Can Iran afford to ignore US threats?

Iran must have got the message that it is now dealing with a US administration quite different from the Obama administration.
Sunday 29/07/2018
US Navy sailors lower an engine in the jet shop of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), last February. (AFP)
Superior capabilities. US Navy sailors lower an engine in the jet shop of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), last February. (AFP)

The only thing that US President Donald Trump hasn’t done with Iran is remind it that the United States is a nuclear power and that it has used its nuclear arsenal — in 1945 against Japan to bring it to heel and surrender in the second world war.

Japan learned the lesson then. It surrendered and concentrated its efforts on rebuilding its society and economy. It became a modern state and gave up its imperialistic fantasies. Japan is among the top economic powers in the world.

Can Iran learn from Japan’s experience? Or perhaps it thinks that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declarations are hollow threats.

Trump’s threats against Iran might be just big talk but they might be serious. There is significant evidence they are serious.

The US president began his anti-Iran campaign in a speech about a year ago in which he surveyed US-Iran relations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Trump listed many Iranian misdeeds against the United States and followed his big talk with concrete actions by withdrawing the United States from the agreement this past May.

Iran is no Japan and it ought to think twice before challenging Uncle Sam. Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric is backed by an administration that is familiar with the smallest details of Iran’s shenanigans since 1979. In his speech, Trump reminded everyone that Iran had held US diplomats in Tehran hostage for 444 days. He spoke of Iran’s role in blowing up the US Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 and the US Marine Corps’ headquarters near the Beirut airport in October of the same year.

During the last days of the shah and the beginning of the Iranian revolution, the United States did not back the shah against the Iranian population and did not oppose the revolution or Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, either. It hadn’t objected to Khomeini’s presence in France, for example. Ironically, it was the CIA’s Near East Director Robert Ames who warned the new Iranian regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s imminent attack on Iran in the summer of 1979.

The detail about Ames warning the ayatollah regime was taken from Kai Bird’s 2014 book, “The Good Spy,” in which Bird mentioned that Ames was the first high-level US official to open communications between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the US government.

Ames was killed, along with many other CIA officers, in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut. With one blow, Iran wiped out most of the heads of the CIA stations in the Middle East and Uncle Sam does not forget that easily.

Iran must have got the message that it is now dealing with a US administration quite different from the Obama administration, whose main concern was to complete at all cost the major foreign policy achievement of the United States’ first African-American president — namely the nuclear deal with Iran.

Tehran must have gotten the message because Iranian President Hassan Rohani resorted to borrowing phrases from Saddam’s repertoire to answer Trump. It must have given him some internal reassurance to do so.

I am sure Rohani could not be that stupid as to ignore the balance of power involved. Plus, he must be aware that his foreign affairs minister’s bet on the Obama administration is no longer valid. There is a new team in Washington and Iran cannot escape dealing with it.

So, will Iran learn from Japan’s experience and revise its plans?

Corruption has gangrened Iran. The Iranian regime has no model to offer the world besides its sectarian militias, which have contributed to the destruction of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and almost strangled Bahrain.

Iran faces only one choice: become a normal Third World country and get on with shaping up its internal affairs. Half of all Iranians live below the poverty line and the regime is interested only in foreign adventures.

Trump’s rhetoric might turn out to be just that, rhetoric. One thing is sure, though: The American sanctions are coming and bombastic words will not stop them or appease the hunger of half of the Iranian population.

6