Iran-US Standoff


“What is it that they have against Iran?  If you look at it, it’s only that Iran is rising as a competitor of Israel.  There is no other basis for this animosity.” — Aijaz Ahmad

Aijaz Ahmad: The US is running out of all options.  You mentioned this possible agreement.  Iran has actually agreed basically to send out virtually all of its low enriched uranium, 75-90% of its stock, for enrichment abroad and then for it to be turned into fuel rods that will be sent back to Iran.  That has actually taken the wind out of the sails of the US pressures for sanctions.  The US has been very quiet about it, the Europeans have been very quiet about it, but it’s there on the table, so, when they try to persuade Russia or China, they say, “Well, why don’t you accept this option?”  The three of them are members of the Security Council.  Non-permanent members Brazil, Turkey, and Lebanon are countries that are very sympathetic to the Iranian position.  So, within the Security Council, the US position is actually quite weak even on the question of sanctions.  They were hoping for, they had a fantasy of, regime change with the Green Revolution, the protests in Iran, and so on.  That has fallen flat.  They have had this strategy of using terrorist groups inside Iran, and now even Pakistan, their client, has helped Iran capture the chief of Jundallah, the Sunni group operating out of Pakistani-Iranian Baluchistan.  Now, specifically on the question of sanctions, there are three or four kinds of sanctions they are asking for.  One is financial sanction in which all financial institutions of Iran are to be sequestered and you are not supposed to deal with them.   China gets 11% of its oil from Iran; is it going to stop dealing with the Central Bank of Iran? . . .  The only thing that could actually be crippling for Iran is sanctions on gasoline imports.  Some 35% of all gasoline used in Iran is imported from abroad.  China has specifically said that it will not cooperate in that. . . .  It’s very unlikely that anyone else will either. . . .

Prabir Purkayastha: So, therefore, effectively, the sanctions are not going to bite.  If Russia and China do not cooperate with the sanctions regime, there’s really no sanctions regime which would work against Iran.  The only other option, if they really want to go on a collision course with Iran, is the military option, either using Israel or the United States, their own military force, to take out the nuclear sites.  Do you think that is a possibility?

Aijaz Ahmad: My view is that the real pressure on it is coming only from Israel and what is called the Israel Lobby, which has an enormous influence in the US Congress, so much so that they are passing legislation, trying to pass legislation, even calling for unilateral sanctions. . . .  So there is that.  But, there is, within the US establishment, going right to the defense secretary, a very strong opinion that there is no military solution to this problem. . . .   Just what does it mean to carry out strikes against nuclear facilities so widespread in Iran, including some of them being very close to major cities and so on?  The only guarantee for their destruction is to destroy all their military infrastructure, which is not possible.  You start that sort of strike, and there are forces all over the region — in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and so on — which will just simply explode.  Iran does have capacities in terms of mines and missiles to block the Strait of Hormuz, and therefore the oil prices will go sky-high.  So, that is not, in that sense, a feasible option.  Whatever little gains the US has made in Iraq or Afghanistan will go up in smoke.  My sense is that the only game in town for the Americans, if that is a game in town, is to keep up the pressure and the fiction that this kind of attack may come. . . .  My view is that no such strike is actually coming.  My view also is that Israel cannot carry out that kind of strike if the Obama administration really doesn’t.  Robert Gates, the defense secretary, has been absolutely clear on this since he took charge under Bush: there is no military solution to this. . . .

Prabir Purkayastha: There is really an interesting issue: the only counterweight to Iran in that region was Iraq, and that has effectively been taken out, leaving essentially Iran with no counterweight, except if you look at Israel and Turkey, which are quite far away from Iran.

Aijaz Ahmad: That’s right.  And Turkey has been normalizing its relation with Iran at a very, very rapid rate.  They have historically had a common problem in the Kurdish region in which they have cooperated with each other.  But Turkey used to be allied much more with Israel, much more hostile to Iran, and so on.  That is shifting very fast.

Prabir Purkayastha: One of the things that appear on the surface is that the US was quite willing for the Iranian deal, but it was really the — quote-unquote — “democratic opposition” to Ahmadinejad that made them pull back and think of, again, a possibility of regime change.

Aijaz Ahmad: Yes, they had a fantasy that this would somehow weaken the regime.  You see, the Ahmadinejad regime, which is really the regime of the Revolutionary Guards, came into being in a specific context that, since around 1990, the US has been encircling Iran militarily.  So, there is absolutely a siege mentality, and this has been going on for twenty years.  People like Ahmadinejad were kids in 1990.  So, this is the generation that has actually grown up with the siege mentality.  And each time the Americans make this noise, the Israelis make this noise, that they are going to start this, they are going to do that, it actually reinforces Iranian patriotism which coalesces around the Guards. . . .

Aijaz Ahmad is a leading Marxist critic.  This video interview was produced for NewsClick and released on YouTube on 10 March 2010.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the interview.

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