Iran: The Next War
by John Pilger
Has Tony Blair, our minuscule Caesar,
finally crossed his Rubicon? Having subverted the laws of the
civilized world and brought carnage to a defenseless people and
bloodshed to his own, having lied and lied and used the death
of a hundredth British soldier in Iraq to indulge his profane
self-pity, is he about to collude in one more crime before he
Perhaps he is seriously unstable now,
as some have suggested. Power does bring a certain madness to
its prodigious abusers, especially those of shallow disposition.
In The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, the great American
historian Barbara Tuchman described Lyndon B. Johnson, the president
whose insane policies took him across his Rubicon in Vietnam.
"He lacked [John] Kennedy's ambivalence, born of a certain
historical sense and at least some capacity for reflective thinking,"
she wrote. "Forceful and domineering, a man infatuated with
himself, Johnson was affected in his conduct of Vietnam policy
by three elements in his character: an ego that was insatiable
and never secure; a bottomless capacity to use and impose the
powers of his office without inhibition; a profound aversion,
once fixed upon a course of action, to any contradictions."
That, demonstrably, is Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
and the rest of the cabal that has seized power in Washington.
But there is a logic to their idiocy - the goal of dominance.
It also describes Blair, for whom the only logic is vainglorious.
And now he is threatening to take Britain into the nightmare on
offer in Iran. His Washington mentors are unlikely to ask for
British troops, not yet. At first, they will prefer to bomb from
a safe height, as Bill Clinton did in his destruction of Yugoslavia.
They are aware that, like the Serbs, the Iranians are a serious
people with a history of defending themselves and who are not
stricken by the effects of a long siege, as the Iraqis were in
2003. When the Iranian defense minister promises "a crushing
response," you sense he means it.
Listen to Blair in the House of Commons:
"It's important we send a signal of strength" against
a regime that has "forsaken diplomacy" and is "exporting
terrorism" and "flouting its international obligations."
Coming from one who has exported terrorism to Iran's neighbor,
scandalously reneged on Britain's most sacred international obligations
and forsaken diplomacy for brute force, these are Alice-through-the-looking-glass
However, they begin to make sense when
you read Blair's Commons speeches on Iraq of Feb. 25 and March
18, 2003. In both crucial debates - the latter leading to the
disastrous vote on the invasion - he used the same or similar
expressions to lie that he remained committed to a peaceful resolution.
"Even now, today, we are offering Saddam the prospect of
voluntary disarmament..." he said. From the revelations in
Philippe Sands' book Lawless World, the scale of his deception
is clear. On Jan. 31, 2003, Bush and Blair confirmed their earlier
secret decision to attack Iraq.
Like the invasion of Iraq, an attack on
Iran has a secret agenda that has nothing to do with the Tehran
regime's imaginary weapons of mass destruction. That Washington
has managed to coerce enough members of the International Atomic
Energy Agency into participating in a diplomatic charade is no
more than reminiscent of the way it intimidated and bribed the
"international community" into attacking Iraq in 1991.
Iran offers no "nuclear threat."
There is not the slightest evidence that it has the centrifuges
necessary to enrich uranium to weapons-grade material. The head
of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has repeatedly said his inspectors
have found nothing to support American and Israeli claims. Iran
has done nothing illegal; it has demonstrated no territorial ambitions
nor has it engaged in the occupation of a foreign country - unlike
the United States, Britain and Israel. It has complied with its
obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty to allow inspectors
to "go anywhere and see anything" - unlike the US and
Israel. The latter has refused to recognize the NPT, and has between
200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons targeted at Iran and other Middle
Those who flout the rules of the NPT are
America's and Britain's anointed friends. Both India and Pakistan
have developed their nuclear weapons secretly and in defiance
of the treaty. The Pakistani military dictatorship has openly
exported its nuclear technology. In Iran's case, the excuse that
the Bush regime has seized upon is the suspension of purely voluntary
"confidence-building" measures that Iran agreed with
Britain, France and Germany in order to placate the US and show
that it was "above suspicion." Seals were placed on
nuclear equipment following a concession given, some say foolishly,
by Iranian negotiators and which had nothing to do with Iran's
obligations under the NPT.
