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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

January 16, 2006

Iran has thrown down the gauntlet to the US and EU by resuming uranium enrichment laboratory tests. Tehran is not heeding a mounting chorus of warnings from its foes in the west and even its friends in Moscow.

`We won't be bullied,' said Iran's Persident, Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, who denied Iran has nuclear ambitions and insisted his nation had every right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium to produce electrical power.

In a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black, the US and Israel - both nuclear powers - accuse Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They offer no confirming proof of this charge, just more so-called leaks from `high-level administration sources' in the US accusing Iran of working on a nuclear delivery system. We saw precisely the same pattern in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Tehran accuses the west of nuclear apartheid and hypocrisy, citing the Bush Administration's recent pact to provide fuel and technology to India's nuclear programs, which Washington formerly condemned. India has an estimated 100 nuclear weapons and is building land and sea-launched missiles that can strike the continental United States. Only Muslim nations, (Pakistan excepted since it's a reliable US ally) it seems, are not to be allowed nuclear weapons.

Given that US and Israel are already probing Iran's defenses and may soon outright attack Iran, and threats from the EU to impose sanctions, one suspects Iran would not likely risk so much unless it is racing to make nuclear weapons. Or, it has simply decided to seek a showdown with the US and its allies.

Note: Iran has not violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(which nuclear-armed Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan never even signed). So Iran may be punished for agreeing to international inspection of nuclear facilities while those nations that refused to cooperate with efforts to limit nuclear weapons are being studiously ignored. In fact, the head of the UN nuclear agency was recently in Israel and failed to say anything about its secret nuclear arsenal, estimated at 200 nuclear warheads.

UN monitors say Iran may have concealed some questionable activities - even these charges are hotly disputed - but did not violate the treaty. Western experts believe if Iran is indeed secretly working on nuclear arms, it is still 5-10 years away from being able to develop deliverable nuclear weapons.

The US recently admitted to losing thousands of documents and tins of radioactive material from its nuclear program. Iran is being asked to adhere to a much higher level of accountability and record-keeping than the USA.

A `deliverable nuclear warhead' means a compact, lightweight nuclear device that can withstand the g-forces and heat of being carried in a missile warhead. The recent brouhaha over a New York Times story claiming leaked data from a purloined Iranian laptop computer showing Iran was working on a nuclear missile warhead has been dismissed by a leading American expert as erroneous.

The design in question dealt with a conventional missile warhead, not one designed to carry a nuclear weapon. But no matter. The New York Times, continuing to act as a mouthpiece for administration war propaganda, trumpeted these latest spurious charges.

Why would Iran seek nuclear arms? What motivates Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to challenge the west?

Iranians see themselves threatened by the US, Britain, Israel and Russia. Iran is now surrounded by US bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and Pakistan. Iranians feel historically exploited and victimized by the great powers - and indeed, they were.

In 1941, Britain and Soviets invaded Iran. This forgotten part of WWII was an aggression every bit as criminal as Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland.

In 1952, the US and Britain overthrew Iran's democratic government after it tried to take the national oil company away from British control. They imposed their puppet, the grotesque Shah Reza Pahlevi, who inflicted a reign of terror and unbridled thievery on Iranians.

In 1980, the US and Britain engineered Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in an attempt to crush its new revolutionary Islamic government. That war inflicted nearly one million casualties on Iran. President Ahmadinejad led volunteers in the war.

Iran's suffering at foreign hands has produced national fury, paranoia, and xenophobia. Many Iranians have a `the world is against us' mentality, fear and hatred of Israel, which threatens Iran with nuclear weapons, and belief the US or Russia intends to seize Iran's oil.

The US invasion of Iraq has heightened these fears. Allocation of funds by the US Congress to overthrow Iran's elected government, and the conviction among Iranians that Israel controls US foreign policy accentuates Iran's sense of growing peril.

Accordingly, some militants insist Iran must have nuclear weapons for self-defense. They point to nuclear-armed North Korea, which forced Washington to back off threats of invasion when it dug and threatened to fight to the death. Iraq's lesson is not lost on Iranians: if Saddam had nuclear weapons, the US would not have invaded his nation.

Ironically, hard-line President Ahmadinejad is the only democratically elected leader in the Mideast. But since taking office, he has ignited an international firestorm by calling for Israel to be `wiped off the map,' and the Jewish holocaust `a myth.' While popular at home, these inflammatory statements have brought international condemnation down in Iran.

This recalls the PLO's idiotic former spokesman, Ahmad Shukairy, who proclaimed, on the eve of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, `we will drive the Jews into the sea!' This ludicrous bombast gave Israel a perfect excuse to launch a surprise attack on the Arabs, and seize large swathes of their territory.

Similarly, Ahmadinejad just gave Israel a perfect excuse to attack Iran. When this happens, there will be scant sympathy around the globe for Iran .

There is little doubt Israel is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure, repeating its 1981 destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor. The US has provided Israel long-ranged F-15J strike aircraft and new deep penetrating bombs for this mission. Israeli aircraft need only overfly Jordan, which is a virtual US-Israeli protectorate, then US-controlled Iraq, to reach Iran. A similar route would be used to attack Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure.

