"This notion that the United States is
getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all
options are on the table."
-- George W. Bush, February 2005
the Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a
passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel. Reports of impending
doom surfaced a year ago, but now it's official: under orders from Vice
President Cheney's office, the Pentagon has developed "last resort"
aerial-assault plans using long-distance B2 bombers and submarine-launched
ballistic missiles with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
How ironic that the Pentagon
proposes using nuclear weapons on the pretext of protecting the world from
nuclear weapons. Ironic also that Iran has complied with its obligations
under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing inspectors to "go anywhere
and see anything," yet those pushing for an attack, the USA and Israel,
The nuclear threat from Iran is hardly urgent. As the Washington Post
reported in August 2005, the latest consensus among U.S. intelligence
agencies is that "Iran
is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear
roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years." The Institute for
Science and International Security estimated that while Iran could have a
2009 at the earliest,
the US intelligence community assumed technical difficulties would cause
"significantly delay." The director of Middle East Studies at Brown
University and a specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics both called
the State Department's claims of a proliferation threat from Iran's
Bushehr reactor "demonstrably false," concluding that "the
physical evidence for a
nuclear weapons program in Iran simply does not exist."
So there's no urgency -- just a bad case of déjà vu all over again. The
Bush administration is recycling its hype over Hussein's supposed WMD
threat into rhetoric about Iran, but look where the charade got us last
time: tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, a country teetering on
civil war and increased global terrorism.
Yet the stakes in Iran are arguably much higher.
Consider that many in the US and Iran seek religious salvation through a
Middle Eastern blowout. "End times" Christian fundamentalists believe a
cataclysmic Armageddon will enable the Messiah to reappear and transport
them to heaven, leaving behind Muslims and other non-believers to face
plagues and violent death. Iran's new Shia Islam president, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, subscribes to a competing version of the messianic comeback,
whereby the skies turn to flames and blood flows in a final showdown of
good and evil. The Hidden Imam returns, bringing world peace by
establishing Islam as the global religion.
Both the US and Iran have presidents who arguably see themselves as
divinely chosen and who covet their own country's apocalypse-seeking
fundamentalist voters. And into this tinderbox Bush proposes bringing
As expected, the usual suspects press for a US attack on Iran. Neo-cons
who brought us the "cakewalk" of Iraq want to bomb the country. There's
also Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, busy coordinating the action plan against
Iran, who just released the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review calling
for US forces to "operate around the globe" in an infinite "long war." One
can assume Rumsfeld wants to bomb a lot of countries.
There's also Israel, keen that no other country in the region gains access
to nuclear weapons. In late 2002,
former Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon said Iran should be targeted
"the day after" Iraq
was subdued, and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, recently
warned that if he wins the presidential race in March 2006, Israel will
"do what we did in the past against Saddam's reactor," an obvious
reference to the 1981 bombing of the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq. It
doesn't help that Iran's Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a myth and
said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
In the eyes of the Bush administration, however, Iran's worst
transgression has less to do with nuclear ambitions or anti-Semitism than
with the petro-euro oil bourse Tehran is slated to open in March 2006.
Iran's plan to allow oil trading in euros threatens to break the dollar's
monopoly as the global reserve currency, and since the greenback is
severely overvalued due to huge trade deficits, the move could be
devastating for the US economy.
So we remain pedal to the metal with Bush for an attack on Iran.
But what if the US does go ahead and launch an assault in the coming
months? The Pentagon has already identified 450 strategic targets, some of
which are underground and would require the use of nuclear weapons to
destroy. What happens then?
You can bet that Iran would retaliate. Tehran promised a "crushing
response" to any US or Israeli attack, and while the country -- ironically
-- doesn't possess nuclear weapons to scare off attackers, it does have
other options. Iran boasts ground forces estimated at 800,000 personnel,
as well as long-range missiles that could hit Israel and possibly even
Europe. In addition, much of the world's oil supply is transported through
the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of ocean which Iran borders to the
north. In 1997, Iran's deputy foreign minister warned that the country
might close off that shipping route if ever threatened, and it wouldn't be
difficult. Just a few missiles or gunboats could bring down vessels and
block the Strait, thereby threatening the global oil supply and shooting
energy prices into the stratosphere.
An attack on Iran would also inflame tensions in the Middle East,
especially provoking the Shiite Muslim populations. Considering that
Shiites largely run the governments of Iran and Iraq and are a potent
force in Saudi Arabia, that doesn't bode well for calm in the region. It
would incite the Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Iran's, potentially
sparking increased global terrorism. A Shiite rebellion in Iraq would
further endanger US troops and push the country deeper into civil war.
Attacking Iran could also tip the scales towards a new geopolitical
balance, one in which the US finds itself shut out by Russia, China, Iran,
Muslim countries and the many others Bush has managed to piss off during
his period in office. Just last month, Russia snubbed Washington by
announcing it would go ahead and honor a $700 million contract to arm Iran
with surface-to-air missiles, slated to guard Iran's nuclear facilities.
And after being burned when the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority
invalidated Hussein-era oil deals, China has snapped up strategic energy
contracts across the world, including in Latin America, Canada and Iran.
