Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post #195 - More than Meets the Eye

The following article on "Why the U.S. is Targeting Iran" (edited for length) was written by an anti-war activist named Sara Flounders. I will stipulate 1) that she strays from the central question, and 2) that she does not spend much time acknowledging the shortcomings and violations of human rights for which the current government of Iran is also accountable, but the information she does include is pertinent and commonly missing from most Western discussions of that country.

Why is Iran increasingly a target of U.S. threats? Who in Iran will be affected if the Pentagon implements plans, already drawn up, to strike more than 10,000 targets in the first hours of a U.S. air barrage on Iran? [This was written during the Bush administration, when the United States, rather than Israel, stood at the head of the queue. AP]...

Two aircraft carriers--USS Eisenhower and USS Stennis--are still off the coast of Iran, each one accompanied by a carrier strike group containing Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, electronic warfare aircraft, anti-submarine and refueler planes, and airborne command-and-control planes. Six guided-missile destroyers are also part of the armada....[Flounders added further information on US military preparations here, but the current U.S. presence is much greater than what she described. AP ]

It is important to understand internal developments in Iran today in order to understand why this country is the focus of such continued hatred by U.S. corporate power...The significance of oil production and oil reserves in Iran is well known. Every news article, analysis or politician's threat makes mention of Iran’s oil. But the impact of Iran’s nationalization of its oil resources is not well known. The corporate owners in the U.S...use all the power of their media to demonize the Iranian leadership and caricature and ridicule the entire population, their culture and religion...The focus of media coverage here is to describe Iran as medieval, backward and feudal while somehow becoming a nuclear power.

It is never mentioned that...more than a third of the doctors, 60 percent of civil servants and 80 percent of all teachers in Iran are women. At the time of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, 90 percent of rural women were illiterate; in towns the figure was over 45 percent. Also ignored is the stunning achievement of full literacy for Iranian youth.

[The] World Bank, in its development report on countries admit[ted] that Iran has exceeded the social gains of other countries in the Middle East. According to that report, Iran has made the most progress in eliminating gender disparities in education. Large numbers of increasingly well-educated women have entered the work force.  Iran’s comprehensive social protection system includes the highest level of pensions, disability insurance, job training programs, unemployment insurance and disaster-relief programs. National subsidies make basic food, housing and energy affordable to all.

An extensive national network going from primary health and preventive care to sophisticated hospital care covers the entire population, both urban and rural. More than 16,000 "health houses" are the cornerstone of the health care system. Using simple technology, they provide vaccines, preventive care, care for respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, family planning and contraceptive information, and pre-natal care. And they monitor children’s nutrition and general health.

Since 1990, Iran nearly halved the infant mortality rate and increased life expectancy by 10 years.
...A national family planning program, delivered through the primary health care facilities and accompanied by a dramatic increase in contraceptive use, which is approved by Islamic law, has led to a world record demographic change in family size and maternal and child health. All forms of contraception are now available for free.

[W]omen’s education and employment...has alleviated the pressure to have many children to protect security as parents grow older. The fertility rate between 1976 and 2000 declined from 8.1 births per woman to 2.4 births in rural areas and 1.8 births in urban areas.

These social programs...should be compared to conditions in countries in the region that remain under U.S. military and economic domination. In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, only a tiny part of the population has benefited from the vast profits generated by oil and gas resources... Millions are immigrant workers...who have no rights to any representation, participation or any social, health or educational programs or union protection...

In Iraq, which before U.S. attacks began in 1991 had some of the best conditions in the region for women, plus a high level of education, health, nutrition and social services, the conditions of life have now deteriorated...

[Under Mossadegh, and later the Islamic Revolution] the greatest source of wealth--Iran's oil and gas--was nationalized. Nationalization means the transfer of privately-owned assets and operations into public ownership. The exploration, drilling, maintenance, transport, refining and shipping of oil and gas became the national property of the Iranian people. Formerly this entire process was controlled at every step by Western imperialists, particularly U.S. and British corporations.

Most of the administrators, executives, technicians and engineers who controlled the process used to be from the West. Through hundreds of thousands of contracts and sub-contracts, U.S. and British firms extracted a profit not just through the sale of oil on the world markets but at every step of its extraction and refining. The small portion of profit the Shah's government received, as in the Gulf States today, was spent on luxury items imported from Western corporations for the small ruling elite and on infrastructure and weapons systems purchased from U.S. military corporations, again at an enormous profit...

The [Iranian] constitution states that the government is required to provide every citizen with access to social security for retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, health and medical treatment--out of public revenue...

Today Iran boasts modern cities, a large auto industry, and miles of new roads, railroads and subways. Currently 55 Iranian pharmaceutical companies produce 96 percent of the medicines on the market in Iran. This allows a national insurance system to reimburse drug expenses. Soon to become operational is the largest pharmaceutical complex in southwest Asia, which will produce compound drugs, making Iran a pioneer in biotechnology.

Years of U.S. sanctions and pressure on international financial institutions have had an unexpected result: Iran is free of the crippling debt that has strangled so many developing countries. According to World Bank figures, Iran’s external debt is one of the lowest for its size: $11.9 billion, or 8.8 percent of the GDP. From the point of view of the imperialist world bankers, this means the loss of many billions each year in interest payments to them.

The current leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's first non-cleric president in 24 years, was elected in 2005 in a landslide victory after promising to extend social security and pensions, improve the subsidies for food and housing, deal with rising unemployment and guarantee a monthly stipend.  The Iranian people are determined to protect the substantial gains they have made since the revolution. They are not interested in any effort that turns the clock back.

A Wall Street Journal Commentary by Francis Fukuyama on Feb. 1 [2007] was unusually frank in explaining the growing problem faced by U.S. corporate power on a global scale:

“What is it that leaders like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez have in common that vastly increases their local appeal? A foreign policy built around anti-Americanism is, of course, a core component. But what has allowed them to win elections and build support in their societies is less their foreign-policy stances than their ability to promise, and to a certain extent deliver on, social policy--things like education, health and other social services, particularly for the poor….The U.S. and the political groups that it tends to support around the world, by contrast, have relatively little to offer in this regard.”

[Most of the remainder of the article dealt with the impacts of sanctions on Iranian society.]

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