Iran: The Next War

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Has Tony Blair,
our minuscule Caesar, finally crossed his Rubicon? Having subverted
the laws of the civilized world and brought carnage to a defenseless
people and bloodshed to his own, having lied and lied and used the
death of a hundredth British soldier in Iraq to indulge his profane
self-pity, is he about to collude in one more crime before he goes?

Perhaps he
is seriously unstable now, as some have suggested. Power does bring
a certain madness to its prodigious abusers, especially those of
shallow disposition. In The
March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam
, the great American
historian Barbara Tuchman described Lyndon B. Johnson, the president
whose insane policies took him across his Rubicon in Vietnam. "He
lacked [John] Kennedy’s ambivalence, born of a certain historical
sense and at least some capacity for reflective thinking,"
she wrote. "Forceful and domineering, a man infatuated with
himself, Johnson was affected in his conduct of Vietnam policy by
three elements in his character: an ego that was insatiable and
never secure; a bottomless capacity to use and impose the powers
of his office without inhibition; a profound aversion, once fixed
upon a course of action, to any contradictions."

That, demonstrably,
is Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the cabal that has seized
power in Washington. But there is a logic to their idiocy —
the goal of dominance. It also describes Blair, for whom the only
logic is vainglorious. And now he is threatening to take Britain
into the nightmare on offer in Iran. His Washington mentors are
unlikely to ask for British troops, not yet. At first, they will
prefer to bomb from a safe height, as Bill Clinton did in his destruction
of Yugoslavia. They are aware that, like the Serbs, the Iranians
are a serious people with a history of defending themselves and
who are not stricken by the effects of a long siege, as the Iraqis
were in 2003. When the Iranian defense minister promises "a
crushing response," you sense he means it.

Listen to Blair
in the House of Commons: "It’s important we send a signal of
strength" against a regime that has "forsaken diplomacy"
and is "exporting terrorism" and "flouting its international
obligations." Coming from one who has exported terrorism to
Iran’s neighbor, scandalously reneged on Britain’s most sacred international
obligations and forsaken diplomacy for brute force, these are Alice-through-the-looking-glass

However, they
begin to make sense when you read Blair’s Commons speeches on Iraq
of 25 February and 18 March 2003. In both crucial debates —
the latter leading to the disastrous vote on the invasion —
he used the same or similar expressions to lie that he remained
committed to a peaceful resolution. "Even now, today, we are
offering Saddam the prospect of voluntary disarmament . . ."
he said. From the revelations in Philippe Sands’s book Lawless
, the scale of his deception is clear. On 31 January
2003, Bush and Blair confirmed their earlier secret decision to
attack Iraq.

Like the invasion
of Iraq, an attack on Iran has a secret agenda that has nothing
to do with the Tehran regime’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction.
That Washington has managed to coerce enough members of the International
Atomic Energy Agency into participating in a diplomatic charade
is no more than reminiscent of the way it intimidated and bribed
the "international community" into attacking Iraq in 1991.

Iran offers
no "nuclear threat." There is not the slightest evidence
that it has the centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium to weapons-grade
material. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has repeatedly
said his inspectors have found nothing to support American and Israeli
claims. Iran has done nothing illegal; it has demonstrated no territorial
ambitions nor has it engaged in the occupation of a foreign country
— unlike the United States, Britain and Israel. It has complied
with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to allow
inspectors to "go anywhere and see anything" — unlike
the US and Israel. The latter has refused to recognize the NPT,
and has between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons targeted at Iran
and other Middle Eastern states.

Those who flout
the rules of the NPT are America’s and Britain’s anointed friends.
Both India and Pakistan have developed their nuclear weapons secretly
and in defiance of the treaty. The Pakistani military dictatorship
has openly exported its nuclear technology. In Iran’s case, the
excuse that the Bush regime has seized upon is the suspension of
purely voluntary "confidence-building" measures that Iran
agreed with Britain, France and Germany in order to placate the
US and show that it was "above suspicion." Seals were
placed on nuclear equipment following a concession given, some say
foolishly, by Iranian negotiators and which had nothing to do with
Iran’s obligations under the NPT.

