The 144-page Iran Threat Reduction Act enhances existing sanctions in a number of areas while also establishing new legal authority to go after anyone who provides equipment or technology or facilitates oil sales. The act's critics claim it does not go far enough, with Mark Dubowitz of the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies calling for "comprehensive economic warfare. Everything must be prohibited unless it is permitted." Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute puts it another way: "This is time for the mallet, not fine needle surgery ... our purpose is to bring them to the table to give up their nuclear ambitions." Even J Street, which claims to support Israel while seeking peace in the Middle East, commended the bill.
Lest there be any confusion, the new bill -- coming on top of previous legislation and executive orders, not to mention the covert Stuxnet and Flame computer viruses -- sets the stage for war against Iran, a country that has not attacked the United States nor threatened to do so unless it is attacked first. Supporters of the bill and many commentators on it copy the language used by AIPAC, citing Iran's purported quest for a nuclear weapon as their fundamental argument for the sanctions regime and possible military intervention. If this seems reminiscent of the lead-up to war against Iraq in 2003, it should.
There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program. It is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its nuclear sites are regularly inspected by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, none of its low-level enriched uranium has been diverted, it has a legal right to enrich uranium for use in power plants, and its political leadership has declared that it is not seeking a weapon. The CIA and Israel's Mossad agree that Iran has no program to produce a nuke.
Regarding the negotiations between Iran and the U.S. over its nuclear energy program, there is certainly enough mud to stick to everyone involved, but Iran has several times proposed compromise solutions whereby its uranium could be shifted out of the country for enrichment to a low level sufficient for its power-generating reactors. These approaches have been rebuffed by the United States, and it is difficult to believe that Washington is seriously seeking a diplomatic solution. Former intelligence officer and Iran specialist Hillary Mann Leverett notes that the United States has hardly spoken to Iranian negotiators since 2008.
Finally, there is the terrorism issue. There is considerable disagreement over whether Iran has been behind recent terrorist attacks on Israeli targets, most particularly as the modus operandi fits al-Qaeda much better. The annual State Department terrorism report struggles to make a case for Iranian support of terrorism but has to resort to citing last year's plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, an alleged conspiracy that has been thoroughly debunked.
The drive to demonize Iran might well be considered little more than Washington theater of the absurd in an election year, but it is deadly serious. War with Iran might unleash forces best left undisturbed, and the consequences for U.S. forces in the Middle East could be grave. And then there is the frail global economy, which hardly needs an oil shock.
But the beat goes on about the threat posed by Iran, orchestrated by groups like AIPAC and repeated verbatim by politicians and the mainstream media. Evidently the half-truths and out-and-out lies have convinced a lot of people that Iran is rightfully the enemy. A recent poll reveals that fully 80 percent of Americans believe that Iran's nuclear program threatens the United States, while two thirds of the public thinks sanctions will be ineffective. Most Americans believe incorrectly that Iran already has a nuclear weapon.
To go to war a second time in 10 years over nothing would be
shameful, but it is clear that no one in Washington who matters is
resisting the stampede.