Why Iran Must Be America’s Enemy

Though Iran is arguably the major regional bulwark against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the Saudi-Israeli alliance insists that Iran is the Mideast’s bête noire, so the Obama administration falls in line with that narrative even as it seeks a peaceful nuclear deal, as Gareth Porter explains.

By Gareth Porter

Since the start of the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, both Israeli and Saudi officials have indulged in highly publicized handwringing over their belief that such a nuclear deal would represent a fundamental strategic shift in U.S. policy towards the region at the expense of its traditional alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But the Obama administration is no more likely to lurch into a new relationship with Iran than were previous U.S. administrations. The reason is very simple: The U.S. national security state, which has the power to block any such initiative, has fundamental long-term interests in the continuation of the policy of treating Iran as an enemy.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sitting next to President Hassan Rouhani and addressing the cabinet.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sitting next to President Hassan Rouhani and addressing the cabinet.

Some in the Israeli camp have spun elaborate theories about how the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran represent a strategic vision of partnership with the Iranian regime. Typical of the genre is former Bush administration official Michael Doran’s speculation in February that President Barack Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on the assumption that Tehran and Washington are “natural allies”.

The Saudi response to the negotiations has been, if anything, even more extreme. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence, who speaks more candidly in public than any other Saudi public figure, told an audience at London’s Chatham House last month, “The Americans and Iranians have been flirting with each other. Now it seems each side is anxious to get over the flirtation and get to the consummation.”

Behind the sexual metaphor lie Saudi fears of a “grand bargain” under which Iran would forgo nuclear weapons in return for ratification of Iranian hegemony over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf. But these Israeli and Saudi imaginings are divorced from the reality of the Obama administration’s actual Iran policy.

Far from the Nixon-like fundamental strategic revision, as the Netanyahu camp and the Saudis have suggested, the Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear program represents a culmination of a series of improvised policy adjustments within an overall framework of coercive diplomacy towards Iran.

Despite Obama’s embrace of diplomatic engagement with Iran as a campaign issue in 2008, when he entered the White House his real Iran policy was quite different. In fact, Obama’s aim during his first term was to induce Iran to accept an end to its uranium enrichment program.

‘Unconditional Talks’

Even as Obama was offering “unconditional talks” with Iran in a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2009, he was already pursuing a strategy of multiple pressures on Iran to agree to that U.S. demand.

Obama’s strategy of coercive diplomacy involved plans for more intrusive and punishing economic sanctions, a secret NSA program of cyber-attacks against the Natanz enrichment facility and political/diplomatic exploitation of the threat of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the Netanyahu government in Israel.

Obama made no serious effort to negotiate with Iran until 2012, when he believed the new sanctions that were about to take effect would force Iran to agree to suspend enrichment indefinitely. He dropped that demand in 2013, only because Iran had increased the number of centrifuges in operation from 4,000 to 10,000 and had begun enriching to 20 percent.

Since the beginning of the negotiations, moreover, senior administration officials have repeatedly affirmed the policy of treating Iran as a state sponsor or terrorism and a “troublemaker” and destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

In his April 7 interview with National Public Radio, Obama said, “I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon – they’re still going to be financing Hezbollah, they’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children, they are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country.”

At a deeper level, the most important factor in determining the policy of the U.S. towards Iran is domestic electoral and bureaucratic politics – not Obama’s personal geopolitical vision of the Middle East. The power of the Israeli lobby obviously will severely limit policy flexibility towards Iran for many years. And the interests of the most powerful institutions in the U.S. national security state remain tied to a continuation of the policy of treating Iran as the premier enemy of the U.S.

Bigger Bonanza

Since 2002 the U.S. Defense Department has spent roughly $100 billion on missile defense, most of which goes directly to its major military contractor allies. That bonanza depends largely on the idea that Iran is intent on threatening the U.S. and its allies with ballistic missiles.

But an even bigger bonanza for the U.S. arms industry is at stake. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf regimes in the anti-Iran alliance have been pouring big money into Pentagon arms contractor coffers for years. A deal with Saudi Arabia for fighter planes and missile defense technology first announced in 2010 was expected to yield $100 billion to $150 billion in procurement and service contracts over two decades. And that tsunami of money from the Gulf depends on identifying Iran as a military threat to the entire region.

These sales are now integral to the health of the leading U.S. military contractors. Lockheed, for example, now depends on foreign sales for as much as 25 to 33 percent of its revenue, according to the Times story.

So the Israeli and Saudi fear of a supposed Obama shift in alliances doesn’t reflect fundamental domestic U.S. political realities that are not likely to change for the foreseeable future.

Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in US national security policy. [This article first appeared at Aljazeera.com. ]

3 comments for “Why Iran Must Be America’s Enemy

  1. alexander horatio
    May 5, 2015 at 13:37

    ” So the Israeli and Saudi fear of a supposed Obama shift doesn’t reflect fundamental domestic U.S. political realities…….”

    ….How about “the fundamental domestic U.S. reality” of our…. 18.2 TRILLION DOLLAR NATIONAL DEBT CATASTROPHE accrued during the last 13 years of our “neo-con “induced, feckless “middle east” fiasco ?

