Friday 25 May 2018

Speaking For The Don.

Role Model? What does it mean when the United States Secretary of State acts like one of the Godfather’s enforcers? How should the international community respond when a nation, armed to the teeth and openly contemptuous of the rule of international law, commands the rest of the world to join it in “crushing” its enemy?

MIKE POMPEO looks and sounds like one of Tony Soprano’s capos. That first impression was powerfully reinforced earlier this week when he addressed the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. His speech, full of insults and threats to the government of Iran, was clearly intended to convey “an offer they could not refuse”.

When, a week or so ago, the late-night talk-show host, Bill Maher, made a case for the Trump Administration being indistinguishable from a Mafia family, his viewers no doubt appreciated the black humour of the comparison. It is now clear that Maher wasn’t joking.

What does it mean when the United States Secretary of State acts like one of the Godfather’s enforcers? How should the international community respond when a nation, armed to the teeth and openly contemptuous of the rule of international law, commands the rest of the world to join it in “crushing” its enemy?

Believing in the word of the United States, leading members of the European Union responded to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal by investing billions of dollars in the Iranian economy. Bad luck. Secretary of State Pompeo has told them to tear up their contracts and get the hell out of Tehran. In future, he warned them, any country trading with the United States had better not be caught trading with Iran also – not if it wants to keep its access to America’s markets. A number of European oil companies have already taken the hint and abandoned Iran to its fate.

And what is that likely to be? What does the United States expect Iran to do? If Secretary Pompeo’s speech is any guide, that unfortunate country is expected to render itself defenceless militarily and to abandon any pretence of conducting an independent foreign policy.

Iran’s production of advanced ballistic missiles – the only weapons in the Iranian arsenal capable of inflicting serious damage on a would-be aggressor – must cease.

The same cease-and-desist order has been slapped on Iran’s diplomatic relationships with Iraq, Syria, Russia, China and the rebel forces in Yemen.

Secretary Pompeo has further declared that Iran, despite it being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and ignoring its membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has no right to possess a nuclear reactor – not even for the purposes of generating electricity.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, seated next to Vice-President Mike Pence, looks on as President Donald Trump addresses his Cabinet.

In other words, the United States isn’t making Iran an offer it cannot refuse, it is sending Iran an ultimatum it cannot possibly accept. In effect, Secretary Pompeo is demanding that the Iranians place themselves under the “protection” of the United States. Whereupon, having driven its European, Russian and Chinese competitors out of the Iranians’ oil and natural gas fields, the Americans will, presumably, settle down to suck the country dry.

Because, stripped of all the bombast and all the faux concern for the Iranian people, the real reason for the United States’ implacable hostility towards the government of Iran is that ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 the Ayatollahs have refused to let the USA “wet its beak” in their nation’s most valuable natural resource. The core of Secretary Pompeo’s message to Tehran’s leaders is, therefore, brutally simple. “If you continue to refuse America its cut, then the Global Godfather will rub you out. Capisce?”

In its determination to emulate La Cosa Nostra, however, the Trump Administration has all-too-clearly forgotten what happens to the Don who goes rogue and makes it impossible for the other crime families to do business. Nothing unites Mafia chieftains faster than a threat to their cash flows. As Bob Dylan puts it his poignant tribute to the maverick Italian-American mobster, Joey Gallo: “It’s peace and quiet that we need to go back to work again.”

If the United States insists on extorting a bigger slice of the global pie than the European Union, Russia and China can afford to concede, then they will have no choice except to come together in defence of their economic interests. If that happens, then the United States will find itself competing with a vast global alliance stretching all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the English Channel; the North Pole to the Cape of Good Hope. Militarily formidable and economically self-sufficient, this monster-of-America’s-own-making is likely to prove a great deal harder to intimidate than the beleaguered nation of Iran.

These gangsters will be packing nuclear pistols.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 25 May 2018.


David Stone said...

The Mob might have been running US for a long time. Pompeo and Bolton didn't just appear yesterday.

Full marks for stating the obvious clearly while other commentators fudge.

Sion said...

Haven't international relations always been a lot less civilised then national relations?

Polly. said...

Chris, you may well be right in your contention.
Non the less, Iran and the mad mullahs with a nuclear bomb is a scenario I cringe at.
I support America.

Ian said...

I think that the European frogs will continue to sit in the pot while Pompeo et al turn up the heat. In this case decisions about whether to do business with Iran will occur in many risk averse European boardrooms rather than around fewer but almost equally risk averse European cabinet tables.

The sort of pressure a European corporation could put their governments is less than the pressure that the US can put on those corporations. So the corporations will buckle under US pressure and their governments may mutter, but not feeling the same pressures, they won't jump from the pot into the uncertainty of an alliance of convenience with Russia and China (which would involve taking the lead from Moscow or Beijing).

Wayne Mapp said...

