By Theodore Shoebat
The Iranian government just pulled out of the Iran Deal as a response to the killing of Soleimani. Iran announced that it would no longer put any limit to the number of centrifuges it has in production, calling it the “last key item of its operational limitations in the JCPOA,” or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is formally known. The Iranian government said in the same statement:
“If the sanctions are lifted and Iran benefits from the JCPOA interests, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to return to its JCPOA obligations”
Iran pulling out of the Iran Deal means the country is only going to entrench itself deeper into isolation as its economy suffers under sanctions and its people suffer under a diminished economy.
Upon the killing of Qassem Soleimani, many Americans saw the assassination as the United States merely eliminating a terrorist leader. But what no one is bringing up after the dispatch of the political leader is how it took place in the midst of an intense struggle between two factions within the Iranian government: Rouhani and the more moderate house that called for diplomatic relations with the US, and the house of the hardliners consisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its leader Soleimani. There was a lot of rivalry taking place before the killing of Soleimani, and from this it seems that perhaps the elimination of this very powerful leader has only intensified the house of the hardliners.
If you look to the history of the US’ policy regarding Iran, it involves a strategy of tension in which factional struggles are intensified and pushed to implode into violence for the greater purpose US geopolitical ends. This took place in the 1950s when the CIA enflamed Islamists to be enraged at Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh by funding anti-Mossaddegh propaganda and by having CIA operatives even pretend to be socialists and nationalists, threatening Muslim leaders with “savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh,” actions that would make the masses believe that the Prime Minister was an enemy of the Muslims. The CIA even funded pro- and anti-Shah demonstrations, and demonstrators eventually clashed on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere. This strategy of tension was important for the US for the simple reason that when there is division there is a susceptibleness to outside control.
When the United States brought the Shah into New York, the US government knew that it would cause a hostage crises in the embassy in Tehran. In the month before, the Shah of Iran moved to New York to be treated for cancer at the New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center. Carter, reluctantly (as the story goes), allowed the Shah entry into the United States, under pressure from Kissinger and David Rockefeller (who was very close to the Shah family). The Shah’s presence in New York angered the militants in Iran who used this as a way to make propaganda that the Shah was betraying Iran for the Americans. Carter was resistant to the idea of allowing the Shah entry on the fear that it would spark violence against US envoys in Iran. Carter, pressured by Kissinger and David Rockefeller, reportedly asked the question, “What are you going to recommend that we do when they take our embassy and hold our people hostage?”
Further proof that the Americans knew that by bringing the Shah into the US it would provoke an attack on the US embassy can be found in a letter written by David Rockefeller:
”I got a call on March 14, 1979 … from David Newsom (Carter’s Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs). Newsom said they had intelligence reports from Iran which suggested that, if the Shah were admitted to the United States, the American Embassy would be taken and it would be a threat to American lives.”
This is exactly what happened in 1979. Militants in Tehran, angry with the Shah for his presence in New York (which they saw, somehow, as collusion with the Americans), stormed the embassy and took Americans hostage. Reagan’s campaign then used this scenario to humiliate Carter and win the election. Reagan’s faction even made a deal with the Iranians that if they release the hostages right after Reagan’s election victory that they would be able to have arms deals with the Americans and the Israelis.
So then there is a pattern utilizing tension for the advantage of American geopolitical ends. Looking at this pattern of behavior, it is thus not far fetched or ‘conspiratorial’ to wonder if there is indeed a strategy of tension being utilized in the killing of Soleimani. To simply laugh this off is both inept and vacuous of being aware of patterns of behavior.
In May of 2018, I wrote an article presenting an observation that Trump removing the US from the Iran Deal he was only worsening the situation because by resuming severe sanctions on Iran it would diminish the Iranian economy and invigorate the house of the hardliners. Rouhani was part of the political faction that wanted more diplomacy with the Americans; hence why the Iranian government negotiated with the Obama administration for the Iran Deal.
While American hardliners complained about the Iran Deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran was abiding by the rules of the agreement. American conservatives argued that the Iran Deal conceded that the US government would give billions of dollars to Iran. Trump wailed that the Deal “gave (Iran) 150 Billion Dollars.” While the $150 billion is a disputed estimate (the US Treasury estimated it to be between $50 billion and $70 billion), regardless of the number it is not as though the Deal just arbitrarily decided to give away billions because Obama loved Iran. The reality was that the billions of dollars were frozen assets that were owed to Iran for business dealings but were prevented from going to Iran on account of sanctions. Iran agreed to not make nuclear weapons and to be under continuous inspections by the IAEA and in return would be given moneys that belonged to Iran.
In this article I argued that the US’ withdrawing from the Iran Deal would make moderates in Iran who the US could work with look delegitimate in the eyes of the masses. By pulling out of the Iran Deal and imposing sanctions, a number of things happen: the economy diminishes and the Iranian rial free falls thus creating economic turmoil; this, in turn, causes anger against the Rouhani government and people point the finger at Rouhani for failing in the goal of negotiating a deal with the Americans; as a result, hardliners like those in the Revolutionary Guard present themselves as a better solution as opposed to Rouhani and his ilk. My argument was that the withdrawing from the Iran Deal would not moderate Iran but would only enflame hardline and radical factions.
