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Iran and the Nuclear Weapons Club

Posted by alanmirs on December 3, 2011

Posted: 12/ 2/11 01:45 PM ET

Patricia DeGennaro on 

Iran hedged its bets and lost. By turning a blind eye to this week’s violent assault on the British embassy, which had the distinct odor of spin, the regime plowed right over the edge of an already teetering tipping point.

Outrage over the behavior of the international community and its endless war-drumming rhetoric and sanctions is understandable. Acting like a bull in a china shop is not. All things considered, both sides on this equation are behaving like spoiled children who exhibit no end to their temper tantrums because no one is getting their way. Russian and China are actually sounding like the only rational voices. Nevertheless, the problem is all these children masquerading as international leaders and diplomats have deadly means of coercion.

Let’s face it though, no one is innocent here. The Iranian government for its part is playing with fire while the U.S., Israel and the west keep stoking the ashes daring Iran to put it out. The bottom line here is that all of the above want Iran to end their nuclear program because they are terrified Iran is making weapons. To date there is excessive speculation, but nothing has been proven. Problem is this: it’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

The very countries calling on Iran to scrap their nuclear program are armed to the teeth with their own nuclear weapons. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Israel are all nuclear powers. Germany, the Netherlands and the rest of the NATO countries are “sharers” of nukes kindly supplied to them by the US. Together they could destroy all of mankind ensuring that no life will exist on this planet for, lets say, the next several million millenniums.

In an effort to move toward a non-nuclear world, which is a no-brainer, most countries have signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), by which they all basically try to promote the use of nuclear materials for peaceful purposes while halting the proliferation of nuclear materials for weapons. Iran is a member of this treaty. Israel is not. In fact, the most vociferous instigator of pummeling Iran and sanctioning it until it shrivels is the one country that refuses to admit they have nuclear weapons of their own or sign the NPT. And, might I add, no one is talking about bombing them. Israel, India, and Pakistan, for that matter, all have nuclear weapons and don’t get sanctioned, but get just about all the military support they want from U.S. and the west. Talk about double standards.

No wonder Iran thinks turning their backs on a bunch of thugs climbing embassy walls and tearing up papers is OK. They and the whole world are confused as to who gets to do what, when and where. Apparently they just didn’t get the memo that a state’s freedom ironically depends on submissiveness, subservience, and, giving up sovereignty not fighting the west’s status quo.

Iran has been through this before. Britain wanted all its oil without sharing the proceeds. Like most people who get their resources stolen, they decided to end that zero sum deal. However, instead of saying — gee you’re right, we should pay you for your oil — Britain, with the help of the American CIA, decided to conduct a good old fashioned game of “regime change” overthrowing Iran’s one and only democratically elected leader. In came the Shah, followed by the Mullahs, and here we are sanctioning the crap out of a country we all helped create. We will never learn.

So now everyone is mad because Iran wants to be part of the worldwide international club of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Really, what’s the difference if Iran has British, French or German embassies in Tehran? They don’t seem to be making any difference in the grand scheme of things. The back and forth rhetoric hasn’t changed in decades. There is no progress in helping the Iranian regime see that they’re atrocious behavior must change. These diplomats haven’t been able to build better relations, find out anything about Iran’s nuclear program or help improve Western relations and move non-nuclear negotiations forward. Only Turkey and Brazil could do that and the Americans ignored them anyway.

And what if Iran has nuclear weapons, really? Does anyone really think they’ll use them before the rest of us? Personally, I’m more concerned about Pakistan, who has no leadership, and the fact that Israel and India get U.S. support in their nuclear ambitions without any accountability at all.

At this point, everyone should just calm down and take the marbles they haven’t already lost and go home. Until the world’s wayward diplomats realize that to get anything done, one has to compromise, be consistent and at least try to be fair, nothing is ever going to change. Putting a nuclear free zone across the region would have been a brilliant start, but, of course, no one wants to give up their precious, and extraordinarily lethal, toys. They just don’t want anyone else to have them.

Since that is really the case, I suggest we all get used to a nuclear world that, like it or not and due to all the stubbornness, will include Iran. As the world turns, I’m sure this will all lead to another endless and senseless war, which I’ll remind you — none of the “deciders” will be the ones to fight.

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A proxy war between Iran and the U.S.

Posted by alanmirs on November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011 01:44 AMBy Sadegh Zibakalam

The Daily Star

Even before the Americans accused Iran of a plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in the United States, relations between Tehran and Riyadh were at a low. Needless to say, the accusation only deepened the animosity between these two staunch Islamic states.

Iranian officials as well as the state-run media flatly denied the assassination story and dismissed it as a “third rate Hollywood motion picture scenario.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson asked, “Why would Iran want to go to the trouble of arranging a clumsy plot to assassinate an unimportant Saudi diplomat?” A leading hard-line newspaper close to government circles wrote, “This world is full of countries in which we could have carried out such a plot if for any reason we had desired to do so. Why should we have chosen the U.S. capital where we don’t enjoy any privileges and have no bases to operate?”

The Iranian speaker of parliament stated that by fabricating such a “foolish and amateurish” story, U.S. leaders wanted to divert world public attention away from the “Wall Street movement crisis and rebellion.” Another Iranian leader commented that the U.S. was trying to cover its disastrous departure from Iraq by fabricating this “bizarre story.”

Initially, Iranian leaders did not refer to the Saudis. However, as Riyadh became increasingly angry over Iran’s alleged involvement and pressed Tehran for “explanations,” the Iranian media also changed its tune. One after another, Iranian leaders reminded the Saudis of their involvement in brutally suppressing the innocent Bahraini Shiites.

To be sure, relations between the two states have not been cordial since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Iranian leadership regards the Saudis as cronies of the U.S. in the region and has no respect for them. The Saudis in turn regard the Islamic regime as a troublemaker lurking behind every radical and anti-Saudi movement in the region.

During the past 32 years, there has been only one Iranian leader whom the Saudis trusted: Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Relations between the two states improved remarkably during his presidency (1989-97). Hashemi Rafsanjani managed even to influence relations between Tehran and Riyadh during President Mohammad Khatami’s term of office. But since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 and the hard-liners pushed Hashemi Rafsanjani and the reformists aside, relations with Riyadh have reverted to the bad old days of the first decades of the Islamic Revolution.

Many observers regard religious differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia as the core cause of the deep tensions between them. They are wrong. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are as Sunni as the Saudi leaders, yet both are strategic allies of Islamic Iran. The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is in fact a proxy war between Iran and the U.S., whereby Iran and the U.S./Saudi Arabia are at odds with one another literally in every country and regarding every dispute in the region.

Tehran supports the Iraqi government whereas Saudi relations with Baghdad are cold. Iran supports Hamas and the other radical Palestinian groups whereas the Saudis support President Mahmoud Abbas and the moderates. Iran supports Hezbollah while the Saudis support its enemies. Iran strongly backs President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria while Riyadh supports moves to overthrow him. Throughout the Arab world, Iran supports radical Islamists who tend to be anti-Western, while the Saudis are more inclined toward the moderate currents.

Even in Afghanistan they have their differences. Once again, the Saudis tend to support moderate groups there while Tehran is inclined more toward the radicals. In the Persian Gulf region, Riyadh is looked upon as an ally by the Gulf states while Iran is regarded as a potential threat.

Ironically, even regarding the hajj annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Iran and Saudi Arabia have sharp differences. The latter believes the hajj is a purely spiritual and religious affair while the former regards the hajj as both “religious and political.” During the hajj ceremony, thousands of Iranian pilgrims take part in a huge rally that calls for “death to the U.S. and death to Israel” as well as to the other “satans.” The Saudis oppose the rally as an un-Islamic act. In 1987, a struggle erupted when Saudi military police attacked Iranian pilgrims in order to break up their rally in the holy city of Mecca; more than 400 Iranian pilgrims were shot to death and more than 1,000, including many women, were injured by the Saudi National Guard. Nevertheless, Iranian pilgrims have continued to hold the so-called anti-U.S. rally every year.

It is difficult if not impossible to envisage how relations between the two countries could improve. The alleged assassination plot emerged against more than three decades of political animosity between them. Without a fundamental transformation of relations between Iran and the U.S., any hope of changing the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is unrealistic.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

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Iran’s nuclear ambıtıons an offense, not defense

Posted by alanmirs on November 27, 2011

27 November 2011, Sunday / MAHIR ZEYNALOV, SUNDAY’S ZAMAN

It is not surprising for some to see that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities at the expense of crippling sanctions because of its security concerns that are increasing by the day as Western nations sharpen their tone on Iran.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged last week on a PBS show that he would “probably” want a nuclear bomb, if he were Iranian. A prominent international relations professor, John Mearsheimer, told his students at a University of Chicago lecture earlier this year that he would advise Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to weaponize Iran’s nuclear program if he was his national security adviser. Being the most effective deterrent in today’s world, it should not be surprising to see Iran, surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors and Israel, striving to go nuclear.

