Iranian’s head honchos should remember Shakespeare’s words: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” What are you?
If there’s been one American individual over the years that has clearly taken to task the United States’ foreign policy, credit must be given to Richard Nathan Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Haass most clearly outlined his foreign policy views in his book The Reluctant Sheriff (1997), in which he argued that the United States should play the role of international sheriff. He said, “maintaining international order often means ‘assuming the role of international sheriff, one who forges coalitions or posses of states and others for specific tasks,’ Haass writes (Haass 1997). While Haass argued that the approach would largely benefit the international system, he also made it clear that he intended for the United States to play the role of international sheriff to pursue its own preferences for the world. In the years ahead, “what will prove crucial is the ability of the United States to persuade others to adopt and abide by its preferences – and the will and the ability of the United States to act as a sheriff, to mobilize itself and others to insist on them when resistance emerges,” Haass notes (Haass 1997). ‘”
Iran, the real choices. Losing face is not particularly one of Iran’s more favourable characteristics.
Eight years ago, on April 19, 2010, Haas, in a statement as the President, Council on Foreign Relations, made it adamantly clear to the Obama administration their initial approach toward Iran was wrong. This is what he had to say on the matter:
Gates’s Welcome Take on Iran Realities
The “Gates memo”–a classified memorandum written by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in January , arguing to his senior colleagues that the administration needs to develop a more effective policy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear progress–marks a significant signpost in the evolution of President Barack Obama’s national security policy and presidency.
The Obama administration’s initial approach toward Iran emphasized negotiations, but there is no evidence Iran is prepared to accept meaningful limits on its nuclear activities. The United States is working to gain UN Security Council approval of new sanctions, but while the symbolism of a common international front is welcome, the substance will not have much effect. The price of gaining Chinese and Russian support is delay and dilution. A second set of sanctions, more biting and more focused on the Revolutionary Guard, should be cobbled together quickly by those countries willing to sign on. And the United States should keep exploring what can be done to bolster Iran’s internal opposition.
But the reality is that these measures are unlikely to accomplish the goal of halting (much less reversing) Iran’s nuclear program. Three sets of actions are needed. First, the United States should take the steps that would allow it to enforce tough sanctions, such as a ban on Iranian oil exports and refined oil imports. Second, the United States should develop plans for the use of military force in an effort to set back Iran’s nuclear program and weaken the government. Third, the United States should assess the pros and cons of an alternative or a fallback: a “North Korean” strategy, in which there would be an implicit acceptance of an Iranian nuclear weapon (or something close to it) that would involve deterrence of Iran and defence for its neighbours. All planning should anticipate Iranian retaliation and what would be needed from Saudis and others to stabilize energy markets.
The Gates memo is right to focus attention on the real choices. In the end, it is Iran, far more than Afghanistan or Iraq or even Pakistan, that is likely to prove the most significant strategic decision and challenge for the forty-fourth president.
“Iran is able to build a plant for every field of nuclear program . . . this issue is not reversible.”
In September 2009, Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, (seen here on the right) member of Majlis the national security and foreign policy commission, said that construction of a new uranium enrichment plant indicated that Iran’s nuclear program is in progress on schedule, in spite of political pressures. He added, Iran is able to build a plant for every field of nuclear program, because, “we have gained access to the nuclear technology and this issue is not reversible, a fact that has already been acknowledged by IAEA analysts.” The MP added unlike Libya and Iraq, who bought nuclear technology in the markets, Iran, upon its own ability, has turned threats to an opportunity. (IRNA).
How much of what Falahatpishe had to say at the time would have been poo-pooed by the Obama administration as pure grandstanding is open to further debate. But, it is interesting to note that in 2016 Falahatpishe survived an assassination attempt in Kermanshah Province in the west of the country, Iranian news agencies reported. Falahatpishe sustained minor injuries but a local official and their driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, the reports said. Falahatpishe survived and today he is the Head of Iran’s all-powerful Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
Which brings me to Iran in 2018. Today, it’s military and senior political head honchos continue to put on a brave appearance to outsiders. After all, losing face is not particularly one of Iran’s more favourable characteristics.
First, let’s look at their military.
As I reported earlier in the year, “Iran’s military has major problems. The Iranian regime revealed last month that 2,100 Iranians have been killed fighting in Syria the past few years, more than double the previous death toll announced 16 months ago… “As a proportion of the population, that is a greater loss than the United States has suffered in all its wars in the Middle East since the start of the century… “Iran has said it does not send combat troops to Syria, only military advisers, most of whom are Pasdar officers… “Given that the United States has four times the population of Iran, the Iranian losses in Syria are proportionately about a quarter greater than the US losses throughout the region this century.”
