To make “America first,” the Trump administration has deployed a comprehensive strategy to ensure that its historical allies are all equally last.
Provocations and counter-provocations continue between Washington and Tehran over the constantly reinforced state of siege imposed by the US. Iran has attempted to appeal to the other partners in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — aka the Iran nuclear deal — who have remained at least theoretically committed to it. This comes even after US President Donald Trump’s decision not just to abandon the treaty, but to impose sanctions on Iran and enforce them on any of the signatories who contravene the sanctions.
Tehran has finally decided to play the only card left in its hand by threatening to cancel the terms of the agreement, which was unilaterally violated by the US, and return to its uranium enrichment program. In the face of this threat, European nations that signed the accord are playing coy, to gain time. According to CNBC, rather than acknowledging the demise of the agreement, the “EU is saying that inspectors, not declarations, will determine how it approaches Iran going forward.”
Even after the departure of the US, Iran continued to respect the terms of the agreement. And Europe had vowed to assist Iran by providing an alternative means of purchasing Iranian oil that consisted of avoiding payment in dollars as a means of escaping the mechanics of American sanctions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to London, showed himself less coy, announcing like a mafia boss convinced that the protection he offers is in the community’s interest: “I’m confident as we watch Iran’s activity that the United Kingdom and our European partners will move forward together to ensure Iran has no pathway for a nuclear weapons system.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Assured that other people will understand the meaning of the veiled threat the person claiming to be in control is making
As always, Pompeo’s language merits analysis. He announces his goal: “to ensure Iran has no pathway for a nuclear weapons system.” But, of course, that was everyone’s goal. It was the whole point of the JCPOA, defining the motivation of all the signatory nations. Moreover, at the time the US canceled its participation a year ago, Iran had scrupulously respected its terms. In other words, if Pompeo sincerely embraced that goal, he would realize that the easiest way to “ensure Iran has no pathway” would be for the US to rejoin the agreement.
Al Jazeera reminds its readers of what is obvious to Europeans: “As tensions rise, a group of European think-tank leaders said the US must rejoin the nuclear deal if it wants to achieve its stated aim of reining in Iran’s regional activities and its missile programme.” Instead, Pompeo’s idea of “moving forward together” is for the signatories to renege on their commitment to the accord, which included the suspension of sanctions.
Pompeo mentions “watching Iran’s activity,” as if the inspection procedures of the JCPOA weren’t designed to do exactly that. Leaving the agreement meant reducing the ability of the US to watch Iran. The rest of the world is left wondering through what binoculars Washington is now trying to observe that distant land. The very idea of watching expresses the desire to judge and control and the assumption of having the authority to do so.
The real significance of this development goes beyond the intensification of pressure on Iran with a view to regime change. The Trump administration is focusing on reducing or removing Europe’s margin of maneuver and forcing it to recognize that it has no choice but to comply with American dictates. That may be what President Trump has always meant by his slogan of “America First.” The US is meant to be the unique authority that watches, judges and controls not only the rogue states it has identified, but also its own allies.
The rest of the world has been watching Washington’s moves, such as the naval deployment announced by Pompeo this week, which Al Jazeera calls the “latest twist of the screw in President Donald Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran.” Iranian Professor Mohammad Marandi, who participated in the nuclear deal negotiations in 2015, explains Iran’s strategy that is “aimed at pressuring the remaining parties, especially those in Europe, to deliver on the economic benefits promised under the pact.”
The Europeans had promised to work through Instex, a trade channel designed to bypass US sanctions. Despite recurrent promises, its launch has been repeatedly delayed. Marandi concludes: “The Europeans have betrayed the Iranians because they have signed up to a nuclear deal and they gave verbal support, but in reality, they have abided by the dictates of the US president.”
Analyzing the strategy of sanctions against Syria in November 2018, political analyst Thierry Meyssan described the meaning behind the method of US sanctions and pointed to a new historical trend unfolding. He wrote: “The ensemble of systems currently used against Iran, Russia and Syria constitute the most gigantic siege system in history. These are not economic measures, but — without any possible doubt — military actions implemented in the economic sector. In time, they will probably lead to a division of the world into two parts, just as in the period of USA-USSR rivalry.”
Pompeo’s statement seems to support that hypothesis. He appears intent on locking Europe into the ideological block defined by the US. But the kind of continental drift that Meyssan alludes to hasn’t fully played out yet. Europe has shown signs of weakness and confusion, aggravated by the never-ending melodrama of Brexit, but it hasn’t yet allowed itself to be annexed to the US, as leader of a new cold war.
The re-emergence of Cold War logic has nevertheless become palpable, at least in US media, where the obsession with Russia has dominated headlines ever since the 2016 presidential campaign. Compared to the black-and-white ideological coherence of a bipolar world in the 1950s — capitalism vs communism; a nation “under God” vs atheism — the new version appears comically absurd. In today’s world, there are no clearly defined value or belief systems that separate the world into identifiable blocks.
In the US, the Democrats continue to support the conspiracy theory that sees Donald Trump as a puppet of Vladimir Putin, with Russia in the role of the feared enemy of American civilization. In reality, the Trump administration has consistently worked to reduce Russia’s capacity to act throughout Europe and Asia. A good conspiracy theorist would formulate a stronger version, far more consistent with the facts than the current one. It would read like this: Trump’s suspect admiration for and bromance with Putin is nothing more than a ploy to make it easier for the US to manipulate Putin.
If this is true, it actually may be working, and not only against Russia. It has also accomplished another of Trump’s goals: marginalizing the Democratic Party, which, in clinging to that absurd thesis, may have lost both its sense of reality and consequently any hope of returning to power in Washington.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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