Moreover, Turkish President Abdullah Gül told The Guardian during a visit to Britain that “it is important to put oneself in their [Iranians’] shoes and see how they perceive threats,” when asked about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Iran vociferously claims that the brouhaha around what it says is a “peaceful nuclear program” is always something of a manufactured crisis, but this should offer little consolation for Israel and its chief patron, the US. Pundits have a hard time finding ways to nudge Iran in the right direction, but the question is whether Iran will ever abandon its nuclear program in the face of the threats it faces in the region and beyond.

The Saudis asked Washington to cut the “head of the snake,” referring to Iran, WikiLeaks cables revealed. Israelis are often saber-rattling, trying to give a wake-up call to the international community that Iran’s menace looms large every passing day. In the latest twist of the saga, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed in a recent report that Iran, in defiance of international efforts to curb its nuclear program, is developing capabilities that could easily translate into a nuclear weapon. This has definitely increased the number of military threats Iran is already facing. The exuberant endorsement Western nations gave for the IAEA report has put Iranian officials on the defensive.

But who is to blame for Iran’s never-ceasing nuclear ambitions? Experts claim that Iran’s nuclear activities are not a response to threats from the region, but that it is Iran’s suspected nuclear buildup that has ramped up the arms race in the Middle East.

Patrick Clawson disagrees that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have anything to do with the threats it faces and instead believes that any nation acquiring nuclear capability will prompt their neighbors to build more arms against them.

“Indeed, since Iran’s nuclear ambitions became known, the Gulf nations and Israel have ordered more than $150 billion in advanced weapons aimed at Iran, and Turkey has agreed to NATO’s planned missile defense deployment,” Clawson said, who is director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That suggests Iran’s national security has been hurt by the nuclear program — which has not yet produced a bomb.”

Iran might be acting in a manner largely detrimental to its strategic interests in the Middle East and inimical to Western powers, but in reality, there has never been an open and honest national debate about the costs and benefits of Iran’s nuclear program, claims Karim Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He asserts that the regime has long framed the argument and says that “arrogant imperialist powers want to deprive Iran of this wonderfully advanced nuclear technology that would turn it into a superpower.”

If Iran’s nuclear ambitions can be explained by what many say is its ideologically corrupt regime’s sole surviving card, a democratic regime in Tehran would be more cooperative with the West with its suspected nuclear program.

“I strongly believe that a democratic regime in Iran would have no interest in pursuing a bomb,” Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, said.

US President Barack Obama reached out to Iranians in the early months of his presidency, pledging that a more cooperative Iran will find its place among members of the international community, otherwise risk more isolation. He publicly congratulated Iranians for the Nowruz holiday in March 2009, yet sharpened his rhetoric within a few months. His diplomats marshaled international support to impose the harshest rounds of United Nations sanctions on Iran, and European states leveled criticism against the regime in Tehran for its brutal crackdown on protesters following the June 2009 presidential elections many believe were widely fraudulent. A tiny and short-lived window of opportunity presented itself where the West offered to cooperate if Iran shifted its position on its nuclear program, but this failed.

As experts seek ways to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb these days, it would be a wiser strategy to find out why Iran wants a nuclear bomb.

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For Obscure Iranian Exile Group, Broad Support in U.S.

Posted by alanmirs on November 27, 2011

Published: November 26, 2011

WASHINGTON — At a time of partisan gridlock in the capital, one obscure cause has drawn a stellar list of supporters from both parties and the last two administrations, including a dozen former top national security officials.

Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

Mujahedeen Khalq supporters and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington.


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Hundreds rallied near the White House in October for the Mujahedeen Khalq, known as M.E.K.

That alone would be unusual. What makes it astonishing is the object of their attention: a fringe Iranian opposition group, long an ally of Saddam Hussein, that is designated as a terrorist organization under United States law and described by State Department officials as a repressive cult despised by most Iranians and Iraqis.

The extraordinary lobbying effort to reverse the terrorist designation of the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, has won the support of two former C.I.A. directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; a former F.B.I. director, Louis J. Freeh; a former attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; President George W. Bush’s first homeland security chief, Tom Ridge; President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; big-name Republicans like the former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Democrats like the former Vermont governor Howard Dean; and even the former top counterterrorism official of the State Department, Dell L. Dailey, who argued unsuccessfully for ending the terrorist label while in office.

The American advocates have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group. Some have been flown to Paris, Berlin and Brussels for appearances.

But they insist that their motive is humanitarian — to protect and resettle about 3,400 members of the group, known as the M.E.K., now confined in a camp in Iraq. They say the terrorist label, which dates to 1997 and then reflected decades of violence that included the killing of some Americans in the 1970s, is now outdated, unjustified and dangerous.

Emotions are running high as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton completes a review of the terrorist designation. The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has said it plans to close the camp, Camp Ashraf, by Dec. 31 and move the people elsewhere in Iraq in order to reassert Iraqi sovereignty over the land where it is located, 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Two earlier incursions by Iraqi troops into Camp Ashraf led to bloody confrontations, with 11 residents killed in July 2009 and at least 34 in April of this year. The M.E.K. and its American supporters say that they believe the Maliki government, with close ties to Iran, may soon carry out a mass slaughter on the pretext of regaining control of the camp.

If that happens, the supporters say, the United States — which disarmed the M.E.K. and guaranteed the security of the camp after the invasion of Iraq — will bear responsibility.

“We made a promise,” said Mr. Ridge, a former congressman and governor of Pennsylvania. “Our credibility is on the line. They’ve been attacked twice. How can we possibly accept assurances from the Maliki government?”

Mr. Ridge suggested that the M.E.K.’s implacable hostility to the rulers of Iran should be a point in their favor.

“In my view, if you’re a threat to Ahmadinejad,” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president — “well, the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Mr. Ridge said. He noted that the M.E.K. had provided information on Iran’s nuclear program during the Bush administration.

The M.E.K. advocacy campaign has included full-page newspaper advertisements identifying the group as “Iran’s Main Opposition” — an absurd distortion in the view of most Iran specialists; leaders of Iran’s broad opposition, known as the Green Movement, have denounced the group. The M.E.K. has hired high-priced lobbyists like the Washington firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Its lawyers in Europe won a long fight to persuade the European Union to drop its own listing of the M.E.K. as a terrorist group in 2009.

The group’s spending, certainly in the millions of dollars, has inevitably raised questions about funding sources.

Ali Safavi, who runs a pro-M.E.K. group in Washington called Near East Policy Research, says the money comes from wealthy Iranian expatriates in the United States and Europe. Because “material support” to a designated terrorist group is a crime, advocates insist that the money goes only to sympathizers and not to the M.E.K. itself.

Congress has taken note of the campaign. A House resolution for dropping the terrorist listing has 97 co-sponsors, including the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. At a hearing this month, senators pressed the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, about the threat to Camp Ashraf.

A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said officials there were “working as quickly as possible” to complete a review of the M.E.K.’s terrorist designation. American officials are supporting an effort by the United Nations to resettle Camp Ashraf residents voluntarily to other countries, a process that is making slow progress.

Other State Department officials, addressing the issue on the condition of anonymity because it is still under deliberation, said that they did believe the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf were in danger as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches.

“We’re in constant talks with the Iraqis and the Ashraf leadership to show maximum flexibility on the closure of the camp,” one official said.

But the officials expressed frustration at what they described as the American supporters’ credulous acceptance of the M.E.K.’s claims of representing the Iranian opposition and of embracing democratic values.

In years of observation, the official said, Americans have seen that the camp’s leaders “exert total control over the lives of Ashraf’s residents, much like we would see in a totalitarian cult,” requiring fawning devotion to the M.E.K.’s leaders, Maryam Rajavi, who lives in France, and her husband, Massoud, whose whereabouts are unknown.

Moreover, the official said, the group is “hated almost universally by the Iranian population,” in part for siding with Mr. Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. A State Department cable this year concluded that any indication of United States support for the M.E.K. “would fuel anti-American sentiment” in Iran and would “likely empower Iranian hardliners.”

In Iraq, the M.E.K. is also widely despised, especially by the country’s Shiite majority, because it is accused of helping the Iraqi dictator crush a Shiite revolt in 1991 — a charge the group denies. Because of deep Iraqi hostility, American officials argue that merely dropping the terrorist designation would not end the danger of attacks on the group.

While the M.E.K. carried out a campaign of attacks from the 1970s to the 1990s, mostly targeting Iranian officials, supporters say it has renounced violence and has not engaged in terrorist acts for a decade. The designation law, however, allows Mrs. Clinton to keep the label for a group that “retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.”

Such a decision would outrage the American advocates of reversing the terrorist label.

Mr. Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009, said the administration’s failure to act decisively threatened a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Mr. Mukasey said he did not believe the claim that the M.E.K. was a cult, but even if true, it was no reason to keep the terrorist listing. “These people are sitting in the camp, completely harmless,” he said.

Like other advocates, Mr. Mukasey said he had been paid his standard speaking fee — $15,000 to $20,000, according to the Web site of his speakers’ agency — to talk at M.E.K.-related events. But he insisted that the money was not a factor for him or other former officials who had taken up the cause. “There’s no way I would compromise my standing by expressing views I don’t believe in,” he said.

Artin Afkhami contributed reporting from Boston.

