On Sunday 22 July 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke before what the State Department claimed to be representatives of the Iranian-American community in the United States. Attendance was by invitation only, and the questions had to be submitted in advance, so that they could be vetted. Those who attended were mostly supporters of “regime change” in Iran by imperialist military intervention: old monarchists who still dream of going back to power in Iran; supporters of the MEK, the opposition organization that is universally hated by the Iranian people due to the many treasons committed by it, an organization that up until 2011 was listed by the State Department as a terrorist group, and rich Iranian Zionists who support Israel fervently. Interestingly, they mostly wanted to remain anonymous also.
Based on what the author read in social networks, a very large majority of Iranians living in the United States were opposed to even attending the speech, let alone agreeing with what Pompeo had to say. Pompeo’s speec was supposedly intended to express the Trump administration’s support for the Iranian people, and that is where the absurdity of the administration’s policy toward Iran – if one can call it as such – and the speech itself becomes evident immediately.
To see this, consider the following:
Pompeo has worked closely with some of the most virulent Islamophobes in the United States. He and national security adviser John Bolton made Islamophobia mainstream, yet Pompeo sheds crocodile tears for 83 million Iranians, 98 percent of whom are Muslim.
Pompeo and Bolton have called for bombing Iran, and yet Pompeo’s is under the illusion that the Iranian people believe that he is their friend.
Pompeo and the Trump administration claim to be friends of Iranian people, yet Iranian citizens have been banned from coming to the United States. In his speech Pompeo uttered not a single word about the ban.
Pompeo [and Bolton] were ardent foes of the nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The administration exited JCPOA illegally, and is trying to re-impose tough economic sanctions on Iran. Not only JCPOA benefited the Iranian people economically, it also contributed to lessening tension in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is supported almost unanimously by the Iranian people both in Iran and in the diaspora, yet Pompeo “laments” the economic plights of the Iranian people that will be even worse after the re-imposition of the sanctions.
Pompeo and Trump claim that they took the United States out of JCPOA because the agreement did not address other issues of concern to them, including human rights. This is, however, the same administration that is extremely close to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst dictatorships that, with the support of the U.S., has been committing war crimes in Yemen for over three years, a war that many believe Saudi Arabia launched to distract attention from its unstable internal conditions, including the war on its Shiite citizens. It is also close to United Arab Emirates (UAE), another Arab dictatorship in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia’s partners in war crimes in Yemen, , and to Israel, which just passed a law declaring itself the nation-state of Jewish people, even though about 20 percent of its population are Palestinian Arabs.
When dealing with North Korea, the administration does not care about any issue other than its nuclear arsenal. In fact, after meeting with North Korea’s Dictator Kim Jung-un Trump praised him profusely and claimed that his people love him, yet Pompeo tells the Iranian people that the Islamic Republic violates the rights of its citizens, and that it is not enough that Iran has abided by all of its obligations towards JCPOA. This glaring double standard has been transparent to the Iranian people.
Pompeo’s speech itself was a clear demonstration of his imbecility about Iran. He claimed, “The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979…” The 1979 Revolution was supported by the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people. The reason that the ideologues took power was due to the political vacuum that the U.S.-supported dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had created in which secular progressives, leftists, and nationalists had either been executed, exiled, jailed, or forced into silence.
Pompeo also claimed, “The regime is also committed to spreading the revolution to other countries, by force if necessary.” That was the goal in the 1980s. But, the eight year war with Iraq made it clear that the goal must be set aside, and it was. The late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the pragmatic Iranian President declared in the early 1990s that “the [revolutionary] era of Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic] is over.” Economically and militarily, the Islamic Republic is in no position to even dream such a goal now, let alone pursuing it.
Then, Pompeo made extravagant claims about the wealth of the some officials of the Islamic Republic. The “data” for the wealth of the officials that he discussed have already been claimed by Saeed Ghasseminejad, the pro-war Iranian neocon and associate of Mark Dubowitz, the hawkish CEO of “The Foundation for Defense of Democracies,” the pro-Israel think tank that played a leading role in the US exit from the JCPOA. Ghasseminejad has already published the claims in Farsi websites outside Iran. It is certainly true that many of the officials are fabulously rich and became so illicitly, although not even close to the absurd levels claimed by Pompeo [and Ghasseminejad].
They became rich partly due to the institutionalized corruption. But, what Pompeo does not mention is that the backbreaking economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Iran also played a fundamental role in the extraordinary corruption in Iran. At the time of imposing the sanctions, many Iranian analysts and experts, including the author, warned that the sanctions will hurt the ordinary Iranian people, but will enrich Iran’s “deep state.” In order to get around the sanctions, the “deep state” created all types of bogus corporations; controlled the black market created by the sanctions, imported cheap Chinese products and sold them in Iran at much higher prices. Iran’s “deep state” also lost the most after JCPOA was signed and the sanctions were partially lifted. Nowadays, hardly any day passes without some revelations in Iran by the Rouhani administration about major cases of financial corruption.
But, let us assume that all the data that Pompeo presented for the financial corruption of Iranian officials are correct. If their assets are outside Iran, why have Western governments not frozen them yet? If they are still in Iran, why has the US not published credible documents to prove its claims, so that the Iranian people can see them and, therefore, use them to protest the state of the economy?
Pompeo then talked about state of human rights in Iran. It is no secret that, almost from its inception, the Islamic Republic has violated the human and citizen rights of its people. But, if human rights are really of concern to Pompeo and the administration, why does the United States not protest violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, the Philippines, Yemen, and North Korea, and violation of the rights of the Palestinian people by Israel? Why has the Trump administration not protested even once repression of the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Majority in Bahrain? And, despite its dismal record on human rights, Iran is a far more open society than any Islamic country in the Middle East and North Africa, and has all the prerequisites for a peaceful transition to complete democracy.
Pompeo also talked about Iran’s presence in Syria and Iraq. Regardless of whether one agrees with Iran’s presence in these two countries, the fact is Iran is there on the invitation of their governments, and Iranian officials have repeatedly declared that Iran will leave as soon as it is asked to by the two governments. The fact is – and this is not acknowledged – that without Iran’s help Baghdad would have fallen to the Daesh [also known as the ISIS or ISIL] terrorists in June 2014, and that Iran has played a fundamental role in defeating Daesh in both Iraq and Syria.
But, if intervention in other countries should be condemned – and it should be – why did the United States invade Iraq and Afghanistan; bomb Libya; help the terrorists in Syria, and is helping Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their criminal war in Yemen? Why has the United States not protested the support given to the terrorists in Syria by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Turkey, a fact that has been acknowledged by both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton? Why did the United States not prevent the rise of Daesh when it could, a fact acknowledged by John Kerry?
Pompeo, Bolton, and Trump do not care about the plight of Iranians. Their own actions against Iranian people provide the best evidence. As one Iranian in Southern California who had listened to Pompeo’s speech, put it, “They [the US] don’t have a policy when it comes to Iran and that’s the problem. The fact is they are deeply hurting the Iranian people.” While Pompeo moaned about the ideological regime in Tehran, he and the administration that he works for are themselves rigidly ideological. They see the world in black and white, and one is either with them or against them. They, together with Saudi Arabia, Israel and UAE want to impose their will on the rest of the Middle East. Despite the administration claims for supporting liberty for Iranian people, what it really wants is total capitulation by Iran and Iranian people.
That will not happen. Iran has existed as an independent nation for 5,000 years, and has a proud history, including fierce resistance against imperial powers. It is up to the Iranian people, and only up to them, how to democratize their regime without outside intervention. They do not want Iran to become another Syria, Libya, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Muhammad Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. For the past two decades he has published extensively on Iran’s political developments and its nuclear program. He was a founding lead political analyst for the website PBS/Frontline: Tehran Bureau, and has also published extensively in major websites and print media. He is also the editor and publisher of Iran News and Middle East Reports and produces a weekly commentary for broadcasting that can be watched at http://www.ifttv.com/muhammad-sahimi.