Quite an amusing analogy. And given Pompero's use of language, not so inaccurate. I don't I have ever read a speech like that given by a US Secretary of State. Make Secretary of Defence Mattis looks like a moderate.

As for the long game, I simply don't get it. The US foreign policy establishment must know that these kinds of threats simply won't work against Iran. The Islamic Republic has been going for nearly 40 years and doesn't look like it is going to crumble anytime soon. In short it does not look like Gorbachev's Soviet Union of the late 1980's.

But as you discern, it will make China and Russia that much more determined to act in unison. Not Europe, they will cave, or at least their companies will. Russian and China now have a market for their new B737/A320 sized jets. They are not quite as efficient as the latest Boeing and Airbus versions, more like their jets were in 2010. But that is pretty good. Iran will buy them, and so will other nations worried about the prospect of future US Treasury sanctions. More significantly China will work extremely hard to make the renminbi a reserve currency. How long will it be before they insist on paying Fonterra and other traders with China in renminbi? And that they will prefer renminbi in payment. All with the intent of reducing the role of the US dollar as a means of exchange.

Patricia said...

If Fonterra accepted renminbi in payment the US would bomb NZ off the map. If we want to start having alternative currencies it is softly softly catch the monkey.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Does anyone still think Trump knows what he's doing? He's just ensured a more extremist government in Iran. He is cause resentment amongst America's allies. He's made sure that some large companies will lose contracts and probably jobs. He's strengthened Russia and China. And made the Middle East even more unstable. And I guarantee this was against the advice of foreign-policy professionals. Bolton? Jesus wept, that man seems to want a war. Which raises the question of how long the US can keep fighting them now that they have a purely volunteer army. And this from cadet bone spurs.
And all this it seems to me simply to overthrow everything that Obama did when he was president, rather than for any sensible reasons. I repeat, can anyone still see some sort of deep game in this bullshit? If so, you really need your bumps reading.

David Stone said...

No G S I give up.

btb said...

Obama's nuclear deal was an attempt to realign the power structure in the middle east by giving the mad mullahs in Iran a nuclear bomb option. What they would do with it is anyones guess. They are not a democracy and have sworn to destroy Israel. The religious doctrine they practice dictates armageddon in the Middle East is required to trigger the return of Shia's chosen prophet. It is not unreasonable to have concerns they will use nuclear weapons to attack Israel as soon as they can engineer a situation where they could get away with it. This is the concern Israel has, and this is why they will do anything to stop them. This is the reasoning behind Trumps efforts to stop them. Obama and his cohorts will continue to try to destabilise the Trump government but the sunlight being poured on his tricks now will soon see him paralysed.

Victor said...


I must quarrel with your choice of top photo.

Don Vito Corleone would be appalled at how the Trump White House behaves. The always dignified, soft-spoken Godfather appreciated consistency, reciprocal loyalty and split second timing, of none of which Trumkins and his acolytes seem capable.

It's as if, the Don having perished, vain, foolish Fredo rather than Michael has taken over. Even Sonny would be doing a better job.

Thus do great empires wane.

Nick J said...

That Trump and his internal neo con militarist allies can act this way shows the complete failure of the "resistance".

If the anti Trump forces had gone down a positive road and united all relevant institutions of state to rein in Trump we might be better off.

Instead we have the "Russian" affair, a coordinated litany of falsehoods that will end in the defeat of the DOJ CIA FBI nexus of meddling in electoral affairs. The narcissistic Hillary, the Obamas and big media companies like the Washington Post will emerge so lacking in credibility that Trump will get a free ride to more idiocy.

All this could have been avoided, and real resistance mounted behind somebody like Tulsi Gabbard if the truth was spoken, not the current falsehoods of the discredited "Left".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Very true Victor. I think these guys are more Keystone cops than Don Corleone.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Hilarious. I've just been on the Friendly Ftheist blog where apparently Jim Bakker has said that 100 hitmen have been hired to kill Trump. There was some speculation in the comments that they would be disguised as porn stars in order to gain access. Oh dear.

NickJ said...

Wayne, the long game is decidedly unclear with regard to Iran, although as BTB intimates giving the "mullahs" the bomb might not be all that wise, and it would appear that Trump is clearly pro Israel. He certainly has an agenda rational or not.

I agree with you that there are wheels within wheels but the major point of conflict is the growth of the economic strength of the Asian bloc of China, Russia (and the BRICS / SCO centric nations). The challenge of the renmimbi to the US dollar is hugely significant when it comes to the clearance of oil receipts. Are we at the point where we no longer have a single recognised international reserve currency? Are we at the point where the USA can no longer control the flows of oil and gas?

peteswriteplace said...

When the great JFK did things certain elements didn't like, they bumped him off.I'd give Trump another year. As far as NZ is concerned, if we trade with Iran thats our business.