The sowing of instability is the very purpose of the Trump administration’s policy on Iran. I would like to make some remarks about that which I wasn’t able to do in my last post given the focus was elsewhere. I think this is important because a lot of critical analysis in the mainstream adopts the view that rising instability in the Persian Gulf is a consequence of Trump’s foolhardy policy, rather than its very object.
Before we proceed, I should point out, according to a Reuters news report on an upcoming IAEA Report on Iran’s nuclear activities, that Iran is feeding UF6 into IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges at Natanz but not into its two 30 machine IR-6 cascades. The Europeans have stated that the latter would be a “redline.” To my mind this further demonstrates the hitherto calibrated and reversible phased response of Iran to the massive violations of Annex II of the JCPOA and the failure of the Europeans, thus far, to ensure the integrity of this Annex to the Agreement.
Before unleashing Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler stated to the high command of the Wehrmacht; “We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down.”
That sentiment I think has more than a little to do with Iran, but also North Korea I should add. When the US goes hard against Iran and North Korea it does so not because of concerns about nuclear proliferation. Rather, Washington uses concerns about nuclear proliferation to engage in a policy of graduated escalation of pressure with the view to affecting regime change. That policy is based on an optimistic assessment of the propensity of the regime in Iran to collapse. So, “we have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down.” Escalating pressure on Iranian society will compel Iranians to take to the streets and overthrow the regime in Tehran in a second Iranian revolution. When the edifice comes tumbling down Washington need only extend the basket and collect the ripe geopolitical fruits.
Creating instability in the region, but also within Iran through economic sanctions, serves this end. The idea is to create stability by creating instability where stability refers to the crafting of a pliant region subordinate to US power and preferences. Stability does not mean stability as it’s used in an everyday sense. The JCPOA provided for stability as per normal usage but not in terms of Washington speak. I would argue that this too has been a major assumption of policy on North Korea. The regime will inevitably collapse, and Pyongyang’s nuclear programme can be used to hasten that process along through a graduated escalation of economic, diplomatic, and strategic pressure.
But, of course, the other side will respond to this and it responds, in part, by expanding its nuclear activities. In the case of North Korea this led to a working ICBM armed with a deliverable hydrogen bomb targeting US cities. What it will lead to in Iran’s case is uncertain, but every escalation Tehran makes in its nuclear activities is evidently greeted with euphoria by the Trump administration.
This all does indeed sow instability in the region, as it is meant to, and this can indeed get out of control so much so that it leads to some form of military conflict with Iran if only through inadvertence. It almost led to nuclear war with North Korea in 2017 and it might do so again in 2020. My own view is that a good deal of the diplomatic impasse regarding North Korea is not because Pyongyang does not want to disarm and Trump, if not his administration, does not understand this, rather the old assumption about the inevitably of North Korea’s collapse continues to drive policy. Keep the pressure on and the juicy geopolitical fruits in Northeast Asia will fall into Washington’s basket. There isn’t much North Korea can do about this because it’s deterred from nuclear adventurism by Trump’s bigger button.
In both cases the risk of conflict is high, but that’s beside the point. Don’t forget Hitler’s refrain was made to calm concerns the German high command had about an escalation of the war, which they viewed as being too risky for Germany. The hawks in Washington appear convinced that kicking in the door will make both Iran and North Korea collapse. That means running the risk of war is worth the candle. The German foreign minister is reported today as saying Europe should consider renewing sanctions on Iran, which would end the JCPOA. For their part Iran and North Korea too think manipulating risk is the best way to respond to this leaving two sides manipulating external perceptions of risk through a graduated process of escalation. How that’ll end nobody knows, but that’s the very idea. We do know how imperial Japan responded when the squeeze was put on Tokyo before Pearl Harbour.
This of course is all quite insane but that’s reasons of state for you. One wonders what affect climate change has on things like this. As the view that dangerous climate change is inevitable takes hold, through wilful inaction, in the chancelleries of the world would that mean states would have a greater propensity to run nuclear risks in the meantime? That is, let us grab as much as we can while we can and who cares about the probable consequences for civilisation is doomed anyway? I think we’re, in a way, seeing this already in the Arctic. This definitely requires a separate, more detailed and considered, write up.
Remember how the rotten door theory went down the first time should the nuclear crises with both Iran and North Korea escalate in 2020. Germany’s cities were left in ruins, and Hitler’s Wunderwaffe didn’t save them either I might add.