Herbert London: Money & Iran
Lead performers in “Cabaret” sing “Money makes the world go round.” Little did these performers know about the Middle East where money not only makes the world go round but props up dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Iran is presently spending billions to keep him in power and prosecute a war in which more than 230,000 people have been killed and poison gas has been employed.
Moreover, should the “treaty” with Iran be consummated this sponsor of global terrorism will receive at least $100 billion in sanctions relief. Not only will this money be used for Assad, but it will bankroll Hezbollah and Hamas with a new generation of rockets and weapons.
For Tehran money buys weapons, and weapons buy power and influence. President Obama is counting on an accommodative Iran that receives foreign assistance. But is there any reason to embrace this hypothesis? And even if someone does, at what point can the IAEA, or any other relevant body, determine the turn – about in Iran’s nuclear program? How do we know when a genuine peace has arrived?
Iranian leaders have made it clear that dreams of a Persian kingdom dance like sugar plums in their imagination. For that to happen, the money pump cannot run dry. There is a need to support their Houthi surrogates in Yemen; resupply Hamas rockets which were destroyed in the last war with Israel; continue to add to the Hezbollah war machine which is poised to attack Israel, and keep Assad afloat that is the mechanism by which control of Lebanon is retained.
It is hardly surprising that Iranian leaders insist that sanctions are dropped as soon as a deal with P5+1 is signed, while U.S. negotiators contend sanctions will be reduced incrementally based on certain milestones being met. What is not said may be most significant: the bonus received from any deal should not be used for terrorist activity or the promotion of imperial goals. Since money is fungible, this provision is difficult to enforce. Nonetheless, it represents a statement of intention which the U.S. should not gloss over.
One way to defeat militant Islam is to dry up its resource base. Oil pays the bills at the moment, but it may not in ten years. Hence, trade and FDI’s (foreign direct investments) are what the Iranian leadership seeks. One scenario, however, is for Iran to unite with the Shia population in eastern Saudi Arabia where the major oil fields are located. Saudi oil, along with Iraqi and local oil production would give Iran clear dominance in oil production (about 70 percent of global supply) thereby generating enough capital to sustain the Shia Empire and offer enough of a hedge to secure Iranian leadership decades ahead.
Iranian leaders not only think strategically they think as carpet peddlers. There is always a profit to be made, an advantage to be generated. The West, most significantly the U.S., thinks money will alter behavior; indeed, put the Iranians in the position of thinking as we do. But there isn’t any evidence to support this conclusion. It is a policy stance based on hope.
Money can obviously be used for many purposes. We would be wise to withhold our generosity until there are signs of behavioral change. I doubt that we will see any; yet cynicism shouldn’t dictate policy, nor of course, should naiveté.
Since 1979 Iran has behaved as a rogue state fomenting death and destruction and taking at least 1500 American lives. It has a vast terror network in Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela and even parts of Asia, all outside narrowly defined regional interests. Will Iran scale back these investments because of western assistance or will it promote its worldwide goals? Surely, we should obtain answers before one dime changes hands. Are you listening President Obama?
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.