Sunday, October 16, 2011

Post #4 - A Source of Irritation

American antagonism toward Iran stems largely from the taking of hostages in Tehran in the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were broken off, and the ABC News program, "Nightline," was created to satisfy the need for news generated by the crisis. America became the “Great Satan,” and Iran was viewed first with shock and bewilderment, and later with fear and hate by many Americans. Although he is no supporter of the Islamic Republic, author Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down, Guests of the Ayatollah), in the latter book, captured the wider significance of those events:

Iran's revolution wasn't just a localized power struggle; it had tapped a subterranean ocean of Islamist outrage. For half a century the tradition-bound peoples of the Middle and Near East, owning most of the world's oil resources, had been regarded as little more than valuable pawns in a worldwide competition between capitalist democracy and communist dictatorship. In the Arab states, the United States had thrown its weight behind conservative Sunni regimes, and in Iran behind Pahlavi, who stood as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism in the region.

What Bowden fails to credit sufficiently (the great bulk of his research for Ayatollah was done using U.S. and other western sources) is the frustration and anger of ordinary, non-"Islamist" Iranians centered on the sometimes quite brutal reign of the Shah. Their loved ones had been targeted by secret police and some of them rotted in the Shah's prisons, broken by his torturers. When the people took to the streets, it was not just political, or even religious, it was also quite personal. The United States came to stand, therefore, for dictatorial rule over Iranians' daily lives, and for economic exploitation and ill-considered modernization.

Since that time, we have not found ourselves at so grave a juncture as we are today. A National Security Document of March 16, 2006 asserted as fact Iran's possession of weapons of mass destruction, though a later assessment said their program of development had been discontinued. In fact, we still do not, in 2011, know the state (if any) of militarization of nuclear or other WMD's in Iran. I am afraid it is “déjà vu all over again” and the abyss of war beckons:

In early 2003, even as U.S. forces were on the brink of war with Iraq, the army had already begun conducting an analysis for a full-scale war with Iran. The analysis, called TIRANNT, for "theater Iran near term," was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction...[and] a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change. (from an article by William Arkin, Washington Post, April 16, 2006)

According to Michael Chossudovsky, writing for Global Research a few years ago, based on U.S. Northern Command war-game scenarios already developed as early as August 2006, military planners foresaw that such as crisis might lead to launches of ICBMs by North Korea and a “limited strategic attack” by the Russian Federation (by which time, presumably, Iran would be the least of our worries). World war may be difficult for most of us to imagine, but it is always an item on someone's to-do list.

The U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf today is hard to visualize for the non-military reader; it may help to know that just nine of the ships deployed carried some 17,000 U.S. personnel, according to a Reuters report at the height of the Bush administration's Iran preoccupation. This is in addition to around 20,000 U.S personnel already stationed at sea in the Persian Gulf and neighboring waters. Those ships were joined by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and its own strike group, which included landing ships carrying members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to the Associated Press. Carrier Air Wing 11, embarked in the Nimitz, had four squadrons of F/A-18 aircraft instead of the three squadrons that are normally deployed with a carrier.  [A Naval Update issued by Stratfor, an information source on international affairs and security matters, has a big-deck amphibious warship Bataan -- as of November 30, 2011 -- stationed near Yemen, and the aircraft carrier Stennis off the Indian coast -- both within hours of Iran by sea and minutes by air, with another carrier in the Mediterranean.]

Sara Flounders, an American peace activist, wrote then, "The aim is to destroy not just military targets but also airports, rail lines, highways, bridges, ports, communication centers, power grids, industrial centers, hospitals and public buildings.” It is because so many military elements of the U.S. and its allies are daily operating in the waters that form the Western border of Iran and other nearby areas that “trip-wire” incidents are increasingly likely to occur. Barbara Surk, an Associated Press writer, has written that “U.S. warships have frequently collided with merchant ships in the busy shipping lanes of the [Persian] Gulf.” If this sort of accident happened at the wrong moment, it could provide a convenient rationale for massive activity.

The precise number of targets varies, according to analysts, from a handful to as many as 10,000. An analysis done in February 2006 by the UK-based Oxford Research Group (whose prognoses of events in Iraq, beginning in 2002, have been remarkably prescient) described the likely scenario in this way: "An air attack would involve the systematic destruction of research, development, support, and training centres for nuclear and missile programmes and the killing of as many technically competent people as possible. A U.S. attack, which would be larger than anything Israel could mount, would also involve comprehensive destruction of Iranian air defence capabilities and attacks designed to pre-empt Iranian retaliation. This would require destruction of Revolutionary Guard facilities close to Iraq and of regular or irregular naval forces that could disrupt Gulf oil transit routes..." The likely targets in Iran identified by the Oxford scholars include: a nuclear reactors in Bushehr, and in the capital, Tehran; the Nuclear Technology Center in Esfahan, an enrichment plant outside Natanz; university laboratories and technology centers; radar facilities and command-and-control centers. To these would be added Western Command air bases at Tehran, Tabriz, Hamadan, Dezful, Umidiyeh, Shiraz and Esfahan; Southern Command air bases at Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, and Chah Bahar; R&D facilities for medium-range ballistic missile programs; coastal anti-ship batteries, naval bases and warships; and Iranian army bases in areas near the Iraqi border. As Hillary Clinton said before she assumed her State Department role, we could utterly "obliterate" Iran.

The ORG study went on to note that an element of surprise would be considered critical; this means that "there will be no opportunity for people to move away from likely target areas as was possible in the days and weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq...One key response from Iran would be a determination to reconstruct a nuclear programme and develop it rapidly into a nuclear weapons capability, with this accompanied by withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would require further attacks. A military operation against Iran would not, therefore, be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation."

Militarily, as we have heard repeatedly under successive administrations, everything is “on the table”, including first-use of nuclear weapons for the first time since Nagasaki. The biblical phrase “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) describes our time to a T. President Obama may have taken a new look at the situation, but a radically new way of thinking about Iran is still called for, if we are to avert disaster long-range. When we approach the future with trepidation, we should think not only of the events foretold in Luke 21: “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” but also remember the rest of what Jesus prophesied will happen: “it shall turn to you for a testimony...You shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinfolks, and friends...and you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.” This is not a prophecy about our having to meet an assault by foreign forces; it envisions a Christian having to take very unpopular positions, but standing firm nonetheless. But we are assured, “there shall not be a hair of your head perish…In your patience possess your souls.” Though peacemaking is not for the faint of heart, we have good reason to hope for ultimate success.

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