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The events of September 11, 2001, gave the so-called neo-cons a perfect opportunity to realize an old dream: the US subjugation of Iraq. Before this subjugation, however, the neo-cons prepared the grounds by engaging in an incessant and massive campaign about the alleged threats emanating from Iraq’s support for terrorism and its weapons of mass destructions. In retrospect, the neo-cons’ campaign turned out to be nothing more than a series of fabrications and even outright lies. Now, with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq complete, the neo-cons are busy making the case for their next target, Iran. A day does not go by without the neo-cons declaring the discovery of existence of al-Qaeda operatives or nuclear and biological weapon-making facilities in various parts of Iran. Is there any more truth to these discoveries than those in Iraq? Some historical back-tracking is helpful in answering the question.
Following the overthrow of the US’s strongman, the shah of Iran, in 1979, the US adopted what later came to be known as “the dual containment policy.” This policy consisted of trying to “contain” both Iran and Iraq in favor of the US’s client states in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia and Israel. The “containment” included: 1) encouraging and helping Saddam to start a war with Iran; 2) acting as a double agent by giving information and weapons to both sides, such as giving chemical agents to Saddam and using Israel to funnel arms to Iran in the infamous Iran-gate scandal; 3) establishing full diplomatic relations with the government of Saddam in 1984, after it became known that he was using chemical weapons against the Iranian forces; 4) putting Iran, in the same year, on the list of terrorist nations, so that it would not receive arms from any country; 5) passing numerous sanctions against Iran, particularly between 1984-87, to prevent it from winning the war; and 6) directly engaging Iran in 1986 by re-flagging Kuwaiti ships, sinking Iranian boats and oil platforms, and “accidentally” shooting down an Iranian civilian plane, killing 290 on board. The eight-year Iraq-Iran war ultimately resulted in over a million casualties and devastated both countries economically, but it did not exactly “contain” them. The containment of Iraq came when the US attacked Iraq in 1991, after Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam that “we have no opinion on . . . your border disagreement with Kuwait” and Saddam invaded Kuwait. But the neo-cons and their close associates, Israel’s Likud party and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), were not satisfied with this Iraqi “containment.” Instead, they wanted to see the installment of a puppet government in Baghdad and, hence, they started the relentless campaign against Iraq, which led to its invasion and occupation.
With regard to Iran, following the Iraq-Iran war, the US relied heavily on a policy of unilateral sanctions to “contain” it. The sanction policy became more intense in the 1990s under the leadership of Martin Indyk, former press advisor to Issak Shamir, founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (an AIPAC offshoot), National Security Advisor to Clinton for Middle East affairs and, ultimately, Ambassador to Israel. Following the AIPAC lead, Indyk, who is often credited for coining the “dual containment policy,” formulated three reasons for the continued US sanctions: Iran’s support for “international terrorism,” meaning groups fighting Israel; opposition to the Oslo peace process, which Likud opposed as well; and pursuit of “weapons of mass destruction,” which means any weapons that would prevent Israel from launching an attack on Iran. The sanctions policies, however, failed to destroy the Iranian economy and change the Iranian government’s “behavior.”
Following the events of 9/11 and the rapprochement between the Iranian reformers and the US State Department, the Likud, AIPAC and the neo-cons went to work. According to The Jerusalem Post of September 21, 2001, “Binyamin Netanyahu, testifying before the House Government Reform Committee, said that if the US includes terrorism-sponsoring regimes like Syria, Iran, or the Palestinian Authority in a coalition against worldwide terrorism, then the alliance ‘will be defeated from the beginning'”. Shortly after, Ariel Sharon compared Powell’s “vision” of a Palestinian State and his attempt at “coalition building” to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s. He then warned President Bush of “existential threats to Israel emanating from Iraq and Iran.”
The war drums kept on beating well into the following year. On January 4, 2002, Netanyahu wrote: “American power topples the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the al-Qaida network there crumbles on its own. The United States must now act similarly against the other terror regimesIran, Iraq, Arafat’s dictatorship, Syria, and a few others. Some of these regimes will have to be toppled, some of them punished and deterred.” On February 5, 2002, Sharon said in an interview with The London Times that “Iran is the center of ‘world terror,’ and as soon as an Iraq conflict is concluded, he will push for Iran to be at the top of the ‘to do list'”. The neo-cons followed a similar line. However, whereas the Likud would have liked to see Iran on the top of the hit-list, the neo-cons preferred to hit Iraq first.
Now that Iraq is governed by the US, the neo-cons and their cohorts are preparing the world for installing a puppet government in Iran. In this, they are relying mostly on the same dubious allegations that were used in the case of Iraq, that is, support for al-Qaeda and the development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly in Bushehr. But neither of these excuses holds much water. With regard to the first, it is hard to imagine that a country which nearly went to war against the Taliban in 1998 would now support al-Qaeda. With regard to the second, neither the US nor Israel ever raised any objections to the Bushehr power plant when it was first constructed and nearly completed by the shah in the mid 1970s.
Given the historical narrative outlined above and the highly dubious charges that are being levied against Iran, it is clear that the neo-cons are set on overthrowing the Iranian government. What is less clear is exactly how this would be done. It appears that a combination of a massive campaign of deceit, economic and political destabilization, and ultimately the use of force-including employing the services of the US’s “good terrorists,” Mujahedin-e-Khalq-e-Iran, which were preserved in Iraq for such contingencies-will do the job. What is also not quite clear is who would rule Iran. It seems that the Likud, AIPAC and neo-cons have decided that the lesser shah, the son of the late dictator, should return to the Peacock Throne to carry on his dad’s policies, policies which led to the Revolution of 1979 in the first place.
If the neo-cons and their cohorts are successful, then history would indeed repeat itself, as Hegel contended. But as Marx added, the first time is a tragedy and the second time is a farce.
SASAN FAYAZMANESH is Associate Professor of Economics Department of Economics California State University, Fresno. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org