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Imagine you are leader of a nation with a population of 69 million, and one fifth the size of the US. You have massive oil and gas deposits but your country is otherwise appallingly poor, being over 70 per cent desert that cannot be irrigated because there are few water sources. Your armed forces are equipped with antique tanks and airplanes that would be suitable as memorials to your dead after your country has been invaded, which you have reason to believe may be its fate.
The reason for your belief is that you are surrounded by ten countries that host enormous military bases occupied by hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of strike aircraft belonging to a power whose leader calls you "evil" and wants to overthrow you. The countries with which you trade have been warned of punishment for doing so, and the leader of the power that threatens you has twenty major warships, including aircraft carriers, aggressively patrolling your shores and daring you to react to their coat-trailing forays at the edge of your territorial waters. Each of his carriers holds between 10 and 30 nuclear bombs and their scores of strike aircraft are at a moment’s notice to bombard your country with them or with "conventional" ordnance, which no doubt takes some weight off your mind. Further, other surface ships and three of that power’s submarines in your region can at a moment’s notice rain hundreds of cruise missiles upon you, as can its dozens of strategic nuclear bombers based thousands of miles away.
Your entire country is subject to the most sophisticated electronic spying operations ever conceived and operated by mankind. Your borders are ceaselessly patrolled by drones and manned aircraft that are ready to neutralize your air defense radars before you are attacked. All your codes have been broken and every electronic communication your government makes is intercepted.
The country whose leader has threatened you has 7,088 nuclear weapons, an unknown number of which are poised to wipe out your cities, and has a paid ally which also has a substantial nuclear arsenal. This ally is prepared and indeed most anxious to attack you.
In addition to calling you "evil", the leader of the country that threatens you says you must be punished because you "pursue weapons of mass destruction". (His own 7,088 nuclear bombs and warheads are not, of course, "weapons of mass destruction".) In February he declared you to be "the world’s primary state sponsor of terror" which, although on a par with the lying implication that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 (still believed by millions of brainwashed dolts), is evidence of more than slight antagonism. You are probably a trifle disturbed about the rhetoric, but rather more worried about the physical evidence of a massive build-up of assault forces surrounding you from all points of the compass. The religious extremists and bigots in the government of the country whose leader calls you "evil" detest you and everything you stand for. They broadcast propaganda against you and admire fundamentalist Christian generals who hold positions of great influence and have publicly despised and reviled your religion.
You are, in fact, up shit creek without a paddle, but for one thing: You have the capability to produce nuclear weapons that could prevent your enemy from attacking you, because if it does, you would have a means of striking back. Your declared and relentless enemy has announced it will do everything in its power to stop you having nuclear weapons.
What do you do?
The scenario is that of Iran and Bush Washington, of course. And we should remember that Rice said in February that a US attack on Iran was unlikely. Just as Bush told the world in 2002 that a US attack on Iraq was unlikely at the very time he was, according to a record of discussion by the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, already well-advanced in preparations for invasion. (It is notable, but not covered in the US media, that the White House has not denied this incontrovertible evidence of Bush deceit. They — the media and the White House — just hoped it would go away and be forgotten. And it has : down the Orwellian memory-hole.)
But when Bush was asked in January if he would attack Iran he replied "I will never take any option off the table." That immature semi-threat convinced the Iranians that at some time he will try to do so. Iranians are a proud people, which is a concept that Bush Washington simply cannot grasp. There are two types of nations in the Bush zealots’ eyes : those that fall in with everything they are told to do by Washington, and the Rest. They cannot, will not, understand that countries having differing points of view to that of the Bush cabal might have good reasons for holding such ideas, and that their national pride should be neither ignored nor eradicated. According to them, these nations "don’t get it", and must suffer accordingly. This is why the US is now deeply hated by countless millions round the world and is the despair of those who would in normal (non-Bush) circumstances be its natural and most supportive allies.
The Bush alternative to the US attacking Iran is to let Israel do it for him, as Cheney suggested on MSNBC by saying " . . . the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards." That was blatant encouragement of Israel to strike Iran, but note the words "the diplomatic mess". That is all that matters to such devious scum as Cheney. The innumerable deaths of innocent people resulting from a bombing blitz by his Israeli friends are of no concern to him. All he thinks about is the "rest of the world" — not Bush Washington — "cleaning up the diplomatic mess". When other countries do not slavishly follow Washington’s line and are too weak to be able to retaliate (like Iraq), the first solution that draft-dodging, lily-livered, gutless, bullying little cowards like Bush and Cheney think about is bombing the hell out of them.
