In the past week, I terminated my support for President Donald J. Trump. I am aware that this may have come as a shock to those in the Iranian opposition to the Islamic Republic with whom I have worked closely over the past two years lobbying the Trump Administration to support constructive change in Iran. On April 22, 2019, I launched a website and Facebook page titled “IraniansForTulsi” in support of the candidacy of Tulsi Gabbard in the 2020 US Presidential Election. As will become clear from the following, my turn against Trump and endorsement of congresswoman Gabbard’s campaign for the Presidency comes at the end of what America’s founders called “a long train of abuses.”
It would be dishonest to conceal the fact that many events and dealings unknown to the public have played a significant part in my reorientation. I sincerely hope that it will not become necessary to discuss these subjects in subsequent publications, or to revisit the circumstances for my having been defamed in The New York Times and other publications. I was divested of my career in academia on account of Iranian opposition-related work that I did with security and intelligence elements of “Team Trump.” Presently, I have endeavored to keep strictly within the limits of incidents widely reported by the media, which have informed my decision to abandon and even to oppose President Trump.
The Syria Missile Strikes
The first incident took place only several months into Trump’s presidency. On April 7, 2017 Trump authorized the US Navy to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting Sharyat Airbase in Syria. This was the first American strike on Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian government. President Trump justified the attack as a response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack on April 4th. This alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad was highly suspect, and there was good reason to believe the Syrian government that if a chemical attack had even taken place, the perpetrators were the Al-Qaeda associated Islamist rebels or other meddlesome actors in the Syrian civil war.
As a strong supporter of the secular Assad regime as a bulwark against the Islamists who dynamited Palmyra, I was appalled by Trump’s strike on the Syrian government on the basis of what appeared to be a false flag operation at Khan Shaykhun. It was even more nauseating to see the missile strikes praised in the mainstream media by Neo-Cons and even establishment liberals who had been staunch critics of Trump during his candidacy. A non-interventionist foreign policy had been one of the pillars of Trump’s campaign.
It was in response to this action of the President that I first expressed concern to my colleagues in the Iranian opposition that Trump might lead America down the path of war with Iran. There was an extensive Iranian military presence in Syria at the invitation of the Assad regime and in defense of it, and I was concerned about an American clash with Iran inside of Syria leading to full scale war.
The Saudi Sword Dance
The aforementioned concern only intensified when I witnessed the grotesque spectacle of President Trump participating in a Saudi sword dance on May 20, 2017. During his campaign for the Presidency, Donald Trump had expressed the most severe criticism of Saudi Arabia voiced by any US Presidential candidate since America forged its close alliance with the Kingdom in the early 1980s, during the Vice Presidency of former CIA director George H.W. Bush, whose family has extensive ties with the House of Saud. Candidate Trump highlighted the Saudi role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Aside from the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, extensive ties between Al-Qaeda and the House of Saud had been discovered but covered-up by US government officials investigating 9/11. These extended far beyond ties between Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the Bush family, through the Carlyle Group.
During his candidacy, Trump advocated for the public revelation of the extent of Saudi involvement in 9/11. He gave every indication that as President he would significantly curtail America’s business dealings with the Kingdom, which he recognized to be the world’s leading supporter of the spread of Islamist groups with a radical Wahhabi or Salafist ideology. Not to mention the fact that, with its brutal sharia based ‘justice’ system, Saudi Arabia has the worst human rights record of any major nation, routinely beheading people for ‘crimes’ like apostasy.
Yet here was President Trump, doing a war dance with the Saudis. It was during this first state visit to Riyadh that Trump began to form an Arab NATO, led by the Saudis, to combat terrorism! This was even more farcical than Saudi Arabia leading the UN commission on Human Rights. Of course, the real target of this Sunni coalition was Iran and its Shi’ite Arab allies in the Middle East.
