Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Attack Iran? Meditations on Possible Causes

Part One: Imperialism Never Forgets Grudges

By Lloyd Agte


"Yes it is, Virginia."  "Will we start killing people again, Daddy?"  "I'm afraid we have to Virginia.  We are peace-loving people, sweet heart, but we have to keep those evil Iranians from killing us with their Atom Bombs."  "I'm afraid, Daddy."  "Don't worry your little head, my darling, we are supposed to be afraid.  That is what makes us good Americans."

The Iraq war, a.k.a. Gulf War II, smashed and disemboweled Iraq from March 19, 2003 until December 18, 2011--a war that had its official seeds in President Bush's "Axis of Evil" state of the union address and continued through the mythical weapons of mass destruction lies that prevailed until the U.S. finally started bombing Baghdad in order to depose Saddam Hussein and "install democracy in Iraq."    Over a trillion borrowed dollars later, a million or so Iraqis dead from the war, over dead, 50,000 American soldiers wounded, 4000 killed, and we are now, still bogged down in a war in Afghanistan that preceded the Iraq War.  Yet once again the United States of America is on the threshold of another bankrupting imperialist adventure in Iran.

I clearly remember in the fall of 2003, about Christmas time, hearing Israel's President Netanyahu on a visit to the U.S. stating that once the Iraq war was completed then we should immediately bomb Iran. Apparently he, like the U.S. Administration and many Americans, were flagrantly optimistic, having greatly overestimated our power and the power of the resistance. I really could not believe my ears.  I read around for reactions to his insane desires, but found none.  Apparently such ranting was so normal that they deserved no media commentary

And now here we are, eight years later and on the threshold of attacking Iran.  Why?  Because, they "might" be building a bomb.  We even hear the same old re-treaded "reasoning" that, "Well, they may not have it but they have the intent."  Now you would think that the mainstream media, having been burned nine years ago by jumping on the WMD bandwagon, and the "guilty by desire" cart that their judgment would improve and that they would be more judicious in their language. But no, they keep dropping phrases like "Iran's plans to build an atomic bomb," "Iran's bomb program," "Iran's escalating nuclear ambitions," and so on.  They don't even have the courtesy to add the word "alleged," for as yet there is not proof they are in the process of building an atomic weapon.

Seymour Hersch in an interview with Amy Goodman for "Democracy: Now" in June 2011 lays out the present state of evidence regarding Iran's nuke program:

"SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, very simply, it’s—you know, you could argue it’s 2003 all over again. Remember WMD, mushroom clouds. There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon. You know, making a weapon is a big deal. You have to have fabrication facilities. You have to convert a very toxic gas into a metal and then mold it into a core. It’s big stuff, and there’s no sign of any of it.
"We’ve been looking—Cheney was convinced, Dick Cheney, the former vice president, there was a secret facility à la what we probably saw in the movie Bananas. Remember Woody Allen’s movie, the little robots running underground? He was convinced there was an underground facility somewhere. And we had Special Forces units in there since '04, really, perhaps as late as—early as ’05, maybe, looking. We've been paying off people—the Kurds, the Azeris, the opposition groups. We’ve been giving a lot of money to various defectors. We’ve been looking with satellites for telltale signs, air holes, air vents, somewhere in the desert or somewhere in an arid area. And we’ve found nothing, not for lack of trying. We looked very hard. And there’s just no evidence on the inside.
"And it’s not only here, it’s known in Europe. It’s a much easier situation, at least for a journalist, to go to Europe, because the European intelligence officials are much more open about it. "Yes, we are very skeptical," they will say, "but we’ve found nothing." So, the fact is, we have a—the evidence is pretty strong—I mean, very strong—that we have a sanctions program that’s designed to prevent the Iranians from building weapons systems they’re not building."  "U.S. Could Be Headed for Iran Redux"—
I have yet to read any information of substance that refutes Hersh's June 2011 analysis.  Quite the contrary.  Scott Horton piece on from nearly a year previous (Aug. 2010) says essentially the same thing: "No one is accusing the Iranians of producing plutonium or having any plutonium. They are being accused of enriching uranium, but they are enriching uranium to a measly 3.6 % industrial grade for use in their electricity program, and then beginning only a couple of weeks ago, when... after they accepted Obama's proposal, and he refused to accept their acceptance of it, they went ahead and began to enrich a very small amount of this uranium, to 20% uranium-235, which still is a far sight from weapons grade uranium, and it is to be used in their American-built medical isotope reactor in Tehran.
Horton goes on to cite the National Intelligence Council's November 2007 report which said, "On February the 15th (2010) under oath before the U.S. Senate, "We still stand by the conclusion of the unanimous National Intelligence Council, representatives of all 16 intelligence agencies, from November of 2007, and that is the Iranians have not made the decision to begin to make nuclear weapons"  Seymour Hersh, writing on the New Yorker blog November 18, 2011 writes about how the new IAEA report came about and how the new Japanese head of IAEA, who had replaced Mohammed ElBaradei shamelessly kowtowed to the U.S. interests:
The shift in tone at the I.A.E.A. seems linked to a change at the top. The I.A.E.A.’s report had extra weight because the Agency has had a reputation for years as a reliable arbiter on Iran. Mohammed ElBaradei, who retired as the I.A.E.A.’s Director General two years ago, was viewed internationally, although not always in Washington, as an honest broker—a view that lead to the awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei’s replacement is Yukiya Amano of Japan. Late last year, a classified U.S. Embassy cable from Vienna, the site of the I.A.E.A. headquarters, described Amano as being “ready for prime time.” According to the cable, which was obtained by WikiLeaks, in a meeting in September, 2009, with Glyn Davies, the American permanent representative to the I.A.E.A., said, “Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the group of developing countries], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.” The cable added that Amano’s “willingness to speak candidly with U.S. interlocutors on his strategy … bodes well for our future relationship." Read more

