By Reese Erlich
Wednesday 03 October 2007
I went on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes recently. It was the usual food fight where right-wing zealot Sean Hannity interrupts and hogs the camera, not allowing much dissent. But I was even more interested in the stand of "liberal" Alan Colmes.
We were debating whether Iran's President Ahmadinejad should be allowed to speak at Columbia University. Colmes supported free speech. But in his introduction to the segment, he repeated almost every Bush falsehood about Iran, including its supposed, immediate plans to develop nuclear bombs, killing of American soldiers in Iraq and its grave danger to Israel. Unfortunately, his views reflect those of many mainstream Democratic Party leaders as well.
On Sept. 26, by a vote of 76-22, the Senate passed a "sense of the Senate" resolution calling on the United States to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. The resolution, pushed by former vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, continues the drum beat for war against Iran. While some staunch liberals such as Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer voted nay, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton voted yes.
The Bush administration is preparing public opinion for a possible bombing attack on Iran. As with the months prior to the Iraq invasion, major Democratic Party leaders are climbing on board.
Half the warships in the U.S. Navy now sit within striking distance of Iran. Bush and Cheney have stepped up their rhetoric accusing Iran of threatening to start a "nuclear holocaust." The British press are predicting that the Bush administration will bomb Iran in the near future.
The White House is using the same propaganda techniques to whip up popular opinion against Iran that it used four years ago against Iraq. Here's the real story.
Iran has no nuclear weapons and couldn't have them for years. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body that was right about WMDs in Iraq, says it has no proof of Iranian plans to build nuclear bombs. The IAEA recently reached a binding agreement for Iran to reveal its past nuclear activities and allow full inspection of nuclear power sites.
The sophisticated EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) supposedly supplied by Iran to militias in Iraq are easily made in Iraqi machine shops and can be purchased commercially for mining operations.
For years Iran has given political, economic and military support to Shia and Kurdish militias, but the administration has never proven that Iran is intentionally targeting U.S. soldiers.
Iran does not plan, nor does it have the capability of "wiping Israel off the map." If Iran is such an immediate threat to Israel, why hasn't it already launched a conventional missile attack? Such aggression would invite immediate destruction of Iran by both Israel and the United States. So if Iran hasn't started a conventional attack in 28 years, why would it possibly launch an atomic attack, even assuming it could develop a few such weapons years from now? The Iranian leaders are angry; they are not crazy.
Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but such support does not constitute a threat of Jewish annihilation. The U.S. and Israeli governments consciously distort and exaggerate Iran's threat in order to justify immediate military action.
For two years the United States has helped splinter groups among Iran's ethnic minorities to blow up buildings, assassinate Revolutionary Guards and kill civilians in an effort to destabilize the Tehran regime. In short, the United States does to Iran what it accuses Iran of doing in Iraq.
The hardliners in the Bush administration, led by Cheney, see a dwindling opportunity to bomb Iran before Bush leaves office. They hope to launch a massive bombing campaign which will so weaken Tehran that the regime will fall and Iranians will see the United States as their savior. Does this sound the faintest bit familiar?
In reality, a U.S. attack would be disastrous. Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 25 percent of the world's oil supplies pass. Oil prices would skyrocket. Iran could encourage Hizbollah to launch missiles into Israel. Muslims would hold demonstrations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Iran could mobilize that anger and encourage Shiite parties in Iraq to attack U.S. troops.
In a truly nightmare scenario, Iran could encourage terrorist attacks inside the United States and in allied countries. When I interviewed Syria's President Bashar al-Asad in 2006, he said, "If you do a military strike, you will have chaos. It's very dangerous."
The people of Iran, leading democracy advocates and even conservative Iranian-American exile groups oppose an attack. They understand that U.S. bombs falling on Tehran will only rally people behind the current government.
In an open letter to the United Nations, former political prisoner and Iranian opposition leader Akbar Ganji wrote, "Even speaking about the possibility of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran. No Iranian wants to see what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan repeated in Iran."
I don't know with certainty if the United States will attack Iran. It is possible that the Bush administration is ratcheting up militarist rhetoric in order to intimidate European allies into tightening economic sanctions against Iran.
And the decision whether to bomb Iran depends, in part, on actions by the American people. Now is the time to let your national and local politicians know that we don't need another human disaster in the Middle East. Code Pink is organizing a national campaign to get local city councils to pass resolutions against attacks on Iran. Now is the time for anti-war demonstrations around the issues of both Iraq and Iran.
Reese Erlich is author of the new book The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis.
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