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Another pack of war lies

March 16, 2007 | Page 5

MANY PEOPLE welcomed the March 10 meeting in Baghdad that brought together representatives of the new Iraqi government, the U.S. occupiers and neighboring countries, including Iran, as a sign that cooler heads were prevailing over threats of a wider war in the Middle East.

But the summit caused a shouting match after a U.S. envoy repeated the charge that Iran is supplying arms to the Iraqi resistance--and from halfway around the world, George Bush repeated the same saber-rattling rhetoric that has fueled fears the U.S. is preparing for a military assault.

ALAN MAASS provides the facts to counter the Bush administration's case against Iran.

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Myth: Iran is a looming threat to the U.S. and a chief sponsor of terrorism around the world.

Reality: The U.S. case against Iran is following the same pattern of fabrication, distortion and racist hysterics as during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Over the past several years, a series of revelations supposedly linking the Iranian government to terrorism have been hyped by a gullible U.S. media, only to disappear from the headlines when they were exposed:

-- Iran was hiding Osama bin Laden (never mind that bin Laden's al-Qaeda is a sworn enemy of the Shia Muslims who lead the Iranian government);

What else to read

One of the best places to look for coverage of the U.S. war drive on Iran is the International Socialist Review. Saman Sepheri's "Targeting Iran" and "The Pressure Is On" provide an analysis of U.S. aims as well as Iranian politics and society.

Writing for CounterPunch, Gary Leupp provides a useful timeline of the neocons' campaign against Iran in "A Chronology of Disinformation."

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's most recent article in The New Yorker, "The Redirection," reports on U.S. preparations for war. Scott Ritter's book Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change is a meticulous challenge to the new war lies. Ritter's was interviewed by Socialist Worker in an article called "The Case Against Iran Exposed."


-- Terrorists sponsored by Iran planned to fly a plane into the Seabrook nuclear power plant north of Boston (no evidence of the plot materialized beyond the initial accusation by a right-wing Iranian exile);

-- Iranian agents stole nuclear weapons material from Iraq before the U.S. invasion (this ludicrous claim had the added benefit of explaining the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).

On the other hand, Iranians certainly have to consider the U.S. a looming threat. George Bush and Dick Cheney waste no opportunity to remind Iran that "all options are on the table." The Bush administration's latest update of its National Security Strategy document in 2006 is obsessed with Iran. "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," it states.

According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's February article in the New Yorker, "The Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran"--with a "contingency plan...that can be implemented [in] 24 hours."

War threats against Iran aren't the exclusive property of Republicans, either. The Democrats' favored criticism of Bush is that the invasion of Iraq has taken attention from the "real" battles of the "war on terror."

Presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama used his speech to a forum sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to paint a target on Iran. "As the U.S. redeploys from Iraq, we can recapture lost influence in the Middle East...[and then] more effectively deal with one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace: Iran."

There is widespread opposition to a military attack on Iran right now, reaching into the American military and political establishment--and the military itself has been stretched to the breaking point by two failing occupations. So it would be wrong to believe an attack is imminent and inevitable.

But as Noam Chomsky pointed out in Britain's Guardian, "A predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters."

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Myth: Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons.

Reality: According to a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) prepared by U.S. spy agencies, Iran has been "within five years" of developing a nuclear weapon since 1995. In fact, in 2005, apparently embarrassed at its inaccuracy, officials revised the NIE estimate upward to "five to 10 years"--and even that figure depends on the assumption that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program, of which there is no evidence.

The chief U.S. complaint against Iran is its uranium enrichment program, which the Iranian government insists is for power plants, not weapons.

Iran's program abides by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty--unlike the U.S. government, which former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara branded a "nuclear outlaw" for its flouting of international treaties.

In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency criticized Iran for allegedly concealing nuclear facilities and demanded that it submit to inspections. Iran allowed the inspections, which have yet to uncover any sign of a weapons program.