President “Arabian Gulf”
Having borne witness to this despicable spectacle, which even seemed to turn the stomach of Steve Bannon (who looked despondent during the Saudi sword dance), perhaps I ought to have been prepared for what came next. Nevertheless, it still came as a shock. On October 13, 2017, during a widely televised and long awaited speech laying out his new Iran Policy, President Trump used the geographically incorrect and provocatively polemical phrase “Arabian Gulf” to refer to the Persian Gulf.
When former Secretary of State Tillerson had used this phrase several weeks after he and Trump returned from their trip to Saudi Arabia, it was infuriating but unsurprising coming from an oil man with a history of doing business with Saudi ARAMCO. At that time, I helped put together a chastising letter to the Secretary warning him and other Trump Administration officials not to use that phrase again. Despite that, six minutes into his twenty minute speech decertifying the JCPOA (i.e., the Iran Nuclear Deal) President Trump said that Iran, “harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea.”
Trump feigned respect for the people of Iran and their heritage in the same speech, but I felt then, and continue to feel now, that the bare minimum of showing respect for the glorious 2,500 year old Persian civilizational heritage of Iran is to refer to the Persian Gulf by its proper name, which dates from the time of classical Greek geographers and has since been officially recognized by all international organizations. Only the Saudis and their allied Sunni sheikhdoms polemically use the phrase “Arabian Gulf.” From the period of George H.W. Bush’s Presidency onward, the Saudi economic stranglehold on America, and even on private corporations like National Geographic, has been such that some people have started incorrectly referring to the body of water simply as “the Gulf.” But Arabian Gulf, really Mr. President?!
Even more alarming was what Walid Phares, at that time still a top “Team Trump” advisor, volunteered to FOX News during a preview and preliminary analysis of the President’s “Arabian Gulf” speech. When asked about the nature of the new Iran policy that the President was about to announce, Phares explained, “The Pasdaran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, will be under the focus of [i.e. in the crosshairs of] our allies, and speaking of our allies, remember the President went to Riyadh. He met with 50 Arab and Muslim leaders. This is way different from what was the situation in the ‘90s. He has a much larger coalition. Even if the Europeans are going to be criticizing his position, he has a much larger bloc in the region to work with.”
The FOX News anchor fails to ask Phares why he is jumping all the way back to the 1990s rather than drawing a contrast with Obama’s Iran policy. What does a “larger coalition” of Arab nations have to do with “the situation in the ‘90s”? Phares is referring to the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the coalition of Arab nations that George H.W. Bush formed to demolish Iraq. Saudi Arabia was the backbone of this coalition, as it will be the linchpin of the “much larger bloc” of Sunni Arab states that Trump will lead in a war that shatters and devastates Iran.
Trump’s Appointment of John Bolton
My interpretation of the “Arabian Gulf” rhetoric was confirmed by President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor on March 22, 2018. As US Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bush-Cheney Administration, Bolton played a significant role in promulgating the heinous lies that led to the catastrophic regime change war in Iraq that resulted in the rise of the Islamic State at the cost of thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. Bolton is one of the worst of the Neo-Cons who formed the core policy advisement circle during the Bush-Cheney years.
What is worst is that, for close to two decades, Bolton has been in the pocket of an Islamist-Marxist terrorist group called the Mojaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojaheddin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The group also operates under the alias, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). It was on the US State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations until being removed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012, at the urging of Saudi Arabia, who is the main funder of the group. Saudi Prince Turki Bin Faisal has praised Massoud Rajavi, the former leader of the MEK, as a heroic freedom fighter. He was, in reality, a cult leader, a terrorist, and a traitor against his own country.
After they helped to bring the provisional government of the Islamic Republic to power, Ayatollah Khomeini turned on the MEK in 1980 and they responded by siding with Saddam Hussein during his 8-year, Western-backed war of aggression against the Iranian people. They defected to Iraqi territory taking some tank divisions and helicopters with them. They even offered to govern the Iraqi-occupied oil-rich province of Khuzestan for Saddam, and the NCRI’s official charter and proposed constitution promises regional autonomy and the right of self-determination to Kurdish separatists. Consequently, the group has virtually no support inside of Iran. This has made them turn inward in the worst way that cults do when their aspirations for changing the world are frustrated.
