Saturday, 10 March 2012

Iran: To Attack or Not To Attack?

Should the USA attack Iran? That is the burning question American politicians are attempting to answer at the moment. I would love to think that a simple "no" should suffice, but clearly that is not a satisfactory answer in the eyes of most neo-cons. I will, therefore, try to show why I agree with the Israeli ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who said that attacking Iran is "the stupidest idea he'd ever heard".


I first began worrying about the possibility of a looming war in November 2011 when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published its report, warning that Iran appears to be on a clear path to developing a nuclear weapon. The report quickly made its way to the headlines of major US newspapers like The New York Times and raised concern among the populace. But even when - or especially when - reading major tabloids, one must "trust but verify". And after some initial verification, many realised that the IAEA report was not as reliable as they have previously believed. Seymour M. Hersh wrote a fascinating story in The New Yorker entitled "Iran and the IAEA". Here is an accessible explanation of the article, from The Young Turks' host Cenk Uygur:

But it was not until Robert Kelley's warning that people began paying attention. Here is what the former IAEA Chief Inspector had to say:
"When a country goes to war, as the U.S. did in 2003 with disastrous results, there should be some lessons learned on the table. It would appear there are no lessons learned being used in the current hysteria. The most important is peer review. The accusations leveled against Iraq in the nuclear area in 2003 were largely from the mouth of one single low-level analyst in the U.S. He got far outside his competence and made accusations that were shredded in peer reviews by far more competent people, yet his view bubbled to the top because the peers were muzzled and his scary message was more welcome in high circles. The November 2011 IAEA Board Report [on Iran] looks like déjà vu.... I think the Board of Governors should demand an investigation of the report and an independent review, line by line, of where that information was coming from, and why it was spun so heavily to one side."  
—Robert Kelley, former IAEA Chief Inspector

When the Obama administration somewhat unexpectedly announced that the US troops will be removed from Iraq just in time for Christmas, I was torn between feelings of relief and foreboding. The timing seemed a little uncanny in juxtaposition with the questionable IAEA report. And then it began - the Republican Presidential Candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) began touting their willingness to go to war with Iran. Here is what they had to say at the CBS News & National Journal GOP Debate in November 2011:

Unexpectedly, I found myself nodding along as Ron Paul spoke. In his words: "I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq. And you know they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction and it was orchestrated and it was, to me, a tragedy of what’s happened these past 10 years, the death and destruction, $4 billion - $4 trillion in debt." This is the view I would have expected of any sane aspiring leader. But, sadly, Newt Gingrich summed up the general GOP and neo-con approach towards a possible war in Iran very well:

  1. Carry out "maximum covert operation to block and disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable."
  2. Engage in "maximum coordination with the Israelis, in a way that allows them to maximize their impact to Iran."
  3. Employ an "absolute strategic program ... of every possible aspect short of war, of breaking the regime and bringing it down."
  4. If these measures fail and the dictatorship persists "you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have nuclear weapons."

Whilst the second point probably does not surprise anyone, due to the US right wing's infamous support for Benjamin Netanyahu and the state of Israel, the extent of covert operations on Iranian territory might not be known to many. Covert operations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists have been going on since 2007 and have claimed their most recent victim - thirty-two-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a professor of chemistry and the deputy director of Iran’s premiere uranium enrichment facility - on January 11, 2012. The identity of the attacker is not known, but odds are he is either an Israeli or, indeed, an American. As a recent article entitled "We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran" written by Paul Pillar stresses, "the timing of the chemist’s death—amid a series of diplomatic events that came fast and furious in January and February, each further complicating relations with Iran—had the effect of dramatizing how close this covert war may be to becoming an overt one." In other words, in the end the US and its treasured ally Israel might have no other choice but to go to war, because if tensions continue rising, a seemingly insignificant incident could set off a lethal chain reaction. Fear mongering, especially when used by prominent US politicians, is likely far more dangerous than any of them realise. This danger is well articulated in a slightly lighthearted article in The Economist, "The View from Tehran", written from the perspective of Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "it is hard to be sure [whether America will initiate an attack on Iran or not.] I would feel a lot safer if we already had that bomb."


In his provocative article, "On Bombing Iran, A False Choice", T. X. Hammes goes even further and states that the decision whether or not to bomb Iran is a false choice, because it is only a matter of time before Iran acquires a weapon of mass destruction. According to him, "the real choice is facing an Iran with nuclear weapons or an Iran with nuclear weapons after you have bombed it." And the answer seems crystal clear. So, once more, I am forced to say "No." Attacking Iran would be a very stupid idea indeed.

Images: via 9gag - Art to Think About

© Sabina T., 2012. All rights reserved.

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