The Tehran government feels its country is threatened by the imperial might of the United States of America, and fears that the vast US arsenal will be used to destroy it as a nation. Understandably, if simplistically, it actually pays attention to what Bush says and does about his foreign policy. It realizes that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons and posed no threat whatever to the United States, and was invaded and occupied, thus reducing it to a state of anarchic bloody shambles. On the other hand, North Korea does have a nuclear weapon, probably two or three, and poses a serious threat to US interests, and Bush is terrified of invading it. That proves, think the beards in Tehran, that if we don’t get a bomb, fast, then the maniacal Bush and his fundo generals will flatten our cities, invade us, and behave like barbarians thereafter by bashing down doors at midnight, terrifying our women, blaring insults at our people from loudspeakers, shooting civilians, torturing innocent captives for fun, and literally getting away with murder.
Iranian leaders imagine that a US occupation would reduce their country to the squalor and terror of Iraq. ("Before the US-led invasion Baghdad residents enjoyed about 20 hours of electricity a day. Today they get about 10, usually broken into two-hour chunks. There are also frequent fuel and drinking water shortages. And only 37 percent of the population has a working sewage system." – Associated Press, May 26. And : "Mosul, Iraq, May 26 (Reuters) – US forces shot dead a child during an exchange of gunfire near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, the US military said.") Iran would be another Bush colony with puppet politicians who take their orders from Rice and Rumsfeld while suffering brutal occupation by soldiers who are not answerable to any elected representative of the country they grind under their jackboots. Anything, they think, would be better than that.
Like kid-killing, nuclear weapons are vile. My opinion is that nobody should have them, which is hopelessly naïve, human nature being what it is. (It is a view now shared by many who, like me, were at one time closely involved in preparations for nuclear war in Europe and know a bit about what these horrible things can do.) But even I can see the point that the men in Tehran are making. They have been forced into a corner by inflexible, nuke-loving, Christian fundamentalist fanatics whose preferred approach to international affairs is bullying confrontation. These dangerous ignoramuses control US policy and support Israel’s covert nuclear weapons’ program, and Iran is worried about this because Israel has 300 F-16 nuclear-capable attack aircraft and over 200 nuclear bombs for them to deliver. If Israel is unleashed by Cheney, Rice and Bush, its aircraft will blitz Iran unhindered by the hundreds of US aircraft and surface-to-air missiles surrounding Iran’s borders.
Rice has said "I feel a deep bond to Israel", and "the security of Israel is the key to security of the world" (a personal policy statement of May 14, 2003 that is not altogether an assurance that she is even-handed concerning Israel and the Islamic nations), and this year announced that "The Iranians should not consider themselves immune from the major changes that are going on in the region".
That is fair warning, and should be heeded by the world at large. The major changes in the immediate region of Iran have been the invasion and subjugation of Iran’s immediate neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a message the Iranians have received, loud and clear. And Rice is determined to penalize Tehran in any way she can. Flexing her head muscles, she warned India of US "concerns" about a gas pipeline to Pakistan and India from Iran. This "concern" is malevolent and has nothing to do with the economic wellbeing of India and Pakistan, which are desperately short of energy and would benefit enormously from the project. It has everything to do with spiteful determination to cripple Iran economically, no matter the harm to anyone else. Her present machinations to pressure the Pakistan government into dropping the pipleline scheme are utterly contemptible.
Should Iran decide to ignore the blandishments of the Europeans and continue to develop a nuclear weapons’ program — which it is almost certainly doing — its leaders will justify their actions by saying the only way to deter an imperial power that has 7,088 nuclear weapons from attacking it is to be able to respond with at least one or two. And if Israel, the nuclear deputy of the US, is given tacit permission to attack Iran by Bush Washington, then it would be surprising if Tehran did not want to retaliate. After all, they could claim (if anyone in Iran or Israel is left alive — and there might be a few hundred thousand US dead, too) : why should nukes be OK for you and not for us?
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com