|A MANUFACTURED CRISIS, Part 2
It's sanctions or bust
By Jack A Smith
PART 1: The
facts of the matter
There's obviously more than meets the eye to unproven allegations of late
September from the United States and its allies that Iran's nuclear program is
really intended to result in the clandestine production of nuclear weapons,
presumably to attack other countries.
As we proceed with our analysis, here are a few things that should be kept in
So far, there is no evidence Iran is going to "weaponize" its nuclear power
program and build atomic bombs. So far, it has been abiding by the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has pledged not to produce nuclear weapons, is
under very close scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and
obviously its program is the target of intensive surveillance by the
United States. There is no secret way in which it could construct nuclear
weapons under such circumstances.
Israel possesses an arsenal of up to 200 nuclear weapons and thumbs its nose at
the IAEA and the NPT, with which it is notoriously non-compliant. If US
President Barack Obama must sternly castigate Iran, which does not have nuclear
weapons, for "breaking rules that all nations must follow ... and threatening
the stability and security of the region and the world", why does he protect
Israel from international sanctions and subsidize its military machine?
Pakistan and India are also non-compliant, but they, too, are allies of
Washington and thus have been granted immunity.
In this connection, it must be noted that the far right-wing Tel Aviv
government appears to be on the verge of launching an attack on Iran and has
made this well known to the world. But it receives no censure for such threats
from the US and its European allies, or for the horror it inflicted on Gaza a
few months ago. Imagine the outcry if Iran threatened to attack Israel, or its
army entered the territory of a neighboring society and inflicted cruelties
largely on its civilian population for not submitting to national oppression.
And yet Tel Aviv calls Iran an "existential" threat, despite Israel's nuclear
weapons, its superior military force and its support from the entire American
military apparatus, including 2,600 strategic nuclear warheads on hair-trigger
readiness. But as we've noted before, the only concrete threat to Israel's
existence would be if the US government withdrew its political, military and
Washington's geopolitical interests are key to America's relationship to Iran
and the Middle East in general. The US desires to control - or at minimum to
keep out of "unfriendly" hands - the immense oil reserves possessed by Iran and
neighboring Iraq. It fears a future alliance between these resource-rich
developing countries, which also happen to be the only two nations in the world
governed by Shi'ite Muslims. The US invaded to overthrow the "unfriendly",
Sunni-backed Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. But it can neither rely
totally on its selected successor regime in Baghdad, nor has it yet been able
to remove the theocratic government in Tehran, which is conservative
domestically but puts forward an anti-imperialist foreign policy that drives
the world's remaining superpower to distraction.
Washington's objective at the talks beginning on October 1 in Geneva is to
coerce Iran to accept extremely intrusive controls on its nuclear development,
combining dire threats for refusal with small rewards for agreement. The Tehran
government said it would reject demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a main
concern of the five members of the Security Council plus Germany, but indicated
without elaboration that "Iran is ready to ... help ease joint international
concerns over the nuclear issue." (Enriched uranium is required to power
nuclear plants for civilian uses. A much higher level of enriched uranium is
required for weapons.)
Washington wants to confine the seven-party discussions to Tehran's nuclear
project, but the Iranian government put forward its own proposal in early
September for "comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations".
The US rejected the proposal, but accepted it with seeming reluctance the next
day. (We don't know what happened to change things.) The Iranian suggestions
include hastening global nuclear disarmament, ending nuclear proliferation and
working toward world peace. Theoretically, Washington agrees with these goals,
but doesn't really want to discuss them with Iran.
The White House knows that in a broader discussion of non-proliferation issues,
Iran would draw attention to the three US allies presently defying the NPT and
getting away with it, and also show that the US itself is non-compliant because
it was supposed to have made more progress by now in reducing the Pentagon's
nuclear arsenal. Further, the US will hardly discuss an Iranian proposal for a
comprehensive agreement to achieve "global peace and security based on justice"
that includes an inquiry into America's aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
Israel's disproportionate violence against Gaza and Lebanon.
The Obama administration wants at minimum to impose stringent sanctions on Iran
if no progress is made to its satisfaction in the next few months, as demanded
by US neo-conservatives, the right wing in general and those influenced by the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which describes itself as "America's
One reason for harsh sanctions would be to hasten the downfall of the Mahmud
Ahmadinejad government, if possible, by creating a serious economic crisis,
unemployment and suffering to exacerbate existing social tensions within the
Islamic Republic. The last time Washington engaged in deep sanctions was from
1991-2003, when it was been verified that over a million Iraqis, including a
huge number of children, died from various deprivations from hunger to unclean
If sanctions are the minimum, the maximum response would be unleashing Israel
to attack Iran - an action that would backfire as surely as there is water in
the Hudson River.
