I have been meaning to get today’s video out for quite a while now. I didn’t plan on it, but it’s coming out at a pretty useful time as well. After months of dithering, and posing for the benefit of hawks in the United States, the Biden administration has finally sat down to talks with the Iranian government. It’s not clear why they need to talk, the Iranian position is pretty clear… Iran will comply fully with the JCPOA if the US complies fully. But nonetheless, it is a heartening step that the negotiations have finally started. I am happy to be making this argument for the Iran Nuclear Deal at this time. This video is meant to persuade. I tried to make it less angry and more shareable than some of my other videos on the topic. If you think I succeeded, please share it widely.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. I spend a lot of time complaining on this channel. People I respect have made the fair criticism that I don’t propose any solutions to the many tragedies I document, I just whine about them. Well today is different. In this video and the next I am going to talk about a solution that’s here, that’s easy, and that I truly believe is capable of literally saving the world. I am talking,of course, about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) more commonly know as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
With these two videos I am going to make two very different arguments, that might as well exist in different worlds. With today’s video I am going to talk about reality as I see it. I am going to talk about a world that still admires the United States and wants to trust it, but is getting sick of the way our aggression has repeatedly led the planet into disaster over the past two decades.
With the next video I will make the argument as if Washington DC’s fantasy world is real. This is the world pushed by most US and European media, where Russia and especially China pose some meaningful threat to world stability, and the US needs to wage a new Cold war against them.
In both of these worlds, the real world, the fantasy world and very likely in infinite earths beyond them, the Iran Nuclear Deal is the right thing to do.
The JCPOA is the next right step whether you are a committed anti interventionist like myself, or a rampaging China hater, eager to proxy war against the Community Party’s interests all over the planet prepared to kill millions to defeat them. But there are some other ways that my reality and the Washington DC fantasy world converge that I should mention before I get into this.
Long time viewers understand this about me, but more casual viewers may be surprised to hear it. I am a fierce advocate of the US international system. I spend a lot of time dwelling on the mistakes, because I desperately want to make less of them. I believe the past 75 years have been almost supernaturally peaceful, and that even with all the horror, and there has been a lot of horror, the US system has been vital in keeping the human race from annihilating itself. If the US world system ends with world wars the way the British World System did, civilization is unlikely to survive.
That’s why I wrote a book called Avoiding the British Empire by the way, which you should totally check out, link in the description.
So my reality converges with the Washington DC fantasy world in some really important ways. I believe the US led order, in the final analysis is good. I believe it is deeply threatened. Where I differ, however is where the threat is coming from. It’s not the ever growing selection of outside forces that Washington DC wants you to give them ever bigger defense budgets to face. No, the threat is coming from inside the house. It’s the unbroken string of calamitous failures that Washington DC has inflicted on us for the past thirty years that created most of our threats, and it is the continuation of those failures and even rewarding of those responsible for failures that is the greatest threat to the US led system that has done so much for the world. The beauty of the JCPOA, and the reason Washington DC is fighting so hard against it, is that it can stop this process of compounding failure in its tracks. The deal already exists. All we have to do is jump back in.
There are plenty of smart people who are making the technical case for the Iran deal today. It’s one of the most sweeping and restrictive arms control deals in diplomatic history, and it is tremendously one sided in the US’s favor. Over the past two decades we invaded and destroyed Iran’s two biggest neighbors and we’re certainly not giving up an iota of military or peaceful nuclear capability in the deal. The people who tell you that the deal isn’t complete until Iran has given up its entire foreign policy and all its allies, and its entire ability to defend itself, are fundamentally dishonest and should be ignored. They don’t want a deal, they just want to preserve an enemy and preserve defense budgets in the US and Israel. In fact, a nuclear armed Iran, and a cascade of nuclear proliferation across the Middle East might be better for the US military industrial complex . Real Danger is great for defense budgets. There’s an argument that Bush’s trashing of a Clinton deal with North Korea is what led to that country’s bomb and Senators like Bob Menendez and Tom Cotton want a repeat performance. But I don’t want to talk about the minutiae today, I want to talk on a higher level.
