Iran, in 2007, faces an enormous peril to its independence, land, and people. The future of the country is in the balance, depending in part on the ability of its current strongmen to checkmate their adversaries.
Iraq tells us what is at stake here (see for example, Barry M. Lando, 2007, Web of Deceit). By now, entire cities have been reduced to rubble, garrisons, misery, and chaos. Vast tracts of land are contaminated, and meaningful jobs are as scarce as hen's teeth. The neo-colonialists have shrewdly resorted to a divide-and-conquer policy. As in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and scores of other places, they have fomented a bloody civil war, complete with extreme sectarian violence and government-sponsored death squads. Iraqi Arabs are daily humiliated, tortured, and incarcerated by the neo-colonialists and their quislings, to the point that some ordinary men and women prefer a Samson-style death to the living hell that is now Iraq. Iraqi scientists and intellectuals have been systematically murdered and silenced by the occupying forces and their allies. Fear is in the air, everywhere.
The numbers themselves defy belief. The USA was instrumental in bringing Saddam Hussein to power, and is thus indirectly and partially responsible for his crimes and misadventures. Iraq's war with Iran was partially engineered by the USA and its weapons' manufacturers, sustaining a cataclysm that may have caused, to both sides combined, some 1,000,000 deaths and 2,000,000 injuries. The subsequent USA-imposed economic strangulation (1990-2003) has been probably responsible for the death of an additional 1,000,000 Iraqis, and, since 2003, the invasion and occupation of Iraq caused the loss of some 600,000 lives. The number of maimed and injured since 2003 is, most likely, even higher than 600,000. The number of refugees probably exceeds 1,000,000. Thus, over the past 26 years or so, as a result of Anglo-American interventions and their shock and awe tactics, perhaps 7% of the Iraqi people have been directly or indirectly murdered, another 7% might have been physically injured, and yet another 7% forced into exile. Moreover, most surviving Iraqis have suffered psychological traumas and shell shocks that might haunt them for the rest of their lives. To add insult to injury, many of the victims have been children and other innocent bystanders. One can legitimately argue about these order-of-magnitude estimates and the extent to which these upheavals slowed down population growth in Iraq, in part because one must infer these very estimates from what the killers themselves choose to divulge. Notwithstanding such uncertainties, the deliberate, virtually unilateral, carnage is on a sufficiently large scale to be considered a genocide.
At the same time, Iraq's oil wealth has been appropriated by the neo-colonialists. For the real rulers of the USA -- the power players in the shadows, the big bankers, oil men, arms merchants, the Israeli lobby, the people who predetermine who wins and loses any given Federal, state, and local election -- Iraq, like any other imperialistic project, has been a bonanza. These tycoons have made billions, and they are intent on making more. That they do not anticipate ever leaving Iraq is evident from the installation of vast permanent military bases in that occupied land, at a staggering cost to the long-suffering, mostly decent but hoodwinked, American people. Wanted or not, these lovers of skulls and bones (always from a safe distance, of course) plan to keep these bases at least for as long as the palm trees shall grow and the oil flow. They are interested, as Henry Kissinger cynically explained, in undercover actions, not in social work.
In my view, the gravest error Iran could commit is underestimating the tenacity, determination, colossal greed, and Machiavellian brilliance of its American adversaries. Iran's black gold is simply too tempting for men who have been conditioned, all their lives, to dispense with any common decency whatsoever and to worship wealth and power. These men plan to re-colonize and depopulate Iran, and they are merely looking for the right moment. If that moment does not come on its own, they will skillfully create it. Neither Iran, nor any other country, could contain them through conventional wars.
When the USA finally makes its move, it would send 100,000 profitable (profitable to the arms and oil merchants, that is) sorties of destruction, week after bloody week, thus sending Iran "back to the stone age," and only then will America move its gun ships, tanks, and armored vehicles towards Tehran. If "conventional" destruction fails, the USA might use profitable "tactical" nuclear weapons, without blinking an eye. Either way, there will be precious few power and industrial plants left standing in Iran, few hospitals, few factories, few military installations, few water treatment plants, and fewer civilians. For America's rulers, anything goes -- as long as they manage to keep the oil wells out of harm's way
To avoid this hell, Iranian policy should seek to outfox America's rulers at their own game, not, as Iran's decision-makers do now, by responding with justifiable but suicidal anger to American provocations. Somerset Maugham says someplace that the politicians he has known, seen, or heard about did not impress him with their brilliance. To survive, Iran's rulers must prove him wrong. How?
