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Leaving Pumpkin

Tub-Thumping About Iran

by AFSHIN RATTANSI

If reports that the Iranian military has shot down a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Eastern Iran are true, than an alien from space would surely think that Europe and the U.S. are desperate for Iran to have a nuclear bomb. A bomb would surely prevent the U.S. from invading sovereign airspace. But, then again, it hasn’t prevented their killing of nuclear-armed Pakistan’s soldiers. So what is the explanation for U.S. and EU politicians’ taking time out from their economic catastrophes to damn the Islamic Republic for failing to control demonstrators in Tehran?

The British Foreign Secretary seems to think that continuous threats against a sovereign state – the absurd machismo of “all options are on the table” – will have no impact on a population. Given the British diplomatic presence in Tehran, it was obvious that anger would be directed at the vast UK Embassy complex that, for some reason, continues despite the 1979 Revolution. I only visited the embassy once and I did think it a little odd that such beautiful prime real estate was still in the hands of the UK, rather than the poor that the Revolution was supposed to liberate.

After Iranian police failed to control the demonstrators, the Iranian Foreign Ministry apologized to a warmongering British government, regretting “the unacceptable acts of a few protesters”, saying it respected the immunity of foreign diplomatic missions. But that just wasn’t good enough and the mainstream media buried the apology. Who can blame European and American politicians for wanting to distract their own populations from the blight of economic misery with a virtual threat of genocide against a country of 75 million? The usual round of arm-chair generals toured television studios to explain the usefulness of surgical strikes on 10,000 targets and how collateral damage – 50,000? 100,000? – was foreseeable and manageable.

The problem with coverage of the phony war against Iran is exemplified by The Guardian newspaper which explained to its readers, this week, that Press TV – for which I make television programs – is “the overseas voice of the Tehran government.” This was in an article about how the UK government’s media censorship agency has decided not to ban the channel in Britain, instead fining it $160,000. Notwithstanding the fact that The Guardian has been fearlessly attacking the founder of Wikileaks in recent months, it still shocks me that the paper which honorably opposed the Iraq war and for which I wrote a column has decided to beat the drums of war over Iran. Since Libya, the heartbeat of liberal interventionism seems never to have been stronger.

It is, of course, an accolade for a television channel – especially one that has sought to bring real news about Empire and Imperialism to the masses — to be considered for sanction in this way. No doubt, the brighter officials at Britain’s censorship agency could see what kind of propaganda coup it would be for Press TV, had it been banned.

It was, left to the anchor, Kay Burley of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News to gently ask her clueless security correspondent, Sam Kiley, about the incoherence of Western policy on nuclear activity, given that Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East. But nevertheless, as Counterpunch readers know well, Yukiya Amano’s bizarre IAEA watchdog in Vienna continues to operate as an arm of the U.S. neo-con establishment. The irony is that neo-cons do sometimes seem to understand the self-defeating nature of ramping up rhetoric and meddling with the IAEA. Former USAF general and director of the Center for Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas Donnelly in The Weekly Standard said as much when he wrote that the U.S. was “..fixated on the Iranian nuclear program while the Tehran regime has its eyes on the real prize: the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East.”

While the tensions play out in the media and the GOP Presidential debates, it is rapidly obvious to anyone actually in Iran that the country is not isolated at all. While a previous UK Ambassador to Tehran, the estimable Geoffrey Adams, probably said as much, the man the UK government sent in October, Dominick Chilcott, seems either to be hopelessly out of his depth or obeying orders. Quoted in the UK, the fleeing Ambassador spoke about his dog, Pumpkin: ‘It’s very noisy as well as quite unsettling and frightening, particularly for the dog. I had her in my arms for quite a lot of what was going on. She was very well behaved. She’s been through this traumatic experience and we’ve put her in the good care of some diplomatic colleagues from another country. We hope we will be reunited with her in due course.’

Who is this dog-loving expelled British Ambassador, one might ask. Well, two years ago, he was called to the UK Inquiry into the Iraq debacle that shares his name but not spelling. On the day of his hearing, a UK Foreign Office Aide insisted “”He’s absolutely not related to Sir John Chilcot. The spelling’s not the same.” Well, in any case, the owner of “Pumpkin” was asked in his capacity as a former UK Foreign Office man. His title? Head of Iraq Planning Unit, Foreign Office, 2003. How he was given the Tehran job is a story our present Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will tell in his memoirs. Perhaps it was all a big misunderstanding with the U.S. State Department.

There may be economists and K Street arms company lobbyists baying for Keynesian Militarism as a way out of economic depression. One doesn’t need to be a Bismarck or a Talleyrand to work out the international impact of a U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iran. Media reports about asymmetric plans to paralyze US military logistics at the US Air Force’s Ramstein Base in Germany are nothing compared to the fires that will ignite, from Atlantic to Indian Oceans.

AFSHIN RATTANSI, author and journalist, runs Alternate Reality Productions Ltd. One of its commissions is Double Standards (www.doublestandardstv.com), broadcast on Press TV. He can be reached via afshinrattansi@hotmail.com.