West Asia: The New US Backyard

People’s Democracy

Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 23, 2007

West Asia: The New US Backyard


Prabir Purkayastha


National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released by
the US two weeks back on Iran has knocked the bottom out of the Bush
administration’s campaign on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. The NIE,
jointly prepared by all of US’s 16 Intelligence agencies, now admits that after
looking at all the evidence it has, it is forced to conclude that Iran stopped
all nuclear weapons programs since 2003. NIE 2007 modifies the NIE 2005, which
had left this question open. It also shows that the sanctions imposed on Iran by
the Security Council as well as the two crucial IAEA votes were based on false
premises. What is not so well known about this latest Intelligence Estimate is
that it was known within the administration since end of last year. Famous US
investigative journalist Seymour Hersh had also written about it in November,
2006. Despite knowing that the claims of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons program
was simply not supported by facts, Bush, Cheney and other neo-cons – called by
Washington insiders as the War Party – talked of Iran’s threat and World War
III. They fought a long and hard rearguard battle, first to try and tailor the
report to their liking, failing which not to allow its release. It was only the
fear that it would get leaked in any case and that would damage the credibility
of the Bush administration even further that the report saw the light of the


The centrality of West Asia in
global politics today is hard to miss. The United States undersecretary of
state, Nicholas Burns, said this year: “Ten years ago Europe was the epicentre
of American foreign policy”. Burns went on to add, the Middle East is now “the
place that Europe once was for the administrations of the 20th century”. As,
Alain Gresh the editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the
Middle East has written, the Middle East – from Morocco to Pakistan – is now
Uncle Sam’s new backyard. Unlike Latin America, the earlier US backyard, this
unfortunately is slam bang next to us. If the US continues its neo-imperialist
adventures in West Asia, it not only will destroy many of the existing states
there, it will engulf the whole region – and much of Asia and Africa – in
conflicts and large-scale destruction.




Not only has US intervened earlier
militarily in Iraq on the now discredited plank of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD),
they have now prepared their forces for military strikes on Iran. One-third of
the US Navy is now in or near the Persian Gulf, fully primed for such strikes.
The plans are fully in place for so-called surgical strikes to take out not only
nuclear installations but also other military installations so that Iran would
not be able to retaliate against the US forces in the region. The NIE therefore
is a set back to these plans.


Two justifications for these
strikes were being given. One was to harp – as in Iraq – the threat of Iranian
nuclear weapons, and the other Iranian intervention in Iraq, endangering the US
forces there.


The US had claimed that the Iraqi
regime was building WMD’s as a justification for their attack on Iraq. It is now
public that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld gang had cooked up the intelligence reports
that were the basis of the information on WMD’s. The US intelligence agencies
had actually made clear internally that they did not share the administration’s
belief in Iraqi WMD’s. It was another matter that they went along publicly with
the US administration’s doctoring of intelligence, knowing them to be false. In
this, the British MI5 with its infamous “dodgy dossier” also helped the US to
whip up war hysteria.


It is now clear that the danger of
another war being unleashed in West Asia has unnerved a section of the US
Intelligence and military establishment. The State Department (the US foreign
office) has been marginalised in the policy making in West Asia in any case,
with West Asia policies being centralised with the US president. It was clear to
the military top brass that any attack on Iran would not stop with a so-called
surgical strike. Iran would hit back and it would embroil West Asia in a
long-term conflict that the US could not possibly win. With the Iraqi occupation
taking an increasing toll of the morale of the US Army, another war there was
what the US military forces do not want. The elections for the next president of
the US is now about a year away and the “war party” is certain to lose the White
House, irrespective of whether the Republicans or the Democrats win the next
elections. This has undoubtedly given some courage to the Intelligence
establishment to stand up to the Bush-Cheney lot and come out with the actual
status of Iran’s nuclear program.




However, even though the nuclear
weapons plank for an attack has weakened considerably after the NIE report, the
danger of war has not disappeared. The neo-cons, with vice president Cheney
being the most ardent supporter of a military strike on Iran, are now plugging
the safety of the US forces in Iraq to demand an attack on Iran. For this, there
is campaign that Iran is “meddling” in Iraq and endangering the safety of the US
soldiers there. The cynical nature of this campaign is obvious to the entire
world. The US cooked up its entire case of WMD’s in Iraq, declared an illegal
war, and has systematically destroyed the Iraqi state and the Iraqi nation. It
is now complaining that Iran is meddling in Iraq and this endangers the health
of the US soldiers who are in illegal occupation of that country!

Regarding the nuclear weapons
program, there is now a change in tack. The argument being advanced is that
Iran’s nuclear weapons program has three components, enrichment of uranium,
developing missiles and creating nuclear warheads (Kissinger: Washington Post,
December 13, 2007) According these analysts, NIE only addresses the issue of
nuclear warheads leaving out the other two. Therefore, the continued danger of a
nuclear Iran.


