrichment activities below 5% in return for the West providing fuel rods for the Tehran reactor. The West refused this offer.â€
Then, in May 2010, â€œIran reached a deal with Brazil and Turkey to swap its stockpile of LEU for research reactor fuel. The deal was based on a proposal first drafted by the Obama administration with Brazilian and Turkish officials under the impression that they had the blessing of Washington to negotiate with Iran. Regrettably, the United States trampled on their success by rejecting the plan; the UN Security Council subsequently passed additional sanctions against Iran.â€
Every unbiased observer following the Iranian nuclear dossier knows these facts. Another flash forward, to September 2011, â€œwhen Iran had completely mastered 20% enrichment and had a growing stockpile, it proposed stopping its 20%-enrichment activities and accepting Western-provided fuel rods for the Tehran reactor. Once again, the West declined and made it necessary for the Iranians to move toward producing their own fuel rods.â€
Moving on to this yearâ€™s talks in Istanbul and Baghdad, Mousavian stresses, â€œwith each blockage and punitive Western action, Iran further advances its nuclear program.â€
And it gets worse; â€œA comparison of the June 19 statement in Moscow by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief and lead negotiator for the P5+1, with her April 14 Istanbul statement reveals a major difference. The P5+1 is now giving more emphasis to Iranâ€™s compliance with its international obligations, namely, UN Security Council resolutions, rather than focusing on the countryâ€™s obligations under the NPT. This is a clear setback from the Istanbul position. It indicates a focus on suspension of Iranâ€™s enrichment activities, a demand that has been a deal breaker since 2003.â€
The bottom line is â€œnot only has the West pushed Iran to seek self-sufficiency, but at every juncture, it has tried to deprive Iran of its inalienable right to enrichment. This has simply propelled Iran to proceed full throttle toward mastering nuclear technology.â€
The conclusion is inevitable; â€œThe progress of Iranâ€™s nuclear program is the product of Western efforts to pressure and isolate Iran while refusing to recognize Iranâ€™s rights.â€
Washington and its European followers simply canâ€™t understand that â€œsanctions, isolation, and threats would not bring Iran to its knees. On the contrary, these policies have led only to the advancement of Iranâ€™s nuclear program.â€ With even more devastating sanctions and the â€œBomb Iranâ€ fever turning into an attack, one consequence, says Mousavian, is assured; â€œIran would be likely to withdraw from the NPT and pursue nuclear weapons.â€
What makes it even more absurd is that there is a solution to all this madness:
To satisfy the concerns of the West regarding Iranâ€™s 20% stockpile, a mutually acceptable solution for the long term would entail a â€œzero stockpileâ€. Under this approach, a joint committee of the P5+1 and Iran would quantify the domestic needs of Iran for use of 20% enriched uranium, and any quantity beyond that amount would be sold in the international market or immediately converted back to an enrichment level of 3.5%. This would ensure that Iran does not possess excess 20% enriched uranium forever, satisfying the international concerns that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. It would be a face-saving solution for all parties as it would recognize Iranâ€™s right to enrichment and would help to negate concerns that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Will Washington – and Tel Aviv – ever accept it? Of course not. The dogs of war will keep on barking.
A new security game
Itâ€™s also quite refreshing to examine Iranian analystsâ€™ take on Syria.
Mehdi Mohammadi, writing at the IranNuc.IR website notes â€œthe fear that the Sunni majority has of a Salafi minority is a very important, and often censored, reality about the situation on the ground in Syria. It is the same reality which has prevented the opposition to accept any form of negotiations or even free electionsâ€. This fact is absolutely anathema in Western corporate mediaâ€™s coverage of Syria.
Mohammadi correctly evaluates the discrepancies among different Muslim Brotherhood (MB) factions inside Syria; one hardline faction wants Sharia law; another is convinced the future of the whole region is essentially at the hands of the MB anyway, so they are on a mission from God; but the majority wants to extract as much money as they can from Saudi Arabia while allied with France, the US, Sunnis in Lebanon and Jordan; â€œthis part forms the spine of the armed opposition in Syriaâ€.
