BLOG 354 June 26, 2017
A number of issues bear a second look… like the situation in Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, co-author of the nuclear armaments deal with the West was re-elected. He garnered 57% of the vote so no runoff was needed. This is highly significant since the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary guard supported his opponent. The public and particularly young people stand behind Rouhani and strongly support the nuclear agreement that halted Iran’s race for a nuclear option.
Rouhani’s success at the poles boosters the staying power of the nuclear agreement. Such results offer hope for the future.
At the same time, President Trump signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudis $380 billion dollars of what Trump called, “beautiful military equipment.” The deal was described in the news as an effort to “counter Iran.” The Saudis want anti-ballistic missiles and a new radar system (THAAD, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). This system will defend against Iran’s missile program. In addition, the Saudis want Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, selling at $100 million apiece. The objective is to provide Saudi Arabia with the strongest military in the region which will outpace Iran’s military and make the Saudis the strongest force in opposition to the Iranians.
From Trump’s point-of-view, the deal brings massive cash infusion into the US defense industry and is getting tough with Iran.
Does this represent an American policy? A critical look at Trump’s campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions raises the question, “what foreign policy?”.
Immediately after America’s November election, Israeli officials were saying that the era of a Palestinian state was over. Eight months later seems like a lifetime ago today. What has happened to countless politicians in the past is now being repeated. The campaign trail to the White House turns out to be filled with hot air exposed in the day light. The plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem have disappeared. No matter what anyone says, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not actually interested in peace talks as he keeps building new settlements on the Palestinian side of the line.
The Israeli public has swung back and forth in a manic-depressive mode from being highly optimistic to dropping into disappointment. The Trump administration will attempt to pressure both Abbas and Netanyahu to get back to the negotiating table for peace. They will respond in some way to appease the Americans, but the fundamental problems haven’t changed and won’t because of American pressure. Jews and Arabs have been at war with each other for thousands of years. More hot air from Washington won’t change the problem.
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Iran’s terrain is mountainous with magnificent views. One would not think of the countryside as a desert. The desert in the marketplace.
Who can doubt that Iran is a Muslim run country? Recently, a petition has been circulated seeking the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison for no reason other than being a Christian pastor. There is also a desert in tolerance and openness in Iran – but who doesn’t know about that topography?
On the other hand, the surprise is that the new president Hassan Rouhani’s first push is an attempt to raise the standard of living. Once the propaganda is scrapped off departing president Ahmadinejad’s budget, the world will know how serious Iran’s financial problems are. Former trade minister Yahja Ale Eshaq said last week, “Iran is an economical wreck.” Merchants on Tehran’s main street have been making the same declaration for months.
Rouhani was elected by a significant percent because citizens across the country have felt the pinch for years and have now reached the point of near desperation. A 31 year-old school teacher recently reported no one could find any butter in the stores. In addition, the government was so slow in releasing her pay check, she had problems meeting her creditors demands. Her story can be repeated across Iran.
Importers complain that the Central Bank is not providing the currency needed to buy products abroad. The heart of the issue is that the Central Bank cannot supply the dollars needed for purchases. Iran’s largest customer China has also not been paying for oil purchases with cash but bartering with their own goods and equipment at considerable higher prices than is considered a fair exchange. The result is that the pain won’t go away and Ahmadinejad has never been forthright about these facts.
This situation could become far worse under new sanctions passed this last Wednesday by the United States House of Representatives aimed at forcing Iran’s few remaining oil customers to look to different suppliers. If passed by the Senate next month, Iran’s oil production would be under a virtually embargo. Because oil is their prime export, they would be backed against the wall.
New President Rouhani is hearing desperate voices rail out against the source of all of these problems. Iran’s nuclear program is the problem. Professor Sadegh Zibakalam of Teran University raised the question about why they even have a nuclear program when there is no economic justification for it. The Supreme Leader Khamenei hasn’t changed his tune but Rouhani in his inaugural address recognized that talks with the West were one way out of the crisis. On Saturday at a ceremony marking the beginning of his presidential term, the new president promised to work to lift the “oppressive sanctions” crippling the country.
The world has to hope that Ayatollah Khamenei will not cripple this effort and tht Hassan Rouhani will not continue the double talk that has made conferences on their nuclear program fail.
Let’s hope Iran takes this opportunity to move forward.