After his Pittsburgh speech, Obama told the press he wasn't "taking any options
off the table", a phrase he has used a number of times in relation to Iran. It
means war remains an option for the US, even over the relatively petty issue of
an empty building still under construction that's probably intended to produce
energy, not violence. This same statement was a favorite of George W Bush as
well, and he used it repeatedly in relation to Iran. In April 2006, at a time
when vice president Dick Cheney, the neo-conservatives and their supporters
were pushing hard for war against Iran, the BBC reported, "Bush says all
options, including the use of force, are on the table." As they say, the more
things change ...
Although some in Washington are hopeful that Ahmadinejad will be weakened in
the nuclear talks because of opposition claims that he "stole" the June 12
election in Iran, we don't believe this is a factor. So far, more than
three-and-a-half months later, there has not been any concrete evidence to
support the opposition allegations of electoral fraud.
While the US mass media depict Ahmadinejad as being under virtual siege from
the majority of Iranians, other information shows this is exaggerated. Inter
Press Service reported the following in an article by Jim Lobe on September 19
headlined, "New Poll Finds Strong Domestic Support for Iran Regime”:
new survey of Iranian public opinion released here suggests majority domestic
support for both him [Ahmadinejad] and the country's basic governing
institutions. Four out of five of the 1,003 Iranian respondents interviewed in
the survey released by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project of the highly
respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of
Maryland, said they considered Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of
demonstrations have taken place from early August until September 18, when
thousands of protestors marched in Tehran in an attempt to rival much larger
government-sponsored annual rallies in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle
on what is called "Jerusalem Day" in Iran. Coming just two weeks before the
opening of the nuclear talks, it was obviously intended to convey the
impression internationally that Ahmadinejad did not really represent the will
of the Iranian people. Police handled the dissenters with kid gloves.
Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had "a lot of confidence" in the
declared election results, which gave Ahmadinejad 62.6% of the vote within
hours of the polls' closing June 12 and which were swiftly endorsed by the
Islamic Republic's Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three of four respondents
said Khamenei had reacted correctly in his endorsement.
A number of the demonstrators and signs seemed to oppose the Tehran
government's support for the Palestinians as well as Ahmadinejad's re-election.
The Economist reported chants of "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I'll only give my life
for Iran," although Jerusalem Day observances never suggested Iranians should
give their lives for either Gaza or Lebanon, both of which have been targets of
Israeli military aggression. There were also chants of "Death to Russia" and
"Death to China”, evidently a reference to their refusal to join the US and
Israel in denunciations of the Tehran government.
In a speech that day, Ahmadinejad in effect pulled the rug from under his own
feet in terms of international opinion by once again charging that the
Holocaust was a "lie". Wisely, the Iranian leader did not repeat the
preposterous allegation during his 35-minute speech to the UN General Assembly
in New York September 23. He mainly discussed building durable world peace and
"elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to pave the way
for all nations to have access to advanced and peaceful technology".
He criticized the US and Israel, but seemed somewhat subdued. According to
Sarah Wheaton in the New York Times blog that evening, he "said the United
States was aiding Israel in 'racist ambitions', called Israel's attack on Gaza
in December 'barbaric' and said the economic blockade of Palestinians amounts
to 'genocide' " - comments that provoked the US and 10 other delegations to
walk out. Israel didn't attend in the first place.
Soon after Ahmadinejad's speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told
the General Assembly, "The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent
the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons," and urged the delegates
to oppose Iranian "barbarism".
Back in Israel on September 26, according to an Associated Press dispatch from
Jerusalem, "Netanyahu spoke with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of
unidentified US senators and told them that now is the time to act on Iran.
Israel maintains the Islamic Republic is seeking nuclear weapons. 'If not now
then when?' the official quoted Netanyahu as saying. He spoke on condition of
anonymity because he was not allowed to speak with the media. He did not
disclose what kind of action Netanyahu recommended be taken.
"Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier in the day that the
Iranian nuclear facility proves 'without a doubt' the Islamic republic is
pursuing nuclear weapons. 'This removes the dispute whether Iran is developing
military nuclear power or not and therefore the world powers need to draw
conclusions', Lieberman told Israel Radio. 'Without a doubt it is a reactor for
military purposes not peaceful purposes'."
NEXT: Part 3 - The case for Iran
Jack A Smith is editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter in New
York State and the former editor of the Guardian Newsweekly (US). He may be
reached at [email protected]
(Copyright 2009 Jack A Smith.)
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