The bottom line is that even in the best-case scenario, the MB â€œis making a dire strategic mistake … Even if Assadâ€™s government falls, the Americans will not allow the Syrian government to fall into the hands of that part of the Muslim Brotherhood which seeks to continue and even give more depth to the existing conflict with Israel.â€
Mohammadi also observes, right on the money, how the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey â€œreached the conclusion that the best way for preventing Arab Spring developments to serve Iranâ€™s increasing power in the region was to turn the whole situation into a conflict between Shiâ€™ites and Sunnis.â€
Essentially, how does Tehran see it? According to Mohammadi, â€œthere is a high degree of confidence that the Syrian government will not fall in medium term.â€ On top of it, â€œit is very unlikely that Russia and China will reach an agreement with the West over Syriaâ€, and â€œeven on Iranâ€™s nuclear dossierâ€.
So Tehran is betting on the strategic achievement of a â€œreliable anti-West front consisting of Russia and Chinaâ€. His conclusion; â€œThe strategic equation of the region as a result of the ongoing developments in Syria has by no means changed to the detriment of Iran.â€
In an interview to the Iranian Diplomacy (IRD) website former ambassador and strategic analyst Mohammad Farhad Koleini comments on how â€œsome Arab countries, which have very bleak records in the field of human rights, have joined hands with the United States in the current equation in Syria in order to define a new security game. This security game, however, has been so mismanaged that it will certainly taint the international image of the United States.â€
Koleini notes that as the West goes for a new security arrangement in the Mediterranean, Moscow is trying â€œnot to allow the West to impose its geopolitical monopoly.â€ So the Russian approach to Syria â€œis not necessarily focused on what is actually going on inside the country, but it stems from a regional package and how Moscow aims to regulate that package in relation to its interactions with the West.â€
That explains why Russia â€œwill never allow Western states to impose a no-fly zone region over Syriaâ€. Is this confrontation? Not really; â€œRussia is doing its best to avoid outright confrontation by any means. China has also shown all along the way that it is following the same policy.â€
Mehdi Sanaei, the director of the Russia Studies Group at the University of Tehran and the director of the Iran and Eurasia Research Center (IRAS), writing at the Tabnak News website goes way deeper; Moscow is now working under â€œunprecedented suspicion of the United Statesâ€™ goals and intentions in the Middle East and Eurasia.â€
So forget about the famous â€œresetâ€ between Washington and Moscow.
Sanaei refers to the famous foreign policy article published by Putin on the eve of the Russian presidential election: â€œPutin took a direct shot at the United States by accusing Washington of deception and abuse of the UN structure and resolutions, applying double standards to various global issues in different countries, as well as seeking its own interests under the cover of advocating democracy.â€ Sanaei also correctly describes how Russian analysts see the Obama administrationâ€™s foreign policy as â€œbased on two theories: â€˜ultimate realismâ€™, and â€˜new liberalism.â€™ As a result, the Americans actually believe that world countries are simply divided into the United Statesâ€™ friends and enemies. Hostile countries, therefore, should be weakened and their presence in global and regional strategic arenas should be limited and even suppressed in political, economic and cultural terms.â€
So, for Moscow, â€œa new wave of the world order has been initiated by the United States in order to create a new version of the past unipolar world system. The main targets of this wave, Moscow maintains, include North Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Eurasia, and finally China and Russia.â€
Koleini, this time writing for the Tehran Emrooz daily , introduces the Pipelineistan theme in the Iran-Russia relationship; â€œDespite its cooperation with Iranâ€™s nuclear energy program, Russia has been always willing to cut Iranâ€™s hand in the European natural gas market. Therefore, Russia has been interacting with Turkey and certain Eastern European countries on the Blue Stream project. This proves beyond any doubt that Russia is trying to take the lead in engineering security structure in Europe through its energy policy and reduce Europeâ€™s reliance on other energy sources.â€
All this while â€œtrying to play a balancing role in Iranâ€™s nuclear case.â€
Koleini also outlines the main challenge to the â€œEurasian policyâ€ laid out by Putin before his election; â€œThe point is that the West is designing new political games, especially in Central Asia to give new problems to Russia and divert Moscowâ€™s attention from Eurasia to traditional spheres of the former Soviet Union.â€
Egypt and Iran kiss and make up
Iranian intellectuals are carefully monitoring neighboring Turkey. Turkey and Caucasus expert Elyas Vahedi observes how â€œthe Turkish government came up with such concepts as â€˜neither state religion, nor religious state,â€™ â€˜secular government, not secular man,â€™ â€˜civilizing the constitution,â€™ â€˜democratic openness / Kurdish openness / Alawite openness,â€™ and â€˜civil control and supervision over the armyâ€™ and has been using them to strengthen and maintain the political clout of the Justice and Development Party.â€
And of course, before the Arab Spring, all talk was about â€œzero problems with our neighborsâ€ and Turkeyâ€™s â€œstrategic depthâ€ doctrine.
