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Fool Us Twice?

From Iraq to Iran

by MARJORIE COHN

It’s déja vu. This time the Bush gang wants war with Iran. Following a carefully orchestrated strategy, they have ratcheted up the "threat" from Iran, designed to mislead us into a new war four years after they misled us into Iraq.

Like its insistence that Iraq had WMD, the Bush administration has been hyping claims that Iran seeks nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), however, has found no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says there is plenty of time for negotiation with Iran.

Bush has sent two battle carrier groups, replete with nukes, to the Persian Gulf and a third is reportedly preparing to follow. In support of Bush’s case that Iran poses a danger to the U.S., three unnamed American officials ceremoniously trotted out metal parts found in Iraq and claimed Iran supplied them to kill our soldiers in Iraq.

This "evidence" – or "packaging," as the Associated Press calls it – doesn’t pass the straight face test with most reputable observers. "The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the ‘highest levels’ of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops," according to Monday’s Washington Post.

Saturday’s New York Times cited information gleaned from "interrogation reports" from Iranians and Iraqis captured in the recent U.S. raid on the Iranian embassy in northern Iraq. They allegedly indicated money and weapons components are brought into Iraq over the Iranian border at night. If those people indeed provided such information, query what kind of pressure, i.e. torture, might have been applied to encourage their cooperation. Recall the centerpiece of Colin Powell’s 2003 lies to the Security Council about ties between Iraq and al Qaeda came from false information tortured out of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.

Any Iranian weapons in Iraq may belong to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite resistance group the U.S. used to support. There could be old Iranian munitions lying around which are left over from the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. A former high level U.S. military officer told me it was not uncommon to find large caches of weapons around Iraq. He cited the 2004 discovery of 37,000 American Colt 45 handguns in a warehouse near the Iranian border on the Iraq side, likely procured "when Saddam was our friend." The United States armed both sides in the Iran-Iraq conflict.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, released last week, concluded that Iranian or Syrian involvement is "not likely to be a major driver of violence" in Iraq.

Paul Krugman wrote that even if Iran were providing aid to some factions in Iraq, "you can say the same about Saudi Arabia, which is believed to be a major source of financial support for Sunni insurgents – and Sunnis, not Iranian-backed Shiites, are still responsible for most American combat deaths." Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. But as Krugman mentions, the Bush administration’s "close personal and financial ties to the Saudis" have caused it to downplay "Saudi connections to America’s enemies."

American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan. Yet the Bush administration hasn’t complained about the Taliban attacks on Afghanistan that originate in Pakistan, a country with documented nuclear weapons. Of course the Bush administration is cozy with the Pakistani regime.

The government of Israel, which also has nukes, is fueling the call for an invasion of Iran. On February 7, the Los Angeles Times cited Israeli politicians and generals warning of a "second Holocaust" if no one fails to prevent Tehran from acquiring nukes.

Israel would like to start a war with Iran and supports this desire by citing a quote from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be wiped off the map. But this is an erroneous translation of what he said. According to University of Michigan professor Juan Cole and Farsi language analysts, Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, who said the "regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Cole said this "does not imply military action or killing anyone at all." Journalist Diana Johnstone points out the quote is not aimed at the Israeli people, but at the Zionist "regime" occupying Jerusalem. "Coming from a Muslim religious leader," Johnstone wrote, "this opinion is doubtless based on objection to Jewish monopoly of a city considered holy by all three of the Abramic monotheisms." Iran has not threatened to invade Israel.

Indeed, only 36 percent of the Jews in Israel told pollsters last month they thought a nuclear attack by Iran posed the "biggest threat" to Israel. Americans concur. Seventy-five percent want negotiations in lieu of war with Iran.

Yet Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, all beholden to the Israel lobby, have bought into Bush’s dangerous rhetoric about Iran.

It would be sheer lunacy to make war on Iran. Three former high-ranking U.S. military officers and a coalition of 13 British think-tanks and faith groups have warned that an attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences.

Bush probably won’t ask Congress to bless his Iran war. He will provoke a confrontation and then claim we have to fight back. Last year, the New York Times documented a January 2003 meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, where Bush "talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation [with Iraq], including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire."

A nuclear attack on Iran would violate U.S. obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Any attack would violate the U.N. Charter. All treaties we ratify become part of U.S. law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Twelve European, international, and U.S. legal and human rights groups issued an open letter warning of the illegality of any offensive military action by the U.S. against Iran.

Congress has tied itself in knots over a non-binding resolution on Iraq. If our elected representatives responded to their constituencies instead of the Bush gang’s fear mongering, they would stand up to him and pass a modern day Boland Amendment forbidding military action against Iran.

MARJORIE COHN is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association Jurists. Her new book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, will be published in June.