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EU Ban on Iranian Oil: Silly Idea

Posted by alanmirs on November 27, 2011


A useful rule of thumb is that when the European Union gears up to do something economically stupid then there’s a Frenchman behind the idea. Despite having produced one of the world’s great economists, Frederic Bastiat, there’s something about the country that seems to inspire various silly ideas. So it is with this idea that the EU should place sanctions on, ban, the import of Iranian oil:

European Union officials will weigh next week a French-led effort to ban Iranian oil imports in what would mark an unprecedented step against the world’s third-largest oil exporter over its alleged nuclear-bomb program.

EU foreign ministers will meet Thursday to try to hash out a political consensus on the measure. Teams in Brussels are already meeting to study implementation issues, diplomats said.

“There is a real intent to do this and this is a sector where the Iranians would really be hurt,” said one Brussels official.

Well, no, not really, this won’t hurt the Iranians at all. There will be a little bit of reshuffling of orders to tanker captains and it’s reasonable to assume that the effort expended by Europe to make sure no Iranian oil comes in will be greater than that expended by the Iranians in sending it elsewhere.

This is partly because Iran doesn’t in fact send all that much to Europe anyway:

“The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) does not export any crude oil to France to get subjected to sanctions,” head of NIOC Ahmad Qalebani told Mehr.

France imported 20,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude in the first half of 2011, according to United States government data. European Union countries accounted for 18 percent of Iranian crude oil sales in that period, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) also said.

There aren’t any Iranian pipelines to Europe in fact, as yet, there aren’t any major export pipelines to anywhere. Iranian exports are made by crude carrier and the Iranians run their own fleet of VLCCs. The numbers are (without aiming at any great accuracy) that Iranian exports are some 2-3 million barrels a day and as above, Europe takes a little under 20% of that. VLCCs can (depending upon size, of course) carry some 2 million barrels of oil

So Iran have their own tankers, they can tell them where to sail, and the amount that Europe might not buy is equal to their changing the destination of one tanker every three days or so. This really is not the world’s greatest logistical or economic problem.

For, you see, the important thing about crude oil is that it is fungible.

OK, so Europe doesn’t buy Iranian oil, it decides it will buy Saudi instead. Fine, but the people who would have bought that Saudi oil are on the look out for the same amount of oil from somewhere else now and hey, guess what? Iran has a tanker or two with exactly the same amount of oil they used to get from Saudi floating around somewhere on the oceans.

You really don’t have to employ the assembled minds of the oil broking community to work out what happens next. Those who would have bought the Saudi oil end up with Iranian and the Europeans use Saudi instead of Iranian. Everyone gets oil, every exporter exports oil, everybody gets paid and the only real pain is that some poor sailors have to spend a few more days at sea.

Oh, yes, sorry, forgot to mention: the European politicians get to feel smug because they’re “doing something”.

Limited boycotts of fungible products simply do not work: total boycotts of them do (well, until the smugglers spring into action), but not limited ones. The EU banning Iranian oil is political posturing, no more.

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Making Real the Obama Iran Victories That Never Were: Vali Nasr

Posted by alanmirs on November 25, 2011

November 24, 2011, 9:49 PM EST

By Vali Nasr

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) — It wasn’t so long ago that the Obama administration was proudly proclaiming success in dealing with Iran, succeeding where the Bush administration had failed. For a time, a presumably weakened and isolated Iran was less of a worry.

Today, America’s Iran policy looks to be in disarray. The administration’s claims of victory ring hollow. Far from subdued, Iran is more defiant and belligerent. And the broad international coalition that the U.S. built against the country has splintered.

With the generally cautious International Atomic Energy Agency having finally accused Iran of secretly working to build nuclear weapons, the stakes are undeniably high. The clues to how to reset U.S. policy can be found in examining how things went wrong.

Whereas the Bush administration threatened military action in an effort to stymie Iran’s nuclear program, Obama officials leaked that they had accomplished that goal through sabotage — deploying the Stuxnet computer worm in a joint operation with the Israelis to set back the Iranians’ progress by several years. The Obama team also succeeded in enlisting the habitually recalcitrant Russia and China to support harsher sanctions against Iran at the United Nations.

The Stuxnet Bug

Iran appeared to be hurting, for a while. Wherever the Stuxnet bug came from, the Iranians acknowledged that it harmed the nuclear program they claim is entirely peaceful. The Iranian economy was faltering and its political house was divided. For an added bonus, the whirlwind set loose by the Arab Spring deprived Iran’s authoritarian regime of popular sympathies in the rest of the Middle East.

Two developments — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conciliatory decision to release two American hikers imprisoned on spying charges and a new Iranian proposal for resumption of nuclear talks — were interpreted as proof that Iran was buckling under the pressure. The Obama administration’s approach was working, the argument went; the world stood with America, and a chastened Iran was looking for a way out of its isolation.

However, that is not the Iran that comes across today. Last month, U.S. officials unveiled allegations of an audacious Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in a restaurant in the heart of the U.S. capital, a plan that would have risked killing bystanders. That news was followed by the IAEA report.

Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were quick to seize on those revelations to turn the tables on the administration. Far from having a handle on Iran, they argued, the U.S. had been too soft. They demanded decisive action — sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil industry. Some broached military action, Bush-style.

China and Russia had the opposite reaction. Unimpressed with the IAEA report, Russia ruled out new sanctions. China followed suit and warned against military action. Under this pressure, the IAEA Board of Governors settled for severely criticizing Iran and postponed talk of additional sanctions to future meetings.

How did the shine come off the administration’s Iran policy? And how did the U.S. lose Russia and China along the way?

Delaying Not Crippling

Part of the answer is that Obama’s Iran policies were never all that effective. While there’s little reason to doubt the value of the Stuxnet worm, it was capable only of delaying, not crippling, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

As for sanctions, the international restrictions approved at the UN haven’t been fully imposed, and the unilateral measures taken so far by the U.S. and European countries haven’t been as successful as the administration has made them out to be. The restrictions have constrained Iran’s economy, but that has not translated into a perceptible change in Iran’s stance on the nuclear issue. Sanctions have caused shortages and fueled inflation, but oil revenue continues to fill the government’s coffers and keep the economy afloat. There is still plenty of liquidity in Iran’s economy; consumption remains robust; salaries are paid; and there is no sign of bread riots.

In truth, it would have been too much to expect the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions so soon. In that sense, Republican claims that the Obama team has failed are excessive. Still, the alleged assassination plot in Washington suggests Iran has not been as cowed as the administration has been suggesting. So the team has a credibility problem domestically when it claims its policies have tempered Iran.

At the same time, the administration is not entirely convincing internationally when it maintains that Iran is misbehaving despite containment efforts. The U.S. allegations of official Iranian involvement in the Washington assassination plot met with considerable skepticism abroad. U.S. public diplomacy has done very little to remove those doubts.

Similarly, the IAEA report, hyped by Washington, was perceived outside of America as less than a slam-dunk. The findings of the nuclear watchdog agency, which reports to the UN General Assembly, are more suggestive than convincing. The report is short on concrete evidence, fuzzy on key details and long on caveats. That is why it met with swift resistance from Russia and China.

The basic lesson for the administration is fairly simple: A little modesty and moderation would have helped. Dealing with Iran is never easy and nobody has a perfect formula. Other lessons include: Touting your success can set you up for a fall. It’s wise to make a strong case if you’re going to accuse another government of terrorism. And before flacking another party’s evidence against your enemy, make sure the proof is airtight.

New Sanctions Round

In an effort to get new traction in its Iran policy, the Obama administration this week announced a fresh round of sanctions and signaled its readiness to extend them to Iran’s central bank. Without the backing of Russia and China, however, unilateral sanctions by the U.S., Canada and European countries will continue to have an insufficient effect on the Iranian regime.

To get Russia and China to sign on to meaningful penalties, the U.S. must be more persuasive about Iran’s iniquities. The Obama administration must put an end to doubts about the veracity of the Washington plot. And it must shore up the IAEA report with convincing intelligence of its own proving the Iranians are working on nuclear weapons.

(Vali Nasr is a Bloomberg View columnist and a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The opinions expressed are his own.)

–Editors: Lisa Beyer, David Henry.

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Syria-Iran-Turkey: New war scenarios in the Middle East

Posted by alanmirs on November 25, 2011

While there were good connections and relations between Syria and Turkey only a year ago, today we began to talk different scenarios about the NATO intervention led by Turkey against Syria.

Most commentators suggest that Syria came to the end of the road… Interestingly, old-friend Turkey is among the states which raise their loud voices against the Syrian Assad regime. “Our wish is that the Assad regime, which is now on a knife-edge, does not enter this road of no return, which leads to the edge of the abyss,” Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said. “No regime can survive by killing or jailing. No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed.”

While there were good connections and relations between Syria and Turkey only a year ago, today we began to talk different scenarios about the NATO intervention led by Turkey against Syria.

Although the Turkish position is being portrayed as a defender of oppressed Syrian people in the world media, there are some questions which cannot be answered independently of war scenarios led by the U.S. against Iran.

Today, we will try to look at the roots of Turkey’s position on events in Syria and its connection with the plans of global actors on the Middle East and new war scenarios in the region.

