[Marxism] For Bush-Blair, war with Iran is goal, not last resort (negotiations are burdensome but necessary preliminaries)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Apr 16 12:22:34 MDT 2006

This article from The Guardian highlights the problem facing Iranians
who are now debating how to respond to Washington's now-exposed plans to
rescue both the war on terror, and its own popularity, by launching what

Bush et al  cheerfully assume (as always) will be a fairly quick an easy
victory over Iran. The destruction and breaking up of Iran can be
greeted as a victory, unlike the same tendencies in Iraq, because Iran
unlike Iraq is a real contender for regional power against Washington as
Iraq really was not.  Ahmadenijad's critics proposals for a softer line
are undermined by the experience of Saddam who "climbed down" again and
again but could not prevent the US from invading because the US
government had decided to invade.

The ruling class divisions around this center not around whether Iran
must be tamed or broken, but over the trustworthiness of the Bush
administration to carry out this task effectively and with adequate
public support.  Given their basic desire to see the job done by
somebody (perhaps a Hilary Clinton or John McCain administration), they
probably cannot stop the Bush drive to show that his team can do the job
unless they can break the administration itself.  

Bush's resistance to dumping Rumsfeld, under pressures which reflect the
lack of confidence in this administration as a war leader, sends the
message: to stop this administration from attacking Iran, you have to
stop me. Basically, the rulers would have to smash this administration
as completely or more so than Nixon was smashed.  We certainly should
not assume that this will happen, although it could, but should operate
on the basis that the attack on Iran is coming, and is not a year away.

Partly, Washington's illusions this time are based on the fact that
Iran, unlike Iraq, has not been able to establish a totalitarian setup
and that there is widespread public opposition to and disillusion with
the Islamic regime, especially among the middle classes and student
youth.  But since totalitarianism is a weakness, not a strength, the
open divisions may turn out to be a source of strength under attack from
a foreign power out to break Iran as a rising power. 

A recent online Counterpunch article included the old saw that the
proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the likelihood that they will
be used.  It will be almost a miracle if we get through the entire
struggle of nations and classes without more bombs being dropped, but --
given that there is no motion toward genuine nuclear disarmament
starting where proliferation began, the United States -- the facts are
clear that proliferation has been a deterrent, not primarily a cause of
the use of nuclear weapons.  The only use of nuclear weapons to date was
by the United States against Japan, when the US had a monopoly of both
the weapons and the technology.  

>From the time the Soviet Union got the atomic bomb in 1949, Washington
has been deterred -- and very frustrated about it, too -- from using the
nuclear weapons.  And the "underdeveloped" countries that were supposed
to be irrationally ready -- unlike the mild tempered US -- to use the
bomb to settle all manner of disputes have turned out to have a firm
grip on the dangerous-ness of their destructiveness and that includes
not only China, but India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

>From the standpoint of the working people of the world, an Iranian bomb
will simply be a deterrent to US, Israeli, British or French attacks on
Iraq, and thus a limitation on the whole drive against the peoples of
the Islamic Middle East and South Asia.
Fred Feldman

Guardian website:
So how close is a showdown over Iran? 
News of British involvement in a mock invasion of Iran is just the
latest step in what seems a slow slide to war. Paul Harris in
Washington, Gaby Hinsliff in London and Robert Tait in Tehran report

Paul Harris in Washington, Gaby Hinsliff in London and Robert Tait in
Sunday April 16, 2006


It would seem, to Middle Eastern eyes scanning the latest headlines
online yesterday, yet further evidence of secret plans for the conflict
that everyone is now dreading. Britain, it was suggested, had taken part
in an American war game that simulated an invasion of Iran, in an
apparent mockery of both countries' insistence that they want a
diplomatic - not a military - solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. 
But in the overheated atmosphere of current debate over Iran, nothing is
quite what it seems. The simulated battle, fought in 2004 and codenamed
Hotspur, was in fact one of a series of 'paper exercises' that have been
conducted every few weeks by senior military planners on both sides of
the Atlantic since the Sixties to test strategic readiness. Each time, a
different country is invaded. 

To save inventing new topography every time, maps of real countries
around the world are used in strict rotation. In July 2004 - before the
current president came to power in Tehran - it happened to be Iran. A
few weeks ago, it was Scotland. If Tehran is panicking as a result of
the story, so too should Edinburgh. 

For all that, the story on the front page of yesterday's Guardian is an
indication, if not of imminent invasion, of an intense period of smoke
and mirrors both in Washington and Tehran: of posturing, lobbying and
hyperbole that is as much to do with the domestic politics of the US and
Iran, as with the threat posed by either country. 

The war talk comes as a new report will argue this week that George
Bush's war on terror is itself to blame for the nuclear stand-off over

The regime in Tehran has concluded, says the Foreign Policy Centre
think-tank, that the US is too bogged down fighting the insurgency in
Iraq to try to stop the Iranians getting the bomb, making their defiance
of the United Nations 'one of the little-noticed consequences of
America's failure in Iraq'. 

Controversially, it also argues that Iran 'cannot be entirely faulted'
for seeking nuclear capability when it feels threatened by US troops in
neighbouring countries and saw North Korea, a nuclear power, left
untouched while the relatively undefended Iraq was invaded. 

Which leaves a fundamental question to be answered. Amid the fanning of
the flames by both sides, how real is the prospect of war? 

Reading recent headlines, it would seem very real indeed, as they have
warned of potential nuclear strikes by the US against Iran's nuclear
facilities, floated by the veteran US investigative reporter Seymour
Hersh and described by the Foreign Office as 'completely nuts'. The
reality, however, is far more complex. 