Iran has since
claimed back its "inalienable right" under the terms of
the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. There is no doubt
this decision reflects the ferment of political life in Tehran and
the tension between radical and conciliatory forces, of which the
bellicose new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is but one voice.
As European governments seemed to grasp for a while, this demands
true diplomacy, especially given the history.

For more than
half a century, Britain and the US have menaced Iran. In 1953, the
CIA and MI6 overthrew the democratic government of Muhammed Mossadeq,
an inspired nationalist who believed that Iranian oil belonged to
Iran. They installed the venal shah and, through a monstrous creation
called Savak, built one of the most vicious police states of the
modern era. The Islamic revolution in 1979 was inevitable and very
nasty, yet it was not monolithic and, through popular pressure and
movement from within the elite, Iran has begun to open to the outside
world — in spite of having sustained an invasion by Saddam Hussein,
who was encouraged and backed by the US and Britain.

At the same
time, Iran has lived with the real threat of an Israeli attack,
possibly with nuclear weapons, about which the "international
community" has remained silent. Recently, one of Israel’s leading
military historians, Martin van Creveld, wrote: "Obviously,
we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons and I don’t know if they’re
developing them, but if they’re not developing them, they’re crazy."

It is hardly
surprising that the Tehran regime has drawn the "lesson"
of how North Korea, which has nuclear weapons, has successfully
seen off the American predator without firing a shot. During the
cold war, British "nuclear deterrent" strategists argued
the same justification for arming the nation with nuclear weapons;
the Russians were coming, they said. As we are aware from declassified
files, this was fiction, unlike the prospect of an American attack
on Iran, which is very real and probably imminent.

Blair knows
this. He also knows the real reasons for an attack and the part
Britain is likely to play. Next month, Iran is scheduled to shift
its petrodollars into a euro-based bourse. The effect on the value
of the dollar will be significant, if not, in the long term, disastrous.
At present the dollar is, on paper, a worthless currency bearing
the burden of a national debt exceeding $8trn and a trade deficit
of more than $600bn. The cost of the Iraq adventure alone, according
to the Nobel Prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz, could be $2trn.
America’s military empire, with its wars and 700-plus bases and
limitless intrigues, is funded by creditors in Asia, principally

That oil is
traded in dollars is critical in maintaining the dollar as the world’s
reserve currency. What the Bush regime fears is not Iran’s nuclear
ambitions but the effect of the world’s fourth-biggest oil producer
and trader breaking the dollar monopoly. Will the world’s central
banks then begin to shift their reserve holdings and, in effect,
dump the dollar? Saddam Hussein was threatening to do the same when
he was attacked.

While the Pentagon
has no plans to occupy all of Iran, it has in its sights a strip
of land that runs along the border with Iraq. This is Khuzestan,
home to 90 per cent of Iran’s oil. "The first step taken by
an invading force," reported Beirut’s Daily Star, "would
be to occupy Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province, securing the sensitive
Straits of Hormuz and cutting off the Iranian military’s oil supply."
On 28 January the Iranian government said that it had evidence of
British undercover attacks in Khuzestan, including bombings, over
the past year. Will the newly emboldened Labour MPs pursue this?
Will they ask what the British army based in nearby Basra —
notably the SAS — will do if or when Bush begins bombing Iran?
With control of the oil of Khuzestan and Iraq and, by proxy, Saudi
Arabia, the US will have what Richard Nixon called "the greatest
prize of all."

But what of
Iran’s promise of "a crushing response"? Last year, the
Pentagon delivered 500 "bunker-busting" bombs to Israel.
Will the Israelis use them against a desperate Iran? Bush’s 2002
Nuclear Posture Review cites "preemptive" attack with
so-called low-yield nuclear weapons as an option. Will the militarists
in Washington use them, if only to demonstrate to the rest of us
that, regardless of their problems with Iraq, they are able to "fight
and win multiple, simultaneous major-theatre wars," as they
have boasted? That a British prime minister should collude with
even a modicum of this insanity is cause for urgent action on this
side of the Atlantic.

13, 2006

was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs
, is
published by Jonathan Cape next month. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.

John Pilger 2006

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