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Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

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Written by Tom Luongo; Originally appeared at his blog

Iran has successfully navigated the first phase of its resistance to U.S. sanctions pressure. The U.S. State Department has admitted it’s goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero is not feasible.

The goal now is a 25% drop to 800,000 barrel per day. And that is no joke. It’s a big drop from where Iran was looking to produce in the coming years under the auspice of the JCPOA.

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

Iraqi President Barham Salih, left, walks with visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

The U.S. will not stop until all avenues have been exhausted or Trump fires his current cabinet.

Iran’s total non-oil exports have suffered as well, since gas condensate exports have also dropped along with the crude oil numbers.

But Iran is finding friends in other places. They are currently finalizing a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Belarus leading the talks at the 15th meeting between their Joint Economic Committee.

Iran’s non-oil exports, however, are still just one-fifth of their peak exports. Like Russia it is working quickly with regional partners to change that dynamic.

It won’t be enough to overcome the U.S.’s economic pressure in the short term.

But as I always say if it survives the initial onslaught then market forces open up opportunities for change. Things like INSTEX, the EU special purpose vehicle for getting around U.S. sanctions, is a perfect example.

Bilateral trade outside of the U.S. dollar is another.

North-South Trade Routes

The completion of the North South Transport Corridor (NSTC) is also helping. For example, trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran rose more than 70% last year.

Speaking in the event, [Azeri Trade Minister] Mustafayev mentioned the 12 meetings between the two countries’ presidents during the past five years and said “that is an indication of how good the relations between the two countries are.”
“In 2018, trade between the two countries increased by 74 percent. Azerbaijan hasn’t had such a boost in trade with any other country.” The official said.
The Azeri minister referred to energy, transportation, industry and tourism as good areas for developing bilateral relations with Iran, and called for Tehran to strengthen relations in these areas.
He further mentioned the friendly relations between his country, Iran and Russia and called for the strengthening of trilateral relationship between Tehran, Baku and Moscow.

Lurking in the background of this meeting is EAEU membership and U.S. influence in Baku. Vladimir Putin, for his part, has been very successful making in-roads with President Ilham Aliyev.

Without that work by Putin the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea wouldn’t have settled on a treaty. This caught the U.S. flat-footed who used Azerbaijan for years to keep the status of the Caspian in flux.

Once Russia relented on a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Azerbaijan to Europe things changed. Again, people respond to incentives and new data.

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond
The Main Leg of the North South Transport Corridor

And that bodes well for Iran because it also secures the maritime portion of the NSTC by shoring up, legally, the status of ships crossing Azeri waters between Iran and Russia. It also paves the way for the two countries to develop gas resources jointly.

The North South Transport Corridor is changing the landscape of central Asia. Russian goods no longer have to go by boat all the way around the world to reach Iran and India.

It bypasses important choke points, like the Mediterranean and the Suez.

Most infuriating for Trump, Bolton and the rest of the neocon cretins, it puts Iran at the center of opening up the whole of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Because the NSTC is now active, we’re seeing movement on Eurasian integration which will only accelerate. It is clear Trump is hopeless as a force for change of the traditional U.S. policy of chaos.

Lost in Iraqi Translation

But the bigger news is President Rouhani’s very successful three-day visit to Baghdad last week. Rouhani was hailed as a national hero to the new Iraqi government, a government less in the thrall of its U.S. occupiers.

Rouhani met with every major political and religious figure in Iraq this week. The two countries agreed to new economic projects set to swell bilateral trade to $20 billion from the current $12 billion.
They signed deals to invest in energy as well as increase sales of Iranian gas and electricity to Iraq. The big issue being that Iraq will be a major source of dollars for Iran, still needed as it winds down domestic use of our currency.
These are both very important given the Trump administration’s very public goal of shutting down Iranian oil exports and desire for regime change in Tehran

Iraq is in no mood to knuckle under to Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s bloviating about the evils of Iran.

Remember it was Trump who made a secret visit to Iraq at Christmas and left after three hours because the Iraqi Prime Minister refused to be summoned like some lackey.

According to Elijah Magnier there are two factions now in Iraqi politics.

Iraq today is divided between a large faction of politicians calling for the total withdrawal of US forces from the country, and another which wants to maintain a reduced US force in charge of training and intelligence exchange.

Both factions want to see most US forces leave the country, and can likely reach an agreement on accepting a small specialized force on the ground. The Iraqi government would like to strike a balance and maintain both a fair relationship with the US and excellent ties with Iran.

But a fair relationship with Iraq is not something the U.S. is interested in. There will come a point in the near future when our relationship with Iraq changes dramatically.

Iran and Russia are both playing for time for that to develop.

Lebanese Fire Drill

This is why Mike Pompeo is in Lebanon this week. He will threaten the Lebanese to give up support for Hezbollah or else they will be treated like Iran and Venezuela.

He’s also there to assist war criminal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get re-elected next month. How Pompeo is treated by Lebanon will be telling as to where things are headed from here.

I suspect he’ll be treated with the same thinly-veneered disdain that German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed both Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence at the Munich Security Conference last month.

Lebanon can no more comply with Pompeo’s stated goals of excising Hezbollah from Lebanon’s state affairs then he can distance himself from the siren’s call of a Chinese buffet table.

So, expect after the visit the U.S. follows the U.K. in fully sanctioning Lebanon as a terrorist state, refusing travel, seizing assets. The whole nine yards. All in the name of human rights and fighting terrorism, of course.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is struggling with housing more than 1 million Syrian refugees while the U.S. actively blocks their return home.

Bolton keeps the military situation unsettled and the Treasury Dept. blocks aid through the threat of sanctions helping to rebuild Syria.

