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U.S. playing with fire in the Mideast

Will Bush spread war to Iran, Syria, Lebanon?

Published Mar 2, 2005 10:43 AM

In his recent trip to Europe, U.S. President George W. Bush tried to rally European heads of state against Iran and Syria. Russia was pressured not to sign a nuclear power plant development agreement with Iran. Europe was coaxed to contribute to the training of Iraqi troops. Washington's imperialist allies, Britain, France and Germany, were asked not to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear power program.

And the result? Russia went ahead and signed its agreement for developing a power plant in Iran. The mission for training Iraqi security forces will be made up of just over 100 instructors; more than half will be U.S. instructors training senior Iraqi officers in Baghdad's heavily protected "Green Zone." France will contribute just one officer "to help coordination" at NATO's military headquarters in southern Belgium. (AP, Feb. 23)

As for how to deal with the "nuclear crisis" of Iran, the U.S. had to back off its bellicose posturing, at least for now.

But the danger of U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East remains high and all anti-war activists must remain vigilant and alert.

The 'nuclear crisis'

Iran's interest in developing nuclear power goes back to the days of the U.S.-installed shah. The Bush administration has only tried to turn it into a "crisis" since opening the war on Iraq.

In addition to signing the Safeguards Agreement more than a year ago--which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the production, processing, transformation and disposition of certain nuclear materials--Iran voluntarily signed an Additional Protocol. It expands the authority of IAEA inspectors to go anywhere and see anything.

Director General Mohamed El Baradei reported to the IAEA Board of Governors at their last meeting that after a year-long exhaustive and intrusive inspection, he had found no evidence that Iran has ever attempted to acquire nukes or the makings thereof.

Iran also voluntarily suspended its program for enriching uranium when it entered talks with Britain, France and Germany in November.

The U.S., on the other hand, has been pushing Europe to bring Iran in front of the United Nations Security Council, which could not only impose sanctions to weaken Iran politically, economically and militarily, but also, through a vaguely worded resolution, provide the justification for military action.

But Washington's resistance to proposals by the Europeans proved to be "counterproductive," according to U.S. and European officials, because they often made the United States, rather than Iran, appear to be "the odd man out diplomatically." (Washington Post, Feb. 28)

As an incentive, the European imperialists want to offer World Trade Organization (WTO) membership to Iran, which comes with certain economic and political conditions. "The kind of [economic and political] changes required for membership in the World Trade Organization are very much what we'd want to see anyway," said a State Department official on Feb. 28, explaining their attitude change toward the Europeans' offer.

But Washington does not expect the Iranians to be able to comply. Regarding the changes required of Iran, the official said: "We're profoundly skeptical that Iran is going to do anything. And if Iran did comply, there would still be a lot to talk about even at that stage before Iran got WTO membership."

In other words, the U.S. is counting on Iran not getting anything meaningful for the suspension of its nuclear program. Iran has said that if the talks do not produce any results by June, it will resume all the IAEA-safeguarded activities it has currently suspended.

It should therefore not be too surprising that in a Feb. 18 talk given in Olympia, Wash., Scott Ritter--former UNSCOM weapons inspector in Iraq--said that, according to his sources (whom he did not identify), President Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June of this year.

Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons. But Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million. Of course, they thought that installing a neocolonial regime in Iraq would be easy, too.

Sirus Naseri--a senior member of Iran's delegation to the IAEA, whose Board of Gov ernors meets in Vienna in early March--said, "To even imply that a nuclear-weapon state would attack [IAEA] safeguarded facilities of a non-nuclear-weapon state pokes a hole right in the heart of the Nonproliferation Treaty, and it deserves to be rejected severely."

But that is exactly what Israel did in 1981 when it attacked and destroyed Osiraq, a French-supplied, safeguarded research reactor in Iraq. Even the UN Security Council condemned that attack as "in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct" and "a serious threat to the entire safeguards regime of the Inter national Atomic Energy Agency, which is the foundation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Wea pons." Although the U.S. voted for that resolution in 1981, Dick Cheney boastfully reminded the Europeans in January that Israel might do it again, this time to Iran.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Feb. 28 that the Bush administration is planning to expand its Persian-language satellite-television broadcasts to Iran. "People could see it as a sign that an invasion is coming. It's the sort of thing that happens before nations build up their war effort," said Nancy Snow, a propaganda expert at California State University, Fullerton.

"It's déjà vu all over again," former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay said, as he warned the U.S. not to repeat its Iraq mistakes in Iran. "You have the secretary of defense talking about the problems of a nuclear-armed Iran. You have the vice president warning about a nuclear-armed Iran and terrorism; you have Condoleezza Rice saying, 'Force is not on the agenda--yet.'"

