Middle East Madness

Middle East Madness

by Stephen Lendman

Administration rhetoric is heated and the dominant
media keep trumpeting it. It signals war with Iran of
the “shock and awe” kind - intensive, massive and
maybe with nuclear weapons. Plans are one thing,
action another, and how things play out, in fact,
won’t be known until the fullness of time that may not
be long in coming. For now, waiting and guessing games
continue, and one surmise is as good as another. The
more threatening they are, the less likely they’ll
happen, or at least it can be hoped that’s so.

It’s not media critic, activist and distinguished
professor emeritus Edward Herman’s view. He writes
“the situation now is even more menacing than we faced
in 2002-2003 when the Bush gang was readying us for
the invasion (and) occupation of Iraq. There is strong
evidence that Bush-Cheney and company are about to
attack Iran (and) the groundwork is being set with a
flood of propaganda, helped by the media and
Democrats.” It may be “his last (crazed) hope for
immortality” and possible attempt to revive
“Republican strength through this classic maneuver of
cornered-rat politicians.”

Most frightening is that the Bush administration
doesn’t have enough of a bad thing and may want more
of it. This time, however, the stakes are
incalculable, the risks over the top, and the chance
for success (from an American perspective) almost nil
if post-WW II history is a good predictor.
Distinguished historian Gabriel Kolko notes in all its
conflicts since 1950, America never lost a battle and
never won a war. It’s a world class bumbler, never
learns from its mistakes, and only succeeds, in
Kolko’s words, in making an “unstable world far more
precarious” than if it left well enough alone.

Enter Iran with George Bush having a way with words
about the Islamic Republic. They’re hotting up and
sending ominous signals. At the American Legion Reno
convention August 28, Bush, with typical bluster,
accused Iran of threatening the Middle East with a
nuclear holocaust and said he authorized US military
commanders in Iraq to “confront Tehran’s murderous
activities.” He accused the Ahmadinejad government of
supporting violent Iraqi forces he calls “radicals and
extremists….Either the forces of extremism (or
freedom) succeed. Either our enemies advance their
interests in Iraq, or we advance” ours.

Earlier in the month, Bush threatened Iran stating:
“When we catch you playing a non-constructive role,
there will be a price to pay.” He added recent
US-Iranian meetings in Baghdad were “to send a message
that there will be consequences for….people
transporting, delivering EFPs (roadside bombs)....that
kill Americans in Iraq.”

This type language points to a widened Middle East war
with Iran the target in mind and sanity of those
planning it in question. Or maybe not? Questions
remain in the run-up to the September 11 Iraq progress
report General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will
deliver to Congress. Packaging is everything, and the
date chosen was planned to heighten public fear of the
event on that day that may help explain what’s going
on - not attacking the Islamic Republic but shoring up
flagging support for a war gone sour and worry later
about more of it with Iran.

Or maybe not, according to a report called
“Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on
WMD in the Middle East.” On August 28, the Raw Story
web site published a summary of what two respected
figures wrote. They are: British scholar and arms
expert Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for
International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of
Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University
of London and Martin Butcher, former Director of the
British American Security Information Council (BASIC)
and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of
the European Parliament.

Their work compliments others saying war with Iran is
coming, and things are too far along to stop it. Their
analysis is detailed, elementary in their opinion, and
very frightening. They conclude the Pentagon has plans
for a “massive, multi-front, full-spectrum” shock and
awe-type attack on Iran short of a ground invasion. In
involves destroying enough of the country’s military
capacity and armed forces, nuclear energy sites,
economic infrastructure and more to destabilize and
oust its regime or reduce its status to “a weak or
failed state.” It continues saying:

—10,000 sites are targeted using bombers and long
range missiles;

—the US has enough ground, air and Marine forces in
the region to devastate Iran on short notice;

—covert US (and possibly UK) and armed popular
resistance activities are already ongoing in the
Iranian provinces of Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and
the country’s major oil producing region of Khuzestan
in the southwest bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

—nuclear weapons are deployed but unlikely to be
used short of clear evidence Iran already has them,
may in short order, or if its believed only these
weapons can destroy its hardened Natanz nuclear
facility;

—the Bush administration has avoided publicizing its
war preparations leading Plesch and Butcher to believe
confrontation is more likely;

—no information is available on possible Iranian WMD
weapons, but the authors state its military “has
missiles and probably some chemical capacity;” those
aren’t WMDs and many other nations also have them; at
least eight of them (not Iran) have nuclear ones as
well, several are prepared to use them, and the US
states it as first-strike policy;

—significant “risks and impediments” exist but
eliminating Iran as a regional power and regime change
are stated goals in the administration’s National
Security Strategy (updated in 2006);

—except for the UK and Israel, no other nations are
known to support US plans;

—according to anonymous UK military sources, the
Bush administration switched its main focus to Iran
after March, 2003 even when its forces became bogged
down in Iraq;

—region-based Marines outside Iraq are deployed to
protect oil tankers, shipping lanes in the Gulf, the
Straits of Hormuz and be able to confront and destroy
Iranian forces;

—US Special Forces will continue covert search and
destroy missions in Iran and efforts to incite
internal uprisings against the Iranian government;

—there’s no assurance Iraqi Shias will support their
Iranian allies; their leaders may act in their own
best interests inside Iraq that may preclude backing
Iran under US attack;

—US 2008 presidential candidates are posturing to
see who can be toughest on confronting a potential
Iranian threat even though there is none; Europeans
are puzzled that political expediency trumps reality
especially concerning a wider Middle East war; the
Bush administration may worry most about an “Iran of
the regions” and may attack the Islamic Republic to
avoid it;

—if an attack on Iran succeeds (with long odds
against it) and the US is better able assert “its
global military dominance….then the risks to
humanity….and to states of the Middle East are grave
indeed.”

Enter the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

IAEA’s August 30 report on Iran was bad news for the
Bush administration based on what its Director,
Mohamed ElBaradei, told the press: “This is the first
time Iran is ready to discuss all outstanding issues
which triggered the crisis in confidence. It’s a
significant step. There are clear guidelines, so it’s
not, as some people are saying, an open-ended
invitation to dallying with the agency or a ruse to
prolong negotiations to avoid sanctions….I’m clear
at this stage you need to give Iran a chance to prove
its stated goodwill.”

The Bush administration was dismissive to enraged in
response with statements claiming the agreement is
inadequate and Tehran must suspend all (its perfectly
legal) nuclear enrichment, or else. State Department
spokesman Tom Casey disdainfully said: “There is no
partial credit here. Iran has refused to comply with
its international obligations, and as a result of that
the international community (meaning the US and other
nations it can bully, bribe or threaten) is going to
continue to ratchet up the pressure.”

The message is clear and all known information
confirms it. Washington wants regime change in Iran.
The open question is by what means and when. It
doesn’t matter that Iran is a signatory to the 1970
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is in full
compliance with it, and in 1974 entered into an
agreement with the IAEA “for the application of
safeguards in connection with the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” to remain in
force as long as Iran is so obligated under NPT
provisions. The agreement stipulates all Iranian
“source or special fissionable materials” and
activities relating to them are subject to IAEA
Safeguards “with a view to preventing diversion of
nuclear energy from peaceful purposes.”

IAEA reported Iran’s uranium enrichment program
slowed, is operating well below capacity, and isn’t
producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts. As of
August 19, it had 1968 centrifuges operating and 656
others in various stages of assembly or testing. IAEA
verified this level of enrichment is well below what’s
needed to build a nuclear bomb. IAEA also said an
outstanding issue related to plutonium experiments was
satisfactorily resolved.

Iran and IAEA also announced a timetable to resolve by
year end “all outstanding questions” regarding the
implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement as well
as other non or less relevant questions. They include:
lab experiments involving minute amounts of plutonium
and plutonium-210 and the source of the enriched
uranium micro-contamination at a technical University
in Tehran. Although not obligated to do so, Iran also
agreed to resolve other minor issues as a show of good
faith. As it’s now proceeding, Iran is on track to
verify total compliance with its Safeguard Agreement
obligations by yearend. That should make it less
vulnerable to a US attack, but don’t bet on it. Bush
administration officials are never short on reasons to
justify its plans and facts on the ground won’t deter
them.

They’ve already denounced the IAEA report as an
Iranian ploy to buy time and seems to imply IAEA
partnered with Iran against Washington. ElBaradei’s
response to this was: “My responsibility is to look at
the big picture. If I see a situation deteriorating
(and) it could lead to war, I have to raise the alarm
or give my advice.” Earlier he said: “I have no brief
other than to make sure we don’t go into another war
or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do
not want to give (an) additional argument to the new
(Bush administration) crazies who say ‘let’s go and
bomb Iran.’ “

Bush Administration Strategy: Usually Wrong but Never
in Doubt

In the run-up to its March, 2003 attack on Iraq, the
Bush administration proved it didn’t lack tricks and
schemes to justify war. Iran now faces the same
threat with one provocative act from Washington after
another. In an unprecedented and outrageous move
against a sovereign state, the New York Times and
Washington Post reported August 15 the administration
plans to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (a
major branch of its military) a “global terrorist”
organization. It’s based on unsubstantiated claims
IRGC’s elite Quds Force is arming, training and
directing Shiite militias involved in attacking US
Iraqi troops.

