View From Tehran: Behind February’s US-Led Warsaw Summit

Exclusive submission to The Iranian by journalist Shahir ShahidSaless

As part of the US “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran , US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently told Fox News that Washington will jointly host a global summit focusing on Iran next month. The summit will take place in Warsaw, Poland on February 13th and 14th, according to a US State Department statement. Pompeo declared that the meeting would focus on the “Middle East stability and peace,” the most “important element” of which hinges on ending Iran’s “destabilizing influence” on the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign ministers from several Arab Persian Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, that share Israel’s antipathy towards Iran, have been invited. Netanyahu serves as Israel’s foreign minister as well.

Underneath the stated goal of combating the supposed destabilizing behavior of the Iran, many believe that the United States government’s real political maneuvering is focused on “regime change” in that country. From that perspective, the current move is by no means Washington’s first attempt.

In the 1980’s, during the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the US supported Saddam Hussein to the extent that the CIA even helped Hussein carry out chemical weapons attacks on Iran . Furthermore, “dual use” technology was transferred from the US to Iraq as another means of supporting the invasion. According to a Foreign Policy report, Americans knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history, yet still offered their full-fledged support.

Bodies of Iranian fighters seen near the town of Halabja, Iraq in March 1988

At the time, Hussein was not considered by the US administration as a destabilizing element, despite that together with the Saudis and other “Sheikhdoms” in the region, he had launched a full-scale invasion of Iran that led to an eight-year war in which over one million Iranians died. The US invasion of Iraq during the tenure of George W. Bush which eventually led to the emergence of the broadest form of terrorism in the human history to the extent that ISIS established a state, also not considered to be a destabilizing behavior.

The weekly Sobh’e Sadeq, the political organ of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), recently questioned in its January 14th edition, “why the US State Department has chosen Poland for the gathering?” According to the Sobh’e Sadeq, the Americans’ failure to attract the support of France, Germany and other European countries (what George W. Bush used to call “Old Europe”) of isolating and increasing pressure on Iran is one of the reasons that Poland was chosen as the site of the summit. Many leading European countries have not only refused to join the US in its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, but also are determined to help Iran to circumvent US sanctions. The weekly contends that the policy of dividing Europe between “Old and New”, which was first used in the aftermath of 9-11 during the George W. Bush administration when France and Germany opposed the Iraq invasion, has once again surfaced in the current political impasse with Iran.

Poland, according to Sobh’e Sadeq, is considered by the US to be part of the “New Europe” which has shown support for radical US policies against Iran. This division within the EU could lead to a political stalemate as the EU decision on whether or not to support Iran needs to be made unanimously.

In a move to deter the so-called Russian threat, the Polish government has positioned itself as a puppet government of the US. Polish President Andrzej Duda who has close ties with the far-right, visited Washington in September of last year and suggested to spend $2 billion on the construction of a permanent American military base in the country. He said that the base will be named ‘Fort Trump’ if Donald Trump greenlights the project. “If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about” Trump responded to the generous promise of the Polish president.

Furthermore, an Iranian state-run TV network views the goal of the US-led summit as an attempt to bring together Arab countries and Israel in order to shape a regional coalition against Iran.

Abdolreza Faraji Raad is the current Chief of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations tasked with “finding strategies and policies to lead the Islamic Republic to favorable outcomes,” according to a 2006 decree issued by Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a January 12th interview, Faraji Raad says that the Trump administration is interested in the collapse of the EU as a pole of power that challenges American hegemony. Poland is playing a divisive role in the EU through pushing the US agenda forward, specifically with respect to Iran, Faraji Raad argues. “As such”, Faraji Raad maintains, “we could analyze the move as a catalyst to intensify the rift among the EU members which would ultimately prevent the realization of the Europeans’ promise for the implementation of Special Purpose Vehicle [to circumvent the US sanctions].”

To neutralize the US sanctions, the three European powers, Britain, France and Germany, are pursuing to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under the EU umbrella as part of a strategy to maintain banking and financial relations and trade with Tehran. The SPV would by-pass the SWIFT system and would allow for financial transactions to occur between Iran and foreign companies without depending on the US dollar. SWIFT, the Belgium-based messaging network used by banks and financial institutions across the world to send and receive information for money transfers, has announced that it would abide by US restrictions and thus disconnect the blacklisted Iranian banks from the global financial network.

Most likely, some Eastern European countries and other Baltic region countries will come in line with the US due to the fear of the Russian threat.

The challenge of the US government to shape an international coalition against Iran is still uncertain. According to Faraji Raad, “we cannot say with certainty that a consensus against Iran at the international level will not take shape. Most likely, some Eastern European countries and other Baltic region countries will come in line with the US due to the fear of the Russian threat. If Denmark and Holland are added to this mix, one can be led to believe that the US has been successful in creating a wedge in the EU [thus creating a lack of unity that could support Iran].” Denmark and Holland are currently in strained relations with Iran over terrorism allegations.

Faraji Raad views the move as a clear effort by Trump administration to fight back against Britain, France and Germany who isolated the US after its unilateral exit from the nuclear deal and the subsequent re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. He believes that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait will also participate in the summit along with a number of African countries.

There are numerous reports, such as this one, that hint at clandestine ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia that stem from their shared interest in countering Iran. Thus, the summit will not necessarily strengthen this covert alliance. That said, if some members of EU including Scandinavian countries, Baltic nations, and member nations from Eastern Europe actively align with the US move, the materialization of the SPV could be called into question.

Cover photo: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, greets Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz

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