Iran the Next
Target, but …
Just hours before
the inaugural address of President Bush on January
20, Vice President Dick Cheney identified Iran as
the top threat to world peace and warned that Israel
“might well decide to act first” militarily to eliminate
Iran’s nuclear capabilities if the US and its allies
fail to solve the standoff with Teheran diplomatically.
Seymour Hersh fueled further the speculation of
an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations with his
report in The New Yorker of January 24-31 revealing
that under cover US operatives were already in Iran
collecting intelligence on the sites of nuclear
Hersh, an eminent and well-connected investigative
journalist, is the author of some ten books and
is credited with disclosing the story of My Lai
massacre in Vietnam. His voluminous work ‘The Price
of Power’ is a gripping account of the Nixon and
Kissinger years in the White House. His story on
‘The Coming Wars’ is based on extensive interviews
with senior officials both serving and retired.
For instance, he has quoted a former high-level
intelligence official as saying: “This is a war
against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign.
The Bush Administration is looking at this as a
huge war zone. Next we are going to have the Iranian
campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever
they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah
---we’ve got four years, and want to come out of
this saying we won the war on terrorism.” Iran,
a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
has allowed inspectors of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) to check its nuclear sites
since it insists that its nuclear program is for
the generation of electricity and for other peaceful
purposes and not for the production of any weapon
of mass destruction (WMD).
The IAEA has so far found no evidence to the contrary.
The IAEA report of September 2004 said: “All declared
nuclear material in Iran had been accounted for,
and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited
activities.” Yet, pressure is being put on the country
to demolish all its nuclear establishments. Iran
remains in defiance of this demand as it maintains
that its program is permitted under the NPT. The
US and other Western intelligence agencies believe
that Iran is hiding its weapon-oriented installations.
Yet, they agree that Iran is three to five years
from nuclear warheads production capability.
The civilian leadership in Pentagon believes, according
to Hersh, that without a credible threat of military
action the Iranian leadership will not be amenable
to diplomatic overtures. “The only thing the Iranians
understand is pressure. And that they also need
to be whacked.” On the other hand, the European
powers - France, Germany and Britain in particular
- hold that the issue can be and should be resolved
with Iran through negotiations. With that in view,
they signed an initial agreement with Iran in mid-November
2004 to freeze Iran’s uranium enrichment program
in return for talks about a broader deal on economic
and technical cooperation.
The move was clearly signed at preempting any aggressive
action by the new Bush administration, which had
indicated earlier that it would push at the IAEA
meeting for Iran to be referred to the UN Security
Council for possible sanctions. Iran has been under
US sanctions for quarter of a century ever since
the hostage crisis of 1979. Taking advantage of
this standoff, the European powers have entered
into agreements for exploration, drilling and refining
of Iranian oil.
Companies of China, Japan , Malaysia and Russia
have also made such agreements. Iran has the fourth
largest crude oil reserves and the second largest
natural gas reserves in the world. While Britain
was totally with the US in the war on Iraq, it has
been advising the US against any military action
on Iran. China and Russia are likely to use their
veto power to thwart any resolution that the US
might bring in the Security Council for the use
of force against Iran.
Given the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and
Washington’s intimate backing for Israel, which
is said to have a secret stockpile of some 300 nuclear
warheads, Iran could conclude that it needs to acquire
nuclear weapons to defend itself. The US has for
over a decade pressed China, Russia and others to
cut off supply of vital technology and know-how
to Iran. This supply-side non-proliferation strategy
has been somewhat successful and slowed down Iran’s
The US has been pressing Russia to pull out of its
contract for completing the Bushehr power reactor
in southern Iran. Moscow has rebuffed such demands.
Fact of the matter is that neither the supply side
embargo, nor the agreement with the European powers
to suspend enrichment, mentioned above, are likely
to make Iran abandon the acquisition of nuclear
technology. For, the country has invested too much
pride, money, and technical talent in building it
nascent nuclear infrastructure to abandon it completely.
Also, it has spread out its nuclear set-ups to obviate
their destruction at one go like in the case of
Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak
in 1981. In the case of Iraq, worldwide demonstrations
of millions of people were held opposing the war.
The US following its doctrine of preemptive strike
ignored all such protests and went ahead with its
invasion of the country. But, it meticulously avoided
including Israel in the coalition in order to save
that country from possible wrath of its neighbors.
In the case of Iran, it has openly hinted that Israel
may take the initiative as it is directly under
Israel might point out that the US is in a better
position to do the job as it is in occupation of
the neighbors of Iran on both sides apart from having
bases in Central Asian states. From the point of
view of Iran and the international community, it
makes little difference as to who takes the initiative.
Iran, however, is not Iraq. Iraq was an arbitrary
creation yoking together three disparate Ottoman
provinces. It has lacked the sense of common identity
that underpins civic patriotism. Iranians have unbroken
history for over 2,500 years.
They have a fully evolved society with an educated
middle class. If handled tactfully, the Iranian
youth would throw out the clerics and set up a progressive,
democratic polity and join the comity of civilized
nations. If saner councils prevail over the current
bellicose emotionalism, such a development would
be advantageous for the US as much as for Israel.
Let us remember that right now the US economy is
registering unprecedented deficits – some 450 billion
dollars next fiscal year. It is unwise to keep digging
further when one is already in a hole. (firstname.lastname@example.org)