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The Nuclear Option is Still on the Table

The Bush-Cheney Fixation on Iran

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

Well done, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Washington weirdoes. They have succeeded where others have failed. From the tilting deck of their sinking ship they can truly claim ‘Mission Accomplished’, because they have forged amity out of enmity. Their crusade has drawn two countries together, and for this they must be given credit.

Unfortunately for Cheney-Bush foreign policy, the countries that have been drawn together and are establishing a military, religious and economic alliance are Iraq and Iran. The first of these is not totally grateful to the US, which invaded it and reduced it to chaos, while the second is just a tad anti-American because Bush Washington has been waging a campaign of vilification, insult and subversion against it since the macho War President proclaimed it a member of his Axis of Evil on January 29, 2002.

His absurdly-dubbed Axis consists of Iran, Iraq and North Korea. None of these countries has sent a terrorist to attack America. None of their governments (including Iraq under Saddam Hussein) is on record as supporting terrorism against the United States. Bush’s words were as malignant as they were moronic. Were any members of the Bush Axis responsible for the Madrid atrocity last year? Were there any North Koreans, Iraqis or Iranians involved in the London bombings? And how many Iranians, Iraqis or North Koreans were there on the 9/11 airplanes? No; no; and none.

But let’s hear it for the peacemakers Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, for they have encouraged cooperation between an existing theocracy and the wreck of a country that will soon impose Sharia law. Mind you, I don’t see what Bush Washington can complain about : the forthcoming régime in Iraq will be little different to those in neighboring states with which the administration in Washington has such friendly ties. All the Gulf kingdoms are intolerant autocracies run by feudal families, and although women will probably be allowed to drive in Iraq (unlike in Saudi Arabia), the draft Iraqi constitution is far from being liberal concerning the rights of women, or, indeed, of men. Make no mistake : introduction of Sharia law was not on the list of Washington’s intentions before the cowboys went to war. Nor was the forging of Iranian friendship with Iraq, whose prime minister, Mr Jaafari, has said a bond with Iran is an "inseparable part of Iraq’s foreign relations."

Of course it’s difficult to know what was on the list of Bush’s post-war intentions before he invaded Iraq. It appears the White House and the Pentagon imagined that immediately after the wonderful victory over a country that didn’t have a single combat airplane or a tank under thirty years old there would automatically be a client state run by grateful Iraqis who would then welcome US oil companies to take over their birthright.

But it hasn’t worked out that way. Far from it. And the vexing thing is that this was foretold by the professionals in the State Department who were treated with contempt by Rumsfeld and his toadies. It is now apparent that Iran is very happy indeed to offer what assistance it can to its co-religionists across the border, and it might be dawning on the Pentagon that a regional alliance would certainly exclude the United States.

During his visit to Tehran in early July Iraq’s defense minister said "We have come to our Iranian brothers to ask them for help and we have not yet started on the more sensitive issues". His Iranian counterpart announced that his country would "help train, rebuild and modernize the Iraqi army" (it couldn’t do a worse job than is presently being done) and that "No one [read Washington] can prevent us from reaching an agreement." Then the Iraqi prime minister and a large delegation visited Iran July 16-19.

To the dismay of many of Corporate America’s high mucky-mucks who paid big money to buy the Cheney-Bush White House (the tacky creeps whom Bush, with customary vulgarity, calls "the have mores"), agreement was reached in Tehran that there will be "expansion of industrial and mining cooperation" between Iraq and Iran. (There is no dismay among the "have more" gun-runners who continue to prosper immensely, courtesy of the US taxpayer. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman got $49.7 billion from the Pentagon in fiscal 2004, and Halliburton’s shares have risen 92 percent because so far it has got more than $5.5 billion out of the war. It was announced on July 27 that Lockheed made a 56 per cent increase in profit in 2005′s second quarter. War is Good for Some.) The dismay and shudders were in the offices of a lot of CEOs in the oil and associated industries who supported the war on Iraq because they thought it would give them more opportunities to make scads of cash in the longer term.

Alas for the pig trough porkers, Iran’s Minister of Industries and Mines, Eshaq Jahangiri, announced that there will be "support [for] those investors from the public and private sectors willing to invest in various industrial and mining sectors in Iraq". This was calculated to produce Shock and Awe in Washington, Dallas and other centers of high culture where cozy arrangements were made about who was going to get what when Iraq’s oil came up for grabs after the war was over. Thanks to the Cheney-Bush obsession with Iran, US companies are forbidden to have anything to do with Iranian investors or investment, so the firms that will benefit will be from the frog-eating, chocolate-making, vodka-quaffing, stein-wielding bunch of nations who can never be forgiven for being right in telling Bush he was out of his mind to go to war on Iraq.

Then there is the oil pipeline that is to link Iran and Iraq. There are only twenty-five miles of it to be built, but the greedheads are aghast. The pipe will connect Iraq’s oil distribution center at Basra with the Iranian port of Abadan, and US corporations will not have anything to do with it, or with any further pipelines.

