US Seeking ‘Regime Change’ in Iran by Forming IAG: American Pundit

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A former US Senate foreign policy analyst said President Donald Trump's recent move to create an Iran Action Group (IAG) is “another turn of the screw in pursuit of the objective of regime change” in the Islamic Republic.

“The formation of this group can only be regarded as another turn of the screw in pursuit of the objective of regime change,” Washington-based political analyst James Jatras said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

James George Jatras is Deputy Director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a privately funded American NGO.  Based in Washington, DC, he is a former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

The full text of the interview with Jatras is as follows:

Tasnim: As you know, the US government’s hostility toward Iran has recently entered a new stage. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has formed a dedicated group to coordinate and run the country's policy towards Iran following President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. Pompeo announced the creation of the Iran Action Group (IAG) at a news conference, naming Brian Hook, the Department of State's director of policy planning, as its head. What do you think about the group and its objectives and do you think that it would be able to reach its goals?

Jatras: The formation of this group can only be regarded as another turn of the screw in pursuit of the objective of regime change. Remember that on July 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, in which he clearly sought to evoke the fall of communism, casting the Ayatollahs in the role of Leonid Brezhnev and company. While Iranian “regime change” is not the publicly stated goal of the Trump Administration’s policy, it is hard to see how US demands on Tehran don’t amount to exactly that, with Pompeo comparing the Iranian “regime” (a term used dozens of times to imply illegitimacy) to a “mafia.” He asserted that Iran’s behavior is “at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself.” What can change its “root” or “nature” without ceasing to be itself? Pompeo demanded not just a total change in policy from Tehran but a different mode of governance amounting to Iran’s ceasing to be an independent regional power. The Reagan venue’s analogy to the collapse of communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe echoed in the Secretary’s heavy emphasis on “a new 24/7 Farsi-language TV channel” spanning “not only television, but radio, digital, and social media format, so that the ordinary Iranians inside of Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them.” Let’s also keep in mind reports of a Trump-Netanyahu “strategic work plan” to counter Iran following a December 12, 2017, White House meeting and, before that in June 2017, the appointment of the “Dark Prince,” “Ayatollah Mike,” the “Undertaker” and convert to (Sunni) Islam Michael D’Andrea to run the CIA’s Iran operation. (One Langley insider’s simple comment on the D’Andrea appointment: “All I can say is that war with Iran is in the cards.”) This is a coordinated, strategic effort using every lever of national power to achieve its objective.

Tasnim: The Trump administration recently threatened to cut Iranian oil exports to zero, saying that countries must stop buying its oil from Nov. 4 or face financial consequences. Washington later softened its threat, saying that it would allow reduced oil flows of Iranian oil, in certain cases. Since oil is a strategic product and countries around the world always demand it, do you think that the US is able to carry out this threat at all?

Jatras: I don’t know. Certainly, they will try. Some countries, notably India, will largely succumb to US threats, but Washington will be hesitant to push New Delhi too hard because of other plans with respect to China in the so-called “Indo-Pacific Region.” China will, of course, be defiant. Beijing has very little to gain by trying to appease Washington in light of all of the other issues between them, especially on tariffs. On the other hand, certain countries like Japan and South Korea may be discouraged from buying Iranian oil simply by US disapproval, without even the need to threaten sanctions. The real issue is Europe, which generally likes to talk bravely but then submits to whatever the US demands. Total’s pullout is indicative of which way things will go. It is also unclear yet whether the US will push SWIFT to bar transactions with Iran or will back off for fear of injuring the global financial system. With regard to world oil supply, the US will try to manage the market in cooperation with the Saudis, though it is hard to predict how successful that will be. If the result is a rise in oil prices some producers will be pleased with that, including in the US and Russia.

Tasnim: Trump's threat is part of his walking away from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He also plans to fully reinstate anti-Tehran sanctions from November 4. In the meantime, the EU has vowed to counter Trump’s renewed sanctions on Iran, including by means of a new law to shield European companies from punitive measures. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently said Europe should set up payment systems independent of the US if it wants to save the JCPOA. What do you think about the EU’s role in reducing Washington’s pressures against Tehran and saving the deal?

Jatras: Anyone betting his money on Europeans’ courage should get his head examined. The US treats them with contempt because that’s what they deserve. This is broader than just Iran. For example, Washington is also threatening Europe with secondary sanctions on companies participating in Nord Stream 2 (NS2). Initially, as is their habit, the Germans put on a brave face. But now this week we see Merkel off to Azerbaijan to discuss the development of a southern pipeline to deliver gas to Europe from the Caspian as an alternative to NS2. Let’s remember that Russia is supposedly prepared to use its Financial Communications Transfer System (SPFS) based on blockchain technology to protect itself, especially when new, extremely harsh financial sanctions are set to kick in in November, close to the time full anti-Iran sanctions go into effect. With the knowledge that they are the number one target for US financial sanctions, the Russians have had time to work on protective alternatives, including local currency arrangements that bypass the dollar – and Moscow still doesn’t know how well it will work when the time comes. The Europeans, even if they had the will, can’t just pull a SWIFT alternative out of a hat. It would take time, resources, and determination, which they are unlikely to expand once the US seriously starts to threaten them. Finally, it is well known that US intelligence has strong influence over many European politicians (including compromising material on them), as well as control of media and think tanks. In short, their ability to behave independently is small.

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