by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 12, Muharram, 1428)
People all over the world have long been aware of the stark gap between the reality of American policy around the world, dictated by the drive to achieve “full spectrum dominance” at any cost, and the claims of its leaders to represent enlightenment and freedom for all people. One effect of the disaster in Iraq has been to make even Americans – notoriously ignorant of world affairs – aware of their leaders’ apparent disconnection from reality. At a time when there are growing demands for the US to pull out of Iraq, and rethink its strategy in the Middle East, both among Americans generally and politicians in Washington, the Bush administration has not only reaffirmed its commitment to the war in Iraq by committing an additional 21,500 troops, but made clear its determination to go to war against Iran as well.
Bush’s intent was made clear in two major speeches last month. On January 10 he gave his long-awaited statement of future policy in Iraq, responding to the Baker Report published on December 6. As well as committing further troops to Iraq, Bush said towards the end of his 20-minute speech: “Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilising the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
On January 23 Bush gave his annual State of the Union address, outlining his administration’s policies for the next year. It was during this address in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and as propagandists were preparing the ground for the invasion of Iraq a year later, that he first used the phrase “axis of evil” to make clear that Iran was also on his hit-list. This year he repeated the rhetoric of the “war on terror” that has been widely discredited, but expanded his definition of the enemy that the US faces from al-Qa‘ida to “Shi’a extremists [that] are also determined to dominate the Middle East” and “are known to take direction from the regime in Iran… which is funding and arming terrorists like Hizbullah – a group second only to Al-Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.”
Even before his speech on January 10, dubbed “Iraq Surge”, Bush had personally authorised escalation of tensions by ordering aggressive actions against Iran. On December 20, accredited Iranian diplomats were arrested in Baghdad in violation of all diplomatic norms; even the puppet Iraqi regime was moved to protest and demand the diplomats’ immediate release. The following day, two Iranian officials were arrested at the house of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head0 of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a major political group in the Iraqi parliament. On December 23, after intense American diplomatic activity aimed at persuading reluctant allies such as Russia to toe the line, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1737, demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment as part of its peaceful nuclear programme. This was in complete contravention of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory. This was followed on January 9 by the US banning all transactions with Bank Sepah, accusing it of financing Iran’s nuclear programme.
The day after Bush’s January 10 speech, American troops raided the Iranian liaison office in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, at 3:30am, arresting several Iranian officials and stealing computers, documents and other equipment. The Kurds were livid at this affront to their authority. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, himself a Kurd, pointedly challenged American assertions about the Iranian officials’ involvement in supplying weapons or money to the insurgency. He said the office had existed for more than 10 years and it was in the process of being upgraded to a full consulate.
At the same time, Bush announced the dispatch of a second aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf, clearly also intended to increase the pressure on Iran. Each carrier group has more than 80 combat aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornets, F-14 Tomcats, SH-60 Seahawks, S-3B Vikings, E-2C Hawkeyes and EA-6B Prowlers, capable of flying more than 150 strikes a day. In addition, each carrier group includes guided-missile cruisers, fast frigates, guided-missile destroyers, and submarines, all equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles. How this lethal ordnance will help staunch the flow of help, if any, to the insurgency in Iraq from Iran is not explained. Deployment of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf can mean only one thing: Bush has plans to attack Iran from the sea. Several commentators, including congressmen, regard these aggressive moves by the US as a prelude to a direct attack on Iran, probably sometime in April.
There is also talk of the US and/or Israel using nuclear weapons against Iran. According to a report compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the kind of bunker-buster bombs the US has threatened to use against Iran’s nuclear facilities, would penetrate only a few feet into the ground, too shallow to contain the massive radiation fall-out that could spread over 1000 miles. If the US actually used nuclear weapon itself, as some have suggested, the results would be even worse. If a single 1.2-kiloton bomb were dropped on Isfahan, three million people would be killed within two weeks of the explosion around Isfahan and another 35 million, including many in neighbouring countries, would be at high risk of cancer due to radiation. That would be madness indeed, and may be regarded as beyond the bounds of possibility; but nothing is impossible from this administration. The results of such an attack would of course be blamed on Iran for having a nuclear facility in the first place, rather than on the US or Israel for bombing it.
