WWIII or Bust: Implications of a US Attack on
"This notion that the United States is getting
ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all
options are on the table." George W. Bush, February 2005
By Heather Wokusch
-- -- Witnessing the
Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a
passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel. Reports of
impending doom surfaced a year ago, but now it's official: under
orders from Vice President Cheney's office, the Pentagon has
developed "last resort" aerial-assault plans using long-distance B2
bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles with both
conventional and nuclear weapons.
How ironic that the Pentagon proposes using nuclear
weapons on the pretext of protecting the world from nuclear weapons.
Ironic also that Iran has complied with its obligations under the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing inspectors to "go anywhere and
see anything," yet those pushing for an attack, the USA and Israel,
The nuclear threat from Iran is hardly urgent. As the
Washington Post reported in August 2005, the latest consensus
among U.S. intelligence agencies is that "Iran
is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a
nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of
five years." The Institute for Science and International Security
estimated that while Iran could have a bomb by
2009 at the earliest, the US intelligence community
assumed technical difficulties would cause "significantly delay."
The director of Middle East Studies at Brown University and a
specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics both called the State
Department's claims of a proliferation threat from Iran's Bushehr
reactor "demonstrably false," concluding that "the
physical evidence for a nuclear weapons program in Iran simply does
So there's no urgency - just a bad case of déjà vu
all over again. The Bush administration is recycling its hype over
Hussein's supposed WMD threat into rhetoric about Iran, but look
where the charade got us last time: tens of thousands of dead Iraqi
civilians, a country teetering on civil war and increased global
Yet the stakes in Iran are arguably much higher.
Consider that many in the US and Iran seek religious
salvation through a Middle Eastern blowout. "End times" Christian
fundamentalists believe a cataclysmic Armageddon will enable the
Messiah to reappear and transport them to heaven, leaving behind
Muslims and other non-believers to face plagues and violent death.
Iran's new Shia Islam president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, subscribes to
a competing version of the messianic comeback, whereby the skies
turn to flames and blood flows in a final showdown of good and evil.
The Hidden Imam returns, bringing world peace by establishing Islam
as the global religion.
Both the US and Iran have presidents who arguably see
themselves as divinely chosen and who covet their own country's
apocalypse-seeking fundamentalist voters. And into this tinderbox
Bush proposes bringing nuclear weapons.
As expected, the usual suspects press for a US attack
on Iran. Neo-cons who brought us the "cakewalk" of Iraq want to bomb
the country. There's also Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, busy
coordinating the action plan against Iran, who just released the
Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review calling for US forces to
"operate around the globe" in an infinite "long war." One can assume
Rumsfeld wants to bomb a lot of countries.
There's also Israel, keen that no other country in
the region gains access to nuclear weapons. In late 2002,
former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Iran should be targeted
"the day after" Iraq was subdued, and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of
the Likud Party, recently warned that if he wins the presidential
race in March 2006, Israel will "do what we did in the past against
Saddam's reactor," an obvious reference to the 1981 bombing of the
Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq. It doesn't help that Iran's
Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a myth and said that Israel
should be "wiped off the map."
In the eyes of the Bush administration, however,
Iran's worst transgression has less to do with nuclear ambitions or
anti-Semitism than with the petro-euro oil bourse Tehran is slated
to open in March 2006. Iran's plan to allow oil trading in euros
threatens to break the dollar's monopoly as the global reserve
currency, and since the greenback is severely overvalued due to huge
trade deficits, the move could be devastating for the US economy.
So we remain pedal to the metal with Bush for an
attack on Iran.
But what if the US does go ahead and launch an
assault in the coming months? The Pentagon has already identified
450 strategic targets, some of which are underground and would
require the use of nuclear weapons to destroy. What happens then?
You can bet that Iran would retaliate. Tehran
promised a "crushing response" to any US or Israeli attack, and
while the country - ironically - doesn't possess nuclear weapons to
scare off attackers, it does have other options. Iran boasts ground
forces estimated at 800,000 personnel, as well as long-range
missiles that could hit Israel and possibly even Europe. In
addition, much of the world's oil supply is transported through the
Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of ocean which Iran borders to
the north. In 1997, Iran's deputy foreign minister warned that the
country might close off that shipping route if ever threatened, and
it wouldn't be difficult. Just a few missiles or gunboats could
bring down vessels and block the Strait, thereby threatening the
global oil supply and shooting energy prices into the stratosphere.
An attack on Iran would also inflame tensions in the
Middle East, especially provoking the Shiite Muslim populations.
Considering that Shiites largely run the governments of Iran and
Iraq and are a potent force in Saudi Arabia, that doesn't bode well
for calm in the region. It would incite the Lebanese Hezbollah, an
ally of Iran's, potentially sparking increased global terrorism. A
Shiite rebellion in Iraq would further endanger US troops and push
the country deeper into civil war.
Attacking Iran could also tip the scales towards a
new geopolitical balance, one in which the US finds itself shut out
by Russia, China, Iran, Muslim countries and the many others Bush
has managed to piss off during his period in office. Just last
month, Russia snubbed Washington by announcing it would go ahead and
honor a $700 million contract to arm Iran with surface-to-air
missiles, slated to guard Iran's nuclear facilities. And after being
burned when the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority invalidated
Hussein-era oil deals, China has snapped up strategic energy
contracts across the world, including in Latin America, Canada and
Iran. It can be assumed that China will not sit idly by and watch
Tehran fall to the Americans.
