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March 2, 2009

Iran: And the Beat Goes On


The beating of war drums, that is

by Justin Raimondo

Editor's note: Justin Raimondo is traveling. The following column originally ran on Sept. 26, 2008.

In a last-ditch, all-out effort to pave the way for war with Iran, Israel's lobby in the U.S. has inaugurated a new front group: United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). What, "another" neocon front group – why is this important? With Richard Holbrooke, Obama's most prominent foreign policy adviser – and a likely Secretary of State or National Security Adviser in the Obama administration – joining neocon nutcase James R. Woolsey in the top leadership of this new group, the signal is clear: UANI represents a bipartisan call for war.

In an op-ed piece for what else but the War Street Journal, the four horsemen of the apocalypse – Holbrooke, Woolsey, Dennis Ross, the Israel Lobby's ace-in-the-hole in the Obama camp, and Mark D. Wallace, formerly U.S. representative to the UN for management and reform – mirror the joint statement of Obama and McCain on the economic crisis. This is "not a partisan matter" – the War Party is the only party that really matters. "We may have different political allegiances and worldviews, " they aver,

"Yet we share a common concern – Iran's drive to be a nuclear state. We believe that Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is one of the most urgent issues facing America today, because even the most conservative estimates tell us that they could have nuclear weapons soon.

"A nuclear-armed Iran would likely destabilize an already dangerous region that includes Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and pose a direct threat to America's national security."

Etc., etc., etc. I suppose it's just a coincidence that the list of threatened countries starts with Israel and ends with the United States, but I wonder…

Leaving the realm of speculation, and entering the region of hard facts: our own National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program shows that the Iranians had a weapons program that they abandoned: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." While keeping the option open, the Iranian regime has not restarted its nuclear program, according to our spooks, and probably could not iron out all the technical problems and hoarding of nuclear materials until at least 2015 – and even then there is no evidence Tehran has any such intention.

The NIE was issued last year around this time, and afterward Robert Gates spoke to the New York Times Magazine:

"One afternoon in late November, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was flying back to Washington from the Army base at Fort Hood, Tex., where he had spoken with soldiers and spouses about the future of Iraq. Sitting across from him at his desk in the back of the Pentagon's jet, I asked him about the possibility of another military conflict: U.S. air strikes on Iran. ‘The last thing the Middle East needs now is another war,' he said quietly. ‘We have to keep all options on the table,' he went on, reciting the standard caveat. ‘But if Iraq has shown us anything, it's the unpredictability of war. Once a conflict starts, the statesmen lose control.'"

This was supposed to signal that the much-anticipated U.S. strike on Iran – the imminence of which was predicted with near certainty by a number of commentators, including this one – has been successfully aborted. There was a collective and well-nigh audible sigh of relief, from Tehran to Terre Haute, but some of us were not convinced by this display of official caution. After all, the statesmen have lost control before….

If the NIE was supposed to blast the neocon war campaign out of the water, then its authors did not take into account the persistence – indeed, fanaticism – of the United for War With Iran crowd. The sheer relentlessness of the effort suggests its essential character as a lobbying campaign on behalf of a special interest – in this case, a very special interest. Corporate and professional lobbyists are notably impervious to facts, and tend to cherry-pick according to the interests of their clients, and foreign lobbyists certainly fall into this category. Yet the latter have a certain edge to them, lacking in the others – and Israel's lobby has the sharpest edge of all.

No one even pretends anymore that the Israel lobby isn't behind the effort to drag us into another Middle Eastern war. You don't have to be me, or Mearsheimer and Walt, to make this case: you have only to listen to the public pronouncements of Israel's leaders, who are openly demanding that either we strike, or else they will – perhaps, as has been suggested by Benny Morris, with nuclear weapons.

In the U.S., AIPAC, the scandal-rocked central command of Israel's amen corner, has come out of the shadows, where they remained during the run-up to the Iraq war, and taken the lead in calling for harsh sanctions and a military blockade of Iranian ports. Now we have this bipartisan ad hoc committee taking out full page newspaper ads and speaking in the implied names of both major party presidential candidates.

I had to laugh when I read, in the Journal op-ed piece, that "Tehran's development of a nuclear bomb could serve as the ‘starter's gun' in a new and potentially deadly arms race in the most volatile region of the world. Many believe that Iran's neighbors would feel forced to pursue the bomb if it goes nuclear." Methinks the starter gun went off long off – sometime in the early 1960s, Israel having earlier procured the technology to make the Bomb from the French.

