Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is a Syrian "domino effect" being used in a power struggle in the US deep state?

written specially for the Asia Times

Following the ratification by all parties of the recent Joint Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 countries, it is worth looking again at the official narrative explaining this "sudden breakthrough".  It goes something like that:

"Iran was ruled by President Ahmadinejad, a notorious anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, who did everything in his power to deny the international community the monitoring rights it demanded and to keep the Iranian nuclear program unimpeded in its progress.  Then the people of Iran elected Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, who accepted the terms of the P5+1 countries and a deal was finally signed."

That is pretty much the official version.

Of course, every sentence in the above paragraph is absolute nonsense. 

The new President of Iran

Iran is not ruled by its President, but by its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who selects the six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council which, in turn, vets all aspiring Presidential candidates before they can run for office and which also can veto any decision of the Iranian Parliament.  The Supreme Leader also appoints all the members of the Expediency Discernment Council which can resolve any disagreements between the Parliament and the Guardian Council.  Hassan Rouhani was appointed as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his bid to run for President was also approved by the Guardian Council.  In other words, not only did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never have the political authority to independently take any crucial political decisions, but his successor has the 100% approval of the Supreme Leader.  Thus, while there is a very clear difference in style between Ahmadinehad and Rouhani, it is ridiculous to suggest that the replacement of the former by the latter is the real cause of the "sudden" breakthrough in the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran.  The fact is that Rouhani has the full support of the Supreme Leader and that his election, while not trivial, cannot be considered as a real change in Iranian policies, including nuclear ones.


The media speaks of the P5+1 as if it was a body formed of more or less equal partners taking decisions together.  This is also nonsense.  Who are the P5+1?  The five permanent members of the UNSC plus Germany:  China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States (P5) and Germany (+1; officially added for economic reasons).  P5+1 is really a misnomer as it should be called "1+1(+4)":  Those who matter - the USA and Russia - and those who don't China (which is happy to follow the Russian lead on this issue) France, the UK and Germany  (who will pretend to have an opinion but who will let the USA deal with the serious stuff).  And since Russia under Putin is a strong ally of Iran, this really only leaves the "Big One" i.e, the USA as the negotiating counterpart to Iran.

So why this "sudden" breakthrough in negotiations between the USA and Iran.  Could it be that the big change which made it possible did not occur in Iran but in the United States?

I have a different interpretation to offer.

It is my belief that it all began in September when, following a few dramatic days which almost saw a US attack on Syria,  Barak Obama had to accept "Putin's gambit": the US would not attack Syria in exchange for the full destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.  I believe that this absolutely tectonic reversal US foreign policy has now triggered what I would call a  "domino effect" which is still ongoing and which might result in  further unexpected changes in US foreign policy.

Let's look at this domino sequence of events one by one:

Domino 1: Barak Obama accepts Putin's gambit

Whether it was really Barak Obama himself or his puppeteers is really irrelevant here.  The President being the official Commander in Chief he is the person who had to announce that an agreement had been reached and that a US attack on Syria would be delayed/scrapped.  Let's set aside for a moment the exact reason(s) why the US took this decision (we will come back to this crucial issue later) and just say that this was a major change for the following reasons.

a) This meant that the US would have to delay and, in all likelihood, give up on its long-standing objective of "regime change" in Syria.
b) This also meant that the US would now have to negotiate with the Syrian government.
c) Since chemical weapons were completely irrelevant to the military dynamic on the ground and since US had committed not to strike government forces, this meant that the USA was essentially giving up on its plan to help the insurgency win the war.
d) This removed the last pretext(s) possible for the US to continue to stall and avoid a Geneva II conference.  From now on, the US had to get serious about Geneva II or lose it all.

Before this development the USA had two possible ways to deal with a Geneva II conference: to try to sabotage it or to try to use this opportunity to achieve something.  As soon as Obama accepted Putin's gambit only the second option remained.  Indeed, since regime change in Syria is clearly not an option any more, and since the US foreign policy in the Middle-East was predicated on regime change in Syria, the US now had to reconsider it all.  This meant that the best possible option for the US was  to try to use Geneva II to actually finally get something done.  However, there is one truism which the US diplomats had to take into account: no solution in Syria will ever be achieved unless Iran approves of it.  In other words, having accepted Putin's gambit, the US was not only committed to negotiations with the Syrians, but also with the Iranians.  This the real causes of the "sudden" breakthrough between the "P5+1 and Iran": the defeat of the US in Syria literally forced the White House to negotiate with Iran, at which point to continue to stonewall at the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program became counter-productive and, frankly, absurd.

Domino 2: the USA and Iran finally agree on the nuclear issue.