Russia and China have developed strong ties recently,
both with each other and with Iran. Each possesses nuclear weapons,
and arguably more threatening to the US, each holds large reserves
of US dollars which can be dumped in favor of euros. Bush crosses
them at his nation's peril.
Yet another danger is that an attack on Iran could
set off a global arms race - if the US flaunts the non-proliferation
treaty and goes nuclear, there would be little incentive for other
countries to abide by global disarmament agreements either. Besides,
the Bush administration's message to its enemies has been very
clear: if you possess WMD you're safe, and if you don't, you're fair
game. Iraq had no nuclear weapons and was invaded, Iran doesn't as
well and risks attack, yet that other "Axis of Evil" country, North
Korea, reportedly does have nuclear weapons and is left alone. It’s
also hard to justify striking Iran over its allegedly developing a
secret nuclear weapons program, when India and Pakistan (and
presumably Israel) did the same thing and remain on good terms with
The most horrific impact of a US assault on Iran, of
course, would be the potentially catastrophic number of casualties.
The Oxford Research Group predicted that
up to 10,000 people would die if the US bombed Iran's
nuclear sites, and that an attack on the Bushehr nuclear reactor
could send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf. If the US uses nuclear
weapons, such as earth-penetrating "bunker buster" bombs,
radioactive fallout would become even more disastrous.
Given what's at stake, few allies, apart from Israel,
can be expected to support a US attack on Iran. While Jacques Chirac
has blustered about using his nukes defensively, it's doubtful that
France would join an unprovoked assault, and even loyal allies, such
as the UK, prefer going through the UN Security Council.
Which means the wildcard is Turkey. The nation shares
a border with Iran, and according to Noam Chomsky, is heavily
supported by the domestic Israeli lobby in Washington,
permitting 12% of the Israeli air and tank force to be stationed in
its territory. Turkey's crucial role in an attack on Iran
explains why there's been a spurt of high-level US visitors to
Ankara lately, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, FBI
Director Robert Mueller and CIA Director Porter Goss. In fact, the
German newspaper Der Spiegel reported in December 2005 that
Goss had told the Turkish government it would be "informed of any
possible air strikes against Iran a few hours before they happened"
Turkey had been given a "green light" to attack camps of
the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran "on the day in
It's intriguing that both Valerie Plame (the CIA
agent whose identity was leaked to the media after her husband
criticized the Bush administration's pre-invasion intelligence on
Iraq) and Sibel Edmonds (the former FBI translator who turned
whistleblower) have been linked to exposing intelligence breaches
relating to Turkey, including potential nuclear trafficking. And now
both women are effectively silenced.
The US public sees the issue of Iran as backburner,
and has little eagerness for an attack on the country at this time.
A USA Today/CNN Gallup Poll from early February 2006 found
that a full
86% of respondents favored either taking no action or using
economic/diplomatic efforts towards Iran for now.
Significantly, 69% said they were concerned "that the U.S. will be
too quick to use military force in an attempt to prevent Iran from
developing nuclear weapons."
And that begs the question: how can the US public be
convinced to enter a potentially ugly and protracted war in Iran?
A domestic terrorist attack would do the trick. Just
consider how long Congress went back and forth over reauthorizing
Bush's Patriot Act, but how quickly opposing senators capitulated
following last week's nerve-agent scare in a Senate building. The
scare turned out to be a false alarm, but the Patriot Act got the
support it needed.
Now consider the fact that former CIA Officer Philip
Giraldi has said the Pentagon's plans to attack Iran were drawn up
"to be employed
in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the
United States." Writing in The American Conservative in
August 2005, Giraldi added, "As in the case of Iraq, the response is
not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of
terrorism directed against the United States."
Chew on that one a minute. The Pentagon's plan should
be used in response to a terrorist attack on the US, yet is not
contingent upon Iran actually having been responsible. How
outlandish is this scenario: another 9/11 hits the US, the
administration says it has secret information implicating Iran, the
US population demands retribution and bombs start dropping on
That's the worst-case scenario, but even the best
case doesn't look good. Let's say the Bush administration chooses
the UN Security Council over military power in dealing with Iran.
That still leaves the proposed oil bourse, along with the economic
fallout that will occur if OPEC countries snub the greenback in
favor of petro-euros. At the very least, the dollar will drop and
inflation could soar, so you'd think the administration would be
busy tightening the nation's collective belt. But no. The US trade
deficit reached a record high of $725.8 billion in 2005, and Bush &
Co.'s FY 2007 budget proposes increasing deficits by $192 billion
over the next five years. The nation is hemorhaging roughly $7
billion a month on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and
is expected to hit its debt ceiling of $8.184 trillion next month.
So the white-knuckle ride to war continues, with the
administration's goals in Iran very clear. Recklessly naïve and
impetuous perhaps, but clear: stop the petro-euro oil bourse, take
over Khuzestan Province (which borders Iraq and has 90% of Iran's
oil) and secure the Straits of Hormuz in the process. As US
politician Newt Gingrich recently put it, Iranians cannot be trusted
with nuclear technology, and they also "cannot be trusted with their
But the Bush administration cannot be trusted with
foreign policy. Its military adventurism has already proven
disastrous across the globe. It's incumbent upon each of us to do
whatever we can to stop this race towards war.
Originally from California, Heather
spent many years in Asia and Europe
and through her travels has developed a unique perspective on the
world and its people.
background in clinical psychology, she works as a free-lance writer
and cross-cultural trainer. Her writing has been featured across the
web and in periodicals internationally. Visit her website
©Heather Wokusch 2002-2005
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)