Iran Deal Dooms ‘Full-Spectrum Dominance’

The international agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear energy program stays peaceful is not just a victory for non-proliferation but part of a more realistic realignment of U.S. policy toward the Mideast, finally recognizing the bloody futility of “full-spectrum dominance,” writes ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

Comments abound on President Barack Obama’s achievement in reaching an agreement with Iran on nuclear issues. For a predictable minority it’s not an achievement at all but a terrible setback. Most criticism focuses on the challenge of possible Iranian cheating, which misses the big picture: is Washington itself able to deal with an ascendant Iran, much like the challenge of an ascendant China?

In economic and military terms Iran can’t of course hold a candle to China. But its regional role does pose a significant challenge to those who resist the specter of popular political change.

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The major challenge that Iran poses is not of course really nuclear at all, we’ve dealt in the past with far “crazier” nuclear totalitarian powers such as Stalin’s Russia, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea or Mao’s China.

Some, not all, elements of the Israeli security establishment may perceive the nuclear threat as serious, primarily because Israel cherishes its position as sole nuclear power in the region. A potentially nuclear Iran down the road also limits U.S. and Israeli ability to act militarily in the region with impunity.

But even that is not Iran’s real challenge; that lies in its revolutionary stance and consistent outspoken opposition to U.S. (and Israeli) dominance of power in the Middle East. That kind of stance historically quickly earned one the label of “rogue state” in Washington parlance, a state that resists the U.S.-dominated strategic order.

Iran, however, is probably the most important state since Abdul Nasser’s Egypt to have adopted this outspoken and dedicated stance of challenge to American ability to act with impunity in the Middle East. The Iranian seizure of U.S. hostages in 1979 injected an additional strong emotional element into American reactions to Iran. (Most Americans have forgotten that the U.S. and UK had jointly overthrown Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister in 1953, from which democracy in Iran has still not fully recovered.)

Now, some three decades after the Iranian Revolution, Washington has finally acknowledged the extreme problems that its own long-term inability to deal with “rogue” Iran has posed to U.S. policies over the years, affecting Afghanistan, Pakistan, pipeline routing, al-Qa’ida, Iraq, Central Asia, the Gulf, Syria, where a degree of common interests in fact exists.

Washington finally felt compelled to search for some kind of minimal normalization with Tehran. The nuclear issue was the ostensible driver. Far more important however is acknowledgment of the need to deal with the second most important strategic state in the Middle East Turkey being number one.

I have written earlier why Turkey and Iran represent the two most significant states in the Middle East today: their identities rest firmly on long tradition, large populations, large and complex multi-faceted economies (not just energy) and professional skills; their governance is democratic (Turkey) or partially democratic (Iran, where elections and process really matter.) Both countries have long traditions of independent power and exert major soft power, Iran’s soft power will grow in this sphere with its films, music, Sufi poetry, tourism, etc.

More important, Iran has achieved a measure of popularity even in the Arab world at the popular level, although not at the governing level, which does feel threatened. Iran’s forthright resistance to the American order is widely admired, even if not everybody likes Persians. Iran has always spoken of its revolution not as Shi’ite but as an Islamic revolution, above sectarianism.

Its populist rhetoric and longtime support for Sunni Palestinians among other groups clearly upsets autocratic Arab states, especially those who fear populist change, and those with oppressed and suppressed Shi’a populations, as in Bahrain where they represent a majority, and in Saudi Arabia.

Now Washington has taken the unprecedented step of potentially serious rapprochement with Tehran (yes, there are still significant obstacles to be overcome). But this is the nub: this represents is a new U.S. willingness to accept a power in the region that does not sign on to the U.S. strategic framework for the region.

Such a position bluntly challenged decades of U.S. doctrine about its determination to establish global “full-spectrum dominance.” The U.S. is finally recognizing after severe setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran and other failing policies that traditional U.S. hegemony in the Middle East is no longer in the cards. Furthermore, that effort to impose it comes at extremely high cost in blood, treasure, respect and credibility.

This is the signal achievement of President Obama in acknowledging this reality, at least tacitly. (Some would say it represents his signal failure and a U.S. capitulation. But can anyone want another decade and a half of what the U.S., and the region, has been through?)

It has not been simply Iranian long-term resistance that has stymied Washington. The source of the problems and the nature of the enemy in the region do not lend themselves to high-tech power, shock and awe.

