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August 13, 2015

The Iran Card / Paradox / Critics

By Arthur Kane Scott:

Geopolitics of Iran Deal:

 Reaching an agreement with Iran, historically under Obama, can be as significant as Nixon’s trip to China and the rapprochement it initiated.  It would represent a profound game changer in Middle East diplomacy, relationships and resources. The global economic benefits are profound explaining why Britain, Germany, Russia, France and China promote the deal. France (cars/ petroleum/tourism), Russia (missiles for defense), China (3 billion train contract), Germany (petro-chemicals, railroads, and steel) Britain (banking/petro). America, too, will economically benefit in terms of information systems, hydrology, entertainment, and social media. Cf., (

For nearly fifty years, relations between Teheran and Washington have been paralyzed over the geopolitics of the Middle East, its theological government and the expansion of nuclear weapons. The fear exists that if Iran developed an atomic bomb it will set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East inimical not only to the area, but to the world. This position has been the primary mantra of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel see a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, and Saudi Arabia view that situation as a danger to their once regional dominance. Ironically the American-Iraqi fiasco aggravated the fragile balance of power by leading to the re-emergence of a Shia government in Bagdad and to rise of the Sunna ISIS Caliphate. These developments, along with the civil war in Yemen, has strengthenedIran’s geopolitical position to the displeasure of the Saudis and Israelis.

Currently Iran’s economy isstymied. The West has frozen $300 billion of its assets making it quite difficult for the Iranian people to buy gas even though Iran has the fourth largest reserve of oil in the world. As a result, Iran has been forced to turn to a black market to thrive, revolving around oil, guns, drugs and uranium. Their present economy is dominated by the military and the Revolutionary Guard. The military black market and the fact that Iran is surrounded by enemies: US, Israel and Saudi Arabi, explains Teheran’s advocacy of nuclear development for national survival. Cf., (

 In 2013, Iran’s economic malaise generated a political push-back from the Iranians with the election of Hassan Rouhani as President at the expense of Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard. With the blessings of the Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei, Rouhani was given the green light to negotiate with the International Community about lifting economic sanctions leading to two years of intense negotiations between Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.

Washington sees in the Iranian deal a diplomatic shift that can better stabilize the Middle East from its current uncertaintyby replacing the ongoing status quo grounded on Riyadh. Iran could exercise a stabilizing effect on these hot spots: Syria/Iraq, YemenCivil War, Lebanon/Hezbollah, regional disruption between Sunna’s and Shia’s, as well as a deteriorating Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, whose sudden collapse would be disastrous to the region without first working out a transitional exit strategy.

In addition, Washington, although recognizing the imperfections of the deal, nevertheless views it as a better option to a nuclear Iran and the threat of mutually assured destruction it poses. Besides, unlike its critics, Obama/Kerry are betting that once the sanctions have been lifted that Iran will continue to be moderate. The middle class will be re-energized, income levels will naturally rise. Culturally Iran is a young country: average age, early 30s, and tech savvy. Iranian women are also quite strong, vocal, and highly educated pointing to an evolving Iran. Cf. (


Though the administration is committed to the deal, there are powerful opponents. First there is the Israel state under PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who labels the deal a “historic mistake,”and seeks to torpedo the agreement. Israel sees Iran as a regional threat which is ironic in light of Israel preponderant nuclear armament of at least 100 nuclear bombs which no one discusses. Tel Aviv’s arsenal explains why it’s next to impossible to turn the Middle East into a nuclear freeze zone. The global silence on Israeli’s nuclear capacity is unconscionable.

In addition, Netanyahu has launched a multi- million media blitz in American against it. How is it possible for a foreign government to do this? Obama took on American Israel Public affairs Committee or Aipac at American University accusing them of spending millions to undermine the deal and to turn the Middle East into a potential killing field. Cf., (

Next is AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) which exercises undue influence in Washington, almost to the point of hijacking American foreign policy, although the Jewish population in American is only about 3 %. (Cf. Jewish conservative/Zionist perspective is somewhat offset by Jewish J Street  Lobby, moderately liberal , which though wary of the deal, sees it at least slowing down Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and perhaps even changing Iran once sanctions are lifted, and it is no longer treated as a global pariah.