The propaganda campaign is also in full swing with zionist-controlled papers—the New York Sun and the British Daily Telegraph among them—leading the charge, circulating scandalous allegations as fact. This is a repeat of what happened before the war against Iraq. In August 2002, Judith Miller of the New York Times had published lurid details about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. These turned out to be completely false; they were deliberately planted by vice president Dick Cheney’s office and other neo-cons on the Bush team to prepare the public for a war against Iraq that has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
There are other echoes too of what is now known about the build-up to the war in Iraq. In Iraq, the US financed and supported anti-government forces to undermine the Ba’athist regime. Now, it is well established that the US finances and supports the terrorist Mujahideen-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) against Iran. Additionally, US officials and journalists, Seymour Hersh for instance, have suggested that American Special Forces are already operating inside Iran, instigating unrest against the government and encouraging acts of terrorism. This is a clear violation of its sovereignty and a declaration of war against Iran.
As in the period before the invasion of Iraq, US officials are engaged in intensive diplomacy marshalling support for their plans. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice went on yet another of her frequent flyer visits to the region between January 13 and 19 to drum up support for this latest American folly. Rice started her journey with pilgrimage to the zionist state of Israel, followed by visits to Mahmoud Abbas in Occupied Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In another expansion of its military presence in the Persian Gulf, the US has recently deployed Patriot missile batteries in Qatar, no doubt charging the tribal sheikhs a few billion more dollars for their “defence” – in fact, to pay for another American adventure that will cause the death of hundreds if not millions of Muslims.
The question we must ask is: if American troops are getting a bloody nose in Iraq and 20,000 additional troops will make little difference to the situation there, why is Bush so keen to open another front by instigating a war with Iran? The simple answer is that he does not care even for American lives much other peoples’ lives. After all, an estimated 655,000 Iraqis have been killed in the nearly four years since American troops went to “liberate” them, according to a study by the British medical journal, Lancet, published in October 2006. Bush’s aggressive policy prescriptions have been met with gasps of incredulity by most Americans—from members of Congress to lay persons in the street—but he is unmoved. Charles Sullivan, an American writer and photographer, wrote in the US webzine, Information Clearing House, on January 12: “The man with his finger on the nuclear detonator is mentally ill, incapable of remorse—a fact that should terrify every world citizen. I do not say this out of malice or to demean the president; it is simply a statement of fact based upon quantifiable evidence that any student of psychology would easily recognise.”
Yet there is method in this apparent madness. Bush and his neo-con advisors are driven by an insatiable greed to grab oil and money, and if this road to riches is littered with corpses then so be it. The US cannot win in Iraq—Bush has admitted as much, but still insists that the US is “not losing either”—but in the process it is determined to cause as much havoc in that part of the world as possible. Iraq has been destroyed; the neo-cons now hope to repeat the same feat in Iran to maintain and protect the US’s hegemony in the region.
Iran, which is celebrating the twenty-eighth anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution during the first ten days of this month, has not taken these threats lying down. On January 22 the Revolutionary Guards launched three days of military exercises, in which they tested the Shahab-5 and Zelzal missiles. Iranian military officials have made clear that they will give a fitting response to any aggression from the US or its protégé, Israel. Iran would be well advised not to lower its guard since the person occupying the White House may have lost the support of the American public but is driven by an ideological agenda that combines the US’s long-established determination to destroy the Islamic State, which has driven the policies of every administration in Washington since 1979, with the militaristic aggression of the neo-conservative movement that came to power in 2000.
Starting with their claims to “manifest destiny” and arriving at “full spectrum dominance”, Americans of all stripes have long strutted the world stage claiming to promote enlightenment and freedom, but inflicting only misery and suffering on people all over the world.