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No time for Complacency

Source: CASMII
Statement on US Midterm Elections by Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran

The 2006 midterm elections have been an unmistakable rejection of Bush's Iraq policy and a significant victory for the global antiwar movement. However, the danger for the US and/or Israel to either attack Iran or force devastating sanctions upon its people continues to be very real.

The desire of the American electorate to change direction on the war has been heard loud and clear by the Democrats who will control Congress starting January 2007. When it comes to Iran, however, the picture is not so clear cut. The reckless and ill-advised policy options being actively considered have changed very little.

We submit that the work of the peace community is hardly over. We council against complacency, which some may be inclined to fall into after the elections. Iranian residents of US and Europe, in particular, must remain vigilant and lend their voices and actions now to prevent an attack on their country resulting in chaos, death and destruction in Iran.

US Military in the Region

While congressional support for an outright attack on Iran may have diminished, tensions are quite high and many other risks of conflict still remain. There are now over 150,000 US troops in Iraq, the highest number since January [1]. Recent US naval build up in the Persian Gulf includes the addition of tens of US military vessels, including nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines which are under the command of US Navy's Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain [2].

The US has undertaken "security exercises" together with navies from two dozen foreign powers in addition to Bahrain, Qatar and UAE mere miles from Iranian territory [3]. Such flagrant power projection on Iran's doorstep is dangerous and irresponsible, even with the best of intentions. Such provocations raise the probability of military "incidents," which -- intentional or not -- could quickly escalate to a full military engagement with devastating consequences for the people of Iran and the region.

Elsewhere in the region, US has established clandestine support of ethnic separatist groups to explore "alternative means of putting pressure" on Iran [14]. Israel has provided "equipment and training" to at least one Kurdish separatist group and US has provided it with a list of targets inside Iran [14].

The new Democratic congress may finally force a plan for ground troop redeployment from Iraq, but this almost certainly means that US troops will remain somewhere else in the region, such as -- per Rep. John Murtha's suggestion [4] -- Kuwait, where they could easily take part in operations against Iran.

Escalating threats

Recent events in Israel have also changed the equation, but unfortunately not in the direction of peace. Israel's summer bombing of Lebanon, was widely seen as a precursor to a possible Iran action [5]. Yet despite the complete failure of his objectives in Lebanon, Prime Minister Olmert considers the operation a success [7] and, most tellingly, his threats to strike Iran have escalated sharply [6]. Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister has openly suggested that Israel might be forced to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear program[16].

US Congress members, Republican and Democrat, have already expressed unflinching support for offensive Israeli military actions as the overwhelming bipartisan endorsement of the Lebanon bombing proved. President Bush, too, has escalated his rhetoric, summarized as "Iran must realize it will pay a price for its intransigence. [8]"

Given that neither the IAEA, nor the CIA nor the Israeli intelligence have found any evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, as reaffirmed in the secret CIA document revealed in Seymour Hersh's most recent article on Iran [14], the "intransigence" refers to the unprovable "thought-crime" of having "nuclear ambitions" or desiring "technical knowledge" rather than actually developing weapons or breaking international law. In his article, Hersh reports that the White House is hostile to the CIA document, which absolves Iran of developing a covert nuclear weapons program.

Bush is now openly using the language of "consequences" [8] reminiscent of the speeches before the Iraq invasion, "consequences" for made-up "crimes" proof of whose innocence is by definition impossible to provide.

Who can possibly prove that a country no longer has "ambition" as Bush demands? Who can demonstrate either that Iran has or has not crossed "the technological threshold" as Olmert asserts [9]? These are unrealistic standards designed to fail from the outset, to denigrate Iran, and to justify US/Israel mobilization in the region.

New Policy or Damage Control?

The Bush administration's replacement of Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates and his public embrace of the new Iraq Study Group (ISG), headed by James Baker, are being widely interpreted as a shift in Iraq policy. The ISG, in particular, is said to be contemplating a region wide conference to include Iran and Syria

While these signals appear to be a move in the direction of a military disengagement, nothing of the kind has been acknowledged by the Administration. On the contrary, when asked about Iraq while visiting Vietnam on November 18, President Bush declared "we will succeed unless we quit [11]."

In fact Bush has launched his own parallel investigation to undermine or offer alternatives to the ISG recommendations. According to Robin Wright, Bush is launching "a very fast review, trying to come out at the same time that the Iraq Study Group comes out with its recommendations for the very reason that it doesn't want to feel that this is the only plan on the table [12]."

