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Why We Cannot - and Will Not - Attack Iran

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Message Barton Kunstler

Once again rumors abound about an impending U.S. attack upon Iran. Novelist and former CIA field officer Robert Baer, in Time Magazine, wrote last month that the neo-cons in D.C. believe that if we can just take out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the clerics in charge of Iran would fall. Baer's sources assure him that the IRGC's involvement in providing IEDs (Improved Explosive Devices) is considered sufficient cause for the attack. Sarah Baxter states in the Sunday, September 2 Sunday Times UK, citing Alexis Debat, an ABC news consultant and Director of Terrorism and National Security at the Nixon Center, that the U.S. plans "massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran", a switch from the previously planned "pinprick strikes"; instead "they're about taking out the entire Iranian military."

The blog "Informed Comment Global Affairs" is hosting a discussion of the plausibility of an impending attack, and cites Scott Horton of Harper's, who notes that a new book by Michael Ledeen, a "Freedom Scholar" at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI), entitled Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction, will be published September 10. This coincides with the September 6th launch date for AEI's "All or Nothing" campaign to support "the Surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq – a policy that AEI, according to Jim Lobe of, played a major role in developing .

Despite these reports and considerations, there is a very good chance we will not attack Iran. If we do, however, the attack flies so blatantly in the face of any rational conduct that it should signal to the American people and Congress that the Bush administration is even more dangerously out of control than any of us suspected and that a refusal by the Pentagon, many of whose officers oppose such an attack, to obey the Commander-in-Chief would be entirely justifiable.

A year ago I wrote an article on suggesting that the U.S. would not invade Iran for several reasons, chief among them being a secret understanding among the U.S., Israel, and Iran that their behind-the-scenes cooperation was the true "axis of power" in the Middle East ( Since then, I have been gratified that my prediction has held up even midst reports that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent. After all, how often do we get to be right about a catastrophic, monumentally stupid course of action not occurring?

Let us examine Debat's claims about the Pentagon's plans, which Debat calls a "very legitimate strategic calculus". According to Debat, the administration feels that the Iranians are going to react the same no matter how intensively they are bombed, so might as well go beyond "pinpricks" and really zap the hell out of them. (Of course, by that "strategic calculus" we might as well nuke Teheran. Hey, they're gonna hate us anyway, might as well go all the way). Missing from the article is any assessment of just what the Iranian reaction is expected to be. Outrage? A deeper commitment to retaliation on U.S. soil? Attacks against Saudi oil refineries? In for a dime, in for a dollar. Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. A great reason for an act of war.

The problems with this plan do not lie just with its uncertainties, but with its sheer lack of logic. Whether or not the "axis of power" is formally agreed upon behind the scenes, its logic is so compelling that the United States has, in effect, followed it for years. One demonstration of this is the number of times in the past year that we seemed to be veering into a military confrontation with Iran only to have it reported, within days, that we were engaged in talks instead.

It also does not matter how "successful" the plans to "annihilate the Iranians' military capability" (Baxter paraphrasing Debat) turn out to be. Iran is far more powerful militarily, economically, and culturally than Iraq was even in 1991. What does it mean to take out its "entire...military"? Do we really think that Islamic Guards can be destroyed solely by air power, especially now that they've been forewarned? In general, it is an accepted fact of war that air strikes can slow down or soften ground troops; they cannot be expected to destroy an entire corps. Damage to military bases and plants, however complete, just offer contractors in Russia, India, China, France, England, and yes, probably the United States, a gold mine in construction and arms dealing contracts. (Does anyone imagine that Halliburton, which did business with Iraq all during the sanctions of the 1990s, would miss the chance to "rebuild" Iran?).

As in the run-up to the Iraq War, a favored dissident has caught the attention of the D.C. neo-cons and has found a platform from which to harangue the American public into bombing Iran. In this case, the job of driving America into another war belongs to Alireza Jafarzadeh.'s extensive entry on Jafarzadeh reads like a brochure for his consulting firm. Before establishing the firm, Jafarzadeh belonged to a dissident group called The National Council of Resistance on Iran (NCRI), which is the political wing of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK). The MeK was a leftist anti-shah organization until the 1979 Revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. MeK opposed the Ayatollah and went into exile, but its politics shifted as well. MeK organized a military force based over the border in Iraq that raided Iranian targets in the 1980s. Eventually, MeK was placed on several lists of terrorist organizations.

Despite this – or as a result – MeK and the NCRI have put together a high-powered lobbying group in Washington D.C. that includes the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), headed by a former Reagan administration official, Professor Raymond Tanter, and comprising a group of Beltway military, intelligence, and right-wing political figures, which works closely with Jafarzadeh who, incidentally, is also a Foreign Affairs Analyst for Fox News.

