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Trump’s Latest Stunt or Bibi’s Revenge: Regime Change in Tehran vs the Coming of Armageddon


Dr Can Erimtan
21st Century Wire

Many voices are nowadays claiming that the End of the American Empire is finally upon us, and President Donald J. Trump seems at pains to perform U-turns and other unexpected stunts that do appear to put the global community in peril, posing a dire threat to economic stability and political rectitude.

On 8 May 2018, President Trump deftly succeeded in undoing yet another segment of the Obama legacy, arguably his predecessor’s “signal achievement,” the JCPOA (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) popularly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal signed on 14 July 2015. This signature led to “October 18 as the day of adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between Iran and the six world powers [the by-now nearly proverbial P5+1].” At the time, the EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini announced publicly that “… this is another important milestone . . .  Iran will now start the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments with the objective of full and effective completion. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will make the necessary preparations for the monitoring and verification of these steps.” Still, not quite three years later, the current U.S. President told the world that “… intelligence recently released by Israel provides compelling details about Iran’s past secret efforts to develop nuclear weapons, which it lied about for years. The intelligence further demonstrates that the Iranian regime did not come clean about its nuclear weapons activity, and that it entered the JCPOA in bad faith.” And then he proceeded to end the “United States Participation in an Unacceptable Iran Deal,” as put by a White House Fact Sheet “Issued on: May 8, 2018.”

In response, the following day, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not waste too many words, simply saying that Trump “made a mistake,” according to his official website. Khamenei’s official Twitter account then told the world that:

“U.S. Pres.’s shallow & ludicrous behavior wasn’t unexpected. The same behavior existed in previous US presidents. Yet, Iranian nation is persistent while former U.S. presidents passed away & IRI is still standing. This man’s corpse will also be worm food while IRI stands strong.”

And in another tweet, arguing that:

“[l]ast night you heard the shallow statements Trump made. There were several lies in his speech. He threatened the Iranian govt. and the Iranian nation, claiming he would do one thing or another. On behalf of Iranian nation: ‘Mr. Trump, you couldn’t lift a finger if you tried’.”

A direct challenge, aimed at the ego of who many believe underneath all the bluster is really a highly insecure US leader.

Dealbreaker Trump’s Goal: Obliterating the Obama Legacy

President Trump has a particular and highly personal dislike of his predecessor, a dislike which seems to neatly dovetail with the GOP’s abhorrence of Barack Obama. Trump’s personal vendetta with Obama arguably goes back to the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner when the then-president thoroughly humiliated the then-still-businessman during his comedy routine, suggesting Trump, following the resolution of the “Birther” issue, turn to “the issues that matter,” such as “[w]hy did we fake the moon landing” or the true nature of the events at “Roswell” or the fate of “Biggie & Tupac.” The Republican establishment, on the other hand, had been committed to thwarting President Obama from the day of his inauguration (20 January 2009), apparently unable to stomach the reality of a black President in the White House. That night, “a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse,” a group consisting of ”just over 15 people in total,” who spent several hours plotting “out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.” Republican lawmakers subsequently spent years obstructing Obama’s plans and actions, and now that they have won back the White House, the Republicans are cunningly employing Trump’s deft writing hand to efface all of the first black President’s achievements. Or, as put in ideological and less personal terms by Trump’s one-time top advisor Steve Bannon (28 January – 18 August 2017) during the CPAC 2017 event (22 – 25 February 2017), the GOP is now working towards the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” dismantling such mainstay American institutions like the EPA (“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”) or the Department of Education (“The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018”). The current Republican agenda as crystalised in the Trump vision and worded by Bannon “goes beyond Reagan-era Republican talking points about cutting regulations and lowering taxes,” as expressed by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa.

In the same way, Trump has also targeted Obama’s signature international achievements – first withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord (1 June 2017) and nearly a year later performing the same move in connection with the JCPOA (8 May 2018). Whether regarding climate change or Iran’s nuclear programme, Donald Trump has on many occasions reiterated that his predecessor was just not able to get a good deal and, after all, getting a good deal is what Trump does best – or so the President himself likes to think as apparently seems well-documented in the book, ghost-written or rather authored by Tony Schwartz, The Art of the Deal. With regard to the first withdrawal, speaking in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump famously (or infamously) said that, “… as someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States — which is what it does -– the world’s leader in environmental protection” (1 June 2017). And, in connection with the JCPOA, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, he simply pontificated that “this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made” (8 May 2018). The deal was anything but “one-sided” in reality, including numerous commitments to be observed by Iran. On 10 May 2018, the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano even issued a statement in this respect, saying quite candidly that “the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran,” elucidating that “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA.”