In 2003, Iran offered to negotiate with the U.S. on all outstanding issues, including its nuclear program. The U.S. response was to denounce the Swiss diplomat who delivered the offer.

On the other hand, there is no doubt about which side in the conflict does possess nuclear weapons, and even has plans to use them.

The latest Bush administration proposed military budget includes $6.4 billion on nuclear weapons, including design and testing of two new types of warheads.

According to the rumors, a U.S. attack might include the use of so-called "bunker-buster" nukes. The U.S. claims underground explosions from bunker-busters wouldn't affect civilians, but experts say the weapons would cause permanent surface contamination, even if they worked according to plan, which is far from certain.

If the U.S. nuclear threat is very real, so is the one from Washington's main ally in the Middle East, Israel. Though it has persistently denied it, Israel possesses an arsenal of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads, along with multiple delivery systems.

Top Israeli government officials--such as far-right Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said in a February radio interview, "Israel cannot remain with its arms folded, waiting for Iran to develop non-conventional weapons"--are pushing harder for war than the neocons.

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Myth: Iran is arming the Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation.

Reality: The Bush administration claims to have evidence that Iran supplied weapons to Iraqi insurgents that were used to kill 170 U.S. soldiers in the past three years. Even if this number is correct--and it is definitely exaggerated--this is less than 10 percent of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq.

The vast majority of U.S. casualties were the victims of primitive roadside bombs, called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), set by Sunni guerrillas, with no plausible connection to Iran.

IEDs are typically made out of heavy artillery shells taken from the arsenals of the former regime. "The U.S. stance on the military capabilities of Iraqis today is the exact opposite of its position in four years ago," wrote Independent reporter Patrick Cockburn. "Then President Bush and Tony Blair claimed that Iraqis were technically advanced enough to produce long-range missiles and to be close to producing a nuclear device. Washington is now saying that Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help."

The U.S. claims about Iran are about munitions supplied to Shia militias. But the evidence is sketchy at best.

As Dave Lindorff pointed out on the CounterPunch Web site, the bombs displayed as evidence by U.S. officials had English words and numbers on them, not Farsi. Some Iranian manufacturers use English to identify products produced for export, but Iran doesn't typically export these armaments.

Even the deputy foreign minister of Iraq's puppet government expressed skepticism about U.S. claims. "It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the Americans forces say is evidence," he told the Washington Post. "If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels."

In the wake of George Bush's January speech announcing his surge plan, U.S. troops have detained several Iranian officials stationed in Iraq--evidence, they insist, without the slightest trace of irony, of foreign meddling. But Iranian agents and officials have been present in Iraq since the U.S. invasion, and they are typically associated with Shia political parties that remain dominant forces in the new Iraqi government that the U.S. put in place.

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Myth: The Iranian government is an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship that is committed to the use of violence.

Reality: Even U.S. officials have to admit that Iran has a lively electoral system, characterized by rough-and-tumble campaigns. That's a stark contrast to Washington's allies in the Middle East--the repressive monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; the police state in Egypt; or, for that matter, Israel's apartheid system.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a favorite target of U.S. politicians for his denunciations of Israel, which have included anti-Semitic slurs such as questioning whether the Nazi Holocaust of Jews happened.

Middle East experts like Juan Cole warn that Ahmadinejad's most notorious statements have been mistranslated--and Newsweek's mainstream commentator Fareed Zakaria insists that "Ahmadinejad strikes me as less a messianic madman and more a radical populist, an Iranian Huey Long."

In any case, the Western focus on Ahmadinejad obscures the much more complicated reality of Iranian politics and society, which gave rise to a reform wing of the ruling elite, including Ahmadinejad's predecessor Mohammad Khatami, and powerful struggles from below among students and workers, dating back to the 1978-79 revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran.

And when it comes to religious fundamentalism, George Bush has to rank high on the list. Bush, after all, has continually invoked his own God in defense of the "war on terror" launched after September 11--including using the word "crusade," surely a calculated insult to Muslims.

This is just one more example of U.S. hypocrisy in its case against Iran.

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