‘no’ to the war­mon­gers

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The ac­cord struck in Vi­enna to rein in Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties has war­mon­gers ful­mi­nat­ing. Cit­i­zens world­wide should sup­port US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s brave ef­fort to out­ma­neu­ver them, tak­ing heart from the fact that the sig­na­to­ries in­clude not just the United States, but all five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil plus Ger­many.

Many of the war­mon­gers are to be found in Obama’s own gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Most Amer­i­cans strug­gle to recog­nise or un­der­stand their coun­try’s per­ma­nent se­cu­rity state, in which elected politi­cians seem to run the show, but the CIA and the Pen­tagon of­ten take the lead – a state that in­her­ently grav­i­tates to­ward mil­i­tary, rather than diplo­matic, so­lu­tions to for­eign-pol­icy chal­lenges.

Since 1947, when the CIA was es­tab­lished, the US has had a con­tin­u­ous semi-covert, semi-overt pol­icy of over­throw­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments. In fact, the CIA was de­signed to avoid gen­uine demo­cratic over­sight and pro­vide pres­i­dents with “plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity.” It has gone on to top­ple dozens of gov­ern­ments, in all re­gions of the world, with no ac­count­abil­ity there or at home.

I re­cently ex­am­ined one pe­riod of CIA ac­tiv­ity in my book Soon af­ter Kennedy as­sumed the pres­i­dency in 1961, he was “in­formed” by the CIA of its plot to over­throw Fidel Cas­tro. Kennedy felt stuck: Should he sanc­tion the planned CIA in­va­sion of Cuba or veto it? New to the grue­some game, Kennedy tried to have it both ways, by let­ting it pro­ceed, but with­out US air cover.

The CIA-led in­va­sion, ex­e­cuted by a mot­ley group of Cuban ex­iles at the Bay of Pigs, was a mil­i­tary fail­ure and a for­eign-pol­icy dis­as­ter, one that led to the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis the fol­low­ing year. Dur­ing the mis­sile cri­sis, most se­nior se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ad­vis­ing the pres­i­dent wanted to launch mil­i­tary ac­tion against Soviet forces, a course that could well have ended in nu­clear an­ni­hi­la­tion. Kennedy over­ruled the war­mon­gers, and pre­vailed in the cri­sis through diplo­macy.

By 1963, Kennedy no longer trusted the ad­vice of the mil­i­tary and the CIA. In­deed, he re­garded many of his pu­ta­tive ad­vis­ers as a threat to world peace. That year, he used diplo­macy re­lent­lessly and skill­fully to achieve a break­through nu­clear agree­ment with the Soviet Union, the Lim­ited Test Ban Treaty.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple strongly – and rightly – sup­ported Kennedy over the war­mon­gers. But three months af­ter the treaty was signed, JFK was as­sas­si­nated.

Viewed through the lens of history, the main job of US pres­i­dents is to be ma­ture and wise enough to stand up to the per­ma­nent war ma­chine. Kennedy tried; his suc­ces­sor, Lyn­don John­son, did not, and the de­ba­cle of Viet­nam en­sued. Jimmy Carter tried; Rea­gan did not (his CIA helped to un­leash death and may­hem in Cen­tral Amer­ica through­out the 1980s). Clin­ton mostly tried (ex­cept in the Balkans); Ge­orge W. Bush did not, and gen­er­ated new wars and tur­moil.

On the whole, Obama has tried to re­strain the war­mon­gers, yet he has given in to them fre­quently – not only by re­ly­ing on weaponised drones, but also by wag­ing covert wars in Syria, Libya, Ye­men, So­ma­lia and else­where. Nor did he truly end the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he re­placed troops on the ground with US drones, air strikes, and “pri­vate” con­trac­tors.

Iran is surely his finest mo­ment, a his­toric mile­stone that de­mands full-throated ap­proval. The po­lit­i­cal dif­fi­culty of mak­ing peace with Iran is sim­i­lar to that of JFK’s peace­mak­ing with the Soviet Union in 1963. Amer­i­cans have been sus­pi­cious of Iran since the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion of 1979 and the sub­se­quent hostage cri­sis, in which Ira­nian stu­dents held 52 Amer­i­cans at the US em­bassy for 444 days. But their sus­pi­cion also re­flects jin­go­is­tic ma­nip­u­la­tion and a lack of per­spec­tive on US-Iran re­la­tions.

Few Amer­i­cans know that the CIA over­threw a demo­cratic Ira­nian gov­ern­ment in 1953. Ira­ni­ans had had the temer­ity to elect a pro­gres­sive, sec­u­lar prime min­is­ter who be­lieved that the coun­try’s oil be­longed to its peo­ple, not to the United King­dom or the US. And few Amer­i­cans re­call that af­ter the coup, the CIA in­stalled a bru­tal po­lice state un­der the Shah.

Like­wise, fol­low­ing the 1979 Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion, the US armed Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Iraq to go to war with Iran, re­sult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ira­nian deaths in the 1980s. And US-led in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, im­posed from the 1990s on­ward, have aimed to im­pov­er­ish, desta­bilise, and ul­ti­mately top­ple the Is­lamist regime.

To­day, the war­mon­gers are try­ing to scut­tle the Vi­enna ac­cord. Saudi Ara­bia is in a vi­o­lent strug­gle with Iran for re­gional supremacy, with geopo­lit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion con­verg­ing with the Sunni-Shia ri­valry. Is­rael, the Mid­dle East’s only nu­clear power, wants to re­tain its strate­gic mo­nop­oly. The US war­mon­gers seem to view any Is­lamist state as ripe for top­pling.

Obama is cor­rect that Amer­ica’s true in­ter­ests, and those of the world, are with peace, not con­tin­ued con­flict, with Iran. The US is not a par­ti­san in the Shia-Sunni strug­gle; if any­thing, the US con­fronts mainly Sunni ter­ror­ism, funded from Saudi Ara­bia, not Shia ter­ror­ism backed by Iran. Obama is also right that, de­spite Is­rael’s ar­gu­ments, the agree­ment will re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of Iran ever be­com­ing a nu­clear state.

The best way to en­sure that out­come is to nor­malise re­la­tions with it, help its econ­omy re­cover, and sup­port its in­te­gra­tion into the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Iran is a great and an­cient cul­ture. Its open­ing to the world as a place of busi­ness, tourism, the arts and sports would be a boon to global sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.

The new treaty will ver­i­fi­ably pre­vent Iran from de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear weapon for at least a decade – and keep it bound to nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion there­after. This is the time to be­gin a broader US-Iran rap­proche­ment and build a new se­cu­rity regime in the Mid­dle East and the world that leads to­ward full global nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment. To get there re­quires, above all, re­plac­ing war (in­clud­ing the CIA’s se­cret wars) with com­merce and other forms of peace­ful ex­change.

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