Obama’s Duplicitous Iran Policy

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One of President Obama’s greatest “accomplishments” has been creating fissures within the antiwar/progressive community in the United States by talking like a progressive politician, but acting in most cases as a conservative one. Consider, for example, his domestic policy. It has helped Wall Street far more than anything the President is willing to do for Main Street – just consider the cuts that he has proposed for Social Security and Medicare. His administration’s assault on civil liberties, including prosecution of six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, and the expansion of the surveillance state have surpassed anything that we experienced under the George W. Bush administration. Yet, many on the left and in the progressive community are reluctant to criticize the President, even though to a very large extent his rhetoric and the promises that he made during the 2008 presidential campaign have turned out, as Noam Chomsky put it, to be smoke and mirror. The fact that the President is an African-American has also helped silence many on the left.

But, it is the President’s foreign policy that has created the deepest fissures in the antiwar/progressive community, because he has been able to create the illusion for some that he is truly an antiwar president and a proponent of a progressive foreign policy. Nowhere is the falsity of such an illusion clearer than the President’s kill list that began under the Bush regime as a way of “justifying” murdering suspect citizens of countries with which the U.S. is not at war. Instead of ending the practice, the Obama administration has expanded the list to include the execution, without due process of law, of U.S. citizens living abroad and accused of association with terrorism. The Administration first tried to hide the legal memo about the list, but it was leaked to the press. We now know that the “legal justification” for the list and murder of the suspects by drone strikes is based on the 1969 secret bombing of Cambodia, which has been recognized for decades as a war crime. Such killings continue to make more enemies for the U.S. than al-Qaeda was, or will ever be able to do.

So, despite his pretense to otherwise, Obama is not a President that seeks to mend the U.S. relations with Latin America and the Islamic world by ending the past imperialist policies, but has, in fact, gone beyond what his immediate predecessor did. It is, therefore, not surprising that the President praised George W. Bush during the recent formal opening of Bush’s presidential library.

To demonstrate how the President talks as a peace president, but acts as a war president, I focus on one example, Iran, although much can be said about what the Obama administration has or has not done about the Islamic world and Latin America including, for example, not taking any meaningful steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba, supporting the 2009 military coup in Honduras (see also here and here), and not making any fundamental changes in the U.S. hostility toward Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez.

During his campaign for president in 2008 Obama emphasized time and again that he would resolve the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program peacefully and through diplomatic means. But, his Iran policy has been a completely duplicitous one – talking about diplomacy, while waging economic war on the Iranian people, preparing for military attacks, and emphasizing countless number of times that “all options are on the table.” In fact, what the President has done is channeling Bush fever in Iran. To see this, consider the followings.

Whereas the President has supposedly warned Israel not to attack Iran, his recent trip to Israel was so heartwarming to the Israelis that their president Shimon Peres said, “I have no doubt that if diplomatic talks fail with Iran and Tehran doesn’t stop accelerating its nuclear development, U.S. President Obama will conduct a military attack against Iran.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also traveled to Israel, and reportedly told Israeli leaders that after Iran’s June 4 presidential election, the U.S. will seriously consider attacking Iran.

Whereas the President supposedly prevented Israel and its warmongering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from attacking Iran last year, for which he was lauded, his administration is supplying mid-air refueling tankers to Israel. Last year the U.S. supplied Israel with bunker-busting bombs that even GW Bush refused to do. Both have no use other than arming Israel to attack Iran.

Whereas the President keeps saying that he wants a diplomatic resolution of the conflict with Iran, the Pentagon has spent $330 million to develop the 30,000 pounds bunker-busting bombs that have no use other than attacking Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Fordo.

Whereas the Obama administration has declared cyber wars a threat to the U.S. national security greater than terrorism, the U.S., in collaboration with Israel, has been waging the same type of war on Iran, its nuclear facilities and industrial capacity, using the Stuxnet and other types of computer worms, such as the Flame computer virus.

Whereas the President’s selection of John Kerry and Hagel as his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense was interpreted as the U.S. moving toward peace with Iran, Obama left no doubt that the two men will not keep him from attacking Iran when he said, “Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel share my fundamental view that the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability is an issue of U.S. national security interests as well as Israel’s national security interests.”