Looking at the Syrian Case from Different Viewpoints…

In this analysis, we do not talk about the oppressions of Assad regime. It is true that Bashar Al-Assad is a dictator and oppressor president and also unhesitatingly, Syrian people need to live in better conditions. Additionally, it is not possible to approve any pressure and oppression against the Syrian people. All things which are said in this issue are true…

But, we want to look at the big-not small- picture of the Syrian case in the light of new plans on Middle East… As Michel Chossudovsky, from Global Research, says, “While the Syrian regime is by no means democratic, the objective of the US-NATO Israel military alliance is not to promote democracy. Quite the opposite, Washington’s intent is to eventually install a puppet regime.”

In “Winning Modern Wars” General Wesley Clark states the following:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”

After we read these sentences, it is required for us to think again about all the Middle Eastern developments and events. The Syrian case is not exception…

According to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, from Global Research, “Damascus has been under pressure to capitulate to the edicts of Washington and the European Union. This has been part of a longstanding project. Regime change or voluntary subordination by the Syrian regime are the goals. This includes subordinating Syrian foreign policy and de-linking Syrian from its strategic alliance with Iran and its membership within the Resistance Bloc.”

“War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in ‘an advanced state of readiness’ for several years.” says Michel Chossudovsky. “The July 2006 bombing of Lebanon was part of a carefully planned ‘military road map’. The extension of ‘The July War’ on Lebanon into Syria had been contemplated by US and Israeli military planners. It was abandoned upon the defeat of Israeli ground forces by Hezbollah.”

On the other hand, according to Chossudovsky, “the road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, a destabilization campaign (‘regime change’) including covert intelligence operations in support of rebel forces directed against the Syrian government.” And Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya supports Chossudovsky’s argument in a detailed manner:

“The events in Syria are also tied to Iran, the longstanding strategic ally of Damascus. It is not by chance that Senator Lieberman was demanding publicly that the Obama Administration and NATO attack Syria and Iran like Libya. It is also not coincidental that Iran was included in the sanctions against Syria. The hands of the Syrian military and government have now been tied internally as a new and broader offensive is being prepared that will target both Syria and Iran.”

In addition to them, Stephen Lendman’s approach is very helpful in order to understand the real picture in the Middle East:

“Israel wants regional rivals removed. Washington and key NATO partners want independent regimes ousted, replaced with subservient ones.

At issue is establishing regional dominance. New targets can then confronted politically, economically, and/or belligerently.

Fabricated IAEA Iranian documents escalated tensions. Rhetorical saber rattling followed. Stiffer sanctions are threatened and perhaps war.

Syria’s been targeted for months. Libya’s insurgency was replicated. Street battles rage daily. Violence engulfs the country. Assad’s government is unfairly blamed. Washington’s dirty hands are at fault. So are Israel’s and other conspiratorial allies.”

According to former UK official Alastair Crooke, there is a “great game” in the issue of Syria and Iran. “Regime change in Syria is a strategic prize that outstrips Libya – which is why Saudi Arabia and the west are playing their part.” he said. “(S)et up a hurried transitional council as sole representative of the Syrian people, irrespective of (its legitimacy); feed in armed insurgents from neighboring states; impose sanctions that will hurt the middle classes; mount a media campaign to denigrate any Syrian efforts at reform; try to instigate divisions within the army and the elite; and ultimately President Assad will fall – so its initiators insist.”

Moreover, “suppose this was a Hollywood script conference and you have to pitch your story idea in 10 words or less. It’s a movie about Syria. As much as the currently in-research Kathryn Hurt LockerBigelow film about the Osama bin Laden raid was pitched as ‘good guys take out Osama in Pakistan’, the Syrian epic could be branded ‘Sunnis and Shi’ites battle for Arab republic’.” says Pepe Escobar. “Yes, once again this is all about that fiction, the “Shi’ite crescent”, about isolating Iran and about Sunni prejudice against Shi’ites.”

Last developments/events in Syria and the Turkish viewpoint…

“Washington and the E.U. have pushed Turkey to be more active in the Arab World. This has blossomed through Ankara’s neo-Ottomanism policy. This is why Turkey has been posturing itself as a champion of Palestine and launched an Arabic-language channel like Iran and Russia.” says Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. “Ankara, however, has been playing an ominous role. Turkey is a partner in the NATO war on Libya. The position of the Turkish government has become clear with its betrayal of Tripoli. Ankara has also been working with Qatar to corner the Syrian regime. The Turkish government has been pressuring Damascus to change its policies to please Washington and appears to possibly even have a role in the protests inside Syria with the Al-Sauds, the Hariri minority camp in Lebanon, and Qatar. Turkey is even hosting opposition meetings and providing them support.”

Again, as Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya emphasizes, “The violence in Syria has been supported from the outside with a view of taking advantage of the internal tensions and the anger in Syria. Aside from the violent reaction of the Syrian Army, media lies have been used and bogus footage has been aired. Weapons, funds, and various forms of support have all been funnelled to elements of the Syrian opposition by the U.S., the E.U., the March 14 Alliance, Jordan, and the Khalijis. Funding has been provided to ominous and unpopular foreign-based opposition figures, while weapons caches were smuggled from Jordan and Lebanon into Syria.”

We, gradually, have seen the changing position of Turkey on Syria. Today, many Syrian opponents are organized in Turkey. Even, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad claimed that Ankara helped establish the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) and Free Syrian Army (FSA). SNC recognition accompanied Syria’s suspension.

On the other hand, as Tony Karon says, “The current Turkish government sees itself as a bridge between the West and the Arab world, and even between the West and Iran. And it is also as a supporter of Arab democracy and the principle that conflicts must be resolved by political solutions that reflect the popular will. In Libya, despite its longstanding relationships with Colonel Gaddafi, it has pressed for a democratic political solution, remaining actively engaged with and support of the Benghazi-based opposition at the same time as maintaining its good offices with the regime. It has done the same with Syria, urging the regime to make democratic reforms, and criticizing the use of force against demonstrators — and allow Syrian opposition groups to use Istanbul as a base from which to try and organize themselves.”

While Robert W. Meryy encourages Turkey for its role in the Middle East by saying that “Turkey should be encouraged to develop its role as Islamic interlocutor, perhaps even as something of a core state for Islam. It can help guide the Middle East through its current travails and struggles far better than the United States can. That’s because we live in the era of the Clash of Civilizations.”; Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya criticizes Turkey’s new role in the region:

“Turkey is viewed in Washington and Brussels as the key to bringing the Iranians and the Arabs into line. The Turkish government has been parading itself as a member of the Resistance Bloc with the endorsement of Iran and Syria. U.S strategists project that it will be Turkey which domesticates Iran and Syria for Washington. Turkey also serves as a means of integrating the Arab and Iranian economies with the economy of the European Union. In this regard Ankara has been pushing for a free-trade zone in Southwest Asia and getting the Iranians and Syrians to open up their economies to it.

In reality, the Turkish government has not only been deepening its economic ties with Tehran and Damascus, but has also been working to eclipse Iranian influence. Ankara has tried to wedge itself between Iran and Syria and to challenge Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Turkey also tried to establish a triple entente between itself, Syria, and Qatar to push Syria away from Tehran. This is why Turkey has been very active vocally against Israel, but in reality has maintained its alliance and military deals with Tel Aviv. Inside Turkey itself, however, there is also an internal struggle for power that could one day ignite into a civil war with multiple players.


This project to manipulate and redefine Islam and Muslims seeks to subordinate Islam to capitalist interests through a new wave of political Islamists, such as the JDP/AKP. A new strand of Islam is being fashioned through what has come to be called ‘Calvinist Islam’ or a ‘Muslim version of the Protestant work ethic.’ It is this model that is being nurtured in Turkey and now being presented to Egypt and the Arabs by Washington and Brussels.

This ‘Calvinist Islam’ also has no problem with the ‘reba’ or interest system, which is prohibited under Islam. It is this system that is used to enslave individuals and societies with the chains of debt to global capitalism.”

Today, Libya’s model targets Syria. According to Israel’s Mossad-linked DEBKAfile, NATO and Turkey plan intervening in Syria by enlisting and arming thousands of insurgent forces. Saudi Arabia, Lebanon’s Hariri March 8 alliance, Jordan and Israel are involved. Washington’s in charge orchestrating events.

On the other hand, Michel Chossudovsky claimed that “Turkey is a member of NATO with a powerful military force. Moreover, Israel and Turkey have a longstanding joint military-intelligence agreement, which is explicitly directed against Syria.

…A 1993 Memorandum of Understanding led to the creation of (Israeli-Turkish) ‘joint committees’ to handle so-called regional threats. Under the terms of the Memorandum, Turkey and Israel agreed ‘to cooperate in gathering intelligence on Syria, Iran, and Iraq and to meet regularly to share assessments pertaining to terrorism and these countries’ military capabilities.’

Turkey agreed to allow IDF and Israeli security forces to gather electronic intelligence on Syria and Iran from Turkey. In exchange, Israel assisted in the equipping and training of Turkish forces in anti-terror warfare along the Syrian, Iraqi, and Iranian borders.”

