On Iran, Trump Follows Iraq War Neocons

Yves here. Another very informative, if disheartening, analysis by Lawrence Wilkerson at the Real Network. Wilkerson argues that Trump is “making a play thing” of Iran for domestic political benefit. While it’s all too common for our foreign policy to wind up operating against our long-term interest via pandering to pet interest groups or even mere prejudices, the stakes are particularly high here.

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News, I’m Aaron Mate. The US role in the Iran nuclear deal is now in the hands on Congress. President Trump has decertified Iran’s compliance, even though he acknowledges Iran is fully compliant. This give lawmakers the opportunity to reimpose sanctions that have been waived since the deal began.

But more could be at stake here than just the US role. While the other members of the P5+1 say they’ll uphold the deal no matter what, the US had already failed to fully respect it, even before Trump’s latest move. If the US undermines it even more, that could be difficult for other member nations to keep it alive.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is the former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Now a distinguished professor at the College of William and Mary. Colonel Wilkerson, welcome. Your assessment of where the Iran deal is at in the wake of Trump decertifying it to Congress?

L. WILKERSON: There are a lot of aspects to it, Aaron, but I think the German Foreign Minister summed it up best. He said that what Trump has done is possibly making the Iran agreement a play thing of American domestic politics. I think that’s precisely what Trump wanted to do. He wanted to get himself out of having to every 90 days essentially violate very publicly a campaign promise by certifying that Iran was in compliance with the deal, so the first part of his strategy is to get out of that by kicking it to Congress, and by not certifying.

I think it’s far more dangerous than that, though, in the long run. Even though being a play thing of American domestic politics is a very dangerous thing in and of itself. As you pointed out in your opening remarks, this is something that the rest of the world including those very important other signatories to this agreement, in Europe principally, our allies, are not going to go along with this.

So, it’s going to be interesting to see just how much a fella like Vladimir Putin, for example, in Moscow, and others in Beijing and elsewhere can essentially exploit this. One of Putin’s principal objectives is, of course, to destabilize NATO and he does that most prominently and most pointedly by separating the United States from its allies in Europe. Donald Trump is helping immeasurably in that process.

So, if there some leverage that Putin has over Donald Trump, it’s becoming quite apparent that that leverage is working.

AARON MATE: You know, I’m going to digress briefly into this sidetrack that you’ve just raised, but then I want to get back to the Iran deal. But is Putin’s goal to destabilize NATO, or simply does he just want it to stop expanding to his borders?

L. WILKERSON: I think at first that was the reason that he reacted the way he did. As I’ve said many times before, I certainly understand that. We should never have started expanding NATO into Russia’s near abroad. But that’s a done deal now, at least to the extent that it has gone. I think it’s stopped. I don’t think we’re going to be courting Georgia, for example, for official NATO membership.

AARON MATE: But Ukraine is still talking about joining, Montenegro joined recently. It’s still happening.

L. WILKERSON: Yeah, well Montenegro, it was a quid pro quo for our business in Kosovo and the rest of the Former Yugoslavia, so I can understand that one. You might be right, we might still be contemplating things. In the long run, though, I think Putin by his move in Ukraine, has stopped that, and the latest polls I saw that I had some respect for at least, I don’t have any respect for the polls the US conducts, but there are a couple I do have some respect for. They showed Ukraine deeply divided over whether it wants to be a NATO member or not.

I’m not sure that that’s on track to happen for a number of reasons, not least of which is Putin might react rather violently to that. He would have interior lines, and he would have the best position as it were, and so I don’t see the American people supporting a war with Russia over Ukraine.

AARON MATE: Right, fair enough. Listen, we’ve gotten sidetracked, and that’s my fault, so I apologize. Let’s get back to Iran. In terms of whether or not the world goes along, though, doesn’t this set up a potential tough choice for other countries? Because if the US, let’s say Congress does actually reimpose sanctions, those sanctions are not just on Iran. They’re also on countries that do business with Iran. So, the question is, will countries be forced to choose between their business interests that the US can impact and harm with sanctions, or continuing to stay on with this nuclear deal? Especially one that might offer them as much benefits as it would if the US was involved.

