An anti-US mural in Tehran © Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi / Reuters
Operation Boot is back. The new American plan for regime change in Iran dawns this week with a re-imposition of economic sanctions against Tehran and the threat of more to come.
American exceptionalism in action as the whole world (minus Trump satrapies) rejects the move putting the EU on a collision course with Washington.
For nearly 50 years economic sanctions have been the default position of western countries seeking to bring others to heel, make them succumb, or in the most extreme circumstances roll over, cry “Uncle Sam” and be “regime changed”.
The fact that quarantine – or siege – is an act of war rather than an alternative to war is easily elided with a compliant media.
For most of my life I have struggled to explain that the US embargo on Cuba for example –still more the claimed extra-territoriality of that embargo– as a result of which gigantic US fines are levied on foreign companies doing business with Cuba entirely legally under their own countries’ law. That the embargo on Cuba is lawless brigandry need hardly detain us. Perhaps St. Augustine said it best in his book “The City of God”.
Describing an encounter on the high seas between Alexander the Great and a pirate ship, Alexander demands:
“How dare you terrorize these waters as a thief?”
The Pirate captain answers:
“How dare you terrorize the whole world? You with your great Navy, can call yourself an Emperor, and call other men as you please.”
I lived up close and personal enough to smell it, the long devastating regime of economic sanctions against Iraq which killed 1.7 million of Iraqis, according to UN figures (not to be confused with the deaths during the invasion and subsequent occupation from 2003).
Among them were many children and I helped put their little white coffins into the baked earth amidst the wailing of their parents on many occasions when I was the only British politician travelling to Iraq.
The monstrous Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – now reborn as a critic of Trump’s policy of “separating children from their families” – was in no doubt when she told Lesley Stahl on CBS News of the value of separating Iraqi children from their families forever for political purposes.
When asked about the policy she was implementing on Iraq which (at that time) had killed half a million Iraqi children she replied:
“I think this is a very hard choice. But the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
Neighboring Iran has endured endless twists and turns in western policy. Given that the country grows oil and gas rather than avocados is of course the reason. As Donald Rumsfeld reportedly said, in terms, “It’s not our fault God put America’s oil under other people’s countries.”
Under the dark reign of the self-declared emperor Pahlavi the Peacock Shah of Persia, Iran was the West’s best friend. Indeed Britain and the United States had actually put Pahlavi on his ‘Peacock Throne’ overthrowing the elected premier Mosaddegh in Operation Boot in 1953. The moderate socialist Mosaddegh had made the fatal error of nationalising his own country’s oil, taking it from the big western oil companies. His fate was sealed.
Iran then became a byword for torture and repression until the 1979 overthrow of the whole regime by millions of Iranians on the streets – far too many to shoot.
Iran has been ostracized, invaded, subverted and sanctioned ever since.
The first rays of light in this dark story appeared with the P5+1 Nuclear deal the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in which Iran undertook to so verifiably limit its nuclear energy industry as to preclude forever the creation of a nuclear bomb (this despite the fact that most of Iran’s adversaries in the region and beyond bristle with nuclear weapons or live under the military promise of defense by the nuclear weapons of others.
It was a good deal. But it was negotiated by Barack Obama on the American side and one of President Trump’s primordial obsessions is to destroy anything with Obama’s signature on it.
But there was a major problem in Trump’s determination to wreck the Iran Nuclear Deal. This was a solemn and binding Treaty not between the US and Iran but between Iran the US, Russia, China and the EU.
A major test immediately loomed – would after token protests the European Union tamely bow down to Trump, the bull in the China shop?
Not yet at any rate. Indeed all the signs are that this is the first pan-European revolt against US hegemony, more significant in fact than the refusal of France and Germany to join the Bush and Blair invasion of Iraq.
The EU has enforced its “Blocking Statute” to protect its firms from the latest round of US Sanctions on Iran which came into effect at midnight eastern standard time Tuesday. Even harsher sanctions will be imposed by Trump in November – giving rise to widespread speculation in Iran that the Islamic Republic will preempt it with an “October surprise” rather than go quietly into that goodnight.
The Blocking Statute has never been used by the EU before (though it has existed more than 20 years). It is thus a significant assertion of European rejection of an American policy almost bereft of support outside Israel and Saudi-Arabia.
But it may be more symbolic than real. First, all 27 EU countries will have to incorporate specific rejection of the US sanctions on Iran into their domestic rules. Time consuming, and wide-open to US subversion of the process. There are plenty of US satrapies in the EU. Moreover European companies themselves (as is the case in trade with Cuba) are quite likely to roll-over and cry uncle for fear of losing their markets in the US.
Symbolic or not though it is a further sign of American isolation on foreign policy issues and a further stick for the US Democrats to beat President Trump with in the run-up to the mid-term elections in November. The Democrats prefer war with North Korea and peace with the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the Americans say “Go figure”…
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