The Struggle for Oil and Power: Is Iran Next?

I started wearing a "Don’t Bomb Iran" pin in my lapel when the number of American dead in the Iraq War passed the 1400 mark with some 10,000 others wounded, plus tens of thousands of uncounted Iraqi civilians.

As W.H. Auden memorably and painfully asked in his "Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier":

"To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?"

With casualty lists and grieving families growing daily, you have to wonder why the same hawks who dreamed up the war and are therefore responsible for the resulting carnage and misery, continue to maintain their influence in the White House and Pentagon and are now actively promoting yet another war, this time against Iran, a country larger, more populated, and with a far more sophisticated military than Saddam ever had.

Their conventional reason is that Iran either has nuclear weapons or is planning to manufacture them — a rationale that conceals an imperial agenda cloaked in a false crusade for freedom and democracy.

The truth is, as with Iraq and its non-existent WMDs and non-connection ties to 9/11, no evidence is offered save that of anonymous Iranian exiles," a walk-in source …not previously known to U.S. Intelligence," reported the Washington Post. Sound familiar?

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which regularly monitors Iranian facilities, has thus far not discovered any Iranian nuclear weapons. And even if they eventually do, it’s hard to believe that Tehran would dare risk nuclear retaliation other than as a last and desperate line of defense.

What we do know is that Iran has the ability to produce enriched uranium which can be used for weaponry or civilian use but which was temporarily suspended by Tehran last October thanks to persuasive British, French and German negotiators. The Europeans, with reluctant U.S. support, are now trying to get Iran to freeze permanently any nuclear bomb plans in return for firm guarantees of more trade and security.

So why the sudden obsession with Iran, when the hawks’ current misadventure in Iraq — or so predicted the astute Hebrew University military historian Martin Van Creveld — "will almost certainly end as the previous one [Vietnam] did. Namely, with the last U.S. troops fleeing the country whole hanging on to their helicopters’ skids."

The answer is oil and power.

Last January 2004 the Oil and Gas Journal reported that Iran held about 10% of the world’s total following new discoveries of oil. Most of its oil fields are situated in huge onshore fields in the southwestern Khuzestan region close to Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Even so, it would be nave to believe that the American interest in Iran is solely about its oil.

Michael Klare of Hampshire College, a specialist on resource conflict, told Ritt Goldstein, an American political journalist in Sweden, that "It’s all about power" and "the oil of the Persian Gulf is the most important geopolitical focus of power in the world," which he defined as the ability to "have the veto power over the allocation of Persian Gulf oil." John Pike of Global Security, a Washington-area think-tank concurred: "It’s only incidentally about control of oil, it’s about control of everything…power." It’s no mystery, then, that U.S. military forces have encircled the Persian Gulf, and are stationed throughout Central Asia and parts of the Caucasus.

The problem for American war planners is that they are trapped. Any air or land attack will meet fierce Iranian resistance (and renewed and even larger massive antiwar demonstrations in this country asking, no demanding, that no more GIs die in fulfillment of Bush and Cheney’s shallow and vacuous policies), stoked by an ancient sense of nationalism, not to mention President Bush’s designation of them as part of the "Axis of Evil." There are also historical memories of the U.S.-British role in ousting the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and replacing him with the authoritarian Shah.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, who teaches Political Science at Tehran University and whose book After Khomeini, was published in the U.S. by Westview Press, claims Iranian advocates of building nuclear weapons are a "minority’ and in general, "there is an elite consensus" opposed to them.

Still, he warns that any attack on Iran will not be easy. The Iranian military, he wrote in the Asia Times, have taken the lessons of the 2003 Iraq War to heart along with Iran’s savage eight-year with Iraq in the eighties (when the U.S. supported Saddam). "Suicide attack" centers, he claims, have recruited more than 25,000 volunteers. There will be missile counterattacks wherever US forces are stationed including against any countries allying themselves with the invaders. Iran also relies heavily on fairly accurate long-range missiles such as Shahab-3 and Fateh-110, which can "hit targets in Tel Aviv," as Kemal Kharrazi, Iran’s foreign minister, has warned.

Then why not let Israel attack, as it did at Osirak in Iraq in 1981, when it blasted Saddam’s nuclear reactor? But the situation is far more complex now because the Iranians have widely scattered their missile sites, including to heavily populated areas. They also now claim they have the ability to retaliate.

If George Bush chooses to go to war again, reluctant and uninspired draftees may be called on to replace the Iraq War’s depleted and exhausted ranks, swelling the casualty lists once again, something which barely registers with cloistered Washington-based hawks itching to dominate the Persian Gulf region. It will surely produce a series of revolts on campuses as well as in suburbia and even in elite neoconservative homes that are not eager to send their own young to war.

Americans, who accepted the false WMD arguments for invading Iraq, would do well to heed the words of Gary Sick, who served as the Iran specialist on Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council, when he told the Middle East Report’s editor: "If you like Iraq, you’re going to love Iran."