DE­CLINE OF THE AMER­I­CAN EM­PIRE

The Sunday Independent - - ENVIRONMENT - SHAN­NON EBRAHIM shan­non.ebrahim@inl.co.za

THIS WEEK brought some seis­mic shifts in US for­eign pol­icy cir­cles with the res­ig­na­tion of am­bas­sador to the UN Nikki Hay­ley and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton ratch­et­ing up the rhetoric on Iran.

Her de­par­ture from the US for­eign pol­icy ap­pa­ra­tus will lead to Bolton, the quin­tes­sen­tial neo­con, tight­en­ing his grip on the US’s for­eign pol­icy tra­jec­tory.

When it comes to US pol­icy on Iran, Hay­ley was a hawk, but Bolton takes hawk­ish­ness to a new level. He sup­ports the Ira­nian ex­iled op­po­si­tion group, the Mu­ja­hadeen Khalq (MEK), and ad­vo­cates for it to over­throw the Ira­nian govern­ment. Given that the MEK en­joys lit­tle sup­port in Iran and has at times been con­sid­ered a cult that uses vi­o­lence to achieve its goals, Bolton’s sup­port for them is ir­ra­tional at best.

The US State Depart­ment listed the MEK as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1997, and in the 1970s the group tar­geted US com­pa­nies and killed Amer­i­cans. It seems clear which way the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing to go on Iran, and eco­nomic sanc­tions are just an ap­pe­tiser. Bolton’s po­si­tion is backed by other Trump hard­lin­ers such as Elaine Chao and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani.

It is back to the fu­ture, with the US greas­ing the wheels to ac­cuse Iran of se­cret atomic ca­pa­bil­ity, just as the US had done to Iraq in 2003, which led to the US in­va­sion of Iraq. I was at a Per­sian Gulf con­fer­ence in Tehran in 2003 when a US doc­toral stu­dent had pre­sented a pa­per al­leg­ing that Iraq had weapons of mass de­struc­tion. His case was flimsy and he car­ried lit­tle cred­i­bil­ity. Yet it was his “ev­i­dence” Gen­eral Colin Pow­ell took to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil as part of his jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for at­tack­ing Iraq. Fast for­ward

15 years and Iran is go­ing to be at the re­ceiv­ing end of the con­spir­acy the­o­ries, with the US jus­ti­fy­ing overt plans for a regime change.

All it took was for Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to claim he has in­tel­li­gence about a se­cret atomic ware­house in Tehran con­tain­ing 300 tons of nu­cle­ar­related equip­ment, for Bolton to latch onto that as a pre­lude to war. Bolton has been mak­ing a noise about the fact that Is­rael has an im­pres­sive stack of in­tel­li­gence about Ira­nian nu­clear ac­tiv­ity and that those need to be in­ves­ti­gated by the The In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency. The IAEA says Iran has been in tech­ni­cal com­pli­ance with the Iran Nu­clear Deal.

But for the US to carry out its ag­gres­sion against Iran it will need to get the Euro­peans, or at least some of them, on board. But the Euro­peans are not go­ing to roll over and par­rot the US line that Iran is not com­ply­ing with the 2015 nu­clear agree­ment. France, Bri­tain, Ger­many, China and Rus­sia have agreed to es­tab­lish a fi­nan­cial fa­cil­ity in the EU to fa­cil­i­tate pay­ments for Ira­nian im­ports, in­clud­ing oil. The US can­not han­dle such in­sub­or­di­na­tion and has been bul­ly­ing Eu­ro­pean com­pa­nies to dis­con­tinue their trade and busi­ness with Iran. The US has threat­ened sanc­tions against them, which vi­o­lates in­ter­na­tional law.

The whole US cha­rade about rogue regimes gets tire­some. One day North Korea is a rogue regime that must be oblit­er­ated, and months later Kim Jong-un is a great guy. Per­haps, in a few months, Trump will be court­ing a meet­ing with Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani?

No one takes the Amer­i­cans se­ri­ously any­more, which ex­plains why the Euro­peans are ig­nor­ing the US’s tantrums. Per­haps this is the de­cline of Amer­i­can in­flu­ence and the be­gin­ning of a third way.

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