Thirteen years of wars in the Middle East, since the illegal and criminal invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain in 2003, have killed way over a million people; destroyed Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and created millions of refugees. The terrorist attacks by Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Europe, coupled with hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East have strengthened xenophobia, Islamophobia, and more generally, hatred of foreigners. Daesh itself is a byproduct of the invasion of Iraq that led to the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, morphing into its present state as a result of the wars in Libya and Syria. Can things get any worse? Not only they can, we should expect new wars in the Middle East if Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president is elected next November. Even a glance at her record and the neoconservatives’ enthusiasm for her presidency indicate how likely new wars in the Middle East will be.
Hillary Clinton is a hawk and warmonger. People often point to her vote in 2002 for going to war in Iraq and her enthusiasm for it. After all, it was during her husband’s presidency that toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein became the official policy of the United States. But, her track record of starting and supporting wars, and siding with despots is much deeper than Iraq. She supported the coup in Honduras in 2009 and in Ukraine in 2014; was the leading advocate of the U.S. and NATO intervention in Libya that turned that economically advanced nation into a hub for all types of terrorist groups; laughed shamelessly at the news of Muammar Ghaddafi’s murder; supported extra-judicial assassinations by drones; backed escalation of the war in Afghanistan ordered by President Obama, and has taken an extremely hawkish stance toward Russia. And as Secretary of State she supported massive sale of advanced US weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf area, all reactionary dictatorships, the same weapons that are being used to attack Yemen.
The only “accomplishments” that she is still lacking are starting a war with Iran and invading Syria. If she is elected president, she may get to add both to her “impeccable” track record of war, bloodshed and destruction and in the process spark World War III, if it has not already begun as a result of US policy toward the Middle East.
Clinton considers Syria and Iran closely linked. In fact, most objective experts and analysts do believe that the war in Syria has a lot to do with Iran, its strategic alliance with Syria, its use of Syrian territory to help the Lebanese Hezbollah, and more generally what the Sunni Arab regimes of the region consider as the “Shiite crescent” – the alliance between the Shiites in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon.
So, before the war began in Syria in 2011, she supported secret negotiations between Israel and Syria as a way of separating the latter from Iran. But, the negotiations failed, as they always do, due to Israel’s intransigence. Thus, to her destroying Syria in order to topple Bashar al-Assad became the pathway for attacking Iran, which she views as necessary for Israel’s sake, as the Clintons have deep connections to Israel and its lobby in the United States
Her advocacy of direct US intervention in Syria began carefully. One of her top aides, Ann-Marie Slaughter who was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009-2011, published a piece in the New York Times in February 2012 advocating foreign military intervention in Syria. Clinton herself became a leading force in putting together the so-called “friends of Syria” group, consisting of several Western nations and the very Arab regimes that despise Iran and have played the most important role in keeping the war continuing in Syria, namely, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as Turkey. The group is similar to the Contact Group on Libya, also known as “friends of Libya,” which consisted essentially of the same countries and was created to help the opposition forces in Libya in 2011, and we all know what that help led to.
But, Hillary Clinton has gone even further. In an interview with the CNN she claimed Syria and Iran (as well as Russia) helped creating the Daesh, saying, “ISIS was primarily the result of the vacuum in Syria caused by Assad first and foremost. Aided and abetted by Iran and Russia.”
Despite Clinton’s skepticism about a nuclear agreement with Iran, P5+1 and Iran signed the historic nuclear agreement in July 2015 after Iran made many significant concessions. After the nuclear accord the hope was that rapprochement between Iran and the United States would slowly develop. At the same time, it became crystal clear to practically everyone, from the President and his Vice President Joe Biden, to even the editors of the New York Times that Saudi Arabia and its allies are the main sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East. They are also raping the poor nation of Yemen with US logistic and military support.
Yet, Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old worn out songs and espousing the same failed policies toward Iran: more sanctions, more military threats, and more diplomatic pressure. This is of course neither new nor surprising. Along with the neocons, the Clintons have always been Iran’s number one enemy in the US political establishment.
The cliché in the West is that it is Iran that does not want improved relations with the West. That is not true, at least not when Iranian reformists, moderates, and pragmatists have been in power. Three times over the past 20 years the Iranian reformists and moderates have tried to improve the relations between their nation and the United States, and in each case the Clintons have either prevented the rapprochement or, as it is happening now, try to scuttle it.
In May 1995 former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered a pragmatist then but allied firmly with the reformists now, made a gesture of reconciliation toward the US by awarding the American oil company Conoco a major contract to develop a large offshore oil field in the Persian Gulf, although a European oil company had actually won the bidding for the contract. But, instead of responding in kind, Bill Clinton imposed total trade embargo on Iran in 1996 as part of his absurd, and ultimately failed “dual containment” policy according to which both Iran and Iraq were supposed to be contained and put in a strategic box.
Then, in 1998 former reformist President proposed “dialogue among civilizations” as a cautious approach to open dialogue between the two nations. Not only had Khatami won the presidential elections in 1997 in a landslide, his allies would sweep the first nationwide elections for city councils in fall of 1998 and for the Majles [Iranian parliament] in February 2000. But, once again, instead of making a major gesture toward Iranian democrats by lifting the economic sanctions, or at least suspending them, Bill Clinton announced that Iran could export pistachio, carpet and caviar to the United States, as if that would impress any Iranian. The Clinton administration claimed that it was seriously seeking formal dialogue with Iran, but Khatami was not interested, unless major sanctions against Iran would first be lifted, which were not.
After Hillary Clinton was elected a Senator from New York in 2000, she supported every resolution by Congress imposing unilateral sanctions on Iran. All such sanctions are illegal because they have not been approved by the United Nations Security Council. As Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton took the lead in putting together a coalition of Western nations that imposed “the toughest sanctions” in history on Iran. The sanctions hurt the lives of tens of millions of ordinary Iranians. Now that she is running for President again, Clinton’s campaign brags about her role in putting in place the sanctions, as she does in her memoir as Secretary of State, Hard Choices.
In an interview with ABC in 2008, when Mrs. Clinton was running for President, she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, to which she responded, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel we would be able to totally obliterate them" (emphasis mine). Iran did not and does not have nuclear weapons and Clinton knew it, but she did not even declare that if Iran attacked Israel, which is highly unlikely if not impossible (unless Israel attacks first), she would defend Israel. Her threat to obliterate Iran, a very large country, can be accomplished by only one means: Attacking Iran with nuclear weapons.
Even though Clinton’s most important “accomplishment” as Secretary of State, namely, attacking Libya under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” which was nothing but naked military aggression, has been a total catastrophe, in interviews with the BBC and Voice of America in October 2011 she claimed that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. While the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement, a democratic and peaceful movement that emerged after Iran’s fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009, rejected any US help, Clinton said in the interviews that if they had asked for help, the US was prepared to help them the way it helped Libyan rebels. In other words, the US would have tried regime change in Iran.
Although Hillary Clinton claims that she supports the nuclear accord with Iran, she never misses a chance to demonize and belittles Iran. In a speech at the Brookings Institution last September, Clinton declared, “I don’t see Iran as our partner in implementing this agreement. I believe Iran is the subject of the agreement” (emphasis mine), as if Iran is a banana republic that is subject to US will. In an article in The Jewish Journal she threatened Iran again,
“We have to send Iran an unequivocal message. There can be no doubt in Tehran that if Iran’s leaders violate their commitments not to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, the United States will stop them. They will test our resolve with actions like their provocative ballistic missile test, for which we should impose new sanctions designations. They need to understand that America will act decisively if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, including taking military action if necessary.” (emphasis mine).
Clinton’s rhetoric regarding Iran, even after the nuclear accord, only creates trouble for the administration of President Hassan Rouhani in the midst of his fierce power struggle with Tehran’s hardliners. By taking a hardline toward the nuclear agreement and improved relations with Iran, Hillary Clinton is a strong ally of Iranian hardliners who also do not want any rapprochement with the United States.
