Understanding the Iran situation

Today for the nth time in my life I woke up to a headline discussing the latest U.S. threat to bomb Iran. Every time I see a headline like this I am reminded of an interview with Noam Chomsky in which he is asked about the current Iran situation. Chomsky remarks, “I don't know if anybody cares, but there is something called the UN Charter, which is a valid treaty that we're committed to which bars the threat or use of force.”1 So today when U.S. Secretary of “Defense” Leon Panetta tells reporters that when it comes to Iran, “all options are on the table,” the U.S. is violating the UN charter.2 Furthermore, these threats are openly made, obviously with the intention of intimidating the Iranian government. They therefore qualify as international terrorism which is defined by the United States Department of Defense as, “[t]he calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear.”3

However, let us for a moment put aside our objections to the United States’ complete disregard for law, both international and domestic. Let us turn to the subject of Iran’s nuclear program. There is no evidence that exists anywhere that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. I say this confidently because a report released by the U.S. government, “which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.” This intelligence was not and has not been disputed by the Israelis.4 And of course Iran is in the “position” to build a nuclear weapon, as is every country in the world that is pursuing their right under international law to make use of nuclear power.

However, at this juncture of thought, I am again reminded of Chomsky, quoting Israeli “defense” expert Martin van Creveld who writes that Iran “would be crazy” to not pursue nuclear weapons.5 Of course the logic is this: nuclear weapons are one of the few known defenses against U.S. bombing.

  • 1. "Noam Chomsky on U.S. Policy Towards Iran, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Paul Jay." chomsky.info : The Noam Chomsky Website. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. <http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20071119.htm>.
  • 2. "Panetta tells Israel force is option on Iran - Middle East - Al Jazeera English." AJE - Al Jazeera English. Web. 1 Aug. 2012.
  • 3. "U.S. Department of Defense Definition of Terrorism." Terrorism. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. <http://terrorism.about.com/od/whatisterroris1/ss/DefineTerrorism_4.htm?rd=>.
  • 4. Dilanian, Ken, and Los Angeles Times. "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb - Los Angeles Times." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/23/world/la-fg-iran-intel-20120224>.
  • 5. Creveld, Martin van. "Sharon on the warpath - Is Israel planning to attack Iran? - NYTimes.com." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/21/opinion/21iht-edcreveld_ed3_.html>.

Posted By

Soapy
Aug 1 2012 16:12

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  • I don't know if anybody cares, but there is something called the UN Charter, which is a valid treaty that we're committed to which bars the threat or use of force.

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baboon
Aug 1 2012 18:30

From the point of view of imperialism, either that of Iran and its allies, or the US and Nato, there are no good options for the "world" - they are all bad.
The defence of Iranian national interests, ie, Iranian imperialism, demands that it provides itself with the best weapons available and it seems inconceivable to me that, however far away it is, the production of nuclear weapons wouldn't be an option. It has the raw materials and the delivery systems.
The other option is a Nato or "interested parties" pre-emptive attack on Iran. The latter is already encircled by the US, Britain and others in a war that's already underway really, not least through the west's support for the opposition forces in Iran's main regional ally, Syria. The firepower needed to subdue Iran in an open conflict would surely add up to more explosives than were used by the US when it dropped atomic bombs on Japan at the end of WWII. The response from Iran would also be fearful and the fate of the populations of the whole region would be dire. And the consequences would not remain localised.
Imperialism, with or without nuclear weapons, offers no good optiions for humanity.

psychogeography
Aug 1 2012 19:59

What this article has ignored is the report that uranium has become obsolete and has been replaced by thorium although, personally, i feel that even this will prove to be a ploy to promote capitalism.

Reddebrek
Aug 4 2012 01:17
Quote:
Just like Saddam Hussein was strongly supported by the CIA and successive U.S. administrations and then for very little reason disposed of.

I hate to be seen as nitpicking but I feel this sentence undermines your point. Saddam was not disposed of for "little reason" he's invasion of Kuwait was very disruptive for Oil exports from the region and threatened Saudi Arabia whom also demanded Iraq pay back its loans and had built its power base in the Middle East by a complex alliance system and maintenance of the status quo.

Even when Saddam had murdered the Communists, distanced Iraq from the Soviet Union and wrecked the Unification project with Syria and invaded Iran, Saudi Arabia was still a more important regional ally for America as it was for Britain and France before them.

He also picked a very bad time to go to war, Gorbachev's peace initiative with the West had not only weakened the USSR internationally, making any protests over Western involvement useless but it also left a very expensive military program with a pressing need to justify itself to its population. Saddam's Soviet tanks crossing a border and revelations of his regimes abuses at home and in Iran made him the perfect target.

A better example would be funnily enough the Shah, despite years of close collaboration once it was clear that the Shah's brutality was unpopular at home and insufficient to keep the Revolutionaries down rather then step in and pressure the military or security forces whom were wavering to dig in and aid them in a counter insurgency campaign the Americans began distancing themselves and played the wait and see game.

Or General Manuel Noriega of Panama. I man the US was happy to pay to torture and kill "Reds" and even turned a blind eye to his drug smuggling, but once he became unpopular in America and was exposed publicly for some of his crimes the relationship soured and it wasn't too long before he was deposed.

Soapy
Aug 4 2012 03:27
Reddebrek wrote:
Quote:
Just like Saddam Hussein was strongly supported by the CIA and successive U.S. administrations and then for very little reason disposed of.

I hate to be seen as nitpicking but I feel this sentence undermines your point. Saddam was not disposed of for "little reason" he's invasion of Kuwait was very disruptive for Oil exports from the region and threatened Saudi Arabia whom also demanded Iraq pay back its loans and had built its power base in the Middle East by a complex alliance system and maintenance of the status quo.

Even when Saddam had murdered the Communists, distanced Iraq from the Soviet Union and wrecked the Unification project with Syria and invaded Iran, Saudi Arabia was still a more important regional ally for America as it was for Britain and France before them.

He also picked a very bad time to go to war, Gorbachev's peace initiative with the West had not only weakened the USSR internationally, making any protests over Western involvement useless but it also left a very expensive military program with a pressing need to justify itself to its population. Saddam's Soviet tanks crossing a border and revelations of his regimes abuses at home and in Iran made him the perfect target.

A better example would be funnily enough the Shah, despite years of close collaboration once it was clear that the Shah's brutality was unpopular at home and insufficient to keep the Revolutionaries down rather then step in and pressure the military or security forces whom were wavering to dig in and aid them in a counter insurgency campaign the Americans began distancing themselves and played the wait and see game.

Or General Manuel Noriega of Panama. I man the US was happy to pay to torture and kill "Reds" and even turned a blind eye to his drug smuggling, but once he became unpopular in America and was exposed publicly for some of his crimes the relationship soured and it wasn't too long before he was deposed.

I understand your points but what you are describing are the reasons for the Gulf War, a War which if anything ended up strengthened Saddam's grip on the country. In fact, while the U.S. was occupying the country they allowed Saddam to brutally crush a Shia/Kurdish rebellion that would have overthrown him. Then came the near genocidal sanctions regime which also greatly strengthened Saddam's grip on the country. Then in 2003 for very little reason the U.S. changed its mind and thought they should go ahead and reoccupy the country.

baboon
Aug 4 2012 16:10

I don't think that there's any doubt that Iranian relations with Hamas and its implantation in Lebanon through Hezbollah, has been somewhat weakened by events in Syria. But the situation is fluid.

Today, Iranian Defence Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, warned that arming Syrian rebels will have "very bad implications" in the region, which will face a "major crisis if foreign forces, currently (covertly) present in Syria enter the scene" (AFP).

To this end, Iran has been looking for allies elsewhere. In spring this year the Taleban was allowed to set up an office in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan. Western intelligence received communication that suggested that the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guard discussed plans to sell the Taleban ground-to-air missiles. There's no evidence that they were provided - just small arms - but if they were this would be a major blow to Isaf forces in Afghanistan. Relations between Iran and the Taleban are problematic anyway given the latter's relations with some of the Gulf states. But some escalation of weapons supply is not impossible.

What did come out from Iranian diplomatic pressure on Afghanistan was the fact that Kabul has signed a deal with the US paving the way for US troops to stay in the country beyond 2014 (Telegraph, 2.8). Just like Iraq, a solid military presence will be maintained by the US in Afghanistan well after the departure date.

Reddebrek
Aug 4 2012 18:10
Quote:
Then in 2003 for very little reason the U.S. changed its mind and thought they should go ahead and reoccupy the country.

Sorry but again that isn't quite true, the US had a continuous policy of undermining him after the first Gulf War. You mention the Shia and Kurd (both despite occurring at the same time where separate uprisings since Kurds and Shia Arabs didn't really get along) uprisings, yes they were left to die, but that was because the US was still hoping someone else in the regime would see Saddam's weakness and overthrow him so they could rebuild there relationship with a new Dictator whom would keep the oil flowing, without any costly unstable reshuffling. Obviously that didn't happen.

