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O. I. L.: The Case for a War Against Iran

Posted: 01/24/2012 4:16 pm

Iran is figuring prominently in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election. In December 2011, Jon Huntsman declared that, if elected president, he would send in ground troops to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Rick Santorum recently charged on CNN that bombing Iran would be preventing a true war from starting. Mitt Romney, Wall Street's favorite for the Republican candidacy, announced that, "If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon... If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon."

Despite the contention of international intelligence agencies that Iran shows no evidence of developing nuclear weapons, proponents of an attack on Iran continue to argue that Iran is pursuing nuclear proliferation and that this act does indeed establish a pretext for war. The rhetoric is strikingly similar to arguments preceding the invasion of Iraq.

A retired CIA officer and daily briefer to President George H. W. Bush, Ray McGovern, has been protesting the misrepresentation and misapplication of intelligence information since the 2003 War on Iraq. During Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show on May 4, 2006, McGovern articulated the basic rationale behind American foreign policy using a simple three letter word: O, for oil; I, for Israel; and L, for logistics. In the aftermath of the campaign in Iraq, it was apparent that these three considerations did indeed establish a false pretext for the invasion of Iraq. And now, when the U.S. is involved in a "debate" over Iran and the most effective ways to halt its "ambitions," McGovern's warnings regarding the tripartite interests of elite policymakers, at the expense of this nation and its people, ring true -- yet again. It would be judicious of the American public to consider the facts and determine whether a war against Iran, allegedly in our names, is justified.

O.I.L. in Iraq

Several months before the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush held meetings with American petroleum corporations. Hundreds of documents released to the British newspaper the Independent reveal that Bush had secured the rights of various energy companies to have access to Iraqi oil. Furthermore, the documents reveal that on October 31, 2002, British Trade Minister Baroness Symons held a meeting with British energy companies BP, Shell and BG, agreeing to lobby the Bush administration on their behalves: the United Kingdom would cooperate with the United States in ousting Saddam, but British energy companies were not to be "locked out" of access to Iraq's oil supply. This "oil conspiracy," as Tony Blair called it, turned out to be grounded in reality, after all.

It was only then that the Bush administration began its campaign to persuade the American public that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons and that he represented a threat to the United States. Contrary to the assertions of the Bush administration, the overwhelming majority of the U.S. intelligence community maintained that Saddam showed no evidence of possessing WMDs. In March 2006, Paul Pillar, a retired CIA officer, wrote an article for Foreign Affairs, entitled, "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq." According to Pillar, "The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made." In other words, the administration was guilty of "cherry-picking" information that would substantiate the threat posed by Saddam. They disregarded the recommendations of the intelligence community to avoid war.

In May 2006, Ray McGovern articulated two other factors that dictated American foreign policy: Israel and logistics. During the interview, McGovern stated that, "The people running our policy toward that part of the world have great difficulty distinguishing between what they perceive to be the strategic interests of Israel, on one hand, and the strategic interests of the United States on the other." Leading up to the war, Israeli politicians encouraged the U.S. to go to war because of the threat Saddam posed to Israel. Saddam had fired Scud missiles into Iraq in 1991 and had been giving money to the families of suicide bombers. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other Israeli politicians addressed the Senate and the American public, reinforcing the image of Iraq as the embodiment of all evil.

After the invasion, however, even Israeli military officers stated that the threat from Iraq had been exaggerated. Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general, told the Associated Press that "Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the United States and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction capability" and that they had "badly overestimated" the threat to Israel from Iraq. These "bad overestimations" have cost the United States $823 billion in the past nine years.

O.I.L. in Iran

The rhetoric and arguments used by war hawks today are similar to arguments preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And again, the foremost proponents of a strike against Iran, the fourth largest oil producer in the world, are seated in distinguished positions of leadership throughout the political world. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urging the United States to attack for years now, citing irrational, yet meaningless, statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to bolster his argument. On this side of the Atlantic, politicians and intellectuals alike have been sounding the war cry.

In his article, "Time to Attack Iran," Matthew Kroenig argues that a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would "spare the region and the world a very real threat." He continues on to manipulate information such that it appears as though the conclusions of intelligence agencies are in accordance with him on striking Iran; for example, Iran is supposedly "testing nuclear triggering devices and redesigning its missiles to carry nuclear payloads." However, the paper that Kroenig uses is compiled and published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and actually indicates that Iran has no nuclear weapons at the moment and is unlikely to attain any in the near future. Robert Kelley, previous head of the IAEA, states that the November paper regarding Iran's nuclear program rejects the possibility of Iran's having nuclear weapons, but that "the way the data have been presented produces a sickly sense of deja vu."

Having been on the IAEA's Iraq Action Team in 2003, Kelley regrets the invasion of Iraq, during which 4,000 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis died. Regarding Iran's nuclear capabilities, Kelley states that the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had ended its nuclear-arms program in 2004; their conclusion is probably sound because the NIE has a high threshold for evidence. The IAEA paper from November 2011 corroborated this conclusion.

With the United States and Israel preparing for a major missile defense exercise later this year, a strike on Iran may not be as unlikely as many may think. However, the need to understand and heed intelligence assessments before engaging in hostilities with Iran is paramount. Dr. Adam B. Lowther, a member of the faculty at the U.S. Air Force's Air University, describes five reasons not to attack. First off, it is foolhardy to assume that Iran would not respond to focused strikes on nuclear facilities. Furthermore, Iran has the most capable land, naval and air forces the United States has faced in decades. And, if war were to erupt, says Ray McGovern, it could affect other countries in Asia and specifically, the Middle East, including Israel. Iran is also advanced in terms of cyber-sabotage and if Iran were to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a feat their navy is capable of, they would wreak economic havoc.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of Iranian defense is that attacking Iran would unite the Iranians. In an article entitled, "Christmas Is No Time for an Iranian Revolution," Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd avers that, "Most Iranians inside Iran would support the nation -- even the regime -- should foreign forces initiate aggression against their country." If the Iranian regime is the foe, the Iranian people can be either foe or friend. If the regime loses the support of its people, Iran may experience major overhauls, some of which may benefit the United States. In contrast, if the United States pushes the Iranians to war, they will unite, and will cause significant damage to the aggressors. The likelihood of the Shi'i clergy's completely losing power, in contrast, is minimal.

By failing to heed the assessments of the intelligence community, the United States has far more to lose than another decade of war; we would be risking our economic stability, which only now has begun to revive, and billions of dollars. Furthermore, while Israeli intelligence may yet again be exaggerating the need for the United States to go to war, risking our troops' lives would be unwise; going to war at the behest of an equal ally is sensible, though self-interest generally rules the world of geopolitics. Going to war at the request of an ally who has already led us into one disastrous, costly, decade-long war, based on faulty intelligence -- well, that would just be imprudent.