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Europe Has No Power in the Escalating US-Iran Conflict
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Brexiteers in Britain are denouncing the EU as an all-powerful behemoth from whose clutches Britain must escape, just as the organisation is demonstrating its failure to become more than a second-rate world power.

The EU’s real status – well behind the US, Russia and China – has just been demonstrated by its inability to protect Iran from US sanctions following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. A year ago, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron made humiliating visits to Washington to plead vainly with Trump to stay with the agreement, but were rebuffed.

Since then the US has successfully ratcheted up economic pressure on Iran, reducing its oil exports from 2.8 to 1.3 million barrels a day. The UK, France and Germany had promised to create a financial vehicle to circumvent US sanctions, but their efforts have been symbolic. Commercial enterprises are, in any case, too frightened of the ire of the US treasury to take advantage of such measures.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran would stop complying with parts of the nuclear deal unless the Europeans provided the promised protection for the oil trade and banks. Everybody admits that Iran is in compliance but this is not going to do it any good.

These are the latest moves in the complex political chess game between the US and Iran which has been going on since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. It is this conflict – and not the US-China confrontation over trade, which has just dramatically escalated – which will most likely define any new balance of power in the world established during the Trump era. It is so important because – unlike the US-China dispute – the options include the realistic possibility of regime change and war.

The Europeans have proved to be marginal players when it comes to the Iran deal and it was never likely that they would spend much more diplomatic capital defending it once the US had withdrawn. In the long term, they also want regime change in Tehran, though they oppose Trump’s methods of obtaining it as reckless. Nevertheless, the contemptuous ease with which Trump capsized the agreement shows how little he cares what EU leaders say or do.

The Europeans will be spectators in the escalating US-Iran conflict. The US potential is great when it comes to throttling the Iranian economy. Iranian oil exports are disappearing, inflation is at 40 per cent and the IMF predicts a 6 per cent contraction in the economy as a whole. The US can punish banks dealing with Iran everywhere, including countries where Iran is politically strong such as Iraq and Lebanon.

Tehran does not have many effective economic countermeasures against the US assault, other than to try to out-wait the Trump era. Caution has worked well for Iran in the past. After 2003, Iranians used to joke that God must be on their side because why else would the US have overthrown Iran’s two deeply hostile neighbours – the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Many Iranian leaders appear confident that they can survive anything Trump can throw at them other than a full-scale shooting war. Past precedent suggests they’re right: in the wars in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of 1982, Iran came out on top and helped created Hezbollah as the single most powerful political and military force in the country. Likewise, after the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran undermined their occupation and saw a Shia-led government sympathetic to its interests hold power in Baghdad. In Syria after 2011, Iranian support was crucial in keeping its ally Bashar al-Assad in control.

Iran was on the winning side in these conflicts in part because of mistakes made by its opponents, but these will not inevitably happen again. Because the media and much of the political establishment in Washington and western capitals are so viscerally anti-Trump, they frequently underestimate the effectiveness of his reliance on American economic might while avoiding military conflict. At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones.

Trump may not read briefing papers, but he often has a better instinct for the realities of power than the neo-conservative hawks in his administration who learned little from the Iraq war which they helped foment.

So long as Trump sticks with sanctions he is in a strong position, but if the crisis with Iran becomes militarised then the prospects for the US become less predictable. Neither Tehran nor Washington want war, but that does not mean they will not get one. Conflicts in this part of the Middle East are particularly uncontrollable because there are so many different players with contrary interests.

This divergence produces lots of wild cards: Trump is backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but these oil states have had a dismal record of operational incapacity in Syria and Yemen.

The Iranians, for their part, have had their successes where their fellow Shia are the majority (Iraq), the largest community (Lebanon) or are in control of government (Syria). Given that they are a Shia clerical regime, it is always difficult for them to extend their influence beyond the Shia core areas.

Benjamin Netanyahu has led the charge in demonising Iran and encouraging the US to see it as the source of all evil in the Middle East. But Netanyahu’s belligerent rhetoric against Iran has hitherto been accompanied with caution in shifting to military action, except against defenceless Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

ORDER IT NOW

A danger is that a permanent cold or hot war between Washington and Tehran will become the vehicle for other conflicts that have little to do with it. These would include the escalating competition between Saudi Arabia and Turkey over the leadership of the Sunni world. Turkey’s independent role would be threatened by an enhancement of US power in the region. So too would Russia which has re-established its status as a global power since 2011 by its successful military support for Assad in Syria.

Trump hopes to force Tehran to negotiate a Carthaginian peace – particularly useful if this happens before the next US presidential election – under which Iran ceases to be a regional power. Regime change would be the optimum achievement for Trump, but is probably unattainable.

