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 Saturday, April 15, 2006

Iran's Nuclear Challenge: The Dilemma for Bush

  By Ali Moossavi
(Ali Moosavi is a Detroit area freelance writer)

Read here full article in The Arab American News

One issue that isn't discussed over the "threat" of Iran's nuclear weapons is the aftermath.

If Seymour Hersh's latest article in The New Yorker is any indication of President Bush's true agenda for Iran, then the aftermath is the only issue of importance, because military strikes and regime change are foregone conclusions.

The aftermath was NEVER seriously considered by Bush et al in the run-up to the war on Iraq.

It was clear to those who follow the region that much of what Washington and London were saying was either distorted or blatantly false.

The rest of America would have known this also, if the mainstream media had actually done their job.

The real reason for invading Iraq was that it contains the world's second largest known oil reserves, under the control of a nationalist regime that both inspired the "Arab and Muslim street" and threatened Israel.

And that is exactly the same dynamic prompting the war drums on Iran: colonialism, or to be precise, neo-colonialism, the establishment of a "democratic" pro-western regime.

Iran is the second-largest oil producer in OPEC and it too is under the control of a nationalist regime that's inspirational to the "Arab and Muslim street" and a threat to Israel.

In the words of one diplomat Hersh interviewed: "The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years."

Iran does have nuclear ambitions and has also been perfecting a missile capability to deliver nuclear warheads.

All the while it claims to desire nuclear energy solely for domestic power generation.

Sitting on a sea of oil, Iran's insistence on development of nuclear power - in the face of the attendant technical and political problems - hardly makes sense unless the goal is military.

Technical problems there are. There is always the danger of a Three Mile Island or a Chernobyl. There is the persistent problem of where to put radioactive waste.

But the United States is NO role model here.

  • It has nullified the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

  • It violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by massive expenditures on a large range of nuclear weapons activities.

  • It is doing nothing about decreasing its stockpile of nuclear weapons.
  • Is the U.S. less of a threat to world order than Iran?

    This is the third time the U.S. intervenes to institute regime change for control of Iran's oil.

  • In 1941, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran, removed Reza Shah from power and put his son, Mohammed Reza, on the throne as the new Shah of Iran. It was hoped he would be more open to the West. And he was. But in 1951, his Prime Minister, Dr Mohammad Mossadegh, nationalized the Iranian oil industry. The Iranians were about to take control of Iran. It could not be allowed to happen.

  • In1953 Dr Mossadegh was ousted by the Shah's officers with British and American assistance. Kermit Roosevelt was a CIA agent who, in cooperation with British intelligence, bought the participation of army leaders and orchestrated the overthrow. The Shah's subsequent rule, propped up by us, was marked by the torture and murder of those who crossed his path. Secular opponents were ruthlessly eliminated, leaving only religious extremists able to maintain any strength, even with their leadership in exile.

  • In 1979, that religious leadership in exile overthrew the Shah, who died a year later in Cairo. The clerics have been in charge since.

    However, nuclear weapons in Iran throw a monkey wrench into this third intervention scenario and hence the intense reaction Washington has had.

    As American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin said on National Public Radio's "Talk Of The Nation" on Wednesday, a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be susceptible to external regime change while in the midst of an uprising.

    In other words, if an uprising were engineered, the U.S. couldn't militarily assist in the establishment of a pro-western regime and the Revolutionary Guards would crush the opposition with impunity.

    Hersh's article says we're already in Iran engineering that uprising: "...teams of American combat troops" have established "contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups."

    Those groups include Azeris, Baluchis and Kurds, and given the sectarian violence raging in Iraq, manipulation of ethnic fault lines could lead Iran down the same path. A series of bombings over the summer in Tehran and Ahvaz, in which Iranian Arabs appeared to be behind at least some of them, may be the first shot fired in that war.

    This is what propels American military planning. The hope, according to Hersh's article, is that a well-coordinated strike will embarrass the regime and people will rise up as a result.

    Pragmatists have repeatedly argued that such a move will not only backfire, Iran will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Palestine.
    There's also the spectre of it cutting back oil supplies and imposing a blockade on the Strait of Hormuz, the vital oil shipping area of the Persian Gulf.

    Pragmatists also point out that, despite the Bush administration hype, Iran is at least a decade away from having any nuclear capability.

    As U of M Professor Juan Cole wrote recently:
    "Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran 'going nuclear,' the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they 'cascade.'

    The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180.

    Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb."
    So the truth is, Iran does not have nuclear capability and Bush would be a fool to launch a war on Iran.

    Sound familiar? That's the problem.

    The truth made no difference in Iraq.

    There's speculation that Saddam Hussein's pursuit of a euro-based oil bourse may have contributed to his downfall. Such a plan would have undermined the American dominated market, in which two bourses, London's International Petroleum Exchange and New York's Nymex are both dominated by American oil companies.

    Iran has reportedly pursued a similar path and the bourse was supposed to start in March of this year.

    The significance of this has been debated, although not in any major media outlet.

    Some analysts, like William Clark, author of "Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar," say that Iraq's proposed bourse was what caused Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    "Tehran's objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market," he said in an article in the "Energy Bulletin."

    Others disagree.

    Adam Sieminski, oil analyst with Deutche Bank in London, told the London Guardian on June 16, 2004 that IPE and Nymex "are regulated markets based on well-established systems for trading."

    Still others think it's irrelevant, like Cole, who told me in an email that, "the question of dollars versus euros is irrelevant."

    Regardless, nuclear weapons symbolically challenge American military might.

    In other words, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is playing to the home crowd, just as Bush is looking for a way to save Republican control of Congress in the fall.

    And if it all goes wrong? Look at Iraq, and magnify.

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