America’s Iran Obsession: Is It All About Israel?
21 August, 2012
“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment…. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…. I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
— Barack Obama at an AIPAK meeting in Washington D.C., March 2012
Iran since the Islamic Revolution (1979) is another unbeatable adversary for America. Nevertheless, America and its allies have not abandoned their regime-change efforts in Iran. After the failure of the “mass movement” for democracy in the wake of the so-called rigged parliamentary elections in mid-2009 in Iran, America was back to square one. It simply under-estimated the “raw power of nationalism” in Iran, that is, the average Iranian was not willing to accept America as a friend. Since then America has been vigorously projecting Iran as an imminent nuclear threat to Israel and other countries in the region. In March 2012, Obama told Netanyahu to wait and see if “crippling sanctions” against Iran worked. In March 2012, Obama also threatened Iran at an AIPAK meeting in Washington: “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment…. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…. I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests”. While Israel had been publicly threatening to bomb Iran’s “nuclear facilities” in early 2012, Obama offered to give Israel advanced weaponry — including bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes — in exchange for Israel’s agreement not to attack Iran “until 2013, after US elections”. Meanwhile, Israel is allegedly fabricating a “smoking gun” to justify its attack on Iran; and its spies disguised as Iranian soldiers, have already been working inside Iran. Several incidents of Iranian nuclear scientists being assassinated by unknown assailants for several years may be mentioned in this regard. Iranian and foreign experts are pointing fingers at Israel for these assassinations.
As we know, Western nations – directly or indirectly – controlled Iran up to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Although the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by the Government in 1951 signaled the end of British hegemony in Iran, the short-lived freedom of Iran was over with the CIA-sponsored military coup in 1953 that toppled the elected nationalist government of Prime Minister Mossadegh. Interestingly, Iran’s Shiite clerics under the leadership of Ayatollah Kashani (CIA is said to have bribed the Ayatollah) actively supported the anti- Mossadegh coup. The coup was followed by a period of twenty-five years of tyranny under the Shah, while American and British oil companies owned eighty per cent of the oil revenue. Afterwards Iran was practically an American protectorate up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since then – thanks to Iran’s avowedly anti-American and anti-Israeli stand – we have hardly heard anything positive about the country. George W. Bush in 2002 abruptly named Iran, together with Iraq and North Korea, among his “Axis of Evil”. Iranians least expected this from America while relations between the two countries had remarkably improved in the previous five years. In 1998, President Khatami extended an olive branch to America stressing the need for “dialogue among civilizations”. Former senior policy makers like Brzezinski and Scowcroft also favored a rapprochement with Iran.
The series of Western misadventures and support for external aggressors like Saddam Hussein (who invaded Iran in 1980 and got tacit Western support till the end of the Iraq-Iran War in 1988) and internal dissidents like the “Marxist-Islamist” Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK) have failed to overthrow the ayatollahs. Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has documented evidences of American troops training Iranian terrorist MeK guerrillas in Nevada desert (during 2005 and 2008). Interestingly, America is backing the MeK, which it formally declared as a terrorist group in 1997. Soon after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, MeK fighters stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took diplomats and staff hostage for 444 days. MeK fighters had fought for Saddam Hussein and were captured by US troops in 2003. In 2004, considering them “protected persons” not POWs, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld decided to release them. In 2007, President Bush set aside part of the $400 million, allocated for overthrowing the Iranian regime, for the MeK.
In the above backdrop, it is evident that US hawks and neocons are adamant to fight the Islamic regime of Iran, which they portray as a “fundamentalist autocracy” and a “totalitarian one-party state” modeled on fascism and communism. “By 2002-2003, the joke making the rounds in Washington was: ‘Everybody wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran’.” As Samir Amin points out, America and Israel, “under the pretext of its [Iran’s] nuclear development”, would like to destroy the country as it “does constitute an obstacle to the deployment of the US military control over the region. This country must, therefore, be destroyed”. Although it is time that Americans realize Iranians hate America more intensely than they hate the ayatollahs, we notice American analysts and policymakers debating what would be the best time to attack Iran. Rejecting skeptics of military action against Iran, hawkish American analysts and policy makers believe that a military strike to destroy “Iran’s nuclear program” could only spare the world from a nuclear-armed Iran. Some even consider Obama foolish for not considering “tiny Iran” a serious threat to America.
However, it is least likely that America will attack Iran in the near future. Israeli human rights activist Uri Avnery believes that: “The United States will not attack [Iran]. Not this year, nor in years to come. For a reason far more important than electoral considerations or military limitations. The United States will not attack, because an attack would spell a national disaster for itself and a sweeping disaster for the whole world.” Avnery believes that Israel is also not likely to attack Iran as the latter’s closing down the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of an attack would spell disaster for the entire world. To close the discussion on American and Israeli hawks’ “Iran Obsession”, we may argue that Iran is not a threat to anybody in the region, let alone America or any NATO power in the foreseeable future. We have reasons to believe that Iran has no reason to build nuclear weapons (unless it is forced to do so). We may agree with Robert Fisk that Iran has already “won almost all its recent wars without firing a shot” as America and NATO destroyed “Iran’s nemesis in Iraq” by defeating Saddam Hussein and killing thousands of Sunni militants. Fisk believes that arming Arab states in the Gulf is counterproductive as armies in these countries “could scarcely operate soup kitchens” let alone fight Iran. Last but not least, unlike Iraq, Iran would not be another cakewalk for America. There are people in the Pentagon who believe that Iran could “spell disaster for the United States and its military” in the Persian Gulf. However, some Americans’ “Iran Obsession” is so intense that some influential American plaintiffs ten years after 9/11 implicated the Iranian government and its top leaders, along with Bin Laden and the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, in the attacks on September 11, 2011.
Meanwhile, in April 2012, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain decided to form a union called the Arabian Gulf Union, in opposition to the Iranian efforts to form a union with Iraq. Meanwhile, America has been arming conservative Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. America’s double standard in missile proliferation in the Gulf is noteworthy. A State Department official said in early 2012 that the US was “working hard to prevent missile proliferation [in the Gulf].” Vijay Prashad has aptly inferred, “such hypocrisy could be disheartening” as it essentially means that “the Good Guys (the monarchs) can have missiles, but the Bad Guys (the Iranians) cannot”. One may agree with Kenneth Waltz that in view of Israel’s nuclear capability, a nuclear-armed Iran would bring stability in the entire region.
One is not sure if US policymakers pay heed to the Russian interests in Iran and the entire South Caucasus region; and what Russia is likely to do in the event of an US-Israeli invasion of Iran. Iran is vital for controlling (what Brzezinski wrote in his 1998 book, The Grand Chessboard) “about three-quarters of the known energy resources in the world”. Russia is least likely to allow any foreign power control Iran and the oil and gas fields in the region. Russian troops and a missile division have already been stationed in and around Iran, including Armenia and the Caspian Sea. Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov frequently visits the Syrian port Tartous following the conflict in that country in late 2011. It is noteworthy that in April 2012 General Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Science wrote that “a war against Iran would be a war against Russia” and he also sought closer ties with China and India for stable Iran and Syria. American use of Azarbaijan airfields against Iran could provoke Russia to interfere, signaling a major war in Southern Caucasus and beyond. Meanwhile, Russia is quite apprehensive of NATO’s missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe. While the then President Medvedev warned the NATO in 2011 that Russia would retaliate militarily if Russia and America could not come to an agreement on the missile defense system, the Russian Chief of Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov went even further. On 3rd May 2012 he told senior US and NATO officials at an international conference that Russia would not hesitate using “destructive force preemptively” against NATO if the situation worsens further.
As Russia considers both Syria and Iran vital for its strategic interests in the Middle East, any US-NATO and / or Israeli attack on these countries could drag Russia into the conflict zones. Some analysts believe that America “is more seriously preparing for military action against Iran than is widely realized”. After the failure of the third round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 Group (Five UN Security Council Members plus Germany) in June 2012 over Iran’s nuclear program, America seems to be preparing for an attack on Iran in early 2013. It does not want Israel to do the job as US hawks believe “it is much better that the US ‘does the job properly’ than lets Israel, with its much smaller forces, take the lead”. The Pentagon has already earmarked what types of aircraft, bombs and missiles it should use, and from which bases – Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, and Diego Garcia to be precise – in the invasion of Iran. The US would like to use B-2s (“Stealth Bombers”) and F-22s, F-15E and F-16 strike aircraft and air-to-surface standoff missiles (JASSMS). However, as Paul Rogers observes, “nothing has been learnt [by America] from the experience of two long and bloody wars, and that is the real cause for worry”.
As discussed earlier, America needs a major war every ten years or so for reasons known to those who understand the dynamics of the American Military-Industrial Complex. We also know that a US retired General Wesley Clark has also re-iterated this by revealing the Pentagon’s confidential list of seven Muslim-majority countries that the US had been planning to invade since September 2001. The list includes Iraq, Syria and Iran. American politicians, media and think tanks have been untiringly demonizing Iran since the Islamic Revolution to justify the invasion. Meanwhile, the US administration wholeheartedly supported Saddam Hussein’s eight-year-long war against Iran (1980-1988) to bleed and weaken both the belligerents for its long-term strategic interests in the entire region. Of late we notice an alarming growth in the anti-Iranian campaigns in prestigious American dailies, magazines and think tank reports (along with the vitriol of politicians). Quoting the Associated Press the Washington Post and many other print and electronic media in America in late June and early July 2012 circulated a story about Iran’s alleged terror plan (said to have been unearthed by Kenyan officials who had arrested two Iranian “agents”) to attack the US, Britain, Israel or Saudi Arabian interests in Kenya. We even find the prestigious Time magazine and Foreign Policy publishing sensational items on Iran’s testing long-range missiles, capable of hitting Israel (with no mention of Israel’s capability to nuke countries in the region, including Iran). It is least likely that a country like Iran, which is under constant threat of attacks by Israel and/or America for its alleged nuclear program, would sponsor terrorist attacks on America or Israel to provoke retaliatory attacks by them.
Taj Hashmi teaches at the Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee