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Will Russia’s Ukraine War Prompt an American Awakening on Iran?

Iran
Iranian Ballistic Missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

President Joe Biden has revamped U.S. goals in Ukraine from de-escalation and negotiations to a Ukrainian victory and the “degrading” of Russia’s military, reflecting a long-overdue reappraisal of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war aims.

It is not the first time of late that Washington has come to see that conventional wisdom about a global power was woefully out of date. For decades, the U.S. foreign policy elite had assumed that rising prosperity in China would force more political freedom at home and more global integration abroad. Instead, Xi Jinping’s tightening grip at home and greater aggressiveness abroad has forced Washington to recognize China as less a competitor than the biggest long-term threat to America.

The question, then, is whether the tardy U.S. reawakening about Putin’s Russia (on top of the tardy reawakening about Xi’s China) will prompt an equally overdue reawakening about Iran’s mullahcracy.

Like other democracies, the United States is, in the words of diplomat George Kennan, “slow to wrath.” It is also slow to enlightenment, preferring to envision trust and understanding on the part of allies and enemies alike, and reluctant to change its mind until well after reason has demanded it.

Consider U.S.-Russian relations. “I looked the man in the eye,” President George W. Bush said after meeting Putin in June 2001. “I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” President Obama followed Bush with a call to “reset” relations between the nations, to a “sustained effort … to identify mutual interests, and to expand dialogue and co-operation that can pave the way to progress.”

Notwithstanding the high hopes, Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, contending that the latter was not a separate state but rather an integral part of Russia. He then annexed Crimea while the world largely stood by, hoping Putin’s appetite would be sated with a slice of southern Ukraine.

Though Biden reacted far more appropriately to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rallying the West to impose harsh sanctions and send arms to Kyiv, he nevertheless raised concerns about igniting “World War III,” limited the arms he sent, held certain sanctions in abeyance in hopes of convincing Putin to change course, and conceded that Russian forces might sweep across and occupy Ukraine.

Biden has now lost his hesitation, perhaps because he realizes that – as Crimea in 2014 begat Ukraine in 2022 – any concessions to Putin will prompt another such Russian aggression in the future. Biden is no longer conceding Russian territorial gains, is providing the heavier equipment that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky long sought, and is labeling Putin a “war criminal” who should face trial. After meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reframed the U.S. goal: “to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

So, what about Iran? Ever since the revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah and catapulted the mullahcracy to power, presidents of both parties have sought to cajole, incentivize, and convince Tehran to ease its hostility toward Washington and work with it to end regional conflicts and lessen tensions.

But to no avail. The Islamic Republic remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; is making progress on its nuclear and related ballistic missile programs; recently unveiled new drones and other upgraded military equipment; seeks to extend its revolutionary theology beyond its borders; exerts undue influence over Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen directly or through terrorist proxies; chants “death to America” at parliamentary sessions and other official ceremonies; and continues to hold U.S. citizens and threaten the lives of current and past U.S. officials.

None of that was influenced by the 2015 global nuclear deal that gave Tehran tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. Nor, despite President Obama’s high hopes, did Tehran use the funds for economic and social development at home. Instead, it channeled them into more weapons development and terrorist activity. Nor, despite Obama administration contentions, did the deal close off all Iranian avenues to a bomb, if only because it was set to expire in stages.

Fast forward some seven years, and even as Biden admirably rallies the nation and world against Putin’s naked aggression in Ukraine, his negotiators are working in Vienna to resurrect the flawed 2015 deal (officially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), from which President Trump withdrew the United States in 2018.

The latest reports from Vienna suggest that the Iran talks are close to collapse – and that may present a timely opportunity. As we did with China and Russia, we retain disproven theories about Iran. We need to see Iran as the implacable adversary it is and then craft a broad strategic approach to it that makes sense.

Lawrence J. Haas, a former senior White House official and award-winning journalist, is Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council. Haas writes widely on foreign affairs, is quoted often in newspapers and magazines, and appears frequently on TV and radio. At the White House, he was Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore and, before that, for the Office of Management and Budget.