As supportive information of this argument, as Tony Karon says, “some analysts suggest there’s already a tacit agreement among U.S. and Saudis that Turkey will take the lead in shaping any international response to the Syria crisis. The Israeli media has suggested that some in Washington see the breakdown between Turkey and Iran over Syria as an opportunity to draw Ankara back into the U.S.-Israeli camp on dealing with Iran.”

Moreover, “There is increased talk of military pressure to come through arming members of the opposition to the Syrian regime — should it persist in its obstinacy and bloody repression — could lead to rebellion and a split within the Syrian army.” says Raghida Dergham. “While NATO will not engage in airstrikes against the regime in Damascus — on par with its operations in Libya — the alliance may provide financial support and armaments to the dissidents through Turkey in support of ground operations, not air strikes, should the regime continue with its military approach. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) may also follow suit. Last week, the GCC countries said they were running out of patience with the Syrian regime and began a wider effort in close collaboration with Turkey. This has made Iran increasingly concerned, perhaps even irate as well — something which everyone is now closely observing to see how it shall be translated on the ground in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq as well.”

Iran-Turkey rivalry in the Middle East and the Syrian case…

“With the ‘Arab Spring’, Iran started to see Turkey as the major obstacle/rival before its regional policy.” says Assoc. Prof Mehmet Sahin. “The main reason of the fact that Iran is uncomfortable with Turkey is Turkey’s increasing influence on the region. It should not be overlooked that Iran came first among the countries following the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visits to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya within the scope of the ‘Arab Spring’ tour. As long as Turkey is effective in the region, Iran draws away from the region. ”

As a parallel comment, Tony Karon said that “And even while Turkey has distanced itself from the U.S. strategy of isolating and pressuring Iran over its nuclear program, Tehran and Ankara are also rivals for influence in the wider Middle East.”

We can see this rivalry between Turkey and Iran in the Syrian case again. In the comment of Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, it is said that “It is no secret that Turkey and Iran have a different approach toward the Arab Spring and especially on its effects on Syria. After Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria has become another regional issue where Ankara and Tehran follow diverging policies.”

On the other hand, according to Tony Karon, “Turkey and Iran are Syria’s key foreign allies, but they have very different relationships with Damascus — Tehran’s being a long-established strategic alliance, while Ankara’s is based on having lately emerged as the key source of trade and investment critical to Syria’s prospects — and very different ideas on how the Assad regime should deal with the political crisis.”

Today, we know that Iran feels discomfort Turkey’s hurtful policies on the Middle East. Whilst Iran was satisfied from Turkey, what has changed? According to the Economist, “Turkey’s mollycoddling of the mullahs has angered America, most recently when Mr Erdogan’s government voted against imposing further sanctions on Iran at the United Nations last year. Turkey has since sought to make amends. It has agreed to NATO plans for a nuclear-defence missile shield that is clearly aimed at Iran. And after some dithering, it is co-operating with the alliance’s military operations in Libya.”

Because of this reality, Iran warns Turkey regularly. Assoc. Prof. Mehmet Sahin categorizes Iranian authorities’ criticism for us:

“According to the Iranian authorities;

1- Turkey wants to give an explicit message to Iran and Russian Federation by letting the deployment of NATO’s missile shield with early warning radar system on her territories.

2- The fact that Turkey suggests countries such as; Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya a new regime model, based on a ‘secular system’, is an unexpected and unbearable situation, as the people in the region are Muslim.

3- Turkey which is under the pressure of the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia, has been making its third strategic mistake by trying to liven up the protest demonstrations in Syria.

As the Iranian authorities made these statements above, they could not also stop accusing Turkey. In this context, they claim that Turkey follows its foreign policy ‘in accordance with the directives of the U.S., as well as in order to protect the interests of the U.S. and to protect Israel.’ They suggest that the main objective of the Missile Shield Project is to protect Israel. At the same time, the Iranian authorities, who made statements, underline that Turkey will face new problems in the region, particularly in terms of the commercial affairs with Iran, if she maintains her current foreign policy.”

Iran-Syria Relations and the possibility of regional war…

“And what do Iran’s ‘Revolutionary Guards’ think of Syria? They believe that Assad’s government constitutes an exception.” says Wahied Wahdat-Hagh. “They claim that whilst almost all Arab governments have been touched by the change afoot in the Arab world, with most of these falling due to their ‘pro-Western’ policies, Syria is ‘an exception.’ Syria is counted amongst the ‘ranks of resistance,’ they say.”

On the other hand, when Amir Taheri focuses on the details of Iran-Syria relations, he gives place to these sentences in his article:

“Iran, however, stands dead set against the scheme. Over the last decade, Syria has become more of a client state than an ally.

Iran has kept Syria’s moribund economy alive with frequent cash injection and investments thought to be worth $20 billion, and also gives Syria ‘gifts,’ including weapons worth $150 million a year. Tehran sources even claim that key members of Assad’s entourage are on the Iranian payroll.

During Bashar’s presidency, the Iranian presence has grown massively. Iran has opened 14 cultural offices across Syria, largely to propagate its brand of Shiite Islam. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also runs a ‘coordination office’ in Damascus staffed by 400 military experts, and Syria is the only Mediterranean nation to offer the Iranian navy mooring rights.

The two countries have signed a pact committing them to ‘mutual defense.’ Syria and North Korea are the only two countries with which Iran holds annual conferences of chiefs of staff.”

Moreover, “Under a mutual defense pact signed between Syria and Iran in 2005, Syria agreed to allow the deployment of Iranian weapons on its territory. On June 15, 2006, Syria’s defense minister, Hassan Turkmani, signed an agreement with his Iranian counterpart for military cooperation against what they called the ‘common threats’ presented by Israel and the United States. ‘Our cooperation is based on a strategic pact and unity against common threats,’ said Turkmani. ‘We can have a common front against Israel’s threats.'” says Mitchell Bard. He also looks at the strategic importance of Syria for Iran in his article:

“Syria harbors in Damascus representatives of ten Palestinian terrorist organizations including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine(DFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine all of which are opposed to advances in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These groups have launched terrible attacks against innocent Israeli citizens, which have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Syria also supports the Iranian-funded Hezbollah.

For more than 30 years, Lebanon was essentially controlled by Syria. With Syrian acquiescence, Lebanon became the home to a number of the most radical and violent Islamic organizations. Hezbollah (Party of God), in particular, has been used by the Syrians as a proxy to fight Israel.”

Today, we began to talk about the elimination of these two allies. Although some observers only focuses on the Syria, many of them indicate “regional war”. In this regional war, Iran will be main target. According to Austin Bay, the civil war has now expanded into a twilight regional war between Iran and NATO, with Turkey as NATO’s frontline actor.

As a parallel comment, “The involvement of Iran, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, and other gulf states has turned the Syrian uprising from an internal event – resulting from mass poverty, oppression, and a lack of economic and political future – into a potential regional war.” says Zvi Bar’el. “Syria, whose regional strategic importance is based less on oil and natural resources, and more on its strong relationship with Iran and ability to intervene in Iraqi affairs, has been able to prevent the establishment of a military front against it. As opposed to the immediate international consensus that allowed for a military offensive in Libya, there has been no initiative to promote a similar UN Security Council in regards to Syria.”

On the other hand, “All the ingredients for a conformation led by the U.S. against Iran exist.” says Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. “Iranophobia is being spread by the U.S., the E.U., Israel, and the Khaliji monarchies. Hamas has been entangled into the mechanisms of a unity government by the unelected Mahmoud Abbas, which would mean that Hamas would have to be acquiescent to Israeli and U.S. demands on the Palestinian Authority. Syria has its hands full with domestic instability. Lebanon lacks a functioning government and Hezbollah is increasingly being encircled.”

Today, we are hearing some allegations in order to aim Iran at the target. Necessarily, we are thinking that while Syria is second target, the main target is Iran in the Middle East?

Wayne Madsen’s comments approve our argument: “Israel’s strategy is to make certain that its plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and, perhaps other targets, meet no opposition from diplomatic circles in the United States… Israel has placed its own interests well beyond and in contravention of those of the United States.”

He also mentions a polarization between regional powers as a component part of this puzzle:

“Countries in Asia are scrambling to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as full members. Confronted by a belligerent United States, NATO, and Israel intent on toppling the governments of Syria and Iran, the economic, cultural, and de facto collective security pact that comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan announced after its prime ministers’ summit in St. Petersburg that SCO would soon be opening its doors for full membership for Pakistan, Iran, and India. The Asian nations want to freeze the United States out of interference in Asia.”

Moreover, “The structure of military alliances respectively on the US-NATO and Syria-Iran-SCO sides, not to mention the military involvement of Israel, the complex relationship between Syria and Lebanon, the pressures exerted by Turkey on Syria’s northern border, point indelibly to a dangerous process of escalation.” says Michel Chossudovsky. “Any form of US-NATO sponsored military intervention directed against Syria would destabilize the entire region, potentially leading to escalation over a vast geographical area, extending from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with Tajikistan and China.”

