0259 GMT July 16, 2018
"There is evidence that the U.S. is supporting Daesh indirectly by arming so-called 'moderate' forces to overthrow Assad in Syria. Many, if not most, are militantscaligned with or supportive of Daesh . It appears that Washington is willing to bed down with a proclaimed enemy in order to overthrow the government of Syria. It is also well known that Washington's ally, Saudi Arabia is arming Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and is conducting crimes against Yemen in its illegal war in the Arabian peninsula,' Paul L. Atwood, a professor of American studies at Massachusetts University said in an exclusive interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency in New York.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Q: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran wants the nuclear agreement (with G5+1) to be the foundation and not the ceiling. Why the US administration does not want to use the JCPOA as a platform for diplomacy with Iran to address international issues such as extremism, Daesh and the crisis in Yemen and Syria?
A: The simple answer is that key elements of the U.S. elite do not want the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to work. A workable peace with Iran does not serve specific elite financial and industrial interests in the United States. Nor does any peace with Washington's created enemies, including Iran, North Korea, or Russia, or increasingly China. The interests of other nations exclude the prime goals of U.S. foreign policy which has been for more than a century to foster a global political and economic order dominated by and benefitting Washington and Wall Street, though the claim is that this 'globalism' is benefitting more people across the globe. It benefits some but casts many into unemployment and poverty.
Any sane leader understands that the proliferation of nuclear weapons will lead inexorably to their eventual use. Though the U.S insists it values the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it has turned a blind eye to the development of nuclear weapons by its allies, India and Israel, and then claims that certain nations that fear these perilous developments are threatening the peace and security of the world by seeking nuclear deterrents of their own as their only measure of security from the military might of the U.S.
The United States was the first to use nuclear weapons against Japan but I believe their employment was not militarily necessary. Japanese officials were looking for an 'honorable' surrender and the U.S. gave them exactly that when the Japanese emperor was allowed to remain head of state. The real issue for Washington was the Soviet Union and its domination of Eastern and Central Europe and parts of East Asia . The nature of the USSR all but precluded American economic penetration of and investment in much of the world at least on American terms. The employment of atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a message to the Soviet Union. As responsible American leaders warned this would have the dangerous consequence of launching a highly dangerous arms race with the Soviet Union and would cause anxiety among other nations leading to their adoption of nuclear weapons.
But there were many American economic elites who welcomed the Cold War since that served other equally vital elite American economic interests. The chief of war production during WWII had declared that to avert a return to depression after the war the U.S. would require a 'permanent war economy.' That would require permanent enemies and they were shortly found, always on the basis that these antagonists opposed 'democracy' or 'human rights'. The real reasons were that what President Eisenhower later called the Military Industrial Complex could not survive in the absence of enemies. American foreign policy has fostered such enemies ever since.
The U.S has overthrown, or attempted to overthrow, regimes of states in opposition to the American global agenda like Iraq, Libya, and currently Syria, and as you know, Iran.
The American economic system, as now constituted, transfers vast wealth from ordinary taxpayers to major and highly diverse war industries. Many if not most of these industries could not exist without U.S. government subvention. If they are to serve their investors and reap profit they can do so only in a state of permanent fear and tension. It is not therefore in their interests to foster peace and cooperation among nations.
Frankly I fully expected the Islamic Republic of Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrence against Israel's and Washington's nukes. Iran is, after all, surrounded by nuclear armed states. Yet it is a measure of Iranian leadership's sanity that it appears to comprehend how utterly catastrophic this increasing arms race may prove to be. Unlike India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, Iran has signed onto the NPT and accepted the JCPOA with the endorsement of the permanent Security Council members plus Germany as a measure of cooperation and willingness to reduce tensions. But given the goals and agendas of those who are hostile to Iran the implementation of JCPOA undercuts the American Military Industrial Complex which, as recent history demonstrates, is the prime instrument of US foreign policy toward those who will not accept the American global agenda.
Q: US Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel said on Tuesday that “Iran’s malign activities across the region pose the long-term threat to stability” in the Middle East. Given the Iranian key role in fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, could we infer that the US top commander is not happy with the decline of Daesh in the Middle East?
A: When U.S. officials speak of stability anywhere in the world they have American 'interests' in mind and care little about the interests of others. What does General Votel mean by 'stability?' American interventions throughout the Middle East have utterly de-stabilized the region beginning just after World War II when Washington arrogated to itself the role of policing the globe. What the U.S. has always wanted since 1945 is untrammeled access to the region's prime resource, petroleum, and friendly regimes willing to enable the U.S. to position itself militarily and strategically to protect those interests. The overthrow of Mossadeq and the installation of the virtual puppet shah was evidence enough of that and since then the U.S. has intervened again and again throughout the region, establishing an environment that is the very opposite of what it originally intended.
There is evidence that the U.S. is supporting Daesh indirectly by arming so-called 'moderate' forces to overthrow Assad in Syria. Many, if not most, are militants aligned with or supportive of Daesh . Numerous international journalists have documented this and recently a U.S. Congresswoman introduced legislation (which has not passed) calling on the U.S. to stop this activity since it obviously abets the goals of Daesh . It appears that Washington is willing to bed down with a proclaimed enemy in order to overthrow the government of Syria. It is also well known that Washington's ally, Saudi Arabia is arming Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and is conducting crimes against Yemen in its illegal war in the Arabian peninsula.