As I have written it many times in the past, nobody in the US (or elsewhere), really believes that the Iranians are secretly building a nuclear weapon right under the nose of IAEA inspectors (who are still working in Iran) while remaining a member in good standing of the NPT Treaty (no NTP member has ever developed nuclear weapons).  The real US objective has always been to prevent Iran from becoming a regional economic superpower and, if possible, to find a pretext to isolate and destabilize the Iranian regime.  By accepting to negotiate with Iran, the USA is not "making the world safe from nuclear-armed Mollahs" but accepting the reality that Iran is, and will remain, a regional superpower.  This is really what is at stake here, and all that talk about Iran nuking Israel in a "2nd Holocaust" is just a pious fig-leaf used to hide the real US policy objectives.  Now that the US had given up on the notion of attacking Syria it made no sense to continue to act as if an attack on Iran was still possible.  This left only two possible solutions: let the Iranians do whatever they want and appear to have failed to persuade Iran to take into consideration US objections, or actually find a mutually acceptable compromise which would be to the advantage of both sides.  The US, wisely, chose the second option.

So far, Dominos 1 and 2 have fallen, but let us take a look at what might be happening next if nothing stops the momentum generated by these two dominos.

Domino 3: the two big losers - Saudi Arabia and Israel

It is rather obvious that the Saudis and the Israelis have done literally everything in their power to prevent the fall of Dominoes 1 and 2 from happening and that they are now the big losers.  Both countries hate and fear Iran, both countries were deeply involved in the Syrian war and both countries appear to be outraged by the actions of the White House.   When all the signs indicated that a deal would be struck, the Saudis and the Israelis even sent their top decision-makers (Bandar and Netanyahu) not to Washington, but to Moscow in a (futile) attempt to prevent what they see as an absolute catastrophe from happening. 

Now that a deal has been reached, both Israel and the KSA are now showing all the signs of "loosing it" and are turning to crude forms of terrorism to lash out at their enemies: according to Hezollah, the Saudis are behind the bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut while the Israelis are behind the murder of a Hezbollah commander, also in Beirut.  One can dismiss these Hezbollah accusations as politically motivated, but I personally find them very credible simply because they "fit the picture" perfectly (and Hezbollah does have an excellent record of making only truthful statements).  Whether one chooses to believe Hezbollah or not, nobody denies that there are now real and deep tensions between Israel and the KSA on one side and the USA on the other.  That would also explain the rather amazing "rapprochement" taking place between Israel and the KSA who now have a common problem (the USA) and lots of common enemies (first and foremost Iran, of course).

Considering the huge power of the Israel Lobby and the, more discrete but also very powerful, Saudi Lobby in the USA, it is by no means certain that the new KSA-Israeli alliance shall not eventually prevail over what I would call the "USA-firsters" (in contrast to "Israel-firsters").  I shall also come back to this topic later, but let us assume that the current US policies will not be revered and that the US will sign a long-term agreement with Iran in six months or so.  What could happen next?

Domino 4: goodbye US anti-missile "defense shield" in Europe?

Think about it: if the USA accepts the notion that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons, why insist on deploying an anti nuclear missile defense shield over Europe?  Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has already clearly said that much and that is likely to remain a Russian policy position for the foreseeable future: now that the putative "threat" from Iran has been dealt with by means of negotiations - why should the US still deploy anti-missile systems in Europe?

Of course, the US could plow ahead with this project as if nothing had changed, but would it not be logical to at least talk to the Russians to see if some modifications could be made to the US anti-missile system which would satisfy the Russian side?  Having agreed to negotiate with Syria and Iran, would it not also make sense to seriously sit down with the Russians and find a mutually acceptable compromise?

After all,  Russia (backed by China, of course) can easily prevent any deal between the US and Iran (by a UNSC veto for example) and that would leave the USA is a very vulnerable negotiating position: to be in a great need of a deal with Iran while Iran would not feel equally interested in negotiating.  And, of course, a breakdown in negotiations between Iran and the USA on the nuclear issue would mean very bad news for the USA in Syria.  The fact is that the USA will desperately need Russian collaboration to hammer out a long term deal with Iran.  And that, in turn, will have major consequences for a host of other issues, including European foreign policy.

Domino 5: an end to the European "Drang nach Osten"?

Not since the days of Hitler has Europe been so hysterically anti-Russian as in the last decade.  Of course, some of that russophobia has been fed by US propaganda needs, but one quick look at the European press and will show anyone that the worst of this Russia-bashing really comes from Europe, especially the UK.  As for the EU and NATO, their offensive to towards the East is really reminiscent of Hitler's, the only difference is that it is pursued with different means.  Of course, West European revanchism is only part of the picture.  There is definitely a desire by many East Europeans to become "true Europeans" combined with a hope that a EU+NATO combination would protect them from Russia.  Nevermind that Russia is not in the least interested in invading them - most east Europeans are generically afraid of what they perceive as a resurgent superpower in the East.  And if getting the "protection" of NATO and the EU means accepting a semi-colonial status in the US empire - so be it.  Better to be a serf of the US empire than a serf in the Russian one.  That is an ideological position which cannot be challenged by facts or logic.  Most east Europeans probably understand that Russia has no interest in invading them, and most of them must be aware that joining the EU has been disastrous in economic terms for countries like Bulgaria or the Baltic States.  Frankly, most people don't care.  They look at German highways, French stores or Dutch airports and want to get a share of that wealth even if that is only a pipe-dream.

