Published on Friday, February 9, 2007 by the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio)
No War with Iran
by Norman Robbins
Seventy-five percent of Ameri cans want negotiations
instead of war with Iran, but the Bush administration is
charging ahead. Once again, military preparations are being
paired with misinformation, and peaceful options are being
dismissed. This time, Americans must inform themselves and
take action before it is too late.
The fear and disinformation campaign is on. The administration repeatedly asserts, without definitive evidence, that Iran is developing a bomb, and the public is buying it. Citing legitimate concerns with Iran's past undeclared nuclear activity, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran, stated that "we haven't seen a smoking gun in Iran."
According to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, a recent, classified CIA report came to the same conclusion. But regime change, not fact, is the administration's goal. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who estimated a 5-to-10-year window before Iran might have a weapon, is being replaced. The Pentagon's study group known as the "Iranian Directorate" will quash and cherry-pick information, as was done on Iraq. This should ring alarm bells.
The administration would also have us believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, master of outrageous statements, determines Iranian nuclear and foreign policy. In fact, it's mainly determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who issued a religious decree that Iran shall reject nuclear weapons. Moreover, his newspaper advised Ahmadinejad to stay out of nuclear issues. Ahmadinejad is also rapidly losing support because opposition leaders object to his policies and sanctions are hurting. None of this gets mentioned by the Bush administration, whose anti-Iranian rhetoric bolsters Ahmadinejad.
Congress needs to shine a light on all this by demanding access to undoctored CIA reports, interviewing ElBaradei and Iran experts, and determining what type of inspections would provide reasonable assurance about Iran's nuclear programs.
An administration intent on forcible regime change could easily take us to war. Risky provocation has already begun with clandestine activities inside Iran, aggressive kidnappings of Iranian nationals in Iraq and placement of a massive offensive armada close to Iran's shores, inviting clashes with Iranian ships. Any provoked skirmish resulting in American casualties could trigger a congressional war resolution.
Israel is another wild card. Its leaders have stated that they may preemptively attack Iran's nuclear installations even without U.S. approval. Bush has said he "could understand" an Israeli attack, knowing Congress would rally to Israel's support if Iran counterattacks.
Finally, Bush could find some pretext to launch and then announce a naval-air attack, regardless of congressional concern. Some insiders say that plans are in place and that the administration believes it has prior authorization. Again, when Iran strikes back, Congress is not likely to deny the president military support.
Prevention is urgent. Americans need to support congressional resolutions, such as H.J. Res. 14, which seek to prevent the president from attacking Iran without an attack on America or its troops, or without congressional authorization. These resolutions should also address provocation and Israel.
Americans must force the Bush administration and Congress to examine and openly disclose the disastrous consequences of an attack on Iran. Incredibly, administration planners may believe that air-naval attacks won't involve American troops and will topple the Iranian regime. Military and security experts, such as retired colonel and War College teacher Sam Gardiner, totally disagree. They expect slaughter of American troops in Iraq with more potent weapons and attacks, disruption of oil supplies and skyrocketing oil prices, more recruits for jihadists and attacks on Israel.
Americans must reject the administration's fraudulent choice between war or surrender. An overwhelming number of Iran and national security experts, such as Flynt Leverett, formerly a member of the CIA and National Security Council, believe that negotiations with Iran on a wide variety of issues (e.g. stabilizing Iraq, nuclear inspections, Hezbollah, Hamas) could be productive. But the Bush administration, blind to these opportunities, insists on regime change and sets preconditions that doom negotiations that might reduce tensions and violence in the Middle East.
The administration is intransigent. Its current policy is catastrophic. Only the media and Congress, under public pressure, can expose the flaws, explore the possibilities for negotiation and stop the rush to war.
Norman Robbins is a professor emeritus at Case Western Reserve University and a co-coordinator of Case for Peace, a peace group at Case.
© 2007 The Plain Dealer