On one level the U.S. appears to be promoting conflict between Sunni and Shia deliberately as a measure to weaken Iran or worse. What General Votel really thinks of his superiors intentions is anyone's guess but, like most military officers, he simply follows orders without questioning their legality or genuine intent. Like most he will likely retire from the military and waltz into a comfortable sinecure as a vice president of a major arms corporation.
Q: How do you see the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in assisting the Iraqi and Syrian governments to fight back Daesh ?
A: Given what appears to be Washington's covert support for extremist Sunni militants who are attacking Shia forces all over the region it seems to me that Iran has no real choice other than to defend itself and those who support her. Again, Saudi Arabia is intent on undermining Iranian goals and policies in the region and is thereby serving U.S. interests in that way. Saudi support for forces aligned with Daesh flatly contradicts American claims that its primary goal in Syria is to inflict defeat on that extremist organization.
Q: Afghanistan is facing an increased threat by Daesh. Why does the US response has been an increase in military presence in Afghanistan and not diplomacy based on regional cooperation to address the security challenges in Afghanistan and Central Asia?
A: Since U.S. troops in Afghanistan have increased substantially in the last year they are seen by many Afghanis as occupying forces. American policymakers cannot be so stupid as not to comprehend that US intervention from Libya to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are inspiring the very anti-American reactions they claim to oppose. After the events of September 11, 2001 Iran and China and India provided valuable assistance in the effort to root out al Qaeda, obviously to reduce the challenges to security.
We often forget that the Taliban did not attack the U.S. on 9-11 and were willing to turn Osama bin laden over to an Islamic court to face charges of terrorism. The Taliban had actually stabilized Afghanistan after the terribly destructive civil war that ensued after the Soviets left and when Washington washed its hands off considerable responsibility. Forgotten too is the effort by Washington and certain energy conglomerates to build strategically located natural gas pipelines from the Central Asian nations to the north through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian ocean. The U.S. government has long committed to policies of American preponderance in the form of 'globalism' and thus views any other regional power that does not cooperate with its overarching geo-strategy as a competitor. By definition cooperation is incompatible with competition.
Q: It is known that Saudi Arabia funds and exports extremism and that the Wahabi ideology of the ruling al-Saud family has inspired the Daesh leadership. How would you explain the US-Saudi partnership in the context of the US counter-terrorism policies?
A: Given what appears to be unconditional American support for Saudi financing and arming of Islamic extremists who are carrying out terrorism, the logical conclusion is that terrorism is one weapon in the broad strategy of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Of course U.S. officials deny this and maintain that the U.S. government is aiding 'moderate' rebels against 'outlaw' regimes like Syria's or those trying to overthrow governments of which Washington approves. Recall American support for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. Armed by the U.S. and the Saudis these various groups, including Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, carried out terror against Soviet targets in the Soviet Union. President Reagan at the time called the mujahedeen 'freedom fighters.' For the U.S. terrorism exists only where terrorists obstruct American goals.
Q: How would you see the future of NPT and nuclear disarmament if the US withdraws from the Nuclear Agreement with Iran?
A: It certainly appears that the Trump Administration intends to withdraw from the JCPOA. Trumps opposition to the treaty has been known since his campaign for the presidency. He dismissed former secretary of state Rex Tillerson for wishing to maintain the agreement. Now the extremely hard-line former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Pompeo is representing U.S. foreign policy in the region. This means that the most reactionary elements in the so-called 'Deep State' behind the scenes in the American power structure is now moving into position. Expect a significant shift in the direction of U.S. policies and actions. As for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, from the American vantage point its utility was always to prevent those who can oppose Washington's agenda from acquiring nukes, not the prevention of nuclear proliferation. Israel and India from the outset refused to sign on to the NPT and suffered no sanctions and we know, though again Washington denies this, that American agents assisted both nations to acquire these deadly weapons. Given the unpredictability, not to mention the often irrationality and unreliability of Trumps words, there is a great danger that the NPT will go the way of the Kellog-Briand Pact.
Q: Some European countries believe that if they give President Trump some concessions in areas other than the JCPOA (for example Iran ballistic missile program), they will be able to keep him in the agreement. Do you think this approach could save the nuclear agreement?
A: As noted in my earlier response Iran is surrounded on four sides by nations in possession of nuclear capable ballistic missiles. Given the realities of extreme tensions in its sphere it makes 'realistic' sense for Iran to have weapons capable of retaliation against any attack though such logic defies the reality that should nuclear war break out in the Middle East, or the Korean peninsula, or anywhere, the next phase will almost certainly be all-out nuclear holocaust cross the planet. The human species has reached a supremely critical juncture in its evolution. We now have the capacity to make ourselves extinct. While nationalism can be regarded as an evolutionary step up from tribalism we have reached the imperative turning point where we need to move on to 'species-ism.' That is why the NPT, for all its weaknesses, is a vitally sane step in that direction. I'm hopeful that the growing extremism of the Trump Administration can, before it is too late, teach a new generation of Americans that neither of the two American political parties has been conducting foreign policy in the interests of the future, but only for short term benefits to a minority of planet Earth's denizens and that some other way must be developed to move all humans toward cooperation rather than the beggar-my-neighbor intense competition that now rules the planet.
PAUL L. ATWOOD is a senior lecturer in the American studies department and research associate in the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, both at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is a Vietnam-era veteran and an editor of 'Sticks and Stones: Living with Uncertain Wars '(2006). He is the author of War and Empire: The American Way of Life.