“Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes”

These are the opening lines of a Protestant hymn, which long ago a roommate of mine used to sing when he had one too many beers. As that happened more than once on those bygone days, I heard the refrain rather frequently. Today it rings a certain bell as the Obama Administration appears to be trying to resurrect its anti-Iranian coalition against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Let’s see…we are being told that a used car salesman in Texas of Iranian-American descent holding both Iranian and U.S passports, working in tandem with a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s security force, was about to pass $1.5 million to the Zeta Mexican drug cartel so that the latter could assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in his favorite restaurant in Washington D.C.

Hmmm… and here I thought that Colin Powell’s pathetic claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the United Nations (to justify the U.S. led invasion) in 2005 was an intellectual low point of U.S. foreign policy virtually impossible to match. Wrong again!

The Limits of Gullibility

Is it only in America that the public could swallow and take seriously such unmitigated nonsense with hardly a second thought? After all, this is the country where Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (or here in Colorado, their local clone, Mike Rosen) can pontificate daily to audiences of millions who take their words as something approaching gospel?

Does gullibility know no limits? Apparently very few!

Is it enough for the likes of Beck and Limbaugh to start the ball rolling, combined with a page 1 piece in the New York Times to assure that the allegation, regardless how farfetched, receives the blessing of credibility? Adding fuel to the fire, the next day Hillary Clinton (bowing to AIPAC once again), Joseph Biden and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joined a chorus of neo-conservatives to add legitimacy to “the cause. ”

But all that was simply a prelude to the main act: with an eye on the 2012 presidential elections (what else?) on Thursday (October 13, 2011) President Barack Obama picked up the baton from Hillary and bought into the hysteria created over the past few days. Rather than neutralizing the nonsense, Obama only added to the demagoguery with his own intemperate comment that “Iran will pay the price” for the (alleged) assassination attempt.

Obama Joins Hands with Beck and Limbaugh

Metaphorically joining hands with Beck and Limbaugh – and obviously intimated by their war-mongering and sensitive to being tagged as a foreign policy wimp – Obama has concluded that Iran-bashing will help his re-election campaign. A pity, but given how many times and in how many ways this president has disappointed – even those of us who didn’t expect much from him – it was not necessarily a surprise.

Of course not everyone has swallowed this particular pill. While one or two otherwise thoughtful commentators are taking the bait, there are some pretty sharp skeptics (Jim Lobe, Glen Greenwald – internationally, Pepe Escobar) already deconstructing these allegations, nay, ripping this particular Washington created fantasy to shreds. Certainly more will follow.

It’s all enough for me to scratch my now balding head in wonder. Concerning the allegations themselves, they are rather curious and pretty flakey. They don’t add up but the shadow of suspicion that they cast concerning Iran helps to further poison international relations in a number of ways.

The most disturbing suggestion is that Iran is planning an attack on the United States a la 9-11; suggesting, on this the 10thanniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The “plot” tries to link the Iranian government with elements of the Mexican drug mafia – a curious attempt at linkage, about as valid as linking Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda. Spurious perhaps, but nonetheless effective.

Needless to say all this is yet a further effort to de-legitimize Iran before the world and to create the pretext for further intimidations, sanctions, covert military actions in preparation for the “big one” – still on the books – to invade Iran and over through the Islamic Republic.

What’s the Deal?

The timing of this particular ideological offensive is rather curious. It comes at a time when:

