The administration of the US President, Donald Trump, is currently using severe economic sanctions in an unsuccessful, and illegal, attempt to pressurize Tehran into dismantling its rocket program, and weaken its regional influence. The present US leadership is not trying to hide its implacable opposition to any form of political contacts, trade or cultural links between Iran and its neighbors. Washington reacted in an almost hysterical manner to the very successful recent visit to Iraq by Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian President, which was entirely devoted to talks on trade and investment. The volume of trade between the two countries currently amounts to $12 billion a year, and there is every reason to believe this will increase to $20 billion, which would be very welcome for Tehran, given the severity of the US sanctions.
And although the harsh sanctions are aimed at restricting Tehran’s relations with other countries in the region, and despite the fact that Washington is taking great pains to impose so-called secondary sanctions on countries which trade with Iran, the latest statistics show that things are actually moving in the opposite direction: Tehran, blocked off from international markets, is starting to focus on its close neighbors. The recent fall in the value of the riyal means that Iranian goods and services are now much more competitive. As a result, Iraq has been able to overtake China as Iran’s main export market for all goods except for oil.
According to IRNA, the Iranian news agency, as a result of Hassan Rouhani’s successful visit to Iraq the two countries signed 22 agreements on trade and cooperation in industrial projects. The agreements are aimed at increasing trade between Iran and Iraq. The new agreements cover such matters as the development of cooperation between border provinces of both countries, the reduction of trade tariffs, and the simplification of the visa regime for citizens of the two countries. The Iraqi Minister of trade, Mohammad Hashim al-Ani, has announced that under the new agreements a number of infrastructure construction projects are to be launched, and working groups and committees are to be set up to discuss further cooperation between the two countries in a range of different areas.
Arabic media outlets have reported that Iraq and Iran have agreed to set up a barter system, in which manufactured goods from Iraq will be exchanged for Iranian gas and electricity. In this way Baghdad hopes to continue importing energy and fuel from Iran, in exchange for Iraqi products. Economists consider that supplying energy to Baghdad, which does not have enough energy resources to meet its needs, will not only help the country to build new factories but also provide the population with cheap electricity, especially in the summer, when the temperature frequently exceeds 50 degrees and air conditioning is essential.
The Iranian premier’s visit to Iraq, in which the two countries limited themselves to discussing trade and investment-related matters, was greeted positively by the international community, with the notable exception of the USA and the Trump Administration. The facts show that the USA is dedicated to a policy of unleashing conflicts and sowing enmity between countries. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent hostilities between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. An example of this is the many inflammatory comments and groundless predictions by the US “free” media, which filled the country’s newspapers and TV with fake news reports from Kashmir.
But, notwithstanding the unfortunate events in Kashmir, the US administration, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in particular, has not forgotten about Iran. Speaking in the CERAWeek conference, the US Secretary of State, who is far more comfortable with the language of threats than that of diplomacy, declared that if Iran did not behave “like a normal nation” the sanctions regime would last for a long time. It is completely natural that the USA, which has set itself up as an international policeman, should use its own conduct as a standard for other countries.
So it is worth looking at the way that the USA, a “normal country”, behaves. It bombed the helpless population of the German city of Dresden, dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where no Japanese troops were based, sprayed Vietnam intensively with chemical weapons (defoliants), carpet bombed North Korea (1950-1953) and destroyed the states of Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. That is the conduct of the USA, a “normal” country. And it advises other countries to behave in the same way.
It is not surprising that the so-called “White Helmets”, an organization protected by the US, follows its example, by initiating chemical attacks in Syria. And what about the International Court of Justice, and other international organizations whose staff are paid high salaries in order to bring the perpetrators of such provocations to justice: where are they looking?
The Secretary of State has, once again, outdone himself: he has ordered a total ban on exports of Iranian oil: “We have every intention of driving Iranian oil exports to zero”. If we take into account the fact that oil is the country’s main export and that the basic needs of the whole population depend on the proceeds from this trade, then Mike Pompeo’s declarations sound rather like the joyful shrieks of a cannibal as he gloats over his helpless victim.
The choice of Mike Pompeo as US Secretary of State, in effect the country’s Foreign Minister, has been greeted with criticism, ridicule and contempt by countries around the world. Many have compared him, unfavorably, with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian diplomat and Foreign Minister, who deals very well with the wide range of global problems that Russia finds itself faced with. One might ask: how can a former unsuccessful spy who was tasked with overthrowing the international order possibly operate on the same level as him? That is why, lacking support from diplomats and himself feeling nothing but contempt for that profession, he decided to “transfer” many of his former henchmen from the FBI to the diplomatic service.
These one-time spies are attempting, in everything they do, to justify the high level of trust that their guru has placed in them, but they lack the slightest experience of diplomacy, and, hopelessly out of their depth, are doing their country far more harm than good. It is hard to see how else we are to understand the recent incident in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, in which a US diplomat – that, at least, was his job title – tried to bring a bomb through customs in his luggage. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated directly that it saw the incident as a provocation. As the TASS news agency reported, citing Russian diplomatic staff, “given the heightened attention the USA itself has paid to security on aircraft since the 9/11 attacks, he simply could not be unaware that a bomb in a bag is very serious. That means he was aware of taking such a step.” Obviously a real diplomat would never carry out a provocation of that sort without clear “instructions” from above – that goes without saying. Many global media outlets speculated, rather boldly, that the diplomat was, in a very underhand way, trying to “test Sheremetyevo airport’s security system”.
Looking back over the energetic but fruitless, and in fact extremely dangerous actions of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, we would wish to advise the US President to take more care with his choice of staff, especially at such a senior position. Because absolutely everything he does in his post – a post for which he is completely unqualified – harms his own country and he makes himself a laughing stock for people all over the world when he comes out with his latest “pearls of wisdom” concerning Iran, Russia or any other country. At this point it is worth remembering the words of the great Mark Twain (a writer who may well, we suspect, be unknown to the Secretary of State) in his superb book, Letters from the Earth. Specifically, Letter Eight, in which Twain has nothing good to say about people such as Mike Pompeo.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.