are contemplating two developments. First, to create a new oil exchange
in March 2006, which will sell Iranian oil for euros. Second, to
develop the nation’s nuclear technology capabilities, possibly for
producing nuclear weapons, but officially for the generation of
the Bush Administration is deeply concerned about the second development.
I have no doubt that it is deeply concerned in a surrogate sort
of way, because politicians in the State of Israel are deeply concerned.
They resent the fact that an Islamic country that is a signatory
to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1970) is taking steps that
might conceivably lead to a deliberate violation of that treaty
— a treaty that the State of Israel never signed, so as not
to interfere with the production of hundreds of nuclear weapons.
to its official concern over Iran’s nuclear developments, the Bush
Administration says not a word publicly about the first development,
strictly peaceful, which would create new international demand for
euros in place of dollars. This could break apart the lock-step
decision of OPEC governments to accept payment only in dollars,
a possibility welcomed by the Islamic press.
In an era when
the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, held by central banks
as a legal reserve for their nations’ domestic currencies, central
bankers inflate their domestic currencies in order to purchase dollar-denominated,
low-return investment assets. This is part of the mercantilism of
central banking: an indirect subsidy to the domestic export sectors
at the expense of monetary stability and also consumer sovereignty
of a new oil market transacted in euros is a significant symbolic
challenge to U.S. economic leadership. Symbols are important, which
is why political leaders adopt them. After all, President Bush did
not have to be flown in a naval jet from San Diego’s Naval Air Station to the Abraham Lincoln, which was
floating just far enough away from San Diego to make a helicopter
flight plausibly unacceptable. The carrier could have come a few
miles closer to shore on the day before the famous “Mission Accomplished”
photo-op and speech, which remains on the White House website: President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended.
But, as the title of that speech reveals, symbols are not a politically
safe substitute for reality.
How safe is
Iran? To answer this crucial question, consider how it might be
answered by Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
of Iran holds a Ph.D. in engineering. Presumably, he has a working
concept of cause and effect.
He rules in
a Shi’ite-dominated nation that is sitting on top of what are the
second-largest oil reserves in the world: 126 billion barrels. Iraq,
commonly cited as number two, is probably number three, and given
its present pipeline infrastructure and delivery problems, not a
He has replaced
rule by the mullahs, who have been unable to persuade Iran’s youth
to give up Western fashions, music, and dreams of economic prosperity.
Yet toned-down attacks on Khomeini’s “Great Satan” still have a
regards himself as what the American political tradition designates
as a populist. He still lives in a small house in a working class
neighborhood. Symbols do count for something.
From what we
can tell from his language, he is a certifiable apocalyptic. He
has said publicly that his work must prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi,
Islam’s long-expected messianic deliverer.
2005, after the crash of an ancient C-130 military plane in which
108 people died, he made this comment: “But what is important is that they have
shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow.” This was a calculated
political statement that was aimed at the hearts of tens of millions
of Shi’ite voters. He who assumes otherwise does not understand
the rhetoric of successful politicians. They know their market.
Why would this
man fear an air attack by the United States? What has he got to
situation. He presides over a country whose majority regards Iran
as a working political and spiritual model for the rest of Islam.
Iran has oil. It is modernizing. It is Shi’ite. Shi’ites have now
seen the defeat of their long-time Sunni enemy, Iraq. The elected
government in Iraq is predominantly Shi’ite.
He has positioned
himself as the Middle East’s preeminent nose-tweaker of the United
States. In his November 17, 2005 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, he challenged the moral
authority of the United States government to oppose Iran’s development
of nuclear power. He did not mention the United States by name.
He did not need to. His audience understood.
of nuclear warheads that are stockpiled in various locations coupled
with programs to further develop these inhuman weapons have created
a new atmosphere of repression and the rule of the machines of war,
threatening the international community and even the citizens of
the countries that possess them.
those who have actually used nuclear weapons, continue to produce,
stockpile and extensively test such weapons, have used depleted
uranium bombs and bullets against tens and perhaps hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and even their own soldiers and
those of their allies, afflicting them with incurable diseases,
blatantly violate their obligations under the NPT, have refrained
from signing the CTBT and have armed the Zionist occupation regime
with WMDs, are not only refusing to remedy their past deeds, but
in clear breech of the NPT, are trying to prevent other countries
from acquiring the technology to produce peaceful nuclear energy.
problems emanate from the fact that justice and spirituality are
missing in the way powerful governments conduct their affairs
with other nations.