L. WILKERSON: We’ve opened a real issue that Donald Trump, H. R. McMaster, Jim Mattis, all the people in the administration, Tillerson, are not being very open with the American people about. Frankly, I don’t know whether it’s because they’re just ignorant, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. I mean they just haven’t thought about this, or it’s because they’re trying to hide it.

One of the dangerous things that’s happening in the world today, besides the actual diminishment of US power, you may have noticed our GDP share just dropped another percentage point. Consider that in 1945 we were about 51% of the world’s GDP. We’re about 21-22% now. That’s quite a diminishment of power. Understandable, but nonetheless a diminishment. What’s happening with these sanctions that the Congress has been so anxious to slap on everybody in the world virtually, at one time or another, or every individual they didn’t like, is that people are growing weary of them.

So, very slowly but surely, people are turning to China, they’re turning to Russia even, they’re turning to Brazil, to India, and others who have a currency that is at least regionally as manipulative or as useful as the dollar. You may have seen recently Venezuela is demarcating its oil now, in other than dollars. This is the world’s way of telling the hegemon what the German Chancellor said. “We don’t believe you’re trustworthy anymore” and people say that, “Well, it can’t happen because money will flock to the United States, interest rates are up, we’re [inaudible 00:06:57] money in again” and so forth.

Well, all this is, I think, probably temporary. The world is moving away slowly but inexorably from the US Dollar. This business of sanctions that we would then exercise in a secondary and a tertiary way against our allies in Europe, for example, Germany, France, England so forth, this is going to be the beginning of the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and as its principal currency.

It’s a very dangerous thing to be doing ’cause it is one of the last remaining really powerful weapons we have other than our military, and our military ultimately depends on the power of that weapon, our economy, our finances, and so forth. So, to undermine this particular aspect of our power the way we are doing right now, is very dangerous.

AARON MATE: so I want to ask you about the way the Trump administration is framing this issue. So, they have a problem where they openly admit that Iran is respecting the nuclear deal. So, now they’re saying that it’s about other issues that this nuclear deal is allowing Iran to get away with bad behavior. So, on this front, let’s listen to a clip from Nikki Haley speaking on Sunday to ABC News.

Nikki Haley: I think right now we’re saying no. As far as we see, they’re in compliance of that part of it, but what we’re saying is, is America still safe? Are we still okay with them doing all of these other bad things? What you’re seeing is everybody is turning a blind eye to Iran, and all of those violations out of trying to protect this agreement. What we need to say is, we have to hold them accountable. They can’t be continuing to support terrorism around the world like we are saying they do. They can’t continue to test ballistic missiles which will lead to a nuclear Iran. They can’t continue to do arms smuggling in the way that they’re doing. Are we really ready to have them become a North Korea? Are we going to allow that to happen?

AARON MATE: So that’s Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN. Colonel, an amazing statement there where she says, she admits that Iran is respecting the deal that is designed to prevent them from ever obtaining nuclear weapons, but yet, she says that them testing ballistic missiles, that that will lead to Iran having nuclear weapons.

L. WILKERSON: Well, this is all farcical, and every time I hear her talk I don’t know whether to laugh or something else quite different. Just look at what she said. First of all, Iran doesn’t support terrorism all over the world. Iran supports a very specific group of entities we have called terrorists and they’re all aimed at Israel. Iran does not support terrorism all over the world. That is a lie. It’s a misstatement, it’s an obfuscation.

Much like Trump saying when he gave his remarks as he failed to certify the deal, that Iran is spreading destruction, death, and chaos. That’s almost a direct quote, all over the globe. The only country spreading death, destruction, and chaos all over the globe is Trump’s own country, and followed rather smartly by our ally and first visit by Trump, Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, and Qatar and everywhere else, that Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing the region. I could throw in Syria, I could throw in Iraq.

