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Obama's Doublespeak on Iran

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On the US-Iran relationship, President Obama seems to be talking from both sides of his mouth. From one side we hear promising messages of dialogue and a "new beginning" with Iran; from the other side provocative words that seems to be coming right out of the mouth of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

For example, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year in March, while the President expressed willingness for "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect" he also warned Iran that it cannot "take its rightful place in the community of nations . . . through terror or arms."

Claims that Iran supports international terrorism or seeks to manufacture nuclear weapons were used by the Bush administration as excuses for not negotiating with Iran. President Obama's occasional mimicking of those claims (which completely disregards the expert views of both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the National Intelligence Estimate) is likewise bound to serve as a major obstacle in the way of a meaningful conversation with Iran.

In terms of actual policy measures, President Obama and his foreign policy team have not taken any steps to reverse or mitigate the hostile policies their predecessors put into effect against Iran.

Spearhead by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama's "point man" on Iran, Dennis Ross, the administration is pushing the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to further escalate multilateral sanctions against Iran if Tehran does not stop or limit its uranium enrichment (or nuclear-fuel production) activities. This demand is nothing short of sheer provocation because as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (and under the supervision of IAEA inspectors) such activities are altogether within the legitimate and lawful rights of Iran.

Furthermore, by occasionally parroting George W. Bush's militaristic song that, concerning Iran, "all options are on the table," President Obama has not disavowed his predecessor's favorite threat of "regime change" in Tehran.

This not-so-subtle threat of "regime change" in Iran is not, however, limited to purely rhetorical statements such as "all options are on the table." More importantly, there are ongoing destabilizing covert operations against Iran that are sponsored by various agents or agencies of the US government.

As Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, former National Security Council staff members, point out, "the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush's second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic."1

This means that

"the U.S. is, in effect, conducting a secret war against Tehran, a covert campaign aimed at recruiting Iran's ethnic and religious minorities . . . into a movement to topple the government in Tehran, or, at least, to create so much instability that U.S. intervention to 'keep order' in the region is justified. Given recent events in Iran -- a suicide bombing in the southeast province of Sistan-Baluchistan and at least two other incidents -- the effort is apparently ongoing.

"A suicide-bomber blast, which occurred inside a mosque in the city of Zahedan, killed at least 30 people: a rebel Sunni group [called Jundallah] with reported links to the U.S. claimed responsibility. . . . The violence was very shortly followed up by attacks on banks, water-treatment facilities, and other key installations in and around Zahedan, including a strike against the local campaign headquarters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Add to this an attempted bombing of an Iranian airliner…and you have a small-scale insurgency arising on Iran's eastern frontier."2

The Iranian government has repeatedly accused the U.S. and Israel of fomenting destabilizing covert activities across its borders. Although they deny any connection with Jundallah, the Pakistan-based terrorist organization that has claimed responsibility for a number of cross-border attacks on Iran, including the recent wave of bombings, ABC News, citing US and Pakistani intelligence sources, reported in 2007 that the terrorist group "has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials" to destabilize the government in Iran. 3

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) on the occasion of the publication of his article in The New Yorker, titled "Preparing the Battlefield," the renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed striking details of his findings on the goals of the $400 million budgeted by the US government for covert operations inside Iran. He provided valuable information on US military preparations to strike the country . . . and on the US support for the anti-Iran terrorist organizations Jundallah and MKO. 4

More evidence of the US involvement in the terrorist activities inside Iran came to light recently when the head of the Jundallah gang, Abdulmalik Rigi, "admitted receiving assistance from the terrorist group Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO)," a terrorist gang of Iranian expatriates under US protection in Iraq. There have been persistent intelligence reports of collaborations between the MKO and Jundallah in the past. But, in a significant admission, Rigi told a US-based satellite TV station . . . on June 2, "They [MKO] have had good intelligence collaborations with us and have provided us with much information about the activities of the Iranian regime."5

MKO, sheltered and armed by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, have killed thousands of Iranians in their decades-old campaign of bombings and other terrorist activities against Iran. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the MKO came under the protection of the occupying US power in Iraq. Although the US State Department officially lists MKO on its list of terrorist organizations, it nonetheless refuses to turn them in to Iranian authorities, as frequently requested. Nor has the US, as the MKO custodian, put an end to its terrorist activities against Iran.

That's why it is safe to argue that the US is playing a crucial (though largely submerged) role in the terrorist collaboration between Jundallah and MKO against Iran.

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Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of the newly published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism His Web page is http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh

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