You also bring up the sanctions, with respect I don't think you understand why sanctions are used. Sanctions do not and are not designed to remove a political leadership, they are used to keep a regime isolated and weak in regards to its neighbours. Yes your correct that Saddam managed to tighten his grip at home as have the hard liners in Iran, but internationally sanctions nearly crippled them both. Saddam had to resort to the black market to keep his exhausted armies functioning and Iran is still despite decades of tinkering using weapons systems that were based on the gear the Shah bought from America in the 1970's. This is why they mainly use proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Shia militia's in Iraq, they don't have the capabilities to launch a conventional military strike and be certain of victory.

In fact Clinton very nearly invaded Iraq the first time WMD programs were alleged to still being hidden in Iraq, the lack of enthusiasm for a full scale invasion plus the discrediting of the main witness Hussain Kamel meant a vigorous bombing campaign would have to do. See Clinton's Cruise Missile diplomacy.

When 9/11 happened the perfect excuse for a popular second attempt on a much weakened Saddam was opened up. The case against him in relation to Bin Laden was of course flimsy but Saddam had done more then enough to get him linked in the minds of a fearful and angry populous. He had actively courted Islamist movements as an attempt to rebuild his popularity and was proven to have funded and supported terrorist groups in the past (the lack of evidence for support of Al-Qaeda was merely a triviality) and his regimes constant boasting about defence and security meant it wasn't hard to kick off the old WMD scare again, he did still operate a lot of factories and military bases so it wasn't too hard to present the comings and goings of these facilities as sinister.

Removing Saddam was absolutely necessary if the West wanted to assure all its friendly regimes that as unpopular as America is its still better then making a deal with the terrorist rabble which had been growing since the 80's. And remember after Vietnam every time America carried out regime change like in Panama and Grenada they were able to install a new government very quickly with little trouble, and Saddam was hated by a clear majority of the population so the new non Saddam government should be really popular, so again I have to disagree, since the invasion of Kuwait Saddam had become and enemy of the US and NATO and Saudi Arabia and the invasion in 2003 was simply the culmination of years of policy in the region.

To be honest it sounds like what your saying US and Iraq relations 1991-2003 where a deliberate plot to keep the Iraqi Stalin in power at the expense of his people, that's very conspiratorial and would make your insistence that the US just one day decided to scrap all that hard work for as you say "Little reason" seem even more ludicrous.

Soapy
Aug 4 2012 18:49
Reddebrek wrote:
Quote:
Then in 2003 for very little reason the U.S. changed its mind and thought they should go ahead and reoccupy the country.

Sorry but again that isn't quite true, the US had a continuous policy of undermining him after the first Gulf War. You mention the Shia and Kurd (both despite occurring at the same time where separate uprisings since Kurds and Shia Arabs didn't really get along) uprisings, yes they were left to die, but that was because the US was still hoping someone else in the regime would see Saddam's weakness and overthrow him so they could rebuild there relationship with a new Dictator whom would keep the oil flowing, without any costly unstable reshuffling. Obviously that didn't happen.

You also bring up the sanctions, with respect I don't think you understand why sanctions are used. Sanctions do not and are not designed to remove a political leadership, they are used to keep a regime isolated and weak in regards to its neighbours. Yes your correct that Saddam managed to tighten his grip at home as have the hard liners in Iran, but internationally sanctions nearly crippled them both. Saddam had to resort to the black market to keep his exhausted armies functioning and Iran is still despite decades of tinkering using weapons systems that were based on the gear the Shah bought from America in the 1970's. This is why they mainly use proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Shia militia's in Iraq, they don't have the capabilities to launch a conventional military strike and be certain of victory.

In fact Clinton very nearly invaded Iraq the first time WMD programs were alleged to still being hidden in Iraq, the lack of enthusiasm for a full scale invasion plus the discrediting of the main witness Hussain Kamel meant a vigorous bombing campaign would have to do. See Clinton's Cruise Missile diplomacy.

When 9/11 happened the perfect excuse for a popular second attempt on a much weakened Saddam was opened up. The case against him in relation to Bin Laden was of course flimsy but Saddam had done more then enough to get him linked in the minds of a fearful and angry populous. He had actively courted Islamist movements as an attempt to rebuild his popularity and was proven to have funded and supported terrorist groups in the past (the lack of evidence for support of Al-Qaeda was merely a triviality) and his regimes constant boasting about defence and security meant it wasn't hard to kick off the old WMD scare again, he did still operate a lot of factories and military bases so it wasn't too hard to present the comings and goings of these facilities as sinister.

