Wednesday, March 14, 2007

War in Iran?

A few days ago I published a partial outline for a presentation to a local peace group on the subject of whether or not the administration is building toward an invasion of Iran. Below is the final outline. It fails to discuss, by the way, the deployment of four carriers and their contingents to the region, but I covered that in an earlier blog you can check out if you want to know more about it.

The case for suspecting a build-up for attacking Iran:

I. The pattern established by past behaviors of this administration:

A. The build-up for invading Iraq was foretold in the neo-conservative paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses which stated that

(1) "Iran, Iraq and North Korea are rushing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to American intervention in regions they seek to dominate." (p. 4)

(2) "America's role as guarantor of the current great-power peace relies upon the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East, and surrounding energy producing region, and East Asia." (p5)

(3) Included in their list of "missions demanded by U.S. global leadership is the objective of "fighting and winning multiple large-scale wars" (p.5 & 6)

(4) Four and one-half years before the declaration of war against Iraq, came this statement, "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."(p.14)

(5) "Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has."(p.17)

(6) On the same page, the paper discusses how a permanent base in Kuwait can protect against another Iraqi incursion into that country, but now that Saddam has gone, have we pulled any troops out of Kuwait?

(7) "With a substantial permanent Army ground presence in Kuwait, the demands for Marine presence in the Gulf could be scaled back as well." (p.18) Instead of being scaled back, what do we see today? – Four aircraft carriers plus cruisers, destroyers and submarines being sent into the Gulf. If not for attack, why are they there?

(8) Recent revelations that the Bush administration summarily rejected Iranian overtures in 2003 to include this neuralgic topic among others in a broad bilateral discussion strengthens the impression that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney actually prefer the military option to destroy Iranian nuclear-related facilities. – Ray McGovern – Wake Up. The Next War is Coming, Feb. 12, 2007

(9) The administration argues that Iran has no need to develop nuclear energy because of its oil resources, but, according to Ray McGovern: "The trouble is that when Cheney was President Gerald Ford's chief of staff, he and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld persuaded Ford to give the Shah a nuclear program to meet its future energy requirements. In 1976, Ford reluctantly signed a directive offering Iran a deal that would have brought at least $5.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously ousted three years later. The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear-fuels cycle—essentially the same capability that the United States, Israel and other countries now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire."

(10) Philip Giraldi, former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist says, "It is absolutely parallel. They're using the same dance steps – demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux." –Vanity Fair, March 2007: From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq, Craig Unger.

(11) The neo-con whitepaper, A Clean Break, presented to Israel in 1996 advocated war with Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as a strategy to "stabilize the region". Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed with the paper and added Iran as another country that needed invasion. Since then we have seen the invasions of Iraq and Lebanon, and now hear saber rattling directed at Iran and Syria. A Clean Break turns out to have been the blueprint for American/Israeli policy and action under the Bush administration.

(12) The Vanity Fair article mention in item 10 also quotes those who continue to espouse the neo-con agenda. Meyrav Wurmser, one of the authors of A Clean Break, now says of the Iraq war, "It's a mess isn't it? My argument has always been that this war is senseless if you don't give it a regional context." In other words, it should be expanded to the countries addressed in A Clean Break plus Iran.

(13) "Attacking Iraq may have been the wrong step, but then to ignore Iran would compound the disaster. Israel will be left alone, and American interests will be affected catastrophically." – Uzi Arad, former Mossad intelligence chief. Vanity Fair, March 2007: From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq, Craig Ungar.

II. Current Administration tactics:

A. Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me (Seymour Hersh) that "there is nothing coincidental or ironic" about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. "The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude," Leverett said. "This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them."

B. Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.
In the past month, I (Seymour Hersh) was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities and possible regime change.
The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. (Same source as above p.2)

C. The U.S. is openly supporting a group in Lebanon called Mujahideen el-Khalq (MEQ or MEK) which is linked with Al-Qaeda. We support them, though, because they are anti-Iranian Sunnis, and we think they will be valuable allies in a fight with the Iranian government. (Think Chalabi – this is the same kind of thing because MEK includes exiled ex-Iranian leaders who want to be returned to power.)

III. The risks:
A. "Today, the only army capable of containing Iran"—the Iraqi Army—"has been destroyed by the United States. You're now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers." (p.2)

B. If Iran blocks the Straits of Hormuz as many analysts say will occur, the price of oil is expected to jump immediately to $125/bbl. Additionally, Iran would be in a position to cut off supply lines from Kuwait to our soldiers in Iraq.

C. Intelligence has reported that the Iranians may be moving some of the nuclear development facilities into heavily populated areas. If that is true and if we bomb them, we will necessarily kill a large number of civilians.

IV. Arguments against attacking Iran

A. Iran is not truly any kind of threat to the U.S.

B. Iran is signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. As such, it has the right to build and use nuclear power plants, and, while the International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the Iranian program, they have found no proof that Iran is developing any other kind of nuclear capability.

C. The U.S. claim that they don't trust Iran is not a legitimate legal basis for any action.

D. Any attack on Iran would necessarily be classified as a preventive measure. Such a preventive attack would be in violation of international law.

V. So what should we do?

I agree with the assertions of Phyllis Bennis who is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She says that the peace movement should:

A. Demand Congressional action designed to preempt any funding for any attack on Iran;
B. Seek diplomatic, not military engagement with Iran on the grounds that Iran is not a threat to the U.S., so any attack would represent a preventive war, illegal under international law;
C. Maintain pressure against escalation of the Iraq War, both in terms of troop strength and of expansion into war with Iran.
D. Build people-to-people ties between Americans and Iranians, including work with the Iranian community in America, thus fighting against the kind of demonization that enables the government to enlist the American people in its oppression of other nations, and;
E. Support calls for a Nuclear-free Middle East including an end to Israel's nuclear arsenal and a prohibition against the presence of U.S. nuclear armed submarines and carriers in the area. We should demand that the U.S. implement its own 1991 call for a WMD-free zone, found in Article 14 of the UN Security Council resolution 687 that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

The bottom line is that in enabling W to invade Iraq pre-emptively, Congress abdicated its responsibility as the only body designated in the Constitution to be capable of declaring war. Under the Constitution, a President must seek Congressional approval before issuing a declaration of war. Congress signed away that job and handed it over to the Executive.

In order to prevent autocratic, arbitrary, and "preventive" declarations of war, Congress needs to take back that authority. On the grounds that, whether or not an Iran invasion is planned nothing else is more crucial to world safety than restraint of the Bush Administration's tendency to wage war, the group's decision last night was to take positive action to seek Congressional support for a piece of legislation ot that effect; in part by petitioning the group United for Peace and Justice to urge all of its members to focus on that single issue until it is accomplished, and in part by engaging in civil disobedience at local legislative offices.

I hope all readers will take some similar action.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. - M.K. Gandhi

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