War looms: West waits for Iran to pull trigger

War looms: West waits for Iran to pull trigger
By Ameen Izzadeen
On Saturday United States President Barack Obama signed a bill to penalise foreign companies or institutions dealing with Iran’s Central Bank –a move that carries the potential to scuttle Iran’s oil exports. This came amidst fresh US-Israeli talks aimed at working out a joint military response to Iran’s refusal to stop its nuclear programme while France and the European Union called for tough measures to punish the Islamic Republic.
These coordinated measures, which come against the backdrop of western moves to oust Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, a key Iranian ally, appear to have jolted Tehran, but it is confident that it can ride over the situation as it has done on previous occasions when biting sanctions were imposed on it.
The signs that Iran is feeling the pinch are evident in its warnings to the US and its war games near the narrow but strategic Strait of Hormuz through which about 40 per cent of the world’s oil supplies flow from the Gulf states. The war games saw Iran test firing medium-range missiles and issuing a warning to a US aircraft carrier, USS John C. Stennis, that it should not return to the Persian Gulf area which Iran considers its backyard. It also threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, if the latest sanctions were implemented while its parliament introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require all foreign ships to gain Tehran’s permission to enter the strategic waterway.
The issue at stake is not just Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. It is about Iran’s rising military power. It was only recently that Iran displayed its cyber war capabilities, by successfully making a US spy drone to land in Iran and jamming US military satellites while, Hizbollah, the pro-Iranian militia group in Lebanon, is said to have downed an Israeli spy drone in South Lebanon, perhaps using the Iranian technology.
Shaken by Iran’s weapons development and its military achievements are not only the West and Israel but also the pro-US Gulf countries. To bolster the defence of these Gulf countries, the US signed a $ 30 billion deal to supply latest fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and a $ 3.5 billion anti-missile deal with the United Arab Emirates last week. Critics say these weapons purchases by the Gulf states are, on the one hand, a massive scandal like the al-Yamama deal where British Aerospace is said to have paid a one billion dollar bribe to a Saudi prince. On the other, these weapons sold to the Gulf states are hardly used. Most of them gather dust in desert depots. If the money spent on these scandalous arms deals had been spent on education or research and development, each Gulf state would have been a power to be reckoned with on its own account.
The fear entertained by the Gulf countries over Iran is part of a sinister plan implemented by the US and Western Intelligence to sell weapons and set up military bases. Hence, the fear exists largely in the minds of the rulers who have taken the United States as their protector. If one were to ask the citizens of the Gulf or Arab countries who they thought was the biggest threat to them, they would say Israel or the United States, as a Zogby poll released in July last year indicated.
Making Iran appear a bogey to the oil-rich Gulf States and exacerbating the Sunni-Shiite division within the Muslim world are only a part of the plan. The other part is linked to Israel’s security. If Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will certainly tilt the military balance of power in the Middle East. At the moment, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons. Middle East watchers say Israel has up to 300 nuclear warheads and no western country paints nuclear-weapon Israel as a threat to global peace although it has provoked wars in the region time and again. This is largely because Israel is ‘one of us’ to the western mind.
Israel is in a hurry to take military action against Iran before exigencies of the election year in the US stall war plans.
Israel is, however, fast losing its patience with the Obama administration, following Washington’s advice that the time was not ripe for a military attack on Iran. Israel was furious over US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s remarks early last month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.”
The remarks provoked Israel to lodge an official protest with Washington while top candidates vying for the Republican Party’s nomination for this year’s presidential election slammed the Obama administration for not doing enough to protect the country’s staunchest ally.
Poor Obama has few options. On the one hand, he cannot take the US to a war that could spell devastating consequences at a time when the US and the European economies are in a major crisis. Besides, his re-election depends on his commitment not to repeat a mistake on the scale of an Iraq war. On the other hand, if he does not do what Israel wants him to do, his reelection bid will be doomed as the powerful Zionist lobby and its cooperate media will throw their full weight behind Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum to ensure a Republican victory in November.
So Obama’s strategy appears to be to get Iran into a trap and make it start the war so that he could tell the Americans that this is a war imposed on them by a country that is seeking weapons of mass destruction to deny the US access to energy markets and to wipe out Israel from the world map. Such rhetoric would help Obama emerge as a strong candidate who already has the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a bloody feather in his cap.
But what options has Iran got? Obviously, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz is one option. But this will trigger a region-wide war with global consequences. Britain has already warned it would take military action, if the strait is closed. The only option is to resume the talks on the nuclear programme. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is not weapon-oriented. But the West and the pro-West International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Yukiya Amano, claims they have reasons to suspect Iran has a secret weapons programme.
However, Iran’s moves at resuming talks have been spurned by the West this week, giving rise to suspicions that the West wants Iran to pull the trigger first. If war is to break out, world oil prices could even reach $ 500. That’s no good news for the recession-hit world economy.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on January 6, 2012)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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