In truth the anonymous and warlike noises emanating from Washington
reflect a debate about possible military action against Iran that has
pitted hawks in the Bush administration - including such senior
neo-conservatives as Vice- President Dick Cheney and the US Ambassador
to the UN John Bolton - against large segments of the military,
intelligence and political establishment. 

In fact the debate in America is not over whether the US can or should
stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but on how best to stop them. 

At the moment the overwhelming consensus centres on a diplomatic
strategy. Yet it is also certain that military options are being
studied, if only theoretically. 

While insisting that the military option will still be considered, the
White House itself has moved sharply to distance itself from reporting
on the issue. 

There is no doubt, however, that signs emerging from the administration
are familiar to any of those following events in the run-up to the
invasion of Iraq - not least the building up of the threat posed by Iran
by senior administration officials. 

To some, the parallels are convincing enough. 'I would expect an attack
in the next six months,' says Larry Johnson, a former deputy director in
the State Department's counter-terrorism office. 'This is not just
planning for possible military contingencies. There is real planning
under way for carrying out a military strike against Iran.' 

But many point to the huge problems of carrying out any form of attack -
not least that it would fail to destroy much of an Iranian nuclear
research programme buried deep underground. Then there is the risk to
the US military in Iraq after any attack on Iran. Iran's close links to
the majority Shias would likely see a widespread uprising against the US

Finally, such a move would be unlikely to have any international
support, except possibly from Israel, which is nervous of the potential
consequences from Iran's Hizbollah allies on its northern border. 

Such enormous difficulties - and the belief that the US joint chiefs of
staff are against an attack - could mean that the public pronouncement
and behind-the-scenes leaks and hints are just part of a complex game
designed to convince Iran that the threat is real enough to dissuade its
nuclear ambitions. 

Johnson believes that the key task for US intelligence is to understand
the threat of a nuclear Iran. Does Tehran want the bomb to attack US
interests and Israel, or is it for self-preservation? 'They have learned
the lesson of North Korea. Once you have nuclear weapons, the US
sabre-rattling becomes much less. After all, with North Korea you have a
genuine madman in control of a country with the bomb and yet we don't
hear very much about them at all,' Johnson said. 

The real US policy, enunciated by a senior State Department official
close to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, revolves around a belief
that Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is weaker than his
bellicose attitude might suggest and is vulnerable to the pressure of
international sanctions. 

It is the figure of Ahmadinejad who is at the centre of the conundrum of
whether Iran and the US are slipping towards war. 

On Friday Ahmadinejad was in Tehran at a conference on Palestinian
aspirations for statehood. Such, however, was the international outcry
surrounding his announcement three days earlier in the city of Mashhad
that Iran had mastered the basics of uranium enrichment, that this
subject seemed to be a mere sideshow to Iran's intensifying
confrontation with the West. 

With the President bearing the triumphal tidings in the presence of the
country's atomic energy chief and an assortment of senior mullahs and
military top brass, the outward impression was of a regime united in the
face of intense pressure from the UN Security Council, which set a
30-day deadline last month for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment

Such unanimity, however, is by many accounts only superficial. Behind
the scenes, a bitter war of words has taken place over Ahmadinejad's
inflammatory rhetoric. 

Hashemi Rafsanjani - the influential former president and a strong
advocate of holding official talks with America - is a particular critic
and is said to have denounced the President's tactics to his face.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has also warned about the
international effects of the often-febrile remarks made by Ahmadinejad,
who on Friday called yet again for Israel's destruction. Rafsanjani made
his feelings clear by trumping the President's announcement in an
interview with a Kuwaiti news agency, meaning the news was public hours
in advance. 

'There are some Iranian leaders, not least Rafsanjani, who think we
should act more prudently and who don't approve of this radical trend,'
said Dr Sadegh Zibakalam, a politics lecturer at Tehran University.
'They think we should buy friends in the international community by
saying, for example, that we understand the anxiety about Iran's nuclear
programme, but we can assure the West that it would in no way be
intended to move towards an atomic weapon and that Iran is quite
prepared to compromise.' 

The deep divisions over tone are matched by differences over substance.
Some analysts speculate that last week's announcement - having been sold
as a historic national achievement - could presage a climbdown that
would involve a return to negotiations. 

'The main point for Iran throughout has been that voluntary suspension
of nuclear activities could deprive it of the opportunity to complete
the fuel cycle forever,' one analyst said. 'The West, especially the US,
is pressing for a revision to the additional protocol of the NPT
[nuclear non-proliferation treaty] that would bar non-fuel-producing
countries from pursuing their own cycle. In that context, last week's
move can be interpreted as a sign of Iran's willingness to compromise.
Even those pushing for a tougher Iranian line agree that we could take
several steps ahead before retreating, because then we would have
something in our hands to bargain with.' 

Zibakalam dismisses this as 'wishful thinking' and says Iran's leaders
are determined to push ahead. They may, he says, eventually settle for a
deal in which they agree to suspend industrial enrichment of uranium for
two to five years while continuing laboratory work under international

If that is unacceptable to the West, then Iran is facing, at the very
least, economic sanctions. Whether ordinary Iranians will take heed is
far from certain. 

'We have needs other than the nuclear programme from a President who
gave many promises to the young people,' said Ali Reza Ghamsari, 36, an
official in a shipbuilding company. 'They need jobs and security. It's
better for Iran to negotiate and co-ordinate its actions with the
international community. I think the majority of the nation asks for
such a thing. Otherwise, there is a high probability of sanctions and
the President won't be able to deliver his promises.' 

Guardian Unlimited C Guardian Newspapers Limited 20

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