Mark Gaffney Asks: Will Iran be next?


Those who have hoped that a U.S. military victory in Iraq would somehow bring
about a more peaceful world are in for a rude awakening. The final resolution
of this war and the U.S. occupation of Iraq will likely not be the end,
rather, only the prelude to a succession of future crises.
In the coming months the United States and Israel will either accede
to the existence of an Iranian nuclear power program, or take steps to
prevent it. At the eye of the storm is Iran’s nuclear power plant at
Bushehr, scheduled for completion later this year. By
June 2004 it should be fully operational.

2003.05.29

Those who have hoped that a U.S. military victory in Iraq would somehow bring
about a more peaceful world are in for a rude awakening. The final resolution
of this war and the U.S. occupation of Iraq will likely not be the end,
rather, only the prelude to a succession of future crises.

In the coming months the United States and Israel will either accede
to the existence of an Iranian nuclear power program, or take steps to
prevent it. At the eye of the storm is Iran’s nuclear power plant at
Bushehr, scheduled for completion later this year. By
June 2004 it should be fully operational.

As the controversial project nears completion,
tensions between Iran and the U.S./Israel are sure to rise. Iran is a
signatory of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which affirms the right of
states in good standing to develop nuclear power for peaceful use. Although
there is no evidence Iran has yet violated the NPT, the U.S. and Israel
believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. This is the crux of the
problem. And two recently discovered Iranian nuclear sites, at Arak and at
Natanz, have only heightened suspicions.

It is very possible–some would say probable–that the U.S., possibly in
conjunction with Israel, will launch a “preventive” raid and destroy the
Bushehr reactor before it goes on line. Such a raid would be fateful for the
region and the world. It would trigger another Mideast war, and possibly a
confrontation with Russia, with effects that are difficult to predict. A war
with Iran might bring about the collapse of the NPT, and bring the world to the nuclear brink.

Precedence

The precedent for such a raid occurred on June 7, 1981, when Israeli PM
Menachem Begin ordered an attack on the Osirak nuclear plant near Baghdad.
Within hours a squadron of Israeli F-15s and F-16s reduced Osirak to smoking
rubble. The reactor was scheduled to go on line within days or weeks.

Much of
the world responded by condemning Israel. The reactor had been under French
contract, and, like Bushehr, was also subject to International Atomic Energy Agency
inspections. Most
believed, at the time, that Iraq was in full compliance with the NPT. While
there is no evidence Iraq planned to secretly divert plutonium from the
reactor for reprocessing and weapons, after the 1991 Gulf War U.N. Special
Committee (UNSCOM) inspectors discovered massive evidence of a clandestine
Iraqi uranium-enrichment program, involving calutrons (cyclotrons). At which
point, many observers dropped their former criticism and began to praise the
Israeli logic of preemption.

Today, those “lessons” have become official
U.S. military doctrine. The problem is that the evidence does not support the conclusion. The
discovery by UNSCOM of the secret Iraqi bomb program showed the efficacy NOT
of preemption but of inspections.

Although U.S. intelligence agencies may
have been aware that the Saudis were secretly funding an Iraqi bomb program,
the calutrons appear to have escaped detection by U.S. surveillance.
Saddam’s
uranium-enrichment program was completely untouched during the war, despite
massive U.S. bombing. The calutrons were found and destroyed because the
international community, i.e., the U.N., made a firm commitment to
inspections. And this success story, which remains untold and largely unknown
in the U.S., happened despite the Clinton policy of regime change, which
often conflicted with the U.N.’s stated mission of disarming Iraq (Milan
Rai,War Plan Iraq, 2002).

Israel’s 1981 raid may even have prodded Saddam
Hussein to launch (or accelerate) his clandestine bomb program. Certainly the
raid did not prevent an Iraqi bomb. For similar reasons, a solo raid on
Bushehr would not block Iran from developing nukes, and might even provoke a
decision in Tehran to do so.