As for the west Europeans, they shamelessly feed that illusion, promising much and delivering nothing.  As for NATO, it continues to follow Hitler's example and attempts to push its influence into the Caucasus.  As a result, the EU+NATO offensive now spans a "front" from Estonia in the Baltic to Georgia in the Caucasus - an exact copy of Hitler's strategy for his war on Russia.

Hitler and his promised "1000 year Reich", of course, was defeated in only 12 years and the EU is not doing too well either.  In fact, it is facing a systemic crisis that it has no idea of how to tackle.

The modern Kulturträgers
I am not even referring to the so-called "PIGS" (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain), but also to the supposedly "better off" nations of northern Europe.  Did you know that only 3 of the 17 nations of the Eurozone have a AAA credit rating or that while no fewer than seven of the world’s top rated nations are in Europe, most are either not in the Euro (Denmark, Sweden) or not in the EU at all (Norway, Switzerland)?  Anyone doubting the full magnitude of the social and economic crisis which has hit the Eurozone should read the report recently published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies entitled "Think differently: humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis in Europe" (makes me wonder if anybody in the Ukraine has read this one!).  Europe is in a deep crisis and this begs the obvious question: can Europe really afford a new Cold War with Russia?  What about the US - does it need a new Cold War in Europe?  Isn't it about time to set aside this crazy Drang nach Osten and accept that a non-imperial Europe would have much more to gain from a partnership with Russia than from another Cold War?

Time will show whether this last domino will also fall.  What matters for our purposes here is not to accurately predict the future, but to look at the opportunities such a different future would offer.  Let's ask a key question: if all the dominoes above did fall, would the USA be better or worse off?  My personal reply is that the USA would be far better off, as would be Europe.  And if that is the case, one can wonder, did the US really stumble into a situation which triggered a domino effect or what this the plan all along?  Could it be that some forces of the USA have decided to use the failure of the US policy in Syria to trigger a much larger change?

A project of the "USA-firsters"?

As I have written in a recent article, I believe that the Presidency of Barak Obama has resulted in a shift of power in the US "deep state" which had the previously almighty Neocons pushed aside from the Executive Branch and replaced with what I call "old Anglo imperialists".  They could also be called "USA-firsters" (as opposed to "Israel-firsters").  As a rule, they are far more sophisticated actors than the Neocons.  Typically, the USA-firsters are better educated, more cautious in their discourse and methods and, unlike the Neocons, they can count on the support of patriotically-inclined Americans in the armed forces, State Department, CIA, and elsewhere.  Finally, they enjoy the big advantage over the Neocons in the fact that they have no need to hide their real agenda: in their foreign policy they care first and foremost about US national interests (internally, of course, both the USA-firsters and the Neocons are the prototypical "one percenters" whose real objective is to defend their class interests while keeping the remaining 99% in serf-like conditions).

So could it be that this "domino sequence" was deliberately initiated by Anglo USA-firsters who seized the opportunity to promote their agenda while pushing the Neocon Israel-firsters aside?

Let's look at "domino 1" again.

I think that there is a preponderance of evidence that Obama accepted Putin's gambit against a background of absolute chaos both in Syria and in the USA.  Iranian forces were covertly entering Syria to fight, a powerful  Russian naval task force was positioned right off the coast of Syria, the British Parliament had refused to support an attack on Syria, demonstrations were taking place all over the USA - and elsewhere - against an attack, and all the signs were that Congress would not approve a military operation.   It is hard to prove a negative, of course, but my sense is that the first domino fell pushed by all these factors and not a result of a deliberate change in US policies.

What about "domino 2" then?

In contrast to domino 1, there is strong evidence that domino 2 clearly "fell" as a direct result of a political decision made in Washington.   If we accept that the only change in the Presidency of Iran was mainly a cosmetic one, then we also have to agree that the USA deliberately decided to open negotiations with Iran.  Could it be that somebody in the White House or in the US deep state realized that the fall of "domino 1" presented real opportunities for the USA and the interests of the USA-firsters and decided to deliberately add momentum to  "domino 1" and also push "domino 2"?

