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  • If Iran might not appeal to all political palates, Tehran has already proven to be a truthful and committed actor. 

    If Iran might not appeal to all political palates, Tehran has already proven to be a truthful and committed actor.  | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 August 2018
If Iran might not appeal to all political palates, Tehran has already proven to be a truthful and committed actor, writes Catherine Shakdam. 

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library in July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing critique of Iran and its policies – a knee-jerk reaction, one could argue, to Washington's debacle in both Iraq and Syria. 

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If America's distaste for the Islamic Republic has always run deep, Washington's grandstanding on national security and the need to 'offer' Iranians the freedom they allegedly so desperately crave should not be divorced from the recent losses the United States incurred in the Middle East, both politically and militarily.

"We are asking every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic's destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign," Pompeo said. "This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by violent regime activity for decades."

Pompeo's words ring a little hollow in the light of the United States' military track record. However justified and necessary the United States may have framed its propensity to declare war on those it sees as a threat – Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria –the United States is nevertheless directly responsible for a great deal of abuses and human suffering.

The United States engaged in 46 military interventions from 1948–1991. From 1992–2017, that number increased fourfold to 188.

The United States' national identity remains rooted in military interventionism – the expression of a political will which seeks to impose a particular reality over the rest of the world. A common reading of recent increased U.S. military spending, along with its accelerated deployment of armed forces abroad, is that the United States is an aggressive power, committed to maintaining the post–Cold War status quo.

Military Spending

In March 2018, President Donald Trump approved the largest military budget in U.S. history: US$700 billion. 

If undoubtedly many countries have been terrorised and bullied by powers greater than their own over the decades, the United States almost systematically had a hand in it – more often than not contravening international law. 

Human rights law prohibits the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This not only includes prohibiting a state from itself torturing or ill-treating a person, it includes a prohibition on 'outsourcing' torture.

'Extraordinary rendition' refers to the deliberate apprehension and transfer of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation, outside of the law, where there is a risk that the person might be tortured or subjected to other ill-treatment.

Regardless of what anyone or any one nation may feel about Iran; its policies; system of governance; religious orientation; political standing within the Greater Middle Eastern region, or national ambitions, one can neither reject nor deny Iran's commitment to its legal obligations – both in regards to the nuclear deal and its military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

Iran never broke the law; it acted in accordance with international treaties within the parameters of international law – a commitment on which the United States has made a point of defaulting.

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The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides another explicit prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Article 7 states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation."

Washington never burdened itself with such restrictions. Instead, it chose to enact exceptionalism in the name of the freedom it posits to embody, and promises to bring nations – against their will, if need be.

The practice of extraordinary rendition is an affront to the rule of law because it operates well outside the law and lacks any transparency and accountability.

We now know that during the 'War on Terror' many people were unlawfully transferred from one territory to another in circumstances where they were subjected to torture, horrendous conditions of imprisonment and ill-treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has said it believes extraordinary rendition has taken place on a significant scale, and there is evidence of hundreds of CIA flights over Europe.

Security Crisis

The United States' claims against Iran are not founded in reality. If anything they betray a political need, not – as officials have clamored – a necessary reaction to a national security threat. 

The United States needs not make an enemy out of Iran; it chooses to for reasons that lie well beyond its national interests.

As Michael H Fuchs puts it: "Trump just manufactured a national security crisis for no reason... His decision to pull the United States out of the Iran deal could place the lives of Americans – and people around the world – in danger. And all for nothing."

Against not only common sense, but political consensus, Trump's America chose to break the very deal that stood as a cornerstone to political normalisation with Iran, and in doing so lay waste years of  sustained and highly coordinated diplomatic efforts.

In the almost three years since the deal was signed, not only has the IAEA confirmed that Iran is complying with the deal, but the Trump administration – the very administration now violating the deal – has repeatedly verified Iran's compliance. 

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted the verification mechanisms in the deal are "robust," and the head of the IAEA called them the "world's most robust."

The statement reads: "The IAEA is closely following developments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As requested by the United Nations Security Council and authorised by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2015, the IAEA is verifying and monitoring Iran's implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. 

"Iran is subject to the world's most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain. As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran."

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Still, Washington chose to walk away… and, as it did, it unabashingly blamed Iran for its decision, arguing Tehran's belligerence and penchant for political meddling in other nations' affairs.

"The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979 and remain in power today are driven by a desire to conform all of Iranian society to the tenants of the Islamic Revolution. The regime is also committed to spreading the Revolution to other countries, by force if necessary," Pompeo said in his latest attack.

If we ought to challenge Trump's dishonesty towards Iran, it is his decision to contemplate regime change in Iran that should command our ire – especially when it entails empowering well-known terror militants: the MKO, also known as MEK.

Labelled as a terror group by the United States up until 2012, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran saw its popularity revived on account it offered to fill any political void an imposed regime change in Iran would entail.

Democratic Opposition

The MKO may claim it has a future as the "true democratic opposition to the mullahs" of Iran, and that only it would be able to enact a transition, but as US security expert Daniel Benjamin puts it: "This is just pure wishful thinking. With no support in Iran and a gruesome history behind it, the MEK has no serious political prospects."

More to the point, the MKO/MEK is a terror group whose ideology is sold to bloodshed, murder and heinous acts of violence on the basis of its self-proclaimed exceptionalism.

"There is also a rich scholarly literature on the MEK's misdeeds. Indeed, in 2011, distinguished Iranian-American historian Ervand Abrahamian (author of The Iranian Mojahedin) and three dozen other leading Iran scholars including Shaul Bakhash, Gary Sick and Juan Cole all signed a letter, published in the Financial Times, that opposed removing the MEK from the State Department's Foreign Terrorism Organization List because of its history of terrorism, cult-like behavior and lack of support among Iranians," writes Benjamin in Politico.

Flushed with interesting new friendships, the MKO/MEK is playing U.S. anti-Iranianism to increase its political capital – a move which contravenes not only international law as it plays directly into the definition of state-sponsored terrorism, but political common sense.

Again, if Iran might not appeal to all political palates, Tehran has already proven to be a truthful and committed actor. Why then muddy the waters and choose as partners those whose history is marred by terror, and maybe more to the point for a U.S. audience, U.S. blood?

For decades, and based on U.S. intelligence, Washington has blamed the MKO/MEK for killing three US Army colonels and three U.S. contractors, bombing the facilities of numerous U.S. companies and killing innocent Iranians.

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