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Is this a dagger?

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The recent round of sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, Britain and Canada have been condemned as ‘unacceptable and violate international law’ by the Russian Foreign Ministry. The sanctions ‘harm the interests of other countries that have been working with Iran in the oil and banking industries, and won’t bring the Persian Gulf country to the negotiating table.’ The sanctions also ‘target companies that provide goods or services to Iran’s oil and gas industries. Existing U.S. laws have forced most international oil companies out of Iran and the new measures aim to stop it from obtaining technology and money from smaller foreign companies’ (Bloomberg Businessweek, 22 November).

With Britain’s armed forces increasing their contingency plans for an attack on Iran, the Stop the War Coalition recently released a statement noting that the ‘case being made for war ... is based on a series of speculations about “undisclosed nuclear-related activities” reminiscent of the disproven “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction used to justify the disastrous attack on Iraq.’

Since the revolution in 1979 (the point at which Iranian history seems to begin for most mainstream commentators) the West’s attitude towards Tehran has been ‘hypocritical and contradictory,’ with Iran’s military spending being less than a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s, our friendly ally. Nick Hopkins adds in the Guardian that the ‘RAF could also provide air-to-air refuelling and some surveillance capability, should they be required. British officials say any assistance would be cosmetic: the US could act on its own but would prefer not to’ (2 November 2011). The Coalition concludes: ‘The British government must pledge to have no involvement in any military action against Iran, including not allowing Diego Garcia [which has its own tragic history] to be used as a launch pad for air strikes.’

Summarising the addition of another one of the US and Britain’s ‘local cops on the beat’ to protect the sovereignty of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Britain’s best popular historian, Mark Curtis, writes in his history of Britain’s collusion with radical Islam: ‘In August 1953 a coup covertly organised by MI6 and the CIA overthrew Iran’s popular, nationalist government under Mohamed Musaddiq and installed the Shah in power. The Shah subsequently used widespread repression and torture to institute a dictatorship that lasted until the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Shah’s regime was given full political and economic backing by Britain and the US, including its most brutal component, the Savak secret police. The new Islamic leaders turned on the US and Britain, partly for their role in installing and propping up the previous regime for a quarter of a century. The CIA is conventionally regarded as the prime mover behind the 1953 coup. Yet the declassified British files show not only that Britain was the major instigator but also that British resources contributed significantly to it. Churchill once told the CIA agent responsible for the operation that he “would have loved nothing better than to have served under your command in this great venture”’ (www.markcurtis.info).

Always a healthy mix of propaganda and cliché, Andrew Marr interviewed Tony Blair in August last year on his Sunday morning breakfast show, asking him about his autobiography and whether an attack on Iran might be required in the future.

After much brow-rubbing, Blair concluded that an invasion might in fact be necessary, with Marr nodding sagely. In 2004, however, the distinguished Israeli military historian Martin van Crevald explained in the International Herald Tribune that ‘the world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy’ – especially, we might add, when they’re under constant threat of attack from the US and Britain in violation of the UN Charter (1 August 2004). The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman was another rare voice of reason in an October 2007 edition of the New York Times, as the rest of the mainstream decided (and still do) that through attempts to increase commercial ties with its neighbours Iran is ‘destabilising’ the region and demonstrating its weak grasp of democracy: ‘But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s’ (‘Fearing fear itself,’ 29 October 2007). We spend our time well when we recall that if the US and its allies invade and rampage through Iran’s neighbours, their actions are officially deemed part of ‘stabilisation’ efforts and ‘democracy promotion.’ The exaggerated threat of Iran since the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq is similar to Hitler’s portrayal of Czechoslovakia as ‘a dagger pointed at the heart of Germany.’

While Britain was helping its Saudi allies with the Al-Yamamah deal (‘the biggest sale ever of anything to anyone by anyone,’ as the Financial Times put it), it was ‘covertly helping to arm the Saudi’s main rival for supremacy in the Muslim world – this was revolutionary Iran, which was ... vigorously instituting a brutal Shia theocracy under Ayatollah Khomeini. At the same time, in flagrant contravention of a UN embargo on supplying either side, Britain was also arming Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had invaded Iran in September 1980; the ensuing eight-year long conflict would cost over a million lives. Whitehall was arming all sides against each other, another long-standing feature of policy in the region’ (Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs, London: Serpent’s Tail, 2010, p. 160).

The US and Britain have also demanded ‘that the US military base in Diego Garcia ... be exempted from the planned African nuclear-free-weapons zone, just as US bases are exempted from similar efforts in the Pacific to reduce the nuclear threat. Not even on the agenda, of course, is a NFWZ in the Middle East, which would mitigate, perhaps end, the alleged Iranian threat. The enormous global support for this move, including a large majority of Americans, is as usual irrelevant’ (Noam Chomsky, ‘Militarizing Latin America,’ 30 August 2009, www.chomsky.info/articles/20090830.htm). Unless further pressure is put on Whitehall through popular protest, writing to MPs, and sit-down strikes, then New Labour’s bogus ‘evidence based policy-making’ towards Iraq could soon evolve (to use Richard Seymour’s phrase) into the Con-Dem coalition government’s ‘policy based evidence-making’ towards Iran.

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