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Obama waves big stick at Iran

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of Tony Blair’s appearance before the exceptionally tame Iraq war inquiry was his pointed remarks about Iran being next in line for military action. And it seems it was more than the usual Blair “I’d do it again” bravado and that his connections to the White House are as strong as when he was prime minister.

For almost at the same time as Blair told the inquiry he didn’t have a single regret about invading and occupying Iraq, despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction, Washington was announcing a major shift in its military posture towards Iran. After a year of megaphone politics directed at Tehran, president Obama has given up the ghost (just like he’s done on Israel-Palestine).

So now the US is to provide new anti-missile systems to at least four Arab countries, and help Saudi Arabia triple the size of the 10,000 strong force that protects key installations. The US navy will also deploy ships capable of intercepting medium-range nuclear missiles off the Iranian coast on a permanent basis. The same ships will, of course, have offensive capability too.

All this suggests that a pre-emptive attack on Iran by US forces is being prepared. Ostensibly it would be aimed at Iran’s nuclear installations but ultimately it is another episode of regime change in the making. In the fantasy world of Washington, the Islamic republic would give way to some kind of Western-style democracy (the Gulf states about to receive US military help are, of course, exempt from this project because they have oil and are pro-Washington).

The danger of an international conflict is made more likely by the fact that China is a major ally of Iran (it needs the country’s oil). Washington has also decided to sell arms to Taiwan despite China’s protest that this threatens the integrity of its own borders with the island state that Beijing claims as part of its territory.

How the Israelis must be enjoying all this. A mere hint that they would attack Iran unless the US got its act together was enough to send Obama scurrying into the hands of the military. Israel’s own nuclear weapons are, of course, not talked about in polite circles. And Iran serves a convenient diversion from the accelerated ethnic cleansing taking place in Jerusalem and full-scale apartheid on the West Bank.

The noted Middle East commentator Robert Fisk asks why Washington and London are turning a blind eye to the destruction of the peace process, adding:

This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement's sinister sobriquet as ‘Area C’ – has already fallen under an Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements, which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why 300,000 Israelis now live in 220 settlements which are all internationally illegal in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands.

The double standards applied are consistent with US policy down the ages and Obama has fallen into line, chastened by the crisis within his own presidency. Iran is not a pleasant place to be right now, to say the least. The execution and torture of supporters of democratic change by the reactionary theocratic state play right into the hands of Washington. Nonetheless, we should oppose any military attack on the country or the imposition of sanctions. The Iranian people themselves must be free to determine their own history.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
1 February 2010

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