Islamic Iran concerned for security as US prepares to occupy Iraq

Of all the countries that will be affected by the war on Iraq, Islamic Iran probably has the most to worry about. Neither US officials nor their Zionist colleagues have made any secret of their real intentions: Iraq is merely the first step along the way to destroying Iran’s Islamic government. On February 17, the day president Mohammad Khatami announced that Iran had started mining uranium and will open a facility to process the ore into nuclear fuel for “peaceful purposes”, John Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms-control and international security, was in Israel conferring with Zionist officials.

According to Aluf Benn and Sharon Sadeh of Ha’aretz (February 18), “Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.” The paper also reported that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon told Bolton, “Israel is concerned about the security threat posed by Iran. It’s important to deal with Iran even while American attention is turned toward Iraq.”

Should the US succeed in occupying and consolidating its hold on Iraq, it would complete the physical encirclement of Iran. US forces are already in Afghanistan (although not finding it easy going), the Central Asian Republics and Pakistan. Turkey is not only closely aligned with the US but it also has close ties, both diplomatic and military, with Israel. The US occupation of Iraq would raise even more troubling questions for Iran, especially relating to the Kurdish issue. The Kurds have been used and abused by Britain, US and Israel, and are likely to become pawns yet again in someone else’s game. Their desire to have a state of their own is so strong that they are liable to fall for the Americans’ dubious promises yet again. At the very least, they could be used in the immediate future to destabilize Iran and Syria, if not Turkey. Then there is the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO, better known as Munafiqeen-e Khalq), whose base is in Iraq. Although the MKO is on the US state department’s list of terrorist organizations, American congressmen support it; not once has the US accused Saddam of harboring these terrorists. Instead they are sheltered, and might be used against the Islamic Republic in the future.

In this grim situation, what options are available to the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect itself from the adverse consequences of an American invasion and occupation of Iraq? First, the leadership in Iran should not fall for the US’s promises of good behavior; its record in Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics should dispel any notion that America ever really intends to keep its promises. In any case, there needs to be absolute clarity in Tehran that American behavior is not based on promises; Washington has a horrible record of exploiting every weakness it finds, making no distinction between friend and foe. Saddam Husain’s plight should be an eye-opener for those who harbor illusions about America. He was the west’s favorite dictator for 10 years, until he fell into their trap by invading Kuwait. He was then transformed into a monster, which he had been all the time, but that as long as he served US interests even his monstrosity was applauded.

Nor should Tehran be under any illusion that the US has accepted Iran’s Islamic government. Long before the release of America’s National Security Strategy (NSS) document last September, American officials, academics and the Zionist cabal had been making threatening noises about not allowing an ideological rival to emerge anywhere in the world. While the Soviet Union existed, America’s energies were focused in that direction; after its demise, the need to find new enemies became more pronounced. Islamic Iran was always viewed as a serious threat because it had broken out of the American stranglehold; it has to be contained, undermined and ultimately destroyed in order to dissuade other Muslims from emulating its example.

A good many Zionists occupy important positions inside the Bush administration, and have monopolized American foreign and military policy. These include such hardcore pro-Israeli warriors as Paul Wolfowitz (deputy defence secretary); Richard Perle (chairman of the Defence Policy Review Board, who until 1999 was advisor to then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu); Douglas Feith (number three at the Pentagon); Lewis Libby (chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney), and so on. These people have invented or reinvented such concepts as “total war” and “preemptive strikes”. Their influence is reinforced by others in the various pro-Israeli think tanks, as well as the media. These include such names as Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who was a member of several past US administrations; Dennis Ross, who served both Bush Senior and Bill Clinton as chief negotiator for the Middle East “peace process”; William Kristol, co-founder and chairman of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), who also owns the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine; Charles Krauthammer, an extreme right-wing writer for the Washington Post; William Safire of the New York Times, and Norman Podhoretz of Commentary magazine. They all have two things in common: they are all staunchly pro-Israel; and they are all anti-Iran and anti-Islam. They have made no secret of their desire to attack Iran and eliminate it.

Both Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol, for instance, are on record as having said that America should not allow a rival power, friendly or otherwise, to emerge anywhere in the world, and that the US should use its military superiority to rearrange the world’s political map. Krauthammer is even more extreme in his pronouncements; he believes that the US has been too timid in exercising its enormous power. He has also dismissed both international law and the UN as “irrelevant.” He believes that the US should tell the rest of the world how to behave; if the rest of the world will not listen, the rest of the world should be bombed into submission.

Running through all this is the obsession with the well-being of Israel, not that of the US, whose military power they wish to use against Iran for the benefit of Israel. Eisenstadt claimed in a recent article published on the internet that “without effective steps on Washington’s part, Iran’s embattled conservative clerical leadership might obtain a nuclear weapon before they are removed from power.” He also urged Washington to “continue its efforts to curtail Russian assistance to Iran while tightening restrictions on ongoing activities at its reactors.”

In view of these growing threats, policy-makers in Tehran have been busy devising policies that will assure Iran’s security and well-being. Since Khatami became president in 1997, Iran has made efforts to mend fences with the Arab world. Relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt have improved markedly, often to the distress of Muslims around the world, who view these regimes as inimical to Islam and the Islamic movement; because of Iran’s security needs such concerns have been considered less important. Beyond the Muslim world, Iran has cultivated relations with Europe, Russia and India. America does not view with favour Iran’s growing links with Europe and Moscow, because both are seen as undermining Washington’s efforts to isolate Tehran. Since Bush became president, Iran has been bracketed with Iraq and North Korea in the “axis of evil”. That this is a silly categorization that demonstrates the childish mindset that prevails in Washington is lost on no one.

Much to Washington’s chagrin, the European Union (EU) has also been making overtures to Tehran. Chris Patten, the EU’s commissioner for external relations, was in Tehran in early February to discuss trade relations. Both Germany and France, two countries that are standing up to the US at the moment over Iraq, have had extensive trade links with Iran. Even the British are now getting in on the act. Last month Kamal Kharrazi, Iran’s foreign minister, was welcomed to red-carpet treatment by Britain’s prime minister. Since the US-led war on Afghanistan Blair has acted as Bush’s messenger-boy, so Iran must be wary of British designs. It was, after all, Britain that carved up the Middle East into city- and nation-states, including Israel in Palestine. Ultimately, British interests are tied to America’s, so Iran must beware of trusting Blair’s pronouncements. Blair is using America as a counterbalance to French-German influence in Europe. Britain will be closely involved in the post-Saddam rearrangement in Iraq, and it will not be to Iran’s benefit. Afghanistan’s situation should be kept in mind: there American-British policies have not helped the people one bit; nor has Washington shown any gratitude to Tehran for its role there.

Iran’s relations with Moscow are based on pragmatic self-interest. Russian president Vladimir Putin shares a common interest with Tehran in energy development. Putin is rebuilding Russia as a counterweight to Washington; although it is no match for the US yet, Putin is not prepared to be pushed around, and has so far resisted US pressure to cut back ties with Iran. Tehran also hopes that it can use Russia as a countervailing force to keep America at bay. This all involves some degree of compromise on principles, but it is about Iran’s relations with India that many Muslims are indignant. The Islamic Republic must be free to safeguard its interests, but it seems clear that there is no realistic assessment in Tehran of India’s role on the world stage. Not only is India a staunchly anti-Muslim country, but Delhi also has close ties with Israel both in the nuclear and military fields.

Given India’s record, Muslims were horrified to see president Khatami at India’s Republic Day celebrations in Delhi on January 26. India’s military might is directed against Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular. India has also been involved in the repression of Muslims in Kashmir. If Simon Tindall’s report in the Guardian (February 7) that “the Khatami visit also reportedly brought agreement that in any new war between India and Pakistan, Iran would grant Delhi access to its military bases” has any truth, it is a very serious development. An Islamic state entering into an agreement with a Hindu fundamentalist state against a fellow Muslim country, no matter how lax its Islamic commitment, raises troubling questions. It is not just the regime but the 140 million Muslims in Pakistan who should be of interest to Tehran. Surely their interests will not be served by Iran’s being in cahoots with Delhi.

Although it may well be (one hopes it is) that Tindall was merely speculating in order to create divisions in the Ummah, there is apparently not sufficient awareness in Tehran of India’s true intentions. On February 20 Lalit Mansingh, India’s ambassador to Washington, was a guest speaker at the Civic Centre in Cleveland, Ohio. In that meeting Mansingh agreed with the US that Iran is a member of the “axis of evil”, and went on to say that “two of the three axil of evil members are in our neighbourhood. And oneéIranéhas been acquiring weapons of mass destruction from North Korea, the third member.” For the Indian ambassador to call Iran a member of the “axis of evil”, when barely a month earlier India’s rulers had been trying to convince the Iranian president that India is a friend, is mindboggling. It might be a good idea for Iran’s foreign ministry to obtain a transcript of Lalit Mansingh’s speech, which was broadcast live on national public radio, and confront the Indian government with it. Iran may be trying to break out of its US-imposed isolation, but India is no friend; it never has been. India not only has close ties with Israel, but it has also been appointed the regional gendarme by Washington.

Iranian officials must also be careful to not read too much into soothing pronouncements from some US officials, such as Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, who told the Los Angeles Times last month: “The axis of evil was a valid comment, [but] I would note there’s one dramatic difference between Iran and the other two axes of evil, and that would be its democracy. [And] you approach a democracy differently,” Armitage said. “I wouldn’t think they were next [to be targeted] at all,” he added.

While Iranian and American officials have been having informal contacts for some time, first relating to Afghanistan and now Iraq, it would be premature to put any faith in them. Iran cannot afford to lower its guard, especially when the US government is so greatly influenced by zionist interests. At times it is difficult to tell where Israeli interests end and American ones begin. Bush has made no secret of his admiration for Ariel Sharon. With such people casting their shadows over American foreign policy, it would be foolish for Iran to lower its guard and take American pronouncements at their face value, let alone believe and trust them.

Caution is the best policy for Iran to follow. Iran’s strength lies in the commitment of its people to Islam and the Revolution. That is being undermined by propaganda beamed into the country from the US through ten satellite channels. In his State of the Union address on January 28, Bush said that the government of Iran “represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror.”

Such crude propaganda has been standard fare in official American pronouncements for decades, but Bush has gone further; he has said that he will “help” Iran’s people to overthrow their Islamic government. During celebrations marking the Islamic Revolution’s twenty-fourth anniversary, president Khatami warned Washington against intervention in Iran. “America has tested its luck once in confronting this nation by supporting the [former] Shah’s regime,” he told tens of thousands at a Tehran rally. “I hope America will not test its luck again.”

As well as warning the US, it would be prudent for Tehran to make preparations just in case Uncle Sam gets carried away if his adventure in Iraq is successful. There is no better guarantee against external mischief than one’s own internal strength. Iran’s leadership must work more diligently to achieve internal cohesion.