Above all, Iran must buy time. First, Iran's decision-makers should swallow their pride and let go for the moment of one and all nuclear projects. They must bide their time, preserve their nation's independence, minimize their losses, protect their people from genocide, and strengthen the infrastructure of their own country. Second, Iranians should not play into their enemies' hands by militarily escalating the conflict. Their enemies are not paper tigers. They will not blink, for these enemies have vast oil fields to gain and nothing to lose -- they are playing with their countrymen's money and lives, not their own. Third, in their speeches and actions, Iran's politicians might wish to portray themselves as lovers of peace, as leaders who are committed to social justice and freedom for people of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds, thus depriving their enemies of much needed propaganda weapons. Fourth, Iran should use some of its wealth and the wealth of its friends to fund, behind the scenes, a lobby that would follow the examples of others in lavishly and skillfully swaying American policy and opinion makers. The USA, Iran must see, is a land of sunshine bribery (a.k.a. "campaign financing"), a land whose policies and media can be discreetly controlled by outsiders and by a cabal of homegrown billionaires. It's a country that prostrates itself, always, to the highest bidder, a land where he who pays the congressman calls the wars.
Even if all these steps are taken, they might delay conquest but not avert it, for as everyone deep down knows, the dispute is about oil and world ownership, not about "terrorism," nuclear weapons, or "democracy" (see F. W. Engdahl. 2004. A Century of War). History is clear on this point. The Anglo-Americans wanted the Indigenous people's land, and heartlessly and systematically exterminated well over 10,000,000 men, women, and children to achieve that goal (David E. Stannard, 1992, American Holocaust). They wanted Massachusetts, Texas, California, the Philippines, Burma, Japan, Iraq, and got them -- by any means necessary. As America's resistance to meaningful global warming legislation shows, they are willing to risk humanity's very future to sustain their oil and power addictions.
Iran can gain time, but it cannot win a conventional or nuclear war against an implacable opponent which can count on a misinformed citizenry, a strong economy, and the most breathtaking killing machines the world has ever seen. Against such an opponent, courage, pride, or religious fervor avail nothing.
In the final analysis, Iran's only chance of saving itself involves conceptual flexibility, adopting its strategies to the demands of the situation, and not letting its enemies dictate the terms of engagement. To begin with, Iran must let the world know that it plans to use its air and sea power fully the moment the country is attacked, during the first hours of open conflict, before these weapons are destroyed.
Likewise, Iran must urgently acquire an additional deterrent which would forego large-scale, heads-on, subsequent engagements and which would appeal to the self-interest of Iran's would-be usurpers, not to their humanity. Instead of focusing on conventional defense, Iranians should dedicate every spare rial to a post-conquest strategy aimed at driving the neo-colonialists out should they ever try to physically take over the country. Instead of acquiring more battleships and fighting jets, Iran should purchase and widely distribute millions of submachine guns, night vision devices, hand-held antiaircraft, small armor-piercing weapons, and hand grenades. Plans should be taken now to establish a base for a government in exile, to totally annihilate, in the event of an invasion, airports, oil fields, pipelines, factories, roads -- anything that could aid or finance the long-term occupation of the country. The Russian scorched-earth model in the face of superior forces, the Swiss defense model, the Maoist model, the American model of conducting the revolutionary wars, should all be taken in consideration in devising a plan for evicting the occupiers. Only such concrete, highly conspicuous, preparations might convince Iran's would-be attackers that the personal costs to them (not to their country) of such an attack will exceed the benefits. These are, in my view, the only deterrents that might save Iran's current rulers from incarceration, torture, or hanging, the Iranian people from ruin, and the American people from culpability in yet another crime against humanity.
Dr. Moti Nissani teaches at Wayne State University, Michigan, USA, and is the author of Lives in the Balance: The Cold War and American Politics, 1945-1991. He can be reached at: Moti.Nissani@wayne.edu.
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