From the very beginning of its term, the current U.S. administration has set its priorities on dismantling anything associated with the Obama administration.
The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, where Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions, has been on the chopping block. Iran has continued to comply with the agreement, despite the U.S. pulling out and unilaterally instituting economic sanctions on Iran and frankly threatening other nations with sanctions if they continue to do any business with Iran. This fits into the playbook of such hawks as the current national security advisor, John Bolton, who is leading the charge and has always seen Iran as a threat to the U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East.
To understand the fault lines and perspectives, one must look at the recent history of mistrust between the U.S. and Iran, the regional power play exploiting religious differences between Shias and Sunni Islam, and the proxy war pitting Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran.
The United States has sided with the Saudi coalition despite the humanitarian crisis and the failed war in Yemen and, the numerous human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. We have encouraged and partnered with two crown princes — the Saudi, Mohammed bin Salman, and the Emirati, Mohammed bin Zayed — known for their aggression and regional destabilization actions. Iran, although not innocent, sees these other countries as pursuing a regime change in Tehran. These are not paranoid ideations given the history of U.S. involvement in regime change in Iran.
The 1953 CIA-engineered coup that toppled a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh, is a case in point. Because of Washington’s opposition to Mosaddegh’s plans to nationalize the petroleum industry, it removed him from power and replaced him with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who despite instituting women rights and educational reforms was seen as a puppet of the U.S. and Great Britain.
The Shah’s ability to maintain power was not by winning the hearts and minds of his people but by brutal incarceration and torture, which under the direction of his notorious intelligence services stamped out all opposition. This regime change played into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, leading to the current Islamic regime in Tehran.
The Trump administration is on the verge of leading us into a war with Iran. So, who are the benefactors of an escalated conflict?
Certainly not the Iranians. Those most interested in escalating the conflict, aside from the hawks within the Trump administration, include the Saudis, the Emiratis and Israel’s right-wing government under Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. The Saudis would use the war to enhance their power position in the Gulf vis-à-vis Iran. Israel hopes that the war would reduce Iran’s support to Hezbollah, Israel’s archenemy on its northern border.
Less than 11 percent of America’s imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia. Canada provides the bulk of U.S. imported oil. So, if it is not about oil, then what are our security interests?
Since 1950, the United States has earned more than $90 billion in arms sales from Saudi Arabia. Our legislators, regardless of party affiliation, and citizens need to realize that the current administration’s clamoring for yet another war in the Middle East is based on fabricated and misguided “intelligence.”
Our endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed, lives of our soldiers and civilians sacrificed for naught. This is not the time to be misled into a conflict of our making with Iran.
Dr. Lawrence W. Gernon, MPH, is a former senior diplomat for the U.S. Department of State and professor of Global Health in the Global National Security Policy Institute, University of New Mexico.