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

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail