6 clues we might still go to war with Iran this year and the roots of the entire conflict

Dan Froomkin writes for the Washington Post that the implications of the “resignation” of Admiral Fallon could include the clearing of the way for military action against Iran before the end of this year.  He quotes Terry Atlas in his estimate of teh 6 signs that the US may be headed to war in Iran:

Terry Atlas blogs for U.S. News and World Report with “6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran.” They are: Fallon’s resignation, Cheney’s trip to the Middle East, the Israeli airstrike on Syria, U.S. warships off Lebanon, Israeli comments and Israel’s war with Hezbollah.

Atlas explains each one. Why the Israeli airstrike on Syria, for instance? Atlas writes: “Israel’s airstrike deep in Syria last October was reported to have targeted a nuclear-related facility, but details have remained sketchy and some experts have been skeptical that Syria had a covert nuclear program. An alternative scenario floating in Israel and Lebanon is that the real purpose of the strike was to force Syria to switch on the targeting electronics for newly received Russian anti-aircraft defenses. The location of the strike is seen as on a likely flight path to Iran (also crossing the friendly Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq), and knowing the electronic signatures of the defensive systems is necessary to reduce the risks for warplanes heading to targets in Iran.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2008/03/12/BL2008031201898.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Unfortunately, I fear there is a good chance he may be right when he presents the possible scenario:

It’s still not really beyond Bush and Cheney to order a full-scale preemptive attack on Iran. But the more likely scenario is that there will be an asymmetrical U.S. response to a (possibly trumped up) Iranian provocation. And the most likely scenario is that the U.S. will encourage (or certainly not oppose) an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities — which in turn would lead the U.S. to come to Israel’s defense should Iran strike back.

That’s been a favorite Cheney scenario for more than a year. See, for instance, this Steve Clemons blog post from last May, later corroborated by the New York Times. And see my June 4 column, Cheney, By Proxy.

Also, there is a great interview with Stephen Kinzer, the author of “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and The Roots of Middle East Terror”, over at DemocracyNow.org.  He spoke with Amy Goodman about how our coup of the wildly popular Mossadegh of Iran in 1953 has led to our current mess:

STEPHEN KINZER: Well, I’ll tell you an interesting story to start off. I was recently on a panel in the National Cathedral in Washington, and one of the other panelists—we were talking about Iran—was Bruce Laingen, who had been the chief American diplomat in Iran and was the most prominent figure among the hostages that were held there for 444 days. And I knew that Laingen had become an advocate of reconciliation with Iran, which I consider quite remarkable, considering the ordeal that he suffered, so I wanted to talk to him. I hadn’t met him before. And we exchanged some emails after that.

He told me an amazing story. He said, “I had been sitting in my solitary cell as a hostage for about a year, when one day the cell door opens, and there is standing one of the hostage takers, one of my jailers. And all of my rage and my fury built up over one year sitting in that cell just burst out, and I started screaming at him, and I was telling him, ‘You have no right to do this! This is cruel, this is inhumane! These people have done nothing! This is a violation of every law of god and man! You cannot take innocent people hostage!’” He said, “I went on like this for several minutes. When I was finally out of breath, the hostage taker paused for a moment, and then he leaned into my cell and said, in very good English, ‘You have no right to complain, because you took our whole country hostage in 1953.’”

That story really reinforced to me the connection and the fact that those hostage takers took those hostages not out of nihilistic rage, but for a very specific reason that seemed to make very good sense to them. In 1953, the Iranian people had chased the Shah out, but CIA agents working inside the American embassy in Tehran organized a coup and brought him back. So flash forward to 1979, people of Iran have chased the Shah out again. He has been admitted into the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Under Carter.

STEPHEN KINZER: Under President Carter. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Ostensibly for medical reasons.

STEPHEN KINZER: People in Iran are thinking, “It’s all happening again. CIA agents working in the basement of the American embassy are going to organize a coup, and they’re going to bring the Shah back. We have to prevent 1953 from happening again.” That was the motivation for the hostage taking, although I don’t think any of us really understood that at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Stay there in 1953. It was Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt. Explain what happened.

STEPHEN KINZER: What happened was that the first half of the twentieth century, Americans had a super good image in Iran. The only Americans there were doctors and school teachers and people who really were selflessly devoting themselves to Iranians. Meanwhile, the British and the Russians and the French and other colonial powers were ripping Iran apart and stealing and looting everything of value there. So they, people in Iran, had a very high, exalted opinion of the United States, perfect country, the ideal country. And the words of Franklin Roosevelt in all his radio speeches during the Second World War also had a big impact on Iranians. And, of course, there was a big World War II conference in Tehran that just focused Iranians on the ideals of freedom that the Allied powers said they were fighting for.

So in the period after World War II, Iranian nationalism came to focus on one great cause. At the beginning of the twentieth century, as a result of a corrupt deal with the old dying monarchy, one British company, owned mainly by the British government, had taken control of the entire Iranian oil industry.