Most of the MEK’s time is spent terrorizing their own membership. The group, now led by Maryam Rajavi (following the death of her husband Masoud), is a totalitarian cult of personality that controls every aspect of the lives of its followers and demands blind obedience from them. Their bizarre ideology fuses a Che Guevara or Maoist type of Marxism with an anti-clerical messianic Shiite Islam. Their political leadership and militia commanders include red headscarf wearing women, and yet men and women are even more strictly segregated in Mojaheddin facilities and encampments than they are under the sharia law of the Islamic Republic. Members of the group are even forced to divorce their spouses and pledge all of their love to their Leader. When Masoud was still alive, it is rumored that he used to sleep with other members’ former wives as a test of loyalty. Also consistent with what is observed in many cults is the fact that disobedience from members, of any age, meets with physical torture, solitary confinement, and brainwashing tactics.
John Bolton is financially beholden to this cult, and Donald Trump knew that when he appointed Bolton as his National Security Advisor. Since Bolton was his third NSC (following Flynn and McMaster), one would think that he would be especially careful in considering who to appoint. Unfortunately, Bolton is not the only MEK supporter in Trump’s entourage. The President’s legal advisor, fellow New Yorker, and close friend, Rudy Giuliani has received a $20,000 ‘honorarium’ for each of the many twenty minute speeches that he has given at MEK events over the years. The latest of these was a rally outside of the Anti-Iran conference that Secretary of State Pompeo organized in Warsaw Poland on February 13, 2019. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Pompeo’s Preposterous Preconditions
On May 21, 2018 at a speech that he gave at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Secretary Pompeo laid out 12 Preconditions for President Trump entering into a new round of American negotiations with the government of Iran. The content of this statement further eroded my support for Trump. In all of my attempts to engage the Trump Administration, together with certain colleagues in the Iranian opposition, my position has been that a strong nationalist Iran that resumes the traditional Persian role of regional hegemon could be one of America’s greatest allies.
This was, after all, the kind of rapport that existed between the United States and the regime of the late Shah of Iran, who was pursuing an Imperial Persian hegemony in Western Asia. The Shah, who had built up the fifth most powerful military in the world, was also pursuing a nuclear program so aggressive that he aimed to rival France and Japan for the percentage of Iran’s energy sector fueled by nuclear power plants. Moreover, I have never made a secret of the fact that my vision for a transition back to this kind of regime in Iran has been a nationalist uprising that culminates in a coup that ushers in a period of transitional martial law, one of the main objectives of which would be to preserve Iran’s contemporary military-industrial strength while altering the ideology in the service of which this strength is martialed. By contrast, Pompeo’s 12 conditions took no issue with the ideological content of the Islamic Republic, but aimed only to produce a militarily defanged and industrially crippled Iran.
In total contravention of Iran’s rights as a signatory of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pompeo demanded that Iran stop all Uranium enrichment, never pursue plutonium reprocessing, and close its heavy water reactor. Presumably, this means forcing Iran to purchase enriched Uranium from third parties. Meanwhile, Israel has not even signed the NPT, and Pakistan has been in violation of it ever since it tested its nuclear weapons, but both countries have extensive security partnerships with America. Witness the hypocrisy.
Worse yet, Pompeo’s 12 conditions included the demand that Iran effectively suspend its ballistic missile production program. Iran developed its ballistic missile program only after enduring a rain of scud missiles from Saddam Hussein during the American-backed 8-year long Iraqi aggression that cost half a million Iranian lives. I support the Iranian ballistic missile program, and I have always been proud of this significant achievement in independent technological development. Trump should be expressing support for the nationalist discourse within Iran’s civil society, not attempting to deprive the Iranian people of their hard-earned capacity to defend themselves. Thus far, Iran’s only verifiable use of its ballistic missiles in warfare has been against terrorist groups in Syria, and that, in retaliation for Sunni Islamist terrorist attacks carried out by such groups on Iranian soil.