Robert Gates Jr., who had deep involvement in the Iran-Contra affair [13], has been portrayed as favoring dialogue with Iran. According to Seymour Hersh, however, there are other possible motives for picking Gates.

White House saw Gates as someone who would have the credibility to help it stay the course on Iran and Iraq. Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran's weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq [14].

It is therefore entirely plausible that far from a genuine change in policy, the Bush/Cheney war machine is seeking to simply project the appearance of policy change while continuing to implement the original neo-conservative vision.

In the UK, Tony Blair has stated in his speech at Guildhall that "There can be a new partnership with Iran if it stopped supporting terrorism in Iraq and gave up its nuclear ambitions..... Syria and Iran could choose partnership or isolation [17]." However, despite the conciliatory tone about partnership, the US and the UK have both vigorously pursued their efforts to impose sanctions on Iran at the UN Security Council where they have faced resistance by Russia and China who fear that sanctions, as in the case of Iraq, can lead to a military attack on Iran.

International Sanctions and Isolation

If war seems too politically inconvenient at this particular point in time, the war mongers can always push for intermediate steps like sanctions. Sanctions in international diplomacy have almost never worked. They have always disproportionately hurt the least privileged civilians in society despite being labeled "smart" in nearly all instances.

Bush offers the (presumably non-militaristic) "solution" of "isolating" Iran. Can a country be more isolated than North Korea where this policy has not only backfired politically but has brought untold suffering to the civilian population? Have sanctions accomplished anything in the regimes of Burma or Cuba or Iran itself in the last 27 years? Has the death of 500,000 children in Iraq [10] resulted in peace for Iraqis?

Contrary to popular protestations, sanctions are a tool for regime change. They are nearly universally designed to actually hurt the people and to steer the blame toward the government, hoping to force an uprising. This is something that rarely succeeds in the best of circumstances, and will certainly backfire given Iranian nationalistic sentiments.

As far as their stated objectives, economic sanctions are either ineffective, or they require military enforcement, as they did in Iraq. Sanctions are no solution. Sanctions are war by other means.

Importance of the Peace Movement

The peace movement was instrumental in shaping the outcome of the 2006 midterm elections. The American electorate isn't simply upset about the casualties in Iraq. Indeed people everywhere are capable of showing great sacrifice for causes they believe in and Americans are no exception.

The people's backlash against Republicans stems from their overdue recognition that they had been lied to, taken advantage of and manipulated into an illegal, immoral and unnecessary invasion by the Bush Administration. In this regard the peace movement's considerable education campaign to present the facts, question the policy and expose the lies and the dishonesty helped bring outraged citizens to the polls.

We thank the hundreds of thousands of protesters, writers and speakers who over the past four years broke through the propaganda and exposed the moral bankruptcy of the imperialists in US and UK.

Unfortunately these efforts, while certainly welcome, have come too late for the over 655,000 dead Iraqis [15]. Thousands of invading soldiers have been killed and billions of dollars of public funds have been squandered by corrupt war profiteers. This tragedy does not have to be repeated for Iran.

Our Position and demands

CASMII continues to be greatly concerned about the possibility of a catastrophic military confrontation or leveling of sanctions against the Iranian people.

The peace movements in US, UK and Israel have a chance to make the critical difference. It is of utmost importance for all anti-war organizations to mobilize their members and put pressure on their respective governments to back off from the confrontational posture, demonizing rhetoric and threats of violence which can easily become self-fulfilling prophesies.

We reach out to the peace movement in Israel and consider it a natural ally in the struggle against military aggression. No one knows better than Israeli peace activists the futility of military aggression as a solution to regional problems.

We urge all Iranian expatriate communities around the globe to mobilize their forces to prevent Iran from becoming another Iraq. We urge all peace-loving people across the world to demand a halt to the confrontational attitude of the US against Iran. We urge all to ask the United States to stop waging war on Iran in all forms including economic or so-called "smart" sanctions and to respect the sanctity of lives of millions of children in Iran who will be the victims of such sanctions.

We consider ethical diplomacy with mutual respect to be the only solution to the present conflict. We call upon the US government to respect the sovereignty of Iran and other countries in the Middle East. We demand direct negotiations between the US and Iran without pre-conditions to resolve areas of conflict . We demand the return of Iran's file to the IAEA for peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues. We demand that the US and the UK stop politicizing this case.







[7] ibid. Olmert is quoted as saying "I know for sure through different sources that Hezbollah was close to total surrender."





[12] Meet the Press. Nov. 19, 2006.







... Payvand News - 11/29/06 ... --

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