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Iran Is Not The Belligerent Party

By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News
Published: June 23, 2008, 23:33

01/07/08 "Gulf News" -- - In recent years Iran has become the target of a belligerent campaign against it, orchestrated by usual suspects the US, Israel and Britain. This aggressive nuclear-armed trio has badgered other nations to back anti-Iranian sanctions without even the flimsiest evidence that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Since 2006, Iran has been subjected to three rounds of ever-tightening UN sanctions while the European Union (EU) is preparing to freeze funds and assets of Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank. And what heinous crime has Tehran perpetrated to warrant this treatment?

In truth, Iran hasn't done anything wrong. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory, it has an "inalienable right" to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which includes the right to enrich uranium.

But because Washington harbours old grievances against the Iranian government and Israel is determined to eliminate potential powerful rivals within the region Iran is being squeezed to relinquish its rights.

The stance of the US and its allies is not only based on an unfounded and unfair premise, it reeks of hypocrisy when nuclear-armed Israel has a green light to continue its ridiculous policy of nuclear ambiguity and is not being pressed to sign-up to the NPT.

On the rare occasions that Western leaders are asked about this inconsistency, they deftly change the subject, terminate the interview, or launch into a tirade, which usually includes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "wipe Israel off the map" statement, knowing full well that his words were mistranslated. They cannot debate the issue because it defies logic.

When it comes to demonising Iran, the US, Israel and Britain have a unified message and a compliant media, which has learned nothing from its mistakes during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and seems happy to continue to act as a government propaganda arm in some cases.

Thanks to the dutiful corporate mouthpieces, most Americans and Britons have no idea that Tehran is acting within its rights under the NPT.

They don't know that in December, a US intelligence estimate stated categorically that Iran is not currently developing nukes or that the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iranian facilities, has no proof it seeks to do so.

The West's propaganda campaign is so effective that the majority of Westerners believe that Iran is the belligerent even though the facts support the contrary argument.

For instance, the US President George W. Bush has rarely missed an opportunity to insult, condemn and threaten Iran throughout his two terms in office beginning with his puerile "Axis of Evil".

The Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, made his feelings known in his "bomb, bomb Iran" ditty. And even his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, has vowed to eliminate the threat posed by Iran whatever it takes.

Israeli leaders have gone a step further. Earlier this month, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said an attack on Iran appeared "unavoidable". Interestingly, every time the rhetoric is ratcheted up so is the price of oil, which is good news for Tehran's coffers.

Worse, Israel recently launched a military air exercise over the eastern Mediterranean involving over 100 fighter jets and helicopters, which, according to US officials was a prelude to a possible strike on Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz.

An Israeli spokesperson told the Times that Iran should "read the writing on the wall" as this was a "dress rehearsal" and Iranians should "read the script before they continue with their programme" else Israel "will take military steps to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium."

In this case, shouldn't this dry run constitute an act of war? It is certainly a provocative act and should be taken seriously in light of Israel's recent incursion into Syrian airspace to bomb a military facility and its 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor.

When Egypt amassed over 200,000 troops in the Sinai in early June 1967, Israel struck first, blamed Egypt for initiating hostilities and claiming it had acted out of self-defence. Surely, Israel's self-confessed rehearsal is similarly provocative and in the extremely unlikely event Iran struck first, it could also argue self-defence.

Sabre-rattling

Whether Israel is merely sabre-rattling in an attempt to persuade Iran to agree to the latest EU package of inducements or whether it is deadly serious is the subject of debate.

IAEA Chief Mohammad Al Baradei seems to be taking it seriously and if Iran is attacked he says he will resign.

"I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time, it would make me unable to continue my work," he said, warning that such an attack would turn the region into "a fireball".

Iran is taking it seriously too. Last Sunday, its Defence Minister Mustafa Mohammad Najjar told the nation that if attacked Iran would use "all means available" to come up with a devastating response. Those of us who live in the neighbourhood can only pray that cooler heads put an end to this madness before it's too late.

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

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