[Marxism] Guardian: "Are we going to war with Iran?"

John Enyang x03002f at math.nagoya-u.ac.jp
Tue Oct 18 08:57:55 MDT 2005


Are we going to war with Iran?

Dan Plesch evaluates the evidence pointing towards a new conflict in the
Middle East

Tuesday October 18, 2005

The Sunday Telegraph warned last weekend that the UN had a last chance to
avert war with Iran and, at a meeting in London last week, the US
ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, expressed his regret that any failure
by the UN security council to deal with Iran would damage the security
council's relevance, implying that the US would solve the problem on its

Only days before, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had dismissed
military action as "inconceivable" while both the American president and
his secretary of state had insisted war talk was not on the agenda. The
UN's International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found that Iran
has not, so far, broken its commitments under the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty, although it has concealed activities before.

It appears that the UK and US have decided to raise the stakes in the
confrontation with Iran. The two countries persuaded the IAEA board -
including India - to overrule its inspectors, declare Iran in breach of
the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and say that Iran's activities could be
examined by the UN security council. Critics of this political process
point to the fact that India itself has developed nuclear weapons and
refused to join the NPT, but has still voted that Iran is acting
illegitimately. On the Iranian side there is also much belligerent talk
and pop music now proudly speaks of the nuclear contribution to Iranian

The timing of the recent allegations about Iranian intervention in Iraq
also appears to be significant. Ever since the US refused to control
Iraq's borders in April 2003, Iranian backed militia have dominated the
south and, with under 10,000 soldiers amongst a population of millions,
the British army had little option but to go along. No fuss was made until
now. As for the bombings of British soldiers, some sources familiar with
the US army engineers report that these supposedly sophisticated devices
have been manufactured inside Iraq for many months and do not need to be

But is the war talk for real or is it just sabre rattling? The
conventional wisdom is that for both military and political reasons it
would be impossible for Israel and the UK/US to attack and that, in any
event, after the politically damaging Iraq war, neither Tony Blair nor
George Bush would be able to gather political support for another attack.

But in Washington, Tel Aviv and Downing Street, if not the Foreign Office,
Iran is regarded as a critical threat. The regime in Tehran continues to
demand the destruction of the state of Israel and to support anti-Israeli
forces. In what appeared to be coordinated releases of intelligence
assessments, Israeli and US intelligence briefed earlier this year that,
while Iran was years from a nuclear weapons capability, the technological
point of no return was now imminent.

Shortly after the US elections, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, warned
that Israel might attack Iran. Israel has the capability to attack Iranian
targets with aircraft and long-range cruise missiles launched from
submarines, while Iranian air defences are still mostly based on
25-year-old equipment purchased in the time of the Shah. A US attack might
be portrayed as a more reasonable option than a renewed Israeli-Islamic

The US army and marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but soldiers could
be found if the Bush administration were intent on invasion. Donald
Rumsfeld has been reorganising the army to increase front-line forces by a
third. More importantly, naval and air force firepower has barely been
used in Iraq. Just 120 B52 and stealth bombers could target 5,000 points
in Iran with satellite-guided bombs in just one mission. It is for this
reason that John Pike of globalsecurity.org thinks that a US attack could
come with no warning at all. US action is often portrayed as impossible,
not only because of the alleged lack of firepower, but because Iranian
facilities are too hard to target. In a strategic logic not lost on
Washington, the conclusion then is that if you cannot guarantee to destroy
all the alleged weapons, then it must be necessary to remove the regime
that wants them, and regime change has been the official policy in
Washington for many years.

For political-military planners, precision strikes on a few facilities
have drawbacks beyond leaving the regime intact. They allow the regime too
many retaliatory options. Certainly, Iran's neighbours in Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf who are worried about the growth of Iranian Shia influence in
Iraq would want any attack to be decisive. From this logic grows the idea
of destroying the political-military infrastructure of the clerical regime
and perhaps encouraging separatist Kurdish and Azeri risings in the
north-west. Some Washington planners have hopes of the Sunnis of oil-rich
Khuzestan breaking away too.

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many
believe. Scott Ritter, the whistleblowing former UN weapons inspector,
points out that few in the Democratic party will stand in the way of the
destruction of those who conducted the infamous Tehran embassy siege that
ended Jimmy Carter's presidency. Mr Ritter is one of the US analysts,
along with Seymour Hersh, who have led the allegations that Washington is
going to war with Iran.

For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a
useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control
of the Republican party prior to next year's congressional elections. From
this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation
behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob
Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be
easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that
US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far
lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years.
With regard to Mr Blair's position, it would be helpful to know whether he
has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb "come what may" as he
did with Iraq.

 Dan Plesch is the author of The Beauty Queen's Guide to World Peace.

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