by Mohssen Massarrat
Unfortunately, influential American and Israeli opponents of Iran have been successful: using negative propaganda of the sort that claims that Iran has an intention to cause a nuclear holocaust and that a Third World War and "Islamic fascism" must be prevented, and tying the disaster of Iraq to Iran's interference, they have turned Iran into a dangerous monster in the world public opinion. Thus the psychological battleground against Iran is being prepared, just as it was against Iraq before. Therefore, the war party is not confronted by any significant opposition in either the United States or European countries. Furthermore, with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, France has joined the right-wing, war-mongering Western coalition of America, England, and Israel. Germany is now abstaining from any public opposition to the probable war against Iran, and its silence in effect legitimates the coalition of war mongers. The Russian and Chinese governments certainly will express opposition to any resolution that employs harsh measures at the United Nations Security Council, but in so far as the American government, away from the Security Council, takes steps toward war, just as it did in the case of Iraq, these two governments will not do anything except protest. Therefore, the only power, the only government, which can act in the interests of peace, the Iranian people, and the territorial integrity of our country, preventing an outbreak of disastrous war that destroys families, for the sake of not only Iran but also the entire Middle East and the whole world, is the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran itself.
Central Aims of the United States and Very Serious Danger of War
Given the undeniable evidence of danger of war, the intention of America and Israel is very serious. American neo-conservatives, like before, are out in full force, seeking to lay down the strategy of the Project for the New American Century and the Greater Middle East. The fundamental pillar of this strategy is the establishment of a Middle East wholly subordinated to the medium- to long-term interests of America. Having achieved regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq and unleashed chaos in these two countries, now, they have turned to Iran. The government of the Islamic Republic in the current condition has to be the most important obstacle to a Middle East wholly subordinated to America. For this reason, regime change in Iran has become the fundamental aim of US actions in the Middle East. The ideal Middle East for neo-conservatives is a Middle East all of whose major powers have been destroyed; a divided and fragmented Middle East in which local ethnic wars pitting, for instance, Arabs against Kurds, Arabs against Iranians, and Kurds against Iranians, and sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shi'is, involving Hizballah and Hamas or other forces in Lebanon and Palestine, proliferate; a Middle East in which the weak armies of the client states from the past century are reinforced -- so that America can set them all at one another's throats, sell them weapons, and turn the region completely into a laboratory of the military-industrial complexes of America and Europe, and, by aggravating competition, America can force them to exploit their oil as much as possible, till oil supply will correspond to demand at the global level, oil prices prevented from rising, and in the end the oil-producing region's dependence on the dollar maintained, with their joint measure to really sell oil for euros or other reliable international currencies decisively vetoed. The strategy of the Project for the New American Century is far from a mere adventurist and Christian fundamentalist wish under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. Unfortunately, their strategy is in keeping with the interests of the military-industrial complex, the goals of oil companies, and in truth short- to medium-term interests of the entire US economy.
The US economy is in debt to the world, and to maintain the continuing global capital inflows into this country, and maintain its residents' living standards, the dollar must be perpetuated as the only world currency, much like air indispensable for human life. In order to sustain the current position of the dollar, all oil trades must be conducted in dollars. Establishment of weak client states in the Middle East gives the United States a possibility that, by creating many military bases including in Iran, and with total military control over the oil-producing regions and the production and price of oil, it can hold onto its hegemonic position, vis-à-vis its current and future economic rivals, including the European Common Market, China, Russia, Japan, and India, for several decades to come. Therefore, many Europeans' assessment that, given the Bush government's difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, they need not care much about the danger of war against Iran is superficial, merely helping them justify their indifference to the probable war against Iran and their historic irresponsibility when what is at stake is world peace. Furthermore, Europe's inattention to the danger of war is itself dangerous in that the American government takes it to be support for its policy of violence against Iran.
