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the neocon discourse around Iran « Previous | |Next »
May 14, 2006

The pro-war discourse around the Iranian crisis and potential nuclear threat goes beyond the standard clash of civilisations, which says "Islam is Evil", "they hate us and our values" and that Islam promotes violence. It is constructed in terms of the following frames:

(1) that Iran is a dangerous theocratic state, with an irrational and unstable political and clerical leadership that has supported terrorists and threatened Israel and is therefore not to be trusted with a nuclear program; (2) that it has been secretive about its nuclear program, has not been fully cooperative with the inspections program of the IAEA, and that the reason for this secrecy is Iran's intention to develop nuclear weapons; (3) that its acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability would be intolerable, would destabilize the Middle East if not the whole of Western Civilization, and must be stopped.

The neocon version of the pro-war discourse that is offered to, and hardly contested in the corporate media, suggests that there is a threat of "appeasement" of Iran, and that if the world is "to avoid another Munich," and the "Security Council fails to confront the Iranian threat," then it is up to the United States to "form an international coalition to disarm the regime" and ensure "regime change."

There is a sense of deja vu in the U.S. government's rhetoric concerning Iranian nuclear enrichment. It is a repetition of the rhetoric employed before the Iraq war. If you remember there was the exaggeration of Iraq's military might, which was seen as a "threat" to its neighbors -- most notably Israel -- and U.S. regional interests. Then came the sanctions that were meant to "contain" the Iraqi regime and impede Hussein's alleged incessant drive for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.Then there was the muscle flexing and awesome military deployment. Finally came the showdown: war, forced regime change and occupation.

The realist account is that the real objection to Iran's becoming a nuclear power is that Iran would impede the larger US ambitions in the Middle East - the Bush administration's "project of transforming the Middle East". to ensure US hegemony in the region. Iran directly thwarts this project of regional transformation", as Iran demands recognition of its central status in the power hierarchy of the Persian Gulf region. The geopolitical strategy of the US is to reorder the power hierarchy in the Middle East further in favor of the United States. So the US missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are necessary to contain the threat "emanating from Iran". It is unlikely that US forces will leave the region in the near future. The grand strategy to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Bush administration's standard operating procedure for dealing with "axis of evil" members has remained remarkably consistent: - no direct diplomatic contact; attempts to corral and coerce other countries into supporting its efforts to isolate and unseat unfriendly regimes; Washington druming up support for concerted action outside the UN context. So the concerted action against Iran will involve sanctions "outside the UN" by a so-called "coalition of the willing". The sanctions would be contrary to international law, and would include freezing the foreign assets of Iranian officials, closing export credit lines, closing Iranian government bank accounts, and freezing Iranian government assets.

Such economic sanctions against Tehran would inevitably lead to a reduction in Iran's oil exports, and could easily drive international oil prices above US$100 per barrel.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:45 AM | | Comments (9)


I would suggest to you that point 1 is reasonable. Iran is a regime where religious nutters have an unhealthy sway. I don't think it is just the United States or Israel that has reasons to be alarmed. People complain, and rightly so, that religious fundamentalists have too much sway in the United States; such complaints should go double for Iran and its very dubious 'democracy'.

Point 2 is reasonable but irrelevant. All states are secretive on nuclear matters.

I don't think there's any doubts that Iran's program is at least with half and probably 4/5ths of an eye with weapons in mind. I am agnostic about the virtues of nuclear reactors, and can't claim to be an engineer, but isn't Iran rather geologically unstable to be building nuclear power plants on? I seem to recall only a couple of years ago that they had a very nasty earthquake that killed 20,000 people or something.

Not ideal for building reactors, I would have thought.

Point 3 seems irrelevant. I think if they get nukes and don't use them in the first couple of years, the area will get used to it.

What isn't been discussed in the corporate media OR on blogs is how well Russia is doing out of this situation. Vladimir Putin is my sort of guy and he's playing both the Americans and the Iranians for absolute suckers. Whatever happens in the crisis, Russia is a big winner.

See, if there's a war, the price of energy is going to skyrocket again, so Russia wins big, and if there isn't a war, there will still be plenty of tension to keep energy prices high (although supply and demand will do that enough anyway), AND Iran's regime will remain a willing customer for Russia's nuclear technology and weapon systems.

There was an excellent story in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago about how Putin is sticking his claws into every valuable corporate pie in Russia- sadly it is hidden by the pay per view wall now. But mark my words; Russia is back in the Great Game of Middle Eastern politics, and things are going to get a lot more interesting.

"would include freezing the foreign assets of Iranian officials, closing export credit lines, closing Iranian government bank accounts, and freezing Iranian government assets"

Aren't Iranian 'petrodollars' helping to prop up the Greenback?

Now might not be a good time to be buying Uncle Sam's coin!

Wonder if 'Honest' John was cognizant of this as he was getting his riding instructions from Dick? At least he had the sense to only go fishing with Cheney, not hunting, even if he, and we, may yet end up as bait.

Iran is a theocratic state but I would argue that its foreign polcy has been marked by national self-interest as a regional power flexing its muscles in a difficult situation of containment by a hegemonic US.

However, I would agree with Tariq Ali's judgement that Iranian foreign policy has been fragmentary and opportunist:

Till now, what has prevented the crisis in Iraq from becoming a total debacle for the United States has been the open collaboration of the Iranian clerics. Iranian foreign policy--fragmentary and opportunist--has always been determined by the needs and interests of the clerical state rather than any principled anti-imperialist strategy. In the past, this has led to a de facto collaboration with Washington in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Iran-Iraq war, the clerics had no hesitation in buying arms from the Israeli regime to fight Iraq, then backed by Britain and the US. In the wake of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq--hoping, no doubt, that clearing the path for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar might have won them a respite---the regime took a tougher stance on the nuclear question.

On civilian energy--I would say that as a sovereign nation Iran is entitled to make its own sovereign decisions as to how provide for its own energy needs. Under Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, member states are assured access to the benefits of civilian nuclear energy. The Iranian public sees nuclear power as a way to modernize and diversify energy-sources. The Iranian public, nearly all political candidates, and the current government are unified on this point: Iran should be developing its peaceful nuclear industry.

Why do they do need to do it, given the gas and oil reserves? Some consideration can be found here.

I agree with you completely about Putin. See this article on Putin's energy strategy. It concludes:

Cheney's diatribe in Vilnius last week bears testimony to the degree of frustration in Washington that it has been badly outmaneuvered. Putin depended on Russia's intellectual reserves rather than resort to grandstanding, while steering Russia's transition to an influential and energetic state. The transition was hardly noticeable.

Putin has placed Russia in the box seat on the geopolitics of energy.

Thanks for pointing out that A-Times article. I don't think the writer knows that much about economics, (s/he's way too bullish on Russia) but it does show how incoherent US policy has been.

It has been incoherent for a long time, of course. The problem for the Americans is that they can never take their eyes out the Beltway. What were they thinking about China and Russia?

Hell, if Hitler and Stalin can do a deal, then the distinctly non-idelogical Russian and Chinese certainly can. Win win all round for them. If Iran miscalculates and gets barbequed by the Americans, so much the better (for Russia)

The real problem is that everyone knows what they want except for the Americans. And when the biggest power doesn't know what it wants, it creates uncertainty and doubt for everyone else.

The world's governments don't hate the Bush administration because of its wars, prisons and lies. Most governments do that. They hate the Bush administration because they just can't figure the bastards out. Even on energy policy.

Governments are like investors. They love certainty.

Gary , as usual nice article. I wish the west would come clean on Iran and admitd it is more to do with the U.S.s hegomony over the Middle East and the Jewish lobby, than any fear of what Iran may or may not do with nuclear weapons. I have never read so much clap trap on this issus as of late. Even the mullahs that control Iran's military are not that keen to reach paradise and see the total destruction of their country by a pre-emptive attack on Israel.

This whole issue is about "You have nuclear weapons and if it is our want we will have them" end of story.The rantings of Ahmadinejad run along the same lines as Bush, the only differance being Ahmadinejad knows where the U.S. is, unlike Bush, who hasn't got a clue where Iran is, and much less about any geopolitical debate on the issue. Now whether I like Bush or not will not change the fact he is a moron, and how he was elected will have the intellectuals of all political stripes baffled into the next century. And I lose more sleep at night worrying about what Bush is plotting next before I worry about Iran.

Iran and its downfall has been on the U.S. radar long before this latest issue. The hostage crises of the seventy's, the downfall of the U.S. backed Shah, political machinations of the British in the Kyber pass,and the price of dahgeeling tea are all griss for this mill. Any one would think this whole debate sprang up overnight; it has been going on for a couple of hundred years. Only this time it is not the Bengal fusilers, or light horse. It will be Bush riding in on a bunker busting bomb.I can't take any of this serious. I despair.

The Asian Times article says that:

Sanctions might slow economic growth in Iran, but they would lead to collapsing economic growth in many countries, including those imposing sanctions. This would prove particularly problematic for the Bush administration, which faces crucial mid-term elections in November. ....Rapidly slowing US economic growth, induced by sanctions on Iran and an energy crisis, would further erode the president's popular support and support for his Republican Party. This could lead to a spectacular defeat for the Republicans in November.

On the Washington viisit I would not be suprised if Howard quietly agrees to the use of Australian special operations forces in the covert operations in Iran conducted by the US.

'coming clean' would mean that talking in terms of a long war, on a very broad front in the Middle East that includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan etc, covert operations etc etc. Iraq is only one campaign.

We don't really get the kind of analysis in the Australian media that would open this war up for us so that we understand what it is that we have signed up to.

More here. It states:

Russian utilization of a more sophisticated and subtle leverage based on energy dependence, with overarching goals of regaining its former "great power" status and recovering its geopolitical relevance. Energy has emerged as a tool for strategic leverage, in effect replacing the traditional Russian reliance on the "hard power" of its military with a new "softer power" of energy.

Russia looks good in the sense that events over the last six months have highlighted the European Unions apparent dependence on Russian oil and gas. This prompts suggestions that, to make itself less vulnerable, the EU should diversify its energy sources and suppliers.

On the other hand, Russia's long-term energy supply currently relies on large oil fields, but these are in serious need of investment, and new fields in Siberia and the Arctic require costly infrastructure. As for the gas industry, production is likely to plateau by 2010 and Gasprom's financially straightened position means that it will not be able to invest in new fields.

I presume that Russia is opening up its energy market and encouraging EU companies to participate in its energy strategy, as well as working directly with individual EU Member States.

Gary can only agree with your last post in reply to me.The present government is scared to death of any in depth analysis of the war on terror.Some time ago I can't remember when (I would have to check hansard)a member of the government whos name escapes me,had the un-mitigated gaul to rubbish John Pilger and told the public of Australia Pilger was lieing about the war in Iraq, this before the man even had a chance to speak.The government was clearly in a panic over the fact Pilger was in Australia.In my opinion Pilger does not piss on your back and tell you it's raining,unlike the present government.