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Response to U.S. Accusations and My Private Diplomacy



On January 18, 2021, I became the final target of Trump’s failed “maximum pressure” strategy on Iran that had gone into overdrive in the last couple of weeks of that president who upended domestic and international norms.  Although I was working legally and fully transparently as the international affairs consultant to Iran’s Mission to UN since 2007 without any problem, during which time I participated in a number of US-Iran Track II Diplomacy, e.g., at US Association of UN, as well as several TV debates on the US-owned Voice of America, suddenly I was subjected to a high-profile FBI arrest accusing me of being Iran’s “secret agent” and “deceiving the editors” by publishing “pro-Iran propaganda disguised as objective analysis.”  Sadly, the mainstream US media, as well as a host of Iran opposition groups, have parroted the US’s allegations against me without a breath of pause, or bothering to examine my books and articles to judge for themselves if there is any truth to these allegations. I submit to the readers there isn’t any.

To this effect, I have published a compendium of my articles — in New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, UN Chronicle, Harvard Theological Review, Brown’s Journal of World Affairs, Columbia Journal of International Affairs, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Eye, Al-Jazeera, and others — to prove the sheer absurdity of the politically-motivated charges against me — that were clearly intended to throw yet another monkey wrench in President Biden’s Iran policy, in light of Iran’s denunciation of my arrest as an act of “hostage-taking.”  I have also written over a dozen books, on Iran, Middle East, UN, theology, ecology, literature, and poetry — that are highly praised in influential journals such as the Foreign Affairs (June, 2020) and the Middle East Journal (Winter, 2020), thus establishing my credential as a prominent Middle East expert — until my arrest, which incidentally coincided with the 25th anniversary of my arrest by Harvard University Police, in January 1996, in order to silence my whistleblowing on the university’s ties to the opponents of Mr. Salman Rushdie, who has recounted my efforts on his behalf, together with the late Mike Wallace of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in his autobiography, Joseph Anton.  I have documented Harvard’s horrendous abuse of my human rights in my book, Looking For Rights at Harvard, which is adorned with praises by Wallace, late historian Howard Zinn, and the M.I.T. linguist, Noam Chomsky.  Sadly, history repeats itself and I now find myself in a similar predicament as back in 1996, when after being fully exonerated I commenced a civil action that went to jury trial against the same Harvard cops who invaded my home at early morning hours pursuant to a fictitious crime story.

A clue to the absurdity of the present charges against me, the US government readily admits in the complaint that they knew about my relationship with Iran’s Mission to UN since 2007, which, in turn, raises the curious question why they took no action to stop what they now brand as “national security threat?”  I regularly received checks from a UN bank account and deposited in my account at Chase Manhattan Bank, in a word never sought to hide it from the watchful eyes of US.

Not only that, I have a long track record in lobbying Iran for the sake of (US) prisoners in Iran.  Case in point, I once carried a letter from Chomsky to Iran’s foreign minister on the three American hikers held in Iran during 2009-2011, and also spent months assisting the family of FBI agent missing in Iran, Robert Levinson, by carrying messages from his daughter to Iranian authorities, arranging meetings, and writing article calling for Levinson’s immediate release, available in my above-mentioned book.  I undertook similar efforts for a number of other prisoners in Iran, including the Wilson Center Scholar, Halleh Esfandiari.  Always committed to the goal of US-Iran peace and reconciliation, I devoted numerous articles on the subject, e.g., “US-Iran Search for Common Ground”(SF Chronicle), and “Trump and Rouhani Should Talk” (NYTimes).  In fact, after publishing the latter in September, 2018, I initiated a personal diplomacy by going to UN and meeting the political assistants of Secretary General, after directly communicating with him, and urging them to facilitate a meeting of US and Iranian presidents on the sideline of General Assembly summit.  I had engaged in a similar gambit 18 years earlier, with much help from Mr. Giandomenico Picco, the UN’s Special Envoy on Dialogue Among Civilizations, by trying to arrange a meeting of the then presidents Clinton and Khatami.  Indeed, what would modern diplomacy be without the occasional input of private diplomacy?

To give another example of my ‘private diplomacy’, I once wrote a letter in the New York Times on the subject of “incident at sea agreement” between US and Iran and then followed it by penning a joint proposal with the former US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who was the head of Preventive Diplomacy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, which we pitched to US and Iran simultaneously but was sadly rejected by the Pentagon. 

