Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Regarding the CIA operatives caught by Iran and Hezbollah, as announced on 21 November 2011, my view is that some of them, probably those over which Hezbollah (Shi'ite Lebanese militia) has control, will not be returned to the US - Hezbollah has a dogmatic position on this matter. However, the same may not be the case for the operatives that Iran is holding. My guess is that these agents are very useful to Iran for propaganda purposes and for bargaining on any number of issues, including nuclear program and the alleged Iran-Mexico plot to assassinate the Saudi prince in the US. Iran may also convince Hezbollah to bargain, but that will be difficult.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the CIA operatives, perhaps Iranians working for the West, are part of a US covert war against Iran. This is understandable and logical given that the US wants to make sure that Iran's nuclear program never materializes, even though the program has wide applications from medical science to energy, with potential uses for weapons at some future point. It seems almost certain that it was Hezbollah that uncovered the US spy ring and that Hezbollah is apparently much better at counterintelligence than Iran, which provides funding to the tune of $150 million annually to Hezbollah - US DoD claims. If indeed US sources are accurate, Iran has been using Hezbollah for counterintelligence to prevent the US, Israel and other Western countries from undermining its nuclear program.

I have no way of knowing if the US is working with a number of governments and independent groups to secure the release of its operatives, but I do know that in the past the US has used both Greece and Turkey as intermediaries with Iran. Iran is the only oil producer in the world that provides crude oil to bankrupt Greece without asking for an advance cash deposit. This is amazing given that Greece is very close to Israel and a semi-respectable satellite of the West. Iran will be very busy negotiating with other intermediaries and the only way that it will not return the CIA operatives is if the US flatly refuses to negotiate, because it has a policy of not negotiating with 'terrorists'. Iran may also prevail over Hezbollah this time, depending on terms the US puts on the table. The ball is on the US side, because for Iran the operatives have greater value alive than dead.

a) ) The business of espionage notwithstanding, does the US have a policy of picking and choosing with what authoritarian regimes it will cooperate since the Spanish-American War, or has it followed, even once, the 'democratic' criteria for ideological reasons? Even Woodrow Wilson's missionary diplomacy, had a motive that was related to expanding US power and interests, and nothing to do with democracy as he understood it, given the policies that he pursued toward minorities, immigrants, women, especially radical women like Emma Goldman, and syndicalists and anarchists.

b) US foreign policy has not changed in the last 100 years, because the US remains an imperial power and it plays by the rules of empire. This means that the US and its junior partners in Europe are not in the least interested about a democratic regime (one that follows the will of the majority of the people) anywhere in the world. On the contrary, such a regime would be an anathema to US economic and military interests, for it would pursue an independent policy. If the issue before the US is replacing an anti-Western authoritarian regime with a pro-Western one, then what the US and its allies have been doing in the Islamic countries is the way to go. If the issue is as the US and its allies claim, namely, "freedom and democracy", and if that is the issue on which people are fighting, then the West is deceiving the rebels into believing that it is on their side and wishes to further their interests.

c) That the deceased Libyan leader was authoritarian and that he was not very popular is not in dispute, and it is something that history will show with greater accuracy than I am able at this juncture. That there are Islamic leaders enjoying US and EU support even less popular than Gaddhafi is a reality that I have no doubt even US officials will admit; not officially, of course, but at least over a good glass of scotch and casual conversation about US foreign policy. Is the issue for the US and EU to rid the world of authoritarianism, or is the issue to pick and choose which authoritarian regimes best serve Western interests, and to remove from power those that are in the way? 

In case there is any doubt about the US commitment to democracy across the entire Middle East, consider that the US reaction to the mass uprising in Bahrain where protesters' property has been under attack by officials and where prisoners have been tortured; US reaction to Yemen where finally after months of a bloody uprising the pro-US dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh seems to be stepping down; and US reaction the entire Gulf area where kingdoms remain in power ruling with an iron hand, Saudi Arabian and US backing intended to maintain authoritarianism for as long as possible.

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