US Moves In On Iran: EU & Japan Must Not Standby
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM)
Next on the list for Bush is Iran. After successfully invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein's regime, the US has hundreds of thousands of troops positioned in a country bordering the Islamic Republic. With influential neo-conservative officials in Washington already pushing for "regime change" in Iran, Bush's next war may not be long in coming. It was in this spirit that US senator Sam Brownback introduced the "Iran Democracy Act" last week stating that, "now is not the time to coddle this terrorist regime. Now is the time to stand firm and support the people of Iran … who are the only ones that can win this important battle" (Jim Lobe, IPS, May 27).
This discourse sounds awfully familiar to that adopted by right wing decision-makers such as Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and his boss Donald Rumsfled when their eyes were set on Baghdad. The reasons backing the argument are also similar. The US has accused Iran of sponsoring terrorists and most recently of harboring individuals related to the suicide bombings carried out in Riyadh on 12 May. Of course, accusations of weapons of mass destruction accompany this rhetoric.
Independently of whether or not these charges are true, the real objective is to weaken Iran and ensure US supremacy in the region. Thirteen years ago, Iraq was the strongest contender to Israel. After its demise following ten years of sanctions and two wars, Iran has become the most powerful source of opposition to Israel. This did not occur "by default", as Rosemary Hollis claims (Jordan Times, 27 May), rather it was a direct consequence of US military intervention in the region aiming to re-arrange the Middle Eastern order in a manner that maximized US influence.
In addition to Senator Sam Brownback's initiative, proof that neo-conservatives in Washington are trying to convince Bush to move in on Iran is evidenced by the fact that the most powerful institutions in this camp (the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Center for Security Policy and the Project for the New American Century), have already begun holding day long conferences promoting regime change in Iran (See, "The Future of Iran: Mulahcracy, Democracy, and the War on Terror", 6 May 2003, http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.300,filter./event_detail.asp; also see Jim Lobe, IPS, 27 May).
This tendency is extremely worrying for Europe and particularly for Japan. When it comes to oil, Japan depends on Iran for 13% of its annual consumption. As the table below indicates, in comparison to the US and Europe, Japan is the most vulnerable to instability in the Middle East.
|The Energy Supply Structure of Major Countries (1999)|
|Dependence on Oil||52%||40%||35%||40%||38%||56%
|Dependence on Imports||100%||56%||-55%||97%||98%||94%
|Dependence on Middle East||85%||25%||4%||7%||41%||36%
|(Source: IEA Statistics Agency for Natural Resources and Energy)|
EU and British government officials are reportedly trying to convince Bush against confrontation with Iran. Japanese politicians such as Taro Nakayama (President of the Japan-Iran Parliamentarian's League) and former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (President of the Japan-Iran Friendship League) may try their luck at persuasion as well. However, contrary to Iranian hopes, key US allies may not be able to "tailor and temper Washington's thinking" (Hollis, 27 May). The reality, as was amply demonstrated in the case of Iraq, is that there is very little Europe, Russia or Japan can do to stop the US from taking a bellicose course.
The current Bush administration is driven by a sense of "moral clarity" that seeks to purge the world of "evil". The concept known as the "Axis of Evil" is the most obvious piece of evidence that, as far as the US regime is concerned, Iran fits this characterization. Nothing short of regime change in Iran will satisfy neo-conservatives in Washington. As part of her intervention in the AEI conference on Iran, Meyrar Wurmser of the Hudson Institute claimed that, "our fight against Iraq was only one battle in a long war". In her words, diplomacy was the "kind of politics that led to the attacks of September 11" (Jim Lobe, IPS, 27 May). It is this policy of "frontier justice", based on global military domination and intervention, that resonates in Bush's foreign policy doctrine, as was outlined in the White House's report on the "National Security Strategy of the US" (September 2002). According to Paul Wolfowitz, international law should not be an obstacle to US foreign policy objectives. Tom Barry quotes him as stating, "we must descend from the realm of general principles to the making of specific decisions. … Foreign policy decisions cannot be subject to … the rule of law" (Tom Barry, 31 October 2002).
Certainly, this was not what Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar and Junichiro Koizumi had in mind when they pledged their support for the invasion of Iraq. However, over the past two years it has been abundantly clear that Bush has been on a war march. George A. Panpadreu (Greek Foreign Minister) and Chris Patten (European Commissioner for External Relations) have tried to speak up against this belligerent policy. In an article on 26 May they wrote that, "too frequently wars have been the motor of change in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region", going on to insist that, "these changes have not brought stability" (El Pais, 26 May).
In the hope of dampening tensions in the region, European and Japanese heads of state have been busy shuttling through the Middle East to push forward Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Most are convinced that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will provide greater stability in the region. Nevertheless, considering that there have been five suicide attacks against Israel and over sixty Palestinian killed by Israeli forces, including at least ten children, since Bush unveiled his "Road Map" on May 1, the initiative has had no impact on the ground. Complicating matters even further are the tense power struggles between Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas and counter-productive statements made by Sharon and his ministers regarding settlements, the right of return and the status of Jerusalem.
Certain Japanese and European leaders should have known better when they signed on to Bush's invasion of Iraq. Not only was the invasion illegal and destructive but it was an obvious first step towards Iran. As it stands today, there exists widespread unrest and resistance to the US in Iraq. On 27 May alone, two American soldiers were shot dead and nine wounded by a gunman in Falluja, two US military police officers were badly wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade at a North Baghdad police station, a grenade was thrown at American soldiers in Abu Ghurayb and a woman was shot dead when trying to throw grenades at two more American soldiers (Robert Fisk, Independent, 28 May). The situation in the Middle East has become increasingly precarious. Bush's war against Iraq has not brought peace only destruction and chaos.
The truth, as Amnesty International states, is that, "the war on terror has left people around the world feeling more scared than at any time since the cold war ended". Insecurity has mounted on all fronts and unless something is done to stop Bush's crusade we will fall deeper into the abyss. Europe and Japan may not be able to do much, however, at minimum its leaders who have experienced the threat of extinction during the cold war need to wake up and act against what appears to be an utterly reckless desire among neo-conservatives in Washington for regime change in Iran.
- "Iran accuses US of ‘double standards' in war against terror", AFP, 28 May 2003
- Simon Tisdall, "Next Stop Tehran", The Guardian, 27 May 2003
- Rosemary Hollis, "Iran's predicament", Jordan Times, 27 May 2003
- Tom Barry, "PNAC's Present Dangers as Blueprint for Bush Doctrine", The Project Against the Present Danger, 31 October, 2002 (http://www.presentdanger.org/frontier/2002/1031neocon.html)
- Ben Granby, "Violence and the Road Map: The US Media's Double Standard", Electronic Intifada, 26 May 2003
- Robert Fisk, "Baghdad: The true picture", Independent, 28 May 2003
- "War on terror has trampled on human rights, Amnesty International", The Guardian, 28 May 2003.