by Patrick Seale
A U.S.-Iranian war would have potentially devastating consequences for the region, for the United States and the world. The smaller Gulf States, several of them home to large U.S. military bases, would find themselves in the line of fire. Their spectacular accomplishments of recent decades could be turned to rubble. Attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere would undoubtedly multiply. The Arab world’s sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi ‘is, already greatly exacerbated by America’s war in Iraq, would be further increased. For the industrial world, a regional war would immediately disrupt oil supplies, further worsening the current economic crisis.
Not surprisingly, world opinion has reacted with widespread scepticism, even derision, to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder‘s announcement on 13 October of the alleged Iranian plot. Tehran has vigorously denied any connection whatsoever with it. It is, indeed, inherently implausible that Iran would, by means of a terrorist act of no strategic value, risk provoking the U.S. into military retaliation. Most experts agree that the very last thing Iran wants is a war with the United States. The story makes no sense.
If the U.S. government is not to be laughed out of court, it must now produce hard evidence of high-level Iranian implication in the alleged conspiracy. If the plot is no more than an FBI/DEA sting operation which overreached and went wrong, that, too, will need to be candidly examined and explained. If, as some would argue, it is the work of rogue elements in Iran’s Quds Force (a wing of the Islamic Republic Guard Corps which, like U.S. Special Forces, specialises in foreign operations), that, too, will need to be convincingly demonstrated.
In any event, America’s accusations are bound to increase Iran’s paranoid fear that the United States and Israel are planning to attack it, and will therefore drive it to seek deterrence and protection by acquiring a nuclear capability. This is hardly the way to prevent nuclear proliferation. President Barack Obama thus presents the sad spectacle of siding with the war-mongers. He has called for the “toughest sanctions” possible against Iran, as well as repeating the old mantra that “all options remain on the table,” a threadbare reference to military action.
His campaign for re-election has already caused him to woo the Jewish vote by opposing the Palestinians’ bid for UN membership while turning a blind eye to the “Greater Israel” ambitions of Israel’s fanatical settlers. The United States guarantees Israel’s military supremacy over all its neighbours yet is clearly unable to exercise the slightest influence over Israeli policies, even the most extreme. Now – once again perhaps for electoral reasons -- Obama has gone a step further by echoing, and seeming to endorse, Israeli threats of military action against Iran.
News of the so-called plot comes at the very time when top Iranian officials -- including President Ahmadinejad himself -- have called for fresh talks with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) on Iran’s nuclear programme. That in itself presents a striking contradiction. How could Iran seek talks and yet, at the same time, act in such a way as to make them impossible?
The obvious conclusion would seem to be that the plot was contrived by someone anxious to sabotage the possibility of a U.S.-Iranian dialogue, let alone a compromise over Iran’s nuclear activities. Indeed, the so-called plot reeks of a “false flag” operation -- that is to say an operation by a third party deliberately designed to push the United States into conflict with the Islamic Republic.
There are many potential candidates for such a role, all anxious to see the Iranian regime punished. They include Iranian exiles longing to see the mullahs ousted; Lebanese enemies of Hizbullah, whether Sunni or Maronite, many of whom have Latin American connections; opponents of the Iran-backed Syrian regime who believe that Bashar al-Asad would be gravely weakened if the Iranian regime were to fall; American neo-cons itching for war against Iran, the very same people who conned America into war against Iraq; and of course Israel’s Mossad which, by all accounts, is a master at intelligence coups. It is thought to have been responsible for the recent murder of several Iranian nuclear scientists as well as for infecting the computers at Iran’s nuclear power station with toxic viruses such as Stuxnet.
Israel’s right-wing government has spared no effort to demonise Iran’s nuclear programme as a deadly threat to mankind and has been eager to push the United States into destroying it. Israel’s motive is clear. If Iran were it to acquire a nuclear capability, however rudimentary, it would checkmate Israel’s own large arsenal of nuclear weapons, and greatly restrict Israel’s ability to strike its neighbours at will.
Rather than fuelling tensions as Obama is doing, rather than pandering to America’s worst instincts, the wise leader of a superpower should seek to pacify the region, resolve conflicts and cool tempers. Improbable as it may seem, Obama should talk to Iran rather than demonise it; he should devote himself again and again -- and this time with more muscle and conviction -- to settling the Arab-Israeli conflict, thereby removing a major factor of instability and opening the way for Israel’s peaceful integration into the region; he should seek to calm, rather than inflame, sectarian antagonisms; he should disengage the United States militarily, and as soon as possible, from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf region; and he should halt the counter-productive drone attacks which create more terrorists than they kill and which, under his watch, have brought death and destruction to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
The Middle East needs an end to the imperial ambitions and machinations which have plagued the region since the First World War. Urgently required instead is a massive coordinated international effort to revive the shattered economies of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and the Palestinian territories -- and, above all, create jobs. Without jobs, there will be no peace.
The United States is said to be redirecting its efforts to the Far-East in order to contain the rising power of China. The sooner it gives the Middle East a break by turning its attention elsewhere the better....