Removing Saddam was absolutely necessary if the West wanted to assure all its friendly regimes that as unpopular as America is its still better then making a deal with the terrorist rabble which had been growing since the 80's. And remember after Vietnam every time America carried out regime change like in Panama and Grenada they were able to install a new government very quickly with little trouble, and Saddam was hated by a clear majority of the population so the new non Saddam government should be really popular, so again I have to disagree, since the invasion of Kuwait Saddam had become and enemy of the US and NATO and Saudi Arabia and the invasion in 2003 was simply the culmination of years of policy in the region.

To be honest it sounds like what your saying US and Iraq relations 1991-2003 where a deliberate plot to keep the Iraqi Stalin in power at the expense of his people, that's very conspiratorial and would make your insistence that the US just one day decided to scrap all that hard work for as you say "Little reason" seem even more ludicrous.

What you are proposing here are possible theories as to why the U.S. felt the need to remove Saddam in 2003, but I believe that they in no way undermine my point which was that the U.S. played an active role in keeping Saddam in power during and after the first Gulf War. It would seem that if the U.S. absolutely needed a regime change in Iraq then they would have done so when they have the opportunity throughout the 90s.

Furthermore, when compared with the need for America to back the contras in Nicaragua, the need for America to depose Saddam really seems trivial. Saddam posed no threat to American hegemony following the Gulf War. It really seems like the 2003 invasion was undertaken with the goal of simply turning Iraq into a network of U.S. military bases.

Of course, I see your point as well and you obviously know more about the Gulf War than I do.

Khawaga
Aug 4 2012 20:05
Quote:
It really seems like the 2003 invasion was undertaken with the goal of simply turning Iraq into a network of U.S. military bases.

This argument is sort of what Chalmers Johnson makes in The Sorrows of Empire.

Reddebrek
Aug 5 2012 02:20
Quote:
but I believe that they in no way undermine my point which was that the U.S. played an active role in keeping Saddam in power during and after the first Gulf War.

You keep saying this but I've yet to see proof. Look if you genuinely believe the US "actively" kept Saddam in power then I have to ask Why bother with anything? Why bother with the Gulf War in the first place? Kuwait was not important and Saddam only started occupying Saudi territory and launching missiles at Israel after the coalition was drawn up against him. And even after the war breaks out why bother attacking Iraq directly further weakening and humiliating his regime when they could of just settled with expelling his forces from Kuwait and then give him a face saving peace agreement.

Why also bother with sanctions, you correctly identify that the crisis in the Iraqi economy allowed Saddam to use his security forces to cement his personal hold on the country, but you're forgetting it crippled his military and left him completely isolated, so what would be the point? especially since the oil embargo meant the West received no economic benefit from the sanctions. Why also did the US respond to the allegations made by defectors in the 90's that Saddam was still building WMD's this dispute almost brought Clinton to green lighting another war. And why the infrequent bombing campaign? that's an awful lot of effort for no gain at all.

"

Quote:
absolutely needed a regime change in Iraq then they would have done so when they have the opportunity throughout the 90s.

Are but your forgetting that such a regime change might not be popular at home. I think you're confusing material power with political capital, all states need some form of legitimacy and nothing threatens the status quo more then an unpopular war. Beside Iraq was contained by the sanction programs, a country that can't feed its own people isn't likely to be able annexe other territories. Chavez in Venezuela is a greater annoyance to the Americans then Saddam was in the 90's and America definitely has the capabilities to invade and depose him if they chose, the same can be said for a lot of governments, yet the Americans usually don't why? lack of popularity which could cause trouble at home.

9/11 gave America the perfect opportunity to remove Saddam, no one liked him or his sons, his list of crimes was long, his regime was weak and there was plenty of circumstantial evidence and Iraqi's willing to lie to see him gone. They believed they had little to lose as the absence of a realistic framework for a Post Saddam Iraq shows and a lot to gain(oil, military bases, respect etc.)

Quote:
the need for America to depose Saddam really seems trivial. Saddam posed no threat to American hegemony following the Gulf War.

