Editor’s note: this article is a continuation of my recent piece “Gimme Shelter: Russiagate, Foreign Policy & the Coming Forever War – Part One” and while it’s not entirely necessary to read that article before you dive into this one, it will likely help your comprehension of the subject if you do so. You may also wish to check out my recent Brief Thought about why the cost of America’s “forever wars” is finally coming home; it’s the first edition of a new series I’m writing to supplement our larger discussion of disastrous US foreign policy and why it has us on the verge of another war in the Persian Gulf; as well as a potentially much larger global conflict with Russia and its allied client states.
In today’s Essay, we’ll update the unfolding three-sided rhetorical assault on Russian ally Iran by officials in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia before examining why despite the very recent, almost eerie silence of establishment neoliberals calling for Iranian sanctions not long ago, support for regime change in Iran by one means or another is an unarguably bipartisan position in mainstream American politics:
Bad Moon Rising: More Evidence of a Gathering Storm
When Spanish-American philosopher and anti-war thinker George Santayana wrote that “only the dead have seen the end of war” in 1922 he wasn’t talking about America’s endless war for control of the greater Middle East, but perhaps with aid of future sight, it is fair to say that he predicted this moment. In the short time since I last wrote about the terrifying geopolitical powder keg our leaders are pretending to “accidentally” drive us into, the evidence that the United States and its two most important Middle Eastern client states are preparing to start a war with Iran has only grown stronger – an objectively disastrous potential conflict that could easily engulf the entire MENA region in war, test western alliances in Southwest Asia and pit Russia against America by proxy (or otherwise) across the Fertile Crescent and beyond.
First up is a report from a reliable paper in Kuwait that Washington has given the Israeli government permission to assassinate Iranian elite Quds Force commander, General Qassem Soleimani; a request that was reportedly denied a mere three years ago under the Obama administration. To say that Soleimani is a powerful man within the Iranian government would be something of a mild understatement; in 2007 the general identified himself as the “sole authority for Iranian actions in Iraq” during negotiations with a senior Iraqi intelligence official and Soleimani was quite visibly in charge of Iran’s attempts to counter ISIS in the region as recently as the summer of 2015. As such, General Soleimani has long represented a thorn in the side of American and allied occupation forces in Iraq and more recently Syria; although the Trump administration (wisely) declined to name Iran’s entire military a terrorist organization this past fall, the United States has considered the Quds Force commander an active supporter of terrorism since 2007 and it was Soleimani, not Tehran that CIA director Mike Pompeo reached out to when US intelligence suspected Iran might attack US forces in Iraq. Needless to say, the assassination of such a high profile, important military commander would (rightfully) not sit well with Iran and would do very little to dispel the disturbing similarities between our present geopolitical situation and the events that lead up to the Great War in 1914.
The second major development has been the seemingly sudden outbreak of initially modest (but committed and growing) flash-mob like protests that have quickly spread across much of Iran, particularly in the provincial towns and cities outside of Tehran.
Now, before we go any further I would like to take a moment to point out that despite some truly sensationalist reporting on American cable news networks, the unbiased truth is that no single, clear narrative about the protests has emerged in Western media. Although these demonstrations began with a small political rally against re-elected moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by hard-line, right wing opponents who actually support Iran’s theocracy, many later protest actions have taken on an anti-theocratic government flavor; with chants against corruption, foreign policy, the ruling clerics and even Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei all being recorded at some (but not all) demonstrations. While much has been made of the protests being the largest in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement, some of the biggest demonstrations photographed have actually been previously scheduled Principlist (conservative) rallies in support of ousted hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; in other words, people who would also be very much pro-Kamenei. By that same measure however, the fact that the protests have gone on for six full days and counting, along with the presence of many younger voters who likely went overwhelmingly for Rouhani during the last election, suggests that there is a widespread desire for reform in the country outside Tehran; while simultaneously calling into question the Grand Ayatollah’s so-far unproven claim that the unrest is purely a result of foreign meddling by US-aligned powers.
