Ignore Pompeo’s Pitiful Propaganda
Mike Pompeo has written a tedious op-ed for USA Today justifying the administration’s bankrupt Iran policy. He concludes:
As we raise the cost of Iran’s expansionism and the status quo, we seek a comprehensive deal and a far more peaceful, stable relationship. We look forward to the day we can help bring the Iranian people and their neighbors the peace and prosperity they deserve.
I don’t know why newspapers indulge Pompeo by publishing these disingenuous propaganda pieces. The story that the Trump administration tells about why they inflict unjust collective punishment on more than 80 million Iranians is not credible, and it falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. Pompeo claims that the administration’s pressure campaign is supposed “to deprive the Iranian regime of the money it needs to support its destabilizing activities” and “to force the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the negotiating table to conclude a comprehensive and enduring deal.” No one takes the second part seriously. The administration’s decisions to sanction both Khamenei and Iran’s foreign minister have exposed that lie to the world. The administration clearly has no interest in any deal with Iran, comprehensive or otherwise.
That leaves us with just the first goal of depriving Iran’s government of money for its proxies. The Iranian government has fewer resources overall, but this has not ended Iranian support for any of its proxies and isn’t likely to end that support no matter how long the pressure campaign continues. In other words, Iran’s “destabilizing activities” continue at the same level without interruption, just as they did under the pre-JCPOA sanctions. The only thing that the administration can point to in support of their policy doesn’t appear to be real.
Kenneth Katzman has detailed how Iran’s support for its allies and proxies wasn’t reduced by the pre-JCPOA sanctions, and he concludes that the current sanctions won’t reduce that support. On the contrary, the record shows that Iranian regional influence remains unchanged or even increases when Iran is being heavily sanctioned:
If sanctions translated into changes in Iran’s regional behavior, it would be expected that Iran’s regional influence would have suffered setbacks during 2011-2016. Yet, events and trends demonstrated just the opposite or, at best, suggest that sanctions and Iran’s regional influence are independent of each other.
The Trump administration’s claim that it is weakening Iran and its proxies is extremely weak and supported by almost nothing. Katzman continues:
In 2019, Trump administration officials assert that the US maximum pressure campaign is already working to roll back Iran’s regional influence. In particular, they cite reports that Iran’s chief proxy, Hezbollah, has acknowledged financial constraints by appealing for public donations. However, there are no indications that either Iran’s nor Hezbollah’s capabilities or intent to continue helping Assad have changed.
There is also good reason to think that Hizbullah’s appeals for donations are mainly driven by the weakness of the Lebanese economy rather than Iran sanctions:
The full story behind the troubles of Hizbollah, a Shia Islamist group, is more murky. Several western diplomats and regional analysts said they were sceptical of US claims to have curbed Iran’s funding. They say Washington has not presented any solid evidence, partly because Iran’s financial aid to Hizbollah does not go through official channels and is difficult to trace.
They also cite other pressures that may be hurting Hizbollah, including Lebanon’s stuttering economy, slowing regional growth and a drop-off in remittances from the Lebanese diaspora. The IMF estimates Lebanon’s gross domestic product will rise by just 1.3 per cent this year. “Lebanon is in financial trouble,” said Yassine Jaber, an MP from the Shia-majority Amal party. “That’s affecting Hizbollah and its community.”
In short, the administration is so desperate for evidence that their failed policy isn’t a failure that they will seize on anything to claim vindication. A closer look at the administration’s claims shows that there is very little or nothing to back them up. The Trump administration isn’t achieving any of its stated goals for its Iran policy, and it isn’t achieving its real, unstated goal of regime change. The U.S. has nothing but strained alliances, increased risk of war, and a tattered reputation to show for the last fourteen months of trying to strangle Iran into submission. One of Pompeo’s main tasks as Secretary of State has been to lie to the American public about this Iran policy and to pretend that it is “working” when it clearly isn’t.
Perhaps the biggest lie in Pompeo’s op-ed is saved for the end:
We look forward to the day we can help bring the Iranian people and their neighbors the peace and prosperity they deserve.
None of this is true. The Trump administration is not interested in helping the Iranian people or their neighbors. If they did want to help them, they would not be waging relentless economic war against them for more than a year. If they want to help bring peace and prosperity to the Iranian people and their neighbors, they would not be attacking that prosperity with sanctions and threatening that peace with the heightened risk of war. Nothing Pompeo says can be trusted, and it is an ongoing embarrassment and disgrace that he is entrusted with the responsibility for representing the United States to the world.