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Scott Ritter debunks the White House war lies
The case against Iran exposed

March 2, 2007 | Pages 6 and 7

A NEW report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) criticizing Iran's efforts to develop enriched uranium has become the focus of the latest effort to isolate the country--while the U.S. continues its war threats with bellicose statements by politicians and a buildup of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

SCOTT RITTER, the former Marine intelligence officer and United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq who opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion, last year published a book Target Iran: The Truth about the White House's Plans for Regime Change. Currently on a speaking tour with antiwar groups, Ritter spoke with Socialist Worker's LEE SUSTAR about the threat of a U.S. war on Iran.

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THERE'S A now infamous quote from an anonymous neoconservative back before the invasion of Iraq--"Everybody wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." Even though Iraq didn't turn out to be the cakewalk that Bush imagined, the U.S. is threatening Iran anyway. Why?

BECAUSE THE policy that is being implemented here is not a policy that is focused on Iraq. It is a policy of regional transformation across the entire Middle East.

What else to read

Scott Ritter's Target Iran: The Truth about the White House's Plans for Regime Change dismantles the Bush administration's case against Iran.

Saman Sephri's article "Targeting Iran" in the December 2006 issue of the International Socialist Review analyzes Iranian politics and society, as well as the U.S. aim of dominating the Middle East.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's most recent article in The New Yorker, "The Redirection," reports on the Bush administration's preparation for war. The Asia Times Web site frequently posts useful analytical articles on Iran, including one by left-wing military analyst Michael Klare, "Three U.S. Reasons to Attack Iran."

Recent articles in Socialist Worker on Iran and the U.S. campaign against have been collected in a special archive.


The ideal progression would have been Iraq, Syria, Iran. If you remember the end of the war after 2003, after Saddam fled Baghdad, we had American forces aggressively carrying out operations along the Iraq-Syria border. There were plans being developed to punch deep into Syria, because the policy of the Bush administration is to eliminate what it defines as rogue states or failed states in the Middle East. And the ultimate target is Tehran.

The easiest nut to crack was arguably Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a nation weakened by a decade of sanctions and defeated militarily in the 1991 Gulf War, which never had a chance to rebuild. That was a popular target, one the American people had been preprogrammed to accept.

But it was not the toughest nut. That's why they were saying, "Real men go to Tehran." Iraq was supposed to be the low-hanging fruit. Well, they were wrong, but it doesn't matter. They still want to implement the policy.

THE BUSH administration's case against Iran rests on three arguments: one, that it's an expansionist Islamist regime; two, that it's developing a nuclear weapon; and three, that Iran's Quds Force is supplying advanced improvised explosive devices to Iraqi insurgents. Should we give credence to any of these claims?

NO. THE Bush administration is wrong on all three counts.

First of all, the Bush administration is judging Iran today based on behavior exhibited back in the early 1980s.

There's no doubt that in the early 1980s, Iran was pursuing a very aggressive and expansionist Islamic fundamentalist policy. It had the Quds Force, an organization within the Revolutionary Guard command, whose job was to project the Islamic revolution outside the borders of Iran.

But this was 20 years ago. A couple things have occurred since--first of all, an eight-year war with Iraq, which devastated Iran economically and physically. An entire generation of Iranian men disappeared into the ground.

The Quds Force that was sent abroad went out and became businessmen and diplomats. When they came back to an Iran devastated by war, the conclusion they reached was that Iran doesn't need to be searching for enemies, and that there was a lot that Iran could gain by normalized relations with the West. And so the Quds Force actually became a force of moderation.

The Bush administration today talks about the secretive Quds Force exporting revolution. No, the Quds Force is leading the integration of Iran with the West.

The nuclear weapons program? I think it's quite clear there isn't one. No one can back up the speculative rhetoric that the Bush administration has placed out there. We hear, "There can be no doubt." But there is nothing but doubt.

Even the IAEA, when it publishes its reports on Iranian behavior, says that the concern is derived from Iran's unwillingness to comply with the demands of the international community, and that leads to speculation it might be up to something.

But the facts point to Iran pursuing a program that appears to be related solely to nuclear energy. The Iranian uranium enrichment technology that they're developing has the potential to be used as part of a nuclear weapons program, but there's no evidence that one exists.

Lastly, about this notion that the Iranians are behind the export of various technologies into Iraq, which are responsible for the deaths of Americans.

The United States itself invited pro-Iranian elements--who had been trained, equipped and were operating inside Iran--to come into Iraq and participate in the formation of a new government. This is mainly the Dawa Party. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is a product of the Dawa Party--as was, prior to that, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The largest element, of course, is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose military arm, the Badr Brigade, is now the largest Shia militia operating in Iraq today.

The technology the U.S. is focusing on--these explosively formed projectiles (EFPs)--is not a new technology. It's actually very rudimentary technology. It's basic physics regarding the dynamic of explosions--how to direct the explosive force using dampers. I learned this stuff back in the 1980s when I went to an explosives course.

The first EFP was used against the United States in 2003. They were used in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and now suddenly, the Bush administration is saying, "Aha, we found something new." There's nothing new here. And the technology isn't something derived from Iran. It was perfected in the 1980s by the Irish Republican Army.

So the Bush administration has not been honest or accurate about any aspect of how it has defined Iran and the threat coming from Iran.

BUSH'S HANDLING of the war in Iraq is criticized by Democrats and some Republicans, but there's a bipartisan consensus that Iran can't be allowed to emerge as the major power in the Persian Gulf.