Regrettably, some of the government officials of the Islamic Republic, instead of taking the danger of war seriously, also set much store by America's difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan to give themselves peace of mind. They thus drive themselves and the Iranian people into a trap that America's economic and ideological leaders have set for them. Leaders of a country threatened at a dangerous moment act with profound insight and responsibility for their country's inhabitants and territory, starting from the worst case scenario and being prepared to respond to anything in kind, not by emphasizing the least dangerous scenario, failing to make use of all possibilities to prevent war, and thereby disarming themselves. Moreover, chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't a reason not to start a new war in the region, especially against Iran -- rather, it should be understood that sowing chaos is one of the fundamental US aims in all countries of the Middle East, especially Iran.
The statements of an Iranian defense official to the effect that America is capable of bombing and destroying Iran but will be totally incapable of occupying the country are shocking. This mode of thinking of government officials, scoffing at US air attacks -- which, in the event they materialize, will destroy the human capitals, infrastructure, and culture of our country -- and promising victory at war against ground forces, is really unacceptable, and nothing except irreparable betrayal of the interests of Iran and its inhabitants can result from it. What people expect from the officials of the Islamic Republic is this: to prevent even a single bomb from getting dropped on our country. Moreover, some of the government officials' assertions, which seek to console the people of Iran by promising an all-out counter-attack to the likely US-Israeli air attacks on them, are ignorant, since the military capacity of the Islamic Republic lacks the quality and quantity that, by putting the fear of counter-attack in the enemy mind, can deter the US-Israeli attacks.
Lightening Military Strikes
From the point of view of military strategies, America and Israel are said to be heading in the direction of an all-out air attack lasting a few days, which makes use of the full capabilities of the two powers and aims at the entire military and economic infrastructure of Iran, hitting 2,000 targets. The objective is not only the annihilation of nuclear centers; the planned targets include munitions factories, bridges, power plants, oil refineries, water purification plants of major cities, and others. From the same military strategic point of view, it is anticipated that bombings will follow the model of Nazi Germany's attack on Poland in 1938, intense enough to limit or even eliminate any possibility of counter-attack. In the event of air strikes, lives of 12 million people of Tehran will be severely disrupted for several days, and emergency capacities of security services and economic, transport, and energy lifelines will be strained, which makes it impossible to expect the defense system to function and commence counter-attack. Given this likely scenario, boasting of Iran's military power to defend itself hinders the search for non-military solutions and raises the likelihood of an outbreak of war.
How to Prevent War
American and Israeli neo-conservative invaders, under the pretext of prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons, have succeeded in exploiting Iran's uranium enrichment and thereby legitimating military attacks on Iran and their continuing control over the Middle and Near East. At the same time, no question about Israel's 300 nuclear warheads has been raised and no debate about them has been permitted. Israel's security alone gets mentioned, and the security needs of the other nations of the region, including Iran, are counted for nothing. The undeniable reality is that, under threat from US-Israeli military strategies for domination, our country will suffer more than theirs; the entire Middle East will be pushed into the direction of an arms race and lasting chaos, just as neo-conservatives would like; future generations will be made to waste all their energy resources and human creativities and condemned to perpetual backwardness. So, the people of Iran expect their country's leaders and elite to come up with, as soon as possible, measures that change the dominant atmosphere conducive to war against Iran in the public opinions of the Western countries, neutralize the weapon that legitimates the military aims of neo-conservatives of America and its accomplice Israel, and make impossible for them to execute the dirty, criminal, and anti-human program based on their military and economic self-interests. However, in the opinion of this writer, there are essentially two ways to really prevent war. One is to accept the United States' and the West's conditions, i.e., voluntary abandonment of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic, as is proposed by the ad-hoc national peace committee of Iran; and the other is to propose a plan for an agreement on emergency measures to truly guarantee the common security of the Middle East and Near East region.
The path of voluntary abnegation of the right to uranium enrichment is a path based on powerful moral reasons, in that it upholds the right to life of the people of Iran above the inalienable right to uranium enrichment. The prerequisite for this path is an agreement of the leaders of the Islamic Republic and consent of the extreme wing of the country, which is not impossible to secure if they are, for instance, pressured from below by serious movements of people. Remember that this extreme wing, under the pressure of internal debates among leadership, reluctantly accepted the Russian proposal one year ago, the proposal that would have limited uranium enrichment in Iran to a laboratory scale and transferred industrial-scale enrichment to Russia. At the same time, we know that, after this agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went to Washington, met stiff opposition from Bush and Cheney there, and immediately held a press conference announcing that Russia really had not proposed any such thing. If even unilateral and unconditional abandonment of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic does not satisfy neo-cons and they demand that the leadership of the Islamic Republic, on pain of severe hardships, for instance open all doors to the main military centers of the country in order to build sufficient confidence and to prove that no other secrete nuclear program exists, then, what is to be done?
