Opinion

Op-ed

Iran Is the New Iraq

Demonstrators protest at a Stop The War in Iran rally outside the U.S. Embassy in London, England, on Jan 28. (Photo: Mike Kemp, In Pictures, Corbis)

The war drums are beating again.

On the 16th of February, The Telegraph reported that Iran is "strengthening ties with al-Qaeda," according to "intelligence chiefs," in yet another report of Iran's secret ambitions. This is all too familiar for us Arabs. Ten years ago, Brian Whitaker wrote in The Guardian, "One of the oldest tricks in the run-up to a war is to spread terrifying stories of things that the enemy may be about to do. Government officials plant these tales, journalists water them and the public, for the most part, swallows them." This was the method used to justify the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The Sunday Herald reported in 2010, "Hundreds of powerful U.S. 'bunker-buster' bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran." Britain expelled the citizens of Diego Garcia in 1966 so that the United States could build the massive base it uses for attacks in the Central Command area Democracy Now recently reported that "publicly, the British portrayed the establishment of the marine park as a move to save the environment. But a U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 2009, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed that a British Foreign Office official had privately told the Americans that the decision to set up a marine protected area would "effectively end the islanders' resettlement claims."

The American scholar and Middle East specialist Juan Cole wrote, "The United States, which professes itself menaced by Iran, rather has Iran encircled by military bases." Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, said, "They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran. … U.S. bombers and long-range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours." The United States has bases in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Oman, all surrounding Iran—and is at the same time warning Iran not to threaten it.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks of the "Iranian Threat," the mainstream media forgets to mention that Israel already possesses illegal weapons of mass destruction. The United States has more than 5,000 nuclear warheads. Russia has between 2,000 and 11,000, the United Kingdom between 100 and 200, Israel between 75 and 400, France around 300, China around 200, India around 100, Pakistan around 100 and North Korea supposedly fewer than 10.

Iran's Nuclear Program started in the 1950s as part of the Atoms for Peace program and was assisted by the United States and Western European governments until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the last Iranian shah—an unacceptable act of independence from imperial control for which Iran is still paying today. In 1975 The New York Times praised Iran for its "alternative energy source, nuclear power," calling it "mindful that even her 60 billion-barrel reserve of oil will some day run out." The shah had at the time insisted that the "purchases are for peaceful purposes," but no one accepts Iranian leaders saying the exact same thing today, for obvious reasons: Iran is no longer in complete economic cooperation with the United States.

If Iran developed a nuclear weapon, it would be the fifth state not recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan. Israel is the only one that hasn't officially declared having them. It took former Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu's courage to reveal the details of Israel's nuclear program to the public in 1986, an act that led him to him being kidnapped by Mossad agents in Italy in September 1986. He has since spent 18 years in prison, 11 of which in solitary confinement, and is banned from leaving Israel.

Israel's actions—whether they be toward Iran or towards Palestinians living under occupation—will not be condemned by the United States because Israel does not pose a threat to U.S. interests in the region. The same goes for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, among others. Bahrain's brutal crackdown on protesters during the Arab Spring could not have been done without Saudi intervention and, by extension, U.S. support and silence. The two nations went further and accused Iran of inciting violence, a claim that was directly rejected by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian international United Nations war crimes expert.

As Noam Chomsky said in his article "The Iranian Threat," "Instead of taking practical steps towards reducing the truly dire threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the U.S. is taking major steps towards reinforcing U.S. control of the vital Middle East oil-producing regions, by violence if other means do not suffice. That is understandable and even reasonable, under prevailing imperial doctrine, however grim the consequences."

Joey Ayoub is a student at the American University of Beirut and a blogger at Hummusforthought.com, whose recent interests include world affairs and photojournalism.

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