THAT'S A self-serving argument. Prior to 2003, Iran was a nation that had an economy devastated by eight years of war with Iraq. It had economic issues--massive unemployment--and it was reeling under the impact of economic sanctions. It was contained by Saddam Hussein's secular Baathist nation on its western borders, and a Sunni radical Wahabist government on its eastern border with Afghanistan.

Thanks to the United States, the secular dictatorship of Saddam was toppled, and the Sunni fundamentalist element in Afghanistan was toppled--liberating Iran.

This wasn't Iran going out and searching for enemies. The United States did this all on its own. And then it carried out policies inside Iraq that not only got rid of Saddam, but facilitated the rise of a pro-Iranian government. The Iranians didn't have to do anything.

So this notion that somehow Iran has been plotting to expand its influence in the region is absurd.

GIVEN THE lack of credibility of the Bush administration over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, how is it possible for them to get traction by threatening Iran?

THE BOTTOM line is that the American public is extremely ignorant about the world we live in.

The mainstream media, in contrast to what any of them want to claim, is not in the business of presenting informed, objective fact to the American public. They are in the business of making money by delivering a product the majority of the listenership or viewership will consume. This is why Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears tend to be lead stories over the reality of the combat situation in Iraq, or the potential of war in Iran.

WHAT ABOUT the dissent over U.S. policy among the military brass and figures like Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who is seen as a mouthpiece for the Pentagon?

LET'S TAKE the "generals' revolt." These are retired generals, and many of their observations lack credibility when you compare and contrast the statements they make once they retire with the actions and statements they took and made when they were on active duty.

What is Murtha complaining about? Is he upset that we invaded Iraq to begin with? Has he acknowledged that this is a war that never should have been fought? Has he come out and said, "We never should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, that that was a mistake?" No, he's saying that this is a poorly executed war, but he continues to believe that we were right to get rid of Saddam Hussein--which means he's embracing the notion of pre-emptive war and a violation of international law.

Murtha's dissent isn't that America committed an illegal act of aggression, but that America got beat--that America isn't winning.

WOULD AN attack on Iran advance the Bush administration's goals?

ABSOLUTELY. AND they are going to get away with initiating the attack.

The day we bomb Iran, you will see a lot of dissent. But you will also see a brief reversal of the president's negative popularity ratings. Many Americans have bought into the notion that Iran constitutes a threat worthy of military intervention.

Now, this war will go bad, and go bad very quickly. Whatever bubble the president gets will be quickly washed away. I think the awful reality of the terrific wrongness of the decision to take on Iran will become apparent to all--but it will be too late.

We will have initiated contact with an enemy, and the old adage is that the enemy has a vote. No plan survives initial contact with the enemy, and the Iranians are going to become a player.

Right now, we have the media shaping the reality of Iran in an inaccurate way. Once we engage with the Iranians, the media can't spin away a defeat.

And I do believe that at the end of the day, we will be defeated by Iran. That doesn't mean Iranian divisions sweep across American soil. Remember, we're the ones searching for enemies. And we will find an enemy that will be more than up to the task of standing up to us.

WOULD THAT be true in the case of U.S. air strikes, without a major incursion by U.S. ground troops?

THE THING about an air war is that the enemy has a vote. We don't get to sit there once we drop a bomb on Iran, and predict exactly how things will play out.

The Iranians know what our capabilities are, and they are developing counters to those capabilities. They're not going to just sit there and allow themselves to be compliant targets of an American aerial bombardment without taking measures that seek to nullify that bombardment--for instance, firing missiles on Israel and oil-producing regions in neighboring nations; shutting down the Straits of Hormuz; and increasing the level of attacks against Americans in Iraq.

The Iranian response may overwhelm the ability of an air-only plan to deal with it, and prompt the United States into having to commit a certain amount of boots on the ground. Don't think for a second that the Iranians aren't capable of surrounding and destroying American troops on the ground. They are more than capable of doing that.

WOULD THERE be any difference if an attack on Iran was carried out by Israel instead of the U.S.?

THE ISRAELIS are incapable of initiating and sustaining a large-scale military operation against Iran.

Also, the United States has been very successful in cobbling together an Arab front against Iran. They have successfully promoted the notion of a Shia Crescent that stretches from Lebanon, through Iraq and into Iran. The second you get Israel involved through the bombardment of a Muslim country, this Arab coalition disappears.

It's counterproductive for Israel to get involved militarily. So I don't see Israel getting involved in the initial stages.

The problem comes if the United States attacks Iran--as it appears we're going to do, with a limited bombing campaign. If the Iranians fire missiles into Israel, the Israeli government is going to be placed under considerable pressure to be seen as retaliating. Once Israel does retaliate, it's going to drive a wedge between the United States and the Arab world.

So the Israeli dynamic is a very counterproductive one. It boggles my mind that certain political elements in Israel are pushing for conflict with Iran.

HOW SHOULD the antiwar movement respond?

I'VE ALWAYS said that the antiwar movement needs to study the art of war. The antiwar movement needs to recognize that it's engaged in ideological warfare with a prowar movement here in America.

The antiwar movement needs to become much more focused, much more unified, and much more effective in marshaling its resources for a given cause. It's a tough thing to do, because the antiwar movement comes from the more progressive liberal elements of American society that are not so prone to carrying out this kind of centralized organizational structure.

We perhaps need to take a look at the work of unions in the 1930s, when American labor mobilized against management--very effectively, by the way. That kind of organization and focus of effort needs to be incorporated into the antiwar movement.

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