It’s like the reverse Marshall Plan. Wage a war on a foreign country. But this time lose and block rebuilding by declaring anyone that does so to be an ‘enemy of peace.’

This heavy-handed strategy is obviously meant as blackmail to accept Jared Kushner’s idiotic, dead-on-arrival but still unveiled peace plan. The goal is advancing greater Israel in the face of massive opposition. It also paves the way for Genie Energy to take the oil and gas under the Golan Heights.

There is a limit to what sanctions and threats can accomplish. And the U.S. is about to find out what that limit is. Chaos only works in the short-term and its expensive.

The costs are written all over the balance sheet of Pax Americana. The moves the U.S. makes today create tomorrow’s headlines. If maintaining this Empire of Chaos, as Pepe Escobar calls it, was so efficient the U.S. wouldn’t be complaining about its cost.

Iran, Russia and China understand this. Arrogant men like Pompeo, Trump and Bolton never will.

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  • You can call me Al

    Amazing when you see a map from a different viewpoint; I have never seen that view before.

    The link to Europe can be seen on the left, Australasia / Oceania just South – everyone is there except the Americas -> why for God’s sake do we even worry about the US ?: block the scum out for a few weeks, ignore them and they will frizzle away !!. I am allowed to dream.

  • zman

    A very good article. “There is a limit to what sanctions and threats can accomplish. And the U.S. is about to find out what that limit is.”…As Al said, we can dream. As far as “Chaos only works in the short-term and its expensive.”…yes and no. They’ve been doing the chaos thing for a lonnnggg time now as their main distraction strategy, but the second part is right…it is expensive. But when has raping the public ever bothered them?, they never foot the bill. They don’t really care about efficiency, as they’re the bookkeepers. But this article is right about time running out. They know it as well. The writing is on the wall…and their desperation is plain to see with the impatience showing with Venezuela, Syria and Iran. They have to do something drastic soon because the real target, Russia, is a bridge too far at the moment.

  • Garga

    The problem with the US is, it doesn’t matter how many of their orders you follow, as soon as first signs of unwillingness (as most and possibly all orders they bark at their puppets are against the puppet countries’ interests) they treat you like an enemy and are quick to replace you, regardless of the consequences. In this regard, expulsion of Hezbollah from the Lebanese government is not possible, something they refuse to realize is not within Hariri’s power, so they pressure his government and allies. But the more they pressure Lebanon the more the Lebanese government realizes that dependence on the US and it’s lackeys is bad investment. US will sacrifice Lebanon and any other ME country for Israel. A fact that even Jordan’s king has understood.

    In Iran it seems the government is finding itself and starting to control the economic situation. I hope they have a robust plan to strengthen domestic production and industries. They did a very good job for energy industry (built and finished 4 huge plants for gas, condensations, refinery and petrochemicals and for the first time, Iran’s extraction from the shared gas field is more than Qatar. The point is our infrastructure is built by us, not foreigners and under sever sanctions, so a job very well done), but there’s much to do for automotive, appliance, cellulose and specially food security for meat and poultry.

    Russia’s situation is slightly better than Iran, but they too need to do a lot. I hope elected officials and people of both countries understand our collective survival depends on full cooperation. Better yet, the whole region’s governments need to get rid of colony mentality and seek their security and stability in their own population.

    The time is on our side, we just need to be together.

    Happy new year, happy Nowrooz. I wish ALL of you a very good year, full of smiles and success.

    • BlueInGreen

      Eideh Shomah mubarak, ishalah saleytoon khoobasheh. Hama mardomhahyeh azizeh Iran va donya, man varatoon dahah mikoonam ke zendigeh va varzeh maliyatoon behtar besheh to in saleh no!!! (My farsi isn’t the best lol, my parents hate me for not being better at Farsi haha)

      With that being said: Trump and his administration rife with Zionists and Israeli firsters need to go, plain and simple. I personally think Iran is doing logically what it can to make it through this tough time but US is a declining power that the article so aptly alludes to, is finding out what it can and can’t do. Pushing the limits of US foreign pressure has more than evidently strained our position on the world stage: pushing away legacy allies whilst giving Iran, Russia and China the ammunition needed to outmaneuver delusional US policy.

      The depths of depravity being shown by the US in regards to Iraq’s interests in having more than cordial relations with Iran is stunning. Iraq and Iran are culturally, socially and religiously linked yet the US thinks it can just show up and change that. Thankfully Iraq is getting stronger day-by-day, maybe we can see Iraq finally kick all vestiges of US troops out. Nevertheless, Iran is doing well for itself in the region and hopefully the economic situation in Iran will get better.

      Iranian people are ancient and our lineage, culture, language, history are riddle with stories of resilience, strife, prosperity, empire, sorrow, happiness, genocide (against the Persian people), but we are still here. We have persevered and will continue to do so no matter the situation!!!

    • Ronald

      Happy New Year to all the noble people of Iran and the Shia.
      Lebanon would do well to join the new Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian Alliance.
      Peace to men of good will.

  • verner

    it seems that moronistan (aka usa) is at the end of its wits, just ordinary dumbfucks left, like fatso, like bedbugcrazy bolton and nitwit donny himself, to try to save the crumbling nation,

    50million designated poor,

    50 million on food stamps and

    a black population the dumbfucks tries to put away in prison and

    the infrastructure falling down, and

    the health service for the well to do only (leaving about 200 million without adequate healthcare) and

    a school-system that systematically disqualifies 90% of school-age children/youngsters from adequate schooling.

    if it wasn’t so bad it would be something to have a good larf about, since it does seem entirely unreal!