Trita Parsi talking:
I think it’s quite regrettable that right after the Iranian people went out, and, despite all of the undemocratic obstacles they had to overcome, they nevertheless managed to choose the most moderate person on the ballot, the person who had vowed to continue to try to open Iran up, to continue to negotiate to be able to resolve conflicts in the region, and actually wants a better relationship with the United States, Donald Trump’s response to this is to clench his fist and call for Iran’s isolation.
I think it’s also important to recognize that this is not just rhetoric. This is not just something that we can dismiss, mindful of the many things that Trump otherwise tends to say. Here, we’re seeing two building blocks being put into place that can lead to an absolute disaster. The combination of the policy of isolation and rejecting diplomacy, together with a policy of regime change—because in that speech he also called for regime change—is exactly how the Iraq War started. Late in the 1990s, Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, that made regime change in Iraq official policy. It was combined with an isolation policy. And all it needed was a spark in order for that to lead to a military confrontation. Donald Trump, perhaps not knowing so, is now laying the groundwork for that type of a conflict, at the request of the Saudis.
the administration said that we’re not going to focus on human rights any longer. But when it comes to trying to find anything to attack Iran with, then of course it’s being thrown out there again. And for it to be said from Saudi Arabia, where the human rights situation is worse than it is in Iran, obviously is not helping the human rights situation in Iran. In fact, this is exactly what the hardliners in Iran would like. It is so easy for them to dismiss what otherwise is legitimate criticism against Iran’s human rights record, when it is said from Riyadh and when it’s said with this degree of hypocrisy and double standards. It’s actually undermining the human rights situation in Iran when it’s done in the manner that Rex Tillerson did it.
– 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks on Saudi Arabia. The cable, which was written by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said, “[D]onors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. The cable went on to urge senior U.S. government officials to, “encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.”
this trip is not about fighting terrorism. If it was, we would have actually have seen much, much firmer position by the United States against these funders in Saudi Arabia, who actually also provided the seed funding for ISIS. Instead, all of the focus is on Iran. Why is that? Well, the reason for this is—beyond the fact that the Trump administration is securing these arms deals, is that there are elements in the Trump administration, and certainly people in Saudi Arabia and in Israel, who want the United States to once again adopt a position of hard hegemony in the Middle East. They want the United States to be completely responsible for the security of the Middle East, meaning that the United States will have to uphold it and pay for it through its own treasure and blood, at—which would obviously then benefit Israel and Saudi Arabia and some of those states that are allied with them. This puts the United States in direct confrontation with Iran, who opposes American hegemony in the region.
The question that is not being asked in Washington, D.C., is: What is the—if one were to assume that there is such a thing as a benefit of hegemony, what is the benefit of hegemony for the United States in a region this chaotic? What is the benefit of being responsible for the security of the Middle East when it is in such chaos? And what would the cost of that be? Those are questions that are not being asked. All the focus tends to be how many potential jobs $300 billion of arms sales will provide. Three hundred billion dollars of arms sales will only lead to further destabilizing the region, which then the United States would be responsible for. The cost-benefit analysis of this makes absolutely no sense, but the question is hardly discussed.
the Senate bill stands right now, it actually is a violation of the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal from 2015. And I think it would be highly problematic if members of Congress, particularly on the Democratic side, vote for this, arguing that this is not a deal breaker and something that would violate the JCPOA, and then, in combination with what Trump is doing right now, further would put us on a path towards a military confrontation with Iran. They don’t have the ability to say, “Well, we didn’t think this would lead to this,” as they could have said when they voted in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act or, later on, when they voted in favor of the Iraq War. It’s very clear what this bill will do as it stands right now. And I think the message to Congress from the American people has to be absolutely clear. They supported the nuclear deal. In fact, the nuclear deal is now more popular amongst the American public than it was two years ago, because they’ve seen that it actually works. And it would be a disaster if Congress, and particularly if Democrats, who fought so hard to save this deal, now actually pull the trigger and kill it.
Iran is now one of the very few countries—certainly in the region, perhaps beyond the region—in which the population three times in a row have voted in the most moderate person that existed on the ballot. Very few countries in the region can say this. In fact, if you take a look at Israel, for instance, last time the moderates won a landslide in Israel was in 1992. And for them to now see the reaction by the United States to this election result, an election result that very much was about continuing the outreach to the West and continuing the outreach to the United States, is deeply disappointing, to say the least. I’ve spoken to a few people who felt that the jubilant mood after Rouhani’s victory suddenly took a turn for the worse once they heard Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh.
Medea Benjamin talking:
Obama not only traveled to Saudi Arabia, but authorized 42 different deals, totaling $115 billion. But on the other hand, he started, at the very end of his eight years, to reconsider, to pull back U.S. support for the Saudi bombing in Yemen, to put a halt on some of those weapons. And now Donald Trump is doing just the opposite.
But I want to say, Amy, that the people of the Middle East are desperate for solutions, and the people of the United States don’t support continued U.S. involvement in the wars in the Middle East. Donald Trump said he needed a good relationship with Russia to start dealing with the problems in places like Syria. Well, he also needs a good relationship with Iran. So I think our message should be that we need to stop the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East. We need the countries of the region to all come together. And Donald Trump should be focusing on finding solutions, not inflaming the tensions.
founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He’s the author of the new book, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy, out next week. He’s also the author of A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.
co-founder of CodePink and author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection
— source democracynow.org