U.S. and the Middle East

Years of economic and political oppression, and military aggression and occupation by the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East, have brought about a deeply rooted hatred towards these two states in the region.

The U.S. ruling class decided a long time ago to tightly control this oil-rich region, which it considers vital for its global hegemony and empire building. Given the fact that the secular left has been virtually wiped out with the help of the CIA and Israel, Islamists took up the fight against imperialism.

The camp the U.S. seems most worried about, though, is not Bin Laden and the Taliban, but an anti-imperialist alliance among Iran, Syria, Lebanon--and possibly even Iraq under the leadership of a pro-Iran government--which is what seems to be emerging there.

Even though the U.S. organized the recent elections in Iraq, Ibrahim Jafari, the winning coalition's nominee for prime minister, favors withdrawal of U.S. troops "as soon as possible." He also opposes the U.S. building military bases there. Speaking to the press about what is important in a future Iraq, he mentioned, among other things, something Washington considers a dirty word: "political independence." (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 23)

The emergence of a Khomeini-like doctrine in Iraq "would be painful for Washington since the U.S.-led war has cost more than 1,400 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars," commented the Los Angeles Times. "Officials have cause for concern" because he "wants religion to play a key role in the country's affairs."

What worries U.S. rulers is not that religion will play a role in the politics of Iraq--it is hard to imagine a more religious government than that of George W. Bush's--but that the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist Islamists aligned with Iran, Syria and Lebanon will play a role.

Meanwhile, Washington has not given up on its man in Iraq, Iyad Allawi. The same article in the Los Angeles Times also reported that members of the United Iraqi Alliance were surprised when Allawi announced his own candidacy for prime minister days after learning that he had won less than 15 percent of the vote--even after all the U.S. meddling in the elections, and a very effective boycott in areas where the resistance has been strongest.

The U.S. is hoping that "the Shiites' power will be checked by Iraq's ethnic Kurds," who received the second-largest number of votes. As one Western official put it, the Kurds will be the "kingmakers."

The U.S. is also pushing Allawi to be the minister of defense or economy, two other key positions of interest to Washington, should the prime minister deal not work out for him.

U.S. raises rhetoric against Syria

Washington has also been escalating its rhetoric against Syria in recent weeks, especially since the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which the U.S. blames on Syria--but not officially.

Not to be outdone, Israel also blamed the latest bombing in Tel Aviv on Syria, despite the fact that Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and that all evidence pointed to the West Bank as the source.

"Encouraged by angry calls from the United States, France and the United Nations for Syrian troops to leave Lebanon," demonstrations were held in central Beirut against the Syrian-backed government of Prime Minister Omar Karami. (Los Angeles Times, March 1) Partly to mollify U.S. wrath, Karami resigned his post on Feb. 28.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan stressed that the selection of a new government "should be free of all foreign interference." Withdrawal of Syrian troops "will help ensure that elections are free and fair."

Of course, the U.S. should know a thing or two about why "free and fair" elections cannot take place in the face of "foreign interference" or occupation.

When a murder takes place, the police suspect the one who stood to gain from it--someone with a motive. In the case of the assassination of Hariri, the one who stood to lose the most was Syria; those who stood to gain, and are clearly gaining, are the U.S. and Israel.

Iranian analyst Mohamed Al-Husseini has a point when he says: "While directing the attention of the world towards Iran, the U.S. is seeking a shortcut to extract itself from the Iraqi quagmire. The smoke screen also tends to distract attention away from the 'unjust' Palestinian-Israeli settlement which started in Sharm El-Sheikh earlier this month."

The U.S. is also seeking to keep the Iranians busy anticipating a Pentagon strike in an attempt to tie Iran's hands as regards Hezbollah and the Iranian-Syrian-Lebanese defensive alliance.

The U.S. imperialist political establishment is after Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and now also Hezbollah of Lebanon, because it views these political forces as challenging its policies in the region--its policies towards occupied Palestine, its policies of building and maintaining military bases, its policies of aggression and intervention for the sake of empire, and its objective of enslaving the people there to cheap labor and a Wall Street-directed dependent economy.

The anti-war and anti-imperialist people of this country must do all they can to oppose the increasingly more dangerous adventurism of the U.S. in the Middle East. Its only purpose is to make U.S. transnational corporations richer at the expense of oppressed people here and abroad.

An excellent opportunity to raise the demands of "U.S. troops out of Iraq--Hands off the Middle East" will be the internationally coordinated demonstrations on March 19, the second anniversary of the Iraq War.