Other states have also emerged with ideas of their own (Turkey most prominently among them, which will never be a “faithful American ally” again). Russian and Chinese power in the region, and the growth of the BRICS model suggests outlines of a new international order.

The question is: 1) how capably will Washington learn to manage the transition and deeper implications inherent in this new opening to Iran, recognizing that dealing with prickly and often unresponsive powers in fact does represent the face of the future?

And 2) the agenda for future regional change, with all its inevitable chaos, lies more with the Turkeys and Irans of the world than with sclerotic and reactionary Gulf ruling orders. This is particularly so when we consider the destructive approach of Saudi Arabia in promoting sectarianism and core fundamentalist/takfiri interpretations of Islam.

Of course these Gulf states are economically important and are understandably nervous with this shift of paradigm. They have now been left more on their own to manage internal pressures; certainly they are not subject to serious outside military attack.

Thus a new recognition of the character of the future of the region has dawned in Washington. It is long overdue, but President Obama has taken the first bold, critically important step. For that he deserves much credit, for his insight into the deeper nature of political change to come in the region which Washington cannot control and against which it cannot afford to be arrayed.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle)

22 comments for “Iran Deal Dooms ‘Full-Spectrum Dominance’

  1. elmerfudzie
    July 27, 2015 at 23:18

    I ask that CONSORTIUMNEWS readers invest a little time to review pertinent opinions published by Bruce Gagnon or at the very least, search and open his youtube clips. The bottom line is this; At first glance, it looked so encouraging… The “Rhodesian” plutocrats of the West (or for that matter, their identical collectivist, twin billionaires in Moscow and the Far East) would put an end to nuclear wars of the future by harnessing sufficient financial and military power guaranteed to circumvent nuclear wannabees. I’m suggesting that every newly constructed U235 or PU232 fueled commercial plant, presented a problem for humanity. They are in fact, nothing more than bomb factories, thus the electrical energy production blah-blah propaganda is quite incidental. In reality, there is something far more insidious than potential A-bomb factories. Let’s take an amusing aside as an example; Lord knows we all need some laugh’s! Does anyone recall Hollywood’s very own, Flash Gordon?, and his archetype bad-guy opponent, Ming-The-Merciless”!! circa 1940?. Please omit, for the moment, Ming’s Asian appearance. My objective is to show the ugliness of absolute tyranny and hegemony over the entire world- by a single group or person. This fate would be far worse than any WW III scenario. Why? knowledgeable New Hampshire citizens would gladly tell you, “Live free or Die!”. I tip my hat to New Hampshire!

  2. Peter Loeb
    July 24, 2015 at 06:02


    “…Assuming the role of ‘honest broker’…while being
    Israel’s chief diplomatic backer, and military
    supplier, the United States placed itself at odds with a
    global consensus…” Naseer H Aruri, DISHONEST
    BROKER…” South End Press, Cambridge, MA, p.3)

    Meeting with powerful members of that international
    community preserved the ability of the US to continue
    propagating the illusions of its political power
    when in fact it has much less on an international
    basis. It can no longer hide in the illusions of its
    objectivity while advocating for Israel.

    As other analysts have shown, there are other factors
    involved such as the role of international corporations,
    the economics of European “allies”etc.

    Whatever the statements of Members of the US Congress
    (and the Administration to moderate these), scrutiny of the
    UN Security Council Resolution itself , while conceding
    some US points, places many issues in these international
    contexts and more specifically in the context of international
    law. Whatever the US campaign rhetoric, it is unlikely
    that any nation which continues to do business with
    Iran will lose business with the US (Senator Lindsay Graham).

    As Nat Parry and others have cogently pointed out, Iran is
    in the ascendency as a central power in the Mideast.

    Clearly with both Russia and China as members of the P5+1
    group negotiating with Iran and with key European powers
    advocating less for the interests of the US only than
    for their own political and economic ends the balance is
    altered. The US is more isolated. It cannot now
    —as it invariably did—pretend that it alone (without
    the international community) has the capability to make
    decisions for the world.

    In the UN Security Council, the resolution passed unanimously.