The western media is saying a leader who utters such dangerous nonsense as Ahmadinejad cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. Iranians would reply that unlike the US, Iran has not invaded any other countries.

Speaking of dangerous nonsense, was it not George Bush - who commands the US nuclear button - who claimed Iraq had wmd's that menaced the world? Or that Iraqi germ-dispensing drones were poised to attack a sleeping USA from lurking freighters in the North Atlantic?

Ahmadinejad is picking this fight because his challenge to the west and Israel hugely appeals to most Iranians. He seems to be actually daring the US to attack Iran.

Some Islamic militants are actually hoping for a US invasion of Iran, which has 68 million people. Such an adventure, they believe, would result in a major American defeat, just as the Germans were broken in Russia.

Ahmadinejad comes from the generation of Shia fighters that faced eight years of savage, bloody war with Iraq - twice the length of World War I. During this holocaust, they faced massed bombardments, poison gas attacks, and the nightmare of trench warfare.

Iran used human wave suicide attacks, and sent teenage volunteers to clear Iraqi minefields with their bodies. It was the realization of the Shia creed of sacrifice and martyrdom in a fight against hopeless odds.

Having faced Saddam's fury in an eight-year war in which 400,00 Iranian soldiers died and 600,000 were wounded, Iranians do not fear George Bush.

Like Bush, Ahmadinejad boasts, `bring'em on.' He assumes the over-stretched US military can barely hold on to Iraq, never mind invade Iran. A shutoff of Iranian oil exports would send gas prices skyrocketing. And he knows that US forces in Iraq are hostages to its Shia majority. Any attack on Iraq would invite reprisals by Shias against US forces spread across Iraq.

So, at least for now, it appears President Ahmadinejad has decided to do a North Korea: that is, defy the western powers, dig in, and be ready to fight to the last man.

But Iran must also face the very real threat of punishing UN-imposed sanctions, , unless they are vetoed by China or Russia or even a US naval blockade The EU is proposing sanctions as a way of trying to divert the US from military action, which would damage Europe more than the United States.

Both Iran and its western oil customers may end up the losers in such a confrontation.


  • This week we laud the United States for its superb technology and brilliant scientists who sent a space probe on a 3 billion mile, 7-year odyssey around the sun to collect space dust, and then returned, right on schedule, landing in Utah at the Dugway Proving Grounds just a few miles from its intended aim point. Truly, a near miraculous achievement in which all Americans should take enormous pride. Now, if they can just do something about all those perennially late airline flights……………………………….

  • A US air strike on a Pakistani village late last week that killed at least 18 civilians, many of them children, at the religious feast of the Eid, provoked outrage and fury across Pakistan. Acting on reports al-Qaida number two, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri was in the remote village, CIA Predator drones and Air Force F-16's heavily bombed a tribal compound. This was an outright act of war against a close ally and worthy of Murder Inc. No such attacks are acceptable without positive identification of the intended targets. The attack once again shows Pakistanis their military regime has become more responsive to the demands of Washington than its own people.

  • Canadian elections are about as exciting as votes in Finland, but this weekend marks a really interesting race between the party of power, the Liberals, and the upstart Conservatives. The Liberals have been in power far too long, becoming deeply corrupt and arrogant. But they have frightened many Canadians seeking change and cleaner government by comparing the Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, to….George Bush. Well, Harper is no Bush. In fact, he's a rather unimpressive politician with no charisma or strategic view, but at least he has not been named in corruption.

    Alas, Canada's Conservatives have missed a golden opportunity to turn their country into an economic powerhouse and world pace setter by slashing high taxes, trimming regulations, and reducing the size of their do-nothing, largely unnecessary, bloated and voracious federal government. Canada would shine if it adopted Switzerland's system of powerful Cantons and minimalist federal government.

  • It's amazing that the major US TV networks keep using Pentagon-issued terminology in their new broadcasts long after we have learned that much of what we were told about Iraq was a pack of outright lies. US forces are `rebuilding Iraq,' says US TV, heedless that it was the US that destroyed Iraq, which was one of the Arab World's most developed nations before 1991. `Terrorists' are attacking US troops in Iraq, even though the Geneva Conventions give all peoples the right to oppose foreign invaders. Whenever civilians are killed by the US military, the Pentagon promises `an investigation,' which, of course, never happens. Iraq is the `frontline in the war on terror' - except there was no terrorism there before the US invasion. And so on…..

  • I am saddened to watch the new Boeing 777 twin-engine airliner outselling the excellent Airbus four-engined A340 by ten to one. Operating the 777 is cheaper, so airlines are snapping it up. But think next time you are flying over the North Atlantic or Pacific if you would rather be aboard a two or four-engine plane. Engines are very reliable these days, but accidents and shut-downs do happen - you just don't read about them. I always prefer the A340 - it's just more comfortable and secure.

  • A propos, I find American Airlines has pulled up its socks and now again has pretty decent service and on-time ops. The same cannot be said for Air Canada, which used to be a fine airline, but is now degenerating into an ugly little sister of evil Aeroflot - socialist services at capitalist prices. I find British Airways to be very good and fly them often; ditto for Air France. Lufthansa is austere and unfriendly but gets you there alive. Avoid dreaded Alitalia, the flying labor strike.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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