What started the latest WMD hysteria in 2011 was a report by the IAEA (where the word "evidence" is not present), rehashing the old concerns. Yes, Iran did have an atomic weapons program at one time--with our blessing (and giving), under the Shah we imposed when we overthrew their democratic government.  But this program was abandoned by the theocratic regime that overthrew the Shah in 1979, and only reconsidered with some active planning when Iraq attacked them in the 8 year Iran-Iraq war (U.S. supplying weapons for both sides but mostly siding with Iraq as the U.S. was still smarting at having their dictator overthrown).  But since then there is no evidence they are not in compliance with the law and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of which they are a signatory.  But the new head of the IAEA, Japan's Yukiya Amano who, as Hersh noted above, made it clear he wanted to please the U.S. and so he rehashed these old fears and presented the old "evidence" in such a fashion as to make it seem that Iran had a hidden weapons program.  Whether the U.S. ordered the new report is an intriguing question. 
In February of 2012, Gennady Yevstafyev, Retired Lieutenant-general of Russia's Foreign Intelligence begins his article, "US Preparing Something Against Iran" with the following: "First of all I would like to make some correction. It is not Iran that is prepared to launch an attack against the United States; it is a gross exaggeration by American spy agency. It is aimed at creation of an absolutely negative image of Iran in the American population, in the international public opinion and it is a preparation for something serious in case the decision is taken by American Administration."
Okay, so Iran has no nukes and no proven weapons program. It is being inspected by the IAEA regularly.  So why all the war drums?  I'll admit the absolute answer is a mystery, but the answer probably lies within one or more of following possibilities. One:  Old wounds from a lost imperial possession; Two: The lust for hegemony for U.S. and Israel; Three: American guilt and fear (over blood for oil); Four: The fear of losing the Petrodollar.
One:  Imperialism Never Forgets Grudges.
Stewart Littlewood's  two-thousand word essay, "Why the West is Demonizing Iran," should be mandatory reading by every politician who dares open his mouth and engage his vocal chords on Iran.  Littlewood in his brief history takes the reader through the western engagement with Iran following the discovery of Oil in 1908 up to current times--just over a hundred year span. 
William Knox D'Arcy, a Brit who had made a fortune in Australia gold mining, returning to England in the 1880s, agreed to fund oil and mineral exploration in Persia. He won a concession for a 60 year contract with the son of the reigning head, King Mossaffar al-Din Shah Qakar, for Iran's share of the oil company's profit of 16%.  A naïve profligate whose extravagant lifestyle was financed by borrowing from Russia, he signed away many industries and markets to foreigners, including the British.
In 1908, D'Arcy was nearly bankrupt, but on 26 May his company struck oil at 1,180 feet.  The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was formed and by 1911 had completed a pipeline to its new refinery in Abadan. By 1914 the company was in trouble again as the age of motoring had not begun and American and European interests controlled much of the market. The company was rescued by Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, who wished to convert the ships from coal to oil.  He convinced parliament to do so and to acquire a large share of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company on the eve of WWI.  As spoils of war the British government seized the assets of a German company, which had called itself The British Petroleum Company so that the Anglo-Persian Company could sell their products in England.  This provided the Anglo Persian Oil Company a distribution network, depots, barges, etc. for a now oil hungry England and Europe.
The post war years brought rich rewards to Anglo-Persian, which changed its name to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1935.  Angry at its measly 16% share of the profits, the agreement ended up in the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague in 1933, where a smaller territory fell under the 60-year lease agreement, and some improvement on profits for Iran, but far from a square deal.
By 1950, Abadan was the world's largest refinery and, Littlewood writes, "Britain, with its 51 percent holding in Anglo Iranian, had affectively colonized part of southern Iran."
The big breakaway came in 1951 when the Iranian Majlis and Senate voted to nationalize the British company. Mohammad Mossadeq was elected prime minister by an overwhelming majority and quickly carried out canceling the Anglo-Iranian oil concession 42 years early and expropriating the company's assets. Part of the expropriation included, in Mossadeq's words, that "25% of the net profits on oil be set aside to meet all the legitimate claims of the company for its compensation."  Littlewood writes: "For this he was eventually removed in a coup by MIF and the CIA, imprisoned for 3 years then put under house arrest until his death."
And here, dear reader, is where we come to a mirror of our own contemporary situation.  For Britain "orchestrated a world-wide boycott of Iranian oil, froze Iran's sterling assets and threatened legal action against anyone purchasing oil produced in the formerly British-controlled refineries."  And here is the coup de grace: Littlewood writes: "It even considered invading."  Sound familiar?  This is right where we are now.  Only now we could not be so crass as to say it was over the spoils of oil. No, now it is that Iran will nuke us in the night if we don't stop them now.  But to be fair, were not quite that crass then, either.  Rather, Churchill was bruiting it about (to President Eisenhower), that Mossadeq was turning communist and pushing Iran into Russia's arms at a time when the Cold War was just heating up. Littlewood sums up the chicanery: Chief of the CIA's Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt Jr, arrived to play the leading role in an ugly game of provocation, mayhem and deception. An elaborate campaign of disinformation began, and the Shah signed two decrees, one dismissing Mossadeq and the other nominating the CIA's choice, General Fazlollah Zahedi, as prime minister. These decrees were written as dictated by Donald Wilbur the CIA architect of the plan."

