An American view on the possible relations between the USA and Iran
Written by HB exclusively for SouthFront
Syria, the future stage of a world conflict
In a lecture from 1985 called “Deciphering Foreign Policy Jargon“ Noam Chomsky predicts that Syria will form the stage for a major superpower conflict in the future, maybe even a world war.
He also predicted that “sooner or later Israel would have to attack Syria“. He then goes on to explain that this is only logical since Israel is consistently in a state of conflict and cannot therefore at any stage let any bordering country or a combination of them even begin to approach its own capabilities in military strength. The main reason is of course that no political settlement has been reached with regards to Israel’s existence in the region. Although the lecture is old and somewhat outdated, this fact still remains relevant among a number of other issues he discussed.
First of all Chomsky explains how the U.S. foreign policy is mainly designed to secure resources abroad, and that the U.S. considers them necessary to withhold its position of world dominance. Foreign governments who stubbornly insist on using these resources for the benefit of their own subjects, rather than to project forward the American world policy, need to be either exiled from power or persuaded to change their policy. Chomsky points out that the real objectives of the United States foreign policy is seldom discussed in media or even by American intellectuals. For instance it is a quite widespread opinion among intellectuals as well as media outlets, that the Vietnam War was an American defeat. However when kept in mind that one of the U.S. main objectives in Vietnam was to prevent a socialist Vietnam to function as a model of social and economic development for other countries, the operation was at least partly a success. The United States was successful in preventing a “rotten apple scenario“unfolding in south East Asia, to use the phrasing of the United states own foreign policy documents. He goes on to point out that the chances of a Socialist Vietnam serving as a model for other countries in the postwar era were actually slim to none, and in fact the country should be considered lucky to have even survived the assault. This goes to show that the real objectives of foreign policy are often contradictory to the official ones.
Chomsky then asserts that in the assessment of whether a political force in a targeted country follows American orders or not, it is defined as either Radical (does not follow orders) or Moderate (follows orders). The distinction between Radical and Moderate however has no appeal to the political or religious conviction of the group in question, according to Chomsky.
Why no political settlement for Israel?
Chomsky takes the same position as Finkelstein has done in this question. They both point to Israel’s function as a strategic asset for the United States after the 1967 war. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, Israel became even more important since in Iran the United States lost an important partner, which was both economically and technically developed as well as highly militarized. According to Chomsky there can be no political settlement for Israel while the U.S. is still lacking another militarized technically advanced partner in the region. The U.S. policy towards Israel is therefore according to Chomsky to keep the country economically dependent on the U.S.A. and armed to the teeth. This way it can be used as an “attack dog“ when U.S. policy calls for an intervention to shuffle things up. If a political settlement was reached on the other hand Israel could develop in to something like a Switzerland of the Middle East, and the U.S.A. certainly has no need for that. Chomsky´s angle of view is by many considered cynical, but to others it can be of great help to make sense out of world events. Henry Kissinger which has taken part in allot of the planning of events that Chomsky has criticized through the years seems to view things from a similar angle although the two differ greatly in opinion. At the risk of it becoming too cynical this article explores Kissinger’s view of the current crises, using Chomsky´s “unconventional“angle of view.
Henry Kissinger at the Global Security Forum November 2015
Kissinger who has served as an adviser to every American president at one point or another for over 40 years now is obviously coming of age, but his mind is still sharp, and he starts the talks at the GSF by pointing out that the current crisis is confined mainly to four countries, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria. He then points out that the solution to the crisis is going to be linked to the emergence of one of, what he calls “the traditional states“of the region in to a dominant position. The states in question are Egypt, Iran and Turkey, although Turkey is not according to Kissinger fully in the region. So I guess that leaves us with Egypt or Iran. Of course Egypt has no borders with Syria or Iraq, so this is the other aspect of the “Iranian problem“ apart from the nuclear issue Kissinger points out. It needs to become more “moderate“.
He then goes on to explain that Russia’s entrance in to Syria and its military operations there represent a symbolic and substantive shift in the balance of power. Kissinger explains that before 1973 the American policy in the Middle East was to demonstrate to the local governments that their political solutions could not be achieved by Russian military assistance. This was done by blocking any such effort made. After 1973 and for three decades onward the U.S.A. had established this fact so it could with ease conduct its mission of designing the diplomatic issues of the region and was therefore the dominant political element in the evolution of the Middle East. Russia has now challenged that status quo, but Kissinger doubts that Russian military capability is sufficient to conduct the leading role in the region. He thinks it will be lacking in capabilities in a scenario that calls for a major military operation. However this could be necessary to demonstrate and that would call for a return to the pre-1973 policy.
Kissinger contends that if the Russian objective really is to wipe out radical Islamic elements, the U.S. and Russia could have a parallel approach. Right here one has to stop for a moment and consider if Kissinger is using the official meaning of “radical“ or the Chomsky approach “not following orders“. Of course one has also to take in to consideration that maybe neither Russian nor American objectives in the region are directed mainly at fighting Islamic elements. And in that case what Kissinger is really saying is: “ a deal could be worked out with Russia“, nothing more nothing less. He then declares that if there were to be such talks, the Ukrainian issue could not be held separate in such a dialogue, although public opinion can sometimes pose a problem. It´s hard to read in to these words but is it possible that he is suggesting that Ukraine could be given up in return for a relaxation in the Middle East. After all it has been pointed out by many experts that to include Ukraine in to NATO may be reaching too far.
