The late Ayatollah Khomeini dreamed it; President Barack Obama is trying to deliver it: the end of Pax Americana.
The topic was at the center of a daylong seminar in Tehran last week attended by ambassadors from Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, plus a number of Islamic Iranian officials and scholars.
The five Latin American nations with left-wing regimes represent one of the “clusters” that former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to organize as points of anti-American “resistance” across the globe. Another “cluster” consisted of Lebanon, controlled through the local branch of Hezbollah, Syria, under Bashar Al-Assad, and parts of Iraq dominated by pro-Tehran armed groups. The plan was to set up another “cluster” by breaking up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc through the Finlandization of some of its members while seizing control of Yemen through local Trojan outfits.
Next month, Tehran is scheduled to host the fifth annual “End of America” conference with a number of professional anti-American figures from Europe and the US itself also expected.
However, the timing of the exercise is puzzling. For the first time in almost a decade, the presidency, and part of the government including the foreign ministry seem to be controlled by the so-called Rafsanjani faction that has been trying to make a deal with the Americans since the late 1980s.
Many in Tehran now wonder whether this year’s “End of America” will take place at all. A number of “Afro-American families of victims of US police brutality” have already been invited along with European religious leaders and scholars opposed to the “Great Satan.”
Some pro-Rafsanjani commentators in Tehran, including a few in the entourage of President Hassan Rouhani, argue against the holding of another “End of America” conference as unnecessary at best and wanton provocation at worst.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif argues that the US has shown its goodwill by bending backward to satisfy Iran’s demands in the nuclear negotiations. It would be foolish to provoke the US at a time that Tehran needs Washington’s support to destroy the edifice of sanctions and kick the whole nuclear saga into the long grass.
More than 30 years ago, Khomeini’s intransigence led to the destruction of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, depriving Iran of a friend in Washington. It would be foolish to repeat the same mistake by humiliating Obama and, through him the Democrat Party, thus helping the return to power of the Republicans who are committed to making life difficult for the Khomeinist regime.
Seen from Tehran the ideal outcome of next year’s presidential election in the United States would be the nomination and victory of either Vice President Joseph Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry. Both men have a history of decades of support for the Khomeinist revolution and the Islamic Republic and remain committed to promoting closer ties with Tehran under the mullahs.
Another four, or perhaps even eight years of Obama’s policies would nicely coincide with the duration of the Vienna nuke deal which envisages “a final closing of the dossier” by 2023 at the latest. Until then, Iran would be kept a year away from building a nuclear arsenal if it so decides. After that, Iran could do so within 60 days, again if it so wished.
More importantly, another eight years of Obama’s strategy would make it immensely difficult, if not impossible in practical terms, for any future US administration to revive the Pax Americana as a viable option. The Obama strategy is aimed at shrinking the American military footprint across the world. Dozens of bases are being closed down or reduced to merely symbolic proportions. Within what is left of Obama’s presidential term, the US army alone is scheduled to fire at least 40,000 of its soldiers. Under Obama the US has undergone the biggest cut in defense expenditure it has experienced since the heady days of post-Cold War and its “peace dividends”.
More importantly, perhaps, Obama has managed to sour, if not actually destroy, America’s old alliances in many parts of the world, notably the Middle East. Even an old and loyal ally such as Great Britain has publicly played the card of privileged ties with China, implicitly taking note of the American retreat.
Obama has changed the image of the US as “the winner” into the loser as borne out by a series of crises from the annexation of Georgian and Ukrainian territories by Moscow to the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan, not to mention Tehran’s heightened profile in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Obama’s dramatic “red line” warning to Assad, followed by an equally dramatic consumption of humble pie, highlighted the United States’ new status as “the loser.”
The American global retreat has already led to a more emphatic assertion by China of its position as a great Asian power. It has also encouraged the nationalist trend in Japan to the point of seeking constitutional change to allow the nation to deploy troops abroad and, later perhaps, even develop a nuclear arsenal.
Latin America is divided into two rival blocs of left and right powers, with the US less and less regarded as a major player.
In Europe and central Asia, Russia is moving fast to regain part of lost influence and project power wherever it can. Many of the local conflicts mothballed thanks to US mediation are becoming active again, from Transcaucasia to the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is exploding in the void created by the total collapse of US-backed “peace talks.”
Ending Pax Americana may turn out to be good for the Americans in which case Obama could enter history as a wise visionary.
However, even if such is the case, the mullahs have every interest to encourage Obama in his present strategy and, within their modest means, to help the Obama line continue under Kerry or, even Hillary Clinton as the least bad option.
Many might see the “End of America” world as a far more dangerous place. The mullahs, however, would regard it as the fulfilment of Khomeini’s dream.