Iran backed dangerously into a corner

By Linda S. Heard

12/25/06 "
Gulf News" --- - American and Israeli machinations have once more put this region under threat. Following months of barking from Bolton the bulldog the United Nations Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution designed to slow the Iranian nuclear programme.

It isn't as comprehensive as the former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton and his masters would have liked, concentrating, as it does, on banning the import and export of nuclear-related materials and freezing the assets of certain companies, but it's the best he could prize out of reluctant China and Russia.

Moscow held out the longest and only caved in after a call made by George W. Bush to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. One is driven to wonder about other topics discussed: Russia's proposed WTO membership, perhaps?

Israel is ecstatic at this rap over the knuckles and the Bush administration is already touting the resolution as a positive first step towards comprehensive sanctions.

For Iraq watchers this is déj vu. Here we go again. Another of the region's main players becomes an official pariah, scolded and condemned for enriching uranium, which it has an inalienable right to do under Article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Another, Israel, overturned its policy of nuclear ambiguity when its prime minister inadvertently admitted his country's capability and the so-called international community plays deaf and dumb.

Iran has responded predictably to the sanctions. The country's authorised nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran is even more set on realising its nuclear aims than before while Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Hussaini vows to revise Iran's relationship with the international nuclear watchdog the IAEA. Plus there is talk that Iran may expel the ambassadors of nations with a seat on the UNSC.

In other words, instead of opening up, Iran feels unfairly singled out and under siege. It's little wonder, therefore, that it's poised to withdraw further into its own shell and accelerate its nuclear programme with the addition of 52,000 centrifuges.

In the meantime, Britain's Tony Blair has become an expert flip-flopper.

Just a few weeks ago he was advocating unconditional direct talks with Iran but then he went to Washington where he was assigned a new message: Iran is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East by supporting terrorists in Iraq, attempting to oust Lebanon's democratically-elected government, and denying the Holocaust.

Moderate Muslim states should unite in combating extremist regimes, such as Iran's, Blair said.

Final leg

Blair neglected to mention that like Iraq during the final leg of Saddam's tenure Iran has begun selling its oil in euros, thus undermining the petrodollar.

In the meantime, the US and Britain are moving warships to the Gulf to join the aircraft carrier Eisenhower and the US is set to send more troops to neighbouring Iraq, despite General John Abizaid's insistence that more isn't necessary. This is naked aggression with the possibility of a disastrous outcome - yet another all out war.

Right-wing Israeli elements that view Tehran as an existential threat have been pushing for a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities for some time, warning that if the US doesn't move Israel might do the job itself. The US Vice-President Dick Cheney has made similar warning noises in the past.

Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector turned peace activist and author of Target Iran: The Truth about the White House's plans for regime change believes there is no evidence to suggest Iran is pursuing anything other than a nuclear programme for civilian purposes.

He suggests both CIA and Mossad agents are swarming all over Iran but have been unable to unearth any proof of nefarious activity other than deep underground tunnels.

During a conversation with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, broadcast on Democracy Now, Ritter puts Washington's anti-Iran sabre-rattling down to a nexus between the neoconservatives and the right-wing of Israel's Likud Party.

As occurred in Iraq, Ritter says the White House is hyping the Iranian nuclear peril as an excuse for its real neoconservative-inspired goal regime change as part of the broader pursuit of global hegemony.

Unfortunately, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has played right into the hands of his enemies with his anti-Israeli rhetoric that gave grist to the Bush administration's mill when negotiating the UNSC Resolution.

Israeli and right-wing American spokespeople are working the "wipe Israel off the map" statement as hard as they can as "evidence" that Israel is seriously menaced. It's ironic that while Iran does not possess that kind of capability Israel does and showed its willingness to use it in 1973 and 1991 when the country was on nuclear alert.

If either the US and its allies or Israel decides to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, comparisons with Iraq will end there. The sectarian conflict that has possessed Iraq will likely ignite the entire region where nations will be asked to take sides. Worse, in some cases public sentiments and governmental policies could deviate.

Washington and Tel Aviv, aided by London, are taking this region on a collision course. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa once warned that the invasion of Iraq would open the gates to Hell.

They opened alright but if there is war with Iran they may take a long time to swing shut.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at

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