Iran, Israel and the USA

How to prevent the war that is becoming more likely?

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member who has visited Iran a number of times the last few years

The threat of a war involving Iran, Israel and USA is discussed with increasing intensity. At this time an attack by Israel is seen as the most likely risk.

Do I, decidedly not an expert, have the right to say that most contributions are lacking in depth and there is little attempt to understand the other parties? I say so, and I hope to be proven wrong.

Of the three parties, the intentions of Iran is the target of most scrutiny. Israel is considered mostly according to the preconceptions of the writer, while the USA, surprisingly, is often seen as a reacting force, without a clear agenda of it own.

The situation of Iran

Since the time of the Shah, Iran has developed a nuclear program that has become a centerpiece of national pride. For domestic reasons the program cannot be cancelled, at least not as a response to pressure from other countries.

Any nuclear weapons free country, which runs uranium enrichment, can at any time decide to leave the Non-proliferation Treaty, send the IAEA inspectors out of the country and proceed to make nuclear weapons. This applies to e.g. Japan, Brazil and Germany – and of course to Iran. To make a primitive uranium bomb of the type which destroyed Hiroshima is not complicated. A nuclear warhead for a missile will take longer, but much of the preparations can be done at any time. These aspects are discussed in recent articles by e.g. Jonathan Power on this TFF Themes and Associates Blog.

Within the leadership of Iran – and that is a very complex structure – there are likely to be different opinions about how far to proceed on the path to become a “virtual nuclear weapon state”. If they go too far, the risk of an attack from Israel or the USA will increase.

An attack by Iran on Israel would be an almost guaranteed suicide. The subsequent retaliation on Iran by a US military attack would be as thorough as devastating. Are we really to believe that the leaders of Iran intend or plan to call down such a devastation upon their own country and citizens as well as take the high risk that they themselves and their families will get killed? There are those who believe so, believe that these leaders are all suicidal fanatics. I for one disagree.

The intentions of Israel

Will Israel attack Iran? In a recent long text in the New York Times, Ronen Bergman, a journalist with good contacts in Israel, reports on several private conversations with the Israeli Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak. The minister believes there is a serious threat of an attack from Iran. He, surprisingly, does not discuss the reasons for that conclusion. And Minister Barak seems to prepare for a preemptive attack by Israel on Iran, probably in this year of 2012.

Given the limited range of the Israeli air force and missiles, only some of the widely dispersed nuclear facilities in Iran could be bombed. Nuclear weapons would not be used. An attack on the facility for uranium enrichment in Natanz is likely to release substantial amounts or radioactivity. Under certain weather conditions, the radioactive fallout could affect the population of the nearby city of Isfahan, with more than three million people. Would it be possible to see Israel as a civilized country after this?

A recent poll in Israel shows that a majority of the people would accept to give up Israel’s nuclear weapons if Iran stops it nuclear weapons program. This opinion should be expressed at the meeting for a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction this coming fall. Will the Israeli government respect this opinion of its people?

The American agenda

What are the plans of the USA? The protection of Israel is of course important. I hope and assume, without much evidence, that the White House is advising the Israeli leaders strongly against an attack on Iran. But what pressure can President Obama put on Israel, particularly now in an election year? If there is a threat of retaliation from Iran after an Israeli attack, USA will attack the Iranian air force and missile bases. Israel knows this. So does Iran.

Given the enormous military presence of the USA in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, with two or maybe even three aircraft carriers, Iran would think twice before retaliating against Israel. But even if they abstain the humiliation of the military and the political leaders of the mighty Iran would have serious long lasting consequences. Peace will then be more distant than ever. The groups that see Israel as the cancer of the Middle East will be strengthened and increase their attacks. While the USA might achieve an increased stature among the dictators in the area, such as in Saudi Arabia and perhaps Pakistan, it will lose whatever respect which remains in the democratic groups who brought the Arabian Spring.

But there is more on the US agenda. The Americans have not forgotten the Embassy Hostage drama in 1979. Resentment after a humiliation can last long. But first of all, it is necessary, in the minds of the Anglo-American leaders, to stop Iran from becoming a strong independent power in the area. The West, mostly Britain and USA, have for a century or more tried repeatedly – and at times successfully – to subdue Iran. The Iranian population on their side has not forgotten that these two powers removed the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953. Today the USA keeps up this subversive work with rather extensive infiltration by agents hired by the CIA, trying to instigate a revolt from minority national groups in the country.

The sanctions forced by the US may be more an attempt to provoke a regime change rather than to stop the nuclear program. It is not clear whether the sanctions are effective in this regard; more likely, they’ll rather tend to unify the country behind the leaders, as has been the case in Cuba. Fidel Castro would not have survived without the US sanctions.

Nuclear weapons are not deterrents; they are a cause of war

In the preparations for the attack on Iraq, President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell lied to the American people telling tales of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Had not “the loud of a nuclear weapon detonation over Manhattan” been invoked, the American people would probably not have accepted the attack on Iraq. Today the appearance of a nuclear threat from Iran serves as a pretext for the US military escalation in the area, and the result may be war.

Also, we see how the nuclear weapons of Israel in no way increase the security of the country. The Israeli population seems to understand this, and they understand that the best use they can have of their nukes is to use them as a bargaining chip against the nuclear program of Iran: We give up our nukes, you stop making any. Great deal!

How to prevent war against Iran?

The war can be avoided! War is started by men, and can be prevented by men – and by women. Here are my pro-peace proposals and I hope to stimulate others to advance their proposals in the comments field below and elsewhere.

1. War is not an option!
War, initiated by any party, must be avoided. No threats of war shall be stated. In the end threats may have to be followed by action, even if this was not the intention.

2. Begin negotiations!
At present we only see coercion: If you, Iran, do not stop your nuclear program, we will cause economic ruin for your country, etc. Negotiations should offer ease of sanctions, trade and diplomatic recognition.

3. Iran should be allowed to continue its uranium enrichment program, but under close surveillance from the IAEA according to an Additional Protocol.
The recent proposal by Pierre Goldschmith of the Carnegie foundation is a good example of how this could work (The Iranian Nuclear Issue: Achieving a Win-Win Diplomatic Solution)

4. The West should stop its the attempts to overthrow the present regime.
The young people of Iran will do that themselves.

5. USA and Israel should end the terrorist acts.
They should stop killing Iranian citizens inside their own country and stop the cyber warfare exemplified by the Stuxnet cyber virus.

6. Iran should end its support of terrorist groups that attack Israel.

7. Iran should end its talks of hatred against Israel.
The Iranian leaders should make it absolutely clear that they will not attack Israel, except in the case that Iran is attacked by Israel.

8. Iran should again accept a far-reaching Additional Protocol for the inspection regime of IAEA.

9. USA should stop its coercion of the IAEA.

10. Iran should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty, thus setting a good example for the USA.

11. The establishment of a the Middle East as a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone is absolutely essential for the future of peace in the region and the wider world.

In summary: All options are not on the table! Pre-emptive war is a war crime.

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