This brings me to the most outrageous of Pompeo’s 12 conditions, namely his demand that the Iranian government end support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and cease harboring Al-Qaeda leaders. Anyone with even a modicum of geopolitical awareness is wise to the fact that Iran has fought against the influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan for decades, long before 9/11, and that Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Al-Qaeda consider each other arch enemies. Meanwhile, the United States government created Al-Qaeda in Pakistan in the 1980s and sent the terrorist group into Afghanistan, where the US also supported the Taliban, in order to oust the Soviet-backed communist government of Afghanistan. If Al-Qaeda leaders have – very rarely – transited Iranian territory since 9/11, they have done so as criminal fugitives. Compare this to the US government authorized flight of Saudis – and only Saudis – out of America on 9/11, at a time when a no-fly zone was declared for civilian passenger airliner traffic. Who is aiding and abetting Al-Qaeda? The US government and the Saudis who are implicated in the 9/11 attacks.
Transfer of Nuclear Technology to the Saudis
Considering the Saudi support for Al-Qaeda and evidence that people high up in the administrative elite of the Kingdom played a role in orchestrating the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Trump’s recent decision to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia is treasonous in spirit if not in law. On March 27, 2019, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry granted a Part 810 “transfer of knowledge and expertise” authorization to six companies to provide Saudi Arabia with technology that can be used, not only to develop nuclear energy, but eventually to develop nuclear weapons. This, at a time when the Saudis are explicitly threatening to develop nuclear arms and have refused to agree not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel as part of a potential atomic energy program.
The six authorizations were carried out by the Trump Administration in secret and Congress has demanded, but has been denied, oversight with respect to the project. Even the names of the six corporations involved have been concealed, although it is rumored that one of them is IP3 International, a military-industrial complex corporation that includes former generals, diplomats, and energy experts, including President Trump’s first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.
Outrage over the deal has tended to focus on whether it was made after the Saudis’ murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate at Istanbul in October of 2018. But this is irrelevant compared to the danger of a nuclear Saudi Arabia. Most regional experts in the intelligence field are well aware of the potential for a near-term collapse of the House of Saudi and a radical Islamist takeover of the Arabian peninsula. This would deliver any potential nuclear weapons arsenal that the Saudis obtain, or even just radioactive material from a nuclear energy program, into the hands of a future Caliphate far more dangerous than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It is already lamentable that Pakistan, which harbored Osama bin Laden for years, has pledged to put its “Islamic Bomb” at the disposal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which purportedly funded the development of these nuclear weapons.
Designating the IRGC as a Terrorist Group
By April 8th of 2019, my disappointment with Trump had already turned into outrage. On that day, Secretary Pompeo held a press conference in which he designated the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. The IRGC is a combined force that is Iran’s functional equivalent of the Marines. As Pompeo himself admitted, it was the first time in history that the United States declared a part of another nation’s military forces to be a terrorist organization.
The move was putatively made as part of the Trump Administration policy of bringing maximal economic pressure to bear on Iran’s regime. However, as the even more recent refusal to renew waivers on countries and companies purchasing Iranian oil has demonstrated, there are other ways to bring maximal pressure on the Iranian economy. Furthermore, with the hegemonic global economic influence that the United States has, it was possible to economically sanction the IRGC and punish nations and corporations that deal with Iran’s military-industrial complex without designating the IRGC a terrorist organization.
What the “terrorist” designation allows is for the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military force in the Global War on Terrorism to be used retroactively as a sufficient legal basis for waging a regime change war in Iran. With the IRGC designated as a terrorist group, President Trump can target IRGC bases or industrial assets inside of Iranian territory without any further approval from congress. Such an act is designed to undermine the war powers of Congress, which have already been severely eroded since 9/11, and which were infamously undercut during the officially undeclared Vietnam War.
Trump’s Veto of US-Withdrawal from the War in Yemen
Pompeo’s justification for the Trump Administration designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization is that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is “spreading death and destruction in the region,” for example through its military presence in Syria. While the IRGC is in Syria at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government of Bashar Assad, Saudi Arabia has waged an illegal and horrifically brutal war against the Shi’ite population of Yemen for the past four years. More than 19,000 Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have led to 60,000 civilian casualties, including due to a famine that the United Nations warns could eventually become the worst famine on Earth in the past century and result in the starvation of 13 million Yemenis.
Who is really spreading death and destruction in what US government officials like to call “the region”, in other words, what has been Iran’s traditional civilizational sphere for the past 3,000 years? Saudi Arabia – an artificial country invented in the 1930s by Western colonialists as they redrew borders in “the region.” On April 16, 2019 President Trump vetoed a bi-partisan bill passed by the US Congress to end American military support for the Saudi-led genocide of Shi’ites in Yemen. Trump undoubtedly sees Yemen as a combat theater for an increasingly explosive regional confrontation with Iran, which is offering aid to the Shi’ites being targeted by the Saudis.
The Alternative: Tulsi 2020
It is one thing to be against something, but it is another thing entirely to be for something else. As you may surmise from the above, my opposition to Trump has been mounting for some time now. However, on account of the high level work that I have been doing with elements of the Iranian opposition that remain emphatically Pro-Trump, I expressed my concerns mostly privately. The few bursts of outrage that I expressed on this blog previously, in response to some of the events catalogued above, were removed at the request of my colleagues.
I took this attitude, above all, because there was no clear alternative to Trump that I could conscientiously support in the public sphere. I remain convinced that if Hillary Clinton had been elected President we would already be at war with Iran, and US government support for Saudi Arabia would be at least as robust as it has, tragically, been under Trump – a man who, it bears repeating, campaigned against the American alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Then I became aware of the presidential campaign of Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. I vaguely recalled following her briefly as she took heat for meeting with Bashar Assad in an admirable fact-finding mission in Syria. What really brought her to my attention was a video that she released on April 17, 2019 in response to Trump’s veto of the congressional bill to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
I discovered a candidate who is vehemently opposed to the cancerous American relationship with Saudi Arabia. A woman who bravely served America as a warrior in Iraq and who bore witness, first hand, to the lives tragically lost and shattered by a regime change war that only empowered the Islamist enemies of the United States. She was just as opposed to the continued, and equally catastrophic, regime change policies of the Obama Administration in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. Congresswoman Gabbard shares my longstanding concern with the prospect of nuclear war.
Finally, what I find most compelling, is that this Hindu Amazon’s ethical compass is oriented by the Bhagavad Gita. A treasure of spiritual literature, the Gita was among my favorite books from a very young age. It was one of those texts that I read and re-read, and have repeatedly come back to throughout the years as my own insights have deepened and the horizon of my perspective has widened. Profoundly admired by Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others in the generation of American Transcendentalists, it is high time that the Bhagavad Gita and other treasures of Vedanta inform the decision-making of the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s sole superpower.
We have really had enough of American Presidents who cater to Evangelical Christians, Zionist who put Israel first, and, worst of all, Islamic fundamentalists like the Saudis. At least, I have had enough. Trump was supposed to be different. It turns out that he is a fraud. I choose not to despairingly sink into cynicism in response to this bitter revelation. Rather, I embrace the hope of finally actualizing a metaphysical New World that was dreamed of long ago by Emerson, who also praised the Persian poets.
It is this America, born again in the baptismal waters of Walden pond, that can one day build an enduring alliance with an Iran that will have reclaimed its own glorious spiritual tradition. Forcible regime changes based on intimidation and humiliation, and driven by corporate greed, do not produce cultural regeneration and spiritual rebirth. Iran needs a renaissance, and so does America.