    Whether the Executive in the US after 2016 is a Republican,
    a hawk etc. these changing power-relationships will remain.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. M Henri Day
    July 22, 2015 at 13:52

    Mr Fuller makes important points here, summed up, I submit, in the following two paragraphs :

    «Now, some three decades after the Iranian Revolution, Washington has finally acknowledged the extreme problems that its own long-term inability to deal with “rogue” Iran has posed to U.S. policies over the years — affecting Afghanistan, Pakistan, pipeline routing, al-Qa’ida, Iraq, Central Asia, the Gulf, Syria, where a degree of common interests in fact exists.

    Washington finally felt compelled to search for some kind of minimal normalization with Tehran. The nuclear issue was the ostensible driver. Far more important however is acknowledgment of the need to deal with the second most important strategic state in the Middle East –Turkey being number one.»

    What is missing, however, from this analysis is the reason that the US must know acknowledge the impasse unwise policies in Southwest and Central Asia have brought it to is that it has so many other things on its plate – more specifically, its confrontations with Russia and China in the post-putsch Ukraine and the South and East China Seas, respectively, that it must, willy-nilly, devote at least some of the resources, economic, political, and not least, military, that previously had been devoted to the above area to these other regions…..

    I also find it unfortunate that the author allows himself such remarks, which may very well resonate with US readers, but which bear little relevance to the real situation obtaining at the time as «we’ve dealt in the past with far “crazier” nuclear totalitarian powers such as Stalin’s Russia, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea or Mao’s China» – leaving aside Kim Jong-il’s North Korea, which never represented a threat to the United States, neither Stalin’s Russia nor Mao’s China were by any means «crazy» regimes. The Soviet Union developed nuclear weapons to deter the United States from attacking it, while the Chinese had to worry both about attacks by the US and about attacks from the Soviets. The military posture of both countries was, as Mr Fuller surely knows, essentially defensive, rather than aggressive, as opposed to that of the United States itself….


    • July 25, 2015 at 04:13

      This seems about right, although the US’s conflict with China has to do with potential oil-rich areas in waters where Japan claims islands. Forget the details, but they’re in my copy of “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet,” at home, where I am away from at the moment. There’s lots of game of chicken craziness happening over there. We’d all like the US to just stop. But that’s not going to happen. But, really, now (with corporatocracy states all evolved into vicious beasts), if uncle Sam wasn’t pushing his greatest weight around, then it would only be one of the other bigger dogs.

  4. F. G. Sanford
    July 22, 2015 at 09:29

    Hillary Clinton acknowledged Obama’s “efforts”, and said [the deal] “Does put a lid on their nuclear program. But, we still have a lot of concern about the bad behavior and the actions by Iran which remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism which does go after and undermine governments in the region, and that poses an existential threat to Israel. That behavior is something we will have to address”. Keep in mind, not a word of any of that is true. Stuxnet attacks, blowing up military leaders and murdering nuclear scientists are all acts perpetrated against Iran by USA and Israel. Saudi Arabia, as revealed by Seymour Hersh, was paying the Pakistanis to keep quiet about bin Laden because they didn’t want him revealing their financial support for Al Qaida. So far, the only effective efforts to crush Al Qaida have been carried out by Iran. Maybe Clinton just didn’t get the memo: Iran was removed from the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment presented to the Senate by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Maybe she’s just posturing to please her AIPAC donors. Then again, maybe she still takes advice from Sid Blumenthal. It’s also hard to know whether she subscribes to the left or right wing of the CIA. But there’s no doubt she remains a dedicated “Full Spectrum Dominatrix”. Those naughty, naughty Mullahs and their “bad behavior” must be punished! Personally, I can’t picture Hillary in a corset and thigh-high boots, but there’s no denying she’s had plenty of experience with naughty boys.

    • July 25, 2015 at 04:07

      I picture her, and attempted to photo edit it, shooting energy out of her fingertips, grimacing, and exclaiming “Die Jedi!”

  5. Steve
    July 22, 2015 at 09:29

    Anything written or said by Graham Fuller is perception management. So sorry to see your website pushing this war criminal as a voice of reason. See:

    • July 25, 2015 at 04:04

      I’m not familiar with this writer. But anyone who urges me to give exceptional praise to terrorist Obama has me wondering.

    • July 25, 2015 at 04:20

      Yikes! Very good call Steve. Thanks!

    • roger temple
      July 26, 2015 at 18:16

      Somebody obviously telling the truth may still be, or have been, a bastard, criminal, traitor or what-have-you. But for the moment he is (maybe only temporarily) not a liar.
      Anyway, who says the Corbett Report is truthful?

