Sunday, June 22, 2008

Iran nuclear dispute —  only a facade

Iran nuclear dispute —  only a facade

By PV Vivekanand

The rather abrupt shift in media focus to the possibility of military action against Iran's nuclear facilities seems to indicate that the US is poised to use military force yet again in order to bring about "strategic" changes to serve its interests in the region.
With seven months to go before George W Bush bows out of the White House, there seems to be a growing sense of urgency for military action against Iran.
Given Washington's troubles in Iraq and its vulnerability in the region, it would seem unlikely that the Bush administration would approve or engage in military action against Iran. However, there is much more at stake than the nuclear dispute for the US to have decided to go for military action against Iran.
There is a host of compelling reasons for Washington to seek to change the geopolitical shape of Iran, beginning with the theocratic regime which the US sees as a perpetual challenge to its quest for regional dominance and a military threat to its "strategic ally" Israel.
Foremost in the minds of those hawks in Washington who orchestrated the 2001 war against Afghanistan and 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq is that Iran benefited most from the US actions.
The Afghan war saw the hard-line Taliban, who were a nagging thorn on the Iranian side, being ousted from power. The invasion of Iraq removed Iran's foe Saddam Hussein from power and brought in Tehran's allies to power in Baghdad who are unable or unwilling to sever their bindings with the Iranian leadership. And it is also clear that Iran's proxy forces are indirectly engaged in the highly effective guerrilla war Iraq if only not to allow the US military to settle down there and train their guns eastwards.
Tehran has not only gained dominating influence in Iraq but is also using that clout to frustrate all American efforts to realise Washington's strategic objectives in Iraq and the rest of the region.
And the Washington hawks are painfully aware that they could be held accountable at some point, sooner than later, for their strategic failures and blunders in Iraq that led to Iran emerging as a dominating regional player at the expense of American interests.
And that is why the hawks seem to be clamouring for military action aimed at bringing about geopolitical changes that they hope would not only deprive Iran of its newfound regional dominance but also remove it as a threat and challenge to the US.
Obviously, the Washington hard-liners are hoping that the situation resulting from "regime change" in Iran would be vindicate their failures in Iraq.

Advance notice

Recent reports of Israeli preparations for military strikes against Iran seem to be intended as advance notice to prepare the international community for the US use of force to neutralise Iran.
However, a realistic assessment shows that Israel does not have the military capability to destroy all Iran's nuclear sites within a safe time span. It cannot effectively check the Iranian nuclear programme without drawing massive Iranian retaliation against US and allied interests in the region. Iranian leaders have said that they would hold the US responsible for any military action — including Israeli strikes — against their country.
In view of the finding that the Israeli air force may be too small to finish the job of bombing out Iranian nuclear installations — which experts say would take as many as 1,000 strikes to be destroyed since they are too distant, numerous and fortified — the consensus is that it has to be a joint US-Israeli operation.
Many observers in the US are convinced that the planned military operation would not be limited to crippling Iran's nuclear programme and would aim at "regime change" in Tehran by creating a situation where the people of Iran are encouraged to rise up and topple against the theocratic regime.

'Nuclear option'

Part of such action, observers argue, is the use of "tactical nuclear weapons" for the first time in history (The atomic bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not "tactical weapons," which were developed after World War II). Such weapons are supposed to have devastating results within limited areas and they would "take care" of most of Iran's underground nuclear facilities as well as defensive and offensive capabilties, according to experts.
Strengthening the argument is a growing belief that the US is edging closer to using nuclear weapons again, 63 years after it did so in Japan, in order to reaffirm its global dominance.
The American Physical Society, representing 40,000 members of the profession that created nuclear weapons, issued a statement in 2006 expressing deep concern in this context: "The American Physical Society is deeply concerned about the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and for pre-emptive counter-proliferation purposes."
The society's concern is particularly relevant since Bush has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against Iran.
At a White House press conference in April 2006, Bush was asked: "When you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? Is that something that your administration will plan for?"
Bush replied: "All options are on the table."
Few people attach any meaning to repeated statements by Bush and other senior US officials that they want to solve the nuclear dispute with Iran through diplomatic means.
The key question now is: If the US is indeed determined to stage military action against Iran, then when could anyone expect it?
One of the re-election pledges that Bush made to his hard-line Republican camp in October 2004 was to effect "regime change" in Iran before he leaves office. That leaves us with a clear seven months from now. The rest is subject to speculation and conjecture.