28.10.2020 Author: James ONeill

The US Presidential Election Won’t Change US Policy, But Other Factors Might


The United States presidential election is now less than 15 days away and nothing emerging from the statements of either of the contenders inspires confidence that the world will be a safer and more rational place after the election, irrespective of who wins. It is a sorry spectacle that the pretender to leadership of the “free world” is being contested by two such manifestly deficient leaders.

The loser of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, has already declared that her party would not accept the results. Presumably she is referring to her party’s non-acceptance of a Trump victory. To make such an unequivocal statement before votes have been cast, let alone counted, is an extraordinary vote of no confidence in the integrity of the American electoral system.

If what she says is literally true, and there seems no reason to doubt the veracity of her remarks, then it is a signal that the United States is in for a very unsettled period. With the vast majority of countries such an unsettled outcome would not be of great significance. The United States is not however, an inconsequential player on the world stage. The potential for global upheaval is significantly greater than at any time in the recent past.

There can be no confidence that if Joe Biden should win the race the outcome would be significantly different. Both men seemed to be vying with each other to make outlandish comments about both Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi. China seems the more vulnerable to the economic consequences of the manifestly insane anti-China hysteria being fomented by both presidential candidates.

In the past few weeks the United States has made wild allegations against ByteDance, a major tech company, accusing it of unspecified nefarious activities at the behest of the Chinese security services. Even more extraordinary, the United States government has given the company 30 days to divest its holdings in the United States. This is an almost unprecedented interference in the commercial affairs of a major company, and one that will potentially cost the company billions of dollars. It is but one example of Trump’s economic warfare against China, most of which defies economic logic.

The United States government has offered no evidence to support its allegations, although expecting rational argument and evidence-based assertions seems entirely inconsistent with modern United States governmental practice.

The verbal war against China and Russia is matched by equally bizarre behaviour directed against one of the United States’ most important allies, Germany. The Nord Stream 2 project which is to provide substantial quantities of Russian oil and gas to Germany has been bitterly opposed by the United States since it was first begun in 2018. Enormous political pressure has been applied to Germany and other countries such as Denmark through whose territorial waters the pipeline passes.

The American opposition to the pipeline has multiple motives. First, there is the economic benefit to the American oil industry of being able to sell their significantly more expensive oil and gas to Europe.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is a means of exerting economic pressure on Russia by depriving it of an important market.

Thirdly, it is an exercise in raw American power over Germany, seeking to control the internal economic policies of a country that it has occupied for 75 years and token troop withdrawals notwithstanding, has no intention of allowing it political independence.

The Germans, for their part, are seemingly at long last exerting political choices commensurate with their economic power. In addition to exhibiting increasing resistance to American bullying, Germany has also made significant economic deals with China. It clearly sees the emerging Eurasian power structure as having an important long-term role in Germany’s economic future.

Its refusal to buckle to United States pressure over Iran is symptomatic of the broader socio-economic realignment that is taking place. United States pressure on Iran is not a new phenomenon. It can be traced back at least to the United Kingdom-United States overthrow of the Mossadegh government in 1953.

Relations improved under the Shah but deteriorated with his overthrow in 1979 and have been poor to abysmal ever since. An insight into the real United States view of Iran is gained by their unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, while still purporting to exercise restraint on Iran for alleged breaches of the JCPOA. The United States attempt to persuade the UN Security Council to their viewpoint failed miserably.

Again, the promoted reasons for the United States attitude have almost nothing to do with the reality. Part of the antipathy is a reflection of the bitter animosity towards Iran by Israel, a genuine nuclear armed power in the region that is notable for a complete absence of United States pressure to disclose that fact, or to adhere to any form of arms control that would inhibit Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons.

It is this reality that makes a mockery of professed United States concern over Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions.

There is however another factor taking shape in Iran, the significance of which greatly exceeds United States posturing or Israeli hybrid warfare, and that is the growing links between Iran and both Russia and China. Both of these latter countries have made multi- billion-dollar commitments to investing in the upgrading of Iran’s infrastructure.

The Chinese also see Iran as playing a key part of its Belt and Road Initiative project, with now more than 150 countries signing up to the largest multi-national development project the world has ever seen.

It is this factor that represents Iran’s greatest protection against the continued hybrid warfare being waged by the United States and Israel. The refusal of the European members of the JCPOA to align with Trump’s attempted economic and political warfare against Iran is of huge geopolitical significance. The test will be whether that gesture of independence from US bullying can be maintained. The history is not encouraging.

It does not matter which of Biden or Trump is elected this November. United States policy will remain unchanged under either party. The major difference is that the United States is increasingly isolated in its antipathy to Iran. This is far from insuring that United States behaviour will become more rational and some false flag incident to justify a United States attack cannot be dismissed.

The difference is that United States power to actually influence the course of events is rapidly diminishing. Iran is symptomatic of that changing geopolitical balance. Any reduction in United States irrational behaviour is a decided plus for the rest of the world.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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