    Mr Porter,
    Step back in time with me, for just one moment, to the year 2000….Our national debt was approximately.5.7 Trillion dollars….our GDP was 9.5 trillion dollars and we were operating at a fiscal SURPLUS of close to 200 billion dollars per year.!.In short , we had our house in order, …We were in good shape.!….Now,Imagine if the “neo-con coup” of our foreign and domestic policies had “NOT” occurred…….
    …After 9-11,The government would have focused , like a laser beam,on bringing “those” responsible to justice…as was the mandate of the american people….AND THAT IS IT !. ..Let us assume that a reasonably intelligent government…..and reasonably efficient government could succeed at this goal with an “additional” allocation of 50 BILLION dollars per year…(.and that is an awful lot of money)….and let us assume that we allocated another 50 billion to the FBI to strengthen its (post 9-11) efficiency…and, opposed to the feckless Neo-con “patriot act’ we merely(AND WISELY) fast tracked the warrant process for law enforcement…leaving the constitution and our bill of rights intact….What would that leave the US taxpayer?….. A positive cash flow of 100 BILLION DOLLARS per year !!
    All other things being equal,we would have generated over the last 15 years, a 1.5 TRILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS….Our National Debt, by 2015, would have shrunken to 4.2 trillion (not grown to the “neo-con” calamity of 18.2 trillion). Our GDP would be, what it is, 17.7 trillion (perhaps more)….Our National Debt to GDP ratio would be ” a GOLDEN 1 to 4.”(4.2 N.D. to 17.5 GDP ),Not the catastrophic “Neo-con”.negative 1.2 to 1 (18.2 N.D to 17.7.GDP)…
    The fiscal state of the union would be” outstanding”, truly exemplary, with ENORMOUS RESERVES for a multitude of domestic initiatives to unleash growth and creativity through out the country…we would be in the global “cat bird seat” with the finest credit rating of any nation on the planet , Our currency, our reputation, and our capacity to dispense and receive “good will’ would be unparalleled in the history of civilization !
    We would be (or certainly be on our way to becoming) the finest manifestation of what our founding fathers envisioned……
    Instead, look at what we have become as a result of the “defrauding ” of the Country by the “neo cons” as well as the “banksters”,
    A total moral, ethical and financial DISASTER……
    What an immense tragedy for the american people, and the country which we love so much!

    The President of the United States on behalf of the american people and with whatever time he has remaining, should initiate the most powerful “counter-terrorism “measures in the history of our country..”OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP”..and. ” OPERATION CLAW BACK” ….. by hunting down those who have” terrorized “and” defrauded “us out of our “good name” and “our ” trillions” , and those who have profited most from that” defrauding”!
    The benefits of these operations would generate perhaps close to a quarter of a trillion dollars overnight. maybe even more down the line..restore our country to the pillar of decency it once was ….and most certainly change(for the better .by far) the “complexion” of the next election cycle and its outcome !

  2. Consortiumnews.com
    May 5, 2015 at 10:15

    Posted for Peter Loeb:


    The ballyhooed “negotiations” were never serious and never in “good faith”. Instead hey were Israeli “negotiations” over Iran’s terms of unconditional surrender to Israel.

    If there are ever to be any further “negotiations” on these issues they must begin with parity between Israel (currently the nuclear superpower giant thanks to the US) and Iran. The Disarmament Commission of the General Assembly of the UN recently pointed out key requirements all of which were opposed by the US and Israel. These MUST include the total elimination of ALL Israel’s capacity to make any nuclear weapons either overtly or covertly and the signature and ratification of the PNT by Israel. (In some nations signature and ratification differ from US Constitutional requirements. I am not conversant with Israeli law on this point.)

    Random searches by the IAEA and experts from the Disarmament Commission must be included.

    Failure to abide by these decisions must lead to consequences by the UN such as sanctions, embargo etc.

    Note that specifics of these issues were laid before the UN General Assembly and agreed to overwhelmingly by UN Members. The US said it was inappropriate to apply such restrictions to only one nations. (The implication was that doing so would be “anti-Semitic” although this was implied rather than stated. The “holocaust card”? Poor Israel, the victim!)

    Without this parity there is no reason for Israel’s enemy (Iran) on whom Israel consistently heaps agressive warlike provocations and threats totally incompatible with its membership in the United Nations. (Most of the recent activities are against international law.)

    In February 2014 (the month is from recollection and should be verified) the US joined every other member of the UN Security Council in passing S/Res/2139(20014). Point # 14 on page four of this document calls for Members to support the sovereign government of Syria in its fight against the terrorists and invaders. (These words were not from the Syrian government but are integral to the Council language to which all Members agreed.) Within days, the US alone called for “regime change” in Syria which is not permitted according to international law. In defiance of its own vote of support of Syria, the US opposed the Syrian government and has provided the terrorists with weapons and support along with others such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

    Based on the expectations of the Iranian government, unless sanctions are reduced there will be no “deal”. Israel and the US will undoubted blame Iran while protecting its many nuclear sites and continuing to threaten Iran. Before entering such talks, one must recognize the truth of what the Supreme Leader of Iran has said repeatedly: The US and Israel do not negotiate in good faith and they rarely keep their word.

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. Bob Loblaw
    May 4, 2015 at 15:53

    Of course the well being of humanity will take a backseat to profits! The invisible hand will solve everything that tax cuts do not :P

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