In addition to constantly demonizing Iran, Hillary Clinton is always looking for ways of imposing new economic sanctions on Iran to carry favor with the pro-Israel lobby and its rich donors. For example, it is well known that Iranian hardliners were, and still are opposed to the nuclear agreement with P5+1, just as the neocons and the extreme right in the United States opposed it and still do. So, the Iranian hardliners have tried to demonstrate their unhappiness with the nuclear accord, and one way of doing so, in addition to creating other problems for the Rouhani administration, has been testing ballistic missiles. The missiles are purely defensive weapons meant to deter Israel and the tests, unlike what the opposition to the nuclear accord in the United States claims, do not violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that was issued after the nuclear accord to endorse it. Despite these glaring facts, after the missile tests, Mrs. Clinton quickly called for new sanctions against Iran.
During the primary season the Clinton campaign slammed Senator Sanders’ suggestion that the US and Iran should have closer relations. Jake Sullivan, Hillary Clinton’s senior policy adviser, said on January 21, “This proposal [by Sanders] to more aggressively normalize relations and to move to warm relations with Iran not only breaks with President Obama’s policy, it breaks with the sober and responsible diplomatic approach that’s been working for the United States. “This is not surprising. Hardliners everywhere are allies of each other and feed one another, and Clinton and Tehran’s hardliners are no exception.
Not only does Hillary Clinton not want improved relations with Iran, she has been itching to find an excuse start a war with that nation and, thus, she constantly demonizes Iran. But, in addition to demonizing Iran, she also lies about that nation brazenly. For example, similar to Benjamin Netanyahu she always refers collectively to Iran, Daesh and the Palestinian group Hamas, as if they are allies. Iran has been fighting Daesh in both Syria and Iraq. Iran cut off its financial aid to Hamas after that organization refused to back Bashar al-Assad in Syria. There is absolutely no relation between Hamas and Daesh. In fact, many senior Israeli officers have made it clear that they prefer Hamas to run Gaza, because the alternative would be either Daesh or one of the terrorist groups allied with it,
Why is Mrs. Clinton so anti-Iran? I can think of at least two reasons. One is that Hillary Clinton has never given up her imperial ambitions to reshape the Middle East, because she believes in American “exceptionalism” and always speaks about “American global leadership,” which only means world dominance. She sees Iran as an impediment to her ambitions for the Middle East. Why does she want to reshape the Middle East and possibly change the borders? This brings us to the second reason for her being anti-Iran. Clinton is an Israel “firster.” Anything that she wants for the Middle East is intended for making the region as “safe” for Israel as possible. Clinton is not bothered by the fact that Israel is run by the far right with expansionist ambitions. To see this, all one has to do is listening to her speech at the annual meeting of AIPAC in March.
When asked during her first Democratic presidential debate last October “which enemy are you most proud of," Hillary Clinton included “the Iranians” among them. This was truly disturbing. Was she talking about 80 million Iranians? If she meant the Iranian government, why did she not say so? Why did she not make it clear that she mean, for example, Tehran’s hardliners? Apparently, Hillary Clinton considers all Iranians as the enemy, which is truly disturbing.
Those who argue that we should vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils in the upcoming presidential elections are truly misguided. Yes, for decades if not longer elections in the United State have been reduced to choosing between bad and worse. But, not this time. Hillary Clinton is simply as terrible as Donald Trump, if not worse. Expect new catastrophic wars in the Middle East, especially one with Iran, if she is elected.
Muhammad Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. For the past two decades he has published extensively on Iran’s political developments and its nuclear program. He was a founding lead political analyst for the website PBS/Frontline: Tehran Bureau, and has also published extensively in major websites and print media. He is also the editor and publisher of Iran News and Middle East Reports and produces a weekly commentary for broadcasting that can be watched at http://www.ifttv.com/muhammad-sahimi.