Sunday, January 07, 2007
So, when Israel threatens to use nuclear weapons against Iran (mimicking the 'preemptive strike' doctrine), guess how they word it? Well:
Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.
It is presented as a little bit of blackmail: if American politicians respond to public pressure and try to block an attempted attack on Iran, well Israel may step in and do something crazy with those nuclear weapons they pretend not to have. As if. The only circumstances under which this would occur would be if such a strike had been tacitly or secretly endorsed or encouraged by the United States executive in the first place. But this story describes the ludicrous image of the US as a restraining force.
Of course, the Sunday Times performs its mandatory propaganda functions, reminding us of what Ahmadinejad is supposed to have said (but didn't) about wiping Israel off the map, telling us what "Israeli officials believe" (that they're defending themselves against the possibility of a second Holocaust), vividly depicting what kind of terrifying bombs Iran may be able to accrue under certain circumstances etc. It would be too obvious to imagine what the reaction would be if Iran threatened a nuclear strike against Israel (don't even mention the US), based on the repeated threats made against it. And the absurdity of wiping out nuclear facilities with nuclear weapons, not to mention the monstrosity of the action, the potentially huge cost to Iranian lives, is also far too close to one's nose to even notice.
And this is a very specific threat - the details leaked by these "Israeli officials" are deliberately chosen to emphasise that the threat is operative, that training is underway to carry it out, and that it has done so before (Osirak is mentioned). Had a tithe of this been true of Iraq in 2003, there wouldn't have been anywhere near as many people protesting against Bush's 'preemptive' invasion. You wouldn't have been able to escape even for five seconds from the constant barrage of emergency bulletins, cod patriotic declarations, moralising cant, invective against 'pacifists' and alarmist news stories. Blair would have been even more cringeworthy, Bush would have been even more callous, and bombs would have been even more rapidly delivered to every urban centre, including alleged installations. Israel can issue these threats, precisely because it is under no threat itself. It faces no serious prospect of facing a single Iranian bullet unless it actually initiates an aggressive war. Which means that the excuse offered for making the threat in the first place is a pathetic lie.
The US government clearly wants to keep the fires stoked for a potential attack, as Blood and Treasure points out. Take the recent propaganda effort in which an Iranian guest of the Iraqi government (also, once a guest of the US President) was arrested, and accused of bearing documents that demonstrate the intention to bring chaos to Iraq through both Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups. Or take the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, whose role is to coordinate an offensive against both countries, particularly Iran, by giving covert support to Washington-friendly dissidents and hyping allegations of an Iranian role in the 1994 attack on a community centre in Argentina. The propaganda may work: a recent poll suggests that about half of Americans still believe there was some connection between Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. The lesson that the US government will take from this must be a mixed one, of course, since it suggests that there are a large number of Americans who think Iraq had something to do with 9/11, yet should not have been invaded. But it also suggests that if you repeat Iran, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in the same sentence for long enough, you might well get results.