The problem with this argument is
that under Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has a right to fuel
enrichment for its nuclear energy program. In fact, NPT went even further. It
also lay down that countries who have nuclear energy technology would share it
with those who had signed the NPT. Much of the criticism of Iran having a secret
nuclear program comes out of Iran trying to beat the illegal sanctions that were
put on it after the Shah of Iran, the US protégé, was kicked out. Though Iran
under Shah had an ambitious nuclear program with the blessings of the US, the
only way that Iran could continue this program was by secretly accessing the
nuclear black market. IAEA has accepted that Iran’s violations were procedural
and reporting violations and not one of Iran carrying out activities in
violation of the NPT. Interestingly enough, the IAEA reports, even the latest
one in August, has held that the evidence they have is consistent with the
information that Iran has furnished on their nuclear program and none of these
show that Iran was making nuclear weapons. They have asked for more information
on certain issues, but the major issues that IAEA had raised earlier have been
largely resolved.




This brings us back to what are the
US goals in Iran. If it was to see that Iran does not produce nuclear weapons,
this was always achievable through negotiations. Iran has indicated time and
again that they are willing to place enrichment under complete safeguards, even
willing to consider the Russian offer of enrichment outside Iran or in a joint
multilateral facility, and with only a token enrichment program for research
purposes within Iran. The only reciprocity that they have sought is that there
should be firm security guarantees against attacks on Iran (by the US and
Israel) and lifting of sanctions. These are guarantees that the US is not
willing to give.


However, the issue for the US is
not nuclear Iran; that is the pretext for war hysteria. The real issue is regime
change in Iran. Therefore the sanctions have to be kept in place and military
strikes threatened, if not executed. That is why Bush now insists that Iran
pursuing “knowledge” on nuclear issues is the threat! This is in an age where
the knowledge to make the hydrogen bomb is available on the Internet. In any
case, if Iran has to stop its quest for knowledge as Bush insists, what should
it do, shut down its physics and mathematics departments? All connections to the


At a more serious level, the
attempt is to re-engineer the NPT arrangement and deny fuel enrichment
technology to countries that the US does not like. The US vision is a new
arrangement where fuel enrichment will be restricted to a small cartel created
by the US and that will control the global nuclear energy sector. And in this,
there is a rare unanimity in the US nuclear establishment, including those who
are opposing military strikes on Iran. For them, the goal is right but not the
means for achieving this goal.


What do the US’s West Asian
policies mean? For the US, its strategic vision is “full spectrum” dominance in
every possible theatre of war in the world. Its strategic doctrine has spelt
this out time and again after the dismantling of socialism in the Soviet Union.
It will not tolerate even a regional challenge in any part of the world. That is
why the emergence of Iran as an independent regional player is not acceptable to
the US, that too in an area that the US considers vital to its “national”
interest. The issue is not about nuclear Iran but any possible challenge to the
US-Israel military dominance of the region.




However, the problem with this
vision is that a “containment” of Iran strategy using Arab states while letting
Israel continue its apartheid policies in Palestine is doomed to failure. The
only Arab state that could act as military counterweight to Iran was Iraq. That
is why the US had instigated Iraq’s war on Iran. US’s subsequent break with
Saddam Hussein on Kuwait and its dismantling of the Iraqi state means that its
“allies” in the region do not have the military clout to take on Iran or act as
its counterweight.


The US has tried to cobble a loose
grouping, consisting of Sunni Arab states and hoped to use a Sunni block against
Shia Iran. In Annapolis, it had hoped that this block would work with Israel to
isolate Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It is now clear that Annapolis failed to
deliver such a grouping. Even the US’s close allies such as Saudi Arabia have
accepted the reality of the region and are distancing themselves from such a
policy. Any future peace in the region can be only achieved by including Iran,
Hezbollah and the Hamas in the process.


India’s independent foreign policy
is increasingly threatened by the policies of “convergence” with the US that the
UPA government is currently pursuing. The State Bank of India is reportedly not
honouring Letters of Credit from Iranian banks because the US has imposed
illegal sanctions on these banks. The Indian government welcomed Annapolis
talks, when its real intention was to legitimise Israel’s continued occupation
of the West Bank and isolate those who are not willing to fall in line. Its
participation in the Paris donors meet is on same lines. India also kept away
from the Gas pipeline talks with Iran and Pakistan, after receiving threatening
letters from US Congressmen. In this, as was seen earlier on the crucial IAEA
Iran votes, the “congruence” in foreign policy demanded by the Hyde Act is being
scrupulously followed by the Indian government.


The US strategic embrace of India
and the Indian government’s acquiescence to the US policies in West Asia, is not
only dangerous for West Asia, also dangerous for us.  India needs peace and
stability in West Asia in its own interest – 80 per cent of our hydro carbon
imports and a large part of foreign exchange remittances come from West Asia.
The imperative to stop the India-US Nuclear Deal stems from the need to prevent
India from becoming a subordinate ally of the US and becoming a party to the
larger West Asia conflicts. It is unfortunate that many who profess to be
against US imperialism have failed to see the immediacy of the threat of the US
policies in West Asia and the need to fight against India becoming a strategic
partner of the US. Instead, they have pursued a one point agenda of Left bashing
over Nandigram. It is time people understand the real threats that exist and the
need to build a broad resistance against imperialism. This includes the stopping
of the US-India Nuclear Deal, the various defence agreements with the US, as
well as forcing the government take an independent position on West Asia,
particularly on Palestine, Iraq and Iran.