So, if you look at what these people are doing, especially people like Nikki Hayley. I don’t believe Donald Trump is cognizant to this, but if you look at what these neoconservatives are doing, they just met for example, in Albania. What a place to meet, Albania and Kosovo. Their whole GDP is human trafficking, drugs, and arms sales, and most of it illegal, if not implicitly so.

Senator Cornyn of Texas and others met there with the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, now called the Resistance of Iran. This is a savage minded terrorist group that we are now cosying up to because they are the resistance to the regime in Iran. Does this sound like Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraq National Congress, in 2002, in 2003 when we were siding up to them? I’m telling you, we’re headed for another conflict in South West Asia, we’re headed for regime change. That’s the only thing that will satisfy these people, Hayley, Bolton, and all the other neoconservatives who now have Trump’s attention, whether he knows it or not.

We’re going to go to war, because the only way you stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, if you do not adhere to this agreement, which has stopped them in their tracks, is to go to war. That’s the only way you can assure yourself that all their nuclear facilities are destroyed.

AARON MATE: Right, and that’s presuming that even this is the US goal here, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, because it’s the view of US intelligence, or at least it was, that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. Now, certainly as you say, this deal prevents them from obtaining it, so it’s possible that that outcome is immaterial to what the Trump administration wants, which might just be regime change no matter what.

L. WILKERSON: I agree with you. We will, as we did to Saddam Hussein. I know, I was there, I helped. We will manufacture Iran’s going for a nuclear weapon if we have to. If we feel that it is necessary to manufacture the intelligence, even if they are not going for one, we will do so, and we will go to war with Iran. That’s the purpose of the people like Nikki Hayley and John Bolton and others who now, said to say, have regained access to the Trump administration.

AARON MATE: What’s striking to me is that this could be the goal, even if that means the de-emphasizing the fight against the Islamic State, and Al-Qaeda. You know, I took one hint of that from actually the White House strategy last week, that they unveiled ahead of Trump’s speech. I want to read you a passage.

This is the White House strategy document that they put out a few hours before Trump spoke on Friday, which he made his announcement, and they say this. “Over the last decade and a half, US policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the long term threat of Iranian backed militancy. The Trump administration will not repeat these mistakes.”

So, they don’t say who these Sunni extremist organizations are, but I think it’s pretty easy to infer from that that they’re referring to Al-Qaeda and ISIS, especially because that’s who Iran has been fighting. The suggestion there is that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are less of a threat than “Iranian backed militancy.” I’m curious, colonel, your thoughts on that?

L. WILKERSON: I think you’re absolutely right. You’ve put your finger right on one of the tactics, one of the strategies, indeed perhaps even a deeply held belief that one really shudders of the prospect of anyone holding that as a deeply held belief, that what you just depicted is true. That in fact, we would be better off allied with Al-Qaeda than with ISIS, and fighting Iran than we would be with Iran or neutral, or otherwise.

This is part of the Saudi tactic. This is part of the Saudi mantra, if you will. Let’s just look at this for a second. If anyone in terms of terrorism is sponsoring it from one end of the globe to the other, it’s the Saudis. If there’s anyone who was responsible for 9/11, and 3000 dead Americans, that was a state at that time, it’s Saudi Arabia. If there’s anyone who’s deeply responsible as an outside power for the civil war, the conflict as it were, in Syria, it’s Saudi Arabia.

If there’s anyone responsible for destabilizing the Gulf Cooperation Council, it’s Saudi Arabia. If there’s anyone responsible for waging the most brutal war on the planet right now, with our support I’m sad to say, in Yemen, it’s Saudi Arabia. And yet, the United States can’t seem to break away from Saudi Arabia, but it can find in its heart of hearts, hatred for the Persians. This is inexplicable.

