The UK media has over the last three months obediently towed the line of western leaders in their increasingly hostile posturing towards Iran.
Despite their reporting of (to give a few examples) a covert war on Iran, the entry of a US spy drone into Iranian airspace, and the recent assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist, our media overwhelmingly empathises with the concerns of the US and the UK governments.
The UK media echo the sentiments of David Cameron (Iran's chosen path 'threatens the peace and security of us all') or William Hague (Iran 'is continuing to breach United Nations resolutions and refusing to come to meaningful negotiations on its nuclear programme'), whose statements lack sufficient evidence and are based on little more than speculation.
Yet the rhetoric goes unquestioned in news reporting.
The findings of the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, showing no evidence of nuclear weapons development, appear of no importance.
Julian Borger (the Guardian's security correspondent), for example, has disclosed that a former IAEA inspector claimed there to be 'no smoking gun' in the report, yet this fact has had little effect on his subsequent reporting.
As if the western leaders have not been trying hard enough to establish pretexts for their hostile stance towards Iran, Borger, in an article on 11 January, found it necessary to hypothesise about potential grounds for an attack: 'If Americans had been killed in the Georgetown restaurant [location for alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US] that was supposedly the target, the Obama administration would have been obliged to respond militarily'. Borger simply went ahead of leaders on this one and legitimised the idea of military action against Iran once again.
In an interview with John Humphrys on the BBC's Today Show, Liam Fox stated that: 'The first [risk in formulating policy toward Iran] is, obviously, Iran is a nuclear weapon state.' It might have been helpful to counter that, in reality, Israel is the only country in the region which actually possesses nuclear weapons.
Recent news reports are littered with unchallenged claims which imply that Iran does have an operational nuclear weapons programme, such as when George Osborne, unopposed, stated that Iranian banks are involved in 'the development of Iran's weaponised military nuclear weapon programme.'
The reasons for invading Iran have slightly shifted in recent weeks. In November, the talk of invasion was simply on the basis that a nuclear programme was underway. A bombing campaign was necessary to stop this nuclear programme, we were told, because western countries believed that the country had nuclear military ambitions.
Then came sanctions (now to include 'a phased oil embargo, a partial asset freeze of the central bank of Iran, measures against Iran's petrochemical sector and a ban on Iranian transactions involving gold') and the response from Iran that it would close the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions persisted. Now an attack might hinge on the Strait of Hormuz.
There are comparisons to be drawn between the war-posturing towards Iran and the Iraq of a decade ago. In Iraq too, the reasons for war were ever-metamorphosing. First we were told (and here the sense of déjà vu should begin) an attack on Iraq was unavoidable because Saddam Hussein had 'gone to elaborate lengths... to build and keep weapons of mass destruction' (George Bush).
One would think it would be unnecessary to rehash this once again, and yet history, with all its grave (however intended) mistakes, is currently repeating itself. As Robert Fisk writes, 'after Iraq, it's amazing that the old weapons of mass destruction details are popping with the same frequency as all the poppycock about Saddam's titanic arsenal.'
On Monday Conservative MP Robert Halfon stated that war 'is looking increasingly possible' against Iran which 'supports terrorism, undermines democracy and is trying to stop the Arab Spring in Syria.'
Of course, the second pretext for the war on Iraq was the promotion of democracy, which would then, we were told, spread to the whole region. It will be very important in the coming months to maintain perspective on our government's regard for democracy in the Middle East, which was made patently clear during the events of the Arab Spring.
In February 2011, when pro-democracy protesters flooded Bahrain's Pearl Roundabout, Saudi troops put a violent end to their demonstrations, with western consent. Of course, Saudi Arabia itself will be exempt from the 'democracy promotion' efforts of the UK and US as long as it remains an ally.
Writing this month on US policy, Thomas Carothers, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described how 'the [Obama] administration downplays democracy and human rights in a number of nondemocratic countries for the sake of other interests. This inconsistency represents a familiar pattern rather than a change in U.S. policy.' The same applies to the situation in the UK.
Speaking to the Times in September 2011 Tony Blair again expounded the merits of regime change in the Middle East (in this instance in relation to Syria and Iran) followed by 'nation building'. 'Regime change in Tehran would immediately make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region', he said. Blair continues to push the line that the purpose of western intervention in the region is to build 'open' and 'democratic' nations, when British policy has demonstrably been concerned with regional dominance, regardless of how open or democratic a country may or may not be.
In reality, our media seems to care little about what the reasons may be for a potential attack on Iran. The proclaimed grounds shift and change without receiving appropriate scrutiny. The myth that government policy is benign and that an aggressive stance will only be taken when provoked is preserved at the expense of rational critique of events which, if they are allowed to, may well lead to yet another war.
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