Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The End of the Beginning

Robert E. Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, was director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council Staff in the Carter Administration and in 2011-12 was Director of Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

The talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries bring to mind Winston Churchill’s 1942 description of World War II: “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

This characterisation is even more profound than it first appears. Today we are witnessing a roll of the dice throughout the Middle East.

The “negotiations” over Iran’s nuclear programme betoken a major shift in psychology and perceptions, notably about power, influence, and national interests. They involve the United States and almost all other countries in the region, which for so long have assumed the immutability of the Iranian-Western confrontation.

Of course, that confrontation could now begin to crumble, with wide-ranging geopolitical implications in the region and beyond.

Most immediately, the talks appear to be getting down to brass tacks regarding what Iran is doing with its nuclear programme; what it will do to reassure the world that it will not acquire a nuclear weapon or even move toward what is called a “breakout capability;” and what the United States and others will do in exchange.

“In exchange” involves the sanctions that have been progressively imposed on Iran since the Islamic Republic’s birth in 1979. But it could also include other steps, some tangible, some intangible, whereby Iran would be readmitted as a legitimate state in international society, free from the shackles on its potential as a highly educated and creative nation with the most U.S.-friendly population in the region.

So much of what will happen now involves the technical details of Iran’s nuclear programme, which only a handful of people, both in Iran and the West, really understand.

More important, however, is the politics. Will the Iranian government move far enough to embrace a deal acceptable to the U.S. and the other P5+1 members (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany)?

Will the P5+1 accept that Iran does have the right to a peaceful nuclear programme and some level of uranium enrichment?

And, if there is a meeting of the minds, can a potential deal be sold to Iran’s Supreme Leader and the multiple constituencies in the West that claim the right to be heard?

The answer to the first part of this last question may depend on the will of a single individual (and his own complex politics). The answer to the second part will depend not just on President Barack Obama and the other P5+1 leaders, but also on the U.S. Congress and especially Israel. U.S. allies and partners lining the Gulf and outliers like Turkey must also be satisfied.

If a potential deal does take shape, a titanic struggle will take place in this country, pitting President Obama against those who would oppose virtually any deal, however reasonable by objective standards, measured in terms of U.S. national interests.

Those parts of Congress responsive to Israel’s perspective will be joined in opposition by the “Friends of Saudi Arabia” and other regional oil countries. Silently in the corner will be the Western companies that pour advanced weaponry into the Arab States of the Gulf — although, if the U.S. does take pressure off Iran, arms sales to still-anxious countries could even increase.

But far more is at stake in the Middle East than Iran’s nuclear programme and creating barriers against its ability to build a bomb. We are seeing the first break in the solid containment wall that was erected at the end of the 1970s due to fears that an Islamic revolution would spread its contagion.

Except in a few places, that did not happen. Indeed, the greater threat both to Western interests and to regional countries now comes from Al-Qaeda and its ilk (which, unlike Shia Iran, are Sunni).

In recent years, concerns have focused on Tehran’s nuclear programme. But even before that, there was a policy of containing Iran, in many ways reflecting a general regional contest for power and influence. This contest reflected worries that Tehran and Washington might one day be reconciled.

It is perhaps the best explanation for the (opaque) reasoning behind Saudi Arabia’s first campaigning for a seat on the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and then, when successful, abruptly declining it. Indeed, with a break in the diplomatic barrier to Iran, Saudi Arabia is less sure that it will continue to stand higher in U.S. regard than an Iran that is “behaving itself” — thus its recent antics.

Ironically, the Saudis’ initial pursuit of the UNSC seat had always seemed strange: Security Council members are expected to set and follow standards that are alien to Riyadh.

For its part, Israel is competing for regional influence and to preserve, unchallenged, all the primacy it has in the U.S. It has effectively used the legitimate fears of an Iranian bomb to oppose any reconciliation between Washington and Tehran while positioning itself as Washington’s only friend there.

This gambit was always risky; should the U.S. and Iran come to terms on the nuclear issue and unfreeze other aspects of their relations, Iran could again become a “player” for influence, at least in the Middle East, with Israel and the oil-producing Arab states.

What happened in Geneva last week, therefore, is only “Act Two” of a lengthy play with elements of a psychological drama (“Act One” was the Obama-Rouhani phone call).

But if Iran plays its part (by no means certain); and if — assuming that a reasonable nuclear deal can be struck — President Obama shows the mettle with domestic naysayers that he showed on debt and default, then major, positive developments may become possible in the Middle East for the first time in years.

Robert E. Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, was director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council Staff in the Carter Administration and in 2011-12 was Director of Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Clare Lopez is a former CIA officer and rightwing activist who has argued that the Muslim Brotherhood and a shadowy “Iran Lobby” are working to shape Obama administration policy.


Michael Ledeen, a “Freedom Scholar” at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has long been obsessed with getting the U.S. to force regime change in Tehran.


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney has emerged as the most visible advocate of hardline security policies in the Cheney family.


Bret Stephens is a columnist for the New York Times who previously worked at the Wall Street Journal and the neoconservative flagship magazine Commentary.


Joe Lieberman, the neoconservative Democrat from Connecticut who retired from the Senate in 2013, co-chairs a foreign policy project at the American Enterprise Institute.


Former attorney general Edwin Meese, regarded as one of President Ronald Reagan’s closest advisers despite persistent allegations of influence peddling and bribery during his tenure, has been a consummate campaigner on behalf of rightist U.S. foreign and domestic policies. He currently serves as a distinguished visiting fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


Print Friendly

Trump’s reorganization of the foreign policy bureaucracy is an ideologically driven agenda for undermining the power and effectiveness of government institutions that could lead to the State Department’s destruction.


Print Friendly

Spurred by anti-internationalist sentiment among conservative Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration, the US is headed for a new confrontation with the UN over who decides how much the US should pay for peacekeeping.


Print Friendly

Decent developments in the Trump administration indicate that the neoconservatives, at one point on the margins of Washington’s new power alignments, are now on the ascendent?


Print Friendly

As the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president approaches, it seems that his version of an “America-first” foreign policy is in effect a military-first policy aimed at achieving global hegemony, which means it’s a potential doomsday machine.


RightWeb
share