It contradicts Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki,
however, that Iran’s role in the region is
constructive. That comment runs counter to Bush
claiming Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of
terrorism, (is) active(ly) pursui(ng)....technology
that could lead to nuclear weapons (and) We will
confront this danger before it is too late.”

Washington further insists IRGC is helping Taliban
fighters in Afghanistan, interfering in various other
ways in Iraq, and is aiding US-designated “terrorist”
groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. It has no evidence,
reports are CIA confirms it, but no matter. All that
counts is Washington claims it, case closed. That’s
how schoolyard bullies run playgrounds and global
godfathers do it everywhere.

In the long-running US-Iran saga, it remains to be
seen how events will play out. Expect more heated
rhetoric, and don’t ignore Dick Cheney’s influence.
Barnett Rubin’s recent comments about him from his
Global Affairs blog are all over the internet.
Cheney’s already unofficially on record urging war on
Iran and presently proposes bombing suspected Quds
Force sites in Iraq. Earlier reports were he and other
administration hard-liners considered air attacks
against Quds Force headquarters near Tehran. If they
come, it risks all-out war so, for now, they were
tabled.

Barnett now says he has a message from a
well-connected insider that “the Office of the
Vice-President (plans) to roll out a campaign for war
with Iran in the week after Labor Day” to be backed by
hawkish think tanks and similar elements in the
dominant media. It will involve a “heavy sustained
assault on the airwaves” to win over public support
that will be considered successful at “35 - 40
percent.”

It’s already begun on-air and on the pages of the lead
and most influential proponent for war on Iraq in the
Judith Miller days, The New York Times. It may now be
playing the same role promoting war with Iran with one
example showing up in Michael Slackman and Nazila
Fathi’s September 3 article: “On Two Fronts, One
Nuclear, Iran Is Defiant.” Its headlined tone
(differing from explanatory comments buried below)
contradicts IAEA evidence and claims “to reaffirm the
country’s refusal to back down to pressure from the
United States over its nuclear program and its role in
Iraq.”

That came after an opening salvo that “Iran’s leaders
issued dual, defiant statements on Sunday (September
2).” It continued saying President Ahmadinejad claimed
the nation had 3,000 active centrifuges to enrich
uranium (IAEA inspections confirm 1968), and “the top
ayatollah (Ali Khamenei) appoint(ed) a new Islamic
Revolutionary Guards commander who once advocated
military force against students.” This is just a
sampling of what’s ahead from the Times and other
dominant media elements. They’re enlisted, like in
2002, to beat the drums of war and maybe get one for
their efforts.

Then there’s Congress on both sides of the aisle and
presidential candidates hawkishly posturing for
whatever they imagine it gains them. The public
overwhelmingly opposes more war and wants the Iraq one
ended. But those ideas are nowhere in sight on the
campaign trail or Capitol Hill where the Iran
Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 will likely pass
easily now that Congress is reconvened. It cleared the
House Foreign Affairs Committee 37 to 1 June 28 and
after passing both Houses will become effective
January 1, 2008. It hardens the existing Iran
Sanctions Act by closing loopholes in it with the
intent to thwart all foreign investment in Iran and
strangle the country economically.

It also prohibits nuclear cooperation between the US
and any nation aiding Iran’s commercial nuclear
program and requests the White House designate Iran’s
IRGC a “terrorist” group and block assets of any
nation, organization or group supporting it. As summer
wanes, fall approaches and the administration touts
progress in Iraq it claims will continue (with Bush’s
grandstanding six hour visit for a staged performance
at Al Asad Air Base in Al Anbar province part of it),
the prospect for more “progress” Iraqi-style awaits
Iran. That’s unless public pressure builds and/or
cooler heads in Washington and other capitals denounce
what some distinguished analysts believe may ignite WW
III if it comes. That’s incentive enough for us all to
become engaged and stop this rush to madness in the
Middle East not likely to be contained where it
starts.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour
on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central
time.


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