war On Iran
By Pepe Escobar
13 April, 2006
"All options, including the military one, are on the table."
- US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
officially, that dear Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world."
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, saying on Tuesday that Iran had successfully
enriched uranium for the first time, a landmark step toward its quest
to develop nuclear fuel.
ominous signs are "on the table" for all to see. The Pentagon
has its Long War, the rebranded "war on terror" that Vice
President Dick Cheney swears will last for decades, a replay of the
war between Eastasia and Oceania in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
President George W Bush issued
a "wild speculation" non-denial denial that the US was planning
strategic nuclear strikes against Iran, but Iran considerably upped
the ante on Tuesday with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's announcement
that Iran had enriched uranium for the first time. In a nationally televised
speech, Ahmadinejad urged the West to stop pressuring Tehran, saying
that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes.
Iranian nuclear officials
say the country has produced 100 tonnes of uranium gas, an essential
ingredient for enrichment. The United Nations Security Council has demanded
that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activity by April 28. Iran has
rejected the demand.
From the point of view of
the Pentagon's Long War, a strategic nuclear attack on Iran can be spun
to oblivion as the crucial next stage of the war on "radical Islam".
From the view of a factionalized European Union, this is (very) bad
business; the Europeans prefer to concentrate on the factionalized nature
of the Iranian government itself and push for a nuclear deal.
Iranian government officials
claim that the Germans and the Italians - big trade partners with extensive
economic interests in the country - are pushing for a deal more than
the French and much more than the British. As much as the EU cannot
possibly agree on a unified foreign policy, Europeans in fact reject
both sanctions and/or a possible US military strike.
Hitler meets Iraqification
The demonization of Ahmadinejad in some quarters in the US as the "new
Adolf Hitler" is beside the point. As Asia Times Online has shown
ultimate martyr, April 12), all crucial decisions in Iran
remain with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad
has been downgraded by the leader to play a "domestic" president's
His vocal, nationalist defense
of Iran's civilian nuclear program follows the leader's script, and
is met with approval because virtually all Iranians regard the issue
as a matter of national right and pride.
According to a late-January
poll by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, 85.4% of Iranians are in
favor of continuing with the nuclear program. More than 80% feel the
country needs nuclear energy. And about 70% regard the European negotiation
side as "illogical".
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,
the leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, issued a fatwa in the
1980s declaring that production, possession and use of nuclear weapons
was against Islam. Russia, China and India still take him at his word.
For the Iranian government,
the nuclear program is a powerful symbol of independence with regard
to what is perceived as Anglo-Saxon colonialism. The view is shared
by Iranians of all social classes and education backgrounds. Moreover,
Iran is pushing for a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement, stating
that every country has the right to a peaceful nuclear program. What
Iran officially wants is a nuclear-free zone in West Asia, and that
includes Israel, the sixth nuclear power in the world with more than
200 nuclear warheads.
But the issue itself may
be beside the point. What's really at stake is that while the occupation
of Iraq might be downgraded, the "invisible" US military bases
will consolidate the US presence in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region.
Ahmadinejad in this scenario is the perfect Hitler; US troops - and
bases - must remain on the ground to prevent Iran from going nuclear
and to prevent Iran's influence in Iraq's "Shi'iteistan".
Meanwhile, Washington's avowed
initiative of financing groups to provoke "regime change"
from within is widely viewed in Tehran as a joke. What Iranians - both
in government and in the bazaars and tea shops - take very seriously
is the US lending a hand to Israel squeezing Palestine even more - a
development also spun in Washington as part of the war on "radical
Islam". The Quadrennial Defense Review - the Pentagon's strategic
document calling for the Long War against terror - can be easily interpreted
as a call for a war on Islam.
The first steps towards
A war on Iran could involve
many military scenarios. Iranian officials are aware that the US may
go for an initial "shock and awe". But they play down the
possibility of a street revolution toppling the nationalist theocracy,
as Washington hopes; the regime controls everything, and in the event
of a foreign attack, virtually the whole population would rally behind
the government. They also exclude attacking Israel, because they know
Israel may respond with a nuclear strike. But they do not rule out the
possibility of the US dropping nuclear bombs on Iran.
