NEW YORK ≠ Itís both fascinating and dismaying watching the manufactured `crisisí over Iran reach new intensity each week.
Iran poses no real military threat to anyone, but listening to the Bush Administration or the US media one would think that that Tehran was about to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world.
What we are seeing is a rerun of the administrationís massive propaganda offensive that led to the invasion of Iraq. There is also no doubt that the Bush Administration has been planning a major air war against Iraq.
The highly respected American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh even claims the Bush Administration is considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iranís underground nuclear facilities.
This writer reported last December that the US was preparing a massive air campaign against Iran and already probing Iranian air defenses and mounting special forces ground missions to both target high-value nuclear and strategic targets, and to stir up domestic unrest among Iranís ethnic minorities.
On the list for possible US ≠ and likely Israeli ≠ air and missile strikes: more than twenty Iranian nuclear facilities, including the Bushehr reactor; airfields, missile and naval bases; communications nodes; military and intelligence headquarters; military factories; power plants and oil terminals.
No major ground offensive by the US is planned, though its special forces will play an important role in any attack. The surest sign of an impending US attack will be the massing of US strike aircraft in the Gulf and possibly Pakistan and Central Asia, the arrival of additional US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, concentration of US Navy minesweepers and shallow-water vessels around the Strait of Hormuz, and heightened activity at US bases in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and, of course, Iraq.
Respected international experts say that it if Iran wanted to produce nuclear warheads, it would take 5-10 years. UN nuclear inspectors report no signs Iran is working on nuclear weapons.
But the Bush Administration has used Iranís gleefully announcement that it enriched uranium to 3.5% (83% is needed for nuclear weapons), to generate a major US-Iranian crisis seven months before national mid-term elections. The administration clearly hopes its lurid claims that Iran is a nuclear threat to the world will whip gullible Americans back into war fever. A bombing campaign before elections would likely reverse the Republicanís steep decline in the polls.
Much of the administrationís anti-Iranian jihad has been orchestrated, like the attack on Iraq, by Vice President Dick Cheney, who increasingly emerges as the Rasputin of the Bush presidency. Cheney is very close to Israelís political far right. He is carrying out former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharonís command to the US that once it invaded Iraq, `march immediately on Tehran.í
Cheney, and the pro-Israel neoconservatives around him, have long worked closely with Israelís rightists, Mossad intelligence service, and Israelís strategic planners. All agree that Iran, not Iraq, was the greater enemy of Israel, and one that had at all costs to be crushed before it could develop nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them.
Much of the current anti-Iranian hysteria campaign that is currently being trumpeted by the compliant US media and members of Congress is being orchestrated from Cheneyís office. It is clear that in spite of the debacle in Iraq, the vice president intends to pursue his personal jihad against all Muslim regimes that are uncooperative and hostile to Israel.
Cheney has persistently frustrated efforts by the US State Department and CIA to improve relations with Tehran. Americaís mighty Israel lobby has become Cheneyís personal army in this struggle, and is mounting a high-powered campaign to generate war fever against Iran. Jewish Americans have been panicked by false claims that Israel is in the direst nuclear peril.
For its part, Iran has played right into the hands of the war party in Washington. President Ahmadinejadís calls for Israel to be wiped out, his denial of the Jewish Holocaust, and the lavish song and dance spectacular he produced over nuclear enrichment delighted many ordinary Iranians. But abroad, Ahmadinejadís fiery pronouncements created an international firestorm of condemnation and made Iran look precisely what Israelís supporters claim: a rogue nation with a dangerous, erratic leadership that absolutely cannot be trusted with nuclear arms. In short, a Mideast North Korea.
Iranians may be forgiven for over-reacting to nuclear Viagra ≠ Indians and Pakistanis responded the same way.
But Iran should have adopted a lower key approach to enrichment and invited UN and European observers to attend.
By flaunting its infant nuclear technology, Tehran provides the US and Israel with an excellent pretext to attack Iran. In such an event, Iran will have precious few sympathizers around the globe. Many will say, `Iran got what it deserved.í One really wonders if Iranís leaders ≠ many battle-scarred veterans of the frightfully bloody Iran-Iraq war ≠ are daring the US to attack.
The Iranian leadership and the Bush Administration are feeding off one another, gaining domestic popularity with each now escalation but drawing their nations into a clash whose outcome could be dangerously unpredictable and would surely shake the entire Mideast and world oil markets.
One big reason the Bush Administration attacked Afghanistan and Iraq was to get revenge for 9/11 and cover up the fact that it was asleep on guard duty. Americans still want revenge, so the pathetic figure of Zacharias Moussaoui has been chosen for the role. This man is clearly mentally unbalanced and bent on making himself into a martyr. He is being tried in the same northern Virginia hanging court that is a favorite with government prosecutors. If Moussaoui is executed, his death will bring international condemnation of the US and its deeply flawed legal system.
A Canadian citizen, Huseyincan Celil, was arrested in Uzbekistan when he returned there to take his children to Canada. Celil has been an outspoken critic of Uzbekistanís neo-communist dictator, who is a close US ally, and an advocate of Chinaís oppressed Uighur Muslims, whose homeland is being inundated by Chinese Han settlers. The Canadian government has done little. Celil faces ghastly tortures, like other Uzbek political prisoners, and possible execution ≠ or, just as bad, being handed over to China.
The ongoing political unrest in Nepal is worrying. Its despotic Hindu monarch, King Gyanendra, is besieged by a spreading Marxist insurgency and a pro-democracy urban uprising. The army and police that keep the unpopular monarch in power are wavering. Nepal needs a new, democratic government. A chaotic Nepal presents the risk of intervention by its two neighbors, India and China, and a possible clash between the two Asian giants.
Mama mia! As of this writing, Italyís defeated prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, still refuses to concede defeat in last weekís razor-thin election. Small wonder. Once out of office, Berlusconi, Italyí richest mogul, will lose his parliamentary immunity and face a large number of criminal charges for corruption, bribery and tax evasion.
Berlusconi ≠ or `Ducesconií as I used to joking call him ≠ was supposed to be the hard-driving businessman who would shake up and revitalize Italy. Alas, he did nothing of the kind, missing a golden opportunity to rid Italy of crippling socialist programs, His successor, former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, will probably not do any better. In Italy, itís always muddle along. At least the racist neo-fascists in Berlusconiís coalition will be gone ≠ but, even worse, they will be replaced by hard-line Communists in any coalition government formed by Prodi.
This column is much enjoying the bribery scandal now causing an uproar in Australia. PM John Howardís rightwing government was caught red-handed having bribed Saddam Husseinís Iraq to buy Aussi wheat. This from Howard, a little bush wannabe, who preached war against Iraq. Seeing hypocrites getting skewered is one of lifeís finer pleasures.
Three cheers for the King of Thailand for gently suggesting that Prime Minister Thaksin resign in the face of huge urban protests. Thaksin had too many totalitarian tendencies and was responsible for persecuting Thailandís Muslim minority, thereby igniting an uprising in the south.