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Real Men Want to Go to Iran

We’ll be watching the news headlines, or maybe there’ll be a news flash, and we’ll be informed that the RAF, along with the USAF’s long-range B-52 bombers, and the Israeli Air Force have carried out overnight bombing raids across Iran, targeting nuclear facilities, radar stations, airfields and anti-aircraft bases.

As in the case of Iraq, there will be the prior attempt at the mass manufacture of consent. Bush and Blair, and indeed any other European leaders who think they will have something to gain, will peddle the line about newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They’ll say he is another Saddam Hussein who, if Iran’s nuclear programme is not halted, will be able to lob a nuclear missile at the West in a few minutes and that Iran is supporting international terrorism, financing terrorist cells all over the world, including Al Qaeda. The case will be made that Iran is still very much a part of the axis of evil, first referred to in George W Bush’s State of the Union Address in 2002, and its people, secretly harbouring thoughts of Western-style democracy, are crying out for regime change.

Indeed, it has already started. In his January 2005 State of the Union Address, Bush said: “Iran remains the world’s primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.” The White House has in fact been steadily creating an anti-Iran climate in the US for some time. The Wall Street Journal (3 February) reported that “in recent polls a surprisingly large number of Americans say they would support U.S. military strikes to stop Tehran from getting the bomb.”

Both Bush and Blair have already hinted at military intervention and Israel has previously threatened Iran. The New York Times (13 January) reported Meir Dagan, the chief of the Israeli Mossad, declaring that “Israeli policy makers all agree that a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities cannot be ruled out”. The Sunday Times (11 December) had already reported that Ariel Sharon had instructed Israel’s air force to get ready for a military attack against Iran by the end of March, when Israeli elections are scheduled. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, gave notice that if Sharon did not wipe out Iran’s nuclear installations, he would see the job was done if he became prime minister in March.

A year ago it was reported that Iran was anticipating an attack by the US and that it was ready for an impressionable response within 15 minutes. For over a year Iran has been mobilising recruits into citizens’ militia and has made plans to engage in the kind of “asymmetrical” warfare that has bogged down US troops in neighbouring Iraq.

Iran has sizeable oil reserves that look quite enticing and which other countries have been eyeing up for some time. The highly regarded Oil and Gas Journal reported last year that 125.8 billion barrels of oil were in Iran just waiting to be pumped out. Iran is also the number two producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Most of Iran’s crude oil is to be found in an area known as Khuzestan, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf and the location of Iran’s largest untapped oil fields – Yadavaran and Azadegan. There are serious profits to be had here but, tellingly, the Chinese state oil company China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation has a 50 percent stake in the vast Yadavaran field.

Russia too has a claim in Iranian oil. Three years ago Russia decided to expand its oil procuring and distribution methods by shipping Russian crude to Iran, to be refined for domestic consumption, with Iran delivering a corresponding amount of oil to Russia, thus decreasing the cost of exports via tankers loaded at Black Sea ports and making Russian oil accessible to buyers at competitive prices.

So it’s unlikely that Russia and China will agree to a UN Security Council Resolution against Iran which could justify military action if it is thought to have been breached; for they have strong vested interests in Iran which they are desperate not to jeopardise. Not that this will bother the US in the least, as both Russia and especially China are economic powers that threaten US global ambitions, so any attack on Iran, which consequently leads to the overthrow of the present regime in Tehran, upsets the long-term ambitions of China and Russia.

Iran would be no push-over. The US would not enjoy a hasty capitulation of the Tehran regime, as was the case with Baghdad, exhausted by over a decade of perpetual bombardment and sanctions. The Iranian army comprises about 350,000 active-duty soldiers and 220,000 conscripts and you can add to this 120,000 of the elite Revolutionary Guard. The country’s navy and air force total 70,000 men. Between them, the armed forces have about 2,000 tanks, 300 combat aircraft, and three submarines, hundreds of helicopters and at least a dozen Russian-made Scud missile launchers, the kind Saddam fired at Israel during the first Gulf War of 1991. Iran also has an unknown number of Shahab missiles with a range of more than 1,500 miles. With this in mind you can begin to appreciate the remarks of John Bolton, now the US ambassador to the UN, in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq: “Real men want to go to Iran”.

