Countdown Over Iran

By Eric Margolis

04/18/06 "
Foreign Correspondent" -- -- NEW YORK – It’s both fascinating and dismaying watching the manufactured `crisis’ over Iran reach new intensity each week.

Iran poses no real military threat to anyone, but listening to the Bush Administration or the US media one would think that that Tehran was about to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world.

What we are seeing is a rerun of the administration’s massive propaganda offensive that led to the invasion of Iraq. There is also no doubt that the Bush Administration has been planning a major air war against Iraq.

The highly respected American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh even claims the Bush Administration is considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.

This writer reported last December that the US was preparing a massive air campaign against Iran and already probing Iranian air defenses and mounting special forces ground missions to both target high-value nuclear and strategic targets, and to stir up domestic unrest among Iran’s ethnic minorities.

On the list for possible US – and likely Israeli – air and missile strikes: more than twenty Iranian nuclear facilities, including the Bushehr reactor; airfields, missile and naval bases; communications nodes; military and intelligence headquarters; military factories; power plants and oil terminals.

No major ground offensive by the US is planned, though its special forces will play an important role in any attack. The surest sign of an impending US attack will be the massing of US strike aircraft in the Gulf and possibly Pakistan and Central Asia, the arrival of additional US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, concentration of US Navy minesweepers and shallow-water vessels around the Strait of Hormuz, and heightened activity at US bases in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and, of course, Iraq.

Respected international experts say that it if Iran wanted to produce nuclear warheads, it would take 5-10 years. UN nuclear inspectors report no signs Iran is working on nuclear weapons.

But the Bush Administration has used Iran’s gleefully announcement that it enriched uranium to 3.5% (83% is need for nuclear weapons), to generate a major US-Iranian crisis seven months before national mid-term elections. The administration clearly hopes its lurid claims that Iran is a nuclear threat to the world will whip gullible Americans back into war fever. A bombing campaign before elections would likely reverse the Republican’s steep decline in the polls.

Much of the administration’s anti-Iranian jihad has been orchestrated, like the attack on Iraq, by Vice President Dick Cheney, who increasingly emerges as the Rasputin of the Bush presidency. Cheney is very close to Israel’s political far right. He is carrying out former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s command to the US that once it invaded Iraq, `march immediately on Tehran.’

Cheney, and the pro-Israel neoconservatives around him, have long worked closely with Israel’s rightists, Mossad intelligence service, and Israel’s strategic planners. All agree that Iran, not Iraq, was the greater enemy of Israel, and one that had at all costs to be crushed before it could develop nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them.

Much of the current anti-Iranian hysteria campaign that is currently being trumpeted by the compliant US media and members of Congress is being orchestrated from Cheney’s office. It is clear that in spite of the debacle in Iraq, the vice president intends to pursue his personal jihad against all Muslim regimes that are uncooperative and hostile to Israel.

Cheney has persistently frustrated efforts by the US State Department and CIA to improve relations with Tehran. America’s mighty Israel lobby has become Cheney’s personal army in this struggle, and is mounting a high-powered campaign to generate war fever against Iran. Jewish Americans have been panicked by false claims that Israel is in the direst nuclear peril.

For its part, Iran has played right into the hands of the war party in Washington. President Ahmadinejad’s calls for Israel to be wiped out, his denial of the Jewish Holocaust, and the lavish song and dance spectacular he produced over nuclear enrichment delighted many ordinary Iranians. But abroad, Ahmadinejad’s fiery pronouncements created an international firestorm of condemnation and made Iran look precisely what Israel’s supporters claim: a rogue nation with a dangerous, erratic leadership that absolutely cannot be trusted with nuclear arms. In short, a Mideast North Korea.

Iranians may be forgiven for over-reacting to nuclear Viagra – Indians and Pakistanis responded the same way.
But Iran should have adopted a lower key approach to enrichment and invited UN and European observers to attend.

By flaunting its infant nuclear technology, Tehran provides the US and Israel with an excellent pretext to attack Iran. In such an event, Iran will have precious few sympathizers around the globe. Many will say, `Iran got what it deserved.’ One really wonders if Iran’s leaders – many battle-scarred veterans of the frightfully bloody Iran-Iraq war – are daring the US to attack.

The Iranian leadership and the Bush Administration are feeding off one another, gaining domestic popularity with each now escalation but drawing their nations into a clash whose outcome could be dangerously unpredictable and would surely shake the entire Mideast and world oil markets.

2006 Eric Margolis

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