But now that Turkey is stuck in Syria, the AKP government is â€œtrying to justify its failure by claiming that the policy of minimizing problems with neighboring countries has just entered is second phase … Turkey believes that the main feature of the second version of this policy is interaction with people in neighboring countries rather than interaction with their governments.â€
It simply doesnâ€™t hold, says Vahedi: â€œThis viewpoint, despite some shortcomings, was somehow justifiable in some countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, but this is not the case in Syria.â€ Besides, Ankara â€œremained silent toward the predicament of people in Bahrain, under the pretext that political protests in Bahrain are not popular.â€
Moreover, Turkeyâ€™s foreign policy â€œhas also nurtured speculations that Ankara has joined the Shiâ€™ite-Sunni conflict which has been fostered by the West. The damage that this notion will do to Turkeyâ€™s regional and international standing and prestige will be too costly for Ankara.â€
Vahedi sees Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as just following the West, which is leading from behind, Obama-style. Turkey â€œhas apparently read the Westâ€™s mind and is trying to accept that role on behalf of the West in return for certain concessions.â€ But it wonâ€™t work – as, for instance, facilitating Turkeyâ€™s accession to the EU over immense French and German objections.
Not to mention that Ankara â€œis facing scathing criticism from nationalist figures. They allege that while the rights of Turks are being ignored in Karabakh as well as in the Balkans through the oversight of the Western powers, the government of Turkey has made defending the rights of the Syrian people its first and foremost priority.â€
Ali Akbar Asadi, from the International Relations Dept at the University of Allameh Tabatabaei, expands on the key event of the next few weeks: the renewed diplomatic relationship between Iran and Egypt – which is drawing Washingtonâ€™s unmitigated wrath; the State Department, in a childish move, is even saying that Iran â€œdoes not deserveâ€ to host the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran, which will be attended by Egyptâ€™s President Mohamed Morsi.
Asadi goes to the jugular – the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petro-monarchies are terrified that â€œEgypt may renew relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran or even enter into strategic relations with Turkey, thus working to undermine the influence and clout of the GCC in the new balance of regional power.â€
So the GCC is doing what it usually does; showering a bit of cash. â€œThey want to keep Egypt, as a big and important Arab political player, on their own side.â€
Besides, they are demanding from Morsi and the MB that â€œthey do not take any step to export their revolution and activate affiliatesâ€ of the MB in the GCC. And they â€œexpect Cairo to avoid adopting a new approach to strengthening Hamas against Fatah, helping Gaza and the Palestinian population there, and taking an adamant stance against the Israeli regime.â€
The GCC policy, supported by the West and Israel, is â€œto keep Egypt entangled in its domestic challengesâ€ and thus unable to exercise itsâ€ historical claim to leadership of the Arab world.â€
This is just a sample of the level of intellectual discussion going on in Iran. Compared to the bombing hysteria in Tel Aviv and Washington, it does look like itâ€™s coming from Mars.