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WHAT WE THINK
Don't believe the hype about Iran

May 5, 2006 | Page 3

THE BUSH administration is issuing threats again against an oil-rich country in the Middle East and seeking a United Nations (UN) resolution to back up its saber-rattling. According to U.S. officials, this "rogue nation" is seeking weapons of mass destruction, which it plans to use against the U.S. and its allies.

This time, the target is Iran, but the Bush administration has made few changes to the script it used to get its war on Iraq.

Like last time, U.S. claims about Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons are a combination of bluff, bluster and outright lies.

In a matter of weeks, U.S. estimates of the time that Iran needs to produce a nuclear weapon went from 10 years to three years to 16 days, according to media headlines in mid-April. But the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued in summer 2005 stated that Iran is still at least 10 years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.

"This is absurd in the extreme to talk about Iran suddenly representing a threat," Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who challenged the Bush drive to war against Iraq, said in an interview last month. "Let me remind everybody that nothing Iran is accused of doing is illegal. They are permitted to do all of this under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which again represents the absurdity of this whole process."

Like last time, when confronted with the question of whether war plans have already been drawn up, George Bush insists that he'd like to settle all disputes diplomatically, but that the "terrorists" and "madmen" at the head of the Iranian regime may force the U.S. to take military action.

Don't believe a word of it. "It's the exact replay of the game plan used for Iraq, where we didn't care what Saddam did, what he said, what the weapons inspectors found," Ritter said. "We created the perception of a noncompliant Iraq, and we stuck with that perception, selling that perception until we achieved our ultimate objective, which was invasion that got rid of Saddam."

So why is the Bush administration beating the war drums if it's not about nuclear weapons?

First and foremost, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has destabilized that country and led to the growing dominance of Iraqi Shiite Muslim parties with ties to Iran's Shiite government.

The Washington neoconservatives' fantasy was that by making Iraq into a U.S. puppet regime, they could isolate and contain Iran. Instead, the U.S. has inadvertently increased the stature and influence of Iran--with the world's second-largest natural gas reserves, fourth-largest oil reserves and growing ties to Europe, Russia and China.

Faced with plummeting poll numbers and the real possibility of defeat in Iraq, the Bush administration is considering opportunities to widen the war--just as Richard Nixon responded to the crisis of the U.S. war on Vietnam by expanding it to Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s--in the hope of shifting the balance in Washington's favor.

That's why the antiwar movement has to take the Bush administration's threats against Iran seriously--and unconditionally oppose U.S. there and throughout the Middle East.

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