As Trita Parsi puts it in his informative book on the topic, the real point of the Iran Nuclear Deal is Losing an enemy. The point of the deal is not the deal, but to move beyond the deal, and welcome Iran back into the community of nations. With the incendiary issue of nuclear weapons handled, Iran will be free to negotiate as a peer on other issues. And one of the world’s greatest flashpoints can finally calm down. This is why the complaints about time limits within the deal are so dishonest and unhelpful. The goal of the deal is to get to the point where Iran doesn’t need a special inspection regime to prove it doesn’t have a bomb. It’s been a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1970, and if the world’s most powerful country is no longer threatening to destroy it, there is no reason for Iran to go Nuclear. There are two standard arguments against this happy vision, but in a weird gift to Iran, Donald Trump completely discredited both of these arguments.
When supporters of diplomacy point out that Iran signed the non proliferation treaty, the argument is: well you can’t trust those crazy mullahs to really cooperate with any serious deal you’re just giving them time to make a bomb.
Well for five years now, the Iranian regime has scrupulously complied with the most rigorous arms control inspections regime in diplomatic history. And for three of those years they have been complying with that deal even though the United States abandoned it. Trump proved that Iran is very, very good at following the letter of the deals it makes, in stark contrast to the United States.
The other standard argument is that because of religious fanaticism the Iranians have a suicidal lust for blood, and are incapable of acting rationally. They are the mad mullahs after all.
Trump has disproved that as well. Despite a series of vicious provocations from the United States, Iran has remained calm and rational. They are clearly the adults in the room. The US and Israel have been actively assassinating highly placed members of the Iranian military and scientific establishment, sometimes in Iran itself. Israel is just short of bragging about repeated terrorist actions against civilian infrastructure in Iran. And Iran just keeps on trucking.
Iranians steadfastly refused to give up any aspect of the JCPOA until basic self respect required them to. Over the past year, because of those assassinations, and other Israeli terrorism, Iran has publicly, slowly, and quite consistently with its obligations, started taking steps out of compliance. At every point they have made it clear that they will honor their full JCPOA obligations as soon as the United States honors our commitments, and Trump has proved that Iran is infinitely more trustworthy on this topic than the US is.
Back in the Obama years, because he was so damn charming, it was easier to look like the good guys here. What Trump has done is not just escalate this situation, but escalate it in such a way that anybody in the world who doesn’t read US media is well aware that the escalation is Washington DC’s fault. Trump has made it painfully obvious that we are the bad guys, but after reviewing the history, I kind of think we always have been.
It’s a standard thing to complain about the US backed coup against Iran in 1953. Mohammed Mossadegh was democratically elected, we did it for oil, the Shah sucked, we supported the Shah, leading to the revolution 1979 etc. etc. You have heard the story. But not enough people pay attention to relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you do look into it it is kind of shocking. Like Iran has been begging to do a deal with us for at least 3 decades now. And we just burn them over and over and over again.
Things got off to a bad start obviously. They took some of our diplomats hostage, so we supported an aggressive war against them that killed 500,000 men women and Children. But there is an interesting aspect of the 1980s that kind of gets ignored. During the Iran Iraq war Israel was one of Iran’s largest arms suppliers. Like you could probably make an argument that Israel saved the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Now of course, the Iranian leadership talked a ton of shit about Israel back then and how it had to be destroyed. That’s because Iran is an Islamic country. That standard rhetoric was spouted by all the Arab countries Trump got to sign deals with Israel as well. This standard rhetoric didn’t get in the way of Israel selling massive amounts of arms to Iran. Because the world was more serious back then.
Back in the 1980s, Israel faced real, serious threats. The Soviet Union heavily backed the Arab countries, most of whom,most famously Iraq, were publicly committed to Israel’s destruction. And thanks to Gulf money,Iraq looked like a real military threat to Israel back then. Weirdly, today’s Israeli obsession with Iran came about because Israel got so much safer in the early 1990s. With the humiliation of Saddam in the first Gulf war, and the evaporation of the Soviet Union, Israel was running out of enemies.
Even worse, Iran under President Rajsanjani recognized that the world was different after the Cold War, and Iran needed to make its peace with the US and Israel. He backed off his support for Hezbollah, and he even invited Conoco, A US oil company to start operating In Iran. Israel wanted to stop this, and at the beginning at least, the decision made a perverse sort of sense.