I believe that the sequence of events in Syria and Iran does offer a fantastic opportunity for the USA to finally rid itself from the disastrous legacy of many years of Neocon rule (in my opinion from 1993-2009).  I should immediately stress that I am not saying that the Neocons are "out" as they still control the US corporate media and Congress with an iron hand.  I am only saying that I am detecting the signs of a major change in US foreign policy which appears to be breaking free from the "Wahabi-Zionist alliance" of the combined lobbies of Saudi Arabia and Israel.  Again, the fact that both Netanyahu and Bandar felt the need to travel to Moscow to stop Washington is absolutely unprecedented and amazing and I have to interpret that as a real sign of panic.

How far can the US really go?

A shift in the power equation inside the US does not mean regime change, far from it.  In most circumstances US politicians will continue to mantrically repeat "there is no light between the U.S. and Israel”, the constant verbal genuflection before everything Jewish, Israeli or Holocaust-related will continue and it is quite possible that the next Israeli Prime Minister to address Congress will also get more standing ovations than the US President.  However, it is also quite possible that between closed doors the Israelis and the Saudis will be told to "tone it down or else" and that the US support for these two regimes will become contingent of them not doing anything crazy (such as attacking Iran).

Let's look again at dominos 4 and 5 (basically, a stop in anti-Russian policies) from a non-Zionist and non-Wahabi point of view:  would the USA gain or lose from such a development?  It could lose some money if the European missile defense "shield" was scrapped, but the Russians are offering two alternative solutions: either let the Russian military become full partner in this system (thereby removing the threat to Russia) or move the entire system to western Europe away from the Russian borders (thereby also removing the threat to Russia).  Since the Russian asymmetrical response (special forces, relocation of launchers, special missiles) will defeat the proposed system anyway - why not accept either one of the Russian offers?

Politically, such an agreement would open the doors for far more important collaborative opportunities (in Central Asia and the Middle-East) and it would remove the USA from the "collision course with the rest of the planet" it has been on since 9/11.

Clearly, a deal with Russia would be very beneficial for the USA.

What about Palestine?

Here, unfortunately, I have to remain as pessimistic as ever.  As so many times in their history, the Palestinians have again committed something of a "strategic suicide" when they decided to support the anti-Assad forces in Syria.  Just as with Saddam, the Palestinians are yet again with the losing side and, which is even worse, their only halfway decent resistance movement - Hamas - has now been taken over by Saudi interests which basically puts them under Israeli control no less than Fatah.  The last "real" resistance movement in Palestine is now the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but it is comparatively small and weak and cannot be a partner in any real negotiations with the USA and Israel.  In this context, it is likely the Israelis will simply impose whatever "solution" they want on the ground without having to negotiate with any Palestinians at all.  This is very sad and this did not have to be, but the Palestinians really did it to themselves and they only have themselves to blame now.

Bottom line: no domino effect in Palestine.

Conclusion: a real window of opportunity

The future is by no means certain and the Israel-firsters and their Saudi allies have many options to reverse this process (just imagine Hillary as President!!).  And yet it is also possible that the USA might shift away from the disastrous course it has been following for the past two decades and return to a more traditional, pragmatic, foreign policy: it will remain an imperial power with global imperialist goals, but at least it will be driven by pragmatic - if cynical - considerations and not foreign ideological interests.  In contrast to what the USA has been doing for the past two decades, it is possible that the developments in the Middle-East will convince the USA that negotiations and compromise are more effective foreign policy tools than threat and military actions.

Historically, Republicans have had a comparatively better foreign policy record than the Democrats and senile psychopaths like McCain are not typical of Republican leaders.  In contrast, US Democrats have often provided the most ideological and arrogant leaders and the very real possibility of Hillary running for the Presidency is a frightening indicator that what appears to be the current phase of pragmatism might be short lived.  The good news is that both parties have an opportunity to seize the moment and nominate halfway sane candidates for the next Presidential election.  Of course, if what we end up with is a Sarah Palin - Hillary Clinton race all bets are off and the world will be in for some very, very bad times.  But if the USA-firsters can give the boot to the Israel-firsters currently controlling the key positions inside both parties (folks in the model of Rahm Israel Emanuel) then there is a real possibility that the US could break free from its current subservience to Zionist and Wahabi interests and resume a more pragmatic, reasonable, foreign policy.

Do these USA-firsters really exist?  Honestly, I don't know.  I hope that they do and I want to believe that the fact that the fall of the Syrian domino was followed so soon by the fall of the Iranian domino might be a sign that somebody inside the US deep state has decided to use this opportunity to try finally rid the USA from the foreign interests which have literally hijacked the country. 

If after six month a permanent deal is agreed upon and signed by the P5+1 and Iran and if more or less at the same time the US begins serious negotiations with Russia such a scenario will become credible.  At this point, it is too early to tell. 

The Saker