Written By

Lawrence J. Haas, a former senior White House official and award-winning journalist, is Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council. Haas writes widely on foreign affairs, is quoted often in newspapers and magazines, and appears frequently on TV and radio. At the White House, he was Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore and, before that, for the Office of Management and Budget.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Illurion

    May 5, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    Clinton, Bush, and Obama made Iran powerful, and the lead terrorist supporter worldwide.

    They were stupid.

    Trump almost destroyed Iran financially, and was on the cusp of regime change in Iran,

    WHEN,

    CORRUPTION OVERTHREW THE USA ELECTION IN 2020, AND EVEN THOUGH TRUMP WON THE ELECTION, BIDEN WAS INSTALLED IN OFFICE THROUGH ORGANIZED ACTS OF TREASON BY THE DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, THE CORRUPT MEDIA, MEMBERS OF THE FBI, & CIA, AND MANY FOREIGN NATIONS.

    In the last 17 months of the BIDEN TREASONOUS CORRUPTION, the USA and the World Economy has been seriously damaged, AND IRAN HAS BEEN STRENGTHENED, AND ALLOWED TO GAIN NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

    A disaster for the humans of planet earth.

    Hopefully, if the Nov 2022 election is not corrupt, Trumps MAGA Republicans will be elected, and seize control of both the House and Senate.

    The House will appoint Trump as “Speaker of the House”, then the House & Senate will impeach and remove both Biden & Harris, and Trump will re-assume the Presidency under the Constitution.

    Trump will then deal with Iran . period. no more games.

  2. Vladolph Putler

    May 6, 2022 at 12:43 am

    See, Alex could really take note here. I mean look at this fervor that is achieved with the 50 Cent Army.

    It will be the second coming, no doubt. Trump will beam light, prance across water, and leap into Putin’s arms. They will embrace, kiss passionately, and world peace will prevail.

    Back in the land of reality, Iran is a problem. And one that the US predominantly manufactured- which Iranis are loathe to forget. It’s a case of “pick your battles”. Or more accurately in the Middle East, “pick your poison”.

  3. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 7:57 am

    Let’s talk about humiliation:
    1. American troops fled from Afghanistan leaving their weapons and even (!!!) their service dogs.
    2. Every day, Russian troops destroy Bandera Nazis, Western weapons depots and raise their flags over new liberated settlements in Ukraine.
    These are facts. So what do you know about humiliation?

    Duda said there would be “no more” borders between Poland and Ukraine.
    According to the President of Poland, in the absence of borders, the peoples of the two countries will be able to live together, “building together their common happiness and common strength.”
    “Between our countries – Poland and Ukraine – there will no longer be a border. This border will not exist. So that we live together on this earth, building and rebuilding together our common happiness and common strength, which will allow us to repel any danger or any possible threat.”
    And yet we Poles act smarter. We are not at war, like Russia, but we will gradually take what is ours, and let the stupid Bandera pigs think about our friendship 🙂

    • CK

      May 6, 2022 at 8:46 am

      If only past humiliations concealed any others that follow.

      Alex, because you are simple, I will give you a simple analogy. Imagine you are in a classroom, and your friend, Misha, farts in class really loudly. It’s embarassing, a humiliation. Everyone laughs at him.

      Now imagine tomorrow, in the same class, you shit yourself. Everybody sees. It’s embarassing. An even worse humiliation. You cry “But Misha farted yesterday!” and nobody listens, and they continue to laugh.

      You see what is happening here? The US farted in Afghanistan, and you guys shat all over the bed in Ukraine.

      Humiliation doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  4. CK

    May 6, 2022 at 8:01 am

    Yes, Trump will deal with Iran, like he did with North Korea. That went super well.

    Imagine how well Trump would have dealt with Putin…

    You conspiracy theorists belong in the same shed in Russia. Imagine the conversations MAGA nutjobs and Alex could have on their smoke breaks!