Iran has since claimed back its "inalienable
right" under the terms of the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful
purposes. There is no doubt this decision reflects the ferment
of political life in Tehran and the tension between radical and
conciliatory forces, of which the bellicose new president, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, is but one voice. As European governments seemed
to grasp for a while, this demands true diplomacy, especially
given the history.
For more than half a century, Britain
and the US have menaced Iran. In 1953, the CIA and MI6 overthrew
the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh, an inspired nationalist
who believed that Iranian oil belonged to Iran. They installed
the venal shah and, through a monstrous creation called SAVAK,
built one of the most vicious police states of the modern era.
The Islamic revolution in 1979 was inevitable and very nasty,
yet it was not monolithic and, through popular pressure and movement
from within the elite, Iran has begun to open to the outside world
- in spite of having sustained an invasion by Saddam Hussein,
who was encouraged and backed by the US and Britain.
At the same time, Iran has lived with
the real threat of an Israeli attack, possibly with nuclear weapons,
about which the "international community" has remained
silent. Recently, one of Israel's leading military historians,
Martin van Creveld, wrote: "Obviously, we don't want Iran
to have nuclear weapons and I don't know if they're developing
them, but if they're not developing them, they're crazy."
It is hardly surprising that the Tehran
regime has drawn the "lesson" of how North Korea, which
has nuclear weapons, has successfully seen off the American predator
without firing a shot. During the cold war, British "nuclear
deterrent" strategists argued the same justification for
arming the nation with nuclear weapons; the Russians were coming,
they said. As we are aware from declassified files, this was fiction,
unlike the prospect of an American attack on Iran, which is very
real and probably imminent.
Blair knows this. He also knows the real
reasons for an attack and the part Britain is likely to play.
Next month, Iran is scheduled to shift its petrodollars into a
euro-based bourse. The effect on the value of the dollar will
be significant, if not, in the long term, disastrous. At present
the dollar is, on paper, a worthless currency bearing the burden
of a national debt exceeding $8 trillion and a trade deficit of
more than $600 billion. The cost of the Iraq adventure alone,
according to the Nobel Prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz,
could be $2 trillion. America's military empire, with its wars
and 700-plus bases and limitless intrigues, is funded by creditors
in Asia, principally China.
That oil is traded in dollars is critical
in maintaining the dollar as the world's reserve currency. What
the Bush regime fears is not Iran's nuclear ambitions but the
effect of the world's fourth-biggest oil producer and trader breaking
the dollar monopoly. Will the world's central banks then begin
to shift their reserve holdings and, in effect, dump the dollar?
Saddam Hussein was threatening to do the same when he was attacked.
While the Pentagon has no plans to occupy
all of Iran, it has in its sights a strip of land that runs along
the border with Iraq. This is Khuzestan, home to 90 percent of
Iran's oil. "The first step taken by an invading force,"
reported Beirut's Daily Star, "would be to occupy Iran's
oil-rich Khuzestan Province, securing the sensitive Straits of
Hormuz and cutting off the Iranian military's oil supply."
On Jan. 28 the Iranian government said that it had evidence of
British undercover attacks in Khuzestan, including bombings, over
the past year. Will the newly emboldened Labour MPs pursue this?
Will they ask what the British army based in nearby Basra - notably
the SAS - will do if or when Bush begins bombing Iran? With control
of the oil of Khuzestan and Iraq and, by proxy, Saudi Arabia,
the US will have what Richard Nixon called "the greatest
prize of all."
But what of Iran's promise of "a
crushing response"? Last year, the Pentagon delivered 500
"bunker-busting" bombs to Israel. Will the Israelis
use them against a desperate Iran? Bush's 2002 Nuclear Posture
Review cites "preemptive" attack with so-called low-yield
nuclear weapons as an option. Will the militarists in Washington
use them, if only to demonstrate to the rest of us that, regardless
of their problems with Iraq, they are able to "fight and
win multiple, simultaneous major-theater wars," as they have
boasted? That a British prime minister should collude with even
a modicum of this insanity is cause for urgent action on this
side of the Atlantic.
John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney,
Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright.
Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice
won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist
of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.