Whereas during his campaign for president Obama declared that he wants to negotiate with Iran without any pre-conditions, as soon as the 5+1 group – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – met with Iran after Obama took office, the U.S. demanded Iran’s total surrender, if the negotiations were to make any progress. What is the difference between setting conditions before and after entering the negotiations room?

Whereas the President has been using Nowruz, the beginning of the new Iranian year on March 21, to send messages of friendship to the Iranian people, the unilateral and illegal U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran have devastated the lives of millions of ordinary Iranians. As James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, put it in his recent testimony before the Senate, the sanctions have increased “inflation, unemployment, [and] unavailability of commodities” for the ordinary Iranian people, while they not changed the fundamental calculations of Iran’s leadership.

Whereas the Obama administration has professed its desire for people-to-people exchanges with the Iranian people living in Iran, to the point that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in 2011 to Iranian students, “I want you to know that we are listening to your concerns…As long as the Iranian government continues to stifle your potential, we will stand with you. We will support your aspirations, and your rights. And we will continue to look for new ways to fuel more opportunities for real change in Iran,” it has been denying, on a systematic basis, visas to Iranian students who wish to do graduate work in the U.S., not only in the nuclear physics and engineering areas, but also in the dual-use areas, the energy sector and, more generally, anything that can be useful for the advancement of the Iranian society (as an academic, I have first-hand experience with this issue). Sanctions on Iranian banks and financial institutions have also meant that Iranian students applying to American universities from Iran cannot pay their application fee and obtain international credit cards. But, the administration continues to professor its desire for friendship with the Iranian people.

Finally, whereas the Obama administration is supposedly not interested in regime change in Iran, the ultimate goal of its Syria policy and the sanctions imposed on Iran is, in fact, regime change in Iran. In his testimony, Clapper stated that the intent of the sanctions is to spark dissent and unrest in the Iranian population, which may eventually lead to regime change. General James Mattis, who up until recently was the head of Central Command that is responsible for the U.S. forces in the Middle East, said recently that Iran must be brought to its knees.

To see why the ultimate goal of the President’s Syria is regime change in Iran, consider the following. Whereas since September 11, 2001, we have been paying a heavy price for the so-called war on terror, with the President continuing and even expanding his predecessor’s wars, since the beginning of the civil war in Syria we have been told that there are good terrorists – those fighting on the U.S. side – and bad ones – those that are aligned with the U.S. foes, and in particular Iran. Apparently, the Sunni extremists who have been fighting with Syria’s government – Iran’s only strategic ally in the Arab world – and are enemies of the Shiite Iran are the good terrorists. An example of such terrorists is Jabhat al-Nusra – al-Qaeda’s “love child” – which has professed its loyalty to al-Qaeda and is the main fighting force against the Syrian government. See here, here, and here for samples of al-Nusra’s atrocities. To bolster al-Nusra the good terrorists, the European Union lifted its sanctions on import of Syrian oil from the areas under their control.

In addition to do the bulk of fighting against the Syrian government, there has also been talk of using al-Nusra to wage another indirect war on Iran by encouraging it to attack the Lebanese Hezbollah. This idea has been supported, explicitly or implicitly, by Senator John McCain, U.S. representative to the U.N. Susan Rice, and Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon. It is, of course, already well-known that the dictatorial regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar – U.S. allies in the Middle East – together with the CIA and Turkey, another U.S. ally, have been arming the extremists and terrorists in Syria. But, there have been recent talks of the U.S. arming them directly (as opposed to indirectly through the CIA). Given that there is no secular democratic fighting force in Syria, arming the Syrian opposition means arming only the terrorists there. All of this is being done in order to achieve Obama’s ultimate goal, regime change in Iran.

President Obama’s Iran policy has completely failed due to its duplicitous nature. There should be very little doubt, if any, that if the President continues on his current path and does not make a fundamental change in his Iran policy, we will have another Middle East war on our hands, this time against Iran, which will make what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria look like child’s play.

Read more by Muhammad Sahimi