The last thing that US energy plutocrats want to happen is for Iraqi oil to flow to Iran and further east. And the last thing the Cheney-Bush regime wants is for Iran to gain in any way from anything, and especially from joining with Pakistan and India to build a pipeline which would benefit all three countries enormously. Earlier this year India was explicit about its need for more energy sources, and declared the proposed Iran-India pipeline to be essential. But Washington is determined to destroy the project.

In March, India’s foreign minister, Mr Natwar Singh, observed "We have no problems of any kind with Iran. We need a lot of new additions to our sources of energy, so the pipeline is important." Since then there have been meetings of government ministers of India, Pakistan and Iran, and negotiations were going well. The flamboyant-but-no-fool Indian Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, said in early July that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project will be "off the ground by early next year".

But later in July India’s Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, went to Washington.

Dr Singh is an honorable, decent and highly intelligent man (heaven knows why he is in politics), but he modified his enthusiasm for the pipeline after meeting with Bush on July 18. Next day Dr Singh told the Washington Post that the agreement with Iran and Pakistan was "fraught with difficulties" — none of which had been apparent before his meetings in Washington. He said "I am realistic enough to realise that there are many risks, because considering all the uncertainties of the situation there in Iran, I don’t know if any international consortium of bankers would underwrite this."

In other words, somebody told India’s leader that Washington will do everything in its power to stop international investment or loans for such an outrageously anti-American project. (And can you think of any particular person in Washington who might have told him that?) Certainly, Dr Singh declared that "We have the right to diversify sources, and the decision on the pipeline is between us and Iran. Outside parties have no role to play in this" — but they do, because Washington’s pride is at stake. Bush is determined to punish Iran, no matter the cost to third parties ; it’s as simple as that.

India was promised nuclear energy cooperation by the administration, so the head of General Electric was one of the chief guests at the Bush dinner for Dr Singh. (The gauche crassness of the White House knows no limits.) GE makes nuclear plant, and will reap enormous profits if (and it’s a big if) Cheney and Bush manage to convince Congress that US nuclear fuel and technology should be sold to Delhi.

The other problem with the Bush nuclear deal is that India will have to physically separate the civilian and military projects within its nuclear facilities in order to satisfy the terms of the Bush proposal (and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency), a task that would take years and cost billions of dollars. Perhaps Bush is prepared to pay the bill, but it is unlikely Congress would be happy to vote the money. India really does need nuclear fuel in order to keep its nuclear power plants functioning — but it could get it elsewhere, without GE being involved. Dr Singh was offered pie-in-the-sky to encourage him to cancel the Iran pipeline project. India has forecast it will have a severe, perhaps even catastrophic, energy crisis within six years if it does not take immediate action to guarantee its energy sources, but the bizarre policy of the Cheney-Bush administration is to destroy cooperation between two sovereign nations.

If Iraq and Iran cooperate in oil and gas production and build more pipelines there will be enormous benefits for the region. But not one cent would go to the pockets of the Bush donors from the energy sector who gave over ten million dollars to the Republican cause in the 2003-2004 campaign. (Defense industries gave a trifling 4.7 million dollars. Cheapskates.) In consequence, the pressure is mounting in Washington for action against Iran, which is probably engaged in a nuclear weapons’ program. Just like India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

The leaders in Tehran , fundo nuts as many may be, are right to be apprehensive about the dozens of gigantic US military fortresses that surround their country. To the north, east, south and west, there is a threatening US military presence. The Pentagon has bases in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The Iranian coast is dominated by nuclear-armed carriers and other ships carrying cruise missiles. The focus of this aggressive military buildup is Iran.

Bush’s menacing expeditionary force surrounding Iran is consistent with his baleful declaration that the country is ‘Evil’, and he has already invaded one of the three countries he categorized in similar fashion. His merciless determination to reduce Iran to poverty and its people to privation takes precedence over the urgent energy needs of India, which is a responsible democracy deserving of at least some consideration by the Cheney-Bush administration. But India can go jump. The Iran obsession must be served.

Early this year Bush announced that "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table." The message is unintentionally clear — the option of attacking Iran is open to him. The Iranian leaders would be crazy to take his words as meaning that the hundreds of strike aircraft surrounding them will not be unleashed in vengeful mayhem on their cities. And if ALL options are on the table, that includes the nuclear one.

There is no domestic control over the White House. Congress is impotent in instances in which it is not servile. There is no international control, because Bush can simply ignore the UN Charter, as he did last time he went to war. The Cheney-Bush administration is poised to rain destruction on one more country that has done the United States no harm. But if the cruise missiles and the bombers thunder into Iran there will be catastrophic consequences for America. The Messiah’s new "global struggle against violent extremism" will take on a very different meaning, because it is the US that will be judged to be the violent extremist.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com