None of my initiatives cited above were instructed or even shared with the Iranian authorities and I simply heeded my own calling as a responsible political scientist, following the footsteps of, among others, professor Fred Halliday, an old friend about whom I have written a eulogy on Open Democracy.  The US’s claim that I pretended to be neutral in my publications is also rubbish, in light of the fact that I consistently identified myself as “former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.” I have also acted as media consultant to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” ABC’s “20/20” an Fox News, repeatedly helping both Mr. Mike Wallace and his son, Chris Wallace, with Iran interviews, and yet never bothered to mention that in any of my publications, just as my international affairs consulting with Iran’s Mission had absolutely no bearing on my articles and books, which carry glowing praises by several scholars in the field.  I am indeed proud of my legacy, which includes writing an open letter to Iran’s president calling for mandatory education on the holocaust as a “moral imperative,” penning an oped in Boston Globe on the mistreatment of women, and urging Iran to stop talking about leaving the NPT, among other articles when I saw the need to criticize Iran.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration, which thankfully departed short of a full-scale war with Iran, was incensed by public criticisms of its confrontational Iran policy and illegal exit from an international nuclear agreement, thus targeting me on its way out, as part of its flurry of foreign misbehavior in its waning days aimed at causing headache for President Biden.  As expected, Iran’s regional rivals, led by Israel and Saudi Arabia, are delighted by the news of my arrest, which has in effect put out of commission a leading expert on Iran’s nuclear affairs, only two months after the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist inside Iran.  No wonder, the pro-Israeli and pro-Saudi media and pundits have been salivating over my FBI arrest, which is in sharp contrast to others accused of violating the same law, Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) with some only receiving curtesy calls or notices in the mailboxes, without experiencing my ordeal.  This is a clear evidence of racist discrimination and double standards, which unfortunately I am familiar with after enduring the above-mentioned hardship with Harvard.

Afrasiabi is a political scientist and author of several books — on Iran, Islam, ecology, Middle East, UN reform, as well as poetry and fiction — and numerous articles in international newspapers and journals.

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Interpreting the Biden Doctrine: The View From Moscow



Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.

The newly unveiled Biden doctrine, which renounces the United States’ post-9/11 policies of remaking other societies and building nations abroad, is a foreign policy landmark. Coming on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, it exudes credibility. Indeed, President Biden’s moves essentially formalize and finalize processes that have been under way for over a decade. It was Barack Obama who first pledged to end America’s twin wars—in Iraq and Afghanistan—started under George W. Bush. It was Donald Trump who reached an agreement with the Taliban on a full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Both Obama and Trump also sought, albeit in strikingly different ways, to redirect Washington’s attention to shoring up the home base.

It is important for the rest of the world to treat the change in U.S. foreign policy correctly. Leaving Afghanistan was the correct strategic decision, if grossly overdue and bungled in the final phases of its implementation. Afghanistan certainly does not mean the end of the United States as a global superpower; it simply continues to be in relative and slow decline. Nor does it spell the demise of American alliances and partnerships. Events in Afghanistan are unlikely to produce a political earthquake within the United States that would topple President Biden. No soul searching of the kind that Americans experienced during the Vietnam War is likely to emerge. Rather, Washington is busy recalibrating its global involvement. It is focusing even more on strengthening the home base. Overseas, the United States is moving from a global crusade in the name of democracy to an active defense of liberal values at home and Western positions abroad.

Afghanistan has been the most vivid in a long series of arguments that persuaded Biden’s White House that a global triumph of liberal democracy is not achievable in the foreseeable future. Thus, remaking problematic countries—“draining the swamp” that breeds terrorism, in the language of the Bush administration—is futile. U.S. military force is a potent weapon, but no longer the means of first resort. The war on terror as an effort to keep the United States safe has been won: in the last twenty years, no major terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil. Meantime, the geopolitical, geoeconomic, ideological, and strategic focus of U.S. foreign policy has shifted. China is the main—some say, existential—challenger, and Russia the principal disrupter. Iran, North Korea, and an assortment of radical or extremist groups complete the list of adversaries. Climate change and the pandemic have risen to the top of U.S. security concerns. Hence, the most important foreign policy task is to strengthen the collective West under strong U.S. leadership.

