Monday, August 31, 2009

Iran: Whose War?

Hyping threats from Tehran doesn’t serve America’s interests

By Jeff Huber

Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London has set a new standard in canard journalism. The headline of an Aug. 3 story exclaims, “Iran is ready to build an N-bomb—it is just waiting for the Ayatollah’s order.” The first sentence reads, “Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb.”

The article goes on to make similar outrageous claims, all supported by the testimony of unnamed “western intelligence sources.” The identity of the “sources” becomes pretty clear in the 11th paragraph when the article attributes revelations about Iran’s three-decade “master plan” to build a nuke to an unidentified “Israeli official.” And oh, the article was written in Tel Aviv.

The authors—James Hider, Richard Beeston and Times Defense Editor Michael Evans—attempt to “confirm” what the Israelis breast-fed them by stating that anonymous sources say British intelligence services are “familiar with the secret information about Iran’s experiments.” The authors admit that “British agencies” do not have their own “independent evidence” regarding Iran’s nuclear-weapons experiments, but “they said there was no reason to doubt the assessment.”

We can’t prove that aliens built the pyramids, but we can’t completely disprove it either, so it must be true. Run it on the front page.

This pandering to the Israelis might be tolerable if Murdoch’s media were the only hooligans doing it. Unfortunately, the very same thing is going on in the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government.

Gareth Porter recently revealed that a May 2009 report on Iraq generated by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was based on information provided by “an intelligence official of a foreign country” and unnamed “foreign analysts” and “a senior allied intelligence official.” Noting that a May 6 Associated Press story said that interviews for the report were conducted in Israel, Porter accurately deduced what nationality these foreign allies were. The crux of the report was that Iraq ceased its nuclear weapons program in September of 2003 as described by the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran only because it had already discovered how to detonate a nuclear warhead. This conclusion was nearly identical to the theme of the Times story.

Dick Cheney’s Iranian Directorate cooked intelligence on Iran in the same manner that his Office of Special Plans fabricated Saddam Hussein’s WMD program. Cheney’s pillow-pal ties with the America Israel Public Affairs Committee and Likudniks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consolidated Israel’s grip on U.S. foreign policy during the Bush regime. Those of us who voted for change in this regard have been hoodwinked.

In a March 2009 interview, Netanyahu told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that if Obama didn’t stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself. We’re now hearing reports that Israel is losing patience with the Obama administration’s inability to get Iran to the negotiating table. No doubt that’s why Joe Biden, Robert Gates, and Hillary Clinton have been rattling cardboard sabers lately.

Biden, a doublewide ego with a life-support system, is an even bigger oaf at foreign policy than John McCain. In a June 2009 interview with George Stephanopolous, Biden gave a virtual green light for Israel to go ahead and bomb Iran. Asked if Netanyahu taking matters into his own hands was the right approach, Biden replied, “Look, Israel can determine for itself—it’s a sovereign nation—what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else. …Whether we agree or not.” Talk about lack of subtlety. When Cheney gave Israel the nod to attack Lebanon in 2006, he at least had the tact to do it behind closed doors at an American Enterprise Institute jamboree in Colorado.

Gates is a servant of Gen. David Petraeus’s “long war” mafia, a cabal that includes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, senior Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno and Gen. Stan McChrystal, our man in the Bananastans. That makes Gates a servant of the American neocons, whose objective since the ‘90s has been permanent U.S. occupation of the Middle East. It also makes him a tool of the Israeli right, whose objective is to sucker us into bullying their neighbors for them. During a recent trip to Israel, Gates said that U.S. overtures to Iran are not “open ended.” He gave the impression that he wheedled and begged enough during the visit to stay Israel’s hand for a little while longer. “Our hope still remains that Iran will respond to the president’s outstretched hand in a positive and constructive way,” Gates said, “but we’ll see.”

Candidate Hillary took a hard-line stance on Iran so the Republicans wouldn’t call her a girl. As secretary of state, she has threatened that America would extend a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if Iran refuses to negotiate with us and persists in “its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” But like so much of Hillary’s rhetoric, this is laughable from multiple aspects. We already have Iran surrounded by virtue of our occupation of its neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan. We already have an umbrella over the Middle East, the same one we have over the entire planet: the nuclear deterrence umbrella. We can barbecue Iran at the push of a button.

Hillary, Biden, Gates, and the rest of the Obama administration—and nearly all of the media—seem unaware that Iran has a perfectly good reason for not negotiating with us about their nuclear program; it’s the same perfectly good reason they wouldn’t negotiate with the Bush administration. As Roger Cohen noted recently in the New York Times Magazine, the Obama administration “still insists on the ‘zero option’—no enrichment, no reprocessing, no sensitive technology.”

The zero-option policy is a hangover from Bush era “make them an offer they can’t accept” diplomacy. The Cheneyacs would agree to talks but set preconditions that the other party would have to be insane to go along with, guaranteeing that the talks would never take place. Then they could say, “we tried diplomacy but it didn’t work” and start lopping heads off.

The logical goal of Iran’s nuclear program is not possession of nuclear bombs but a thriving nuclear energy industry. Having nukes would merely make Iran a target—both Israel and the U.S. would have justification for a massive preemptive strike. We’d know they have them because they wouldn’t keep them a secret. Nukes are deterrence weapons, and like the doomsday machine in “Doctor Strangelove,” they provide no deterrence if nobody knows you have them. Israel’s missile-carrying Dolphin class submarines give it second-strike capability, and if something happens to the subs, we’ll erase Iran from the pages of time ourselves.

A nuclear power industry, conversely, is sound strategic thinking for Iran. Peak oil, the point at which global oil production can no longer keep up with the world’s energy demand, has already occurred or will happen very soon. At that point, humanity will have to turn to other forms of energy or turn the clock back on its technology-centric infrastructure, which could lead to a worldwide “Road Warrior” scenario. No alternative solution has materialized that can provide the amount of energy that nuclear power can generate.

Any oil-exporting country that hopes to emerge as a regional power in the post-peak world order will need to have an independent nuclear industry in place when the wells run dry. The key to having truly independent nuclear energy is the ability to refine your own uranium. Telling Iran that it can have a nuclear energy industry but can’t refine its own uranium is like saying it can have an auto industry as long as it makes its cars in the U.S. from American steel and uses American labor. Dependence on other countries for refined uranium is a strategic liability that Iran will not and should not agree to. An independent nuclear energy industry is the only chip Iran brings to the table, and we’re asking them to hand it over before they sit down.

The soundbite fury over what AIPAC calls Iran’s “relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons” is a crimson herring. We know that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear-weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency can’t find any evidence of one, and our 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stated that Iran ended whatever Mickey Mouse nuclear weapons program it had in fall of 2003. The Cheney mob’s attempts to stifle the Intelligence Estimate failed, and their efforts to discredit the report, including their smoking laptop hoax, have been debunked. We know that—despite what the war propaganda machine would have us believe—Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never threatened to use nukes to “wipe Israel off the map” and that Iranian leadership has consistently condemned nuclear weapons.

The real threat of Iran’s nuclear program is not one that directly affects Israel. Cheney’s big oil pals will keep us on a strict oil diet for as long as they can. It’s not good business sense to shift the infrastructure to new energy sources as long as the old source is still profitable. If Iran becomes a Middle East leader in nuclear energy, Exxon/Mobil, Shell, BP America, and the rest will lose control of the energy transition. The smart way to keep that from happening would be normalize relations with Iran and bring them into the fold, but when’s the last time we did the smart thing? Was it the Cuban Missile Crisis, maybe?

It transcends the pathetic that top U.S. leaders like Biden, Gates, and Clinton are spreading the alarm that Israel is “losing patience” with us. The entire world clearly sees that the mightiest nation in history is allowing Israel to lead it around. I have profound appreciation for the reasons the West established a Jewish state after World War II, but Israel has existed for more than 60 years now. If the Israelis want to stay in the Middle East, they need to learn how to get along with their neighbors. If, on the other hand, they want us to guarantee their security, let’s give them half of Utah and make them pay taxes.