Here I'm going to have to disagree here, its true militarily Saddam was no threat but in symbolic terms he was. Remember Saddam was the man who not only took on Iran and "Won" (it was officially declared a victory despite a lack of results) but also Saudi Arabia, the two regional powers. And Britain and France the old colonial oppressors of Iraq and the Middle East and America the current oppressor, and technically Israel whom no other Arab state had dared opposed directly since the 70's. Now we know he lost but the fact that he and his regime were still around meant that they survived there defiance of the great Empire. That made Saddam a very potent symbol and despite his brutality he did have admirers in the Arab world. The middle east was increasingly growing more unstable as Islamists and other opposition movements began growing against there governments. Saddam not being Shia or Iranian and definitely not a friend of the Monarchies of the region could have grown into a powerful "third way" in the region again.

This may seem trivial to you but its something all Empires take very seriously, all defiance must be seen to be futile otherwise you will have revolt after revolt. Carthage to give perhaps the earliest example was little more then a city by the time Rome came to destroy it. Why? because Carthage had broken its peace agreement with Rome and was flaunting Roman authority. Specifically it raised an army to defend itself against and invading tribe and was in no position to threaten the Romans but the treaty imposed said they needed Roman permission to go to war.

" It really seems like the 2003 invasion was undertaken with the goal of simply turning Iraq into a network of U.S. military bases. " But why? the only reason that would make sense is if the Americans wished to surround Iran. And if that is the intent then why weaken Saddam so thoroughly in the first place. Do you see the problem now? It makes absolutely no sense to keep a weak Saddam in power for so long only to remove him to do a job he was quite capable of doing himself when left alone.

Quote:
Of course, I see your point as well and you obviously know more about the Gulf War than I do.

Well I thank you for the compliment but I really think using Iraq as an example really undermines your overall point, I don't wish to keep beating you over the head with this so I'll stop now. But even if you don't agree with me there are plenty of other Dictators whom were tight with the West only to be kicked aside once they had a falling out. Noreiga was one, but so was the Shah, and Diem of South Vietnam, and there are many more, just one of these would be a better example as there far more clear cut examples of what you're trying to illustrate.

Soapy
Aug 5 2012 03:19

Well maybe just a few closing arguments.

Quote:
Why bother with anything? Why bother with the Gulf War in the first place?

The reason for the Gulf War lies in, as I'm sure we'll both agree, the US' desire to punish one of its quislings who disobeyed orders.

As for the continued bombing campaign and the genocidal sanctions regime, there are multiple explanations I could offer, but I don't think there is a way to know exactly what our leaders were thinking at the time.

Quote:
Chavez in Venezuela is a greater annoyance to the Americans then Saddam was in the 90's and America definitely has the capabilities to invade and depose him if they chose, the same can be said for a lot of governments, yet the Americans usually don't why? lack of popularity which could cause trouble at home.

I think you are overlooking the fact that the U.S. did try to oust Chavez in a 2005(?) military coup. Assuredly the US could have put in place a new brutal leader in Iraq, but they chose to invade. Why? There are a number of possibilities, none of which we can be certain of. But one thing is clear; that the US wanted even more control over the Middle East than it already had.

The rest is all semantics I believe. We agree on pretty much everything that you are saying about Saddam's symbolic resistance and the fact that the masters of the world take this seriously.

Reddebrek
Aug 5 2012 18:49
Quote:
I think you are overlooking the fact that the U.S. did try to oust Chavez in a 2005(?) military coup.

What? I brought up Chavez in relation to your argument that America could have invaded Iraq at any point prior to 2003. You were using the lack of an invasion as "proof" of your hypothesis that this was all some plot to keep the man in power. The 05 failure of a coup is irrelevant, they could easily have outright invaded to stop his meddling in their regional affairs and can still do so. They could do the same in Bolivia and Ecuador and yet they have not why? again unpopularity it would cause tensions at home and abroad so why risk it. Toppling Saddam after he no longer posed a threat to even the Kurds and Southern Shia (for the most part) would seem ridiculously excessive hence the constant search for an excuse, they nearly had it in the 90's if there informants hadn't been discredited it would have been Clinton's war not Bush's.

The days of King's declaring war on Johnny Foreigner and having hundreds of working class lads queuing up to stick to them lot are thankfully gone, nowadays you need some excuse to justify going to war. Serbia was targeted during the break up of Yugoslavia because it tried to maintain the old system. Yet NATO had to wait several years for the Kosovo conflict to give it an excuse to attack Serbia directly. You may wish to read War is a Racket, it quite accurately explains the process of why a state goes to war and how it goes about getting a War declared, written by a former US General no less.