Still, in this Trump-inaugurated era of ‘post-truth,’ the ‘post-factual’ and outright ‘alternative facts,’ it should come as no surprise that the U.S. President has no difficulties detecting non-compliance and open breaches. His backers, the GOP and its Conservative lawmakers, have been opposed to the agreement from the moment it was signed. Back in 2015, the New York Times‘ Jonathan Weisman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis perfunctorily stated that, “… without waiting for the details, Republicans lined up to blast the deal, from presidential candidates to congressional leaders to back-benchers,” with then-Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio vowing, “… we’ll do everything we can to stop it.”

Behind the Scenes: The Peres-Netanyahu Nexus

The reasons behind the U.S. Conservatives’ unwillingness to come to an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran arguably lie hidden in the Middle East itself, or rather in the West’s sole veritable outpost or colony there – the State of Israel. As long ago as October 1992, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (1923-2016) spoke on France 3, saying that “Iran is the greatest threat and greatest problem in the Middle East,” ominously adding, “because [Tehran] seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militancy.” As a Jew, born and initially raised in Poland, Peres arrived in Mandate Palestine in 1934 as a little boy following his father who had migrated hither two years earlier. Due to his active role in the formation of Israel, public opinion regards him as one of the Jewish nation state’s “founding fathers.” As an active politician and member of Israel’s Labor Party, Peres tragically never won a “single outright victory,” in spite of having participated in five elections. The elections for the 13th Knesset (on 23 June 1992) ushered in the formation of a Labor government, led by Yitzhak Rabin (1922-95), affording Peres to serve as Foreign Minister. He was to occupy this post till Rabin’s assassination, when Peres served as Acting Prime Minister and Acting Defense Minister for seven months until the 1996 elections. As one of the nation’s “founding fathers,” Shimon Peres artfully employed his time as a Foreign Minister to supply the State of Israel with a viable bogeyman meant to supply a raison d’être for the Jewish state beyond its status as a pariah in immediate environs in the Arab world. By means of projecting the nation’s fears and anxieties to a location well beyond its quasi-natural enemies (i.e. Israel’s Arab neighbours), Peres succeeded in placing Israel on an international footing that would quite naturally deserve international solidarity and ensure lavish liberal U.S. support, given Washington’s tense relations with Tehran ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Shimon Peres’ conception of Israel’s bogeyman to the east, not just coincidentally the sole representative of a so-called “Aryan” population group in the region, turned Iran into the proverbial location of anti-Semitism in the region and the world in the late 20th century (and beyond). In light of the Jews’ history of persecution at the hands of Christian population groups in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern and Modern Periods, Hitler and the Nazi ideology of an Aryan master race turned anti-Semitism from a religious disdain into a racist dismissal in the first half of the 20th century. The historian David Motadel  explains succinctly that the “Third Reich’s ideologues and propagandists used the term Aryan as a synonym for ‘Nordic’, ‘Germanic’, ‘German’ and ‘non-Jewish’ . . . the Third Reich became the first state to introduce the term ‘Aryan’ into national law . . . [with as t]heir primary target [the] Jews,” employing phraseologies like ‘”Aryan’ and ‘non-Aryan’ instead of ‘Jewish’ and ‘non-Jewish’.” But the concept ‘Aryan’ had been in use from “the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the term [was to] become a strong political concept which had a notable impact on the construction of ethnic and national identities.” Motadel goes on to explain that two thousand five hundred years before European racists and nationalists employed the terminology, the Achaemenid King Darius I (522 – 486 BCE) referred to himself as a “Persian, the son of a Persian, an Aryan, of Aryan lineage” (inscription on the Naqsh-e Rustam relief, located circa t 12 km northwest of Persepolis, the Achaemenid capital).

As a result, I would like to argue that Peres’ promotion of Iran as Israel’s bogeyman was nothing but the product of what I would like to term anti-Aryanism, as an ideological counterpart of anti-Semitism. In his capacity as  Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres told ABC television during an interview on 29 April 1996: “I believe that in four years [Iran] may reach nuclear weapons” (as reported by Agence France Presse). Following Labor’s 1996 electoral defeat and Israel’s swing to the right, Binyamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) became Israel’s 9th Prime Minister (18 June 1996 – 6 July 1999). At first, the Likud leader somewhat hesitantly took up the Labor legacy, denouncing Iran as Israel’s enemy and opponent, calling it a “rogue state . . . which is trying to arm itself with ballistic missiles and nonconventional weapons,” while talking to the veteran journalist David Frost (1939-2013) on 28 Feb 1997. In the course of that conversation, Bibi told his interlocutor that Iran was “trying to achieve . . . nuclear capability.” In fact, the Israeli PM seemed rather dovish at the time, declaring that he “would like to see the moderation of the Iranian regime . . . if it adopts a more responsible policy, I would be the first one to welcome such a change.” But in the short period of approximately eight months, Netanyahu apparently came into his own and completely changed his tact, becoming extremely hawkish and continuing the Labor legacy with relish. Again talking to the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost on 16 November 1997, Bibi really went all the way pronouncing such blatant fear mongering absurdities as “Iran, unseen, unperturbed and undisturbed is building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles, actually ICBM’s [or Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles]. Stage One would reach our area, Stage Two it would reach Britain and Stage Three, believe it or not, they actually plan to reach the eastern seaboard of the United States, Manhattan.”

Continuing his chat with the now-late Frost, Netanyahu next tried to heighten his own credibility by avowing that:

“… this sounds fantastic but Iran wants to be a world power with a world ideology of fundamentalist domination, seeing the West as its great enemy. It seeks to have weapons to back up that ideology and that is even more dangerous than [the now-late] Saddam [Hussein, the now executed erstwhile bogeyman of the U.S. under George H. W. and George W. Bush] because there is a fanaticism, an ideological fanaticism attached to the acquisition of these weapons.”

Maligning the Islamic Republic: An anti-Aryanist Ploy

Bibi’s gusto with which he maligns the Islamic Republic betrays his personal stake in the enterprise, his own “ideological fanaticism” in portraying Iran as a deadly threat and menace, as if he were rehearsing anti-Aryanist talking points, employing a then still-latent but nevertheless growing fear of Islamic fundamentalism to good effect, in order to whip up a complacent global public opinion into rapt attention and concomitant action.

Ever since, Binyamin Netanyahu has been hard at work trying to convince the world that Iran is constantly ‘on the verge’ of developing a nuclear capability. The senior researcher Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom (ret.), who significantly also acted as deputy national security adviser under Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), told Dr Trita Parsi in a somewhat facetious and flippant manner to “… remember, the Iranians are always five to seven years from the bomb . . . Time passes, but they’re always five to seven years from the bomb.” In this context, Bibi’s 2012 performance at the UN General Assembly stands out as one of the more memorable instances, standing on the podium he addressed the world even producing a memorable diagram depicting “Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb.” While on 3 March 2015, he even managed to speak before the U.S. Congress, delivering a “stern message” about the existential threat to Israel that is the Islamic Republic of Iran while giving voice to his misgivings about Obama’s “signal achievement,” the JCPOA. And, just recently, on 30 April 2018, Netanyahu made a big deal about Israel’s supposed acquisition of Iran’s nuclear weapons development archives, essentially driving home the erroneous point that the Iranian authorities’ cataloguing of earlier weapons’ development documentation constitutes proof that Iran has already decided to “resurrect its program and acquire nuclear weapons.” In reality though, this ‘new’ information was already included in the assessment of the U.S. 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which “indicated that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program as long ago as 2003.” In early 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that “Iran had resolved all the concerns that had arisen out of IAEA investigations in the preceding years.” But, Bibi’s “dramatic April 30th presentation” was all the convincing Trump needed to be persuaded . . . and now the U.S. has famously withdrawn from the JCPOA, leaving its European allies (Britain, France, and Germany) high and dry and Russia and China completely in the dark.

The Capital of Israel + End of the world + Regime Change in Tehran

The other spectacular stunt performed recently by President Trump had its first real fruits on Monday, 14 May when the U.S. Embassy to Israel moved to Jerusalem – highly symbolic, immensely divisive and theologically significant.

