War on Iran: It's Not a Matter of “If”
The world's press is choc-a-bloc with “if” questions about Iran and war. Will Israel attack? Is Obama, coerced by domestic politics in an election year, being dragged into war by the Israel lobby? Will he lunch the bombers? Is the strategy to force Iran into a corner, methodically demolishing its economy by embargoes and sanctions, so that in the end a desperate Iran strikes back?
As with sanctions and covert military onslaughts on Iraq in the run up to 2003, the first point to underline is that the U.S. is waging war on Iran. But well aware of the U.S. public's aversion to yet another war in the Middle East, there's no formal declaration of war, merely a relentless onslaught — the price being paid by ordinary Iranians.
The analogy here is the run up to Pearl Harbor. Let me quote from a useful timeline. On Oct. 7, 1940, U.S. Navy IQ analyst Arthur McCollum wrote an 8-point memo on how to force Japan into war with the U.S. Beginning the next day, Franklin D. Roosevelt began to put them into effect and all eight were eventually accomplished.
On Feb. 11, 1941, FDR proposed sacrificing 6 cruisers and 2 carriers at Manila to get into war. Navy Chief Stark objected: "I have previously opposed this and you have concurred as to its unwisdom.”
In March 1941, FDR sold arms and convoyed them to belligerents in Europe — both acts of war and both violations of international law — with the Lend-Lease Act. On June 23, 1941, Advisor Harold Ickes wrote FDR a memo the day after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, "There might develop from the embargoing of oil to Japan such a situation as would make it not only possible but easy to get into this war in an effective way.” FDR was pleased with Admiral Richmond Turner's report read July 22:"It is generally believed that shutting off the American supply of petroleum will lead promptly to the invasion of Netherland East Indies...it seems certain she would also include military action against the Philippine Islands, which would immediately involve us in a Pacific war."
The next day FDR froze all Japanese assets in the U.S., cutting off their main supply of oil. U.S. Intelligence information was withheld from Hawaii from this point forward. Against protests from U.S. naval commanders, the West Coast fleet was moved to Hawaii.
John Maynard Keynes once said, “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” Ronald Reagan used to attribute this insight to the man he loved to call “Nikolai Lenin,” thundering from podium after podium across America, that Lenin had said, “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.”
You want a graphic illustration of what U.S.
Imagine if the Iranians had done this to the U.S. dollar? Can you imagine any American politician who would have refrained from calling this an act of war?
To further inflame the leadership in Iran, we had, last week, the murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Ahmadi Roshan, which came on the one-year anniversary of the murder of two other Iranian nuclear scientists by similar methods. As Peter Lee writes, “It came at a time of heightened tensions (anyway, tensions higher than the usual heightened tensions), inviting the inference that somebody, probably somebody in the region, wants to goad the Iranian government into a response that could start the military action ball rolling.”
As for the embargoes of Iranian oil, Obama is most certainly doing the oil industry a big favor. There have been industry-wide fears of recession-fueled falling demand and collapse of oil prices. That has led to industry-wide enthusiasm (aided by heavy pressure from the majors) for strongly cutting total world oil production (and enjoying the bonuses flowing from the subsequent world price rise), with all the cuts to be taken out of the hide of the Iranians. The Financial Times made clear the need to shrink world production in the following key paragraph in a report last week: "Oil prices have risen above $110 a barrel since Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil chokepoint, accounting for about a third of all seaborne traded oil. Oil fell to a low of $99 in October amid global economic growth worries."
As Pierre Sprey, an astute observer of the international scene, remarked to me, “Note also that this is one of those rare but dangerous moments in history when Big Oil and the Israelis are pushing the White House in the same direction. The last such moment was quickly followed by Dubya's invasion of Iraq.”
It's somewhat immaterial to ask whether Obama really wants war with Iran, thus interfering with the “strategic pivot” to Asia. Presidents are creatures of circumstances and lobbies, and Obama is certainly no exception. We have to hope that the traditional prudence of Iran's leadership prompts them not to make some desperate retaliatory lunge, such as mining the Straits of Hormuz, or offering some kindred excuse to the U.S. to up the tempo of the undeclared war it is already waging.
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book “Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils;” available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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