In the midst of the struggle between the hardliners and the more moderate faction, the leader of the hardliners, Soleimani, gets killed by an American air strike. This assassination occurred while Iran has been suffering from a poor economy that came about through American sanctions and in a time when many Iranians have been angry with their government. Now one of the most powerful figures in Iranian politics has been killed by the Americans. This is a lit match that has been tossed into a room full of the flammable fumes of anti-American sentiment. The killing of Soleimani has only exasperated the situation against moderation and will only provoke more radicalization. But lets look more into the realities of the tensions between the house of Rouhani and the house of the hardliners.
In May of 2019, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a report on the internal struggle occurring within Iran, writing: “inside Iran, a vigorous debate is taking place about U.S. intentions, the impact of the American “maximum pressure” campaign, and the best course of action for the Islamic Republic.” The same report went on to talk about how Rouhani had been having to deal with the hardliners who did not want negotiations with the US but a more aggressive approach:
“The leader of the moderate camp, President Hassan Rouhani, may well be interested in responding to President Trump’s reiterated preference for negotiations rather than conflict. But Rouhani, too, has to grapple with those preferring a more muscular, confrontational approach to U.S.-Iran relations.
Ever since President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, President Rouhani had been under major pressure to retaliate. Rouhani managed to stall for exactly a year. He announced on May 8, 2019 that his country would begin to take steps to scale back its compliance with some provisions of the deal.
That announcement was designed to put pressure on the remaining European, Russian and Chinese parties to the agreement to step up their efforts to sustain it. Rouhani wanted to demonstrate both strength and restraint at once, affording his government the flexibility to dial up or down its cooperation with the nuclear deal’s remaining signatories – particularly the Europeans.
But he was also signaling to his domestic audience that, contrary to the claims made by his critics over long months, Tehran wasn’t just sitting on its hands while the United States engaged in a long and comprehensive economic war against it, as well as broader efforts to pressure the Islamic Republic into submission.
The Rouhani government is trying to buy itself both the time and political capital to sustain the nuclear deal until November 2020, when both the fate of the U.S. administration and its Iran policy will be determined.
But at home, almost four years after its signing, the agreement remains as controversial as ever and Rouhani has spent virtually the entirety of his second term in office selling and defending it – and now faces even more diminishing returns.
In defending the deal, Rouhani has contended that the agreement has paid economic dividends – an argument that’s increasingly less viable as the U.S. sanctions on key sectors of the Iranian economy ramp back up.”
Rouhani argued that the nuclear deal was a stabilizing force that could be used to prevent American or Israeli military intervention in Iran. His apologetic for the Deal was that without it, war could actually happen. But the Americans have removed themselves from Iran Deal, bringing to nought Rouhani’s defense of the Deal, and giving the perfect arguments for hardliners wanting to bring in an economically devastated people to their side. What is interesting is that the popularity for Rouhani came as a result of Iranians wanting a more moderate leader who would negotiate with the Americans. This was due to Iranians being exhausted by the damaging economic results of US sanctions imposed on the radical Ahmadinejad administration. But now that the US has pulled out of the Iran Deal, the strategy of diplomacy appears vain. Hardliners were against the Iran Deal from the beginning. In 2014, Hojjatoleslam Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday prayer leader of Mashhad and the city’s representative in the Assembly of Experts, said that the results of the Iran Deal would be “forcing the Supreme Leader to drink the poison cup”.
In April of 2015, Hossein Shariatmadari, one of his advisers and editor of the influential hardline newspaper Kayhan, also went against the Iran Deal, saying in an interview Fars:
“To sum up the deal framework in one sentence – we handed over a saddled horse and received a broken bridle in return”
Another hardliner, Mehdi Mohammadi, called the deal “in no way balanced”. He told Fars that the Iran Deal represented a “disaster for Fordo”, which is the underground nuclear facility that was — per the Iran Deal — allowed to remain open but not used for enriching uranium. Foad Izadi, an outspoken Iranian hard-liner and professor at Tehran University, told the Daily Telegraph in August of 2015:
“People realize that Iran has given away a lot of things … The nuclear program has become a symbol of national pride — and people don’t like that the agreement came at a great price.”
After the Iran Deal was completed in Vienna, Izadi and other known hardliners convened a news conference that was critical of the Deal. “We quickly realized that what we had feared all the time had become a reality,” said Alireza Mataji, one of the hardliners at the news conference. “If Iran agrees with this, our nuclear industry will be handcuffed for many years to come.”
Both the American Right and numerous hardline voices in Iran were and still are against the Iran Deal. While Conservatives in the United States have been describing the Iran Deal as giving an advantage to radicals, they have never asked themselves why both they and the very Iranian hardliners that they claim to be against are against the Iran Deal. Both American and Iranian hardliners want an aggressive approach, and it appears that they are going to get what they want.
Now Iran, as a response to US actions, have pulled away from the Iran Deal. The US has now pushed Iran further into isolation which is only going to intensify radicalism in the country. You will argue that this will all be coincidental, but looking at the US’ record in Iran, I have my suspicions.