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Sunday, September 20, 2015
Current Affairs ... Foreign Relations/World Affairs ...

I’m not feeling entirely optimistic about the Iran nuclear deal. Sure, there are a lot of good things to be said about it; avoiding a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East would be quite an accomplishment for civilization (the word “holocaust” itself has its ultimate origins in the ancient Middle-Eastern Hebrew language, i.e. “olah” meaning burnt offering). Still, I wish that Obama, Kerry and the Dems were totally honest about what the JCPOA agreement with Iran ultimately is: i.e., a huge bet that politics in Iran are going to fundamentally change over the next decade, such that the pro-western urban secularists will take charge as the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard fade into a genteel irrelevance, sort of like the British monarchy. Unfortunately, we’ve been waiting for an Iranian regime change to happen since the last days of Jimmy Carter.

My heart really hopes that Obama is right and that an opening to the urban secularists by the USA will finally put them over the top in Tehran. But my head and my knowledge of history, however limited, is a bit more cynical — it’s a big crap shoot, a real “Hail Mary” pass. I guess that we shall find out how it goes.

The JCPOA has a lot of very optimistic supporters in the liberal big media, not surprisingly. A typical supporter is Tom Friedman of the NY Times, who focuses on the Middle East. I must give Friedman credit for hinting in one of his recent articles that he too realizes that Iranian regime change is a necessary condition for the agreement to really work as the Obama Administration hopes. Friedman was in a bit of a whimsical mood recently (hey, you need a sense of humor to survive when you focus on Middle Eastern issues), and so he issued a “report card” to some of the key players in the deal, as if from a 6th grade teacher. Here’s a quote from his grading of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:

Hat’s off, Ali, you’re good. When I sell my house, could I give you a call? But here’s a note to his parents: “Ali got an A, but he has a tendency to get cocky. He is confident that he can pull off this deal without any transformation in Iran’s domestic politics. I suggest you buy him a good biography of Mikhail Gorbachev.”

Good point, Tom . . . but are you really willing to follow that analogy into the present? I mean, with Vladimir Putin now firmly in charge, did Russia really change all that much? And can Iran?

Another recent report in the NY Times indicates that Iranian politics are up for grabs right now, with the old clerics and the Revolutionary Guard trying to keep the anti-America sentiment going, while the modernizers trying to reach out to the west without getting purged. The Times is fairly optimistic, but a Palestinian analyst writing in Al Jazeera is a bit more circumspect about political change in Iran. A writer in the Foreign Policy Journal is even more dubious about the internal effects of the nuclear deal, saying that “one of the founding principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran was resistance to U.S. domination of the region. The U.S. and Iran are fundamentally at odds over the geopolitics of the Middle East.”

Personally, I would not recommend holding your breath awaiting the fall of the Supreme Leader, Guardian Council and Assembly of Experts in Iran. As with Russia and China over the course of their 20th Century revolutionary history, there will be incremental changes allowing greater interaction with the world economy over time. The JCPOA negotiations (which, from the Iranian perspective, accomplished their primary objective in the dismantlement of harmful international economic sanctions) are indeed an example of this. But as to any major Iranian policy and attitude shifts towards Israel and the US, akin to what happened in Egypt and Jordan in the 1970’s and 80’s, I personally doubt if that is “in the offing”. Nuclear weapons are definitely NOT out of the Iranian picture; at best they have been moved out of the center and into a corner, for the time being.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:04 pm      

  1. Jim, I really don’t have much to say on the Iran business as such since I have not taken much interest in it. I don’t know why; I know I should, but I have not. But maybe the reason will become evident as I continue.

    You do mention that the “NY Times indicates that Iranian politics are up for grabs right now” and indicate (at least it seems to me) that because of that perhaps the tho’t is that if that’s the case, then this may be a good chance to make some headway in a nuclear deal with Iran. If I read that correctly, I’d say: Can’t hurt to try. Why not take a chance that some good could come from it?

    I’ve tho’t for some time that the risk of ruining our world – or even destroying it completely – will come not from some country trying to prove it’s got a nuclear bomb. (I will make one exception to that: Danger might come from a very young ruler of a country that knows little about anything nuclear or atomic but is *very* interested in proving what a great ruler he might be, and one might read here, the current North Korean ruler.)

    What *does* bother me a LOT is the recent explosion in China with its “mentioned only once or twice in the news” mushroom cloud. My tho’t has been for quite some time that the place real nuclear danger might come from is some company doing something stupid for some reason. I’ve noticed that questions about why that explosion happened and what the reason the company had whatever it was they had that caused a “mushroom cloud” have gone quietly away.

    Mushroom clouds scare me. I remember when the U.S. dropped the 2 atomic bombs on Japan in WWII. I remember the mushroom clouds that occurred *only* in cases of such kinds of explosives as were present in those two bombs. I remember the stories of people being literally evaporated from existence. I remember more than I wish I remember. I remember the stunned nations of the world, most especially the U.S., vowing never again to use such kinds of bombs/explosives.

    So, when the accident happened in China, all I could think of was that if the world – or a big chunk of it – is going to be destroyed it likely will *not* be by some country with rulers who have some experience but by some individuals (one could read “company” here) that makes some stupid mistake trying to outdo everybody else doing who knows what. Notice: China has been very silent on any info about what happened in that situation.

    If they want to take a “risk” trying to prevent destroying the world (or a big part of it) by making some agreement with some country in the world, I say go for it; but it likely is not something that will be (or even be intended to be) very effective because the countries as countries of the world have more sense than do something stupid (one would hope). However, individuals and/or companies might not have too much sense and be experimenting or “fiddling” with things they should not and don’t know the effect of.

    It could also be that the situation in China was backed by its government so as to lay any blame for disastrous results on the company and/or individuals and thus leave blameless the country’s leaders. So, perhaps the places that should be included in such agreements and/or supervision are not so much the secret or known things countries are experimenting with or are trying to “get” for themselves. Perhaps the places that should get more attention by such “nuclear deals” are the companies, the “little guys” (so to say). Who knows what all is going on in those places. Those are the places I think need much more attention. Taking a “risk” in making an agreement with a country seems to me a good place to start; it’s just not inclusive enough. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — September 21, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

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