Perhaps, as two friends interviewed by the Independent suggested, it is simply fairest to say that the demonstrations are a result of different people, protesting about different things; a situation objectively ripe for exploitation by virtually any motivated political actor with a voice loud enough to be heard over other protestors. If there is any overarching or unifying theme to the protests, it’s a primarily economic dispute about inequity; one that is apparently serious enough after years of western sanctions and government corruption, to be worth dying for. There is however literally no credible evidence that Iranians are calling for a US-led intervention and aside from a few shouted slogans, little objective proof that the protesters are seeking a change in government so much as demanding reforms. At this point, there is simply too much we do not know to credibly say much more about the demonstrations.
Mutual Objectives: Bombs, Bills & Regime Change
Unsurprisingly, this lack of evidence wasn’t enough to prevent the Trump regime from definitively painting the protests in Iran as a heroic struggle for freedom and liberty against a tyrannical government the White House is just “coincidentally” already looking to depose. If you own a cell phone, you are by now undoubtedly aware that Donny “Tiny Hands” has spent pretty much the past week on social media hypocritically decrying human rights abuses in Iran and implying the sins of Tehran against it’s own people justify further US action against the country. Quickly invoking nostalgic (for some) memories of Reaganite high “idealism,” noted neocon luminaries such as #Resistance icon Lindsey Graham, crackpot interventionist John Bolton and John “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain also seized on the opportunity to launch thinly-veiled calls for regime change in Iran on Twitter. Even the swine emperor’s objectively unqualified fail-daughter Ivanka got in on the action. The real stars of the moment however were US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, who both laid on the “fighting for freedom” rhetoric so thick, I briefly thought I was watching an 80’s documentary about our “plucky” Taliban allies fighting against the dreaded “Soviet menace.”
Truthfully of course, none of this should come as much of a surprise to observers who’ve been paying any attention to the Republican party at all; swine emperor Trump, his nightmare war hawk cabinet and the GOP in general have been quietly (and not so quietly) calling for a war with Iran for quite some time – literally decades in some cases. Please keep in mind that the current US administration called the Iranian government the “world’s largest sponsor of terrorism” and “put Iran on notice” mere days into the official Trump presidency. That same administration has since publicly accused Iran of ignoring human trafficking violations and helping Kim Jong-un develop nuclear weapons; in addition to accusations that the Islamic Republic is violating the US-Iran nuclear deal, destabilizing the Middle East and arming seemingly every group opposed to US, Israeli and Saudi imperial interests in the region. Even if you somehow missed Trump’s warmongering Iran rhetoric on the campaign trail, by now it should be abundantly clear to most observers that this objectively neoconservative government intends to force “regime change” in Iran by virtually any means necessary.
So where then, does the Democratic Party stand on regime change in Iran at this moment? That’s a pretty good question and one that’s difficult to answer because besides a few isolated neocon-esque tweets that could have been written by Republicans; the Democrats have been disturbingly silent while neocon interventionists supposedly on the other side of the aisle advocate for actions that will lead to war with Iran. This silence is especially curious since numerous high-profile Democrats just spent the better part of this last fall aggressively attempting to keep swine emperor Trump from scuttling former President Obama’s legacy defining Iran nuclear deal; at one point, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi went so far as to call Trump a rogue actor. One would assume that if Trump attacks the Islamic Republic or is caught trying to foment a revolution in Iran, the Persian Gulf nation would quite naturally back out of the nuclear deal and at least consider manufacturing nuclear weapons to stave off a US-led intervention of any kind. What gives?
