New Threats of U.S.-Israeli Aggression Against Iran

by Larry Everest

Threats of U.S.-Israeli aggression against Iran—perhaps military strikes—have heightened in recent weeks.

On November 8, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an imperialist-controlled international body monitoring nuclear activities, issued a new report on Iran, claiming that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

The Washington Post editorialized that the report “ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran’s program is for peaceful purposes.” (“Running out of time to stop Iran’s nuclear program,” November 9, 2011) In response, the Islamic Republic of Iran vowed to continue its nuclear program, which it claims is strictly for generating nuclear power, not to build nuclear weapons.

The U.S., Israel, and a number of European powers, deeply involved in shaping this report, are now seizing on it to call for more diplomatic, political, and economic aggression against Iran—while explicitly leaving the military option “on the table.” On November 13, President Obama stated, “The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope ... we’re going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically. I have said repeatedly and I will say it today: We are not taking any options off the table...” (Meanwhile, Russia and China have voiced differences with some of the U.S. plans for escalating pressure on Iran. See, for example, “Note shows big power split over Iran,” Associated Press, October 24, 2011.)

The IAEA report and subsequent calls for tougher action on Iran come in the wake of a series of incidents over several weeks which The New York Times called part of a “deadly dynamic” between the U.S. and Iran. (“America’s Deadly Dynamics With Iran,” November 5, 2011)

In early November, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran,” (“Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran,” November 2, 2011) A few days later, Israeli President Shimon Peres warned that such an attack is becoming increasingly likely. (Democracy Now! November 7, 2011) In late October, the Israeli Air Force conducted a large training exercise off the coast of Italy “in which IAF long-range fighter bombers practiced an extended-range attack plan with the Italian, German, and Dutch air forces.” (“Will Israel Really Strike Iran?” Daily Beast, November 2, 2011) On November 7, Israel test-fired a ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere in Iran. Israel reportedly has German-supplied nuclear-missile-armed submarines off Iran’s coast. (Democracy Now! November 7, 2011)

Britain’s Daily Mail reported, “Sources say the understanding at the top of the British Government is that Israel will attempt to strike against the nuclear sites ‘sooner rather than later’—with logistical support from the U.S. A senior Foreign Office figure has revealed that ministers have been told to expect Israeli military action, adding: ‘We’re expecting something as early as Christmas, or very early in the new year’... Ministry of Defence sources confirmed that contingency plans have been drawn up in the event that the UK decided to support military action.” (“Israel may launch strike on Iran as soon as next month to prevent development of nuclear weapons,” November 10, 2011)

A History of Unproven Charges Against Iran

Since the 1990s, the U.S., its European allies, and Israel have repeatedly charged that Iran is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. However, they have never been able to prove these charges. Previous IAEA reports have raised questions about Iran’s nuclear program, but never stated unequivocally that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program—until now.

This past June, investigative journalist and author Seymour Hersh summed up: “Despite years of covert operations inside Iran, extensive satellite imagery, and the recruitment of Iranian intelligence assets, the United States and its allies, including Israel, have been unable to find irrefutable evidence of an ongoing hidden nuclear-weapons program in Iran, according to intelligence and diplomatic officials here and abroad.”

The U.S.’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran concluded “with high confidence” that Iran had halted a nascent nuclear weapons program in 2003. This assessment was reaffirmed, according to Hersh, by a new, secret NIE in 2011. (Iran denies that it has ever had a nuclear weapons program.)

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA, told Hersh, “During my time at the agency, we haven’t seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear‑weapons facilities and using enriched materials.... All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.” (“Iran and the Bomb: How real is the nuclear threat?” New Yorker, June 6, 2011. See also “New Iran Revelations... and the Specter of War,” Revolution #238, July 3, 2011.)

What’s Driving U.S.-Israeli Charges and Threats Against Iran?

The Islamic Republic is a reactionary theocracy, bitterly hated by millions of Iranians. Despite a certain amount of rhetorical posturing, it is not challenging the system of imperialism, with its division of the world into oppressor and oppressed nations. But Iran does have its own needs and ambitions—which may (or may not) include mastering the technology needed to make nuclear weapons, or even building weapons, which clash with U.S. objectives in many different ways. Iran seeks to increase its influence and strength in the Middle East (and other areas), including by maneuvering within the current regional turmoil and upheaval. These efforts have led to clashes between Iran’s objectives and U.S. and Israeli goals in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and across the Middle East.

This regional clash, as well as the nature of Iran’s Islamic Republic and its efforts to forge ties with various regional and global powers, poses challenges to U.S. dominance of the Middle East and to its ally and outpost Israel in particular, which for over six decades has been a key pillar of U.S. global power and the functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism. This is why the U.S, its European allies, and Israel have worked for over two decades to isolate, weaken, and perhaps overthrow Iran’s Islamic Republic, as well as threatened war, even though they have not been able to prove that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran with nuclear weapons—even the potential to develop nuclear weapons—would both exacerbate these contradictions and seriously challenge unchecked U.S.-Israel military supremacy. In 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. would “face a ‘different world’ in four to five years” if Iran developed a nuclear weapon. (“Fear of ‘different world’ if Iran gets nuclear weapons,” Guardian (UK), November 28, 2011) All this has driven an ongoing and escalating clash, including the threat of war between the U.S. and Iran.

Gaping Holes Already Punched in IAEA Report

U.S. officials and much of the capitalist press have called the new IAEA report “definitive” in proving that Iran has had, and may still have, a nuclear weapons program. But a number of journalists and Iran experts, including former weapons inspectors and government officials, have poked gaping holes in this claim. They’ve exposed that a number of key charges in the report are a mélange of hype, half-truths, un-sourced allegations, recycled claims, and outright lies reminiscent of the propaganda campaign mounted against Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. Readers should recall that the lie that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was also propagated by many “authoritative” accounts, which at first glance seemed carefully constructed and voluminously documented. In other words, the U.S. rulers have never let the truth stand in the way of their imperial objectives, and have proven time and again to have no compunction about fabricating outrageous lies.

For instance, an assessment of the new IAEA report was posted at raceforiran.com, the website of former National Security Agency officials Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann (who fear the current Iran strategy will harm U.S. imperial interests). In “Pulling the IAEA into the ‘Attack Iran’ Debate Will Backfire,” November 8, 2011, they argue:

“But the report, arguably the most anticipated document of its kind since the NPT was first advanced in 1968, does not in any way demonstrate that Iran is ‘developing a nuclear weapon.’ Rather, it once again affirms, as the IAEA has for decades, Iran’s ‘non-diversion’ of nuclear material ... the report [is focused] on unsubstantiated intelligence reports, provided almost entirely by the United States, Israel, and other Western governments, alleging that the Islamic Republic is working on a nuclear weapons program.

“There are many reasons to question virtually every detail in the IAEA’s accounting of the ‘possible military dimensions’ to Iran’s nuclear program ... no one has ever produced a shred of evidence that Iran has ever actually tried to build a nuclear weapon or taken a decision to do so.”

The UN and the IAEA are imperialist-dominated organizations—not independent agencies that stand above politics. They are very useful to the U.S. and other world powers to confer legitimacy and credibility on their great power designs and interventions. For instance, the U.S. pays over one-quarter of the IAEA’s budget, and it was instrumental in the choosing of the new head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano. A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that the U.S. agreed to support Amano’s selection to head the agency in return for his agreement to support the U.S. campaign against Iran’s nuclear program.

Behind the Headlines—A Battle for Regional Dominance

Behind the IAEA’s report, U.S. calls for more aggressive action, and Israel’s threats of war on Iran, represent a sharpening battle for control of the whole Middle East. The U.S. and Israel (which has its own necessities and interests, even as it is overall under the U.S. wing) view taking down Iran as the leading edge of their efforts to win out in this contention and strengthen their grip on this volatile region.

The U.S, Israel, and the major European powers are united over the need to strangle Iran and win this battle, even as there are divisions over precisely how to do so without unleashing a level of upheaval that could radically weaken their grip on the region. At this point, the U.S. is clearly continuing to work for some form of regime change in Iran through covert operations, much more aggressive economic sanctions, and other means short of war. Yet these “less drastic” measures can also help prepare the way for war. And the possibility of war continues to be real, even growing. The IAEA report and the U.S. response are not designed to rid the region or the world of nuclear weapons, or to prevent war. Israel has over 150 nuclear weapons and the U.S. over 5,000—yet there is no IAEA report on Israel or the U.S., no demand for inspections, no UN outcry—even though both powers have repeatedly threatened nuclear war—and the U.S. is the only power to have ever used a nuclear weapon.

Stepped up intervention against Iran—no matter how the U.S., Israel, and the United Nations attempt to justify it—is criminal aggression in service of imperialist domination of hundreds of millions of people—domination which many millions are rising up against in different ways. Any U.S.-Israeli military attack or war on Iran would be a huge crime that would likely result in many, many people killed in Iran and in the region. People, especially in the U.S., have to say—loudly, clearly, and actively—NO!

This article originally appeared on the site Revolution.