Iran´s political opportunity
Kissinger does not worry about the inspections and the follow up on the Iranian nuclear-deal. Actually the big issue with the nuclear-deal is not how well Iran follows the limits of the agreement. The real issue for Kissinger is how other countries will see it. Again, here we are talking about Chomsky´s “rotten apple theory“. Because if other countries view the Iran deal as an end of the U.S.A´s nonproliferation policy, that would according to Kissinger be catastrophic, simply because then others would demand the same as Iran. Remember that Chomsky views the foreign policy to be to protect „Americas“resources abroad to protect its hegemony. That also means not having everyone capable of producing their own energy. And the Iranian deal does of course not include nuclear military capabilities, only energy production. Never the less Kissinger also points out that if Iran were to become militarily too strong, that would produce a similar problem. The Sunni block would then feel the need to equip, and a strong (Sunni/Shia) two-polar system in the Middle East would be very complicated for the west to maneuver according to Kissinger. On the other hand for Iran to dominate the region would not at all be a new thought for educated Iranians. The country is an old empire of the region Kissinger maintains, and economically as well as militarily stronger than any other country there. Although right now Iran poses a threat to regional Sunni governments (like Saudi Arabia), Kissinger asserts that it is conceivable that some more „moderate“perceptions of the international system will evolve within Iran.
The American way forward
What the American plan should be therefore according to Kissinger is to conduct on the face of it two contradictory policies at the same time. On the one side to stand by the Sunni countries that have been allied with U.S for decades. But on the other side to engage in a dialogue with “an Iran that conducts its policies as a national state with great history and great capacities, which could be a major influence for peace, progress and stability“. It is of utter most importance according to Kissinger that the U.S. avoids slipping in to the position “that the Sunni states distrust them but without Iran changing their policy to something the U.S. can connect to.“ Kissinger admits that this policy will be very hard to execute, but he considers it both possible and necessary. He emphasizes that it has to be the American objective. He does however not suggest that the current Iranian regime needs to be replaced. The focus should be entirely on modifications of Iranian foreign policy and without interfering in internal matters. So the main intellectual effort of the U.S.A. needs to be to come up with ways to make Iran modify itself. When asked about how he sees this play out in reality Kissinger refers to the policy towards Egypt first under Nasser and later under Sadat. The American position then was “we will send you by your conduct“and “we don´t think you can achieve your objectives with Russian Military support. If you are prepared to discuss with us on another basis we will be ready to discuss an overall settlement with you. “As Kissinger also points out, under Sadat, Egypt changed its policy completely, turned away from the Soviet Union and started to co-operate with the U.S.A. instead.
How a hostile government is persuaded to become an ally
Of course to persuade a foreign government to change its policy completely sounds easy enough but is it really that easy? In Kissinger’s 1994 book “Diplomacy“, he goes in to more depth of just how the persuasion of Sadat took place in 1972 and 1973. As has already been explained, before 1973 the American strategy was to continually demonstrate to Arab leaders that the Soviet Union’s capacity to foment crisis was not matched by its ability to resolve them. This strategy was executed through two complementary policies. First the United States blocked every Arab move that resulted from Soviet military support. And second it took charge of the peace process once frustration with the stalemate had brought key Arab leaders to dissociate from the Soviet Union and turn to the United States. These conditions however did not really come about until after the 1973 war but until then the United States had had to traverse a rocky road, writes Kissinger. The first sign that the American strategy was beginning to bear fruit came in 1972 when Anwar Sadat dismissed all his Soviet military advisers from Egypt. At the same time explains Kissinger secret diplomatic channels between Sadat and the Whitehouse were established. The next year, in 1973 Syria and Egypt both went to war with Israel. Kissinger proclaims to have been taken totally by surprise by this Arab move but since the Soviet support to Egypt and Syria was not remotely comparable in scope to the American airlift for Israel, the conflict ended with Israel crossing the Suez Canal and reaching a point just 20 miles outside of Cairo. At this point Anwar Sadat was persuaded and turned his policy away from Moscow to join the American camp.
A moderate Iran is a threatened Iran
As demonstrated by the 1973 events in Egypt. It took an extensive military operation to take place before Sadat decided to join the American camp. For the same method to work in the case of Iran it might take a considerable conflict. Although according to Chomsky the United States has an useful „attack dog“in the form of Israel, it is doubtful that it would be useful in the same way in Iran now as it could be used in Egypt in 1973, although it should not be ruled out. But for that to be an option one would at least assume that an attempt would be made to weaken Russia’s capabilities substantially before such an adventure would even be tried by the Americans. When Kissinger was asked what could be done to deal with countries that think they have a stake in the region historically. Kissinger replied and I quote: “Well if you look at the 300 year history of Russia and Turkey, they have not been great at solving their issues peacefully“. Here I assume that Kissinger means that he would not take things negatively, where Russia to get entangled in a costly proxy war with Turkey, but since Turkey is a NATO member that could escalade in to a huge conflict. If someone were to threaten Iran on its western frontier it would either have to come through its borders with Turkey or Iraq. Kissinger points out that there was no country called Iraq before 1920. He further submits that: “in a world system based on nation states one could imagine Iraq to break up over a period of time.“ One would hope he adds: “that the leading countries of the region would come together on some kind of reconstruction“. That I assume, means Saudi Arabia to the South, Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. I guess Syria is not on the list of the “leading countries „ although it has borders with Iraq, but I wonder if Israel is not on the list, it must reach its political settlement some day, and of course the only thing standing between Israel and Iraq is half of Syria.