If we attach the excuses against Iran to this polarization process, it can be more easily to read this picture…

According to Wayne Madsen, “Israel, using its agents of influence in the UN delegations of the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands, has ensured that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano has tainted his agency’s report on Iranian nuclear developments in a manner that would have never been tolerated by his predecessor, Mohammed ElBaradei. Amano certainly took no interest in the fact that his own nation, Japan, was secretly producing nuclear weapons at the Fukushima nuclear complex in contravention of IAEA rules. The aftermath of the destructive earthquake in Japan laid open the secret work going on at Fukushima. Amano is perfectly willing to act as a cipher for Israel and the Israel Lobby in ‘discovering’ IAEA violations by Iran.”

On the other hand, giving an ear to Pepe Escobar about the producing fabrication causes in order to aim Iran at the target can be very helpful:

“It’s Christmas in October – as the United States government has just handed it the perfect gift; in the excited words of US Attorney General Eric Holder, ‘A deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador on US soil with explosives.’


The plot is very handy to divert attention from Saudi Arabia as the beneficiary of a multi-billionaire US weapons sale. And also very handy to divert attention from Holder himself – caught in yet another monstrous scandal, on whether he told lies regarding Operation Fast and Furious (no, you can’t make this stuff up), a federal gun sting through which no less than 1,400 high-powered US weapons ended up, untracked, in the hands of – you guessed it – Mexican drug cartels. Seems like the Fast and the Furiousfranchise is the entertainment weapon of choice across all levels of the US government.

Washington wants to ‘unite the world’ against Iran (‘world’ meaning the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO) and is graphically threatening to take Iran to the United Nations Security Council – all over again.

So let’s anxiously wait for a hushed R2P (‘responsibility to protect’) resolution ordering NATO to establish a no-fly zone over every House of Saud prince across the world. A resolution which would be interpreted as a NATO mandate to bomb Iran into regime change. Now that’s a script you can believe in. ”

How will Turkey have position in the event of any NATO intervention?

In recent days, Turkey sends severe messages to Syria. Do this mean that Turkey preferred to be on America and NATO’s side in this polarization war in the region?

The Turkish government said it was suspending joint oil exploration and considering stopping electricity supplies to its neighbor. What does it mean for Turkey’s position?

As Tony Karon says, “Turkey fears Syria being turned into another sectarian quagmire on the same lines as Iraq, but it’s not following the line of its BRIC allies — Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa — at the U.N.”

“Turkey’s new approach to Syria also has the potential to create tension with Iran in the medium term.” says Nihat Ali Ozcan. “A possible shift of power will end the role of Syria as the ‘strategic ally’ of Iran; which will in turn assign a partial responsibility for such an outcome to Turkey.”

Additionally, Kaveh L Afrasiabi warns Turkey about is policies against Iran and Russia: “As Turkey’s principal energy partners, Russia and Iran provide roughly 70% of Turkey’s energy imports, yet both Tehran and Moscow are about to send Ankara the chills of negative reactions if Turkey goes ahead with its threat of sanctions on Syria.

Already, Turkey’s embrace of the bid by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to station an anti-missile radar on its territory has angered both Russia and Iran.”

And he adds: “Turkey is bound to lose a great deal of its appeal as conflict mediator in the region if it continues to alienate neighbors like Iran and Syria by pursuit of regime change in Damascus. This is in light of its willingness to host Syrian opposition groups which are now setting up shop in Turkey for a Libya-style transitional government, thus overlooking the major differences between Libya and Syria.”

In contrast to Nihat Ali Ozcan and Kaveh L Afrasiabi’s comments, Barçın Yinanç looks at the issue from a some different perspective. “While the AKP has burned most of the bridges with the Bashar al-Assad regime, it seems that its stance on Iran has not yet been affected.” she said. “News about a possible Israeli attack on Iran, triggered by the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s report due to be released this week, will turn eyes to Turkey, whose policies in the recent past have been in favor of Iran when it came to efforts to increase international pressure on Tehran.

Now that the regional rivalry between Turkey and Iran has intensified, will Turkey change its stance on Iran? Will it make Turkey happy to see that international pressure intensifying on the country, prompting fresh sanctions? Is a military strike on Iran the worst option as far as Turkey’s interests are concerned?


It looks like Turkey is not going to deviate from this stance, even if Iran’s role in the Arab Spring increasingly conflicts with Turkey’s interests. Or at least one can say that Iranian actions have not come to such a point of damaging Turkish interests that they would prompt Ankara to change its stance on the nuclear issue. After all, Turkish-Iranian history has been about avoiding open hostilities despite intense regional rivalry behind the scenes.


The realignment of Turkey’s policies with those of the Western bloc during the Arab Spring must have eased Western concerns that Turkey has been leaning too much in favor of Iran. Yet, does Davutoglu believe he still has the trust of the Iranians and does he believe he still has influence over Iran due to his personal relations? Will he again consider the conditions appropriate enough to step in? This remains to be seen.”


As Robert Dreyfuss emphasizes that “The New York Times carries a piece titled: ‘U.S. Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts.’ By model, of course, they mean the mobilization of lethal force, including coordinated bombing attacks and precision missile strikes, tied closely to rebel military tactics, jointly run by the United States and NATO. In it, President Obama’s advisers—including Ben Rhodes, the humanitarian interventionist hawk who supported the U.S. war in Libya—suggest that the Libyan action might easily be applied elsewhere. ‘How much we translate to Syria remains to be seen,’ says one adviser, anonymously. And the Times notes:

‘The very fact that the administration has joined with the same allies that it banded with on Libya to call for Mr. Assad to go and to impose penalties on his regime could take the United States one step closer to applying the Libya model toward Syria.'”

And he concludes his article so: “It’s fair to say that Syria and Iran are far more difficult cases than Libya, a empty desert nation whose civil conflict was likely not to spread. By contrast, war in Syria could affect Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, and war in Iran could have incalculable consequences from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf. Still, you can already imagine the drumbeat from neocons and liberal interventionists that the United States cannot allow Syrians, or Iranians, to be massacred.”

After looking at this big picture, it seems that the Syrian case is connection with broader agendas. Here, it is required for Turkey to think its position on Syria again and again…

Although Turkey claims that it will not be pawn for the regional war, its actions and comments say a different thing.

Today, the U.S., the West, and the NATO nor deal with the future of Syrian people neither desire more democratic systems in the Middle East. Their only aim is to guarantee their oppression systems. If, today, Bashar Al-Assad says that O.K., I will abandon Iran, I will block Iran’s passing weapons to Hezbollah and Palestinian groups, and also I want to cooperate with the U.S. and the West in the region after that; we will see that all these disinformation and manipulation processes will, gradually, be abandoned in the world media and psychological war against to Syria will end. In the event of any changing in policies of Syria, both the U.S. and the West will keep their mouth shut about Assad’s oppressions to his people…

So, Turkey backs the wrong horse again… What a shame!

Posted in News and Politic | Comments Off on Syria-Iran-Turkey: New war scenarios in the Middle East

Syria, Iran and the balance of power in the Middle East

Posted by alanmirs on November 24, 2011

George Friedman /  November 24, 2011, 0:14 IST

US troops are in the process of completing their withdrawal from Iraq by the end-of-2011 deadline. We are now moving toward a reckoning with the consequences. The reckoning concerns the potential for a massive shift in the balance of power in the region, with Iran moving from a fairly marginal power to potentially a dominant power. As the process unfolds, the United States and Israel are making countermoves. We have discussed all of this extensively. Questions remain whether these countermoves will stabilise the region and whether or how far Iran will go in its response.

Iran has been preparing for the US withdrawal. While it is unreasonable simply to say that Iran will dominate Iraq, it is fair to say Tehran will have tremendous influence in Baghdad to the point of being able to block Iraqi initiatives Iran opposes. This influence will increase as the US withdrawal concludes and it becomes clear there will be no sudden reversal in the withdrawal policy. Iraqi politicians’ calculus must account for the nearness of Iranian power and the increasing distance and irrelevance of American power.

Resisting Iran under these conditions likely would prove ineffective and dangerous. Some, like the Kurds, believe they have guarantees from the Americans and that substantial investment in Kurdish oil by American companies means those commitments will be honoured. A look at the map, however, shows how difficult it would be for the United States to do so. The Baghdad regime has arrested Sunni leaders while the Shia, not all of whom are pro-Iranian by any means, know the price of overenthusiastic resistance.


The situation in Syria complicates all of this. The minority Alawite sect has dominated the Syrian government since 1970, when the current president’s father – who headed the Syrian air force – staged a coup. The Alawites are a heterodox Muslim sect related to a Shiite offshoot and make up about seven per cent of the country’s population, which is mostly Sunni. The new Alawite government was Nasserite in nature, meaning it was secular, socialist and built around the military. When Islam rose as a political force in the Arab world, the Syrians – alienated from the Sadat regime in Egypt – saw Iran as a bulwark. The Iranian Islamist regime gave the Syrian secular regime immunity against Shiite fundamentalists in Lebanon. The Iranians also gave Syria support in its external adventures in Lebanon, and more important, in its suppression of Syria’s Sunni majority.

