The Iran nuclear deal has made it to its first anniversary without any hiccups and is on track to easily last until its expiration if Washington upholds its end of the bargain by guaranteeing that Iran experiences economic relief from sanctions. This has yet to materialize but it will happen fairly soon despite Republicans trying to squeeze Iran for as long as possible by blocking any moves the Obama administration makes to allow for other countries to have normal trade relations with Iran. The Republicans’ determination to prevent Iran from being reintegrated into the global finance and trade system even though Iran has already done all that was asked of it in the agreement should be proof enough for anyone that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran was whipped up as a pretext for maintaining and strengthening the strangulation of Iran’s economy. But why have Washington policy-makers and Congress felt the need—one that borders on obsession–to keep Iran straitjacketed by sanctions? It goes beyond Iran simply being a foe of the U.S. from the Islamic revolution onward, as Robert W Jordan explains:
“Most people have not focused on the economic competition that Iran will provide to Saudi Arabia and other countries once the sanctions are lifted. The Saudis would prefer a deal that diminishes Iran’s threat to the Saudi’s interests in the Middle East. They have a one-dimensional economy focused on oil. Because of the sanctions up to this point, Iran’s oil program has been curtailed. They have significant human resources, a well-educated population, a real middle class, and burning ambition to emerge from the sanctions and take their place as a prime competitor in the region. The deal gives Iran a chance to become an economic superpower, particularly when compared to lagging economies and human capital in other parts of the Middle East. The Iranian people may have unrealistic expectations of how soon they’ll see economic benefits, but when they come, it will be substantial.”
Hard-hitting competition with an Iran that has transformed itself into the China of the Middle East is something Washington would certainly prefer to avoid, which is only natural considering that the U.S.–like all capitalist nations–seeks to minimize competition as a matter of general principle and employs an imperialist foreign policy for this goal. These excerpts from Section D.5 of the Anarchist FAQ contain a concise overview of the tactics the developed nations have used in the past and currently use to undercut industry in developing nations: “Imperialism has another function, namely to hinder or control the industrialisation of other countries. Such industrialisation will, of course, mean the emergence of new capitalists, who will compete with the existing ones both in the “less developed” countries and in the world market as a whole. Imperialism, therefore, attempts to reduce competition on the world market… Imperialism hinders industrialisation in two ways. The first way was direct colonisation, a system which has effectively ended. The second is by indirect means–namely the extraction of profits by international big business. A directly dominated country can be stopped from developing industry and be forced to specialise as a provider of raw materials. This was the aim of “classic” imperialism, with its empires and colonial wars. By means of colonisation, the imperialist powers ensure that the less-developed nation stays that way–so ensuring one less competitor as well as favourable access to raw materials and cheap labour… Globalisation can be seen as an intensification of this process. By codifying into international agreements the ability of corporations to sue nation states for violating “free trade,” the possibility of new competitor nations developing is weakened. Industrialisation will be dependent on transnational corporations and so development will be hindered and directed to ensure corporate profits and power.”
Why is there this need for imperialist domination of the developing world? If these nations locally produced manufactures that the developed nations would normally sell to them, then that would decrease the demand for exports from the developed nations and lead to unemployment and depression there. This industrial development would effectively foreclose markets that advanced capitalist nations need to keep their economies—and capitalism as a whole–going. As Laurence H Shoup and William Minter write in their book Imperial Brain Trust, “Herbert Feis, an active Council [on Foreign Relations] member and State Department economic adviser, expressed the problem [of the relationship between the U.S.’s domestic recovery during the Great Depression and the state of international trade] in a similar way, saying that most countries lived in chronic fear of unemployment and so want foreign markets to avoid “drastic internal adjustments as a result of changes in external markets.”
So when Washington holds back the industry of developing nations, it can sometimes be done for personal reasons but it is always done for business. But those same reasons of furthering commerce and market access also means Washington can’t economically wallop Iran indefinitely. It is ultimately in the interests of the U.S. for Iran’s economy to not become such a basket case that that nation becomes undeveloped and therefore in no position to receive the glut of American exports when bilateral relations are one day restored. Iran must be fully reintegrated into international trade to avoid this, as Shoup and Minter write:
“The first document produced by the economic subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Postwar Foreign Policy stressed the danger of another world depression and the need to provide confidence in world economic stability. This necessarily meant that American planners had to concern themselves with the politics and economies of other nations. At a minimum the United States had to be involved in the internal affairs of the key industrial and raw materials producing countries. If one or a few of these nations did not cooperate in a new worldwide economic system, they might not develop rapidly enough to enlarge their purchase from the United States, thereby increasing the likelihood of a depression. The various countries’ economies had also to be efficient; otherwise they could not pay for more imports.”
The U.S. won’t let Iran’s development fall below a certain point which means there will be substantial sanctions relief and therefore I’m confident in saying that the nuclear deal will be seen through to its conclusion.