Israel’s Solution

A raid on Bushehr would likely be the opening salvo in another
“preventive”
war: a series of air attacks aimed at Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Israel
could not mount such a campaign by itself, it would require full U.S. involvement.
Not surprisingly, Israel’s hard-line supporters have sought for many years to persuade Washington of the
need for just such a military solution to the Iranian “problem.”

No sooner did the dust settle following the first Gulf War than the lobbying began in
earnest. And many of those who led the charge currently hold high positions
in the Bush government. Such a war would only confirm to
the world what many in the region have long believed: that U.S. Mideast
policy is not only about oil. It is also about serving the narrow interests
of a recalcitrant Israel (Israel Shahak, Open Secrets, 1997, chapters four
and eight).

Messages

Current U.S./Israeli policies have all the earmarks of a self-fulfilling
prophecy. President Bush lied to Congress when he presented forged documents
about Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program. (Seymour Hersh, “Who
Lied to Whom?,” The New Yorker, March 20, 2003) The documents were phony. But that
didn’t matter. The president got his sanction for war. Bush went on to
invade
a nation that did NOT have nukes (Iraq), while studiously ignoring the
provocations of North Korea, which included nuclear taunts.

We were told that the war’s purpose was to roll back Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction
(none of which have so far been found). But the actual message was different.
As U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix has pointed out, the actual message is that the U.S. only attacks
countries that cannot defend themselves. Under the circumstances, who could
blame Iran’s leaders if they withdraw from the NPT, as North Korea has done, and openly
develop nuclear weapons as soon as possible, as their best chance to avert U.S. aggression ?

Ramifications

In their
current state of hubris the men around the president obviously believe they
can accomplish anything with U.S. military power, now supreme on the planet.
However, such a war would
undoubtedly be perceived by the world as a serious escalation, and would
likely produce a new anti-U.S. coalition. Various states, in defiance of U.S.
threats, might even come to Iran’s assistance. The common border shared by
Russia and Iran raises the stakes. To understand why, we need only consider
how the U.S. would respond to a foreign attack on, say, Mexico. The Russians
might supply Iran with advanced military arms, ground-to-air missiles, etcetera.

Pakistani President Musharraf would face growing pressure at home to
assist a fellow Islamic state. With assistance from Russia and/or Pakistan,
the Iranians might force the U.S. to launch commando assaults
with special forces, or even invade and occupy the country (notice, this
implies regime change, precisely what Ariel Sharon has advocated). Such a
path–I hasten to add–would be insane, for reasons that should be apparent
to anyone who can find Iran on a map. Iran is five times
larger than Iraq, a rugged mountainous country of sixty-five million people.

What if invading U.S. forces should meet return fire, in kind? One shudders
at the reaction in Washington should the Iranians turn on U.S. troops the
same depleted uranium weapons that the U.S. has been using with such horrible
effect on others. That would bring George W. Bush eyeball-to-eyeball with
Vladimir Putin, the obvious supplier, and possibly even with Pervez
Musharraf and Pakistan. Lest we forget, both are nuclear-armed (unlike Saddam Hussein) and
capable of defending themselves.

The assumption that Putin will back down in
a crisis on his own border could be a serious miscalculation. If U.S. hawks
insist on victory, and escalation ensues, events could spin out of control. To prevent
such a catastrophe we must all work together. We must stop
Bush’s next war BEFORE it starts.

[ A longer version of this article can be found at: http://www.downwinders.org/iran1.htm. ]


Mark Gaffney (mhgaffney@aol.com) is a researcher, writer, poet, environmentalist, anti-nuclear
activist, and organic gardener. He was the principal organizer of the first
Earth Day in April 1970 at Colorado State University. Mark’s forthcoming book is a
radical study of early Christianity: SECRETS OF THE NAASSENE SERMON.

Author: Mark Gaffney

News Service: theExperiment

URL: http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1933