  6. alexander
    July 22, 2015 at 05:29

    Thank you for a fine article, Mr fuller.

    I do think our President deserves tremendous praise for his ability to see the Iran deal through to its end !
    His ability to withstand the “shrill dictates” and “fraudulent claims” of the belligerents amongst us, stands in stark contrast to his predecessor,President Bush, whose willingness to succumb to them, proved to be a profound tragedy for us all !

    May we all adopt the adage “Never Again” to ever initiating wars of aggression under bogus and false pretenses !

    It would certainly serve the interest of justice, were all those who defrauded us into war, at some point, be held accountable !

    As to the Iran deal “dooming” our hegemonic impulse toward” Full Spectrum Dominance “.

    I have to be honest with you ,Mr fuller, as I think we all must be honest with ourselves . that what really put the Kabosh on our “F.S.D.” manifesto, wasn’t the” Iran deal”…..

    …It was the “sheer weight” and enormity of “debt creation”.the Neocon agenda of aggression has cost us and its implications to our nations solvency and credit worthiness.

    The” Iran deal”, is a result of, not a catalyst for, the tempering of this impulse toward world domination ….and its obscene 18.26 trillion dollar price tag .

    It would be a fitting epitaph to all those Neocons who so hubristically informed the world “We are so powerful we create our own reality” to have to “face the reality” of full repayment of the trillions lost to future American generations their fraud and aggression has “created” !

  7. Anonymous
    July 22, 2015 at 02:31

    Can you amend your article it should read Stalins Soviet Union not Stalins Russia.
    The Georgian was head of a very different entity.
    Stating it was Russia suggests a continuity to today which is not factually correct.
    Russia was a part of the Soviet Union. Not the Soviet Union.

  8. Mortimer
    July 21, 2015 at 22:01

    “Taking orders from Israel — Israel itself —
    is America’s biggest foreign policy “problem” in the M-E” _ Mark

    The rule of Structure and Order is the deciding factor here.
    Whose structure & order?
    By all means, the rulers of the world !

    Political Rights in Palestine Were Granted to Jews Only

    The “Mandate for Palestine” clearly differentiates between political rights – referring to Jewish self-determination as an emerging polity – and civil and religious rights, referring to guarantees of equal personal freedoms to non-Jewish residents as individuals and within select communities. Not once are Arabs as a people mentioned in the “Mandate for Palestine.” At no point in the entire document is there any granting of political rights to non-Jewish entities (i.e., Arabs). Article 2 of the “Mandate for Palestine” explicitly states that the Mandatory should:
    “… be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”

    Political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the League of Nations in four other mandates – in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [today Jordan].

    International law expert Professor Eugene V. Rostow, examining the claim for Arab Palestinian self-determination on the basis of law, concluded:
    “… the mandate implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rights in the area in favor of the Jews; the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development, in acknowledgment of the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land.

    Lord Curzon, who was then the British Foreign Minister, made this reading of the mandate explicit. There remains simply the theory that the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have an inherent ‘natural law’ claim to the area. Neither customary international law nor the United Nations Charter acknowledges that every group of people claiming to be a nation has the right to a state of its own.”

    • Zachary Smith
      July 21, 2015 at 22:41

      Are you aware your ‘mythsandfacts’ site is unusually nasty Israeli propaganda?

      But it surely does demonstrate that to this particular propagandist, Palestinians have precisely zero rights.

      • Mortimer
        July 21, 2015 at 23:28

        Of course I’m aware of that. As I implied,
        Whose structure & order is always In Effect?
        It can always and only be that of the colonizers of the world.

        The very same “rules of order” apply to a segment of Americans.
        It’s the creedal formulaic mantra, as in, for example,
        “If you work hard, and play by the RULES you can achieve the “American Dream”-…

        Indisputable Fact: Political Rights in Palestine Were Granted to Jews Only

        The colonizers always and at all times decide and control the “rules” – as do the European Jews now in the former British colony of Palestine.

        As with the fable for “other” americans seeking the american dream, Palestinians have been Forced into a choke hold of subliminal existence under the bellicose authority of a people (zionists) who absolute hate them and zealously desire to “Mow The Lawn” them out of existance.

      • Mortimer
        July 21, 2015 at 23:38

        Political Rights in Palestine Were Granted to Jews Only

        • Mark
          July 22, 2015 at 00:27

          Yes, Israel is an undemocratic apartheid nation. And what you’re telling us here is that Zionism’s claim to Palestinian land is based on racial and/or religious bias.