  • The Iranians had recently announced that they would not enrich uranium to anything more than a 20% level. (Weapons grade uranium is enriched more than 90%.) Thus pulling the rug out from under the allegation – once again – that they are enriching uranium for a nuclear weapons (rather than power). Iran’s refusal to develop a nuclear weapons program has been particularly unsettling to U.S. neoconservatives and Israeli Likudniks. Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to make much of Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama Administration has needed to find a different – if convoluted – avenue of attack: the Texas-Mexican mafia-Iranian revolutionary guard “threat.”
  • The House Foreign Relations Committee is considering further sanctions against Iran. AIPAC’s point-woman on that committee, committee chair Ros-Lehtinen was quick to jump on the band wagon claiming that “the multi-faceted threat posed by Iran becomes more severe with each passing day.” Lehtinen, whose main base of support includes Cuban anti-Castro elements and Likudniks, is introducing legislation which, if approved, would include banning all transactions with Iran’s Central Bank. The “plot” will help Lehtinen pass the punitive legislation a little more easily.
  • Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran had temporarily subsided, the Saudis being consumed with freezing and reversing the democratic regional surge triggered by the Arab Spring throughout the region for fear the monarchy is next in line. To show how liberal and reformist they have become, the monarchy, in an act filled with human pathos and solidarity, intervened to stop a public lashing of a woman who had, the nerve of her, challenged Wahhabist Islam by taking to the steering wheel of an automobile. Apparently there are some in Washington that feel that the Saudis have “lost focus”…giving too much attention to Arab developments and not enough to the “anti-Iranian” coalition that the Obama Administration has been doing everything in its power to keep afloat. It was amusing how in the first days after “the plot” was revealed, it was the U.S. and not Saudi Arabia who began to make a big deal out of this incident. Until prodded by Washington the Saudis apparently didn’t understand their national honor was under assault.
  • The Israelis can only welcome Washington’s effort to refocus political momentum away from Israel’s growing regional isolation (with Turkey, Egypt and the upcoming UN vote over Palestinian statehood) and mounting unpopularity. Netanyahu’s American supporters, long confusing U.S. national interests with those of Tel Aviv, can now breathe easier about contributing to Obama’s presidential campaign. I mean how bad can he be for Israel if he’s returned to the drumbeat of attacking Iran?

Mohammed Bouazizi Derailing U.S. Regional Plans

All the above is true enough and probably adds fuel to the fire, but I would venture that the heart of the matter is somewhere else. Since the Arab Spring burst forth in the Middle East with the self-sacrifice by immolation of the young Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, U.S. Middle East policy has been thrown into disarray. Still is in large measure. The approach to the region was to build an anti-Iranian alliance among such diverse allies as Israel and Saudi Arabia with the goal of undermining and eventually overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran one way or another.

At the heart of this offensive was the U.S. ability to portray Iran as a destabilizing influence in the region; not merely a destabilizing influence but THE destabilizing element. The Arab Spring itself undercut Washington’s main assumption. It isn’t a threat of some form of Shi’ite political fundamentalism emanating from Iranian mullahs which has been stalking the region but poverty, political oppression and corruption of regimes which for decades had been propped up by the United States and its allies.

The Arab Spring, the Second Arab Revolt, took the wind out of the sales of the anti-Iranian coalition, its constituent elements scattering to the winds. Although not entirely clear where it is all headed, the Arab Spring has already upset the U.S.-shaped political apple cart. U.S. Middle East policy has yet to recover. Alignments are shifting; there is uncertainty in Washington, nothing short of panic in Israel as to how it will all play out. But one thing is pretty clear – to a great extent, the United States has lost control of the process (if it ever had it)!

Cryonic Suspension and U.S. Middle East Policy…

How to regain the political initiative?

  1. Put the brakes on the Arab Spring especially where it concerns the oil producing countries. It’s one thing for little Tunisia bereft of oil and natural gas to democratize, quite another for Saudi Arabia’s neighbors Bahrain and Yemen to do likewise.
  2. Try to patch up (unsuccessfully so far) the spats between Israel and Turkey, Israel and Egypt.
  3. Freeze any momentum on Palestinian statehood and the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in East Jerusalem.
  4. Gain a foothold in oil and resource rich Africa through taking advantage of the Libyan events.
  5. Assemble as many countries as possible into the U.S.-led NATO alliance against whomever (Russia, China, etc.).
  6. And last but not least attempt to re-establish the dead fish that is the anti-Iranian alliance to bring those former silent partners in crime (Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates, etc.) back into a working relationship.

Reviving the “Iranian Threat” is not old wine in a new bottle. It’s more akin to thawing a body that has been in a state of cryonic suspension. Problem is that patient died months ago and cannot be revived by normal means. Only a miracle can revive it… or a surrealistic pretext like a Texas used car sales man being run by an Iranian secret service spy in cooperation with the Mexican drug mafia. If reality won’t work, why not try fantasy? And since denial is as much a part of the American political tradition as football or apple pie, who knows, maybe it will work.

Rob Prince is a Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Relations. He also runs a blog, Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

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