Monday, January 31, 2005

Iran – Discussion Thread, 31 January 2005 It was agreed between YD, Matt and myself that I would do the blog today. I started work on this thread yesterday morning. I had planned the follow the usual format but when I read this in the Los Angeles Times, I decided to change format and do a discussion thread on the possibility that the US and/or Israel will take pre-emptive military action on Iran. The LA Times article that I refer to reports that Halliburton will pull out of Iran after its current contracts there are wound down, Chief Executive Dave Lesar said: "The business environment currently in Iran is not conducive to our overall strategy and objectives." Halliburton provided no details on when its current contracts in Iran would be completed or on the value of the work. The company generated about $80 million in revenue in Iran in 2003. Our regular readers here know all too well that Seymour Hersh, the reporter that broke the Abu Ghraib torture story last year, wrote a few weeks back that the United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, and that secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites. Hersh quoted one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying: "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible." Hours before he and Bush were sworn in to a second term, Dick Cheney, ex CEO of Halliburton said: "You look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list," he also added, “that the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward." So will Bush decide to take pre-emptive military action against Iran? This is the question that I pose to our readers. Regarding the policy, or should I say “doctrine” of pre-emption, Bush in his State of the Union address in January 2002, labelled Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil" and warned that he would not allow them to threaten the United States with weapons of mass destruction. Well Iraq never had WMD, as reported by the experts prior to the invasion that the Secretary General of the UN subsequently deemed to be illegal. Well this weekend we now have the farce of “democratic” elections and God knows what the outcome will be in Iraq in the coming months. But what about Iran in the coming months? Well the major issue is Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It is a known fact that Iran has a nuclear programme, and it is also well know that Israel acted unilaterally in 1981 and destroyed the Osirak reactor 18 miles south of Baghdad, on the orders of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In September 2004, it was reported in the Economist that that Israel was planning to buy 500 “bunker-buster” bombs from America, capable of penetrating six feet of concrete and destroying underground facilities. The Iranians, learning the lesson from neighbouring Iraq have spread out their nuclear sites across the country and has undertaken most of its’ nuclear progamme underground. This weekend the Financial Times had an editorial about the possible diplomatic options that might be available and it states that US and the EU together need to devise compelling incentives and sanctions and enlist regional allies. To forswear the nuclear option Iran needs security guarantees that ultimately only the US can provide. For instance, US allies in the Gulf are tentatively discussing security architecture that would bind in the Saudi-led Gulf Co-operation Council with Iran and a sovereign Iraq. If the US and the EU were to back this, that could advance desperately needed regional and international stability. But for that the second Bush administration would need to recognise the limits of US military power and revive its under-employed diplomacy. It will take the combined clout of the two to make any headway with Iran. But facts are that US and EU diplomatic relations have still not recovered since the illegal invasion in March 2003, there is no sovereign Iraq and there is unlikely to be any real sovereignty there in the foreseeable future, so the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran seems very remote at present. So why is Iran of such strategic interest to the USA? Well, writing in the January 2005 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, Walid Charara explains: “Behind the ideological window-dressing of the new ‘democratic messianism,’ there are two main reasons for the Bush administration’s uncompromising determination. First, there is Iran’s geo-strategic status. It is an independent and middle-ranking regional power that has engaged in military cooperation with Russian and China...[T]his makes it the last bastion still to be holding out against a permanent U.S. takeover of the Middle East. [Second,] Iran is the last surviving ally in the region of those states and organizations still opposed to Israel.” Like Iraq in 2002, will we be subjected to a plethora of scare stories about the Iranian bomb, Iranian support for the resistance in Iraq and Iranian backing for terrorism? Well it has already started, last week the BBC was called to account by Media Lens, over its’ biased news coverage of an Iranian threat. Media Lens say: “Even as the staggering catastrophe that has befallen Iraq continues to be played out, the BBC and other media are yet again preparing the public mind for war. If the public can be convinced that this latest 'threat' is real, then politicians can again unleash their bombers with impunity. How many more innocent people have to die before journalists wake up to their moral responsibility to protect human life, to treat Third World nations as something more than Western playthings, to challenge warmongering propaganda, and to develop their powers of independent, rational thought?” But maybe there is hope, last week the Editorial Board of the New York Times warned the US administration against military intervention in Iran, insisting it would do "more harm than good," they go on to say “these hawkish rumblings eerily recall the months before the American invasion of Iraq, when some of the same officials pressed hardest for military action" and "we hope that this time, wiser heads in the administration will intervene before it is too late."


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