War with Iran—Still in the Cards?

There is some concern brewing that Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent tour of the Middle East is a prelude to war with Iran. The justification would likely be two-fold: Iran’s meddling in Iraq and other support for Islamist extremists, and its supposed nuclear weapons program.

According to last November’s National Intelligence Estimate, Iran has not been pursuing nukes since 2003. Asked about this, Cheney spun it completely around, saying, “We don’t know whether or not they’ve restarted. What we do know is that they had then, and have now, a process by which they’re trying to enrich uranium, which is the key obstacle they’ve got to overcome in order to have a nuclear weapon. They’ve been working at it for years.”

Just this week, President Bush claimed that Iran “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people.” But this is untrue: Iran has “never publicly proclaimed a desire for nuclear weapons and has repeatedly insisted that the uranium enrichment program it’s operating in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions is for civilian power plants, not warheads.”

As for the other excuse for saber-rattling toward Iran—its meddling in Iraq—well, the US has been meddling in Iraq too, without even the excuse of being an interested neighbor. If we want to fret about Iranian influence on Iraq, and its movement toward Shiite theocracy, we should pin the blame on the interventionist US foreign policy that brought this about, and be cautious of widening such intervention in the hopes that more disastrous consequences won’t follow.

Scott Ritter, famously right about Iraq before the war started, has said that the policy toward Iran is regime change—that’s what US officials and neoconservative ideologues want; nuclear weapons and other rationalizations are just excuses for a policy to which they’re already dedicated. Asked head on by interviewer Scott Horton if “nuclear disarmament is the excuse” for “the policy of regime change,” Ritter said, “That’s correct. The Bush administration has made it clear that when it comes to the Middle East, the policy is regional transformation.” As for the alleged weapons program:

“Well, actually the government knows that Iran is not about to have an armful of nuclear weapons. When you hear someone say that Iran is ten years away from having a nuclear weapon, that means that they are at zero right now, because ten years is about how long it takes in this day and age—that’s what it takes to put in place the technology, develop the infrastructure, pump out the fissile material, etc.”

In June of last year, the Independent Institute had an event in our DC office featuring Ivan Eland, Charles Peña, Trita Parsi and Doug Bandow, titled “Living With a Nuclear Iran and North Korea.” See the transcript. And also see Charles Peña’s important policy report on nuclear proliferation and how peace and diplomacy, rather than imperial war, present the best path toward fewer nuclear threats. It is important to note that even a nuclearized Iran would not warrant a massive war, with all the innocent human lives inevitably lost. But if we do want to deter nuclear proliferation, we must rethink this current policy of waging aggressive war on non-nuclear powers and making countries feel more secure with WMD. And while we’re at it, the US should itself disarm.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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