As opposition grows in America to the failed Iraq adventure, the Bush administration is preparing public opinion for an attack on Iran, its latest target, by the spring.
The United States is planning what will be a catastrophic attack on Iran. For the Bush cabal, the attack will be a way of "buying time" for its dis aster in Iraq. In announcing what he called a "surge" of American troops in Iraq, George W Bush identified Iran as his real target. "We will interrupt the flow of support [to the insurgency in Iraq] from Iran and Syria," he said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
"Networks" means Iran. "There is solid evidence," said a State Department spokesman on 24 January, "that Iranian agents are involved in these networks and that they are working with individuals and groups in Iraq and are being sent there by the Iranian government." Like Bush's and Tony Blair's claim that they had irrefutable evidence that Saddam Hussein was deploying weapons of mass destruction, the "evidence" lacks all credibility. Iran has a natural affinity with the Shia majority of Iraq, and has been implacably opposed to al-Qaeda, condemning the 9/11 attacks and supporting the United States in Afghanistan. Syria has done the same. Investigations by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and others, including British military officials, have concluded that Iran is not engaged in the cross-border supply of weapons. General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said no such evidence exists.
As the American disaster in Iraq deepens and domestic and foreign opposition grows, "neo-con" fanatics such as Vice-President Dick Che- ney believe their opportunity to control Iran's oil will pass unless they act no later than the spring. For public consumption, there are potent myths. In concert with Israel and Washington's Zionist and fundamentalist Christian lobbies, the Bushites say their "strategy" is to end Iran's nuclear threat. In fact, Iran possesses not a single nuclear weapon, nor has it ever threatened to build one; the CIA estimates that, even given the political will, Iran is incapable of building a nuclear weapon before 2017, at the earliest. Unlike Israel and the United States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it was an original signatory, and has allowed routine inspections under its legal obligations - until gratuitous, punitive measures were added in 2003, at the behest of Washington. No report by the International Atomic Energy Agency has ever cited Iran for diverting its civilian nuclear programme to military use. The IAEA has said that for most of the past three years its inspectors have been able to "go anywhere and see anything". They inspected the nuclear installations at Isfahan and Natanz on 10 and 12 January and will return on 2 to 6 February. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that an attack on Iran will have "catastrophic consequences" and only encourage the regime to become a nuclear power.
Unlike its two nemeses, the US and Israel, Iran has attacked no other countries. It last went to war in 1980 when invaded by Saddam Hussein, who was backed and equipped by the US, which supplied chemical and biological weapons produced at a factory in Maryland. Unlike Israel, the world's fifth military power - with its thermo nuclear weapons aimed at Middle East targets and an unmatched record of defying UN resolutions, as the enforcer of the world's longest illegal occupation - Iran has a history of obeying international law and occupies no territory other than its own.
The "threat" from Iran is entirely manufactured, aided and abetted by familiar, compliant media language that refers to Iran's "nuclear ambitions", just as the vocabulary of Saddam's non-existent WMD arsenal became common usage. Accompanying this is a demonising that has become standard practice. As Edward Herman has pointed out, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "has done yeoman service in facilitating [this]"; yet a close examination of his notorious remark about Israel in October 2005 reveals how it has been distorted. According to Juan Cole, American professor of modern Middle East and south Asian history at the University of Michigan, and other Farsi language analysts, Ahmadinejad did not call for Israel to be "wiped off the map". He said: "The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." This, says Cole, "does not imply military action or killing anyone at all". Ahmadinejad compared the demise of the Israeli regime to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Iranian regime is repressive, but its power is diffuse and exercised by the mullahs, with whom Ahmadinejad is often at odds. An attack would surely unite them.