AMY GOODMAN: The company.

STEPHEN KINZER: This one company had the exclusive rights to extract, refine, ship and sell Iranian oil, and they paid Iran a very tiny amount. But essentially the entire Iranian oil resource was owned by a company based in England and owned mainly by the British government.

AMY GOODMAN: Called British Petroleum?

STEPHEN KINZER: That was Anglo-Iranian Petroleum, later to become British Petroleum and BP. I’m still on my like one-man boycott, like I go to the Shell station, as if Shell is somehow morally superior to BP. But still, in my own mind, I feel like I’m redeeming Mosaddeq whenever I pass by one of those BP stations.

Anyway, what happened was that Prime Minister Mosaddeq, who really was an extraordinary figure in his time, although he’s been somewhat forgotten by history, came to power in 1951 on a wave of nationalism aimed at this one great obsession: we’ve got to take back control of our oil and use the profits for the development of one of the most wretchedly impoverished nations on earth at that time. So the Iranian parliament voted unanimously for a bill to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company, and Mosaddeq signed it, and he devoted himself during his term of office to carrying out that plan, to nationalize what was then Britain’s largest and most profitable holding anywhere in the world.

Bear in mind that the oil that fueled England all during the 1920s and ’30s and ’40s all came from Iran. The standard of living that people in England enjoyed all during that period was due exclusively to Iranian oil. Britain has no oil. Britain has no colonies that have oil. Every factory in England, every car, every truck, every taxi was running on oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which was projecting British power all over the world was fueled 100 percent by oil from Iran.

Suddenly, Iran arrives and says, “Oh, we’re taking back the oil now.” So this naturally set off a huge crisis. And that’s the crisis that made Mosaddeq really a big world figure around the early 1950s. At the end of 1951, Time magazine chose him as Man of the Year, and they chose him over Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower. And they made the right choice, because at that moment Mosaddeq really was the most important person in the world.

We had the election of 1952. Dwight Eisenhower took office. John Foster Dulles became his secretary of state. And Dulles had spent his whole adult life working as a lawyer for giant international corporations. And the idea that a country should be able to get away with nationalizing such a big company, such a big corporate resource, was, as Dulles very well understood, a great threat to the system that he had been representing all his life, the system of multinational enterprise. And he realized that it was in the interest of the United States, as he saw them, to make sure that no such example could be set. So the new administration, the Eisenhower administration, reversed the policy of the Truman administration. They agreed to send a CIA agent, Kermit Roosevelt, to Iran in the summer of 1953. And that’s the story that I tell in my book.

It just took Kermit Roosevelt three weeks in August of 1953—

AMY GOODMAN: With a bag of money.

STEPHEN KINZER: Bag of money and a few other very interesting resources. He was a real-life James Bond. This guy was a real intrepid secret agent, and the story is just amazing how he did this. But it’s really an object lesson in how easy it is for a rich and powerful country to throw a poor and weak country into chaos. So at the end of August 1953, Mosaddeq was overthrown. At the moment, that seemed like a great success. So we got rid of a guy that we didn’t like, and we replaced him with someone else, the Shah, who would do anything we wanted. It seemed like the perfect ending.

AMY GOODMAN: And Mosaddeq is put into exile for the rest of his life.

STEPHEN KINZER: He was under house arrest for the rest of his life in his village in Iran. So that coup seemed like a success at first. But now, when you look back on it, it serves as a fascinating object lesson in unintended consequences.

Just very briefly, so we placed the Shah back on his peacock throne. The Shah ruled with increasing repression for twenty-five years. His repression set off the explosion of the late 1970s, what we call the Islamic Revolution. That revolution brought to power a clique of fanatically anti-American mullahs. That revolution also inspired radicals in other countries, like next-door Afghanistan, where the Taliban came to power and gave shelter to al-Qaeda with results we all know. That instability in Iran that followed that revolution also led Iran’s great enemy next door, Saddam Hussein, to invade Iran. That not only set off an eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, but it also brought the United States into its death embrace with Saddam. We were the military allies of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, and we were supplying Saddam with military intelligence, with Bell helicopters that he used to spray gas on Iranian positions. President Reagan sent a special envoy twice to Baghdad to negotiate with Saddam and ask him how we could help him. And, of course, that envoy was Donald Rumsfeld. So that instability set off by that revolution also led the United States into the spiral in Iraq that brought us to the point where we are now.

That revolution in Iran also spooked the Soviets. They were terrified that there would be copycat fundamentalist revolutions all along their southern flank. And to prevent that, they invaded Afghanistan. That brought the United States into its position in Afghanistan, where we brought Osama bin Laden there, we trained all these tens of thousands of jihadis in how to kill infidels, which they later became the Taliban. We later became the infidels they wanted to kill. So why is this all so important for today?

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/3/stephen_kinzer_on_the_us_iranian

Check out the rest of this very good interview at the link above.

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