This column was written for the Unz Review:
I have to begin this column with a mea culpa: I have been predicting a US attack on Iran since at least 2007 and so far, I have been completely wrong. The attack never happened. What I did get right, at least I hope so, are the reasons why this attack has failed to materialize, at least so far. In purely military terms, an attack on Iran could not succeed because Iran had too many asymmetrical counter-attack options . But the real reason behind the failure of a US attack on Iran are buried in a mountain of myths surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue. What I propose to do today is to take a look at the biggest one of these myths.
The Myth: Iran was working on a military nuclear program
This, of course, is the main myth, the cornerstone of all the other nonsense written about Iran. The resilience of this myth is based on a simple factor – it is impossible to prove a negative. Just as Iraq could not prove that it had no WMD, Iran cannot prove that it does not have a military nuclear program. The US intelligence community showed a rather amazing level of courage when in spite of the immense Neocon pressure to endorse this myth it concluded in the 2007 NIE that Iran had had a nuclear program in the past, but stopped working on it. Still, common sense provides us with what I would call “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that Iran has no intentions to develop a nuclear weapon.
For one thing, actually developing a nuclear weapon would not allow Iran to use it, least of all against Israel. Besides the actual nuke, a nuclear weapons capability implies having all of the following:
- The possibility to test the nuclear weapon (untested it is useless)
- A delivery system (missile, aircraft)
- The ability to protect the nuclear weapon and the delivery system from a preemptive disarming attack
- Most importantly – a warfighting strategy, a military doctrine on how to use such a capability.
The fact is that Iran could not test a nuke without the rest of the planet knowing about it. Iran does not have a reliable and survivable delivery system and, most importantly, Iran cannot hope to use a nuclear weapon against the USA or Israel without suffering a devastating retaliatory strike. Keep in mind that if the Israel military does not have the means to significantly hurt Iran with conventional weapons, it most definitely does have the means to do so with the large and sophisticated Israeli nuclear capability. In other words, to use nukes for Iran would be suicidal.
Supporters of the Iranian nuclear weapons myth often point out at the DPRK as the “proof” that nukes can protect against Uncle Sam. The problem is that these people overlook a crucial difference: the capital of South Korea – Seoul – is within artillery range of the DPRK’s military and the DPRK has a huge conventional military which, while aging and relatively unsophisticated, can inflict terrible damage on South Korea and the US forces deployed there. According to Wikipedia , the DPRK has 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel ( including 180’000 special forces ) making it the largest military organization on Earth. And this force is literally within walking distance to Seoul! In contrast, Iran has absolutely no power projection capabilities which would make it possible to attack Israel.
When cornered with logical arguments, the supporters of the Iranian military nuclear program myth with fall back on the over-used cliché about “Muslims being fanatics”, willing to “die for Allah” and all the rest of the Islam-bashing idiocy fed by the corporate media. The problem with that is that there is exactly zero evidence showing the putative “insanity” of the Iranian leaders (no, Ahmadinejad never said that Iran would wipe Israel off the map ). In fact, considering that since 1979 the USA has done everything imaginable to overthrow the Islamic Republic or, at least, creating a pretext to attack it, I would argue that the Iranians are extremely sophisticated and highly intelligent people. The way Iran used the US Neocons to get the USA to attack Iraq (the worst enemy of Iran) instead of Iran is nothing short of brilliant. No, the Iranians are not crazy at all, they know that having a nuclear weapon would do nothing to protect Iran and they know that they could never use it without facing the end of the Islamic Republic. Besides, those who believe that Muslims are somehow prone to suicidal insanity did not propose to bomb Pakistan when it acquired the first “Islamic bomb” – so why is Iran singled out?
The reality: Iran is a civilizational threat to the Hegemony of the USA, to Israel and to the KSA
This is the real reason for all the tensions, saber-rattling and hysteria: Iran represents a huge political, social, economic, religious and even civilizational threat to the USA, Israel and the Saudis. Unlike the obscurantist and totalitarian Saudi regime, the Islamic Republic is a democracy, albeit an Islamic one, which is socially progressive and which has achieved tremendous economic, scientific and social successes in extremely hard circumstances ranging from US economic and political sanctions to an devastating seven year long war against Iraq (which was fully backed and armed to the teeth by the USA, the Soviet Union and France). Oh sure, Iran is hardly a prefect society, but compared to the rest of the Middle-East it is truly a heaven on earth. The fact that Iran could achieve this in open and total defiance of both the USA and Israel is absolutely unacceptable for the AngloZionist Empire. That alone is a reason to want to do to Iran what was recently done to Libya and Syria. As for the Saudis, not only does their medieval Wahabi kingdom look outright barbaric when compared to Iran, they also have a seizable Shia minority living almost exactly where the largest Saudi oil fields are. In fact, by some irony of fate, if you look at a map of the KSA or Iraq you will see that the Shias almost always live right over the richest oil fields in the region. Finally, Iran is a natural ally of the Alawi regime in Syria and, especially, of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
One aspect of the successes of the Islamic Republic is that Iran was, and still is, working on a civilian nuclear program. First, Iran has always needed an alternative source of energy and this is why, as early as in the 1950s, the USA provided Iran with civilian nuclear technologies under the Atoms for Peace program . Second, Iran is also engaged in nuclear research, including medical, and having a civilian nuclear research program is an immense source of prestige. But even more importantly, the Iranian nuclear program has become a symbol of sovereignty. Uncle Sam says “no, you cannot” and Iran replies “yes we can, and we will”. This is the real “crime” Iran is truly guilty of: defying the AngloZionist hegemony over the Middle-East.
There could be many reasons why the USA has signed on on this P5+1 deal with Iran. They range from simple “imperial fatigue” to a desire by Obama to have something to show for his (otherwise absolutely catastrophic) Presidency. It could also be the case that the US security establishment simply made the (correct) call and concluded that the USA cannot afford to have a war with Iran. Whatever may be the case, the fact that this deal was inked at all is an extremely good, if provisional, outcome.
Potentially, Iran could play a crucial and highly beneficial role in the Middle-East, first and foremost, as the only country capable of seriously taking on Daesh (aka IS/ISIS) and stabilizing Iraq. True, as long as the US continues to support al-Qaeda in Syria, the horrors will continue. In fact, some particularly devious CIA analyst might argue that empowering Iran might make the overthrow of Syrian regime less dangerous because even if Damascus falls to al-Qaeda Iran would have the power to contain it. Whatever may be the case, currently only Iran and Hezbollah are preventing Daesh from overrunning the rest of the region. Thus I would not put it past the CIA & Co. to ease the pressure on Iran, even temporarily, to “squeeze” a Daesh clearly run amok (helping both sides in a conflict is a time-honored Anglo tradition).
Here I can to come back to my opening mea culpa. I have been predicting a US attack on Iran for years and instead of an attack we now have a Joint Comprehensive Action Plan between the Iran and the P5+1 . I will gladly admit that I am as delighted as I am skeptical about this. I am delighted because if the deal holds, it would actually make sense and defuses a needlessly dangerous situation. But I am also very, very skeptical. When I look at the hysterical reaction of the Israel Lobby in the USA I have a hard time imagining this deal being upheld by the USA. After all, if the Neocons do not currently have a full control of the White House, they most definitely control Congress the the US corporate media. And the fact that most US Jews do, in reality, support the deal with Iran will not stop them. As I have said it many times, Zionism is not an ethnicity, it is an ideology , and American Jews have no more influence over the 1%er regime in power than American non-Jews. As for the 1%ers – they are loyal only to themselves. So will the Ziocrazies succeed in derailing the deal with Iran? I honestly don’t know, but I have to confess that I am not an optimist by nature.