If Trump sticks to economic war it will be very difficult for Iran to counter him, but in any other scenario the US position becomes more vulnerable. There is an impressive casualty list of British and US leaders – three British prime ministers and three US presidents – over the last century who have suffered severe or fatal political damage in the Middle East. Trump will be lucky if he escapes the same fate.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, EU, Iran, Iran Nuclear Agreement 
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  1. The EU — what a contemptible bunch. Nuland expressed the general US opinion of the EU (as has Pompeo maximus & his skipping his Germany meeting) when she considered the EU & it’s importance to the Ukraine situation in 2014: “Fuck the EU”.

    • Agree: Realist
  2. Anon[439] • Disclaimer says:

    Sure they do. What exactly prevents them from advocating against it, publicly? That alone would be something. Merkel can’t write a NYT op-ed and Macron can’t go on 60 minutes and plea with the public to stop this stupid thing? Yeah, that failed on the Iran Deal withdrawal, but that was an abstract sort of thing the public didn’t really understand. Everyone understands war and high oil prices. Theresa May or Nigel Farage can’t do something crazy like write an op-ed for Breitbart? Or would they rather not be tainted by the association? In that case, war is inevitable at some point because they prioritize public image over substance – issues of life and death of Iranians mean nothing to them … or not as much and everyone will see it and think to themselves, “why bother?”

    • Replies: @Digital Samizdat
    , @Realist
  3. Neither Tehran nor Washington want war, but that does not mean they will not get one.

    Benjamin Netanyahu has led the charge in demonising Iran and encouraging the US to see it as the source of all evil in the Middle East. But Netanyahu’s belligerent rhetoric against Iran has hitherto been accompanied with caution in shifting to military action, except against defenceless Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

    Iran obviously wants war.
    Look how close they put their country to our Glorious Military bases.

    • LOL: Lo, Justsaying
  4. Anon[239] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Funny how the National media are most silent about Trump’s worst deeds, such as sucking up to Zion.

    They prefer Trump the warmonger and feat Trump the peacemaker.

    It’s a Zionist-dominated world. US Treasury, totally Jewish-dominated.

    The banks are also targeting Conservatives.

  5. KA says:

    France is not sincere . If it were so,it wouldn’t be selling arms to Saudi against Yemen. EU leaders is are bunch of thugs when it comes to selling drugs ( arms against innocents) to the kids , they are the first to offer services .

    Sanction on Iran will increase . Iran will move to resuming nuclear activities and will do it first .
    If sanction gets worst, radical conservative will come to power .
    Iran will openly start supporting Houthi against Saudi itself from southern border .
    Escalation against Israel from Hamas , Hizbullagh, Syria, and from local inhabitants of Golan would most be same time coordinated .

    It’s a mess ! But not bad for US. May turn out to be good, if Israel is reduced to a deserted camp same time .

    • Agree: Rev. Spooner
  6. Lo says:
    @Adam Smith

    Look how close they put their country to our Glorious Military bases.

    This is funny.

  7. But Netanyahu’s belligerent rhetoric against Iran has hitherto been accompanied with caution in shifting to military action, except against defenceless Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. so says Patrick, brother of Alexander Cockburn and the now dying ‘Counterpunch”
    Patrick Cockburn always avoids mentioning that the American policy towards Middle East is dicatated by the Israelis.
    Does he imagine that the Iranians don’t know that a war with US will be a reset for the whole world? To them it’s a zero sum game but to the US and the parasitically embedded Israeli leeches this will make them pariahs with the rest of the world when oil shoots to $200 or $300 a barrel.

  8. alden says:
    @Adam Smith

    Like cockroaches around the only apartment building in the neighborhood totally cockroach free.

    I never realized. Thanks for the graphic. No wonder they don’t like us.

  9. El Dato says:

    Likewise, after the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran undermined their occupation

    Seriously??? I must have missed that episode and I have watched closely. In spite of the US moaning that people are shooting at the boys and that Iran was smuggling in IEDs, the opposition was not Iranian or even mostly Shia (which are nationalistic Iraqis anyway, only loosley allied to Iran), but Sunni. Which, upgraded with hotheads coming in from Syria and slush funds from Saudi Arabia, morphed into ISIS at some point.

  10. Alfa158 says:
    @Adam Smith

    They’re not the only ones. A couple of years ago the Uniparty was objecting to the provocative way that Russia was conducting military exercises near their borders and therefore NATO forces were within range of Russian artillery.

  11. Miro23 says:

    There are some similarities between Venezuela and Iran.

    European leaders all followed US Jewish Mafia instructions to back the ridiculous Guaido in Venezuela. The Russians and Chinese took the opposite line, sending aircraft and detachments of troops there to support ( the legitimately elected) Maduro.

    On Iran, the US unilaterally backed out of the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement following US Jewish Mafia instructions, and European leaders and corporations also folded when they were threatened by the same USJM. The Russians and Chinese took the opposite line, and are continuing to work with the Iranians.

    The USJM clearly wants to strangle Venezuela and Iran economically, attack them, and install their puppets.