Well, despite the fact that it isn’t being mentioned very often anymore in the media, astute observers will remember that back in August when the Democratic party was desperate to force President Trump to punish Vladimir Putin for alleged offenses in the “Russiagate” scandal, the US Senate voted 98-2 to pass crippling new sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran; sanctions offered primarily as bait to get Republicans on board with a bill targeting Russia. Although numerous observers across the political spectrum publicly noted at the time that the Democrat’s willingness to impose harsh sanctions on Iran would allow Trump to push for regime change or open war in the Islamic Republic, the simple truth is that with very few exceptions, Democrat-affiliated politicians simply didn’t give a fuck as long as they got to propel the “Russiagate” narrative forward. Hey, have I mentioned that Iran and Russia are allies or the fact that a significant portion of Democrats had to be strong-armed into supporting the US-Iran deal in the first place?
Going a little further down the rabbit hole, isn’t it actually a little naive to assume the Democrats don’t also want regime change in Iran? Doesn’t it bother Democrat-defenders that the policies party politicians voted for this past year line up pretty much perfectly with those of excited neocons and a bloodthirsty Trump administration that created a CIA program that may be trying to engineer another Iranian revolution and has consistently indicated that it’s looking to encourage regime change there? The ostensible purpose of US sanctions on Iran (or any country) is to economically punish the nation until the people of the targeted country either force their leaders to change policy or force that nation to change leaders, often violently. Considering the political realities of a post-Libyan invasion world, I think it’s safe to say there is virtually no chance the government of Iran is ever going to completely dismantle it’s nuclear facilities, even if they never build a nuclear weapon. In light of this, aren’t nation-wide, anti-government protests fueled by unemployment and economic inequity (that honest analysts admit have been exacerbated by debilitating US sanctions) pretty much the best possible outcome for Democrats who traded Trump Iran sanctions for more “Russiagate” retaliations?
Actually, while we’re talking about “Russiagate” and the new McCarthyism; doesn’t it strike you as just a little odd that the moment Trump’s foreign policy and national security doctrine shifted to line up exactly with the Bush-Obama era pro-war, establishment philosophy, the unholy alliance of mainstream neocons and liberal interventionists backing the “we are at war with Russia” narrative suddenly seems far less interested in impeaching the swine emperor?
Maybe however, you’re a student of modern American geopolitical history and therefore, it doesn’t surprise you at all. Perhaps you already understand that war, particularly the Cold War and oil wars in the Middle East, enjoy and have enjoyed largely unwavering bipartisan support in US politics since the end of World War II. Of course, that idea may be hard to accept for casual observers who focus on liberal anti-war rhetoric during Republican presidencies (while conveniently ignoring how quickly the Democratic Party betrays the principles of peace once they regain political power) but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding; there is no meaningful difference between the two major US political parties when it comes to arms sales and endless war. Even now, while Democratic party affiliates openly acknowledge that Donald Trump is an unstable plutocrat rapist and accuse the swine emperor of treason, the vast majority of the party remains perfectly in lockstep with our fascist president’s warmongering and aggression. This in turn means that while domestic politics in America are defined in the media by the battle between the Republican and Democratic parties, the real axis that determines US foreign policy is the “battle” between war hawks and doves scattered throughout both organizations – and frankly, it’s a fight the so-called doves have objectively been losing for roughly thirty-seven years.
Ultimately if you’ve been paying attention and you’re being honest with yourself about what America really is, you already know the truth – when push comes to shove, the entire US political establishment will fall in behind Trump to support a war with Iran and Russia in the Middle East.
Once again, this seems like a pretty good spot to stop and catch our breath for a bit. Although I had originally intended to talk about bipartisan support for a war with Iran in the media today, I’m also working on a closely-related Fear and Droning post about the manufacture of consent for conflict by the US political/media establishment I’d like to publish first. Unfortunately there may also be a brief interruption while I move but when this series does return, I hope to also take a look at how the Cold War and a history of US attempts to dominate the Middle East are still influencing the decisions taking America into “Sand Vietnam” today.
Until then, wage peace and don’t let the bastards make you hate.
- Nina Illingworth