True, a lot of Iran’s military hardware is old, thirty years old in some cases, and no match for the state-of-the-art weaponry the US is wont to use. Nevertheless, it is still weaponry and more than capable of delivering untold damage to US forces or any other country within striking distance of its missiles perceived as being pro-US.

With Iran controlling the Strait of Hormutz, oil tankers could easily be bombed as well tankers and platforms elsewhere in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. And Tehran could escalate any conflict, giving the nod for Lebanese Hezbollah militant attacks on Israel, sanctioning also assaults on US interests throughout Central Asia.

Oil Bourse

This month Iran intends to launch its Oil Bourse which will facilitate the future trade of oil in the euro instead of the US dollar. According to John Pilger writing in the New Statesman (13 February) this could have far-reaching consequences:

“The effect on the value of the dollar will be significant, if not, in the long term, disastrous. At present the dollar is, on paper, a worthless currency bearing the burden of a national debt exceeding $8trn and a trade deficit of more than $600bn. The cost of the Iraq adventure alone, according to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, could be $2trn. America’s military empire, with its wars and 700-plus bases and limitless intrigues, is funded by creditors in Asia, principally China. That oil is traded in dollars is critical in maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. What the Bush regime fears is not Iran’s nuclear ambitions but the effect of the world’s fourth-biggest oil producer and trader breaking the dollar monopoly. Will the world’s central banks then begin to shift their reserve holdings and, in effect, dump the dollar? Saddam Hussein was threatening to do the same when he was attacked.”

Likewise, Krassimir Petrov, Professor of Economics at the American University of Bulgaria, writing of the establishment of an Oil Bourse in the January edition of Energy Bulletin, said:

“In economic terms, this represents [a great threat] because it will allow anyone willing either to buy or to sell oil for euros to transact on the exchange, thus circumventing the US dollar altogether. Europeans will not have to buy and hold dollars in order to secure their payment for oil, but would instead pay with their own currencies. The adoption of the euro for oil transactions will provide the European currency with a reserve status that will benefit the European at the expense of the Americans ... The Chinese and the Japanese will be especially eager to adopt the new exchange, because it will allow them to drastically lower their enormous dollar reserves and diversify with euros, thus protecting themselves against the depreciation of the dollar.”

Addicted to oil?

George Bush, in his January 2006 State of the Union Address made an interesting statement: “The US is addicted to oil”. That’s perhaps the truest statement Bush has ever said, but he’s mistaken if this is meant to signify that the US is going into detox and will be weaning itself off oil. At the moment there is just too much US corporate interest in the Middle East and Central Asia for the US to even think of cutting back on one barrel of oil.

Furthermore, there are dangerous competitors out there, who have an insatiable thirst for oil, so it’s important that the US has a say in who has access to the world’s oil resources. The US is not that dependent upon Middle East oil for its own domestic consumption, but is aware that one way to control its foremost economic rivals is to influence just how much oil they can have and at what price. With China a fastly growing economic, political and military power, naked aggression is a strategy the US has been and will continue to be prepared to pursue throughout the oil rich regions of the Middle East and central Asia, regardless of the cost of life and the dent to the US’s global image. The dollar needs defending, the world’s oil resources need to be controlled and military bases built. Dealing with Iran is just one move in the US game-plan to maintain its global hegemony – the real enemy is yet to be confronted.

But for now Washington will use its man at the UN, John “Real Man” Bolton, to help hype a global crisis which could consequently be used to justify attacks on Iran, with or without the blessing of the Security Council. No evidence exists as to Iranian desires to create an atomic bomb, but the country is enriching uranium – legally, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which some pro-US nuclear states have refused to sign up to. This is the excuse that is being used to whip up support another war for oil.

JOHN BISSETT