Chris Bambery examines the Western propaganda campaign against Iran, and argues that despite the weakness of the claims the possibility of a war needs to be taken seriously.
The media campaign in the United States and Israel against Iran is reaching a fever pitch which recalls that which preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Let’s leave aside the International Atomic Energy Agency report last November which claimed Iran was developing nuclear weapons despite producing no evidence to back that up.
Let’s leave aside the rather under-reported fact that last week IAEA mission returned from a visit to Iran reporting a “good trip.” On Monday 6 February Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi stated that, “The recent trip by the IAEA inspectors to Tehran was satisfactory and some positive steps were taken for settling the differences. Iran and the IAEA will continue their talks in the near future.”
Let’s just look at a snapshot of what’s being said about Iran. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went on record as saying on 29 January 2012: “The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.”
Additionally, Mark Helprin, a columnist in the influential Wall Street Journal wrote on 18 January 2012: “America will face a potential launch from Iranian territory…Iran can sea-launch from off our coasts. Germany planned this in World War II. Subsequently, the U.S. completed 67 water-supported launches, ending as recently as 1980; the U.S.S.R. had two similar programs; and Iran itself has sea-launched from a barge in the Caspian. And if in 2007, for example, 1,100 metric tons of cocaine were smuggled from South America without interdiction, we cannot dismiss the possibility of Iranian nuclear charges of 500 pounds or less ending up in Manhattan or on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Going further, The Wall Street Journal reported on 3 February, under the headline, “U.S. Fears Iran’s Links to al Qaeda,” that: “U.S. officials say they believe Iran recently gave new freedoms to as many as five top al Qaeda operatives who have been under house arrest, including the option to leave the country, and may have provided some material aid to the terrorist group.
“The men, who were detained in Iran in 2003, make up al Qaeda’s so-called management council, a group that includes members of the inner circle that advised Osama bin Laden and an explosives expert widely considered a candidate for a top post in the organization.”
However, the article included a quote from “a US official” saying: “There is not significant information to suggest a working relationship between Iran and al Qaeda.”
Joining in on the propaganda campaign, Israel’s vice prime minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed on 2 February that Iran is developing a missile capable of delivering payloads up to 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away.
Speaking to Israel’s annual Herzliya national security conference, Ya’alon, who also serves as Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, claimed Iran was developing a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States.
Ya’alon said the project was “aimed at America, not us” and said it served as further argument that Iran posed a “military problem” that needed to be stopped.
James Clapper, President Obama’s top intelligence advisor, told a Senate committee on 31 January 2012 that Iran’s leadership, including the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “have changed their calculus, and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States as a response to real or perceived actions that threat the regime.”
Whilst on the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum issued this warning about Iran to a Missouri audience on Friday 3 February 2012:
“Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri. These are folks who have been and are at war with us since 1979. This is a country that has killed more troops in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Iraqis and the Afghans.”
Santorum claims the Iranian government has supplied all the improvised explosive devices used by Iraqi and Afghan insurgents against U.S. troops.
The US conservative web site “Family Security Matters” reported on 7 February 2012,
“U.S. intelligence officials have said it has not ruled out Iran conducting direct attacks inside this country. Iran is closely aligning itself with Venezuela where it could peddle its nuclear and missile technologies…”
This is by Gregory D. Lee, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory special agent, who was assigned to the US embassy in Pakistan.
This is a propaganda mission being undertaken not just in the US and Israel. On Saturday 4 February 2012 our own Daily Star carried the headline, “Britain in Range of Iran Missile.”
Underneath the first sentence read, “Rogue state Iran is building a missile with a 6,200-mile range capable of hitting Britain and the US.” That really does echo the 2003 headlines reporting the false claims by Tony Blair’s government that Iraqi missiles could strike the UK. A lie of course.
Now let’s turn to a serious analysis by the US global intelligence company, Stratfor. Writing a briefing on 24 January 2012 its founder, George Friedman, argued:
“As we have said for several years, we do not see Iran as close to having a nuclear weapon. They may be close to being able to test a crude nuclear device under controlled circumstances (and we don’t know this either), but the development of a deliverable nuclear weapon poses major challenges for Iran.
“Moreover, while the Iranians may aspire to a deterrent via a viable nuclear weapons capability, we do not believe the Iranians see nuclear weapons as militarily useful. A few such weapons could devastate Israel, but Iran would be annihilated in retaliation. While the Iranians talk aggressively, historically they have acted cautiously. For Iran, nuclear weapons are far more valuable as a notional threat and bargaining chip than as something to be deployed. Indeed, the ideal situation is not quite having a weapon, and therefore not forcing anyone to act against them, but seeming close enough to be taken seriously. They certainly have achieved that.”
Friedman argues the real concern of the US is the growing Iranian ‘sphere of influence’ extending from Lebanon and Gaza in the west to Afghanistan in the east taking in Syria and Iraq en route. This challenges Israel but more so Saudi Arabia and its client Gulf states.
Iran has accepted Hilary Clinton’s offer of talks but that has not stopped the military build up in the Persian Gulf or the West viewing the tragedy in Syria as a way to knock out a key ally, the bloody Assad regime.
Stratfor should be taken far more seriously than those that claim Iran has missiles that can strike Missouri or Tel Aviv, has barges off the East Coast carrying nuclear weapons targeting Washington and New York, will supply Venezuela with nuclear weapons or is planning a 9/11 attack on the US.
If Iran was to do any of these things it would meet with a mighty retribution from two powers that have nuclear weapons – the USA and Israel – and it knows it.
Yet none of this stands in the way of the dogs of war whose howls grow louder every day.
Chris Bambery is an author, political activist and commentator, and a supporter of Rise, the radical left wing coalition in Scotland. His books include A People's History of Scotland and The Second World War: A Marxist Analysis.