Threats of a military attack against Iran by the US and Israel have increased after new sanctions were imposed by the United Nations Security Council on June 9, under pressure from Washington.
On July 1, US President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress in June that imposed new US unilateral sanctions targeting foreign companies that sell petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel, to Iran. This would include producers, insurers and those involved in transportation.
Iran has huge reserves of oil, but its energy infrastructure and refining capacity are badly rundown due to a lack of investment, forcing reliance on imported gasoline.
Ostensibly, these sanctions are to persuade Iran to halt development of nuclear weapons. That Iran is a threat to global security because it has a nuclear weapons program has become an article of faith for Western politicians and media.
However, as was the case with the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” used by the Bush administration to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iranian “nuclear threat” reflects the West’s need for a pretext for aggression, rather than an actual nuclear program.
Iran’s oil reserves and independent foreign policy are the actual targets of US policy makers. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the US-installed Shah, the US has used a number of justifications for economic, political and military aggression against Iran.
Iran denies that it is developing nuclear weapons and has submitted to intrusive inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency — above and beyond what is required by Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
It says its nuclear program is for the peaceful generation of electricity and its powerful religious establishment has decreed that nuclear arms are contrary to Islamic law.
Iran is a signatory to the NPT and does not possess nuclear weapons. There are three nuclear-armed states that have not signed the NPT: India, Pakistan and Israel. The US has not imposed sanctions on any of them.
Israel refuses to acknowledge its arsenal of 200-300 nuclear warheads, but their existence has been known since Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu turned whistleblower in 1986 (for which “crime” he was kidnapped from Europe and imprisoned for 18 years).
Any remaining doubts about their existence were dispelled by the May 24 Guardian, which published declassified South African documents concerning attempts by apartheid South Africa to buy Israeli nuclear weapons in the 1970s.
Yet even as US President Barack Obama has demanded more nuclear transparency from Iran, he has continued the longstanding charade of US presidents pretending ignorance of Israel’s nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which performs the inspections, has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons’ program. Furthermore, an April study by the International Institute of Strategic Studies made it clear that Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders”.
The US showed its lack of sincerity on the issue when, on May 17, Iran accepted a proposal from Turkey and Brazil under which it would export nuclear waste to be reprocessed overseas, eliminating the possibility that waste reprocessing was being used as a cover for a military uranium enrichment program.
The US initially supported the proposal, after Iran agreed the US went ahead with UN and unilateral sanctions regardless.
In a July 2 article, US academic Noam Chomsky pointed out: “Threats of military force against Iran are … in violation of the United Nations Charter and a specific violation of Security Council resolution 1887 of September 2009, which reaffirmed the obligation of all nations to resolve disputes related to nuclear issues peacefully, in accordance with the Charter, which bans the use or threat of force.”
Threatening language by US and Israeli leaders has been backed up by a military build-up.
UPI reported on June 22 that a US naval flotilla led by the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman passed through the Suez Canal on its way to the Persian Gulf and that at least one Israeli vessel was in the flotilla. The June 12 London Times reported that Saudi Arabia had provided an air corridor for an Israeli bombing of Iran.
There have also been reports of a build-up of US and Israeli troops in Azerbaijan, on Iran’s north-west border. On June 15, Iranian Revolutionary Guards provincial commander Brigadier-General Mehdi Moini told Press TV: “The presence of US and Israeli forces along Iranian borders is the reason behind Iran's military movements in the region.”
Previously, however, Azeri leaders had ruled out their country being used to attack Iran. Press TV reported that on May 4, Azeri defence minister Safar Abiyev told Iranian interior minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar: “No threat will be made against Iran from Azerbaijan's territory and we will not help the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran under any circumstances.”
The Obama administration has also enhanced the capacity to strike Iran from Diego Garcia, a US base on Indian Ocean islands that were illegally excised from Mauritius by Britain in 1965 (and the population deported). Diego Garcia was the staging point for the 1991 and 2003 strikes against Iraq.
The March 14 Glasgow Sunday Herald reported that the build-up of military equipment included 387 bunker busters, the most powerful non-nuclear bombs in the US arsenal.
There is nothing new about threats of a US or Israeli military attack on Iran, and a military attack would risk further destablising the strategic Middle-Eastern region. But the increase in sanctions and rhetoric, and the military build-up, indicate a real potential threat to Iran and peace.