He was killing
two birds with one rhetorical stone, linking the Great Satan with
the Middle East’s universally hated nation, and then blaming the
United States for that pariah nation’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
How could this
speech hurt him back home? How could it hurt him in Islamic streets?
What if the
United States drops assorted non-nuclear weapons on Iran before
the bourse opens? The potential targets are many; the underground
facilities will be hard to destroy. But what if all of them are
wins the legitimacy sweepstakes. Dr. Ahmadinejad becomes the first
universally respected Shi’ite political leader in the Sunni- and
Wahhabi-dominated Middle East. All across the Middle East, restive
Muslims in the streets will start murmuring: “Where is our leader?
Why doesn’t he stand up to the United States?” The answer is obvious:
because he has long been bought off by the United States. Because,
in the immortal words of Lyndon Johnson, the United States has his
pecker in its pocket.
soon be a lot of newly exposed members at risk.
American attack on Iran will instantly and permanently de-legitimize
every American client state in the Middle East. If the United States
bombs Iran, the Bush Administration might as well send that “Mission
Accomplished” banner to Al Qaeda headquarters.
crucial issue here is political legitimacy of the nation-state.
This is the supreme political issue of our day, as the great Israeli
military historian Martin Van Creveld has argued in his book, The
Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press,
1999). It is also the supreme strategic issue of fourth-generation
warfare, the warfare of the rest of this century.
The day the
bombs begin to fall, the mullahs will join ranks with teenagers
in the streets of Tehran. Dr. Ahmadinejad will become as politically
immune from public criticism as Mr. Bush was on September 12, 2001.
The day after
the bombs begin to fall on Iran, clandestine weapons will begin
to flow westward across the Iran-Iraq border. The Shi’ites in Iraq
will instantly become the long-lost cousins of the Sunni resistance
movement. There is an old Muslim saying,
and I against our cousin. We and our cousin against the world.”
States’ troops on the ground will discover the deadly power of that
alliance. All co-operation from the Shi’ites will cease. There will
be a unified anti-American front south of the Kurdish region.
States will be told to get out. If the government of Iraq does not
issue this order immediately, its members had better be sure to
renew their life insurance policies.
The Iraqi army
will melt into the countryside. Anyone who stands up will be shot
BIG SMOKE, BUT NO FIRE
can issue warnings. The Administration can talk tough. But what
is the point? The President of Iran can call the President of the
United States’s bluff, if it is a bluff. He is doing this, day by
day. He is not going to cooperate with the United Nations. There
is no need to.
If it is not
a bluff, and the bombs fall, the United States’ client regimes in
the Middle East are as good as gone.
We will then
be driven out of Iraq. This message will be fully understood by
every Muslim in the street. The Great Satan can be whipped. No better
reason exists to start looking for a local client to whip.
be occupied by U.S. troops. As retired four-star general and NBC
commentator Barry McCaffrey said in mid-2005, the wheels are already
close to coming off the Army’s machine in Iraq. So, the enforcement
of any anti-nuclear technology development program is a bluff.
can be delayed a few years by bombing, but only at the price of
solidifying Dr. Ahmadinejad’s rule in Iran and making him a regional
symbol of Islamic defiance. In this non-elected office, he will
replace Osama bin Laden. The difference is, Ahmadinejad is a legitimately
elected President of a nation with a lot of oil.
This is about
oil, political power, currencies, and above all, legitimacy. It
is about the ability of the United States to change regimes its
way and then preserve these new regimes from replacement by domestic
States and its client state regimes will be replaced in the Middle
East. It is only a matter of time. If the United States bombs Iran,
the timetable will speed up.
may have heard of the catbird seat. Dr. Ahmadinejad is sitting in