By Dave Lindorff
With the Bush administration clearly pushing for war with Iran, as crazy as that would be, not just for an already over-extended, burned out military, but because of the havoc it would wreak on the global economy, it is time to call attention to a few points that are being ignored.
First of all, even US intelligence experts were saying only last year that Iran was at least 10 years away from having a bomb, so the alarmist claims being made by Bush and his gang, echoing the nonsense we heard in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, about the threat of nuclear holocaust, are simply scare tactics and should fool nobody.
Secondly, we should be asking why Iran would be trying to build a nuclear bomb in the first place, and what kind of threat it would pose if they did build one, or even several. Certainly an Iranian bomb would pose no threat to the U.S., any more than a North Korean bomb poses a threat to the U.S. With tens of thousands of bombs, including huge city-vaporizing H-bombs, in the US arsenal, no country except for Russia has the ability to seriously threaten America. The same goes for U.S. allies, whether in Europe or the Middle East. If Iran were to threaten Kuwait or Israel with nuclear attack it would simply be committing suicide because of US retaliation.
Clearly, the motive for Iran obtaining the bomb is then defensive. Iran is confronted by Israel, which does have a considerable number of nuclear bombs, and the means of delivering them to Iran. This is a real threat to Iran, and just as America and Russia developed a program of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to prevent nuclear holocaust, just as India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have developed a program of MAD, so Iran wants to protect itself from a nuclear Israel by establishing a condition of MAD. The US only adds to the pressure on Iran’s leadership to get themselves into the nuclear club by its repeated bellicose threats to attack that country.
The historical record shows that America does not attack nations that have their own nuclear weapons, and Iran understandably wants to achieve that kind of protected status.
The fevered rhetoric emanating from the White House regarding alleged fears of a nuclear Iran also should be put in historical context. The administration keeps asking why Iran, the second-largest oil-exporting nation in the world, would need nuclear power, implying that the only reason for Iran’s wanting to build nuclear power plants and to develop the capability to refine uranium, would be to develop bombs. In the 1960s however, the US actively encouraged the Shah of Iran (installed in that country courtesy of a CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran’s elected government) in his campaign to build 20 nuclear reactors, and also supplied him with a research reactor. The Shah was also known to the US to be working aggressively at developing nuclear weapons. At the nuclear research facility, which the US built for the Shah, there was known to be research on nuclear weapons design, on plutonium extraction, and on laser-enrichment processes. Indeed, by 1979, when the shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution, Iran was widely known to have the most advanced nuclear program in the Middle East—all accomplished with America’s blessing and assistance. (The Shah even had discussions in the late 1970s with Israel about modifying Israel’s Jericho surface-to-surface missile for Iranian use—a missile that is nuclear capable.)
So clearly, the US has not in the past thought it improper for Iran to be conducting nuclear weapons research, or to be constructing nuclear power plants.
Now let’s just summarize why an attack on Iran, as reportedly being urged by Vice President Dick Cheney, and threatened by President Bush, would be a disaster even worse than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. First of all, attacking Iran, a Shia Muslim nation, would inevitably lead Iran to order retaliation by its Shia allies in Iraq against already strapped US forces in Iraq. Shia militias such as the Badr Brigade, which to date have largely ignored US forces, would be likely to turn out in force against American forces. With American supply lines already vulnerable, US forces could quickly be cut off from all but aerial supply. They would also be heavily outnumbered. Iranian sappers and their Shia allies in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could be expected to do major damage to Persian Gulf refineries, oil pipelines and loading terminals, effectively shutting down production in most of the region. Iran, once it was at war with the US would also surely make use of the hundreds of anti-ship missiles that it has reportedly set up along the eastern coast of the Persian Gulf, striking both US Navy vessels and vulnerable oil tankers. Oil shipments through the Gulf would cease, even if Iran failed to block the narrow Straits of Hormuz by sinking a couple of ships in the narrow channel, if only because of the soaring cost of insurance that would follow the start of hostilities. That in turn would lead, according to some analysts, to global oil prices of perhaps $200 per barrel—about three times the current price.
Iran, following an American attack, would also be free to retaliate against American targets anywhere in the world. It is extremely likely that just as the U.S. reportedly already has special forces in Iraq engaged in acts of sabotage and of incitement of sectarian violence, Iran has its own special forces overseas, and in the U.S., preparing for sabotage. If the US were to bomb Iranian nuclear power plants and government installations, under the international rules of reciprocity in warfare, Iran would be justified in attacking American nuclear power plants and government offices. And this is not even taking into consideration the freelance terrorists who would flock to the cause from all over if the US were to invade yet another major Islamic nation.
There is also the matter of how a US attack on Iraq would affect politics in other Muslim countries. Many analysts believe that a US attack on or war against Iran would lead to an Islamic revolution in Pakistan which could turn that already nuclear nation into an Islamic Republic, solidly aligned against the US and armed with nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them. America’s standing in other Muslim countries like Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, already low, would also sink.
War with Iran is then, clearly madness.
It’s high time to demand that the American government explain how any of this is in American interest. War with Iran is also criminal.
The Bush administration already stands guilty of one such crime. It must not be allowed to commit it a second time before it has even been called to account for the first.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and political columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now out in a paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net