Unless you understand how deeply lashed up with the Saudis are the Clintons, the Bushs, and almost any other wealthy family in the United States, how deeply lashed up we are with the Saudis because of our dependence for them for such a long time on black gold, oil, or how deeply lashed up we are with the Saudis for their buying of our armaments to the tune of billions and billions of dollars. Otherwise, you have no explanation for this relationship which is totally inimical to the national security future of the United States.

AARON MATE: So colonel, finally, along with the Saudis, you mentioned earlier the neocons like Nikki Hayley and John Bolton. John Bolton who’s outside the administration, but has apparently a pretty big influence over Trump. There was a really interesting report on Friday in Politico where they report that Chief of Staff John Kelly has tried to limit Bolton’s access to Trump, but that Bolton got around it, and actually helped influence the most threatening line in Trump’s speech on Friday, where he said that if the deal isn’t changed to my liking, I have the power to cancel it.

Let me just read to you, Politico reports that Hayley got $250,000 from the neocon casino magnate Sheldon Adelson last year, and that Bolton personally reached out to President Trump and I’ll read you this quote. It said, the line about Trump canceling the deal if it’s not changed, “The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict, reached the President by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson. Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.”

Colonel, as we wrap, your thoughts on this, and the role of people like Bolton in what’s happening today?

L. WILKERSON: It does not surprise me. As I said before, I was there in 2002 and 2003 and I saw what the neoconservatives did. Some operating in the name of Israel, some operating in the name of as you just pointed out there, both Israel and the big money they were getting. Some operating in the same way with regard to the military industrial complex. You need war in order to sell missiles and PGMs and so forth.

It’s a very frightening thing, though, that I see the same thing developing again. I see the MEK turned into a resistance, and courted by senators and others. I see them becoming the spokesperson for what we want in Iran, regime change. I see neoconservatives [inaudible 00:18:39] like Nikki Hayley, as the Ambassador of the UN, salivating to be the new Secretary of State when Rex Tillerson gets over his “castration.”

I see all this developing in much the same way I saw the Iraqi WMD situation developing in 2002, and early 2003, and I saw the war that occurred thereafter. That’s what these people want. We have to go all the way back to the philosophy of the neoconservatives at the very beginning, Bill Kristol, and Richard Perle and so forth.

I saw evidence of this when I was in the Pentagon in 2001 and 2002. They want Syria, they want Iran, they want Iraq, they want the entire South West Asian area free of the kinds of leaders and the kind of regimes that they felt were inimical to the interests of Israel, and ultimately to the interests of the United States. They succeeded in Iraq, however you want to measure that success. Iran seems to own it now.

They failed in Syria, but they haven’t given up there yet, and they feel, I think that if they do Iran, then the others will collapse of their own weight, especially now that Iran has managed to insinuate itself into both Syria and Iraq so significantly. So, it’s all kind of wrapped up in Iran now. They don’t have to think about Syria and Iraq, because if Iran goes, those two go.

This is crazy. This is crazy what we’re allowing to happen. Now, we’re allowing it to happen through what can I say? A 10 year old brat, reality TV star, occupying the Oval Office and thinking that through what he’s doing basically for domestic politics, he’s protecting America. While these neocons are running circles around him.

Whether he told Bolton to get out of the White House is irrelevant. They’re running circles around him, and we’re developing the same kind of scenario leading the war for this country, Iran, that we did for Iraq several years ago.

AARON MATE: We’ll leave it there. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, thank you.

L. WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    I think this highlights one of the least commented upon but most striking features of the US empire at work in the Middle East. The US simply doesn’t have a discernable strategy – it has a broad aim ‘being the big dog in the region’, and a series of tactics, which are almost entirely dictated to by its so called ‘allies’, the Gulf States and Israel. War after war has been dictated by the needs of SA and Israel, with no discernable benefit to the US. There is simply no rational strategic reason for the US to be so anti-Iran, while so pro the Gulf States. It makes no sense whatever.

    I’m trying to think of a historical precedent for an empire to be so completely owned as the powerful attack dog of much ‘weaker’ countries and interests over such a long period, at such great cost. I can’t think of any, unless someone else can enlighten me, I think this is a unique situation, with no end in sight.

    1. geoff

      @PK, imo the problem is that the US empire is owned by commercial interests (e.g. energy companies and weapons manufacturers) for which it is merely a tool for making money. Wars don’t need to be “successful” in order to be profitable.

    2. Norb

      This attitude reflects the distortion of mind that occurs when the only goal in life is making money. The powerful elite running the American government today are not philosophers, engineers, or social visionaries. When pressed to expound on their worldview and insights into improving living conditions on the planet, they will inevitability turn to the canard that profit justifies all. The American citizenry, while complaining about the inevitable injustice of the situation, gives a collective shrug, and carries on in their narrow field of action.

      I believe Sheldon Wolin’s Inverted Totalitarianism explains the current social system accurately. The major insight is that the phenomenon is not planned, but the consequence of numerous autonomous actors performing and making decisions that collectively add up to producing tyranny. It is very insidious indeed.

      There is no end in sight because when exploitation becomes a virtue, only death puts an end to the motion. Even this seemingly negative outcome is turned on it’s head in an Inverted Totalitarian world by envisioning that death can be overcome and natural resources are boundless. Sickness is turned into a virtue.

      I would also propose that capitalism, as a social organizing system, makes this system possible and perpetuates it. The human mind is trapped, and so cannot envision a different reality. So on and on it goes.

      1. templar555510

        Brilliant comment Norb. Chris Hedges has referenced Sheldon Wolin’s book Inverted Capitalism for many years now. It should be required reading in schools and universities.

      2. Brian Daly

        My pet theory about why the elite in the US show so little regard for their fellow humans is as follows:

        The elite rules through the control of large, powerful organizations. The Agencies of the government, the large corporations in finance, energy, manufacturing fields.

        Most of the people who work for these entities are decent people, yet their organizations operate in an (almost) sociopathic manner, which brings great harms to people around the world.

        I think this happens because in a large organization, you will inevitably have talented people with sociopathic personalities. The hallmark of sociopathy is lack of empathy for others. This can be a huge advantage in business, as it allows one to pursue ruthless tactics, while navigating the complex social structures of the organization. When such people rise to the top, they start conducting the affairs of the organization to their own benefit.’

        Non-sociopathic people, who are nice, are ill equipped to wrest power from leaders of the organization, who surround themselves with like minded executives, and use their power to split potential groups who might organize to gain power.

        One of the main strategies such “leaders” employ is favor heavily some underlings; while denigrating others. They demand extreme loyalty subordinates, in exchange for whatever bounty they share.

        Thus, the authorians are able to commandeer the levers or power, against the interests of the hierarchy of people below.

        This isn’t always a bad thing. This MO fits Steve Jobs to a T, but he was able to channel his instinct to dominate towards creative ends, that however you see Apple, brought a lot of value to the world. (And costs).

        If you have a company that’s in this business of making weapons, developing energy sources, or engineering dangerous financial products, this creative; merciless drive to creative can be exroidanarily destructive.

        Such people are always in the population, and some of them will be very smart, driven; and ruthless. Such people naturally wind up running things.

    3. DJG

      PlutoniumKun: Excellent observation. One way to think of it is that Saudi Arabia ministered to a domestic U.S. need, petroleum. The continuous irony is that the U.S. has never had to be as dependent on Saudi oil as it has been. Israel satisfies a domestic U.S. need, too, which has turned into access to information to attempt to dominate the region. Again, this is a case in which the U.S. could mine its own resources, but the Israelis likely started out as a convenience and have ended up in constantly using the U.S. to further their own interests, in ways that are so blatant it makes one wonder. And it is also well-known that the Saudis and Israelis engage in all kinds of misbehavior within the U.S. You don’t have to be a “9/11 truther” to wonder about that flight back to Saudi Arabia right after the attack on the World Trade Tower when U.S. airspace was closed. It doesn’t take much digging to find stories of Israelis and industrial espionage in the U.S.

      These relationships have become truly pernicious in the last forty or so years, during the rise of neoliberalism and the authoritarian tone in the U.S. These relationships are symptoms. They are causes. They have not yet had their full effect, but your correct diagnosis indicates that they are part of U.S. decadence and will cause continuing decline of the U.S. into petulant insignificance but armed with nukes. Yet Hillary Clinton showed up at AIPAC to declare her fealty (for those desperate to prove that the election of Clinton would make so many differences, deliberately forgetting that war is the difference that matters).

  2. Jim Haygood

    David Stockman — budget director during the Reagan administration — rips “The Deep State’s Bogus Iranian Threat.” Excerpts:

    Decertifying the Iranian nuke deal reinforces another false narrative that enables the $1 trillion Warfare State to continue bleeding the nation’s fiscal solvency.

    It’s part of the same tissue of lies which led to Washington’s massive, destructive and counterproductive interventions in Syria and Libya — when neither regime posed an iota of threat to the safety and security of the American homeland.

    What the Imperial City claims to be state-sponsored terror is actually nothing more than Iran’s foreign policy—something that every sovereign state on the planet is permitted to have.

    In the case of both Syria and Iraq, their respective governments invited Iranian help, which is also their prerogative as sovereign nations. Ironically, it was the Shiite Crescent alliance of Iran/Assad/Hezbollah that bears much of the credit for defeating ISIS on the ground.

    [Decertifying Iran] will reinforce the neocon dominance of the Republican party and insure that the nation’s $1 trillion Warfare State remains fully entrenched.


    Stockman is quite right about the neocon ’tissue of lies.’ But the biggest lie of all is US silence in the face of its client state Israel’s possession of an estimated 200 undeclared, uninspected, outlaw nuclear weapons. This is the most destabilizing cache of nuclear weapons on the planet, and is certainly responsible for Iran’s push to develop countervailing military capabilities. Israel is our misfortune.

  3. The Rev Kev

    I was musing after reading this article what would have happened if America had chosen the other road. Think about it and the possibilities that could have been. American decides to lift all the sanctions and to go full bore on making the treaty a success. Soon American succeeds in winning tens of billions of dollars in new orders for airplanes to replace Iran’s aging fleet, new drilling equipment to modernize Iran’s oilfields along with lucrative contracts for services with the oil industry. But it does not stop there.
    There are mining operations to be modernized, computer networks to be built. Between outright purchases and long term service contracts the numbers start to run into hundreds of billions of dollars. Soon you are talking about serious money here. The result of this boon helps boost the American economy and hundreds of thousands of people now find employment as a result both directly and indirectly. Towns are revitalized.
    After long term negotiation with the Iranian military, America finds that it can afford to back off in the Gulf and devote the resources instead to ease off the high temp demands on the ordinary military. Of course none of this happened and we are where we are. I am sure that the neocons were crowing that they had a treaty to stop Iran developing nuclear capacity but with most of the sanctions in place after America reneged on their side of the agreement. Looks like the same cabal of people in America, Saudi Arabia and Israel are determined now on a fight. But as they say – be careful what you wish for as you just might get it. And the results on a war on Iran are totally unclear and may be even more catastrophic than the American war on Iraq.

    1. Quanka

      As a young American it makes me sad (angry) to think of all the things some of the newer generations (mine included) must forgo b/c of the price of our military adventurism abroad.

      Oh yeah, war in Iran means more burn pits! Can’t think of a better analogy for the American Military in 2017, than going halfway around the world to light a bunch of stuff on fire and give a bunch of people cancer.

    2. Darius

      The other road, such as leaving Mossadegh alone in 1953. His overthrow and the reinstallation of the Shah by the CIA and Churchill led directly to the hostage crisis in 1979. Unspoken, enduring anger over that humiliation is what much of the spitting, purple rage over whatever Iran may or may not do is all about.

      1. Quanka

        couldn’t agree more, I have to routinely school my fellow young Americans on our sordid history in Iran in the 50s. Much like i find myself schooling people on NK these days. They dont hate us for nothing.

  4. Quanka

    PK is right again. Except the “discernible strategy,” such as it is, is to get rich as f*ck, screw everyone else. Don’t you know this is America, PK?? The strategy is to sell more arms and get more oil. Thats about as far as these knuckleheads are thinking it through.

    PK is absolutely right that Iran is probably the ONLY country in the region that we could logically call an ally. Non secular, democratic with routine voting and (some) turnover of the ruling class, somewhat advanced public/social services (to the extent our sanctions haven’t crushed that), and willing to work with and abide by the international power structures. Its just amazing how much of a bogeyman they are played up in the press when it’s literally the polar opposite of the truth.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      Over the past 40ish years there have been various observations about the good feelings among Iranians toward the US, despite official rhetoric. The younger generation there, not alive at the time of the hostage taking, seems favorably inclined toward America and the west in general. Combine that with the greater social freedoms now and that could provide some basis for further integration of Iran into the world economy. There is also a fair-sized Jewish population that would be interested in better relations with the US and certainly with Israel. All of those factors seem to be ignored or minimized in discussions with a Wilkerson, a Bolton or a neo-con.

  5. Robin Kash

    The interviewer seems better acquainted with the issues than Wilkerson. Wilkerson is largely, me too.
    The alliance of the US, Israel, and the Saudis trying to do in Iran seems a menage a trois made in hell. Total control of oil in the region is the key.

  6. camelotkidd

    We can’t do empire competently because our “history making” elites are in thrall to ideology and to greed: the spawn of free-market magic thinking and the old-fashioned American desire to make a buck. What I like to call–greedy/ideology.

    Let’s examine the invasion and occupation of Iraq to observe this greedy-ideology in action.

    After the invasion, rather than heed the military and academic experts who advocated a large occupation bureaucracy, we opted for lean oversight courtesy of the neocons who don’t believe in government. Then we decided to disband the Iraqi army because, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld so memorably put it, freedom is untidy, and outsourced the whole security thing to for-profit contractors, like Blackwater. And we know how that worked out.

    But, and here’s where it gets nuanced and well, ugly. Empire does work for a segment of the US. Let’s call them, oh, I don’t know, the one percent. For them, the political economy of empire has been working rather well. The beneficiaries of empire includes: finance, the oil and gas industry and the military, industrial complex, with high-tech along for the ride. Examining these sectors, we can see that even as they bobble the maintenance of empire in a manner that even average, unengaged Americans can’t ignore, they personally benefit. Even as our imperial management fails and our clients fragment and our control disintegrates, our elites are becoming  fabulously wealthy.

  7. Wukchumni

    Being the world’s reserve currency is literally a license to print money, and it made sense in 1944 @ Breton Woods, as the players back then were cognizant that the USA was the last man standing aside from large swaths of Africa and South America, and small populations of faraway commonwealth countries (CANZ) that were pipsqueaks in the scheme of things…

    But it makes no sense now, and we’re trying diligently as of late to self abrogate our status, and we’ll probably get there, leading to the real reserve currency-oil, being priced in something other than dollars Americano. The ramifications to our way of life as we now live it, are tremendous, if we are just another currency in a world of them.