Iran's current demonology
instrumentalizes the UN Security Council, in the name of "peace"
and nuclear non-proliferation. But Iranian officials keep complaining
that the country's official nuclear proposal was never examined in full
by the EU. It included a provision that Iran would continue to negotiate
with the EU-3 (Germany, France and Britain) on uranium enrichment for
two more years, and would resume enrichment only if negotiations failed.
The next step in the Security Council may be the imposition of "intelligent
sanctions" - an oxymoron. In practice, that would mean a partial
trade embargo on Iran, excluding food and of course oil and gas. Oil
and gas are once again the heart of the matter. A recent energy conference
in Tehran (In the heart of Pipelineistan, March 17) made it clear that
Iran is a crucial node of a proposed Asian energy-security grid, which
includes China, Russia and India. This grid would bypass Western - especially
US - control of energy supplies and fuel in a real 21st-century industrial
revolution all across Asia. It's no wonder that many analysts view the
war on Iran in essence as a war of the United States against Asia.
The ultimate prize
As was the case with Iraq,
Iran is being sold as a threat to world peace (it may be pursuing nuclear
weapons). Bush - at least vocally - hopes diplomacy will prevail. But
the decision to attack may have been made already, just as it was taken
regarding Iraq way before March 2003.
Iraq had signed the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but was accused of possessing weapons
of mass destruction (WMD). UN weapons inspectors were expelled on the
eve of the 2003 war. Iran has also signed the NPT, but is being accused
of pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. UN weapons inspectors still work
in the country on and off - but for how long?
In 1995, Iraq told UN inspectors,
via Saddam Hussein's brother-in-law Hussein Kamel, about a secret nuclear-weapons
program, which had just been scrapped. This did not prevent the regime
from being accused of concealing WMD just before the March 2003 invasion.
In 2002, Iran told the UN that it had a secret nuclear program - not
a weapons program. This did not prevent Iran from being accused four
years later by the EU-3 of "concealment and deception".
In November 2002, the US
threatened to strike Iraq unless it cooperated with UN inspectors. The
US invaded Iraq anyway, without Security Council backing. In January,
the EU-3 called for Iran to be referred to the Security Council. Sanctions
may be applied. If no diplomatic solution is found, the Pentagon may
find the opening it seeks for the next stage of its Long War.
Iran is not to be easily
intimidated. Few in Tehran take the threat of oil sanctions seriously.
Iranians know that even if the US decided to bomb the country's nuclear
sites, they are maintained by Russian advisers and technicians; that
would mean in effect a declaration of war against Russia. Russia recently
closed a US$700 million deal selling 30 Tor M-1 surface-to-air missiles
to Iran - very effective against aircraft, cruise missiles and guided
bombs. The missiles will be deployed at the nuclear-research center
at Isfahan and the Bushehr reactor, which is being built by Russia.
Iranians know Shi'ites in
the south and in Baghdad would turn extreme heat on the occupation forces
in Iraq. Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on an official visit to Iran,
according to his spokesman, said that "if any Islamic state, especially
the Islamic Republic of Iran, is attacked, the Mehdi Army would fight
inside and outside Iraq".
Iranians also know they can
bypass any trade sanctions by trading even more with China. Anyway,
Mohammed-Nabi Rudaki, deputy chairman of the National Security and Foreign
Policy Commission, which sits at the majlis (parliament), has already
threatened that "if Europe does not act wisely with the Iranian
nuclear portfolio and it is referred to the UN Security Council and
economic or air travel restrictions are imposed unjustly, we have the
power to halt oil supply to the last drop from the shores of the Persian
Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz".
Up to 30% of the world's
oil production passes through the strait. Were Iran to block it, the
United Arab Emirates and Kuwait would not be able to export their oil.
The Pentagon may eventually get its Long War - but not exactly on its
Copyright 2006 Asia Times