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The Dogs Of War Are Barking Again: The Iran "Threat"


By Kam Zarrabi


For any casual observer in the United States, America's approach to the "problem" of Iran is not a complicated geopolitical issue requiring exhaustive diplomatic maneuverings. The casual observer simply "knows" that Iran, as the President has stated, is a member of the international Axis of Evil, and the Number One State Sponsor of International Terrorism.


We are now told that the Al Gha'eda leadership has direct connections with factions within the Iranian regime. And, of course, we are told that there is no question but that Iran is on the way to developing the ultimate weapon of terror, the nuclear bomb, and with the worst of intentions.


European countries have been alerted of this impending Iranian threat, and urged by the United States to implement all necessary measures to safeguard against an Iranian missile attack. Some poorer Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Bulgaria, are promised adequate missile systems by the United States in order to be able to defend themselves against an Iranian attack.


With America's blessing and encouragement, the Israeli navy has just added nuclear missiles to their fleet of diesel submarines in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, for defensive purposes, we are told.


Additionally, Iran now intends to launch its own spy satellite into orbit, which means two things: Iran has the long-range missile capability to do so, therefore, Iran can reach any part of the globe with its nuclear-armed missiles; and, Iran can now locate sensitive military targets in Israel, so carefully guarded up till now from spying eyes, thanks to the US policy of deleting this data from the easily available archives of global satellite photographs.


To conclude, casual observers do not have to question any of these assertions; their only concern is how best to eliminate this source of unpredictable menace and threat to international peace and security. I know this is how the general public feels about the Iranian issue, not just by reading the newspaper headlines or listening to radio and television talk shows, but as a public speaker and instructor in international affairs to large and small audiences.


In such addresses, any statement that does not confirm such negative imageries is considered biased, overly defensive or, at the very least, apologetic. It is against this kind of torrent that one has to swim in order to challenge such deeply rooted perceptions.


I enjoyed reading the October 14 article in Payvand, 'Iran Needs Nuclear Power' by Mohammad Sahimi, Pirouz Mojtahed Zadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi. Any well-informed and technically sound person would agree with what the authors have so clearly outlined. But, that's not the issue, as we are not dealing with the well-informed or the well-intentioned!


As a country at an obvious disadvantage in confrontation with America, Iranian policy makers are both divided and confused. The hardliners or the ultraconservative so-called non-elected leadership in Iran, believe and behave much like their counterparts in the United States, the non-elected religious Right or fundamentalists and the ultraconservatives who wield power from the various think tanks that influence this Administration's policy decisions. And, just as is the case right here in the United States of America, foreign influence peddlers do take advantage of sensitivities or soft spots in the Administration in order to promote their own self-interests. In America it is the formidable Israeli lobby with unquestioned power and influence over the supposedly democratic electoral processes, the public media, and the foreign policy apparatus. In Iran, it has been the anti Zionist activists who have basically highjacked the humanitarian support and sympathy for the Palestinians by forging it into a militant Islamic anti-Zionism.


Of course neither side is quite capable of unshackling itself from these tentacles that have penetrated so deep into the fabric of their respective societies to become cultural traditions, coequal to patriotism. Each society is paying a price for its passionate attachment, an attachment that seldom if ever has had, or is likely to have, anything positive or beneficial for the benefactors.


The price that Iran is paying for its quite principled commitment to a foreign cause has been by far more detrimental to its own best interests, compared to the negative impact to America for becoming the dog that is wagged by its tail, Israel. Iran's progress and prosperity, if not its very survival, is being threatened today by forces that mere rhetoric cannot deter.


If we set aside passion and propaganda, every constituent in the Iranian leadership, elected or not, from the religious fundamentalist, hardcore conservative, to moderate, liberal, or secular nationalist, has the best interests of the nation in mind. Different groups and affiliations exist because opinions as to what is best for the country also vary. One should not be at all surprised to observe the similarities between the opinions and methods of approach among the radical ultraconservatives in the United States Congress and the White House, with the self-appointed guardians of faith and nationhood in Iran. Neither side would refrain from adopting any measure, no matter how drastic, in the pursuit of their goals; faith in their own righteousness drives their sense of logic and reason.


The Iranian conservatives truly believe that easing up on the reigns of power will open the door to the dreaded alien intrusion and ultimate devastation of the cultural traditions and national identity of the country.  There is a direct ratio between Israel's military threats and American chest-thumping against the Iranian regime, and the strength and apparent legitimacy of the ultraconservative hardliners' grip over Iran's policies.  Undoubtedly, the current American and Israeli strategy of threats and intimidation against Iran has had, and will continue to have, a negative impact on any positive reforms that the United States wants, so it claims, to see implemented in Iran.


