On October 25, 2007, the United States announced harsh new penalties on the Iranian military and its state-owned banking systems. Sanctions, bellicose rhetoric and the implicit threat of military action are goads for another war, one that critics fear is more likely to ignite a nuclear holocaust than prevent one. The question is, why is Iran considered such a serious threat? The official explanation is that it is planning to develop nuclear weapons. But the head of the UN watchdog agency IAEA says he has "no concrete evidence" of an Iranian weapons program.1 And even if there were one, a number of countries have tested or possess nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Pakistan, North Korea, India, and probably Israel; yet we don't consider that grounds for military action. Iran would just be joining a long list of nuclear powers.
Another theory says the push for war is all about oil; but Iran supplies only 15 percent of total Persian Gulf oil exports, and its oil is already for sale.2 We don't need to go to war for it. We can just buy it.
A third theory says the saber-rattling is about defending the dollar. Iran is threatening to open its own oil bourse, and it is already selling about 85 percent of its oil in non-dollar currencies. Iran has broken the petrodollar stranglehold imposed in the 1970s, when OPEC entered into a covert agreement with the United States to sell oil only in U.S. dollars. As Dr. Krassimir Petrov explained this suspected motive in a 2006 editorial in Gold-Eagle.com:
"As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured, and the American Empire could continue to tax the rest of the world. If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. . . . If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind."3
An interesting theory, but it still fails to explain all the facts. In a March 2006 editorial in Asia Times Online, William Engdahl noted that war with Iran has been in the cards as part of the U.S. Greater Middle East strategy since the 1990s, long before Iran threatened to open its own oil bourse.4 And Iran is not alone in wanting to drop the dollar as its oil currency. To curb currency risks, Russia is planning to open an Energy Stock Exchange in St. Petersburg next year to trade oil in rubles, something that will have significantly more impact on the dollar than Iran's oil bourse. Central bankers in Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates have all said they will be investing less of their reserves in dollar assets due to the dollar's weakening global position.5 When those countries also switch to other currencies for their oil trades, will the United States feel compelled to invade them as well?
These theories all have some merit, but none of them seems sufficient to explain the war drums. What is so special about Iran? Here is another possibility: Iran poses a serous threat not only to oil and the dollar but to a secret financial weapon that keeps a global banking empire in power.
Financial Weapon of Mass Destruction
Around 1980, when interest rates were soaring, Johnny Carson quipped on The Tonight Show that "Scientists have developed a powerful new weapon that destroys people but leaves buildings standing – it's called the 17% interest rate." Compound interest is the secret weapon that has allowed a global banking cartel to control most of the resources of the world. The debt trap snapped shut for many countries in 1980, when international interest rates shot up to 20 percent. At 20 percent interest compounded annually, $100 doubles in under 4 years; and in 20 years, it becomes a breathtaking $3,834.6 The devastating impact on Third World debtors was underscored by President Obasanjo of Nigeria, speaking in 2000 about his country's mounting burden to international creditors. He said:
All that we had borrowed up to 1985 was around $5 billion, and we have paid about $16 billion; yet we are still being told that we owe about $28 billion. That $28 billion came about because of the injustice in the foreign creditors' interest rates. If you ask me what is the worst thing in the world, I will say it is compound interest.7
What bankers call the "miracle" of compound interest is called "usury" under Islamic law and is considered a crime. It was also a crime under Old English law until the sixteenth century, when Martin Luther redefined the offense of "usury" to mean the taking of "excess" interest. Modern Islamic thinkers are not averse to a profitable return on investment when it takes the form of "profit-sharing," with investors taking some risk and sharing in business losses; but the usurer gets his interest no matter what. In fact he does better when the borrower fails. The borrower who cannot afford to pay off his loans sinks deeper and deeper into debt, as interest compounds annually to the lender.
The debt trap that snapped shut in 1980 was set in 1974, when OPEC was induced to trade its oil only in U.S. dollars. The price of oil then suddenly quadrupled, and countries with insufficient dollars for their oil needs had to borrow them. By 2001, enough money had flowed back to First World banks from Third World debtors to pay the principal due on their original loans six times over; but interest had consumed so much of those payments that the total debt had actually quadrupled.8 In 1980, median income in the richest 10 percent of countries was 77 times greater than in the poorest 10 percent. By 1999, that gap had grown to 122 times greater. In December 2006, the United Nations released a reported titled "World Distribution of Household Wealth," which concluded that 50 percent of the world's population now owns only 1 percent of its wealth, while the richest 10 percent of adults owns 85 percent. At interest compounded annually, the debts of the poorer nations can never be repaid but will just continue to grow.
The Private Global Banking Scheme
It is this debt scheme, with its lethal weapon of interest compounded annually, that has allowed a small clique of financiers to dominate the business of the world. In Tragedy and Hope, Professor Carroll Quigley wrote from personal knowledge of this financial clique, which he called simply "the international bankers." Dr. Quigley, who was Bill Clinton's mentor at Georgetown University, said the aim of the international bankers was "nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole," a system "to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements."9 The key to the bankers' success was that they would control and manipulate the money systems of the world while letting them appear to be controlled by governments.
Most countries have now been brought into this private global banking scheme, with most of the world's money being created by commercial banks in the form of interest-bearing loans. In the United States today, the only money created by the government consists of coins, which compose only about one one-thousandth of the total money supply. Federal Reserve Notes (dollar bills) are created by the Federal Reserve, a private banking corporation, and lent to the government. The vast bulk of the money supply, however, is created when commercial banks make loans, something they do by double-entry bookkeeping: the sum of the borrower's promissory note is simply credited as a deposit to the borrower's account and offset with a matching liability on the bank's side of its books.10 Money creation is also now a private affair in most other countries. Even where the central bank is technically state-owned, as in the United Kingdom and Canada, the central bank creates only the paper currency of the nation, leaving most of the money supply to be created by commercial banks as compound-interest-bearing loans.10
The alternative to this independent "central bank" system is what used to be called "national banking." A state-owned central bank issued the national currency as an agent of the government, and the government spent the money or lent it into the economy for internal development and public needs. The "seigniorage" on this money -- the difference between the cost of creating it and its face value – accrued to the government, which got the money debt- and interest-free. The goal of the international bankers was to privatize this system and bring it under their control. The central bank would still create the national money supply, but it would lend the money to the government, leaving the government with a massive debt on which it owed interest. Once caught in the debt web, the government could be induced to privatize other assets, making them available for purchase and control by international finance capital.