Mossadeq was arrested, tried, sentenced to death, and then commuted to house arrest.  The new government of Zahedi soon reached an agreement with foreign companies to restore oil production, the U.S and Britain getting most of it, sharing profits with Iran on a 50-50 basis, but the company never opened the books to Iranian inspectors.  Anglo-Iranian changed its name to British Petroleum in 1954.

The United States enthusiastically supported the Shah, providing military aid, nuclear plants, planes, arms, funding the army and the dreaded SAVAK secret police force.  I can remember as a young man all the picture spreads in Time and Life magazines and newspapers of the Shah, a mysterious hero figure that I could not quite identify with--always in uniform, it seems.  In retrospect, it is clear that the media dearly loved him and by extension so apparently did many average Americans.  But the Iranian people, according to Littlewood, hated him and hated the U.S for supporting him.  And hatred of the U.S. by Iraqis was caused in great part by the U.S. supplying Iraq with chemical weapons that killed over 100,000 Iranians.
Littleton quotes John King, writing in 2003 of the damage that the U.S. caused by aiding dictators in the two countries. The United States used methods both legal and illegal to help build Saddam's army into the most powerful army in the Mideast outside of Israel. The US supplied chemical and biological agents and technology to Iraq when it knew Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranians. The US supplied the materials and technology for these weapons of mass destruction to Iraq at a time when it was know that Saddam was using this technology to kill his Kurdish citizens. The United States supplied intelligence and battle planning information to Iraq when those battle plans included the use of cyanide, mustard gas and nerve agents. The United States blocked UN censure of Iraq's use of chemical weapons. The United States did not act alone in this effort. The Soviet Union was the largest weapons supplier, but England, France and Germany were also involved in the shipment of arms and technology."
Littleton ends his brief history with his thesis that I have adapted for the title of this essay, that imperial grudges are long lived.  He begins with questioning why the current western rulers are so down on Iran when all of the above history took place before they were even born.  His answer seems to be that the imperialist legacy seems to be in the blood.
So why are they demonizing Iran instead of righting the wrongs? Why not live and let live?

Because the political establishment is still smarting.

They are the new-generation imperialists, the political spawn of those Dr. Mossadeq and many others struggled against.

They haven’t learned from the past, and they won’t lift their eyes to a better future. It’s so depressing.

Yes, it is depressing, but it speaks to the legacy of power and privilege and how it is never given up willingly, no matter how many lives have to be sacrificed.  No doubt if Iran is attacked by Israel/U.S., after the "regime change" those old oil interests, the sons and grandsons and granddaughters of such will come crawling out of the woodwork to claim their share.  While they may not be beating the war drum, you can rest assured that they are paying lots of drummers to do just that.
So that is one reason we are beating the war drum.  Iran was once "ours" (we thought) and now it is not, "And we want it back!"