The moderates and the truly reform-minded politicians and observers in Iran see America's strategy as counterproductive to the interests of Iran and the region as a whole. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist's creative imagination to conclude that what is behind the strategy of threats and intimidation is a grander design that, unchallenged, will lead to the temporary establishment of client states in the Middle East, which would inevitably re-explode into anarchy and chaos, resulting in decades of instability and turmoil.

As horrific as this scenario might seem, the results might very well suit the global strategic objectives of the world's only superpower.


The chess game that is currently being played between Iran and the United States, with Israel as America's coach, and the IAEA as a not-so-impartial referee, exemplifies the complexities of the issues. We now hear that IAEA has demanded the right to inspect Iran's military installations in addition to the nuclear sites, to make sure that Iran is in compliance with the Non Proliferation Treaty requirements. In other words, the United States and Israel insist on gaining complete access to Iran's military and defense installations, and to ensure that Iran lacks the potential to obtain nuclear weapons anytime soon. This would be invaluable information, as was the case before the invasion of Iraq, should a similar campaign take place against Iran, whether before or after Syria!


Iran will no doubt engage in every possible tactic to remain evasive and delay the process, even if by rejecting the demands of the IAEA outright, and taking its chances at the United Nations Security Council, perhaps hoping for a VETO by Russia against the imposition of stiff sanctions against it.


To argue for Iran's legitimate need for developing its nuclear deterrent for defensive purposes, and demanding equal and evenhanded approach to Israel's nuclear threats, might sound logical to any sane observer of the international scene. However, when the Assistant Secretary of State, John Bolton, was questioned recently during a visit to England about America's disregard for Israel's nuclear arsenal, his response was quite straight to the point. He basically stated America's position as being concerned only about nuclear threats to America and American allies. This is clearly another indication that safeguarding Israel's security interests by ensuring its unchallenged military supremacy is the on top of the agenda.


It, therefore, makes no sense and would be of very little impact to harp on the unfair or prejudicial approach of the United States in dealing with Iran or any other regime in the Middle East. It is also of no consequence to argue for or against Iran's legitimate need for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Reasoned or globally accepted arguments, in other words, have no role to play in this scenario. It is not as though one could present sound arguments in favor of Iran's legitimate rights to engage in nuclear research and its peaceful applications, in order to defuse allegations and suspicions raised against it by the United States, who is looking through Israeli eyes, of course.


We can clearly see that complaining, raising objections, screaming and crying, won't help. So, what are the Iranians to do?


1-     Close their eyes, hold their breaths, and hope for the best.

2-     Accept the mandates imposed by the Empire, and readopt the decades-long practice of subordination as a compliant client state.

3-     Resist change while intensifying animosity and counter threats against the Empire and its local surrogate, challenging them to a duel, even though the outcome is quite obvious - suicide!

4-     Engage in shrewd diplomacy while making sure that any hostile intentions against Iran might just turn out to be more costly to any aggressor than they'd be willing to accept.


The last option seems the most logical for any responsible leadership in Iran, whether conservative, liberal, religious or secular. The big effort by the United States and Israel, obviously only for Israel's sake, to speed up and intensify the IAEA inspections of Iran's nuclear programs is to keep the last alternative from becoming a real option for Iran. The fear for Israel is that, without America's blessings and support, taking any direct military action against Iran might prove disastrous. Iran can easily withstand such surgical attacks against its potential nuclear installation, only to intensify its support for the Lebanese groups and Palestinian militants, while waiting for the right opportunity to retaliate in kind, sooner or later. America, meantime, will have to wait until the mess it has created in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, is cleared up, perhaps until after the elections of 2004, to be able to consider the Iranian issue seriously. This, it is feared, will give Iran enough time to equip itself with at least a few nuclear warheads, if it doesn't have any as yet.


Syria as a threat to Israeli interests can be brought to submission by denying it the oil flow from Iraq, now in America's hands, and other economic sanctions. Without a viable Syrian support, the Lebanese assistance and support for the Palestinian resistance in the occupied territories will cease or be radically reduced. While Israel can thus pursue its own national interests with increasing impunity, Iran's role may gradually fade as Israel's potential ultimate nemesis. This can be achieved through a Cold-War type détente between the two states. Israel could then achieve the measure of security it has craved since its inception, albeit at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian populations, and Iran might escape the wrath of the Empire and proceed with its own inevitable reforms that are long overdue.


And, congratulations for a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize to Ms. Shirin Ebadi.


About the author:

Kam Zarrabi is writer, lecturer, former president, World Affairs Council of San Diego, North County. 


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