The Israeli government knew that the new more peaceful world required some kind of deal with the Palestinians. But they couldn’t sell the Oslo accords to the Israeli public without arguing that they were needed because of a threat. So they intentionally rejected Iran’s overtures opting for peace with Palestine over peace with Iran. As Trita Parsi points out, the fight between Israel and Iran didn’t really start in 1979. It started in 1992, because Israel desperately needed an enemy. Sadly, Rafsanjani, offended that his overtures had been rejected, struck back hard. Support for Shia Hezbollah was restored and expanded, and Iran built relationships with Sunni opponents of Israel like Hamas, that it had never had before. The US eagerly jumped on this bandwagon, it was running out of enemies too. It came up with a dual containment strategy arguing that Iran was just as bad as neighbor invading Iraq, and the US government blocked the Conoco deal. It’s really striking to me how the US and Israel both had to take extremely unreasonable positions on Iran to preserve the animosity. We see this everywhere with the US. Things are so favorable to us in the post Cold War environment we have to be extremely unreasonable and anti diplomatic to keep any real rivalry going. It’s a difficult thing to do, But we keep pulling it off.
I can see why Israel did this, and who knows, for Palestinian peace, maybe it was even worthwhile. But I have zero sympathy for my government here. Israel at least launched this fraud for the Oslo accords. We eagerly jumped on board to sell more weapons. And after 9-11 we rejected not one but two extremely generous peace overtures from Tehran. Everybody knows that Iran had vigils for the victims of 9-11 and stuff. But did you know they helped us win the war in Afghanistan in 2001?
Iran had always been opposed to the Taliban, and they leapt at the chance to be useful to the United States, and hopefully end their international isolation. Iran not only helped the US connect with the Northern Alliance, in a December 2001 conference, Iran helped establish the first Post-war Afghan government, arguably the most stable it has had in the past four decades. And what was Iran’s reward for all this? Bush’s January 2002 speech claiming that Iran was part of an axis of evil with Iraq and North Korea. The US’s subsequent conquest of Iraq prompted one last extraordinary overture from Iran. They were rightly terrified, so they offered Bush everything. An end of support for Sunni opponents of Israel and the disarmament of Hezbollah. They even offered to join the Arab peace deal for Israel promising recognition. They offered inspections of their nuclear program that were far more sweeping than the ones they eventually agreed to with the JCPOA. It was amazing. And the Bush asministration arrogantly threw it away, confident that they would soon be able to destroy Iran the same way they had crushed Iraq. Iran decided it had no choice but to defend itself, adding Shia militias to the Sunni insurgency that quickly made Iraq the catastrophe it became.
Many argue that the dissolving of the Iraqi military was Bush’s biggest mistake in Iraq, but this rejection of peace with Iran may be even bigger. Iran has been a stumbling block for US empire in the Middle East, but that’s because the US and Israel forced it to be. After a decade and a half of blood, Obama was finally able to coax Iran back to the negotiating table, just barely putting together the JCPOA after 7 years of constant effort. And then Trump blew it up. We are not the good guys here. And more importantly, everybody knows it.
US credibility is shot. Iran tells the world we are untrustworthy and power mad, and it’s getting harder and harder for our allies to disagree. Our aggression has created a number of conflict points, and the chance that one of them could tip over into war increases with every bone head move we make. And the fact that we now look like the bad guys makes it less and less likely that out allies will back us if one of these wars happen. A fact that also makes those wars more likely. The idea of a lone United States finally seeing it’s system fail may seem attractive to some viewers. But ask yourself, who suffered most when the British system failed? It certainly wasn’t the British! No the world wars and their aftermath killed vastly more Indians, Chinese, Poles, Russians, Germans, and countless other nationalities than it did Britons. You may not like the American world system, but war is not the right way to leave it.
Rooting for the United States in foreign policy can sometimes feel like falling down a hill, but I found some hope in an odd place recently. I recently read Greg Grandin’s Empire’s Workshop, about the US treatment of Latin America.
This is not a book to make you feel good about US history. It’s a litany of horror really. But there’s this incredible little 20 year break. By the early 1930s, everybody in Latin America had gotten sick of the US’s constant invasions. So FDR and his administration agreed to just stop. They renounced intervention, and truly did back off for a decade or two. And it worked. The goodwill was incredible, and the US had tremendous support from Latin America all through World War II and the founding of the United Nations. Within two decades, certainly by 1954, the US found other ways to screw with Latin America and discard all that good will, but the lesson stands.
People still really like the United States. It’s probably not fair, but all we really have to do to win the world back is stop. Just stop invading places. Stop sanctioning everybody. Stop being the bad guy. Just stop. The JCPOA is an extraordinary opportunity to do just that. With the JCPOA we can take a step back, rebuild alliances, and maybe get back to being peace makers rather than war starters. Without the JCPOA I fear we will just keep tumbling down that hill. And that won’t be good for anybody.
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