One, in my estimation, Bush and Cheney will do exactly that, because their aim does not lie in any nuclear problem, just as they did the same with Iraq before. Two, in that event, the extreme wing of the Islamic Republic, just as they did after Washington's rejection of the Russian proposal, will immediately put the strategy that promotes their own position of power on the agenda. This time, too, they will browbeat the supporters of the pacifist path, indict them for being naive, and silence them so that their own seemingly logical and yet dangerous path will continue to be followed. In that case, Iran will remain bereft of defense, and, what with the anti-Iranian atmosphere in the world public opinion, the beginning of war may come even sooner. Moreover, Bush and Cheney, in their own propaganda, long ago ceased to be content with stopping uranium enrichment and have begun to claim that Iran is the culprit responsible for the disaster in Iraq and the death of American soldiers. Exactly because of this change in their propaganda strategy, more than 50% of Americans now support war against Iran. Furthermore, even if we set aside uranium enrichment, the problem of power imbalance and security predicament of Iran, i.e., the power imbalance in the region, will remain the same, even if war against Iran doesn't come to pass, and addressing it can be postponed only for a few years.
Therefore, it is better, given the likely scenario mentioned above, for the Islamic Republic to choose a path that can significantly moderate the anti-Iranian atmosphere in the world public opinion, or, ideally, change it in Iran's interest, and thereby prevent an outbreak of war. In my view, a common regional security plan -- on the conditions that it gets deliberated upon seriously, purposefully, and steadfastly and that the leadership of the Islamic Republic, behaving morally, honestly, and searchingly, set aside hesitation and put it really in practice -- can put the United States and its accomplice Israel on the defensive and even isolate them in the world public opinion. I'd venture to say that a common security plan that promises economic and cultural collaboration can achieve its ideal goal if it is proposed long before concrete actions for military attacks are taken, that is to say, as soon as possible, so that all parties involved won't be able to easily pass it off as Iran's last-ditch tactical move and make it moot. The points that a common regional security plan should encompass are the following:
1. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to invite all countries that are ready to accept the idea of a common security plan, with no preconditions, to participate in a regional security conference for cooperation. At the same time, for the purpose of understanding at all levels and real participation, as many countries from the Middle East and Near East region as possible should put their security needs on the agenda.
2. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to announce a voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment by the beginning of the conference and continue the suspension in the event that a serious plan to address all security problems of the region, particularly nuclear weapons and military installations for them, materializes based upon common principles of security and cooperation.
3. The Islamic Republic of Iran is to announce the readiness to ratify bilateral treaties to guarantee mutual security with all countries of the region to truly build confidence and to emphasize the plan's seriousness.
Announcement of voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment on the part of the Islamic Republic is conditional upon the holding of a common security conference for cooperation in the region as soon as possible. Nevertheless, not only will the Islamic Republic of Iran remain true to all principles of its foreign policy -- attention of the world public opinion should be also drawn to a real undeniable problem, i.e., Israel's nuclear weapons. Then, the United States and Israel will be compelled to explain why, despite Iran's readiness to suspend enrichment, they are not ready to begin dialogue, in good faith, on common security of the region. In that event, serious measures and considered actions that are likely to get attention, including the offer to build trust such as mutual treaties to renounce military attacks on each other, the date and location of the conference, and diplomacy for that purpose, will be able to render ineffective all useless propaganda and baseless claims of psychological warfare. In addition to preventing an outbreak of war, a common security conference will put a new prospect for stopping American and European interferences on the agenda of all countries of the region.
Mohssen Massarrat, born in Tehran in 1942, is Professor of Political Economy and International Relations at Universität Osnabrück. The original article in Persian was published on the Web site of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) on 22 November 2007. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.