    Sometimes I wonder if this is actually hell and I and others are stuck in a world surrounded by idiots. They certainly seem to be increasing every year…

  5. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 9:31 am

    And now let’s hear the truth, not Bandera’s Nazi fakes:
    The Bandera Nazis of Ukraine rejoiced that they had arrested the Ukrainian independent journalist Anatoly Shariy in Spain. Anatoly Shariy moved his member on the lips of the Bandera Nazis and is already at large! This is democracy in Europe, and not lawlessness like you have in impoverished Ukraine, Bandera pigs 🙂

  6. Dara

    May 6, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    This article is typical right wing chicken-hawk crap! Mr. Haas, you seem to think that the answer to anyone who doesn’t follow America’s lead is to bomb them and start a war, maybe you and your children should volunteer to fight in Ukraine and while you are at it, you can fight your way into Tehran to realize your wet dream of planting another corrupt lapdog government that will always submit to the US and your beloved Israel.

    Trump’s policy on Iran was an unmitigated DISASTER, and you want more of the same???!

  7. Illurion

    May 7, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    Dear Dara:

    To use your words: “Trump’s policy on Iran was an unmitigated DISASTER.”

    Yes, Dara, it was a “DISASTER” for Iran….. and no-one else…

    And YES, we want “more of it” for Iran to experience, as long as they continue to seek nuclear weapons to further their terrorist aims….

    As for “CHILDREN” being sacrificed, if you have any children Dara,

    it is my hope that it is “YOUR CHILDREN” THAT ARE KILLED BY THE EXPLOSION OF AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR BOMB”, and not everyone elses.

  8. Alex

    May 8, 2022 at 10:47 am

    German journalist Thomas Röper continues to publish his materials with photo and video evidence. The lies of the Bandera Nazis stop working, the CIA specialists cannot even help.

    “When we crossed the border, the Ukrainian border post was pretty much destroyed, but that’s all. There were several cars on the side of the road then, which, as our companion told us, were hastily moved across the road by the Ukrainian army to block the road. But tanks cannot be stopped by several cars .

    In addition, we did not see any damage, except for some damaged safety fences. The Russian army passed there without meeting any resistance, and in all the places where we passed, everything was intact, not a single window was broken. Life also went on as usual, shops and gas stations were open, cars were driving, people were on the streets, and so on. If someone did not know, nothing would indicate that an army had just passed through here.

    Experienced fellow journalists, such as a Dutch journalist with experience in Syria, found this very impressive. She told us that she knows her differently than she knows Syria because when the US Army advances, helicopters fly forward, shooting at anything that moves to prevent ambushes. She told me that even if no civilians were harmed, the devastation where the US Army had advanced was significant.

    This was confirmed by an American among journalists, a former US Marine. By the way, he has an interesting story, because he has been living in Russia for six years and received political asylum because he asked too many critical questions in the United States on a sensitive topic. In the USA, of course, they tell it differently, but that’s another topic.

    What also stood out was the poverty in Ukraine. For those who, like me, still know Russia from the 1990s, there was a feeling that they had traveled back in time to the 90s. Today Russia is a clean country with modern cities where entire districts have been rebuilt. I have linked a video that makes this clear.

    Ukraine still looks the same as the then Russia. Broken roads, dilapidated bus stops, dilapidated, dilapidated houses, a lot of old Soviet cars and so on. Even the joyless clothes of people reminds of the 90s in Russia. It touched me very much because it brought back some memories of that time and the problems of my friends at that time. But this can only be understood by those who have experienced it for themselves.

    I expected that the opponents of the Russian military operation would not talk to us, because they should be afraid of Russian soldiers. However, everything was exactly the opposite. The opponents told the Russian soldiers to their faces that they were not welcome here and that they should go home. They are clearly not at all afraid of Russian soldiers and call them names, sometimes harshly, to which Russian soldiers stoically do not react.

    Those who are afraid, we all quickly noticed, are the supporters of the Russian operation. They walked past the soldiers and unobtrusively whispered words of gratitude and something like “finally!” or “Don’t go again!” them.