          Thanks for spelling that out for anyone that doesn’t yet know the truth.

      • Mark
        July 22, 2015 at 00:39

        It seems like I saw the same invalid arguments Mortimer is making just a few weeks ago — either he is a victim of Zionist propaganda or is extremely biased against Palestinian rights for one reason or another, along with all the validating propaganda, while believing in Zionist self-declared supremacy.

    • Mark
      July 22, 2015 at 00:20

      Nice try at deflecting the issue Mortimer but you’ve failed and the issue here is still America’s foreign policy problems in the Mid-East.

      Nothing of what you stated validates US foreign policy being commandeered by Israel to fight their pre-planned wars at our expense.


      (((PNAC ‘New Strategy for Securing the Realm)))

      (((The Yinon plan)))

      And to find out how Zionist double agents inside the Bush administration had US experts on the Mid-East replaced by pro-Zionist lobbyist so they could aid in propagandizing the American public to going along with Israel’s PNAC plans to invade 2003 Iraq for starters — search: ((The New Pentagon Papers)).

      Netanyahu is trying to dictate American policy right now and sabotage what is essentially a peace agreement with Iran — this is not in the best interests of the USA.

      Your post amounts to an argument to legitimize religious and racial supremacy for Zionists and your argument is invalid. In fact your argument is full of Zionist propaganda — a lot of spin attempting to legitimize murder and land theft — no argument legitimizes racial and religious supremacy for Zionists to the point that massacring and expelling the Arabs and stealing their land by force is legitimate.

      Search ((the Balfour Declaration)) and see where Zionists agreed not to infringe on the rights of indigenous Christians or Muslims in 1917 and thereafter — as we know the Zionists have failed miserably in abiding by that 1917 Declaration.

      Before 1948 the Zionists had been telling the world for decades they wanted to coexist with the indigenous Palestinians — while simultaneously they were secretly planning to slaughter and expel the Arabs once the Zionists had enough terrorists and weapons to take the land by force — search (((Zionist political Violence))).

      That is always what the US should be recognizing about Israel — that Israel only exists today because Zionist Terrorism took the land by terroristic force that was never legitimate — and they are still slaughtering Palestinians and stealing land in the same way today…

      Anyone can look these facts up Mortimer, are you trying to give Zionism or their supporters a bad name or worse name than what it already is?

      • Mortimer
        July 22, 2015 at 12:05

        >>>And what you’re telling us here is that Zionism’s claim to Palestinian land is based on racial and/or religious bias.<<>Benjamin Netanyahu<< accused Rabin's government of being "removed from Jewish tradition … and Jewish values." Netanyahu addressed protesters of the Oslo movement at rallies where posters portrayed Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform or being the target in the cross-hairs of a sniper. Rabin accused Netanyahu of provoking violence, a charge which Netanyahu strenuously denied.

        • Mortimer
          July 22, 2015 at 17:11

          Thanks to whomever made mishmash of this comment of mine by erasing the substance of what I wrote.

  9. Mark
    July 21, 2015 at 21:16

    When speaking of US Mid-East policy since 9/11, the author failed to give credit to Israel for largely designing and implementing US policy by the use of the strongly biased pro-Israel “US” mass-media with AIPAC coercing US politicians and dual US and Israeli citizens in the Bush administration among other realities — all acting on behalf of Israel’s “wishes” to push the US to invade 2003 Iraq and go on to Syria and Iran — which has proven to be totally contrary to America’s best interests — unless you believe endless war crimes committed and paid for by the US, for the sake of Israel’s Mid-East plans of chaotic destruction and land grabs, os somehow beneficial to America’s best interests?

    Taking orders from Israel — Israel itself — is America’s biggest foreign policy “problem” in the M-E which can easily be defined as treason considering the pre-existing knowledge and the level of involvement with many of the American officials before and during the 2003 invasion, as it is today when we pretend Iran and Syria are “our” major problems in the M-E now — while in reality it is still Israel as they try to direct US policy for their benefit — what a joke Netanyahu is as is any informed person that listens to or agrees with what he says!

    Why would the author downplay the role of Israel’s influence and power when it comes to them directing US Mid-East policy? Wouldn’t you want the US public to know the truth in all of this so we can democratically exert pressure on our representatives to face reality and serve our own US best interests?

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