Jafarzadeh takes credit for revealing the existence of several underground uranium enrichment plants and other WMD projects and for triggering an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation of Iran's nuclear program. However, the IAEA contradicted the claims of Jafarzadeh, and now the Bush administration, that Iran is pursuing a policy of nuclear armament. And it is not just the IAEA that disagrees with Jafarzadeh's and Bush's assessments. Many members of the U.S. intelligence community have publicly questioned Bush's view of Iran's nuclear intentions, and even within Bush's closest circle Condoleeza Rice has apparently emerged as the voice of reason against Dick Cheney who, predictably, is all set to bomb Iran.

Remember Ahmed Chalabi? He was the Iraqi dissident who claimed Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. By parlaying his exposure on various mainstream media outlets in the U.S., and gaining the ear of the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, Chalabi managed to turn his unfounded claims into a gospel truth to which the Washington Post and New York Times, among others, offered a devout chorus of "amens". In short, Chalabi played an important role in winning acceptance for the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Chalabi also claimed his goal was a democratic government in his homeland.

Jafarzadeh is currently playing the Chalabi-role. MeK and the NCRI are claiming they too favor a secular, democratic Iraq. However, as described in interviews on a Dateline show directed by Bronwyn Adcock (see and click on the link, "Gunning for Iran" for the transcript) aired on October 4, 2006, former MeK members describe the organization as focused strictly on its own ambitions and those of its money-hungry leaders, with cult-like indoctrination techniques.

It would be the height of irresponsibility to go to war based on the claims of a man tied to groups so invested in attacking Iran. It is bad enough that a Jafarzadeh can manipulate his way into a position of influence over national policy. It is truly insane that we might actually go to war due to his influence. Lest this seems to overstate the case, the Iran Policy Committee's web page features an article by Lt. General (Ret.) Tom McInerney and Fred Gedrich arguing for a "series of measures designed to modify Iranian behavior including (1) selective air-strikes in the face of continued Iranian support for terrorism, WMD development, and the Iraqi insurgency; (2) support for Iranian political opposition; and (3) delisting the main Iranian opposition groups - the NCRI and MEK - from the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations list." This is based on "Teheran's past intransigence and continuing hostility." In their view, Iran has "waged a one-sided war with the U.S. for 28 years". Their evidence is selective and devoid of political context: they cite the seizure of our embassy in 1979 (a political act that engendered negotiations, including Ronald Reagan's aides working with the Iranians to postpone the hostages' release till after the November presidential elections) and Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents in the current war as the real clincher.

Iran's alleged (and probable) support of some insurgent factions is not a reason to go to war and begs the question of just what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which flank Iran. The driving engine of the insurgency is the population of Iraq, the willingness of many Iraqis to fight a nation they see as an invader, Iraq's intransigent factionalism, and the ready availability of weapons. This availability is not, contrary to the Bush administration, solely the doing of the Iranians. A recent report described how Iraq is a virtual bazaar in which untold millions of dollars of U.S. weaponry was for sale to whoever could pay, be they Americans, Iraqis of any persuasion, and who knows who else. Besides, the Iraqis do not need Iran to show them how to make more powerful roadside bombs, nor do they need Iran to show them how to kill one another. Iran may well be supporting some insurgent factions with weapons, but that should be no surprise. We have done the same in the region for decades. Iran may well be stirring an already boiling pot, but its tampering is not an act of war aimed against the U.S. If anything, it is proof that our policies have failed and are fomenting violence in the region rather than peace. First al Qaeda and then Iran got blamed for the insurgency. This political dishonesty is dangerous to our troops and U.S. interests. It only obscures reality and in doing so lures us further into a whirlpool of violence of our own devising.

Many Iranian dissidents oppose military action against their country, so we cannot say we are acting on their behalf. They consider the best course to be diplomacy and a measured policy of strengthening the Iranian parties that favor a secular and democratic regime. Despite being overshadowed by the mullahs, these groups have a great deal of credibility, a political presence, and a strong following in Iran. An attack on Iran will politically dismember this sector of the Iranian populace and guarantee a hard-line government absolutely hostile to U.S. interests for years to come.

Indeed, who would wish the reality of war upon their own nation, or urge their own country to bomb another simply to serve the political agenda of a corrupt administration and its self-promoting lobbyists? Imagine the bombs required to destroy 1,200 targets exploding over the planned three-day duration of the attack. Can we visualize that happening to our own neighborhoods? Can those of us who live in and around Boston envision targets erupting up and down Route 128, nuclear and bio-labs in Cambridge and Boston being shattered, the gas tanks in Quincy and Everett exploding into flames, and Logan Airport in shambles – and all with no civilian casualties? Why would this be any different from 1,200 terrorist acts committed all at once? Because George Bush and Dick Cheney decided that it was okay?

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Barton Kunstler, Ph.D. is a writer of fiction, essays, poetry, and plays. He is author of "The Hothouse Effect" (Amacom), a book describing the dynamics of highly creative groups and organizations. His play, "An Inquiry in Florence", was recently (more...)
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