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President Trump has expressed his willingness to meet without preconditions with President Rouhani of Iran. Immediately after, Secretary of State Pompeo listed preconditions: “If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it's worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he's prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them.” Obviously, Pompeo just killed off President Trump’s offer.

At about the same time, the rial-dollar exchange rate fell to over 100,000 as Iranians continued their rush to get out of their own currency. When I left Iran in September 1979, 70 rials would buy a dollar. (I urged my Iranian friends to convert whatever rials they had into dollars.)

The widespread protests in Iran at the end of 2017 and periodically in 2018 were put down relatively easily by the Iranian police without the help of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Basij (the Mobilization). The Basij, the organizing and arming of neighborhood men by their local mosques, was crucial for suppressing the 2009 uprising. The regime has committed major resources to professionalizing the police and training them in riot control. The implication is that the regime has not only the will but the means of putting down any protests that arise from the widespread economic discontent. A significant analysis of the Iranian police by Saeid Golkar can be read at

Below is a response to my recent piece on Iran from Howard Rotblat-Walker, a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago whose thesis research was done in the bazaars of the Iranian city of Yazd and who recently returned from a trip through that country.
——Marvin Zonis

Response to Iran Analysis

by Howard Rotblat-Walker

Your analysis that the Trump administration has initiated plans to bring about regime change in Iran is truly depressing. I completely agree that the neo-cons are obsessed with Iran and have delusions that they can bring about regime change. John Bolton is a hold-over hack and Mike Pompeo, like his boss, is a thug.

I think, however, that there may be some mitigating factors:

Would DOD Secretary Mattis risk further destabilizing the U.S. military? The U.S. is not going to start something in Iran by remote control. Troops are needed on the ground to fight and not in small numbers.

Will the EU, the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Turks put up with this? The EU is looking for a way to keep the nuclear agreement in force, and as part of that is looking for ways to circumvent third-party sanctions. There are too many trade relationships and industrial projects between the EU and Iran to undo easily. The Chinese are building a presence in Iran already, and seem to be encouraging other Asian countries to also go along with relations with Iran as part of their rebuilding the Silk Road. The Russians were able to have an alliance with the Iranian military in Syria. Are they unlikely to repay the favor by putting pressure on Trump to cool things down?

My sense is that the U.S. is isolated and will become increasingly so if it acts militarily.

Bolton and the neo-cons have forgotten the failure of their Policy of supporting Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq. The neo-cons have been speaking in return for big bucks on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the Islamic-Marxist opposition group headquartered in France. John Bolton spoke in 2017 and Rudy Giuliani in 2018. Perhaps the speaking fees or the opposition to the clerics has blinded them to the reality that these are not the seeds of a different regime in Iran.

On our recent trip through Iran, we talked with many Iranians. Clearly, the current regime is unpopular, but replacing it with some entity, such as the MEK, that has links to foreign influence is a non-starter.

Surprisingly, Iranians have now taken to their history. Part of what drove the 1978 revolution was a rejection of foreign influence – particularly American. Now Iranians do not want to surrender their sovereignty – to anyone. They’ll support the current regime over a foreign (or foreign-sponsored) threat. Thinking otherwise is equivalent to the delusion that the Iraqis were going to greet their “liberators” with roses.

Does the world need further instability in the Middle East? Iran already has problems absorbing some 2.5 million Afghan refugees who fled the wars in their country. If Iran becomes unstable, where will they go? Will creating more refugees for other Middle Eastern countries or for Europe be acceptable to anyone?

I have had a hypothesis for a long time that the neo-cons are pursuing the hegemonic goal that eluded Alexander the Great and Napoleon: i.e., to unify the Middle East from the Mediterranean to (at least) India, from the Caucuses to the Arabian peninsula as a means of political domination. It’s one of the geographic areas that control produces huge advantages. Unfortunately for the neo-cons, they have not succeeded. They are really too incompetent and are too ignorant of both history and present-day realities. Unfortunately for all of us, they have only created chaos, but they keep trying.

I’m hopeful that the impediments that I think exist will restrain these fools and the delusional fantasies they espouse until the voters and Mueller can act.


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