Via: Monthly Review.
Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 while at the same time sending more troops to the Afghanistan War. What has become of the promise of “change”?
I am one of the few who are not disillusioned, because I had no expectations. I had written about Obama’s positions and prospects even before his election campaign. I just looked at his Web site, and it was pretty clear to me that he is a moderate Democrat in the style of Bill Clinton. Sure, there was much rhetoric about hope and change. But it functioned as a blank screen. You could project on it what you wanted. People were desperate to end the Bush era, looking for hope. But there was no basis for any expectations once you analyzed the substance of what Obama said in detail.
His government considers Iran to be a threat because of its uranium enrichment, while countries like India, Pakistan, and Israel are not put under pressure even though they have nuclear weapons. How do you assess these actions?
Iran is perceived as a threat because it does not obey the orders of the United States. Iran is no threat militarily. This country has not behaved aggressively for centuries. Its only act of aggression was what the Shah did during the seventies, occupying — backed by the United States — two Arab islands. Of course, no one wants Iran or any other state to obtain nuclear weapons; of course, we know that this country is undoubtedly governed by a dreadful regime. Apply the same standards to US allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and they can hardly criticize Iran on human rights. Israel has, with the approval and assistance of the United States, invaded Lebanon five times in thirty years — Iran has done nothing like that.
Nevertheless, the country is perceived as a threat.
Because Iran is pursuing an independent path, submitting to no command in international relations. They acted no differently in the case of Chile in the seventies. As socialist Salvador Allende came to power in the country, the United States destabilized it in order to produce “stability.” This was no contradiction. It was necessary to overthrow the Allende government — the “destabilizing force” — in order to maintain “stability” and restore US authority. We have the same phenomenon in the Persian Gulf region. Tehran defies diktats.
How do you see the international community’s determination to impose stricter sanctions against Tehran soon?
The international community — that is an odd term. Most countries in the world belong to the group of non-aligned countries and strongly support the right of Iran to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. They have often repeated this, but evidently they are not considered to be part of the international community. Apparently it is only made up of those who follow Washington’s orders. The United States and Israel are threatening Iran. And this threat must be taken seriously.
Israel currently has hundreds of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Of the latter, the most dangerous ones come from Germany. Germany supplies Israel with nuclear-powered Dolphin submarines, which are practically undetectable. They can be equipped with missiles that carry nuclear warheads. Israel has already deployed these submarines in the Persian Gulf. An Israeli submarine can pass through the Suez Canal, thanks to the Egyptian dictatorship.
I don’t know if it has been reported in Germany, but a few weeks ago the US Navy announced that it was building a nuclear weapons base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Nuclear weapon-equipped submarines will be stationed there, as will so-called bunker busters. These are missiles that can penetrate meters-thick reinforced concrete. They are solely intended for use against Iran. Prominent Israeli military historian Martin Levi van Creveld, a rather conservative man, wrote in 2003, just after the US invasion of Iraq began: “After this invasion, Iran would be crazy not to develop nuclear weapons.” Indeed, how else would you prevent invasion? Why is the US not yet in North Korea? Because there is a deterrent. Again, no one wants Iran to have nuclear weapons, even though the probability of Iran ever using a nuclear weapon is minuscule. You can look that up in the US intelligence estimates. If Tehran sought to equip just one rocket with a nuclear warhead, the country would probably be wiped out. No matter how terrible the ruling Muslim clerics there may be, they have not shown any suicidal impulse.
What could the EU do to ease this explosive situation?
It could reduce the threat of war. The EU could pressure India, Pakistan and Israel, the most prominent non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to sign it at last. In October 2009, while it was expressing outrage over the Iranian nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution calling on Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to make its nuclear facilities open to international inspection. Europe tried to block it. So did the United States — Obama immediately let Israel know that no attention should be paid to the resolution.
It is interesting to see what has happened in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Those who believed the propaganda from the previous decades would have thought that the NATO would dissolve after 1990. It was indeed established to protect Europe from the “Russian hordes.” Now there are no “Russian hordes” any more, but the alliance has expanded and reneged on all the promises made to Gorbachev. He was naive enough to believe what President Bush and Chancellor Kohl said: the NATO would not move an inch to the east. Gorbachev assumed that statesmen mean what they say. Not very smart. Today, the NATO is expanding eastward step by step, pursuing a strategy to control the global energy system, pipelines, and trade routes. Today, the NATO is a global intervention force run by the United States. Why does Europe accept this? What’s wrong with acting as an equal to the United States?
Militarily, the United States wants to continue to be a superpower, but the US economy nearly collapsed in 2008. Billions were needed to bail out Wall Street. Without money from China, the US would have gone bankrupt.
I know we talk a lot about Chinese money and speculate in this context on a shift of power in the world. Can China replace the United States? I regard this question as extremely ideological. States are not the real players in world affairs. To a certain extent, yes, but not completely. The real players, who rule the states, are the economy — banks and corporations. That’s no radical insight, already pointed out by Adam Smith. If you look at who owns the world and determines policy, there is indeed a visible global shift in power — away from the global workforce. China is the most extreme example. There are interactions among transnational corporations, financial institutions, and states in so far as they serve them. That is the real shift in power, but that makes no headline.
The original interview “Die Mullahs sind nicht lebensmüde” was published by Der Freitag on 31 March 2010. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.