What is the current situation between Iran and the United States? Right now, Iran is engaged in a standoff with the US about the Iran nuclear deal. And it’s rapidly heating up. Here’s a few scattered facts:
The Trump Administration imposed sanctions to intentionally make diplomacy harder. This is part of the reason Biden could lift sanctions more readily, but the Biden Administration has not done so yet. On February 18, the Biden administration joined with European partners in offering to begin talks with the Iranians. This came after Iran set a deadline (February 21) for the United States to lift the sanctions on oil and banking. If the United States does not comply, Iran stated they will expel the U.N.’s nuclear inspectors from the country.
But advisors from the Center for a New American Security, a key player in the Biden Administration, as it is connected to WestExec, have been saying that the right plan is to make steps to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran prior to the upcoming Iranian elections in June. But does anyone in the Biden administration want that?
WestExec was founded by Michele Flourney and Tony Blinken, Secretary of State. It also included Avril Haines, the key architect of Obamas policy of extrajudicial killings through drone strikes. Blinken was also director of National Intelligence under Biden, and was a strategic consulting firm that has connections to major defense industry contractors.
The Biden administration has a clear connection to the Defense industry in numerous ways – one of the primary ones being General Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense who was part of Raytheon, the second largest defense contractor in the world. Raytheon, the defense contractor who has played a pivotal role is shaping US policy on the war in Yemen, (which Saudi Arabia’s involvement was approved by Obama.) Tony Blinken stands to get 1.7 million from Raytheon as he moves into the role of Secretary of Defense.
There is an interesting webinar on this topic from the Center for the New American Security here.
What this all adds up to is that the defense contractors with close ties to Saudia Arabia and their war on Yemen, and by proxy Iran, are highly influential in the Biden administration. Is the Biden administration willing to try to make peace with Iran when the administration is closely tied to their enemies?
The CNAS webinar cited above states that Biden is willing to re-enter diplomatic relations with Iran and re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA) potentially. The political brinkmanship Iran has decided to engage in with refusing to allow the inspectors in unless the sanctions are lifted is potentially going to sabotage the negotiations moving forward.
What to Think?
A lot of this is over my head, to be totally honest. What is clear to me is that the United States is at fault for the Iran nuclear treaty being in shambles due to Trump’s hostility towards Iran. The Obama administration showed more willingness to negotiate with Iran than Trump did, but also endorsed the proxy war in Yemen. Can Biden make any progress on any of this given the heavy investment of his administration in profits made from wars and weapons sales?
The idea of how to move forward with foreign policy is deeply embedded in the questions of what the United States government sees at its overt and hidden goals for US foreign policy. If the goal of selling weapons and profits for the defense contractors remains a high priority, any progress made will be minimal, short term, and haphazard. What’s required is change in US foreign policy, and the goals of the US government for our involvement in the global community. I suggest two principles which could inform US foreign policy, and question how they would align with goals that Biden and Harris have indicated they share.
1- Peace: Can the United States change our policy away from pre-emptive unilateral military actions that have characterized the last decades? If we decide on a strategy of multilateral action that is designed to actually stabilize the Middle East, Africa, and other areas of ongoing conflict, we could choose to make a decision to work as a responsible actor in the international community. This would go against the financial interests and personal connections of many of the Biden Administration.
2- Justice: Can the United States change our policy away from destroying infrastructure, economies, and nations, at the expense of human rights? The idea that the United States could commit to human rights is actually a major break with our recent actions. Obama’s pattern of extrajudicial killings, and Trump’s assassination of Soleimani all show that the US is ready and willing to act as a terrorist state. The economic terrorism that has characterized Trump’s relationship with Iran only heightens this. The United States could actually decide to follow a path where we renounce our pattern of international terrorism that has been our foreign policy for so many decades.
Limit Presidential Power
The idea that the government can wage war without the consent of its citizens is a problem. But the idea that a president can singlehandedly use the US military to wage wars based on personal whims is outrageous. And that is exactly what Obama did with his drone strikes. And let us not forget Trump using his executive actions withdrawing us from treaties and sabotaging foreign economies such as Iran. Our presidents’ decision to engage in war unilaterally without Congressional approval has gotten us to where we are today.
Many of us have hopes that the Biden administration will be an improvement over Trump. One thing the Biden/Harris administration could decide to do is radical and corrective. We could limit presidential power after unilaterally making an effort to clean up the terrorism of the recent years. But will the U.S. take the steps to correct what’s been broken, especially when they have close ties to the weapons industry and a vested interest in continuing proxy wars, bombings, drone strikes, and the pattern of destabilizing international affairs? It seems unlikely right now.