Secondly, the economic turmoil and protests taking place throughout all sectors of society in Iran are now increasing on a day-to-day basis. This week alone, reports include the following:
Labor Minister impeached
The Iranian parliament has given a no-confidence vote to Labor Minister Ali Rabeei on Tuesday. Rabeei was impeached by 129 to 111 votes. This gives Rouhani three months to find a replacement. As Iran’s economy has worsened in recent months, the Iranian regime and particularly hardliners have tried to portray Hassan Rouhani’s economic team as being mainly responsible for the increasing hardships that Iranians face. In an interview before his impeachment, Rabeei had said the U.S. sanctions would increase economic pressures and until March 2019 one million jobs would be lost. (International Institute for Iranian Studies).
People’s rage building up
This editorial deals with Iran’s dire economy and people’s rage against reformists in this regard. The editorialist begins by saying that Iranian people have had it up to here with skyrocketing prices, corruption, and the government’s inefficiencies. People have repeatedly voiced their hope in reformists, voting for them in elections. However, reformists have not been able to find a solution to their problems, and people can no longer wait for a change in relation to this particular point. The editorial then zeroes in on President Hassan Rouhani and the role he and his administration play in creating unrest in society. Rouhani has become involved with those in his milieu who have no reasonable, organized relations with society and their political base. Neither can they pave the way for Rouhani to get connected with people. All things considered, people expect reformists to speak their mind candidly and with clarity under current conditions. In the end, the editorialist claims that the only way out is reform, but it is really getting late. An editorial in Mostaghal on August 7, 2018
Popular protests hit several cities in Iran on Saturday night. [August 4, 2018]. Along with confirming the death of a protestor in the city of Karaj, the city’s officials declared the implicit martial law in the city. Film footages sent to VOA show that at least in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Qom, and Eshtehard, people held demonstrations on Saturday night. Fars news agency, affiliated with IRGC, announced that an individual was shot dead in Friday night protests in Karaj. This is the first death in the new round of demonstrations in cities of Iran. In December protests, at least 23 people were killed in more than 80 cities of Iran. In Tehran, protesters chanted: “Iranians will die, but will not accept humiliation” and “Death to Dictator!” VOA
Released footages in social networks indicate that gatherings and protests have continued in Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Qom, and Eshtehard. In footages related to demonstrations in Tehran, the protesters chanted: “Iranians will die, but will not accept humiliation,” “Iranians must show their courage,” “Death to Dictator,” and “Courageous Iranians, Support us.” In another footage, the narrator says: “Here everybody is exhausted. They all have wives and children and are under injustice. Here everybody has a lot of debts. Look, we are all together. We are exhausted. We all want freedom.” In Karaj, the protesters chanted: “Shame on you, Khamenei; let go of the country” and “Law enforcement, support us!” The new round of street protests in Iran started following the plunge in the value of the national currency, critical economic conditions, high prices, and daily increase in the price of foreign currency and gold coin. But in recent days, the protesters’ main slogans have been against the supreme leader, the regime, and the clerics. Radio Farda
Currency deputy of Central Bank arrested
Judiciary system spokesperson Gholamhossein Ejei said the currency deputy of the Central Bank, who was recently removed from his position, was arrested. He added that in dealing with cases of disruptors in the country’s financial system and currency, three individuals would be soon going to courts after issuing their indictments. Meanwhile, 20 lawmakers wrote a letter to the head of the judiciary, asking him to ban former governor of the Central Bank, Valiollah Seif, from leaving the country. Fars news agency
How much of what Richard Haas had to say in 2010 reflects on the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to pulverize Iran by means of military pressure and especially by economic sanctions, is admittedly, on the onset, having a dent in Iran.
However, Holly Dagres, an Iran analyst and curator of The Iranist newsletter in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle said she, “believes that the Iranians will continue to pursue their political agenda in the region, in spite of renewed American pressure. After decades of international isolation, Iran has managed to circumvent sanctions in numerous ways, whether by working the middleman, the black market, or trading with countries that the American sanctions enforcement agency OFAC cannot reach. If Iran wants something to be done, it will find a way, Dagres concluded.”
Which in conclusion brings me to a quote I’ve used previously. There’s a well-known wise Persian proverb: “Risk – If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he doesn’t know how wide it is, he’ll jump and six times out of ten he’ll make it.”
Iranians are an educated and proud people and in that, I would ask their leaders to remember Shakespeare’s words: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” What are you?
Partial content in this article is credited to Wikipedia. Photo credit: Flickr.