Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a new coalition of national unity, elections in the country have been pushed back by months, and suddenly the danger of an armed strike against Iran, by Israel, has become more acute.
It is now ten years since the January 29, 2002 State of the Union speech – the first since the 9/11 attacks on New York City – where then U.S. President George W. Bush announced to the world that the U.S. was up against an “Axis of Evil”, a label derived from the “Axis of Hatred”, coined by Canadian conservative journalist, David Frum (Noah 2003). These “evil, hated” states were Iraq, North Korea and Iran. But the real enemy is an Axis of Hypocrisy.
The world saw what happened to Iraq. The evidence for its “evil” status proved to be entirely false. There simply never were any Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the country. Yet the U.S. attacked anyway, and devastated the country. The very conservative estimates from Iraq Body Count put the death toll after just three years at just under 50,000, double that by 2012. Some put the figure far higher, The Lancet in 2006 estimating that already, 650,000 had died (Iraq Body Count (IBC) 2012; Oziewicz 2006). By 2007, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees estimated that 4.2 million Iraqis had been driven from their homes by the war, half right out of the country (MacKinnon 2007).
Ironically, North Korea – which does have at least one or two WMDs (it has twice detonated a nuclear device, once in 2006 and again in 2009 (Hecker 2010, 44)) – has not been attacked by the U.S. In fact, at the height of the Iraq war in 2006, it agreed to “return to nuclear-disarmament talks with its four neighbors and the U.S. in a deal brokered by China” (Ramstad, Batson, and King Jr. 2006). The issue in Iraq was not the presence of WMDs (which it didn’t have), but the presence of oil (which it has in huge quantities). North Korea has WMDs, but no oil whatsoever. So Iraq got a war, but North Korea did not.
This leaves Iran – a country that, like Iraq, is one of the world’s great sources of inexpensive, easy-to-access oil. The U.S. had attempted to sew up control of Iraqi oil, however this has not gone entirely according to plan. In the wake of the collapse of the Iraqi state, and years of destructive warfare, the most influential country in the region in the wake of the U.S. pull-out, has become … Iran. An attack on Iran by either Israel or the U.S. would be part of the “chess game” of pushing back Iranian influence in this oil-rich region.
Of course that is not the rhetoric that we hear. We are not told that Iran will be bombed for oil profits. Rather, Israel and the U.S., if they bomb Iran, will do so ostensibly to stop it from becoming a nuclear power. Since 2002, the CIA in particular has been flooding the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with “evidence” of Iran’s attempt to build an atomic bomb. But according to one senior diplomat at the IAEA, quoted anonymously in the Los Angeles Times, “since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong” (Drogin and Murphy 2007).
Throughout the early years of the Iraq War, the Bush administration and the IAEA were repeatedly at odds. One of the main justifications for the war against Iraq was the “fact” – pushed by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell – that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Then IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei embarrassed Powell and Bush when he showed the UN Security council that the documents used as “proof” of this had been forged. The Bush regime responded by opposing El Baradei’s reappointment to his post (Pincus 2003; Hibbitts 2005).
In Bush’s rush to paint the WMD label on Iran, he showed himself willing to forge alliances with the most unlikely people. For instance, the National Council of Resistance (NCR) is a resistance group, based in Iran, which the U.S. has classified as a terrorist organization since 1997. On August 14, 2002, however, the NCR held a press conference where they claimed that Iran was constructing secret nuclear facilities near the Iranian cities of Natanz and Arak. In spite of the U.S. judgment that NCR was a terrorist organization, Bush seized on its press conference as “evidence” of Iran’s nuclear intentions. One year later, the same Bush administration “closed the NCR’s Washington office” (Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism 2008, 104; Squassoni 2006, 2; GlobalSecurity.org 2011).
Another piece of evidence seized on by the press was a report that Iran had stolen enriched uranium from Iraq before the March, 2003 outbreak of war. The report was later revealed to be a fabrication, the ultimate source being Fereidoun Mahdavi, former Minister of Commerce in the government of the Shah of Iran (History Commons 2012).
Mahdavi’s claims didn’t end there. He also suggested there were plans for Iranian-based terrorists to hijack a Canadian airliner and fly it into a nuclear station near Boston. He further claimed that Iran was hiding Osama bin Laden. But even the CIA, eager to portray Iran as a terror-state, concluded after interviewing him that he was lying (Leupp 2007).
There are WMDs in the Middle East. The US has used vast quantities of depleted uranium and hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs in its two wars against Iraq. Its main ally, Israel, as early as 2002, had between 75 and 200 nuclear weapons in its clandestine WMD program (Norris 2002). Most people, in particular the people of the region itself, support the removal of WMDs from the Middle East. But to accomplish that would mean a withdrawal of all US military forces, and an international campaign against Israeli militarism, including against Israel’s secret stockpiles of nuclear bombs and missiles.
A military strike against Iran, should it come, would provoke devastation for the people of the region. It would also be very risky for both the U.S. and Israel. Israel used to be able to count Egypt and Turkey as allies. But the Arab Spring broke its ties with the Egyptian state, and the barbaric assault on the Mavi Marmara soured relations with Turkey. Israel is now as isolated as it has ever been in the region. And Iran is a regional power in its own right, not without resources and influence.
But the fact that there are risks does not mean an attack will not come. Twice before, Israel has launched strikes against nuclear reactors under construction in the region – June 7 1981 against one southeast of Baghdad in Iraq, and September 6, 2007 against one in Syria (Jewish Virtual Library 2012; Follath and Stark 2009).
One unnamed Israel figure “with close ties to the leadership” made this very clear to a Reuters’ reporter. “I think they have made a decision to attack. It is going to happen. The window of opportunity is before the U.S. presidential election in November. This way they will bounce the Americans into supporting them” (Stott 2012). Such a strike would be an irresponsible and extremely dangerous action, posing the very real possibility of a wider, and very bloody war. It is in all our interests to oppose Israeli and U.S. military threats against Iran.
© 2012 Paul Kellogg
Drogin, Bob, and Kim Murphy. 2007. “U.N. Calls U.S. Data On Iran’s Nuclear Aims Unreliable.” Los Angeles Times Articles, February 25.
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Hibbitts, Bernard. 2005. “IAEA Postpones Decision on ElBaradei Reappointment After US Voices Opposition.” Jurist: University of Pittsburgh School of Law, April 28.
History Commons. 2012. “Fereidoun Mahdavi.” Historycommons.org.
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