It can be assumed that China will not sit idly by and watch Tehran fall to
Russia and China have developed strong ties recently, both with each other
and with Iran. Each possesses nuclear weapons, and arguably more
threatening to the US, each holds large reserves of US dollars which can
be dumped in favor of euros. Bush crosses them at his nation's peril.
Yet another danger is that an attack on Iran could set off a global arms
race -- if the US flaunts the non-proliferation treaty and goes nuclear,
there would be little incentive for other countries to abide by global
disarmament agreements either. Besides, the Bush administration's message
to its enemies has been very clear: if you possess WMD you're safe, and if
you don't, you're fair game. Iraq had no nuclear weapons and was invaded,
Iran doesn't as well and risks attack, yet that other "Axis of Evil"
country, North Korea, reportedly does have nuclear weapons and is left
alone. It’s also hard to justify striking Iran over its allegedly
developing a secret nuclear weapons program, when India and Pakistan (and
presumably Israel) did the same thing and remain on good terms with
The most horrific impact of a US assault on Iran, of course, would be the
potentially catastrophic number of casualties. The Oxford Research Group
up to 10,000 people would
die if the US
bombed Iran's nuclear sites, and that an attack on the Bushehr nuclear
reactor could send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf. If the US uses
nuclear weapons, such as earth-penetrating "bunker buster" bombs,
radioactive fallout would become even more disastrous.
Given what's at stake, few allies, apart from Israel, can be expected to
support a US attack on Iran. While Jacques Chirac has blustered about
using his nukes defensively, it's doubtful that France would join an
unprovoked assault, and even loyal allies, such as the UK, prefer going
through the UN Security Council.
Which means the wildcard is Turkey. The nation shares a border with Iran,
and according to Noam Chomsky, is heavily supported by the domestic
Israeli lobby in Washington,
permitting 12% of the
Israeli air and tank force to be stationed in its territory.
Turkey's crucial role in an attack on Iran explains why there's been a
spurt of high-level US visitors to Ankara lately, including Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director
Porter Goss. In fact, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported in
December 2005 that Goss had told the Turkish government it would be
"informed of any possible air strikes against Iran a few hours before they
happened" and that
Turkey had been given a
to attack camps of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran
"on the day in question."
It's intriguing that both Valerie Plame (the CIA agent whose identity was
leaked to the media after her husband criticized the Bush administration's
pre-invasion intelligence on Iraq) and Sibel Edmonds (the former FBI
translator who turned whistleblower) have been linked to exposing
intelligence breaches relating to Turkey, including potential nuclear
trafficking. And now both women are effectively silenced.
The US public sees the issue of Iran as backburner, and has little
eagerness for an attack on the country at this time. A USA Today/CNN
Gallup Poll from early February 2006 found that a full
86% of respondents favored
either taking no action or using economic/diplomatic efforts
towards Iran for now. Significantly, 69% said they were concerned "that
the U.S. will be too quick to use military force in an attempt to prevent
Iran from developing nuclear weapons."
And that begs the question: how can the US public be convinced to enter a
potentially ugly and protracted war in Iran?
A domestic terrorist attack would do the trick. Just consider how long
Congress went back and forth over reauthorizing Bush's Patriot Act, but
how quickly opposing senators capitulated following last week's
nerve-agent scare in a Senate building. The scare turned out to be a false
alarm, but the Patriot Act got the support it needed.
Now consider the fact that former CIA Officer Philip Giraldi has said the
Pentagon's plans to attack Iran were drawn up "to be employed
in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack
on the United States."
Writing in The American Conservative in August 2005, Giraldi added,
"As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually
being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United
Chew on that one a minute. The Pentagon's plan should be used in response
to a terrorist attack on the US, yet is not contingent upon Iran actually
having been responsible. How outlandish is this scenario: another 9/11
hits the US, the administration says it has secret information implicating
Iran, the US population demands retribution and bombs start dropping on
That's the worst-case scenario, but even the best case doesn't look good.
Let's say the Bush administration chooses the UN Security Council over
military power in dealing with Iran. That still leaves the proposed oil
bourse, along with the economic fallout that will occur if OPEC countries
snub the greenback in favor of petro-euros. At the very least, the dollar
will drop and inflation could soar, so you'd think the administration
would be busy tightening the nation's collective belt. But no. The US
trade deficit reached a record high of $725.8 billion in 2005, and Bush &
Co.'s FY 2007 budget proposes increasing deficits by $192 billion over the
next five years. The nation is hemorrhaging roughly $7 billion a month on
military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is expected to hit its
debt ceiling of $8.184 trillion next month.
So the white-knuckle ride to war continues, with the administration's
goals in Iran very clear. Recklessly naïve and impetuous perhaps, but
clear: stop the petro-euro oil bourse, take over Khuzestan Province (which
borders Iraq and has 90% of Iran's oil) and secure the Straits of Hormuz
in the process. As US politician Newt Gingrich recently put it, Iranians
cannot be trusted with nuclear technology, and they also "cannot be
trusted with their oil."
But the Bush administration
cannot be trusted with foreign policy. Its military adventurism has
already proven disastrous across the globe. It's incumbent upon each of us
to do whatever we can to stop this race towards war.
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer working on a book for
progressives. She can be contacted via her web site at:
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