Syria and Iran were particularly aligned in Lebanon. In the early 1980s, after the Khomeini revolution, the Iranians sought to increase their influence in the Islamic world by supporting radical Shiite forces. Hezbollah was one of these. Syria had invaded Lebanon in 1975 on behalf of the Christians and opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization, to give you a sense of the complexity. Syria regarded Lebanon as historically part of Syria, and sought to assert its influence over it. Via Iran, Hezbollah became an instrument of Syrian power in Lebanon.

Iran and Syria, therefore, entered a long-term if not altogether stable alliance that has lasted to this day. In the current unrest in Syria, the Saudis and Turks in addition to the Americans all have been hostile to the regime of President Bashar al Assad. Iran is the one country that on the whole has remained supportive of the current Syrian government.

There is good reason for this. Prior to the uprising, the precise relationship between Syria and Iran was variable. Syria was able to act autonomously in its dealings with Iran and Iran’s proxies in Lebanon. While an important backer of groups like Hezbollah, the al Assad regime in many ways checked Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon, with the Syrians playing the dominant role there. The Syrian uprising has put the al Assad regime on the defensive, however, making it more interested in a firm, stable relationship with Iran. Damascus finds itself isolated in the Sunni world, with Turkey and the Arab League against it. Iran – and intriguingly, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – have constituted al Assad’s exterior support.

Thus far al Assad has resisted his enemies. Though some mid- to low-ranking Sunnis have defected, his military remains largely intact; this is because the Alawites control key units. Events in Libya drove home to an embattled Syrian leadership – and even to some of its adversaries within the military – the consequences of losing. The military has held together, and an unarmed or poorly armed populace, no matter how large, cannot defeat an intact military force. The key for those who would see al Assad fall is to divide the military.

If al Assad survives – and at the moment, wishful thinking by outsiders aside, he is surviving – Iran will be the big winner. If Iraq falls under substantial Iranian influence, and the al Assad regime – isolated from most countries but supported by Tehran – survives in Syria, then Iran could emerge with a sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean (the latter via Hezbollah). Achieving this would not require deploying Iranian conventional forces – al Assad’s survival alone would suffice. However, the prospect of a Syrian regime beholden to Iran would open up the possibility of the westward deployment of Iranian forces, and that possibility alone would have significant repercussions.

Consider the map were this sphere of influence to exist. The northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan would abut this sphere, as would Turkey’s southern border. It remains unclear, of course, just how well Iran could manage this sphere, eg, what type of force it could project into it. Maps alone will not provide an understanding of the problem. But they do point to the problem. And the problem is the potential – not certain – creation of a block under Iranian influence that would cut through a huge swath of strategic territory.

It should be remembered that in addition to Iran’s covert network of militant proxies, Iran’s conventional forces are substantial. While they could not confront US armoured divisions and survive, there are no US armoured divisions on the ground between Iran and Lebanon. Iran’s ability to bring sufficient force to bear in such a sphere increases the risks to the Saudis in particular. Iran’s goal is to increase the risk such that Saudi Arabia would calculate that accommodation is more prudent than resistance. Changing the map can help achieve this.It follows that those frightened by this prospect – the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – would seek to stymie it. At present, the place to block it no longer is Iraq, where Iran already has the upper hand. Instead, it is Syria. And the key move in Syria is to do everything possible to bring about al Assad’s overthrow.

In the last week, the Syrian unrest appeared to take on a new dimension. Until recently, the most significant opposition activity appeared to be outside of Syria, with much of the resistance reported in the media coming from externally based opposition groups. The degree of effective opposition was never clear. Certainly, the Sunni majority opposes and hates the al Assad regime. But opposition and emotion do not bring down a regime consisting of men fighting for their lives. And it wasn’t clear that the resistance was as strong as the outside propaganda claimed.

Last week, however, the Free Syrian Army – a group of Sunni defectors operating out of Turkey and Lebanon – claimed defectors carried out organised attacks on government facilities, ranging from an air force intelligence facility (a particularly sensitive point given the history of the regime) to Baath Party buildings in the greater Damascus area. These were not the first attacks claimed by the FSA, but they were heavily propagandised in the past week. Most significant about the attacks is that, while small-scale and likely exaggerated, they revealed that at least some defectors were willing to fight instead of defecting and staying in Turkey or Lebanon.

It is interesting that an apparent increase in activity from armed activists – or the introduction of new forces – occurred at the same time relations between Iran on one side and the United States and Israel on the other were deteriorating. The deterioration began with charges that an Iranian covert operation to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States had been uncovered, followed by allegations by the Bahraini government of Iranian operatives organising attacks in Bahrain. It proceeded to an International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s progress toward a nuclear device, followed by the November 19 explosion at an Iranian missile facility that the Israelis have not-so-quietly hinted was their work. Whether any of these are true, the psychological pressure on Iran is building and appears to be orchestrated.

Of all the players in this game, Israel’s position is the most complex. Israel has had a decent, albeit covert, working relationship with the Syrians going back to their mutual hostility toward Yasser Arafat. For Israel, Syria has been the devil they know. The idea of a Sunni government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood on their northeastern frontier was frightening; they preferred al Assad. But given the shift in the regional balance of power, the Israeli view is also changing. The Sunni Islamist threat has weakened in the past decade relative to the Iranian Shiite threat. Playing things forward, the threat of a hostile Sunni force in Syria is less worrisome than an emboldened Iranian presence on Israel’s northern frontier. This explains why the architects of Israel’s foreign policy, such as Defence Minister Ehud Barak, have been saying that we are seeing an “acceleration toward the end of the regime.” Regardless of its preferred outcome, Israel cannot influence events inside Syria. Instead, Israel is adjusting to a reality where the threat of Iran reshaping the politics of the region has become paramount.

Iran is, of course, used to psychological campaigns. We continue to believe that while Iran might be close to a nuclear device that could explode underground under carefully controlled conditions, its ability to create a stable, robust nuclear weapon that could function outside a laboratory setting (which is what an underground test is) is a ways off. This includes being able to load a fragile experimental system on a delivery vehicle and expecting it to explode. It might. It might not. It might even be intercepted and create a casus belli for a counterstrike.

The main Iranian threat is not nuclear. It might become so, but even without nuclear weapons, Iran remains a threat. The current escalation originated in the American decision to withdraw from Iraq and was intensified by events in Syria. If Iran abandoned its nuclear programme tomorrow, the situation would remain as complex. Iran has the upper hand, and the United States, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all are looking at how to turn the tables.

At this point, they appear to be following a two-pronged strategy: Increase pressure on Iran to make it recalculate its vulnerability, and bring down the Syrian government to limit the consequences of Iranian influence in Iraq. Whether the Syrian regime can be brought down is problematic. Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi would have survived if Nato hadn’t intervened. Nato could intervene in Syria, but Syria is more complex than Libya. Moreover, a second Nato attack on an Arab state designed to change its government would have unintended consequences, no matter how much the Arabs fear the Iranians at the moment. Wars are unpredictable; they are not the first option.

Therefore the likely solution is covert support for the Sunni opposition funneled through Lebanon and possibly Turkey and Jordan. It will be interesting to see if the Turks participate. Far more interesting will be seeing whether this works. Syrian intelligence has penetrated its Sunni opposition effectively for decades. Mounting a secret campaign against the regime would be difficult, and its success by no means assured. Still, that is the next move.

But it is not the last move. To put Iran back into its box, something must be done about the Iraqi political situation. Given the US withdrawal, Washington has little influence there. All of the relationships the United States built were predicated on American power protecting the relationships. With the Americans gone, the foundation of those relationships dissolves. And even with Syria, the balance of power is shifting.

The United States has three choices. Accept the evolution and try to live with what emerges. Attempt to make a deal with Iran – a very painful and costly one. Or go to war. The first assumes Washington can live with what emerges. The second depends on whether Iran is interested in dealing with the United States. The third depends on having enough power to wage a war and to absorb Iran’s retaliatory strikes, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. All are dubious, so toppling al Assad is critical. It changes the game and the momentum. But even that is enormously difficult and laden with risks.

We are now in the final act of Iraq, and it is even more painful than imagined. Laying this alongside the European crisis makes the idea of a systemic crisis in the global system very real.

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Iranian nuclear programme not about Israel

Posted by alanmirs on November 22, 2011

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s latest gaffe reveals the geopolitical reality about Iranian nuclear technology.
MJ Rosenberg Last Modified: 20 Nov 2011 14:42
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Ehud Barak recently implied that an Iranian bid for nuclear weapons is geopolitical, and not just about Israel [Getty]

Washington DC  The classic definition of a campaign gaffe is when a politician inadvertently speaks a truth that will hurt him politically. The first George Bush committed a gaffe when he said that the idea that cutting taxes would increase government revenue was “voodoo economics”. Similarly, it was a gaffe when Barack Obama said that insecure right-wingers “cling” to religion and guns. In other words, a gaffe is a politically inconvenient truth.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak gaffed big-time this week. In fact, this gaffe is even more colossal than when he said back in 1999 that if he were a stateless young Palestinian, he would “have joined one of the terror organisations”.

But Barak’s remark this week is breathtaking in both its honesty and in its utter deviation from an Israeli government line that has not only been sold to the Israeli people, but also to the United States government – especially to Congress, where anything from Bibi Netanyahu’s office is treated as gospel.