The global economic recession that originated in the United States in 2007 dealt a blow to the U.S.-created economic and financial model; the severe domestic political crisis of 2016–2021 undermined confidence in the U.S. political system and its underlying values; and the COVID-19 disaster that hit the United States particularly hard have all exposed serious political, economic, and cultural issues and fissures within American society and polity. Neglecting the home base while engaging in costly nation-building exercises abroad came at a price. Now the Biden administration has set out to correct that with huge infrastructure development projects and support for the American middle class.

America’s domestic crises, some of the similar problems in European countries, and the growing gap between the United States and its allies during the Trump presidency have produced widespread fears that China and Russia could exploit those issues to finally end U.S. dominance and even undermine the United States and other Western societies from within. This perception is behind the strategy reversal from spreading democracy as far and wide as Russia and China to defending the U.S.-led global system and the political regimes around the West, including in the United States, from Beijing and Moscow.

That said, what are the implications of the Biden doctrine? The United States remains a superpower with enormous resources which is now trying to use those resources to make itself stronger. America has reinvented itself before and may well be able to do so again. In foreign policy, Washington has stepped back from styling itself as the world’s benign hegemon to assume the combat posture of the leader of the West under attack.

Within the collective West, U.S. dominance is not in danger. None of the Western countries are capable of going it alone or forming a bloc with others to present an alternative to U.S. leadership. Western and associated elites remain fully beholden to the United States. What they desire is firm U.S. leadership; what they fear is the United States withdrawing into itself. As for Washington’s partners in the regions that are not deemed vital to U.S. interests, they should know that American support is conditional on those interests and various circumstances. Nothing new there, really: just ask some leaders in the Middle East. For now, however, Washington vows to support and assist exposed partners like Ukraine and Taiwan.

Embracing isolationism is not on the cards in the United States. For all the focus on domestic issues, global dominance or at least primacy has firmly become an integral part of U.S. national identity. Nor will liberal and democratic ideology be retired as a major driver of U.S. foreign policy. The United States will not become a “normal” country that only follows the rules of realpolitik. Rather, Washington will use values as a glue to further consolidate its allies and as a weapon to attack its adversaries. It helps the White House that China and Russia are viewed as malign both across the U.S. political spectrum and among U.S. allies and partners, most of whom have fears or grudges against either Moscow or Beijing.

In sum, the Biden doctrine does away with engagements that are no longer considered promising or even sustainable by Washington; funnels more resources to address pressing domestic issues; seeks to consolidate the collective West around the United States; and sharpens the focus on China and Russia as America’s main adversaries. Of all these, the most important element is domestic. It is the success or failure of remaking America, not Afghanistan, that will determine not just the legacy of the Biden administration, but the future of the United States itself.

From our partner RIAC

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AUKUS aims to perpetuate the Anglo-Saxon supremacy



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On September 15, U.S. President Joe Biden worked with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison together to unveil a trilateral alliance among Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS), which are the major three among the Anglo-Saxon nations (also including Canada and New Zealand). Literally, each sovereign state has full right to pursue individual or collective security and common interests. Yet, the deal has prompted intense criticism across the world including the furious words and firm acts from the Atlantic allies in Europe, such as France that is supposed to lose out on an $40-billion submarine deal with Australia to its Anglo-Saxon siblings—the U.K. and the U.S.

               Some observers opine that AUKUS is another clear attempt by the U.S. and its allies aggressively to provoke China in the Asia-Pacific, where Washington had forged an alliance along with Japan, India and Australia in the name of the Quad. AUKUS is the latest showcase that three Anglo-Saxon powers have pretended to perpetuate their supremacy in all the key areas such as geopolitics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. In short, the triple deal is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony. But diplomatically its impacts go beyond that. As French media argued that the United States, though an ally of France, just backstabs it by negotiating AUKUS in secret without revealing the plan. Given this, the deal among AUKUS actually reflects the mentality of the Anglo-Saxon nations’ superiority over others even if they are not outrageously practicing an imperialist policy in the traditional way.

