The Iranian gambit

As the clock runs out on Vice President Dick Cheney, will the United States invade Iran? Probably not.

Some kids just won’t take no for an answer. Take Vice President Dick Cheney—please. After cornering the world’s second largest petroleum reserves in Iraq, you’d think the former Halliburton CEO would be happy to just ride out the final few months of the Bush administration and retire bloated and happy to Wyoming or Texas or hell—Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where his former company has set up shop in the financial heart of the oil-rich Middle East.

But nooooooo! Not this Dick. Murdering a half-million or so Iraqi civilians was just the first course. That phony weapons of mass destruction shtick worked so well the first time, he can’t resist using it again, this time against Iran, a sovereign nation of 70 million people that happens to sit atop the world’s third largest oil reserves. Add that to the Iraqi reserves and the oil fields of faithful client state Saudi Arabia, and the United States would control more than half of the world’s oil supply.

Controlling the oil supply—not keeping prices down or owning the oil outright—is the aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East, according to Mazda Majidi, an Iranian-American journalist and activist who recently stopped by the SN&R office before a speaking engagement with Sacramento Area Peace Action.

“If the U.S. did control Iran’s oil today, there would be no change in the price at the pump, that’s not the objective,” Majidi explained. “The U.S. government does not base its decisions strictly on short-term gains. The idea is the U.S. wants to control the flow of the oil; it wants its hands on the spigots. China and Japan right now are the two biggest recipients of Iran’s oil. If the U.S., Exxon, Chevron and so forth were able to control the oil, they wouldn’t cut off the supply of oil to China or Japan. But they would put those countries, particularly China, on notice: Look at what we can do to you.”

With that end in sight, Dick and his henchmen have deployed the usual assortment of scare tactics designed to cajole Americans into supporting an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation in violation of international law. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “wants to wipe Israel off the face of the map.” The Iranian government is knowingly providing material support to Iraqis fighting the U.S. occupation. Iran is perilously close to developing nuclear weapons.

None of it is true, of course.

As Majidi points out, Ahmadinejad’s statement regarding Israel dates to the late Ayatollah Khomeini and is almost always translated incorrectly in Western media reports. What Khomeini (and subsequently Ahmadinejad) really said was that Zionism would disappear from the pages of history—a bold statement, but hardly a call for genocide.

Is the government in Tehran supplying weapons to the Iraqi resistance? Not quite. Earlier this year, much to the Bush administration’s embarrassment, it was widely reported that the mullahs in Iran, far from inciting violence in Iraq, had actually brokered a truce between warring Sunni and Shiite factions that undoubtedly saved American lives.

Similarly, Iran’s commercial nuclear-power program has complied with the regulations set forth in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Israel, which possesses more than 200 nuclear warheads, has yet to sign the treaty. Majidi notes that Western news reports often overlook the reason Iran is developing a nuclear program in the first place. Despite sitting on abundant oil and natural-gas supplies, it does not possess the refining capacity to provide energy for the country’s ongoing development.

Majidi, who was born in Iran but left around the time of Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in 1978, often brings photographs he’s taken in his homeland so audiences can see that Iran isn’t as backward as we’re sometimes lead to believe.

“The general perception tends to be, of the people who are less well-read about Iran and the Middle East, of this idyllic place where camels are roaming and people live in tents and so forth,” he says. “There’s a certain ring to that, but right now, Iran has a lot of metropolitan areas. Tehran itself has more than 10 million people, traffic congestion, air pollution, all the stuff that goes with these megacities. Tehran and a number of other cities don’t look all that different from U.S. cities.”

And that’s the rub. The more developed Iran becomes, the more it is perceived as a threat by Cheney and his ilk.

“The problem is Iran is growing stronger,” Majidi says. “Israel and the United States can’t have that, not only because Iran could turn into a state the U.S. can no longer threaten and control, but also because it sets a bad example.”

Nevertheless, Majidi feels strongly that the United States will not invade Iran any time in the near future.

“I think the danger is very real, I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not scared of an attack,” he says. “But what has really kept the U.S. from attacking so far is the potential consequences. U.S. war planners are convinced that Iran will retaliate.”

And as we’ve seen in Iraq, that can get pretty damned ugly for all sides concerned.

Not that Dick Cheney gives a hoot.