Appearing on PBS’ Charlie Rose, Barak was asked if he would want nuclear weapons if he were an Iranian government minister. He said he probably would.

BARAK: Probably, probably. I know it’s not – I mean I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear, not to mention the Russians.

Barak won’t “delude” himself with the belief that Iran’s nuclear weapon programme is “just because of Israel”.

Well, it’s always nice to be true to yourself. (After the Israeli right went ballistic over Barak’s remarks, he qualified them, but in such a half-hearted way that it is clear what he said on PBS is what he believes.)

Of course, he and Netanyahu, not to mention a host of officials in successive Israeli governments for 15 years, have sold the entire world on the idea that Iran seeks nuclear weapons for the purpose of destroying Israel.

Over and over again, Israeli officials have said that the Iranian government is insane with anti-Semitism, so insane that it would joyfully nuke Israel without any regard for the fact that Israel has 200 land, air and sea-based missiles that could kill millions of Iranians. They have cited as evidence Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, essentially arguing that it proves that Iran’s goal is another Holocaust.

Netanyahu himself has said that this is 1938 or 1942, and Jews are facing a threat as direct and demonic as Hitler’s. They have pointed to Ahmadinejad’s and the mullahs’ hatred for Israel and support for anti-Israel terrorist groups as proof that Iran would commit national suicide to destroy Israel, becoming, in fact, the first nation in history to commit suicide in order to destroy another. But, we are told, Iranians are Shia fanatics who prefer death to life – and especially the death of Jews (not including the Jews who live in Iran, however).

Accordingly, the leading advocates for “crippling sanctions” against Iran and for keeping the “bomb Iran” option “on the table” have been the right-wing “pro-Israel” organisations led by AIPAC, its congressional cutouts, and, in the blogosphere,Commentary, which is central command headquarters for the “Bomb Iran” movement.

That is because Iranian nuclear weapons are portrayed, first and foremost, as an “existential threat” to Israel. Only later do the “bomb Iran” advocates get around to mentioning the possible threat to southern Europe, or that Iran might share its nuclear technology with terror groups. That is why Barak’s statement is such good news.

With one honest comment, he demonstrated that the hysteria surrounding an Iranian bomb is, in fact, not about an “existential threat” to Israel, but about two countries competing for regional hegemony.

Israelis don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon because, if it does, Israel will not be free to do whatever it wants to in the Middle East, whenever it wants to. As for Iran, the Washington Post reported this week that support for nuclear development is universal, with the Green Movement and supporters of Ahmadinejad united in the belief that Iran has the same right to nuclear development that other countries have. The Iranian government knows that going nuclear makes it a bigger player (a more meddlesome one, no doubt) in the region, which is far from desirable but which hardly merits launching a war.

This is not to say that the world community should not do what it can to deter Iran from achieving nuclear bombs. Another nuclear armed country – especially one run by a radical, terror-supporting bunch of clerics – is the last thing the world needs. But the way to deter Iran is to negotiate with it, not to bomb it or inflict “crippling sanctions” on its people either. Bombing should be off the table; diplomacy should be on it.

As for Israel, it has every right to be concerned about a nuclear-armed Iran, even with its own huge nuclear arsenal. But it does not have the right to steamroll Americans into supporting (or waging) a war that would jeopardise all our vital interests in the Middle East – from our military and civilian personnel to our oil supply.

Israel’s primary concern, rightly, is its own survival. But an Iranian bomb does not threaten Israel’s survival nearly as much as the war Netanyahu might launch ostensibly to deter it.

Meir Dagan, the Mossad chief who retired early this year, calls bombing Iran a “stupid idea“. He says:

A military attack will give the Iranians the best excuse to pursue the nuclear race. Khamenei will say ‘I was attacked by a country with nuclear capabilities; my nuclear programme was peaceful, but I must protect my country.’

He adds that any attack on Iran would lead Hezbollah to let fly its thousands of missiles against Israeli cities, missiles infinitely more numerous, deadly and sophisticated than anything Hamas has.

Another ex-Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, says that Iran does not present an existential threat to Israel. “The State of Israel cannot be destroyed [but] an attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years,” he warns.

And now we have Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s admission that the Israeli campaign to rush the US and Israel itself into war is based on, at best, hype and at worst, lies. Just like Iraq.

Are we really going to fall for this a second time? I don’t think so because, to put it simply, we aren’t that stupid. As that old adage goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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Life after capitalism

Posted by alanmirs on November 20, 2011

If capitalism means that money always talks, does the end of capitalism finish our urge to listen to it?
Robert Skidelsky Last Modified: 07 Jul 2011 17:51
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Could capitalism have exhausted its potential to create a better life? [Reuters]

In 1995, I published a book called The World After Communism. Today, I wonder whether there will be a world after capitalism.

That question is not prompted by the worst economic slump since the 1930s. Capitalism has always had crises, and will go on having them. Rather, it comes from the feeling that Western civilization is increasingly unsatisfying, saddled with a system of incentives that are essential for accumulating wealth, but that undermine our capacity to enjoy it. Capitalism may be close to exhausting its potential to create a better life – at least in the world’s rich countries.

By “better”, I mean better ethically, not materially. Material gains may continue, though evidence shows that they no longer make people happier. My discontent is with the quality of a civilization in which the production and consumption of unnecessary goods has become most people’s main occupation.

This is not to denigrate capitalism. It was, and is, a superb system for overcoming scarcity. By organising production efficiently, and directing it to the pursuit of welfare rather than power, it has lifted a large part of the world out of poverty.

Yet what happens to such a system when scarcity has been turned to plenty? Does it just go on producing more of the same, stimulating jaded appetites with new gadgets, thrills, and excitements? How much longer can this continue? Do we spend the next century wallowing in triviality?

For most of the last century, the alternative to capitalism was socialism. But socialism, in its classical form, failed – as it had to. Public production is inferior to private production for any number of reasons, not least because it destroys choice and variety. And, since the collapse of communism, there has been no coherent alternative to capitalism. Beyond capitalism, it seems, stretches a vista of…capitalism.

There have always been huge moral questions about capitalism, which could be put to one side because capitalism was so successful at generating wealth. Now, when we already have all the wealth we need, we are right to wonder whether the costs of capitalism are worth incurring.

Adam Smith, for example, recognized that the division of labor would make people dumber by robbing them of non-specialized skills. Yet he thought that this was a price – possibly compensated by education – worth paying, since the widening of the market increased the growth of wealth. This made him a fervent free trader.

Today’s apostles of free trade argue the case in much the same way as Adam Smith, ignoring the fact that wealth has expanded enormously since Smith’s day. They typically admit that free trade costs jobs, but claim that re-training programs will fit workers into new, “higher value” jobs. This amounts to saying that even though rich countries (or regions) no longer need the benefits of free trade, they must continue to suffer its costs.

Defenders of the current system reply: we leave such choices to individuals to make for themselves. If people want to step off the conveyor belt, they are free to do so. And increasing numbers do, in fact, “drop out”. Democracy, too, means the freedom to vote capitalism out of office.

This answer is powerful but naïve. People do not form their preferences in isolation. Their choices are framed by their societies’ dominant culture. Is it really supposed that constant pressure to consume has no effect on preferences? We ban pornography and restrict violence on TV, believing that they affect people negatively, yet we should believe that unrestricted advertising of consumer goods affects only the distribution of demand, but not the total?

Capitalism’s defenders sometimes argue that the spirit of acquisitiveness is so deeply ingrained in human nature that nothing can dislodge it. But human nature is a bundle of conflicting passions and possibilities. It has always been the function of culture (including religion) to encourage some and limit the expression of others.

Indeed, the “spirit of capitalism” entered human affairs rather late in history. Before then, markets for buying and selling were hedged with legal and moral restrictions. A person who devoted his life to making money was not regarded as a good role model. Greed, avarice, and envy were among the deadly sins. Usury (making money from money) was an offense against God.

It was only in the 18th century that greed became morally respectable. It was now considered healthily Promethean to turn wealth into money and put it to work to make more money, because by doing this one was benefiting humanity.

This inspired the American way of life, where money always talks. The end of capitalism means simply the end of the urge to listen to it. People would start to enjoy what they have, instead of always wanting more. One can imagine a society of private wealth holders, whose main objective is to lead good lives, not to turn their wealth into “capital”.

Financial services would shrink, because the rich would not always want to become richer. As more and more people find themselves with enough, one might expect the spirit of gain to lose its social approbation. Capitalism would have done its work, and the profit motive would resume its place in the rogues’ gallery.

The dishonoring of greed is likely only in those countries whose citizens already have more than they need. And even there, many people still have less than they need. The evidence suggests that economies would be more stable and citizens happier if wealth and income were more evenly distributed. The economic justification for large income inequalities – the need to stimulate people to be more productive – collapses when growth ceases to be so important.

Perhaps socialism was not an alternative to capitalism, but its heir. It will inherit the earth not by dispossessing the rich of their property, but by providing motives and incentives for behavior that are unconnected with the further accumulation of wealth.

Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is professor emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University, author of a prize-winning biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes.

 A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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