    For their part, the Russians and Chinese finally seem to have realized that appeasement doesn’t work and are fighting back. The question is how will they do it. There are military and economic options, and it wouldn’t be entirely against their interests to see the US bogged down in Iran in another Vietnam/Iraq type situation with the vast expense and division of US society.

    • Replies: @anon
  12. @Anon

    Breibart is a Zionist mouthpiece. Why would they give a European ruler a platform to argue against sanctions on Iran?

  13. Nevertheless, the contemptuous ease with which Trump capsized the agreement shows how little he cares what EU leaders say or do.

    Why should he? The Euro-muppets are so weak it’s laughable. I love how the Guardianista set thinks that the EU constitutes some ‘bulwark’ against US hegemony, when in fact the EU happens to be one of the leading tools of US hegemony. The EU wasn’t created to stand up to Washington; it was created to make sure no European country ever does again.

    … the neo-conservative hawks in his administration who learned little from the Iraq war which they helped foment.

    Well, they learned important lesson: there are no career penalties for failure. Remember when John Dolton was merely Bush’s recess-appointed ambassador to the UN? Now look at ‘im!

  14. Iran will bomb both mainland USA and Israel… and I will applaud every bombing

    If Israel thinks it will come away from this one unscathed… think again… enemies are all around you

  15. Realist says:
    @Anon

    Sure they do. What exactly prevents them from advocating against it, publicly? That alone would be something. Merkel can’t write a NYT op-ed and Macron can’t go on 60 minutes and plea with the public to stop this stupid thing?

    Lack of balls.

  16. anon[120] • Disclaimer says:
    @Miro23

    European leaders all followed US Jewish Mafia instructions to back the ridiculous Guaido in Venezuela”

    Absolutely right you are . These stupid mealy mouthed , dewy eyed do goober are worst . They are boneless ameba , spineless camouflaging octopus . May be they have their dossiers somewhere in Herzlyia guarded by Rabbi who are the light to the nation.

    Despite the rant against Globalism , may be its the underside of the globalism thats needs to be explored . Globalist doesn’t want poor or middle class from India or from China or from USA come together to wrest the control from them . Its time to think of a new paradigm . Stupid Alt Right won’t like it at all.

  17. Anon[577] • Disclaimer says:

    “Breibart is a Zionist mouthpiece. Why would they give a European ruler a platform to argue against sanctions on Iran?”

    You’d be surprised at how much flattery and the offer of fame will get you. Breitbart would never turn down an op-ed from ANY world leader, including from the Iranians. Similar fame-chasing explains stupid republican congressmen like Steve King who give interviews to the NYT and guys like Ben Shapiro who gave an interview to the BBC, which you should never do unless you’re prepared for biased questions and character attacks.

  18. That’s too bad. Maybe they should have followed Patton’s advice and allied with a reconstituted Germany to kick the bolsheviks back to Russia, where they belonged. Then they would still have some martial spirit left and standing in a multi-polar world order.

  19. @Adam Smith

    I would be hard pressed to call Cockburn apologist in most of what he writes. Not this time around. Sure, Europe can do something about it if they had the political will to make good their commitment to Iran. A number of these countries once ruled much of the globe way before belonging to a union. As with the US, European balls are stowed in Ziolandia, consequently rendered impotent.

  20. @Adam Smith

    Great graphic!. But is that not what the US and her NATO lapdogs been claiming with their bases surrounding Russia? And the fellating of the Ziodonkey made Trump forget his own balls in Ziolandia on his way back home.

  21. Anonymous[352] • Disclaimer says:

    Here’s some speculation: Rather than an Iraq style invasion, Trump could start a Lybian-style proxy war modeled after Russia’s intervention in Syria, but coupled with tongue-in-cheek denials and a brutal airborne drubbing—a short, sharp intervention (like Reagan’s in 80s) to exterminate Iran’s nuclear program. Coupled with the right propaganda, it could boost ratings in 2020. At any rate the Democratic opposition’s moves suggest that the only interesting thing about the next election will be exactly how Trump’s opponents will be humiliated. What will Bernie’s “pocahontization” look like?

    But it’s Bibi who takes the cake. His performance in the Middle East is a bit like Bobby Fischer trouncing an amateur after giving queen and rook odds.

    Stray thought: Europe’s fecklessness was spectacularly demonstrated by the Assange saga. And it looks like the lesson will continue—Ecuador’s timing was exquisite.

    Another stray thought: This whole vehicle-for-business-with-Iran thing is preternaturally stupid because it doesn’t pass muster with US law. European businessmen can see this quite clearly, but it seems that the Eurocrats who lord over them cannot.

  22. And it starts with the usual drivel.

    “Brexiteers in Britain are denouncing the EU as an all-powerful behemoth from whose clutches Britain must escape, just as the organisation is demonstrating its failure to become more than a second-rate world power.

    The EU’s real status – well behind the US, Russia and China – has just been demonstrated by its inability to protect Iran from US sanctions”

    That the Moronic Mick is unable to differentiate between the power the EU exercises over those within its borders and those outside is just more example of its senility.

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