Everything in Tehran revolves around three major discussions: the nuclear deal arguably to be clinched on November 24, Iran back to selling energy to the West, and the fight against ISIS/ISIL.
I’ve just spent a frantic week in Tehran as a guest of the New Horizon conference of Independent Thinkers. Here is some of what I’ve witnessed.
Three overarching themes monopolize all important discussions in Tehran at this critical historical juncture:
1) the real possibility of a nuclear deal with the P5+1 on November 24;
2) the end of sanctions and the possibility of Iran soon starting to supply the EU with loads of natural gas;
3) the fight against ISIS/ISIL, which Iranians, as much as the Arab street, refer to as Daesh.
Everything about the nuclear deal is entangled in a dense web of information war. In Tehran I had the pleasure to spend a lot of time and go to meetings with my friend Gareth Porter, the author of the definitive book on the subject: Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iranian Nuclear Scare.
I’ve just spent a frantic week in Tehran. Before departure, I had made a conscious decision; only one book in the backpack. Maximum concentration. I ended up choosing Pure War, the 2008 reprint by Semiotext(e) in LA of the 1983 Paul Virilio classic I had picked up at the revamped Foyles in London a few days back.
For a roving correspondent, going to Iran is always extra-special. Getting a press visa approved usually takes ages. This was my sixth trip – and I had no visa. Just a number, tied to a visa at the airport. Until the last minute, I thought I’d be deported from Imam Khomeini International – back to Abu Dhabi, which is now pretending to bomb The Caliph. Then, a small miracle; a VIP room, a visa in 10 minutes and the next I know I’m zooming into an eerily deserted Tehran at sunrise on a Friday, past the psychedelic space station decked in green that is Imam Khomeini’s shrine.
Why Virilio? Because he was the first to conceptualize that with the explosion of asymmetrical warfare, Total War had become local – on a global scale. I expanded on the theme in my 2007 book Globalistan and in my writings. Washington and Tel Aviv had been threatening to bomb Iran for years. Virilio was the first to assert that “peace” merely extends war by other means.
A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.
Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast — ISIS/ISIL/IS — for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.
No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites refuse to accept that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane. For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable. After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space — military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer — is little short of a religious doctrine. Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “over 40 countries” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria.
NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially fight Jihadistan, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.