FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ongoing War on Iran

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

More articles by:

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

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail