Showdown Over Iran

by , September 01, 2007

More rumors of war with Iran are circulating here (via Juan Cole), with inside scuttlebutt from inside the neoconservative network:

"They [the source's institution] have ‘instructions’ (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this – they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is plenty."

This comes via Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, and a leading expert on Afghanistan, who has it from "a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient." According to Rubin’s anonymous sibyl – or is that seer? – we can look forward to "a big kickoff on September 11."

This pretty much comports with what we’ve been reporting on Antiwar.com for the past few months, and with recent reports of an imminent US assault on Iran: see my last column on this subject. So have a nice vacation, soak up as much sun as you can, because dark days lie ahead.

The propaganda campaign is already picking up, but this time the battle is going to be less one-sided. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the War Party had the field practically to themselves. Not a single major politician or political figure rose to question the "patriotic" lies that flooded the airwaves and inundated readers of newspapers and blogs – not a one. This time, however, it is going to be different: the War Party may win, in the end, but they won’t triumph without a fight.

It’s true that none of the major Democratic presidential candidates have dissented from the "approved" script on Iran, and that all are kowtowing long and low to the Israel lobby, which is the powerhouse behind this latest rush to war. It is also true that – naturally – the major Republican presidential candidates are even more vehemently calling for an attack – and they won’t rule out using nukes. The only sane Republican in the lot – Ron Paul, of course – is plainly horrified by this, but the Republicans’ willingness to contemplate a nuclear Armageddon in the Middle East is hardly surprising, coming from a party effectively in the grip of deranged "born-again" dispensationalists – for whom rumors of nuclear war are part and parcel of the "good news" that Christ is returning. It has been widely noted that the Republicans have become a party of authoritarians, but it’s much worse than that: they’ve morphed into a party of lunatics, as well.

The Democrats, however, aren’t taking advantage of this: indeed, Hillary Clinton, her party’s leading candidate for the presidential nod, refuses to rule out using nukes in any situation – even when it comes to Pakistan, and, for god’s sake, Afghanistan. The Lobby is just as firmly ensconced in the supposedly "antiwar" party as it is in the GOP, as the stripping of a provision from the recent defense appropriations bill that would have required the President to come to Congress for authorization for a strike on Iran made all too clear.

The war whoops are scheduled to reach a crescendo on September 11, at which point I expect the War Party to roll out a new narrative that portrays Iran as the protector and enabler of al-Qaeda, or even the real author of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Perhaps they’ll run the complete works of Laurie Mylroie through a word processor, and, in true Orwellian fashion, insert Ahmadinejad’s name where Saddam’s once appeared, replacing "Iraq" with "Iran."

Presto, change-o! – and we have yet another war myth, a fresh load of prefabricated propaganda with which to bamboozle the masses, befuddle the media, and defuse dissent in the leadership of the major political parties.

The media, and the political leadership won’t give them too many problems, although a few dissidents may protest loudly enough to provoke retaliation (a smear job, perhaps a firing or three, and the sudden loss of campaign funding in the case of candidates for office): but, really, not a whole lot of discipline will be required to yank the elites into line.

The real problem for the neocons is going to come with the supposedly indifferent and ignorant antiwar majority, which is firmly opposed [.pdf] to attacking Iran. Say all you want about the advanced state of decadent torpor that seems to define the 21st century American, but ordinary citizens are unlikely to sit idly by while the price of gas skyrockets and the Middle East goes up in flames. It is hard to say what form public outrage will take, but one can easily imagine the return of the kind of domestic unrest that roiled the 1960s and almost tore this nation apart. Massive demonstrations that turn into major riots: the unleashing of the vast spying-and-repression machine created with the passage of the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act [.pdf], and all the post-9/11 legislation that limited our rights in the name of "security" and the "war on terrorism" – and worse. Much worse …

The War Party is playing for keeps. Are we?

There is one hope, and one hope only, that could save us, albeit it’s only a stop-gap measure, and that is the passage by a veto-proof margin of a congressional resolution explicitly forbidding the President from launching an attack on Iran without a vote by the people’s representatives.

As noted above, this was present in the defense appropriations bill as approved by the Democratic leadership but deleted from the final bill at the insistence of AIPAC – the primary instrument of Israeli influence in Washington – and with the complicity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, Democrat Jim Webb introduced a separate resolutionSenate bill 759 – at the beginning of the year that would have established the same let’s-vote-on-it requirement for an attack on Iran, but that seems to have gone nowhere. House Resolution 3119, introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) on July 19 of this year, is virtually identical, and is similarly stuck in committee. Speaker Pelosi, who faces increasing discontent within Democratic ranks over the Iraq issue, could easily rescue it, but presently shows no inclination to do so.

The strategic conundrum the antiwar forces face is underscored by the current campaign of a group called "Americans Against Escalation," which is running television ads exclusively in Republican-held congressional districts taking legislators to task for their support of the Iraq war – as the administration gets ready to bomb Tehran with very little interference from the Democrats. Yet war with Iran would be the most extreme escalation imaginable – so why the silence from "Americans Against Escalation"?

Sustained public pressure to move the Webb-Udall legislation forward could slow down, if not entirely stop, the rush to war with Iran – but we don’t have much time for the antiwar movement to get its act together.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

So, what about those alleged Iranian nukes that are supposedly being prepared by the New Saddam, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Well, if you read the headlines, you get two entirely different stories – the International Herald Tribune reports "Iran expanding its atom program, UN agency reports," which takes three paragraph to blurt out the truth, or at least an approximation of it:

"More than 650 more centrifuges are being tested or are under construction. That number is far short of Iran’s projection that by now it would be running 3,000 of the machines, which produce fuel useful either to make electricity or in a bomb program, raising questions whether Iran is facing technical difficulties or has made a political decision to slow down its expansion effort."

So, the story encapsulated in the headline is the exact opposite of the real story: the Iranian nuclear program is contracting, not expanding, and furthermore Tehran has agreed to a timetable for making their entire program transparent, and bringing it within the parameters established by the IAEA. As Reuters put it: "Iran atom work at slow pace and not significant: IAEA."

Before the conflict takes shape on the ground in Iran and environs, the battle of competing narratives will be fought here in the States, and Antiwar.com is on the front lines. This is, first and foremost, an information war, and the winner will get to determine the fate of the Middle East – and the US – for many years to come. That’s why Antiwar.com is playing a key role in the fight against this latest lunacy – perhaps the key role. And that’s why your continued support is so important. We’re thrilled that our last fundraising campaign was a success, but with these latest war moves against Iran we realize that Antiwar.com needs to expand its operations, and its coverage: we must to make an all-out effort to stop this new war before it starts.

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You can help avert war with Iran in two vitally important ways – call your congressional representatives after the Labor Day holiday in support of the Udall-Webb resolutions, and continue to support Antiwar.com with your tax-deductible donation. It’s a twofer for peace.

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