Obama threatens Iran

IssueMay 2010
Feature by Milan Rai

On 8 April, while helping to launch the new US nuclear posture review (NPR), state department official Robert Einhorn laughed as he said: “there’ll be a lot of Iranian propaganda that this whole thing is about an implicit threat to Iran. It’s not about an implicit threat to Iran.” As radical journalist Claud Cockburn used to say, “Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied.”

At its core, the nuclear posture review announced on 6 April says two things. First: if you are a non-nuclear-weapon state, and you have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and you are “in compliance” with the NPT, the US will not use nuclear weapons against you.

Second: if you are a non-nuclear-weapon state and you have not signed the NPT, or you are not “in compliance” with the NPT, the US may use nuclear weapons against you. Crucially, the US reserves the right to decide whether you are “in compliance” with the NPT, refusing to recognise that this is the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency. On 5 April, Obama told the New York Times he was making an exception in the NPR for “outliers like Iran and North Korea”.

Launching the NPR on 6 April, US defence secretary Robert Gates said of the new security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon states: “we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance” with the NPT. Gates added: “all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category.” This is a nuclear threat, plain and simple; a nuclear threat against a non-nuclear weapon state; a nuclear threat against Iran.

In his New York Times interview, Obama escalated matters by indicating that he could not tolerate an Iran which did not possess nuclear weapons but which was “nuclear-capable”; which had acquired the capability to “break out” and develop nuclear weapons. Obama said: “a weaponising capability is obviously significant as we evaluate whether or not Iran or any other country is serious about these issues”. Apart from the illegality and immorality of the US nuclear threat against Iran, there is the illogicality of it all.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, both former members of the US national security council, observed on 6 April that these threats “remove at least some of Tehran’s incentives for restraint in developing its own nuclear capabilities”. They pointed out: “If Iran, as a non-nuclear-weapons state, will face the threat of nuclear ‘first use’ by the United States, why shouldn’t Tehran proceed to the actual acquisition of nuclear weapons?”

Under the Obama doctrine, the only way for Iran to escape US nuclear threats is to capitulate and give up the right to uranium enrichment which it enjoys under the NPT. This is politically unthinkable, not only among the elite. A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll last autumn found that 55% of Iranians opposed the lifting of sanctions in return for an end to Iranian uranium enrichment.

The strategy
The NPR and the Obama-Gates-Einhorn statements therefore increase the incentive to “break out” and pursue the nuclear bomb option. The Obama administration must understand this foreseeable consequence of its policy, and therefore this must be the desired objective of its policy.

Note that Obama has continued with Bush era destabilisation programmes, funding secessionist movements. According to Robert Baer, former CIA officer, and other sources, this includes the Sunni extremist group Jundallah, which operates in Baluchistan.

When Iranian forces captured the leader of Jundallah in February, they showed on TV an ID card and passport said to have been issued to Abdulmalak Rigi by the US, and a photo said to have been taken at the “headquarters of Americans in Afghanistan” 24 hours before his capture. The public nuclear threats, the tightening sanctions (at the UN security council and via US arm-twisting), the support for grassroots democracy movements and brutal secessionist gangsters are all part of one project.

This was described by Noam Chomsky in 2007: “The strategy appears to be: try to break the country up internally, try to impel the leadership to be as harsh and brutal as possible.” Iran must be prevented from taking its place at the centre of an emerging Russian-Chinese-Iranian economic unit that is powerful enough to be truly independent of the US. It doesn’t matter that the IAEA has found no diversion of Iranian nuclear materials to military purposes, or that almost all the questions raised about Iran’s nuclear programme have been investigated and resolved.