"Iran," say the four horsemen, "is a deadly and irresponsible world actor, employing terrorist organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas to undermine existing regimes and to foment conflict. Emboldened by the bomb, Iran will become more inclined to sponsor terror, threaten our allies, and support the most deadly elements of the Iraqi insurgency." One has only to insert "Israel" where Iran sits in those sentences, and the pot-kettle-black aspect of this whole issue is underscored, as is the ridiculous double standard. After all, Israel has surely been emboldened by its possession of nukes, lo these many years, and acted in a manner that could reasonably called irresponsible – and even deadly, now that you mention it. Yet Israel is not only given a pass, but the defining factor of the Middle Eastern strategic environment – Israel's nuclear arsenal – goes unmentioned by these worthies.

They are full of laughable pronouncements imbued with the solemnity that usually accompanies the argument from authority:

"The world rightfully doubts Tehran's assertion that it needs nuclear energy and is enriching nuclear materials for strictly peaceful purposes. Iran has vast supplies of inexpensive oil and natural gas, and its construction of nuclear reactors and attempts to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle are exceedingly costly. There is no legitimate economic reason for Iran to pursue nuclear energy."

Aside from the propriety of assuming to speak for "the world," one has to ask where the war propagandists have been hiding out lately: haven't they read about those gas lines in Iran? Sanctions and official corruption have contributed to the country's shortage, while rationing ensured it would continue. Indeed, the more tireless Iran-ophobes were at one point speculating that the resulting riots might well spell the end for the mullahs.

And I'm surprised they raised the following accusation, considering the context in which it is hurled:

"By continuing to act in open defiance of its treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran rejects the inspections mandated by the IAEA and flouts multiple UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions."

Iran is fully within its rights, under the terms of the treaty, to develop a nuclear energy program, which is what they say they are doing – and, as those gas lines attest, they have a real need for it. At any rate, at least Iran has signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, unlike a certain country whose interests seem to be at the heart of the signers' argument:

"At the same time, Iranian leaders declare that Israel is illegitimate and should not exist. President Ahmadinejad specifically calls for Israel to be ‘wiped off from the map,' while seeking the weapons to do so. Such behavior casts Iran as an international outlier. No one can reasonably suggest that a nuclear-armed Iran will suddenly honor international treaty obligations, acknowledge Israel's right to exist, or cease efforts to undermine the Arab-Israeli peace process."

That old canard about wiping Israel off the map has been debunked so many times as a mistranslation of what Ahmadinejad really said – which was something more akin to predicting that Israel would be washed away by the tides of history and demography – yet it keeps bouncing right back. Just like all the other lies spread far and wide by the War Party's propagandists. Remember that one about Mohammed Atta meeting a top Iraqi intelligence official at the Prague airport? That one didn't die until well after the invasion. I wonder how many people still believe Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks? A lie, repeated relentlessly, becomes enmeshed in the public consciousness, and rooting it out is a major operation, with a problematic success rate.

That's what we do, here at Antiwar.com – root out the lies, and set the record straight. We did it in the run-up to the last war, and we're doing the same thing when it comes to the Iranian issue. The chances that we'll succeed, this time, in stopping the rush to war are better now, perhaps, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. The forces pushing for war, led by the Israel lobby, are marshaling their supporters for a final push. Even if they don't pull it off before the election, the Holbrooke-Woolsey Pact will go down in history as the turning point, politically, the crucial juncture when the American elite made the decision to go to war because the Lobby demanded it.

Our political elites speak in unison: accept the bailout, pay trillions to the plutocrats – accept the coming war with Iran – and pay with the lives of your children. Our leaders, their system in crisis, have closed ranks around the slogan of Big Government at home, and progressively bigger wars abroad. If it were one crisis, or the other, Americans might remain impassive. In this case, however, with the economy imploding and the threat of war looming simultaneously, the Washington crowd that thought it could ride out the turbulence is finding it's a bit more of a bumpy ride than they or anyone else imagined. The people are awakening, but there is a danger in this: without leaders of their own, their rebellion is bound to be inchoate, undirected, and perhaps even violent. As Garet Garrett put it, anticipating this moment some sixty odd years ago:

"No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose."

 

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  • Jorge Hirsch is a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego.

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