FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ongoing War on Iran

by PATRICK COCKBURN

The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest. The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion in 2003.

The supposed aim of imposing sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and central bank, measures officially joined by the EU, is to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program before it reaches the point where it could theoretically build a nuclear bomb. Even Israel now agrees that Iran has not yet decided to do so, but the Iranian nuclear program is still being presented as a danger to Israel and the rest of the world.

There are two other menacing parallels between the run-up to the Iraq war and what is happening now. The purported issue is the future of the Iranian nuclear program, but, for part of the coalition mustering against Iran, the real purpose is the overthrow of the Iranian government. The origin of the present crisis was the moves last November and December by the neoconservatives in the US, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington to impose sanctions on Iranian oil exports and Iran’s central bank. These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their program and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict.

In reality, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonization of Iran. The problem is that Israel and its right-wing American allies are more interested in regime change than Tehran’s nuclear program. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz succinctly stated the differences between the Israeli government and Washington. It said that “while the Americans are actively seeking a way to start a dialogue, Israel is preaching confrontation and the toppling of the government in Tehran”.

It is this latter policy that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran. The Iranian government has been given no diplomatic way to climb down without humiliation. Its nuclear program has been turned into a symbol of resistance to foreign diktats. This makes it impossible for anybody in the fractious Iranian leadership to compromise without being denounced as a traitor by political opponents.

Whatever the intentions of Barack Obama when he was elected, the covert offensive initiated by President Bush against Iran has continued. He signed a secret “presidential finding” in 2008 [as Andrew Cockburn reported on the CounterPunch website in a world exclusive on May 2, 20008] under which $400m was allocated to fund Iranian government opponents. The US’s new allies included unsavoury groups such as the Sunni sectarian killers of Jundullah operating in Iranian Baluchistan. The US may have intended to limit the degree of co-operation but, according to Foreign Policy magazine, Mossad agents simply posed as CIA members in dealing with Jundullah. What was the point of these pinprick attacks? A few bombs in Iranian Baluchistan are not going to pose much of a threat to the Iranian leadership in Tehran. The motive was most probably to provoke the Iranians into retaliation against the US which would bring a US-Iranian military conflict closer.

The same may well be true of the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. A little-noticed aspect of these is that the scientists were easy to kill because they were driving themselves around Tehran in their own cars. But any country that has evidence its top scientists are at risk provides them with security. The lack of the simplest security measures argues that these scientists were never at the centre of Iran’s nuclear program. A more likely explanation for the attacks, assuming that Israel was behind them, was to provoke Iran into a retaliation against the US or Israel that would be a casus belli.

It is difficult not to admire the skill with which  Netanyahu has maneuvered the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid. He has been helped by the Iranian President’s anti-Semitic outbursts and the apparent fixing of the 2009 presidential election. But Netanyahu’s most effective weapon has been the threat that Israel would unilaterally launch air strikes unless the White House did something. This has always been less likely than it looked. Israel has seldom gone to war without a “green light” from the US.

A more rational explanation of Israeli threats to act alone is that they were wholly designed to scare the White House and its European allies. The Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, made blood-curdling speeches about the imminence of the Iranian threat leaving Israel with no option but to launch a pre-emptive strike (until he quite recently said the opposite). The former head of Mossad gave credibility to unilateral Israeli action by warning that it would be a self-inflicted disaster for his country.

These maneuvers succeeded. Serious sanctions are being imposed. Iran will have difficulty selling its oil. Its status as a regional power in the Middle East is weakening as the long-term survival of Bashar al-Assad, its most important ally, looks dubious.

Here again there is an uncomfortable parallel with Iraq. Sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003 impoverished Iraqis and criminalized much of its administration. Unicef said half a million children died because of sanctions. To the White House and European leaders, sanctions may appear preferable to armed conflict. Unfortunately, history shows that long embargoes kill more people than brief wars.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail