Interesting times are in the offing between the US and Iran as the American government says it is now “ready for talks” with the Islamic Republic – after 34 years of hostility since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that economic sanctions imposed on Iran could be lifted within six months.
And, interestingly, American officials seem to have resisted Israel’s latest saber rattling when Premier Benjamin Netanyahu hotfooted it to Washington earlier this week with grim warnings that Iran’s diplomatic overtures were merely a ruse.
Netanyahu repeated the tired old disreputable claims before the UN General Assembly that Iran was secretly building a nuclear bomb to destroy the Israeli state. As one mocking headline in Israeli newspaper Haaretz put it: “Netanyahu’s UN speech was enriched with Iran rhetoric, but his stockpile is low”.
In a seeming rebuff to Netanyahu days later, US top diplomat John Kerry told a press conference in Japan that the US was insisting on pursuing the diplomatic route with Iran.
US officials are now scheduled to meet with Iranian counterparts in Geneva later this month, along with other members of the P5+1 group, to explore possible diplomatic options to resolve the nuclear standoff that would allow Iran to avail of its right to peaceful nuclear development and importantly to lift the economic sanctions.
So, are we about to see an historic divergence between US and Israeli foreign policy? A divergence where Washington acts on more enlightened self-interest towards Iran and cuts the bellicose Israeli regime adrift.
This will be a test of what truly makes US foreign policy tick. Many observers aver that Washington has been for too long maligned by an inordinate Israeli influence in its stance towards Iran and the Middle East generally.
In this view, it is contended that a belligerent Israel has in effect hijacked and deformed American government relations with the wider world. The corollary of this analysis is that if somehow Washington could ditch the warping influence of Israeli politicians and the powerful Zionist lobbies then America might be able to establish more friendly foreign relations; and with Iran in particular.
The largely positive reception bestowed on Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the US last week might suggest such a tantalizing new beginning. The cordial meeting between John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also bodes well. Then came the “historic” phone call from US President Barack Obama to Rouhani as the latter was departing for Iran, during which the American leader even bade farewell in Persian language.
Netanyahu’s barnstorming arrival in Washington and his tirade at the UN pouring invective on President Rouhani also suggests that there may indeed be a significant new opening in American-Iranian relations, one in which the US finally begins to act more reasonably and independently from Israeli warmongering.
To be sure, it is incumbent to give diplomacy a chance. The burden of economic sanctions on the Iranian people makes it imperative to resolve the nuclear dispute.
As President Rouhani has noted, decades of enmity going back to the US-orchestrated coup d’état in 1953 cannot be resolved overnight and certainly not merely on the basis of a few phone calls and cordial meetings.
The ignominious history of American aggression towards Iran will require some earnest practical measures to build confidence in Washington’s purported sincerity. The immediate canceling of illegal US sanctions would be a good place to start, one where the onus is firmly on Washington, not Tehran.
But here is the caveat. Can Washington really separate itself from Israeli hostility towards Iran?
Put it another way: is the Zionist regime an obnoxious appendage of Washington that could be discarded, or is it an integral part of US foreign policy? The benign view is that if the Zionist warmongering influence could be excised then the US might be able to conduct more ethical foreign relations with Iran (and other countries).
The trouble is that this benign view fails to understand the fundamental role of Israel in US foreign relations. Israel is not just an entity that Washington suffers as a result of excessive Zionist lobby groups and bribes to Congress. It is of course partly that.
But, more fundamentally, Israel serves to project American imperialist interests and power in the Middle East. The affront to international law and human rights that the Israeli regime incarnates, the conflict and wars that it fuels, all these violations are an integral part of how US imperialism asserts hegemony across the Middle East region and beyond.
The same goes for the House of Saud and the other Persian Gulf Arab dictatorships. They are all part of the anti-democratic architecture that guarantees Washington’s domination in the oil-rich Middle East. That domination depends not just on the flow of oil and massive weapons sales from conflicts, but more crucially on the flow of petrodollars to prop up the bankrupt American Federal Reserve.
This explains, for example, why Israel and the Arab dictatorships have merged as allies in the same US camp of fomenting regime change in Syria.
Israel and the Saudi regime may owe their origin to British imperialism, but likewise they owe their ongoing criminal existence to the patronage of American imperialism.
As American Vice President Joe Biden let slip this week at the Washington conference of the Jewish lobby group J Street: “If there was not an Israel, we would have to invent one, to make sure US interests were preserved [in the Middle East].” Biden could easily have said the exact same thing about Saudi Arabia.
The point is that Washington’s hostility towards Iran is not borne out of a policy that is misguided and warped by the rogue state of Israel (or Saudi Arabia). Washington’s hostility towards Iran is borne out of American imperialism, in the service of US-dominated global capitalism. And American imperialism is hostile to any nation that pursues a path of independent economic and political development. Iran is top of that list.
The difference between the US and Israel towards Iran is therefore one of tactics, not strategy. Where Israel is incapable of thinking in any way beyond militarism, the US has enough sophistication to engage in an alternative tactic of diplomacy and politics.
There are telltale signs that the US still retains its fundamental hostility towards Iran despite the latest diplomatic overtures. One such sign was Obama’s White House meeting with Netanyahu this week in which the president reiterated that the US would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and that “all options, including the military option, were on still on the table”. The bets are Obama did not say that in his “chatty” phone call with President Rouhani.
This is not a case of the Zionist tail wagging the American dog.
Rather it is the imperialist master bringing its Zionist attack dog to heel… for now.