WMD All Over Again

It is possible to wake up in October 2009 and imagine that one is still in George W. Bush’s America.  President Barack Obama promised change but has yet to deliver unless one counts his ownership of a huge budget-busting stimulus package that would likely make even Alan Greenspan recoil in horror.  Overseas, the United States is still embroiled in Iraq in support of a government that is increasingly developing into one party rule while a new surge into Afghanistan is being considered that might add as many as 45,000 soldiers to a conflict that appears to have no realizable objective and surely cannot be won. 

The Obama policy in the Middle East is little more than a series of talking points.  President Obama’s speech to the United Nations in which he made clear his resolve to oppose Israeli settlement expansion was essentially toothless.  Absent any resolve to cut aid to Israel or to sever defense co-production agreements, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu can thumb his nose at Washington.  And Obama’s wiggle room on the issue is limited by clear signals from Congress and the media that any attempt to muzzle Tel Aviv will be strongly resisted, leading to a likely major foreign policy defeat for the president.  Will he take on the Lobby to bring about a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians?  All signs are that he will not, even though it is strongly in the US national interest to do so.

And then there is Iran.  Iran has been the target of choice for the Israel Lobby and its many friends in congress and the media since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.  To be sure, Iran has often been its own worst enemy due to the frequently ill-advised pronouncements of the country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the apparent failure of the religious leadership to respond to several overtures made by the Obama Administration.  Its nuclear program continues to seriously complicate relations with the US and Europe even though there is no solid evidence to suggest that there might actually be a hidden weapons program. 

Last week’s revelation that Iran has a second uranium enrichment plant near Qom that had not been declared to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors has increased the likelihood of war even though Tehran appears to have been in compliance with the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty requirement to report the introduction of new fissile material into a facility within 180 days.  Iran also quickly agreed to UN inspection for the new facility, but those seeking a confrontation appear to have the upper hand.  Obama, conveniently ignoring Israel’s nuclear arsenal, declared last Friday that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow."  Following the lead offered by Obama, the British poodle quickly yapped, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown asserting that he was "shocked and angered."  In a subsequent interview the UK Foreign Minister David Miliband declared that Britain would not rule out a military option.

And the US media smelled blood in the water.  The always-ready-to-bomb-first Washington Post featured an op-ed on September 21st by the so-called Bipartisan Policy Center called "Last Chance for Iran" which concluded that "a US-led military strike is a feasible, albeit risky, option of last resort."  The Post followed up on the news of the new Iranian nuclear facility last Saturday with a front page article by the reliably bellicose Glenn Kessler explaining how Washington would now move away "from engagement and toward building an international consensus for sterner action."  In a lead editorial on the same day presumably written by the Post‘s Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt headed "Another Nuclear Plant," the paper refers to "Iran’s belligerent policies toward the West" and rails against "inaction against a regime that is brazenly defying international treaties and UN Security Council resolutions."  Hello Fred…have you ever heard of Israel?

Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also was featured in the Saturday Post in his op-ed entitled "Dealing With Iran’s Deception."  Setting the desired tone, his first line was "Tehran could soon have humankind’s most frightening weapon…" and he went on to report "it already has enough low-enriched uranium to produce fuel for at least one nuclear bomb."  Ignoring the fact that Berman’s argument makes no sense in that low-enriched uranium must be concentrated twenty times to be suitable for making a bomb, one wants to know what evidence there actually is that Iran is making a weapon apart from press releases coming out of AIPAC or the Israeli Embassy.  After all, we are talking about the United States possibly going to war and when Berman pops up repeatedly there has to be a sneaking suspicion that it once again is all about Israel. 

Berman calls on the US to prepare to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran to improve its behavior, including a virtual ban on refined petroleum product imports imposed through a house resolution that he and the redoubtable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have co-sponsored.  Such a move would likely have to be enforced by the US Navy, a role that most would consider an act of war.  And Berman might even be a moderate in that he is not calling for a nuclear first strike.  Other Congressmen were less restrained when speaking over the weekend.  Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House, said Iran is a "real-time security threat to the United States, Israel and our allies around the world." He added that the discovery of the new enrichment facility "leaves little doubt that terrorist nations are not to be trusted or negotiated with diplomatically." Eric’s interesting analysis of the state of the world as seen down the barrel of a rifle was unfortunately not unique.  In a joint statement reflecting multi-partisan support for bombing Iran, Senators Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, all expressed support for "whatever it takes" to stop Tehran’s nuclear program. The launch of a holy war by Reverend John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel is expected at any moment.

The point here is not that Iran is a nice place and that its leaders are latter day Thomas Jeffersons.  They might indeed be aspiring to a nuclear weapon, though intelligence reports other than those coming from Israel suggest that such a possibility is some years in the future even if Iran makes the political decision to proceed.  Also, sanctions are an extremely blunt instrument.  In practice they never work and only solidify support for a rogue regime, witness Cuba.  Once sanctions are in place negotiations cease, virtually guaranteeing a slide to war, which is precisely what Howard Berman and The Washington Post would like to see develop.  The real question for the United States and its citizens should be whether or not Iran constitutes a serious danger and whether the threat level mandates Washington’s launching of another war on the heels of two unsuccessful forays into the Muslim world.  Many Americans might also observe that the cost of such a journey into darkness would have catastrophic effect on a crumbling US economy.  One could reasonably ask why Congress and the media seem intent on setting the US on a path that can only lead to war, a conflict that could easily have consequences that would gravely damage the United States and its people.  Unfortunately, we have seen all this before and recently.  Remember the WMD, pilotless drones, chemical weapon labs, and mushroom clouds?  The same song is being sung again, but this time everyone should recognize a con job when they see it coming.

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.