Then there are the War Hawks like John McCain of Ariz, Tom Cotton of Ark., Ron Paul of Tenn., Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, Jeb Busch of Florida, and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. They argue that inspections are not tough enough, Iran cannot be trusted, and that America is abandoning its Middle East Allies: Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much of this is campaign posturing by Republicans who are allied to the military-industrial–intelligence complex, and the notions of American Empire, and would like nothing better to embarrass Obama and the Democrats by “disapproving” the Deal.

Similarly, these American nationalists/imperialists forget thatthe alliance with the Saudis historically has been a mixed blessing. Riyadh saw in the Iran revolution of 1979 a threat to their Islamic leadership and conservative Wahhabi brand of Islam.Ironically, it is the Saudis who have given rise to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, 9/11 death squad, and ISIS.  Further, it opposes any change to its conservative monarchical regime andresists any modernist expressions as illustrated by its financingof General al-Sisi coup d’état there by crushing Egypt’s Arab Spring.(Cf.,

Another vocal source of opposition comes from the Christian Right who view the Middle East in Biblical terms.Considered by many Evangelicals as the future site of Armageddon ,the Middle East will usher in the return of Jesus, and the end of world. The Christian Right has for some time allied itself with Tel Aviv and conservative Jewry because of their religious beliefs and do exercise a tremendous influence on Beltway Politics. Mike Huckabee warning that this deal would lead Israel “to door of the oven,” best captures the histrionics and emotional nature of the debate.

Lately, Chuck Schumer, the Jewish Senator from New York, Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, has explicitly attacked the deal, he has fallen for the Netanyahu/Zionist Kool Aid Cocktail of how the existence of Israel would be threatened by a revitalized Iran. He should read, perhaps reread, Sander, M .Levin’s, Jewish Democrat Representative from Michigan, thoughtful analysis and conclusion about the deal in which he states: “that the agreement is ‘the best way to achieve’ the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, an outcome that will make Israel, the Middle East and the world ‘far more secure.’ Not the ideal way, the perfect way, or a foolproof way, but, in the real world of ineradicable Iranian nuclear know-how, the best way attainable. That is also the view of other parties to the deal — the not insignificant or unserious powers of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.” Or, Senator Schumer might wish to check in on the position of five former US Israel Ambassadors about the importance of approving the deal for US and Israel.Cf., (

Last is New York Times columnist David Brooks who in his August 7, 2015 piece came out decidedly against the deal arguing that Obama lost at the bargain table, giving away unnecessary diplomatic advantages in negotiations?Behind the harangue is Brooks’ belief that Iran cannot be trusted and that change within Iranian society is impossible as it is “a fanatical, hegemonic, hate-filled regime.” Echoes of Bill Buckley’s tirade against the Soviet Union. This is characteristic of a conservative philosophy that sees human nature as being essentially flawed and un-trustworthy even though history has shown regimes do change with China and Cuba being pretty good examples. Cf., (

Where do we go from here?

Though the Iran deal is hardly perfect, it does accomplish its major intention of curtailing Iran’s entry into the nuclear club for ten years. Also, itcan be a game changer in ending American and Iranian forty year animus as it provides an opportunity for both powers to come together on several vital issues that can dramatically reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East. American public opinion on the Middle East has soured with strong popular sentiment calling for reducing the American role there, and developing an overarching withdrawal strategy.  Obama has tapped into this public war weariness although generally Americans oppose the Iran deal. War weariness explains the American exit from Afghanistan, Iraq, and its reluctance to get pulled into the Syrian Civil War. Hopefully, Iran can help America to neutralize ISIS, reach a compromise with Saudi Arabi in Yemen between the Sunna and Shias factions, be a powerful agency in ending the Syrian mess, and play a constructive role on the world stage. Life is always risky but as Jack Kennedy put it when negotiating with Khrushchev, following the Cuban Missile Crisis, about a nuclear limitations: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” This is what Obama did at American University, where like JFK, he challenged his critics to release their paranoia and mistrust, and enter into the great adventure of extending the olive branch to Teheran so that a more viable Middle East can emerge rather than being locked into outdated notions of Realpolitik that have no merit and has paralyzed the region for decades. As JFK concluded at American University, June, 1963, “Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies.