Hague claims mask new threats
As the drums of war against Iran beat ever louder, Peter Manson takes a look at the latest remarks by the British foreign secretary.
Foreign secretary William Hague’s absurd claim that the world faces a “new cold war” if Iran does not give up its aim of acquiring nuclear weapons might not stand up to examination, but Hague was undoubtedly given a boost on February 22 when a team from the United Nations-sponsored International Atomic Energy Agency returned from a two-day visit to Iran.
The IAEA announced that Iranian regime officials had denied its request to inspect the Parchin complex near Tehran, where it is alleged a secret underground nuclear facility is hidden. Last November an IAEA report stated that some experiments conducted by Iran could have “no other purpose” than the development of nuclear weapons. A new report due next week is sure to add to the current campaign being conducted in Washington, London and Tel Aviv to open the way for likely military action against the Islamic Republic.
IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said that no agreement had been reached on the holding of talks to “clarify unresolved issues”, although the previous day Iran’s “supreme leader”, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted that Tehran’s nuclear programme was entirely peaceful: “There is no doubt that decision-making establishments in countries that stand against us are quite aware that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons, since the Islamic Republic of Iran regards the possession of nuclear weapons as a great sin, in terms of thought, theory and religious edict, and also believes that holding such weapons is useless, costly and dangerous.”
Hague’s inane warning of a “new cold war” came in an interview with The Daily Telegraph last week. He added to the absurdity by implying that this time things would be even worse - in Cold War II there would be no “safety mechanisms”, you see. The following day the foreign secretary told the Commons: “If Iran sets about the development of nuclear weapons, then other nations in the Middle East would do so as well.”
Let us examine Hague’s claim by comparing this “new cold war” with the genuine article. The post-World War II extended stand-off between the USA and the Soviet Union saw a massive arms race resulting in the accumulation of enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world several times over. Each side had hundreds of formidable intercontinental ballistic missiles pointing at the other and no-one doubted that they had the capacity to deliver them effectively. This produced a scenario known as MAD - ‘mutually assured destruction’ - where the state that launched a nuclear attack would have to be literally insane, since such an act would guarantee its own obliteration.
That vast armoury - today in the possession of Russia and the US - still exists, having been ‘modernised’ and extended continuously, although, of course, the two powers no longer regard each other as mortal enemies. While in current circumstances Russia would not participate in coordinated western military action against Iran, a relatively tiny number of US warheads would suffice to wipe out every major population centre in the Islamic Republic.
As for the latter, if, despite the supreme leader’s solemn words, it is indeed attempting to commit the “great sin” of joining the nuclear weapons club, then it could possibly equip itself with half a dozen warheads and some sort of means to deliver them within a few years. But would it be able to fire a missile across Europe and the Atlantic that explodes in the centre of New York or Washington? It seems a ludicrous suggestion, but even if it were possible, what would it achieve? Iran’s assured destruction - there would be nothing mutual about it. The theocracy would really have to be mad to contemplate the idea.
Slightly more realistically perhaps, Iran might be able to hit Israel, but in the absence of any worthwhile testing there is no guarantee a missile would land with any accuracy - perhaps it would not even make it to Israel’s borders. But Tel Aviv is known to possess at least 160 nuclear warheads and, what is more, has efficient means to deliver them, including Cruise missiles, for example. So even a “cold war” restricted to the Middle East is a laughable proposition, given the huge imbalance in weaponry.
But if we take Hague’s words at face value and accept that the acquisition of nuclear weaponry by one country would inevitably spark an arms race with rivals, then why is that not already the situation in the Middle East, where there is already one (heavily armed) nuclear power, or on the subcontinent, where there are two? India and Pakistan might not be the best of friends, but they tend to lob cricket balls at each other rather than nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the nuclear weapons of the US, Russia, Britain, France and China are totally benign - there are, of course, “safety mechanisms” in place.
No, Hague’s claim is part of the ratcheting up of imperialist threats against the principal remaining ‘rogue state’ that still refuses to recognise the ‘new world order’. We know that an attack on Iran would particularly serve Israel’s interests. Tel Aviv is delighted to make use of the impotent statements emanating from Tehran about Israel having “no right to exist” or being “wiped off the map” to claim it is under dire threat. In reality it is looking for an excuse to drive out its own ‘enemy within’. In Israel proper there is a 20% Arab minority, while in ‘greater Israel’ - the whole of Israel/Palestine, including the occupied territories - there is rough population parity between Arabs and Israelis. The project to complete the ongoing Zionist project and permanently secure the West Bank in particular requires the removal of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The confused reaction in the region to a military attack on Iran might provide the opportunity Israel is looking for.
Israel has previously been under pressure from the US to hold back, but things now seem to have changed - at least judging from statements like Hague’s, combined with stories that have started to appear recently about a whole range of attacks that Iran is said to be planning. Not only will there be more retaliation killings of Israeli diplomats following the alleged assassination by Mossad of Iranian nuclear scientists, but there could be Iran-inspired terror attacks on the London Olympics, or even on New York. Most incredibly of all, unnamed “terrorism experts” have suggested that such attacks might be carried out in conjunction with al Qa’eda. The idea that the Shia Islamic republic would give “new funding and additional support” to Sunni al Qa’eda is really stretching incredulity to its limits.
Still, Hague is nothing if not restrained: sanctions - part of his “twin-track” approach along with negotiations - should be given “more time”, although, of course, “all options must remain on the table” (after all, Britain could be within range of Iranian nuclear weapons, you know, and nuclear technology could fall into terrorist hands). The same ‘restraint’ applies with regard to Israeli assassinations, etc: “We do not take part in such things.” Of course not (although, in any case, that is not the same as saying we do not know about them beforehand). But, you see, it is just “not our way of dealing with this to have assassinations or to advocate military action”.
Hague is using such language to mask UK complicity in any attack by Israel, which US defence secretary Leon Panetta has predicted could take place in the period April-June - although general Martin Dempsey of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said such a strike would be “premature”. Like the UK, the USA wants to appear entirely reasonable and moderate.
But the signs are ominous. The whole thing is reminiscent of the build-up to the attack on Iraq - even down to the “disappointed” UN weapons inspectors. The job of organisations like Hands Off the People of Iran and the Stop the War Coalition is to pull away Hague’s ‘moderate’ mask, debunk his ludicrous claims and do everything in our power to alert the entire working class and democratic movement to the increased danger .
2. The Daily Telegraph February 18.