    Disgruntled people also grabbed every microphone and stood in front of every camera, expressing their displeasure, while the supporters of the operation were difficult to film and interview the supporters of the operation. One of the few exceptions was an elderly woman who said she was 72 and not afraid. She almost cried with joy in front of the camera and thanked Russia.

    The fear, as I learned from whispering conversations with some of the stakeholders, is that Russia might leave again, and then they will have to expect reprisals and even worse consequences for their propaganda of Russian intervention, as they did after the Maidan. The most famous, but far from the only case was the Odessa tragedy in May 2014, when more than 40 people were burned alive in Odessa by Maidan supporters. This massacre is cynically called “Odessa barbecue” by nationalists in Ukraine and has not yet been disclosed.

    In general, the life of opponents of the authorities in Ukraine after the Maidan was not safe, political assassinations were not uncommon, and the UNHCR also mentioned this more than once in its human rights reports on Ukraine. But it is one thing to know this and read about it, and quite another when you experience this fear so tangibly. Fear was also manifested in the fact that many did not even want to be seen in the background of the picture. Most of them avoided the cameras and always walked behind the cameramen so as not to get into the frame.

    And something else was said in the reaction of people. Due to the fact that we were under the protection of Russian soldiers, people might think that we were pro-Russian. But when they heard that we were from the West, many refused to talk to us at all. Many would probably talk to the Russian media, but almost no one wanted to be in front of a Dutch, Italian or even American camera.

    Один из согласившихся настоял на том, чтобы интервью давали на английском, а не на русском, потому что боялся, что западные СМИ исказят его слова. Это был опыт, которого я не ожидал в Украине. Затем он положительно отозвался о российской военной операции.

    Where we were, life basically went on as usual. What shocked me was the fear of the people who support the Russian side. Seeing this, this anxiety of the people, it was depressing. I was also surprised by the visible poverty in Ukraine. I didn’t expect to see it so clearly. The infrastructure is still from the Soviet Union and since then little has been done, much has fallen into disrepair, especially empty factories and really bad roads stand out.

    I was pleased with the man’s answer to the question of who is more Russian or Ukrainian in the city. His answer was:

    “We don’t make any difference! Besides, so many nations live here; Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, we are all one family!”

    That’s what I wish for Ukraine to return to this: to be one big family, because it was this Maidan government that they wanted to expel from Ukraine, relying on radical nationalism.

    The Ukrainians will be able to defeat the Bandera Nazis in the same way as their ancestors once did.”

  9. CK

    May 10, 2022 at 10:19 am

    It’s pointless to argue with this troll. He is not here for engagement, as he has realised recently pretty much everybody on this board is against him. He has been transparently exposed as the exceedingly obvious Internet Research Agency employee he is, working for Yevgeny Prigozhin – an oligarch with close ties to Putin.

    He is either operating out of the IRA headquarters building at 55 Savushkina Street, St.Petersburg if he is lucky, or more likely, out of a shed in the massive Arsenal Machine-Building Factory at Komsomol, 1-3, also St.Petersburg, if he is unlucky.

    I gather the latter, seeing as he is exceedingly stupid and dim-witted, as you have noticed. His tactics are fairly simple:

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study his “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

    Having realised he can’t gain traction on this board now, he has resorted to two simple strategies:

    1) Be the first to comment on any article. This ensures anyone reading the article for the first time will inevitably stumble upon whatever his message of the day is, before it gets buried.

    2) Ideally, be the LAST person to comment on any article. Have the last say. For the same reasons as above. If there is a large discussion, people will usually scroll all the way down, and voila, you see his targeted message again.

    And that’s it. Every day, he blankets every article with the same copy + pasted content, over and over again. Saturation. This is how he ensures the message is seen one way or another.

    Funnily enough, if you copy + paste some of his bollocks onto google, you find other websites where you can almost verbatim find 100% matches. These are either Alex himself operating elsewhere, or the “daily script” these idiots are given by their supervisors to disseminate for this day, sent by other colleagues. You can find dozens of duplicates on other websites.

    Unfortunately, the shoddy or non-existent moderation and supervision of this website allows this to happen day, after day, after day. Anywhere else, he would have been banned by now.

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