               Historically, there are only two qualified global powers which the Europeans still sometimes refer to as “Anglo-Saxon” powers: Great Britain and the United States. As Walter Mead once put it that the British Empire was, and the United States is, concerned not just with the balance of power in one particular corner of the world, but with the evolution of what it is today called “world order”. Now with the rise of China which has aimed to become a global power with its different culture and political views from the current ruling powers, the Anglo-Saxon powers have made all efforts to align with the values-shared allies or partners to create the strong bulwarks against any rising power, like China and Russia as well. Physically, either the British Empire or the United States did or does establish a worldwide system of trade and finance which have enabled the two Anglo-Saxon powers to get rich and advanced in high-technologies. As a result, those riches and high-tech means eventually made them execute the power to project their military force that ensure the stability of their-dominated international systems. Indeed the Anglo-Saxon powers have had the legacies to think of their global goals which must be bolstered by money and foreign trade that in turn produces more wealth. Institutionally, the Anglo-Saxon nations in the world—the U.S., the U.K, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—have formed the notorious “Five eyes alliance” to collect all sorts of information and data serving their common core interests and security concerns.

This is not just rhetoric but an objective reflection of the mentality as Australian Foreign Minister Payne candidly revealed at the press conference where she said that the contemporary state of their alliance “is well suited to cooperate on countering economic coercion.” The remarks imply that AUKUS is a military response to the rising economic competition from China because politics and economics are intertwined with each other in power politics, in which military means acts in order to advance self-interested economic ends. In both geopolitical and geoeconomic terms, the rise of China, no matter how peaceful it is, has been perceived as the “systematic” challenges to the West’s domination of international relations and global economy, in which the Anglo-Saxon superiority must remain. Another case is the U.S. efforts to have continuously harassed the Nord Stream 2 project between Russia and Germany.

Yet, in the global community of today, any superpower aspiring for pursuing “inner clique” like AUKUS will be doomed to fail. First, we all are living in the world “where the affairs of each country are decided by its own people, and international affairs are run by all nations through consultation,” as President Xi put it. Due to this, many countries in Asia warn that AUKUS risks provoking a nuclear arms race in the Asian-Pacific region. The nuclear factor means that the U.S. efforts to economically contain China through AUKUS on nationalist pretexts are much more dangerous than the run-up to World War I. Yet, neither the United States nor China likes to be perceived as “disturbing the peace” that Asian countries are eager to preserve. In reality, Asian countries have also made it clear not to take either side between the power politics.

Second, AUKUS’s deal jeopardizes the norms of international trade and treaties. The reactions of third parties is one key issue, such as the French government is furious about the deal since it torpedoes a prior Australian agreement to purchase one dozen of conventional subs from France. Be aware that France is a strong advocate for a more robust European Union in the world politics. Now the EU is rallying behind Paris as in Brussels EU ambassadors agreed to postpone preparations for an inaugural trade and technology council on September 29 with the U.S. in Pittsburgh. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared in a strong manner that “since one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we need to know what happened and why.” Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for European affairs, went even further as he put it, “It is once again a wake-up call for all of us in the European Union to ask ourselves how we can strengthen our sovereignty, how we can present a united front even on issues relevant to foreign and security policy.” It is the time for the EU to talk with one voice and for the need to work together to rebuild mutual trust among the allies.

Third, the deal by AUKUS involves the nuclear dimension. It is true that the three leaders have reiterated that the deal would be limited to the transfer of nuclear propulsion technology (such as reactors to power the new subs) but not nuclear weapons technology. Accordingly, Australia remains a non-nuclear country not armed with such weapons. But from a proliferation standpoint, that is a step in the direction of more extensive nuclear infrastructure. It indicates the United States and the U.K. are willing to transfer highly sensitive technologies to close allies. But the issue of deterrence in Asia-and especially extended deterrence-is extremely complicated since it will become ore so as China’s nuclear arsenal expands. If the security environment deteriorates in the years ahead, U.S. might consider allowing its core allies to gain nuclear capabilities and Australia is able to gain access to this technology as its fleet expands. Yet, it also means that Australia is not a non-nuclear country any more.

In brief, the deal itself and the triple alliance among AUKUS will take some years to become a real threat to China or the ruling authorities of the country. But the deal announced on Sept. 15 will complicate Chinese efforts to maintain a peaceful rise and act a responsible power. Furthermore, the deal and the rationales behind it is sure to impede China’s good-will to the members of AUKUS and the Quad, not mention of their irresponsible effects on peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?



Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations. 

Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished —  make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.

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