  8. MarkE

    Question: Why were Cheney and Rumsfeld so convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the second Gulf War? (*answer below)

    Several posters, but not Wilkerson, have repeated the claim the U.S. goal in the Middle East is to “control the oil”. As usual, no one says what that really means. The 82nd Airborne seizing wells and pipelines? De-nationalization of oil resource ownership? Assignment of all the shares to Exxon? U.S. officials deciding when and where the oil can be sold? What? The U.S. had pretty much complete control of Iraq for six years and that’s not what happened there. At the time, U.S. companies complained they were being discriminated against in favor of European, Russian and other interests in tenders for rebuilding the Iraqi oil industry. Nowadays, Exxon is there, but even in terms of foreign ownership interests it is #3 behind the Chinese national oil co and Dutch Shell. The energy companies realized a while ago they weren’t going to win battles for control of oil resources overseas, but that it doesn’t matter. The owners have to sell the oil to someone to realize its value and oil is a very fungible commodity. The energy companies make plenty of money further upstream (exploration and service contracts) and downstream (refining and distribution). As for U.S. policy, the main interest is to prevent supply disruption, which is a quite different thing. Even then, the main beneficiaries are Asian economies. The U.S. is becoming less dependent on foreign oil.

    Wilkerson hit the real, sadder, reason for this new insanity on its head – the U.S. doesn’t have an independent Middle East policy. With the new administration, the U.S. is back to being the catspaw of Benjamin Netanyahu. Likud allies in the Bush Jr. administration (Perle, Feith, etc) were key in organizing the bum’s rush to the second Gulf War and remain unrepentant for the debacle. Their rationale now that all the others have evaporated: Saddam was in fact a sponsor of terrorism since he paid $25K to the families of suicide bombers who killed Israelis. True, and bad to be sure, but also not really an American problem and certainly not worth the price paid. Obama had the temerity to suggest that U.S. and Israeli interests might differ somewhat on occasion, and for that was thoroughly sandbagged by Netanyahu, with his silly bomb drawing and speech before Congress. Now the man-child in the White House says there is “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and he’s actually listening to the same morons who organized our $3 trillion gift to the Iranian ayatollahs. One of the main reasons the Saudis opposed the second Gulf War and declined to let the U.S. use bases inside their country was they realized the main effect of destroying Baath Iraq would be a fundamental shift of regional power in favor of Iran.

    Other parties in Israel and even some of Netanyahu’s own foreign policy advisors are now against scrapping the Iran nuclear deal. Wilkerson is right that it could mean war, and one that could go very badly. Sanctions are no longer a viable option, since the other signatories are not going to cooperate and without their cooperation new sanctions will have no effect. The only other option is to attack, and Netanyahu has been itching to (use us to) bomb Iran for some time. Let’s hope someone in the Congress has the sense and courage to stand up to him. Apart from everything else, there are some grim practicalities. Turkey and Iraq won’t allow the U.S. to stage strikes against Iran from their territory, nor will even the Saudis (infidels in the holy land, yadda yadda). That leaves Kuwait and the smaller Gulf states, which could only be supplied in a major way, assuming they were willing, through the Persian Gulf, which would be contested. Without major bases and logistics in the region the U.S. can’t do much more than quick, unsustained and unsupported strikes. It would be easy for Iran to exploit that weakness. And oh, by the way, the oil supply gets seriously disrupted.

    (* They had the receipts.)

  9. Scott

    The US reaches to be the Government of Governments for the whole world, and it is a reach too far.
    With sovereign wealth and reserve currency status it could conduct Economic War against any other nation in the world, and so it picked a fight with Russia, and kept up its fight with Iran’s Theocracy.
    Meantime since Clinton legalized Meyer Lansky Financial Engineering that led to 2008, what reasons really were there to trust American Finance, and American Financial Institutions? Not much, but great luck, the European Central Banks trying to make one currency work, was simply so bad the US dollar stayed on top, for awhile.
    The US military kept on propping up the Kissinger Petrodollar, as the Kissinger Petrodollar entered its death throes.
    Yes, and the Saudis played Econ War too, trying to wreck the US fossil fuel industry and wrecking Venezuela.
    Saudis get rewarded for their attacks on the US.
    Trump, does Trump have a hotel there?

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