Trump’s Evangelical base regards the reinstatement of Jerusalem as the first step towards fulfilling God’s plan for the world. Many Evangelical Christians and particularly Christian Zionists support the return of the Jews to the Holy Land of Israel and this principle actually predates the formation of Zionism by “more than 400 years.” Protestantism arose in opposition to the corruption and venality of the Catholic Church and strongly advocated a return to the fundaments of Christian faith, which is the Old Testament, accessible in vernacular languages since the 16th century. According to Dr Célia Belin, this textual return focused primarily on the “prophetic books – the Books of Daniel and Isaiah and also [on the New Testament’s] Revelation” and led to a “new understanding of the role of the Jewish people in Christianity.” Belin succinctly summarises these complex tenets adhered to by many belonging to Trump’s Evangelical base as the belief that the “restoration of the Jews in Palestine is God‘s will – support of Israel is not only a choice, it‘s an order – and respecting it will bring prosperity, while disobeying it will convey hardship.” She furthermore explains that the “complete restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land is a prerequisite” to bring about “God‘s big plan for humanity” which entails the return of Christ to earth at the end of times in order to usher in either a pre-millennial or post-millennial resolution of life on earth, a resolution in accordance with the specific theology that is being adhered to – in the first case, the “Tribulations, the Rise of Babylon and the Battle of Armageddon” are envisioned and in the latter, a “Last Judgement” followed by sojourns in either heaven or hell depending on the individual believers’ state of grace. And thus, Trump’s Jerusalem stunt is basically nothing but him keeping his election promises to the faithful, as it demonstrates his commitment to the “restoration of Palestine to the Jews”. Earlier this year, the Family Research Council‘s president Tony Perkins expressed this seemingly paradoxical relationship as follows: Evangelical Christians lend their “reasoned support for a political leader who has made and kept his campaign promises,” adding somewhat opportunistically, “if we care about the future of our nation, we have to deal in the present.”


Jerusalem Trainwreck: Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, with president-in-law and New York landlord Jared Kushner and celebrated handbag designer Ivanka Trump, Israeli figurehead President Reuven Rivlin, Hollywood film financier-cum-US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Casino magnate and GOP and Likud money-man Sheldon Adelson.

In the present and in the real world, Trump’s adherence to Bibi’s line of thinking, which also seems to go down well in Christian Zionist circles, has caused great upset around the world. The EU’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini not mincing her words, saying that the “European Union regrets [the] statement by the President of the United States on the nuclear deal with Iran . . . The nuclear deal is not a bilateral agreement and it is not in the hands of any single country to terminate it unilaterally.  It has been unanimously endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture.”  Turning to the practical next, Mogherini adds that the “European Union has repeatedly stressed that the lifting of nuclear related sanctions has not only a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran”  and that she is “particularly worried by the announcement of new sanctions.” Sanctions aimed at restricting trade with Iran would have an averse effect on a wide variety of firms and businesses, from Shell and Total in the field of oil and gas, affecting Britain and France, to such manufacturing companies like Siemens or car firms like Peugeot and Renault, affecting Germany and again France. But reimposing sanctions on Iran would also negatively affect the U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing, as the multinational agreed a $20 billion US deal to sell jets to Iran’s national airline, Iran Air, in December 2016. Whereas, its effects on the price of oil do not even need to be reiterated.

On the other hand, Bibi’s colourful anti-Aryanist rhetoric (during his visit to Moscow he told Vladimir Putin that “Iran . . . is calling for the destruction of six million Jews,” insinuating that Iran is attempting to follow Nazi Germany’s lead and implement another “holocaust,” 9 May 2018);  inflammatory words used by U.S. officials like John Bolton (who actually said that Tehran’s “belligerent activity” is ”bringing us closer to war,” 9 May 2018); and particularly, Israeli military action in Syria targeting Iranian bases (on 11 May 2018, the IDF admitted striking four separate Iranian objectives in Syria) point towards another possible outcome . . . namely, to an effective war leading to a possible invasion of Iran with the aim of forcing regime change in Tehran . . . Such a conflagration could very well morph into an all-out conflict tantamount to a veritable “Armageddon.” In other words, should we take President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal as another aspect of his support for his Evangelical base trying to force the End Times upon us?!?? Or is Trump merely bumbling along, trying to please everyone while alienating everybody else in the process?!?!?

And then, there is the DPRK and its very own nuclear problem . . . as the by now quite proverbial saying goes, “we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty,” if nothing else. Putting the icing on top, Donald Trump told the press that “all the places [Iran is] involved, it’s bedlam and death,” with John Bolton ominously standing behind the President, who ended his ‘sagacious’ words in a rather threatening way: “… we’re going to make either a really good deal for the world or we’re not going to make a deal at all.”

The world might have something to say about Trump negotiating on their behalf.

***
21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has  a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans. the greater Middle East, and the world beyond.. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in Today’s Zaman and in Hürriyet Daily News. In the next instance, he became the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire.  You can find him on Twitter at @theerimtanangle

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